Thursday, March 03, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Microcosm
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

The Hannibal Lector Zone
SOTT
March 3, 2005

Imagine a Twilight Zone episode where an average guy wakes up one morning to discover that in his world, every second person he meets is actually an emotionless automaton. He now lives on a planet half-filled with semi-conscious robots, who for all intents and purposes are indistinguishable from normal human beings. They walk, talk and behave the same, have the same physical characteristics, and appear identical to regular people in all aspects.

The one thing that differentiates these robots from normal folks in the show is that they are "programmed" upon meeting the man to try to steal something from him or harm him in some way. Imagine the hero of this episode trying to distinguish between the robots and regular folks as he goes about his day. When someone approaches him and says "good morning", he wouldn't know whether the greeting is genuine and sincere or whether he is about to get conned, beaten up or mugged.

As the man goes about his ordinary day, his reality slowly becomes more and more bizarre, as he now has a 50% chance of coming across a real fellow human being or one of these robots who while perhaps not threatening direct harm, will indeed try to steal from him or swindle him in some way. As awareness of this new reality becomes more clear to our hero, we find him becoming ever more increasingly paranoid, as he nevers knows who to trust and who to suspect, and soon starts becoming paranoid about everybody. His waking world has now become a nightmarish reality where his physical life and very survival is under constant threat of harm or loss.

What is our hero to do to prevent from going stark raving mad?

Well, he soon begins to discover that by sitting back and dispassionately observing the actions of others, he is presented with subtle clues as to the inner orientation of these robotic types that now populate his world and how they may differ ever so slightly from ordinary humans. And although it may take quite a bit of time and a serious amount of study, he soon learns that because the robots function by running automatic programs, the robot can be correctly identified by seeing which "program" is in orperation.

Before the climax of the show when the robots start behaving more and more conspicuous and outrageous, the hero has now become confident in his ability to discern between them and regular folks, and has soon formed a group of real human beings by making them aware of existence of the robot types.

And like in all Hollywood episodes, the hero and his gang of fearless comrades overcome the evil robotic takeover and emerge triumphant at the end when he wakes up to find everything back to normal.

If only it were so easy.

The editors here at Signs of the Times, with some inspiration from the Cassiopaean website and the writings of Boris Mouravieff, have a theory that the above "fictional" Twighlight Zone episode, is perhaps a more accurate description of our present reality than most people would care to admit.

Without sounding alarmist or overly paranoid, the hypothesis that there may indeed be "two races" of human beings occupying our planet is interesting in that it explains so very much about our present-day society and why humanity has found itself in the mess it's currently in. Scholars, Theologians and Philosophers have debated the question of "the nature of evil" and why a loving compassionate God can allow bad things to happen to good people. Yet despite all the efforts to understand these questions, no consensus has ever been reached that adequately explains this phenomenon.

But what if it's not a question of "good versus evil", but an objective understanding of the way things are. Is it so far fetched to consider that perhaps half population of the planet are human by appearance only? If this hypothesis is valid, perhaps these robotic types are simply programmed to react in certain self-serving and entropic ways, and can never know what it "feels like" to be empathetic towards others. Is it possible that real human beings, those who truly care when others are hurt or suffering, live, intermingle and share the planet with a race of emotionless automatons, or reaction machines? Could there even be a sociological or competative advantage for this this type of robot person who by their very nature would rise to the upper echelons of the control system.

If true, it certainly would go a long way in explaining how an obvious moron and psychopath like George Bush, can become elected leader of the most powerful country in the world. It also explains how some soldiers might experience a rush of joy when shooting down innocent civilians whereas a another soldier might experience enormous guilt and remorse after taking another life. Considering the rash of murders, suicides and serial killings that seem a daily occurance in the United states these days, this Twilight Zone of reality we now find ourselves in would make Hannibal Lector proud.

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Did BTK suspect led a double life?
By SHARON COHEN - Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — He was trusted as a Cub Scout leader, respected as a churchgoing family man and accepted as a regular guy with a secure marriage, a steady job and all the other trappings of middle-class success.

He was also, according to police, an insatiable murderer who tortured and killed strangers over 17 years, boasting about his crimes in taunting, gruesome letters and poems that he mailed to police and the news media.

Dennis L. Rader, a 59-year-old municipal worker suspected of being the BTK killer responsible for 10 murders, is believed by authorities to have led a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence.

Experts on the criminal mind say that is not unusual for serial killers. But what sets Rader apart is his remarkably stable life and deep roots in the community.

“Mostly, serial killer are drifters,” said Michael Rustigan, a California criminologist. “Typically they’re single, have problems with women, are in and out of jobs, in and out of relationships.” But in Rader’s case, he said, “We’ve rarely seen serial killers so well-integrated into the community.”

Rader has called the Wichita area home almost his entire life, earning a criminal justice degree at a local university. The father of two — he has a grown daughter and son — had been married for nearly 34 years and held jobs for long periods, including a position at a home security firm for 15 years, part of the time as installation manager.

Rader was arrested Friday by police, who said they were confident he is BTK — the killer’s self-coined name that stands for “Bind, Torture and Kill.” He was charged Tuesday with 10 murders committed between 1974 and 1991 and is being held on $10 million bail. The BTK killer terrified the Wichita area from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s; most of the victims were strangled, others were stabbed or shot. In one instance, the killer called 911 to report the homicide; in another, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon was alerted to a letter in a library book that provided details of some murders only the killer could have known.

The killer resurfaced last March — the 30th anniversary of his first murders — with a series of letters to police and the media. One included a photocopy of the driver’s license of one of his victims.

Police will not say what led them to Rader, but his arrest stunned many in suburban Park City, where he lived for more than 25 years and worked as a compliance officer, handling code violations and stray dogs.

Some described him as a friendly, solicitous man who helped neighbors and recently brought spaghetti sauce and a salad to a supper at Christ Lutheran Church, where he was an usher, president of the council and a member for 30 years.

“Dennis was in church as often as I was,” said pastor Michael Clark.

But others say he could be a nitpicker and a bully, always looking to cite his neighbors for petty violations, once using a tape measure to determine if a neighbor’s grass was too long.

If Rader turns out to be BTK, he will not be the first serial killer to engage in what some experts call doubling — leading two lives. They cite other examples: Gary Ridgeway, the Green River killer, was a truck painter. Jeffrey Dahmer worked in a candy factory. John W. Gacy was a building contractor who sometimes performed as a clown.

“They lead a benign, if not friendly and helpful life with family and friends. Then they kill strangers,” said Jack Levin, author of several books on serial killers and the director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at Northeastern University in Boston. “It’s almost like the death camp doctor who goes home and plays with his children.”

These two lives are “the way they survive. That’s the way they’re not detected,” said Steve Egger, a serial killer expert and associate professor of criminology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. “Their actions with people who love them, with people they associate with, are very natural. But they’re able to split off and compartmentalize these fantasies they have ... then they go out and have to act on them.”

Rustigan, the California criminologist, said he wonders how Rader, if he is the BTK killer, could hide a sinister life from his wife.

“You can fake ‘nice guy’ at work,” he said. “But how do you fake ‘nice guy’ when you’re married? That’s a very powerful question in this case.”

Rader’s pastor said Rader and his wife, Paula, were close. “They were always together — except if one of them was sick,” Clark said. “It was as solid a marriage as any.”

Clark said he has consoled members of Rader’s family, who have remained in seclusion and are bewildered by the allegations. “There’s no such thing as reality for them,” he said.

If Rader is found to be the BTK killer, some experts say it also will be noteworthy that he managed to carry on for so many years without drawing suspicion in a community where neighbors know and socialize with each other.

“It would be relatively easy in Miami or New York City,” Rustigan said, “but how do you keep this secret so well in a small-knit community?”

Howard Brodsky, a Wichita psychologist who consulted on the BTK case in the 1970s, said that is one of the big unanswered questions. Brodsky said that when he heard of Rader’s arrest, he was surprised the complaints by neighbors about his overbearing behavior did not eventually raise red flags.

“He was able to keep up a better act than I thought,” Brodsky said. “Or maybe he just surrounded himself with a lot more naive people.”

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Purported expert on sex offenders charged with perjury
Chao Xiong,  Star Tribune
March 2, 2005

A Woodbury man who lied about being licensed to practice psychology in Minnesota testified that a convicted sex offender did not meet the threshold to be civilly committed, according to court documents and perjury charges filed Monday.

Michael J. Nilan, 55, testified last summer that Edward V. Martin was not a "sexually dangerous person" or "sexual psychopathic person," according to documents.

The court's first expert, however, had found that Martin was a "sexually dangerous person," but the court ruled not to order Martin civilly committed. It allows the state to hold a sex offender indefinitely after the prison sentence is complete.

Nilan's testimony was rescinded in September when a Hennepin County lawyer raised doubts about his credibility. The case was retried, and the court is deciding whether to commit Martin, who tried to rape a woman in 1989 and has been convicted of multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

"The most significant repercussion is that everyone will be more careful in checking the credentials of people," said Hennepin County Chief District Judge Lucy Wieland. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar called the case "disturbing for the justice system."

Nilan was charged Monday with three counts of perjury and three counts of practicing psychology without a license over testifying in three cases, two involving sexual predators. He did not return messages left at his home.

Nilan, who was paid $6,120 by the state for testifying in the case, also lied about having a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from a correspondence school, Madison University, and a master of arts degree in clinical psychology from the University of St. Thomas, according to the charges. He actually has a doctorate in psychology from Madison University and a master of arts degree in counseling psychology from St. Thomas.

He also said he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but the school has no record that he ever attended. [...]

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White supremacists eyed in murders
By DON BABWIN

CHICAGO (AP) - Authorities said Tuesday they are investigating whether the shooting deaths of a federal judge's husband and her frail, 89-year-old mother were the work of white supremacists out for revenge.

The killings came a month before white supremacist Matt Hale was scheduled to be sentenced for trying to have the judge, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, killed over her handling of a trademark dispute involving his hate group.

Police said they were looking at the possibility the crime was committed by hate groups but cautioned that it was "but one facet of our investigation." Still, from the federal courthouse to the family's neighbourhood, the talk was about Lefkow's involvement in the white supremacist case.

"There is much speculation about possible links between this crime and the possible involvement of hate groups. We are looking in many, many directions, but it would be far too early to draw any definitive links," said James Molloy, Chicago's chief of detectives.

The judge and other members of her family were placed under federal protection after the killings.

On Monday, the judge came home to discover the bodies of her husband, Michael Lefkow, 64, a lawyer, and her mother, Donna Humphrey, in the basement of the Lefkows' North Side house.

A federal source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the victims had been shot in the head. Another source said that police found two .22-calibre casings and that a window at the house had been broken.

The two victims would have been easy to overpower. Lefkow family friend Thomas Robb described them as "very vulnerable people," explaining that Humphrey, who was visiting from Denver, needed two canes to walk. Michael Lefkow had undergone surgery last week to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon and was on crutches, he said.

"All of us are horrified by the murder of Judge Lefkow's husband and mother. Nothing can prepare us for such a stunning, tragic event," said Charles Kocoras, chief federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois.

Hale's father, retired East Peoria policeman Russell Hale, dismissed the notion that his son may have been involved in the slayings, saying he is under constant surveillance by authorities.

"There would be no way he could order anything," Hale said. "It's ridiculous."

By Tuesday morning, news articles of the killings had been posted on white supremacist websites, along with "RAHOWA!," meaning "racial holy war."

In a discussion on a white nationalist website in 2003, members had posted the Lefkows' home address. Anti-Defamation League official Mark Pitcavage said another white supremacist's short-wave radio show last April had discussed killing the judge.

Investigators looking for a motive for the slayings searched for clues from the judge's professional life, including her role presiding over cases involving Hale and others.

During Hale's murder-plot trial, prosecutors contended that he was furious when Lefkow ordered him to stop using the name World Church of the Creator because it had been trademarked by an Oregon religious group that has no ties to Hale.

Hale, 33, is awaiting sentencing April 6 for the murder plot. Police would not say whether they have attempted to talk with him.

As recently as last year, federal authorities took the murder plot seriously enough that they provided Lefkow with protection for at least a few weeks and Chicago police stepped up patrols of her neighbourhood. The Lefkows took their own security measures, installing cameras on their front porch, said Mike Miner, a longtime friend of Michael Lefkow.

Michael Lefkow was active along with his wife in the Episcopal Church, and they had four daughters plus a fifth from his previous marriage.

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Mom Says Boyfriend Sacrificed 13-Month-Old Daughter
Woman Gets 10 Years In Connection With Daughter's Death
UPDATED: 1:10 pm EST March 2, 2005

AKRON, Ohio -- A Springfield Township mother broke down in tears as she was sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection with the death of her 13-month-old daughter.

Vanessa McGlumphy, 25, and the baby's father made statements to the court Wednesday, NewsChannel5 reported.

McGlumphy, pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter and child endangering for not protecting her daughter.

The toddler died last October. She suffered a broken neck, a severed liver and 12 broken ribs. She also had been struck 40 times with a needle on the bottom of both feet and the side of her head, the prosecutor said.

McGlumphy said that she thought her boyfriend, Daniel Duffield, 32, sacrificed her child because he is a different religion than she is and that they performed a ritual on the girl as a result of his belief. McGlumphy characterized Duffield as a "black pagan," the prosecutor said.

Duffield was found guilty Tuesday of involuntary manslaughter and murder in the death of the toddler.

He will be sentenced March 9. He faces 15 years to life in prison.

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Core Values
Global Eye
By Chris Floyd
Published: February 25, 2005

Day in and day out, patriotic American dissidents on both the left and the right keep shovelling through the bloody muck of the Bush Imperium. The filth is endless, Augean; Salon.com recently catalogued 34 ongoing major scandals, equalling or surpassing the depravity of Watergate. Yet still the patriots bend to the task, tossing up steaming piles of ugly truth before the public.

And with every loud splattering of fresh Bushflop, there's a flurry of hope that this time, the dirt will stick; this time, the stench of corruption will be so overwhelming that the nation's long-somnolent conscience will be aroused. Yet each time, the rancid slurry just disappears down the drain: The Bushists tell their butt-covering lies, the "watchdogs" of the media wag their tails and all is well again in the land that Gore Vidal so aptly dubbed the United States of Amnesia. No scandal, no matter how outrageous, ever gains any traction. But there is a simple reason why patriots on both the right and the left are stymied: because the center is rotten to its well-wadded, self-righteous, wilfully ignorant core. We speak here of the nation's "great and good," pillars of the community and stalwarts of the established order, the "captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters, the generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers, distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees, industrial lords and petty contractors," in T.S. Eliot's words -- to which we might add, as a modern gloss, the highly credentialed academics, extremely well-remunerated corporate journalists, politically wired churchmen and the innumerable massagers of public opinion and commercial desire.

It is this center -- which prides itself on being sensible, moderate, decent and respectable -- that has become morally corrupted beyond measure, perhaps beyond remedy. Here, where there should be thunderous denunciations of the Bush regime's rape of American honor -- a litany of sins that includes aggressive war, the decimation of cities, vile acts of torture, kidnappings, "renditions," imprisonment without charges, indefinite detention, assassinations, war profiteering and the exaltation of presidential power above the reach of law -- there has been only silent acquiescence, or the rare, decorous, timorous murmur, or, increasingly, enthusiastic support.

An obscure news story from last week, buried in the back pages -- if noted at all -- provides a vivid glimpse of the center rot. It was an ordinary wire piece from Knight-Ridder, standard Washington wonkery about a bureaucratic turf battle. It dealt with one of the recommendations of the "9-11 Commission" -- that assemblage of the great and good whose "independent" investigation of the 2001 terrorist attacks on America unearthed a vast tangle of criminal negligence and fatal incompetence for which, miraculously, not a single member of the great and good bore the least responsibility.
The commission issued a slew of recommendations for upgrading national security, including the much-ballyhooed creation of a new "Director of National Intelligence" to oversee the ever-spreading octopus of U.S. "security organs" -- 15 separate spy agencies at last count (that we know about). The wisdom of this advice was borne out by George W. Bush's choice for the post: John Negroponte, the death-squad enabler and atrocity manager best known for burying evidence of CIA-sponsored murders, massacres and torture in Central America during the Reagan-Bush I years. Fresh from not-dissimilar duties in Baghdad, this distinguished civil servant is now bringing his dark arts to the Homeland -- to general approval from the stalwarts.

But the sages had another, lesser-known recommendation: consolidating "all secret U.S. paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert" within the Pentagon. This would make such operations "more robust," the worthies said. But the CIA objected to having its own secret armies taken away. After months of negotiation, it was decided last week that the Pentagon and CIA would keep their separate paramilitary capabilities.

What exactly are these "paramilitary operations" which the commission, the U.S. Congress and all our stalwarts think we should have more of? As Knight-Ridder notes, they are actions "conducted by armed units that do not belong to conventional military formations" -- in other words, terrorist groups, according to the Bush regime's own definition. Those designated as terrorists by Bush should not be covered by the Geneva Conventions, we are told, because they are not part of a "conventional military formation." They're outlaws, Bush says, fit to be killed or locked up without charges. Yet of course he commands the largest collection of such "outlaws" in the world.

And "outlaw" is no metaphorical term here. As Knight-Ridder explains, specifically "covert" operations are those "in which the U.S. government wants to be able to deny any involvement" because they "at times violate international law or the laws of war."

Here we come to the crux of the rot. Not a single Establishment stalwart involved in the matter -- not Congress, nor the Commission, nor the President, nor the press -- objected in the least to this horrifying reality: that the U.S. government routinely violates "international law and the laws of war" in secret terrorist actions by "unconventional" forces, including CIA operatives, local proxies and hired killers. It's simply accepted, across the board, as standard practice. In fact, the only concern about these admittedly criminal actions -- directed by unrestricted presidential fiat, with their true ends (Counterterrorism? Personal enrichment? Political power games? Ideological zealotry?) forever hidden from public scrutiny -- is how to make them more "robust," more efficient and more deadly.

The great societal bulwarks that should mitigate the abuse of power have instead embraced the barbaric ethos of brute force in order to maintain their own comfort, privilege and self-regard. For them, law has become a pretty sham and honor is a fiction, while respectability and decency are fairy tales for fools and children. Truth will never hold where the center is so murderously corrupted.

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Out of context, lists of presumptive triumphs in Iraq
Pierre Tristam - Wed March 2/05

Most of us get them, those e-mails promising bushels of porn, the end of impotence, permanently flaccid mortgage rates or lucrative friendships with wayward African princes seeking bank accounts to bunk with. It's harmless clutter. It's also a reminder that marketing sugared in smut and guile always finds an audience, otherwise its retailers wouldn't keep at it. So it's natural for the merchants of Operation Iraqi Freedom to hitch their pipeline to our in-boxes. They sell porn of a different kind -- the pornography of war as a beautiful thing, as an orgy of good news the media just won't show because, as one incensed e-mail has it, "a Bush-hating media and Democratic Party would rather see the world blow up than lose their power." (If it's possible for the propagandist to find good news in Iraq it must be equally possible to find a Democrat still in power in the United States.)

The good-news e-mails show little Iraqi kids holding up signs that say "Thank you very much Mr. Bush" or matronly women doing the same with "Iraqi people happy today," pictures of American soldiers cradling olive-skinned kids and showering them with school supplies, and similarly posed presumptions of triumph that reproduce President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" sketch on the USS Abraham Lincoln almost two years ago, but on location. The pictures are a counterweight to the "isolated" bad news the media obsesses over, those images of torture, bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, maiming and killing of Americans and Iraqis alike. Isolation has its toll: Doubtless, some time this week the 1,500th American soldier will be killed in Iraq -- "Thank you very much Mr. Bush" -- and some time this month the 11,000th American will be wounded, disfigured, mutilated and either returned to duty for another crack at making Iraqis happy or returned home to a lifetime subscription to PTSD.

Still, it must be a good thing. Here's the latest variant of lists making their way across the Internet since 2003: "Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq? Did you know that the Iraqi government employs 1.2 million people? Did you know that 3,100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation, 263 schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been built in Iraq? Did you know that 25 Iraqi students departed for the United States in January 2004 for the re-established Fulbright program?" And so on.

The stuff is written simply and factually, but in that bullying tone of self-evidence that omits the relevance of evidence -- context, proof, explanation, perspective. How many of those embassies are basement annexes to the same obscure countries sharecropping their way to American favors as part of the "Coalition of the Willing"? What's the use of a government employing 1.2 million people if it can't pay them? How many of those Band-aided schools were wrecked by American bombs? Twenty-five students from Iraq are studying in American universities on Fulbright scholarships for the first time in 14 years. But American sanctions had something to do with keeping them out so long. And in the spirit of the Fulbright program's aim to foster "mutual understanding" between nations, it would be newsworthy if American students were lining up to study in Iraq. They're not.

It's pointless to get caught up in the game. Entire Web sites are devoted to verifying some claims and, unfortunately, debunking most. Unfortunately, because no one should be cheering against good news. But a war costing $2 billion a week -- or $4,000 per Iraqi per year -- had better yield some results worth cheering about other than the Fallujah-style flattening of cities, the surrender of much of the country to anarchy, or a hemorrhage of American tax-dollars that will eventually make the United Nations' $67 billion oil-for-food scandal look quaint in comparison. True, there's a lack of honest reporting. But the unreported scandal from this end is that the investment in deficit-digging tax-dollars is yielding so little return except for the contractors and mercenaries in on the loot. The unreported tragedy from the Iraqi perspective is that the investment in lives is yielding still nothing more than finger-paint parodies of democracy. We'd be better off going home and sending every Iraqi man, woman and child a $4,000 annual check.

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Why death is no big deal
AL Kennedy
Wednesday March 2, 2005
The Guardian

I lost a friend last week. These things happen - I'm bad at people, after all - but I can't say I'm not pissed off. Last week I also talked to a nice lady who was great at describing loss, the details of loss, the amputated future, the lack of company. Because I'm bad at people it took me a long time to remember she was so well-informed because her husband died a while ago. I mean, ages ago, but she hasn't forgotten him. Which is odd, isn't it ? She wants to be able to talk to her husband, I want to be able to talk to my friend - but we shouldn't. We should be over it.

How do I know? Because I should be caring about how a bony tart and a petulant clothes horse choose to christen their spawn. I should be fretting over whether a lack of established royal precedent at Windsor register office will cause Camilla to spontaneously combust. I should want to see more and more and more of Jimmy Carr. Then I would be part of the real world, the things that matter, the questions that deserve every scrap of media attention they get.

Particularly, I should keep away from anything to do with unpleasantness, injury, or loss - they have no place in a modern media environment. Take Lance Corporal Andres Raya. I shouldn't think about him. He's dead now. He made it through Iraq, went home to California and couldn't take it. He committed suicide by cop in a three-hour gun fight. But he doesn't matter. Or Baha Mousa, he's never going to get the kind of headlines he might if he'd shagged Jordan, or shat himself in a celebrity detox special. He's dead now. Our troops killed him. But if that matters at all it's as an indication of how stressed war can make the modern soldier. His brother Ala'a misses him, but he probably lacks perspective.

Abdul Wali, he's dead now. He died after being interrogated by a CIA contractor in Afghanistan, but so what? Then there's Zaydun al-Samarrai. He's dead now. His cousin Marwan Hassoun is upset about this, but you can be sure he's overreacting - after all Sgt Tracy Perkins, one of the people who drowned al-Samarrai in the Tigris, was only given a six-month sentence, so it can't have been a big deal. Hanan Saleh Matrud, she's dead now. After they shot her in Basra, the British army paid her family £390 compensation, which is fair enough because she was only eight and might not have amounted to much.

Hussain Adbulkadr Youssouf Mustafa says he had a stick shoved up his rectum by US troops at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and he has the gall to complain. Didar Khalan says he was tortured for a week by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan until he finally gave false testimony against Mullah Krekar, testimony that was later presented as a valid basis for prosecution by US authorities. He claims his arm was broken and that he was made to stand in a freezing room without clothing and sit on blocks of ice. Which would have made a terrific reality special, but sadly, no one thought ahead.

Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed Al Deemawi was at Bagram, where he was threatened with dogs, stripped, photographed in obscene positions and placed in a cage with a hook and a hanging rope. He's not happy, either, when surely he should just be glad nobody killed him.

If either of them actually wanted the public's attention they should realise that having Kelly Osbourne shove a stick up their arse would have done it, or having someone, you know, attractive in those obscene photos. Think of how popular Hugh Grant's arrest snap still remains, and that barely suggests the erotic action that preceded his bust.

Surely, if we've learned nothing else from fusiliers Kenyon, Larkin and Cooley, it's that people really don't want to look at tubby, petrified Muslims trying to fake sodomy. We like our soft porn nipped and tucked. Or if it has to be ugly, it should involve paparazzi shots of stars that everyone is tired of, such as Mickey Rourke or Dirty Den.

Army specialist James Kiehl, he's dead now. He was killed in the same attack that won Jessica Lynch so much air time, but that wasn't enough to make him famous. Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley and Lt Philip Green, they're dead now. They died for Mr Blair, but that doesn't mean anyone should have heard of them. Peter Mahoney, he fought for Mr Blair, too. He's dead now. Killed himself. But that was last year - his wife and four children will be fine.

How do I know? Because that's the way the real world works. Remember all those poor, dead 9/11 victims we're supposed to be avenging? Many of their fragmentary remains have been dumped in the Fresh Kills landfill without even a memorial. Because we're over them. We can get over anything. It's the only way.

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Car Bomb Kills 9 US Troops In Ramadi; 7-Year Old Boy Among “Suspects”
Mar 03, 2005
By Muhammad Abu Nasr, Free Arab Voice;
Edited For Publication by JUS

A bomb exploded by a US military column in the village of al-Bu Faraj north of Ramadi and west of Baghdad, destroying one Zil troop transport and reportedly killing nine US soldiers and one Lebanese translator who held American citizenship and was collaborating with the occupation troops.

The correspondent of Mafkarat al-Islam in Ramadi reported witnesses who were nearby at the time the bomb went off and were wounded by pieces of flying shrapnel as saying that the Resistance planted the high-explosive bomb under a large pile of cow dung that is used as fertilizer for farm fields which was sitting by the side of the road, and which the American soldiers paid no attention to.

The bomb went off by a Zil vehicle that was carrying 11 US troops on their way to the village to carry out routine raids and searches of houses – something they usually do every Wednesday. The explosion reportedly killed nine of the Americans in the vehicle and wounded the other two.

Two US helicopters landed to evacuate the bodies. In a report posted at 10:45am Mecca time Wednesday morning, the Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent reported that the burned-out wrecked hulk of the vehicle was still lying in the road. US forces completely encircled the area at the time of writing. They launched a wave of raids and arrests, taking four men and one seven-year-old child into custody. The boy’s father was martyred in recent fighting in Hit, and his mother’s pleading with the Americans did not prevent their arresting him and taking him off to prison with the men.

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Bomb Blasts Continue Throughout Iraq; US-Back Police Resign En Masse
Mar 03, 2005
By Muhammad Abu Nasr, Free Arab Voice;
Edited For Publication by JUS

A bomb exploded by a US military column in the ar-Rifa‘i area west of al-Hadithah in al-Anbar Province at 3pm Wednesday afternoon local time, Mafkarat al-Islam reported. The blast destroyed one Humvee and disabled a second, reportedly killing seven American troops.

The correspondent in al-Hadithah reported that a high-explosive bomb exploded by the column made up of several Humvees of various types, destroying one and disabling the vehicle immediately behind it in the column. In addition to the seven Americans killed there were others who were wounded, the correspondent noted. He said that the blast was so powerful that one of the bodies of the dead Americans was blown nearly 10 meters by the force of the explosion into a stream of brackish water. Eyewitnesses and sources in the local puppet police confirmed that fact, noting that the Americans spent nearly half an hour searching before they found that body.

Witnesses said that the wounded were able to pick themselves up and get into other vehicles in the column. American forces encircled the scene of the attack, firing tear gas grenades and noise bombs off. One US soldier opened fire on at the giant, government-owned electricity generator that supplies the city with power, as a sort of revenge on the local people for the attack. The American troops regard the local people in the area as the real backbone of the Resistance.

Bombs Reportedly Kill Eight US Troops Southwest Of Hit

Three Iraqi Resistance bombs exploded by a US military column made up of 11 various vehicles in the al-Jam‘iyah neighborhood to the south west of Hit at 4pm local time Wednesday afternoon. The blast destroyed two Humvees and disabled a third. Eight US troops were killed and three more received “mortal” wounds, according to the local Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent.

Witnesses said that members of the Iraqi Resistance planted five bombs on the main al-Jam‘iyah road, with each bomb about 15 meters from the next. The American troops were able to discover two of the bombs and detonate them using a mechanical robot but failed to find three of the bombs and those then exploded when the US column passed by.

The bombs struck three vehicles in the American column at nearly the same time, completely destroying two Humvees and disabling a third. Eight American troops were reportedly killed by the explosions and three more wounded.

A source in the puppet so-called “Iraqi rapid deployment unit” in al-Hadithah told Mafkarat al-Islam that 11 Americans were killed or wounded on Wednesday and two Humvees destroyed and one disabled, confirming the story above.

After the blast, US forces encircled the area of the attack. Using loudspeakers they announced that the city would be receive “corrective punishment,” the first part of which on Wednesday was the imposition of a curfew on the residents of the city from 3pm until 7am the next morning. The Americans threatened to keep the curfew in force for many long days if local residents do not turn over Resistance fighters to the invader troops. They also indicated that they would cut off electricity and water from the local people in coming days.

Resistance Shoots Down US Chinook Helicopter

Resistance forces opened fire and struck a US Chinook helicopter, setting its rear section ablaze and forcing it down in the al-Kubaysat area near the US base in the city of ar-Rutbah.in al-Anbar Province on the way to the Jordanian border.

The correspondent of Mafkarat al-Islam was unable to ascertain the nature or extent of US losses in the attack. Residents of the area who were nearby when the helicopter went down reported hearing a powerful explosion when it hit the ground.

Salah Ad-Din Province Without All US-Backed Police Forces Who Resign En Masse

The Iraqi so-called police in Salah ad-Din Province, which includes the cities of Samarra’, Tikrit, al-Bayji, Balad, and ad-Dulu‘iyah, announced that they were suspending their service in the police force. Many of them resigned from the force altogether.

The correspondent of Mafkarat al-Islam reported Major General Ahmad Jabr, the commander of the police in Salah ad-Din Province announced on local television on Wednesday that the entire force in the province, an estimated 8,000 men, were going on general strike.

General Jabr said the move was in protest against the US occupation forces storming of the building housing the police command, where the Americans arrested a number of policemen and officers in the force, accusing them of cooperating with the Iraqi Resistance and serving them.

The correspondent of Mafkarat al-Islam in Samarra’ reported that the Samarra’ Police had also gone on general strike.

Meanwhile, Mafkarat al-Islam correspondents in various cities in the province report that more than 70 percent of the members of the puppet police force in al-Bayji, Balad, and ad-Dulu‘iyah handed in their weapons and left the police stations and abandoned all patrols. The correspondents write that at the present time there are no puppet police working in the province where the rule of the occupation regime is solely in the hands of the US forces.

The Americans for their part are reportedly searching for a new commander for the provincial police after General Jabr called his police strike, an action that the Americans regard as “sabotaging security.”

In their report posted at 5:10pm Wednesday afternoon, the correspondents wrote that there were unconfirmed reports saying that the commander had in fact also resigned.

Rockets Blast US Base In Tall ‘Afar

Resistance forces in Tall ‘Afar, which is north of Baghdad, fired four rockets into the main US base in the city. The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported local witnesses as saying that the four rockets blasted into the base where the Iraqi Army formerly had an observation headquarters before the US invasion in spring 2003.

The correspondent reported that the attack send dens clouds of smoke rising into the sky over the US-occupied facility as powerful explosions shook the base at 10am Wednesday local time. Three US helicopters came in over the area where they remained for a full hour.

Bomb Disables South Korean Military Vehicle

An Iraqi Resistance bomb exploded by a south Korean military column in a residential section of downtown Irbil in northern Iraq. The blast disabled one military vehicle, Mafkarat al-Islam reported. No further information was available because occupation forces had encircled the area and prevented all access.

Resistance Bomb Kills Four Brits In Basra

In a dispatch posted at 9:40pm Mecca time Wednesday night, the correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam in al-Basrah reported that a short while before an Iraqi Resistance bomb had exploded by a British military column made up of four armored vehicles. The column had entered the ash-Shuratah neighborhood in the northern part of the city.

The correspondent reported that the blast destroyed one armored vehicle and reportedly killed four British soldiers. A source in the “national guard” confirmed to the correspondent that the blast left four British troops dead and one armored vehicle destroyed.

Comment: The Iraqi people voted in last month's election with the faint hope that by having their own democratically elected government would see the removal of U.S. occupation forces from their country. The American people were told that after the election and proper training of Iraqi police forces, would also see American soldiers on their way home. Both of these hopes were based in wishful thinking and a niave belief in government propaganda and neither have any real possibility of coming true.

As the story above shows, many Iraqi police forces are resigning 'en masse' because they're being targeted by Ameican soldiers as being sympathetic to the resistance, and in one province there are reportedly no local forces at all. As the death count on both sides grows, the situation in Iraq grows more unstable each day, giving much credence to the fact that the whole election was a sham from the beginning and the U.S. troops never had any intentioning of abandoning their newly acquired serfdom.

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'Great democratic experiment' ignited by U.S., analyst says

Opposition meets to plan strategy; 'I don't think any country in this region is going to be spared from this wave'

RICHARD FOOT
CanWest News Service
March 3, 2005

The dramatic changes underway in Lebanon are signs of a "great democratic experiment" ignited by the United States that could sweep through the Middle East this year, says a scholar of Islamic politics here.

"Democracy is knocking at the door of this country and, if it's successful in Lebanon, it is going to ring the doors of every Arab regime," says Nizar Hamzeh, a political scientist at the American University in Beirut and author of a new book on Islamic militia movements.

"I don't think any country in this region is going to be spared from this wave."

At a mountain retreat yesterday outside Beirut, dozens of leaders from Lebanon's diverse and newly united opposition groups met to plot strategy two days after they and crowds of protesters pressured the country's pro-Syrian government into resigning.

The opposition has demanded that Syria withdraw all of its military and intelligence services from Lebanon and that Lebanese Syrian-backed security chiefs resign as a precondition to joining any talks on forming a new government.

"The opposition considers essential in its demands on the road to salvation and independence the total withdrawal of the Syrian army and intelligence service from Lebanon," said the statement read by lawmaker Ahmad Fatfat.

"This step requires an official announcement from Syria's president on the withdrawal of the Syrian forces and its intelligence from Lebanon," he said.

It remains undecided whether Emile Lahoud, Lebanon's unpopular, Syrian-backed president, will also step down or take part in the process of choosing a caretaker government until parliamentary elections in May.

The opposition says an independent government, rather than a puppet regime of Syria, is needed to properly investigate last month's murder of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, a beloved figure in Beirut whose death many blame on Syria.

Also unclear is whether Syrian President Bashar Assad is serious about the claim he made Tuesday that he will withdraw his forces from Lebanon in the coming months and end decades of Syrian control over its smaller neighbour.

"He should tell us how many months," Walid Jumblatt, one of the main opposition leaders, said yesterday.

The departure of Syrian forces is the key demand of the thousands of citizens who cram into a downtown Beirut square each night, wrapped in Lebanese flags in what many are calling the "Cedar Revolution," named after the cedar tree that is Lebanon's national symbol.

Hamzeh said the difficult work of solving these issues and bringing true democracy and sovereignty to Lebanon now falls to its people. But he insisted yesterday that the United States deserves the credit for inspiring the winds of change in this region.

"Definitely the credit here is to the United States and President (George W.) Bush," he said yesterday.

"What's happening in Lebanon is not just power of the people, with all due respect to them. Whether people like the U.S. or hate it, this process of peaceful political transformation would not have started if the U.S. had not initiated it."

Hamzeh said the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with U.S. pressure on Syria and Iran to mend their ways as sponsors of terrorism - what he calls "coercive diplomacy that falls just short of war" - has emboldened opposition movements throughout the Middle East and created a climate of political opportunity in a region whose people were desperate for change but needed international encouragement.

He said elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, plus the prospect of genuinely free elections in Lebanon and Egypt, are signs of a movement that could spread to Jordan, the Gulf states and even Syria and Iran.

In Lebanon, however, Hamzeh said the rest is now up to the country itself. "The U.S. can't fight all our battles."

Some Lebanese at Beirut's protest camp agreed yesterday the United States laid the groundwork for their goals. The handful of people interviewed by CanWest News Service said they were fans of Bush, but also said the United States and Europe need to do much more.

"The U.S. should invade Syria, just like Iraq," said Peter Geagea, a university student. "Syria has been talking for 15 years about leaving Lebanon, and it never has. The only way is to force them out."

At the nearby grave and memorial of Hariri, whose murder helped spark the Beirut protests, businessman Nage Abesaad said the Lebanese people, not the United States, are the agents of change here.

"This is the first time that we've stood up together, as one, and demanded freedom," he said. As for Lebanon leading the rest of the Middle East into a new political era, Abesaad was skeptical.

"We will have true democracy here, maybe," he said, "but in Syria, I don't know. If you want real peace in the Middle East, you need to get rid of the (ruling) Baath Party in Syria - the same way the U.S. did in Iraq."

Comment: The US and Zionist propaganda machine is going into overdrive on the Lebanon/Syria issue. Not too long ago, an international poll showed that Bush was universally hated around the world. During Bush's recent visit to Europe, he stopped off in small centres such as Mainz rather than go to large cities like Berlin. The streets were cleared of people and lined with police to avoid demostrations. Bush is detested whereever he goes.

Now, carefully chosen Lebanese interviewed here are praising him and parroting the party line delivered by Bush during his last State of the Union address: that the US is a force for freedom and democracy in the world, that the invasion and occupation of Iraq, illegal according to international law, was a good thing and should be repeated in Syria.

And this is being reported under the cover of objective journalism.

Where are the journalists with the cojonnes to stand up and ask Condi Rice how she can dare discuss Syria's 14,000 troops in Lebanon while there are 140,000 US troops in Iraq? Where are the journalists who have the courage to point out the inconsistency and hypocrisy of denouncing Iran as a terrorist state and would-be nuclear power while Israel has nukes and is willing to attack other countries as it sees fit to protect itself in violation of international law?

Why do journalists allow these war criminals to get away with it? And why are they unwilling to ask the real questions about 9/11? Because it goes back to 9/11 and the ease with which the guilty party was able to pass off the official story as a viable explanation in the face of the facts by playing upon American patriotism and the shock of those images of the airplanes flying into the twin towers and their subsequent crashing to the ground.

In spite of all of this, Americans believe they have a free press and liberty of expression. Then why aren't these questions being asked?

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The Branding of Lebanon's 'Revolution'
By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 2005; 6:00 AM

On the streets of Beirut, they call it the "intifada for independence." In the corridors of Washington, they prefer to call it the "Cedar Revolution."

In a media age, such branding could be crucial. The name given to Lebanon's popular political movement is shorthand for its historical roots and its future direction. The label will help shape how the world understands Lebanon's small but telling part of the ongoing struggle for democracy throughout the Middle East.

The "intifada" brand emerged on Feb. 18 when Beirut's Daily Star reported that the opposition leaders, outraged by the Feb. 14 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, were "calling for an 'intifada for independence'" as they stepped up attacks on the government.

The Jerusalem Post reported that "the so-called civilian intifada . . . has done what years of civil war and internecine fighting failed to achieve. It brought the citizens of Lebanon together as Lebanese."

When the protests forced the resignation of the pro-Syrian prime minister on Monday, the Daily Star quoted opposition leaders saying "the resignation marked the 'first success of the peaceful intifada' it waged on the government." A correspondent for the Morocco Times uses the same phrase.

And when the Daily Star interviewed an 18-year-old student at Hariri's grave on Wednesday, she said, "we came to thank him for starting this peaceful intifada for Lebanon's freedom."

It's easy to see why the Bush administration prefers not to adopt the "intifada" label. Intifada is an Arabic word meaning "shaking off." It was coined by Palestinians during their spontaneous uprising against Israeli military occupation in 1987. To speak of Lebanon's "intifada" places this month's events in the tradition of the Palestinians' struggle against Israeli occupation. And it implies that Syria, a decaying Arab autocracy, and Israel, a favorite U.S. ally, have something in common as occupying powers.

All of those ideas are credible on the streets of Beirut, where Israel is remembered and reviled for its 1982 invasion. The Israeli Defense Forces, led by then defense minister Ariel Sharon, launched a surprise attack designed to install a friendly government in Beirut. Israel's bid to dominate the country collapsed amid fierce factional fighting and massacres that devastated Beirut and killed upwards of 10,000 civilians. In the ensuing chaos, the Syrian military moved in, effectively installed their own friendly government, and demanded the Lebanese go along.

Comment: They "forget" to mention that Sharon permitted the massacre to happen.

Given this history, the "Cedar Revolution" brand is more congenial to the Bush administration. It was coined by Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky in a Feb. 28 news conference that touted President Bush's foreign policy.

"In Lebanon, we see growing momentum for a Cedar Revolution that is unifying the citizens of that nation to the cause of true democracy and freedom from foreign influence," Dobriansky declared. "Hopeful signs span the globe and there should be no doubt that the years ahead will be great ones for the cause of freedom."

The Cedar Tree is the national symbol and depicted prominently on the Lebanese flag. The brand name portrays the anti-Syrian protest movement as essentially an effort to recover Lebanon's national tradition. It gives the movement a Lebanese, not an Arabic, face. It evokes benevolent nature, not unpleasant memories of Israeli military might. It fits rather more comfortably with Bush's foreign policy notion that "freedom is on the march" in the Middle East.

But no one in the Lebanese press is talking about "the Cedar Revolution." The cedar tree is the traditional symbol of the country's Maronite Christians, derived from a reference in the Christian Bible (Psalms 92:12, "the righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon."), according to the Flags of the World Web site. It was incorporated into the Lebanese flag in 1943 when Christians were a majority of the population and the much poorer Shiite Muslims living in the dusty south were all but shut out of power.

That era is gone. Today, Shiites are the biggest single ethnic/religious grouping in Lebanon. They are represented by Hezbollah, the Shiite political party that holds 12 seats in the 128-member parliament. Denounced by the United States as a terrorist organization, Hezbollah is respected across the Lebanese political spectrum for driving the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000. In the words of the newsweekly Monday Morning "the alliance between Damascus and Hezbollah is now decisive" in maintaining the country's pro-Syrian political order.

That's why opposition leader Walid Jumblatt is calling for dialogue with Hezbollah. Jumblatt says he disagrees with Washington's (and France's) insistence that Hezbollah disarm immediately.

Al Manar, Hezbollah's TV station and Web site, reported Wednesday that Jumblatt's representative will soon meet with Hezbollah's leadership.

Hezbollah, it is safe to say, wants no part of a U.S.-backed "Cedar Revolution." But it might be persuaded to join an "intifada for independence," especially if the new government would allow it to keep its weapons after Syria departs.

A lot hangs on how the Lebanese brand this moment in their political history.

Comment: Freedom as marketing concept and branding, just another slogan to go on your t-shirt.

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France suspects Syria link in Liberation journalist's kidnap
AFP
March 2, 2005
PARIS, March 2 (AFP) - French intelligence services were Wednesday studying two videos of a reporter taken hostage in Iraq - one of which was broadcast the day before - amid suspicions that Syria had links to those holding her, media said.

The front pages of all of France's dailies were given over to the latest video, initially shown by Italian television station Sky-Italia Tuesday, which showed Florence Aubenas, a senior correspondent of the Liberation newspaper, looking gaunt and desperate.

"Please help me. My health is very bad. I'm very bad psychologically also," Aubenas was seen pleading, in English, her knees drawn up to her chest and sitting in front of a plain reddish background.

"This is urgent now. Help me! I ask especially Mr Didier Julia, the French deputy. Please Mr Julia. Help me! It's urgent. Mr Julia help me!" she said in the 50-second video.

Technical experts at the DGSE foreign espionage service and other branches of the defence ministry were analysing the video to try to determine when and where it was taken.

The government and Liberation said an earlier video, contained on a CD-ROM, had been received last week.

Liberation said Wednesday that that video, which lasted 40 seconds, was not made public at the demand of authorities, who claimed to be observing a request by the kidnappers. It showed Aubenas against a black background, essentially making the same statement in English - but without the reference to Julia.

In both cases, there has been no indication as to who is holding Aubenas, nor mention of any demands nor of Aubenas's Iraqi interpreter, Hussein Hanun al-Saadi, who disappeared with her in Baghdad on January 5.

But the Julia reference has concerned and puzzled French officials and the media - and raised speculation that Syria might have a link to the hostage-takers.

Julia, an Arabic-speaking MP in President Jacques Chirac's ruling UMP party, is seen as having ties to Damascus. [...]

"Among the experts following the matter, the coincidence of the open crisis over Lebanon... and the abduction gives rise to many questions on what role might be played by Syria, with whom Didier Julia has close contacts," Liberation said.

The French radio station Europe 1 reported that the head of Syrian military intelligence, Assef Shwakat (who is also brother-in-law to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad), visited Paris discreetly last week and told French officials his services were at their disposition in the Aubenas case and "we are able to do something".

The radio said the broadcast of the video of Aubenas following that visit raised the possibility that "the Syrian secret services have taken control of the group holding Florence Aubenas and want to use that card to throw French diplomacy into total embarrassment."

Le Figaro, the centre-right daily, noted that Julia and his team worked out of the Syrian capital Damascus during their failed freelance mission last September.

It, too, noted a "coincidence" in that that mission came to an unsuccessful end after France and the United States pushed the UN resolution against Syria, and hinted that Julia appeared to have been entirely relying on Syrian authorities throughout his venture.

For the France-Soir newspaper, "Didier Julia has always tapped his Syrian friendships for his actions in the region."

Comment: Life is funny, isn't it? Just at the moment that Syria is being blamed for a bomb in Beirut and the Americans, French, and Israelis are maintaining the accusations without a shred of evidence, a video appears of kidnapped French journalist Florence Aubenas asking for the help of pro-Syrian UMP deputy Didier Julia, the man at the centre of controversy over his attempts to negotiate the release of Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaper and Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale.

Is it not likely that if Aubenas referred to Julia it was under duress, that she was passing the message her kidnappers wished to have passed? Are we thus not justified in wondering who was really responsible for her kidnapping on January 5?

It may well be that the people who are holding Aubenais are in fact those responsible for the bombing in Beirut and the killing of Hariri. We strongly doubt, however, that they have any links with Syria, other, perhaps, than that of dropping the occasional bomb on the country.

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French MP Didier Julia: 'pro-Syria, pro-Saddam'
AFP
3 March 2005
PARIS, March 2 (AFP) - Didier Julia, the French lawmaker a reporter taken hostage in Iraq called for by name in a video released by her abductors, is seen as a maverick member of President Jacques Chirac's ruling party - and someone with close ties to Syria and the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein. [...]

A former archeaologist who speaks Arabic, Julia is familiar with the Middle East.

He was also seen as a pro-Iraq lobbyist during the regime of Saddam Hussein, and enjoyed contacts with Iraqi officials from that era.

Many of those Iraqis are now believed to be active in the insurgency battling US-led forces, some with the surreptitious support of Syria. [...]

Several newspapers in France noted that, when Julia went to Syria to oversee his failed mission, the French embassy in Damscus stepped in to secure his Syrian visa with the Syrian foreign ministry.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo also loaned a private jet for the Julia team's use, adding to speculation that, though the mission was unofficial, it might have taken place in a larger, behind-the-scenes dealmaking environment.

With Aubenas now calling out for Julia by name, many in France, starting with the journalist's employer, the Liberation newspaper, believe she was directed to involve the MP.

A previous video received last week by French officials but not made public had Aubenas identifying herself in a similar tone - but not making any reference to Julia, according to the newspaper.

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U.S. slams Iran over its nuclear ambitions
Thursday, March 3, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.
Reuters and The Associated Press

VIENNA, — The United States accused Iran yesterday of deceiving U.N. inspectors over its nuclear-weapons program, amid reports President Bush is leaning toward offering incentives to Iran to give up arms development.

Declaring some sites off-limits to U.N. arms inspectors, Iran said yesterday it fears that leaked information gathered by them could help those planning a strike on its military installations.

France, Britain and Germany, which criticized Iran for not honoring its pledge to freeze all activities that could be used to make weapons, are offering Iran economic and political incentives to terminate the most sensitive parts of its program. Iran has refused.

Backing the Europeans' approach would mark a significant shift in strategy, as Bush has been reluctant to consider incentives for Iran to avoid being seen as rewarding bad behavior.

Under the new strategy, the United States would not block Iranian attempts to start the process of joining the World Trade Organization, and would not try to stop European allies selling Iran parts for civilian aircraft, the officials said.

In exchange, the U.S. would insist that Iran abandon uranium enrichment, a demand Iran has so far rejected.

Some U.S. officials believe offering incentives would strengthen the international community's hand by providing a united front for punitive measures, such as U.N. sanctions, if the incentives did not work.

Jackie Sanders, chief U.S. delegate to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, called a new agency report updating Iran's nuclear record a "startling list of Iranian attempts to hide and mislead and delay the work" of agency experts, and urged other countries to support a U.S. drive to have Iran referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iran's refusal to grant IAEA inspectors renewed access to the Parchin military site after an initial, severely restricted visit last month was one of the issues raised by the agency's review. The United States says Iran may be testing high-explosive components for nuclear weapons, using an inert core of depleted uranium at Parchin as a dry run for a bomb that would use fissile material.

The IAEA says it has found no firm evidence that Iran's nuclear program is intended for anything other than peacefully generating electricity. The agency also has not been able to support U.S. assertions that nearly 20 years of covert nuclear programs discovered two years ago were aimed at making nuclear weapons.

Comment: The US is keeping up its torrent of abuse directed at the governments it has decided to overthrow. When it isn't hurling abuse at Syria, it is directed the insults at Iran. New on the list is Putin and his Russian government, the latest arrival on the US "We have a lesson to teach you" list.

Disinterested in and ignorant of what is actually happening in any country other than their own, and even then..., many Americans bask in a sense of moral superiority vis-à-vis the rest of the world. They have been told they are number one for so many years that they believe it, irregardless of the facts on the ground of which they are blissfully ignorant.

How to break through the propaganda wall? How to get the missing information into the country that believes it has the most free press in the world? And how to reach people whose entire vision of the world would crumble, including their own sense of self, if they were to learn the truth? It may well be that external conditions change more quickly than we can imagine. A year from now, the world may be unrecognisable. If conditions deteriorate, people will slowly be fored to ask why. Obviously, the mainstream press will continue to supply them with scapegoats: the Russians, the Chinese, the Europeans, anyone can serve as long as it can be shown that they woprked against the great plan to bring democracy to the world elaborated by GW. Many will be willing to buy into yet another fairy tale. But there will be more and more people who will go so far and no further in buying into the lie. They will have a shock that puts the data in a completely different pattern, and they will see it. The readers of this page will be able to make sense of that new pattern for such people, will be able to give an alternate and much more accurate reading of recent history, explaining the machinations of the neocons from Bush's election right through to the collapse.

As time goes by, more and more people will realise that their gods failed them as their lives and the world around them fall apart; they will be open to the truth.

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U.S. troop deaths in Iraq rise to 1,500; car bombs explode in capital
07:24 AM EST Mar 03
TODD PITMAN
BAGHDAD (AP) - The number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq rose to 1,500, an Associated Press count showed Thursday, as the military announced one of its troops was killed in action just south of the capital.
Comment: And yet Bush says the elections were a success. We repeat: Where are the journalists who will pose the hard questions to Bush, to Condi Rice, to Rumsfeld and the others in the Bush government? Where are the journalists who will confront the lies and the manipulations head on?

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Georgian president denies intention to set up anti-Russian alliance
www.chinaview.cn 2005-03-03 11:22:06
BUCHAREST, March 2 (Xinhuanet) -- Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have no intention of setting up an anti-Russian alliance, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said on Wednesday in Moldovan capital Chisinau.

Saakashvili, who arrived in Chisinau on Wednesday for a two-day visit just before the country's March 6 elections, said that Georgia and Moldova demand all Russian troops withdraw from their territories, but don't want to sabotage the relations with Russia.

At a news conference after meeting with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, Saakashivili said he came to Moldova to support democracy, expressing his displeasure with reports that he was getting himself involved in Moldova's elections.

He pointed out that some external forces are still unwilling tostop their interference in other countries' affairs after having failed in Georgia and Ukraine.

"I have not come to support any of the candidates. It is important for us for these elections to be free and democratic, without pressure or blackmail," the pro-western leader said.

Voronin told the news conference that leaders of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine all agreed that the importance of relations with Russia should not be undervalued, but Russia should abandon its imperial ambition.

Voroin met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during a brief visit to Kiev on Tuesday.

Saakashivili and Voronin also signed a joint declaration, in which both leaders criticized separatist movements in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestr and in Georgia's regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"Separatist leaders have created an international criminal alliance," Vorinin said, describing separatism as a source of crime, smuggling and general lawlessness.

"We concluded that separatist republics are 'a black hole' where chaos rules. And we stated our determination to join forces to resolve these problems," he added.

Comment: If they are denying such an alliance exists, you can be certain that it has existed for a long time, financed by US agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy or USAID. The US is picking off the countries around Russia one by one, circling their old, and future, enemy, isolating it.

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U.S. to Keep up Pressure on Russia Over Democracy — Rice

Created: 03.03.2005 12:22 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 12:23 MSK, 4 hours 26 minutes ago

MosNews

The US will continue to press Russia on what it sees as backsliding on democracy issues, U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said in an interview published today, in Russian-language daily, Vremya Novostei.

Assessing the Bratislava summit between U.S. president George Bush and President Vladimir Putin, Rice said Washington’s message to Moscow is cordial but firm concerning what it fears is growing authoritarianism under Putin’s watch, AFX news agency reports.

“We stated very clearly that we are concerned about the course of democracy in Russia,” Rice is reported to have said, according to a translation of her comments to Vremya Novostei. “We retain these concerns. This concerns a certain centralization of power in the Kremlin and the state of the free press,” Rice said.

However, she added: “At the same time I would like to assure you that we have very constructive relations with Russia at this time. This is really the case, and we plan to develop such relations.”

“We... are offering to launch an open dialogue between our countries concerning questions that worry us,” Rice said.

The U.S. has been critical of Putin’s decision to scrap direct gubernatorial —- governor —- elections and to eliminate single-mandate seat elections to the State Duma lower house of parliament. All of the national television stations have also fallen under state control since Putin came to power in 2000.

Comment: It is surprising how clear the Bush gang is about their plans. They are brazen. They announce their plans. We are six weeks into Bush's second term and already Lebanon is teetering on the brink of another US financed "soft revolution", the Lebanese adventure will have a direct effect upon Syria. Iran is in the neocon sights. The battle of words over Putin has started. US gunboats are hovering around Venezuela.

The Bush gang are serious war-mongers.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

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Unpatriotic Russian Youth as Dangerous as Terrorism — Duma Official

Created: 03.03.2005 11:47 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 11:47 MSK, 5 hours 2 minutes ago

MosNews

Anti-patriotic sentiments widespread among Russia’s youth pose a threat to national security, the deputy head of the State Duma committee for education and science, Oleg Smolin, was quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

“This is a direct threat to Russia’s national security comparable to terrorism,” Smolin told the video conference “Youth — Future of Russia”, held under the aegis of the Modern Humanitarian Academy.

Out of 50,000 Russian senior pupils and students at technical schools, polled in 2004, 31 percent said they would like to live outside Russia, while 20 percent were undecided, Smolin said.

Comment: There are certain readers who think that we are taking sides when it comes to the battle of words, or bullets, between the US and its competitors in the international arena, that we are anti-US and pro...fill in the country of choice: Russia, France, Old Europe.

However, we are simply chronicling the descent into madness of our world. Certainly, as the country that claims to be the world's police, the US warrants our close attention. But we have no illusions about the nature of the regimes in Russia or elsewhere, as this article demonstrates. The ever finer measures of control that the powers that be have for our planet will spare no one, no country, no race. Here we see a tendency in Russia towards a Patriotism that mirrors that of the US.

As the dark cloud of obscurantism and repression lowers upon us, it is a question of where one can hold out the longest, not choosing sides.

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U.S. Senator McCain Fears Russia Will Suppress Democracy in Moldova

Created: 02.03.2005 16:02 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 16:02 MSK
MosNews

U.S. Senator John McCain has expressed fears that Russia will suppress further democratic progress in former Soviet republics like Moldova.

“We hear reports that are disturbing about repression of the [Moldovan] opposition, about failure to allow demonstrations and gatherings,” McCain in a telephone interview with Radio Free Europe.

The senator, who has co-sponsored a resolution in the Senate calling for fairness and transparency in Moldova’s elections, said Moldova is showing signs that its parliamentary elections on March 6 might not prove to be free and fair.

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Search for bin Laden complicated by forces, resources used for the hunt
07:24 AM EST Mar 03
KATHERINE SHRADER
WASHINGTON (AP) - Osama bin Laden remains Public Enemy No. 1 but recent developments raise questions about the ability of U.S. forces to track down the elusive terrorist and the resources dedicated to the hunt more than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Fresh reminders of the unsuccessful search come as intelligence officials indicated this week that bin Laden has been in contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the top al-Qaida figure in Iraq, enlisting his help in planning attacks inside the United States. Current and former government officials say there is no doubt that the Bush administration wants bin Laden "dead or alive," as the president said shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.

But skills and dollars may fall short of desire.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that bin Laden and the al-Qaida senior leadership have been "our priority target" since Sept. 11 but added, "it's important for all of us to know that military forces do best in attacking the network as opposed to looking for a specific person."

Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in December 2004 "the trail has gone cold," and U.S. officials largely agree.

Bin Laden is believed to have evaded capture first during the 2001 battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan and then by hiding along the Afghan-Pakistani border with his top deputy and a circle of supporters protecting him at all costs. [...]

Meanwhile, bin Laden continues to operate. He released a video addressed to the American people days before the November elections, appearing healthy, shaven and lit by studio lights.

Within the last several weeks, U.S. officials say bin Laden has been in contact with al-Zarqawi, who first pledged his loyalty to bin Laden in October. Al-Zarqawi is believed to run his own network in Iraq - aligned with al-Qaida and receptive to its cause but maintaining some autonomy.

Yet Vince Cannistraro, former head of the CIA's counterterrorism centre, said the message may be good news: "If you've got to go to Zarqawi to ask him to do operations in the U.S., that sounds pretty desperate."

Comment: That's right, the famous Osama bin Forgotten bogeyman. How did he escape from the clutches of US troops in Afghanistan? Well, according to journalist Eric Laurent, he just walked away through the opening left very conveniently by the said American troops. Laurent also points out that almost forty years ago, the US had no trouble pinpointing Che Guevara in the Bolivian jungle through his communications system. He asks how it is that with the much more sophisticated equipment today, they can seem to localise Osama. To which, we add, that this week's absurd story that Osama and al-Zarqawi are communicating, and that the US knows what they are saying, yet they are unable to locate the people at either end of the phone line...or cell connection.

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Landmark child prostitution trial set to begin in France, 66 adults charged
07:24 AM EST Mar 03
PARIS (AP) - Sixty-six people were going on trial Thursday for allegedly prostituting children - some only months old - in one the biggest criminal trials in France's history.

The case centres on the rapes and other abuses of a total of 45 children in a low-income community in the western town of Angers from 1999 to 2002. Thirty-nine of the defendants face up to 30 years in prison on charges of rape of minors under age 15 and "aggravated procuring" in the prostitution ring.

The remaining suspects face charges of sexual violence on minors and failure to denounce crimes, which carry sentences of up to 10 years behind bars.

"To my knowledge, we've never seen a criminal case of this magnitude in France," said Pascal Rouiller, defence lawyer for five suspects.

The victims, ranging in age from six months to 14-years-old, were often raped by their own parents or offered to other adults in exchange for small amounts of money or parcels of food.

Defence lawyers said some of the suspects, who allegedly at times raped victims in gardeners' huts, were illiterate and appeared not to fully understand the charges they faced.

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UFO Secrecy and the Death of the American Republic

Part 2 of 2

by Richard M. Dolan
February 28, 2005
Copyright ©2005 by Richard M. Dolan. All rights reserved.

But the UFO topic has important political implications. We cannot afford to ignore them. One of these is the damaging effect UFO secrecy has had on our society. It is an issue that intimately affects public policy, national security, and our very freedom. Indeed, as I will argue, the topic of UFOs and the extreme secrecy concerning them will determine a significant course of our civilization’s future. [...]

What it looks like is that UFO secrecy has led to the establishment of a secret network which controls access to ET technology. While the network is international, it uses the substantial resources of the U.S. black budget and other secret military groups as a primary tool, to engineer exotic technologies that enable it to maintain scientific, military, and economic superiority. Yes, that’s what it looks like.

We need to re-examine the major events of our history and try to understand them in light of this. UFO reality makes our actual history vastly different from what we are taught in the standard books. With the existence of a secret and extremely powerful group controlling this subject and all that concerns it, a massive disinformation network has become necessary. Who knows how far the disinformation has gone? This is in itself a critical part of the reason UFO secrecy has helped to kill off the American Republic. Such levels of deception go beyond mere secrecy and make it necessary to toss out the old system in all but name.

Recall my references in the first part of this article to important non-ufological threats to human freedom. For what is now apparent is that UFO secrecy has changed our system of government so much over the years, that various "corrections" have had to take place so that the externals can to some extent conform with the profound changes at the deeper levels. This has resulted in what I am currently calling silent fascism. Silent because the official powers are not acknowledging it as such, but it is there all the same. One wonders what the next "correction" could bring. [...]

For a democratically-based political system to function, there must be a reasonable amount of congruence between what people believe and what is actually the case. You elect a member of congress with the idea that he or she will represent your interests within the nation’s primary instrument of political power: the Congress. Except that Congress has been made irrelevant by other centers of power, or been taken over by them.

You get your news from television or your newspaper with the idea that the journalist on the other end is a kind of watchdog, looking out for the public interest. Except that the journalist is working for a corporation which is itself antithetical to the public interest.

Unseen structures of power have evolved over the previous generations, advancing sometimes slowly, sometimes with a dramatic suddenness. But most people lack the conceptual means by which to understand what is happening.

As I have suggested, I believe that a significant part of that power structure involves the possession and exploitation of UFO-related technology. And I certainly believe that the secrecy has gone on for so long that it has become integral to keeping the whole system together.

Once you start lying, how can you un-do the lie? Today, UFO secrecy has been with the U.S. – and by extension the world – for about sixty years. That’s nearly as long as the Soviet Union existed on the basis of its own labyrinthian web of lies.

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Up to 20 children dead in China explosion
March 03, 2005
By Chris Johnston, Times Online


Up to 20 children are feared dead in a blast in northern China, believed to have been caused by mining explosives stored in a house near a school.

Local media said that 20 children died and the elementary school was badly damaged in the blast yesterday afternoon in Huogou village, Shanxi province. However, the Communist Party secretary of Kecheng township, who governs the village, claimed that just eight adults and two children died.

"The adults were all men and the two children were girls. Seven people have been injured. The owner of the explosives also died," he said.

Amid contradictory reports, the state-run Xinhua news agency put the death toll at 11.

A journalist from the local Shanxi Metropolitan Daily said that police had isolated the area and were not allowing reporters near the school. She said that the school was very small and had about 18 pupils: "A few students died and nine were injured. The explosion killed many people in the homes around the blast."

The reporter feared that officials would try to cover up the explosion because it happened days before the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, or parliament, in Beijing. It is traditionally a politically sensitive time when the central government takes a dim view of local man-made disasters.

As the blast occurred at a school, concealing it would be more difficult, she added. [...]

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China says it has closed 47,000 Internet cafes in pro-children campaign
07:55 AM EST Mar 03

BEIJING (AP) - China closed 47,000 Internet cafes over a 10-month period last year in a campaign aimed at creating a more wholesome environment for children, a news report said Thursday.

China's leaders encourage Internet use for business and education, but have expressed growing concern that it gives children access to violent or sexually explicit material, and have tried to block online criticism of their Communist rule. The cafes closed in last year's February to December crackdown had been "admitting minors and engaged in dissemination of harmful cultural information," the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said on its website.

It said the crackdown "aims to create a more wholesome and safer environment for minors."

About 21,000 of the closed cafes might be allowed to reopen after making unspecified changes, the newspaper said, citing the Ministry of Culture. It said the business licenses of 2,131 were revoked.

The report did not say what penalties the operators of the closed cafes might face, or give any other details.

China has the world's second-largest number of Internet users after the United States, with 87 million people online.

The government said in October that it had detained 445 people for operating websites deemed pornographic, and fined Internet cafe operators a total of 100 million yuan or the equivalent of about $12 million US for letting children play violent games.

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U.S. court blocks Canadian cattle
Last Updated Wed, 02 Mar 2005 21:56:10 EST
CBC News

BILLINGS, MONT. - A judge in Montana has granted a temporary injunction to stop the U.S. government from reopening the border next week to Canadian cattle.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), which claims if the border reopens it will cause producers immediate and irreparable damage.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, who said he would give his written reasons Wednesday or Thursday, told the lobby group for American ranchers that they should apply for a permanent injunction.

It is likely the U.S. Department of Agriculture will appeal his decision, but it is unknown whether an appeal could be heard quickly enough to make a difference for the reopening date.

The border was set to open to young cattle, those under 30 months, starting on Monday, March 7, and Canadian producers were beginning to ready shipments for the first time in 21 months.

"It's definitely not a good day for our industry," said Ted Haney, president of the Canada Beef Export Federation, adding that it may be time to start investigating Canada's options under the World Trade Agreement or the North American Free Trade Agreement.

R-CALF claims that reopening the border will hurt the U.S. cattle industry economically, pose a threat to consumers and create losses of up to $3 billion US.

They said the border reopening would increase the risk of importing contaminated beef products from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy – mad cow disease – into the U.S. They argue that would shatter consumer confidence in the American cattle industry.

Canada would ship two million animals south in the first 12 months if the border reopens, R-CALF says. The American cattle industry has been reaping high prices for their animals since the border closed.

The group also claims Canada has failed to adequately test for BSE and that letting Canadian cattle into the U.S. could harm trade negotiations with countries like Japan. Japan closed its borders to the U.S. after a Canadian-born cow tested positive in Washington state.

The U.S. banned Canadian cattle imports in May 2003 when mad cow disease was discovered in a Canadian cow.

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Canada was a minimal risk country.

During Wednesday's hearing, Cebull asked a number of questions about whether American consumers would be aware of where their beef came from and how great the risk was of a BSE-infected animal crossing the border. The USDA argued the risk would be minimal.

R-CALF succeeded last year in obtaining an injunction to halt a USDA decision to allow additional cuts of meat from Canada, also argued in front of Cebull.

International Trade Minister Jim Peterson said the ruling was "a real setback."

"We will use every possible measure we can to get the border reopened again," Peterson said. "We received assurances the border would be open March 7, we agreed it would be a science-based determination, and the Americans came up and inspected all the processes and found them to be the highest standard.

"I'm very disappointed."

Comment: Although the media has yet to speculate in that direction, this recent setback over shipments of Canadian beef coming so close after Canada's refusal to join the U.S. missile defense system, seems a little too coincidental for us.

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U.S.-Canadian relations suffer setback
Tuesday, March 1, 2005 · Last updated 8:21 p.m. PT
By BETH DUFF-BROWN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

TORONTO -- Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin took office over a year ago, pledging to improve badly strained relations with the United States. But it appears that major setbacks in the North American alliance have overshadowed any small steps forward.

The partnership took another hit when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled her trip to Ottawa, tentatively scheduled next month, apparently to show displeasure with Canada's decision to opt out of Washington's anti-ballistic missile shield.

Prime Minister Paul Martin said Canada must be at the table when any decision is made about an incoming missile. Last week, however, he bowed to pressures to protect his weak minority government and follow the majority of Canadians who have condemned the missile defense program as a rehash of Ronald Reagan's Star Wars.

Martin said Ottawa would not take part in the development or operation of the multibillion dollar program, which is already testing interceptors based in Alaska and California.

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said Ottawa had virtually given up sovereignty over its air space, prompting a demand from Martin to be alerted and have a say in any decision to take down an incoming missile.

Rice on Tuesday met with Canadian diplomats to discuss the rift on the sidelines of an international conference in London on Palestinian reform. A Bush administration official told The Associated Press that Rice made clear her disappointment with Canada's stance.

But many Canadians believe the defense shield will never work and applaud their government for not being bullied into joining it.

"The U.S. administration is trying to peddle a system that doesn't work," said Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in U.S.-Canadian relations. "If Bush and Condoleezza Rice want to stamp their little hoofies, well that's tough."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli denied Rice's trip to Ottawa was canceled over U.S. displeasure at Canada's decision on the missile program, instead calling it a scheduling conflict.

Martin's opponents are using the canceled meeting to denounce him and his Liberal party.

"Martin had a chance to restore U.S.-Canadian relations and I think he's blowing those chances," Conservative Leader Stephen Harper told reporters.

Martin stepped in as leader of a Liberal minority government more than a year ago, promising to improve relations. They had fallen to a new low when former Prime Minister Jean Chretien declined to take part in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Martin also has had to contend with an ugly row with the United States over Canadian softwood lumber exports. The debate has become so contentious, the World Trade Organization has set up a panel to decide if Ottawa can apply $3.43 billion in sanctions against Washington.

The United States and Canada have established the world's largest trading partership, with some $1.8 billion in trade across their border each day.

Martin appeared to gain traction after persuading Washington to reopen the border next week to Canadian beef. Several cases of mad cow disease from Alberta prompted the United States to shut down the border in May 2003, costing Canadian ranchers $5 billion in lost revenue.

But then came the missile defense brouhaha.

Ottawa insists that Rice's no-show has nothing to do with Canada's decision to leave ballistic missile defense to the Americans.

But Nelson Wiseman, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, noted the same wording - a scheduling conflict - was used when Bush canceled a state visit to Ottawa in May 2003.

"There's a remarkable parallel with what happened right after Canada made its decision not to participate in Iraq," Wiseman said.

He said relations haven't deteriorated as dramatically as some had predicted after Ottawa declined to back the U.S.-led coalition that ousted Saddam Hussein. [...]

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Truck carrying microbes crashes in Winnipeg
Last Updated Mar 2 2005 04:32 PM CST
CBC News

WINNIPEG – A Federal Express courier truck carrying a package of anthrax collided with a car in central Winnipeg on Wednesday, but officials say the package was not damaged in the crash.

The truck was carrying five packages to the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health, the federal virology lab downtown. The packages contained samples of anthrax, E. coli, salmonella, tuberculosis, influenza and a sexually transmitted disease.

Officials with the lab say the microbes were not in forms that could be lethal. The centre said it would not ship the more dangerous form of anthrax through a commercial courier.

The area surrounding the accident site – at Logan Avenue and Sherbrook Street, just a few blocks from the lab – was sealed off and the hazardous materials unit was called in to assess the situation. The intersection was reopened after it was determined the situation was safe.

While none of the substances spilled, questions are being raised about how dangerous goods are shipped to the lab and about safety precautions taken for people who live in the area. [...]

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Small earthquake strikes along Quebec border with the United States
March 2, 2005, 11:46 PM EST
MONTREAL (AP) _ An earthquake measuring 3.5 magnitude struck along Quebec's border with the United States Wednesday evening.

The epicenter was about five kilometers southwest of Huntingdon, Quebec. The tremors were felt as far away as Montreal.

The earthquake wasn't strong enough to cause damage, said Cathy Woodgold of Natural Resources Canada.

"We wouldn't expect any damage from an earthquake of this size," she said.

The earthquake took place in the western Quebec seismic zone, an active area for quakes, she said.

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Strong earthquake shakes Peruvian capital
Wednesday, March 2, 2005 · Last updated 1:04 p.m. PT
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LIMA, Peru -- A strong earthquake shook Peru's capital and the surrounding coast and mountains Wednesday, but it did not cause injuries or damage, Peru's Geophysics Institute said.

The quake with a preliminary magnitude 5.7 struck at 8:48 a.m. in the Andes about 60 miles east of Lima, where it was felt as a momentary shudder.

Closer to the epicenter, it caused people to flee their homes and shops in Matucana, a town 50 miles east of Lima, about 7,850 feet above sea level, local media reported.

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Earthquake strikes northern Arizona
KVOA Tuscon News

A light earthquake struck northern Arizona early Wednesday, causing people more than 100 miles away to report feeling the tremor, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The 4.6-magnitude quake occurred at 4:13 a.m. local time southwest of Winslow. It was the largest of seven quakes in the area since Jan. 28, said Waverly Person, a geophysicist at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo.

Residents in Scottsdale, Gilbert, Flagstaff, Winslow, Prescott and Phoenix contacted the USGS to report feeling the quake.

No damage was reported. [...]

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Landslide in Indonesia kills 2
www.chinaview.cn 2005-03-03 19:03:38

JAKARTA. March 3 (Xinhuanet) -- At least two people were killed and a number of houses smashed Thursday in a landslide in Bandung regency of West Java province of Indonesia, local media reported.

The landslide was triggered off by heavy rains, according to local radio the Elshinta Online.

Garbage and mud struck four houses at 5:00 a.m. local time, as the villagers slept, said the radio.

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Europe shivers under icy weather, 4 people die
www.chinaview.cn 2005-03-03 11:03:46

BRUSSELS, March 2 (Xinhuanet) -- Much of Europe on Wednesday plunged into near record icy weather, leading to a spate of road accidents and the death of at least four people.

In Switzerland, temperatures in a village of la Brevine close to the frontier with France even dived to minus 34.4 Celsius. The temperatures in Rome also fell to one of their lowest level in 200 years, with a record low for the country of minus 32 Celsius in the mountains separating Umbria and the Marches.

Three Romanians, including a one-month baby, died of the cold, and temperatures in the capital, Bucharest, fell to minus 20 Celsius, the lowest level in March since 1900.

In Portugal, a 92-year-old man died in his own house without heating system in Evora, 150 km southeast of Lisbon.

Electricity consumption hit the highest point and fuel oil suppliers said they were running out of stock.

The snow and ice also hampered traffic across the European continent and led to a spate of road accidents. The canal linking Berlin with the Polish port of Szczecin has also been blocked due to the 14-centimeter thick ice.

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Residents of Rarotonga were tonight bracing themselves for their fourth cyclone in a month.
03 March 2005
By GRANT FLEMING

At 2pm (NZT) Cyclone Percy - a highest rating category five storm - was 222km south west of the island of Palmerston and moving in a south-south east direction.

Cook Islands police deputy commissioner Maara Tetava told NZPA the storm had largely bypassed the atoll, sparing it the damage experienced earlier this week on the northern islands of Pukapuka and Nassau, where just 10 buildings were left intact.

The storm was now heading south and if it maintained its current course its centre was expected to pass about 240km from Rarotonga.

However the Australian-Pacific Centre for Emergency and Disaster Information (APCEDI) said the storm was expected to take a southeast turn at some stage, which could bring it closer to Rarotonga.

Wind was gusting at more than 300kmh at its centre, the APCEDI said on its website. [...]

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Powerful radio pulses puzzle astronomers

18:00 02 March 2005

A mystery object near the centre of our galaxy is sending out powerful pulses of radio waves. It is unlike any known source.

A team of astronomers led by Scott Hyman of Sweet Briar College, Virginia, US, detected the mysterious source using the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico.

The pulses are coming from a spot just to one side of the galactic centre. Each pulse lasts about 10 minutes, and they repeat regularly every 77 minutes. If, as the researchers think, the source is near the centre of the Milky Way, it would be one of the most powerful emitters in the galaxy. The shape and timing of the pulses rules out most known sources, such as radio pulsars.

The object could be a magnetar - a neutron star with an ultra-strong magnetic field. "Magnetars store plenty of energy to power the observed outbursts," says Hyman. Or it may be something entirely new. To find out more, the team is studying it using the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia, and hopes to use NASA's Chandra space telescope to see if it is also spitting out X-rays.

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City is 'cursed' by ancient stone
Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 13:11 GMT
A stone commissioned to mark the millennium may be destroyed after being blamed for bringing misfortunes of "biblical proportions" to a city.

Since the Cursing Stone was placed in Carlisle, the city has suffered floods, foot-and-mouth disease, job losses and a goal famine for the football team.

The 14-tonne granite artwork is carved with a 1,069-word 16th Century curse.

Now city councillor Jim Tootle wants the stone destroyed and has tabled a motion to discuss it on 8 March.

The stone, which stands between the castle and the museum, is inscribed with a curse first invoked by the Archbishop of Glasgow in 1525 against cross border families, known as the "reivers", who lived by stealing cattle, rape and pillage.

Blessing included

It was designed by artist Gordon Young whose own family was one of the "reivers".

Mr Tootle said: "Various Christian groups have approached me, and they opposed it at the time and there was a petition saying, please don't bring the stone here and put the curse back on us.

"We have had floods, pestilence, a great big fire in the city - it is of biblical proportions."

Council leader Mike Mitchelson said: "We're obliged to address his comments, but estimate that it will cost the council several thousands of pounds to remove the stone.

"The council will need to look at whether the removal of the stone is a financial priority for the local area."

The city council also said local Christian groups, including the Bishop of Carlisle, were consulted and were in agreement with the Cursing Stone and a blessing was included within the artwork.

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Mystery of canine ‘suicides’ at eerie bridge
ALAN MACDERMID
March 03 2005

The ancient burgh has had its ups and downs. Being turned into a corner of Glasgow by the makers of River City may have been the last straw.

But can it have affected Dumbarton so badly that even the dogs have lost the will to live?

Animal experts admitted yesterday they had no explanation for a spate of what appear to be canine suicides – all from the same spot.

At least five dogs have jumped to their deaths from a bridge over a burn at Overtoun House in the past six months.

In the most recent case, a woman out walking her dog watched in disbelief as her pet suddenly vaulted over the parapet and plunged 40ft to its death.

The bridge attracts visitors and dog-walkers, but it already has an eerie past. It was the home of Lord Overtoun, owner of a huge chemical works and pillar of the Free Church, and was the location for a BBC TV series Tales from the Madhouse.

But neither the dogs' shocked owners nor animal behavioural experts have been able to explain why the pets have turned the beauty spot into Rover's Leap.

Joyce Stewart, a leading animal behaviourist who regularly works with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), said the pattern of deaths at the bridge was abnormal.

She said: "Dogs are very able to gauge the heights and depths they can safely jump. Some people will say this is very spooky and would look for another reason.

"I have never heard of a dog committing suicide. Often if they know they are going to die, they might go into hiding, but I have never heard of them actually taking their own lives.

"This is very weird. For five dogs to have done the same thing at the same spot is very mysterious. But there must be some rational explanation for it that has just not emerged.

"The bridge and what has happened there need to be urgently investigated."

Overtoun House was built in 1863 by James White, the father of Lord Overtoun. It was built as an ornate religious symbol and has the words "Fear God and keep His commandments" carved into its walls.

Local historians describe it as a place where angels and gargoyles are said to keep company.

It is now being renovated as a Christian Centre for Hope & Healing – part of a £2.5m project by Pastor Bob Hill.

But the outbreak of lemming-like behaviour has sent shudders down the spines of animal welfare inspectors, local residents and dog owners.

A spokeswoman for the SSPCA warned dog owners to get their pets on leads around the bridge.

She added: "It does seem rather strange that so many dogs are doing this at this same spot and it must have been heartbreaking for the owners."

One owner, who lost her cocker spaniel when it recently leapt off the bridge, said: "I know that a number of other dogs have died after jumping from that spot. I read somewhere that Dumbarton is one of the most depressing places to live in Britain, but I thought that meant for humans, not dogs."

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