Wednesday, April 13, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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George Bush and the Cherry Tree:
"Father, I Can Not Tell a Lie; Osama Cut the Tree..."

ISRAELIS were 9-11 short sale stock buyers, betting on WTC terror strikes, story killed...
TBR News


Between August 26 and September 11, 2001, a group of speculators, identified by the American Securities and Exchange Commission as Israeli citizens, sold "short" a list of 38 stocks that could reasonably be expected to fall in value as a result of the pending attacks. These speculators operated out of the Toronto, Canada and Frankfurt, Germany, stock exchanges and their profits were specifically stated to be "in the millions of dollars."

Short selling of stocks involves the opportunity to gain large profits by passing shares to a friendly third party, then buying them back when the price falls. Historically, if this precedes a traumatic event, it is an indication of foreknowledge. It is widely known that the CIA uses the Promis software to routinely monitor stock trades as a possible warning sign of a terrorist attack or suspicious economic behavior. A week after the Sept.11 attacks, the London Times reported that the CIA had asked regulators for the Financial Services Authority in London to investigate the suspicious sales of millions of shares of stock just prior to the terrorist acts. It was hoped the business paper trail might lead to the terrorists.

Investigators from numerous government agencies are part of a clandestine but official effort to resolve the market manipulations There has been a great deal of talk about insider trading of American stocks by certain Israeli groups both in Canada and Germany between August 26 and the Sept.11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Lynne Howard, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), stated that information about who made the trades was available immediately. "We would have been aware of any unusual activity right away. It would have been triggered by any unusual volume. There is an automated system called 'blue sheeting,' or the CBOE Market Surveillance System, that everyone in the business knows about. It provides information on the trades - the name and even the Social Security number on an account - and these surveillance systems are set up specifically to look into insider trading. The system would look at the volume, and then a real person would take over and review it, going back in time and looking at other unusual activity."

Howard continued, "The system is so smart that even if there is a news event that triggers a market event it can go back in time, and even the parameters can be changed depending on what is being looked at. It's a very clever system and it is instantaneous. Even with the system, though, we have very experienced and savvy staff in our market-regulations area who are always looking for things that might be unusual. They're trained to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Even if it's offshore, it might take a little longer, but all offshore accounts have to go through U.S. member firms - members of the CBOE - and it is easily and quickly identifiable who made the trades. The member firm who made the trades has to have identifiable information about the client under the 'Know Your Customer' regulations (and we share all information with the Securities and Exchange Commission.)"

Given all of this, at a minimum the CBOE and government regulators who are conducting the secret investigations have known for some time who made the options puts on a total of 38 stocks that might reasonably be anticipated to have a sharp drop in value because of an attack similar to the 9/11 episode. The silence from the investigating camps could mean several things: Either terrorists are responsible for the puts on the listed stocks or others besides terrorists had foreknowledge of the attack and used this knowledge to reap a nice financial harvest from the tragedy.

Adam Hamilton of Zeal LLC, a North Dakota-based private consulting company that publishes research on markets worldwide, stated that "I heard that $22 million in profits was made on these put options..."

Federal investigators are continuing to be so closed-mouthed about these stock trades, and it is clear that a much wider net has been cast, apparently looking for bigger international fish involved in dubious financial activity relating to the 9/11 attacks on the world stock markets.

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Sunday July 27, 2003 05:21 PM

What happened to the five celebrating Israeli "movers", (Mossad agents), who were arrested and placed in solitary confinement for weeks after they were spotted in a white van suspected of attempting to blow up the George Washington Bridge. We also know about the Israeli owner of Urban Moving Systems - Dominick Suter - then suddenly abandoned his "moving company" and fled for Israel on 9-14. But there were still more Israeli "movers" and other Israelis whose actions raise serious suspicions. Even more suspicious is how they are always quietly released and deported.

In October of 2001, three more Israeli "movers" were stopped in Plymouth, PA because of their suspicious behavior. These "movers" were seen dumping furniture near a restaurant dumpster! When the restaurant manager approached the driver, a "Middle Eastern" man later identified as Moshe Elmakias fled the scene. The manager made note of the truck's sign which read "Moving Systems Incorporated" and called the police.

When the police spotted the truck, two other Israelis - Ayelet Reisler and Ron Katar began acting suspiciously. The Plymouth police searched the truck and found a video. The Israelis were taken into custody and the video tape was played at the police station. The video revealed footage of Chicago with zoomed in shots of the Sears Tower. The police quickly alerted the FBI and it was also discovered that the Israelis had falsified travel logs and phony paperwork on them. They were also unable to provide a name and telephone number for the customer that they claimed to have been working for. These Israelis were up to some sort of dirty business, and you can be sure it had nothing to do with moving furniture.

These Israeli spies may have had a dark sense of humor. The name of their "moving company" actually contained the word MOSSAD embedded inside. Moving Systems Incorporated... MOving SyStems IncorporAteD.......MOSSAD

On October 10, 2001, CNN made a brief mention of a foiled terrorist bomb plot in the Mexican Parliament building. They promised to bring any further developments of this story to their viewers, but the incident was never heard of again in America.

But the story appeared in bold headlines on the front page of the major Mexican newspapers and was also posted on the official website of the Mexican Justice Department. Two terror suspects were apprehended in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies. Caught red-handed, they had in their possession a high powered gun, nine hand grenades, and C-4 plastic explosives. Within days, this blockbuster story not only disappeared from the Mexican press, but the Israelis were quietly released and deported! The two terrorists were Salvador Gerson Sunke and Sar ben Zui. Can you guess what their ethnicity was? Sunke was a Mexican jew and Zui was a colonel with the Israeli special forces (MOSSAD).

The story in El Diario de Mexico went on to reveal that the Zionist terrorists had fake Pakistani passports on them. Can you say "false flag operation?"

Many Mexicans expressed shock at the release of the two Israelis. But when you learn that Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Relations is a Zionist named Jorge Gutman, it's not surprising! [...]

In November of 2001, 6 more suspicious Israelis were detained in Florida. They had in their possession box cutters, oil pipeline plans, and nuclear power plant plans. The local police called in the Feds and Immigration officials took over the scene and released the men without calling the FBI.

The Jerusalem Post ran this story under the headline "FBI Suspects Israelis of Nuclear Terrorism". The Miami Herald and the Times of London also carried this amazing story and all revealed how furious FBI officials were that these Israeli terror suspects with nuclear power plant plans were set free by INS officials. [...]

In December, 2001, the Los Angeles Times published the story of how two Jewish terrorists were arrested by the FBI for plotting to blow up the office of US Congressman of Arab descent - Darrell Issa (R-CA), and a California mosque. Irv Rubin and Earl Kruger of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) were charged with conspiracy to destroy a building by means of explosives. This story got brief national coverage but quickly disappeared too. These Zionists sure love blowing up buildings and killing innocent people don't they?

In May of 2002, yet another moving van was pulled over in Oak Harbor, Washington near the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Fox News reported that the van was pulled over for speeding shortly after midnight. The passengers told the police they were delivering furniture, but because it was so late at night, the police weren't buying the story. A bomb sniffing dog was brought in and the dog detected the presence of TNT and RDX plastic explosives in the truck (great stuff for demolishing buildings!) Both Fox News and the Ha'aretz newspaper of Israel reported that the two "movers" were Israelis.

In December, 2002, Ariel Sharon made the amazing claim that Al-Qaeda agents were operating inside of Israel. But when Palestinian authorities apprehended the suspects, they turned out to be Palestinian traitors impersonating Al-qaeda agents for the MOSSAD! [...]

According to FOX news, throughout late 2000 and 2001, a total of 200 Israeli spies were arrested. It was the largest spy ring to ever be uncovered in the history of the United States.

The Washington Post also reported that some of these Israelis were arrested in connection with the 9-11 investigation. US. Carl Cameron of FOX News Channel did a excellent four part, nationally televised, series of investigations into this blockbuster scandal. But FOX pulled the investigative series after Zionist groups complained to FOX executives. FOX even went so far as to remove the written transcripts of the series from its website! In its place was posted a chilling, Orwellian message which reads: "This story no longer exists."

Fortunately for the sake of history, the FOX transcripts were copied onto to many other websites and all four parts are available for your review.

The FOX series and other mainstream news media sources revealed that many of these Israelis were army veterans with electronics and explosives expertise. Many of them failed lie detector tests. FBI agents told FOX that some of their past investigations were compromised because suspects had been tipped off by Israeli wiretapping specialists.

It was discovered that Israeli companies such as Comverse and Amdocs have the capability to tap American telephones (great for blackmailing all those wife-cheating politicians!) FBI agents also told FOX they believed the Israelis had advance knowledge of the 9-11 attacks. (which certainly would explain why no Israelis died in the WTC) Still another US official informed FOX that some of the detained Israelis actually had links to 9-11, but he refused to describe the nature of those links. The FBI official told FOX's Carl Cameron:

"Evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about the evidence that has been gathered. It is classified information."

Then there was that small army of Israeli "art students" who were arrested for trying to sneak into secured US Federal buildings and staking out 36 Department of Defense sites. Some of these suspicious "art students" even showed up at the homes of Federal employees. Ron Hatchett, a Department of Defense analyst, told Channel 11, KHOU news in Houston that he believed that the "art students" were gathering intelligence for future attacks.

Here's an excerpt from the October 1, 2001 KHOU investigative report by Anna Werner:

"Could federal buildings in Houston and other cities be under surveillance by foreign groups? That's what some experts are asking after federal law enforcement and security officials - nationally and in Houston - described for the 11 News Defenders a curious pattern of behavior by a group of people claiming to be Israeli art students."

"Hatchett says they could be doing what he would be doing if he were a terrorist, sizing up the situation: "We need to know what are the entrances to this particular building. We need to know what are the surveillance cameras that are operating. We need to know how many guards are at this operation, when do they take breaks?" Says Hatchett: This is not a bunch of kids selling artwork."

"A former Defense Department analyst, Hatchett believes groups may be gathering intelligence for possible future attacks. "Some organization, thinking in terms of a potential retaliation against the U.S. government could be scouting out potential targets and ... looking for targets that would be vulnerable."

And a source tells the Defenders of another federal memo, stating that besides Houston and Dallas, the same thing has happened at sites in New York, Florida, and six other states, and even more worrisome, at 36 sensitive Department of Defense sites. "One defense site you can explain," says Hatchett, "well that was just a serendipitous, ........ Thirty-six? That's a pattern."

Remember the official motto of the Mossad - By Way of Deception Thou Shalt Do War.

Are you getting the picture? Can you say "false flag operations"?

In a follow up report a few days later, KHOU Channel 11 revealed that Dallas was also targetted:

"11 News reported how people claiming to be "Israeli art students" might be trying to sneak into federal buildings and defense sites, and even doing surveillance. And at least one expert said he thought it could all be preparation for an attack. Well, now federal sources say they are not ruling out that all of this could be connected with the hijackings on September 11, because of events in another Texas city.

In Dallas, the so-called students hit early this year at the city's FBI building, the Drug Enforcement Administration and at the Earle Cabell Federal building, where guards found one student wandering the halls with a floor plan of the building.

So the Dallas INS went on the alert, finding and arresting 15 people in March. Thirteen claimed to be Israelis and two are professed Colombians. But according to sources, once again their passports were phony. And another federal source says some of those arrested also appeared to have lists of federal employees and their home addresses.

All 15 "students" have now been deported.

Now do you remember the Mossad's "warning" about the 200 "Al-Qaeda terrorists" said to have been preparing major attacks in the US? At the time of this writing, we are three years into the largest investigation in American history, and not one of these 200 "terrorists" has yet to be uncovered.

But 200 Israeli spies were uncovered, among them many military members, electronics experts, wiretapping and phone tapping specialists, and explosives experts with the skill to bring down tall buildings.

Logic and common sense leads to the conclusion that the "200 Al Qaeda terrorists" were in reality, 200 Israelli Zionist terrorists sent to frame the Arabs for terrorist attacks and drag America into a war.


Comment: And these lies are killing your children, destroying your economy and your freedoms and ultimately, your lives...

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Flashback: The Five Dancing Israelis Arrested On 9/11

On the day of the 9-11 attacks, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked what the attack would mean for US-Israeli relations. His quick reply was: "It's very good…….Well, it's not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy (for Israel)"

A Mossad surveillance team made quite a public spectacle of themselves on 9-11.

The men set up cameras by the Hudson River and trained them on the twin towers.

Police received several calls from angry New Jersey residents claiming "middle-eastern" men with a white van were videotaping the disaster with shouts of joy and mockery. [...]

[T]hey were seen by New Jersey residents on Sept. 11 making fun of the World Trade Center ruins and going to extreme lengths to photograph themselves in front of the wreckage. [...]

Witnesses saw them jumping for joy in Liberty State Park after the initial impact. Later on, other witnesses saw them celebrating on a roof in Weehawken, and still more witnesses later saw them celebrating with high fives in a Jersey City parking lot. [...]

According to ABC's 20/20, when the van belonging to the cheering Israelis was stopped by the police, the driver of the van, Sivan Kurzberg, told the officers:

"We are Israelis. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are your problem."

The police and FBI field agents really became suspicious when they found maps of the city with certain places highlighted, box cutters (the same items that the hijackers supposedly used), $4700 cash stuffed in a sock, and foreign passports. Police also told the Bergen Record that bomb sniffing dogs were brought to the van and that they reacted as if they had smelled explosives.

The FBI seized and developed their photos, one of which shows Sivan Kurzberg flicking a cigarette lighter in front of the smouldering ruins in an apparently celebratory gesture.

The Jerusalem Post later reported that a white van with a bomb was stopped as it approached the George Washington Bridge. Of Course, the Post did not reveal the true ethnicity of the suspects. Here's what the Jerusalem Post reported on September 12, 2001:

American security services overnight stopped a car bomb on the George Washington Bridge. The van, packed with explosives, was stopped on an approach ramp to the bridge. Authorities suspect the terrorists intended to blow up the main crossing between New Jersey and New York, Army Radio reported. [...]

What's really intriguing is that ABC's 20/20, the New York Post, and the New Jersey Bergen Record all clearly and unambiguously reported that a white van with Israelis was intercepted on a ramp near Route 3, which leads directly to the Lincoln Tunnel.

But the Jerusalem Post, Israeli National News (Arutz Sheva), and Yediot America, all reported, just as clearly and unambiguously, that a white van with Israelis was stopped on a ramp leading to the George Washington Bridge, which is several miles north of the Lincoln Tunnel.

It appears as if there may actually have been two white vans involved, one stopped on each crossing. This would not only explain the conflicting reports as to the actual location of the arrests, but would also explain how so many credible eye-witnesses all saw celebrating "middle-easterners" in a white van in so many different locations. It also explains why the New York Post and Steve Gordon (lawyer for the 5 Israelis) originally described how three Israelis were arrested but later increased the total to five.

Perhaps one van was meant to drop off a bomb while the other was meant to pick up the first set of drivers while re-crossing back into New Jersey? If a van was to be used as a parked time-bomb on the GW Bridge, then certainly the drivers would need to have a "get-away van" to pick them up and escape. And notice how the van (or vans) stayed away from the third major crossing - the Holland Tunnel- which was where the police had originally been directed to by that anti-Palestinian 9-1-1 "mystery caller". A classic misdirection play.

From there, the story gets becomes even more suspicious. The Israelis worked for a Weehawken moving company known as Urban Moving Systems. An American employee of Urban Moving Systems told the The Record of New Jersey that a majority of his co-workers were Israelis and they were all joking about the attacks.

A few days after the attacks, Urban Moving System's Israeli owner, Dominick Suter, dropped his business and fled the country for Israel. He was in such a hurry to flee America that some of Urban Moving System's customers were left with their furniture stranded in storage facilities (20).

It was later confirmed that the five detained Israelis were in fact Mossad agents. They were held in custody for 71 days before being quietly released. Some of the movers had been kept in solitary confinement for 40 days. [...]

The US government immediately attributed Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks even though he had no previous record of doing anything on this scale. Immediately after the Flight 11 hit WTC 1 CIA Director George Tenet said "You know, this has bin Laden's fingerprints all over it."

The compliant mainstream media completely ignored the Israeli connection. Immediately following the 9-11 attacks, the media was filled with stories linking the attacks to bin Laden. TV talking-heads, "experts", and scribblers of every stripe spoon-fed a gullible American public a steady diet of the most outrageous propaganda imaginable.

We were told the reason bin Laden attacked the USA was because he hates our "freedom" and "democracy". [...]

To date, the only shred of "evidence" to be uncovered against Bin Laden was a barely audible fuzzy amateur video that the Pentagon just happened to find "lying around" in Afghanistan. [...]

[A] number of intelligence officials have raised questions about Osama bin Laden's capabilities. "This guy sits in a cave in Afghanistan and he's running this operation?" one C.I.A. official asked. "It's so huge. He couldn't have done it alone." A senior military officer told me that because of the visas and other documentation needed to infiltrate team members into the United States a major foreign intelligence service might also have been involved.

There is no evidence, be it hard or circumstantial, to link the Al Qaeda "terrorist network" to these acts of terror, but there is a mountain of evidence, both hard and circumstantial, which suggests that the Zionist Mafia has been very busy framing Arabs for terror plots against America.

Comment: Now that you have been apprised of the case for an Israeli involvement in the 9/11 attacks, consider all that has resulted from those attacks and who has benefitted the most...

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Israel presents aerial photos of Iran nuclear sites to Bush
12 April 2005

JERUSALEM - Ariel Sharon’s military attache presented aerial photos of Iranian nuclear installations during the Israeli prime minister’s summit with US President George W. Bush, Israeli public radio reported on Tuesday.

General Yoav Gallan, who accompanied Sharon to Monday’s talks at Bush’s Texas ranch, presented the photos as well as information gathered by the Israeli intelligence services on Teheran’s nuclear programme.

The radio, which did not give details on how the photos were taken, said the images proved that the Iranian nuclear programme was at a “very advanced” stage.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan confirmed the two leaders had “talked about their shared concern about Iran’s intentions with their nuclear programme” but denied they had discussed the possibility of a preemptive military strike by Israel, aimed at ensuring Iran does not acquire atomic weapons.

The United States and Israel have both accused Iran of using its atomic energy programme as cover for a plan to develop nuclear arms, a charge denied by Teheran, which says it needs nuclear power as an alternative energy source.

Israel itself has never publicly acknowledged that it maintains a nuclear arsenal but foreign experts say it has between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads.

Comment: Let's see, first there was Gulf War I with the babies in incubators and satellite photos of empty Iraqi desert which Pentagon officials (the same ones that are still there today we might add) somehow mistook for 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks amassed on the Saudi border. Then there was Gulf War II with the badly drawn pictures of, well, something, the plagarised High School student essay and images of weather ballon making labs which Colin Powell somehow misconstrued as evidence that Saddam had ready-to-go WMDs. Now we have Israeli satellite images of Irans nuclear installations. Given the fabrications used to justify the previous wars fought for Israel's benefit, what are the chances that the Israelis have either "produced" some photos of what they allege are Iran's nuclear sites or that they are just telling a plain old lie?

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Flashback: In war, some facts less factual
By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
September 6 2002

Some US assertions from the last war on Iraq still appear dubious.

MOSCOW – When George H. W. Bush ordered American forces to the Persian Gulf – to reverse Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait – part of the administration case was that an Iraqi juggernaut was also threatening to roll into Saudi Arabia.

Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid–September that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.

But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border – just empty desert.

"It was a pretty serious fib," says Jean Heller, the Times journalist who broke the story.

The White House is now making its case. to Congress and the public for another invasion of Iraq; President George W. Bush is expected to present specific evidence of the threat posed by Iraq during a speech to the United Nations next week.

But past cases of bad intelligence or outright disinformation used to justify war are making experts wary. The questions they are raising, some based on examples from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, highlight the importance of accurate information when a democracy considers military action.

"My concern in these situations, always, is that the intelligence that you get is driven by the policy, rather than the policy being driven by the intelligence," says former US Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana, a 34-year veteran lawmaker until 1999, who served on numerous foreign affairs and intelligence committees, and is now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. The Bush team "understands it has not yet carried the burden of persuasion [about an imminent Iraqi threat], so they will look for any kind of evidence to support their premise," Mr. Hamilton says. "I think we have to be skeptical about it."

Examining the evidence

Shortly before US strikes began in the Gulf War, for example, the St. Petersburg Times asked two experts to examine the satellite images of the Kuwait and Saudi Arabia border area taken in mid-September 1990, a month and a half after the Iraqi invasion. The experts, including a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who specialized in desert warfare, pointed out the US build-up – jet fighters standing wing-tip to wing-tip at Saudi bases – but were surprised to see almost no sign of the Iraqis.

"That [Iraqi buildup] was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn't exist," Ms. Heller says. Three times Heller contacted the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (now vice president) for evidence refuting the Times photos or analysis – offering to hold the story if proven wrong.

The official response: "Trust us." To this day, the Pentagon's photographs of the Iraqi troop buildup remain classified. [...]

John MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine and author of "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War," says that considering the number of senior officials shared by both Bush administrations, the American public should bear in mind the lessons of Gulf War propaganda.

"These are all the same people who were running it more than 10 years ago," Mr. MacArthur says. "They'll make up just about anything ... to get their way."

On Iraq, analysts note that little evidence so far of an imminent threat from Mr. Hussein's weapons of mass destruction has been made public.

Critics, including some former United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, say no such evidence exists. Mr. Bush says he will make his decision to go to war based on the "best" intelligence.

"You have to wonder about the quality of that intelligence," says Mr. Hamilton at Woodrow Wilson.

"This administration is capable of any lie ... in order to advance its war goal in Iraq," says a US government source in Washington with some two decades of experience in intelligence, who would not be further identified. "It is one of the reasons it doesn't want to have UN weapons inspectors go back in, because they might actually show that the probability of Iraq having [threatening illicit weapons] is much lower than they want us to believe."

The roots of modern war propaganda reach back to British World War II stories about German troops bayoneting babies, and can be traced through the Vietnam era and even to US campaigns in Somalia and Kosovo.

While the adage has it that "truth is the first casualty of war," senior administration officials say they cherish their credibility, and would not lie.

In a press briefing last September, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted occasions during World War II when false information about US troop movements was leaked to confuse the enemy. He paraphrased Winston Churchill, saying: "Sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies."

But he added that "my fervent hope is that we will be able to manage our affairs in a way that that will never happen. And I am 69 years old and I don't believe it's ever happened that I have lied to the press, and I don't intend to start now."

Last fall, the Pentagon secretly created an "Office of Strategic Influence." But when its existence was revealed, the ensuing media storm over reports that it would launch disinformation campaigns prompted its official closure in late February.

Commenting on the furor, President Bush pledged that the Pentagon will "tell the American people the truth."

Critics familiar with the precedent set in recent decades, however, remain skeptical. They point, for example, to the Office of Public Diplomacy run by the State Department in the 1980s. Using staff detailed from US military "psychological operations" units, it fanned fears about Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista regime with false "intelligence" leaks.

Besides placing a number of proContra, antiSandinista stories in the national US media as part of a "White Propaganda" campaign, that office fed the Miami Herald a make-believe story that the Soviet Union had given chemical weapons to the Sandinistas. Another tale – which happened to emerge the night of President Ronald Reagan's reelection victory – held that Soviet MiG fighters were on their way to Nicaragua.

The office was shut down in 1987, after a report by the US Comptroller-General found that some of their efforts were "prohibited, covert propaganda activities."

More recently, in the fall of 1990, members of Congress and the American public were swayed by the tearful testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only as Nayirah.

In the girl's testimony before a congressional caucus, well-documented in MacArthur's book "Second Front" and elsewhere, she described how, as a volunteer in a Kuwait maternity ward, she had seen Iraqi troops storm her hospital, steal the incubators, and leave 312 babies "on the cold floor to die."

Seven US Senators later referred to the story during debate; the motion for war passed by just five votes. In the weeks after Nayirah spoke, President Bush senior invoked the incident five times, saying that such "ghastly atrocities" were like "Hitler revisited."

But just weeks before the US bombing campaign began in January, a few press reports began to raise questions about the validity of the incubator tale.

Later, it was learned that Nayirah was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington and had no connection to the Kuwait hospital.

She had been coached – along with the handful of others who would "corroborate" the story – by senior executives of Hill and Knowlton in Washington, the biggest global PR firm at the time, which had a contract worth more than $10 million with the Kuwaitis to make the case for war.

"We didn't know it wasn't true at the time," Brent Scowcroft, Bush's national security adviser, said of the incubator story in a 1995 interview with the London-based Guardian newspaper. He acknowledged "it was useful in mobilizing public opinion."

Comment: How unfortunate for the US government. They were planning an invasion of Iraq and were having difficulty finding justification. Along comes a woman who has been coached by a UWashington PR firm to concoct a story about Kuwaiti babies in incubators which just happens to swing US public and political opinion towards backing the invasion, and the poor old US government finally realises too late that it was the victim of a liar. Well, no use crying over spilled milk, eh? At least they will have learned a lot from the experience and would never again rely on the testimony of dubious sources, right?

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In Case You Missed It...

US relied on 'drunken liar' to justify war

'Crazy' Iraqi spy was full of misinformation, says report
Edward Helmore in New York
The Observer
Sunday April 3, 2005

An alcoholic cousin of an aide to Ahmed Chalabi has emerged as the key source in the US rationale for going to war in Iraq.

According to a US presidential commission looking into pre-war intelligence failures, the basis for pivotal intelligence on Iraq's alleged biological weapons programmes and fleet of mobile labs was a spy described as 'crazy' by his intelligence handlers and a 'congenital liar' by his friends.

The defector, given the code-name Curveball by the CIA, has emerged as the central figure in the corruption of US intelligence estimates on Iraq. Despite considerable doubts over Curveball's credibility, his claims were included in the administration's case for war without caveat.

According to the report, the failure of US spy agencies to scrutinise his claims are the 'primary reason' that they 'fundamentally misjudged the status of Iraq's [biological weapons] programs'. The catalogue of failures and the gullibility of US intelligence make for darkly comic reading, even by the standards of failure detailed in previous investigations. Of all the disproven pre-war weapons claims, from aluminium centrifuge tubes to yellow cake uranium from Niger, none points to greater levels of incompetence than those found within the misadventures of Curveball. [...]

The commission concluded that Curveball's information was worse than none at all. 'Worse than having no human sources,' it said, 'is being seduced by a human source who is telling lies.'[...]

His information was central to an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iraq 'has' biological weapons, and was widely used by President Bush and Dick Cheney to make their case for war. [...]

In May 2000 doubts about his credibility surfaced when he was examined for signs that he had been exposed to biological agents. While the results were inconclusive, a US official was surprised to find Curveball had a hangover and said he 'might be an alcoholic.' By early 2001, the Germans were having doubts of their own, telling the CIA their spy was 'out of control'.

But warnings were dismissed. Intelligence analysts who voiced concern were 'forced to leave' the unit mainly responsible for analysing his claims, the commission found. At every turn analysts were blocked by spy chiefs and their warning never passed on to policy-makers. [...]

Comment: Comment From

"We didn't lie. We were all fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The President was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The Vice President was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The guy looking at photos of balloon inflators and claiming they were mobile biological laboratories was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The CIA was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The FBI was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The entire United States Congress was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"ABC was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"NBC was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"CBS was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"FOX was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"CNN was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"Newspapers were fooled by this drunken bum!"

"Clear Channel was fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The weapons inspection teams who scoured Iraq over and over and over and over without finding anything were fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The boys who made the fake Osama video tapes were fooled by this drunken bum!"

"The Mossad agents arrested while cheering the collapse of the World Trade Towers were fooled by this drunken bum!"

"Yessirrebob we were all fooled by this drunken bum. It's all his fault. Honest. Really. None of us did anything wrong."

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Flashback: The Fake bin Laden Video Tape


On December 13, 2001 a videotape of Osama bin Laden "confessing" to the 9/11 attacks was made public: [...]

The video was very effective in diverting media attention away from the deportation of five Israelis who danced as the twin towers burned - "Osama" certainly picks his moments to appear. [...]

A German TV show found that the White House's translation of the video was inaccurate and "manipulative". Bin Laden even praised two live 'hijackers' - Wail M. Alshehri and Salem Alhazmi. Why didn't he know the names of hijackers he personally chose? [...]

The quality of the video was very poor and the authenticity of the tape was questioned. This annoyed President Bush:

"It is preposterous for anybody to think that this tape is doctored," he said during a brief photo opportunity with the prime minister of Thailand. "That's just a feeble excuse to provide weak support for an incredibly evil man." [CNN]

To be perfectly honest it is preposterous to suggest this videotape could be authentic, but lets have a look at it anyway. Here's 5 Osamas - which is the odd one out?

Even Mr Magoo would have to say that Osama 'E' stands out like a sore thumb, and this is the man on the "confession" tape. Between the nose and the cheeks it is clear that this man is NOT Osama.

Osama 'E' appears to write notes with his right hand, yet the FBI's description of Osama indicates he is left-handed. Osama 'E' wears a ring on his right hand which does not appear on other confirmed photos of Osama (e.g. Osama 'B'). Another man wearing a large gold ring is seen in the video. The wearing of gold rings is forbidden by Islam, therefore Osama 'E' has no devotion to this faith. [...]

There is clearly good reason to doubt the November 9 tape. There is excessive noise on the audio track, making it impossible to really hear what is being said. Given that the tape was recorded in an area supposedly devoid of audio urban signature, there should have been little ambient noise, yet the speech is masked with a great deal of noise. Then there is a gap in the audio track, reminiscent of Nixon's missing 18 minutes, and the truths it once contained which are lost forever to history. [...]

But there are very good reasons to suspect that the tape is not what the US Government claims it to be. In the tape, Osama supposedly states that he knew of the attack on the WTC 5 days in advance, yet we know from the preparations inside the United States that the plan had been in existence for much longer than that. The records of those flight schools where the hijackers supposedly trained have been confiscated under the watchful eye of Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida and brother to the President. Will the Bush administration now claim that the hijackers learned to fly a passenger jet in just 5 days?

Likewise, The translation of the Osama tape has him stating that the hijackers did not know they were about to die, yet letters the FBI claim to have found written by the hijackers indicate the exact opposite. [...]

You are being lied to by the US Government. They are using deception to trick you into surrendering your freedoms, money, and the lives of your children for a phony "War On Terror".

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3 Charged in Plot on U.S. Finance Centers
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 12,11:10 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Three men with suspected al-Qaida ties, already in British custody, were charged Tuesday with a years-long plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other East Coast financial institutions.

Discovery of the alleged terrorist plan last summer prompted the Homeland Security Department to raise the terror alert for the targeted buildings, located in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J. Security in those cities also was tightened.

A four-count indictment returned by a New York City grand jury alleges the men, all British citizens, visited and conducted surveillance of the buildings and surrounding neighborhoods between August 2000 and April 2001.

The plot was foiled when Pakistani investigators seized a computer with information from the surveillance. British authorities were alerted and arrested eight men, including the three suspects, on terrorism-related charges last August, Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey said.

The indictment "sends a message about our resolve to terrorists," Comey said at a Justice Department news conference.

The grand jury returned the indictment on March 23 but it was unsealed only Tuesday. Named in it are Dhiran Barot, 33, Nadeem Tarmohammed, 26, and Qaisar Shaffi, 26. They could receive life sentences if convicted of the most serious charge, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the United States. The indictment lists those weapons as improvised explosive devices and bombs.

U.S. officials claim Barot is a senior al-Qaida figure, known variously as Abu Eisa al-Hindi, Abu Musa al-Hindi and Issa al-Britani.

Prosecutors say the men conducted surveillance on the stock exchange and Citicorp building in New York, the Prudential building in Newark and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, including video surveillance in Manhattan around April 2001.

U.S. officials have previously described detailed surveillance photos and documents, which they believe came from Barot, that were found on the computer in Pakistan. Comey declined to provide any specifics.

Although they allegedly were doing their surveillance at the same time the Sept. 11 hijackers were making their final preparations, nothing in the indictment links this group to the hijackers.

The indictment does not allege any specific actions by the men in the United States or elsewhere after April 2001, though Comey said their plotting continued. "This conspiracy was alive and kicking until August 2004," he said.

Bush administration authorities said the decision to raise the risk of a terrorist attack to "high" for those specific financial institutions was based on an abundance of caution and because of al-Qaida's history of lengthy planning and plotting.

The move, coming in the midst of a tight presidential election, drew criticism from Democrats, who claimed it was aimed at boosting President Bush's re-election effort.

"Politics had nothing to do with it. You have my word on it," Comey said Tuesday.

Comment: Oh, well, then it must be true! After the Iraq WMD debacle, any Bush administration official who says that terrorists are out to get us - especially one who says "Politics had nothing to do with it. You have my word on it" - can hardly expect to be believed or taken seriously.

The threat level was lowered to yellow for the buildings after the November election.

Comment: The change in threat level after the election must have been just a coincidence...

Barot is charged in England with possessing reconnaissance plans for the U.S. financial institutions and notebooks containing information on explosives, poisons, chemicals and related matters "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

Tarmohammed was charged there, along with Barot, with possessing plans of the Prudential building. Shaffi also was charged in Britain with possessing an extract from the "Terrorist's Handbook" on the preparation of chemicals, explosive recipes and other information.

British proceedings and any sentences would have to be completed before U.S. agents could question the men or seek their extradition, the Crown Prosecution Service said. The trial in Britain is scheduled to begin in January, it said. [...]

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Pandemic feared as WHO urges return of flu strain
Apr 12 2005

LONDON (AP) - Thousands of scientists were scrambling Tuesday at the urging of global health authorities to destroy vials of a pandemic flu strain sent to labs in 18 countries as part of routine testing.

The rush, urged by the World Health Organization, was sparked by a slim, but real, risk that the samples, could spark a global flu epidemic. The vials of virus sent by a U.S. company went to nearly 5,000 labs, mostly in the United States, officials said.

"The risk is relatively low that a lab worker will get sick, but a large number of labs got it and if someone does get infected, the risk of severe illness is high and this virus has shown to be fully transmissible," WHO's influenza chief, Klaus Stohr, told The Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear why the 1957 pandemic strain, which killed between 1 million and 4 million people - was in the proficiency test kits routinely sent to labs.

It was a decision that Stohr described as "unwise," and "unfortunate." [...]

Almost 99 percent of the labs that got the test kits are in the United States, Stohr said. Fourteen were in Canada and 61 samples went to labs in 16 other countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America, according to the WHO. Some of the labs outside the United States have already destroyed their samples, he said, and WHO is hoping that the rest of the vials will be destroyed by Friday. [...]

Comment: Whoops! Seriously, how likely is it that possibly compromised vials of a potentially deadly strain of flu be sent to 18 countries around the world by mistake?! What are the chances!? Obviously there is much more to this story that we are being told, for example, are you aware that US Army scientists, in a Pentagon-led project, have recreated "Spanish Flu" virus in laboratory, that the medical benefits were described as "questionable" and that the work was not triggered by a search for flu treatments? Are you aware also that genetic experiments to recreate one of the most devastating viruses of the past century were not reviewed or approved by a biosafety committee?

Of course, the official story is that the research is being done to somehow prevent "terrorists" from using such viruses as "bioweapons", but the idea that a terrorist group would be able to re-engineer a deadly flu virus that has been extinct for almost 90 years is laughable. Having said that, we do not doubt that a deadly form of the flu virus could be used as "an agent bioterrorism", but the question is, which group of terrorists would be behind it? It is no secret that the US and other governments have a keen interest in biological weapons, indeed, it seems that one of the standing orders for government scientists is to find the most efficient way of killing the most people with the least effort.

Just last month the Washington Times reported:

U.S. to create a bird flu virus mutation

24 March 2005 --The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun a series of experiments to see how likely the bird flu virus could result in a human pandemic. The six-month series of experiments seeks to simulate the mixing and matching of genes from the H5N1 avian flu virus that has plagued Asia and a common human flu virus that public-health experts fear could turn avian flu into a pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. CDC scientists inside an ultra-secure laboratory [?!?] have started swapping the genes of the H5N1 avian virus with the genes of an H3N2 virus, the strain behind most recent human flu outbreaks.

Over recent weeks and months, the US government and its mainsream propaganda press have been setting the scene for a possible "bioterror attack" using some form of deadly Flu virus, yet as we have already noted, the only agencies involved in reviving a deadly form of Flu are the very same government agencies that are warning us that the deadly form of Flu might be used by "terrorists" in a bioterror attack!

Military intelligence warns that avian flu could be used as weapon

8 March 2005

The military's intelligence arm has warned the federal government that avian influenza could be used as a weapon of bioterrorism, a heavily censored report suggests. It also reveals that military planners believe a naturally occurring flu pandemic may be imminent. The report, entitled Recent Human Outbreaks of Avian Influenza and Potential Biological Warfare Implications, was obtained under the Access to Information Act by The Canadian Press. It was prepared by the J2 Directorate of Strategic Intelligence, a secretive branch of National Defence charged with producing intelligence for the government.

Coroner Wants to Shrink-Wrap Bodies

Coroner Wants to Shrink-Wrap Bodies in the Case of a Natural Disaster or Terrorist Attack 19 February 2005 - In the case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, some emergency officials in Western Washington plan to be prepared with a large, shrink wrap machine. The Thurston County Coroner's Office recently won approval to purchase a machine able to shrink-wrap human remains. The process would make it easier to transport a large number of bodies. The coroner's office has already started a bidding process to find a company to build the machine. A Homeland Security grant will pay for the machine, which will cost an estimated $50,000.

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1000's of Children in Ho Chi Minh City with Bird Flu Symptoms
Recombinomics Commentary
April 11, 2005

Hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City have been filled with thousands of children who have caught respiratory and digestive illnesses due to the hot weather.

Pediatric Hospital I reported that it had examined nearly 4,000 children patients a day with some 85 per cent of them suffering from respiratory problems, said a hospital doctor.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 children were brought into Pediatric Hospital II on Monday. One-third of the children had respiratory problems and 300 others had digestive problems.

Besides, many children have been hospitalized for brain diseases caused by the entero virus.

The major reason behind the illnesses is that children are sleeping all night with fans on due to the hot weather in recent days

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US and Iraq lock up record number of suspects without trial
Monday, April 11, 2005
ABC News online

US and Iraqi forces are holding a record 17,000 men and women - most without being formally charged - and those in Iraqi-controlled jails live often in deplorable conditions, officials said.

About two-thirds are locked up as "security detainees" without any formal charges in US-run facilities, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, the US military spokesman for Iraqi detention operations, told AFP.

The rest are incarcerated in Iraqi-run jails in conditions that fall well below any international standard and are in dire need of reform, said Bakhtiar Amin, Iraq's outgoing Human Rights Minister.

"None of the Iraqi detention centres meet international standards for cleanliness, food and the treatment of prisoners. Neither are the buildings up to standard. We have asked for international help."

Mr Amin acknowledged problems in Iraqi security forces' treatment of detainees following a pair of denunciatory reports by New York based Human Rights Watch and the US State Department since January.

"We are aware of Iraqi security forces' tremendous sacrifices in their struggle against criminality and terrorism. We cannot ignore the fact that some lose their life in combat, but this does not stop us from criticising the abuses."

Mr Amin said the Ministry would soon deliver a 20-page report on ways to fix the woeful prison system.

There are currently 6,504 inmates in Iraq's 18 prisons, 2,573 of whom have already been sentenced, Mr Amin said, adding that they include both "common-law criminals and terrorists".

At least 131 of the detainees are women, he said.

"In certain places, the situation is deplorable. In others, it is bad, and in others, it is better."

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Azerbaijan: U.S. Forces, Bases Moving in This Year
Apr 12, 2005

The U.S. and Azerbaijani governments agreed April 12 to allow U.S. forces and bases to locate in Azerbaijan. The deployment will begin this year, and given the United States' huge interest in the Caucasus, the U.S. military presence there could be long-term.


The United States and Azerbaijan have finalized an agreement to allow U.S. forces and bases to be located in Azerbaijan. The agreement was reached during a quiet, unpublicized visit that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made to Baku on April 12, sources in the Azerbaijani government said. Though formally the U.S. forces in Azerbaijan will be called Temporarily Deployed Mobile Forces, the situation at other U.S. bases in Central Asia -- which are not going anywhere anytime soon, although their effectiveness against Afghanistan's waning Taliban is reduced -- suggests that the American military presence in Azerbaijan probably will be long-term as well.

The deployment to Azerbaijan will begin this year, with the first U.S. units and aircraft arriving there in several weeks, Azerbaijani government sources say. If this is true, the deployment will mark a significant strengthening of U.S. military control over the Caspian Sea basin's energy resources and routes.

According to the agreement, U.S. forces initially will be deployed to three bases: Kurdamir (the main base), Nasosnyy and Gala, all located in central Azerbaijan. Various types of U.S. aircraft will be located on all three bases, which will have airfields. The fields already have been modernized to fit the U.S. military's needs. Also, barracks for U.S. Air Force and special operations forces -- which also will deploy to Azerbaijan -- already have been built. All the bases are former Soviet bases. In accordance with the Pentagon's new "lily-pad" strategy of shifting to smaller bases -- where the size and composition of forces in a particular foreign base might vary, depending on the task at hand, and where forces can be quickly relocated and deployed for combat in other areas within the base's range -- the new bases in Azerbaijan will be small, and their contingent will change depending on the U.S. military's needs in the region.

This upcoming major U.S. deployment to Azerbaijan is not completely unexpected. U.S. pressure for this has been matched by Baku's willingness to oblige. Yet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hesitated, fearing Moscow's reaction -- Russia still matters to Azerbaijan, as several million Azerbaijanis work in Russia and send money back to relatives at home, thereby helping the country's economy. The last straw for Aliyev was probably April 4, when U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish heavily hinted that the Azerbaijani regime should make some "progress" if it did not want to see a Western-supported "velvet revolution" similar to those that already have taken place in other former Soviet republics.

Three years ago, Stratfor broke the story about the beginning of the U.S. military deployment in another former Soviet Union (FSU) country located next to Azerbaijan: Georgia. This new move by the Bush administration attests to its consistent strategy of penetrating -- militarily, economically and politically -- the FSU, while pushing Moscow out of the region (especially the Caspian region, which is full of energy resources and otherwise geopolitically important to Washington).

When in Azerbaijan, the U.S. forces will be able to take care of several strategic missions that the Bush administration has deemed crucially important. Among them is the protection and defense of a strategic West-bound Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that will become operational later this year. In addition to deploying U.S. forces and bases for this purpose, the U.S. Command in Europe also has been training the "Caspian Guard," made up of local troops and special forces troops whose sole task will be defending the pipeline. For this particular purpose, several dozen U.S. military instructors already have been quietly working in Azerbaijan for several months.

Among other strategic missions for the U.S. forces and bases in Azerbaijan are: completing the geopolitical encircling of Iran, giving the U.S. forces a better start if Washington decides to attack Iran; securing a strategic energy and troops/aircraft transportation corridor from Europe to remote Central Asia; creating new leverage against Russia by locating U.S. forces just south of Russia's volatile North Caucasus with its ongoing Chechen war; protecting local pro-U.S. governments in the region; and intercepting international Islamist militants' communications in the region.

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Flashback: US sidles up to well-oiled Azerbaijani autocracy
Nick Paton Walsh in Baku
Friday July 2, 2004
The Guardian

Opposition activists in Azerbaijan accuse America of double standards on rights

Mehdi, still hobbling after nine months, likened the torture to having his "brain pulled out by a magnet".

Strapped to an electric chair inside the bowels of the Azerbaijani police's organised crime unit, metal panels were put under his feet, he said. A plastic bib was tied to his front, and headphones with earpieces like the metal tip of a doctor's otoscope were put inside his ears.

His masked interrogators gave him one last chance to denounce the Musavat opposition party he supported, and then switched on the current, he said.

"My nose was gushing blood down the bib. My eyes felt like they had leapt out of my head. My tongue was forced out of my mouth by the current. I thought my teeth would split open. And I felt like my bladder, bowels and stomach would empty."

After the second burst of electricity, he lost consciousness. He recalls waking up on a couch in the same room, with a doctor giving him cardiopulmonary resuscitation. "I felt like I was floating, like I was dead," he said.

Mehdi's chief interrogator began to beat him again. "Do you want to die here?" he asked. Only the doctor held him back.

Nearly two weeks later, Mehdi, who asked for his real name not to be used, was released.

His torture, documented by Human Rights Watch, is one example of the treatment meted out to activists of Azerbaijani opposition parties in the wake of October's presidential election.

The election, which replaced the infirm authoritarian Heydar Aliyev with his son, Ilham, was criticised for irregularities.

President Aliyev junior launched a brutal crackdown on the political opposition immediately after his election, arresting hundreds and torturing many, according to human rights activists. Yet this month, with pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq undermining Washington's ability to criticise similar practices elsewhere, the Pentagon forged ahead with plans to increase its presence in the Caspian state.

US officials cite the important strategic and logistical role that the key state in the Caucasus, on the border with Iran, can play in the "war on terror". They are also open about the need to protect the £2bn oil pipeline set to carry a million barrels of Caspian oil daily to Turkey and the American market by late next year.

Washington is increasing to 50 the number of military advisers who are training Azerbaijani troops, while doubling its annual military aid package next year to nearly £13m. One European diplomat said the US was developing a "permanent military presence by stealth".

An exchange programme for Azerbaijani troops with the Oklahoma national guard is scheduled for 2005, and the US has built a radar station on the Caspian coast to aid border control.

American planes can be at Azerbaijani bases under a refuelling agreement, and there are persistent reports in the country's media that the US has helped to fund improvements to local airfields, which the embassy denies.

Navy Seals

The cooperation took on a new openness on June 10, when a squad of elite US navy Seals publicly trained with Azerbaijani special forces in the Caspian, racing powerful speed boats along a stretch of sea that runs between the country's restless neighbours, Russia and Iran.

On the same day, the second most important US general in Europe, Charles Wald, held his second meeting in three months with top Azerbaijani officials.

The Pentagon insists this presence is not "permanent" and will not amount to an American base on Azerbaijani soil. Yet Gen Wald said in March that he hoped Azerbaijan could improve some air bases so US craft could "temporarily" use them.

Nato is also increasing its interest in cooperation with Baku, with President Aliyev hovering among senior US officials at the summit in Istanbul this week.

Human rights activists and opposition supporters have accused Washington of double standards on Azerbaijan.

Until September 11 2001, the regime's human rights record meant it was under US sanctions and received no military aid. In February this year, the US state department reported that the "police tortured and beat persons in custody" and concluded that the Aliyev government had a "poor" human rights record, protesting at the abuses after October's presidential election, when police in black masks had brutally attacked an unarmed opposition protest, hitting some protesters as they lay unconscious. One man died and Russian television showed a small boy being carried away limp.

Opposition officials around the country were rounded up and many were tortured. Natiq Jabiyev, Musavat's elections secretary said the organised crime unit stripped him naked and plunged nails beneath three fingers of his left hand. The US state department said reports of his torture were "credible". Yet sanctions - lifted for reasons of national security - have not been reintroduced, and military aid has been increased.

Local politicians and activists said they were exasperated by the White House's support for the Aliyev regime, and the US actions at Abu Ghraib.

Isa Gambar, Musavat's leader, said: "The impact of Abu Ghraib has been very negative. Five out of seven of my party leaders who are in jail have been tortured. The Azerbaijani government, trying to justify itself, now says that torture happens everywhere. The US's main objective here is stability, and their other goals [of fighting terrorism, extracting oil, and developing democracy] tend to be a victim of this."

Shahla Ismailova, from the Women's Association for Rational Development, said: "Oil is the preferred goal of the US in Azerbaijan, not civil society - even the rural population understands this."

But the US ambassador, Reno Harnish, said: "Torture is reprehensible. We have been very public in our criticism of abuses, [but] 70, maybe 80 or even 90% of our approaches on this issue are private."

Yet US support for the regime has made Mehdi's disillusionment complete. "If this is democracy, then bring back socialism.

"The US come here and bring us pain, and for what? Oil."

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Corporate College
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Believe or not, there exists a group of homeschooling parents who teach their kids at home because they believe that the public schools have been destroyed by corporations.

The food is corporate junk.

The street clothes and sportswear are covered with corporate logos.

The curriculum is often sponsored by corporate predators. (The winner of a spelling bee sponsored by the local high school's principal last week won a choice of prizes from Wendy's, McDonald's or Dairy Queen. Can you spell diabesity?)

Even the music increasingly is corporate-inspired crapola, driven largely by payola.

And the morality of the schools is the morality of the marketplace.

But even the most ardent anti-corporate homeschooling parents often give up the fight when it comes to college.

At 18, little Johnny has had enough of being at home.

And it's time to send him off to --


We can only guess at the extent of the corruption of academia by the corporate predators.

But if we are to believe what we read in journalist Jennifer Washburn's new book, then academia is in it deep.

The title of Washburn's book tells it all -- University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education (Basic Books, 2005). (Disclosure: an old research piece of ours is mentioned in the book.)

If you listen to right-wing radio, or watch Fox News -- as we do -- then you might be under the impression that universities are dominated by left-wing professors, liberals and cranks.

If you don't, you might believe that universities are independent non-profits dedicated to education and research.

Not true, Washburn says.

Traditionally, universities were not governed by market forces and were largely independent of commercial interests.

But over the past 25 years, universities are acting less like universities and more like corporations.

Biology professors consult for or hold equity in firms that manufacture the drugs they are studying, while often accepting fees to join corporate advisory boards.

Sometimes the professors hold the patents on drugs or other products being tested.

Editors of peer-reviewed journals often complain that they can't find professors who don't have commercial ties to write independent reviews of drugs.

In 2003, Stanford University signed a $225 million, 10-year contract to study global climate change, which allows Exxon and other corporate sponsors to select which research projects will receive funding, Washburn reports.

Funding bias in science, economic and policy research is becoming a grave problem.

Numerous studies now show that when research is industry funded it is more likely to reach conclusions that favor the sponsor's commercial interests.

Sometimes, the corporation tries to muscle the more independent of researchers.

Take these examples from Washburn's book:

Syngenta, the company that manufacturers atrazine, one of the most widely used weed killers in the United States, attempted to silence Tyrone B. Hayes, a biologist at UC Berkeley after he conducted research showing that exposure to this chemical, in very small doses, caused frogs to develop both female and male sex organs. The company hired scientists at another university to discredit his research, and tried to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to disregard his findings.

In another case, the Immune Research Corporation hit an AIDS researcher at UC San Francisco with a $7 million lawsuit after his research concluded that the company's drug was no more effective than a sugar pill.

Another UC biology professor, Ignacio Chapela, was denied tenure allegedly because he was a vocal critic of a November 1998 deal between UC and Novartis.

Here's the story, according to Washburn: Novartis gave UC Berkeley $25 million over five years for basic research in the Department of Plant and Microbiology.

In exchange, Berkeley gave Novartis first rights to negotiate licenses on roughly one third of the department's discoveries. It also gave the company two of five seats on the department's research committee -- which determined how the money was to be spent.

In the fall of 2001, Chapela, perhaps naive, published an article in Nature reporting that foreign DNA material from genetically modified plants was showing up in native varieties of corn in Mexico.

Chapela's paper was immediately attacked by the Berkeley/Novartis' plant department.

When Chapela came up for tenure, the College of Natural Sciences voted 32-to-1 in his favor, but that vote was overturned by the university's budget committee. Chapela is now in litigation against the university.

Washburn says there is little doubt that Chapela was denied tenure because his paper displeased his corporate masters at Berkeley.

Washburn gives many such examples in her book.

And as she tours the country to promote her book, professors are calling her to report other similar stories.

But the damage has been done.

Universities have lost sight of their public mission.

And the extent of the corruption will not be known until the federal government demands complete and total disclosure of all ties between public professors -- those at public universities and those living off of federal research grants -- and private corporations.

A couple of years ago, we visited a friend in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Our friend, who is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska, toured us the university campus.

We stopped in front of the Cornhuskers football stadium and looked up.

Our friend pointed to the big red "N" atop the stadium, and asked two homeschooled children we were traveling with -- do you know what the "N" stands for?

"What?" the homeschoolers asked.

"Knowledge," our friend replied. (He's a comedian.)

The corporate university takes us for a bunch of idiots.

They want us to believe that it's all about the bottom line -- that it always has been about the bottom line.

But Washburn asks -- what ever happened to knowledge for knowledge's sake?

Read her book and find out.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, <>. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, <>. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Comment: The assualt on education in the United States is coming on many fronts, from the corporate world that has been forcing its bottom line worldview on education, to the fundamentalists who claim deep, emotional scarring when confronted with scientific ideas that contradict the word of God in the Bible. In such a climate, critical thought takes a nosedive. The dollar and the cross become the measure of everything.

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DNA to trace journey of human race
Posted on Wed, Apr. 13, 2005
Los Angeles Times

The National Geographic Society launches a massive project today to trace the migratory history of humans.

The five-year effort will involve the collection and analysis of DNA from more than 100,000 people worldwide.

“We already have a general view of the very early Paleolithic migrations,” said geneticist Spencer Wells, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence who will lead the project. “Humans spread out of Africa, then moved out of Eurasia, but it gets very hazy after that. We're going to nail down the details of that story.”

The Genographic Project is seeking individuals to participate in the project. They can have their DNA analyzed by purchasing a $99 kit that allows them to send in a DNA swab for analysis. Kits may be ordered at

The researchers initially will concentrate on indigenous peoples, such as the Hadzabe Tribe of Tanzania, ethnic Mongolians, and Navajo Indians in the United States. All have remained in one location for long periods and thus have a simpler genetic history.

Researchers initially will analyze DNA from mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses that are passed down through mothers, and the Y chromosome, passed by fathers.

Researchers already know through several studies that all humans today received their mitochondrial DNA from one woman, or perhaps a few, living in Africa about 200,000 years ago. They call this ancestor “mitochondrial Eve.”

Similarly, researchers have traced the Y chromosome of males back to a “genetic Adam” in roughly the same time and place.

Those studies are based on genetic data from only about 10,000 people, Wells said. The Genographic Project will have at least 10 times that many participants, allowing much greater detail to be teased out, particularly about the last 10,000 to 15,000 years.

Comment: To think that there will be people knowingly and willingly giving their DNA samples to this project, and who will pay $99 to do so!

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U.S. accused of covering up mad cow cases
Last Updated Wed, 13 Apr 2005 04:54:17 EDT
CBC News

OTTAWA - The United States has covered up cases of mad cow disease in the past eight years, a former U.S. agriculture inspector said Tuesday at a House of Commons committee.

Leslie Friedlander repeated a claim he has made before that cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy surfaced in the U.S. long before the disease showed up in Canada, devastating this country's beef industry.

Friedlander, who was fired from his job as head of inspections at a meat-packing plant in Philadelphia in 1995 after criticizing what he called unsafe practices, says he's willing to take a lie detector test to prove he is telling the truth.

Washington has denied the allegations.

But the testimony raises a question that has been asked many times: how the U.S. industry has been able to essentially escape BSE when Canada's much smaller industry, observing almost identical safety and testing practices, has had four cases.

CBC investigation probes case in New York

Part of the answer could be in a slaughterhouse in Oriskany Falls, N.Y., which eight years ago may have become the home of the first American case of mad cow.

Bobby Godfrey, who worked at the plant, remembers a cow that arrived one day.

"I thought it was a mad dog, to tell you the truth," he told CBC's Investigative Unit. "Didn't know what the hell it was. Never seen a cow act like that in all the cows I saw go through there. There was definitely something wrong with it."

The suspect cow, which was recorded on video obtained by CBC News, was suspected of being the first American case of BSE.

Dr. Masuo Doi was the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian in charge of investigating the cow.

"Me and my vet, including our inspector, they thought it [the cow] was quite different. They thought it was the BSE," he said.

Doi, who recently retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says he's haunted by fears the right tests were not done and that the case was not properly investigated by his own department.

"I don't want to carry on off to my retirement. I want to hand it over to someone to continue, to find out. I think it's very, very important," said Doi, who has never spoken out publicly about his concerns, until now.

Validity of tests called into question

Documents obtained by CBC News show that the U.S. government was preparing for the worst. Initial signs pointed to mad cow disease. But further tests were negative.

The final conclusion from an independent university lab: a rare brain disorder never reported in that breed of cattle either before or since, but not BSE.

But CBC News has learned that key areas of the brain were never tested. The most important samples somehow went missing.

It's all in a USDA lab report that was left out of the documents officially released by the department. It proves the scientist in charge knew his investigation of the case was limited.

Without the samples, the question remains: Could scientists really rule out mad cow disease?

Dr. Karl Langheindrich was the chief scientist at a USDA lab in Athens, Ga., the lab that ran some of the early tests on the cow. Now retired, he too never spoke publicly about this case before being interviewed by CBC.

Without the missing brain tissue, he says, the USDA will never be able to say for sure what was wrong with the cow.

"Based on the clinical symptoms and the description given by the veterinarian you can verify, yes this animal had CNS, central nervous system disease, but you can't specify it in your findings further than that," he said.

Second suspected case surfaces at same plant

With questions about the first cow still lingering, three months later at the same meat plant there was a second American cow with suspicious symptoms.

The second cow's brain was sent for testing and officials were told verbally the tests were negative.

Doi made repeated requests for documentary proof of the negative tests. To this day, he's seen nothing.

"How many are buried?" he wonders. "Can you really trust our inspection [system?]

For weeks, the USDA told CBC that it had no records for the second cow. Then just a few days ago, it suddenly produced documents that it says proves that a cow was tested and that the tests were negative for mad cow disease.

But the documents also prove, once again, there were problems with the testing. This time, so much brain tissue was missing it compromised the examination.

The problems were so severe that one USDA scientist wrote that his own examination was of "questionable validity" because he couldn't tell what part of the cow's brain he was looking at.

Comment: The US government lies to its own people? How could anyone think such a thing!

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Bush to U.S. soldiers: 'Your work isn't over' in Iraq
Last Updated Wed, 13 Apr 2005 04:22:04 EDT
CBC News

FORT HOOD, TEXAS - U.S. President George W. Bush marked the second anniversary of the fall of Baghdad on Tuesday, by calling it one of history's great moments.

Bush, the chickenhawk president, decked out in hotmilitarystud gear for his special friend JG.

"The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad will be recorded, alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall, as one of the great moments in the history of liberty," he said.

But while the president was lauding his forces' achievements in Iraq, the U.S. secretary of defence was in Baghdad warning Iraq's new political leaders of the potential for failure.

Bush made his speech at Fort Hood, Texas, the largest army base in the country.

Units stationed there have suffered some of the highest casualties in Iraq.

The soldiers welcomed Bush with hoots and chants.

"Whether you're coming or going you are making an enormous difference for the security of our nation and for the peace of the world," Bush told them.

Bush praised them, thanked them and their families, and said they'd been part of one of the great moments in the history of liberty. One in ten of the U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq have been deployed from Fort Hood.

As Bush spoke they listened and cheered until he turned to Iraq's reality today. "There's a lot of work ahead. The Iraqi people face brutal and determined enemies," he said.

"In the last two years, you have accomplished much, yet your work isn't over. Freedom still faces dangerous adversaries. Terrorists still want to attack our people.

"But they're losing. These terrorists are losing the struggle because they're under constant pressure from our armed forces, and they will remain under constant pressure from our armed forces," he said.

The crowd fell silent. So many of them have walked dangerous streets with Iraq's emerging but still weak security forces that the president's words of reassurance seemed to fall flat.

"Security operations are entering a new phase. Iraq's security forces are becoming more self-reliant and taking on greater responsibilities."

Bush went on to talk of his confidence in Iraq's new but still only partly-formed government, while in Baghdad, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld was giving that very same government a fistful of warnings.

"Our goal is to be able to transfer full responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces as soon as they are capable of taking over that responsibility, at which point obviously the coalition forces would be able to reduce their presence in the country which is the goal of the coalition countries."

Rumsfeld told the country's freshman leaders it was time to hurry up; to put aside sectarian differences, form a full government and get on with the business of writing a constitution before the insurgency reignites.

While Bush tried to reassure a weary U.S. military, Rumsfeld's visit to Baghdad seemed to signal Washington's growing frustration and impatience with Iraq's new leaders.

Comment: Yup, the stage-managed toppling of Saddam's statue by a handfull of hand-picked Iraqis, just in time for the evening news, ranks right up there. But how many millions of Americans continue to believe Bush no matter how gross the lie?

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Bush: New Iraq is a message to region
Wednesday 13 April 2005, 1:02 Makka Time, 22:02 GMT

US President George Bush has ranked Saddam Hussein's ouster from power with the fall of the Berlin Wall and said changes in Iraq might herald a global democratic revolution.

In a speech to US soldiers at a military base on Tuesday, Bush said, "as the Iraq democracy succeeds, that success is sending a message from Beirut to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation".

"The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a crushing defeat to the forces of tyranny and terror, and a watershed event in the global democratic revolution," the president said.

Bush stopped short of setting a deadline for withdrawing the roughly 140,000 US troops in Iraq, but said the day they would leave had drawn closer as the number of trained Iraqi security forces had grown. [...]

Comment: Bush and his neocons are indeed waging a revolution. They will continue until someone stands up and says "Enough!"

And that will mean war.

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Patriot Act Being Used To Impliment Currency Controls
The following exchange of letters appears on the Gold Eagle board in the Gold Forum.

A letter to and reponse from Jim Sinclair:

Dear Jim:

My Bank in London called me today to inform me that in order to comply with new US laws, they are halting all new services to American residents (citizens?).

I can keep my accounts for the moment, but I cannot add any new currency accounts or any other investment products to my portfolio. They will not allow any US residents to open accounts in the future.

Just my thoughts but:

1. New bankruptcy law (last week)
2. Announcement that travel to other parts of North America will require a passport (papers please)
3. New compliance standards for foreign banks (this past year)
4. Elimination of foreign accounts for US residents (one by one)

Currency controls have been initiated.

Your "Anonymous Pal”

Dear "Anonymous Pal:”

I have cautioned the Community that financial privacy is all but a chapter of history - with the exception of bullion coins.

Anyone attempting to open international bank accounts at major and reputable non-US banks will run into the difficulties you have outlined, making it all but impossible to accomplish even with the best of intentions.

The net result is an effective form of currency control as part of Patriot Act II. This covert method of currency control is a preemptive strike at what is coming when it is realized - as the Economist put it - that there is no constituent support and therefore no real political will to reduce the US Budget Deficit.

As a result, the dollar must decline. The result of a declining dollar is logically a move towards other currencies which in itself is a form of Gresham’s law.

Of all the possibilities you outline, there is only one that is in the black: Patriot II will be just as effective as any currency control put into law. This has significant implications for gold once all of this hits the proverbial fan.


Comment: 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: 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. [Revelation 13:16, 17]

See also "666: The Mark of the Beast?" and "Is Bush the Antichrist?"
and "The Beast and His Empire".

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Rice assures Abbas on peaceful Gaza withdrawal 2005-04-13 13:56:25

BEIJING, April 13 -- US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has assured Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that Israel can peacefully withdraw from Gaza in a phone conversation that took place during Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent visit to Washington.

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher says Rice told Abbas that Israel's peaceful withdrawal from Gaza and its transition into Palestinian hands has become a major US policy objective.

Tensions in the region had heightened before the call, as Palestine Liberation Organization official Farouk al Kadoumy denounced Israeli threats against al-Aqsa Mosque.

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On extremism in Israel

By Yousef Munayyer, Collegian columnist
April 12, 2005

We often hear about Palestinian extremists. There is a constant barrage of rhetoric in the media about how a "Palestinian partner" must first control the extremists on their side before they can be talked to. Rarely, however, do we hear about the extremists on the other side, the Israeli extremists. Recently they have been quite noticeable due to the tensions evolving around the disengagement. We must now put this in the context mentioned above. In other words, can the Palestinians deal with an Israeli partner if that partner cannot control his extremists?

In the Israeli political spectrum, which is wide and varied, there are members to the right, which are dealing, or have already dealt, a deadly blow to the peace process. These members are the Israeli colonists and their supporters. A colonist has chosen to live on illegally occupied land and their presence is maintained by military force. Their colonies, which take up portions of the West Bank and Gaza including vital water supplies, are well protected and are connected to each other and Israel by roads that are exclusive to Jews.

Yet these colonists are not only causing suffering for Palestinians, they are beginning to cause major headaches for everyone else in the Israeli political system. The Gaza disengagement plan, which is a unilateral initiative by Ariel Sharon and is also problematic, has caused the extremist Israeli colonists to protest the actions of the government.

In Gaza, roughly 8,000 colonists live under military protection among 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority of which are refugees. These colonies not only occupy disproportionate amounts of land, but they also take up extremely disproportionate amounts of water for a very dry and most densely populated spot in the world. Over the removal of 8,000 colonists, who are living on illegally occupied land, the Israeli extremists and their supporters are voicing vehement resistance.

These colonists are unmistakably religious fundamentalists who chose to live on this illegally occupied land because of the religious connection they believe they have with the land. The fundamentalist nature of these extremists is a large part of the problem. It is not that there is no room for them in the United States and Western Europe where many of them come from, or in Tel Aviv for that matter. On the contrary, they are insistent on living on illegally occupied land and they have become a burden on everyone else.

Though there is mandatory conscription in Israel, in most cases, the colonists do not serve in the army. They are excused because there life is devoted to the scriptures. Yet this is problematic to many Israeli soldiers who feel that they are defending these religious fundamentalists unjustly.

This Sunday, in an ongoing response to the disengagement plan which has grown more and more tense, colonists were planning on demonstrating en masse at the revered noble sanctuary. The site in Jerusalem, sacred to both Jews and Muslims, has been the target of Israeli extremist violence before, and Sharon's visit amidst hundreds of armed guards in 2000 sparked the second Intifada, or uprising. It was only in the face of thousands of riot police that the expected demonstrations diminished.

The violent reactions have come as a response to the disengagement plan that involves 8,000 people. The fundamentalists are so angered by this plan that they are calling Israeli police who control demonstrations "Gestapo." In recent weeks, Sharon also announced that the largest colony in the illegally occupied West Bank, Ma'ale Adumim, would be expanded by 3,500 homes and this has drawn criticism from the international community and members of the U.S. government who see it as detrimental to the peace process. Imagine what would happen if all illegal colonies were evacuated and the land returned to the rightful owners?

The answer to that question is too hard for Sharon to bear and for this reason he has had to be comforted by the United States, which has declared it will support Israel's retention of major population centers in a final status agreement.

Israeli extremists pose a serious threat to their own government, to the Palestinians and most importantly, to a just peace. We can all surely say that this is one big mess and trying to untangle it would mean political suicide for Sharon, but has anyone paused to think about the roots of this problem?

Israeli colonies did not exist in the West Bank before it was illegally occupied in 1967 and every colony which has been built there since has been built contrary to international law. In fact, colonial activity increased even after Israel entered into a peace process based on a two-state solution. Now, with his political life on the line, Sharon has to decide between following the law and supporting extremist colonists in the West Bank.

Unfortunately, with Israel and Sharon in the past, international law has always come in second place and things aren't looking to good this time either.

Comment: To get an idea just how crazy these settlers are, take a look at the recent Frontline documentary "Israel's Next War". Although the show attempts to portray Ariel Sharon as a "man of peace", and readers of this page are well aware of that lie, it does allow the settlers to speak for themselves as they explain the concepts of "redemption through war" and the need to follow the Biblical injunctions for revenge. After all, they have a god-given right to steal and kill.

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Turkish president arrives in Damascus 2005-04-13 18:11:10

DAMASCUS, April 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer arrived here Wednesday for a two-day visit to Syria aimed at promoting bilateral ties.

Sezer will hold talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on bilateral ties, the growing influence of Kurds in Iraq as well as regional and global developments, Syria's official SANA news agency said.

Syria and Turkey share a common concern that if Iraqi Kurds are to win independence, it could cause unrest among ethnic Kurds in their own countries.

Relations between the two neighbors had been frosty for decades, chilled by rows over territory, shared water resources and Syria's long-time tacit support for Kurdish separatists fighting in southeastern Turkey.

A thaw began in 1998 when Damascus expelled outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, whose PKK guerrillas had for years used Syria as a base to fight the Turkish government.

Assad paid a landmark visit to Ankara in January 2004 and bilateral ties have witnessed improvement since then.

This was the second time Sezer set foot in the Syrian capital.

The first was in 2000 when Sezer attended the funeral of Bashar's father, late President Hafez al-Assad.

Trade volumes between Syria and Turkey have doubled since 1998 and reached 1 billion US dollars in 2004, roughly 10 percent of Syria's total foreign trade.

Despite improving ties, however, the use of the Euphrates water and the status of Turkey's southern Hatay province, over which Damascus claims sovereignty, remain two thorny issues.

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Chirac seeks to salvage EU constitution
Jon Henley in Paris
Wednesday April 13, 2005
The Guardian

President Jacques Chirac begins his attempt to reverse the rising tide of French opinion against Europe's constitution tomorrow as he launches a campaign which may well determine the future shape of the union.

The constitution treaty, aimed at streamlining the 25-member EU's institutions and improving its democratic functioning, must be approved by all member states and would not survive rejection in France's May 29 referendum.

A fresh poll, the 11th in a row to put the no camp in the lead, predicted yesterday that if France's plebiscite were held now, 53% of voters would say no. For the first time, a majority said their "personal hope" was that the constitution would be rejected.

Mr Chirac has so far stayed aloof from the fray, considering - according to the Elysée palace - that it is not the president's place to engage in nuts-and-bolts political debate with opponents of the constitution.

The president is also wary of intervening too soon, apparently believing his influence would be strongest if he waits as long as possible. But a steady stream of poor poll results, as well as appeals for his help from his UMP party, have prompted him to wade in.

The platform he has chosen, a two-hour debate on France's main commercial TV channel with 80 carefully selected young people, has been criticised by the no camp, who accuse him of running scared. In advance of France's referendum on the 1992 Maastricht treaty, they point out, François Mitterrand braved a vicious head-to-head confrontation with the leader of the no campaign.

The Elysée has defended the format as more in keeping with the "informative, non-partisan" role the president should be playing, adding that Mr Chirac preferred, on such an important issue, to take questions directly from an audience of real people.

That has done little to appease France's journalists, who complained yesterday to the broadcasting standards authority, CSA, that the primetime show marked "a victory for political marketing".

Mr Chirac's message, in any event, will be simple: he will try to convince his audience that France's 50-year leadership of Europe demands a yes vote to a constitution that, in the words of the interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, last week, guaranteed "une Europe á la française".

The president will argue that rejecting the treaty would weaken France's influence in Europe and undermine Europe's role in the world, making it less capable of resisting US-led globalisation and the rising economic clout of countries such as China and India.

The French electorate does not share his convictions. Yesterday's poll showed support for a no vote on the broad left had climbed to 60% (including 52% of Socialist voters). But the no camp had also made inroads on the right, jumping six points to 34% despite active campaigning by the prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and other senior figures from his centre-right government.

Across the political spectrum, voters see the referendum as an ideal way to punish a government they blame for rising unemployment, economic stagnation and a string of harsh social and economic reforms.

On the left, voters forced to back Mr Chirac in the upset presidential election of 2002 so as to defeat the far-right's Jean-Marie Le Pen are deeply reluctant to do so again.

The opposition Socialist party is on the brink of a permanent split over the issue: many senior members are openly advocating a no vote to what they see as a blueprint for a neo-liberal, market-driven, Anglo-Saxon Europe.

For many French voters, the constitution seems to have crystallised long-held fears about the future of their country, its exceptions, its social, political and labour models, its principles and ideals.

So unhappy have they become that a poll last week showed even France's farmers - who benefit hugely from the EU's common agricultural policy and will continue to do so for some time to come - are all but unanimously opposed to the constitution.

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Ukraine PM Tymoshenko Still Wanted in Russia, Cancels Visit

Created: 13.04.2005 12:56 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 14:07 MSK, 1 hour 41 minutes ago

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has cancelled her visit to Russia scheduled for April 15-16, RIA Novosti reports.

The agency quoted an unidentified diplomatic source in Moscow as saying that Tymoshenko decided not to go to Moscow after the Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov told the Federation Council that the criminal case against the Ukrainian PM on bribery charges would not be dropped and she remained on Russia’s wanted list.

Later in the day Ukrainian Economy Minister Sergei Teryokhin confirmed that the cancellation of the visit was caused by Ustinov’s remarks.

Ustinov, however, said that Tymoshenko could visit Russia without fear of arrest, because “protocol and international rules” guaranteed immunity for state leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also promised that Tymoshenko will not be persecuted by Russian authorities.

Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the “Orange revolution”, is accused of bribing Russian defense officials while heading Ukraine’s main gas distributor United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) and Russian prosecutors have issued an international arrest warrant for her. [...]

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Rushdie Says Bush Policies Help Islamic Terrorism
By Mark Egan
April 12, 2005

NEW YORK - The Bush administration helps the cause of Islamic terrorism by failing to engage in serious dialogue with the international community, author Salman Rushdie said on Tuesday.

Rushdie -- infamous for living for years under threat of death after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 pronouncement that his novel "The Satanic Verses" was blasphemous -- said he believes U.S. isolationism has turned not just its enemies against America, but its allies too.

"What I think plays into Islamic terrorism is ... the curious ability of the current administration to unite people against it," Rushdie told Reuters in an interview.

Rushdie said he found it striking how the "colossal sympathy" the world felt for the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been squandered so quickly.

"It seems really remarkable that the moment you leave America ... you find not just America's natural enemies, but America's natural allies talking in language more critical than I, in my life, have ever heard about the United States," he said.

The novelist, born in India and raised in Britain, attributed the shift in sentiment toward the United States to the Bush administration's "unilateralist policies" and its "unwillingness to engage with the rest of the world in a serious way."

"This go-it-alone attitude gets people's backs up," he said of President Bush's foreign policy.


As president of the PEN American Center, a writers group, Rushdie helped organize an international literary festival this week in New York -- an event he hopes will help restore global dialogue.

"There seems to have been a breach in our ability to listen to each other," he said.

"It's really important at this particular moment in the history of the world that ordinary American people should get as broad a sense of how the world is thinking."

Such dialogue, he said, is "crucial, especially if at the political level there is a relative uninterest in maintaining that global dialogue."

The PEN World Voices festival, from April 16-22, is set to bring more than 100 international authors to New York to participate in more than 40 events, including readings and discussions on topics from politics and literature to erotica.

The event is the first international gathering organized by PEN since 1986, when Norman Mailer headed the group.

Rushdie, who wrote an op-ed in March syndicated by The New York Times calling for less religion in politics, took Bush to task on that issue too.

"It worries me more when religious discourse becomes the language of politics," he said. "I think it is happening a lot more here than it used to."

Rushdie said his latest novel, "Shalimar the Clown," will be published in September.

"I decided to murder an American ambassador," he said of its plot, in which a U.S. envoy to India is killed after he retires to America. "It seems to be a political murder, but actually it turns out to be completely personal."

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Brazil Army Worries Foreign Powers May Eye Amazon
Angus MacSwan
April 11, 2005

MANAUS, Brazil - The Brazilian army has plenty to keep it busy in the Amazon jungle.

Drug smugglers, illegal loggers and miners, land grabbers, guerrillas and assorted gunmen all lurk in the untamed area which is larger than Western Europe and has 6,800 miles (11,000 km) of porous borders with seven countries.

However, the ultimate concern of Brazilian military strategists is that one day they might end up fighting a foreign power for control of the Amazon. [...]

Indeed, former EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, now a candidate to head the World Trade Organisation, in February proposed the Amazon should be designated "global public goods" and be administered by the international community -- a proposal that drew a sharp rebuke from Brazilian government.

Brazil mounted a big Amazon exercise in November called Operation Ajuricaba involving 3,000 men, 35 planes and 170 boats. The enemy was a superior foreign military force.

"Brazilian armed forces planning for the hypothetical war in the Amazon region foresee the region turning into a new Vietnam," Correio Braziliense newspaper wrote. Diplomats also note with interest that Vietnam has just posted a defense attache to its embassy in Brasilia.


"The internationalisation of the Amazon is one of the worries that takes us to this strategy of defence in relation to signs from big countries, not just the United States but also Europe," Gen. Figueiredo said. "We must be prepared. After all, the Brazilian Amazon is Brazilian."

In 2003, top government aide Jose Dirceu said: "If the United States occupies Colombia, it will occupy the Amazon."

A spokesman for the US Southern Command, which covers Latin America, said Brazil had every right to plan to defend territory but the United States posed no threat.

"I think its safe to say in Southern Command we don't maintain contingency plans for anything to do with Brazil," Lt. Col. David McWilliams said by telephone from Miami.

The two militaries' relations were excellent, he said. [...]

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EU rules put prints into passport


ANYONE applying for a passport faces the prospect of having to travel to a government office to have their fingerprints taken, it has emerged.

Under plans likely to be approved this year, the UK Passport Service is preparing to include electronic scans of fingerprints in passports as an additional security measure.

There are already plans for new passports to carry so-called "facial biometrics" to help match a passport to its holder, as part of an international drive to tighten up the security of travel documents.

In its Corporate and Business Plan for the next five years, the Passport Service says European Union rules mean that ministers will have to approve the inclusion of fingerprints in passports.

"The recently established European Union standards for passports require EU member states to include in their passports both a facial image and fingerprint scans, as well as various other security features," the business plan says.

"The UK is currently considering its requirements in light of the EU standards; these will probably impact on future UK passport designs, and fingerprint scans are likely to be incorporated into the passport chip later in the decade."

Despite suggestions from civil liberties groups that the fingerprinting plan was a move towards a national identity card by the back door, the Home Office yesterday insisted the move was sensible and uncontroversial.

Biometric identification will soon be required to enter the United States, a Home Office spokesman said, and any change in passport requirements does not require legislation.

Reports yesterday had linked the new UK rules to the Idenitity Cards Bill, which lapsed last week before the dissolution of parliament.

"Fingerprinting does not need the ID cards bill. No-one is forced to have a passport," said a Home Office spokesman. "It does not require legislation."

Some 600,000 people apply for passports ever year, the vast majority of them by post. Under the new plans, everyone will have to report to a Passport Service office in person.

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Wages Lagging Behind Prices
By Nicholas Riccardi
LA Times Staff Writer
April 11, 2005

For the first time in 14 years, the American workforce has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut.

The growth in wages in 2004 and the first two months of this year trailed inflation, compounding the squeeze from higher housing, energy and other costs. [...]

This is the first time that salaries have increased more slowly than prices since the 1990-91 recession. Though salary growth has been relatively sluggish since the 2001 downturn, inflation also had stayed relatively subdued until last year, when the consumer price index rose 2.7%. But wages rose only 2.5%.

The effective 0.2-percentage-point erosion in workers' living standards occurred while the economy expanded at a healthy 4%, better than the 3% historical average.

Meanwhile, corporate profits hit record highs as companies got more productivity out of workers while keeping pay increases down.

Some see climbing profits and stagnant wages as not only unfair but also ultimately unsustainable. "Those that are baking the larger pie ought to see their slices expanding," said Jared Bernstein, an economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

But higher wages could hurt the economy by stoking inflation further. Employers might pass the costs on to consumers in higher prices, and that in turn might prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more aggressively, possibly slowing the recovery or even triggering a recession.

For now, workers' wallets are being pummeled by something of a perfect storm of economic forces: a weak job market, rising health insurance premiums and other inflationary pressures.

The biggest factor is the slack employment market, which means there is little pressure on businesses to boost pay. "They take advantage of you because there's no work and anyone will work for anything," Romero said.

Although the unemployment rate has dropped to a relatively low 5.2%, that figure doesn't count the hundreds of thousands of jobless people who've given up their searches and dropped out of the labor market at a greater rate than anytime since 1988. At the same time, the cost of health premiums has skyrocketed, eating into the pool of corporate cash set aside for raises. Although pay rose only about 2.4% last year, benefit costs jumped almost 7%.

With benefits factored in, workers' total compensation did outpace inflation in 2004, even if they didn't see it in their paychecks. But employers also are requiring workers to pay a greater share of their premiums.

"Healthcare has eroded the wage base," said Janemarie Mulvey, chief economist with the Employment Policy Foundation, a business-funded think tank in Washington.

"In the long run, we can't continue like this. If healthcare keeps crowding out wages forever, something's got to give."

The squeeze is especially intense on the 47% of the workforce whose employers don't directly provide their health insurance. For lower-income workers, who are more likely to be uninsured, the falling value of their wages is even more serious because they're more likely to live paycheck to paycheck. And rising food and energy prices take a proportionately higher toll on the poor than on the rich.

Historically, periods when wage growth is outpaced by inflation rarely last more than 18 months. That's partly because businesses don't want their employees' living standards to fall, as that injures morale, said Trewman Bewley, a Yale University economist who has studied wage activity during economic downturns. [...]

That hasn't played out for Brian Chartier. The 29-year-old Glendale resident handles inventory for a Los Angeles manufacturing company. No one there, he said, has gotten a raise in two years.

"They're able to do this and I haven't quit, because where am I going to go?" he said. "There are no jobs."

While his salary remained flat, rising healthcare premiums kept eating up more and more of Chartier's take-home pay, so he dropped out of his employer's insurance program. His rent is also climbing.[...]

As inflation sparks higher interest rates, most economists expect the housing market to cool, making shoppers more dependent on their paychecks. And even those who have seen their paper wealth rise phenomenally aren't happy about rising costs and stagnant pay.

Corina Swatz has seen the value of her Silver Lake home triple in about a decade. But neither she nor her husband has gotten a raise in more than a year. Meanwhile, gas prices have forced them to shell out $55 to fill the tank of their Chevy Tahoe.

"I used to spend $600 a month [on groceries]. Now I spend $800," Swatz, a mother of two, said as she made her weekly Costco run last week. The increased value of her home gives her only so much solace. "We're hanging in there." [...]

Comment: In many areas of the US, housing is severely overvalued, and most Americans borrowed extensively to purchase their homes. The problem is further compounded by home equity loans and immense high-interest debt - usually on credit cards. At some point, the housing bubble will burst. The dollar will fall. With the deck already stacked against the average working American, what options will be left to simply survive?

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Fed concerned about US inflation pressures
By Andrew Balls in Washington
Financial Times
Published: April 12 2005 19:12

Federal Reserve policymakers expressed concern about increased inflation risks at their March meeting, but there was no indication from the minutes of the meeting, released on Tuesday, that the committee is likely to shift to more aggressive rate increases soon.

The members of the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee said that, since February, "circumstances had changed from those anticipated", with incoming data and anecdotal information indicating stronger growth and evidence that "inflation pressures could be intensifying."

"While underlying inflation appeared to have moved up only modestly and nearly all participants thought that core and total inflation going forward would be relatively low, they had become less certain of that outlook for the next few quarters," the minutes said.

But policymakers said that while the "required amount of cumulative tightening may have increased an accelerated pace of policy tightening did not appear necessary at this time," owing to remaining slack in the economy, still strong productivity and contained wage pressures.

Bond prices rose on Tuesday after the minutes were released with the the yield on the 10 year Treasury note falling to a five-week low, below 4.38 per cent.

Markets have already priced in the higher inflation data. And at its meeting last month, when the Fed raised the federal funds rate by another quarter point, to 2.75 per cent, it use the accompanying statement to signal increased concerns about inflation.

In a long discussion of the inflation outlook, committee members "noted with some concern" the recent elevated readings on inflation in prices of core personal consumption expenditures, the producer price index, and indicators of prices at earlier stages of production, as well as the sizable further increase in energy prices. [...]

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Prosecutors Charge 15 Traders at Stock Exchange
The New York Times
Published: April 12, 2005

Fifteen current and former New York Stock Exchange specialists, who match buyers' and sellers' orders on the exchange floor, were indicted today on charges that they traded to benefit themselves and their firms at the expense of their customers in deals worth millions of dollars.

The 15, if convicted of fraud, face jail terms of 5 to 20 years and fines of at least $250,000 to $5 million, federal prosecutors said in announcing the indictments.

In a separate action, the 15 and five others face civil charges in an enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, an agency official said today. [...]

In a brief explanation of the key role of specialist traders on the stock exchange floor, Mr. Kelley said purchases and sales were transmitted to the traders in one of two ways: either orally or electronically over the stock exchange computer system.

The traders are expected to buy and then sell within the same price range, Mr. Kelley said, and have what he called a unique knowledge of what the stock can sell for and what clients are willing to pay.

"Today's indictments allege that the named traders systematically violated" in a variety of ways the rules of the exchange that they are obliged to follow when they manage stock trades on the exchange floor, Mr. Kelley said.

The traders traded ahead, by buying or selling stock for their firms' accounts, at prices that would be better than the public would get, Mr. Kelley said. He added that they also engaged in what is termed inter-positioning, in which the specialists buy the stock at one price and then turn around and sell it at a profit to another client, instead of executing a direct sale between interested parties, as required by exchange and federal securities rules. "The harm to investors by each of these specialists trading ahead ranged from some $400,000 to $5 million, for a total of nearly $20 million," Mr. Kelley said.

"The defendants functioned at the heart of the New York Stock Exchange," he said. [...]

He also said that the agency had instituted and at the same time settled today what he called an enforcement action against the New York Stock Exchange.

For almost four years, he said, the exchange failed to police the specialists, who he said "showed a disregard for their legal duty that was both profound and, at times, profane."

The stock exchange has not admitted or denied the S.E.C. findings, but it has agreed to several measures, including include an undertaking to set up a $20 million fund to finance audits of the regulatory program every two years through 2011. [...]

The criminal case grew out of a civil action against seven firms, in which they agreed last year to pay $247 million for profiting from unnecessary trades that short-changed clients from 1999 to 2003. The traders, a number of whom were later fired, were said to have taken advantage of their knowledge of which way the market was moving. [...]

Seven of the defendants worked as floor officials, supervising and regulating trading floor activities, and another served as one of only 20 senior floor officials known as governors.

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Woman Accused of Trading Daughter for Car
Tue Apr 12,10:45 PM ET

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - A woman was arrested for allegedly forcing her 12-year-old daughter into prostitution and trading a 14-year-old daughter for a car.

The 39-year-old woman was charged with aggravated child abuse and sexual performance by a child. Both girls have been turned over to the Department of Children & Families.

The youngest girl and her mother were living out of their car, and would sell sex for food and an occasional shower at the men's homes, according to a report by Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office Detective K.J. Ammons.

The youngest daughter is three months pregnant, the report said; she was 11 when her mother first forced her to have sex with a man. The older daughter refused to be a prostitute and was allegedly sold for a car.

"She was sold to a man for a Mercury Cougar," Ammons said. "But he never gave the mother the vehicle." He was arrested in the case.

The youngest girl told detectives her mother took them out of school. "She said she was a good student and made A's and B's, and all she wants to do is go back to school," he said.

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Witnesses: Disabled Girl Punched In Face, Forced To Perform Sex Acts
April 12, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A 16-year-old disabled girl was punched and forced to engage in videotaped sexual acts with several boys in a high school auditorium as dozens of students watched, according to witnesses.

Authorities are investigating and no charges have been filed in the alleged attack last month at Mifflin High School. Four boys suspected of involvement were sent home and have not returned to class.

Also, the principal, Regina Crenshaw, was suspended and will be fired for not calling police, school officials said. And three assistant principals were suspended and will be reassigned to other schools.

Crenshaw had no comment Tuesday.

The girl was forced to perform oral sex on at least two boys, according to statements from school officials, obtained by The Columbus Dispatch.

Part of the alleged assault was videotaped by a student who had a camera for a school project.

School officials found the girl bleeding from the mouth. An assistant principal cautioned the girl's father against calling 911 to avoid media attention, the statements said. The girl's father called police.

Her father said the girl is developmentally disabled. A special education teacher said the teen has a severe speech impediment.

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Secret Service visits art show at Columbia

April 12, 2005
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter

Organizers of a politically charged art exhibit at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery thought their show might draw controversy.

But they didn't expect two U.S. Secret Service agents would be among the show's first visitors.

The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of "Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin," and took pictures of some of the art pieces -- including "Patriot Act," showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head.

The agents asked what the artists meant by their work and wanted museum director CarolAnn Brown to turn over the names and phone numbers of all the artists. They wanted to hear from the exhibit's curator, Michael Hernandez deLuna, within 24 hours, she said. [...]

Hernandez said any government involvement could come close to trampling First Amendment rights.

"It frightens me ... as an artist and curator. Now we're being watched," Hernandez said. "It's a new world. It's a Big Brother world. I think it's frightening for any artist who wants to do edgy art."

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Compelling Revelations: NBC gets biblical with an Armageddon miniseries
Wed, April 13, 2005
By Bill Brioux

Wars, tsunamis, deadly viruses. Are we living in the End of Times, the epic battle of Good versus Evil as foretold in the scriptures? That's the scary premise behind Revelations, a six-hour miniseries premiering tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Bill Pullman (Independence Day) stars as Richard Massey, a Harvard astrophysicist who is drawn into a complicated investigation of what looks like a potential Armageddon. After the tragic death of his young daughter, he hooks up with a nun, Sister Josephia Montifiore (British actress Natascha McElhone), who is convinced that the end-of-the-world confrontation is at hand and can still be avoided. [...]

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Weekend Earthquake Confirmed in DE
April 12, 2005
It turns out the loud boom that some North Wilmington residents heard over the weekend was an earthquake.

Stephanie Baxter of the Delaware Geological Survey says the earthquake Saturday night measured one-point-two on the Richter scale.

It didn't cause any damage, but plenty of people heard it, with some saying it sounded like an explosion.

Baxter says that could have been because earthquakes in Delaware are usually shallow ones, unlike in California, where quakes create rumbling sounds. Another reason could be that the frequency of the earthquake was within human hearing range.

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Thousands Evacuated as Indonesia Volcano Rumbles
By John Nedi
Tue Apr 12,11:36 PM ET

TANJUNG AUA, Indonesia - More than 25,000 panicked residents have been evacuated from the slopes of a volcano on Indonesia's Sumatra island and officials raised the alert level Wednesday as the mountain's activity intensified.

The heightened rumbling of Mount Talang has coincided with a string of moderate earthquakes on Sumatra, which is still recovering from a massive Dec. 26 quake and tsunami that killed nearly 130,000 people in Aceh province to the north.

"The status of Mount Talang is now at top alert," Surono, a vulcanologist from the Directorate of Vulcanology and Geophysics in the Java city of Bandung, told Reuters.

Local officials said 26,000 people had been evacuated from the slopes and areas around the 2,690 meter (9,825 ft) volcano in West Sumatra province, adding that number was likely to rise.

Witnesses saw sparks of fire coming out of Mount Talang early Wednesday morning. The volcano lies near the city of Padang, 528 miles northwest of Jakarta.

"It was like the end of the world," said Syafrudin, 65, a farmer, after fleeing from the mountainside and speaking outside a makeshift tent near the village of Tanjung Aua.

"I first heard the rumble and then the ground started shaking ... then there's smoke and sparks. We all ran in fear."

Vulcanologists said they could not confirm whether lava had actually spewed out. But smoke had billowed up to 1,000 meters (3,280 ft) high from the volcano's crater and ash had traveled up to 7.5 miles away, Surono said. [...]

Scientists have warned of increased seismic activity in Indonesia as the plates that make up the earth's crust adjust following the magnitude 9 earthquake in December that triggered massive tsunami waves across the Indian Ocean.

"The plates' movements release energy underground and the energy could add to the activity of many volcanoes on Sumatra but it doesn't mean this will trigger an eruption," said Surono. [...]

Comment: The scientists have spoken, and it sounds like there's nothing to worry about...

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Second volcano intensifies disaster alarm in Indonesia
Wednesday April 13, 1:58 PM

A second Indonesian volcano has sprung to life in the wake of a series of terrifying quakes that have underlined the precarious bond between the archipelago and the violent geological forces raging beneath.

Tangkuban Perahu, a smouldering 2,076-metre (6,933 foot) mountain near the city of Bandung on Java island, began rumbling overnight, prompting scientists to raise the status of the volcano to "alert" and declare it off limits.

A day earlier, more than 20,000 people fled the slopes of Mount Talang on Sumatra island, as the peak spewed hot ash after being unsettled by huge tremors from the same faultline that caused last year's deadly tsunami.

There was new panic on Wednesday as a volcanic earthquake struck Talang at 10:00 am (0300 GMT), causing many to rush out of the buildings, mosques and schools that they have been sheltering in since evacuating their villages.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was due to arrive near Talang later Wednesday to meet with some of the people who have abandoned their homes. [...]

Thousands of people on the islands have refused to leave temporary hilltop camps, with forecasts by scientists of a third impending disaster fuelling rumours that a quake and tsunami could strike at any time.

A strong 6.7 aftershock felt in the Sumatra coast city of Padang late Sunday prompted a similar evacuation, leaving many markets, schools and office buildings deserted. Another 5.3 tremor rattled the city on Wednesday.

At Mount Talang, 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Padang, scientists were closely monitoring the volcano's activity after having raised its status to "beware", one rung short of a full-blown eruption.

Syamsurizal, a geologist at Indonesia's vulcanology headquarters in Bandung, said that since an outburst early Tuesday, there had been several smaller explosions and ash emissions, but no signs of an impending major eruption.

Talang has had at least four major eruptions, all in the 19th century, and three smaller eruptions in 1981, 2001 and 2003.

Mas Ace Purbawinata, a senior geologist deployed to Talang, told ElShinta radio that the volcano appeared to be calming down, but the tremors indicated that molten lava was trying to force through the Earth's crust.

"The (frequency of) volcanic tremors is still quite high," he said.

At Java island's Tangkuban Perahu, a popular tourist spot that has an access road leading almost all the way to its crater, he said there had been almost continuous activity overnight.

"There have been hundreds of volcanic earthquakes recorded. And therefore this morning, at 8:25 am, the status of the volcano has been raised to 'alert'," he said.

Some 50 heads of state including China's President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are due to visit the nearby city of Bandung this month to celebrate the golden anniversary of the Asia-Africa summit.

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And Finally...

Spears Reveals Pregnancy on Her Web Site
Apr 12, 6:21 PM (ET)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Britney Spears has revealed what might be Hollywood's worst-kept secret: She's pregnant. In a posting on her Web site, Spears told fans that she and husband, Kevin Federline, were expecting their first child together. The couple were married in September.

"There are reports that I was in the hospital this weekend, and Kevin and I just want everyone to know that all is well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers."

Magazines have speculated for weeks that the 23-year-old singer was pregnant, noting her expanding waistline. She's previously expressed a desire to start a family.

Federline has two children with ex-girlfriend actress Shar Jackson.

Comment: Well, that clinches it: There is no god.

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