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U.S. forces shoot just-freed Italian hostage, kill negotiator
Last Updated Fri, 04 Mar 2005 19:10:20 EST
CBC News
ROME - Joy turned to horror in Italy on Friday when an Italian journalist who had been held hostage in Iraq was released, only to be shot by U.S. military forces at a checkpoint in Baghdad.

Journalist Giuliana Sgrena underwent shoulder surgery in Baghdad Friday.

Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena suffered a shrapnel wound to her shoulder when an American armoured car fired on her vehicle, while an Italian intelligence officer who had negotiated her release was killed.

Sgrena's editor said the dead agent, Nicola Calipari, had thrown his body over Sgrena's in order to protect her.

Two other intelligence agents in the car were also injured.

Berlusconi demands explanation

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, has asked the American ambassador to explain the incident.

"It's a shame that the joy we all felt was turned into tragedy," he said Friday evening.

In Washington, the Pentagon confirmed that a shooting occurred as the Italian woman was being brought to an American base near Baghdad's airport.

"At approximately 8:55 p.m. tonight, coalition forces assigned to the multinational force in Iraq fired on a vehicle that was approaching a coalition checkpoint in Baghdad at a high rate of speed," the military said in a statement.

The Italians' car made no move to slow down despite signals and warning shots, so U.S. forces fired into its engine block, the statement said.

White House press spokesman Scott McClellan said coalition forces will co-operate with Italian authorities during an investigation into the incident.

"We regret the loss of life," he said from Washington. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the Italian citizen."

Sgrena, a 56-year-old reporter for the communist daily newspaper Il Manifesto, had been held captive in Iraq since Feb. 4.

Thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown Rome last month demanding that Italy pull its troops out of Iraq, after a video was released of a tearful Sgrena warning that she would be killed if the country didn't withdraw.

Shortly after the video was released, the Italian senate voted to extend the country's 3,000-troop mission in Iraq to June.

The ANSA news agency said Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini expressed "great joy and enormous satisfaction" early Friday about the reporter's release.

She was at least the eighth Italian citizen seized in Iraq in recent months. Last September, two female Italian journalists were released unharmed by their unknown abductors after about three weeks.

At the time, the government denied allegations that it paid a $1-million US ransom for their release.

Several other Italian hostages have been killed by their captors.

Comment: Giuliana Sgrena's mate commented, after visiting her at a Rome hospital where she will be undergoing further surgery, that Sgrena had information the US didn't want to become public. He has no doubt that the attack on the Italian journalist was premeditated.

Bush is saying he will get to the "truth" to the matter. That the word "truth" has no meaning from the mouth of George W. Bush goes without saying.

According to a report in Le Monde: "According to a European colleague of the Italian agents, 'it is extremely unlikely that the Italian services didn't alert someone in the American command to their arrival, and as it happens frequently, it is unlikely the American Command couldn't verify that the information had been transmitted to the soldiers on the ground, and on the other hand, it is unlikely that Calipari, a professional, wouldn't have stopped his car at the first warning.'"

An Italian reader informs us that it is being reported in Italy that the convoy had passed through three US checkpoints before being attacked at the fourth.

The US military is saying that its troops fired into the engine block, thereby wounding everyone in the car and killing Nicola Calipari. Look at how the report is worded:

In a statement released by the Army's Third Infantry Division in Baghdad, the US military said US soldiers killed one civilian and wounded two others when their vehicle "traveling at high speeds refused to stop at a checkpoint".

"About 9pm [1800 GMT], a patrol in western Baghdad observed the vehicle speeding towards their checkpoint and attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car," according to the statement.

"When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block, which stopped the vehicle, killing one and wounding two others," the statement added.

First, the report states the incident occurred at a checkpoint. An article below quotes Sgrena and one of the wounded Italian special services agents as saying it was not at a checkpoint, but was a US patrol. The US military claims the Italians were "speeding towards the checkpoint." Sgrena said they were not driving quickly given the circumstances. The US military then state: "When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block, which stopped the vehicle, killing one and wounding two others." Think about this for a moment. It implies that it was the stopping of the car, not the gunfire, that killed and wounded the occupants. Compare this with Sgrena's description of a "hail of gunfire".

The car had already passed through several checkpoints where they had no trouble recognising the signals to slow down. Why, then, was there a problem here?

Whatever the answer, we can be certain that the US investigation will exonerate its soldiers.

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Giuliana Sgrena : une "pluie de feu" s'est abattue sur la voiture
AFP | 05.03.05 | 14h29

Agence France Press is reporting that Giuliana Sgrena has told RAI News 24 that a "hail of gunfire" descended upon the car transporting her in Baghdad "at the moment she was talking with Nicola Calipari", the Italian agent who died protecting her. "We were not going very fast, given the circumstances...() The firing continued. The driver couldn't even explain that we were Italian," said Sgrena in a phone call from the military hospital where whe was transfered after arriving in Rome.

"Giuliana had information and the American military did not want her to leave alive," affirmed her companion, Pier Scolari, who evoked an American "ambush". At the time she was kidnapped on February 4, the journalist was preparing a report on the fugitives from Fallujah who had sought refuge in a Baghdad mosque after the American bombardment of the Sunnite stronghold.

"Nicola Calipari died on the spot, he was hit in the head," declared Pier Scolari as he left the hospital Celio, where he also said that Giuliana had learned last Sunday of her imminent liberation. Mr. Scolari left Friday on board a Falcon 900 put at his disposal by the president of the Conseil to get his companion in Baghdad. The drama occured in the early evening when American soldiers fired upon the vehicule carrying the journalist and those accompanying her to the airport in Baghdad. The body of the head of the mission was to be repatriated to Italy later in the day on Saturday while one of the two wounded agents arrived on the same plane as the jounralist. He was transported to the Celio Hospital to be examined.

"The Americans and the Italians had been advised of the passage of the car. They were 700 metres from the airport which means they had passed all the control points," said Pier Scolari. "The entire gunfight was followed live by the president of the Conseil who was on the phone with one of the members of the special services. Then the Americans confiscated and shut off the cell phones," added Mr. Scolari, who at that moment was at the Palazzo Chigi, the office of the president of the Conseil.

Comment: Notice how the description of the events differs from the "official version" as told by the US military. Not that anyone should be surprised. That Berlusconi himself was on the phone with someone in the car at the time of the attack adds a curious twist to this tale.

The reports we have read so far in the US media are, no surprise here, ignoring the information from Italy that contradicts the "official version" of events from the US military, such as Giuliana Sgrena's comment that they were moving slowly given the circumstances. The US press is making two points, however, that work to discredit the journalist in the eyes of US readers. First, they never miss to mention that there are reports the Italians paid a ransom to free the journalist, and, second, they mention that she works for a "left-wing" newspaper that has been against the war in Iraq since the beginning.

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Was Giuliana Sgrena a targeted journalist?
Headlines of her articles from il manifesto
Ten thousand Iraqis in US and British prisons
il manifesto 29 December 2004

Two thousand victims in Fallujah
Giuliana Sgrena, Iraq
il manifesto 26 November 2004

Napalm Raid on Falluja?
il manifesto 23 November 2004

The death throes of Fallujah
Giuliana Sgrena
ilmanifesto 13 November 2004

"Stop the massacre"
il manifesto 12 November 2004

Bombs and tanks, hell breaks in Falluja
il manifesto 09 November 2004

Interview with an Iraki woman tortured at Abu Graib.
Giuliana Sgrena, our correspondent in Baghdad
il manifesto 01 July 2004

"Imminent attack" against Falluja
il manifesto 06 November 2004

Flight from a Falluja massacred by bombs
il manifestp 21 October 2004

UN: US crimes in Iraq
il manifesto 05 June 2004

Comment: Giuliana Sgrena was against the war and occupation. At the time of her kidnapping, she was working on a report on the people who had fled Fallujah when the US leveled it this past fall. Such eyewitness reports would certainly contradict the "official version" of the fighting that had heroic US troops battling "terrorists".

Another report from Le Nouvel Observateur says:

"Our vehicle was driving at a normal speed that was not capable of misunderstandings," explained the journalist of the left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto, invalidating the thesis of the American army according to which the vehicle was driving very fast and could have been a suicide bombing.

"It wasn't a control point, but a patrol that fired on us right after turning on a spotlight," Giuliana Sgrena and the wounded Italian special services agent specified to investigators.

Clearly, the official story according to the Americans bears as little resemblance to what really happened as the official story of 9/11.

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New photos believed to be al-Zarqawi
Saturday, March 5, 2005 Posted: 11:20 AM EST (1620 GMT)

(CNN) -- CNN has obtained new pictures believed to show America's most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose network carries out frequent attacks against Iraqi and U.S. civilians and multinational troops. [...]

Islamic Web sites have posted at least two videos said to show his followers publicly executing men they believe are associated with the U.S.-led occupation.

Intelligence officials said this week that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has enlisted the help of al-Zarqawi to plan new attacks inside the United States.

Al-Zarqawi's group is believed to be responsible for car bombings and beheadings throughout Iraq. Last year, he declared his allegiance to al Qaeda and changed the name of his group from Unification and Jihad to al Qaeda in Iraq.

An audiotape message attributed to al-Zarqawi called the January 30 election for Iraq's National Assembly and provincial councils a "big American lie."

The audiotape was posted on an Islamic Web site in January. In it, the man called Iraq's interim government a tool used by "Americans to promote this lie that is called democracy ... You have to be careful of the enemy's plots that involve applying democracy in your country and confront these plots."

His group is believed to have carried out attacks during the election.

In the statement, he declared that democracy's principles of majority rule and pluralism "allow infidelity and wrong practices to spread."
Photos show relaxed situation

It is unclear how recently the photos were taken, but they appear to be taken at the same time and place.

In the pictures, the man believed to be al-Zarqawi is bearded and well-trimmed, and he appears relaxed.

It looks as if he is sitting on the floor against a wall. He is wearing a dark shirt or turtleneck.

In the pictures he is seen smiling, looking straight ahead or chatting with unknown people.

Comment: Ah, carefully timed to coincide with the failed US attempt on the life of Giuliana Sgrena, the new pictures of the Iraqi Osama are the lead item today at CNN. Yes, al-Zarqarwi, poster-boy for the war on terror, is being pushed into the headlines once again giving Israeli agents in Iraq the cover they need as they continue to kidnap and behead foreign nationals hostile to the occupation.

Do you ever wonder why it is never a reporter from Fox News that gets kidnapped? Perhaps it is because they never leave the hotel given the dangerous situation that exists in Baghdad. Perhaps there are other reasons, more sinister reasons...

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90 Iraqi weapons inspection sites looted or razed: UN 2005-03-05 11:50:26
UNITED NATIONS, March 4 (Xinhuanet) -- About 90 sites in Iraq containing dual-use equipment and materials that can be used for either peaceful ends or acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) have been looted or razed, a UN panel said on Friday.

In its latest quarterly report to the Security Council, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) reached the conclusion based on continuing examination of high-resolution satellite imagery from sites that were subject to monitoring.

UNMOVIC has been in charge of searching for Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and verifying their destruction. It withdrew from Iraq ahead of the US-led invasion into the country two years ago and has since been barred from returning by Washington.

"As part of the examination and analysis, experts have determined that approximately 70 of the sites were subjected to varying degrees of bomb damage," the report said.

"The continuing examination of site imagery has revealed that approximately 90 of the total 353 sites analyzed containing equipment and materials of relevance have been stripped and/or razed," it added.

The commission said it had inquired Iraq's neighbors -- Jordan,Turkey, Kuwait and Syria -- whether looted items from Iraq's sitesfound their way into or through their territory. Syria has given a negative response, while Iran and Saudi Arabia have yet to reply.

The report also stated that the question of the continued existence of "seed stock," the reference to strains of micro-organisms that can be used in the future production of biological weapons agents, remains "part of the residue of uncertainty."

"Given its unresolvable nature, the issue could best be dealt with through monitoring to detect inter alia any possible future activity associated with biological weapon agent production or significant laboratory research work," it said.

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report next Tuesday.

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Iraqi Health Ministry confirms use by American occupation forces of internationally prohibited weapons in its attacks on al-Fallujah
Tuesday, March 1, 2005, 6:30pm Mecca time.
Mafkarat al-Islam

Dr Khalid ash-Shaykhli , a representative of the Iraqi Ministry of Health who was authorized to assess health conditions in al-Fallujah after the end of the major battles there, announced that the surveys and studies which a medical team did in al-Fallujah and subsequently reported to the Ministry confirm that US forces used substances that are internationally prohibited -- including mustard gas, nerve gas, and other burning chemicals -- in the course of its attacks on the city.

Ash-Shaykhli held a press conference in the Health Ministry building in Baghdad's Bab al-Mu'azzam section on Tuesday. He began by reporting on the final results of the fact-finding mission's survey of the situation in which the people of al-Fallujah find themselves. He said that the city now is still experiencing the effects of chemical and other types of weapons used by the Americans, which will be causing serious diseases over the long term.

The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam asked ash-Shaykhli what were the facts regarding use by the occupation forces of limited nuclear weapons. Dr. ash-Shaykhli said,

"What I saw during our researches in al-Fallujah make me believe everything that has been said about that battle. I absolutely do not exclude their use of nuclear and chemical substances, since all forms of nature were wiped out in that city. I can even say that we found dozens, not to say hundreds, of stray dogs, cats, and birds that had perished as a result of those gasses."

During the press conference, which was attended by more than 20 Iraqi and Arab journalists, Ash-Shaykhli promised that he would be sending the study and the results that the committee produced to responsible bodies -- both Iraqi and international ones.

The press conference was attended by correspondents of the Iraqi ash-Sharqiyah television network, the Iraqi government-run al-'Iraqiyah satellite TV network, and the as-Sumariyah network, in addition to foreign media, such as the American Washington Post and the Knight-Ridder service and the Iraqi as-Sabah newspaper -- besides the correspondent of Mafkarat al-Islam .

The findings disclosed at Tuesday's [Tuesday, March 1, 2005] press conference must be seen as the most serious statements to be made since the end of nearly four months of military operations in al-Fallujah, Mafkarat al-Islam noted. Mafkarat al-Islam was the first to report on the American occupation forces' use of gasses and burning and chemical substances during the first days after the outbreak of fighting in the city.

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33 Things You Should Know About the Middle East and America
Sam Hamod, Ph.D.
March 2, 2005

Some Thoughts on the Middle East and America: 33 Things You Should Think About

What right has President Bush or Conde Rice to dictate to the Lebanese Government?

Why is it that the "demonstrators" in Beirut, Lebanon, had all their signs in English?

Have you considered that they were playing to the American TV audience? In fact, the "big crowds" the American media spoke about were less than 3000 people, but the cameras shot the crowed for maximum effect.

Did you realize that according to the VA, 1 in 6 troops coming back from Iraq need mental help from what they've seen and felt in Iraq?

Did these few thousand Falangists speak for all of Lebanon, or are they "for hire" street people mixed with some students who made up the "demonstrations?"

Who forced Karami to resign as PM? How much influence did America have in this situation and what business was it of Bush's?

Did you realize the Falangists took their name from Franco's Falangist/Fascists? The Gemeyal family, head of the falangists, had close ties to the dictator, Franco.

Did you realize that the suicide rate among our American troops in Iraq is now up 29% in the last two months? Health professionals in the continental US are alarmed, but the Pentagon refuses to take responsibility for these deaths.

Why is America so anxious to get Syria out of Lebanon? Is it so that both Lebanon and Syria will be vulnerable to one front attacks by Israel?

Have any of you considered that the oil pipeline the Israelis want opened between Baghdad and Israel runs through Syria and Lebanon? It does.

Why is America constantly doing the bidding of Israel - are we Israel? Why did America not stop aid to Israel when they found out that Israel was selling high tech American secrets to China? Why has America not stopped this by now? What has Israel done for America lately, other than selling its military secrets to the highest non-American bidder?

Are you aware that more of our military in Iraq have come home with stress disorders than any time in American history - even outdistancing the Vietnam war? This according to therapists at Camp Pendleton.

Have any of you considered that Israel wants the oil, but also wants the water, electricity and hashish that is grown in the southern part of Lebanon?

Suppose Syria told us to get our troops out of Iraq, their neighbor - would we listen?

Who gave America permission to invade Iraq? Certainly not the UN, though Bush keeps claiming the UN gave him authority. If this continues, then we will have a dog eat dog world, with the UN losing all authority and only the strong will survive - and that means that in the near future China will overrun America or its power in the world or both.

Why should more Americans and Iraqis get killed, or get traumatized for life by Bush's illegal and immoral war in Iraq?

Why is it that Bush, an AWOL chicken-hawk can sends so many of our troops to their death in Iraq, with no progress in sight. Even General Abizaid admitted last night, on the Newshour on PBS that the resistance in Iraq will go on for years, with no predictable end in sight? Would you like to go serve in Iraq? Would you like one of your loved ones to go serve in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Has Bush or the American troops brought more peace or more suffering to Iraq?

Is America bringing more stability to Lebanon, or is he, in league with the Falangists making more civil unrest, and possibly civil war, in Lebanon? You can see it coming, can't you - just admit it. Most likely, if this continues, it will lead to civil war because the Muslims in Lebanon will not tolerate the Falangists taking over the government by "demonstrations."

Why doesn't Bush send his daughters as volunteers to Iraq, Rumsfeld his kids, Cheney his children, Wolfowitz his, and let's see how long this "democratizing " of Iraq will continue.

Are you aware most Lebanese hate the Falangists because they allied themselves with Israel, and gave intelligence to Israel, in its 1980s invasion of Lebanon, wherein most of Beirut was destroyed, thousands killed and the country made into a basket case. The Falangists also are the ones who committed the atrocities at the Sabra and Shatilla Refugee Camps wherein women, children and old men were slaughtered as the Israeli army stood guard to stop anyone from interfering with the massacres. Check it out in your history books if you don't believe it, or check UN records - it's all there.

Do you realize that for the OPEC nations that denominate their oil sales and receipts in dollars, that what was a $32.00 dollar barrel of oil before the dollar slid so much in the past 2 years is now equivalent to the $48-50 barrel of oil today. That is, to get the same $32 in value, OPEC nations must charge $48-50 dollars per barrel. That may help you understand why oil has gone up so high. Those that pay in Euros are laughing all the way to the bank and we are going broke, and shall go further into debt as more of the oil pipelines are blown up because of our Middle Eastern wars and interference in their domestic matters.

Did you realize there are very few functioning hospitals, electric stations, water purification plants functioning in Iraq at this time than there were in 1917? Is this "progress"?

What kind of "aid" is America giving to Iraq when they have destroyed 90% of Iraq's infrastructure and not rebuilt it? Where is that $9 billion dollars that disappeared under Paul Bremer? Shouldn't we hold him financially accountable or imprison him for graft and fraud?

Did you realize the American government and the right wing neo-cons have shipped millions of dollars into Iraq to buy influence so that their favorite dictator, Allawi, has a chance to become Prime Minister? If he becomes PM, then he'll ask America to stay on, will honor the illegal contracts signed by Paul Bremer to give all of Iraq's resources to American companies and basically lengthen the civil strife and resistance to America in Iraq.

Why is Conde Rice out dictating to the Palestinians to get their "terrorists" under control, when Israel has killed more than 160 Palestinians, wounded hundreds more, and destroyed countless houses and business buildings since the "truce" of November 2004?
By the way, Palestinian suicide people have killed less than 1 dozen Israelis during that time until last week's attack.

Have you ever looked at the official UN records that show Israel has killed and attacked Palestinians, their homes, their infrastructure at a rate of 75 to 1?

Where are these billions of dollars, nay, trillions, coming from to fight these "foreign wars" that Bush loves so much? We are paying the bills through our increasing taxes.

Incidentally, the "defense contractors" like Halliburton, Brown & Root, are getting rich off our backs. Do you love it?

Have you seen that Sharon, while allegedly "pulling of Gaza and the West Bank," has approved over 6000 new Israeli homes in the West Bank and the Palestinian area of Jerusalem? Check it out in Reuters, BBC, China News, India Daily - you won't find it on any American media sites or in the rags they call "newspapers" in our country.

Did you know the IMF has put America on a "financial watch list" because of the weakness of the dollar? That means our economy is almost bankrupt - really.

Do you realize that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported that Israel has over 250 atomic and hydrogen bombs in its arsenal, plus all the latest American stealth and military technology? Why is it then that America is so keen on attacking Iran and Syria to protect "tiny little" Israel?

What would you do if you had a city in America called "the city of churches" and it was bombed by Iraqis and most of them destroyed? That's what our troops did in Fallujah, destroyed most of the mosques in the "city of mosques." Do you think the Muslim Iraqis will love us for this?

How can America ask for a "nuclear free Middle East" and still allow Israel to keep its atomic and hydrogen bombs? Does this make sense to you? Are we so dumb?

Have you noticed that all the "news" from Iraq is from our military, from media embedded with our troops, or from Allawi and his gang or the Kurds, but never from the Shi'a, leading Sunnis or the anti-American civilians? Don't you think this is a bit slanted? As a former professor of mass media, I know it is slanted. Thus, we are being fed only propaganda by our media, ala George Orwell's , 1984, no real, honest "news," just propaganda.

These are just a few things you should consider when hearing about our "democratizing the Middle East"

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Syrian leader expected to announce troop redeployment but not full withdrawal
06:29 AM EST Mar 05
BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian President Bashar Assad was expected to announce a troop pullback to eastern Lebanon near the Syrian border - but not a full withdrawal - in a speech Saturday to parliament, Syrian and Lebanese officials said Friday. The move would fall short of U.S. and Arab demands for a full withdrawal.

Arab powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Egypt want Assad to start quickly on removing all his 15,000 troops from Lebanon, where Damascus has held sway for more than a decade.

U.S. President George W. Bush said he wants all Syrian forces out by May, when Lebanon holds parliamentary elections - stepping up previous calls in which he set no deadline.

"I don't mean just the troops out of Lebanon, I mean all of them out of Lebanon, particularly the secret service out of Lebanon - the intelligence services," he told the New York Post in an interview published Friday.

"This is non-negotiable. It is time to get out," he said. "I don't think you can have fair elections with Syrian troops there."

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem said his country will fulfil its promise to redeploy its troops in Lebanon and he confirmed that Assad was likely to announce a pullback on Saturday.

Mouallem spoke during a visit to Syria's longtime ally Russia, where he met with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who also pressed for the troops to leave Lebanon in line with a UN Security Council resolution.

Lebanese Defence Minister Abdul-Rahim Murad suggested Syria wants to keep some troops in the country on a long-term basis, saying a complete removal of the troops would have to be negotiated between Syria and Lebanon's governments - as called for in an 1989 agreement. [...]

Syria has said in behind-the-scenes diplomacy with Arab countries this week that it wants to keep 3,000 troops and early-warning stations in Lebanon, according to an Arab diplomat in Cairo. The Syrian army already operates radar stations in Dahr el-Baidar, on mountain tops bordering Syria. Israeli warplanes have attacked the sites in the past. [...]

Last month, Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah said if there was a new redeployment, some troops would return to Syria.

But that may not be enough for Arab governments, which have grown increasingly impatient with Syrian reluctance to order a withdrawal outright. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have spoken to Syria about completing a pullout as soon as April, according to Arab diplomats.

Arab leaders are worried that Syrian refusal to leave completely will prompt tougher action by the international community to force it to do so. Syria has fallen into deeper isolation, even with traditional allies France and Russia joining the United States and United Nations [...]

Pressure on Syria to withdraw its troops has increased since the Feb. 14 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, a killing that plunged Lebanon into political turmoil and brought Syria widespread condemnation.

Comment: More hypocrisy from the US president. One wonders if they sit around the White House dreaming up ways of pushing the envelope of their lying.

"Hey, George, why don't you make a comment about the lack of democracy in Lebanon because of the presence of foreign troops? See if anyone reacts."

"Gee, Karl, isn't that a bit obvious? Surely someone is going to call me on it."

"George, George, has anyone ever confronted you about your lies? You're in the US of A here. It isn't like that trip you took to Ireland."

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Al-Asad to order pullback, officials say
Saturday 05 March 2005, 13:39 Makka Time, 10:39 GMT

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is poised to announce a major troop redeployment in neighbouring Lebanon, officials have said.

But it was unclear how far the pullback would go to meet UN demands for a complete withdrawal.

A Lebanese minister on Friday said Syria was seeking "guarantees" from the international community before agreeing to a full pullout, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was satisfied the new proposals from Damascus "correspond" with UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

US President George Bush on Friday also reiterated Washington's position that nothing less than a complete withdrawal would suffice.

The Lebanese minister, who asked not be identified, said he expected al-Asad to unveil the new pullback in a keynote address to parliament on Saturday.

Guarantees sought

"We expect an announcement for a pullback into the Baka [valley in eastern Lebanon] before the Arab summit" scheduled for 23 March in Algeria, the minister said.

"The announcement for a complete withdrawal will depend on political consultations," he added.

"Syria wants guarantees, a sort of a roadmap, and wants consultations at the regional and international levels for the resumption of the peace process."

Syria has long argued that it needs to retain troops in Lebanon because of Israel's continued occupation of the Golan Heights, seized from Damascus in the 1967 Middle East war.


Negotiations for their return broke down in 2000, and despite Damascus abandoning all pre-conditions for renewed talks late last year, Israel has shown no interest in a fresh round of negotiations.

But Lavrov made no mention of any guarantees after being given a preview of Syria's plans by Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallim in Moscow.

"We are satisfied that the Syrian side plans to take steps that we understand will be announced soon ... which correspond with Resolution 1559" passed by the Security Council last September, Lavrov said.

His Syrian guest expressed hope that the plan would prove acceptable to the Security Council, including France and the United States, who co-sponsored the resolution and have spearheaded demands for its implementation.

"I brought with me a certain Syrian plan, I think that you will soon hear about this plan, about an agreement between Syria and Lebanon," Muallim said.

"I am optimistic that this plan will be approved by all members of the UN Security Council."

Comment: Syrian president Assad has just begun his speech. More on tomorrow's Signs page.

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US rejects partial withdrawal by Syria 2005-03-05 11:10:12
BEIJING, Mar. 5 -- United States President George W. Bush on Friday flatly rejected any partial withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

He says that he will not accept the kind of "half-measures" Damascus is expected to propose as a compromise.

"We want that democracy in Lebanon to succeed and we know it cannot succeed so long as she is occupied by a foreign power. There is no half measures involved, when the United States and France and others say withdrawal we mean complete withdrawal, no half hearted measures."

Comment: Memo to the US Quisling media:

Is there no one among you with the courage to ask Bush why foreign troops in Iraq are necessary for democracy while foreign troops in Lebanon are an impinge upon it?

It is clear that in Bush's mind, if such a thing exists in the sense of being able to independently formulate ideas outside of the effects of highly developed mind control equipment, it comes down to "US = Good; Syria = Evil" and everything is neatly explained. But the asking of such a question would be priceless for the expression of shock on Bush's face, the expressions of hatred on the faces of his handlers, and the subsequent attempts to pretend the question was never asked while dumping the journalist's body into the Potomac River in cement boots. Correlate with the shooting of freed Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and the remarks of former CNN editor Eason Jordan on the targeting of journalists by US troops.

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Israeli units target Palestinian boys
By Laila El-Haddad in Gaza
Saturday 05 March 2005, 13:11 Makka Time, 10:11 GMT

Four Palestinian boys demonstrating against the separation barrier being built by Israel in occupied West Bank have been beaten and detained by undercover Israeli police, witnesses said.

On Friday Ahmad Shaikh, 14, Muntasir al-Jamal, 12, Mustafa Khalid, 13, and 14-year-old Amjad Shaikh were protesting against the destruction and confiscation of land in the village of Bait Surik, northwest of Jerusalem, along with some 200 others, when Israeli military police disguised as Palestinians beat and detained them.

A spokesperson for the Israeli civil administration was unable to comment on the allegation.

Residents of the village have been agitating against the destruction of farm land to make way for Israel's separation barrier since 26 February.

The West Bank wall has been ruled illegal by the Hague-based International Court of Justice.

Witness account

Witnesses told the arrests were completely unprovoked.

"On my way home [after the demonstration], I saw two individuals amid us who were not familiar to me.  I asked if I could talk to them, but they backed away and I began to warn people about them. I suspected they were undercover police," Muhammad Mansur, 36, a village resident, said.

"They began throwing stones at the protesters to incite them. They then took out their guns and began beating a youth with it, and shooting into the air."

The army detained five boys, releasing one shortly thereafter, and injured six of the protesters. The boys are reported to have received severe beatings.

Leila M, an Israeli activist, said she has contacted the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel about the case.

The detained boys are being held in Kfar Etzion juvenile jail and have a trial scheduled for Sunday at the Ofer military court, according to security sources.

This is the fourth consecutive day that Israeli Special Forces - disguised as Palestinians - have infiltrated the demonstrations in Bait Surik, according to the International Solidarity Movement, which brings foreign activists to the Occupied Territories.

On Thursday two Palestinians were arrested and later released under similar circumstances.

Tape not aired

Leila M was at the scene of a demonstration on Wednesday and filmed it. She said: "Israeli undercover police arrested six teenagers and released them the next day, and the film footage shows the border police throwing stones at the demonstrators and, while arresting them, continuing to beat them."

The Israeli activist added that she gave the tape to several Israeli channels, but none of them aired it.

On 28 February, Israeli undercover agents arrested six Palestinians including the mayor of Bait Surik, Muhammad Qandil, who had attempted to speak with Israeli soldiers about the destruction of their lands.

Israeli police say Qandil assaulted a border policeman, a charge he vehemently denies through his lawyer, Bilal Mahfuz.  

"He was told he was being taken to meet with contractors working on the separation wall.  Instead he was arrested on charges of assaulting a soldier and violating a military order to build the wall," Mahfuz said.

The judge agreed to release Qandil to house arrest on 12,000 new Israeli shekels ($2800) cash bail - which the villagers pitched in to provide - until his hearing, but the prosecution appealed the decision based on "secret evidence" and Qandil is still sitting in prison, according to his lawyer. [...]

Comment: All this is going on while the Israelis scream and yell that the Palestinians are not doing enough about "terrorism". But what can they do in the face of Israeli terrorism and international indifference?

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The attachment of American Jews to Israel has weakened measurably in the last two years, a recent survey demonstrates, continuing a long-term trend visible during the past decade and a half. The weakening is apparent in almost every measure of Jewish connection to Israel except for interest in travel to Israel, which showed a slight uptick, and a handful of others that were unchanged. . . Strikingly, there was no parallel decline in other measures of Jewish identification, including religious observance and communal affiliation.

The survey found 26% who said they were "very" emotionally attached to Israel, compared with 31% who said so in a similar survey conducted in 2002. Some two-thirds, 65%, said they follow the news about Israel closely, down from 74% in 2002, while 39% said they talk about Israel frequently with Jewish friends, down from 53% in 2002. Those who talk about Israel frequently with non-Jewish friends dropped to 23% this year from 33% in 2002.

Those who had donated to an Israel-related charity during the previous 12 months dropped to 40% in the current survey from 49% in 2002. Attendance at an Israel-related program dropped to 22% from 27%.

Israel also declined as a component in the respondents' personal Jewish identity. When offered a selection of factors, including religion, community and social justice, as well as "caring about Israel," and asked, "For you personally, how much does being Jewish involve each?" 48% said Israel mattered "a lot," compared with 58% in 2002.

Just 57% affirmed that "caring about Israel is a very important part of my being Jewish," compared with 73% in a similar survey in 1989...

Tellingly, as many as 37% agreed that they were "often disturbed by Israel's policies and actions," while another 30% were not sure...

Seventy percent said they attend a Passover Seder, 42% claimed synagogue membership, and 20% said they keep separate dishes at home for meat and dairy. Questioned on denomination, 9% identified themselves as Orthodox, 36% as Conservative and 40% as Reform...

About two-thirds of American Jews view "many" or "most" Israelis in positive terms as "peace-loving," "democratic" and "heroic." But more than 40% see many Israelis as "chauvinist" and "militarist."

When offered sharply critical characterizations of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, more respondents disagreed than agreed. However, substantial numbers were unsure. Thus, by 60% to 11% the sample rejected the assertion that "Israel persecutes a minority population," with 29% not sure. Similarly, by a 65% to 13% margin, they rejected the notion that "Israel occupies lands that belong to another people," with 22% not sure. A narrower margin, 43% to 20% (with 37% unsure), rejected the proposition, "When dealing with Palestinian civilians, Israeli soldiers often engage in unnecessary brutality

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Columbia University and the New Anti-Semitism
March 2, 2005

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Rape, massacre, theft, torture, ethnic cleansing: these are not crimes which nations can defend with ease - especially when unearthed by their own historians. Israel recently faced this most troubling predicament. Combing through declassified state archives, Israeli scholars of the past twenty years have discovered their nation was founded upon the mass expulsion and deliberate destruction of the native Palestinian people. (1) Israel, it turned out, was far more Goliath than David. Since this presented somewhat of a public relations problem for a state still engaged in brutalizing Palestinians and stealing their land, a new self-justifying rationale needed to be authored.

Enter the "new anti-Semitism." This doctrine turns reality on its head, declaring criticism of Israel's racist behavior to be itself racist - "anti-Semitic." Empathy for Palestinians being beaten, bullied, and bulldozed out of existence, the doctrine goes, is nothing but some disguised expression of Jew-hatred. Goose-stepping Germans and uprooted Palestinians are portrayed as part of the same unbroken line of anti-Semitism, even though those inhabiting concentration camps today - "the largest ever to exist," says Israeli historian Baruch Kimmerling - are the Palestinians themselves. (2) But no matter. Abusing the memory of Holocaust victims to shut down criticism of Israeli crimes - crimes unearthed mostly by Jewish historians - may be obscene, but it is also effective.

Wielding this new ideological weapon, Israel's champions aim to cut down pro-Palestinian voices inside America with the same ruthlessness Israeli soldiers employ to shoot up Palestinian children outside their homes. (3) The latest targets in this well-organized hit are Arab-American professors at Columbia University who teach Middle Eastern studies. The targets have been judiciously selected. Since these particular professors are Arab in an age when bombing and torturing Arabs has virtually become a national sport, they make for easy prey; and since they have added to their original sin of being Arab the even graver sin of speaking the truth about Israel's past - no less in a country which subsidizes Israel's existence - they also make for necessary prey.

In full accordance with "new anti-Semitism" modus operandi , the attacks paint the professors themselves as the attackers. With Orwellian brushstrokes, they are rendered as demons bent on "intimidating" Jewish students at the university. This much is to be expected. Less expected, however, is the almost embarrassing shoddiness of the trumped-up production. The wild charges made against the professors are so poorly substantiated and the political motives of the accusers so painfully transparent, one almost forgets that America's well-financed pro-Israel network has extensive experience in smearing its opponents. (4)

Curiously, the charges of "silencing" and "intimidation" first made waves when it was learned that the accusing students made their case on camera . They appeared in a short film, titled "Columbia Unbecoming", produced by a Boston-based group called the David Project. At this point it is both necessary and prudent to ask: what is the "David Project"?

At its website, the organization describes itself as "a grassroots initiative that promotes a fair and honest understanding of the Middle East conflict." A noble enough endeavor, no doubt. But a few lines later, we come to this: "We train people to be pro-active in their Israel advocacy" Another page offers - for a fee, of course - an intense three-hour ideological session titled "Making the Case for Israel." Searching for a "Making the Case for Palestine" program yields no results. Similarly, a look at the speaker's roster reveals many pro-Israeli speakers, but not a single pro-Palestinian. Perhaps most revealing is the text prefacing their speaker section: "For more information on how to bring our speakers to your synagogue, school, church, or community center, please call" (5) Apparently churches and synagogues are welcome, but mosques need not apply. One wonders why.

The site then goes on to describe what it considers to be a "fair and honest position": "The essence of the Middle East conflict is about Jewish existence and self-determination in the face of a hostile Arab world and radical Islamists." (6) Israel's own recent historians take a rather different view. Commenting on the founding of Israel, Senior Lecturer of Military History in the IDF Aryeh Yitzhaki says, "a generation has passed, and it is now possible to face the ocean of lies in which we were brought up. In almost every conquered village in the War of Independence, acts were committed, which are defined as war crimes, such as indiscriminate killings, massacres and rapes." (7) Describing Zionism - the founding ideology of Israel - another Israeli historian, Tom Segev, writes: "'Disappearing' the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of its existence. With few exceptions, none of the Zionists disputed the desirability of forced transfer - or its morality." (8)

Committing war crimes and disappearing people from their homes doesn't quite square well with pious rhetoric about "self-determination." But the folks at the David Project are free to cling to their pro-Israel political line. That they do so while pretending to be some kind of impartial educational group, however, speaks volumes. So much for "fairness" - and, even more so, "honesty."

Given the clear ideological orientation of the David Project, one is forced to ask the obvious: why would students claiming to be "intimidated" and "silenced" by their professors bypass all university channels, and rush headlong into the arms of a political front group? Looking at the film itself provides us some answers.

In this half-hour production featuring 14 students, only six present firsthand complaints; standing accused are professors Joseph Massad, George Saliba, and Hamid Dabashi. Complaints range from random flyering incidents having nothing to do with professors, to general ideological disagreements with what professors have written, to statements they allegedly made in person. No evidence is presented for any of the charges.

Columbia student Adam Sacarny wrote in the school's newspaper upon seeing the film: "Much like the electoral campaigns, it uses talking points in place of pesky verifiable facts," adding, "The film's case is so shoddy that I fail to see how any critical viewer could leave the theater convinced that [the department] has violated academic integrity standards." (9) Even the generally sympathetic Israeli daily Haaretz admits, "The movie fuses few solid examples of intimidation - only some of which involved professors and the students they were teaching - with generalized complaints of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements and behavior on campus." (10) And despite these students' claims of being "silenced," "intimidated," and "denied"(their own words), not one of them say their grades were affected. (11)

Quite "coincidentally," the main target of the film is the untenured professor, Joseph Massad. He is accused of making outlandish comments and exhibiting an extreme intolerance toward pro-Israeli views in class. Yet only one of the students in the film has even taken a course with the professor. Moreover, precisely none of them even majored in the "offending" department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures. (12) But rest assured. The complaining students have other "qualifications."

One student shuttles back and forth from America to Israel to explain how to adjust the prefatory sales pitch for the film depending on the audience. (13) Another served in the Israeli military, which, according to events personally witnessed by former New York Times Middle East Bureau chief Chris Hedges, "entice[s] children like mice into a trap and murder[s] them for sport," and which also, according to a CIA study, acquires "data for use in silencing anti-Israel factions in the West" and engages in "sabotage, paramilitary and psychological warfare projects, such as character assassination and black propaganda." (14) Another complaining student who was a lead organizer for the film, Ariel Beery, boasts an impressive resume: he served as a spokesman for the Israeli military, is the head of the on-campus Zionist group, and is also an agent and informer for Daniel Pipes' notorious website, where students are encouraged to "report" their professors' political views if they are deemed insufficiently servile to the conservative party line. (15)

But this is not all. None of the targeted professors were even allowed a chance to rebut the charges on the film. The reason for this, according to David Project head Ralph Avi Goldwasser, in comments given to the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post , is that "the film wasn't meant to be a documentary; it was merely an effort to collect students' testimony about classroom incidents." Unsurprisingly, the David Project is simply being dishonest (again), since it turns out that they deliberately ignored the voices of Jewish and non-Jewish students who found such "incidents" to be fabricated and had no problems with the targeted professors. Eric Posner, who describes himself as "a Jew, an Israeli, a Jerusalemite, and an American," reports that "I was approached last year by Ariel Beery who wanted to hear my opinion about MEALAC and Massad, whose class I was enrolled in at the time. When I expressed my profound appreciation for Massad's critical approach and the multiplicity of perspectives that he offers in his classroom, Beery told me that he wouldn't be calling me back for a taped interview." (16)

Posner also took it upon himself to gather some highly illuminating statements from other students who took Professor Massad's classes. Below are four:

"Several individuals who audited this class regularly attempted to disturb the progress of the class. During these disturbances, the auditors often attempted to dominate the class discussion with personal statements unrelated or extremely loosely related to the course material. They were regularly unprepared for the classroom discussion, not having completed the required reading, and for the most part were largely ignorant of the class' subject matter. It was fairly obvious that these individuals had registered for the course for the sole purpose of disrupting the progress of the class. To my amazement, [Massad] allowed each and every student in the class an opportunity to speak, regardless of their familiarity with the class subject matter and required course material."
-John Taplett

"I am Jewish. I am not a Zionist. Joseph Massad is a man who understands the distinction and does not attempt to conflate the two around a vague connection with Israel. Knowing that he is being accused of anti-Semitism is not only a slap in HIS face, it is a slap in the face of every Jew who understands a legacy of oppression and chooses not to become an oppressor."
-Maura Finkelstein

"On the question of religion, he was openly critical of all religions including Islam - his anti-Israeli opinions could not reasonably have been construed as anti-Semitic. Similarly, while being critical of Israeli policy, he did not hesitate to offer critical opinions of Yasser Arafat. In general, he maintained a tone of critical scholarly inquiry."
-Hitesh Manglani

"As for academic discrimination, I am a Jew who wrote a term paper criticizing Palestinian nationalism for its foundation in support for violence, and despite Massad's supposed bias, he gave me an A."
- Benjamin Wheeler (17)

By now the general picture is quite clear. An ideologically motivated clique of Zionist students, possessing no actual evidence of "intimidation" but infuriated upon hearing their fairy-tale version of Israeli history dismantled, teamed up with a pro-Israel political front group masquerading as educators to smear a few Arab professors as "anti-Semites" - conveniently excluding the opinion of those "Semites" who fully support their teachers and actually took classes with them.

More damning than the poverty and hollowness of the film, however, is the fact that it was even produced. After all, what kind of "victimized" students are able to summon to their command the financial and technical resources of something like the David Project? Moreover, how do such "victims" procure for themselves a $3 million dollar building on campus, a privilege no other Columbia group enjoys? (18) Claims to victimization - a central feature in the reverse-reality trick known as "the new anti-Semitism" - are also completely discredited by the fact that viciously right-wing tabloids in New York, the Sun and the Daily News , have joined in on the attack against the professors, castigating them as "firebrands" and demanding they be fired. Prominent New York City politicians have also demanded that the professors be "investigated" if not fired outright. (19) Truly remarkable is the "victim" so well-endowed in assets and allies.

I do not mean to suggest, however, that these Zionist students have no understanding of intimidation or persecution - far from it. Indeed, they well know of a place where people are intimidated in extreme ways, often "ordered to urinate and execrate on one other," "beaten and ordered to crawl around;" a place where children are forced to clean their masters' latrines and are then taken into rooms to be beaten senseless, until "they cannot stand up"; where passengers are pulled from cars and then "beaten with rifle butts and helmets"; where pregnant women are prevented from reaching hospitals; where the masters refer to the slaves as a "cancer" requiring "chemotherapy" or "amputation" - where in essence, people are treated far worse than anything these students claim to have undergone. (20)

The "where" is occupied Palestine, the people being brutalized are Palestinians, and those doing the brutalizing are Zionists. Here is where millions of natives suffer under military occupation imposed by Israeli soldiers - at least 20% of whom "join the army with the preconception that Arab lives are worth less than Jewish lives, " according to Israeli Major General Elazar Stern. (21) Here is where unarmed 13 year-old girls can be shot twice "from close range at [the] head" and then "sprayed with automatic gunfire" afterwards without penalty. (22) Here is where real, actual, tangible "intimidation" and "silencing" takes place. And here is where our whining Zionists at Columbia could go and learn an object lesson in what intimidation is all about - if only they were not preoccupied with endorsing it.

It is a resounding indictment of the intellectual and moral poverty of our times that those who support murder, torture, brutality, and racism - while lounging around in plush multi-million dollar offices on an Ivy League campus and starring in pseudo-documentaries, no less - are considered the victims , those speaking on behalf of the suffering are considered criminals , and those actually suffering from the real atrocities taking place are not considered at all.

For those concerned with justice, the course of action could not be clearer. Now is a time not for interminable hesitance, but immediate resistance. The extraordinary level of arrogance, cruelty, and hate embodied by the forces promoting this and numerous other right-wing witch-hunts cannot be allowed to prowl about unchecked. For this is merely an extension of the war of bombs and bullets being waged upon the Arabs abroad; it is an attempt to Guantanomize our minds, Abu Ghraib our hearts, and Fallujah our souls - to remove from us every last trace of what is the best in each of us: the instinct to side with the weak and aid the oppressed.

To resist this colonization of our compassion, to re-cultivate our resistance against those who believe in the "compassion" of colonization - these are the pressing demands of the hour. How vigorously we respond to these demands will determine whether those bruised, beaten children of Palestine will ultimately receive some respite from their inhumane condition, or instead find themselves further abused by the silent whip of indifference. In their eyes we will read either the redemption or indictment of the moral standing of our own country.

M. Junaid Alam , 22, is co-editor of the radical youth journal Left Hook ( ), and a student at Northeastern University. He can be reached at

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India takes stake in Venezuela oil field
Saturday 05 March 2005, 13:02 Makka Time, 10:02 GMT

India has signed a deal to take a 49% stake in a Venezuelan oil field, boosting energy ties between one of Asia's biggest consuming economies and one of the world's largest exporters.

Under the agreement reached on Saturday in New Delhi, Indian state-controlled energy giant Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), which is scouring the globe to meet the country's ever-expanding fuel needs, will take a 49% stake in the San Cristobal oil field.

"For us to receive 49% plus the operatorship is ... a huge advance and with that I am now truly well positioned to commercialise exploration work," India's Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told reporters.

No financial details of the deal were available. The signing of the agreement came on the second day of a four-day visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to India.

As part of the agreement, one of six signed in New Delhi, PDVSA or Petroleos de Venezuela is taking a stake in ONGC's refining subsidiary, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd.

Processing Venezuelan crude

The agreement between Venezuela, the world's fifth biggest oil exporter, and India, which imports 70% of its crude oil needs, will pave the way for the Mangalore refinery to process Venezuelan crude.

ONGC has been aggressively pursuing energy supplies abroad and taken stakes in fuel projects in Russia, Libya, Sudan and Qatar among other countries, and recently struck an agreement to import natural gas from Iran.

As India's economy, now growing at around 7%, continues to expand, its reliance on imported crude is expected to grow to around 85% in the next 20 years.

Chavez, who has said Venezuela is keen to share its "oil potential" with India, has struck oil deals with various countries including large ones with China since last year.

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Russia Won't Elaborate on Preventive Strikes Against Terrorists - Defense Minister
05.03.2005 11:00 MSK (GMT 3)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said again on Friday that Russia reserves the right to carry out preventive strikes on terrorist bases in other countries.

He said Russia will not disclose where and when it will carry out a strike. "We have never said and will not say where, when and on the territory of which country such a strike might be carried out," ITAR-TASS news agency quoted the minister as saying.

Speaking at a news conference after talks with his Italian counterpart, Antonio Martino, Ivanov said that Russia's right on preventive strikes is "supported by the UN Security Council resolution adopted after the tragedy in Beslan."

Georgia said earlier that international observers should be sent to the Pankisi Gorge area because of Russia's announcements on preventive strikes. Pankisi Gorge is allegedly a territory where Chechen gunmen are based. French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said recently that the gorge had become a training base for al Qaida members after they had moved from Afghanistan.

Ivanov was asked to comment on Georgia's suggestion. "The Georgian leadership often raises this question, although we have never named Georgia as the target of such a strike. Such persistence makes me think of the Russian saying: 'He who commits a crime thinks everyone is talking about it'," he said.

Comment: Russia's assertion that it can launch pre-emptive strikes on terrorists shows that it is little different from the United States and Israel. Coupled with the unstated but internationally recognised "right" of a state to declare who its wishes "terrorists", the right to pre-emptive attack means the jettisoning of international law and a return to the law of the jungle, the law of the strongest. With states covering each other in a "you can do this if I can do that" diplomacy, the future is assured to be one painted in blood.

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South Korea Eyes Russia's Expanses for Military Training Ground
05.03.2005 11:26 MSK (GMT 3)

South Korea could hold large-scale artillery training in the Russian Far East because of lack of space at home, a newspaper has reported, a move that may upset North Korea and China, Reuters reported.

The commander of South Korea's First Army Corps raised the possibility of renting land for training during a recent visit to Russia's Khabarovsk region, the JoongAng Ilbo reported on Saturday, citing an unnamed Defence Ministry official.

Training facilities in South Korea are considered too small for large-scale troop exercises involving tanks and artillery. If an agreement were reached, it would be the first time the South Korean army had rented overseas training grounds, the daily said.

The transportation of troops and arms for such training might well upset North Korea and China, however, the paper quoted other anonymous officials as saying.

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Talks With Putin Could End Chechen War - Maskhadov
04.03.2005 17:54 MSK (GMT 3)

Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov said on Friday a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will end the war in Chechnya.

In a statement on a separatist website, Maskhadov said, "We think that 30 minutes of honest eye-to-eye talk would be enough to end this war, so as to explain to the Russian president what Chechens want. To start this dialogue it would be enough to deal with the following questions. For Chechnya, the security of the Chechen people and for Russia, the defense of her regional and military interests in the North Caucasus."

Maskhadov recalled that the Kremlin had ignored his offer of peace negotiations and said Putin is not aware of the real situation in Chechnya. "I think the Russian president has been led into a grave error. His special services, his generals, his advisers and his local puppets are mainly to blame for this," Maskhadov said.

Earlier this year Maskhadov announced a 30-day ceasefire but Russian officials called it fake.

The separatist leader also refuted the idea of Al-Qaida's involvement in the Chechen conflict. "There is no need to blame Bin Laden or al Qaeda. I am convinced Bin Laden couldn't even find these republics on the map," he said.

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Dutch government passes terror bill giving authorities far-reaching powers

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The Dutch government passed a new terrorism bill Friday, granting law-enforcement authorities far-reaching powers of investigation and allowing them to hold suspects for up to two weeks without charges.

Intelligence agents will be able to use currently banned techniques such as infiltrating terror cells for undercover operations and telephone taps, a Justice Ministry statement said. They will also be allowed to use entrapment tactics, such as bogus sales transactions.
The law must be approved by parliament. [...]

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Missing Pentagon Unobstructed Citgo Videos
From Jon Carlson

These photos show that the Citgo Station provided an excellent unobstructed view of the Pentagon crash site.
Velasquez says the gas station's security cameras are close enough to the Pentagon to have recorded the moment of impact. "I've never seen what the pictures looked like," he said. "The FBI was here within minutes and took the film."

Karl Schwarz has the full story on All of the missing Pentagon videos:

Comment: The surveillance camera film at the Citgo gas station wasn't the only footage confiscated by the FBI that day. The rooftop cameras atop the Sheraton Hotel adjacent to the Pentagon were also taken, and the footage from several Interstate cameras along the route has never been released. Also, the only film footage made available to the public comes from the Pentagon's own security cameras. The footage was doctored to show only one frame per second, and the time counter on the bottom corner did not match the time of the crash. See our Pentagon Strike flash presentation and our comments on this manufactured event for more information.

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PM offended Bush, says official

OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Paul Martin personally offended George W. Bush with his handling of the missile defence decision, says a senior American official.

And that could make it tougher for Martin to warm frosty political relations when he meets with the U.S. president in Texas this month.

U.S. State Department source told The Canadian Press that Bush is upset Martin didn't tell him personally about Canada's decision not to join the missile plan when the two met at the NATO summit in Brussels last week.

The source said Bush asked Martin specifically about the matter during a brief conversation and the prime minister didn't mention that a decision had been made. A short time later, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew told his American counterpart Canada was opting out.

American officials had previously said only that they were frustrated by the decision, seeing it as a big letdown from a close ally.

But Bush's disappointment hasn't stopped a planned meeting with Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox. And the Prime Minister's Office was quick to seize on the fact the meeting will include lunch at Bush's ranch, where he entertains his closest allies.

"The United States administration is disappointed with the decision, but they recognize that the decision was Canada's to make," a PMO source Thursday.

"Moreover, the prime minister will be meeting President Bush and President Fox at the ranch in Crawford. Surely those public comments and actions speak louder than off-the-record whispers." [...]

Then on Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn the Bush administration's decision to lift the cattle ban, which was imposed on Canadian cattle nearly two years ago because of mad cow disease.

Some Martin critics have suggested the missile defence decision affected the latest developments and that the White House will now back off its efforts to reopen the border.

But Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, dismissed such notions.

"It's a legal question, it's got nothing to do with (ballistic missile defence)," he said Thursday. [...]

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Canadian ranchers see politics in ruling
Friday, March 4, 2005 · Last updated 1:47 a.m. PT

TORONTO -- Some call it protectionism, others payback. But ranchers in Western Canada agree the U.S. ban on Canadian beef is no longer about mad cow disease.

The Senate voted Thursday to overturn the Bush administration's decision to allow Canadian cattle into the country nearly two years after they were banned because of brain-wasting illness. The vote came a day after a U.S. federal judge granted a temporary injunction by U.S. ranchers.

Danny Rosehill of the Olds Auction Mart in Calgary said U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull's ruling was not only biased in favor of cattlemen in Montana but indicative of the increasingly testy relations between the world's largest trading partners.

Canada declined to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and then, last week, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced Ottawa would opt out of Washington's proposed continental missile shield. The White House was so peeved that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a trip to Ottawa.

"Why would the United States want to play ball with us? They come to us with hat in hand, asking for support on the war, and we say no," Rosehill said in a telephone interview from Calgary. "They come to us with hat in hand on this missile thing, and we say no."

Rosehill speaks for many Albertans in the western province, Canada's most conservative. Its leader, Premier Ralph Klein, was one of the few Canadian leaders to pledge support of the U.S. war in Iraq and often plays apologist for his traditionally liberal nation. [...]

John Masswohl, spokesman for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, said the court ruling and subsequent Senate vote has nothing to do with health, missiles or the Iraqi war.

"None of this is about food safety or animal health or anything to do with disease," he said. "It's all about the money."

He said the Senators who voted in favor of the bill on Thursday mainly represent big beef-producing states such as North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. [...]

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Missile Counter-Attack
by Lloyd Axworthy
Published on Friday, March 4, 2005
by the Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)

Axworthy fires back at U.S. -- and Canadian -- critics of our BMD decision in An Open Letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Dear Condi,

I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbor. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defense system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defense.

Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.

Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such a missile defense can be made openly.

You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defense in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond.

Now, I understand that there may have been some miscalculations in Washington based on faulty advice from your resident governor of the "northern territories," Ambassador Cellucci. But you should know by now that he hasn't really won the hearts and minds of most Canadians through his attempts to browbeat and command our allegiance to U.S. policies.

Sadly, Mr. Cellucci has been far too closeted with exclusive groups of 'experts' from Calgary think-tanks and neo-con lobbyists at cross-border conferences to remotely grasp a cross-section of Canadian attitudes (nor American ones, for that matter).

I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.

These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.

To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.

To protect people against international crimes like genocide and ethnic cleansing, they support new institutions like the International Criminal Court -- which, by the way, you might strongly consider using to hold accountable those committing atrocities today in Darfur, Sudan.

And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed -- beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.

On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defense ever will.

This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.

There is also a very strong awareness on both sides of the border of how vital Canada is to the U.S. as a partner in North America. We supply copious amounts of oil and natural gas to your country, our respective trade is the world's largest in volume, and we are increasingly bound together by common concerns over depletion of resources, especially very scarce fresh water.

Why not discuss these issues with Canadians who understand them, and seek out ways to better cooperate in areas where we agree -- and agree to respect each other's views when we disagree.

Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because of one missile-defense decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power.
In friendship,

Lloyd Axworthy

Lloyd Axworthy is president of the University of Winnipeg and a former Canadian foreign minister.

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Don't Bomb Canada
Margaret Kimberely
March 3, 2005

Canada is affectionately referred to as "our neighbor to the north." Millions of American school children, and a fair number of adults, are even under the misapprehension that it is in fact one of the fifty states. The two countries share the longest undefended border on earth and Americans don't have to produce a visa when they drive to Canada from Detroit or Buffalo.

Those days of conviviality may be over, thanks to our crazed and arrogant political leadership. Ever since the days of Ronald Reagan, defense hawks have been peddling the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly known as Star Wars. The idea behind SDI is that incoming missiles can be shot out of the sky, just like in science fiction films.

Every test for SDI has failed. It survives because defense contractors and their political friends won't give up when there is a chance to make millions of dollars. Canadians are luckier. They have no military industrial complex, or bizarre notions of national pride. They said no to the missile shield fantasy.

Our ally was immediately informed that it had no rights which America need respect, such as rights to sovereignty over its territory. "We will deploy," said American ambassador Paul Cellucci. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was forced to sound like a lowly third world potentate. "This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission."

In the bad old days only brown skinned nations that ran afoul of U.S. whims had to grovel in the dirt. Now a mostly white, capitalist country that borders Montana, Minnesota and Maine is begging not to be mistreated.

The effort to make America hated and or feared is continuing unabated. It is quite awful for this country and for the entire world. But just as clouds have silver linings, this bad behavior from the Bushmen may have a positive unintended consequence, assuming they don't get us all killed first.

The international community is simply ignoring the United States. Thank goodness. While Americans rant that Iran should not be part of the exclusive nuclear club, Russian president Vladimir Putin has put us on notice that he intends to strengthen relations with the country next on American's hit list. At a joint news conference with Dubya, Putin restated his intention to help Iran develop nuclear technology.

To get an idea of how relations arrived at this juncture, imagine this scenario. A friend says that he intends to rob a bank. He'll even throw some money your way if you help him out. You respond politely that he is in greater need of mental health care than extra cash. He ignores you, attempts to rob the bank and ends up in a shoot out with police. The friend then pleads with you to stand between him and a hail of bullets.

Like the hypothetical nutty pal who goes on a crime spree, Condi Rice met with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to soften them up before her boss came by and asked for post bank robbery assistance. She said they were obligated to help in Iraq. After all, what good is an alliance that doesn't allow for bailing out a supposed friend?

Americans are split into two camps. One loves their insane leaderships and is happy that the rest of the world doesn't. The other is justifiably frightened but unable to stop the juggernaut. There is no credible opposition to assist the sane, reality-based group. All they have is the Democratic party. Unfortunately, the words credible and opposition just don't apply to them.

Prime ministers, presidents and ambassadors will make nice and have Dubya over for dinner, but they will politely tell him to kiss off. These men and women are our salvation.

A sidelined America is a less dangerous America. Imagine the disastrous consequences if there was more than one Tony Blair toadying for Bush. There would be little standing in the way of the pirates and their awful ideas about American global supremacy.

Now even Canada knows that it can't trust its close neighbor and trading partner.

Is it delusional to think that Canada could end up like Iraq? God help them if Americans greedy for oil begin to look north. Before you can say Halliburton the country would be occupied and privatized by Dick Cheney's friends.

On the other hand, maybe a mistrustful and frightened world will keep America in line. As of now, that is our only hope.

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Hillier: Threat looms over Canada

OTTAWA (CP) - Canadians are under greater threat than they realize and it's time their armed forces started treating the country like a theatre of military operations, the chief of defence staff said Thursday.

"In some respects, Canada and Canadians . . . are at more risk now of direct attack than they have ever been during the Cold War itself," Gen. Rick Hillier told the Conference of Defence Associations annual meeting.

The general was followed by the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, who called on Hillier to build the forces' technical capabilities and form a special operations contingent trained in post-war reconstruction.

Hillier, who is in the final stages of helping draft a new defence policy, told about 200 military and civilian delegates that Canada has to boost surveillance and transport capabilities to meet post-9/11 demands.

"We have to . . . start treating Canada as an operational theatre."

He described a future in which a larger military is reorganized under a more efficient and responsive command-control structure, its critical intelligence base is fed by unmanned aircraft, its troops and equipment are transported around Canada and overseas by heavy aircraft and ships.

Hillier's vision got a boost Feb. 23 when the federal budget promised $12.8 billion in new defence spending over the next five years. Most of that money will come in years four and five, after the forthcoming defence policy statement takes hold. Initial spending until then will address fundamental priorities such as ammunition stockpiles, spare parts and infrastructure.

The new spending was made public just as Prime Minister Paul Martin also announced last week that Canada would not join the U.S. ballistic missile defence program.

While Hillier didn't express an opinion on that decision, he suggested after his speech that Canada's main concerns may lie elsewhere.

"We've got to recognize that the threat in the world has changed, that globalization sometimes brings with it the ability to move those threats around," he said outside the meeting.

"Therefore, we have a responsibility to be prepared to conduct operations in Canada, if necessary. We've got to now focus on it."

Specifically, he cited terrorism, organized crime, and the threat of violence hidden within waves of refugees from failed and failing states.

He said the military did not focus so much on domestic security and defence in the past because "the need wasn't seen to be there."

"We want to look at Canada and consider it exactly as we would any other theatre of operations," he said. "We could have a terrorist incident in Canada in the future and we need to be ready to handle that." [...]

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Helen Thomas has a Question
Unknown News


American policy on torture

White House Transcript
Feb. 28, 2005

Q: Has the President ever issued an order against torture of prisoners? And do we still send prisoners to Syria to be tortured?

A: The President has stated publicly that we do not condone torture and that he would never authorize the use of torture. He has made that --

Q: But has he issued an order?

A: -- statement very publicly, and he's made it clear to everybody in the government that we do not torture.

Q: Well, why do we still hear these stories then?

A: If there are allegations of wrongdoing, then the President expects those allegations to be fully investigated and if there is actual wrongdoing that occurs, then people need to be held to account. The President has made that very clear.

Q: Well, do you deny that we still send prisoners to other countries to be tortured? Is that a denial?

A: Judge Gonzales testified previously that we have an obligation not to render people to countries that we know would torture them.

Q: He did not rule out torture.

[McClellan then takes the next question from another reporter.]

Comment: The White House press secretary refused to state that the US does not render people to other countries to be tortured. The logical conclusion is that the Bush administration is employing the process of rendering suspected "terrorists". But most shocking of all is the fact that the above transcript, and many others like it, are sitting on the White House web site for all the world to see.

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Cows hold grudges, say scientists
By Jonathan Leake
The Australian
February 28, 2005

ONCE they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a complex mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited by intellectual challenges, researchers have found.

Cows are capable of strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety about the future. But if farmers provide the right conditions, they can also feel great happiness.

The findings have emerged from studies of farm animals that have found similar traits in pigs, goats and chickens. They suggest such animals may be so emotionally similar to humans that welfare laws need to be reconsidered.

The research will be presented to a conference in London next month sponsored by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming.

Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Britain's Bristol University, said even chickens might have to be treated as individuals with needs and problems.

"Remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural innovations have been revealed," she said. "Our challenge is to teach others that every animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual, and to adjust our farming culture accordingly."

Her colleague John Webster added: "People have assumed intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer, and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic."

The Bristol researchers have documented how cows within a herd form friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other. They will also dislike other cows, and can bear grudges for months or years.

Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, will tell the conference how cows can become excited by solving intellectual challenges. [...]

Comment: What a sad state of affairs when the rights and suffering of cows and chickens is so important, yet there is so little international outrage over the plight of occupied Iraq or the Palestinians. Perhaps the global situation would improve if many world leaders were replaced by persecuted farm animals who have developed an aversion to suffering and injustice.

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76-year-old receives Guard recruiting letter
Saturday, March 5, 2005

Bobb Kotterman laughed when he opened the letter inviting him to become a "force against terrorism." The letter, posted in January, urged the retiree to re-enlist in the National Guard, to fight to protect the American way of life.

Kotterman is 76.

He's a cancer survivor with diabetes and a bad eye. "Too old to chase girls anymore," he said yesterday.

He was discharged from the National Guard in 1949. He was only in 18 months. His job: running the movie projector. "I ran films about people getting gonorrhea and syphilis, that kind of stuff," Kotterman said.

It's not a skill in high demand in Iraq.

Even though recruiting pressure is heavy in the National Guard -- enlistments have fallen about 30 percent short of recruitment goals -- and 50- and 60-year-olds are among the call-ups, Kotterman recognized the letter and application form as a joke. The National Guard, he says, doesn't do blanket mailings. He reasons that someone sent in an inquiry with his name -- someone who wasn't a close friend. The first name on the letter was Willard, a birth name he has never used.

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Police Arrest 8-Year-Old After Alleged Outburst in Williamsburg Elementary School
March 5, 2005

James City County Police arrested an eight-year-old boy who allegedly had a violent outburst in school.

Authorities say he head-butted his teacher and kicked an assistant principal when he was told he couldn't go outside to play with other students.

The four-foot pupil was led away from Williamsburg's Rawls Byrd Elementary School in handcuffs Tuesday and charged with disorderly conduct and assault and battery.

Major Stan Stout says the student began tossing chairs and turning over desks after a teacher - and later the assistant principal - tried to stop him from joining his classmates.

The child was later released to his parents.

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Nebraska man who killed 4-year-old son he said was Antichrist given life
06:58 AM EST Mar 05

PAPILLION, Neb. (AP) - A father who said he murdered his son because he believed the four-year-old was the Antichrist was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole.

Ivan Henk pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder, a crime he acknowledged during an 2003 court hearing when he shouted to the boy's mother that he killed Brendan Gonzalez "because he was the Antichrist. He had 666 on his forehead." As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

The boy, who vanished Jan. 6, 2003, was reported last seen with Henk. Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox has said Henk killed the child in his mother's garage.

The body has not been found. Henk led authorities to a trash bin in an Omaha suburb that had dried blood that matched Brendan's DNA but volunteers who sifted through the landfill where the bin was emptied found nothing after nearly two months of searching. [...]

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Quake swarm off Ore. coast prompts reseach
Friday, March 4, 2005

NEWPORT, Ore. -- An earthquake "swarm" that began last weekend has resulted in thousands of small earthquakes off the Oregon coast in recent days but the size of the quakes did not pose any tsunami threat, officials said.

Scientists from Oregon State University said they are joining National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers on Saturday for a cruise to investigate a site on the undersea Juan de Fuca Ridge northwest of Astoria called the Endeavor segment.

"These earthquake swarms are associated with seafloor spreading," said Robert P. Dziak, an Oregon State oceanographer who works with NOAA at the university's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

"We suspect what happened was that magma pushed up into the crust and the lava may have broken the surface," Dziak said.

The quakes are generally small and not a tsunami threat, although a section of the sea floor off the Northwest coast called the Cascadia subduction zone is similar to the Indian Ocean area that produced a magnitude 9 quake and tsunami that devastated southeast Asia last December.

The much smaller quakes off the Northwest coast generally ranged from magnitude 2 to magnitude 4 and typically occur in swarms during seafloor spreading events, scientists said.

During the first 36 hours of the swarm, nearly 1,500 small quakes were detected. The undersea quake activity was continuing at a "moderate pace," Dziak said.

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Restless volcano creates hazards in Alaska
Friday, March 4, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Volcanic rumblings at Mount Spurr are creating hazardous conditions for extreme skiers, snowboarders and pilots landing in the area, the Alaska Volcano Observatory said Friday.

Possible dangers include unstable snow and ice, higher concentrations of potentially lethal gases and acidic water that could be strong enough to burn skin, observatory officials said. Heightened seismic activity has been recorded there for months.

New measurements taken during flights over the volcano this week show the presence of sulfur dioxide, indicating activity stemming from molten lava, not simply heating of ground water, said Tom Murray, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey who works at the observatory's Anchorage office. Carbon dioxide also has been detected.

During the flyovers, researchers also spotted water at a summit lake bubbling up - either from increasing heat or gases floating to the top, Murray said.

"We just want people to know this is not a normal mountain," Murray said. "They need to be thinking beyond the normal rules. Climbing is already inherently risky as it is."

The observatory's current level of concern is yellow, signifying activity as "restless." [...]

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Drought could be declared in days

With temperatures remaining stubbornly high and snowfall uncommonly low, state and federal officials are likely to declare a drought emergency for Washington as early as next week, intensifying concerns that this summer could spawn serious wildfires and financial misery for farmers.

Gov. Christine Gregoire is scheduled to meet with federal officials early next week to review snow and weather data, clearing the way for a decision by Thursday, a state official said.

But from what she's already seen, Gregoire is virtually certain that a drought emergency will be declared. The only question, she said, is how much of the state will be covered. [...]

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Northwest fears tinder-dry summer season
Friday, March 4, 2005

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Skies are blue and mountains are bereft of snow across the Northwest this year. And while many people might be reveling in the unexpected early spring, water managers in several states are crossing their fingers and hoping winter will make another appearance.

It's all about staving off the dreaded 'd' word: drought.

"Every day that goes by that we don't get snow, we just fall further behind," said Ted Day, a hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Boise, Idaho.

Authorities are bracing for a seventh year of drought in Montana, where the mountains are so bare that peaks will need three times the usual snowfall between now and when the spring runoff begins just to reach average levels.

In Idaho, snowpack is at about 50 percent of average with the lone bright spot - albeit a rather dim one - being Eastern Idaho at 75 percent of average. Parts of the state already have endured five straight years of drought.

Conditions are even grimmer in Washington, where snowpack stands at just 16 percent of average in some places. Spokane saw the driest February since record-keeping started in 1881.

In famously rainy Seattle, joggers in shorts crowd waterfront sidewalks to enjoy the unusual sunshine, while the almost snow-free peaks of the Olympic Mountains loom across Puget Sound.

The Northwest hasn't been this parched in the winter in nearly three decades, raising concerns about early wildfires and low streamflows, which could limit the hydropower supply, reduce water for irrigators and threaten endangered fish. [...]

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Newfound Star Smaller than Some Planets
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 03 March 2005

Astronomers have found the tiniest full-fledged star known, an object just 16 percent bigger than Jupiter. It is smaller than some known planets that orbit other stars.

The star is a companion to a Sun-like star toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. It was found and measured by observing changes in the light output of the system when the smaller star passes in front of the larger star from our vantagepoint.

The discovery helps astronomers better understand a gray area of definition concerning stars and planets.

Between planets and stars, there exist odd objects called brown dwarfs. They're often referred to as failed stars, because they don't have enough mass to trigger the thermonuclear fusion that powers real stars, like the Sun. A brown dwarf is typically several times the mass of Jupiter, but astronomers haven't determined the exact size or mass cutoffs on either end.

The new discovery, announced Thursday, puts a firm diameter measurement on the smallest star that does in fact shine normally.

The result shows stars less than one-tenth the mass of the Sun can generate thermonuclear fusion while being barely bigger than Jupiter. [...]

"This result shows the existence of stars that look strikingly like planets," said Frederic Pont of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, another member of the study team. [...]

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Republican media adviser found dead
Stephanie Mansfield
March 4, 2005

Republican media adviser R. Gregory Stevens, who recently served as co-chairman of the Bush/Cheney Entertainment Task Force, was found dead Saturday in the Hollywood home of actress Carrie Fisher. [...]

Mr. Stevens, who was an associate of the Washington powerhouse lobbying group Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, also helped orchestrate the firm's star-studded party for watching the inaugural parade and was known to have deep roots in the Hollywood community. [...]

A native of San Clemente, Calif., Mr. Stevens began his career working for the California Republican Party, and later worked on the Bush/Quayle 1988 presidential campaign.

After President Bush's election, Mr. Stevens served as White House liaison to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he managed all White House transition issues, according to his official biography.

From 1992 to 1994, Mr. Stevens was an associate with Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, an international public affairs and lobbying firm. He advised foreign and domestic clients, and worked on presidential elections in Angola, Kenya, Nigeria, Thailand and the Philippines. [...]

Comment: Darth Bush reportedly visited Fisher at her Hollywood home, where he is said to have asked the actress if she knew who killed Stevens. When Fisher responded that she didn't know what Bush was talking about and that Stevens seemed to have died of natural causes, the president reportedly yelled, "You are part of the al-Qaeda alliance and a traitor. Take her away!" DHS officials in white body armor were seen escorting the princess, er, Ms. Fisher to a transport.

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