Friday, April 29, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Quick, Dick, into the bunker! It's a cloud!
©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Thirty Years Ago: Saigon Liberated!

Thirty years ago today, the last US troops and support staff fled Saigon, marking the end of the Western colonial occupation of that country that had started in the mid-19th century with the French. The war in Vietnam was a period when many Americans woke up to the realities of the US presence around the world, coming to an understanding that US troops were more about securing markets for US business than bringing freedom and liberty to the world's peoples.

COINTELPRO kicked in, of course, to infiltrate the social movements of the day to turn them away from a serious questioning of US power and, in deeper terms, the nature of power in the world as a whole. The traditional Christian churches in the US were emptying as people either turned off religion completely or turned to Eastern religion for answers they couldn't find at home. In came the gurus and the New Age operatives to prevent that questioning from getting at the root of our enslavement. Drugs gave people a synthetic, spiritual experience without the necessary work needed to understand what they were experiencing. The "heightened awareness" was transitory and rarely left anyone truly changed.

Thirty years later, the US is once more fighting a war it can't win. Now, rather than being against the Yellow Peril, it is against the Islamic Menace, those rag heads who wish to invade America and destroy it because they "hate our freedoms". Funny thing, though, there are no Islamic troops in any Western country while there are a couple of hundred thousand US troops in Islamic countries. That's "pre-emptive warfare" for you.

The US military budget is larger than that of the twelve next countries combined.

That shows how great is the menace from those Arabs! The US really, really needs to protect itself!

In a curious twist, the US is once again thinking of stationing troops in Vietnam. They are asking the Vietnamese government if the US can reopen its former base in Cam Ranh Bay, this time, to encircle the Chinese.

Bush tells us that everything is going well in Iraq, the same line given us by General Westmoreland in 1967, just prior to the Tet Offensive in February 1968, a battle that showed the light was not at the end of the tunnel after all. The year of Tet was also marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Czech spring, student riots in Paris, and students taking over Columbia University in New York.

Today, we have exploding toads in Denmark. Is there are connection?

John Keel, in his book The Haunted Planet, discusses the 9.6 year cycles of Fortean weirdness he found, a cycle that is half of the 19.4 year cycle related to the worship of Apollo. In his book The Mothman Prophecies, he chronicles the strange events that took place in a town in West Virginia during the year 1967. We are now about 4 of Keel's 9.6 year cycles further along the timeline in our part of the space-time continuum. If you go back 4 cycles prior to 1967, you come to 1929, year of the great stock market crash.

We raise this issue because many observers think that we are on the verge of another economic collapse. Whether or not there is a deeper connection with the cycles mentioned above, we leave it to the reader to do his or her own research and to decide for yourselves.

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Incoming cloud forces Bush into safe bunker
Julian Borger in Washington
Friday April 29, 2005
The Guardian

President George Bush was bundled into an underground bunker, Dick Cheney was evacuated to an "undisclosed location" and heavily armed secret servicemen took up defensive positions when a fast-moving cloud scudded towards the White House, it was reported yesterday.

The cloud that materialised 30 miles south of Washington on Wednesday morning was so dense it triggered radar monitors on the Domestic Events Network, intended to prevent a repeat of the September 11 attacks.

As an anti-aircraft missile battery on the roof of a nearby building was raised to the fire position, a Black Hawk helicopter was scrambled to take a look, but saw nothing except some clouds, one of which turned out to be the suspected aggressor.

The customs and border protection agency did not return calls seeking comment yesterday, but a spokesman, Gary Bracken, told the Washington Post that a cloud was to blame. "It does happen," he said. "We have to deal with weather anomalies showing up on the radar screen."

Such false alarms are common, triggered by clouds, flocks of birds or private aircraft wandering off course, but the White House confirmed yesterday that this was not the first time since September 11 2001 that the president has taken refuge in the hi-tech bunker beneath the building, the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre.

It was not clear yesterday what it was about Wednesday morning's cloud that created such havoc. It was moving at about the speed of a helicopter, disappearing and then appearing again on the radar screen, but the same could be said of many clouds.

The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the president was in the bunker for only a short time - the all-clear was sounded about 20 minutes after the first alert. US officials claimed that the incident showed how smoothly the alert system was functioning. [...]

Comment: Apart from the pathetic image of macho Bush and Cheney fleeing to a bunker at the approach of a cloud, we note the marked difference in protocol from that which was observed on the morning of September 11th 2001. On that particular day, when the US was clearly being attacked by sources unknown, and it was certainly possible that the life of the President was in danger, Bush was allowed to remain exposed for at least 20 minutes as he sat reading to children at a school in Florida. Why was there no immediate "whisking away" at the first sign of danger then? Is it possible that Bush's handlers were well aware of the nature of the threat and knew that there was no plan to "take out" the President?

And what type of threat might there be hidden in a cloud? The following is a report on a UFO sighting:

"On many occasions, UFOs are reported to become gradually engulfed in a vapor cloud. The fully developed cloud then looks like any other cloud in the sky and affords the UFO a very convenient "hiding place."

"The series of photos made by the army private shows not only the rare ring object, but also shows it gradually becoming engulfed in a vapor cloud."

Could this be what the White House was really upset about? For more on UFOs and clouds, see the article Mysterious Smoke Rings or When is a Cloud not a Cloud?

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Florida Denny's Sued After Bin Laden Remark
By Jane Sutton
Thu Apr 28, 2005

MIAMI - Seven Arab American men filed a $28 million lawsuit against a Denny's restaurant in Florida, saying the manager kicked them out and told them, "We don't serve bin Ladens here," their lawyer said on Thursday.

They sued the restaurant owner, Restaurant Collection Inc., and former manager, Eduardo Ascano, saying they were harassed, humiliated and refused service at the Denny's in Florida City, southwest of Miami, in January 2004.

Lawyer Rod Hannah said the men had not ruled out an additional lawsuit against the Denny's chain, which paid about $54 million in 1994 to settle a discrimination suit filed by black customers.

Denny's said the allegations were without merit. Restaurant Collection could not be reached for comment.

The Florida lawsuit said the men visited the restaurant early in the morning of Jan. 11, 2004, and after long delays, were seated, given menus and served drinks.

After waiting more than an hour for their food while later customers were served, they asked twice about their order. The lawsuit said Ascano told them "Bin Laden is in charge of the kitchen." Asked about the reference to the al Qaeda leader, he swore and told them, "We don't serve bin Ladens here" and ordered them to leave, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said that violated Florida's Civil Rights Act by discriminating in public accommodations and that the owner was negligent in retaining a manager with a record of treating customers rudely and in a discriminatory manner.

The lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court on April 22 and asks for $4 million for each of the seven men, who live in the Boca Raton area. They are of Egyptian, Lebanese and Syrian descent and all but one are U.S. citizens, Hannah said. One owns a restaurant.

"They are all earning a living and are respectable and respectful citizens," Hannah said. [...]

Comment: Fly two planes into the WTC tower, launch one specially modified drone plane at the Pentagon, add incessant public speeches by the President and members of the administration that "evil Muslim trr'ists" are to blame, and witness the miracle occur. Slowly at first, then gaining pace... Before you know it, 150 million people are calling anyone with dark skin and a beard an "evil terrorist".

You have done it. You have changed the actual thought processes of the masses. It's easy when YOU know how, and THEY don't...

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North Korea capable of firing nuclear-armed missile at United States: US official
29 April 2005 0858 hrs

WASHINGTON : North Korea has the capability of mounting a nuclear warhead on its missiles that could hit the United States, a senior US defence official said on Thursday.

Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, the head of the Defence Intelligence Agency, gave the assessment during a Congressional hearing.

Asked by Senator Hillary Clinton whether North Korea had the ability to arm a missile with a nuclear device, Jacoby said: "The assessment is that they have the capability to do that, yes, madam."

He said that North Korea also had the ability to deploy a two-stage intercontinental missile that could successfully hit US territory.

"Assessed to be within their capacity, yes," Jacoby told Clinton during the hearing on the defence intelligence budget of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

North Korea said this month it had shut down its nuclear power plant at Yongbyon and was preparing to reprocess the plant's spent fuel, a move that could result in the production of enough plutonium to build up to six more nuclear bombs.

Reports quoting a US official said last week that the United States believed North Korea was planning to test a nuclear weapon and has asked China to intervene.

Comment: Remember the claims that Saddam had WMD's capable of reaching the US? Have you seen any proof that those claims made by the Bush administration were true? Have you seen any evidence that Iraq had any WMD's at all?

Nevertheless, it seems that hell may have frozen over: Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby's claims may actually be true. In a Signs of the Times Exclusive, our roving reporter Ignacius O'Reilly was able to obtain the following Top Secret document - which clearly confirms Jacoby's statement - from an anonymous source inside the Pentagon:

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Rice tells Latin Americans not to give up hope for democratic transformation
By GEORGE GEDDA | Associated Press
April 27, 2005

BRASILIA, Brazil - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a message Wednesday to the tens of millions of Latin Americans who have yet to benefit from the region's democratic transformation: "Do not lose your hope. Do not lose your courage. And most of all do not turn back now."

In a speech delivered at the close of a 30-hour visit here, Rice said that the poverty that pervades Brazil and other countries in the region represents its greatest challenge.

"The answers are to be found in more democratic reform," she said. "In time the blessings of democracy come to everyone who keeps the faith with the principles of democracy."

She spoke to a gathering of about 400 people at a museum built in honor of the late President Juscelino Kugitschek, whose government built this inland capital city from scratch in the late 1950s.

Rice was to fly later in the day to Colombia. Her remaining stops after that are Chile and El Salvador.

Her pro-democracy message was the same as she and other administration officials have been delivering on other continents.

"The United States is committed to the success of democracy in Latin America," she said. [...]

Comment: from the Santa Fe New Mexican Newspaper...

By Eric Scott (Submitted: 04/27/2005 12:32 pm )
Dr. Rice, I think, needs to shut up. She might as well have delivered this speech to the disenfranchised voters of Ohio in 2004 and Florida in 2000. Our so called leaders have turned our great Nation into a Banana Republic, hated Banana Republic that is...
By John Gerson (Submitted: 04/27/2005 10:13 am )
Well Rice, neither you nor this regime nor any past regime other than maybe Carter have really been interested in democracy for Latin and South America...what you want, supported, funded and backed covertly and militarily and financially are strong man puppets that you can manipulate to do your bidding. There was democracy in Chile - you overthrew it; there is democracy somewhat in Venezuela - you are attempting to overthrow it, there was democracy in Haiti - you supported a coup there to overthrow it. Your mouth Dr. Rice does not match your and our nations long list of historical deeds. So quit the lying.

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Buried Treasure
By Chris Floyd
Moscow Times

It seemed, at first, like nothing more than a novelty item in the news briefs, the kind of odd, meaningless side-fact thrown off by most major stories: "New Pope, President's Brother Had Link in Swiss Group." But a look beneath the surface of this innocuous connection reveals a vast web of sinister alliances -- and moral corruption on a world-shaking scale.

The network links a bewildering line-up of players -- the Bushes, the Vatican, bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and China's Communist overlords, among others -- in a staggering array of crime and turpitude: prostitution, pedophilia, mass death and war profiteering. Yet this is not some grand "conspiracy theory," a serpent's egg hatched in Bilderberg or Bohemian Grove. It's simply the way the Bush boys do business, trawling the globe for sweetheart deals and gushers of blood money from the war and terror they foment.

At the center of this particular nexus is the unlikely figure of Neil Bush, the feckless, fraudulent brother of the current president. Neilsy, as he's known in the family, is most famous for costing American taxpayers $1 billion to bail out a savings-and-loan he had ruined with secret insider loans to his own business partners. For this massive fraud, he was fined -- by his father's administration -- the princely sum of $50,000, which was actually paid by one of his dad's political bagmen, of course.

You see, the Bushes are robber barons, not capitalists: They never risk any of their own money in the competition of the marketplace. Nor do they ever pay the price when their deals go belly-up. Just ask George W., whose first business was jump-started with secret cash from the bin Ladens, laundered through their U.S. frontman, James Bath -- who was also hired by W.'s dad, then-CIA director George Bush Sr., to set up offshore companies for shifting CIA money and aircraft between Texas and Saudi Arabia, the Texas Observer reported.

Neilsy's latest business ventures include a partnership with one of China's own influence-peddling oligarchs: Jiang Mianheng, son of former President Jiang Zemin. He's paying Bush $2 million for "advice" in a field – the semiconductor industry -- which Neilsy cheerfully confesses he knows nothing about. Bush also trousered $1 million for "introductions and advice" from the CP Group, a Bangkok conglomerate spreading bipartisan gravy around Washington. In return for supplying his paymasters with a golden conduit to the White House, Neilsy received a special perk: free prostitutes, served up fresh to his hotel room during business trips to Asia.

But between his sessions of bouncy-bouncy with trafficked women, Neilsy was also sitting down with hard-line cleric Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the former soldier for Nazi Germany now translated to glory as Pope Benedict XVI. The two men were board members of an obscure Swiss institute ostensibly devoted to "interfaith dialogue." Although the organization did have some prominent ecumenical figures on the board, none of them could say exactly why pimp-daddy Neilsy was invited to join, Newsday reported.

Perhaps there's a clue in the group's incorporation. Dunn & Bradstreet lists the supposedly nonprofit foundation as a "management trust," designed for "purposes other than education, religion, charity or research." The group's spokesman says this designation was a "mistake," and anyway, the institute is hastily being "re-launched" with a "new focus" on its religious mission. But a cynic -- i.e., anyone with the slightest acquaintance of Bush business practices -- might think that a "management trust" masquerading as a religious charity would be an excellent place to launder money or park assets away from the taxman's prying eyes.

Meanwhile, Ratzinger spent his time on the Swiss board trying to bury the Vatican's massive pedophilia scandal, the London Observer reported this week. In a secret 2001 letter, he ordered Church officials to prevent police from learning about abuse allegations -- a theological innovation more commonly known in the United States as "obstructing justice." Given this criminal high-wire act, perhaps the good cardinal thought it prudent to cultivate some personal ties with a presidential sibling.

Whatever Neilsy and Das Panzerkardinal were up to in Switzerland, Ratzinger repaid their camaraderie with a decisive intervention in brother George's 2004 election, issuing a fatwa that essentially condemned any Catholic voting for John Kerry to eternal hellfire. With the Vatican's iron hand on the scales, Bush reaped an extra six percent of the Catholic vote -- a huge boost in a tight race.

But it's Neilsy's long-time partnership with Syrian-born businessman Jamal Daniel that has provided the true mother lode: war profiteering. Daniel, also a boardmate in the Swiss adventure with Ratzinger, is a principal in New Bridge Strategies, a firm set up by top Bush insiders to steer corporate clients to the fountains of blood money flowing from George W.'s conquest of Iraq. The company makes frequent use of Neilsy's "introductions" and Middle East connections, The Financial Times reported. It also operates a profitable sideline in mercenaries.

Daniel brings his own unique connections to the regional porkfest: His family was instrumental in the creation of the Baath Party in Syria and Iraq, The Financial Times noted. And of course, the Bush Family's covert arm, the CIA -- whose headquarters bears the name of George Sr. -- assisted not one, but two, Baathist coups in Iraq, including the bloody upheaval that brought Saddam Hussein's family faction to power, historian Roger Morris reported. Still later, the CIA would supply Osama bin Laden and his fellow extremists with weapons, money and terrorist training: a shrewd investment whose long-term consequences -- the current "war on terror" -- are still paying fat dividends for Bush coffers.

Sure, thousands die and millions suffer from these dirty deals -- but it's not a "conspiracy." It's just business -- the Bush way.


Neil Bush, Ratzinger Co-Founders of Ecumenical Group
Newsday, April 21, 2005

Pope 'Obstructed' Sex Abuse Inquiry
The Observer, April 24, 2005

New Bridge: New Strategy for GOP Insider's Iraq Development Company
Congressional Quarterly Weekly, Feb. 12, 2005 (subscription required)

Neil, Prince of Bush: Why his Latest Outrage Provoked So Little Outrage
Harper's, May 1, 2004

The Barrelling Bushes
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 11, 2004

President's Brother Helped New Bridge Businessmen
Financial Times, Dec. 12, 2003

Neil Bush's Business Dealings
Financial Times, Dec. 12, 2003

Ratzinger and the N Word
Max Blumenthal, April 19, 2005

With Great Diligence, In Iraq (New Bridge Security Spin-Off)
Haaretz, July 7, 2004

A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making
New York Times, March 14, 2003

The Bush Family's Favorite Terrorist, April 24, 2005

US Insider's New Firm Consults on Iraq
New York Times, Sept. 30, 2003

The Profiteering Bush Brothers
Scoop, Jan. 31, 2005

New Pope Intervened Against Kerry in 2004 Election
Agence France Presse, April 19, 2005

The Bush-bin Laden Connection
Texas Observer, Nov. 9, 2001

The Bush-bin Laden Connection
One Nation, Dec. 7, 2004

Influence Peddling, Bush-Style
The Nation, Oct. 23, 2000

Ratzinger Defends Violence Against Gays
Americablog, April 19, 2005

Priestly Sin, Cover-Up
ABC News, April 26, 2002

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By: Ted Lang

[...] The dangerous domination and control of mainstream journalism by the Bush White House, its Pentagon, and its military, is easily the greatest threat that has been foisted upon the American people. Referring once again to the Clinton/Broadderick affair, recall Clinton’s response when asked if a rape took place: "Talk to my lawyer!" Any doubts here as to guilt versus innocence?

Silence is always vigorously pursued by wrongdoers – recall Clinton’s advice to Monica and Al Gore as regards threatening inquisitiveness. Now, after no "weapons of mass destruction," after no traces of "yellowcake," after no ties to either terrorism, Al Quida, 9-11, or Osama, we continue to kill, maim and torture the very people we are supposed to be bringing democracy to after having freed them from the horrors of Saddam.

Where is the journalistic curiosity involving the suppression and spiking of the AIPAC spy scandal? Where are The New York Times headlines as concerns the Israel to China arms deal behind America’s back, providing enlightenment to the nation of taxpayers that have sent trillions of our tax dollars in support of Israel? Why isn’t more being written as regards the Gosch/Gannon scandal? And while speaking of Gosch/Gannon, what about such a blockbuster headline if released by the mainstream media? Wouldn’t it render the Bill and Monica story, as well as the Gary and Chandra story, completely irrelevant? What a way for the "liberal-left" to retaliate against Ken Starr, George and Jeb Bush, and the entire herd of Republican elephants! A ring of pedophilic kidnappers run by the highest elements in the Republican Party, and our so-called "liberal" mainstream media won’t touch it with a 50-foot pole!

What other possible conclusion can any reasonably prudent, intelligent person come to other than the fact that ALL the allegations against the Bush regime are true? And what greater corroboration can possible exist reflecting upon all these charges than John Pilger’s observation on the Western media’s "Law of Silence?" Scroll down to the rape of Fallujah [fourth paragraph from the bottom] to sample the Western media’s greatest spike in recent times.

Was 9-11 a planned inside job by the highest levels of American government in cooperation with Israeli intelligence, Mossad? What have you heard lately?

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Weapons of Mass Deception

By Christian Henderson
Monday 25 April 2005, 19:43 Makka Time, 16:43 GMT

At the time of the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, 70% of Americans told pollsters they believed Saddam Hussein's government was partly responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

In the prelude to the war, the Bush administration hinted at the existence of a link between Iraq and the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

However, intelligence investigations commissioned by the White House and Congress have since determined the suggested links were false.

According to Danny Schechter, a media veteran of almost 40 years who nicknamed himself the News Dissector, the 70% figure suggests US media failed their public and led them to believe a baseless claim.

As the invasion played out on television screens around the world, Schechter "self-embedded" in his living room and examined US media coverage of the war.

He turned his conclusions into Weapons of Mass Deception, a documentary film that examines how the media covered the war.

In the post-September 11 nationalistic ardour, the film concludes the US mainstream media failed to challenge Washington over its reasons for going to war, shut out anti-war voices and blurred the lines between commentary and journalism. spoke to Schechter on the sidelines of last week's Aljazeera Television Productions Festival in the Qatari capital, Doha, where Weapons of Mass Deception was shown. Why did you make this film?

Danny Schechter: I have been a journalist since the 1960s. And in some ways, this project grew out of a lifetime of work. I worked in radio; I worked in local television; I worked in cable news; I worked in ABC; I worked in mainstream and I worked in independent [media] so I think I had a wide range of experience.

I have also written six books about media issues, so I have had a chance to think about it more deeply; I think all that uniquely qualified me to take on this project.

What are you trying to do in this film?

I try to offer some fresh insights. I also try to speak to journalists about what this means in terms of our responsibilities to challenge and what this means in terms of democracy.

In the film, I make the suggestion that the Bush administration practices deception as part of its strategy and military strategy.

We know that everything they were saying about WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)and the link with Usama [bin Laden] were not true and many of us knew it then and we said so, but everyone was saying something different.

Now, with study after study they say it was "group think" in the intelligence community. That's why they screwed up.

If there was group think in the intelligence community, what about the journalistic community? There was group think there, too.

Are you influenced by Noam Chomsky and his theory of manufacturing consent?

Noam Chomsky doesn't watch television; he is more of an analyst of the New York Times and elite journalism so I didn't go to him for an interview.

I was more interested in journalists who covered the war and how they were debating it. So I feel that Chomsky had a brilliant analysis of media, but more of it is oriented toward print. It doesn't always take into account the techniques of the media.

What do you think of Chomsky's critics who accuse him of overestimating the sophistication of media control, and that - in reality - it is more to do with day-to-day decisions and market forces?

I don't buy the conspiracy theories of media. I remember a group of Syrians came to our office and they said: 'We agree with you because we really know the Jews run everything.' This was their analysis. I said, excuse me, Rupert Murdoch is not Jewish the last time I looked.

You know the problem is corporate media and corporate-controlled media and how they operate within their framework.

What do you mean when you use the term post-journalism era?

Journalism is at a crossroads. There are many journalists today who still believe in the values of journalism but who are frustrated by the difficulty of practicing it because the companies they work for do not really respect journalistic principles. What they are there to do is satisfy their bottom line concerns, they have closed bureau after bureau.

There has been a pattern of dumbing down, and by dumbing it down it means people inside media are dumbing themselves down. They are not asking good questions, they are not challenging official narratives the way they should be.

If you look at Fox News, there is very little journalism, very little reporting. Mostly it is talk shows posing as news programmes and [they are] opinion driven, you have three times more pundits on air as opposed to journalists. That's another sign of the post-journalism era.

Are blogs an alternative to mainstream media sources?

There are now 10 million blogs. Of those, maybe 10% claim to be journalistic. Some of the bloggers are very responsible, really challenging and doing investigative digging that mainstream media are not.

Some are motivated just by ideological concerns. Recently, for example, Eason Jordan, the former chief of news at CNN - when he said at Davos 12 journalists had been killed by US soldiers there was a big shock and he was forced to resign. In that case, a blogger took an off-the-record meeting and just blasted it out there with out having a full record of what was said.

I think a lot of blogging can be very irresponsible and some of it is sponsored by political forces by the Republican party or the Democrat party and the like, so it has a political and ideological not a journalistic function.

But in my blog what I try to do every day is take the top stories and report what is not being reported by comparing and contrasting.

You credit American journalists who helped you make this film. Do you think many in the US media are sympathetic to your message?

Whenever I talk to people in the media off the record, including anchormen, people are very supportive, people slip me footage from various networks. People are very helpful, but a lot of them are living in a lot of fear. Everybody feels vulnerable, people have mortgages; they have families - it's difficult to be courageous.

Many American media people feel vulnerable and as if they are being bullied, they feel totally insecure. In the culture of the newsroom, if you put your head up, it will get chopped off. Everybody is getting along by going along and that's a dangerous kind of conformity.

If the US is involved in another war, how do you think it will be reported in the US media? Do you think the media have learned from some of the mistakes of the Iraq war.

The institutional practices have not changed. I feel like the coverage of the elections was very similar to the coverage of the war. The same templates are being used, the same approach, the lack of political scrutiny, the lack of other voices, the way things are being framed, the lack of investigative checking.

The American media reported the Iraqi elections as a great victory for democracy. Everyone else reported them and asked Iraqis why they were voting and they said to get the Americans out and to end the occupation. Their reasons are very different from the way it was presented on American televisions. So we still have this propaganda system, in effect, but its credibility is starting to be questioned. And I hope my film will contribute to that.

What I want to see is more journalists taking more responsibility for what they do and showing more solidarity when other journalists are shot and killed.

How many people in the American media protested the killing of Tariq Ayub [Aljazeera's correspondent slain in Baghdad by US fire on 8 April 2003]? That was blatant, a completely blatant assassination and yet nobody said a word. We need to challenge that and show more solidarity with other media workers.

Comment: People too scared to speak up. Sounds more like Germany under Hitler or the Soviet Union under Stalin. Recall Bush's comment from several years ago that things would be easier if he were dictator, and it all fits into place.

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Wiretaps in U.S. Jump 19 Percent in 2004
Associated Press Writer
April 28, 2005

WASHINGTON - The number of court-authorized wiretaps jumped 19 percent last year as investigators pursued drug and other cases against increasingly tech-savvy suspects. Every surveillance request made by authorities was granted.

Federal and state judges approved 1,710 applications for wiretaps of wire, oral or electronic communications last year, and four states - New York, California, New Jersey and Florida - accounted for three of every four surveillance orders, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That agency is required to collect the figures and report them to Congress.

The numbers, released Thursday, do not include court orders for terror-related investigations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which reached a record 1,754 warrants last year, according to the Justice Department.

In non-terrorist criminal investigations, federally approved wiretaps increased 26 percent in a year, to 730 applications, while state judges approved 980 wiretaps, an increase of 13 percent.

Department of Justice spokesman Kevin Madden said the numbers reflect "an increase in the resources geared toward targeting very serious federal and state offenses for which electronic surveillance is often the most, and sometimes the only, effective investigative method."

Timothy Edgar, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said traditional law enforcement work is catching up with increases in anti-terror wiretaps.

"We're still seeing a huge trend toward increased surveillance," said Edgar.

Evan Barr, a former federal prosecutor in New York City, now in private practice, said authorities are responding to changes in the ways criminal suspects use technology.

"Drug dealers now are making use not just of traditional cell phones but a variety of devices, including Blackberries, pagers, and Nextels. So most likely these increased wiretap numbers simply reflect law enforcement's continuing efforts to keep pace with both the tactics and technology that is being used on the street," said Barr. [...]

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Survey: U.S. Trusts the News but Sees Bias
By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer
April 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - Most Americans believe news coverage is biased and negative, but they also say they respect journalists and trust what they hear and read.

Comment: Most Americans believe that news coverage in the US is biased, but they still trust the information?!

A national survey conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism's Center for Advanced Social Research found 62 percent consider journalism credible and more than half rated newspapers and television news as trustworthy.

At the same time, 85 percent said they detect a bias in news reporting. Of those, 48 percent identified it as liberal, 30 percent as conservative, 12 percent as both, and 3 percent as other bias.

About two-thirds said journalists invade people's privacy too often, while roughly three-quarters said the news is too negative.

"The consumers of American journalism respect, value and need it, but they're also skeptical about whether journalists really live up to the standards of accuracy, fairness and respect for others that we profess," said George Kennedy, a Missouri journalism professor and co-author of a study that incorporates the survey results.

The survey found that Americans strongly support the investigative or watchdog role of the press, with 83 percent saying it is important for journalists to press for access to information even when government officials would like to keep it quiet.

But there was also plenty of criticism. Among the poll's findings:

- 58 percent said journalists have too much influence over what happens in the world.

- 74 percent said reporters tend to favor one side over the other when covering political and social issues.

- About half said the news media tend to exaggerate problems or are too sensational in their coverage.

- 77 percent said they think a news story is sometimes killed or buried if it is embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization.

The survey polled 495 adults during June-July 2004 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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Bush warns of US pensions crisis
Mr Bush's approval ratings have taken a tumble on domestic issues
The US pensions system is heading towards bankruptcy, President George W Bush has said in a news conference carried on prime-time television.

Mr Bush said pensions had to be reformed to provide the elderly with a financial safety net after retirement.

He proposed curbing the pension growth of wealthier Americans to protect the retirement income of low-wage workers.

On energy, Mr Bush said he would urge oil-producing nations to raise output to ease the strain on US consumers.

Mr Bush warned that social security would be insolvent by 2041 if it was not reformed.

"I propose a social security system in the future where benefits for low income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off," he told a news conference at the White House.

"This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing social security."

Central to his social security reform programme is the introduction of private stock market accounts into the US pension system.

However, some members of the president's own Republican party share the Democrats' concerns about his plans, while opinion polls show many Americans remain unconvinced about the need for reform.


On energy policy, Mr Bush announced several measures to reduce US reliance on overseas production, including using domestic resources more efficiently and helping growing economies such as China and India reduce their demand for fossil fuels.

"Millions of American families and small businesses are hurting because of higher gasoline prices," he said.

"My administration is doing everything we can to make gasoline more affordable.

"In the near term we will continue to encourage oil producing nations to maximise their production."

Correspondents say the energy bill going through Congress has a stronger chance of getting through this year than in previous ones, because high energy prices are more of a political issue now and because the Republicans have more members since last year's election.

The president also renewed his support for his choice for US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, whose nomination has drawn objections from the Senate.

"John Bolton is a blunt guy," he said. "Sometimes people say I'm a little too blunt. John Bolton can get the job done at the United Nations."

Comment: What exactly is Bush sending Bolton to the UN to do? You don't need to answer that.

As for the part of his speech about social security, Josh Marshall has this to say:

What did I miss? The president offered no specifics at all. He still says some portion of Social Security must be phased out and replaced with private accounts. And just as it has been since the beginning of Bamboozlepalooza, pretty much everything.

Start with his three principles from the beginning of the news conference. The first two principles used coded language which translates into massive Social Security benefit cuts for the entire middle class. I bet it didn't sound like that when he said it, did it? His plan would turn Social Security -- the sheet anchor of the American middle class -- into old age welfare.

Principle number three was just the same old demand for private accounts dandied up in different clothes

Basically, from this president, it's phase-out today, phase-out tomorrow, phase-out forever.

Beside that, I heard a lot of whining about politics and how everyone isn't nice to him.

Which makes me think about the conceit which started President Bush off on this titanic effort: his belief and repeated claim that Social Security wasn't the third rail of American politics any longer. No more current in rail; lost its juice. He'd grabbed it a couple times and he'd come out just fine, he always said.

Folks weren't stuck in old-fashioned ways of thinking anymore and wouldn't punish politicians who tried to upend Social Security or phase it out and replace it with private accounts. Plenty of Washington's worthies act as though this 'third rail' phraseology is a challenge to politicians' courage, a symbol of benighted public opinion that won't let right-thinking statemen do what needs to be done.

But why shouldn't the public punish politicians who try to scam them into phasing out the most popular and successful government program in American history? It doesn't occur to these folks that some people think that this amounts to a vast hoodwink on the middle class. And those who try to pull something like that deserve every ounce of political payback they get.

However that may be, it turns out it's still the third rail, as it should be.

I'll tell you, back when we designed the anti-privatization T-Shirt we've been selling and giving away for the last few months, the first version of the shirt was entirely different. On the front it had a cartoon character guy grabbing on to the rail and getting fried out of his mind. And that over a caption that read "Feel The Juice!" with all the appropriate squiggly electricty lines around the words.

On the back it said, "Social Security: The Third Rail of American Politics Since 1936."

Subtle? No. But I can't say that bothered me.

I decided against it because it underplayed just how difficult it was going to be to turn back the push for privatization. It took too much for granted.

But tonight, watching the president complain about the rough shake he and his folks are getting, and having heard the same whining from congressional Republicans all day, that line kept popping back into my head as the best response: Feel The Juice! They deserve every bit.

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3 networks cut off President Bush before end of his news conference
07:06 AM EDT Apr 29
NEW YORK (AP) - A quick schedule shift by the White House enabled President George W. Bush to get considerably wider television exposure than he would have otherwise gotten for Thursday's prime-time news conference.

Three of the country's four biggest broadcasters gave the president a quick hook, however, by cutting away to entertainment programming before his session was finished. The White House moved the news conference from 8:30 p.m. EDT to 8 p.m. after realizing that CBS, Fox and likely NBC would not air it live. ABC said all along it would cover the president fully.

The White House tried to be accommodating when it realized it had left the networks in a bind on the first night of the May "sweeps," when ratings are closely watched to set local advertising rates, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

"I think this worked out for everyone involved," he said.

Bush alluded to a tight television deadline before answering the night's final question.

"I don't want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air, for the sake of the economy," he said.

Comment: Ah, for the sake of the economy!

The American people are in a really tight spot. They flick on their TVs and what do they have as a choice? Bush or Survivor or Donald Trump. Seems last night was the beginning of the "sweeps", the period when ratings are taken in order to set ad rates for the coming period. Well, obviously, no one wants to watch Bush, not when Paris Hilton is coming up next.

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Christian Right Goes Nuclear
By Molly Ivins
Posted April 26, 2005

I was all set to write a column about the nuclear option -- the proposal to change the rules of the Senate in order to get President Bush's most questionable judicial appointments through -- when, lo, word came that there is no nuclear option anymore. It is now called "the constitutional option."

Who changed it? Why, the Republican Party, of course. Having found that "nuclear option" does not poll well, the Republicans simply decreed the rules change can no longer be described by that name. Further, the Republican Party sent media operatives around to major news organizations to inform them that anyone who fails to obey the new diktat on usage will be demonstrating the dread "liberal bias."

Since this particularly fateful rules change was first christened "the nuclear option" by Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi in 2003, and has been called "the nuclear option" ever since -- by Republicans, along with everybody else -- I have to say this is a distinctly Orwellian development.

In fact, given the implicit threat that the Republican Party faithful will be encouraged to denounce all news outlets that do not conform to this new political correctness, I'd say it is not only ridiculous but also dangerous, quite a feat.

I shall, of course, continue to refer to the proposed change as the nuclear option out of a sense of obligation to freedom of speech. I would be shocked if anyone in the media did otherwise.

Now, back to substance. Americans are notoriously bored by governmental process. If you want to lose readers, just start a story with, "House Bill 787 was passed out of subcommittee by a unanimous vote on Tuesday." So, convincing folks that changing Senate Rule 22 is a danger to the republic is a challenge. But this really is about protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate, the right of every senator to filibuster.

In the old movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the key scene is Jimmy Stewart's filibuster on behalf of the people, which triumphantly wins over his fellow senators. Under the changed rule, Mr. Smith would have to keep his mouth shut.

Actually, no one filibusters anymore. The last filibuster against a judicial nominee was in 1968, when the Republicans successfully filibustered for four days to stop Abe Fortas from becoming chief justice of the Supreme Court. If there's a serious threat of filibuster, the leaders broker a deal.

But the Democrats are threatening to filibuster the same Bush judicial nominees they busted in his first term, leaving the poor man with only a 95 percent approval rate for his nominees. Bush promptly renominated seven of these 10 dog judges (including Texas' own Priscilla Owen), and now the Republicans are prepared to change the rules so they can be cleared by a simple majority, rather than winning the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster.

Since what goes around comes around, some Republican senators are deeply troubled about the prospect of being in the minority themselves someday without the right to filibuster. Further, in order to change Rule 22, the Senate also has to change the rules on how to change the rules. At present, a two-thirds vote, 67, is required to change the rules, but under a procedural ploy, this will be brought up "out of order," so it requires only 51 votes.

Look, this is a system of government based on protecting the rights of the minority. It is also based on the premise that there are three separate branches of government, each of which forms a check and a balance on the others. It was carefully designed to prevent the dictatorship of the majority.

That is why the Founders assigned the Senate, not the House, to advise and consent on federal nominations. Sen. Robert Byrd, the resident scholar of all things senatorial, notes that while Rule 22 is only 86 years old, the tactic itself has been used since the first Congress. (Hearing Byrd hold forth on such matters is pure pleasure -- whether you agree with him or not, he is a magnificent speaker of the old school and a sad reminder how debased most political speech is today.)

How God got involved in all this is a bit of a mystery. Some Christian Dominionists decided the Almighty is in favor of changing Rule 22. Led by James Dobson, who runs Focus on the Family, they decided 22 is "a filibuster against the faithful," implying and in some cases stating that anyone who opposes them is anti-Christian and probably working for Satan.

Last time I checked, no one had elected Dobson to decide who is a Christian and who is not. It's a joke that the right wing claims it is against "judicial activists." What they want are judicial activists who agree with them. These people don't want to govern, they want to rule.

(For an excellent sense of how the Christian Dominionists think, I highly recommend the two lead articles in the May issue of Harper's magazine.)

Molly Ivins is a best-selling author and columnist who writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

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Texas School Board Adds Bible Class
APril 27, 2005

ODESSA, Texas - The school board in this West Texas town voted unanimously to add a Bible class to its high school curriculum.

Hundreds of people, most of them supporters of the proposal, packed the board meeting Tuesday night. More than 6,000 Odessa residents had signed a petition supporting the class.

Some residents, however, said the school board acted too quickly. Others said they feared a national constitutional fight.

Barring any hurdles, the class should be added to the curriculum in fall 2006 and taught as a history or literature course. The school board still must develop a curriculum, which board member Floy Hinson said should be open for public review.

The board had heard a presentation in March from Mike Johnson, a representative of the Greensboro, N.C.-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, who said that coursework designed by that organization is not about proselytizing or preaching.

But People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the council, saying its materials promote religion.

Johnson said students in the elective class would learn such things as the geography of the Middle East and the influence of the Bible on history and culture.

"How can students understand Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper' or Handel's 'Messiah' if they don't understand the reference from which they came?" Johnson said. The group's Web site says its curriculum has received backing in 292 school districts in 35 states.

In Frankenmuth, Mich., a similar proposal led to a yearlong controversy before the school board voted in January not to offer such a course.

Comment: In order to be fair and unbiased, shouldn't the school board also add elective courses based on the Koran, the Torah, and numerous other religious texts?

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Hostile Information
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 27 April 2005

In this mean and meager time of pre-packaged, pre-processed, corporate-controlled infotainment that passes itself off as 'news, it is a rare and refreshing experience to see and hear a true journalist reporting the facts. I was privileged on Monday night to share a stage in Boston with Dahr Jamail, the intrepid reporter who could not stomach the biased non-news coming out of Iraq after the invasion, and went over there to see and report on what was happening himself.

Jamail, an unassuming spectacled man in his mid-30s, spoke in a calm and precise manner on what he had seen while in Iraq. His words carried the weight of witness, but more devastating than what he said was what he showed the crowd. For an hour, Jamail flashed photograph after photograph from Iraq on a large screen. It is one thing to hear the truth. It is another again to see it, in slide after slide, through the eyes of a man who was there and returned to tell the tale.

Jamails photo essay described the current situation in the starkest of terms. Buildings that had been bombed out during the invasion remain today blasted and unusable piles of rubble. One photo showed a blown-out supermarket with a collapsed roof. He took the picture in 2003, but showed it on Monday night because it looks the same today as it did when the bomb first fell. There are many times many such damaged buildings. The ones that remain standing are often pockmarked from machine gun fire.

In a nation with the second largest proven stores of petroleum on earth, there are today gas lines that make the American gas-line experience of the 1970s seem a picnic by comparison. Iraqis must spend two days in their cars, sleeping in them overnight, to get a rationed 7.5 liters of gasoline, provided the station does not run out before they get to the pump. Jamail interviewed a high-ranking member of the Petroleum Ministry, who reported that the oil infrastructure is stable enough to provide gas to the country. That gas is not being provided, said the Minister, because the Americans are not pumping it, but sitting on it.

Hospitals in Iraq are in utterly deplorable condition, with few specialists to treat common illnesses and the wounds inflicted on civilians by the bomb and the bullet, and almost no medicine. Almost all the best-trained and highest-ranking medical professionals have fled the country because they are targeted by criminal gangs seeking to extort money from them, leaving undertrained Residents to handle the load. A Health Minister interviewed by Jamail said Coalition officials had promised $1 billion in medical aid. To date, almost none of that has been provided.

The sanitary conditions are almost beyond description; one photo showed a hospital bathroom that was filled from wall to wall with urine and feces, because the plumbing does not work. To make matters worse, ambulances are targeted by American forces because they fear the vehicles are being used by resistance fighters. Jamail showed a photo of one such targeted ambulance that looked as though it had been driven through a blast furnace.

In the best Iraqi neighborhoods, there is electricity available for eight hours a day. The rest of the nation gets electricity for perhaps three hours a day, if at all. At least two car bombs a day can be heard and felt, and the supposedly-safe Green Zone constantly comes under bombardment. Dead and bloated cattle line the roads, said roads existing in profoundly damaged condition.

Some 70% of the population is unemployed, leaving a great deal of spare time for despair and rage to take root. A good portion of the violent resistance, reported Jamail, is being carried out by foreign fighters, Baathist holdouts and former Iraqi military personnel. But more and more, everyday Iraqis are picking up guns, he said, because conditions are so deplorable.

The heavy-handed tactics of the American occupation force, reported Jamail, have also fed that rage. Jamail stated that the Americans have taken to using 'collective punishment against large segments of the population to try and dampen the violence. In one instance, a road leading out of a remote farm community was blown up and blocked to punish the residents, and the only nearby gas station was machine-gunned and blasted by a tank.

The most glaring example of collective punishment took place within the city of Falluja. You will clearly recall the events of March 31, 2004, when three mercenary contractors from Blackwater were pulled from their car, butchered, burned and hung from a bridge in that town. The American corporate news media carefully described these four repeatedly as 'American civilians, failing to note that some 30,000 highly-paid military mercenaries just like these four are operating in Iraq, beyond the laws and rules of American military justice. These mercenaries stand accused by the Iraqi populace of a variety of crimes including rape and theft.

Comment: The US government has acknowledged the use of hired militants - they just don't call them mercenaries, instead preferring the term "private security contractors". Given that "American military justice" apparently involves widespread torture of prisoners detained without charge, US soldiers themselves continue to operate beyond laws and rules such as the Geneva Convention. Remember that it was Bush, Sr. who was the first president to use paid mercenaries so heavily. There's a lot of money to be made from legalized murder, and it isn't just the mercenaries who are profiting.

It was a despicable and horrifying act of violence, to be sure. Yet the American populace was left with the impression, reinforced by the media, that these 'civilians' were targeted by the entire city of Falluja. In fact, the act was committed by perhaps 50 people, and the Imams in the mosques spoke with one outraged voice against what was done to those four.

This did not matter. The collective punishment of Falluja began days later. Civilians were targeted by snipers. Helicopters and bombers rained fire and steel indiscriminately on the city. After a while, a truce was called so the city could bury its dead, and so medical supplies could be brought in. No supplies made it into the city, but the casualties were entombed in soccer fields that were renamed 'Martyr's Graveyards.' Jamail photographed the fields of burial mounds, and translated the names on many of the headstones. A majority of those stones bore the names of women and children.

In the lull between attacks, the citizens of Falluja flooded the streets in a massive victory celebration, unaware that the worst was yet to come. The rage they vented on the Falluja streets was proof enough that American tactics are manufacturing resistance fighters every day. Not long after, the second phase of the punishment of Falluja began, this time as an aerial bombardment of the city that left thousands dead and wounded.

Bodies remained unburied in the streets to bloat in the sun and be gnawed by dogs. One Jamail photo from Falluja showed the shattered, rotting corpse of a man lying next to his prosthetic leg. It seems this one-legged man was an enemy of freedom, a feast for dogs in the hot Iraqi sun.

The Pentagon has a phrase for the photos and reports Dahr Jamail was able to bring back to us from his time in Iraq. They call it 'Hostile Information,' otherwise known as unassailable facts that cut violently against the pretty portrait and non-news the American people have been spoon-fed about our occupation of that country.

If you believed the situation there was bad, it's worse than you can imagine, a war crime writ large, a grinding of a civilian population that was no threat to America and is now caught between hot steel and a cold grave. Dahr Jamail was careful in every instance to point out that the civilian leadership issuing the orders, and not the soldiers, are ultimately to blame for what is taking place. Specific soldiers committing war crimes must be punished, he said, but the ultimate responsibility for these acts belongs in Washington, DC.

'Horror' is not a strong enough word to describe what Dahr Jamail showed us on Monday night, what he saw with his own eyes, what almost no American has been allowed to see because 'Hostile Information' is not permitted in George Bush's America.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. Join the discussions at his blog forum.

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Iraq insurgents kill four as bus station attacked

Iraqi insurgents fired at least six mortar rounds towards a US military base today, but hit a bus station instead, killing four Iraqi civilians and wounding 21, officials said.

None of the shells hit the base near Musayyib city, which is 40 miles south of Baghdad, the US military said.

Police Captain Muthana Khalid said a total of 12 mortars were fired and that most hit the bus station during the morning commute.

US forces sent a five-man medical team to the bus station, including a doctor, to help the wounded, and Iraqi forces brought medical supplies, the US military said in a statement.

One seriously wounded civilian was airlifted to a US hospital, while the others were treated at a local hospital, the US military said.

In another attack today, a suicide car bomb exploded near an Iraqi army checkpoint, wounding four Iraqi soldiers, three US soldiers and seven Iraqi civilians, the US military said.

The attack occurred outside Tikrit, which is 80 miles north of Baghdad, said US Major Richard Goldenberg. He said the injuries the US soldiers suffered were not life threatening.

In the capital, Lt Col Ala’a Khalil Ibrahim, who worked in the visa section of the Interior Ministry, was shot dead on the way to work by gunmen in Baghdad’s eastern section of al-Shaab, police officials said.

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IRAQ: Doctors warn of increasing deformities in newborn babies.
Apr 2005 (IRIN)

BAGHDAD, 27 - Doctors in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have reported a significant increase in deformities among newborn babies.

Health officials and scientists said this could be due to radiation passed through mothers following years of conflict in the country.

The most affected regions are in the south of the country, particularly Basra and Najaf, according to experts. Weaponry used during the Gulf war in 1991 contained depleted uranium, which could be a primary source for the increase, scientists in Baghdad said.

"In my experiments we have found some cases where the mother or father were suffering from pollution from weapons used in the south and we believe that it is affecting newborn babies in the country," Dr Ibraheem al-Jabouri, a scientist at Baghdad University, told IRIN.

According to Dr Nawar Ali, at the University of Baghdad, who works in the newborn babies research department, a significant number of cases of deformed babies had been reported since 2003.

"There have been 650 cases in total since August 2003 reported in government hospitals - that is a 20 percent increase from the previous regime. Private hospitals were not included in the study, so the number could be higher," Ali warned.

The health expert said polluted water, which could contain radiation from weapons used in previous conflicts, was the main factor behind the increase. [...]

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US 'hate' soldier to be executed
A US soldier said to have hated America has been sentenced to death for the murder and attempted murder of comrades during the invasion of Iraq.

Sgt Hasan Akbar used grenades and a rifle to kill two officers and wound 14 other personnel at a camp in Kuwait in the opening days of the war.

Prosecutors said the murders were ideologically driven hate crimes.

Defence lawyers do not dispute the attack but argue Akbar was too mentally ill to have planned the attack.

The death penalty was announced a week after he was convicted by a military jury at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

It was the first time since the Vietnam War that an American had been prosecuted for murdering a fellow soldier in wartime.

'Maximum carnage'

Last week, a 15-member jury took just two and a half hours to convict Akbar, but sentencing on Thursday came after a further seven hours of deliberations.

The attack occurred in the middle of the night as the 101st Airborne was preparing to move into Iraq in March 2003.

Capt Christopher Seifert, 27, and Maj Gregory Stone, 40, were killed.

Prosecutors say Akbar told investigators he had launched the attack because he was concerned that US troops would kill fellow Muslims in Iraq.

He attacked "with a cool mind" to achieve "maximum carnage", they said, pointing to a 1997 diary entry in which Akbar wrote: "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed."

"He is a hate-filled, ideologically driven murderer," said the chief prosecutor, Lt Col Michael Mulligan.


Akbar, 34, delivered an apology before members of the jury began considering the sentence.

"I felt that my life was in jeopardy and I had no other options," he was quoted as saying in a low voice, by The Associated Press.

A defence psychiatrist had testified that although Akbar was legally sane and understood the consequences of his attack, he suffered from forms of paranoia and schizophrenia.

John Akbar, the soldier's father, also argued that his son, a black man, had been subjected to racial harassment.

The sentence is subject to an automatic appeal. If Akbar is eventually executed, it will be by lethal injection.

Tammie Eslinger, the woman Maj Stone had planned to marry, said the killer had robbed her of her "love, family, dreams and future".

Comment: So, let's get this straight. If you kill Iraqi prisoners during torture sessions or kill an Italian security agent who was taking a freed hostage to the airport on a secure road or if you slaughter an Iraqi family at a check point, that's OK. But if a US soldier kills one of his own, then it's the death penalty.

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In New Manual, Army Limits Tactics in Interrogation
The New York Times
April 28, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Army is preparing to issue a new interrogations manual that expressly bars the harsh techniques disclosed in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, and incorporates safeguards devised to prevent such misconduct at military prison camps in the future, Army officials said Wednesday.

The new manual, the first revision in 13 years, will specifically prohibit practices like stripping prisoners, keeping them in stressful positions for a long time, imposing dietary restrictions, employing police dogs to intimidate prisoners and using sleep deprivation as a tool to get them to talk, the officials said.

Those practices were not included in the manual in use when the bulk of the abuses occurred at Abu Ghraib in Iraq in the fall of 2003, but neither were they specifically banned.

Military investigations have faulted senior officials - including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former top commander in Iraq - for adding to the confusion by giving approval, and then rescinding it, for limited use of harsh techniques that went beyond what was allowed in the manual.

Accompanying the new manual, which runs more than 200 pages, will be a separate classified training document that will provide dozens of interrogation scenarios and go into exacting detail on what procedures may or may not be used, and in what circumstances.

As examples of the new rules, Thomas A. Gandy, director of human intelligence and counterintelligence for the Army, said interrogators questioning a prisoner in a small room could throw a chair against the wall in a fit of mock rage to frighten the captive, a technique called "fear up." But under no circumstance, he said, could the interrogator throw the chair at the prisoner or otherwise threaten him directly.

Army interrogators have never had such a set of specific guidelines that would help teach them how to walk right up to the line between legal and illegal interrogations.

"It's going to be specific yeses and noes," Mr. Gandy, a career military intelligence officer, said in an interview. He provided details from the manual's final draft and emphasized that the document would require adherence to the Geneva Conventions, as does the current manual. [...]

Comment: See, that's the problem right there: The new document would require sticking to the Geneva Conventions, just like the current manual. Did the soldiers, intelligence agents, and mercenaries who tortured prisoners at places like Abu Ghraib give a damn about the Geneva Conventions? Does the Bush administration care about the Geneva Conventions when it renditions suspects to countries infamous for using torture? The numerous incidents of torture at the hands of psychopathic Americans should be evidence enough that the official rules of engagement written on some piece of paper mean nothing to the Bush administration. Now even innocent Americans are feeling the wrath of the fascist beast as they are tasered five, ten, even fifteen times by sadistic police officers. Laws? What laws?! Bush is making up his own laws as he goes along.

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Dollar Hit Anew on China FX Speculation
By Natsuko Waki
April 29, 2005

LONDON - The dollar fell to its lowest level against the yen in more than a month and weakened versus the euro on Friday, pressured by prospects of a revaluation of the Chinese yuan and disappointing U.S. growth.

China's state-run China Securities Journal fanned new talk of an imminent revaluation by saying that deepening reforms of commercial banks and the foreign exchange market have created conditions for the country to adjust the yuan.

The yuan jumped briefly above its official trading range on Friday, but dealers attributed the move to a glitch in China's currency dealing system and Chinese officials quickly moved to counter talk of an impending move.

The yen, which is seen as a proxy trade for the yuan, still gained, rising one percent on the day against the dollar.

"(The yuan's rise) set off speculation they are testing the market for a potential move and this demonstrated how sensitive the market is to any rumors of a revaluation," said Kristjan Kasikov, currency strategist at Calyon.

"The editorial comment added to the noise that China is close to revalue the yuan. This is supporting the yen in the near term."

At 5:40 a.m. EDT the dollar traded at its lowest level since March 22 at 105.02 yen. It was also down half a percent at $1.2960 per euro and at 1.1860 Swiss francs.

"All trades going on today are China-revaluation related. No one wants to get caught out when the move comes," said Koon Chow, currency strategist at CSFB.


The yuan, which has traded in a band of 8.2760 to 8.2800 to the dollar since the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, spiked to a 8.2700 high before settling back into its band.

But comments from the central bank that there was no change in the FX policy calmed the markets to some extent ahead of next week's Labour Day holidays in China.

"Increasingly, it's underlying everybody's belief that something is coming sooner or later," said James Malcolm, currency strategist at Deutsche Bank in Singapore.

In addition to news from China, investors were watching other U.S. asset markets in the United States for signs of whether Thursday's release of weak growth data would continue to dampen foreign investments.

U.S. stocks fell sharply on Thursday after data showed the economy grew at its slowest pace in two years during the first quarter. [...]

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Company Uses Science and the Bible to Find Oil in Israel
April 2005

Ma'anit, Israel - An American oil company is relying on science and the Bible to find oil in Israel.

The U.S.-based Zion Oil & Gas Corporation, led by an Evangelical Christian, says it wants to help the Jewish state become energy independent.

This is not the first time that Evangelical Christians have used biblical prophecy to search for oil in Israel. But this time, they could be onto something: Zion Oil & Gas believes it may be on the verge of a very large find.

Zion's 165-foot oil rig is located in an inland field between the central and northern Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. Israeli and Texas State flags flutter at the entrance to the fenced compound, where digging goes on 24-hours a day -- except on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.

A sign at the site says, "The Joseph Project is an oil and gas exploration project based on scripture and geological evidence, as well as the Zion Oil & Gas Corporation's dedication to the discovery of oil in Israel."

Although Israel is part of the oil-rich Middle East, very little oil has been discovered here. (Natural gas fields were discovered offshore in 1999.) Israel imports most of its oil from the former Soviet Union and the remainder from West Africa, Egypt and Mexico.

But Zion Oil & Gas founder John Brown believes biblical prophecies will point the way to Israel's hidden oil wealth.

Brown first visited Israel 20 years ago. Inspired by a few key Bible passages, Brown established his company more than a decade later.

"He firmly believes [we'll] find oil here for the benefit of Israel and restoration of the land," Zion Oil's Executive Vice President Glen Perry told Cybercast News Service. (Evangelical Christians are strong supporters of Israel because they believe it will play a key role in events leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.)

Brown has worked for years with the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructure, and in May 2000, he began drilling in an area encompassing 95,800 acres. "It's going very well," said an enthusiastic Perry. [...]

Bible and science

This is not the first time Christians have used the Bible as a guide to oil drilling in Israel, Nimran said -- and it's probably not the last time, either.

But Zion Oil & Gas says new technology has produced more scientific data to go along with biblical prophecies.

"The Bible talks about where it's found and science backs it up," said Stacey Cude, an American who works in Israel as Zion's drilling manager.

Zion Oil and Gas hopes to complete its drilling within a couple of months, at which point it will analyze the data to see if its efforts have been fruitful, Cude said.

By law, 12-and-a-half percent of any profits would go to the Israeli government; and the company has pledged six percent of its profits to various charities, both in Israel and abroad, said Perry.

And should they strike oil, the company hopes to send local Jewish and Arab Israelis for education and training so they'll be able to work in Zion's Israeli field.

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Russian fugitives find homes in Israel, clouding visit by Putin
By JOSEF FEDERMAN | Associated Press
April 26, 2005

JERUSALEM (AP) - The presence of some of Russia's most-wanted fugitives in Israel is threatening to cloud the historic visit this week by President Vladimir Putin.

Three billionaire oil executives, a publishing tycoon and a former Putin ally turned Kremlin critic have all taken Israeli citizenship in recent years as Russia sought their arrests, rankling officials in Moscow.

On the eve of Putin's arrival, the first to Israel by a Russian or Soviet leader, both governments played down any disagreements over the businessmen. But Israeli officials conceded Putin might raise the matter, and noted that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon steadfastly opposes turning over any of the wanted men to Russia.

"They are Israeli citizens and that's it," said Asaf Shariv, a spokesman for Sharon.

Putin's visit comes at a sensitive time. The countries have had close relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Both are involved in battles against Islamic militants, and they are linked by the hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants now living in Israel.

But ties have become strained recently by Russia's planned sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, a staunch enemy of Israel. Israeli officials dismissed speculation that the two countries might seek a deal in which Russia would scrap the missile sale in exchange for Israeli extradition of the fugitives.

Adding to the tensions, Putin's visit coincides with the verdict in the Russian tax evasion and fraud trial of Jewish businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the onetime head of the Yukos oil giant.

The three oil executives living in Israel _ Leonid Nevzlin, Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Dubov _ are former partners of Khodorkovsky and all wanted by Russia on fraud charges. The three men, all of whom appeared on the Forbes list of the world's billionaires in 2004, are now directors of Group Menatep, a holding company that owns 60 percent of what remains of the dismantled Yukos empire.

Menatep officials declined comment on the Putin visit, and a spokeswoman for Nevzlin, who also is wanted by Russia in an alleged murder plot, said he would have no comment until after Wednesday's verdict.

Also holding Israeli citizenship are Vladimir Gusinsky, a media magnate who fled Russia after he was charged with financial misdeeds in a probe widely seen as punishment for his television station's critical coverage of Putin, and Boris Berezovsky, a one-time Kremlin insider who was charged with fraud after a falling-out with Putin. Both men, however, spend most of their time in Europe.

The five wanted businessmen, all Jewish, immigrated under Israel's "Law of Return," which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew. The issue of extraditing Jews has always been sensitive in Israel, which was created in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust as a haven for Jews escaping persecution.

Turning over someone to Russia would be especially difficult for Sharon. For decades, the Soviet Union refused to let its Jewish citizens leave the country. Many former Soviet political prisoners now live in Israel, most notably Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky.

"I do not intend to turn anyone over," Sharon told the Yediot Ahronot daily last week. "Since the days of my youth, I have been opposed to turning over Jews. I am saying this in the clearest manner possible." [...]

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Israel rejects US request to arm Palestinian police 2005-04-29 17:29:01

JERUSALEM, April 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Israel has rejected a US proposal to supply Palestinian police officers in the West Bank with weapons that would assist them in performing their duties, the leading Ha'aretz daily reported Friday.

A political source in Jerusalem was quoted as saying that the Bush administration's envoys, Elliott Abrams and David Welch, raised the request for arming the Palestinian police during their visit to Israel last week.

"They only reported to us on the Palestinian requests. One ofthe things was to get weapons; they received a negative answer and that was that," the source said.

US officials said that Palestinian security forces need weapons to maintain order in the territories.

The United States is helping train Palestinian security forces and is also interested in supplying them with appropriate materiel.

Comment: During the Second Intifiada, the Israelis made certain to bomb Palesintian infrastructure, including police stations. At the same time, they were calling on Arafat to "stop the terrorists". Now they are refusing to give Palestinian police arms. Sure looks like they don't want any success on the Palestinian side. The two year period prior to Sharon's provocative visit to the Temple Mount had seen 0 (zero) "suicide bombers". Peace just isn't part of the Sharon agenda.

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French police detain five on suspicion of recruiting fighters for Iraq
Thu Apr 28, 5:31 PM ET

PARIS - Five suspected Islamic militants have been detained in France by intelligence agents who believe they were part of an operation to send volunteers to fight against the US army in
Iraq, officials said.

The four suspects arrested Sunday in the Paris area and a fifth detained Monday in the southern port of Marseille were placed in preventive detention, sources close to the investigation said.

One of the five suspects, 39-year-old Moroccan national Said Al-Maghrebi, had been sought for months by several police forces across Europe.

Al-Maghrebi was placed Thursday under judicial investigation, a first step towards possible formal charges, for criminal association as part of a terrorist plot, a source close to the investigation said.

They were arrested as part of an anti-terrorist investigation launched last September after evidence emerged of a so-called "Iraqi network" recruiting Islamic militants to fight US forces there.

In January, 11 suspected Islamic militants were taken into custody including 23-year-old Farid Benyettou, who along with two others has been placed under investigation for "criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise".

French police believe Benyettou was the mastermind behind the recruitment operation, which allegedly sent young men to wage jihad, or holy war, against US-led forces in Iraq.

An anti-terrorism expert said the operation was "less of an organized cell than a scattered mosaic of spontaneous groups" working to send fighters to Iraq. [...]

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ATK Delivers First XM25 Prototypes To U.S. Army For Testing
Apr 28, 2005

Alliant Techsystems has delivered the first six prototype XM25 advanced airbursting weapon systems to the U.S. Army for field-testing.

The XM25 fires a High Explosive (HE), air bursting 25mm round capable of defeating an enemy behind a wall, inside a building or in a foxhole.

The advanced design allows the operator to program the round so that it flies to the target and detonates at a precise point in the air. It does not require impact to detonate.

The XM25 is ideal for urban combat. It puts precision firepower in the hands of the soldier, allowing them to eliminate threats without causing significant collateral damage.

"The initial field tests are very promising," said LTC Matthew Clarke, U.S. Army project manager, individual weapons.

"A weapon system like the XM25 will prove invaluable to our warfighters. It will be a clear differentiator on the battlefield."

The revolutionary fire control system for the XM25 employs an advanced laser rangefinder that transmits information to the chambered 25mm round.

As the round flies downrange to the target, it precisely measures the distance traveled and detonates at exactly the right moment to deliver maximum effectiveness.

The XM25 increases the warfighter's probability of hit-to-kill performance by up to 500 percent over existing weapons.

It also extends the effective range of the soldier's individual weapon to more than 500 meters.

Comment: Yet another new toy for the US military that is designed specifically for urban combat situations... Coming soon to your neighborhood!

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Alberta man found with explosives, stolen truck
Last Updated Thu, 28 Apr 2005 15:24:57 EDT
CBC News

KELOWNA, B.C. - An Alberta man will make a court appearance Thursday after he was found with a stolen truck and enough explosives to destroy a three-storey building.

RCMP in Kelowna, B.C., say Kevin Kisby is "very well known to police throughout Western Canada."

He was found with 97 sticks of dynamite and a 10-kilogram mixture of fertilizer and fuel oil in a stolen pickup truck, said police. The truck had been stolen in Innisfail, Alta., on April 18.

RCMP say Kisby, 39, who will also face a charge of vehicle theft, wouldn't explain why he had the explosives.

Police, who are expected to lay more charges against him, have also charged a Kelowna woman.

The fertilizer-fuel oil mixture is a blasting agent and requires dynamite to make it detonate. About a dozen sticks would remove a tree stump, something commonly done by farmers.

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White farmer found guilty of throwing black worker to lions in South Africa
Andrew Meldrum in Pretoria
Friday April 29, 2005
The Guardian

A white South African farmer and one of his black labourers were found guilty yesterday of murdering a black former employee and throwing him to a pride of lions.

Mark Scott-Crossley and Simon Mathebula, who both pleaded not guilty and blamed each other for the murder, tied up Nelson Chisale, beat him with machetes and dumped him in an enclosure for rare white lions in northern Limpopo province.

Investigators found little more than a skull, a few bones and a finger. The pair will be sentenced at a later date.

South Africa has been gripped with morbid fascination by the case, which has inflamed black anger against white farmers in a country still coming to terms with its apartheid past.

The trial of a third farm worker, Richard Mathebula - thought to be no relation - was postponed after he fell ill with tuberculosis. A fourth man, Robert Mnisi, turned state witness and has been promised indemnity from prosecution.

At Phalaborwa circuit court, in north eastern Limpopo province, tension surrounding the trial was reflected by tight security. The courtroom was swept for explosive devices yesterday. Police filled the front row of the public gallery and the parking area outside the court was cordoned off due to fear of demonstrations.

Much of the testimony revolved around whether Scott-Crossley, 37, ordered the killing - as his workers claimed - and whether Chisale was still alive when he was thrown to the lions.

The trial heard that Chisale, 41, had been attacked on January 31 last year when he returned to Scott-Crossley's farm near the small town of Hoedspruit, about 370 miles north of Johannesburg, to collect some belongings.

He had been fired for an alleged theft, and when he returned to pick up pots and pans he claimed belonged to him he was seized by farm workers who said they were acting on Scott-Crossley's orders.

The victim was tied to a tree and beaten by the workers, and, witnesses told the court, the farmer. All sides agree that Scott-Crossley and Mathebula loaded Chisale into a truck and drove him some 12 miles to the Mokwalo White Lion Project, where they threw his body over a fence into an enclosure holding five white lions.

Robert Mnisi, who took part in beating Chisale, testified that Chisale had still been alive and that he had screamed when he was thrown over the fence.

Scott-Crossley denied hearing any sound and said he believed Chisale was dead.

Forensic evidence was contradictory. The state pathologist said the victim had been alive and was mauled to death by the lions, but a private pathologist, testifying for the defence, said it appeared Chisale had been dead before he was thrown into the enclosure.

The case was hampered because few remains of Chisale were found: a partial skull, a few bones and the tip of a finger, the print from which was used to identify the victim. Some bloodstained shreds of Chisale's shirt and trousers were also recovered. [...]

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Fireworks blast kills 5 in Anhui 2005-04-29 11:30:09

HEFEI, April 29 (Xinhuanet) -- An explosion took place at a fireworks factory in east China's Anhui Province Thursday, killing five women on the spot and leaving two others seriously wounded, according to available information reaching here Friday.

The blast, occurred at around 16:00 p.m. Thursday, toppled three workshops of the factory and five female workers aged from 30 to 60 were killed. It also injured scores of others working outside the workshops, and two of them seriously wounded. Those injured have been rushed to a hospital in Sanhe Township of Feixi County.

The factory director, surnamed Zhang, said the blast might be resulted from the friction of gunpowder. [...]

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Death toll rises to 13 in military plane crash in Peru 2005-04-29 05:51:03

LIMA, April 28 (Xinhuanet) -- The death toll rose to 13 in the military plane crash in Peru on Thursday.

The victims included eight military officers and three non-commissioned officers, and two civilians, reports said.

The twin-engine plane, which departed from the Peruvian air force (FAP) base in Pisco, crashed into an empty beach near a gas-refining plant.

The remains of the plane was just 200 meters from the natural-gas tanks, according to local reports.

Military authorities cordoned off the spot of the crash and no official report on the incident was issued.

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Nine dead as military helicopter crashes in Philippines
28 April 2005 1416 hrs

MANILA : A military helicopter carrying a group of government scientists crashed in a mountainous area in the northern Philippines on Thursday, killing the nine people on board, officials said.

Rescue helicopters were scrambled to the crash site on Mount Namal near the town of Gabaldon, 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of here, the air force said.

"The aircraft exploded but we don't know if it was upon impact or while in mid-air," said Inspector Pablo Cruz, police chief of Gabaldon, who was among the first at the crash scene.

"So far four bodies had been recovered, two wearing AF (Air Force) uniforms while two were burned beyond recognition."

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Chernobyl Threatens Second Disaster
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Republished from Independent News & Media
Thu, 28 Apr 2005 12:04:51 -0500

A leading Russian scientist has claimed that the sarcophagus entombing Chernobyl's broken nuclear reactor is dangerously degraded and he warned that its collapse could cause a catastrophe on the same scale as the original accident almost 20 years ago.

Professor Alexei Yablokov, President of the Centre for Russian Environmental Policy, said the concrete and metal sarcophagus was riven with cracks, already leaking radiation and at risk of collapse unless repairs were undertaken and work on a replacement urgently begun.

"If it collapses, there will be no explosion, as this is not a bomb, but a pillar of dust containing irradiated particles will shoot 1.5 kilometres into the air and will be spread by the wind." Depending on how the wind is blowing, Russia or Belarus would bear the brunt of such a dust cloud. Ukraine, where Chernobyl is located, would also be affected.

The sarcophagus is designed to keep a lid on what is left of the nuclear reactor that exploded with such dire consequences during an unauthorised test in April 1986 and is supposed to stop the mass of unspent nuclear fuel that lies beneath from entering the atmosphere.

It is estimated that only between 3 and 15 per cent of that fuel actually escaped during the explosion meaning that most of it is still trapped inside. Dr Yablokov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a one-time adviser to former president Boris Yeltsin, said nuclear reactions were actually taking place – spontaneously – inside the sarcophagus as rain and snow fell on the unspent fuel through cracks in the decaying shell.

He said experts had "seen a luminescence characteristic of chain reactions inside the giant building". adding: "Who could predict what might happen if hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete, which was hastily poured 19 years ago, tumbled down on the ruined nuclear reactor?"

His gloomy assessment corroborates that of the Ukrainian officials who manage the decommissioned power plant.

Earlier this year Julia Marusych, the head of information at Chernobyl, admitted on Russian TV that the sarcophagus was in appalling condition: "The construction is unstable, unsafe, and does not meet any safety requirements."

The sarcophagus was hastily thrown together after the explosion as a desperate attempt to contain the world's worst nuclear accident. Many of the workers who toiled on it have since died of cancer and the sarcophagus itself began showing signs of serious stress in the early 1990s.

Built to last 50 years, experts were forced to reduce its recommended lifespan to just 20 years meaning a replacement is due in 2006.

Some repair work was carried out earlier this year but progress is slow due to the fact that construction workers can only be in its vicinity for short periods because of radiation levels.

Sceptics claim that warnings about its deterioration are designed to persuade Western donors to stump up the $1bn bill. A donors' conference takes place in London on 12 May and the Ukrainian government hopes to raise $300m.

That task has been complicated, however, by recent revelations that private firms have embezzled some $185m of Chernobyl money, some of which was earmarked for a new shelter. [...]

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Sick Swedish Asylum Children Baffle Experts
By Stephen Brown
Apr 27, 2005

STOCKHOLM - Swedish investigators are baffled by a mysterious illness affecting over 400 children of asylum-seekers, mostly from former Soviet and Yugoslav states, who fall into a deep depression and lose the will to live.

The government presented its first study of the so-called "apathetic children" Wednesday, after King Carl XVI Gustav added his voice to a chorus of concern from charities, church groups and politicians who want them protected from deportation.

"It is dreadful what is happening to these poor children," the Swedish king told reporters.

The condition is known as Pervasive Refusal Syndrome and can be life-threatening. It affects boys and girls of all ages, but mostly aged 8-15, who refuse to speak, move, eat or drink for days or many months, and must be drip-fed to keep them alive.

Virtually unknown before 2000, the condition has been seen on a large scale only in Sweden. But the researchers ruled out that the children were faking their condition.

"I have never believed that," said researcher Nader Ahmadi. He has documented 409 cases in the last two years - many more than the 150 cases originally reported. But the data raised more questions than it answered, as he acknowledged.

"Why have these cases apparently only happened in Sweden? Why do they mostly come from such specific places in the world?" asked Ahmadi.

More than 61 percent of the children come from the former Soviet Union, mostly Central Asia and the Caucasus, and 26 percent from the former Yugoslavia, especially Kosovo.

Neither does approval of their families' asylum petition necessarily cure the children, he said - some get well right away but others have remained seriously ill for up to a year. [...]

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Some scientists say humans can read minds
By Ker Than
4:54 p.m. ET April 27, 2005

Empathy allows us to feel the emotions of others, to identify and understand their feelings and motives and see things from their perspective. How we generate empathy remains a subject of intense debate in cognitive science.

Some scientists now believe they may have finally discovered its root. We're all essentially mind readers, they say.

The idea has been slow to gain acceptance, but evidence is mounting.

Mirror neurons

In 1996, three neuroscientists were probing the brain of a macaque monkey when they stumbled across a curious cluster of cells in the premotor cortex, an area of the brain responsible for planning movements. The cluster of cells fired not only when the monkey performed an action, but likewise when the monkey saw the same action performed by someone else. The cells responded the same way whether the monkey reached out to grasp a peanut, or merely watched in envy as another monkey or a human did.

Because the cells reflected the actions that the monkey observed in others, the neuroscientists named them "mirror neurons."

Later experiments confirmed the existence of mirror neurons in humans and revealed another surprise. In addition to mirroring actions, the cells reflected sensations and emotions.

"Mirror neurons suggest that we pretend to be in another person's mental shoes," says Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. "In fact, with mirror neurons we do not have to pretend, we practically are in another person's mind."

Since their discovery, mirror neurons have been implicated in a broad range of phenomena, including certain mental disorders. Mirror neurons may help cognitive scientists explain how children develop a theory of mind (ToM), which is a child's understanding that others have minds similar to their own. Doing so may help shed light on autism, in which this type of understanding is often missing. [...]

Comment: Perhaps these scientists should study the activity of mirror neurons in psychopaths. From THE PSYCHOPATH - The Mask of Sanity:

We can feel fear, sympathy, empathy, sadness, and so on because we can IMAGINE in an abstract way, the future based on our own experiences in the past, or even just "concepts of experiences" in myriad variations. We can "predict" how others will react because we are able to "see ourselves" in them even though they are "out there" and the situation is somewhat different externally, though similar in dynamic. In other words, we can not only identify with others spatially - so to say - but also temporally - in time.

The psychopath does not seem to have this capacity. They are unable to "imagine" in the sense of being able to really connect to images in a direct "self connecting to another self" sort of way.

Oh, indeed, they can imitate feelings, but the only real feelings they seem to have - the thing that drives them and causes them to act out different dramas for effect - are a sort of adrenaline based "fear" of loss of what they want. That is to say, they "feel" need/want as love, and not having their needs/wants met is described as "not being loved" by them.

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Study: Nuclear fusion created in lab

Energy created too small to harness cheap fusion power
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- In the latest attempt to create nuclear fusion under laboratory conditions, scientists reported they achieved it in an experiment that uses a strong electric field generated by a small crystal.

While the energy created was too small to harness cheap fusion power, this new way of making nuclear fusion could have potential uses in the oil drilling industry and homeland security, said Seth Putterman, a physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who conducted the study.

The experiment's results appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. [...]

Fusion experts noted that the UCLA experiment was credible because, unlike the 1989 work, it did not violate basic principles of physics.

"This doesn't have any controversy in it because they're using a tried and true method," said David Ruzic, professor of nuclear and plasma engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "There's no mystery in terms of the physics."

In fusion, light atoms are joined in a high-temperature process that frees large amounts of energy. Fusion produces virtually no air pollution and does not pose the safety and long-term radioactive waste concerns associated with modern nuclear power plants, where heavy uranium atoms are split to create energy in a process known as nuclear fission.

In the UCLA experiment, scientists placed a tiny crystal that can generate a strong electric field into a vacuum chamber filled with deuterium gas, a form of hydrogen capable of fusion. Then the researchers activated the crystal by heating it.

The resulting reaction gave off an isotope of helium along with subatomic particles known as neutrons, a characteristic of fusion. The experiment did not, however, produce more energy than the amount put in -- an achievement that would be a huge breakthrough.

UCLA's Putterman said future experiments will focus on refining the technique for potential commercial uses, including designing portable neutron generators that could be used for oil well drilling or scanning luggage and cargo at airports.

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Tremor detected off Sumatran coast: Malaysian Meteorological Services
29 April 2005 0229 hrs - CNA /ls

KUALA LUMPUR : A tremor measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale was detected off the Sumatran coast at 10.07 pm Thursday, according to a Malaysian Meteorological Services spokesman.

The tremor occurred at latitude 1.96 north and 95.9 east.

The spokesman told Bernama news agency that so far, only Penang was reported to have experienced tremors from the quake. There were no reports from other states.

No tsunami was expected from the quake, the spokesman said.

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Seawater inundates Tuticorin coast; sparks tsunami scare
April 28. (PTI)

Madurai, : A tsunami scare was caused as sea water inundated a coastal area in Tuticorin last evening, submerging nearly 300 huts and forcing the residents to move to safer places.

The water entered the huts at Inigo Nagar, 200 metres from the coastline, submerging them. However, the water receded after three hours.

According to villagers, waves gushing in till 100 metres from coastline was a normal phenomenon during full moon days.

However, last night the sea seemed to be abnormally rough.

"We have enough expertise to study the waves during daytime. But if it is night, we will be in trouble. We have lost peace of mind since the tsunami tragedy and the vagaries of the sea," a villager said.

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Damn drought
Friday, 29 April 2005

(Australia) - After three years of continued drought, Cootamundra farmers have been hit with another blow - one of the driest April's on record combined with unseasonably hot weather.

The continued dry weather has meant several grain farmers have had to dry sow their winter crops to ensure they are not affected by the delayed break.

Farmers with livestock have also felt the pinch, with many cutting down on their yarding numbers and handfeeding remaining stock.

With hopes for sufficient autumn rains quickly fading, farmers are looking at another year of failed crops and shortage of grazing pasture.

Cootamundra has only recorded 4.6 millimetres during April, well below the month's average of 49.9 millimetres. [...]

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Texas A&M Announces Successfully Cloned Horse
by The Associated Press
POSTED: 7:52 am EDT April 28, 2005

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M University has announced that a team of French and American researchers has successfully cloned a horse.

University officials said they believe the animal, named Paris Texas, is the first horse successfully cloned in North America. Horses have been cloned in Italy.

A&M researchers used adult horse skin cells biopsied from a valuable horse in Europe to clone the foal, which was born March 13. The process took 400 attempts over a four-month period. Six embryos were created but only one was successfully gestated in a host horse named Greta.

The first cloned cat was born at the school in 2001. Since then, Texas A&M has cloned several litters of pigs, a Boer goat, a disease-resistant Angus bull, the first Brahma bull and a deer.

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Alarming behaviour
By Paul Revel

VILLAGERS say they are being plagued by a mystery interference which is playing havoc with their cars.

Meopham residents say their lives have been disrupted for two weeks by the strange happening.

They have seen their cars' remote-controlled locking systems go berserk meaning many motorists have been locked out of their own vehicles.

And to add to their fury, the cars' alarms are going off day and night apparently for no reason.

Former maintenance engineer John Broad, 67, said: "We want to get to the bottom of this. Whoever is responsible should sort it out. People are very concerned.

"One bloke even had his car towed away to the dealership for diagnostics but they couldn't find anything wrong with it."

Father-of-two Mr Broad has been having trouble with his Nissan Almeria but the mysterious electronic gremlins are striking a range of cars including Toyotas, Volkswagens and Land Rovers.

He added: "One chap goes to work at 5am and when he's having problems his car's loud alarm wakes up the whole street."

Villagers suspected the Vodafone mast at Meopham train station but the company has said there is no way it is responsible.

News Shopper has reported in the past how motorists have been locked out of their cars because of phone mast interference.

Normally upgraded 3G masts, which allow people to send pictures and videos via their mobiles, are to blame.

In one case, car manufacturer Subaru confirmed its cars can be affected by radiation from masts.

But Vodafone says the Meopham station mast has been operating for many years and there have been no recent alterations or upgrades.

A spokesman said it was highly unlikely the phone mast was affecting the car alarms.

She explained the phone network operated between 900 and 2,100 megahertz which is far removed from the key-fob remote controls for cars, which operate at around 300 megahertz.

She added more likely causes could be radio transmissions from ambulances and police cars, or even amateur radio hams' operating in the area.

Mr Broad said: "It's mystifying.We are at the end of our tether. If any readers can give us a clue as to why this is happening we want to hear from them.

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Scientists stumped by exploding toads
Thursday 28 April 2005, 23:10 Makka Time, 20:10 GMT

More than 1000 toads have puffed up and exploded in a Hamburg pond in recent weeks, baffling scientists.

German scientists still have no explanation for what's causing the combustion, an official said on Wednesday.

Both the pond's water and body parts of the toads have been tested, but scientists have been unable to find a bacteria or virus that would cause the toads to swell up and pop, Janne Kloepper, of the Hamburg-based Institute for Hygiene and the Environment said.

"It's absolutely strange."

"We have a really unique story here in Hamburg. This phenomenon really doesn't seem to have appeared anywhere before," she said.

Sci-fi stuff

The toads at a pond in the upscale neighbourhood of Altona have been blowing up since the beginning of April, filling up like balloons until their stomachs suddenly burst.

"It looks like a scene from a science-fiction movie," Werner Schmolnik, the head of a local environment group, told the Hamburger Abendblatt daily.

"The bloated animals suffer for several minutes before they finally die."

Biologists have come up with several theories, but Janne Kloepper said that most have been ruled out.

The pond's water quality is no better or worse than other bodies of water in Hamburg.

The toads did not appear to have a disease, and a laboratory in Berlin has ruled out the possibility that it is a fungus that made its way from South America, Klopper said.

She said that tests will continue. In the meantime, city residents have been warned to stay away from the pond.

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