Tuesday, June 21, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
Signs Logo
Printer Friendly Version
Fixed link to latest Page


Copyright 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Bush: Qaeda mastermind must stay in secret custody
Mon Jun 20, 2005 03:04 PM ET
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush on Monday defended the U.S. treatment of detainees and said the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, being held in secret custody, could provide valuable information to help protect Americans and Europeans.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly the brains behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, has been held at an undisclosed location since he was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.

"We've got some in custody -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a classic example. The mastermind of the September the 11th attack that killed over 3,000 of our citizens," Bush said at a press conference after meeting with European Union leaders.

"And he is being detained because we think he could possibly give us information that might not only protect us, but protect citizens in Europe," Bush said.

"And at some point in time he will be dealt with, but right now we think it's best that he be kept in custody. We want to learn as much as we can in this new kind of war about the intention, and about the methods, about how these people operate," he said. "And they're dangerous, and they're still around, and they'll kill on a moment's notice."

While a number of senior al Qaeda members have been captured or killed, the network's leader, Osama bin Laden, and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, have evaded a U.S.-led manhunt.

Comment: Officials claim that Khalid Sheik Mohammed was arrested in a late-night joint Pakistani and FBI raid, in which they also arrested Mustafa Ahmed Al-Hawsawi, the purported main financier of the 9/11 attacks. However, some journalists immediately cast serious doubts on this arrest. For instance, MSNBC reported:

"some analysts questioned whether Mohammed was actually arrested Saturday, speculating that he may have been held for some time and that the news was made public when it was in the interests of the United States and Pakistan"

There are numerous problems surrounding the US-alleged arrest of Mohammed as outlined by the Center for Cooperative Research:

Witneses say Mohammed was not present when the raid occurred.

There were differing accounts about which house he was arrested in.

There are differing accounts about where he was before the arrest and how authorities found him.

Some accounts have him sleeping when the arrest occurs.

Accounts differ on who arrests him—Pakistanis, Americans, or both.

There are previously published accounts that Mohammed may have been killed in September 2002.

There are accounts that he was captured the year before.

There were, in fact, so many problems with the story that one Guardian report stated:

"The story appears to be almost entirely fictional."

The simple fact is that there is no terror threat, or, at the very least, no overarching terrorist network determined to attack the US and all freedom loving people throughout the world.

Simple logic dictates that there is nothing fantastical about the idea that corrupt arrogant government leaders would go to great lengths to con a population into thinking that their lives (and way of life) were threatened if they perceived that the benefits to be gained by such manipulations and lies would be worth the effort. In the case of 9/11 and the enduring war on terror, the benefits to the Bush administration and their corporate friends of perpetuating the idea of a terrorist threat are enormous. We need only look at the results:

- Free reign to invade an plunder the wealth of any country they choose.

- Free reign to impose Orwellian social controls and legislation to ensure that, if their secret ever gets out, the population will be easily contained.

- Free reign to pass emergency laws and consolidate their grip on power, ensuring that any threat from rival political parties is effectively neutered.

- Free reign to carry out phony terror attacks on the "homeland" as and when needed.

This is an accurate depiction of the state of American today. The road to covert totalitarian government in the US has already been completed. All that remains is for the right conditions to come about for the real face of "democracy" in the US to be exposed for all the world to see.

Click here to comment on this article

Freed on 9/11 charge, Moroccan quits Germany
June 21, 2005

HANOVER, Germany - A Moroccan who was dubiously acquitted of playing a role in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has left Germany for Morocco, his lawyer said.

Abdelghani Mzoudi, 32, was acquitted last year of being an accessory to the 9/11 murders and of belonging to a terrorist organization, but the court in Hambourg specifically refused to rule him innocent, saying it was forced to acquit him because of lack of credible evidence.

Hamburg was a rear base to three of the suicide hijackers in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The federal court of justice confirmed the verdict on June 9, and the state minister of the interior in Hamburg gave Mzoudi 14 days to leave the country after that date, saying that his presence had been tolerated only so long as there was a judicial case against him.

Lawyer Gul Pinar said Mzoudi had left for Agadir in the company of another lawyer, Michael Rosenthal.

"We want to be absolutely sure what happens to him," she said, adding that it was likely he would be interrogated by authorities in Morocco, where his family has lined up legal counsel for him.

According to a German security expert, Mzoudi risked being arrested and transferred to the US military camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where Al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects are held.

Mzoudi, who studied electronics in Hamburg, moved in the same circles as three of the 9/11 hijackers.

He was only the second person anywhere in the world to face trial over the attacks. The first, Moroccan student Mounir El Motassadeq, is being re-tried after his original guilty verdict was overturned.

Both men had attended Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

Comment: Mzoudi, who is supposed to be on his way back to Morocco, risks being arrested and transferred to Guantanamo. It is almost as if other nations have simply accepted the fact that the US is the big bully, and they are all simply trying to stay out of his way.

Click here to comment on this article

Some 9/11 Kin Want Freedom Museum Canceled
Associated Press
June 21, 2005

NEW YORK - Family members of those killed at the World Trade Center are balking at plans to add a museum of freedom at ground zero, arguing it would allow politics to infect a place revered as sacred.

Relatives representing 14 family groups rallied at the site Monday to condemn plans for the International Freedom Center, which officials said would place the 2001 terror attacks in a historical context.

The center would be part of a cultural complex set to open in 2009 at the northeast end of the rebuilt trade center site. It would host discussions on historical and current events, exhibits on global freedom movements and a service program encouraging activities that could range from joining the Peace Corps to enlisting in the U.S. military.

According to the International Freedom Center's Web site, the museum will "deal with the international impact of September 11," as well as such issues as segregation in America and the Holocaust.

Comment: What does the Holocaust officially have to do with 9/11?

"It doesn't belong at a memorial," said Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, died in the World Trade Center collapse. "You wouldn't put a debate about Nazism and authoritarianism at Dachau."

Center President Richard J. Tofel said that while the causes of the Sept. 11 attacks would not be up for debate, the center would not bar criticism of the United States and its actions.

"Part of the way we celebrate freedom is to acknowledge that even the greatest societies in the world and those that have made the greatest contribution to freedom are not perfect," he said.

The center's use of advisers that include some critics of U.S. policy has prompted criticism from conservative commentators in recent weeks.

Comment: How fitting that the International "Freedom" Center will not allow any debate on the causes of the 9/11 attacks.

Click here to comment on this article

FBI Chief Won't Mandate Terror Expertise
Tuesday June 21, 2005
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - FBI Director Robert Mueller says he doesn't believe his counterterrorism supervisors need to have a background in Arabic, the Middle East or international issues.

"Let me tell you that we want to develop that within the bureau, but making that an absolute requirement - if you do not have it you would be precluded from advancing in counterterrorism - no,'' Mueller testified recently in an employment lawsuit.

Mueller described his own expertise in Middle Eastern terrorism as having been "relatively limited'' when he took over the FBI a week before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mueller also testified he didn't give any guidance to his top managers to seek out the bureau's most experienced counterterrorism agents to work on the war on terror immediately after Sept. 11, saying he expected those managers to make good choices.

"It was in their hands as to how they did that,'' Mueller said in a wide-ranging deposition obtained by The Associated Press. Some supervisors were brought in without any terrorism training while some agents who were more knowledgeable about al-Qaida were brought from New York to work on the suicide hijackings investigation, officials said.

Most of the men Mueller appointed to run the war on terror testified that they didn't believe Middle East and terrorism experience had been important for choosing the agents they promoted, the AP reported Sunday.

Gary Bald, the bureau's executive assistant director in charge of terrorism, testified he had to get his terrorism training on the job when he came to headquarters two years ago. When asked about his grasp of Middle Eastern culture and history, he replied: "I wish that I had it. It would be nice.''

Comment: Contrary to what Mueller says, when dealing with a phony Middle Eastern terror threat, it is essential that FBI counter-terrorism agents DO NOT have a solid grasp of Middle Eastern culture and history. Being woefully ignorant of the rest of the world is something in which American culture and society specialises. By assigning red-blooded American boys to the Middle East desk in the FBI, Mueller can ensure that the racist propaganda that is being used by the NeoCons to fuel the war on terror will take root and bear bloody fruit.

Clearly, any US intelligence agent with an ounce of awareness of the reality of the Middle East and the forces that made it what it is today, would immediately be able to see that the real source and promoter of world-wide terror is much closer to home.

Click here to comment on this article

Bush seeks 'strong' Europe as partner
Mon Jun 20, 3:54 PM ET

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush said he wanted the crisis-hit European Union to be a "strong" global partner, as he and visiting EU leaders took a united approach to Iran, North Korea, and Lebanon.

"The United States continues to support a strong European Union as a partner in spreading freedom and democracy and security and prosperity throughout the world," he said after the annual US-EU summit at the White House.

Bush spoke after meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the current EU president; European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso; and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The European Union is reeling after its failure to agree on a long-term budget and the postponement of plans to adopt a constitution after French and Dutch voters crushingly rejected the charter.

"We made clear in our frank and open and friendly talks with the president that the European Union is not (on) its knees," said Juncker, who has warned that the 25-nation bloc may see its global influence shrink.

In a series of joint statements, the United States and the European Union declared a united front on issues like North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, Iran's atomic energy ambitions, and recent elections in Lebanon.

They demanded that Pyongyang dismantle its nuclear weapons "in a permanent, transparent, thorough, and verifiable manner," while renewing their support for six-nation diplomacy.

On Iran, the United States and Europe Union reaffirmed their support for talks led by Britain, France and Germany and urged Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment and reprocessing and cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

In his remarks, Bush thanked Europe for "sending a clear message to the leadership in Iran that we're not going to tolerate the development of a nuclear weapon." Tehran denies charges that it seeks atomic weapons.

Washington and Brussels also jointly welcomed Lebanon's elections, which led to a victory by the anti-Syrian opposition, and said they would consider calling an international conference to solicit support for a new government.

"Once the Lebanese government has defined its reform agenda and should it so request, we will consider convening an international conference to consolidate support for the Lebanese people and the new government," according to a joint US-EU statement.

Both sides insisted that deep transAtlantic divisions over the war in Iraq were in the past, with Bush and Juncker pointing to US-EU sponsorship of an international conference on Iraqi reconstruction that is set to open in Brussels on Wednesday.

"There may have been past differences over Iraq, but as we move forward, there is a need for the world to work together so that Iraq's democracy will succeed," said the US president.

"When it comes to substance, when it comes to progress, when it comes to democracy, to freedom and to liberty, both the US and the European Union are cooperating closely together and working in the same direction," said Juncker.

In their joint statements, the two sides also reaffirmed their support for Israel's controversial plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and expressed strong support for Palestinian elections.

"We support the holding of free, fair, and transparent multi-party legislative elections in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, under the scrutiny of international observers and with full freedom of movement for candidates and voters," they said.

They also expressed "deep concern" about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and said they stood ready to provide help in the event of a dire food shortage there.

Comment: We are reminded of Neville Chamberlain's statement that, "There will be peace in our time" after his meeting with Hitler in 1937. Britain stood idly by with numerous other nations while the Nazis invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia. When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

Click here to comment on this article

'Am I Next?'
By Ann Scott Tyson – Washington Post Monday, June 20, 2005

At dawn, Miller and his platoon awaken from a rough slumber cramped inside Humvees or stretched out on the packed dirt of an austere Army base in eastern Ramadi known as Combat Outpost. The base has no running water, only a few wooden latrines, and is regularly pounded by mortars…

Under the glare of a midmorning sun, Staff Sgt. Jody Hayes stands sweating in the hatch of his M-113 armored vehicle, scanning for insurgents. Hayes and his Iowa National Guard crew have been stalled for nearly 30 minutes on a risky, slow-moving mission to clear road bombs, and he's getting nervous.

Suddenly he hears the snap of a sniper's bullet flying past his head. The round pierces the neck of the soldier next to him, Spec. John Miller, entering the two-inch gap between his Kevlar vest collar and helmet.

"Get down!" Hayes yells. Miller falls heavily against Hayes's leg, and at first Hayes believes his friend is taking cover. "Man, he got down pretty quick," he recalls thinking. Then he glances down and sees Miller bleeding at his feet. ...

"Doc," Hayes says, looking up at her. "He's gone."

Holschlag begins checking Miller's pulse herself, as if she hasn't heard.

"Doc," Hayes repeats, louder. "He's gone!"

It is 10:18 a.m. on April 12, and John Wayne Miller is no more. ..

Spec. John Wayne Miller was killed by sniper fire in Ramadi, Iraq, on April 12.

With a fifth of its soldiers killed or wounded, the platoon is reeling from the trauma of repeated loss, facing a constant threat from bombs and gunfire on Ramadi's streets, or mortar strikes on their base. ..

Ramadi is a grim destination for U.S. troops. No battalion stationed inside the city has so far escaped a tour without serious casualties. More than 120 troops have been killed and hundreds more wounded since the summer of 2003 -- proportionally more than in Baghdad. And not all the deaths are from combat: One homesick 19-year-old recently shot himself in the head. ..

"What sucks the most," says Miller's platoon leader, Lt. Tom Lafave, of Escanaba, Mich., "is we sweep an area and five hours later an IED goes off in the same spot."

Miller's squad leader, Staff Sgt. Steve "Shaggy" Hagedorn, is more blunt. "We spent three days clearing a route and I guarantee it's worse now than when we started," he says. "So everyone's asking, 'What are we doing it for?' Everyone's asking, 'Am I next?' " ..

The shock is compounded by the loss just weeks earlier of the platoon's commander, 2nd Lt. Richard B. Gienau, 29, of Peoria, Ill., and Sgt. Seth K. Garceau, 27, of Oelwein, Iowa, when their Humvee was hit by a large road bomb. ..

Edgington, so traumatized by the losses that he has been unable to go on missions, is one of hundreds of soldiers in Iraq being treated for combat stress each month, even as they confront new dangers every day in the war zone. ..

Edgington is the sole survivor to stay in Iraq from the IED attack Feb. 27 that killed Gienau and Garceau and wounded two other soldiers. He says he still dreams about the attack nightly, disturbed above all by his last glimpse of his commander. After the bomb exploded and the dust cleared, he found Gienau lying in his lap. "I remember looking for blood, and all it looked like was a little scrape on his scalp. He really looked like he had put his head in my lap and gone to sleep," he recalls. ..

Comment: Indeed. What IS the US doing it for? This is a question that should be investigated by mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post rather than allowing the question to be voiced by US troops in Iraq.

Click here to comment on this article

Bolton denied Senate vote again
By Justin Webb
BBC News, Washington

The White House has failed for a second time to force the Senate to vote on John Bolton, President George W Bush's controversial choice for UN ambassador.

The failure leaves open the possibility Mr Bush will appoint Mr Bolton without Senate approval during a recess.

There are 100 senators and 55 of them are Republicans, so a straightforward vote on John Bolton would almost certainly result in his confirmation.

But 60 members are needed to override a delaying filibuster in the Senate.

So, provided the Democrats remain united, Mr Bolton will not be passed.


The Democrats say they are not blocking the nominee completely.

They would allow a vote if further information were given on his behaviour while he worked at the state department.

But the Bush administration says that demand is unreasonable.

The two sides are deadlocked.

Assuming Mr Bolton does not withdraw, the president is faced with a tough political choice.

He has the power to appoint his man over the heads of the senators during their recess for the 4 July holiday - an appointment which would last until 2007.

Would that look like a bold move overcoming petty partisan politics, or the desperate strategy of a lame-duck second-term president?

Mr Bush's advisors must decide.

Click here to comment on this article

Democrats block Bolton's UN nomination in US Senate
Tue Jun 21, 2:33 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Democratic senators blocked John Bolton's controversial nomination as US ambassador to the United Nations, defying White House calls for the Senate to confirm President George W. Bush's favored nominee. [...]

Bolton's nomination has been blocked by Democrats angry at his past scornful statements about the United Nations, his allegedly bullying manner, and charges that he manipulated intelligence to fit to his political views.

Top Democratic senators say they will allow a vote on Bolton -- but only after the Bush administration provides classified documents that they say are crucial to deciding the nomination.

If Bush were to appoint Bolton to the United Nations without Senate endorsement it would only further tarnish the nominee's battered reputation, according to top Democrats.

"I think it's a bad mesage," Christopher Dodd, a leading Democrat, told reporters Monday. "I think the adminstration hurts itself" by insisting on Bolton's nomination.

If Bush appoints him to the United Nation "it would be the first nominee ever to go to the UN without being confirmed," said Dodd.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged with vetting his candidacy, sent Bolton's nomination to the full Senate last month without endorsing him after contentious hearings.

Click here to comment on this article

AP: Federal Agency Collected Extensive Personal Data About Airline Passengers Despite Pledge
Monday June 20, 3:15 pm ET
By Leslie Miller, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal agency collected extensive personal information about airline passengers although Congress told it not to and it said it wouldn't, according to documents obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

A Transportation Security Administration contractor used three data brokers to collect detailed information about U.S. citizens who flew on commercial airlines in June 2004 in order to test a terrorist screening program called Secure Flight, according to documents that will be published in the Federal Register this week.

The TSA had ordered the airlines to turn over data on those passengers, called passenger name records, in November.

The contractor, EagleForce Associates, then combined the passenger name records with commercial data from three contractors that included first, last and middle names, home address and phone number, birthdate, name suffix, second surname, spouse first name, gender, second address, third address, ZIP code and latitude and longitude of address.

EagleForce then produced CD-ROMS containing the information "and provided those CD-ROMS to TSA for use in watch list match testing," the documents said.

According to previous official notices, TSA had said it would not store commercial data about airline passengers.

The Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits the government from keeping a secret database.

"I'm just floored," said Tim Sparapani, a privacy lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is like creating an FBI file, not just some simple check, and then they're storing the data."

TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said the program was being developed with a commitment to privacy, and that it was routine to change the official definition of a system of records during a test phase.

Comment: Anyone who is "just floored" hasn't been following the programme very closely. What did anyone expect to happen after the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the passage of the Patriot Act? Were all these millions spent and the people put in place to snoop, spy, and prowl into our private lives supposed to go to waste?

You can count of the fact that these databases exist. Once they exist, their existence needs to be justified. That means names will have to be chosen, and the winners will find themselves on yet more lists, if not whisked away to a game of Survivor in an American gulag.

Thank god we have Sir Bob Geldolf!

Click here to comment on this article

Geldof defends Bush's Africa policy
Last Updated Mon, 20 Jun 2005 16:46:44 EDT
CBC Arts

George W. Bush has done more to help Africa than other U.S. presidents, says Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof.

Geldof made the comment in an interview in the current issue of Time magazine. The Irish rocker was relating how he had to defend Bush while he was in France.

"[The French] refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American president for Africa. But it's empirically so," Geldof said. [...]

Geldof said he is also campaigning to have Pope Benedict involved in some way in Live 8, and Bono added that he thinks Bush can make a huge contribution.

"He feels he's already doubled and tripled aid to Africa, which he has. But he started from far too low a place," the U2 frontman said.

"He can stand there and say he paid at the office already. He shouldn't, because he'll be left out of the history books. But it's hard for him because of the expense of the war and the debts. But I have a hunch that he will step forward with something."

Comment: We're awarding a double Signs Sick Bag to this story. Bono has already been burned by Canadian PM Paul Martin. How many times will it take before he wakes up to the fact that these politicians are using Bono to appeal to his fan base. They have no intention of doing anything about African poverty, starvation, disease, or the other gifts of imperialism upon the colonies.

We hope there are musicians out there with enough courage to raise some serious issues during Live 8, like why Bush is still at large, free to plan and carry out other crimes after 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Click here to comment on this article

Heads Up
Rigorous Intuition
Sunday, June 19, 2005

"There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which and nobody knows; and we generally say, 'Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn't believe it.'" - Magnolia

As mourners prepared for a funeral near Los Angeles in July, 1869, blood and flesh rained out of a clear sky for three minutes, blanketing two acres of a corn field. The flash ranged in size from small particles to eight-inch strips, and included what witnesses took to be pieces of kidneys, livers and hearts. Samples were taken to the Los Angeles News, whose editor wrote, in the August 3 edition, "That the meat fell, we cannot doubt. Even the parsons in the neighborhood are willing to vouch for that. Where it came from, we cannot even conjecture."

For an hour on an August day in 1963, an enormous amount of straw fell from clouds over Kent. "I looked up, and the sky was full of it," said a witness. A government meteorologist told Associated Press he was "mystified."

On September 23, 1973, tens of thousands of toads fell on Brignoles, France, during what was described as a "freak storm." Peculiarly, they were found to all be young toads.

Charles Fort loved this stuff. Until his death in 1932, he collected hundreds of accounts of anomalous sky falls of organic and inorganic matter. His theory, which according to Jerome Clarke's Unexplained he "cheerfully acknowledged to be preposterous," suggested that "under certain conditions of gravidic and electromagnetic strain in the solar system":

channels open through which material objects can reach the Earth from parts unknown, or can be transferred from one part of the Earth's surface to another.... Let us suppose that a channel opens between this Earth and another, where the surface is a few hundred feet, or a few thousand feet higher. Then things fall, from that Earth to this. Frogs, minding their own affairs in a pond, feel the bottom drop out...

A lot of strange things fall out of America's skies. Why some do is not so strange.

The small plane of Gary Caradori, returning to Nebraska with photographic evidence of an elite paedophile ring run out of the Franklin Credit Union.

The United Airlines jet carrying the wife of Watergate spook E Howard Hunt, as well as thousands of dollars in hush money, who had been threatening to "tell all." (Hunt immediately dropped his extortion of the White House and agreed to plead guilty.)

Paul Wellstone's King Air A100, during an election to decide control of the Senate, after having been the only Senator standing for election to challenge Cheney's war resolution, and just before his name would have been left on the ballot in the event of his death.

The company plane of Jake Horton, Vice President of Gulf Power, which exploded midair as he was en route to confront his Board over dubious accounting and illegal political payoffs. (According to Greg Palast, police received an anonymous call later that day: "You can stop investigating Gulf Power now.")

And we know many others; enough that we can speak confidently of pattern recognition. ("Keep away from small planes" has become our way of saying "Look after yourself.") And since we can describe a pattern - a pattern that repeats - we've left the Fortean realm of anomalies for that of assassination science, as James Fetzer has coined it. It's the coincidentalists who are the true heirs of Charles Fort, because they see no pattern, only anomalies. If they look up at all, they can't make sense of aircraft falling with expedience from the sky. They may as well be seeing toads or straw or meat.

I wonder what Fort would have made of this: in separate incidents last week, two helicopters fell into New York's East River.

The first helicopter, carrying sightseers, concerns us only as a precedent. (Accidents happen, but they also happen sometimes to be a template for attempted murder.) The second helicopter, however, carried "top executives of the financial services company MBNA Corp."

That's enough to merit attention most weeks. But the same week, MBNA made news when a "computer hacker" reportedly "accessed more than 40 million credit card accounts." This attack "was the latest in a series of security lapses affecting consumer information. The breach appears to be the largest yet involving financial data, said David Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center."

And like a helicopter in the East River, it doesn't begin or end there. Recent weeks have seen a bizarre rash of "security lapses" at commercial and credit institutions, with headlines like "Personal data on millions of Citigroup clients lost in transit" and "Fed bank insurer's worker data breached".

I don't know what it means, if anything. But I think only a fool could say with confidence that it means nothing.

I'm just feeling like a frog who was minding his own business in a pond, until suddenly, the bottom dropped out.

Look out below.

Reader Comments

8:45 AM
Anonymous said...

Connect the dots . . .

  • CitiFinancial data lost
  • Ameritrade data lost
  • Bank of America data lost
  • Time-Warner/AOL data lost
  • 40M Mastercard accounts breached
  • MBNA executives in the downed helicopter

Another 9/11, only not in the form of planes hitting buildings? Economic crisis, anyone? Or perhaps just another unfortunate coincidence?

Click here to comment on this article

Black Market in Stolen Credit Card Data Thrives on Internet
The New York Times
June 21, 2005

"Want drive fast cars?" asks an advertisement, in broken English, atop the Web site iaaca.com. "Want live in premium hotels? Want own beautiful girls? It's possible with dumps from Zo0mer." A "dump," in the blunt vernacular of a relentlessly flourishing online black market, is a credit card number. And what Zo0mer is peddling is stolen account information - name, billing address, phone - for Gold Visa cards and MasterCards at $100 apiece.

It is not clear whether any data stolen from CardSystems Solutions, the payment processor reported on Friday to have exposed 40 million credit card accounts to possible theft, has entered this black market. But law enforcement officials and security experts say it is a safe bet that the data will eventually be peddled at sites like iaaca.com - its very name a swaggering shorthand for International Association for the Advancement of Criminal Activity.

For despite years of security improvements and tougher, more coordinated law enforcement efforts, the information that criminals siphon - credit card and bank account numbers, and whole buckets of raw consumer information - is boldly hawked on the Internet. The data's value arises from its ready conversion into online purchases, counterfeit card manufacture, or more elaborate identity-theft schemes.

Comment: Can you see where this is headed?

The online trade in credit card and bank account numbers, as well as other raw consumer information, is highly structured. There are buyers and sellers, intermediaries and even service industries. The players come from all over the world, but most of the Web sites where they meet are run from computer servers in the former Soviet Union, making them difficult to police.

Traders quickly earn titles, ratings and reputations for the quality of the goods they deliver - quality that also determines prices. And a wealth of institutional knowledge and shared wisdom is doled out to newcomers seeking entry into the market, like how to move payments and the best time of month to crack an account.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that roughly 10 million Americans have their personal information pilfered and misused in some way or another every year, costing consumers $5 billion and businesses $48 billion annually.

"There's so much to this," said Jim Melnick, a former Russian affairs analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now the director of threat development at iDefense, a company in Reston, Va., that tracks cybercrime. "The story that needs to be told is the larger, long-term threat to the American financial industry. It's a cancer. It's not going to kill you now, but slowly, over time."

Comment: Gee, could the threat escalate to the point where it could be blamed for the crash of the US economy?

No one is willing to estimate how many cards and account numbers actually make it to the Internet auction block, but law enforcement agents consistently describe the market as huge. Every day, at sites like iaaca.com and carderportal.org, pseudonymous vendors do business in an arcane slurry of acronyms.

"Cobs," or changes of billings, are a hot commodity. Typically, a peddler of cobs is offering fresh bank or credit card accounts, along with the ability to change the billing address through a pilfered PIN. In other cases, a vendor selling cobs is offering to change billing addresses himself, as a service. Sometimes the address is changed to a safe "drop," which might be an empty apartment in a local building, or some other scouted locale where goods can be delivered. (Information on reliable drops is also bought and sold.)

Lengthy tutorials posted at online "carding" forums indicate that the cob art form is highly developed. A patient criminal will wait until the day a victim receives a billing statement. "That way you have a full 30 days" before the victim is likely to look over his account again, explained one frank tutorial collected by the F.B.I.

A user going by the name "mindtrip" had cobs for sale recently: "I'm selling cobs from at this time only banks Discover and American Express t'ill further notice," he wrote in brusque English. "The cobs come with full info including MMN" (mother's maiden name). Discover Card cobs with any balance were on special: $50. American Express, a more exclusive and potentially more lucrative account, commanded $85.

Alongside advertisements for cobs are pitches from malicious-code writers, who sell their services to the con artists, known as phishers, who contract with spammers to send out millions of increasingly sophisticated phony e-mails designed to lure victims into revealing their account information.

A successful phishing operation might bring in thousands of fresh account numbers, along with other identifying details: names, addresses, phone numbers, passwords, PIN's, and mothers' maiden names. The richer the detail (and the higher the account balance), the better the asking price.

A user by the nickname Sirota is peddling account information so detailed, and so formatted, that it clearly came from a credit report. He is asking $200 per dump on accounts with available balances above $10,000, with a minimum order of five if the buyer wants accounts associated with a particular bank. "Also, I can provide dumps with online access," he wrote. "The price of such dumps is 5% of available credit."

Every day brings more. "These things have a short shelf life," said Dan Larkin, the unit chief at the F.B.I.'s Internet Crime Complaint Center in West Virginia. "The criminal value of a compromised credit card is very short term, so there's a constant need to keep backfilling their resources."

A Full-Service Black Market

Those buying fresh batches of account numbers may try to make purchases online, having goods delivered to a drop and then fencing them through online auctions.

More sophisticated thieves will seek out a vendor of encoding devices, and others who sell "plastic," or blank credit cards, and "algos," algorithms that are needed to properly encode the magnetic strip and produce a usable card. And "cash out" services can be arranged with those offering to take the encoded plastic to a cash machine and make daily withdrawals until the account is depleted. (The cash-out risk commands a premium - often 50 percent or more of the total balance.)

Traders - whether they deal in plastic, algos, cobs or other booty - build reputations first by earning the right to advertise, and then, in a black-market version of eBay buyer feedback, augment their status by receiving published kudos from other members. No one is permitted to post product or service offers at most of these Web sites without first having their wares vetted by site administrators, or by those who have been selected as trusted "reviewers."

At iaaca.com, for example, those wishing to sell cobs or cob services "will be required to provide ten (10) change of addresses, to be distributed to two reviewers," who "will test this service by either phone or Internet." New vendors of credit card numbers "will be required to furnish 20 VALID dumps (5 Classics, 5 business, 5 platinums, 5 corporate; 50 percent Visa, 50 percent MasterCard)," according to the site administrators. "The testers will determine the quality, in a percentage of valid numbers."

Once the wares are vetted, a vendor might then pay a fee to peddle them on a site's message boards. Banner ads can also be purchased.

Contacts among deal makers almost always move off the boards and onto ICQ, the instant-messaging program of choice among cyberthieves because of its easy anonymity (no names, no registration, no e-mail required). Payments often change hands in relative anonymity (and with little regulation) by e-gold, an electronic currency that purports to be backed by gold bullion and issued by e-gold Ltd., a company incorporated on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. (Secret Service agents have expressed skepticism over the gold backing.)

Comment: The Powers That Be really don't seem to like alternative payment systems, especially ones that are allegedly backed in gold. We would not be surprised if such systems are eventually outlawed.

Transactions might also be made in WMZ's, electronic monetary units equivalent to American dollars and issued by WebMoney Transfer, a company based in Moscow.

Plenty of noncriminal entities use such services to move money, Secret Service analysts said - although they added that the agency had conversations with some of the e-currency issuers to discuss ways to address the problem.

Thefts at Data Aggregators

Mark Rasch, the former head of cyberinvestigations for the Justice Department and now the senior vice president of Solutionary, a computer security company, said the numbers taken in the CardSystems breach - at least 200,000 are said to have been in stolen files - are almost certain to end up in one of these trading posts.

CardSystems represented a vital hub through which millions of account numbers passed. ChoicePoint, a data aggregator, was another gold mine; it announced in February that thousands of records had been downloaded from its databases by thieves posing as legitimate business clients (no hacking required).

"The pattern in the last six months is going after aggregators," Mr. Rasch said. "It used to be you'd get a few numbers from a few merchants and aggregate them yourself - a few numbers from a lot of people. But at some point they said, 'Wait a minute, there are other people who aggregate this stuff.' "

And, Mr. Rasch pointed out, it is nearly impossible to stop. For all the information that law enforcement and security experts can glean from sites like iaaca.com, "there are whole marketplaces of bulletin board systems and chats that are invisible," he said.

Still, law enforcement has made inroads. In October, the Justice Department and the Secret Service announced the internationally coordinated arrest of 28 individuals in eight states and several countries, including Sweden, Britain, Poland, Belarus and Bulgaria.

Among those arrested were Andrew Mantovani of Scottsdale, Ariz., David Appleyard of Linwood, N.J., and Anatoly Tyukanov of Moscow. The Justice Department says they are the ringleaders of Shadowcrew.com, the largest English-language Web bazaar trading in everything from stolen credit card, debit card and bank account numbers to counterfeit drivers' licenses, passports and Social Security cards.

The investigation, called Operation Firewall, broke up a 4,000-member underground that, according to the Justice Department, bought and sold nearly two million credit card account numbers in two years and caused over $4 million in losses to merchants, banks and individuals.

But eight months later, the traders have adapted and resumed business. They are a bit more skittish now, said John Watters, the chief executive of iDefense, which generates cybercrime intelligence for government and financial industry clients. Operation Firewall did take out some of the "low-hanging fruit," Mr. Watters said. But that has only caused the pricing models to become more refined, and the characters in this black-market economy to become more sophisticated.

A New Market for New Identities

Mr. Watters said there was also a small but growing market for the type of raw consumer information that has been pilfered from ChoicePoint, LexisNexis and other general data aggregators.

"We've observed people paying for identities," Mr. Watters said, describing Web forms where criminals could tick off the fields they had to sell or wanted to buy: address, date of birth, Social Security number, driver's license number, mother's maiden name. And as the traders slip deeper underground - or onto servers in regions with lax laws, overburdened or uninterested law enforcement and no real working relationship with American authorities - the odds of pulling off another Operation Firewall get worse.

"The next battle will be substantially harder," Mr. Watters said. "It's getting harder for us to do our job."

Asked at a symposium on cybercrime late last month if law enforcement was losing the battle against cybercriminals, Brian Nagel, assistant director for investigations at the Secret Service, said no, according to published reports.

But another panel member, Jody Westby, the managing director of security and privacy practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, disagreed, insisting that based on Federal Trade Commission statistics on identity and credit card theft, only about 5 percent of cybercriminals are ever caught.

In an interview, Ms. Westby offered an assessment no less bleak. "We're not making an impact," she said. "The criminals are too hard to track and trace, too hard to prosecute, and the information they steal is too easy to use."

At one Russian-language site over the weekend, a user called Lexus celebrated the CardSystems breach, saying that "judgment day has come for the bourgeoisie." Another, Zer0, suggested on the site that the hacked numbers might represent new opportunities in the underground.

"It is a good occasion for us," Zer0 said. "Happy hunting."

Comment: In the previous article from the Rigorous Intuition blog, a reader commented about the sequence of recent thefts of financial and personal data, followed quickly by the MBNA executives' helicopter crash. Now we have this article in the New York Times that strongly hints at where this is all heading: economic disaster, a lockdown of sorts on the internet, and the blame will fall on the shoulders of elusive "cyberterrorists" who are, "...too hard to track and trace, [and] too hard to prosecute..."

Click here to comment on this article

Police Kill Man With Dud Grenade at Court
Associated Press
Mon Jun 20,10:27 PM ET

SEATTLE - A man carrying a hand grenade and shouting threats was shot dead by police Monday in the lobby of the federal courthouse.

The grenade was inactive, but police could not see that as the man held it in his hand, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said.

Witnesses said the man, wearing a backpack that he later strapped to his chest, tried to get past security and began shouting threats. Kerlikowske said the backpack contained a cutting board.

The man "often frequented the courthouse as well as the federal building," U.S. Marshal Eric Robertson said, adding he had a "disdain" for the federal government.

The medical examiner's office said it would not identify the man until Tuesday.

In the lobby, a guard saw the man take the grenade out of his backpack, then try to walk across a ledge next to a pool that blocks public access to a secured area, Robertson said.

Judges, jurors, employees and prisoners in the 23-story federal building were evacuated. Meanwhile, security officers tried talking to the man, but he refused to put the grenade down. He also carried a sheaf of papers, including some court documents and what authorities described as a living will.

After about 25 minutes of negotiations with police, "the man made a furtive movement," Robertson said. "At that point the officers had no choice but to stop that threat."

An officer with a .223-caliber rifle and another with a shotgun each fired once at the man, who fell to the floor still holding the grenade.

Bomb squad members determined the grenade had been drilled out and was inactive.

Kim Kingsborough told Northwest Cable News she saw the man in the lobby before he was confronted by authorities. "He just stood around for the longest time in the lobby, looking around," he said.

The man then tried to make his way along the ledge beside the pool, and as officers approached him, Kingsborough said, the man shouted: "Don't come near me!"

Streets around the courthouse, a $171 million high-rise that opened last August, were cordoned off. The building's security features include glass walls that are blast-resistant.

Click here to comment on this article

Neocon Nightmare: Oil, Socialism, and Chutzpah in Venezuela
Thomas Paine's Corner
Driven by obscene greed and hubris, the Oligarchs ruling America attempt to mercilessly crush those who stand in the way of their imperialistic ambitions.

John Steinbeck once wrote:

"It always seemed strange to me that the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second."

The plutocrats rule America behind the clever guise of a constitutional republic rife with corruption. With an unmatched ferocity in embodying the “traits of success” discerned by Steinbeck, their Neocon representatives in the government vigorously protect the interests of the wealthy and tirelessly push the American system of corrupt avarice on the rest of the world. Strategies they typically employ include economic pressure, psychological manipulation through propaganda and media control, covert intervention by the CIA, and in cases like Iraq, invasion and occupation. What the proletariat has needed for a long time is a champion for their cause. Plebeians of the world, meet Hugo Chavez.

Yes, there is a viable alternative to plutocracy

With America’s government fiercely advancing the interests of avaricious corporations around the world, Hugo Chavez has emerged in Venezuela as a welcome antithesis. While there is little doubt that Chavez is complex, acts with a degree of self interest, and has a multi-faceted agenda, he has remained steadfast in his promise to provide for the poverty-stricken in Venezuela. His open defiance of US imperialism and nascent attempt to implement a social democracy make him a rare breed in this world. As they sustain blows to their economic security, civil liberties, and intellectual freedoms almost daily under the Bush administration, people around the world can look to Chavez as illumination in a very dark age.

Chavez has tenacity. He was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and again in 2000 by significant margins of victory. Contrary to claims of corruption by the Bush administration and its media lap-dogs, international observers declared both elections to be free. Chavez survived a coup attempt in 2002, which was openly supported by the Bush administration. Dogged by the opposition of the Oligarchs in his own country, Chavez overcame a recall election in August of 2004. His approval margin was a comfortable 59%. The recall was organized and supervised by the Organization of American States and the Carter Center. Jimmy Carter, noted for his sterling integrity, helped supervise the referendum process. Carter himself confirmed the legitimacy of the procedures. Unlike Americans, Venezuelans can rest assured that their recent elections have not been rigged. Having tenaciously survived several rigorous tests, Chavez is a president who truly represents a majority of his people, and has the chutzpah to go toe to toe with the Neocons.

In 1998, Chavez inherited a nation of extreme "haves" and "have nots". For years, corrupt Oligarchs had plundered the revenue from Venezuela's rich oil reserves. Chavez rode to office on a wave of populist support for his promises to bring social and economic justice to his nation. When he took the reins of leadership, 3% percent of the population (mostly of white European descent) owned 77% of the country’s land. About 80% of the Venezuelan population was of black and Indian descent. They comprised most of the 21 million poverty-stricken people in a nation with a population of 25 million. Widespread poverty in a nation that sits atop the largest oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere? The word unconscionable could only begin to describe the situation. Enter Hugo Chavez with his grand designs to beat back the economic disparity.

Hollow rhetoric or real promises?

In Venezuela, just under a million children who live in the many shameful shanty towns now receive free education. Three new universities offer a secondary education to 250,000 who would not have had the opportunity for further education under the Oligarchs. By the end of 2006, there will be six more universities. In exchanged for subsidized oil, Chavez has arranged for the immigration of 10,000 Cuban doctors to operate free clinics for the poor. He has tripled the health care budget. Under Chavez, over 100,000 families have received land under his Agrarian Reform Act, despite stiff legal and sometimes violent resistance from landlords. State subsidized markets offer necessities to poor consumers for as little as fifty percent of market cost. In 2004, 84% of the poor in Venezuela saw their income increase 33%. Unemployment decreased from 17% in 2004 to 14% by February of 2005.

How has America fared under the Bush Oligarchy?

In a poll conducted in February of 2005, Chavez's approval rating in his country was 70%. Bush’s approval rating in April of 2005 was a paltry 45%. The numbers demonstrate who is acting in the interest of their electorate, and who is not. Despite victory (by landslide popular votes) in two presidential elections and the recall, Bush still questions Chavez's legitimacy. Tremendous controversy surrounded both of Bush’s presidential “victories”, and he lost the popular vote in 2000. Who is in a position to question whom?

Since the Bush Oligarchy came to power, over 1600 Americans have died in an imperialistic war which the Neocons initiated by flagrant lies. The Patriot Act placed stunning restrictions on the civil liberties of Americans as Bush and the Neocons leveraged the fear inspired by 9/11. Theocracy has crept into what is left of America’s democracy through Bush’s "faith based initiatives". Corporate interests predominate over the welfare of individuals. At $5.15 per hour, the pitifully low minimum wage has not increased since 1997. Organized labor continues to weaken as union membership has declined to about 12% of the workforce. Greedy, profiteering corporations like Wal-Mart grow exponentially as they strip-mine the American economy. 45 million Americans do not have health insurance and the Oligarchs are deepening the problem by slashing Medicaid’s budget. Under Bush, the wealth gap has become a chasm. The top 1% of Americans own 40% of the nation's assets, and lay claim to as much wealth as the bottom 95%. The American government is infested with Neocon disciples of Leo Strauss like Paul Wolfowitz and Karl Rove. American leaders are driven by a Machiavellian lust for power and practice deceit like an art-form.

Wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth

Treading in deep water in Iraq, America’s Oligarchs do not have the resources to deal with Chavez in their usual ways. He has fostered a close relationship with long-time "enemy of the state" Fidel Castro. Venezuela is the fifth largest oil producer in the world and accounts for 15% of US oil imports. Chavez has led a resurgence in the power of OPEC to influence the world oil market. Under his leadership, oil-rich developing nations are increasingly demanding a just price for their precious resource to enhance the quality of life for their populaces. Having learned to wield oil as an economic weapon to subdue the Neocons, Chavez presents a tremendous challenge for Rumsfeld and company.

Chavez also represents a growing threat to the Neocon agenda to advance the cause of "freedom and liberty" around the globe. His philosophy of government is that of a "new socialism", which carefully balances democratic principles, a constitution, government intervention in economic matters, and the existence of a private business sector. In contrast, America espouses laisez-faire capitalism and media-induced psychological tyranny masquerading as "freedom and liberty". As evidenced by the occupation in Iraq, George Bush has vowed not to take "no" for an answer. Chavez is forcing Bush to face rejection.

Bush's media loyalists like Fox have attacked Chavez's sanity, reputation, competence, and legitimacy. The Neocons have tried to unseat him by supporting a military coup in 2002. Accusations from Chavez, leaks from the CIA, and US history in Latin America all point to a potential CIA assassination attempt against Chavez in the near future. What the Neocons would not give to use their military might to crush Chavez and seize the bountiful oil fields of Venezuela. With Saddam Hussein, the Neocons did not need to throw too much mud to turn public opinion against him. Chavez is another matter. Even the masters of deceit do not lie well enough to discredit him in the court of public opinion. How galling for them that Chavez's devotion to the poor inspires such fierce loyalty in his supporters, Venezuelan or otherwise.

Undaunted by coups, recall elections, or the $500 million of US military aid to Colombia (his neighbor), Chavez persists in aggressively pursuing his agenda. With unflinching devotion, he works to strengthen his nation, tend to the needs of the poor, and advance his "Bolivarian Revolution". To defend his people, he recently purchased military hardware from Russia, which included 100,000 AK 47s and 10 military helicopters. He is utilizing PDVSA, the state-run oil titan, to finance his social programs for the poor. To the tune of $4 billion per year (drawn from a company with estimated profits of $6.5 billion), Chavez is making good on his promise to share the oil wealth of his nation. He is expanding his profit base by finding new markets for Venezuelan oil in Brazil and China. Chavez has increased the royalties that foreign oil companies (like Chevron) pay to Venezuela. Having raised them from 1% to 16.6%, he is now pushing for 30%. Following the example of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America from European powers, Chavez's ultimate goal is to form a coalition of independent South American nations to reject US leadership and intervention.

“Hello, Mr. President”

Despite drawing the wrath of the Bush administration for his courageous defiance of their insidious agenda, Chavez remains faithful to his causes. In his weekly addresses to his constituents called "Hello, Mr. President", he continues to express his views opposing the American government quite candidly:

[US government advisers and planners are] "not only planning the death of the world, but are executing it. They are killing the world, our world, and our grandchildren's world.....(in reference to US imperialistic and environmentally damaging policies)

"....because we have generals, commanders and soldiers who are patriots, and who will not bend their knees before the US empire; they know that there are people with a conscience who they will not be able too confuse through the media they control."

"Look at the example of Iraq; there was a campaign against Saddam Hussein, accusing him of having chemical weapons, accusing him of being a menace, by presenting evidence that resulted to be false, to justify the aggression."

...."poisoned medicine..." and "That is what is killing the peoples of Latin America....This is the path of destabilization, of violence, of war between brothers." (Chavez's condemnation of Bush's capitalist free-trade policies)

The world needs him

Controversial as he may be, Hugo Chavez has a spine, and he has stood by his devotion to economic justice. He has weathered multiple political storms. Regardless of the lies perpetrated by the Neocons and their lackeys in the media, Chavez ascended to the presidency, and has maintained office, through legitimate means. Too little time has passed to judge the long-term efficacy of his economic or political ideologies, but his ideals are admirable, and he has done much to enhance the quality of life for the poor of his nation.

His successes notwithstanding, Mr. Chavez has many forces working against him. His fortunes are inextricably linked to the volatile crude oil market. He inherited an economy that was in shambles, and robust economic health is still years away for Venezuela. The wealth gap remains wide despite his programs that have provided desperately needed assistance to the impoverished. Chavez bears the universal burden of being human, all too human, and could fall prey to the corruption that often accompanies power. As a substantial obstacle to Neocon expansionism in Latin America, Chavez has a highly visible target painted on his back. He is in the cross-hairs of a well-armed and experienced hunter. It is a steep grade, but Chavez has the juice to keep climbing.

Bush and his Neocons have the deck stacked in their favor. However, Hugo Chavez is no light-weight and will not go down easily. America's Oligarchs need to learn their place in the world community, and Chavez appears poised to teach them. The real hope for the perpetuation of human civilization is the success of Chavez, and others like him. We need leaders who will champion the rights of the poor and the plebeians. Strauss’s disciples offer humanity the misery of perpetual war, poverty for the masses, tyranny, and desecration of our planet.

Bush and his Neocons long to awaken from their nightmare in Latin America, but fortunately for the plebeians, their real angst has just begun. Thank you, Mr. Chavez!

Click here to comment on this article

Rice criticizes Saudis on rights; gets firm rebuff
Tue Jun 21, 2:32 AM ET

RIYADH - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Saudi Arabia's record on democratic reform and the jailing of three activists but was firmly rebuffed by Washington's staunch Middle East ally.

"The row is really meaningless," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a post-midnight news conference after Rice conferred with him and the country's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz,

"The assessment that is important for any country in the development of its political reform is the judgment of its own people," Prince Saud said. "And that is, in the final analysis, the criteria that we follow."

Rice flew into Riyadh on the fourth leg of a regional swing after delivering a major speech in Cairo calling for sweeping democratic change and naming Saudi Arabia as one of the states still lagging.

Addressing 600 Egyptian officials, scholars and students at Cairo's American University, she praised the "brave citizens" in Saudi Arabia who are "demanding accountable government."

"Some first steps toward openness have been taken with recent municipal elections," the chief US diplomat said. "Yet many people still pay an unfair price for exercising their basic rights."

"Three individuals in particular are currently imprisoned for peacefully petitioning their government -- and this should not be a crime in any country."

She was referring to three activists sentenced to between six and nine years in prison in May on charges of demanding a constitutional monarch in the ultra-conservative Gulf sheikhdom.

Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed and Matruk al-Faleh were found guilty of "using Western terminology" in formulating their demands. They also allegedly questioned the king's role as head of the judiciary.

The trio were the last activists held out of a dozen people arrested in March 2004. The three planned to lodge an appeal of their case Tuesday in a Riyadh court, a lawyer and one of their wives said.

The State Department had already registered concern over the fate of the activists and Rice said she raised the matter in her talks late Monday with the Saudi leadership.

"We will continue to follow the progress of this case, we think it is an important case," she said. "The petitioning of the government for reform should not be a crime." [...]

Rice's comments in Cairo were among the more forthright US statements on Saudi shortcomings, but she toned down her apppeal for reform as she stood alongside Prince Saud at the Riyadh news conference.

"Obviously countries will do this at their own speed," Rice said. "But we encourage reform to go forward as quick as possible."

Prince Saud was unruffled by the remarks by Rice as she wound up the Middle East portion of her trip before heading Tuesday to Brussels for a conference on Iraq and then to London for a meeting of the Group of Eight powers.

Asked about Rice's speech at the American University, the Saudi prince said he was too busy preparing for her arrival here.

"I am afraid I haven't read it, to my eternal shame," he said.

Click here to comment on this article

Ministers to scrap fraud juries
Tuesday, 21 June, 2005
Judges would sit without a jury in serious and complex fraud trials under government plans.

Prosecutors can ask for a trial without a jury in England and Wales under laws passed in 2003, but Parliament must approve the powers first.

Outlining his alternative to jury trials, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith said the most devious fraudsters must not be allowed to escape punishment.

He suggested the measure could be used for between 15 and 20 cases each year.

The move comes after a £60m fraud case collapsed after almost two years in court.

The trial of six men, accused of bribing London Underground officials, was abandoned after being blighted by illness among jurors and legal delays.

Specialist judges

The Criminal Justice Act passed in 2003 allows prosecutors to ask for long or complex fraud cases to be heard without a jury if the trial is likely to be too "burdensome" for them. [...]

Comment: Of course, the benefits of a jury-less fraud trial where members of the British government or Labour Party are being investigated, are obvious. The Bush administration has made that point quite clear.

Click here to comment on this article

"In More Ways Than One" Quote of the Week

"The only difference I have felt here is the air, it's suffocating."

One of three "Falash Muras" - Ethiopians who claim Jewish descent - who are also long-distance runners and Olympic medal hopefuls on arriving in Israel last weekend.

Click here to comment on this article

‘Israel torpedoing international festival’

Palestinians say Israeli Civil Administration is wrecking Ramallah festival by denying several artists permission to enter territories
By Ali Waked

RAMALLAH - Artists from around the world were set to participate in the Palestine International Festival in Ramallah, which was supposed to open at the end of the month, but local officials are now saying Israel is attempting to torpedo the event.

The event's directors were notified on Monday night that the Civil Administration decided to deny entrance to the Palestinian Territories to a number of bands and artists, among them a Circassian band from Jordan and an Egyptian band, as well as the Iraqi musician Elham El-Madfai, who carries a European passport.

The Festival management claimed it was not given any reason for the denial, and blamed the Civil Administration for trying to torpedo the event.

“After five years, during which the Festival could not take place because of the conditions, we thought that the new age will allow
for it,” one of the directors told ynet. “The Civil Administration jeopardizes the entire event. We are turning to all culture supporters to interfere and help this important cultural event to take place.”

Lately, Palestinian authorities have been trying to create an atmosphere of regular life through television and radio broadcasts. They have been working on bringing exhibitions, plays and other art events to the territories as well.

Comment: Palestinians trying to create an atmosphere of regular life? The destruction of Palestinian society has been for many years the primary objective of the state of Israel. Israel actions towards the Palestinians, including the charges of "terrorism" are in the product of a deep-seated racism within Israeli political thinking. The very LAST thing that Sharon will allow is the normalisation of Palestinian life.

Click here to comment on this article

Israel cracks down before summit

Israeli security forces have seized Palestinian suspects across the West Bank, hours before new talks between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas.

At least 50 suspected Islamic Jihad militants were arrested overnight, Israeli military sources said.

It is the first wave of arrests on such a scale against the group in six months and follows attacks on Israeli targets.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders are due to discuss security but there appears little hope of progress.

It will only be the second time the two men have met since Mr Abbas came to power and the first time the top Palestinian and Israeli leaders have met in Jerusalem - claimed by Israel as its exclusive capital despite Palestinian objections.

Recent violence has soured the atmosphere and nobody is expecting a great deal to emerge from these talks, says BBC correspondent Alan Johnston.

End of restraint

An Israeli military source is quoted as saying that 36 suspects were detained overnight in the cities of Hebron and Bethlehem in the south of the West Bank, while 14 more were arrested in Ramallah, Qalqilya and Jenin in the north.

Two Israelis have died in the past two days in Islamic Jihad attacks.

A senior Israeli army officer said the military would no longer exercise restraint towards the militant group.

"Islamic Jihad has taken itself absolutely out of the [cease-fire] agreement with its attacks, and so from our view, we are operating fully against them, as we did before," Lt-Col Erez Winner, a West Bank commander, said.

"Anyone who is affiliated with this organisation is a legitimate target."

He said further mass arrests were unlikely as most militants under surveillance had already been arrested.

The militants say they were responding to what they regard as Israeli violations of a ceasefire.

Familiar demands

"These things in the last 48 hours have really cast a dark cloud over the summit. But I hope we continue to exert maximum efforts," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is quoted as saying.

The Palestinians say that they do not intend to focus on the forthcoming Gaza withdrawal at Tuesday's talks but see them as a chance to focus on other issues.

Mr Abbas is likely to press for Israeli concessions that would make life easier for Palestinians in the occupied territories: more freedom of movement, more chances for Palestinians to work in Israel and more releases of Palestinian prisoners.

These are familiar Palestinian demands and they are likely to get a familiar Israeli response, our correspondent says.

Mr Sharon can be expected to insist very forcefully again that Israeli concessions will only be possible if the Palestinian authorities act to counter militant groups.

Israel plans to withdraw all the settlers in Gaza - about 9,000 people - and the troops who protect them beginning in mid-August.

It will maintain control of the territory's border, coastline and airspace. Four small settlements in the West Bank will also be evacuated.

Comment: As sure as the sun rises in the east every morning, the Israeli's precede a summit with a crackdown on "terrorists", putting the Palestinians on the defensive and forcing them to justify their existence before Yahweh.

Click here to comment on this article

An Updated List of Vetoes Cast by the United States to Shield Israel from Criticism by the U.N. Security Council
By Donald Neff

Prior to the Nixon administration, the United States had never employed its veto power in the U.N. Security Council. It was first used March 17, 1970 over Southern Rhodesia. The second U.S. veto came two years later, when Washington sought to protect Israel from a resolution condemning Israel for one of its attacks on its neighbors. Since then, the United States has cast its veto a total of 39 times to shield Israel from Security Council draft resolutions that condemned, deplored, denounced, demanded, affirmed, endorsed, called on and urged Israel to obey the world body.

1. Sept. 10, 1972—Condemned Israel’s attacks against Southern Lebanon and Syria; vote: 13 to 1, with 1 abstention
2. July 26, 1973—Affirmed the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood and equal protections; vote: 13 to 1, with China absent.
3. Dec. 8, 1975—Condemned Israel’s air strikes and attacks in Southern Lebanon and its murder of innocent civilians; vote: 13 to 1, with 1 abstention.
4. Jan. 26, 1976—Called for self-determination of Palestinian people; vote: 9 to 1, with 3 abstentions.
5. March 25, 1976—Deplored Israel’s altering of the status of Jerusalem, which is recognized as an international city, by most world nations and the United Nation’s; vote: 14 to 1.
6. June 29, 1976—Affirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people; vote: 10 to 1, with 4 abstentions.
7. April 30, 1980—Endorsed self-determination for the Palestinian people; vote: 10 to 1, with 4 abstentions.
8. Jan. 20, 1982—Demanded Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights; vote: 9 to 1, with 4 abstentions.
9. April 2, 1982—Condemned Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and its refusal to abide by the Geneva Convention protocols of civilized nations; vote: 14 to 1.
10. April 20, 1982—Condemned an Israeli soldier who shot 11 Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount of the Haram al-Sharaf near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem; vote: 14 to 1.
11. June 8, 1982—Urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Lebanon; vote: 14 to 1.
12. June 26, 1982—Urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Beirut, Lebanon; vote: 14 to 1.
13. Aug. 6, 1982—Urged cut-off of economic aid to Israel if it refused to withdraw from its occupation of Lebanon; vote: 11 to 1, with 3 abstentions.
14. Aug. 2, 1983—Condemned continued Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip, denouncing them as an obstacle to peace; vote: 13 to 1, with 1 abstention.
15. Sept. 6, 1984—Deplored Israel’s brutal massacre of Arabs in Lebanon and urged its withdrawal; vote: 14 to 1.
16. March 12, 1985—Condemned Israeli brutality in Southern Lebanon and denounced Israel’s “Iron Fist” policy of repression; vote: 11 to 1, with 3 abstentions.
17. Sept. 13, 1985—Denounced Israel’s violation of human rights in the occupied territories; vote: 10 to 1, with 4 abstentions.
18. Jan. 17, 1986—Deplored Israel’s violence in Southern Lebanon; vote: 11 to 1, with 3 abstentions.
19. Jan. 30, 1986—Deplored Israel’s activities in occupied Arab East Jerusalem which threaten the sanctity of Muslim holy sites; vote: 13 to 1, with 1 abstention.
20. Feb. 6, 1986—Condemned Israel’s hijacking of a Libyan passenger airplane on Feb. 4; vote: 10 to 1, with 1 abstention.
21. Jan. 18, 1988—Deplored Israeli attacks against Lebanon and its measures and practices against the civilian population of Lebanon; vote: 13 to 1, with Britain abstaining.
22. Feb. 1, 1988—Called on Israel to abandon its policies against the Palestinian uprising that violate the rights of occupied Palestinians, abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and formalize a leading role for the United Nations in future peace negotiations; vote: 14 to 1.
23. April 15, 1988—Urged Israel to accept back deported Palestinians, condemned Israel’s shooting of civilians, called on Israel to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention and called for a peace settlement under U.N. auspices; vote: 14 to 1.
24. May 10, 1988—Condemned Israel’s May 2 incursion into Lebanon; vote: 14 to 1.
25. Dec. 14, 1988—Deplored Israel’s Dec. 9 commando raids on Lebanon; vote: 14 to 1.
26. Feb. 17, 1989—Deplored Israel’s repression of the Palestinian uprising and called on Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinians; vote: 14 to 1.
27. June 9, 1989—Deplored Israel’s violation of the human rights of the Palestinians; vote: 14 to 1.
28. Nov. 7, 1989—Demanded Israel return property confiscated from Palestinians during a tax protest and allow a fact-finding mission to observe Israel’s crackdown on the Palestinian uprising; vote: 14 to 1.
29. May 31, 1990—Called for a fact-finding mission on abuses against Palestinians in Israeli-occupied lands; vote: 14 to 1.
30. May 17, 1995—Declared invalid Israel’s expropriation of land in East Jerusalem and in violation of Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva convention; vote: 14 to 1.
31. March 7, 1997—Called on Israel to refrain from settlement activity and all other actions in the occupied territories; vote:14 to 1.
32. March 21, 1997—Demanded Israel cease construction of the settlement Har Homa (called Jabal Abu Ghneim by the Palestinians) in East Jerusalem and cease all other settlement activity in the occupied territories; vote: 13 to 1, with one abstention.
33. March 26, 2001—Called for the deployment of a U.N. observer force in the West Bank and Gaza; vote: 9 to 1, with 4 abstentions.
34. Dec. 14, 2001—Condemned all acts of terror, the use of excessive force and destruction of properties and encouraged establishment of a monitoring apparatus; vote: 12-1, with 2 abstentions.
35. Dec. 19, 2002—Expressed deep concern over Israel’s killing of U.N. employees and Israel’s destruction of the U.N. World Food Program warehouse in Beit Lahiya and demanded that Israel refrain from the excessive and disproportionate use of force in the occupied territories; vote: 12 to 1, with 2 abstentions.
36. Sept. 16, 2003—Reaffirmed the illegality of deportation of any Palestinian and expressed concern about the possible deportation of Yasser Arafat; vote: 11 to 1, with 3 abstentions.
37. Oct. 14, 2003—Raised concerns about Israel’s building of a securiy fence through the occupied West Bank; vote 10 to 1, with 4 abstentions.
38. March 25, 2004—Condemned Israel for killing Palestinian spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in a missile attack in Gaza; vote: 11 to 1, with 3 abstentions.
39. Oct. 5, 2004—Condemned Israel’s military incursion in Gaza, causing many civilian deaths and extensive damage to property; vote: 11 to 1, with 3 abstentions.

Comment: This list speaks for itself regarding the US position in the Middle East.

Click here to comment on this article

Iran holds partial recount to quell claims of abuses
By Angus McDowall in Tehran
21 June 2005

Iran's electoral authorities have moved to dispel accusations of vote-rigging in Friday's presidential election by ordering a partial recount of the vote and cracking down on two pro-reform newspapers which attempted to publish allegations of malpractice.

The reformist Eqbal daily was given a 24-hour ban when it tried to publish in full a letter written to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, in which the third-placed candidate detailed charges of electoral fraud by hardliners.

Reformist journalists say newspapers were warned not to publish the whole letter by the office of the Tehran prosecutor general, Said Mortazavi, the judge accused of helping to cover up the death of the photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in 2003. One paper decided not to publish at all, while Eqbal was not allowed to be distributed. Others were cowed into printing less controversial extracts.

The disputed election has resulted in a second round run-off between the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the fundamentalist Tehran mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made a surprisingly strong showing.

The letter, by the former parliament speaker and moderate reformist Mehdi Karoubi, protested against the involvement of the Basij militia and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in voting. He had earlier questioned the propriety of the Guardian Council's announcement of voting results as they came in.

The clerical body is mandated to ensure that elections comply with constitutional requirements, but Mr Karoubi said it broke the law during the count by releasing figures that gave a sudden boost of 1 million votes to Mr Ahmadinejad. The conservative reached this Friday's second round with about 700,00 votes more than Mr Karoubi.

The white-bearded ally of President Mohammad Khatami surged unexpectedly in the poll, scoring high gains in rural areas with the promise to pay Iranians £30 a month from energy savings. But he cried foul as Mr Ahmadinejad drew ahead, claiming to have taped proof of fraud. He said some votes had been bought and that the military had been illegally involved in voter mobilisation. Mr Karoubi also alleged that faked identity cards were distributed among conservative supporters, allowing them to vote more than once.

The Guardian Council yesterday ordered a recount of 100 boxes taken at random from the cities in which Mr Ahmadinejad won the most votes. However that is unlikely to satisfy reformists, because they believe the tampering did not include miscounting of votes. The conservative has denied any irregularities and dismissed the claims as evidence that Mr Karoubi is a bad loser.

All pro-reformist groups have now swung their support reluctantly behind the éminence grise of Iranian politics, the former president Mr Rafsanjani.

The strength of Mr Ahmadinejad's support among poor Iranians came as a shock to the reformists, who now recognise that a fundamentalist victory is very possible.

Mr Rafsanjani has himself appealed for votes from all groups to the left of Mr Ahmadinejad. "I seek your help and ask you to be present in the second round of the election so that we can prevent extremism," he said in a press statement.

In a statement issued late on Sunday night, the main reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, instructed supporters to "not remain indifferent" to the race, without mentioning Mr Rafsanjani by name.

Student groups who supported the reformists have also rallied behind the former president, once considered a hate-figure among students and still mistrusted for his administration's constriction of free speech.

Comment: We sometimes sit around wondering when the guys in the white hats will show up, you know, the good guys. In this vast world, where is the country that isn't aligned with the forces of entropy? Sometimes we look at the countries that are on the top of the US hit list. If a regime is hated by George W., we muse, it can't be all bad. Unfortunately, even before the words are formed, we know that it is not true, that things being what they are here on the Big Blue Marble, a government can be a sworn enemy of George while having little good about it.

Using all means at their disposal, from the media and powerful lobbies to the outright rigging of elections, the powers that be have made certain that democracy exists in name only. One feels "free" to the degree one buys into the lie, in which case one is actually its slave, or, on the other extreme, to the degree one sees through the lie and removes oneself from its grip. If you recognise the democratic illusion for what it is, you do not succumb to its siren song.

However, contrary to many who have taken up esoteric pursuits, we do not turn our backs on politics. We think it is important to study the machinations of our political theatre, first, because our goal is an understanding of what is, of the objective reality and how it works. If we ignore politics, we are ignoring an important area for lessons. Second, if one is to survive in order to do work on the self, then one needs to be aware of the environment and how to survive when it enters its next phases transition. A dead seeker is going to have to come back and repeat the class.

Click here to comment on this article

Britain's vision for EU not shared by majority: Colonna

PARIS, June 20 - Britain's vision for the European Union is not that of most of the bloc's 25 members, France said on Monday, deepening a dispute between the two nations that hit crisis point during an EU summit last week.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair "must act as president of the union by taking into account the views of everybody," French European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna told France 2 television.

"The British vision is not shared by the majority of European countries," she asserted.

France and Britain have each been striving to present themselves as the EU's representative leader since the Brussels summit collapsed amid acrimony between French President Jacques Chirac
and Blair over EU budget negotiations.

Britain takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency from July 1.

"Great Britain must assume its responsibilities by taking into account what the majority of Europeans want," Colonna said. "If it doesn't do that, we will tell it to do so."

The junior foreign minister, who used to be Chirac's spokeswoman, said the British government led only a minority of EU countries at the summit.

At the meeting, Chirac and most of the bloc pushed for Britain to give up a jealously-held EUR 5 billion rebate that it is alone in getting from the EU budget, while Blair, backed by the Netherlands, argued for a revision of the EU agricultural subsidies system which gives French farmers EUR 8 billion a year.

Neither gave ground, and the summit collapsed, with Chirac accusing Blair of stubbornness, while Blair said he refused to accept Chirac as an unofficial leader of the European Union.

Colonna rejected Britain's portrayal of the debate as being between modernity and immobility, saying the EU Common Agriculture Policy had been reformed three times, the latest in 2003.

"The only thing that doesn't change is the British cheque, which has existed since 1984, even though there is no longer any reason for it today," she said.

Comment: With Blair having just won a recent election, he knows that Chirac and Schroeder are in trouble in their countries. He'll be about as open to hearing others' viewpoints as his great buddy George. Given Blair's own problems being heard by George, the EU presidency may be his opportunity to work out his frustrations on his own enemies.

Click here to comment on this article

Urban rich-poor gap in China rings alarm bells
www.chinaview.cn 2005-06-21 09:17:23

BEIJING, June 21 -- Of all the problems posing a grave challenge to China's economic and social development, one of the most serious is the widening gap between the rich and poor.

The government and sociologists have, for a long time, been talking about the large gap between the country's urban and rural areas and between the booming coastal regions and underdeveloped western regions.

But a more worrying and also dangerous trend is the much sharper gap in incomes in Chinese cities.

A recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics found that earners in the highest-income bracket in cities earned 11.8 times more than those at the other end of the scale in the first quarter of this year.

In stark contrast, the figures were respectively 4.16 and 5.7 in 1996 and 2000.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security also indicate that the richest 10 per cent of households own 45 per cent of urban wealth.

The poorest 10 per cent of urban households have less than 1.4 per cent of the wealth in Chinese cities.

All these figures and statistics point to a yawning gap between the urban rich and poor, as well as the emergence of an impoverished group in Chinese cities.

The Beijing News recently quoted some researchers as saying slums have quietly come into existence in the capital city.

Urban poverty has been increasing since the mid-1990s although the Chinese Government has successfully reduced rural poverty.

Now there are mainly three groups of urban poor. They are the disabled and elderly without family support, jobless workers and migrant workers.

Given the absence of a sound social security system in the country, the rich-poor gap among Chinese urbanites may become more threatening.

Currently, China is pushing for urbanization as part of its modernization bid. If the rich-poor gap continues to grow, it will hinder the development of Chinese cities.

A widening gap between the rich and poor in cities may result in a multi-level urban society and cause confrontation between different groups.

The problem could breed more unstable factors which could endanger social stability and public security.

Many factors soaring unemployment, the reform of State-owned enterprises and the migration of surplus rural labourers into cities - have contributed to the rich-poor gap in cities.

The government, however, is mainly to blame for its failure to ensure equal opportunity and wealth distribution and give enough help, in time, to the urban needy.

For instance, it has yet to reform the outdated personal income taxation system, which was introduced as early as 25 years ago, despite growing calls for such a move from the public.

Governments at all levels have given too much priority to GDP growth.

During development, economic efficiency and the principle of equality should be balanced. Urbanization should not be at the expense of the interests of the poor people.

Premier Wen Jiabao spoke of the "Economics of the Poor" earlier this year, when asked how the government will improve the lives of millions of poor farmers.

Now, since the poor have moved quickly into urban areas, it is time for the government to take more action. The sooner this happens, the better off we will all be.

Comment: Welcome to capitalism. As bad as it may be getting in China, here are some comparable figures for the United States in the same period:

An article in the February 21, 2000 issue of US News and World Report pointed out that the average income of the richest 5 percent of families in 1979 was 10 times of that of the poorest 20 percent of families. In 1999, the income gap had been enlarged to 19 times, ranking first among the developed countries, and setting a record since the Bureau of Census of the United States began studying the situation in 1947.

The income of the executives of the largest US companies in 1992 was 100 times that of ordinary workers, and 475 times higher in 2000.

According to an assessment by the US journal Business Week in August 2000, the income of chief executive officers was 84 times that of employees in 1990, 140 times in 1995, and 416 times in 1999.

China's 11.8 times difference looks pretty good compared to the difference of 475 times in the US.

Click here to comment on this article

Baptists Aim to Baptize 1 Million Members
Associated Press
Mon Jun 20, 5:06 PM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The annual meeting of Southern Baptist Convention will help kick off what may be the denomination's most ambitious outreach effort ever - baptizing 1 million new members in a year.

Headquartered in Nashville, the 16.3 million-member faith is the second-largest denomination in the United States, behind the Roman Catholic Church. Yet the number of new member baptisms has declined in each of the past five years.

"We have been playing it too close to the church," said President Bobby Welch, who will speak at the opening of the two-day convention Tuesday following a satellite address by
President Bush. "Southern Baptists have to reconnect themselves with the communities and the needs of the people in the communities."

Welch said complacency among Southern Baptists is a big part of the reason for the slide, and it's an issue he plans to address in his speech to an expected crowd of about 9,000. [...]

Southern Baptists believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and adhere strictly to conservative beliefs. At last year's convention, the Southern Baptists quit the Baptist World Alliance, citing what they saw as the group's liberal drift. The last straw came in 2003 when the alliance accepted as members a breakaway group of moderate Southern Baptists.

One resolution that will likely be presented this year urges churches to investigate their local school districts to determine if they promote homosexuality, and remove their children from such schools if they do. A similar resolution failed last year.

Click here to comment on this article

Vietnamese Bird Flu Doctor has Bird Flu
June 20, 2005

HANOI - A Vietnamese doctor who treated bird flu patients has contracted the disease himself, a state newspaper reported on Friday.

The male doctor had been taking samples from carriers of the H5N1 virus, the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said without specifying how he contracted the disease. His condition was stable, it said.

The infection took to 7 the number of bird flu victims revealed this week in Vietnam and the number of infections to 62 since December, 18 of whom have died.

The H5N1 virus has killed 38 people in Vietnam since it appeared in late 2003. Twelve Thais and four Cambodians have also died.

Bird flu first emerged in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam in late 2003, then spread to the northern region where the virus appears to develop rapidly during the winter.

Scientists fear the avian flu, which is infectious in birds but does not spread easily among humans, could mutate into a form capable of generating a pandemic in which millions of people without immunity could die.

Click here to comment on this article

New bird flu outbreak in Vietnam
Last Updated Mon, 20 Jun 2005 18:46:10 EDT
CBC News

About 6,000 chickens have been infected with the deadly bird flu virus in southern Vietnam in the country's first outbreak in two months.

The animal health director at Vietnam's Agriculture Ministry said the outbreak occurred in Ben Tre, southwest of Ho Chi Minh City. He said vigilance was essential.

"We must continue our prevention work against bird flu," he said, warning that some provinces had failed to pay serious attention to the problem.

Meanwhile, the director of Hanoi's Institute of Tropical Diseases, Nguyen Duc Hien, has denied Vietnamese media reports of two new human cases of bird flu.

On Friday he said six patients in Vietnam had tested positive for the virus, which has killed 38 people in the country since late 2003.

Doctors said all the patients had been admitted to the institute from northern provinces in June.

A total of 54 people have died from the H5N1 virus, including 12 Thais and four Cambodians, since the beginning of the epidemic in 2003.

The World Health Organization has asked governments to prepare for a possible pandemic after a study in Vietnam showed signs of a greater risk of human-to-human transmission of bird flu.

Meanwhile, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization is seeking clarification from China over a report it is using a human anti-flu drug on poultry.

There are reports that Chinese farmers, with government encouragement, have widely used the drug amantadine to combat bird flu in poultry since the 1990s.

Experts fear, if the story is accurate, the farmers are rendering the human vaccine useless.

Amantadine is one of only a handful of medications for treating human influenza and one of the most common.

The WHO's China representative, Dr. Henk Bekedam, says the most effective method of eradicating the flu from poultry is through culling infected birds.

The WHO said it was still awaiting information from China's Ministry of Agriculture about how the drug was administered and in what quantities.

Click here to comment on this article

Chinese farmers told to stop using antiviral on poultry
www.chinaview.cn 2005-06-21 08:51:10

BEIJING, June 21 -- The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) plans to dispatch inspection teams nationwide to stop the antiviral drug amantadine - meant for humans - being used on poultry.

An MOA official spoke out yesterday after reports, denied by the government, that some farmers are being encouraged to illegally use amantadine on their chickens to curb the spread of bird flu.

Researchers fear using the drug on animals and humans could lead to drug resistance.

Drug-resistant forms of H5N1 - a bird flu strain - have already been found in Thailand and Viet Nam, according to reports.

The government has never permitted farmers to use amantadine to treat bird flu, said Xu Shixin, MOA's division director of the veterinary bureau.

But he did not identify where the drug misuse had taken place.

"We'll take measures soon to curb the action," he said, without elaborating.

Xu refuted a report by the Washington Post on Saturday that the Chinese Government had encouraged farmers to use amantadine on their chickens to prevent bird flu. "The report was groundless," Xu said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have both expressed concerns over the issue.

The WHO spokesman in China, Roy Wadia, said his organization will seek more information from the Chinese Government.

Zhang Zhongjun, an assistant representative of the China office of FAO, said his organization and the Chinese Government have already set up a channel to report developments on the fight against infectious diseases in animals.

"We haven't received any reports so far that the Chinese Government has allowed the use of the drug on chickens," said Zhang.

China has made breakthroughs in vaccine research against H5N1 and H5N2, highly lethal strains of bird flu, and they work effectively in combating poultry disease, he said.

MOA's Xu said the government would supply farmers with cheaper and more effective vaccines to replace the use of amantadine by some farmers.

He also said that the bird flu outbreak in China has already been brought under control.

Health experts worry that bird flu might mutate into a form that can spread directly from person to person, setting off a pandemic that could claim millions of lives.

Click here to comment on this article

Northern China bakes as southern China is swamped by floods
June 21, 2005

BEIJING - Scorching temperatures baked northern China while the death toll from flooding in the rain-soaked south continued to rise as rivers swelled and threatened to break their banks, state media said.

Seven people were dead and one missing in severe rainstorms in the Guangxi autonomous region in southern China, while another three died in rains pounding Fujian province in the southeast, Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.

Both places were covered by a rain belt hovering over much of south China with up to 203 millimeters (eight inches) of rain falling over the last three days in the worst-hit areas, it said.

The level of the Mingjiang river in Guangxi was up to three meters (10 feet) over the warning level, while other major rivers in southern provinces were approaching alert levels.

Torrential rains were forecast to continue through Friday in the Guangxi and Guizhou regions and were expected to stretch eastwards into Jiangxi, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, the China News Service said.

At least 255 people have been reported dead due to heavy rains and flooding in parts of China since May.

Meanwhile, the death toll from a flash flood in northeastern China's Heilongjiang province on June 10 rose to 117, including 105 schoolchildren, as searchers found the remains of another eight people, Xinhua said.

Thousands of people perish every year from floods, landslides and mudflows in China, with millions left homeless. Officials have said this year's floods could be worse than usual.

A heatwave meanwhile scorched the northern half of the country, sending the mercury soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in many places.

In Beijing temperatures reached 38 degrees while areas of Hebei, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces sweltered in temperatures of 42 degrees, Xinhua said.

Click here to comment on this article

Australian Drought Towns Run Out of Water
June 20, 2005
GOULBURN, Australia - Severe drought is drying up drinking water in cities and towns across Australia, threatening to shut down major population centres but also creating conditions for a revolution in water use.

Worst hit is the farming town of Goulburn, population 25,000, southwest of Australia's biggest city, Sydney. Its main dam, Pejar, is a cracked-earth dustbowl holding less than 10 percent of its 1,000-megalitre (220-million-gallon) capacity.

The town will become the first in Australia to run out of water in six months, if it gets no substantial rain and if emergency action for new water supplies fails to work.

The worst drought in 100 years is forcing Australians to close the tap on profligate water use and turn treated waste, most of which flows into the sea, into drinking water. Some waste water is already recycled to irrigate gardens and sports fields and this is set to increase.

Click here to comment on this article

Martian life might threaten human mission
New Scientist

Before the US sends humans to Mars, it should rule out the possibility of dangerous life forms on the planet, a NASA advisory panel has reported. And it says the only reliable way to do that is with a robotic sample-return mission - which could take more than a decade to implement.

In January 2004, US president George W Bush announced a plan to send astronauts back to the Moon as early as 2015 and eventually on to Mars. In response, NASA's Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group this month issued a report on research needed to certify the safety of such a Mars mission.

One of the panel's top priorities goes well beyond the scope of any mission in NASA's current plans. The panel concluded that no amount of robotic testing on Mars could rule out the possibility of living microbial life at future human landing sites.

So astronauts could inadvertently bring the life back to Earth, with potentially dangerous consequences. "The possibility of transporting a replicating life form to Earth, where it is found to have a negative effect on some aspect of Earth's ecosystem" would present the greatest biological risk, the team wrote.

Comment: Which is not to mention the little green men of course.

Click here to comment on this article

Early Morning Earthquake In Kentucky
June 20, 2005 5:13 p.m. EST
Douglas Maher - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Western Kentucky (AHN)- An earthquake shook the ground and maybe a few people out of their bed's Monday morning in Western Kentucky,as a 3.6 quake struck around 7:21 AM.

The quake was centered about 3 miles south west of Blandville, Kentucky.

The hypocentral depth of the quake was registered to be about 13 miles deep.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

Click here to comment on this article

Neanderthal love
Scientists split over how much mating occurred
Matt Reynolds
Sunday, June 19, 2005

A debate is raging among anthropologists over whether and how much our ancestors mated with Neanderthals. The hominids with the large brows and ultra-muscular bodies were once thought to be a forerunner of modern man, then a separate species of humans who developed independently and died out as humans spread into Europe.

Now, as evidence emerges that humans and Neanderthals likely shared the same space for thousands of years, some scientists consider them likely contributors to the modern human gene pool. These anthropologists believe that when early modern humans, the first built more or less like us, came upon Neanderthals around 35,000 years ago in Europe, the groups would have been too similar not to have mated.

"They both would have been dirty and smelly by our standards," says Eric Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis. "They would have been oblivious to the small anatomical differences, like certain details at the base of the Neanderthal skull. To each other, they would have both been people."

Trinkaus co-authored a paper in the latest edition of the journal Nature that dates a collection of curious bones from a cave in Mladec, Czech Republic, at 31,000 years, roughly the time in which Neanderthals were dying out on The Continent. Although scientists agree the bones belonged to early modern humans, the fossils have a number of Neanderthal-like traits, including broad noses, large teeth and a kind of bun in the back of the head where the skull bulges out.

"The Mladec people show that European origins are mixed," said Milford Wolpoff, an anthropologist at Michigan University. "You can see it in their remains." Wolpoff has long opposed the widely accepted theory that the features of modern humans more or less developed in Africa and changed little as humans fanned out into Asia and Europe. He believes humans came from a blend of early modern humans and various archaic hominids they encountered while migrating.

"If the out-of-Africa theory was right," he said. "Mladec people should look like Africans. They don't. If that doesn't disprove it, I don't know what does." Wolpoff's views are, however, in the minority.

Trinkaus, for example, believes early modern humans did out-compete for food, land and water with Neanderthals, who seem to have vanished from Europe 30,000 years ago. But he believes the Mladec bones, and others like them, show that interbreeding between the two groups was "neither rare nor trivial" and that the complexity of the modern human gene pool cannot be explained without a "Neanderthal admixture."

Other scientists, such as Chris Stringer, an expert on Neanderthals at the Museum of Natural History in London, believes a Neanderthal contribution to our bloodlines, if there was one, was slight. "The strong brow ridges and long, low skulls of the Mladec people are seen in other early human fossils," he said. "The traits could have come from (early human) ancestors. I don't see any particular reason to assume they had Neanderthal blood."

Is it bestiality? The debate over modern-human/Neanderthal interbreeding is part quest to chart the origins of the human race, part academic feud over old bones, and part family soap opera: Did some of our ancestors go to bed with creatures commonly thought of as less than human?

"People find the idea of early-man/Neanderthal interbreeding both titillating and disgusting," said Trinkaus. "Neanderthals are human, but they aren't quite us. It borders on bestiality." With squat, muscular bodies and protruding faces, Neanderthals had an almost apelike appearance.

After the first of their remains were discovered in Germany in 1856, they were thought to be socially crude and mentally limited. Scientific opinion has changed but the reputation has stuck: Although some scientists now believe Neanderthals were as advanced as humans of their era, the word "Neanderthal" survives in the English language as a synonym for boor. Wolpoff believes even scientists are prejudiced by the Neanderthal's bad press.

"Neanderthal is the only Paleoanthropic word in the dictionary with a second meaning," he said. "When you get mad at Bush, you call him a Neanderthal. Our reaction to Neanderthals is seen in the term. It bothers some people to think we have them among our ancestors, whatever the percentage is. Every scientists would deny it, but I think a part of this bias creeps into some of their work."

Looking askance at Neanderthals, no matter who is doing it, is part family slur, because they are, if not our direct ancestors, our distant cousins. Both Neanderthals and early modern humans descend from archaic humans, or Homo erectus. After arriving in Europe hundreds of thousands of years ago, Homo erectus eventually adapted to the colder climate by becoming thicker boned and shorter limbed.

Stringer says he doesn't rule out some mating between early man and Neanderthals, but sees no reason to think it was anything more than rare and inconsequential.

With scant fossil records, and no consensus on DNA data, anthropologists are left with an incomplete puzzle. Where the evidence ends, however, some scientists use their gut knowledge of human behavior.

Fred Smith, an anthropologist at Loyola University of Chicago who believes early humans and Neanderthals mated, says: "They would have looked just about the same to each other. If there's one thing we know about humans, they're going to have sex with each other. A slight difference in appearance won't stop them."

Comment: The debates over our ancestors can be heated and at times end in fisticuffs. For a fascinating look at how little we really know about our origins, check out The Neanderthal Enigma by James Sheave.

Click here to comment on this article

Saddam's psychic sandbox
by Judi McLeod Saturday, June 18, 2005

Toronto, ON-- Saddam Hussein, who among other occult pursuits, "studied the sands", would have been better equipped with orbitary American weather satellites.

During sand studies, the Black Arts Saddam conjured up jinn (genies) to do his bidding. Said to have inherited some of his mother Sabha’s psychic prowess, Saddam was believed by many to have seven jinn lined up for his personal protection. According to these people, the Butcher of Baghdad spoke on a daily basis with the king and queen of the jinn, who actually advised him.

All studying the sands ever got Saddam was death and destruction.

In a search sponsored by oil magnate and "Soviet agent of influence" Armand Hammer, American satellites found `The Atlantis of the Sands’.

The late Hammer once sold a zinc mine to the father of al Gore for $160,000, who within short order sold the mine to son, Al Gore Jr. for $140,000.

"Observation satellites staring down from space penetrated 600-ft. mountains of windswept sand to make a startling find on the fringe of the Arabian desert (Space Today Online). "The faint shadow of a lost civilization has turned up like a ghost in computer-enhanced radar images of ancient ground under the Rub al Khali desert in the sultanate of Oman."

And there’s a bonus that could never be provided by a genie out of any bottle: A timeworn network of roads under the dunes seems to point to the burial place of the legendary society of Ad.

"Referred to in the Koran, the tales of The Arabian Nights and the Holy Bible, Ad probably was the bustling hub of the world’s frankincense trade 5,000 years ago. Biblical archaeologists suggest wise men traded there for frankincense they bore as gifts for the infant Jesus."

The fragrance of frankincense hovers today in Catholic cathedrals. An aromatic resin from the sap of Middle Eastern and East African trees, frankincense provided an incense that was used in days of old by crowned heads and commoners alike. Incense perfumed the air in religious rituals, cremations, and other ceremonies, and marked the steps of monarchs during ancient imperial processions.

Technology-driven studies of the sand have sometimes proved as frustrating as occult-driven ones. Back in the 1930s, the sand of the Rub al Khali defeated an out-of-water, world famous British explorer’s search for Ad’s ancient trade routes.

Even today’s modern archeologists can be frustrated in their search of the entire perilous desert. Unlike Indiana Jones adventuring in the field, they must content themselves studying in laboratories, where they feed data from satellite radar to computers searching for long-lost clues.

Archeologists went into Eureka! Mode when colleagues at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in sunny California were able to perceive a 100-yard-wide, hoof-trodden path hidden under tons of sand in giant dunes from 1980 satellite photos.

"Backed by Hammer money, a scouting expedition of NASA, British and private explorers tracked the trail they had concluded was formed by frankincense traders riding camels." (Space Today Online). The Ad expedition included Blom, Elachi, British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Los Angeles attorney and part-time explorer George Hedges, and an archeologist, geologist, computer scientist and documentary filmmaker.

"Following their satellite map, the party looked for geological evidence of a trail through the now-barren land to the once-thriving city of Ubar.

An expedition highlight came when they stumbled upon Ad artifacts—900 pottery shards and flint pieces during a three-week scouting mission in July 1990. High winds drove the team away, leaving the artifacts in the hands of Oman’s Department of National Heritage.

"The adventurer T.E. Lawrence once described Ubar as the "Atlantis of the sands". Frankincense was an important commodity in the ancient world before the rise of Christianity when Ubar may have been the main shipping center of Ad. Worldwide shipments of frankincense to markets as far away as China and Rome could have started at Ubar.

"Ad society lasted from 3000 B.C. to the 1st century A.D. In the end, it was victimized by politics, economics and climate after a drop in demand for the frankincense fragrance as Christianity preached burying bodies instead of burning them. The abandoned villages of Ad eventually were inundated by tides of shifting sands, and eventually dunes reaching heights of 200 to 600 feet."

Sandboxes, including that of the genie obsessed Saddam and anybody else’s can be likened to moving targets. According to NASA, the world’s largest desert fluctuated in size during the 1980s.

The Atlas Mountains and Mediterranean Sea make up a nearly immovable northern boundary, but the Sahara’s southern boundary moved south 80 miles between 1980 and 1990.

NASA observations indicate a nomadic Sahara. After moving to the south between 1981 and 1984, the Sahara retreated northward 88 miles from 1985 to 1986. However, it migrated 34 miles south in 1987. The southern boundary retreated 62 miles to the north in 1988, then expanded 46 miles to the south in 1989 and 1990.

The sands of time never stand still.

Oman, once known as Muscat and Oman, is a sultanate on the southeast side of the Arabian Peninsula, bounded on the north by the Gulf of Oman and on the east and south by the Arabian Sea. To the southwest is Yemen. To the west is Saudi Arabia. On the northwest border is the United Arab Emirates. The Rub al Khali desert extends into the western area of Oman, but is mostly in Saudi Arabia.

Oman was ruled for centuries by emirs controlled by a caliphate at Baghdad. Later it was controlled by Portugal followed by the British government of India. Today, the ruling sultan has close ties with Great Britain.

Meanwhile, someone should tip off Saddam that when it comes to studying the sands of time, technology is always more reliable than the occult.

Click here to comment on this article


Readers who wish to know more about who we are and what we do may visit our portal site Quantum Future

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!

We also need help to keep the Signs of the Times online.

Send your comments and article suggestions to us Email addess

Fair Use Policy

Contact Webmaster at signs-of-the-times.org
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.
Letters addressed to Cassiopaea, Quantum Future School, Ark or Laura, become the property of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Republication and re-dissemination of our copyrighted material in any manner is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.