Sunday, March 06, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

You've Heard of "Hypocrisy", Haven't You George?

Readers will no doubt remember back to this time two years ago. Iraq was 'front and center' in the world's media pages, the Bush team, urged on by the Neocons and Israel, had been to the UN with their bogus evidence of Iraqi WMDs and George was getting ready to announce to the world that, regardless of the lack of evidence, the greatest military power on earth stood ready to pummel the Iraqi people into submission. As a final 'pre-shock and awe' effort to secure the backing of as much of the population as possible, George reminded us all of just how evil Saddam really was. From the Azores "summit", where he had been conspiring with Blair and Aznar, Bush told the world:

"On this very day 15 years ago, Saddam Hussein launched a chemical weapons attack on the Iraqi village of Halabja. With a single order the Iraqi regime killed thousands of men and women and children, without mercy or without shame. Saddam Hussein has proven he is capable of any crime. We must not permit his crimes to reach across the world."

Strong and emotional words. Of course, they were designed to be. It was with considerable vexation therefore, but little surprise, that we read the following report from the new Iraqi government's Ministry of Health:

U.S. used banned weapons in Fallujah – Health ministry


Dr. Khalid ash-Shaykhli, an official at Iraq’s health ministry, said that the U.S. military used internationally banned weapons during its deadly offensive in the city of Fallujah.

Dr. ash-Shaykhli was assigned by the ministry to assess the health conditions in Fallujah following the November assault there.

He said that researches, prepared by his medical team, prove that U.S. occupation forces used internationally prohibited substances, including mustard gas, nerve gas, and other burning chemicals in their attacks in the war-torn city.

The health official announced his findings at a news conference in the health ministry building in Baghdad.

The press conference was attended by more than 20 Iraqi and foreign media networks, including the Iraqi ash-Sharqiyah TV network, the Iraqi as-Sabah newspaper, the U.S. Washington Post and the Knight-Ridder service.

Dr. ash-Shaykhli started the conference by reporting the current health conditions of the Fallujah residents. He said that the city is still suffering from the effects of chemical substances and other types of weapons that cause serious diseases over the long term.

Asked whether limited nuclear weapons were also used by U.S. forces in Fallujah, Dr. ash-Shaykhli said; "What I saw during our research in Fallujah leads me to 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, if not hundreds, of stray dogs, cats, and birds that had perished as a result of those gasses."

Dr. ash-Shaykhli promised to send the findings of the researches to responsible bodies inside Iraq and abroad.

Fallujah residents said napalm gas was used

During the U.S. offensive, Fallujah residents reported that they saw "melted" bodies in the city, which suggests that U.S. forces used napalm gas, a poisonous cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel that makes the human body melt.

In November, Labour MPs in the UK demanded Prime Minister Tony Blair to confront the Commons over the use of napalm gas in Fallujah.

Saddam is a bad and evil man and had to be removed from power because he used banned chemical weapons against the Iraqi people. Yet when Bush orders that similar banned chemical weapons be used against the Iraqi people, he is lauded and praised as a defender of "freedom and democracy". Is there something wrong with this picture? Then again, there is nothing new about the US government ordering the US of chemical weapons against a civilian population.

Remember this?

That's the same Napalm cocktail that "melted" Iraqi civilians in Fallujah last October, just before Bush was returned to power to lead the American people for four more 'glorious' years.

We think it is fitting therefore that we paraphrase Bush when we state:

"On the 15th October 2004, President George W Bush ordered a chemical weapons attack on the Iraqi town of Fallujah. In a matter of days, the Bush regime killed hundreds of men and women and children, without mercy or without shame. George Bush has proven he is capable of any crime. We must not permit his crimes to reach across the world."

Indeed, none of us can afford to allow our so-called "leaders" to lie, maim and murder any longer. Sooner or later it will be our turn, and we need not expect that there will be anyone to speak out in our defence. It is time to call an end to the deception and let the truth ring out loud and clear.

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Iraqi Children Pay the Price of "Freedom"
By Saleh Amer, IOL Correspondent

Iraqi children are paying the price for the occupation.

MOSUL, February 22, 2005 ( – Almost two years after the US-led forces occupied Iraq, the children of the northern city of Mosul have united in grief and need, working around the clock to help provide for their one-time well-to-do families, who are now living below the poverty line.

"I have dropped out of school and I’m now selling plastic bags in the city’s market to make ends meet," eight-year-old Jamal Mohammad told [...]

Hassan Ali, 10, is no better than the others. He is forced to work as mechanic’s apprentice in Al-Karama industrial district.

"My father was shot dead by US occupation forces one year ago and I have no other option but to work at this workshop for fixing cars," Ali told IOL after an exhausting 14-hour workday.


The backbreaking work has indeed put years on Jamal and his fellow children, who have become a phenomenon in post-invasion Iraqi society, paying the silent cost of the US-led occupation.

Thousands of children have to labor at the crack of dawn every day to provide for their destitute families.

The children can no longer enjoy themselves, leaving the playgrounds and schools for traffic jams and workshops, working as apprentices.[...]

A report by British NGO Medact revealed in November that Iraqis will feel the brunt of the US-British invasion for years and "maybe generations" to come with the "alarming deterioration" of the health care system in the war-ravaged country.

The Iraqi health ministry warned in November that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children has nearly doubled since the US invaded the country in March 2003.

The United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) had warned that the number of children who suffer from diarrhea, Iraq's number one killer of infants, has more than doubled under occupation.

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Fallujah: it resembles a wasteland
by Derrick O'Keefe
March 4, 2005

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has reported extensively from occupied Iraq. He is currently on a speaking tour, providing valuable first-hand accounts that penetrate beyond most of the stories from Iraq in the mainstream media. Jamail will be among the featured speakers at the March 19 anti-war rally in Vancouver on the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Derrick O'Keefe: You have been described as an unembedded reporter in Iraq. What does it mean to be unembedded in occupied Iraq today?

Dahr Jamail: Basically what that means is that I don't embed with the military and that, unlike most mainstream reporters, I actually leave my hotel and go out and talk to Iraqis and get the story from the street, rather than sending other people out to do that for me or simply taking military press releases and using that as the brunt of my information sources. So that's the key differentiation.

D. O'K: And one of the places that you went was Fallujah, after it was attacked. What did you find after this most recent U.S. assault on Fallujah?

D. J.: Actually, the times that I went into Fallujah were last April and May. I went in there in April 2004, during that siege, and then in May several times to follow up, documenting what happened there. But I didn't actually go into the city after this last November siege, mainly because the military created a very strict cordon around the city and they weren't letting any people — specifically journalists — in there. Nor are they letting anyone in even today.

D. O'K: What's the best information we have with respect to the actual situation in Fallujah today?

D. J.: Basically Fallujah today closely resembles a concentration camp. The military maintains that strict cordon; any of the people who live there who want to go back into the city have to get a retina scan and get finger-printed, and then get an I.D. card made. Then they go through a very strict checkpoint with full body searches, very intrusive searches. Then they're allowed into the city, where at least 60 per cent of the city's been bombed to the ground. There's no electricity, no water, and of course no jobs. So, of the 350,000 people who lived there, roughly 25,000 have returned to try to sort out what's left of their homes. It closely resembles a wasteland at this point.

D. O'K: Obviously that's a picture that we don't get much of through the mainstream media here. What do you find are some of the biggest misconceptions about conditions in Iraq amongst the U.S. population?

D. J.: Well, the corporate media here in the U.S. has done quite an amazing job of allowing Iraq to fall right off the radar screens of the news since the election. The impression that I've seen that people are left with is that, “well, they've had these elections so things must be better in Iraq.”

The reality is that things couldn't be further from being resolved there. The violence is continuous on a daily basis. It has gone on unabated since the elections and, of course, the infrastructure is still in shambles, and there's no withdrawal timetable in sight. So people are obviously extremely misled as to what the realities on the ground are in Iraq.

D. O'K: For those who are aware, and who have been part of the anti-war movement in the United States, there was clearly a slow-down in activism during the presidential election. Do you see signs of the anti-war movement picking up again within the United States?

D. J.: There does seem to be a bit of a movement of people mobilizing with the upcoming anniversary of the war, again, on March 19. A lot of people are organizing, working very hard on counter-recruitment activism, as well as focusing more on these corporations who have made so much off the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is slowly but surely picking up steam, it seems like.

D. O'K: We recently saw a report that you spoke at a meeting with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, where he asserted that Bush had already signed off on plans to bomb Iran in June. What plans do you think the United States has in terms of Iran, and also with Syria?

D. J.: If we look at the actions of the Bush administration, literally within days of the January 30 elections in Iraq they shifted their focus to Iran and Syria, naming them specifically and using some of the same rhetoric that was used in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, talking about weapons of mass destruction, talking about nuclear weapons, talking about these tyrannical states that needed to have this so-called U.S. democracy imposed upon them.

Again, with what Mr. Ritter said, I don't doubt his sources whatsoever that these plans have already been signed off on for U.S. mass aerial bombardment of Iran in June of this year. With all of the rhetoric and these trips over to Europe by members of the Bush administration to try and build bridges and get people on board for this upcoming action against Iran, everything seems to be pointing in that direction.

D. O'K: Do you have plans to return to Iraq, or perhaps to go to Iran, to continue providing on the ground reports of the reality there?

D. J.: I maintain my focus on Iraq. I don't have any plans to head into Iran. I do plan on going back to Iraq, probably in May if all things hold right now.

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In Iraq, You Want a Job, Learn English

By Samir Haddad, IOL Correspondent

BAGHDAD, March 4, 2005 ( – The US-led occupation of Iraq has played its toll on almost all aspects of life. The change – whether for better or worse is left for days and years to clarify – is leading to an almost complete reshaping of the political, economic, social and cultural structure of the oil rich Arab country.

Unemployment is one of the plagues. To get a job in Iraq, you need to learn a foreign language, especially English, to know how to deal with computers or to know how to "lead".

As a result, specialized centers are fast growing. One can tell by the hundreds or even thousands of newspapers ads or street signs promoting such centers.

Common among almost all job ads is the condition of "fluent English".

Comment: Respect for, or indeed knowledge of, other cultures was never the average American's strong point, a fact which makes it all the easier for the US government to wipe out Iraqi culture and still enjoy popular support back home.

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Democracy and human rights if necessary, but ...
by Rick Salutin
March 4, 2005
There's a bone in my craw. It concerns the euphoria over the epidemic of democracy in Iraq, Palestine, Ukraine, Lebanon . . .

The bone is called Haiti, perhaps you recall it? Island not nearly as far away, where it should be far easier to achieve noble ends than in distant, hostile regions. Actual Canadian police officers involved, part of a 7,400-strong UN force. Paul Martin visited last fall to show Canada's “long-term commitment to a strong democracy.” One senior Haitian justice official says a Canadian agency, CIDA, assigned him his post and pays him.

A commander of a police unit from Quebec says what he does in Haiti is “engage in daily guerrilla warfare,” largely by giving “backup” to Haitian police operations in what are routinely called massacres. A month ago, The Globe and Mail's Marina Jiménez wrote from there: “More than 200 people have died in street violence in the past three months.”

Consider two recent stories. On February 19, “gunmen stormed Haiti's main prison . . . and drove away with jailed former prime minister Yvon Neptune” — a supporter of former (elected) president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was spirited off by the U.S. and flown to Africa a year ago. As many as 500 of the 1,200 prisoners, most of whom had never seen a judge, may also have escaped. Witnesses said Yvon Neptune was forced into a car, but he reached UN officials and demanded a return to the (relative) safety of the prison, the site of earlier attempts, he says, to murder him. Five days ago, on the anniversary of the (latest) coup, Haitian police fired on a march demanding Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return, killing at least three protesters.

The connection to democracy? Well, in 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Canadian-educated priest who built a movement working in the slums, won Haiti's first democratic election with 67.5 per cent of the vote. The U.S.-backed candidate came second with 14.2 per cent. It was called “a textbook example of participatory, 'bottom up' and democratic political development.”

He was overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup in 1991, then reinstalled by U.S. troops in 1994 on condition he scrap his equalizing social policies and implement a brutal “austerity” agenda. He agreed but still built more schools between 1994 and 2000 than had been built between 1804 and 1994. He was re-elected in 2000 with 90 per cent of the vote. A year ago, he was whisked off to Africa.

Why is this instructive? Because Haiti was not a case where the U.S. had to impose democracy. It existed. And the U.S. wiped it out, twice. At the least, does it not raise the question: What is the U.S. motive elsewhere when it says its goal is democratization? I won't speculate, but don't you think it makes for an interesting discussion?

It's a question that also applies — still using Haiti — to human rights, often cited as another motive for U.S. intervention, as in Iraq or Kosovo. A recent stunning (and sickening: it includes photos) study by the University of Miami School of Law's Center for the Study of Human Rights says, “Life for the impoverished majority is becoming more violent and more inhuman . . . since the elected government's removal. . . . The police, backed by UN forces, routinely carry out indiscriminate . . . killing operations . . . Prisons fill with young men . . . denied due process. Partisanship and corruption,” it concludes, linking rights to democracy, “occupy the electoral council's attention, leaving little hope for free and fair elections.”

The point is not that U.S. policy is opposed to democracy and human rights. More that those constitute means, rather than ends, which might be economic, military or ideological. If democracy serves the ends, fine. If not, screw democracy. You might even use democracy to destroy democracy, depending on your other goals. Democracy and human rights if necessary, but not necessarily democracy and human rights.

By the way, I don't enjoy this role. Columnist Marcus Gee gets to turn hand-springs in The Globe and Mail on Wednesdays (“Admit it: Bush aids democracy”) and Fridays I get to pout. I feel like the neighbour who interrupts a great party to say, Um, some of the cars parked outside are being tagged and towed.

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Life and Death
da "il manifesto" 05 March 2005
Gabriele Polo

A few minutes, that is how long our joy lasted. The time which goes from a phone call to another: the one telling us of Giuliana’s freedom and the one which throws us into the killing of the person who more than anybody else worked to free her. Fifteen, maximum twenty minutes, the time to save one life and lose another. Within the absurdity of a war in which we all risk to get lost.

Sure, we are happy to be able to soon hug Giuliana, to be able to have her back with us, to go back and listen to and read her stories of peace. We owe it to what we have done in this very long month. All of us: we of il manifesto, the colleagues who helped us keep the attention on this abduction alive, the many people who with a phone call, a letter, or by coming to the streets kept the presence of our comrade alive even while she was forced to be silent. But we also owe it to those who worked night and day to find a contact with the kidnappers, to reach an agreement. People who are different from us, who speak a different language and uses different means. Yet with some of them we have been united with a common aim: to bring home a woman deprived of her freedom and to do it though a negotiation, not through those weapons which are the root of evil which for thirty days has taken Giuliana away from us. After those 15, 20 minutes of joy, last night we fell into a live drama. We are journalists and we must tell the story, but do not ask of us to be detached as a reporter should be.

It is not possible. Just as it was not possible to coldly separate the duty to report and comment from the worry for Giuliana’s fate, from the fear she had fear, she was hungry, cold. When that second phone call arrived in a palace with high ceilings and wide spaces - so different from our daily working place -, we were there. And we will never be able to forget the pain of the colleagues of Nicola Calipari, how Gianni Letta was upset, even how the Prime Minister - whom we saw there and then for the first time - could not believe the news. We will never be able to forget the hectic calls, the chaos, the feeling of being lost by a place of power dealing with a power absolute and uncontrollable, the power of was, of who makes it and directs it. «Nicola died, Giuliana is wounded»: a bit crying, a bit asking for more details of the wound of Giuliana, knowing she was there, with the American guns pointing at her, bleeding who knows how, asking she would be brought immediately to the hospital. Then we heard the wound was not serious, only superficial on the shoulder, because the bullet which could have killed her had first gone through the body of Nicola Calipari. Who saved her. For the second time.

In those chaotic minutes, made of callls among ministries, generals, ambassadors - calls which all seemed pointless -- we witnessed impotence going on stage, the performance of war killing politics, chalking democracy. All our reasons - those of Giuliana - were confirmed. Yet we wanted it to be different. We wish we could hear another call, telling us it was all a mistake, nobody had died, Nicola magically had got up, maybe a bit hurt and together with our Giuliana he was going to the airport, to come back home. We would have hug them both and all that we had just witnessed would only have been a bad dream.

But no. That call never arrived. There has been another one, confirming everything: Nicola died, Giuliana and other two secret agents in the hospital. At that point, the only thing left to do was to leave, go back to the newspaper, tell everything to the comrades, explain that the joy was lost.

They taught us to be cold, to analyze the events, not to get involved too much, in order to understand what happens. And try to change it. Right. But the world is made of people. Facts, even history, are our product: at the end they are the product of bodies, flesh and blood. It all depends on us, on what we do. On what Giuliana Sgrena has done and will don, on what Nicola Calipari had done but will never be able to do. We got a comrade back. We lost someone who would have become our friend.

Comment: These are the moving words of the editor in chief of il manifesto at a moment when all ideologies fall and people are confronted with our common lot of being human on a planet that bespeaks of hell. Il manifesto's tribute to Nicola Calipari follows.

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Nicola Calipari
da "il manifesto" 05 March 2005

We are happy for the liberation of Giuliana Sgrena, we are waiting to hug her here in via Tomacelli and we are above all dramatically hurt for the killing of Nicola Calipari, who has been the maker of Giuliana’s freedom. It would be bureaucratic and a limit to write that Nicola Calipari was serving the state. Nicola was a good person, loyal and generous.

I met Nicola Calipari only during Giuliana’s kidnapping, when a young old friend, Guido Ruotolo, gave me his name. Then Nicola himself got in touch more intensly with Gabriele Polo, but I will never be able to forget his discretion, his kindness, even while he was smoking a cigarette or referring a conversation, a contact. Discreet, respectful of his superior (who thought of him greatly), but always careful to say what was useful to solve the problem, I never heard him saying something to show off, to earn the consensus of his superiors. He was careful to the service, but also - and I understood this recently, meeting him - to the result, which coincided with his morality.

And he expressed this deep morality, that is respect for himself and not only for others, through his modesty, through his ability to never speak over the lines, through the smile which often appeared on his lips. He was a person that inspired the maximum trust even to myself - consumed in so many experiences -: if Nicola told me something, I believed him, I had no doubts nor suspects; Nicola would not say something to hide something else. And all of this was shown - to a careful eye - on his face, on his smile, even on his mustache. And the eyes, which were full of words and discreet. When at the check-point, before the Baghdad airport, from and American car (yes, American, Usa), the first shots were fired against the car which was bringing Giuliana towards the airplane which would have brought her back to Italy, Nicola reacted humanly, immediately, for a reflex unwritten in the rules of his service, he shielded Giuliana’s body, and he was killed.

Last night Giuliana was in the hospital because she was wounded in her shoulder, but she will come out of the hospital and will come back here to Rome, in Via Tomacelli. The joy for Giuliana is big, but even bigger is our pain, of all of us of il manifesto, for the death of Nicola Calipari. He was not wounded in service, but because he has been extremely generous, which we of il manifesto cannot forget. To his two children and his wife a big hug from all, really all of us.

Comment: There are moments of such pain and shock that our filters and blinders are forced aside. During those instants, opponents can meet and look into each other's eyes and share an instant of truth. Those are the moments when the world can change. Unfortunately, they never last long. Before long, each will fall back into his or her mechanical state and the action-reaction of conventional political life will come back to the fore. The special services that were involved in saving the lives of Italian journalists or NGO workers will receive the order from the prime minister to spy on the communist journalists. The journalists will continue to write and believe that their words can change this world, a world that readers of this page know is unchangable, is as it is for a reason.

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Italian hostage tells of rescuer shielding her from bullets
Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena tells how US troops fired 400 shots into her car, killing the man who had freed her
By Peter Popham in Rome
06 March 2005
Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist freed on Friday after a month in captivity in Iraq, was recovering in a military hospital here after taking shrapnel in her shoulder when American troops fired 300 to 400 shots into her car as it approached Baghdad airport. She touched down in Rome yesterday morning and was carried from the aeroplane wrapped in a blanket and attached to a drip, looking haggard and exhausted.

The unprovoked attack killed Nicola Calipari, the Italian military intelligence agent who had negotiated the journalist's release. He had thrown himself on top of Ms Sgrena to shield her and was killed by a bullet in the head. In a brief conversation with the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, President Bush said he was sorry about the incident and promised that it would be investigated.

The bizarre and bloody end to what should have been a day of joyful celebration occurred at around 9pm as the unmarked car with local plates carrying Ms Sgrena and her liberators approached Baghdad airport. A plane was waiting to take her home. But while the car was still some 600 metres from the terminal, American troops opened fire, unleashing a volley of 300 to 400 shots, killing Mr Calipari outright and wounding Ms Sgrena and the other two intelligence officers in the car, one of them seriously.

The American State Department claimed the car had been travelling at high speed. They said soldiers guarding the approach to the airport had waved and flashed lights ordering the car to pull over, then fired shots in the air and finally shot out the engine block to force it to stop. The statement failed to explain why the car's passengers were peppered with bullets. And in her first interview from hospital, Ms Sgrena said that the car "was not travelling particularly fast, given the circumstances".

She said that it was "while I was talking to Nicola Calipari and he was relating to me all the phases of the abduction, we were struck by a rain of fire". Calipari had immediately hurled himself on top of her, saving her life. The worst moment of the entire experience, she said, was "the man who had freed me dying in my arms". Piero Colari, Ms Sgrena's partner, told reporters angrily: "There are only two explanations, either it was an ambush or those soldiers were complete idiots."

As with earlier Italian hostage cases in Iraq, Mr Berlusconi had taken a close personal interest in the freeing of Ms Sgrena, who was abducted on 4 February by gunmen outside Baghdad University. The episode saw the anti-communist crusader collaborating intimately with the unreconstructed leftists of Il Manifesto, her newspaper.

Mr Berlusconi was evidently enraged by what happened. He summoned the American ambassador, Mel Sembler, who arrived at his official residence, Palazzo Chigi, at 11pm and stayed for an hour. Mr Berlusconi said, "somebody must take responsibility for what has happened".

At the White House, a spokesman said the origin of the incident lay in "a lack of co-ordination" between the Italians and the Americans. It was said that the Americans were not informed about the progress of negotiations with the hostage-takers, and were not aware that Ms Sgrena had been freed.

Analysts said that the debacle was unlikely to force a change in Mr Berlusconi's support for the occupation. Italy has 2,700 "peacekeepers" committed to Iraq, the second largest non-American force after the British.

Comment: It will be interesting to see how Berlusconi follows up on his insistence to the US ambassador that someone must be held accountable. Will he maintain his outrage or will he be bought off with sweet words of national security? Will his outrage be merely a political strategy to convince an Italian public resolutely against the war that this incident shouldn't change his government's policies?

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Italy Rejects U.S. Version of Iraq Shooting
Sun Mar 6, 2005 07:26 AM ET
By Robin Pomeroy

ROME (Reuters) - Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena, shot and wounded after being freed in Iraq, said Sunday U.S. forces may have deliberately targeted her because Washington opposed Italy's policy of dealing with kidnappers.

She offered no evidence for her claim, but the sentiment reflected growing anger in Italy over the conduct of the war, which has claimed more than 20 Italian lives, including the secret agent who rescued her moments before being killed.

Friday evening's killing of the agent and wounding of the journalist, who worked for a communist daily, has sparked tension with Italy's U.S. allies and put pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to take a hard line with President Bush.

The United States has promised a full investigation into incident, in which soldiers fired on the Italians' car as it approached Baghdad airport Friday evening.

The U.S. military says the car was speeding toward a checkpoint and ignored warning shots, an explanation denied by government ministers and the driver of the car.

Speaking from her hospital bed where she is being treated, Sgrena told Sky Italia TV it was possible the soldiers had targeted her because Washington opposes Italy's dealings with kidnappers that may include ransom payments.

"The United States doesn't approve of this (ransom) policy and so they try to stop it in any way possible."

According to Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera, the driver, an unidentified Italian agent, said: "We were driving slowly, about 40-50 km/h (25-30 mph)."

In a harrowing account of her ordeal, Sgrena wrote in Sunday's Il Manifesto newspaper that the secret agent, Nicola Calipari, saved her life by shielding her with his body.

"Nicola threw himself on to protect me and then suddenly I heard his last breath as he died on top of me," she wrote.

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I was US target - journalist
06/03/2005 14:08 - (SA)
Rome - The Italian journalist wounded by US troops shortly after her month-long kidnap ordeal ended this weekend, on Sunday fanned a growing diplomatic rift between Rome and Washington by suggesting the US soldiers deliberately tried to kill her.

Giuliana Sgrena, wounded when the convoy taking her to safety was riddled with bullets by a US patrol near Baghdad airport on Friday, said she may have been a target because the US opposed negotiations with her kidnappers.

"Everyone knows that the Americans don't want hostages to be freed by negotiations, and for that reason, I don't see why I should rule out that I was their target," Sgrena told Sky Italia news channel on Sunday.

The comment comes amid fears that Friday's incident, in which Italy's top intelligence officer in Iraq was killed, could lead to a full-scale diplomatic rift between the two allies.

"The incident could have very serious political consequences," Italy's La Stampa daily said in a front page editorial.

"The state of relations between the two governments, Italy and the United States, has suffered an immediate deterioration.

"Hour after hour, Washington's version given by the state department immediately after the incident has begun to unravel.

"The theory that an absence of coordination in Baghdad between the two allied commands and excessive secrecy by the Italians about their (rescue) mission led to the shooting near the airport, has faded."

Delicate operation

"The Italian government said it had informed the United States about the very delicate operation which was about to begin.

"And the presence of an American colonel at Baghdad airport along with the Italian officers who were waiting for Sgrena and her liberators, demonstrates that the operation was being conducted in harmony," the newspaper said.

It said however that a ranson was "almost certainly" paid to the kidnappers, even though any payment was "very probably" opposed by the Americans.

Sgrena, a 56-year-old correspondent for the Italian communist daily Il Manifesto, confirmed on Sunday that she had been voluntarily released by her kidnappers.

With most attention on the dramatic aftermath, little has been said about the circumstances of her actual release. Sgrena's account in her newspaper made it clear however that no force was involved, and that her kidnappers drove her to an obviously pre-arranged handover point.

Washington has pledged a full inquiry into the incident and President George W. Bush has personally expressed his regret over what happened.

The body of the dead intelligence officer, Nicola Calipari, has been repatriated to Rome and was to lie in state at the Vittoriano national monument on Sunday before a state funeral on Monday.

The US military said their forces had given ample warning to the driver of Sgrena's car, which they said was approaching at speed when they opened fire, but that has been flatly contradicted by Sgrena.

Comment: Whenever civilians are murdered by US troops in Iraq, the US military expresses its condolences and insists it will get to the bottom of the incident. Then, as with the killings of Palestinian children by Israeli forces, the investigation dies a natural death in the bureaucracy. The guilty go unpunished. The occupation continues. The next innocent is slaughtered.

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Shattered bridges
Is there more to the abduction of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena than meets the eye? Samia Nkrumah, in Rome, reports
[...] Not surprisingly, Sgrena's present predicament has attracted the widest support from Italians who came out in various protests and marches since her capture, culminating in last week's half-a-million silent protest in the capital Rome. The march came on the heels of parliament's recent vote to keep troops in Iraq and was attended by the main opposition leaders including Romano Prodi as well as many leading Catholic figures.

So far those efforts have not born fruit and the nagging question about who benefits from terrorising foreign pacifists continues.

With so little information at hand, no one is saying that the Iraqi secret service is behind the latest kidnapping, but the nagging question as to who benefits from terrorising anti- occupation civilians persists.

Two recent developments are worth noting. Earlier in the year, Newsweek reported that the Pentagon is considering using the "Salvador Option" in reference to a counter-insurgency strategy of the 1980s which saw the CIA-train local secret forces to go after leftists insurgents and their sympathisers in the Central American country and which led to tens of thousands of deaths.

A few weeks ago, and of particular interest to Italy, researcher Daniele Ganser with the Centre for Security Studies at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich published a book on the NATO's Secret Armies after WWII. The research offers plenty of proof on how NATO and the secret services in various European countries collaborated in attacks on civilians that were blamed on left-wing groups. It was not till the early 1990s that a former Italian prime minister, Giulio Andreotti confirmed that the secret group, code- named Gladio, existed.

Ganser's book contains various documented confessions including this chilling statement by former Gladio member, a right-wing extremist who was convicted for his part in one fatal attack, "You had to attack civilians, people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people, the Italian public, to turn to the state to ask for greater security."

Comment: False-flag operations are not new. They are probably as old as psychopaths.

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Freed Italian Reporter Denies Car Was Speeding

The Italian journalist who was wounded by American troops in Baghdad shortly after she was released by her Iraqi captors denied US allegations that the car she was in was speeding, and described how the agent who had rescued her died protecting her.

"I remember only fire," Giuliana Sgrena wrote in her newspaper, the communist daily Il Manifesto.

"At that point a rain of fire and bullets came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a few minutes earlier."

Sgrena was wounded and Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was killed as they celebrated her freedom on the way to the airport.

The shooting on Friday has fuelled anti-American sentiment in a country where people are deeply opposed to the war in Iraq.

Sgrena’s newspaper, Il Manifesto, has been a fierce opponent of the war and of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to send 3,000 troops.

Sgrena said the driver began shouting that they were Italian, then "Nicola Calipari dove on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me."

Suddenly, she said, she remembered her captors’ words, when they warned her "to be careful because the Americans don’t want you to return".

The US military said the Americans used hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and fired warning shots to get the car to stop. But in an interview with Italian La 7 TV, Sgrena said "there was no bright light, no signal". [...]

In her article, Sgrena wrote that her captors warned her as she was about to be released not to signal her presence to anyone, because "the Americans might intervene".

"What happened yesterday in Baghdad was a homicide," Polo told Apcom.

"The Americans must be firmly reminded to respect human and civil rules," ANSA quoted Mirko Tremaglia, minister for Italians abroad, as saying.

Comment: This story begins to get very intriguing indeed. At this stage it is clear that, for whatever reason, an order was given to US troops, which probably originated in the Pentagon, to murder the Italian civilian hostage Giuliana Sgrena. Even more interesting however is the fact that Sgrena has said that her captors, allegedly "Iraqi insurgents", warned her that the Americans were going to attack her! Now ask yourself; just HOW could the Iraqi insurgents have been privy to US plans to kill Sgrena? While many of the attacks and kidnappings that are ascribed to Iraqi insurgents are very likely the work of CIA and/or Mossad sponsored "guns for hire", such kidnappings usually end with the very public execution of the hostage in order to demonise the insurgents. In this case however, Sgrena was released unharmed, which leads us to believe that she was in possession of some information, perhaps provided to her by her captors, that would be very damaging to the US and/or Israel if it were to be released to the mainstream media. Sgrena's captors may have been aware that the US knew that Sgrena had been given this information, hence the order to "take her out" and make it look like a case of mistaken identity.

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Analysts see Bin Laden, Zarqawi as independent operators 2005-03-06 09:11:17
BEIJING, Mar. 6 -- The US intelligence analysts say Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al Qaida's leader Osama bin Laden are still independent operators, rather than allies.

A Washington Post report Saturday quoted senior US intelligence officials as saying that Zarqawi and bin Laden talked months ago about bin Laden's suggestion that Zarqawi should consider initiating possible attacks inside the United States.

US intelligence officials have been analyzing the latest communications between Zarqawi and bin Laden and previously intercepted messages, saying that Zarqawi may be a partner of bin Laden or a competitor, but it is not like they are close and in a binding relationship.

The latest bin Laden-Zarqawi exchange became public after the US Homeland Security Department sent a bulletin, classified as "secret" to homeland security directors across the country last weekend.

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Iraqi sources: Al Zarqawi arrested
06-03-2005 , 06:20
Iraqi sources have told a Saudi newspaper that al-Qaeda's man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been arrested. Al Watan daily said Sunday that the official announcement on the arrest was delayed until a new Iraqi government is in place. The purported arrest supposedly took place on the Iraqi - Syrian border, the report added. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

It should be mentioned that CNN aired on Saturday new pictures believed to show al-Zarqawi, who is America's most-wanted man in Iraq.

The Saudi paper said that the arrest of al-Zarqawi was completed ahead the recent visit of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq. This visit took place early February.

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Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails
New York Times
March 6, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's secret program to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation has been carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency under broad authority that has allowed it to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice Departments, according to current and former government officials.

The unusually expansive authority for the C.I.A. to operate independently was provided by the White House under a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the officials said.

The process, known as rendition, has been central in the government's efforts to disrupt terrorism, but has been bitterly criticized by human rights groups on grounds that the practice has violated the Bush administration's public pledge to provide safeguards against torture.

In providing a detailed description of the program, a senior United States official said that it had been aimed only at those suspected of knowing about terrorist operations, and emphasized that the C.I.A. had gone to great lengths to ensure that they were detained under humane conditions and not tortured.

Comment: Horse hockey. The CIA has supported brutal regimes and taught various interrogation and torture techniques to the "security forces" of those regimes for decades. Besides, why would the CIA ship suspected terrorists off to countries like Egypt when the agency knows those very same countries have a history of torturing prisoners?

The official would not discuss any legal directive under which the agency operated, but said that the "C.I.A. has existing authorities to lawfully conduct these operations."

The official declined to be named but agreed to discuss the program to rebut the assertions that the United States used the program to secretly send people to other countries for the purpose of torture. The transfers were portrayed as an alternative to what American officials have said is the costly, manpower-intensive process of housing them in the United States or in American-run facilities in other countries.

In recent weeks, several former detainees have described being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and brutal treatment during months spent in detention under the program in Egypt and other countries. The official would not discuss specific cases, but did not dispute that there had been instances in which prisoners were mistreated. The official said none had died.

Comment: Is the claim that none of the prisoners have died supposed to make us feel better? No one knows where these prisoners were taken, and they were not charged or tried in any court. We are thus left with the choice of whether or not we want to believe a US official who is part of the most deceptive and murderous US administration ever.

The official said the C.I.A.'s inspector general was reviewing the rendition program as one of at least a half-dozen inquiries within the agency of possible misconduct involving the detention, interrogation and rendition of suspected terrorists.

In public, the Bush administration has refused to confirm that the rendition program exists, saying only in response to questions about it that the United States did not hand over people to face torture. The official refused to say how many prisoners had been transferred as part of the program. But former government officials say that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A. has flown 100 to 150 suspected terrorists from one foreign country to another, including to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan.

Each of those countries has been identified by the State Department as habitually using torture in its prisons. But the official said that guidelines enforced within the C.I.A. require that no transfer take place before the receiving country provides assurances that the prisoner will be treated humanely, and that United States personnel are assigned to monitor compliance. [...]

Comment: There you have it, folks. Bush signed an order approving the rendition of prisoners to countries infamous for their use of torture. Even the US State Department has condemned these same countries for human rights violations in the form of brutal treatment of prisoners. The torture that has occurred at the hands of American forces is obviously not a case of a few bad apples. In fact, from the following article, we get the impression that the Bush administration views those who fight their torture policy as the "bad apples"...

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Soldier Who Reported Abuse Was Sent to Psychiatrist
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 5, 2005; Page A15

An Army intelligence sergeant who accused fellow soldiers in Samarra, Iraq, of abusing detainees in 2003 was in turn accused by his commander of being delusional and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in Germany, despite a military psychiatrist's initial judgment that the man was stable, according to internal Army records released yesterday.

The soldier had angered his commander by urging the unit's redeployment from the military base to prevent what the soldier feared would be the death of one or more detainees under interrogation, according to the documents. He told his commander three members of the counterintelligence team had hit detainees, pulled their hair, tried to asphyxiate them and staged mock executions with pistols pointed at the detainees' heads. [...]

These cases were among 13 described in more than 1,000 pages of Army criminal records released at the Pentagon under the order of a New York federal judge. They detail the Army's investigations of other allegations by U.S. military personnel in Iraq of abuse, rape and larceny by fellow soldiers. [...]

Comment: A soldier fights against the imperial machine and tries to spread a little truth, and he ends up accused of being delusional and sent for an unnecessary psychological evaluation. This tactic is certainly one that is familiar to us. It seems that any time one stands up for the truth and defends it with facts, one is instantly targeted and accused of all sorts of horrific things, including the delusion from which one's accusers obviously suffer.

Torture in the war on terror is an obvious reality. To deny this fact is to deny reality and live in an illusion. Believing that someone is a terrorist does not make it so. Torturing that person until they "admit" to being a terrorist to end their suffering also does not make them a terrorist. Anyone can be tortured into confessing anything, which is exactly why the Bush administration loves the practice so much. If rampant terrorism isn't the reality, Bush and his handlers will recreate reality according to their grand image of how the universe should work. There's only one problem:

Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the "past." People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the "Future."

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U.S. targets spy services abroad
By Bill Gertz
March 06, 2005

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Bush administration has adopted a new counterintelligence strategy that calls for "attacking" foreign spy services and the spy components of terrorist groups before they can strike, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday.

National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave said in a speech here that the past policy of waiting for intelligence threats to emerge "ceded the initiative to the adversary."

"No longer will we wait until taking action," Miss Van Cleave said during a conference hosted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. "To meet the threat, U.S. counterintelligence needs to go on the offensive, which will require major but achievable changes in the way we do business."

The new mission for counterintelligence is to identify foreign spies and terrorist threats, and then develop "a counterintelligence doctrine of attacking foreign intelligence services systematically via strategic counterintelligence operations," Miss Van Cleave said.

The offensive counterintelligence strategy is part of the Bush administration's policy of pre-empting strategic threats. It is also part of President Bush's announced plan to promote democracy and freedom and undermine global tyranny, she said.

In the past, counterintelligence often was limited to "catching spies." Previously captured spies, including CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, a Russian mole in the FBI, "caused stunning losses," Miss Van Cleave said.

In the battle against terrorists, new counterintelligence activities will target the intelligence services of state sponsors of terrorism, such as Syria and Iran. [...]

Miss Van Cleave's comments came as FBI and CIA officials at the conference said the threat from foreign intelligence services -- specifically, Russia and China -- is growing.

Barry Royden, a veteran CIA official, said Russian intelligence services are targeting U.S. troops in the Middle East for recruitment as agents, as well as seeking recruits among Americans in Russia.
Russian intelligence officers are using "very aggressive actions and operations," including blackmail, extortion and entrapment "to try to get people to commit espionage," Mr. Royden said.

He also said the Russians are conducting "very aggressive operations against our troops in the Middle East." He did not elaborate.
"We get continued reporting about very aggressive actions and operations against Americans of all types and stripes" in Russia and other parts of the world, Mr. Royden said.

Tim Bereznay, a senior FBI counterintelligence official, said Chinese intelligence activities are a major threat -- specifically, Beijing's covert targeting of U.S. weapons technology.

Counterintelligence against Chinese spying "is our main priority," Mr. Bereznay. [...]

Comment: The only difference with this new policy is that illegal secret operations will be officially sanctioned instead of covert.

The attempt to demonise Russia and China is also evident in the article. But it seems the rest of the world isn't convinced about China, at least...

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China influence seen as positive
Saturday, 5 March, 2005, 22:11 GMT

China's influence on the world is seen as positive by more people than is the case for the US or Russia, according to a new BBC World Service poll.

In total, 48% of people polled in 22 countries said China's role was mainly positive. Only 30% saw it as mainly negative.

The majority of respondents were also positive about the communist nation's growing economic power.

But far fewer people wanted to see an increase in its military might.

Even in neighbouring Asian countries, which have historically been suspicious of China's dominance, opinions were relatively benign.

An exception was Japan, where only 22% of people polled said China had a mainly positive influence. [...]

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Tehran: Missing Iranians could be in Israeli jail

By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Saturday, March 05, 2005

TEHRAN: An Iranian official charged with hunting for three Iranian diplomats and a reporter who went missing in Lebanon more than two decades ago has said he believes they could still be alive and in an Israeli jail, the student news agency ISNA said Friday.

"According to our latest information, the four Iranians have been seen in the Zionist regime's jails. If it is said they have been martyred, it is only to cover up the Zionist regime involvement in this issue," said Raed Mousavi, a member of an official follow-up committee charged with the case.

He said the information that the four had been transferred to Israel came from someone released in a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hizbullah movement.

"He had seen the four diplomats in Israeli prisons in 1988," said the official, who is also the father of one of the missing men.

He added he believed Israel may have hoped to exchange them for missing Israeli airman Ron Arad. The four Iranians disappeared in northern Lebanon in July 1982.

Iran has stepped up its search for news on their fate after hundreds of Palestinians and Arab prisoners were freed in exchange for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers in January 2004.

The second phase of the Hizbullah-Israel exchange arrangement reportedly involves seeking news on Arad - missing since his aircraft was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 - as well as the four Iranians and missing Lebanese.

Hizbullah believes the Iranians may have been handed over to Israel by a Lebanese Christian militia after their arrest in 1982.

There have also been allegations that Arad is alive and was transferred to Iran, something the Islamic republic has repeatedly denied.

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Chavez: Low Oil Rates a thing of the Past
Associated Press
NEW DELHI Mar 5, 2005 — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could fix a price for oil in the range of $40 to $50 per barrel, adding that low petroleum prices were a thing of the past.

Chavez's comments came ahead of a crucial OPEC meeting in Iran on March 16. Some analysts are expecting the cartel to cut production to boost oil prices, which have skyrocketed over the past year on supply worries.

Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has been consistently pushing for higher oil prices. Venezuela produces more than 3 million barrels of crude oil a day.

"The OPEC could fix the price at between $40 to $50 per barrel," Chavez told reporters in New Delhi.

"The world should forget about cheap oil. It will never go back to the $10 per barrel rate that prevailed in those days," he added, without elaborating.

Crude oil futures traded above $53 a barrel again on Friday.

Chavez, who is on a four-day state visit to India, held talks earlier Saturday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during which the two countries agreed to cooperate in the energy, biotechnology, space and railroad sectors.

Chavez later flew to Calcutta, where he said he was considering increasing oil trade with countries like India and China to ensure their fast economic growth.

"Venezuela will now help the Southern Hemisphere countries with its oil more than it has helped the United States," he said. "America wants to keep all the good things in the world for itself. But we will not let them do it."

Relations between the United States and Venezuela have deteriorated steadily since Chavez took office in February 1999. He has repeatedly accused Washington of trying to destabilize his government. The State Department has rejected the allegation.

Comment: The US has stopped at nothing to try and overthrow Hugo Chavez, a man who has dared to use the profits of the Venezuelan oil trade to improve the living conditions of the poorest people in his country. This distribution of funds to those most in need is considered by the United States to be a very bad example to other countries in Latin America and elsewhere. The US is incapable of even providing adequate health care to its own citizens.

Chavez is attempting to build alliances with India and China in order to protect himself and his policies. Although the entire world is aware that the United States is trying to overthrow the Chvez government, the State Department, as the article indicates, rejects the accusation, that is, it calmly lies yet again about its true activities.

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Quebec Quake Rattles Ottawa
Josh Pringle
Sunday, March 6, 2005
An earthquake in the Charlevoix area of Quebec was felt in parts of Orleans and Gatineau this morning.

Natural Resources Canada says the epicentre of the 5.4 magnitude earthquake was near Riviere-du-Loup on the St. Lawrence River.

Ottawa Police and a number of callers tell CFRA News they felt the tremor around 1:20 this morning.

The quake was felt from Ottawa through southern Quebec and into New Brunswick.

Ottawa is located 550-kilometres from the epicentre.

A spokesperson for Natural Resources Canada says it was the largest quake in Quebec since 1959. Quakes are common in the Charlevoix area.

There are no reports of any damage.

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Two strong quakes rock Taiwan, two people injured
Sunday March 6, 4:54 PM

Two strong and nearly simultaneous earthquakes measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale rocked high-rise buildings in Taiwan, injuring two people, officials said.

The first quake struck at 3:06 am (1906 GMT Saturday) with its epicenter 6.2 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the eastern coastal town of Suao and 8.5 kilometers underground, the Seismology Center said after revising its earlier readings.

Before residents had recovered from the initial shock, another quake of the same magnitude rattled the island a minute later. As the two quakes nearly overlapped, seismologists had not noticed the second in their initial reports.

"In Taiwan's earthquake history, it was rare to have two major quakes of equal strength hit the same area in a very short period of time," Lu Pei-ling, deputy chief of the Seismology Center, told reporters. [...]

A tremor with a magnitude of 4.2 struck seven minutes before the two stronger quakes. At least 100 aftershocks were reported, and seismologists warned of more strong quakes in the next few weeks. [...]

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2005 March 6 05:21:43 UTC

A strong earthquake occurred at 05:21:43 (UTC) on Sunday, March 6, 2005. The magnitude 6.3 event has been located NORTH OF SEVERNAYA ZEMLYA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Did Clouds in Space Cause Snowball Earth?
Universe Today

Summary - (Mar 4, 2005) Scientists are fairly certain that the Earth went through a snowball glaciation 600-800 million years ago, when the entire planet was locked in snow and ice. One new theory to explain this extreme cooling is the possibility that the Solar System passed through an interstellar cloud of dust and gas, which obscured the light from the Sun. Even if the cloud wasn't thick enough to obscure light from the Sun, it could have enabled charged particles to pass into the Earth's atmosphere and destroy the ozone layer. These clouds are huge, and it would take the Solar System 500,000 years to pass through one.

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