Saturday, April 02, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Military Justice

Two US military court cases.

In one, Army Captain Rogelio Maynulet was tried for "assault with intent to commit manslaughter" for walking up to an injured Iraqi and shooting him in the head near the Iraqi city of Najaf in May 2004. The solider claimed it was a "mercy killing".

In the other, Blake Lemoine, a amy Mechanic was tried for "wilfully disobeying orders" after having already completed a one year tour of duty in Iraq. His refusal was based on the fact that his beliefs were, "in direct conflict with what the United States military practices."

Lemoine explained his refusal to take part in US military activities in Iraq by saying:

"it was simply a slow realization that serving in the U.S. military at this day and time contradicts my religion and to continue to do so would make me a hypocrite."

Leomine told German newspapers that his contract with the U.S. Army was "a slavery contract," and that "Iraqi civilians are often treated worse than animals."

The Court verdicts:

Both were found guilty.

The Punishments:

One solider was discharged from the army.

The other was sentenced to 7 months in prison and discharged from the army.

Can you guess which soldier received which punishment?

As far as the US military is concerned, for a US solider to execute a wounded Iraqi, who may or may not have been an "insurgent", is against the rules and frowned upon, and may well get you discharged from duty, especially when the public gets to hear about it. But for a US solider to refuse to obey orders to continue shooting innocent Iraqis "like animals" and request that he be discharged from duty, warrants a prison sentence.

There seems to be a general consensus that "war is hell", but for a large percentage of US soldiers in Iraq, it seems that there is no place they would rather be. What more could a young red-blooded American boy ask for than to be given lots of guns, rocket launchers and grenades, a Humvee, a bunch of his buddies and told to go "light up" some "bad guys"?

Of course, when it turns out that the car was carrying an Iraqi family, and that the two heads lying on the road are not those of "evil terrorists" but two Iraqi girls aged 2 and 5, or that the guy lying beside the bullet-riddled dump truck, his intestines on the road beside him, was in fact just an innocent garbage collector trying to earn a living, it can be a little embarrassing - for a few moments at least.

Undoubtedly there is also a significant percentage of young American soldiers who are deeply troubled when they realise they have taken an innocent human life, but for far too many it appears that there is no such thing as "combat stress". Perhaps, in the end, we will have to conclude that there really are two different races on this planet. The good news however, is that this means Bush can reduce the cost of the Iraq war by saving the Ecstasy for those unfortunates who understand the meaning of the word "empathy".

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Flashback: 'I saw the heads of my two little girls come off'
April 2 2003

An Iraqi mother in a van fired on by US soldiers says she saw her two young daughters decapitated in the incident that also killed her son and eight other members of her family.

The children's father, who was also in the van, said US soldiers fired on them as they fled towards a checkpoint because they thought a leaflet dropped by US helicopters told them to "be safe", and they believed that meant getting out of their village to Karbala.

Bakhat Hassan - who lost his daughters, aged two and five, his three-year-old son, his parents, two older brothers, their wives and two nieces aged 12 and 15, in the incident - said US soldiers at an earlier checkpoint had waved them through.

As they approached another checkpoint 40km south of Karbala, they waved again at the American soldiers.

"We were thinking these Americans want us to be safe," Hassan said through an Army translator at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital set up at a vast Army support camp near Najaf.

The soldiers didn't wave back. They fired.

"I saw the heads of my two little girls come off," Hassan's heavily pregnant wife, Lamea, 36, said numbly.

She repeated herself in a flat, even voice: "My girls - I watched their heads come off their bodies. My son is dead."

US officials originally gave the death toll from the incident as seven, but reporters at the scene placed it at 10. And Bakhat Hassan terrible toll was 11 members of his family.

Hassan's father died at the Army hospital later.

US officials said the soldiers at an Army checkpoint who opened fire were following orders not to let vehicles approach checkpoints.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber had killed four US soldiers outside Najaf.

Details emerging from interviews with survivors of yesterday's incident tell a distressing tale of a family fleeing towards what they thought would be safety, tragically misunderstanding instructions.

Hassan's father, in his 60s, wore his best clothes for the trip through the American lines: a pinstriped suit.

"To look American," Hassan said.

An Army report written last night cited "a miscommunication with civilians" as the cause of the incident.

Hassan, his wife and another of his brothers are in intensive care at the MASH unit.

Another brother, sister-in-law and a seven-year-old child were released to bury the dead.

The Shi'ite family of 17 was packed into a 1974 Land Rover, so crowded that Bakhat, 35, was outside on the rear bumper hanging on to the back door.

Everyone else was piled on one another's laps in three sets of seats.

They were fleeing their farm town southeast of Karbala, where US attack helicopters had fired missiles and rockets the day before.

Helicopters also had dropped leaflets on the town: a drawing of a family sitting at a table eating and smiling with a message written in Arabic.

Sergeant 1st Class Stephen Furbush, an Army intelligence analyst, said the message read: "To be safe, stay put."

But Hassan said he and his father thought it just said: "Be safe".

To them, that meant getting away from the helicopters firing rockets and missiles.

His father drove. They planned to go to Karbala. They stopped at an Army checkpoint on the northbound road near Sahara, about 40km south of Karbala, and were told to go on, Hassan said.

But "the Iraqi family misunderstood" what the soldiers were saying, Furbush said.

A few kilometres later, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle came into view. The family waved as it came closer. The soldiers opened fire.

Hassan remembers an Army medic at the scene of the killings speaking Arabic.

"He told us it was a mistake and the soldiers were sorry," Hassan said.

"They believed it was a van of suicide bombers," Furbush said.

Hassan, his wife, his father and a brother were airlifted to the MASH unit.

Three doctors and three nurses worked on the father for four hours but he died despite their efforts.

Today, Hassan and his wife remain at the unit. He has staples in his head. She has a mangled hand and shrapnel in her face and shoulder.

Major Scott McDannold, an anaesthesiologist, said Hassan's brother, lying nearby, wouldn't make it. He is on a respirator with a broken neck.

On March 16, Hassan and his family began to harvest tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions and eggplant. It was a healthy crop, and they expected a good year.

"We had hope," he said. "But then you Americans came to bring us democracy and our hope ended."

Lamea is nine months pregnant.

"It would be better not to have the baby," she said.

"Our lives are over."

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A Deadly Coincidence: School Shootings and Drugged Students
By Alan Caruba
Apr 1, 2005
I keep waiting for someone to notice the way the rash of school shootings the US has experienced has coincided with the massive program of drugging "over-active" students or those deemed to have an "attention deficit." Medicating students has replaced counseling.

On December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal, a troubled 14-year-old, killed three students and wounded five others at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. In 1998, there were three events in which boys, one as young as 11, killed classmates and teachers. Most notorious is the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre by two boys, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, who killed twelve students and a teacher, and wounded 23 others before committing suicide.

There were two incidents in 2000, one involving a 6-year-old who shot and killed another 6-year-old at Buell Elementary School in Mount Morris Township, Michigan, and on May 26, Nathaniel Brazill, 13, killed his English teacher on the last day of classes in Lake Worth, Florida. On March 5, 2001, Charles Williams, 15, killed two students and wounded 13 others at Santana High School in Santee, California. And, in 2003, two students were killed at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minnesota by a fellow student, age 15. He is awaiting trial.

This brings us to 16-year-old Jeff Weise who, on Monday, March 21, killed his grandfather and his longtime companion, and then went to the school on Red lake Indian Reservation where he killed nine people and wounded seven before, like Harris and Klebold, killing himself. Weise was on Prozac, a medication for depression. Harris and Klebold were both on various mind-altering medications. Not only did they not help them, but the question is whether they may have actually contributed to these acts of murder? How many of the other young killers, dating back to 1997, were also being medicated? And, while we're at it, how many young suicide victims were likewise being medicated?

Something is terribly wrong in this nation when we can experience a succession of seemingly senseless school killings and not begin to ask whether the national obsession with drugging an estimated six to seven million school children isn't a contributory factor?

"Why is 80 percent of the world's methylphenidate (Ritalin and Adderall) being fed to American children?" asked Dr. William B. Carey when he appeared before a House panel investigating the wide use of psychotropic drugs in 2003. "These drugs have the potential for serious harm and abuse," noted Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-DE). "They are listed on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. "

Schools authorities, supported by members of the psychiatric community, have recommended that millions of children be put on psychotropic drugs since the invention of two new "syndromes." There have always been "over-active" children and many children said to be suffering from "attention deficit" may actually be quite bright, but totally bored by what passes for a curriculum these days. Or they may, like millions of children passing through the school system, be illiterate; thanks to the way reading is taught.

Too many of these "recommendations" have included the threat of having children removed from the parent's care.

So why is the Bush Administration, responsible for the No Child Left Behind Act that school systems are fleeing in droves, also pushing to have universal mental health screening undertaken in schools? While the 108th Congress took steps to protect parents from being coerced by schools to subject their children to some of the psychiatric medications, they exempted antidepressant medications (like Prozac) or those used to treat children labeled bipolar. Known side effects of these drugs include obesity, diabetes, and neurological problems.

Some of the neurological problems include suicidal thoughts and, one wonders, homicidal thoughts as well? That said, it is easy to pin the blame on the use of drugs, just as it is easier for teachers and administrators to recommend drugging students who exhibit disruptive behavior or what, to a lay person, appears to be an emotional disorder. When you have a classroom full of kids, the troubled ones frequently stick out, but there is often scarce time and little real training to provide help.

Where should that help come from? Parents! No one has greater responsibility and authority than parents for the welfare of their children. However, the result of compulsory education in America increasingly involves interposing the power of the school between students and parents. In fairness, many teachers will tell you their capacity to discipline a student has significantly diminished.

Lastly, in a society suffused with constant news and imagery of homicidal behavior, why should anyone be surprised that a child or adolescent would not see this as a viable alternative to whatever emotional torment he is experiencing? What is almost guaranteed, however, is that we shall read about more school killings in the years ahead.

Comment: Eighty percent of all the Adderall and Ritalin in the entire world is given to American children. Think about that. Why are such a disproportionately high number of America's children drugged up? In the old days - before three hundred cable TV channels, video games, cell phones, and happy pills - children didn't take guns to school and blow away their peers and teachers and then commit suicide like they do to today. What happened? Did the structure of the American family and American society simply deteriorate? Given the current march towards fascism in the US and the spreading "war on terror", it hardly seems coincidental that so many American children and adults alike are being numbed literally to death by obviously over-prescribed mind-altering chemicals. Many people who have taken anti-depressants claim that while they were on the drugs, they quite literally didn't care about anything. How convenient for folks like the Bush gang!

Note that we are not suggesting that Bush and the Neocons are directly responsible for the drugging of the masses. In fact, we are suggesting that humanity has been subjected to lies and manipulations that span an almost inconceivably long period of history. We have frequently commented on the similarities between Hitler's Germany and Bush's America. While others use the comparison to simply make a striking statement, we are in fact suggesting - and with good reason - that history is far more cyclic than any of us has suspected. To discover humanity's real history and ancient sciences that actually provide startling answers to today's questions and concerns, read Laura Knight-Jadczyk's new book The Secret History of the World - And How to Get Out Alive.

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On Being Sane In Insane Places
David L. Rosenhan

How do we know precisely what constitutes "normality" or mental illness? Conventional wisdom suggests that specially trained professionals have the ability to make reasonably accurate diagnoses. In this research, however, David Rosenhan provides evidence to challenge this assumption. What is -- or is not -- "normal" may have much to do with the labels that are applied to people in particular settings.

If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them? [...]

However much we may be personally convinced that we can tell the normal from the abnormal, the evidence is simply not compelling. It is commonplace, for example, to read about murder trials wherein eminent psychiatrists for the defense are contradicted by equally eminent psychiatrists for the prosecution on the matter of the defendant's sanity. More generally, there are a great deal of conflicting data on the reliability, utility, and meaning of such terms as "sanity," "insanity," "mental illness," and "schizophrenia." Finally, as early as 1934, {Ruth} Benedict suggested that normality and abnormality are not universal.[1] What is viewed as normal in one culture may be seen as quite aberrant in another. Thus, notions of normality and abnormality may not be quite as accurate as people believe they are.

To raise questions regarding normality and abnormality is in no way to question the fact that some behaviors are deviant or odd. Murder is deviant. So, too, are hallucinations. Nor does raising such questions deny the existence of the personal anguish that is often associated with "mental illness." Anxiety and depression exist. Psychological suffering exists. But normality and abnormality, sanity and insanity, and the diagnoses that flow from them may be less substantive than many believe them to be. [...]

Do the salient characteristics that lead to diagnoses reside in the patients themselves or in the environments and contexts in which observers find them? [...]

The belief has been strong that patients present symptoms, that those symptoms can be categorized, and, implicitly, that the sane are distinguishable from the insane.

More recently, however, this belief has been questioned. Based in part on theoretical and anthropological considerations, but also on philosophical, legal, and therapeutic ones, the view has grown that psychological categorization of mental illness is useless at best and downright harmful, misleading, and pejorative at worst. Psychiatric diagnoses, in this view, are in the minds of observers and are not valid summaries of characteristics displayed by the observed. [...]

Eight sane people gained secret admission to 12 different hospitals. Their diagnostic experiences constitute the data of the first part of this article; the remainder is devoted to a description of their experiences in psychiatric institutions. [...]

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Mystery Illness Baffles Doctors; Frustrates Patients
February 6, 2005

SAUSALITO -- Is an unknown disease hitting the Bay Area or is it just a case of mass delusion? If you ask intensive care nurse Cindy Casey she'll tell you that the mystery disease is very real and very painful.

Casey is one of at least 150 Bay Area residents battling the illness that is characterized by lesions and strange string-like fibers.

"It sounds really strange, it's kind of understandable why people don't believe us, because it sounds so weird," Casey said. "The lesions start out as bumps that are itchy, little round raised bumps. The fibers are quite alarming."

When she turned to doctors for help, her frustrations began to mount. Casey said dermatologists at her own hospital suggested she was mentally ill.

"It sounds so bizarre to them that they take the quick way out and say this can't be, you've got to be delusional or making this up," she said.

Susan Bishop of Santa Rosa has a similar story.

"It's the overall pain I have every day, my joints hurt," she said. "

For some, the pain and frustration simply gets to be too much. That was the case, friends and family say, for Dillon King of Soquel. Last month, friends and family eulogized the 37-year-old former medical assistant after he committed suicide.

"It was really so depressing the hardest thing was seeing him just get worse all the time," said Wendy Augason, King's mother.

King's fiancée -- Elizabeth Strong -- says she's certain he picked up some kind of weird infection and that she's now beginning to show the same symptoms.

"It started as a small sore and kept spreading," she said. "I had doctors tell me that basically, it was delusional, then because it was the two of us with it we were feeding on each other, and egging each other on."

KTVU broke this story last year and now we've learned more than 1,200 people nationwide say they have the same skin lesions and bizarre fibers. Ironically, most are in the medical profession. Adults as well as children have it and it may be contagious.

Evidence is beginning to mount linking this syndrome to Lyme Disease from tick bites.

"The population of people with Lyme Disease believe this is another infection that travels with the Lyme organism," said Dr. Jennifer Choate, a hematologist who helped treat Dillon. "It makes sense because it is in that group we are seeing this pattern."

Marin microbiologist Jenny Haverty has also be studying the mystery malady.

"I accepted specimens from four different people in four different counties in the Bay Area, and I looked at them very carefully over and over again under the microscope," she said. "The colors and shapes of the fibers of each individual were very, very similar."

Tests on similar fibers taken from Bishop's skin and those of several other patients in the Bay Area show them to be tiny tubes of protein. But how and why the filaments are formed remains a mystery for now.

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A mouthful of trouble

Mercury fillings are now linked to a range of symptoms, from chronic anxiety to Alzheimer's. Should we have them removed?
Jane Feinmann
The Independent
14 December 2004

Mary Stephenson symptoms began to develop soon after the birth of her first child left her with a calcium deficiency that meant she needed amalgam fillings in 19 teeth. Now, after 40 years of continued illness, unrelieved by a variety of antidepressant treatments, she has finally recovered, she claims, by having all her amalgam fillings removed, along with a course of detoxification to remove the mercury that was left in her body.

It took three months for Mrs Stephenson to start to get better. She noticed the change on a theatre visit in October this year. "In the interval, I went to the toilet and as I was walking up and down the stairs I thought, 'I'm a free person.' That was lovely."

Mercury poisoning from amalgam fillings has been linked to a range of neurological problems, including chronic fatigue, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis - as well as symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, lack of concentration, loss of memory and confidence, mood swings, anxiety and insomnia. [...]

No reliable multi-centre research data exist to support fears that mercury in fillings has a toxic effect on the brain or central nervous system, but small studies have suggested that dentists and dental assistants who experience mercury exposure through handling amalgam do have a higher than average risk of neurological disturbance.

Experiences such as Mrs Stephenson's illustrate what seems a highly plausible theory: that it's madness to place a highly toxic substance, even in tiny amounts, so close to the brain and the central nervous system. The Department of Health already advises against amalgam fillings for pregnant women, and four months ago it announced the phasing out of a mercury-based preservative for baby vaccines. [...]

Yet the nation would still be healthier without amalgam fillings, believes Dr Harris Sidelsky, a dentist and lecturer at the London Hospital dental school. What makes amalgam fillings dangerous is the preparation, which routinely involves cutting away the healthy tooth around the decay (unnecessary in new, glue-able fillings). The method is linked to the risk of ever-larger fillings, leading to crowns, root-canal work and abscesses.

Dr Sidelsky is a pioneer of minimum intervention (MI) dentistry, which promotes the use of tooth-coloured composites - white plastic fillings that fit into micro-cavities. These are already being superseded by new bio- active materials that simulate body tissue and adhere chemically to the tooth enamel and dentin. Even cleverer filling materials in the pipeline prevent decay by feeding essential minerals, including calcium, phosphate, strontium and fluoride, into the tooth enamel. At the same time, a dental version of keyhole surgery that involves "scooping out" the caries through an access cavity in the side of the tooth further reduces the need to make holes in teeth. [...]

"A staggering 90 per cent of current practices focus on invasive techniques to repair damage from disease, without treating the disease itself," Dr Sidelsky says. "In medicine, invasive surgery is the last option. It should be no different in dentistry."

Recent research has established a recognised list of risk factors for dental caries, including genetic susceptibility, the presence of plaque bacteria, and a high sugar diet. "We know that these risk factors vary between individuals, in the same way as people have different risk factors for heart disease. Caries management involves identifying and then eliminating or minimising the individual's risk factors. Research has shown that it is possible to prevent caries occurring as long as the patient is happy to be actively involved in therapy and to undergo regular tests and simple preventive procedures," Dr Sidelski says. [...]

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1950s superbug re-emerges as 'souped-up' MRSA
Last Updated Fri, 01 Apr 2005 19:50:08 EST
CBC News

LONDON - Today's MRSA superbug that is spreading through communities can be traced back to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that first emerged in the 1950s.

The first examples of penicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus type 80/81 were isolated in Canada and Australia in 1953.

Mark Enright of the University of Bath in the U.K. and his team sequenced key genes from the decades-old bacteria.

MRSA and hospital hygiene

Although deaths from MRSA superbugs have occurred at the same time hospital cleaning staff are being outsourced in the country, an editorial in The Lancet notes this is merely a circumstantial link.

The editorial comments on how political parties in the U.K. have seized on public fears over unclean hospitals.

"This tit-for-tat political posturing has certainly helped keep health in the public eye," the editorial reads. "But none of these policies reflect the real failure in U.K. hospitals: non-adherence to basic infection control.

Evdience shows that housekeeping practices are unlikely to have an overall effect on transmission of MRSA unless essential infection-control practices – the use of gloves and hand hygiene – are prioritised. But this is rarely the case."

At the time, the microbes caused skin lesions, sepsis and pneumonia in children and young adults worldwide.

Hospital- and community-acquired infections waned as doctors began prescribing the antibiotic meticillin in the 1960s.

By comparing the 1950s samples to the same regions of genes from a community-acquired MRSA in England and Scotland today, the researchers found a match.

Nearly all of the samples were identical. Bacteria from both time periods also shared the same highly-virulent toxin.

The results suggest today's community-acquired MRSA evolved from the earlier type, which evolved resistance to meticillin in the last 30 years or so.

"We have shown that 80/81 and its souped-up community-acquired MRSA descendent share many of the same features, which explains why the 1950s pandemic was so successful," Enright said in a release.

Writing in the April 2 issue of the medical journal The Lancet, the team warns the community-acquired superbug may spread faster and be more widespread than expected.

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The Undoing of America
Gore Vidal on war for oil, politics-free elections, and the late, great U.S. Constitution
by Steve Perry
For the past 40 years or so of Gore Vidal's prolific 59-year literary career, his great project has been the telling of the American story from the country's inception to the present day, unencumbered by the court historian's task of making America's leaders look like good guys at every turn. The saga has unfolded in two ways: through Vidal's series of seven historical novels, beginning with Washington DC in 1967 and concluding with The Golden Age in 2000; and through his ceaseless essay writing and public appearances across the years. Starting around 1970, Vidal began to offer up his own annual State of the Union message, in magazines and on the talk circuit. His words were always well-chosen, provocative, and contentious: "There is not one human problem that could not be solved," he told an interviewer in 1972, "if people would simply do as I advise."

Though it's a dim memory now, Vidal and commentators of a similarly outspoken bent used to be regulars on television news shows. Vidal's most famous TV moment came during the 1968 Democratic Convention, when ABC paired him with William F. Buckley on live television. On the next to last night of the convention, the dialogue turned to the question of some student war protesters raising a Vietcong flag. The following exchange ensued:

Vidal: "As far as I'm concerned, the only sort of proto- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself. Failing that, I'll only say that we can't have--"

Buckley: "Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

That was TV in the pre-Information Age for you. These days Vidal, who put his Italian villa on the market a few months ago and moved full-time to his home in Los Angeles, speaks mostly through his essay writing about the foreign and stateside adventures of the Bush administration. In the past five years he has published one major nonfiction collection, The Last Empire, and a book about the founding fathers called Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson. But mainly he has stayed busy producing what he calls his "political pamphlets," a series of short essay collections called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated (2002), Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (2003), and Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (2004). Last month at Duke University, he produced a short run of On the March to the Sea, an older play about the Civil War that he has rewritten entirely.

I spoke to Vidal, who will turn 80 this October, by phone from his home in Los Angeles on March 9.

City Pages: I'll start with the broadest of questions: Why are we in Iraq, and what are our prospects there at this point?

Gore Vidal: Well, let us say that the old American republic is well and truly dead. The institutions that we thought were eternal proved not to be. And that goes for the three departments of government, and it also goes for the Bill of Rights. So we're in uncharted territory. We're governed by public relations. Very little information gets to the people, thanks to the corruption and/or ineptitude of the media. Just look at this bankruptcy thing that went through--everybody in debt to credit cards, which is apparently 90 percent of the country, is in deep trouble. So the people are uninformed about what's being done in their name.

And that's really why we are in Iraq. Iraq is a symptom, not a cause. It's a symptom of the passion we have for oil, which is a declining resource in the world. Alternatives can be found, but they will not be found as long as there's one drop of oil or natural gas to be extracted from other nations, preferably by force by the current junta in charge of our affairs. Iraq will end with our defeat.

CP: You've observed many times in your writing that the United States has elections but has no politics. Could you talk about what you mean by that, and about how so many people have come to accept a purely spectatorial relationship to politics, more like fans (or non-fans) than citizens?

Gore Vidal: Well, you cannot have a political party that is not based upon a class interest. It has been part of the American propaganda machine that we have no class system. Yes, there are rich people; some are richer than others. But there is no class system. We're classless. You could be president tomorrow. So could Michael Jackson, or this one or that one. This isn't true. We have a very strong, very rigid class structure which goes back to the beginning of the country. I will not go into the details of that, but there it is. Whether it's good or bad is something else.

We have not had a political party since that, really, of the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, who was a member of the highest class, an aristocrat who had made common cause with the people, who were in the midst of depression, not to mention the Dust Bowl, which had taken so many farms in the '30s. We were a country in deep trouble, and he represented those in deep trouble. He got together great majorities and was elected four times to the presidency. And launched us on empire--somewhat consciously, too. He saw to it that the European colonial empires would break up, and that we would inherit bits and pieces, which we have done.

If we don't have class interests officially, then therefore we have no political parties. What is the Republican Party? Well, it used to be the party of the small-town businessman, generally in the Middle West, generally sort of out of the mainstream. Very conservative. It now represents nothing but the gas and oil business. They own it. And the people who go to Congress are simply bought. They are lawyers who are paid to represent Halliburton, big oil, big banking. So the very rich corporate America has a party for itself, the Republican Party. The Democrats don't have much of anything but a kind of wistful style. They just want everyone to be happy, and politically correct at all times. Do not hurt other people's feelings. They spend so much time on political correctness that they haven't thought of what to do politically about anything. Like say "no" to these preemptive wars, which are against not only the whole world's take on war and peace, but against United States history.

This is something new under the sun--that a president, just because he feels like it, can declare war on anybody. And Congress will go along with him, and the courts will support him. The founding fathers would be mortified if they saw what had happened to their handiwork, which wasn't very great to begin with but is now done for. When you have preemptive wars, and you have ambitious companies like Bechtel who will build up what, let us say, General Electric has helped to destroy with its weaponry--these interests are well-represented.

There is no people's party, and you can't even use the word. "Liberal" has been demonized. A liberal is a commie who's also a pedophile. Being a communist and a pedophile, he's so busy that he hasn't got time to win an election and is odious to boot. So there is no Democratic Party. We hope that something might happen with the governor of Vermont, and maybe something will or maybe it won't. But we are totally censored, and the press just follows this. It observes what those in power want it to observe, and turns the other way when things get dark. Then, when it's too late sometimes, you get some very good reporting. But by then, somebody's playing taps.

CP: Has the media played a role in transforming citizens into spectators of this process?

Vidal: Well, they have been transformed, by design, by corporate America, aided by the media, which belongs to corporate America. They are no longer citizens. They are hardly voters. They are consumers, and they consume those things which are advertised on television. They are made to sound like happy consumers. Listen to TV advertising: This one says, "I had this terrible pain, but when I put on Kool-Aid, I found relief overnight. You must try it too." All we do is hear about little cures for little pains. Nothing important gets said. There used to be all those talk shows back in the '50s and '60s, when I was on television a great deal. People would talk about many important things, and you had some very good talkers. They're not allowed on now. Or they're set loose in the Fox Zoo, in which you have a number of people who pretend to be journalists but are really like animals. Each one has his own noise--there's the donkey who brays, there's the pig who squeals. Each one is a different animal in a zoo, making a characteristic noise. The result is chaos, which is what is intended. They don't want the people to know anything, and the people don't.

CP: You wrote at the end of a 2002 essay that so-called inalienable rights, once alienated, are often lost forever. Can you describe what's changed about America during the Bush years that represent permanent, or at least long-term, legacies that will survive Bush?

Vidal: Well, the Congress has ceded--which it cannot do--but it has ceded its power to declare war. That is written in the Constitution. It's the most important thing in the Constitution, ultimately. And having ceded that to the Executive Branch, he can declare war whenever he finds terrorism. Now, terrorism is a wonderful invention because it doesn't mean anything. It's an abstract noun. You can't have a war against an abstract noun; it's like having a war against dandruff. It's meaningless.

But you can terrify people. The art of government now, the art of control as practiced by the current junta, is: Keep the people frightened. It's exactly what Adolf Hitler and his gang did. Keep them frightened: The Russians are coming. The Poles are killing Germans who live within the borders of Poland. The Czechs are doing the same thing in the Sudetenland. These are evil people. We must go after them. We must save our kin.

Keep everybody frightened, tell them lies--and the bigger the lie, the more they'll believe it. There's nothing the average American now believes (because he's been told it 10,000 times a day) that is true. Now how do you undo so much disinformation? Well, you have to have truth squads at work 24 hours a day every day. And we don't have them.

CP: I'd like to ask you to sketch our political arc from Reagan down to Bush II. It seemed to me that Reagan took a big step down the road to Bush when he was so successful in selling the ideology of the market, the idea that whatever the interests of money and markets dictated was the proper and even the most patriotic course--which was hardly a new idea, but one that had never been embraced openly as a first principle of politics. Is that a fair assessment?

Vidal: He was small-town American Republican, even though he started life as a Democrat. He believed in the values of Main Street. Sinclair Lewis's novels are filled with Ronald Reagans, though Babbitt doesn't get to the White House. But this time Babbitt did. So it was very congenial for Reagan to play that part, not that he had a very clear idea of what his lines were all about. Those who were writing the scenarios certainly knew.

I'd say the downward skid certainly began with Reagan. I came across a comment recently, someone asking why we had gone into both Grenada and Panama, two absolutely nothing little countries who were no danger to us, minding their own business, and we go in and conquer them. Somebody said, well, we did it because we could. That's the attitude of our current rulers.

So they will be forever putting--what they do is put us all at risk. You and I and other civilians are going to be the ones who are killed when the Moslems get really angry and start suicide-bombing American cities because of things the Bush/Cheney junta has done to them. We will be the ones killed. Bush/Cheney will be safe in their bunkers, but we're going to get it. I would have thought that self-interest--since Americans are the most easily terrified people on earth, as recently demonstrated over and over again-- we would be afraid of what was going to befall us. But I think simultaneously we have no imagination, and certainly no sense of cause and effect. If we did have that, we might know that if you keep kicking somebody, he's going to kick you back. So there we stand, ignoring the first rule of physics, which is that there is no action without reaction.

CP: Didn't the previous successes of our economy and our empire, post WWII, condition people to expect that consequences were for other people in other places?

Vidal: Well, wishful thinking, perhaps. I spent three years in World War II, and it was a clear victory for our team. But it was nothing to write Mother about, I'll tell you. Walt Whitman once said, of the Civil War, that it is a lucky thing the people will never know what happened in the war. One can think of a lot of things, one can imagine a lot of things, but...

The sense that there are no consequences--that can happen if you keep the people diverted. Television changed everything. Some 60 or 80 percent of Americans still think Saddam Hussein was a partner of Osama bin Laden. They hated each other, and they had nothing to do with each other. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. But if you keep repeating it and repeating it--and Cheney still does; nobody's switched him off, so he just babbles and babbles like a broken toy--how are they to know otherwise? Yes, there are good journals here and there, like The Nation, but they're not easily found. And with our educational system, I don't think the average person can read with any great ease anything that requires thought and the ability to exercise cause-and-effect reasoning: If we do this to them, they will do that to us. We seem to have lost all track of that rather primitive notion that I think people all the way back to chimpanzees have known. But we don't.

CP: In your latest book, Imperial America, you refer to Confucius's admonition to "rectify the language." In that regard I'm wondering about the Clinton years, and about the success of the Clinton/Morris strategy of "triangulation," which mainly consisted of talking to the left and governing to the right. Did that play a role in setting the stage for a figure like Bush, who throws around words like "democracy" and "freedom" when they bear no relation to reality?

Vidal: Well, certainly it did. Clinton represented no opposition to this. He was so busy triangulating that he was enlisting under the colors of the other team, hoping to pick up some votes. I don't think he did, but he got himself reelected by not doing the job of an opposing political party. In other words, the Republican Party as it now is funded, is the party of corporate America, which is no friend to the people of America. Now that's a clear division. The people of America, if you ever run for office, you find out they're very shrewd about figuring out who's getting what money, and who's on their side. But you have to organize them. You have to tell them more things than they get to know from the general media.

Clinton just gave up. Also, to his credit, or rather, to explain him, the Republican Party realized that this was the most attractive politician since Franklin Roosevelt, and that he had a great, great hold over people. They also realized that if he got going, we really would have National Health--we would actually become a civilized country, which we are nowhere near. I mean, we're in the Stone Age again. He was working toward it, and they saw he had to be destroyed. Later they got a cock-sucking interlude to impeach him. If I were he, I would have called out the Army and sent Congress home.

CP: Really.

Vidal: Yes, really. They went beyond anything in the laws of impeachment. They have to do with the exercise of your powers as president, abuses of power as president. He wasn't abusing any powers. He was caught telling a little lie about sex, which you're not supposed to ask him about anyway, and he shouldn't have answered. So they use that: oh, perjury! Oh, it's terrible, a president who lies! Oh, God--how can we live any longer in Sodom and Gomorrah? You can play on the dumb-dumbs morning, noon, and night with stuff like that.

CP: Clearly Bush does represent something radical and new, and there's been an understandable tendency on the part of people who don't like where the country is going to focus their outrage exclusively on Bush and the Republicans. But don't the media and the Democrats come in for a great deal of blame for creating the political vacuum in which he rose?

Vidal: Well, the media is on the other side. The media belongs to the big money, and the big money, their candidates, their party, is the Republican Party as now constituted. So everybody is behaving typically [in media]. What isn't typical is a Democratic Party that has also sold out. There are just as many lobbyists and propagandists there as on the other side. They're never going to regain anything until they remember that they're supposed to represent the people at large, and not the very rich.

But they need the very rich in order to be able to run for office, to buy television time. I'd say if you really want to date the crash of the American system, the American republic, it was in the early '50s, when television suddenly emerged as the central fact of American life. That which was not televised did not exist. And any preacher, because religion is tax-free--I would tax all the religions, by the way--any evangelical who wants to get up there and say, send me millions of dollars and I will cure you of your dandruff, he gets to spend the money any way he likes, and there's no tax on it. So he can have political action groups, which he's not supposed to have but does have. So you have all that religious money, and then you have the enormous cost of campaigning, which means every politician who wants to buy TV time has got to sell his ass to somebody. And corporate America is ready to buy.

CP: Likewise, there's a great tendency among his detractors to call Bush stupid. You've called him "dumb," albeit not as dumb as his dad. But I'm recalling what you wrote about Ronald Reagan years ago in your review of the Ronnie Leamer book about him: that no one who's stupid aces every career test he faces. The same is clearly not true of George W. Bush, who had failed in a lot of things before he entered politics. But he hasn't failed in politics. Do you think Bush possesses a kind of intelligence akin to Reagan's in that regard, or is that giving him too much credit? How do you think his mind works?

Vidal: I should think very oddly. He's dyslexic, which means--it's a problem of incoherence. I have some dyslexia in my family, and they can be reasonably intelligent about most things, but they have problems with words, the structure of language. Not really getting it. There's an inability to study anything. Sometimes they also have an attention deficiency and so on.

I would say that he is undisturbed by these things. His is a mind totally lacking in culture of any kind. I'm not talking about highbrow culture, just knowledge of the American past, and our institutions. He's got rid of due process of law, which is what the United States is based upon. Once you can send somebody off and put them in the brig of a ship in Charleston Harbor and hold them as long as you like uncharged, you have destroyed the United States and its Constitution. He has done those things.

CP: How did so many Americans come to embrace and even celebrate these bullying, anti-democratic displays of authoritarian, censorial governance? There's a palpable sense of mean- spiritedness about a good deal of public sentiment, it seems.

Vidal: I wouldn't call it the public. There are groups that rather like it. And these are the same groups that don't like black people, gay people, Jews, or this or that. You always have that disaffected minority that you can play to. And it helps you in states with small populations. If you get eight of those states, you don't get much of a popular vote, but you can get the Electoral College--a device that our founders made to make sure we never had a democratic government. In other words, I don't blame the public. He's not popular. I've just been reading a report on Conyers's trip to Ohio with his subcommittee's experts. Ohio was stolen. The Republican Congress will never have a hearing on it. But I think attempts are being made to publish the details of what was done there, and elsewhere too in America.

In other words, I put the case that Bush was never elected--not in 2000, and not in 2004. This is a new game in the world. Through the magic of electronic voting, particularly through Mr. Diebold and friends, you can take a non-president and make him president. But how to keep the people, including the opposition who should know better, so silent, this introduces us to a vast landscape of corruption which I dare not enter.

CP: I saw a recent CIA report that referred to the United States as a "declining superpower." To your knowledge, has the government ever said so before?

Vidal: Well, their style is hortatory and alarmist. And I think they say we're declining every day and every minute. We must do this, we must overthrow this government, we must do that, stop China. Why not nuke China? [The American right] was all set to do that at one point, I remember. William F. Buckley Jr. was in favor of a unilateral strike at their nuclear capacity. A whole bunch of people, moderately respectable, were in favor of that. It all comes from propaganda. It all comes from knowing how to use the media to your own ends, and keep the people frightened.

It was very striking--before the inauguration, CNN showed a bunch of inaugural addresses starting with Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a master politician. What theme does he hit first? "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Well, that's it. He intuited it, having followed the Nazis and knowing how Hitler was putting together his act, which was creating fear in the Germans of everybody else so he could mobilize them and make the SS. Roosevelt was saying that it was this unnameable fear that we had to watch out for. Then we skip over to Harry Truman, a real dunce, but there was a genius behind him in Dean Acheson. We jump over to him, and he is declaring war on communism, all over the world. They're on the march! Wherever you look, there they are, and we must be on our guard!

He instituted loyalty oaths for everybody--for janitors in high schools as well as members of the cabinet. Unthinkable, the distance from Roosevelt to his admittedly despised successor. We've gone from, we must not succumb to fear itself, to the next one saying, oh, there's so much to be afraid of! We must arm! We must militarize America and its economy, which he did.

CP: One theory about the reason the US invaded Iraq concerns currency--the fear that European deals for Iraqi oil might lead to oil's being denominated in euros rather than dollars. Do you think that notion holds any water?

Vidal: I do. Perhaps more oil than water, but yes, that's what it's about--the terror that Europe...Europe, after all, is more populous than the United States, better educated, better quality of life for most of its citizens. And it has actually achieved, here and there, a civilization, which we haven't. There's a lot of nasty response on the part of those Americans who are eager for more oil, more money, more this, more that, to put Europe down, to regard Europe as a rival and perhaps as an enemy. It was America that saw to it that we got a weak dollar, though. The Europeans had nothing to do with it. In fact they were rather appalled, because they own an awful lot of treasury bonds that will be worthless one day.

So yes, it was a power struggle. Ultimately the whole thing is about oil. We should be looking to hydrogen, or whatever is the latest replacement for fossil fuels. All the money we put into these wars in the Middle East, we should have put into that. Then we wouldn't be so desperate at the thought that in 2020, or in 2201 or whenever, there will be no more oil.

CP: Talk a little more about public education's decay in the current scene. Much of the Bush administration's spending on No Child Left Behind is earmarked for private corporate tutors.

Vidal: I don't think Bush himself is particularly relevant to any of this, since he avoided education entirely throughout his life. Which gives him a sort of purity. He was a cheerleader at Andover, where he learned many skills that have been very useful to him since.

The educational system was pretty good once. I never went to a public school, and the private schools here are generally good, though we are also better indoctrinated than the public schools. It certainly got bad around the '50s. Just as we became a global empire, the first thing I was struck by was that they stopped teaching geography in public schools. Now here we are a global power, and nobody knows where anything is. I loved geography when I was a kid. It's really the way to get to know the world. The success of Franklin Roosevelt was that he was a great philatelist. He collected stamps, and he knew where all the countries were and who lived in them. Now we have people who don't know where anything is. I remember a speech Bush gave in which he was reaching out not only to the "Torks" but the "Grecians" at some point. We live in total confusion time.

There is also something in the water--let us hope it was put there by the enemy--that has made Americans contemptuous of intelligence whenever they recognize it, which is not very often. And a hatred of learning, which you don't find in any other country. There is not one hamlet in Italy in which you can fail to find kids desperate to learn. Yes, there are areas where they might be desperate to become members of the Mafia, but that's because they don't have any money. And a country like Italy is not rich, not as rich as we are. But there isn't a kid in Italy who can't quote Dante. There's no one in America now who knows who Shakespeare is, because they stopped teaching him in high schools.

So we are out of it. And no attempt is being made to put us back into it.

CP: When does this current bout of foreign adventurism end? You've said in other interviews that it ends with us going broke. Can you explain?

Vidal: I haven't changed my line. We don't have the money for these adventures. We don't even have the money to operate those prisons which are the delight of Iraq. All we were doing at Abu Ghraib was export what we do to our own people in our own prisons, you know. We are sharing with the rest of the world penology-- in every sense. No, there isn't the money to do it. And the few who are making most of the money are probably investing it elsewhere, preparing islands for themselves to escape to. And then their followers, who are not very many, will be experiencing rapture. They won't be here.

CP: Is there any winning back some semblance of the older republic at this point?

Vidal: You have to have people who want it, and I can't find many people who do.

CP: What can average people do about this state of affairs at present, if anything?

Vidal: Well, some of the internet has been very useful. Radio has been very useful. There are means of getting things across. It's why I write those little books of mine, the pamphlets as I call them. Our first form of politics was pamphleteering in the 18th century. They serve a purpose--more pamphlets, more readers, more this, more that. There's a battle to do an interesting kind of guide to the American centuries, and how we got where we are and how we can get out of it. I'm engaged with some people working on that. Further, deponent sayeth not.

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Paul Wolfowitz: Strausscon Babe Magnet and Loan Shark Mafia Don
Kurt Nimmo
April 02, 2005

It is often said some women are drawn to men of power. Henry Kissinger and Bubba Clinton come to mind. "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," Doctor K. reportedly said. Or maybe mass murder is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Kissinger and Clinton certainly rank high in the rogue's gallery of war criminals, giving a new spin to the term "lady-killer."

Enter Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, founder of the Strausscon "think tank" Project for the New American Century, former consultant for the death merchant Northrop Grumman, and now head of the neolib loan shark operation, the World Bank.

"Reports indicate that Dr. Clare Selgin Wolfowitz separated from Paul because he had an affair with a woman at Johns Hopkins University," Jackson Thoreau quotes consultant Barry O'Connell, a former Republican and now conservative Democrat, as saying.

"Paul Wolfowitz was Dean and Professor of International Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of The Johns Hopkins University. During that time he used his position to prey on woman under his authority. When the scandal broke, he and his wife Clare separated but appear not to have divorced.

At this point it is unclear if the relationship with Shaha Ali Riza predates the scandalous affair at SAIS. One may wonder if Wolfowitz has trouble keeping track of his women, but I have it on good authority that he uses his protective detail of federal officers to manage his affairs and shuttle him from assignation to assignation."

Shaha Riza, supposedly a feminist, is the acting manager for External Relations and Outreach for the Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank.

Sheesh, talk about sex in the office supply closet.

"Wolfowitz, a married father of three, is said to be so blinded by his relationship with Riza, that influential members of the World Bank believe she played a key role in influencing the Pentagon official to launch the 2003 Iraq war.

As his trusted confident, she is said to be one of most influential Muslims in Washington," reports the Arab News site.

"After [Riza and Turkish Cypriot Bulent Ali Riza, now divorced] moved to America, Riza worked for the Iraq Foundation, set up by expatriates to overthrow Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. She subsequently joined the National Endowment for Democracy, created by President Ronald Reagan to promote American ideals."

In other words, the woman is a full-blown Strausscon.

The Iraq Foundation, based in Washington, is funded by the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

"A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA," Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, is quoted by the historian William Blum as saying.

You'd think Wolfowitz's relationship with Riza would get in the way of his newly enshrined duties as mafia don at the World Bank. However, if we know anything about the Strausscons, it is that they get away with bloody murder - literally, as Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate - and are above reproach.

In a hilarious article by Ward Harkavy in the Village Voice - where Harkavy makes the obvious comparison between the World According to Bush and Superman's Bizarro World (I call this Bushzarro world) - we learn that the Straussconized World Bank will likely hand out grants rather then make loans.

"Staff at the World Bank fear Mr. Wolfowitz might push through longstanding U.S. proposals to make it an organization that gives out grants rather than loans," Harkavy quotes Julian Borger of the Guardian as predicting. "It's much easier to politicize grants," an official told Borger.

Comment: This reminds us of the recent story of the 99 year-old Bank of Ephraim in Arizona. The bank went bust after lending $18 million to members of a Mormon sect in Utah that believes the end of the world is nigh. A US news report described the fundamentalists as "borrowing money like there was no tomorrow." [Guardian, 9 Dec; Independent, 12 Dec. 2004]

Curiously, such a belief would explain the behavior of Bush and the Strausscons, including their positioning of Wolfie in the World Bank. Gives an all new meaning to this little snip from Revelation:

13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 13:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

"You want to fight terrorism? Then fight suffering. But under Wolfowitz, look for more World Bank money to be poured into, say, Iraq projects brainstormed by the Bush regime's bidness pals. Not just in Iraq, but anywhere there's oil and other riches to be plundered," observes Harkavy.

Anandi Pandya of the Guardian has a bit different take. "The Bank would now lend money only to states willing to be clients of the US and agree to privatize their non-existent social security systems, schools and water supply, and only big oil companies will benefit," writes Pandya. [...]

Before the Shaha Riza allegation hit the blogosphere in full force, and people began making comments about the unlikelihood of Wolfie doubling as a babe magnet, we were subjected to other inanities, such as the rather clownish U2 front man Bono pulling for the Wolf as loan shark mafia don. [...]

"An endorsement by Bono, who campaigns extensively for African aid and debt relief, could defuse some of the criticism of Wolfowitz."

Bono, who rubbed elbows with Bush because he bought into Dubya's promise to end AIDS in other lifetime, particularly in Africa, seems to have amnesia when it comes to the crimes of Wolfowitz and Bush - as evidenced by 100,000 or more dead Iraqis.

For some reason Bizarro Bono did not have the urge to take a shower after walking and talking with Bush the Junior, a man who expressed contempt for poor people from an early age onward, probably soon after he tired of blowing up frogs with firecrackers.

One is struck with amazement how easily people roll over and play dead - in the above case, Europeans who apparently don't have problems with Wolfowitz managing the World Bank, even after all the nasty things the Strausscons have said about "old" Europeans.

Delusional thinking is the order of the day as Bushzarro world becomes the international norm, at least for the ruling elite.

"The World Bank's incoming president, Paul Wolfowitz, declared debt relief for the poorest nations to be one of the most pressing issues when he assumes office in June after he was unanimously approved as the new chief of the organization," reports Reuters. War is peace, occupation and premeditated murder democracy, and loan sharking is compassion for the poor of the "htrae" (or earth in Bizzaro world). If you believe any of this, I have a bridge to sell you in the Kalahari.

Roll over George Orwell.

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Clinton adviser admits theft of 9/11 papers
By Roland Watson
April 02, 2005

SANDY BERGER, President Clinton's National Security Adviser, pleaded guilty yesterday to removing and destroying highly classified documents about al-Qaeda, ending a bizarre and embarrassing episode that leaves his reputation in tatters.

Mr Berger admitted that he had removed five documents and destroyed three of them by shredding them with a pair of scissors.

He agreed to pay a $10,000 (£5,330) fine for the misdemeanour and will lose his security clearance for three years, making him virtually unemployable in government - at least in the short term.

Mr Berger, 59, played a central role in John Kerry's presidential campaign, and was expected to be a central figure in a Democratic administration had President Bush lost.

He was reviewing them in a secure reading room at the National Archive before he and Mr Clinton were due to give evidence to the 9/11 commission.

When initially challenged, he denied removing the documents, classified assessments of the terrorist threat against the United States in 2000, which detailed the efforts by the Clinton Administration to thwart an al-Qaeda attack.

He later admitted removing the papers in his jacket pocket, not stuffed into his socks and down his trousers as previously alleged by Republicans.

Mr Berger's plea bargain, in which he escapes a prison sentence, fails to explain why someone at the top of the national security tree would jeopardise all in such a manner.

Comment: Who was he protecting and what reward will he receive?

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Official Calls Bush-Chimp Comparison Bad Taste
Thu Mar 31, 2005

BRUSSELS - Belgian trainers helping police to understand body language have caused a controversy by likening George Bush's facial expressions to a chimpanzee's.

Interior Minister Patrick Dewael said he was unaware of the pictures when he signed a letter promoting the training package for police dealing with unruly soccer fans, and said the idea was "of bad taste," Het Laatste Nieuws daily reported.

The training presentation pictured the U.S. president's face in various expressions beside photographs of a chimpanzee, the paper showed on its front page, in what was meant to be a humorous introduction to the subject of reading expressions.

Dewael's office was not immediately available for comment.

Comment: Indeed. Have you ever met a chimp responsible for the slaughter of tens of thousands of people?

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Iraqi blogger on martial law
By Firas Al-Atraqchi
Thursday 31 March 2005, 15:55 Makka Time, 12:55 GMT

A young Iraqi woman, who was one of the first to start a blog on conditions in the wake of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, tells how life has changed since the first bombs started falling and martial law was imposed.

Identifying herself as Riverbend on the blog she calls Baghdad Burning, the 26-year-old computer specialist became distinct from other bloggers because she offered a refreshing woman's perspective of events in her city, Baghdad. The period for martial law enacted by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government expired this week. Has martial law been effective in stemming the tide of violence?

Riverbend: Not really. We have a curfew at night (after 11pm) but a lot of the violence is occurring in broad daylight - exploding vehicles, attacks with mortar and abductions occur in broad daylight.

It has created a different sort of violence. It has given the new Iraqi security forces, such as the National Guard, the right to invade Iraqi houses and detain people who are under "suspicion" without any semblance of proof. It also gives them the right to shoot at cars which may appear "suspicious".

Are you saying there has been no change in violence and lawlessness?

There has been a decided change in the violence. In the beginning, the violence seemed more random. Now, the gangs and criminals seem more organised and the violence is a different sort.

We're hearing more and more of intellectuals such as doctors and professors being made targets for abductions and shootings.

There has also been an increase in car bombers and attacks which Iraqis find mystifying as this sort of attack has never been a part of Iraqi history.

You have written extensively on how life has changed for women in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. How have conditions changed? Have they become better or worse?

Baghdad is not safe at all for women. We cannot go out alone - even during broad daylight. Areas differ in danger, but generally it is not a good idea for a woman go out walking alone or even driving.

The attacks against women seem to have increased over the last two years and the reasons vary. Professional women are being pressured to quit their jobs and even young women in colleges and high schools are not immune from harassment.

Many women are being pressured to wear headscarves (hijabs). There are certain areas in Baghdad where you cannot go without wearing a headscarf and there is not any security force to protect women from that sort of harassment.

Many high-profile women have been harassed and threatened. One famous female gynaecologist was abducted and threatened upon release that if she did not leave the country, she would be killed the next time around.

How then do Iraqis go about their daily lives? You paint a rather dismal picture. Do Iraqis go out to clubs, restaurants, parks etc?

Baghdad has some exclusive clubs that are frequented by members of those clubs (although less than before). We sometimes go out to restaurants but usually in big groups of males and females.

Parks are less popular than before because they have become a haven for drug pushers, peddlers and gangs.

Additional problems with security include the fact that many of the gangs and petty criminals are bribing police officers and Iraqi security to turn a blind eye to shootings, looting and more organised crime such as armed robbery or abductions.

Martial law has done nothing to curb that sort of violence.

Do you have hope that the security situation will improve?

I think the situation will get better only when the Americans allow it to get better. I think the current lawlessness justifies their reasons for having troops inside of the country.

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'Super spike' fears push oil price to $56 a barrel
Larry Elliott
Saturday April 2, 2005
The Guardian

Fears that oil prices could double to more than $100 a barrel sent tremors through the world's energy markets yesterday, pushing up the price of crude and threatening fresh increases in fuel bills for consumers and businesses.

After prices fell earlier in the week, a report from Goldman Sachs predicting that the cost of crude could reach $105 a barrel in a "super spike" helped push them above $56 a barrel in New York last night.

Crude for May delivery was up $1.15 at $56.55 after hitting $56.80 and was closing in on the record $57.60 a barrel set on March 17. In London, Brent crude was up $1.31 at $55.60 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange.

Oil traders said there was no real news yesterday, though a combination of the Goldman Sachs forecast and concern over the adequacy of US stocks ahead of the start of the summer driving season were seen as affecting sentiment.

Data on the US economy yesterday showed inflationary pressure building in manufacturing and services, with the likelihood of more to come if oil prices continue to rise.

Some dealers expressed scepticism at the Goldman study, noting that the recent surge in oil supply was leading to a big rise in gasoline inventories in the US. The oil cartel Opec has agreed to increase production to cope with heavy demand from the US and China, and any slowdown in the world's biggest economy would affect the global demand for energy and send prices tumbling back below $50.

Analysts said that manufacturing and services were growing healthily, though a more downbeat picture emerged from America's monthly snapshot of the labour market. Non-farm payrolls in March rose by 110,000 - half the increase that had been predicted by Wall Street.

In Britain the monthly report on manufacturing from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing Managers and Supply showed a modest improvement last month. The overall index for industry rose slightly from 51.6 to 52.0 - with 50 marking the cut-off point between an expanding sector and one in recession.

A separate study for the eurozone painted a bleaker picture for the 12 nations that have adopted the single currency. The purchasing managers' index for the eurozone dropped from 51.9 to 50.4 - the weakest since November.

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The Origin of Methane (and Oil) in the Crust of the Earth
Thomas Gold

U.S.G.S. Professional Paper 1570, The Future of Energy Gases, 1993

The deposits of hydrocarbons in the crust of the Earth have long been regarded by many investigators as deriving from materials incorporated in the mantle at the time of the Earth's formation. Outgassing processes, active in all geological epochs, then transported the liquids and gases liberated there into porous rocks of the crust. The alternative viewpoint, that biological debris was the source material for all crustal hydrocarbons, gained widespread acceptance when molecules of clearly biological origin were found to be present in most commercial crude oils.

Modern information re-directs attention to the theories of a non-biological, primeval origin. Among this information is the prominence of hydrocarbons - gases, liquids and solids - on many other bodies of the solar system, as well as in interstellar space. Advances in high-pressure thermodynamics have shown that the pressure-temperature regime of the Earth would allow hydrocarbon molecules to be formed and to survive between the surface and a depth of 100 to 300 km. Outgassing from such depth would bring up other gases present in trace amounts in the rocks, thus accounting for the well known association of hydrocarbons with helium. Recent discoveries of the widespread presence of bacterial life at depth point to this as the origin of the biological content of petroleum. The carbon budget of the crust requires an outgassing process to have been active throughout the geologic record, and information from planets and meteorites, as well as from mantle samples, would suggest that methane rather than CO2 could be the major souce of surface carbon. Isotopic fractionation of methane in its migration through rocks is indicated by numerous observations, providing an alternative to biological processes that have been held responsible for such fractionation. Information from deep boreholes in granitic and volcanic rock of Sweden has given support to the theory of the migration of gas and oil from depth, to the occurrence of isotopic fractionation in migration, to an association with helium, and to the presence of microbiology below 4 km depth. [...]

Comment: Thomas Gold, controversial physicist, was not afraid to research anomalies beyond the confines of his scientific disciplines. Gold gained a reputation as one of the 20th century's greatest "contrarians" because of his provocative ideas.

Among Gold's successes was his theory, proposed in 1946, of the mechanism by which tiny hair cells act as amplifiers in the inner ear. This was not confirmed until the 1970s.

In 1968, he correctly identified pulsars as rapidly rotating neutron stars with strong magnetic fields. He coined the term "magnetosphere" for the envelope of Earth's magnetic fields.

In 1955, Gold suggested that the lunar surface would be covered with a deep layer of fine rock powder. At the time, the lunar plains were believed to be volcanic lava rock and Gold was viciously ridiculed and slandered . His ideas were vindicated in 1969 when the Apollo 11 crew brought the first samples of lunar soil back to earth.

Gold's most heretical theory is his challenge to the prevailing ideas concerning the origins of oil, coal and natural gas. Gold proposed that in the depths of the Earth's crust was a second realm of life, a "deep hot biosphere" in which archaic bacteria thrived in temperatures well above 100 degrees, living off methane and other hydrocarbons six to 10 KM down.

Most Western geologists and petrologists consider Gold's ideas hugely controversial, insisting that the biogenic theory of fossil fuel formation adequately explains all observed fossil fuel deposits. However, recent discoveries of life on the ocean floors, making use of the normally toxic chemicals from volcanic vents, and of archaic bacteria found in deep holes from the Columbia River basalts of Washington to the oil wells of the North Sea and South African gold mines, all seem to confirm the basis of Gold's revisions.

All over the world, Gold noticed, oil is being drilled in sediments that vary from region to region, differing in age and composition. There is no sedimentary material that is uniform to all oilfields and yet oil is fairly consistent whatever its provenance. This led him to the conclusion that oil might not be derived from organic matter but might have a single, more consistent and therefore, much older origin.

Between 1986 and 1993, Gold's ideas were tested by deep drilling in a meteoric crater in Sweden. Below the crater, at a depth of 5 - 7 KM were solid granite beds. They had crystallised out of molten lava and therefore should not contain any organic remains, yet they yielded 80 barrels of natural oil.

Since then, Russian petroleum geologists have reported finding oil in wells drilled more than 5 KM deep in the central part of the crystalline Baltic Shield and they have credited Gold with inspiring them to look there. More than 300 deep wells are under way in Russian Tartarstan and others in Vietnam's giant offshore White Tiger field, all reported to be productive.

The importance of Gold's ideas are obvious. The biogenic theory of oil leads to the belief that it will run out. This "Peak Oil" idea is being promoted to keep oil prices artificially high.

If Gold is correct, and all signs indicate that he is, then the reserves of deep natural oil are vastly in excess of the "normal" quantities estimated by the gas and petroleum industry.

Gold has further said that "some geologists agree that fields are refilling themselves, though they won't openly admit it." Gold believed that this is because the reduction in pressure in the higher reservoir draws more oil up from deep layers.

Thomas Gold died in Ithaca, NY, June 22, 2004 at the age of 84.

[Redacted from Fortean Times 196]

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12 Arabs captured in connection with Madrid bombings 2005-04-02 10:00:45

MADRID, April 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Spanish police captured on Friday 12 Arabs in connection with the bloody Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, the Interior Ministry said.

About 150 police agents participated in Operation Saeta, which started at 5:30 a.m. (0330 GMT), and arrested six Moroccans, three Syrians, one Egyptian, one Algerian and one Palestinian in Madrid and its suburbs.

The new detainees are not suspected of carrying out the Madrid attacks but of taking part in preparations months before the March 11, 2004 bombings of four commuter trains.

The Interior Ministry said four of the detainees had close links to Youssef Belhadj, presumed spokesman in Europe for Islamist network al-Qaida who was handed over Friday by Belgium to Spain.

Comment: The headline should read "US Operatives Arrested in Spain".

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Chechnya's Maskhadov shot dead by own accomplices: Russia 2005-04-01 21:01:32

MOSCOW, April 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov was shot dead by his accomplices at his own request to avoid capture, Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel said in the North Ossetia capital Vladikavkaz on Friday.

"Maskhadov had an agreement with his accomplices that if a possibility existed that he would be captured, they would shoot him down," Shepel was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

"His (Maskhadov's) dead body has been identified. He died of bullet wounds received when staying in the bunker," the prosescutor-general said.

Maskhadov, a former leader of Chechen militants with a government-offered price tag of 10 million US dollars on his head after the Beslan school siege, was killed on March 8 in the Chechen village of Tolstoy-Yurt during a special operation by Federal Security Service (FSB) troops. [...]

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Kyrgyz parliament speaker: Akayev agrees to step down

MOSCOW -- Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has verbally agreed to resign as president, the Interfax news agency quoted the Kyrgyz parliament speaker as saying Saturday.

"A verbal agreement has been received from the president that he will relinquish power," said Omurbek Tekebayev, speaker of the newly-inaugurated parliament elected in the disputed polls in February and March.

Akayev has "a sober view" on the situation in the country and, as head of state, "he is fully aware of his actions and has acted in the people's interests," Tekebayev reportedly said.

A Kyrgyz parliamentary delegation headed by Tekebayev will leave Saturday evening for Moscow to discuss with Akayev the details of his resignation, the Kyrgyz parliament press service said. [...]

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Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia PM escapes assassination attempt

MOSCOW -- The prime minister of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia escaped a second assassination attempt in a month on Friday when his convoy was fired on by unknown gunmen, Abkhazia's deputy Prime Minister Leonid Lakerbaya said.

According to the Interfax news agency, Abkhazia's Prime Minister Alexander Ankvab and his convoy were leaving the capital city of Sukhumi when the attack occurred. A group of unidentified gunmen raked the cars with automatic weapons fire, wounding one of Ankvab's entourage.

Guards returned fire and the convoy sped away. Ankvab himself and Lakerbaya were unhurt.

On Feb. 28, Ankvab was fired on in almost the same location.

Abkhazia's Interior Minister Otar Khetsi told ITAR-TASS that Friday's attack on Ankvab appeared to have been carried out by thesame group of people.

Abkhazia's newly-elected President Sergei Bagapsh said Friday's assassination attempt was politically motivated. "Someone does notwant ... stability in Abkhazia. This is pure politics," Bagapsh was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Abkhazia, an autonomous republic of Georgia, claimed independence in 1992, but no country has ever recognized it. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to bring Abkhaziaback into the national fold.

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EU, Russia close to deal on roadmaps for partnership relations

Luxembourg -- The European Union (EU) and Russia said on Friday that they were close to reach a deal on the so-called "four spaces" roadmaps for partnership relations at a ministerial meeting here.

"Great progress has been completed during today's meeting. I'm confident that the four spaces roadmaps could be adopted as a package before the upcoming EU-Russia summit in May," said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency.

"Our experts will work extensively to solve the outstanding issues and reach compromise in the next month," he added.

At the EU-Russia Summit in May 2003, the EU and Russia agreed to intensify their strategic cooperation in four areas (called "four spaces"): economy; freedom, security and justice; external security; research and education.

"We can only make a difference if we work together," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who also expressed her satisfaction over the progress made during the one-day meeting.

Talking of the Kyrgyzstan issue, Waldner said that both the EU and Russia agreed that this issue should only be addressed through peaceful talks and under the rule of law.

"I am happy that both sides believe the roadmaps could be reached before the summit though the date is not the deadline," visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference.

Lavrov stressed that in order to strengthen bilateral cooperation and partnership relations, both sides should not only understand but also respect the interests of each other.

"We (Russia and the EU) are capable of finding solutions in a mutual acceptable and mutual beneficial way, which is evidenced by this meeting," he added.

During the meeting, the two parties also exchanged views on international and regional issues, such as the Western Balkans, the Middle East Peace Process, Iran, Georgia and Moldova.

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Killers hunted in Rio massacre
Saturday, April 2, 2005

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Police released composite sketches of two suspects in the rampage killing of 30 people, while families buried the victims amid sobs and cries for justice. Rogue police were the main suspects.

The slayings took place over the course of about an hour Thursday night in the poor, squalid suburbs of Nova Iguacu and Queimados on the outskirts of this city.

The killings were shockingly brutal even for this city, which has one of the world's highest murder rates, and where massacres occur with disturbing frequency. The death toll was higher than the 1993 Vigario Geral police massacre of 21 people.

On Friday evening, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva issued a statement calling the killings "barbarous and cowardly."

"The government will spare no effort together with state and municipal authorities to find and punish those responsible for the this crime," the statement read. [...]

Early Friday, Rio de Janeiro state security secretary Marcelo Itagiba said the crime was most likely the work of police disgruntled over the arrest of eight officers caught on video dumping two bodies. [...]

According to witnesses, at around 10 p.m. the gunmen got out of a silver Volkswagen and fired on the crowd at a street-corner bar. Fifteen people were found dead in and around the bar and three more victims died of their injuries in the hospital Friday.

The gunmen, perhaps joined by a second car, then cruised to the nearby Queimados neighborhood where they killed an additional 12 people in two separate shootings.

Roger Ancillotti, chief of the police forensics unit, said most of the victims had been shot in the head, neck or chest, suggesting a highly professional job. [...]

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N.M. Man Arrested in Dragging Assault
By ANNA MACIAS AGUAYO, Associated Press Writer
April 2, 2005

GALLUP, N.M. - A 24-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the dragging of a Hispanic man behind a vehicle, which left the victim with burn-like abrasions over half his body.

John Pete Talamante was booked Friday on charges of kidnapping, aggravated battery and assault with intent to commit a violent felony.

Talamante was being held without bond in the McKinley County Detention Center, said Gallup police Chief Sylvester Stanley. More arrests were likely, he said.

The victim, 32-year-old Fausto Arellano, remained hospitalized in critical condition. He had been bound by the ankles and pulled by a rope for some 4,000 feet on Easter morning, according to police.

Stanley said narcotics could be an "indirect motive" in the dragging, but added that officers had no indication that Arellano was involved in drugs. [...]

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Mathematician decodes two int'l cipher systems

JINAN -- Chinese mathematician Wang Xiaoyun has decoded two international cipher systems, MD5 and SHA-1, spotting loopholes in the latter.

Wang, aged 40, graduated from the mathematics department of Shandong University and currently serves as a director of the Information Safety Institute in Shandong University.

Professor Wang first declared her research results on MD5 at an international cryptography conference held in the United States in August 2004. Then, in February, she made a breakthrough in spotting loopholes in SHA-1.

The two systems are widely used for digital signatures in E-commerce.

Wang's latest research found that when a user signs a contract with a digital signature, another contract is created with the same signature but totally different content, which could result in "pseudo" collisions that in turn could spawn lawsuits for users.

Her research suggests that the digital signature system should be upgraded or replaced to ensure E-commerce safety.

MD5 was developed by American mathematician Ron Rivest and SHA-1 was developed for the US government but is now the industry standard.

The research results have shocked academic circles worldwide. Most experts believe the practical consequences of the loopholes on such applications is limited, but for the research community, Wang's new findings provide much food for thought.

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Arab scholar 'cracked Rosetta code' 800 years before the West
Robin McKie, science editor Sunday October 3, 2004 The Observer

It is famed as a critical moment in code-breaking history. Using a piece of basalt carved with runes and words, scholars broke the secret of hieroglyphs, the written 'language' of the ancient Egyptians.

A baffling, opaque language had been made comprehensible, and the secrets of one of the world's greatest civilisations revealed - thanks to the Rosetta Stone and the analytic prowess of 18th and 19th century European scholars.

But now the supremacy of Western thinking has been challenged by a London researcher who claims that hieroglyphs had been decoded hundreds of years earlier - by an Arabic alchemist, Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn Wahshiyah.

'It has taken years of painstaking research to prove this,' said Dr Okasha El Daly, at UCL's Institute of Archaeology. 'I was convinced that Western scholars were not the first, and I have found evidence that shows Arabian scholars broke the code a thousand years ago.' [...]

'For two and half centuries, the study of ancient Egypt has been dominated by a Euro-centric view that virtually ignored Arabic scholarship,' said El Daly. 'I felt that was quite unjustified.'

An expert in both ancient Egypt and ancient Arabic scripts, El Daly spent seven years chasing down Arabic manuscripts in private collections around the world in a bid to find evidence that Arab scholars had unlocked the secrets of the hieroglyph. He eventually found it in the work of the ninth- century alchemist, Ibn Wahshiyah. 'I compared his studies with those of modern scholars and realised that he understood completely what hieroglyphs were saying.'

El Daly stressed that Muslim scholars had not simply been handed the secrets of hieroglyphs after Egypt was taken over by Islam.

'The secret of the hieroglyph was lost and then rediscovered by Arab scholars, who used diligent work to break their code, eight centuries before Champollion,' he said. 'These were people who possessed great astronomical and mathematical knowledge. Decoding hieroglyphs was just the kind of thing they would have been good at.'

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Stargazers attempt to identify UFO
Saturday, April 2, 2005

The Perth Observatory is attempting to figure out if an unidentified object seen in the skies of Western Australian and the Northern Territory earlier tonight, was space junk or a large meteorite.

Astronomer Peter Birch says the unidentified object was tracked from the south coast of Western Australia, to north of Alice Springs.

He says from the reports he has received it was most likely a satellite re-entering the atmosphere.

"That of a large burning object in the sky, flaring getting bright, then getting dim, then getting bright again, with a tail out behind it, which is a fairly common meteor type description, but the thing that is a bit different from a meteor description is that it's been seen over such a large area and for such a long time," he said.

Alice Springs police say they received more than 20 reports of the unidentified object tracking across central Australian skies.

Police say most of the calls came from Alice Springs, but some extended 320 kilometres to the south-west at Yulara and 170 kilometres north at Ti Tree.

Alice Springs resident Fiona Higgins witnessed the rare event.

"I saw what I thought was fireworks and I thought, that's strange because I didn't hear any bang like you would with fireworks and it was going horizontal not vertical and it was the most phenomenal thing with all the pretty colours," she said.

Comment: So whose satellite was it? Not all meteors are tiny, fast-moving "shooting stars". For more recent reports of fireballs and meteorites, see our Signs supplement on the subject.

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Earthquake rocks NZ
Last Update: Saturday, April 2, 2005. 6:00pm (AEST)
An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale has shaken the central South Island of New Zealand but there are no immediate reports of damage.

The Geological and Nuclear Sciences Department says the quake at 2:07pm (local time) was located 20 kilometres south-west of Twizel at a depth of 12 kilometres.

It is the latest in a string of earthquakes in New Zealand in recent weeks, with the largest measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale.

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Uranus is 'responsible' for sea quakes
Ernest Gill
30 March 2005 03:09

Hamburg, Germany - Uranus may be responsible for recent devastating Asian sea quakes because the mystery-shrouded "planet of calamity" is unusually close to the Earth, tabloid newspaper readers in Germany were warned on Wednesday.

Under the front-page headline "Uncanny Uranus", the report in the Bild newspaper cited an array of experts, ranging from Nasa scientists to TV astrologers, saying the seventh planet from the sun possesses a "quadripolar" magnetic field that acts as "a giant cosmic vacuum cleaner".

This heavenly Hoover is literally sucking the Earth's tectonic plates out of their beddings, according to Bild, Europe's largest daily newspaper with more than five million readers.

This magnetic pull is strongest along the Earth's equator because the tropics are marginally closer to Uranus than the poles are.

The magnetic forces "are strong enough at the equator to suck up electrically charged dust particles", which could, in turn, disturb the Earth's crust and spawn killer sea quakes and resulting tidal waves.

The reason these natural phenomena have increased of late is that the distant planet's orbit has brought Uranus uncomfortably close to Earth.

Instead of being its usual 3,14-billion kilometres from Earth, Uranus currently is a mere 2,59-billion kilometres away.

And it will remain this close through the year 2012, so Bild warns that we could be in for more uncanny Uranian catastrophes well into the next decade until Uranus slowly retreats back into its proper place in the Outer Solar System.

"With its 11 rings and 18 moons, Uranus is in fact different from everything else in our Solar System," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist since 1972.

The German paper quoted Stone at length, saying that Voyager 2 had raised almost more questions than it had solved.

Since launch on August 20 1977, Voyager 2's itinerary has taken the spacecraft to Jupiter in July 1979, Saturn in August 1981, then becoming the only spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune, in 1986 and 1989 respectively. Both Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, will eventually leave our solar system and enter interstellar space.

Voyager 2's images of the five largest moons around Uranus revealed complex surfaces indicative of varying geologic pasts. The cameras also detected 10 previously unseen moons. Several instruments studied the ring system, uncovering the fine detail of the previously known rings and two newly detected rings.

Voyager data showed that the planet's rate of rotation is a brisk 17 hours and 14 minutes. The spacecraft also found that uncanny Uranian magnetic field that is both large and unusual.

Because the axis of Uranus is tilted at right angles to all other planets, its rings are at 90 degrees to the planet's orbit about the sun.

But the paper also quoted astrologists who noted that Uranus has always been an oddity. It has been equated with upheavals, calamitous change and general quirkiness since it was discovered and added to the Zodiac in the late 18th Century.

"There's a planetary constellation right now that could be responsible for flooding and earthquakes," astrologer Karin Stahl said ominously.

And Germany's best-known astrologer, Winfried Noe, who recently launched the world's first occult-arts television network, Astro TV, was quoted as saying the phase of natural catastrophes could last a decade or more because it takes that long for Uranus to transit an astrological sign.

"Uranus is currently in the sign of Pisces," Noe told the paper.

"And that is a harbinger of disaster."

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Ptolemy Tilted Off His Axis
By John Johnson
LA Times
March 30, 2005

Studying a statue of Atlas holding the sky, an American astronomer finds key evidence of what could be a major fraud in science history.

In a sunlit gallery of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Italy, astronomer Brad Schaefer came face to face with an ancient statue known as the Farnese Atlas.

For centuries, the 7-foot marble figure of the mythological Atlas has bent in stoic agony with a sphere of the cosmos crushing his shoulders. Carved on the sphere - one of only three celestial globes that have survived from Greco-Roman times - are figures representing 41 of the 48 constellations of classical antiquity, as well as the celestial equator, tropics and meridians.

Historians have long looked on the Atlas as a postcard from the past - interesting largely as astronomical art.

But as Schaefer approached, he began to notice subtle details in the arrangement of the constellations. It wasn't that anything was wrong with the statue. If anything, the positions of the constellations were too perfect to be mere decoration.

He was more than a little intrigued. No, this was no mere piece of art. Taking out his camera, he was about to take a journey through the centuries to unravel one of the great mysteries of the ancient world and uncover key evidence in what may be one of the biggest cases of fraud in the history of science. [...]

He knew something of the Farnese Atlas, named for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who purchased it in the 16th century. The statue, probably a Roman copy made about AD 150 of an earlier Greek statue, is the oldest representation of the original Western constellations.

There are no stars on the globe, just the constellations themselves, represented by earthly forms such as a ram, a bull or a huntsman. Even so, he could tell that they were laid out with great precision. If the globe was accurate, he realized, the heavenly scene depicted on its surface would conform to only one moment in history. And thus reveal for the first time its origins.

But how to find that moment? It wasn't as simple as rewinding the celestial clock. This time, he had to guess the position of the stars within those earthly forms, from the position of a horn or a hoof.

Few astronomers would have thought it possible.

To Schaefer, that just made the task more interesting. He returned to Louisiana to begin the painstaking work of finding his way back through the fog of time.

In antiquity, man tried to make the night sky familiar by stitching stars into constellations.

Mesopotamians created zodiac signs as early as 1100 BC. Some Chinese constellations are 2,000 years older than that.

The world's oldest constellation is thought to be the Big Bear, which we know as the Big Dipper. Schaefer traced it to an Ice Age bear cult from 14,000 years ago.

A few hundred years before Christ, a handful of stargazers began looking beyond the pictures in the sky to the actual mechanics of the cosmos.

The most famous of the ancients was Hipparchus, born in what is now Turkey in 190 BC. He calculated the length of a year to within 6 1/2 minutes and was the first to explain the Earth's rotation on its axis. He also compiled the first comprehensive catalog of the stars.

Today, only one work by Hipparchus remains, his Commentary, a criticism of an earlier poet-astronomer, Aratus. Everything else, including his famed star catalog and globe, was presumed lost in the great fire that consumed the Library of Alexandria sometime before AD 400.

Looming over the ancient scientists like the Colossus of Rhodes is Claudius Ptolemy, who is still studied in modern classrooms as one of the greatest scientists of all time.

About 250 years after Hipparchus, Ptolemy charted the positions and movements of a thousand stars, as well as the motions of the sun, the moon and the planets out to Saturn. His most famous work, the Almagest, roughly translated as "the Greatest Compilation," was published around AD 128 and became one of the most influential scientific texts in history.

Despite being wrong about the Earth being the center of the universe, the Almagest was the final word on the comings and goings of the stars for 1,400 years.

Ptolemy was not dethroned until the 16th century, when Copernicus determined that the Earth traveled around the sun.

At that point, critics began to reevaluate Ptolemy. His math was suspect, they said. Some of his findings were flat-out wrong. Those that weren't wrong, they suspected, had been pilfered. Some scientists and authors wondered openly what once would have been considered blasphemy: Had Ptolemy stolen his masterwork from someone else? Perhaps from Hipparchus?

The fight continues today. Robert Newton, in his 1977 book "The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy," called him "the most successful fraud in the history of science."

In the usually restrained world of astronomy, passions ran high at a 1999 debate at the University of Notre Dame. Advocates agreed that Ptolemy borrowed liberally from Hipparchus and others, but they said plenty of scientists did that.

"Some want to make it a moral issue," said James Evans of the University of Puget Sound.

"To impose on the ancients the same standards we expect today is a little naive."

Rubbish, say critics. This is no minor tinkerer. This is one of the world's most illustrious scientists who could be a faker. A crime of that magnitude should not stand.

"Ptolemy stole, fabricated and mutilated data," thundered the International Journal of Scientific History.

"The Ptolemy-Hipparchus feud has led to many unprofessional acts," Schaefer wrote in a 2002 article in Sky & Telescope magazine. "These include shunning of people at conferences and spammed hate mail."

Schaefer knew as he began work in Louisiana that the Atlas was a scientific instrument. But on whose vision was it based?

Among the candidates were Ptolemy, Hipparchus and a variety of other ancients, including the Greek astronomers Eudoxus, Aratus, Eratosthenes, an unknown ancient Assyrian, even Homer. Perhaps it was someone unknown to the modern world.

The first step was dating the statue. Despite a hole in the top that obliterated Ursa Minor and Ursa Major, the globe provided several hints that quickly placed an upper date on the sculpture.

It was missing the later-devised Greek constellations of Equuleus, Coma Berenices and Antinous. Hercules is also depicted as a kneeling, naked man instead of as a hero, as in latter Greek times.

One last tip placed the sculpture well before Ptolemy. The carving of Aquarius on the Atlas contained the outline of a water jar. In the Almagest, Aquarius has no water jar.

The answer had to lie deeper in the past.

One clue put a lower limit on the star chart. The summer solstice on the statue is shown at the start of Cancer. Eudoxus and Aratus, who lived before 245 BC, described it as being in Leo. But that could not be, because the solstice, which gradually moves through the centuries, hadn't been in Leo since 1250 BC. Schaefer also noted that the head of Andromeda did not overlay the navel of Pegasus, as it would have in the time of Eudoxus and Aratus.

All this placed the star map between Eudoxus and Aratus, and Ptolemy - roughly 245 BC to AD 200.

Hipparchus lived in that time. Schaefer's excitement rose. He turned to Hipparchus' sole surviving work, the Commentary, which contained enough specific references to stars for a comparison with the statue.

He soon discovered a surprisingly exact match: The positions of Auriga the Charioteer, Centaurus and Draco all matched Hipparchus' descriptions.

When he was done comparing 70 different points on the globe with the ancient records, Schaefer produced a date of 125 BC.

"This is just when Hipparchus was flourishing," he said.

Just to be safe, he did one more analysis to find out where the original observer lived.

A latitude could be estimated, he figured, by noting the declination of the Arctic and Antarctic circles.

Based on the estimated Arctic circle declination, Schaefer came up with possible latitudes of the observer of from 34 degrees to 38 degrees, which encompasses the area where Hipparchus lived.

There was no doubt in Schaefer's mind - he had the lost star catalog of Hipparchus.

The solution to the mystery, Schaefer said, "was before our eyes the whole time…. [We] have recovered one of the most famous known examples of lost, ancient wisdom." [...]

In January, Schaefer unveiled his findings at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego.

"We have books like 'The Da Vinci Code' about a hero who discovers lost, ancient secrets. There are very few instances where lost secrets are actually found," he said. "This is one."

His findings were generally met with approval by colleagues.

"It seems a very valid conclusion," said Hugh Thurston, a retired history professor from the University of British Columbia.[...]

But his discoveries revealing the full genius of Hipparchus are rekindling the debate over Ptolemy.

Should he at last be thrown down and Hipparchus raised in his place?

Some advocate a measured approach. "I think Ptolemy ought to lose a bit and Hipparchus gain a bit," Thurston said.

But even staunch Ptolemy supporters are reconsidering.

"This new information which Bradley Schaefer brought us will be grist for the mill for the battle to be waged," said Gingerich at the San Diego conference.

"I may have to do a little rethinking about who was the greatest astronomer," said the onetime Ptolemy supporter.

The feud holds little interest for Schaefer, who has moved on. The National Science Foundation has given him a grant to review 156 years of sunspot records.

The goal? To find out if the sun has a role in global warming.

Because the count is based on figures supplied by as many as 90 worldwide observers every year, the research is daunting. And mind-numbingly arcane. Schaefer doesn't seem to notice.

He's already uncovered mistakes, he said, a twinkle in his eye.

"I have a solution."

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Black holes 'do not exist'
Philip Ball
31 March 2005

Black holes are staples of science fiction and many think astronomers have observed them indirectly. But according to a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, these awesome breaches in space-time do not and indeed cannot exist.

Over the past few years, observations of the motions of galaxies have shown that some 70% of the Universe seems to be composed of a strange 'dark energy' that is driving the Universe's accelerating expansion.

George Chapline thinks that the collapse of the massive stars, which was long believed to generate black holes, actually leads to the formation of stars that contain dark energy. "It's a near certainty that black holes don't exist," he claims.

Black holes are one of the most celebrated predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity, which explains gravity as the warping of space-time caused by massive objects. The theory suggests that a sufficiently massive star, when it dies, will collapse under its own gravity to a single point.

But Einstein didn't believe in black holes, Chapline argues. "Unfortunately", he adds, "he couldn't articulate why." At the root of the problem is the other revolutionary theory of twentieth-century physics, which Einstein also helped to formulate: quantum mechanics. In general relativity, there is no such thing as a 'universal time' that makes clocks tick at the same rate everywhere. Instead, gravity makes clocks run at different rates in different places. But quantum mechanics, which describes physical phenomena at infinitesimally small scales, is meaningful only if time is universal; if not, its equations make no sense.

This problem is particularly pressing at the boundary, or event horizon, of a black hole. To a far-off observer, time seems to stand still here. A spacecraft falling into a black hole would seem, to someone watching it from afar, to be stuck forever at the event horizon, although the astronauts in the spacecraft would feel as if they were continuing to fall. "General relativity predicts that nothing happens at the event horizon," says Chapline.

Quantum transitions

However, as long ago as 1975 quantum physicists argued that strange things do happen at an event horizon: matter governed by quantum laws becomes hypersensitive to slight disturbances. "The result was quickly forgotten," says Chapline, "because it didn't agree with the prediction of general relativity. But actually, it was absolutely correct."

This strange behaviour, he says, is the signature of a 'quantum phase transition' of space-time. Chapline argues that a star doesn't simply collapse to form a black hole; instead, the space-time inside it becomes filled with dark energy and this has some intriguing gravitational effects.

Outside the 'surface' of a dark-energy star, it behaves much like a black hole, producing a strong gravitational tug. But inside, the 'negative' gravity of dark energy may cause matter to bounce back out again.

If the dark-energy star is big enough, Chapline predicts, any electrons bounced out will have been converted to positrons, which then annihilate other electrons in a burst of high-energy radiation. Chapline says that this could explain the radiation observed from the centre of our galaxy, previously interpreted as the signature of a huge black hole.

He also thinks that the Universe could be filled with 'primordial' dark- energy stars. These are formed not by stellar collapse but by fluctuations of space-time itself, like blobs of liquid condensing spontaneously out of a cooling gas. These, he suggests, could be stuff that has the same gravitational effect as normal matter, but cannot be seen: the elusive substance known as dark matter.

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Russian Scientists Say No Noah's Arc on Mount Ararat

What were thought to be the remains of Noah's Arc on Mount Ararat in modern-day Turkey were discovered to be natural formations by a group of Russian scientists.

Scientists from the Kosmopoisk Scientific Research Center announced Friday at a press conference that there were no remains of Noah's Ark on the mountain, the Interfax news agency reported.

"Everything that we saw, all the samples that we gathered testify to the fact that there is no Noah's Arc on Ararat's western slope," the news agency quoted Vadim Chernobrov, the center's director, as saying.

"At least after the volcanic eruption of 1840 that destroyed everything, including petrified wood, there can be no talk of the remains of a ship being preserved."

The expedition traveled to the western slope in the fall of 2004 and brought back video tapes and artifact samples. After a number of tests, the scientists discovered that the samples were the result of volcanic activity, and not the remains of Noah's ship.

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Bizarre Species Sightings Leave Floridians Perplexed
March 31, 2005

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Something strange is stirring in and around local waters.

In the last few months, fish and bird species have been popping up in places they're not normally found. These transients aren't arriving in huge numbers, just an oddity here and there -- an Arctic bird off St. Augustine Beach, an armored catfish normally in South America found in the Indian River Lagoon, spiny dogfish normally farther north found in Ponce de Leon Inlet.

"Something's going on in the North Atlantic," said Chuck Hunter, an Atlanta- based refuge biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [...]

But whatever caused these out-of-towners to visit, it's left some fishermen scratching their heads.

As for the one Arctic bird found in St. Augustine and the others reported in South Carolina, researchers are dumbfounded. [...]

"Many of the effects are going to be long-term effects," Paperno said. "We won't (understand) this for several years down the road."

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Chemtrail-Like Obect Displays Strange Shape
Prison Planet
March 31 2005

An obscure website features photographs of an apparent Chemtrail-like object snapped over Arlington Texas on March 28th.

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And Finally...

US flags mounted in dog droppings in German city
January 14, 2005

BAYREUTH - Baffled authorities in southern Germany have issued an alert concerning unknown persons who have been sticking small US flags into piles of dog droppings in public parks in Bayreuth.

"This has been going on for about a year now, and there must be 2,000 to 3,000 piles of excrement that have been thusly 'adorned' during that time," said Bayreuth parks administrator Josef Oettl.

The sporadic series of incidents originally was thought to be some sort of protest against the US-led invasion of Iraq. And when it continued it was thought to be a protest against President George W. Bush's campaign for re- election.

Bayreuth police say they are completely baffled.

"We have sent out extra patrols to try to catch whoever is doing this in the act," said police spokesman Reiner Kuechler. "But frankly, we don't know what we would do if we caught them red- white- and-blue handed."

Legal experts agreed, saying there is no law against using faeces as a flag stand and the federal constitution is vague on the issue.

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