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Forget about invasion and occupation...

U.S. may allow nuke strikes over WMD
Japan Times
May 2nd 2005

Proposal would reverse 10-year policy

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. military is considering allowing regional combatant commanders to request presidential approval for pre-emptive nuclear strikes against possible attacks with weapons of mass destruction on the United States or its allies, according to a draft nuclear operations paper.

The March 15 paper, drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations," providing "guidelines for the joint employment of forces in nuclear operations . . . for the employment of U.S. nuclear forces, command and control relationships, and weapons effect considerations."

"There are numerous nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal) and about 30 nations with WMD programs, including many regional states," the paper says in recommending that commanders in the Pacific and other theaters be given an option of pre-emptive strikes against "rogue" states and terrorists and "request presidential approval for use of nuclear weapons" under set conditions.

The paper identifies nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as requiring pre-emptive strikes to prevent their use.

Allowing pre-emptive nuclear strikes against possible biological and chemical attacks would effectively contradict a "negative security assurance" policy declared 10 years ago by the Clinton administration during an international conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Creating a treaty committing nuclear powers not to use nuclear weapons against countries without nuclear weapons remains one of the most contentious issues for the 35-year-old NPT regime.

A Pentagon official said the paper "is still a draft which has to be finalized" but indicated that it is aimed at guiding "cross-spectrum" combatant commanders how to jointly carry out operations based on the Nuclear Posture Review report adopted three years ago by the Bush administration.

Citing North Korea, Iran and some other countries as threats, the report sets out contingencies for which U.S. nuclear strikes must be prepared.

It calls for developing earth-penetrating nuclear bombs to destroy hidden underground military facilities, including those for storing WMD and ballistic missiles.

"The nature (of the paper) is to explain not details but cross spectrum for how to conduct operations," the official said, noting that it "means for all services -- army, navy, air force and marine."

In 1991 after the end of the Cold War, the United States removed its ground-based nuclear weapons in Asia and Europe as well as strategic nuclear warheads on warships and submarines.

But the paper says the U.S. has the capability of reviving sea-based nuclear arms.

Comment: With a group of power-hungry, delusional madmen at the helm, we take one step closer to the brink. The abovementioned paper from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff is seriously flawed, if only for the fact that, after the lies we were told about Iraq, the world can no longer trust any claims about terrorist regimes possessing WMDs that come from the US government and its military or intelligence agencies.

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U.S. quietly drops historic arms-control deals from brochure on disarmament
10:05 AM EDT May 25

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - With a few keystrokes, an official U.S. brochure on disarmament eliminated some historic arms-control deals and showed once again that what is left out of a report can be as telling as what's put in.

In this case, the publication's "rewriting of history," as one critic put it, also illustrates in black and white a dispute that has helped bog down the 188-country conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The month-long conference entered its final three days on Wednesday with uncertain prospects for producing any major agreements to tighten controls on the spread of atomic arms, or to speed nuclear disarmament.

The brochure, produced by the U.S. State Department and distributed to hundreds of delegates, lists milestones in arms control since the 1980s, while touting reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

But the timeline omits a pivotal agreement, the 1996 treaty to ban nuclear tests, a pact negotiated by the Clinton administration and ratified by 121 countries but now rejected by President George W. Bush.

Further along, the brochure skips over the year 2000 entirely, a snub of the treaty review conference that year, when the United States and other nuclear-weapons states committed to "13 practical steps" to achieve nuclear disarmament - including activating the test-ban treaty, negotiating a pact to ban production of bomb material and "unequivocally undertaking" to totally eliminate their arsenals.

Bush administration officials now suggest the 2000 commitments are outdated. Other delegations reject that, however, demanding a reaffirmation of the goals in a final document at the current conference.

Few expect that, and they cite the blank spots in the brochure as another piece of evidence.

"Official disdain for these agreements seems to have turned into denial that they existed," said Joseph Cirincione, an arms-control specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who accused the State Department of rewriting history.

"Does this mean that, because we have a change of administration, we are not accountable to other countries?" asked another disarmament advocate, Jonathan Granoff of the Global Security Institute.

Asked why the 1996 treaty and the 2000 U.S. commitments - along with similar commitments in 1995 - didn't make the 40-entry list of "progress in arms control," U.S. delegation spokesman Richard Grenell said simply: "We highlighted certain items, and it wasn't an exhaustive list."

By contrast, an official UN chronology has several entries on the test ban, and prominently notes the 1995 and 2000 agreements.

Under the 1970 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, reviewed every five years for ways to strengthen implementation, countries without nuclear weapons commit to not pursuing them in exchange for a pledge by five weapons states - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - to move toward disarmament. The non-weapons states, meanwhile, are guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology.

The United States has sought to have the conference focus on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.

In Geneva on Wednesday, European diplomats resume negotiations with Tehran in an effort to get the Iranians to roll back their uranium-enrichment program, which can produce both fuel for nuclear energy and material for bombs. The Iranians cite the treaty guarantee on peaceful technology in justifying the program, but Washington contends they have plans to make weapons.

North Korea was the first "defector" from the treaty, having announced its withdrawal in 2003 and now claiming to have built nuclear weapons. This was done without consequences under the treaty, and many at the conference would like to make it harder to exit the nuclear pact, and to threaten sanctions against those who do.

Many non-weapons states, however, want an additional focus on the nuclear powers, complaining they are moving too slowly on their disarmament obligations. They cite in particular Bush administration talk of "modernizing" the U.S. nuclear arsenal and rejection of the test-ban treaty.

Washington still adheres to a unilateral moratorium on testing, but treaty advocates say a formal outlawing of testing is needed to stop development of new nuclear arms.

Visiting the troubled conference on Tuesday, a U.S. negotiator of the test-ban treaty told reporters the 1996 pact is a "litmus test."

"If countries that promised never to have nuclear weapons now see weapons states holding open the option to test, some of them think, 'Why should we give up nuclear weapons?' " said former ambassador Thomas Graham.

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Advance to Armageddon
William Arkin
May 21-22, 2005
Hong Kong Weekend Standard

Early last summer, United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a top secret "Interim Global Strike Alert Order'' directing the military to assume and maintain readiness to attack hostile countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran and North Korea.

Two months later, Lieutenant-General Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, told a reporter that his fleet of B-2 and B-52 bombers had changed its way of operating so that it could be ready to carry out such missions. "We're now at the point where we are essentially on alert,'' Carlson said in an interview with the Shreveport Times.

"We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes.''

Carlson said his forces were the US Strategic Command's "focal point for global strike'' and could execute an attack "in half a day or less.''

In the secret world of military planning, global strike has become the term to describe a specific pre-emptive attack. When military officials refer to global strike, they stress its conventional elements. Surprisingly, however, global strike also includes a nuclear option, which runs counter to traditional US notions about the defensive role of nuclear weapons.

The official US position on the use of nuclear weapons has not changed. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has taken steps to de-emphasize the importance of its nuclear arsenal.

The Bush administration has said it remains committed to reducing its nuclear stockpile while keeping a credible deterrent against other nuclear powers. Administration and military officials have stressed this continuity in testimony over the past several years before various congressional committees.

But a confluence of events, beginning with the September 11, 2001, attacks and the president's forthright commitment to the idea of pre-emptive action to prevent future attacks, has set in motion a process that has led to a fundamental change in how the US military might respond to certain possible threats.

Understanding how Washington got to this point, and what it might mean for US policy, is particularly important now - with the renewed focus last week on Iran's nuclear intentions and on speculation that North Korea is ready to conduct its first test of a nuclear weapon.

Global strike has become one of the core missions for the Omaha-based Strategic Command, or Stratcom.

Once, Stratcom oversaw only the nation's nuclear forces; now it has responsibility for overseeing a global strike plan with both conventional and nuclear options.

President George W Bush spelled out the definition of a "full-spectrum'' global strike in a January 2003 classified directive, describing it as "a capability to deliver rapid, extended range, precision kinetic (nuclear and conventional) and non-kinetic effects in support of theater and national objectives.''

This blurring of the nuclear/conventional line, wittingly or unwittingly, could heighten the risk that the nuclear option will be used.

Exhibit A may be the Stratcom contingency plan for dealing with "imminent'' threats from countries such as North Korea or Iran, formally known as Conplan 8022-02.

Conplan 8022 is different from other war plans in that it posits a small-scale operation and no "boots on the ground.''

The typical war plan encompasses an amalgam of forces - air, ground, sea - and takes into account the logistics and political dimensions needed to sustain those forces in protracted operations. All these elements generally require significant lead time to be effective.

Existing Pentagon war plans, developed for specific regions or "theaters,'' are essentially defensive responses to invasions or attacks. The global strike plan is offensive, triggered by the perception of an imminent threat and carried out by presidential order.

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Radome Successfully Installed On Sea-Based X-Band Radar
May 23, 2005

Corpus Christi TX - Air Force Lt. General Henry "Trey" Obering announced May 16 the completion of the final major assembly of Sea-Based X-Band Radar at Kiewit Offshore Services at Corpus Christi, Texas with the successful deployment of the radar's protective radome.

The radome weighs 18,000 pounds, stands over 103 feet high, and is 120 feet in diameter. Made entirely of a high-tech synthetic fabric, the radome is supported by air pressure alone and can withstand winds more than 130 miles per hour.

The design and fabrication of the radome required development of several new processes, materials, and technologies, and is one of the largest air-supported radomes ever developed, and one far more durable than any approaching its size. [...]

With the installation of the radome, the sea-based X-band radar enters an intense phase of final integration, test, and evaluation prior to entering service in the Ballistic Missile Defense System late this year.

Over the next several months the SBX will undergo a wide range of sea trials and exercises prior to cruising this summer to its home port of Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. [...]

Initially, it will provide the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System with an advanced training and decoy discrimination capability that will help interceptor missiles located in Alaska and California provide a defense against a limited long-range missile attack aimed at any of our 50 states.

Over time it will be able to support other missiles that may be used against our homeland, deployed forces, allies and friends.

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Nobel Winner: Missile Defense Still Decades Away
May 17, 2005

Airlie VA - A comprehensive defense against nuclear missiles is still decades away, a Nobel Prize winning U.S. scientist said Tuesday.

"If we could turn on overnight a completely effective missile defense system, I would be completely in favor of it, even if it cost hundreds of billions of dollars," Professor Steven Weinberg, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics, told a conference on the militarization of space Tuesday.

The two day conference held in Airlie, Va., was organized by the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

However, Weinberg described the current system being deployed in Alaska and elsewhere by the Bush administration to defend against a limited ICBM attack as "a system which has no capability at all."

"There is no prospect" of an effective ABM system to defend the United States against ballistic missile attack for years, perhaps even decades, to come," he said.

Weinberg is a physics professor at the University of Texas in Austin.

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Analysis: China Ready To Counter U.S. Space Plans
by Martin Sieff
May 20, 2005

Washington - China takes U.S. plans to boost its space military capabilities very seriously and is likely to respond with energetic counter-measures of her own, a leading expert on the Chinese space program told United Press International.

Chinese experts and leaders fear if the United States achieves absolute military and strategic superiority in space it could be used to intervene in China's affairs, such as the Taiwan issue, Hui Zhang, an expert on space weaponization and China's nuclear policy at the John F, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University told UPI. [...]

Hu Xiaodi, China's veteran senior negotiator on space weaponization, expressed Beijing's fears at a Committee on Peace and Disarmament panel on Oct. 11, 2001.

"It is rather the attempt toward the domination of outer space, which is expected to serve to turn the absolute security and perpetual authority (many people call this hegemony) of one country on earth," he said. "The unilateralism and exceptionalism that are on the rise in recent months also mutually reinforce this."

Chinese strategists believe that U.S. missile-defense plans pose a great threat to China's national security, Zhang said. They believe such defenses could be used to neutralize China's nuclear deterrent and give the United States more freedom to encroach on China's sovereignty, including on Taiwan-related issues, he said. [...]

But China would not stand passively by and do nothing if the United States pushed ahead with its ambitious plans to develop new weapons for force projection from and through space, Zhang said.

"Historically, China's sole purpose for developing its nuclear weapons was to guard itself against the threat of nuclear blackmail," he said.

"China first (intends to) pursue an arms control agreement to ban space weaponization, as it is advocating now," Zhang said. However, "If this effort fails, and if what China perceives as its legitimate security concerns are ignored, China would very likely develop responses to neutralize such a threat."

These responses would depend on the specific infrastructure of the U.S. missile defense and space weaponization programs, Zhang said. But they could include producing as many as 14 or 15 times as many ICBMs with a range of more than 7,800 miles that are able to threaten the United States, he said. [...]

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Australia Might Buy Theatre Missile Defense System
May 23, 2005

Washington - The Pentagon Monday announced the possible sale of three Aegis naval weapons systems to Australia, saying it would increase the ability of the US and Australian navies to operate together.

The Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) estimated the value of the sale at as high as 350 million dollars.

Aegis systems are centered on a sophisticated computerized command system that can cue air defense missiles to enemy missiles and aircraft detected by targeting radar. Using its AN/SPY-1 phased array radar, it can track over a hundred targets simultaneously. [...]

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Cyber Defenses' CyberScout Performs Transition From Hover To Forward Flight
May 24, 2005

St. Petersburg FL - Cyber Defense Systems has announced that on May 13 their CyberScout UAV performed its first transition flight from hover flight to forward flight.

The CyberScout, a gas powered VTOL type vehicle, is the first in a series of planned UAV's being developed to hover and/or fly horizontally for up to 60 minutes at speeds of 300 MPH plus.

The successful test flight began with a stable hover followed by a vertical ascent to 200 feet above ground level then to forward flight.

When ready for market, the CyberScout should weigh approximately 80 pounds with a camera, a standard flight autopilot with an autonomous flight system, and hold a five-pound payload pod, which can be rapidly field-configured with a wide array of cameras, sensors, weapons, and instruments. [...]

Comment: Another toy for Big Brother...

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The pipeline that will change the world
By Daniel Howden and Philip Thornton
The Independent
25 May 2005

It is 42 inches wide, 1,090 miles long and is intended to save the West from relying on Middle Eastern oil. Nothing has been allowed to stand in its way - and it finally opens today

The first drops of crude will snake their way along a pipeline that traverses some of the most unstable and war-ravaged countries on earth. This is the oil flow that was meant to save the West, and this morning the taps were turned on.

Only 42 inches wide, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan was supposed to alter global oil markets forever. The 1,000-mile project has transformed the geopolitics of the Caucasus and its impact is now being felt in the vastness of central Asia.

Output is supposed to reach one million barrels a day - more than 1 per cent of world production - from an underground reserve that could hold as many as 220 billion barrels.

Its architects and investors claimed the pipeline would shore up energy supplies in the US and Europe for 50 years, protecting our gas-guzzling way of life and easing our reliance on the House of Saud.

The goal of the ambitious project, which makes its tortuous way from the Caspian in Azerbaijan, through Georgia to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, is to ease the reliance of the West on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and bring cheaper fuel to our filling stations. The pipe threads its way through the region in a seemingly modest private corridor only 50 yards wide but nothing has been allowed to stand in its way. From forests to labour laws and endangered species to democracy protesters: all have given way to the costliest and most significant pipeline ever built.

The project, known as BTC, has driven a wedge between the US and Russia, triggered political unrest in the countries it passes through and their neighbours and sparked concern at extensive damage to the environment.

Since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, concern at the West's dependence on Persian Gulf oil has intensified. For Washington, the opening is a cause for celebration. "We view this as a significant step forward in the energy security of that region," said Samuel Bodman, the American energy secretary, who stood next to the three heads of state at today's ceremony.

With him at the pumping station controls was the president of the tiny former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. The BTC has allowed Ilham Aliev to become a firm friend of the West while overseeing a government condemned for human rights abuses and sitting at the head of an administration placed 140 out of 146 in Transparency International's global corruption index.

The politics of the pipeline have also changed the face of Georgia, where the battle for control with Russia saw immense US influence deployed in support of the so-called "Rose Revolution". The popular protest ushered the American-educated Mikhail Saakashvili into power two years ago. Washington's new ties with Tbilisi were amply demonstrated when George Bush became the first US president to visit the country earlier this month.

In the long-term US ally Turkey, where the pipeline crucially delivers its oil direct to the Mediterranean - bypassing the tanker-clogged Bosphorus straits, it is no accident that it does so right next to the American airbase at Incirlik. [...]

Once the Soviet empire fell, the Caspian found itself surrounded by five nation states - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan.

The region's supply of cheap oil and key position on the historic border between the West and the East meant that countries quickly moved into position like pieces on a chessboard.

Three rival plans were drawn up - a northern route through Russia, a southern alternative through Iran and the central option through the Caucasus to the Mediterranean.

The winner could be in little doubt: the middle road was the only one which guaranteed Washington and its corporate allies a corridor of control.

The US Vice-President Dick Cheney, who was then chief executive of oil services giant Halliburton, was among the first to be swept away in the excitement.

"I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian," he said in 1998.

Now, more than a decade and $4bn (£2.2bn) later, almost three quarters of which came from bank loans which were underwritten by government agencies and £320m in taxpayers' money, the pipeline is open. But this chapter of what Rudyard Kipling called the "Great Game" - the secret battle to dominate central Asia - has only reached the end of its first phase.

The fanfare at the British oil giant BP's gleaming new terminal at Sangachal in Azerbaijan may yet prove to be premature.

Stripped of the American hype of the 1990s, the crude that began a very modest flow this morning is the first instalment of a reserve many analysts are now convinced is actually only 32 billion barrels - equivalent to that of a small Gulf player such as Qatar.

The game now moves to the transCaspian pipeline and to the immense plains of Turkmenistan and the political cauldron of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and beyond.

Comment: It's just business as usual...

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Patterns of Abuse
NY Times

President Bush said the other day that the world should see his administration's handling of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison as a model of transparency and accountability. He said those responsible were being systematically punished, regardless of rank. It made for a nice Oval Office photo-op on a Friday morning. Unfortunately, none of it is true.

The administration has provided nothing remotely like a full and honest accounting of the extent of the abuses at American prison camps in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It has withheld internal reports and stonewalled external inquiries, while clinging to the fiction that the abuse was confined to isolated acts, like the sadistic behavior of one night crew in one cellblock at Abu Ghraib. The administration has prevented any serious investigation of policy makers at the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon by orchestrating official probes so that none could come even close to the central question of how the prison policies were formulated and how they led to the abuses.

But a two-part series in The Times by Tim Golden provides a horrifying new confirmation that what happened at Abu Ghraib was no aberration, but part of a widespread pattern. It showed the tragic impact of the initial decision by Mr. Bush and his top advisers that they were not going to follow the Geneva Conventions, or indeed American law, for prisoners taken in antiterrorist operations.

The series details the killing of two Afghan prisoners at the Bagram prison camp, one of them an innocent taxi driver who was tormented to death by American soldiers. The investigative file on Bagram, obtained by The Times, showed that the mistreatment of prisoners was routine: shackling them to the ceilings of their cells, depriving them of sleep, kicking and hitting them, sexually humiliating them and threatening them with guard dogs - the very same behavior later repeated in Iraq.

This pattern should not surprise anyone by now. The same general who organized the harsh interrogation techniques at Guantánamo Bay was later sent to Iraq, as were some of the prison guard units from Bagram. Guards at the Iraq and Afghanistan prisons were sent to their duties from civilian life, with no experience and little training.

One thing they were taught at Bagram was the "common peroneal strike" - a blow to the side of the leg just above the knee that can cause severe damage. It is clearly out of bounds for a civilized army, but it was used at Bagram routinely. The taxi driver, Dilawar, died after "blunt force injuries to the lower extremities" stopped his heart, according to the autopsy report.

The trouble is, normal bounds did not apply at Bagram, because the president had muddied the water with conflicting orders. In a February 2002 memo, he spoke of giving prisoners humane treatment, but only when it suited "military necessity," and he also said members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban were not entitled to prisoner-of-war status. That led interrogators to believe that they "could deviate slightly from the rules," according to an Army Reserve sergeant who served at Bagram.

It now appears that those slight deviations included killing prisoners, and then covering up the reason they died.

Comment: The above report tells us nothing new, but the fact that it appeared in the NY Times is noteworthy in that it constitutes a break with the US mainstream press' norm of parroting US government propaganda.

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Amnesty condemns US example on human rights
Sarah Left
Wednesday May 25, 2005

The US abdicated its responsibility to set a global example in upholding human rights in 2004 and, with the UK, led a "dangerous new agenda" by sanctioning torture in a failed attempt to combat terrorism, Amnesty International warned today.

Speaking at the launch of Amnesty's annual report into human rights abuses, the group's secretary general, Irene Khan, said governments worldwide had betrayed their promises on human rights last year.

She singled out as bleak examples international inaction on the killings in Darfur, the UN's failure to deal with abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the torture of prisoners by the US military in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The US came in for particular criticism over its pronouncements on torture and for "usurping the language of justice and freedom to pursue policies of fear and insecurity", she told a London press conference.

"The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyperpower, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide," she said. "When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity."

She said practices such as the detention without trial of more than 500 men at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba undermined US moral authority and had damaged the Bush administration's ability to put pressure on other countries for progress on human rights.

"The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law," she said. " Guantánamo evokes memories of Soviet repression."

Ms Khan likened the Bush administration's practice of holding unregistered prisoners, or "ghost detainees", at secret locations to tactics deployed in some Latin American countries.

The US government's use of dubious terms such as environmental manipulations, stress positions and sensory manipulation to describe the treatment of prisoners amounted to "cynical attempts to redefine and sanitise torture", she said. She also criticised what she said was the UK's acceptance of intelligence derived by torture in certain circumstances.

"To say in a 21st-century democracy that torture is acceptable is to push us back to medieval ages," she warned.

Against this backdrop, armed groups had continued to make shocking attacks on civilians, Amnesty reported. These included the murder of hundreds of parents and children in Beslan, the massacre of commuters in Madrid and the beheadings and bombings in Iraq. Yet governments had persisted with failed, but politically convenient, strategies on tacking terrorism, Ms Khan said. "Four years after 9/11, the promise to make the world a safer place remains hollow."

With tens of thousands of people killed and more than 2 million displaced by the violence in Darfur in western Sudan, Ms Khan called on African leaders to stand firm on human rights, accusing the African Union of failing the people of Zimbabwe.

"African leaders do a disservice to their own people when they use African solidarity as a cover for impunity rather than a call for accountability," Ms Khan said.

The director of Amnesty's Africa programme, Kolawole Olaniyan, added that the failure to protect women and children in Congo, as well as sham elections in Togo, had highlighted weaknesses in the African Union. Apathy, indifference and the international community's failure to keep its promises had only added to Africa's human rights problems, he said.

Ms Khan defended Amnesty against accusations that the report had focused unduly on human rights abuses by the US, saying the accusations were backed up by facts.

"We are not doing this to pursue an anti-American agenda," she said. "We are pointing out to the US the role it can play to create a positive role model."

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Car bomb in Spanish capital injures 34
By Daniel Trotta and Emma Pinedo
May 25, 2005

MADRID - A car bomb injured at least 34 people in the Spanish capital on Wednesday in an apparent rebuff by Basque separatist guerrillas ETA to government peace overtures.

The bomb, in a stolen car, blew up in an industrial zone in northeastern Madrid 45 minutes after a Basque newspaper received a warning in the name of ETA, officials said.

The warning gave police time to seal off the area, but dozens were hurt by flying glass or the force of the blast. [...]

An emergency services spokeswoman told state radio that 34 people had been treated so far, mostly for cuts and hearing damage, but only one required hospital treatment.

Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said the bomb was estimated to contain between 18 and 20 kgs (40 to 44 lbs) of explosives, he said.

The blast appeared to be a defiant response by ETA to a vote by the Spanish Parliament last week granting the government permission to open peace talks with the group if it laid down its arms.

The bomb came two days after French police detained three suspected ETA members and hours before two leaders of Batasuna, banned as the political wing of ETA, were due to appear in a Madrid court to answer charges of belonging to ETA. [...]

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Interpol says world should prepare for bioterrorism
Wed May 25, 2005
By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Bioterrorism is a credible threat which authorities worldwide have underestimated, the world's top law enforcement agency warned on Wednesday.

Interpol says the world is largely unprepared for the possibility of attacks with crude biological agents -- some of which can be developed in a kitchen -- that militant groups have developed a heightened interest in.

"We, as police, cannot afford to be unprepared for the eventual use of biological agents by terrorist groups," Interpol president Jackie Selebi told a regional conference in Cyprus.

The world intelligence community has long warned that the militant group al Qaeda could try to use biological weapons such as anthrax, ricin, smallpox, plague or Ebola.

Al Qaeda manuals on preparation of biological agents were discovered at the group's training camps in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion in 2001.

"I do not want to scare everybody to say there is going to be a bio-terrorist attack. I am simply saying that, dealing with the issue of terrorism, you must deal with the issue of terrorism in its totality, including the possible use of biological agents," Selebi told journalists.


Biological agents are easy to make, carry and conceal but do not, at the moment at least, have the capacity to claim large numbers of casualties at once.

Interpol has a dedicated unit working on raising awareness of the threat, developing training programs and encouraging new legislation in jurisdictions where a prosecution for using bio-agents is possible only once the agent is actually deployed and therefore far too late.

"Failing in this area is not an option. The consequences of such failure are far to dire to contemplate," he said.

Asked if Interpol members were now prepared to counter the threat, Selebi replied: "They are being prepared."

The devastating effects of deliberate use of biological agents to inflict harm manifested itself with the anthrax scare of 2001, in which five people died in the United States after exposure to barely-visible flecks of the bacteria.

Comment: Indeed! And what do we know about those particular attacks? The anthrax used originated from a US military weapons lab!

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Flashback: FBI knows anthrax mailer but won’t make an arrest, US scientist charges
By Patrick Martin
25 February 2002

A leading US expert on biological warfare said the FBI had identified the perpetrator of last fall’s anthrax attacks on the congressional Democratic leadership and other targets, but was "dragging its feet" in making an arrest and pressing charges, for fear that secret government activities would be exposed.

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Program for the Federation of American Scientists, an independent, non-governmental professional group, made the charge in a speech February 18 at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

She said the FBI had known since last October the identity of the person who mailed lethal quantities of anthrax in letters to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Patrick Leahy, and several media outlets. Sources she described as "government insiders" told her the individual in question had been interrogated several times, but not arrested.

At least five anthrax-laced letters were mailed last fall, causing five deaths and several more serious illnesses. Three of them, with a weaker variety of the bacteria, went to the publisher of the Star tabloid, the New York Post, and NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw. Two more, with extremely powerful doses, went to Daschle and Leahy.

As microbiologists have more carefully studied the anthrax in the Daschle and Leahy letters, they have remarked on the purity and potency of the spores. It has become clear that only a small number of people, those with both the necessary scientific knowledge and access to government stocks of anthrax developed for bacteriological weapons, could have carried out the attack.

According to an account in the Trenton Times, Rosenberg told her Princeton audience that the suspect was likely to be a scientist who formerly worked at the US government’s main biological warfare laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, near Frederick, about 40 miles northwest of Washington DC.

In response to a question as to whether the knowledge required to produce the anthrax was widespread among scientists at major drug and chemical companies, Rosenberg said this conception was refuted by a careful examination of the letters to Capitol Hill. "I think that the results of the analyses show that access to classified information was essential," she said, "and that rules out most of the people in the pharmaceutical industry."

The extreme toxicity of the anthrax spores suggests that the attacker not only had experience in handling anthrax in a military setting, but had been vaccinated and received annual booster shots, and had access to classified information about how to treat the spores chemically so they would spread through the air without clumping together.

"We can draw a likely portrait of the perpetrator as a former Fort Detrick scientist who is now working for a contractor in the Washington, DC area," Rosenberg said. "He had reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United Kingdom.... There is also the likelihood the perpetrator made the anthrax himself. He grew it, probably on a solid medium and weaponized it at a private location where he had accumulated the equipment and the material.

"We know that the FBI is looking at this person, and it’s likely that he participated in the past in secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed," Rosenberg said. "And this raises the question of whether the FBI may be dragging its feet somewhat and may not be so anxious to bring to public light the person who did this.

"I know that there are insiders, working for the government, who know this person and who are worried that it could happen that some kind of quiet deal is made so that he just disappears from view," Rosenberg said.

"I hope that doesn’t happen, and that is my motivation to continue to follow this and to try to encourage press coverage and pressure on the FBI to follow up and publicly prosecute the perpetrator."

Rosenberg also expressed the belief that the Bush administration refused last summer to sign an international biological weapons treaty banning germ warfare weapons because of ongoing secret research and development of such weapons.

The issues raised by Rosenberg are of extraordinary significance. They suggest that the FBI is not only refusing to carry out a serious investigation into the anthrax attacks, but lying to the American public about its efforts. Two weeks before Rosenberg’s speech, the FBI held a press conference in the Trenton area to announce it was doubling to $2.5 million the reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. The FBI also sent out an e-mail to 40,000 microbiologists appealing for their assistance in the investigation.

FBI sources told the New York Times that they had made little headway in the investigation and had no firm suspects, according to a report published in the Times January 23. But by Rosenberg’s account, the FBI has long known who mailed the spores, and has interviewed the individual several times.

A similar piece of disinformation appeared in the Wall Street Journal February 12. The newspaper reported, citing FBI sources, that the anthrax investigation was now centered on US military labs, beginning with Ft. Detrick and Dugway, Utah. But again, the investigation was presented as painstaking and thorough, with very few positive leads.

Further evidence of the FBI’s lack of interest comes from Canadian anthrax researchers. Bush administration officials have suggested, in recent press interviews, that a vigorous effort is under way to identify the exact source of the anthrax used in the Leahy letter by comparing it genetically to varieties of the Ames strain of anthrax distributed to labs in North America and Britain. But according to Bill Kournikakis, a biologist at the Defense Research Establishment in Suffield, Alberta, "We have never been contacted by any law enforcement agency with regard to our Ames strain."

One additional fact points to the conclusion that someone connected to Ft. Detrick is responsible for the anthrax attacks. An anonymous letter was sent to a US marine base in late September, after the anthrax letters were posted but before any cases were diagnosed or the attack publicized, declaring that an Egyptian-American scientist, Ayaad Assaad, was a bioterrorist. Assaad was laid off from Ft. Detrick in 1997. He later charged that his dismissal involved racial prejudice and harassment. He has been cleared of any role in the anthrax mailings.

The timing of the denunciation—after the September 11 terrorist attacks but before the anthrax letters became publicly known—suggests that the anonymous accuser was the person who mailed the anthrax letters. The attacker sought to accuse an Arab-American of the crime in order to throw investigators off his trail, just as he used Islamic fundamentalist language in the anthrax letters themselves. The attacker must have been familiar enough with Ft. Detrick to know that Assaad would be a potential target for such a frame-up.

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Flashback: US anthrax attacks linked to army biological weapons plant
By Patrick Martin
28 December 2001

The anthrax spores enclosed in envelopes mailed to two leading Senate Democrats in October are biologically identical to bacteria secretly manufactured at a US germ warfare facility during the last decade, according to press reports and an analysis by a leading microbiologist.

The army biological and chemical warfare unit at the Dugway Proving Ground, about 80 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, may well be the source of the weapons-grade anthrax sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Scientists at Dugway grew and processed spores deriving from the Ames strain—the strain that appeared in all the letters sent to media outlets and Congress.

The spores had been carefully milled to produce the size most effective in spreading the deadly bacteria, between one and three microns. [...]

The Washington Post, in a front-page report December 16, cited these experts as concluding: "Genetic fingerprinting studies indicate that the anthrax spores mailed to Capitol Hill are identical to stocks of the deadly bacteria maintained by the US Army since 1980." At least one of the scientists told the Post that "the original source" of the anthrax in the Daschle and Leahy letters "had to have been USAMRIID," i.e., Fort Detrick.

The Post added: "The FBI’s investigation into the anthrax attacks is increasingly focusing on whether US government bioweapons research programs, including one conducted by the CIA, may have been the source of deadly anthrax powder sent through the mail, according to sources with knowledge of the probe. The results of the genetic tests strengthen that possibility. The FBI is focusing on a contractor that worked with the CIA, one source said."

The genetic fingerprinting finding was made by a research team led by geneticist Paul Keim at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, the newspaper said, adding that the FBI had begun interviewing CIA officials responsible for the CIA’s own germ warfare program, which made use of the Ames strain.

The Post added that both profit and politics were being considered as possible factors in the anthrax letters: "Investigators are considering a wide range of possible motives for the anthrax attacks, including vengeance of some sort, profiteering by someone involved in the anthrax cleanup business, or perhaps an effort by someone to cast blame on Iraq..."

While this new direction in the investigation is well known in official Washington, neither the Bush administration nor the major television networks have focused any public attention on the growing likelihood that a section of the state apparatus itself, with close links to far-right elements, is the probable source of the anthrax attacks.

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Islamic Groups Planning Worldwide Anti-US Protests
Patrick Goodenough

- Radical Islamic groups are pressing ahead with plans for worldwide anti-U.S. protests later this week. A demonstration in Indonesia Sunday indicated the level of anger directed towards America over Koran abuse allegations.

"Destroy America and its allies," Indonesian extremist leader Muhammad Iqbal told a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, using a public address system to address the crowd. "Kill those who desecrate Islam."

An estimated 7,000 Muslims protested in the Indonesian capital, a gathering that drew several dozen Islamic organizations, including the mainstream "moderate" groups Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, each of which claims millions of members.

Iqbal called President Bush and his allies "infidels" (unbelievers), while other speakers also called for war. [...]

Comment: The US thrives on "anti-US protests" because it provides 'evidence' to back up the US government-disseminated lie that all Muslims are terrorists-in-waiting. This latest round of protests was provoked by the claims in the US daily, Newsweek, that US interrogators had resorted to the extreme of flushing a Koran down the toilet in order to "soften up" Islamic detainees (would a Koran actually fit round a toilet U bend?). By giving the impression that the average Muslim is more horrified by his holy book disappearing down the commode than having his genitals chewed off by a US army Alsatian, the US government can consolidate the Bush regime's propaganda that all Muslims are crazy fundamentalists and thereby dampen the public outcry when the US military commits further war crimes against the innocent Muslim citizens of Middle Eastern countries.

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Al Qaeda says behind killing of Iraq PM adviser-Web
Mon May 23, 2005

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's wing in Iraq said it was behind the assassination of an official in the Ministry of State for National Security on Monday, according to an Internet posting.

A statement from Al Qaeda in Iraq said its men killed Wael Rubaie and his driver as they headed to work in central Baghdad.

Comment: Ah yes, the mythical al-Qaeda strikes again. No doubt this latest claim appeared on some obscure web forum, its authenticity, sadly, unverifiable. The simple truth is that al-Qaeda is a creation of US and Israeli intelligence agencies, designed to pose a perpetual threat to US and Israeli interests and act as a scapegoat for genuine Arab and Muslim anti-Imperialist resistance groups the world over. This latest release is clearly meant to portray those Iraqi men and women who are fighting to oust the illegal American and Israeli presence in their country as cut from the same cloth as the evil terrorists who attacked the WTC on 9/11. Yet therein lies the paradox; because the people who release such statements from "al-Qaeda" are indeed the very same people who attacked New York and Washington on 9/11 - but they aren't Muslims, they're Israelis.

It is with no surprise then that we read the following report...

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Al-Qaeda gains Palestine foothold

AL-QAEDA has established a foothold in Palestine with a new militant group based in Gaza formed by extremists who have become disillusioned with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Amid the biggest flare-up of violence in Gaza since a ceasefire was declared three months ago by Palestinians and Israelis, the Jerusalem Post has quoted unnamed Palestinian Authority security officials as saying that a new group called Jundallah or 'Allah's Brigade' had links to the terrorist organisation headed by Osama bin Laden.

The new terror group consists mainly of former Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who believe these two militant groups have become too moderate. It has close ties to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Khaled Abu Toameh, a journalist for the Jerusalem Post, Israel's oldest and most respected English-language daily, has interviewed PA officials who said the establishment of Jundallah confirmed suspicions that al-Qaeda was attempting to gain a foothold in Gaza ahead of the planned Israeli withdrawal beginning on August 15.

Comment: So the scene is set. "al-Qaeda" is in Palestine, according to the Zionist Jerusalem Post quoting "unnamed Palestinian Authority security officials". Is the JP capable of lying or publishing claims by dubious sources? Is Fox News a US government broadcasting channel?

The PA officials were quoted as saying that Jundallah gunmen launched their first attack on Israeli soldiers near Rafah in Gaza last week. Four soldiers were wounded in the incident. Abu Abdullah al-Khattab, who identified himself as the spokesman for Jundallah in Gaza, denied his group was linked to al-Qaeda but hinted that as well as Israeli targets, the group was planning to target US interests in the region.

"Our people will not remain idle in the face of American crimes in Muslim countries," he said. "Soon everyone will see operations [against the US] that will make all the Muslims delighted." He also said Jundallah would not honour any unofficial truce with Israel.

Comment: Now we have the set up: "al-Qaeda", linked to Palestinian groups, is planning to target US interests in the the region. Get it? It seems that Sharon's plan for the final solution to the Palestinian problem will involve the US doing his dirty work.

But on the record, PA officials were yesterday reluctant to confirm links between Jundallah and al-Qaeda, with senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, casting doubt on ties. "It is very unlikely that al-Qaeda would be operating in Gaza," he told the Scotland on Sunday.

Comment: So "unnamed" and therefore unofficial, Palestinian Authority security officials claim that "al-Qaeda" is in Palestine, Official PA officials claim that it is very unlikely, and how does the Jerusalem Post and the Scotsman title their article? "Al-Qaeda gains Palestine foothold". It's called subtly programming the masses' minds with lies.

A spokesman for the Palestinian interior minister, Nasser Youssef, said he could not comment on the report.

But analysts say public confirmation of al-Qaeda links would place the PA in a difficult position since it would mean they would face even greater international pressure to take action against militants who are also closely tied to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Comment: Amazing! Sharon has been pushing the PA to take action against militants for years, and now suddenly "al-Qaeda" come up with the goods for Sharon! If "al-Qaeda" didn't exist, Sharon really would have to invent it.

As well as confronting the possibility of violent protests from Jewish settlers who refuse to leave, Israeli officials fear Palestinian militants will step up violence in the lead-up and during the pullout.

The emergence of a new militant group in Gaza, especially one with reported links to al-Qaeda, was not surprising, said Ra'anan Gissin, an aide to prime minister Sharon.

"There is some evidence of links between militants in Gaza and al-Qaeda," he told the Scotland on Sunday. "We are watching and following such developments very closely but for us, local terrorist groups are just as dangerous."

Comment: Just for the record, the Palestinian militants are NOT terrorists! They are fighting a just campaign against an massively more powerful aggressor that robbed them of most of their land and made them prisoners in what land they were left. The only terrorists in this particular equation are the Israeli military, their government masters and the Bush regime that funds the entire criminal operation.

It is not the first time al-Qaeda's name has been connected with Palestinian militants. In February 2003, an Israeli military court sentenced a Palestinian man to 27 years in prison for training in Afghanistan with bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

A member of Hamas, Nabil Oukal was arrested in 2000 and allegedly told Israeli interrogators he was recruited by al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to form a network in the Palestinian territories.

"While this information about Jundallah has yet to be confirmed, there's no doubt that al-Qaeda has tried and continues to try and recruit members of other organisations such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad," said Dr Ely Karmon, a senior researcher in international terrorism at Israel's International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

"It is a great concern for Israel if al-Qaeda does get a foothold in the Palestinian territories since with al-Qaeda, all bets are off. Unlike Hamas and other local groups who face direct consequences once they carry out a terrorist operation, al-Qaeda are ready to sacrifice many Muslims to further their cause."

Comment: And so we come the crux of the matter. It is indeed true that "al-Qaeda" have been caught attempting to recruit Palestinians into their organization in the Gaza strip, the major point, however, is that the "al-Qaeda" operatives were proven to be Israeli intelligence!

Mossad Exposed in Phony 'Palestinian Al-Qaeda' Caper

by Michele Steinberg and Hussein Askary

The United States government has been provided with concrete evidence that the Israeli Mossad and other Israeli intelligence services have been involved in a 13-month effort to "recruit" an Israeli-run, phony "al-Qaeda cell" among Palestinians, so that Israel could achieve a frontline position in the U.S. war against terrorism and get a green light for a worldwide "revenge without borders" policy. The question: Does the United States have the moral fiber to investigate?

Evidence of the Israeli dirty tricks burst onto the public scene on Dec. 6, when Col. Rashid Abu Shbak, head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Services in the Gaza Strip, held a press conference revealing the details of the alleged plot, as his agency had put the pieces together. The revelations undermine the "big lie" that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has used to justify new brutal attacks on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and other occupied areas. Sharon claimed on Dec. 4 that Israeli intelligence had "hard evidence" of al-Qaeda operations in the Gaza Strip. Now, the top Palestinian leadership has shown the United States and other nations how Israeli intelligence entities were creating that al-Qaeda link!

American leader Lyndon LaRouche, a Democratic Presidential pre-candidate in 2004, commented that these revelations, if confirmed, could be "of strategic importance" in stopping the American, British, and Israeli warhawks pushing for a Middle East war, beginning with an invasion of Iraq. A war would justify the Sharon government's plan to annihilate the very idea of a Palestinian state. LaRouche warned that if institutions of the American Presidency and the international community successfully block an American pre-emptive war on Iraq, the biggest danger would be that a "mega-terror" attack, blamed on Palestinians, or an "Iraqi-linked" al-Qaeda, would be staged by Israel's ruling Jabotinskyite fanatics, to put the war back on the agenda.

News about the Mossad-run attempt to create an al-Qaeda cell came when well-informed intelligence sources based in Washington had already told EIR that there are many doubts about the Mossad's hasty declaration that "al-Qaeda" had been responsible for the Nov. 28 attack on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, where three Israelis were killed, and the failed rocket attack on an Israeli chartered jet that was departing from Mombasa airport. There was no identification of the bombers within the first five days of the incident, the sources pointed out, yet Sharon's government ministers went on an immediate propaganda rampage announcing worldwide revenge (see article in this section). Authorities in Kenya also denied the al-Qaeda link. But the usefulness of blaming al-Qaeda, for the Israeli right, was palpable, when Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Kenya attacks "a golden opportunity" to prove to the United States that Bush's war on terrorism, and Israel's war with the Palestinians is the same thing. Netanyahu's faction has violently rejected the Palestinian Authority's revelations, and so far, the American and European press have followed suit, despite the dramatic nature of these charges, and the documents that the Palestinians have provided to the international press.

Chronology of the Revelations

On Dec. 7, the British news service, Reuters, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, and Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV network, all reported that the Palestinian Authority had accused the Mossad of creating a phony al-Qaeda cell in the Gaza Strip. Ha'aretz reported, "the head of Palestinian Preventive Security" in the Gaza Strip, Col. Rashid Abu Shbak, said on Dec. 6, "that his forces had identified a number of Palestinian collaborators who had been ordered by Israeli security agencies to 'work in the Gaza Strip under the name of al-Qaeda.' He said the investigation was ongoing and evidence would be presented soon." Al-Jazeera TV added that the Palestinian authorities had arrested a group of Palestinian "collaborators with Israeli occupation" in Gaza, involved in the operation.

Reuters' reporter Diala Saadeh, under the headline, "Palestinians: Israel Faked Gaza al-Qaeda Presence," quoted a number of Palestinian Authority (P.A.) senior officials, including President Yasser Arafat, who told reporters at his West Bank Ramallah headquarters, that Sharon's claims of al-Qaeda operations in Palestinian territories "is a big, big, big lie to cover [Sharon's] attacks and his crimes against our people everywhere." P.A. Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo detailed the case: "There are certain elements who were instructed by the Mossad to form a cell under the name of al-Qaeda in the Gaza Strip in order to justify the assault and the military campaigns of the Israeli occupation army against Gaza."

Palestinian officials promised to provide detailed evidence, and did so on Dec. 8, in a press conference addressed by Colonel Shbak, and by Palestinian Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath. Shbak told the international representatives that, "Over the past nine months, we've been investigating eight cases in which Israeli intelligence posing as al-Qaeda operatives recruited Palestinians in the Gaza Strip." Colonel Shbak said that 3 men were under arrest, and 11 had been released. He explained that those released had voluntarily provided information going back to May 2002, about the contacts that had been made asking them to operate as an "al-Qaeda" group. The alleged al-Qaeda recruiters were traced to Israeli intelligence, said Colonel Shbak. He detailed incidents, some of which were described in official documents, of cell phone calls and e-mails, where Palestinians were asked to "join al-Qaeda." Shbak said, "We investigated the origin of those calls, which used [wireless phone] roaming, and messages, and found out they all came from Israel," reported the publication, IslamOnline. He said that the potential "recruits," had been given money and weapons, "although most of these weapons did not even work." He also noted that the money for these targetted Palestinians "was transferred from bank accounts in Jerusalem or Israel."

Minister Shaath announced at the press conference that the P.A. had "handed ambassadors and consuls of the Arab and foreign countries, documents revealing the involvement of the Israeli intelligence in recruiting citizens from Gaza Strip in a fake organization carrying the name of Qaeda." He said the ploy was intended "to create a new excuse to escalate the aggression on Gaza Strip."

The international community was jolted again on Dec. 10, when Colonel Shbak held another press conference and the Preventive Security Agency presented the Mossad's potential recruiter himself to the international media. According to reports in the Arabic press in Dubai, London and Ramallah, the man appeared in disguise (for security reasons,) and was identified only as "Ibrahim," but explained in great detail that he was one of the "key recruiters" for the potential cell. He said the story started in October 2001, when, after he sent his photo and mobile phone number to a "contact page" in a Jerusalem magazine, he was contacted by a person calling himself "Youssef," and nicknamed "Abu Othman." After building up a personal relationship with "Ibrahim," and telling him how much he resembled his own son, who had been killed, Youssef sent him $2,000, and began encouraging the Gaza man—who appeared to be in his early 20s—to become a more observant and practicing Muslim.

In May 2002, five months after the initial contact, said Ibrahim, Youssef "told me frankly, 'you are a good candidate to work for us in the company of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda group.' " This Youssef also claimed to have already created an al-Qaeda cell inside Israel. Ibrahim said that he then approached the Palestinian security services and told them about the transactions with Youssef, and that the security services asked him to continue the communications, which they would monitor. He said that the specific instructions were that Ibrahim was to announce through a communiqué—directly from Gaza—that al-Qaeda claimed credit for a bombing attack, or attacks, that Youssef indicated his network was about to carry out in Israel. Ibrahim stressed that the man also said that he (the Mossad officer) "had the capability to carry out major bombing operations inside Israel, but that the al-Qaeda group in Gaza should claim responsibility for the attack and no other group." In an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, after the press conference, Ibrahim stated, that "the man told him that mega military operations will be conducted inside Israel, and that these operations would be announced through Ibrahim." This would mean that as soon as he gets the signal after a major terrorist act against Israeli civilian targets, Ibrahim and his group would send a communiqué to the press or a videotape, similar to the ones sent by bin Laden to Al-Jazeera, claiming responsibility for the attack.

Ibrahim was also asked to gather specific information for Youssef about a number of persons in Gaza, some of them known to be members of Hamas. When asked why he wanted this information, Youssef said, "I want them to join al-Qaeda." At that point, Palestinian security services cut off the "Ibrahim-Youssef" contact, because it was becoming too dangerous.

At the same press conference, Colonel Shbak said direct money payments "transferred from Israel," had been received by five out of the eight Palestinians who have been giving information to the Preventive Security Agency about this operation. Shbak also explained that his agency traced and obtained a number of telephone numbers, registrations, and bank receipts for money transferred to some of those persons.

Now, said Shbak, the United States and a number of international intelligence and security organs had been supplied with documents and evidence refuting the Israeli allegations about Palestinian connections to al-Qaeda. "These documents prove without any doubt that the ones who are behind this alleged al-Qaeda group are the various Israeli intelligence organizations," Shbak added. He told Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah daily that the "Americans have not responded yet to the documents ... as provided by the Palestinian Preventive Security agency."

Comment: Of course, since Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are being targeted, other Middle East nations will surely soon follow...

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Syria severs military cooperation with U.S. - NYT
Tue May 24, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Syria has severed military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, its ambassador to Washington told The New York Times in an interview published on its Web site on Monday.

The ambassador, Imad Moustapha, told the newspaper in an interview given last Friday at the Syrian Embassy in Washington, that his country had, in the last 10 days, "severed all links" with the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency because of what he called unjust American allegations.

Moustapha said he believed the Bush administration had decided "to escalate the situation with Syria" despite steps the Syrians have taken against insurgents in Iraq, and despite the recent withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, in response to international demands.

"We thought, why should we continue to cooperate?" he said.

The comments were in response to Bush administration complaints that Syria was not doing enough to halt the flow of men and money to the insurgency in Iraq.

Moustapha said his government had done all it could to respond to American complaints, including taking steps to build barriers and add to border patrols.

Relations between Syria and the United States have been strained for months, and some Bush administration officials said Syria's level of cooperation had been dwindling even before the latest move to halt cooperation.

Bush administration officials said Syria's stance has prompted intense debate at high levels in the administration about new steps that might be taken against the Syrian government, The Times reported.

The officials said options included possible military, diplomatic or economic action. But senior Pentagon and military officials cautioned Monday that if any military action was ordered, it was likely to be limited, the report said.

"There's a lot of discussion about what to do about Syria and what a problem it is," the administration official, who works for an agency involved in the debate, told The Times.

Comment: While it is unlikely that direct action will be taken against any other Middle East nation, the entire region could be manipulated into conflict with the US and Israel if, or rather when, Israel fakes a terror attack against its own people and blames it on "al-Qaeda" in Palestine.

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Professor disputes Holocaust, Says Zionists Involved
Rocky Mount Telegram
Saturday, May 21, 2005

The phone call inquiring about Professor Jane Christensen's views on the Holocaust was brief.

Asked directly about her view of the Holocaust — Do you believe that the historic accounts of the Holocaust are true? — Christensen's response was cryptic and evasive.

"Do you mean the Holocaust in Fallujah?" she said.


The question referred to the conventionally held definition of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by Nazis, many in concentration camps. The question was redirected — Do you believe Germany killed 6 million Jews in concentration camps in World War II?

"I believe that Germany killed many people in concentration camps in World War II, and that some of them were Jews," she replied.

Charges of anti-Semitism have been among the accusations leveled at Christensen in recent weeks as bloggers and pundits picked up on her faculty Web site and course syllabus at N.C. Wesleyan College last month.

She also has come under fire because the syllabus of one of her political science classes questions the truth of the U.S. government's accounts of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Her Web page, Megalinks in Political Science, has been retooled since the first columns appeared. Links remain to articles such as "Joint U.S.-Israeli plan to bomb Iran" by Michel Chossudovsky and "Mossad — The Israeli Connection To 9/11" by Christopher Bollyn.

Most of the site consists of links to other writers for other organizations.

A link titled "Mossad Planning Another Attack in U.S." links to an April 11 article by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs — a Washington think-tank on U.S.-Israeli military relations — actually titled "Al Qaeda Preparing for Another Attack in U.S., WMD Use Probable."

In a letter to the editor published in the Telegram on May 1, Dr. Ian Newbould said Wesleyan would ask a team of respect political scientists to evaluate the academic appropriateness and integrity of Christensen's approach to teaching. The letter said Christensen suggested the approach would be helpful.

Little of Christensen's own writing appears on the school's Web site. Similarly, Christensen said she hoped little of this conversation would be published.

Finally, the question was rephrased again — Do you believe that the Germans and their allies engaged in a systematic program to kill Jews during World War II?

"If there was a systematic program to kill Jews, it was done in collaboration with the Zionists," Christensen answered.

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Sometimes You are Just Screwed
By Juan Cole

Readers occasionally write me complaining that I do not offer any solutions to the problems in Iraq. Let me just step back from the daily train wreck news from the region to complain back that there aren't any short-term, easy solutions to the problems in Iraq.

The US military cannot defeat the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement any time soon for so many reasons that they cannot all be listed.

The guerrillas have widespread popular support in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, an area with some 4 million persons. Its cities and deserts offer plenty of cover for an unconventional war. Guerrilla movements can succeed if more than 40 percent of the local population supports them. While the guerrillas are a small proportion of Iraqis, they are very popular in the Sunni Arab areas. If you look at it as a regional war, they probably have 80 percent support in their region.

The guerrillas are mainly Iraqi Sunnis with an intelligence or military background, who know where secret weapons depots are containing some 250,000 tons of missing munitions, and who know how to use military strategy and tactics to good effect. They are well-funded and can easily get further funding from Gulf millionnaires any time they like.

The Iraqi guerrillas are given tactical support by foreign jihadi fighters. There are probably only a few hundred of them, but they are disproportionately willing to undertake very dangerous attacks, and to volunteer as suicide bombers.

There are simply too few US troops to fight the guerrillas. There are only about 70,000 US fighting troops in Iraq, they don't have that much person-power superiority over the guerrillas. There are only 10,000 US troops for all of Anbar province, a center of the guerrilla movement with a population of 820,000. A high Iraqi official estimated that there are 40,000 active guerrillas and another 80,000 close supporters of them. The only real explanation for the successes of the guerrillas is that the US military has been consistently underestimating their numbers and abilities. There is no prospect of increasing the number of US troops in Iraq.

The guerillas have enormous advantages, of knowing the local clans and terrain and urban quarters, of knowing Arabic, and of being local Muslims who are sympathetic figures for other Muslims. American audiences often forget that the US troops in Iraq are mostly clueless about what is going on around them, and do not have the knowledge base or skills to conduct effective counter-insurgency. Moreover, as foreign, largely Christian occupiers of an Arab, Muslim, country, they are widely disliked and mistrusted outside Kurdistan.

US military tactics, of replying to attacks with massive force, have alienated ever more Sunni Arabs as time has gone on. Fallujah was initially quiet, until the Marines fired on a local demonstration against the stationing of US troops at a school (parents worried about their children being harmed if there was an attack). Mosul was held up as a model region under Gen. Petraeus, but exploded into long-term instability in reaction to the November Fallujah campaign. The Americans have lost effective control everywhere in the Sunni Arab areas. Even a West Baghdad quarter like Adhamiyah is essentially a Baath republic. Fallujah is a shadow of its former self, with 2/3s of its buildings damaged and half its population still refugeees, and is kept from becoming a guerrilla base again only by draconian methods by US troops that make it "the world's largest gated community." The London Times reports that the city's trade is still paralyzed.

So far the new pro-American Iraqi troops have not distinguished themselves against the guerrillas, and it will probably be at least 3-5 years before they can begin doing so, if ever. Insofar as the new army is disproportionately Shiite and Kurdish, it may simply never have the resources to penetrate the Sunni Arab center-north effectively. There is every reason to believe that the new Iraqi military is heavily infiltrated with sympathizers of the guerrillas.

The guerrilla tactic of fomenting civil war among Iraq's ethnic communities, which met resistance for the first two years, is now bearing fruit. There is increasing evidence of Shiite murders of Sunni clerics and worshippers, and of Sunni attacks on Shiites, beyond the artificial efforts of the guerrillas themselves. Civil war and turbulence benefit the guerrillas, who gain cover for violent attacks, and who can offer themselves to the Iraqis as the only force capable of keeping order. AP reports an Iraqi official saying today that there is a civil war going on in the northern city of Telafar between Sunnis and Shiites. I doubt US television news is even mentioning it.

The political process in Iraq has been a huge disaster for the country. The Americans emphasized ethnicity in their appointments and set a precedent for ethnic politics that has deepened over time. The Shiite religious parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, won the January 30 elections. These are the parties least acceptable to the Sunni Arab heartland. The Sunni Arabs are largely absent in parliament, only have one important cabinet post, and only have two members in the 55-member constitutional drafting committee. Deep debaathification has led to thousands of Sunnis being fired from their jobs for simply having belonged to the Baath Party, regardless of whether they had ever done anything wrong. They so far have no reason to hope for a fair shake in the new Iraq. Political despair and the rise of Shiite death squads that target Sunnis are driving them into the arms of the guerrillas.

The quality of leadership in Washington is extremely bad. George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and outgoing Department of Defense officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, have turned in an astonishingly poor performance in Iraq. Their attempt to demonstrate US military might has turned into a showcase for US weakness in the face of Islamic and nationalist guerrillas, giving heart to al-Qaeda and other unconventional enemies of the United States.

If the US drew down its troop strength in Iraq too rapidly, the guerrillas would simply kill the new political class and stabilizing figures such as Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Although US forces have arguably done more harm than good in many Sunni Arab areas, they have prevented set-piece battles from being staged by ethnic militias, and they have prevented a number of attempted assassinations.

In an ideal world, the United States would relinquish Iraq to a United Nations military command, and the world would pony up the troops needed to establish order in the country in return for Iraqi good will in post-war contract bids. But that is not going to happen for many reasons. George W. Bush is a stubborn man and Iraq is his project, and he is not going to give up on it. And, by now the rest of the world knows what would await its troops in Iraq, and political leaders are not so stupid as to send their troops into a meat grinder.

Therefore, I conclude that the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps for the long term. The guerrilla war is likely to go on a decade to 15 years. Given the basic facts, of capable, trained and numerous guerrillas, public support for them from Sunnis, access to funding and munitions, increasing civil turmoil, and a relatively small and culturally poorly equipped US military force opposing them, led by a poorly informed and strategically clueless commander-in-chief who has made himself internationally unpopular, there is no near-term solution.

In the long run, say 15 years, the Iraqi Sunnis will probably do as the Lebanese Maronites did, and finally admit that they just cannot remain in control of the country and will have to compromise. That is, if there is still an Iraq at that point.

Comment: Uh, how about just stating plainly and simply that the US is an occupier force, that the resistance is based upon the fact that the Iraqis do not wish to be a conquered people and will continue to fight until they throw the invaders out or die trying, and that there is therefore no hope for peace as long as the US stays...

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GM debt bumped to 'junk' by 2nd agency
By Dena Aubin
May 25, 2005

NEW YORK - Fitch Ratings on Tuesday cut General Motors Corp.'s debt ratings to "junk," becoming the second agency to rate the world's largest automaker below investment grade as high gasoline prices erode its Sport Utility Vehicle sales.

The downgrade follows a similar move by Standard & Poor's on May 5 and will cement GM's status as a junk credit, raising borrowing costs and limiting its options for raising funds.

"The long term will be tough for GM," said Kent White, auto credit analyst at Thrivent Financial in Minneapolis, which owns GM bonds. "The only option they have ahead of them is for a pretty significant restructuring of their North American auto operations." [...]

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Bush Approval Rating In The Gutter

On domestic issues, the president's approval ratings are at an all-time low -- 40 percent of respondents approve of his work on the economy and 33 percent approve of his plans for Social Security

Comment: Bush stole the 2000 and 2004 US elections, and he didn't do it on his own. For many years the American President has been little more than a figure head with no real power. The real controllers of the US, and indeed the world, operate behind closed doors and are rarely, if ever, seen...

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Senate Committee to Review Controversial Patriot Act Legislation in Secret; Draft Legislation Hidden from Public
May 17 2005

WASHINGTON – The Senate Intelligence Committee announced today that it is rushing forward with a markup of Patriot Act reauthorization legislation Thursday, but that the session will be behind closed doors.

Some of the most extreme parts of the Patriot Act are set to sunset, or expire, at the end of this year unless Congress reauthorizes them. When lawmakers passed the Patriot Act just 45 days after 9/11, they included these sunsets because they knew that some provisions shouldn’t be made permanent. The committee will be reviewing legislation involving the sunsets and other key parts of the Patriot Act that impact civil liberties.

Members of Congress have until the end of the year to review and modify the Patriot Act, but some lawmakers hope to steamroll the entire process through Congress in the next few weeks. This closed-door markup is an indication that some in Congress are trying to rush through legislation, and keep the public in the dark.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director:

"One reason that people across the political spectrum are concerned about the Patriot Act is that so much of it is shrouded in secrecy. Many provisions are implemented secretly, and the government has kept secret key information on how it is being used. Now, lawmakers are trying to keep legislation to reauthorize the Patriot Act secret as well.

"Nearly 400 communities, included seven states, have passed resolutions calling on lawmakers to bring the Patriot Act in line with the Constitution. Instead of addressing these legitimate concerns, and reviewing the act in daylight, some in Congress would rather hide behind closed doors away from public scrutiny. The Patriot Act has been the subject of heated debates in recent months—in Congress, in the media, and in households around the country. There is no good reason for the mark-up and vote on this public law to be kept secret from the public."

Comment: Ask yourself why these proceedings are being kept secret. If the Patriot Act really was in the best interests of the American people this would be clear from the details of the act and it would enjoy wide support as a result. Clearly this is not the case, and the only way to get this piece of Draconian legislation passed is to circumvent the Democratic process and force it through, in much the same way as a dictatorship works.

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Lookout, France! Google hires neo-con headbanger
By Andrew Orlowski
Published Tuesday 24th May 2005 09:42 GMT

The company that prides itself on "Doing No Evil" isn't taking any chances with its latest executive appointment. Dan Senor, the company's new Global Communications and Strategy VP, has a CV guaranteed to have Register columnist Otto Z Stern firing a celebratory fusillade skywards from his compound in New Mexico.

A former Senior Associate at the Carlyle Group, Senor was briefly Scott McLellan's deputy as White House spokesman before becoming head of the the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq's information department. The White House web site bills him as Senior Advisor to Presidential Envoy L. Paul Bremer III. Fox News hired Senor as a panelist in February. While in Iraq Senor showed his loyalty by going jogging in a Bush-Cheney '04 tracksuit.

Not everyone is impressed.

"I have come to associate his triangular, brush-cut head with an unceasing stream of bullshit. He's Ari Fleischer without the charm," writes one grump. "Hiring this guy is a repulsive move."

An impressive resume, for sure, but one perhaps more useful to a company building a military task force than a search engine. And it'll be fascinating to see the reaction of the French, with whom Google is locked into some extremely sensitive negotiations, to Senor's brand of special diplomacy.

Comment: We are not surprised that a neocon with close connections to the Bush Reich should obtain a high position at Google. Our own experiences with Google over the past couple of years show indicate that Google's results are tweaked according to US political policy. There have been reports of bloggers whose blogs have been deleted from Google search results. Guess what side of the political spectrum they're on?

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Tony's cronies cash in
Sun 22 May 2005

UNPRECEDENTED numbers of Tony Blair's closest political and civil service allies are moving into lucrative private sector jobs, sparking renewed allegations of cronyism at the heart of New Labour.

Scotland on Sunday has established that a total of 33 former ministers, mandarins, diplomats and military chiefs have received official blessing to take up posts in the City and British and international industry in the past year.

The list of former public servants taking their skills and experience into the private sector includes two of the men instrumental in making the UK case against Saddam Hussein: Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former ambassador to the United Nations and special envoy to Iraq.

The architects of huge job-cutting programmes in the Department of Health and across the civil service as a whole have also secured a clutch of new positions for themselves. The woman who was, until a year ago, in charge of the government's housing and planning operation now works for one of the country's biggest private construction and development companies.

Loyal Blairite ex-ministers Alan Milburn and Helen Liddell - a former Scottish Secretary - also had their outside business interests rubber-stamped by the parliamentary authorities.

Many appointees are taking more than one job. The 33 individuals identified by Scotland on Sunday between them share no fewer than 69 posts.

Permanent secretaries in charge of Whitehall departments earn salaries estimated at around £170,000 but even in retirement they can maintain their living standards quite easily with a range of directorships. Financial experts estimate that even non-executive roles on company boards, requiring less than a day's work a week, can pay an average of £20,000-£25,000 a year.

Comment: Our "leaders"? Or just a bunch of self-interested megalomaniacs?

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Outcry as sex offenders are given free Viagra
By Tom Leonard in New York
(Filed: 24/05/2005)

Hundreds of sex offenders, including rapists and paedophiles, have received the sex drug Viagra free, a New York report says.

The state comptroller, Alan Hevesi, said that over the past five years 198 serious sex offenders in the state received the erectile-dysfunction drug after their convictions.

The revelation was condemned by Charles Schumer, a New York senator, who has called for legislation to block the prescriptions.

"Giving convicted sex offenders government-funded Viagra is like giving convicted murderers an assault rifle when they get out of jail.

Government officials said the blunder stemmed from a directive seven years ago that eligible men should be given Viagra. It omitted to exclude convicted sex offenders.

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Italian police find child torture site
By John Oates
Published Wednesday 25th May 2005 09:50 GMT

Three Catholic priests, a police officer and a social worker are among 186 people reportedly under investigation in Italy this morning after authorities shut down a child torture website.

The website hosted pictures and videos of children between four and eight being sexually abused and tortured. Police are still investigating and are yet to press charges.

The password-protected site was online for just nine days before being closed down in July. Web monitoring organisation Telefono Arcobaleno tipped off authorities, according to AP.

The site was not indexed so wasn't picked up search engines. It was hosted on an Italian server but advertised in other countries.

The investigation is continuing and no-one has been arrested yet. Premises belonging to 159 suspects in 16 of Italy's 20 regions were searched on Tuesday. Other suspects have already been searched.

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Record heat grips Southern California
May 21, 2005

LOS ANGELES – Record temperatures left Southern Californians sweltering on Saturday as thousands flocked to parks, beaches and malls to beat the heat.

After a record-setting wet winter, scorching temperatures have fire officials on guard. Several brush fires ignited during the week, including a 120-acre blaze that threatened 40 homes near the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County on Saturday. It was expected to be fully surrounded early Sunday. [...]

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Flash floods maroon 50,000 villagers in Bangladesh, one dead
Wed May 25, 5:07 AM ET

DHAKA - Flash floods caused by heavy pre-monsoon rains killed at least one person and left more than 50,000 marooned in villages in northeastern Bangladesh, officials said.

About 100 villages across Maulvibazar district, 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the capital Dhaka, were inundated Tuesday after five river embankments were breached, said district flood relief chief Azadur Rahman Mallick.

One man was swept away when a river burst its bank and at least 100 houses were completely washed away, he said on Wednesday. [...]

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Fast and Furious Solar Storm Shocks Earth and its Scientists
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
24 May 2005

Any astronomer will tell you that the Sun is unpredictable. But on Jan. 20, 2005 it was dangerously so, leaving scientists to rework theories of how space storms operate and showing that interplanetary space travel will be a deadly serious business.

In new studies presented today, researchers detailed a solar outburst that shocked Earth with the highest dose of radiation measured in five decades.

The tempest arrived frighteningly fast.

Other solar outbursts have provided more dramatic pictures, more threatening X-ray flares, and tremendous coronal mass ejections of hot gas that arrive several hours later. But the solar event at 2 a.m. ET on that January morning created an intense burst of energetic protons that, surprisingly, tripped radiation monitors all over the planet within moments.

"This flare produced the largest solar radiation signal on the ground in nearly 50 years," said Richard Mewaldt of the California Institute of Technology. "But we were really surprised when we saw how fast the particles reached their peak intensity and arrived at Earth."

Mewaldt is a co-investigator on NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft, which monitored the event. Several studies on the flare are being presented this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) New Orleans.

The raging proton storm peaked in 15 minutes. Normally, the most intense part of a proton event takes two hours or longer to build up.

"That's important because it's too fast to respond with much warning to astronauts or spacecraft that might be outside Earth's protective magnetosphere," Mewaldt said. "In addition to monitoring the Sun, we need to develop the ability to predict flares in advance if we are going to send humans to explore our solar system." [...]

Flares emanate from sunspot groups, regions of the Sun where intense magnetic energy caps upwelling solar material, creating cooler, darker spots. The surprising January flare came on the heels of a series of other very large but otherwise normal flares from the same sunspot group. Scientists can't say why the fifth event was so unusual.

"It means we really don't understand how the Sun works," Lin said.

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Moscow Swelters in Record Heat Wave
By Anatoly Medetsky
Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Moscow sweltered in record heat for a second day Tuesday, as emergency officials said four people drowned as they sought refuge in rivers and ponds and 10 police officers collapsed from heat exhaustion outside the courthouse where Mikhail Khodorkovsky's verdict is being read.

Tuesday's air temperature peaked at 30.8 degrees Celsius at 5 p.m. -- breaking the record of 29.7 degrees set on May 24, 1983, said Nadezhda Satina, spokeswoman for the Moscow weather bureau.

On Monday, the air temperature rose to 29.5 degrees, also topping the previous record for the day -- 29 degrees -- from 1939, Satina said.

But relief is in sight. A cold front is expected to blow across Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday, pushing daytime temperatures down to 21 to 26 degrees for the rest of the month, she said. [...]

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Record heat grips North Texas
May 23, 2005

It's Texas, and it's supposed to get hot - but this early?

Spring 2005 was cooler than normal until summer-like weather hit North Texas with a vengeance this weekend.

Temperatures reached 98 degrees on Sunday at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, breaking the record of 96 set in 1939; Saturday's high of 97 topped the record for that date by a single degree.

Though the average high for this time of year is 85, 90-degree temperatures in May are not unusual. However, Sunday marked the second day in a row that saw a record high set and the third consecutive day of above-average temperatures.

At Richardson's Wildflower Arts and Music Festival, water and even sunblock on ice wasn't enough.

"It comes on all of a sudden, and they're not ready for it," said Richardson Fire Department battalion chief Tim Mock.

Eight people at the festival were overcome by the heat streaming down via sunlight.

"People are getting overheated, and with the sunlight they're not used to it," Mock said. "Wednesday was 85 degrees, and today it's 100."

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Record Heat Continues Across Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) -- Record breaking temperatures again Sunday, across the state.

It was 109 degrees Saturday and Sunday in Phoenix.

Sunday's high ties the old record of 109 degrees last set in 2000.

The old Phoenix record of 107 degrees was set on Saturday's date in 2000 and tied in 2003. That record was shattered shortly after 2:30 p-m.

The rest of the state wasn't any better today.

Record high temperatures were set or tied in south-central and southwest Arizona this afternoon.

Monday's forecast isn't expected to be any cooler.

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More than one million Mozambicans reeling from drought
MAPUTO (AFP) May 25, 2005

More than one million Mozambicans are reeling from a drought that has hit the south of the country and only little more than a tenth are getting food aid, an official said late Tuesday.

"The drought is now affecting more than one million people in the south of the country," Silvano Langa, head of the National Disaster Management Institute, said at a meeting with officials from the UN World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

"Only 150,000 people have got food assistance in June," Langa said, adding that the "target is being revised" for the affected population in the regions of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane.

Langa said he hoped the shortage would not be as "acute as in past years when we had to ward off the combined effects of drought and war."

He said he was not launching an "urgent international appeal" for help, but was counting more on "bilateral aid."

A former Portuguese colony, Mozambique gained independence on June 25, 1975, only to plunge into war a year later that was to last until 1992, claiming up to one million lives.

More than half of the population of 17 million lives on less than a dollar a day.

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Nor'easter continues gloomy weather trend
Associated Press Writer
May 25, 2005

BOSTON -- A spring nor'easter brought driving rain and strong winds to the region Wednesday morning, as damp, frigid weather continued to plague New England with the unofficial start to summer just days away.

Officials at the National Weather Service in Taunton said the nor'easter, which reached New England on Tuesday night, would bring winds of up to 60 mph along the coast. The storm could also drop 1 to 2 inches of rain and bring coastal flooding with the early morning high tide on Wednesday.

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Monsoon looks to have hit south Andaman Sea
Wed May 25, 2005
By Atul Prakash

BOMBAY (Reuters) - India's monsoon appears to have set in over the southern Andaman Sea, the first entry point for the subcontinent, after a delay of about 10 days, weather officials said on Wednesday.

The monsoon, closely watched in India because two-thirds of the population earns a living from farms, was expected to arrive over the southern coast around June 7, about a week later than normal, officials said.

Comment: What people don't realize is that the world's food supply is going to be drastically affected by all the weather changes going on at present.

Everyone thinks that the supermarkets will always have food in them... They aren't even aware of what is happening, what global climate change is going to mean to their stomachs in a very short time.

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Earth's species feel the squeeze
By Jonathan Amos
BBC News science reporter

"Unprecedented" effort is required to slow biodiversity loss
If we continue with current rates of species extinction, we will have no chance of rolling back poverty and the lives of all humans will be diminished.

That is the stark warning to come out of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), the most comprehensive audit of the health of our planet to date.

Organisms are disappearing at something like 100 to 1,000 times the "background levels" seen in the fossil record.

Scientists warn that removing so many species puts our own existence at risk.

It will certainly make it much harder to lift the world's poor out of hardship given that these people are often the most vulnerable to ecosystem degradation, the researchers say.

The message is written large in Ecosystems and Human Well-being: the Biodiversity Synthesis Report.

It is the latest in a series of detailed documents to come out of the MA, a remarkable tome drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations over four years.

The MA pulls together the current state of knowledge and in its latest release this week focuses specifically on biodiversity and the likely impacts its continued loss will have on human society.

Even faster

In one sense, and precisely because it is a synthesis, the new document contains few surprises. It is, nonetheless, a startling - and depressing - read.

A third of all amphibians, a fifth of mammals and an eighth of all birds are now threatened with extinction. It is thought 90% of the large predatory fish in the oceans have gone since the beginning of industrial trawling.

And these are just the vertebrates - the species we know most about. Ninety percent of species, maybe more, have not even been catalogued by science yet.

"Changes in biodiversity were more rapid in the last 50 years than at any time in human history," said Dr Georgina Mace, the director of science at the Institute of Zoology, in London, UK, and an MA synthesis team member.

"And when you look to the future, to various projections and scenarios, we expect those changes to continue and in some circumstances to accelerate.

"Future models are very uncertain but all of them tell us that as we move into the next 100 years, we'll be seeing extinction rates that are a thousand to 10,000 times those in the fossil record."

'Invisible services'

One feature that sets the MA apart from previous projects of its kind is the way it defines ecosystems in terms of the "services", or benefits, that people get from them.

Some of these services are obvious - they are "provisional": timber for building; fish for food; fibres to make clothes.

At another level, these services are largely unseen - the recycling of nutrients, pollination and seed dispersal, climate control, the purification of water and air - but without these "support" and "regulating" systems, life on Earth would soon collapse.

And although we may be some distance away from an "end scenario", there is no doubt the rapid expansion of the human population and its high consumption of natural resources have taken a heavy toll on ecosystems and the organisms that inhabit them.

"Biodiversity and human well-being just cannot be separated," said Dr Kaveh Zahedi, the officer in charge of the Unep World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, UK.

"We are befitting from a whole range of services that up until now have almost been invisible; we haven't considered them. And then they suddenly pop up on our radar screens - we have a tragedy in Asia with a tsunami and we realise that those mangroves that were cut down had a value; they provided a service in terms of coastal protection."

Similar picture

Land-use (habitat) changes, climate change, pollution and over-exploitation - they are all pushing down on biodiversity and the pressure shows little sign of easing.

"The magnitude of the challenge of slowing the rate of biodiversity loss is demonstrated by the fact that most of the direct drivers of biodiversity loss are projected to either remain constant or increase in the near future," the MA biodiversity synthesis report says.

Removing huge swathes of forest has a blunt and clear impact on biodiversity by taking out the habitat formerly occupied by plants and animals. But there are subtle changes taking place, too.

The distribution of species around the globe is becoming more homogenous, as invasive creatures hitch a ride on fast human transport and trade routes.

Genetic diversity, also, is declining rapidly.

This is most obvious in domesticated plants and animals where the pursuit of high yields and the pressures of global markets have pushed farmers towards a limited range of cultivars and breeds.

And so it is not simply that species are fewer in number, their changed circumstances may also have reduced their resilience and their ability to cope with future change.

Possible tensions

In 2002, world governments, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, set themselves the target of making a "substantial reduction in the rate of loss of biological diversity" by 2010.

The MA illustrates just how tough it will be to meet that target. What is more, there may even be occasions when progress towards that target conflicts with the even loftier 2015 Millennium Development Goals of cutting into world hunger and poverty, and improving healthcare.

A classic example is the development of rural road networks - a common feature of hunger reduction strategies - which are likely also to accelerate rates of biodiversity loss by fragmenting habitats and by opening up new areas to unsustainable harvests.

This sort of thing has been well documented in Africa where the bushmeat trade that endangers many species follows the development of transport infrastructure.

"This is a very important issue," said Dr Mace. "It's clear there are going to have to be trade-offs and compromises but it's not a simple relationship. It's not a case that you can have 20% poverty and 80% biodiversity.

"If you do things the right way, if you chose the right options for poverty alleviation, you can also maximise biodiversity and sustainability."

And Dr Neville Ash, another MA synthesis team member, added: "The bottom line is that you cannot achieve long-term poverty alleviation without sustainability.

"In order to reduce hunger and poverty and increase access to clean water and sanitation, we need to have a strong base of environmental sustainability which is providing these services on which people rely for their well-being."

Little time

It is very evident, too, that we need to get a move on.

The wheels of global governance turn slowly, as was seen with the Kyoto Protocol on climate change which finally entered into force in February after many years of negotiation.

The MA has identified possible solutions - from significant shifts in consumption patterns and better education, to the adoption of new technologies and a large increase in the areas enjoying protection.

And if some of the ideas sound "old hat", such as the abolition of farming subsidies that drive crop production to the detriment of field biodiversity - that is because they are.

"Most of the approaches to achieving more sympathetic management of the natural environment and the conservation of biodiversity - I think we and governments know them already," commented Graham Wynne, the chief executive of the UK bird conservation group, the RSPB.

"The real challenge is to deploy them more extensively and more intelligently.

"And you can't get away from the fact that we simply need more money.

"The sums of money we throw at the environment in the West are relatively modest; and the sums of money the West is prepared to devote to developing countries is pitiful."

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Scientists to Probe Upper Atmosphere
Mon 23 May 2005
By Liam Creedon, PA

Scientists are to examine the highest and least known part of our atmosphere in an attempt to investigate climate change, it today emerged.

Using a new research radar based in the Antarctic, the team of scientists will probe the mesosphere which is found 50-62 miles above the Earth. [...]

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WHO report charts disturbing changes in avian flu virus, urges preparations
Helen Branswell
Canadian Press
May 21, 2005

TORONTO (CP) - The World Health Organization urged countries to make full haste with pandemic influenza preparations Wednesday as it released a report outlining disturbing changes to the H5N1 virus circulating in Asia.

The report raises concerns that molecular and disease pattern evidence may indicate the virus is becoming more adept at infecting people. It also reveals some strains of the H5N1 virus may be developing resistance to oseltamivir, the drug wealthy nations are flocking to stockpile as fears of a pandemic mount.

An influenza expert who helped draft the report said it's meant to convey the message that the level of anxiety regarding the virus has risen.

"I think it's fair to say that the report signifies a definite step up in concern," said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, a flu specialist from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control who is being seconded to WHO's global influenza program.

The report concedes the authors had limited scientific evidence on which to determine whether H5N1 is becoming an even graver risk to mankind. [...]

A leading U.S. epidemiologist said the report contains no single smoking gun to suggest H5N1 is becoming a pandemic strain, but the combined evidence paints a compelling picture that cannot be ignored.

"I think it tells us that everything about H5N1 is headed in the direction that none of us would like to see it go," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"Do I say that that's going to mean there's an impending pandemic? I don't know that. Does it tell me that ... there's a growing concern about it? Absolutely." [...]

Still, the finding raises the spectre of a resistant strain of the virus becoming dominant and spreading among people, creating a situation where the world has virtually no therapeutic weapons to combat pandemic flu in the months before a vaccine could be produced.

Comment: See our Signs Flu Supplement for the scoop on the players involved in developing a deadly strain of Flu.

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Super Water Kills Bugs Dead
By Skip Kaltenheuser
May. 16, 2005
Wired News

A California company has figured out how to use two simple materials -- water and salt -- to create a solution that wipes out single-celled organisms, and which appears to speed healing of burns, wounds and diabetic ulcers.

The solution looks, smells and tastes like water, but carries an ion imbalance that makes short work of bacteria, viruses and even hard-to-kill spores.

Developed by Oculus Innovative Sciences in Petaluma, the super-oxygenated water is claimed to be as effective a disinfectant as chlorine bleach, but is harmless to people, animals and plants. If accidentally ingested by a child, the likely impact is a bad case of clean teeth.

Oculus said the solution, called Microcyn, may prove effective in the fight against superbugs, crossover viruses like bird flu and Ebola, and bioterrorism threats such as anthrax.

The company has just been granted approval in the United States to test the solution in the treatment of wounds, and already has government approval in Europe, Canada and Mexico for diverse uses, from disinfectant to wound irrigation.

Doctors conducting trials in Mexico and India are recounting stories at international conferences of their surprise at another feature of the solution: It speeds the healing of severe burns and diabetic ulcers.

According to Hoji Alimi, founder and president of Oculus, the ion-hungry water creates an osmotic potential that ruptures the cell walls of single-celled organisms, and out leaks the cell's cytoplasm. Because multicellular organisms -- people, animals, plants -- are tightly bound, the water is prevented from surrounding the cells, and there is no negative impact.

While super-oxygenated water is nothing new -- Microcyn has its roots in efforts to decontaminate nuclear reactors' cooling pipes, according to Alimi -- it is typically effective for only a few hours after it is formulated. To keep it handy, hospitals and labs must invest in extremely expensive machines costing $100,000 or more.

Oculus has developed a new formula with a shelf life of at least a year, which opens up an array of potential applications.

And unlike prior formulations of super-oxygenated water, Microcyn is pH-neutral, so it won't damage healthy tissue. This has prompted successful experiments in the treatment of challenging wounds like diabetic ulcers.

Physicians in Mexico using Microcyn observed rapid healing of burns and ulcers that the body could not repair for a decade or more because of infections, said Dr. Andres Gutierrez, head of the cell-therapy unit at the National Institute of Rehabilitation in Mexico City and an adviser to Oculus.

"Mexico was early to obtain the technology and give regulatory approval," he said. "Doctors using the product noticed the horrific smell of diabetic wounds was gone." The smell came from bacteria.

Dr. Amar Pal Singh Suri of the Diabetic Foot Care Clinic in Delhi, India, began experimenting with Microcyn after learning of it last fall in Germany. Trying it on a severe necrotic wound of a patient whose only remaining option was amputation, Suri said he was surprised to see rapid improvement and the growth of healthy skin tissue.

"I shifted my other patients onto Microcyn treatment and we are now treating more than 50, with very good results," said Suri.

India leads the world in diabetes, with 37 million people affected. "Every year, diabetics in my country suffer a million foot or lower-leg amputations," said Suri. Personal tragedy aside, "saving a foot is a fourth the cost of amputation and an artificial limb," he said.

Chronic wound care is a multibillion-dollar market worldwide. The solution will be available to U.S. physicians in June, said Alimi. Trials are being organized for preoperative disinfectant, dental applications and burn and diabetic treatments, he said.

The company is keen to explore other applications, like tools to combat bioterrorism and user-friendly antiseptics and disinfectants to battle superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics and vaccines.

Alimi says he's giving serious thought to a misting device that could sterilize the air of hospital wards in the grip of epidemics. The solution also might be used as a hospital hand wash -- a user-friendly, non-caustic disinfectant would benefit patients if it enabled medical workers to wash their hands more often, he said.

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Cassiopaean materials Copyright ©1994-2014 Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. All rights reserved. "Cassiopaea, Cassiopaean, Cassiopaeans," is a registered trademark of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
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