Thursday, June 23, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Peace In the Middle East? Over Sharon's Dead Body
SOTT Editorial

"Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours... Everything we don't grab will go to them."

- Ariel Sharon, as Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

By now it should be clear to all Middle East analysts that the main impediment to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Ariel Sharon and the right-wing extremists in his Likud party. Time and again the Palestinians have expressed their sincere desire to end the inhuman conditions under which they are forced to live by the occupying IDF forces, yet every time that a peaceful settlement seems to be within their grasp, Hamas will bizarrely decide to fire a few usually harmless, Qasam rockets at an illegal Israeli settlement, or unknown "Palestinian gunmen" will murder an Israeli settler.

How can we explain such apparently repeated self-defeating acts by the alleged representatives of the beleaguered Palestinian people? It has been obvious for several years now that the Palestinians cannot win an armed conflict with Israel and any further attacks against Israeli forces, population or interests simply provides Sharon with the justification to increase Israeli control and oppression in the occupied territories. It is equally obvious that the international community has all but washed its hands of the conflict and is resigned to allowing it to play out to its final tragic denouement.

In yesterday's "summit" between Sharon and PA authority Chairman Abbas, Abbas told the Israelis that he wanted "freedom of movement in and out of Gaza, air and sea ports re-opened, key Palestinian towns handed back to their control and the release of Palestinian prisoners." Such demands are the precursor to the formation of a Palestinian state, an eventuality that Sharon has built his political career on ensuring never occurs.

Israel agreed to Abbas' demands on the proviso that all Palestinian attacks against Israel must first stop. Sharon willingly accepted these demands because he is confident that he can ensure that the Palestinian authority never meets the condition of a cessation of all "terrorist" attacks.

It is clear that Israeli government oppression of Palestinians has little to do with "security concerns" and everything to do with harassing and often murdering Palestinian civilians and leaders in order to prevent them from establishing themselves as a independent people with a sovereign voice on the world stage.

Central to this goal is the continued portrayal of any Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation as "terrorism" when, in reality, resistance (including armed) to an occupying power is a fundamental right laid down in the article four of the third Geneva Convention.

However, according to humanitarian law, in order to lawfully use force in a conflict you must first be designated a lawful 'combatant'. To be a 'combatant', you have to belong to an 'armed resistance group' and that group must belong to a 'party' to the conflict. It is in this fact that we find one of the chief reasons why Israel will NEVER willingly allow the creation of a Palestinian state.

As long as Palestine does not have official state status, any Palestinian resistance group cannot claim to be a party in the conflict and must remain a simple independent resistance group, or a "terrorist" group in modern parlance.

Not only did the developed world oversee the theft of Palestinian land in order to create the state of Israel in 1948, but in continuing to refuse to lobby for an independent Palestinian state, they ensure that any Palestinian resistance to Israeli aggression is delegitimised in advance.

So how can Sharon be so confident that the Palestinian dream of state of their own will remain just that - a dream?

Israel controls all entrances and exits to and from the Gaza strip and the West Bank, it is Israel therefore - or more accurately the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus - that decides who and what gets in and out of the occupied Palestinian territories. Without doubt the Israeli army could, with relative ease, accomplish the goal of a cessation of all "terrorist" attacks that Sharon demands of Abbas, yet the hard, cold fact of the matter is that Israel's present position as the dominant force in the Middle East is DEPENDENT on the continued existence of a terrorist threat. This point was made clear by Israeli commentator, Yoram Bar Porath, in the Israeli News outlet, Yediot Aahronot of 14 July 1972:

"It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands."

In attempting to ensure that the "terrorism" so necessary to the state of Israel is never vanquished, Sharon and his predecessors have gone to great lengths to infiltrate and co-opt various Palestinian resistance organizations. Indeed, there is much evidence to support the thesis that, far from being the victim of terrorism, Israel is in fact one of the prime instigators of terrorist attacks in the Palestinian territories, attacks that are conveniently set up to look like the work of Palestinians. For example, consider the following excerpt from a UPI article from June 2002:

Hamas history tied to Israel

By Richard Sale
UPI Terrorism Correspondent
Published 6/18/2002

In the wake of a suicide bomb attack Tuesday on a crowded Jerusalem city bus that killed 19 people and wounded at least 70 more, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, took credit for the blast.

Israeli officials called it the deadliest attack in Jerusalem in six years.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately vowed to fight "Palestinian terror" and summoned his cabinet to decide on a military response to the organization that Sharon had once described as "the deadliest terrorist group that we have ever had to face."

Active in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas wants to liberate all of Palestine and establish a radical Islamic state in place of Israel. It is has gained notoriety with its assassinations, car bombs and other acts of terrorism.

But Sharon left something out.

Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.

Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official. [...]

Of course, here, we are deep into conspiracy theory territory, yet, when several current and former U.S. intelligence officials openly state that Hamas is basically a tool of Israeli intelligence, are we talking about a conspiracy theory, or simply the much-ignored SOP (standard operating procedure) of most of the world's spy agencies? Readers should also take note of the fact that, over the past few years, it has been Hamas that has repeatedly scuppered Palestinian aspirations for statehood by launching attacks on Israeli targets at the most inopportune moments and thereby giving Sharon the justification to renege on his promises.

Of course, Israel has a willing partner in its phony terror-crime in the American government. Vast sums ($billions) in donations are funneled every year from the pockets of US taxpayers into the coffers of the Israeli treasury for the purpose of "fighting terrorism". Israel, with the implicit support of the US, has been allowed to contravene or ignore dozens of UN resolutions, the Geneva conventions and Humanitarian and International law because it claims it is "fighting terrorism". Indeed, the role of the current US government in facilitating the continued persecution of the Palestinian people can be clearly seen in its promotion of the phony "war on terror" that has greatly benefited Sharon and the equally phony 9/11 attacks that precipitated it.

Israel then, in its present configuration, is an illegal state founded on the unlawful theft of Palestinian land and the blood of the thousands of innocent Palestinian people that refused, and continue to refuse, to bow down to the murderous racism of their Israeli taskmasters. Sharon knows this. He also knows that the day that he allows Palestine to be officially recognised as an independent state, is the day that Israel will no longer have the right to bulldoze Palestinian homes or arbitrarily execute Palestinian school children and claim that they are "fighting terrorism". On that day, Palestinian resistance to a brutal occupying power will be legitimised and the actions of Sharon and the IDF recognised for the war crimes that they are.

For this very reason, all "peace summits" between Sharon and Abbas are nothing more than a sop to the spineless international political community and a publicity stunt to give the appearance that Sharon is genuinely interested in peace. He, like his predecessors have but one plan in mind and it is best summed up by the words of current Chief Advisor to Sharon, Rafi Eitan as quoted by Gad Becker of the Yediot Ahronot and which appeared in the 14 April 1983 edition of the New York Times:

"We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz (Greater) Israel... Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours."

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Dashed hopes at Jerusalem summit
Wednesday, 22 June, 2005
By Matthew Price
BBC News, Jerusalem

The first talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in over four months were high on security. [...]

The Palestinians told the Israelis that they want freedom of movement in and out of Gaza. They want air and sea ports re-opened.

They also want Israel to release their prisoners.

And they want key Palestinian towns handed back to their control.

'Unrealistic conditions'

Israel said that was fine, but first all Palestinian attacks against Israel must stop.

And the devil is in that little word "all".

Many analysts will tell you that Israel is placing unrealistic conditions on the Palestinian leadership.

While Israel's prime minister insists the problem starts and ends with Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinians see it differently.

They say the attacks against Israel are a result of almost 40 years of occupation of Palestinian lands. So "all" may be a pretty tall order.

After the meeting, Israel put a positive spin on the day. The Palestinians were clearly desperately upset.

Israel had again set the conditions for any movement on some crucial issues.

We expected to hear from the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But he didn't appear at a planned press conference.

Instead the prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, turned up, looking drained, and disappointed.

"None of the issues improved or progressed up to what we had expected," he said.

"Overall what was presented to us was not convincing or satisfying at all."

In contrast, Israel's prime minister - tonight guest of honour at a dinner in Jerusalem - was in a better mood.

"We will co-ordinate our withdrawal from Gaza," Ariel Sharon said. "It's better for both sides. But we won't allow withdrawal under fire. We will not stop the pullout. We will stop the terror."

Progress towards wider peace talks "will not be possible until there is a complete end to terrorist attacks," he added. [...]

Ariel Sharon - who politically is vulnerable - desperately needs to get people back on side.

So he is speaking the language he knows will win him support.

"No" to the Palestinians, unless they stop the attacks. And if the Palestinians don't, Israel will.

Whatever the pressure from his key ally - the US - to work with the Palestinians, Ariel Sharon possibly felt it was better this day to play to his domestic audience.

And the result seems to have been little progress from an important meeting.

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Abbas seeks international help after Sharon brush-off
Yahoo News
Officials said Abbas spent the night after Tuesday's summit working the phones to world leaders, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.

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Gunmen challenge Palestinian leadership over Gaza
23/06/2005 - 09:20:03
Palestinian gunmen challenged the authority of their own leaders in a West Bank refugee camp yesterday, firing weapons and setting off a bomb as Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia delivered an emotional lecture on the need to end internal violence.

Palestinian gunmen challenged the authority of their own leaders in a West Bank refugee camp yesterday, firing weapons and setting off a bomb as Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia delivered an emotional lecture on the need to end internal violence.

“This country needs order, needs quiet,” Qureia shouted, repeating a theme he has been pressing for weeks. But as he spoke yesterday in the Balata camp next to the city of Nablus, gunfire rang out, startling the prime minister and putting his bodyguards on high alert.

After Qureia’s speech, gunmen opened fire again and set off an explosive about 300 yards from his convoy. No one was injured and Qureia was whisked away.

Internal violence is becoming as important an issue for Palestinians as their conflict with Israel, and controlling it is a key political test for Abbas, Qureia and their government – with armed gangs ruling streets and officials becoming targets.

After his violent reception yesterday, Qureia emerged from a cabinet meeting in Nablus and promised again to take action, but he did not spell out plans.

“There are a lot of problems in Nablus, including unemployment,” Qureia said. “We do not want to give anyone excuses. The security of the citizen and the nation is more important than anything else.”

Last week the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights released a report listing violent incidents in Palestinian areas from June 9 to June 14 that killed seven people and injured at least 20 others.

After more than four years of Palestinian-Israeli violence and an ailing economy, Palestinians are growing tired of gun-toting thugs wreaking havoc in their neighbourhoods, and complain the Palestinian Authority is doing little to restore order.

Palestinian officials have said efforts to restore order have been complicated by a security service devastated during the fighting with Israel, when many officers crossed over to the militant groups after Israel targeted police headquarters.

Comment: Given Israel's penchant for fighting the war on both sides and indulging in divide and conquer tactics, we have to wonder about the real idenities of these gunmen.

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Israel admits political motives behind the construction of the Separation Wall
Aharon Barak, Chief Justice at the Israeli High Court of Justice, said that Israel “has the right to construct the wall along Jerusalem municipal borders, therefore “the question whether the construction in Jerusalem is security of politically motivated becomes irrelevant”, according to Barak.

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Israeli Bulldozers Demolish 8 Houses in WB
Palestine News Agency
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) demolished on Wednesday eight houses in al-Jeftlek area, north of the West Bank, witnesses said. Local witnesses revealed that Israeli bulldozers, escorted by IOF, broke into the area and knocked down eight houses, making the households homeless.

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Palestinian Detainee blinded during interrogation
A lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, Fahmi Shqeirat, reported that detainee Salama Mohammad Rashaida, 30, from Bethlehem, lost his sight as a result of torture in Asqalan detention. Shqeirat stated that the detainee was recently repeatedly interrogated for 40 hours each time, until he bodily collapsed and lost his sight.

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Headline Watch

Tuesday marked yet another assassination of a Lebanese politician by a remote-control bomb planted underneath his car seat. A search for this story on Google News gives a total of 634 stories, most of which carried headlines that dealt with the story in a straightforward manner. There were several however, that chose to focus on comments made by Condoleezza Rice that indirectly implicated Syria in the bombing.

We present the following stories as an example of how some western mainstream news outlets, by choosing certain words for their headlines, can taint or bias a story before the reader has a chance to discern for themselves what really happened.

Judging by the means, motive and timing of this latest assassination, the second to last story in the series hits very close to home.

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Guardian (UK)

Rice Links Syria to Lebanon Assassination
Tuesday June 21, 2005 4:46
AP Diplomatic Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice linked the assassination Tuesday of an anti-Syrian politician in Lebanon with the continued activities of longtime overlord Syria, but said she cannot be certain who is behind the killing.

"I do not know who was responsible for this and I don't want to say that I know who was responsible, because I don't,'' Rice said. "But there is a context and an atmosphere of instability. Syria's activities are a part of that context and that atmosphere and they need to knock it off.''

Former Lebanese Communist Party leader George Hawi was killed instantly when his car blew up in Beirut. It was the second killing of an anti-Syrian figure this month, and closely followed elections won by an anti-Syrian slate.

Rice said there is "uncertainty about Syrian activities in Lebanon,'' despite Syrian claims that it pulled the last of its troops and intelligence forces out of the country in April.

The Bush administration has cast public doubt on the Syrian claims, but Rice made the allegation specific. "Their visible forces are gone but they clearly are still acting ... in Lebanon,'' she said.

Syria held political and military sway in tiny neighboring Lebanon for some three decades. In addition to the armed troops on Beirut streets, Syrian intelligence forces were often a shadowy but pervasive force in Lebanese daily life.

Rice answered a question about the killing by alluding to claims from U.S. officials this month that Syria may be running down a hit list of opposition figures.

"You know that we have been concerned about the potential for further assassinations of political figures in Lebanon - anti-Syrian political figures,'' Rice told reporters after completing a four-day diplomatic tour of the Middle East. [...]

Comment: Even though the good Dr. Rice openly admits in the first paragraph that she has no proof as to who was behind the bombing, that doesn't stop the UK's Guardian newspaper from focusing on her dubious rhetoric and using it in the headline to sway the reader.

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Washington Times (USA)

'Knock it off,' Rice tells Syria on meddling
By Nicholas Kralev
June 22, 2005

BRUSSELS -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Syria of contributing to the "atmosphere" that led to the assassination of an anti-Syrian politician in Lebanon yesterday, telling Damascus to "knock it off."

Although she said she did not know who killed George Hawi, a former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party whose car was ripped by a bomb in Beirut, Miss Rice had no qualms about pointing the finger at Damascus. [...]

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Financial Times (UK)

Rice blames Syria for Beirut instability
By Kim Ghattas in Beirut
Published: June 22 2005 03:00

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, blamed Syria yesterday for contributing to an "atmosphere" of instability in Lebanon following the assassination of another anti-Syrian Lebanese figure - the second this month.

"I do not know who was responsible for this," she said of the murder yesterday of George Hawi, the former head of the Lebanese Communist party. "But there is a context and an atmosphere of instability, Syria's activities are a part of that context and that atmosphere and they need to knock it off."

Mr Hawi was killed by a car bomb in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The assassination came two days after the end of Lebanon's month-long general elections, during which the anti-Syrian coalition won a majority of parliamentary seats.

The killing of Mr Hawi appeared to confirm fears raised recently by Washington and Lebanese anti-Syrian figures of the existence of a hit-list of politicians and journalists, probably targeted because of their anti-Syrian stance. "Those who killed him are the same as those who killed Rafiq Hariri and Samir Kassir. It's the security regime that is in power," said Rafi Madoyan, Mr Hawi's stepson, referring to Lebanon's former prime minister, assassinated in February, and the anti-Syrian columnist, killed on June 2.

Comment: Although it appears that Mr. Hawi's stepson is alluding to Syrian intelligence forces, if he replaced the words "Israeli Mossad" for "security regime", he would be right on target.

Mr Madoyan's comments were echoed by many in the opposition who blamed Syria and its allies in Lebanon for the violence. Damascus has denied involvement.

"This terrorist crime aims to disrupt the success achieved in holding parliamentary elections and is a futile attempt to create division among the Lebanese and prevent the restoration of the country's well-being," said Lebanon's minister of interior, Hassan al Sabeh, Lebanon's minister of interior, who has been in his post since April and is close to the opposition. [...]

Comment: Next is a much more balanced and accurate headline from a Turkish news outlet that goes into greater detail than what was provided by the Western media.

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Zaman (Turkey)

Another Lebanese Assassination by an 'Unknown Perpetrator'
By Vesim Bekraki
Published: Wednesday 22, 2005

Another ring of assassinations by an "unknown perpetrator" has been added to the chain of those that began with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafuq Hariri on February 14.

Following the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in April, the "Damascus opponents" lost yet another support immediately following last week's general elections in the country. Former Communist Party leader George Hawi was the latest victim of an assassination plot that took place on Tuesday in the capital Beirut. Reportedly, the attack was plotted using a remote control bomb placed under the passenger seat of his car, in the attack Hawi's driver was seriously injured. A 68 year old Christian, Hawi busied the agenda with his anti-Syrian remarks.

The Damascus administration harshly condemned the attack, describing Hawi as a "respected pro-dialogue statesman". Syria announced, Syria is deeply saddened by the attacks that Lebanese politicians are subjected to and that security in neighboring Lebanon is under threat. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati expressed they were appalled by the attack and acknowledged that whenever a step forward is taken in the country, attempts for instability are undertaken. Tuesday's assassination became the second just three weeks later after another anti-Syrian supporter, journalist Semir Kesir was killed in another bomb attack. In February, Hariri was assassinated and Western countries in particular the US, turned their eyes towards Syria as the perpetrator. In the aftermath of Hariri's assassination, protests brought the end of the 29 year of Syrian military presence in Lebanon also as a result of increasing international pressure. Attention has also been drawn to the fact that the continuation of these sorts of attacks brings increasing animosity towards Damascus to the fore.

Syrian opponents in Lebanon hold the Damascus administration responsible for yesterday's assassination. The reports spreading around suggest that those listed as enemies of Syria are preparing themselves. The US administration had previously warned Damascus regarding the black list. Hawi's stepson, politician Rafi Madoian also pointed at the pro-Syrian security services as the perpetrators. "There are others in the hit list," said his stepson. Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt implied pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and security services are the parties responsible for the assassinations.

Comment: One might want to ask which country benefits the most from a factionalized, fearful and vulnerable Lebanon? For the most part, Syrian presence in Lebanon acted as a counterweight against continual Israeli aggression and designs on the country. Now that Syrian troops have bowed to international pressure and removed their troops from Lebanese soil, it seems likely the intelligence services in Israel carried out this latest attack in order to further demonize the Syrians and increase sectarian tension in Lebanon, all in preparation for the creation of greater Israel.

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Arabic News

Syria denounces the assassination of Hawi

Syria has strongly deplored the assassination of the former secretary general of the Lebanese communist party George Hawi by bowing up of his car in Beirut on Tuesday, considering that "this falls in the course of repeated damages behind which the enemies of Lebanon stand."

The Syrian minister of information Mahdi Dakhlallah expressed his regret over the assassinations of Lebanese figures, acts which undermine Lebanon's stability and security, he said.

The Syrian minister also commended Hawi's resistance of the Israeli aggression and his struggle for the sake of Lebanon's unity and "its national reconciliation and the fraternal and historical relations linking it to Syria."

He also stressed Syria's continued care to maintain social peace and security in Lebanon and organizing the Lebanese internal affairs without foreign intervention.

The Lebanese President Emil Lahoud questioned the objective of dispatching bloody messages, just few hours on the end if the Lebanese elections which "brought back confidence to Lebanon and its people."

Comment: Notice how in this story we learn that pro-Communist Mr Hawi was not only anti-Syrian but also strongly opposed to Israeli aggression in his country. Coincidence? We think not.

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Lebanese communist party accuses Israel of killing Hawi

In the first reactions to the assassination of the former secretary general of the Lebanese communist party, George Hawi, the party's secretary general Khalil Hadadeh who arrived at the site of the explosion accused "intelligence instruments and Israel of such a series of aggressions."

However, Elias Atallah, an opposition politician held elements supporting Syria the responsibility of the incident, noting that Hawi was opposing the Syrian presence in Lebanon and the return back of its intelligence to the area.

The Lebanese prime minister Najib Miqati said that the assassination is aimed at the security of the Lebanese state and "we see one who wants to undermine our security and sends message of such kind (assassination). But I am sure that all Lebanese are attached to their unity and homeland. On this ground I made certain contacts with the security departments to carry out the investigations and I am all hope this will lead to ensure security to the citizens."

Comment: For an in depth look into how targeted assassinations of Lebanese political leaders is standard policy for the Mossad, the interested reader may want to read our Signs special: Mossad Murders Former Lebanese PM in Carbon Copy of 1979 Assassination.

Then consider the words of Hawi's daughter-in-law at the end of this next article...

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Analysis: a killing plot in Lebanon?
(UPI) Lebanon, June 21, 2005

BEIRUT, - The killing of George Hawi, a former secretary-general of the Communist Party who started anti-Israeli operations in the 1980s and who then became an opponent of Syria, heightened opposition fears of an organized assassination plot against Lebanese politicians.

Hawi's killing came as the U.N. investigation committee conducted its first interrogation of a Lebanese security official in connection with the Feb. 14 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

It also provoked accusations from the Lebanese opposition about remnants of pro-Syrian Lebanese intelligence services and more calls for the resignation of President Emile Lahoud, whom it accuses of protecting those services.

Hawi, a 67-year-old Christian, was killed Tuesday when a bomb planted in his car detonated shortly after he boarded it near his house in Wata al-Musaitbeh neighborhood in Beirut. His driver suffered minor injuries.

This was the second such assassination this month.

Samir Kassir, a columnist for An Nahar newspaper known for his harsh criticism of Lebanese security services and Syria's military presence in Lebanon, was killed in a similar blast June 2.

Both men were killed the same way: a bomb planted in their cars and detonated by remote control.

"It is the same style and who carried (the assassinations) is one," said Rafi Madayan, Hawi's daughter-in-law. "The one who killed George Hawi and Samir Kassir is the one who killed Rafik Hariri and tried to kill (former minister) Marwan Hamade (last October). He is also the one who killed (Druze leader) Kamal Jumblat (in 1978.)"

Since Hariri's killing, opposition figures have blamed the assassinations on Lebanese and Syrian intelligence services, which were active when Syria was in control of Lebanon. Syrian troops and intelligence services completed their withdrawal from Lebanon April 26 in line with U.N. resolutions. [...]

Comment: As quoted in "Ben-Gurion, A Biography", by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978, in May 1948, first Israeli PM, David Ben-Gurion, said the following to the General Staff:

"We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai."

An important point that is repeatedly missed (or overlooked) by the mainstream press is that, while Syria would undoubtedly love to restore the influence it wielded in Lebanon for 30 years, the recent ousting of the Syrian army by the US and EU means Syria has been effectively locked out of Lebanon. For many reasons, chief among which is control of the entire Middle East, on March 15th, the Israeli Mossad, or agents working on its behalf, murdered Rafik Hariri, the man who would certainly have become Lebanon's next PM. Hariri was anti-Syria, but he was equally anti-Israel, if not more so.

In the relative power vacuum that resulted from Hariri's murder, Israel has been actively tailoring the Lebanese political scene in a way that best suits their interests, a process that involves the selective killing of anyone who can be reasonably be assumed to be anti-Israel and who does not share Israel's vision of a "greater Israel". Of course, in the wake of the Syrian pullout, the added benefit to Israel of murdering people who are are openly anti-Syrian is that Israel can be sure that the blame will fall on Syria, further isolating Damascus. It is in this light that any and all politically motivated murders in Lebanon should be viewed.

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Israel revives assassination policy
From correspondents in Jerusalem
June 23, 2005
From: Reuters

ISRAEL has resumed an assassination policy against Islamic Jihad militants, a sign of how far a truce with the Palestinians has deteriorated.

An Israeli aircraft fired missiles at four Islamic Jihad men in the Gaza village of Beit Lahiya today as they launched rockets into Israel.

No one was hurt. The army said the strike targeted the launchers, not people.

A government official had earlier said Israel could stage air strikes in Gaza, even at the risk of Palestinian civilian casualties, to ensure its Gaza pullout did not come under fire.

Israel shelved "targeted killings" of militants in February as part of a new truce deal.

But resurgent violence has raised the spectre of disruption to Israel's planned August withdrawal from Gaza and dimmed hopes for "road map" peace talks afterwards.

Word that the assassination policy had been dusted off came with Israeli confirmation of a failed missile strike yesterday.

"An opportunity presented itself. Any means to neutralise the organisation are relevant and possible," Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said.

Islamic Jihad has resumed mortar bomb and rocket salvoes against Jewish settlements in Gaza in what it calls retaliation for continued Israeli raids to capture wanted militants.

"The attempt yesterday to kill an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza signalled the resumption of the targeted killing policy," an Israeli security source said.

Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, warned of "terrible consequences" if Israel carried out assassinations.

"The calm would thereby end. We will not be dictated to by Israel," he said.

Later, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel could stage air strikes in Gaza if militants tried to attack departing settlers to try to show they were chasing them out of occupied territory.

Withdrawing from Gaza under fire would be political poison for Sharon, strengthening rightist foes who have said the pullout would be perceived by the Palestinians and Arab world as a sign of weakness after four years of bloodshed.

"Israel will act in a very resolute manner to prevent terror attacks ... while the disengagement is being implemented," said Eival Giladi, head of the government team coordinating the plan.

"If pinpoint response proves insufficient, we may have to use weaponry that causes major collateral damage."

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel could respond to any Palestinian attacks from Gaza even after the pullout.

"If needed, Israel will return to Gaza after the disengagement for a few days in order to stop the terrorism," the Haaretz newspaper quoted Mr Shalom as telling foreign diplomats.

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23 die in co-ordinated attacks in Baghdad - 'blood was everywhere'
11:01 PM EDT Jun 22

HAMZA HENDAWIBAGHDAD (AP) - Four car bombs exploded at dusk Wednesday, killing at least 23 people, including sidewalk diners and passengers at a bus station. The co-ordinated attacks served as a chilling reminder of how potent militants remain in the capital despite around-the-clock American and Iraqi troop patrols.

In all, at least 32 people were killed across Iraq, including a prominent Sunni law professor assassinated by gunmen. Jassim al-Issawi was a former judge who put his name forward at one point to join the committee drafting Iraq's constitution. The assassination appeared aimed at intimidating Sunni Arabs willing to join Iraq's efforts to create a stable political system.

The U.S. military said three U.S. soldiers were killed a day earlier during combat operations west of Baghdad near the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi.

The first three car bombs - clearly co-ordinated - went off almost simultaneously only blocks apart in the predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Shula where al-Issawi was killed only hours earlier.

Two bombs exploded in front of a pair of restaurants, killing at least 11 and wounding 28. "The body parts of the dead were scattered everywhere, along with fragments of broken glass from nearby shops and the meat from the meals," said police Maj. Musa Abdul Karim, who was at the scene. "Blood was everywhere."

The third car bomb exploded when a suicide bomber rammed a nearby bus station, killing at least eight and wounding 20, police said.

About 15 minutes later, a suicide car bomber struck an Iraqi army patrol in a nearby suburb, killing at least four bystanders, police said. The dead included a woman and a child. No Iraqi soldiers were among the wounded.

A fifth car bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy missed, killing instead three Iraqis and wounded seven in the northern city of Mosul, officials said.

Four Iraqis also were killed in two roadside bombs and a group of children drove their bicycles over a bomb planted beneath the ground in Baqouba, northeast of the capital. A nine-year-old boy was killed and two others, ages 6 and 7, were wounded.

Al-Issawi's killing, potentially the most politically significant act of violence since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari came to office nearly two months ago, marked the first direct attempt to scare moderates away from political participation.

It sent a powerful message to the Sunni Arab community to either boycott involvement in the fledgling government or risk death. [...]

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UN investigators say U.S. stalling on prison visits
Jun 23, 6:46 AM (ET)

GENEVA - U.N. human rights investigators on Thursday accused the United States of stalling on their request to visit foreign terror suspects at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay.

They said they had had no reply to their year-old request to probe "serious allegations of torture," arbitrary detention and violations of the right to health and due process at Guantanamo.

"We deeply regret that the government of the United States has still not invited us to visit those persons arrested, detained or tried on grounds of alleged terrorism or other violations in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Guantanamo Bay naval base," the four rights investigators said in a statement.

"The lack of a definitive answer despite repeated requests suggests that the United States is not willing to cooperate with the United Nations human rights machinery on this issue," they added.

Their request to visit followed the scandal sparked by photographs taken in the U.S.-run prison of Abu Ghraib in Iraq, showing inmates, some in hoods, being sexually humiliated by soldiers and intimidated with dogs.

The investigators have global U.N. mandates to probe allegations of torture and arbitrary detention as well as ensuring that rights to health and judicial independence are upheld.

Activists have expressed alarm that many people arrested since the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States have been held for more than three years without charges being laid, often incommunicado, in a legal blackhole facilitating mistreatment.

The Pentagon says it is holding 520 men in Guantanamo, mainly detained in Afghanistan. Only four have been charged.

Comment: At least it should be clear now why the US so badly wants to "reform" the UN...

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Who's not telling the truth?
by Joe in DC
6/21/2005 11:54:00 PM

Someone is lying. You decide who.

Option A: Military officials who are on the ground in Iraq.
From Wednesday's NY Times:

American casualties from bomb attacks in Iraq have reached new heights in the last two months as insurgents have begun to deploy devices that leave armored vehicles increasingly vulnerable, according to military records.

Last month there were about 700 attacks against American forces using so-called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, the highest number since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the American military command in Iraq and a senior Pentagon military official. Attacks on Iraqis also reached unprecedented levels, Lt. Gen. John Vines, a senior American ground commander in Iraq, told reporters on Tuesday.

Option B: Scott McClellan, Bush and Cheney.
From today's White House briefing thanks to E&P:

Q Scott, can we get a clear "yes" or "no" answer on whether the President agrees on the Vice President's assessment that the insurgency is in "its last throes?" Is it a "yes" or "no"?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I already answered this question the last couple of days.

Q Is it "yes" or is it "no"?

MR. McCLELLAN: And I've talked about it the last couple of days. If you look -- if you look at the terrorists and the regime elements that are seeking to derail the transition to democracy, they are in a desperate mode, and here's why. Let me walk you through this.

First of all, I think, to begin with, you ought to go back and look back at the full context of the Vice President's remarks, where he talked about the progress we're making to go after and capture al Qaeda elements that are inside Iraq -- like Zarqawi lieutenants. Just last week, we captured one of his top lieutenants, a very dangerous man who is responsible for the killing of a lot of innocent civilians inside Iraq....

So I think you have to look at the facts on the ground. And the facts on the ground show that the Iraqi people are making important progress on the political front to build a free and democratic future. The vision of the terrorists is one of chaos and destruction. They really have no vision. Their only alternative is chaos and destruction and the killing of innocent civilians.

And that's what I talked about yesterday. They, every step of the way, have not been able to stop the progress that the Iraqi people are making on the political front. And they are being defeated and they will be defeated.

Q So that's a "yes"?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said that. I said that the other day.

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We must be alert to rise of fascism
Jun 22, 2005

Fascism is not a four-letter word, but it might as well be. As defined in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, fascism is totalitarianism marked by forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry and commerce, and bellicose nationalism. The means of production might be privately owned, but are in effect controlled by government edict.

Fascism reflects the constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs and other paraphernalia, and flags are seen everywhere including flag symbols on clothing. Fascism uses fear and the need for security as its motivating force to persuade individuals that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." Fascism rallies individuals into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived threat whether it is racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, conservatives, liberals, communists, socialists or any other group.

Fascism controls the privately-owned media through government regulation. Fascism uses the most common religion in a nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to a fascist government's policies and/or actions. Fascism does not tolerate different points of view and therefore it is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested and free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

It is likely the Patriot Act will be renewed this year.

It allows the government to monitor religious and political institutions - even without suspecting criminal activity - to assist in terror investigations.

It allows prosecution of librarians or other keepers of records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information in a terrorism investigation.

It allows monitoring of federal prison conversations between attorneys and clients and denies attorneys to individuals accused of crimes.

It allows search and seizure of an individual's papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigations.

And it allows individuals to be jailed indefinitely without a trial and without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them.

It behooves all individuals to know and understand what fascism is and to be able to recognize it when it raises its ugly head or it begins to be raised.

Government officials always state that their actions are in the best interest of the individual. However, it was government officials who stated that the Social Security number would never be used for identification. Today, no one can accomplish much without using that number.

Government officials also told individuals in 1913 that the income tax would only affect the wealthy. Today, the income tax impacts all income levels.

Fascism must be recognized for what it is - government control of all human activity - and it must be recognized when it begins to exist or else the light of individual liberty could be snuffed out.

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US considering making flag burning a crime
22/06/2005 - 18:30:13
The United States’ House of Representatives today moved towards approving a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to ban desecration of the American flag, a measure that for the first time stands a chance of passing the Senate as well.

Members of the House debated – as they have six times before – whether such a ban would uphold or run afoul of the Constitution’s free-speech protections.

Supporters said the measure reflected patriotism that deepened after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and they accused detractors of being out of touch with public sentiment.

“Ask the men and women who stood on top of the (World) Trade Centre,” said Representative Randy Cunningham, a California Republican.

But Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, said: “If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms the flag represents.” [...]

Comment: One more nail in the coffin of "American Democracy," one more layer in the mind programming of the American people. When human life is sacrificed to "honor" a piece of cloth, what future can there be for such a nation?

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The Hitler Icon
by Butler Shaffer

"When I use a word, "Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that's all."

~ Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin committed one of the cardinal sins of modern political discourse: he used the Hitler metaphor beyond the boundaries licensed by the gatekeepers of "politically correct" rhetoric. Referring to an e-mail from an FBI agent describing his visit to the Guantanamo Bay prison, Durbin declared that had he not identified what Americans had been doing to prisoners, "you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or . . . Pol Pot or others."

To politicians accustomed to playing bipartisan pat-a-cake games with their "esteemed gentlemen" colleagues, or media voices who regard the results of an opinion poll as a meaningful debate, Durbin's remarks were shocking. Newt Gingrich – who established his credentials as an abuser of metaphors when he spoke of coercively imposed GOP policies as a "contract with America" – called upon the Senate to censure Durbin for his remarks, which he said demeaned the "dignity" and "honor" of America. Mr. Gingrich apparently does not regard the lies, deceit, and forgeries that have thus far produced the deaths of over 100,000 persons in Iraq, as a stain upon American "dignity" and "honor."

Gingrich's reaction – typical of many defenders of the political order – reflects the Shakespearian sentiment that "the lady doth protest too much." It's not that this crowd resents those who take liberties with the Hitler analogy: you will recall that George Bush I compared Saddam Hussein to der Führer as a justification for his Gulf War. I suspect that members of the establishment get angry over such comparisons not because they are wrong, but because they know they are too close to the truth. The ominous parallels between current political thinking and many of Hitler's policies were developed in an earlier article of mine.

While it is quite easy for critics to overuse comparisons to Hitler, one must understand how and why this occurs. Following World War II, Nazi Germany and Hitler became the standard by which "tyranny" was to be defined. Other regimes were just as vicious and murderous as Hitler's (e.g., Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot), but their wrongs received little attention from the establishment mind-setters. If you doubt this, go to any library or bookstore and count the number of books written about (a) the Nazi Holocaust, and (b) Stalinist despotism. How many movies have been made about the evils perpetrated by Hitler, and how many about Stalin? So continuous has been the effort to single out Nazism that television's The History Channel is often referred to as The Hitler Channel, for its frequent showing of films and programs concerning this period.

My point is not to minimize the heinous nature of the Nazi regime. Quite the contrary! Hitler was a butcherous tyrant whose "jack-booted Gestapo" agents, concentration camps, "storm-troopers," and "SS" functionaries, help to define what we think of as a police-state. But Hitler was not the inventor of vicious, totalitarian rule, nor did he monopolize such practices during his lifetime. If the numbers of victims impress you, Stalin was a far deadlier thug.

But Adolf Hitler and Nazism were concepts to be segregated within the human consciousness; quarantined behind locked doors of the mind as a sui generis aberration fostered by peculiar circumstances. In an age in which the powerfully ambitious pursued their own brands of political hegemony, Nazism was not to be thought of as a symptom of a disease intrinsic to all species of statism. Hitler and his movement were to be wrapped in a cocoon – or, a more apt metaphor, buried in concrete as was done with vampire-like monsters in horror films – to keep them from ever again threatening the common folk. Holocaust museums were constructed, helping to reinforce the idea that Nazism was a brutal relic of the past, from which modern humanity learned a lesson that will never be repeated.

Whatever may have been the motivations of those who helped to create Hitler as an historic singularity, they have unwittingly marginalized the human costs of tyrannical systems. We are asked to condemn – as we should – the concentration camp deaths of millions of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals; but only scant reference is ever made of the millions of Ukrainians intentionally starved to death by Stalin. Hitler's wrong was that he systematically murdered people, not just Jewish people! Would his crimes have been more acceptable had he slaughtered without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference? Are we so detached from the suffering generated by political systems that we insist upon such distinctions?

Such "politically correct" definitions of wrongs to other people have been responsible for the creation of that legalistic monstrosity: the "hate crime." We are now expected to more strongly condemn violence against members of certain selected groups than others, provided one was motivated to inflict such injury. It is but another manifestation of the Orwellian proposition that while all persons are equal, some are more equal than others. This kind of twisted thinking also helps to sanitize war: as long as you don't "hate" the people you are slaughtering, their deaths can be dismissed as "collateral damage," with no moral repercussions!

Having enshrined Hitler as the epitome of modern tyranny, should we be surprised to find polemic speech employing such a standard? Would one reasonably expect a critic of George W. Bush to condemn his policies as "akin to Charles de Gaulle"? While, as I stated earlier, I find some very disturbing comparisons between the mindset of people in 1930s Germany and modern America, I do not find the comparison of George Bush to Hitler all that convincing. I find Bush's counterpart more in Benito Mussolini: the strutting mountebank, hands on hips, with the sneering smile that accompanies the arrogance of power. Bush is too transparent, more like Charlie Chaplin's comic buffoon in The Great Dictator.

What may be most troublesome to members of the political establishment in bringing the Hitler analogy to bear upon American political behavior relates to the dynamics of mass-mindedness upon which Nazism fed. I have written, frequently, of the "dark side" forces within each of us which, when mobilized, can cause us to become eager participants in the brutalization of others. While most people prefer to think of Hitler as a "madman" who, somehow or other, "seized power," the reality is much different.

Our lives are haunted by "dark side" influences within our collective unconscious that cause us more anguish than do "terrorists" from the external world. Such inner "shadow" forces represent all the shortcomings, doubts, fears, temptations, anger, and other discomforting qualities we have about ourselves; but about which we may be induced to part by projecting such traits onto others. Political systems thrive on the unresolved conflicts we have within ourselves, by convincing us that our inner turmoil is really the fault of others; others who need to be punished and/or controlled in order to make our lives more orderly. Those selected as recipients of our projections (i.e., the "scapegoats") can be comprised of any number of interchangeable persons or groups. Depending upon circumstances, the "scapegoat" can be either "Jewish" or "Palestinian," "secularist" or "evangelical," "manufacturer" or "consumer," or any seemingly endless mix useful for the moment. The statists need only concoct a plausible foe that enough people will accept as an explanation for their difficulties, and then begin the task of mobilizing opinion against the "scapegoat."

Hitler knew that "[a]ll propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards whom it intends to direct itself." His propaganda specialist, Joseph Goebbels, noted that "[i]f you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." Goebbels then stated what has become a truism for all modern political systems: "[i]t is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion," urging underlings to "[t]hink of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play."

Who can read these admonitions and not find in them a reflection of how modern politics is played out upon the minds of the "least intelligent" who will "come to believe" a "big enough" lie, particularly if you "keep repeating it?" Consider how "the press" has allowed itself to become "a great keyboard on which the government can play" in its efforts "to supervise the formation of public opinion."

If the dynamics by which the state manipulates public opinion in furtherance of destructive, power-enhancing ends are comparable to similar processes employed by earlier totalitarian regimes, such analogies ought to be taken seriously. Those who make such well-reasoned comparisons are performing a genuine service to all of humanity by discovering, from the past, the consequences that are implicit in current behavior.

Since political systems depend upon the actuating of "dark side" forces, the state will not want such processes explored. It will appeal to concrete-bound minds to eschew what is merely analogous, and to insist upon precise replications. If there are no concentration camps with gas chambers, then comparisons to Hitler are wild hyperbole.

But as long as the "dark side" of humanity is being exploited for political ends, the same deadly games will continue; the political show will go on. The costumes may change – no more brown-shirts, knee-high black boots, or swagger sticks; and no martial music to accompany a goose-stepping choreography. Plastic-encased ID cards will replace swastika armbands as indicia of authority, while "ATF" jacket insignias will take the place of "SS" lapel pins.

The motion picture, The Usual Suspects, has a wonderful closing line: "the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn't exist." I don't believe in devils, other than those "dark side" specters that reside within each of us: frightful visions which we prefer to deflect onto others. The Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots – yes, and the George Bushes – are all products of our minds. Such men – and the tyrants who preceded them over the course of history – are both the fomenters and beneficiaries of psychic forces which, once unleashed, work their destructive powers upon humanity. Like small children, we cannot pretend these forces out of existence by closing our eyes and pulling the blankets up over our heads.

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Global Neighborhood Watch
June 20, 2005
By Shane Harris

The year is 2010. A salesman, traveling by train from Dulles International Airport to Union Station in Washington, hears a beep emanate from his mobile phone. He's startled, because the sound indicates that a chemical sensor in his briefcase detects the presence of penthrite somewhere in the train car. Penthrite, one of the world's strongest explosives, is used to manufacture a sophisticated form of C-4, the plastic explosive that Richard Reid hid in his shoes when he boarded an American Airlines flight in December 2001.

The salesman quickly scans the train car and spies a beat-up-looking backpack under a seat at the far end. He realizes that his mobile phone has gone off like this before, and nothing dire has transpired. But at the next stop, a woman boards and stands next to the backpack, and a pager-like device strapped to her waist also emits a beeping noise.

As each rider's sensor detects penthrite, it alerts an agent in the National Counterterrorism Center, the U.S. government's fusion point for all terrorism intelligence. Seeing two alarms go off, the agent calls the salesman and sends a text message to the woman, asking them to describe, independently, what they see. How big is the backpack? Where is its owner? What is he wearing? The agent then enters their observations into a powerful computer. The machine quickly churns the information and looks for meaningful patterns, which, hopefully, will reveal whether there's a real attack in the offing.

This vaguely Orwellian futuristic scenario is how two network theorists imagine a country might enlist its citizens in fighting terrorists. They call it Global Neighborhood Watch. Just as a traditional neighborhood watch deputizes people living on the same block to prevent local crime, the global watch would turn participants into mobile intelligence gatherers, feeding data from chemical sensors or simply with their own eyes into a sophisticated, governmentrun system that would create hypotheses about what that data means.

This widely distributed, and largely autonomous intelligence network, is the brainchild of two academics who've spent their careers studying how and why people organize themselves into groups - Bill Mc- Kelvey, a professor at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, who conducted some of the earliest categorizing of organizational forms in society and business, and Max Boisot, a senior research fellow at the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. They are inspired by a fairly unshakable piece of conventional wisdom in the post-Sept. 11 era, one which, in their view, is off the mark. Namely, that stopping terrorists before they act requires human beings to connect the dots, or data, between people, organizations, places and actions that ultimately spell out what terrorists are plotting to do.

No work reinforced the importance of dot connection to intelligence analysis more than The 9/11 Commission Report, which called for a national intelligence director to ensure that the government's 15 intelligence agencies are constantly connecting. But McKelvey and Boisot urge caution. "Joining the dots, whilst a problem, is not the problem," they wrote in an unpublished paper they have shown to a small number of current and former intelligence officials in Washington. That's because connected dots reveal not only information, but patterns, which are far more variable and confusing, but are necessary to developing probable explanations of what's going on.On their own, dots don't describe what is happening, or what might happen. But as more dots are connected, the number of patterns they create grows exponentially. Therefore, McKelvey and Boisot wrote, the real problem isn't only collecting dots, but "finding the computational capability to process and corroborate trillions of possible patterns." The professors set their train scenario in the future, because today, they say, the computational power and the social willingness to create such a pattern recognition network don't exist.

From McKelvey and Boisot's perspective, intelligence agencies are drowning in dots. Global Neighborhood Watch, while possibly becoming a giant dot collector, would marry the filtering and cognitive power of human beings with the computational power of advanced technology - something the professors call a "socio-computational" approach to intelligence analysis.

People have an innate, and largely mysterious, ability to rapidly filter out irrelevant or confusing signals and quickly identify signs of potential danger - backpacks left unattended on crowded train cars, for instance. Only a few such signals can rapidly generate trillions of possible patterns, so computers are needed, both to find a few key patterns, based on what's in their memory about the most relevant signals of a potential act of terrorism, and then to generate hypotheses about what's happening, so officials can act.

In the case of the train riders, two sensor firings establish a link between events. The National Counterterrorism Center agent, with the aid of the computer, uses that information to ask the watch members various questions, which add context. Is the owner of the backpack nearby? If so, what does he look like? Union Station is situated near Georgetown University Law Center. Could he be a student? Working back and forth like this, McKelvey and Boisot theorize, the center is more likely to devise a scenario than it could working on its own.

The intelligence center is up and running now. But the professors fear that with its mandate to fuse data from 15 agencies, it merely adds a layer to the top of those hierarchical silos. What's needed, they argue, is a network-oriented approach, since, after all, terrorists operate in that fashion.

"Our 'distributed' socio-computational approach gets around silo thinking," McKelvey and Boisot wrote. Silos extract information and meaning from data and then pass it up to the next level. "That is, dots [data] collected at the base get 'joined' or linked . . . by intelligence analysts in the middle of the hierarchy before being 'assessed' " at the top, they wrote.

By contrast, the distributed neighborhood watch, and its attendant computing power, focuses less on collecting many dots and more on establishing meaningful relationships and patterns from them. "Assessment does not thereby disappear, but it now operates across different levels," the professors wrote. The watch members help find the most promising patterns, and the intelligence center and government officials select the ones upon which to act.

McKelvey and Boisot readily admit the global watch's most obvious drawback: "It requires ordinary citizens to take on the role of secret agents and to snoop on other citizens' neighbors." In 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft proposed a nationwide snooping program called the Terrorism Information and Prevention System - Operation TIPS - that was ridiculed and effectively dismissed. But McKelvey and Boisot aren't Washington insiders, and so likely feel more emboldened to offer up controversial and, some might say, heretical ideas.

Boisot argues that the government and the public should discuss what it would take to compel people to join citizen-based anti-terror groups, not just in the United States, but especially in countries where Islamic fundamentalism is spreading, perhaps to the chagrin of the citizenry there. With traditional neighborhood watches, which have operated for years and contribute to a reduction in crime, citizens have agreed that policing their own neighborhoods, while diminishing personal privacy, offers substantial benefits, he says. Similarly, societies must feel a shared responsibility for stopping terrorism and decide whether there are shared benefits in doing so, even if they don't end up reporting what they see to the government, Boisot contends.

McKelvey and Boisot are waiting to see how the intelligence establishment reacts to their ideas. Boisot says he has sent the paper to a senior CIA official known for encouraging dialogue among diverse groups in the production of intelligence analysis. A CIA spokeswoman said the official wouldn't be able to comment on McKelvey and Boisot's work.

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Social Security files opened to FBI
By Eric Lichtblau
Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Social Security Administration has relaxed privacy rules and searched thousands of files for FBI terrorism investigations.

WASHINGTON - The Social Security Administration has relaxed its privacy restrictions and searched thousands of its files at the FBI's request as part of terrorism investigations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, newly disclosed records and interviews show.

The privacy policy typically bans the sharing of such sensitive information, which includes home addresses, medical information and other personal data. But Social Security agency senior officials agreed to an "ad hoc" policy that authorized the release of information to the FBI for Sept. 11-related investigations because officials saw a "life-threatening" emergency, internal memos say.

The Internal Revenue Service also worked with the bureau and the Social Security agency to provide income and taxpayer information in terror inquiries, law enforcement officials said. Officials said the IRS information was limited because legal restrictions prevented the sharing of taxpayer information except by court order or in cases of "imminent danger" or other exemptions. The tax agency refused to comment.

The Social Security memorandums were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group.

Social Security and law enforcement officials said that they were sensitive to privacy concerns and had put safeguards in place, but that they believed that the information gave investigators a valuable tool.

"We ran thousands of Social Security numbers," said a former senior FBI official who insisted on anonymity because the files involved internal cases.

"We got very useful information, that's for sure," the former official said. "We recognized the value of having that information to track leads, and, to their credit, so did the Social Security Administration."

But Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who has sought information from the Social Security agency on the issue, said the new policy had "real civil liberties implications for abuse." Maloney also questioned whether Congress was adequately informed.

"If we don't know when the Social Security Administration decides to change its rules to disclose personal information," she said, "I think Americans have a right to be skeptical about their privacy."

Marcia Hofmann, director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, acknowledged the need for investigators to have access to vital information.

"But an ad hoc policy like this is so broad that it allows law enforcement to obtain really sensitive information by merely claiming that the information is relevant to the 9/11 investigation," Hofmann said. "There appears to be very little oversight."

The Social Security agency also agreed to waive normal privacy restrictions for information related to the FBI investigation on the Washington region sniper attacks in 2002, the internal memos show. But it doesn't appear that any data was ultimately turned over.

The agency agreed two days after the Sept. 11 attacks to give the FBI access to material to obtain information on the hijackers, anyone with "relevant information" on the attacks and victims' relatives.

Under Social Security Administration policy, which goes beyond federal privacy law, such information can't typically be shared with law enforcement officials unless the subject has been indicted or convicted of a crime. A looser policy was updated and reauthorized last year, the internal memos show, and Social Security officials said Tuesday that it remained in place.

"Thankfully, these requests don't come up that often," Jonathan Cantor, the privacy officer at the agency, said. "You just have to look at each situation as it comes in, and it's my job to balance the privacy of the records against legitimate requests for that information."

Bush administration officials say it is imperative for investigators to have broad tools to track terror suspects. But some members of Congress are pushing to curtail the powers that the USA Patriot Act and other initiatives give the FBI.

Critics point to recent episodes of broad information sharing such as the Census Bureau giving customs officials information on Arab Americans and airlines giving the FBI data on 257 million passengers after the Sept. 11 attacks as evidence that the balance has swung too far from protecting privacy and civil liberties.

"This kind of pattern," Hofmann said, "just opens the door to abuse."

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Police may be handed new powers
Monday, 20 June, 2005, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK

Under the plans police will be able to store fingerprints and DNA
Scottish police may be handed powers to store DNA profiles and fingerprints of anyone they have arrested.

The Scottish Executive is to launch a three-month consultation on the idea following pressure from police chiefs.

Under the plans, evidence taken from a person could be retained even if they are subsequently found not guilty.

Opposition parties and human rights campaigners are against the idea, claiming it is a move towards the creation of a "police state".

Westminster's Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 has enabled forces in England and Wales to retain all prints and DNA samples, even if there is no prosecution, or the individual is acquitted.

At the time, the executive rejected the introduction of similar powers across Scotland.

However, the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, passed in February 2003, allows police to retain DNA and fingerprints given voluntarily.

A spokeswoman for First Minister Jack McConnell said the executive remained "neutral" on the issue but believed a debate on the issue was required.

The government acknowledged concerns about civil liberties but said the consultation would allow the powers to be introduced as part of the upcoming Police Bill if ministers deemed them necessary.

A spokeswoman said: "We are responding to calls from the police to have a look at this as they feel it might help them clear up more crimes.

"It's a three-month consultation and if there was to be a decision to take this forward it would need legislation and we could use the Police Bill, which is expected to be introduced to parliament in the next session.

"This has been happening in England and Wales for the last four years.

"We took the view at the time not to do that but now we are saying 'let's have a proper debate' and look at all the arguments for and against."

Scottish Human Rights Centre chairman John Scott said the executive must reject the idea.

The criminal lawyer said police had no more right to retain the prints or DNA evidence of a suspect who was never charged or cleared by a court than those of the population at large.

Mr Scott said: "This would be a worrying continuation of a trend where the rights of the individual are ignored in favour of the state.

"Unfortunately, this is all part of the same march towards the sort of potential for a police state that we have had warnings about in the past and which people don't take seriously.

"The infrastructure is steadily coming to pass and I hope the executive will show the same caution on this as it has in relation to ID cards."

'Big Brother'

Labour's coalition partners, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, are understood to be particularly uneasy about the proposals and insisted that the consultation be worded in neutral terms.

A senior party source said today: "We are sceptical about this and while we will await the outcome of the consultation, to overcome that scepticism there would require to be some unquestionably significant and unarguable evidence."

Opposition parties also expressed concern about the plan.

Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish National Party's justice spokesman, said it could lead to a "Big Brother" state.

"This encroaches too far into our individual human rights," he said.

"If such a scheme is to be implemented in Scotland, we would have to be fully satisfied and assured that this is not part of some Big Brother exercise that would see further state monitoring and control of individuals' actions.

"Everyone wants to fight crime, but we have to ensure that in doing so we do not criminalise the innocent."

Scottish Tory justice spokeswoman Annabel Goldie added: "I am anxious to see the full details of the Executive's proposals, but I do have concerns about individual civil liberties.

"There is a danger, for example, that those who freely offer DNA samples in an investigation might be more reluctant to come forward in future.

In a brief statement the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) said: "Acpos welcomes the opportunity to debate the proposals to retain fingerprint and DNA samples and will carefully consider its position on that matter."

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Downing Street Is For Liars

Why aren't the media screaming about the latest proofs of Bush's war scams? Don't you know?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, June 22, 2005

This is the white-hot question right now gushing forth from many on the Left, from progressive blogs and liberal patriots and blue staters and angry anti-Bushers alike, and it is like a plea, a rallying call, an indignant stomp of deep frustration. It is this:

Why are major American media not swarming all over the Downing Street Memos thing? Why is the entire nation not just appalled and disgusted and aghast at finding seemingly irrefutable proofs about what we all already knew, which is that BushCo planned to invade Iraq long before 9/11 and needed to find a way to justify it?

And, we now know, he was even willing to go so far as to rig the intelligence and "fix the facts" and screw the U.S. economy and screw any sort of exit strategy and screw the potential for lost lives and let's just blindly stomp on in there and bomb the living crap outta Saddam despite the undeniable pre-Iraq evidence that Saddam had zero WMDs and that his nuclear program was "effectively frozen," and despite how BushCo and the CIA and FBI and DOD and the Clinton administration and your grandma all knew it?

This is what the infamous Downing Street Memos allegedly contain, more undeniable proofs in the form of meeting notes with higher-ups in Britain and the U.S., talking about the supposedly "dire" threat of WMDs and nailing Iraq well before Bush was handed the tragic and morose political gift of 9/11 to leverage and whore and turn into his own personal Jesus.

And to be sure, the outcry from the Left is healthy and good and appropriate and only now are a handful of newspapers and magazines (you go, Newsweek) taking up the Downing Street Memo debacle, asking slightly more inflamed questions of BushCo.

So then, why aren't U.S. media roaring more angrily about this? Why aren't the major players up in arms and trumpeting banner headlines and screaming for Bush to answer for his obvious and plentiful crimes against the nation and the Earth and peace?

Answer: Because it's not really news. Not anymore.

Because, to be honest, what the memos actually reveal is not quite as much as the Left wishes they did, and while they certainly do reveal that Bush is a noted liar and distorter of fact and that we can easily deduce that his snarling war hawks torqued the Brits into complicity and mangled the U.N. laws and misled the American people into war perhaps more deviously and violently than any administration in recent American history, well, there is not a single thing in the words you just read that most of us did not already know.

It's true. There is, unfortunately, nothing here that not already been trumpeted to death by the Left, and therefore to try to trumpet it all again as some sort of irrefutable revelation that should change the face and temperament of the nation is sort of like beating a dead horse we all knew was already dead but that is only now taking on a new dimension of stink.

Look at it this way: The majority of the nation knows Bush lied like a dog to drive us into an unwinnable (but, for his cronies, incredibly profitable) war. The rest either refuse to believe it, or they claim, with equal parts ignorance and blind jingoism, that the ends (ousting a pip-squeak dictator who was no real threat to anyone and who had been successfully contained for 20 years) justify the means ($200 billion, 1,700 dead Americans, over 10,000 wounded and disabled U.S. soldiers, countless tens of thousands of dead innocent Iraqis, staggering economic debt, the open disrespect -- if not outright contempt -- of the entire international community).

Here is the American cynic's view: It is almost too late to care about the lies. It is almost pointless to scream and rant and point fingers of blame. We all know who is to blame, and it ain't Saddam, and it ain't Osama, and it ain't "terror," and it ain't our "freedoms." Bush has driven us so deep into the Iraq hellhole it serves almost no purpose to whine about the obvious deceptions and blatant whorelike pre-9/11 machinations that got us here.

We are now, instead, focused on endurance. On gritting teeth and getting through and getting the hell out of this new Vietnam Bush has imbecilically driven us into, all while surviving 3.5 more years of one of the most abusive, secretive cadres of warmongering leadership in American history.

Oh, and rest assured, Iraq is indeed a new Vietnam. The parallels are undeniable and mounting -- all the elements are in place: staggering civilian death tolls, inmate abuse and torture, international embarrassment, economic pillaging, executive impudence, a vicious drive toward empire and power, a false sense of "victory" and the overpowering sense we are so deeply entrenched in this violent, chaotic quagmire, it will take many more years and many thousands of more U.S. dead and countless more billions before we are anywhere near stabilization.

But oh, you might cry (and this column might regularly wail), shouldn't Bush be held accountable? Shouldn't he be made to answer for these lies, these obvious abuses of power?

Answer: You're goddamn right he should. He should also be strapped to an incredibly uncomfortable chair and made to look at the smoking bones of ten thousand dead Iraqi children. But that's just me.

The lies that led us into this war are indeed staggering, appalling, make Clinton's lies about his stupid little affair sound like, well, a stupid little affair. As Dubya's tanking poll ratings prove, even many moderate Republicans are backing away from calling Iraq a success, or even a necessary action. And Dems have recently begun demanding that BushCo develop some kind of exit strategy to begin pulling out U.S. troops within a year.

BushCo's answer? No way in hell, bucko. Impossible. And why? Because we are in way too deep. The violence is escalating, not dying down. Every major U.S. general, strategist, policy wonk says we are far too screwed to leave anytime soon. And "Mission accomplished" has become perhaps the most tragic punch line to one of the most bitter jokes ever told in your lifetime.

Let's just say it outright: Of course Bush deserves to be impeached. But of course Bush will not be impeached, because impeachment requires a massive federal investigation and an act of Congress and the support of countless senators and representatives, and right now the GOP controls Congress with a little iron penis, and therefore any sort of uprising or scandal or suggestion of punishment gets immediately slammed down or scoffed away or buried under an avalanche of shrugs and yawns and neoconservative smugness. Isn't that right, Mr. Gannon? Mr. DeLay? Abu Ghraib? Gitmo? Saddam? Et al.

BushCo survived the illegal sanctioning of inhumane torture. They survived a gay male prostitute acting as a journalist. They survived Enron and Diebold and the rigging of the first election and they will survive Downing Street simply because all the people who should be on the attack about these atrocities all work for the guys who committed them.

So then, the question is not merely when will the stack of lies, of abuses become so high, so unstable, so inexcusable that the entire nation finally takes notice and the whole house of cards comes crashing to the ground in a big nasty soul-jarring spirit-cleansing patriotism-redefining whoomp and smothers the whole lot of them, but rather, can it be soon enough?

And to that question, we all know the answer.

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US 'stalling UN Guantanamo visit'

Investigators from the United Nations have accused the US of stalling over their repeated requests to visit detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The US is holding hundreds of suspected members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda at the detention facility in Cuba.

The UN said for over a year there had been no response to its requests to check on the condition of detainees.

This suggested the US was "not willing to co-operate with the United Nations human rights machinery," the team said.

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Tempest in Santa Fe
Confronting Israeli Myth-Making
June 22 , 2005

Propagandists on behalf of Israel have held a corner on public discourse about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for the nearly six decades of Israel’s existence, but these purveyors of the Israeli line have become increasingly deceptive and malign -- and increasingly effective – with time. The propaganda machine serving Israel disseminates a steady stream of talking points and argumentation that today effectively controls all public discourse, so that in media arenas large and small throughout the country there are always grassroots propagandists available to put out a uniformly favorable twist on Israel’s actions and always to paint the Palestinians in black colors.

The propaganda machine has not missed even the small, out-of-the-way town of Santa Fe, NM. Although not usually at the forefront of nationally significant political debates, Santa Fe is currently in the midst of a controversy about an issue of large national relevance. The controversy involves media treatment of Israel and the Palestinians that is typical of the distortion found throughout the country.

On June 9, 2005, John Greenspan, chairman of the board of directors of KSFR-FM, a Santa Fe public radio station, substituted for Mary-Charlotte Domandi, the vacationing host of a weekday morning program known as “The Radio Café,” and had among his guests a spokesperson for a pro-Israel propaganda organization, The Israel Project, based in Washington, D.C. Both Greenspan and the guest, Megan Wachter, spent this 15-minute segment broadcasting what we and many honest, objective observers regard as serious pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian distortions and, in at least one instance, an outright lie about an American human rights activist. Greenspan and Wachter made one false allegation after another, reaching ever increasing levels of distortion as the broadcast went on. We are appalled at the level of misrepresentation in this brief exchange and are particularly dismayed that these two propagandists did not merely stop at attempting to put Israel in a good light, but seemed to bend over backwards to cast the Palestinians and anyone who supports them in a particularly negative light, as all but universally hate-filled, uneducated, unenlightened terrorists.

The principal reason for having Wachter on the program was to publicize and recruit attendees for a workshop to be held on June 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C., sponsored by The Israel Project and intended to train “pro-Israel advocates” in what the organization’s website ( describes as “cutting-edge skills to create positive media coverage, strengthen Israel’s public image, and win support for Israel and the Jewish people.” The Israel Project, the newest of a decades-long list of organizations advocating for Israel, was created three years ago by two well known Republican pollsters, Frank Luntz and Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi. Mizrahi is the Israel Project president. Luntz serves as a strategist for the organization. He also runs his own separate public relations/propaganda outfit, which gives advice to Republican Party activists, and he has frequently written advice for the Israeli government and major American-Jewish organizations on how best to “frame” Israel’s case for public consumption.

A transcript of the pertinent segment of the program is at Appendix 1. The following is a rebuttal of the several distortions put forth by both Greenspan and Wachter. [...]

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US not to slap Israel killing 2005-06-23 13:21:31

BEIJING, June 23 -- White House has declined to criticize Israel for resuming an assassination policy against Islamic Jihad militants.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Wednesday that these militants are determined to derail peace efforts between Israel and Palestine.

The spokesman noted Washington encourages the Palestinian leadership to do more to go after those who engage in violence.

He also praised the latest meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to discuss the evacuation of Israeli citizens from the Gaza strip.

The assassination policy came after a failed missile strike on the life of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

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From the Horse's Mouth

Study: World at risk for major attack 2005-06-23 10:55:53

BEIJING, June 23 -- The world faces an estimated 50 percent chance of a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attack over the next five years, according to US national security analysts surveyed for a congressional study released Wednesday.

Using a poll of 85 nonproliferation and US national security experts, the report also estimated the risk of attack by weapons of mass destruction at as high as 70 percent over the coming decade.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee surveyed analysts around the world in late 2004 and early this year to determine what they thought was the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.

The study was commissioned by committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar, whose nonproliferation efforts in US Congress have been credited with helping the states of the former Soviet Union lessen their stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

"The bottom line is this: For the foreseeable future, the United States and other nations will face an existential threat from the intersection of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction," Lugar said in a statement.

Committee aides sent out surveys asking respondents the percentage probability that a biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological attack would occur over the next five and 10 years.

"If one compounds these answers, the odds of some type of WMD attack occurring during the next decade are extremely high," the report said, using the acronym for weapons of mass destruction.

The study said the risks of biological or chemical attacks were comparable to or slightly higher than the risk of a nuclear attack. However, the study found a "significantly higher" risk of a radiological attack.

It also said:

  • Three-fourths of those surveyed said one or two new countries would acquire nuclear weapons during the next five years, and as many as five new countries could have such weapons over the next 10 years.
  • Four-fifths of those surveyed said their country was not spending enough money on nonproliferation efforts.
  • Survey respondents also agreed that terrorists — rather than governments — were more likely to carry out a nuclear attack.

Comment: We guess the use of napalm on Fallujah doesn't count as a terrorist attack using chemical weapons. The sickening arrogance and moral superiority of the killers in Washington never ends. Their use of depleted uranium doesn't count. Their use of napalm doesn't count. Their use of torture doesn't count. Their use of political assassination doesn't count. Their use of false flag operations doesn't count. Their secret detention centres don't count.


Because the world knows that Americans are good.

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U.S. Spy Plane Pilot Dies in U.A.E. Crash
Associated Press Writer
Published June 22, 2005, 7:03 PM CDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- An American U-2 spy plane crashed while returning to its base in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, killing the pilot after a mission in support of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The aircraft crashed in the Emirates while approaching the base to land, said a Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation. Early reports gave no indication of any hostile fire, but it was too soon to be certain why it crashed, the official said.

The U-2 is a single-seat, single-engine reconnaissance plane that operates at an altitude of more than 70,000 feet and has been used in every major conflict the United States has fought since the aircraft went into service a half-century ago.

Flying beyond the range of most surface-to-air missiles -- the pilot must wear a full pressure suit similar to those used by astronauts -- the U-2 was famously shot down in 1960 over the Soviet Union.

With its bicycle-type landing gear and the challenges of handling the aircraft at low altitudes, the U-2 requires a high degree of precision during landing. Forward visibility is limited, partly because of the extended nose. A second pilot normally "chases" the U-2 while it lands, assisting the pilot by providing information on altitude and runway alignment.

The military did not immediately release the location or circumstances of the crash because it did not want to create problems for the nation where the plane went down. Officials also withheld the name of the pilot pending notification of relatives.

According to the military, the crash happened at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday EDT, which would be early Wednesday in the United Arab Emirates.

In Washington, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the plane had completed a mission related to Operation Enduring Freedom, the code name for American operations in Afghanistan.

There has been heavy fighting in southern Afghanistan in recent days, with American fighter planes bombarding rebel hideouts with missiles and bombs, killing up to 76 insurgents in fighting Tuesday and Wednesday.

A U.S. security team was at the site of the crash, Venable said. [...]

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Anti-nuke port security system plagued by high rate of false alarms
Associated Press Writer
June 21, 2005, 6:29 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- The post-Sept. 11 security blanket designed to keep nuclear material out of U.S. ports still has plenty of holes, including scores of false alarms from radiation detectors, scientists told Congress on Tuesday.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey security manager Bethann Rooney said the facility receives "about 150 alarms a day" from the 22 radiation portal monitors at the site. That's more than 10 times the number of false alarms originally expected.

Rooney was among a handful of experts who testified before a House Homeland Security subcommittee reviewing the nation's anti-nuke efforts.

Federal agents at Rooney's facilities use radiation detectors on about 45 percent of containers, and they plan to raise that to 85 percent at the end of the year after receiving additional detectors.

Rooney said the false alarms have not slowed shipping out of her port because follow-up inspections usually take less than 10 minutes.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said he was worried that the high number of false alarms has prompted some agents to reduce the sensitivity of the devices, making them less effective in spotting real danger.

An official with the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the high number of false alarms is not limited to the New Jersey port.

Gene Aloise also noted that some border agents have been improperly using handheld radiation detectors to try to sweep an entire container, and he urged better training to rectify that error. [...]

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Activists tell parents to have schools deny kids' data to military
By Maryclaire Dale
Associated Press
Published June 22, 2005

PHILADELPHIA -- Nancy Carroll didn't know schools were giving military recruiters her family's contact information until a recruiter called her 17-year-old granddaughter.

That didn't sit well with Carroll, who believes recruiters unfairly target minority students. So she joined activists across the country who are urging families to notify schools that they don't want their children's contact information given out.

"People of color who go into the military are put on the front line," said the 67-year-old Carroll, who is black.

President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act requires school districts to provide military recruiters with student phone numbers and addresses or risk losing millions in federal funds. Parents or students 18 and over can "opt out" by submitting a written request to keep the information private.

But critics say schools do not always convey that message. In New Mexico, the American Civil Liberties Union chapter sued the Albuquerque Public Schools last month, charging it does not adequately inform parents of the opt-out provision.

Some critics say the law provides an unfair opportunity for the military to sway young minds, especially in economically depressed communities.

"They're not going to all the schools. They're going to the schools where they figure the kids will have less chance to go to college," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). "It's an insidious kind of draft, quite frankly."

"I wouldn't want them to join," Carroll said of her grandchildren.

But Pentagon officials say the military deserves the same access to students that schools give to colleges and employers.

"In the past, it was all too common for a school district to make student directory information readily available to vendors, prospective employers and postsecondary institutions while intentionally excluding the services," Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said.

"Having access to 17- to 24-year-olds is very key to us," said Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, commander of the Army Recruiting Command, at a news conference last week.

Asked about aggressive recruiters targeting young people, he said: "I would certainly hope that we are harassing no one. ... I'm not asking my recruiters to be any less aggressive. I would not wish for them to be overbearing or annoying."

As military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are having trouble attracting recruits to their reserve forces, though only the Army is falling short in attracting people for its active-duty ranks.

Andrew Rinaldi, a senior at Edison High School in Edison, N.J., filed an opt-out letter but said he was contacted anyway. He said the recruiter mocked his pacifist views.

"They're becoming more aggressive," he said.

None of the nation's approximately 22,600 high schools has failed to comply, Krenke said. None has lost funding.

Before No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, about 12 percent of the nation's schools refused to turn over student records to military recruiters, Pentagon officials said.

In Montclair, N.J., more than 80 percent of Montclair High School students have opted out.

"It's a place where military recruiters are not likely to have a ton of success, anyway, partly because ... a lot of parents can assist their kids with going to college," school district spokeswoman Laura Federico said.

In the urban blight of North Philadelphia, Joshua Gordy said the lure of college money led him to join the Army Reserve at age 17. He said recruiters at his high school told him he could earn $35,000 for college.

That hasn't happened. Gordy, a 20-year-old reservist, said he apparently failed to send in the right paperwork in time. He hopes to enroll in community college this fall.

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Pentagon creating student database

Recruiting tool for military raises privacy concerns
By Jonathan Krim
The Washington Post
2:03 a.m. ET June 23, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.

The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits.

"The purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service," according to the official notice of the program.

Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government's right to collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do the work.

Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home, angering some parents and school districts around the country.

School systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John Moriarty, president of the PTA at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, said the issue has "generated a great deal of angst" among many parents participating in an e-mail discussion group. [...]

The Pentagon's statements added that anyone can "opt out" of the system by providing detailed personal information that will be kept in a separate "suppression file." That file will be matched with the full database regularly to ensure that those who do not wish to be contacted are not, according to the Pentagon. [...]

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Assassination Clues in Venezuela Point to US, Colombia
Jun 22 (Prensa Latina)

Caracas, Clues on opposition groups attempting to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez increasingly point to Colombia, although without the participation of the country's authorities, VEA newspaper reported Wednesday.

According to the daily, Venezuelan authorities discovered for recruiting terrorists and hired assassins in Bogota and Cucuta an organized network, which is sponsored by Miami and groups linked to US intelligence services.

The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated the Venezuelan government has photos and documents on the network's activities. It has not determined foreign officials' relations in this activity, although it reveals that Colombian paramilitary groups and senators have said Chavez' enemies are being recruited.

VEA daily warned Monday of alleged infiltrations of Colombian paramilitary groups in the states of Lara and Portuguesa, supported by Venezuelan opposition groups.

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Chinese Oil Company Offers $18.5 Billion for Unocal
June 22, 2005

SHANGHAI - A Chinese state-controlled oil company made a $18.5 billion unsolicited bid for Unocal today, igniting the first-ever takeover battle between corporations in China and the United States.

The bold bid by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC, may be a watershed in Chinese corporate behavior and demonstrates the increasing influence of Wall Street's bare-knuckled tactics in Asia. The offer also illustrates how crucial oil and gas resources are to China given its huge growth.

CNOOC's bid, which comes two months after Unocal agreed to be sold to the American energy giant Chevron for $16.8 billion, is expected to provoke a fierce debate in Washington about the nation's trade policies with China and the role of the two governments in the growing trend of deal making between companies in both countries. [...]

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China's Haier launches bold bid for US appliance maker Maytag
Tue Jun 21, 4:15 PM ET

NEW YORK - In another display of China's growing economic clout, appliance maker Haier has entered the bidding to take over Maytag Corp., a proud but struggling icon of the US white goods industry.

Maytag said late Monday that it had received a "preliminary non-binding proposal" worth 1.28 billion dollars in cash from Haier America Trading and two US buyout groups -- Bain Capital Partners and Blackstone Capital Partners IV.

The takeover offer, which remains subject to due diligence, is worth 16 dollars a share. A month ago, Maytag agreed to an offer worth 14 dollars a share from a US investor group led by Ripplewood Holdings.

Investors welcomed the interest from China's Haier, marking shares of the Newton, Iowa-based Maytag up 6.0 percent to a close of 16.15 dollars. [...]

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Student shot in central France classroom
June 22, 2005

ORLEANS, France (AP) - A student armed with a .22-calibre rifle entered a vocational college in central France and opened fire Wednesday, killing a fellow student, a regional official said.

The man fired three times at his victim, identified as a 20-year-old woman, who was hit in the neck by one of the bullets. She died from her injuries after being rushed to a hospital.

Initial investigations showed that the man knew his victim well, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. [...]

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Brain sees violent video games as real life -study
Wed Jun 22, 2:26 PM ET

LONDON - The brains of players of violent video games react as if the violence were real, a study has suggested.

Klaus Mathiak at the University of Aachen in Germany studied the brain patterns of 13 men aged 18 to 26 who, on average, played video games for two hours a day.

Wired up to a scanner, they were asked to play a game involving navigating through a complicated bunker, killing attackers and rescuing hostages.

Mathiak found that as violence became imminent, the cognitive parts of the brain became active and that during a fight, emotional parts of the brain were shut down.

The pattern was the same as that seen in subjects who have had brain scans during other simulated violent situations.

It suggests that video games are a "training for the brain to react with this pattern," Mathiak says.

The research was presented at a meeting in Canada and reported by New Scientist magazine.

Whether violent videos make people more aggressive though is hard to prove, the magazine noted. Studies have suggested players of violent games are in fact more aggressive but have left open the question of whether the games made them that way.

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Tens of thousands stranded as whole Swiss railway network grinds to halt
23 June 2005 0319 hrs

GENEVA: Switzerland's entire state railway network came grinding to a halt following a power failure that left about 100,000 people stranded at the height of the rush-hour, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) said. Practically all trains in the country, which takes great pride in the efficiency of its public transport system, were at a standstill, spokesman Jean-Philippe Schmidt told AFP.

"We have a power failure, a problem with power regulation," he said. "The problem started towards 6.00 pm (1600 GMT) and we are trying to find the source," he added.

About 100,000 people were thought to be stranded on trains on a hot summer evening, Swiss television SF1 reported, although most travellers were able to leave halted trains an hour after the incident.

"That estimate seems plausible. We had all the commuters heading home," said SBB spokesman Jean-Louis Scherz.

Travellers were being advised to listen to the radio or seek advice from extra personnel drafted into stations.

Schmidt said he could not recall a failure on a similar nationwide scale before and the incident was described as "absolutely extraordinary". [...]

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Flu is killing our kids
22 June 2005

A deadly strain of influenza B has claimed three young lives in the past six weeks and is now an epidemic among children in the North Island.

The Health Ministry appealed for vigilance yesterday after revealing that the flu outbreak, which has struck thousands of children and swept through schools around the country, had killed a third victim.

All three young people died after developing complications from the Hong Kong B strain of the virus. [...]

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Flu epidemic hits hospital hard
NZ Herald
23.06.05 1.00pm

Elective surgery has been postponed as Hawke's Bay Hospital reels from the impact of the flu bug and other viruses which have hit staff and patients and filled its beds.

The hospital is "full to capacity", Hawke's Bay District Health Board's chief operating officer Ray Lind said.

It was the second time in as many months that the hospital has been hit hard by people suffering from seasonal illnesses.

Mr Lind urged people to take steps to look after themselves.

"If you or your children are sick, take time off to recover before going back to work or sending your children back to school," Mr Lind said.

"It's vitally important to seek medical attention early, from your GP or medical centre. In many cases a trip to the doctor for expert advice and treatment can stop people getting so sick that they have to be admitted to hospital," he said.

Mr Lind also made a plea to the local community to rally round and support elderly family and neighbours. [...]

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No protection against virulent flu strain
22/06/2005 8:24:02

New Zealand - This year's flu vaccine did not not offer protection against a virulent strain which has infected thousands.

Three young people have died from complications after contracting the Hong Kong strain of influenza B.

Ministry of Health Chief Advisor Pat Tuohy says the World Health Organisation did not issue a warning about this particular strain, so it was not included in this year's vaccination. He says the current outbreak is significant, with thousands of children affected.

The outbreak comes as a new campaign is launched, to reduce the spread of viruses amongst children.

Virologist Dr Lance Jennings says children are particularly susceptible to viruses and on average, have one respiratory infection every two months. He says germs spread through schools like wildfire.

Dr Jennings suggests the use of anti-viral tissues which kill bugs as soon as they hit the tissue. [...]

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School reopens after mystery bug

Classrooms commercially cleaned over weekend and St Marks Church School reopens after unidentified virus caused illness
30 May 2005

St Marks Church School in Wellington reopens this morning after more than a quarter of its pupils were off sick last week, due to an unidentified virus.

It is one of several schools in the region to struck by the illness, which has not yet been identified.

The school's classrooms were commercially cleaned over the weekend to help stop the bug spreading.

Schools across Auckland are also battling a winter virus outbreak and hundreds of students have been stricken. [...]

Comment: It looks like New Zealand is a sort of "petrie dish" and has been "breeding" stuff for awhile...

From the September 24, 2001 Cassiopaean Transcripts:

Q: (L) Are there going to be any other kinds of violence, such as bombs or airplanes being flown into buildings, or release of anthrax, or small pox, or any other kind of chemical or germ warfare activities. Any of those?
A: Yes.
Q: (L) Which ones?
A: Fair chance of germ disbursement.
Q: (L) What kind of germ?
A: Influenza.
Q: (L) Do you mean a deadly form of flu?
A: Yes.

See also our Flu Threat Signs Supplement.

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West Nile update
Posted on Thu, Jun. 23, 2005

A probable West Nile virus case reported in Kansas last week is the first human case in the nation this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A 51-year-old Douglas County resident was diagnosed in mid-May with West Nile fever, a condition that may include headache, rash, muscle aches and weakness.

Last year, Kansas did not report its first human case of West Nile illness until August.

West Nile virus is spread to people by mosquitoes. So far this year, at least 17 states, including Missouri, have reported West Nile virus infections in birds, mosquitoes or other animals, the CDC said. Kansas has not reported any cases among animals.

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Earthquake jolts a city in Fars province Shiraz
Jun 22, 2005

An earthquake measuring 4.4 degree on Richter scale jolted surrounding areas of Qir va Karzin City in Fars province on Wednesday afternoon.

According to Seismological center affiliated to Geophysics Institute of Tehran University, the tremor occurred at 18:07:09 local time (13:37 GMT) and the epicenter of earthquake was at 28:18 degree latitude and 52:79 longitude surrounding areas of Qir va Karzin City, 150 kilometer southwest of Shiraz.

There is no immediate report on possible damages or injuries.

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Afghanistan shaken by 5.4 quake
Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Servicemembers and civilians in Afghanistan got a rude awakening Monday morning when a magnitude 5.4 earthquake shook the region around the country's capital city. The temblor was felt by soldiers and airmen from Bagram Air Base to Kabul, military officials said.

No significant damage was reported to base or civilian infrastructure by Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

"At first I thought something was wrong with my chair or there was a heavy truck going by. I've grown accustomed to the ground shaking when there are controlled demolition explosions here, so I did not think much about it. An earthquake was the furthest thing from my mind," Air Force Tech. Sgt. Johnathan Raford, of the 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, was quoted in a military news release about the quake.

Air Force weather teams, who tracked the quake, reported its epicenter was in the Hindu Kush mountains approximately 150 miles northeast of Bagram. [...]

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Holiday Isle Hit by Quake
Wed 22 Jun 2005
By Peter Woodman

British tourists were back on the beach today having emerged unscathed from an earthquake that shook their Greek holiday island.
A 4.8-scale undersea tremor affected the island of Zakynthos – also known as Zante – at just after midnight UK time today. There were no reports of any damage or casualties.

The earthquake was about 175 miles south west of Athens in the Ionian Sea.

Zakynthos is a resort strongly featured in UK tour operators' holiday brochures.

A spokeswoman for the MyTravel company said: "We have spoken to our reps on the island and everyone is fine."

A spokeswoman at the Zante Beach hotel in the resort of Planos on the island said: "We didn't really feel anything. All our British guests are all right. They are on the beach enjoying themselves."

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Experts' Heads Shake After Quakes
June 22, 2005
By Hector Becerra, Times Staff Writer

Seismologists agree on one thing regarding last week's cluster of tremors: Nobody knows for sure what it portends, if anything.

Were last week's quakes in California connected? Maybe.

Did they relieve pressure on major fault lines? Perhaps, but not much.

Did they make a bigger quake more likely? Possibly.

These are not exactly the answers quake-rattled Californians are looking for.

But the recent temblors involve some of the issues that seismologists most often debate. And the more research they do, the more they sometimes disagree. Even husband and wife seismologists don't see eye to eye.

The quakes - including two felt across Southern California and a 7.2 temblor June 14 off the coast of Eureka that prompted a tsunami warning along the entire West Coast, followed by a 6.7 two days later - didn't cause much damage or injury.

They captured much attention because they came so close together and hit after a period of less-than-normal seismic activity.

One of the first questions Californians had after the series of temblors was whether there was some connection among the quakes.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, believes that the 5.2 Anza quake June 12 probably triggered the 4.9 Yucaipa quake four days later.

She noted that both quakes were within about 25 miles of each other and occurred on secondary faults - the Anza quake near the San Jacinto fault and the Yucaipa around the San Andreas.

Data have shown that even a modest earthquake can trigger another quake - even at that distance, she said.

One of her colleagues, Jones added, believes that the Yucaipa event might have been an aftershock of the Anza quake.

But Jones' husband, Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson, is skeptical, arguing that the temblors were too small and too far apart to have been connected.

"But as you can see, some people disagree with me," he said with a laugh.

Fellow Caltech seismologist Thomas Heaton also believes that the two quakes may well have been just a coincidence.

There is general agreement that the Southern California quakes were not connected to the ones in Northern California, mainly because of the distance between them.

Another question arising from the quake cluster is whether these temblors make a massive quake more likely.

It has long been held that earthquakes relieve pressure on fault lines, potentially decreasing the threat of a massive quake.

But experts said it was not that simple.

Heaton believes that the quakes last week were too small to significantly reduce stress on major faults.

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New Data Confirms Strong Earthquake Risk to Central U.S.
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Senior Writer
posted: 22 June 2005

A colossal earthquake that caused damage from South Carolina to Washington D.C. and temporarily reversed the course of the Mississippi River nearly two centuries ago could be repeated within the next 50 years, scientists said today.

Strain is building on a fault near Memphis, Tennessee that was the site of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in 1812, according to new observations that settle a debate on the risk of another huge quake.

The odds of another 8.0 event within 50 years are between 7 and 10 percent, geologists said today. The assessment, based on new data from a recently installed array of sensors, puts to rest a 1990s claim that strain was not increasing.

Such a strong earthquake would rock the entire eastern half of the country and prove devastating to the local region. A lesser but still damaging quake of magnitude 6 or greater has a 90 percent chance of striking in the next five decades.

The new study, detailed in the June 23 issue of the journal Nature, reveals a vexing characteristic of the fault that traverses the region. The ground moves more near the fault, creeping a few millimeters every year, than it does farther from it.

"I can't explain how the movement is driven," said study team member Michael Ellis, a geologist at the University of Memphis.

That lack of understanding makes the task of pinpointing when the next quake might hit even more challenging.

Repeating history

In a three-month period in 1811-12, three major earthquakes rattled a broad expanse of the United States, causing damage as far away as Charleston, South Carolina and even rattling nerves in Boston. The quakes triggered landslides into the Mississippi River and, according to some boaters who were not drowned, sent part of the river running the other direction for a time.

The earthquakes were centered around New Madrid, Missouri. They measured 8.1, 8.0 and 7.8 and represent three of the four strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the lower 48 states.

Over the past 12 years, geologists have found evidence for other prehistoric calamities along the New Madrid fault. Sandy soil in some areas became liquefied in past events, leaving telltale "sandblows" when the material was squished to the surface. This tendency for soil east of the Rockies to liquefy, along with other differences in geology, means earthquakes there pack more potential for damage and are felt over a much wider region than western temblors.

The sandblows indicate that three or possibly four earthquakes of magnitude 7.6 or better struck the region in the past 2,000 years, in addition to the incredible series of three in the early 1800s. [...]

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Tornadoes swirl around southwestern Alberta
Wednesday, June 22, 2005 Updated at 2:23 AM EDT
Canadian Press

Lethbridge, Alta. - Just days after heavy rains pummelled the area, severe weather again spawned tornadoes, hail and rain in southwestern Alberta.

Environment Canada reported several tornadoes were spotted near Vauxhall, Taber and Coalhurst on Tuesday.

There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Charmaine Weasel Fat said a tornado touched down in her father's field on the Blood reserve on Tuesday evening.

The funnel kicked up the dirt in the field, about 400 metres south of their home.

Ms. Weasel Fat and five other adults to grab the baby and leave the area.

"We just jumped in our vehicle and took off down the road," she said.

"You could see the dirt flying left and right and it was coming toward us. It was scary."

The funnel cloud came within six kilometres north of Taber, said Brad Mason, the town's emergency services director.

Vauxhall's fire chief Chuck Pozzo said if there was a tornado, it wasn't close to town.

He said he had no reports of damage.

"There was lots of hail, some the size of golf balls," he said. [...]

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100,000 forced to leave homes as flood toll rises
June 23, 2005 - REUTERS

China has evacuated 100,000 residents of a southern city to escape a swollen river in one of three provinces where heavy rains have triggered landslides and floods killing more than 44 people.

Floodwaters forced the mass evacuation overnight of residents in low-lying areas of the industrial city of Wuzhou, where the Xijiang river had reached 25.74 meters by Tuesday night, more than eight meters higher than the warning level, state media said.

Notices on the mass evacuation were posted on walls, warning sirens blared in the dark of night and Wuzhou residents began to load up cars, trucks and carts with valuables and flee the area for higher ground.

"In the face of these floods, the attitude of the government is to make sure that no one is killed,'' Ren Kuikang, chief of the Wuzhou flood control and drought relief office, told state television.

With much of the south now under threat, Premier Wen Jiabao urged local governments to step up the fight against the flooding, which kills hundreds in the country each summer and causes millions of yuan in damage to homes and crops.

Earlier this month, a flash flood swept through a low-lying primary school in northeastern Heilongjiang province, killing 117 people, 105 of them children.

Flooding in Guangxi had killed 24 people and left 23 missing, Xinhua said, citing provincial flood control officials.

More than 330,000 people had been evacuated to higher ground in the region, where the flooding has caused 1.67 billion yuan (HK$1.57 billion) in economic losses, damaged 328,000 hectares of crops and toppled more than 20,000 houses, it said.

Flooding damaged another 50,000 houses regionwide.

Authorities had expected the Xijiang river, which has risen at a rate of 10 centimeters per hour, to peak Wednesday night at a hydrographic station in Wuzhou.

Heavy rains have killed nine people since Saturday in Guangdong, where a landslide disrupted traffic on a rail line linking the mainland with Hong Kong, Xinhua said.

Rainstorms in eastern Guangdong caused cave-ins on part of the Beijing-Kowloon railway line, forcing dozens of trains to either delay or turn back while repairs were made, it said.

Water levels on two other rivers in Guangxi - the Qianjiang and Xunjiang - were above warning levels and the province had suffered nearly US$45 million (HK$351 million) in economic losses as of Monday due to the recent deluges, Xinhua said.

While the south is suffering a deluge, much of northern China is sweating through a heat wave, which has driven temperatures to nearly 40 degrees in Beijing and convinced the southwestern city of Chongqing to open air raid shelters to provide shady relief.

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Lightning Strikes Near Old Faithful Geyser, Injuring 11
POSTED: 8:26 am EDT June 22, 2005

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. -- Lightning struck near a boardwalk Tuesday where a crowd had gathered to watch an eruption of the Old Faithful Geyser, injuring 11 people, one seriously.

The lightning bolt hit the ground in front of the geyser, near the Old Faithful Visitor Center, said park spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews. It did not strike anyone directly.

The most badly injured was a 12-year-old boy. Two doctors and a nurse were among the visitors and resuscitated him, and he was flown to a hospital in Idaho Falls.

The other 10 people were cared for at the scene, Matthews said.
The lightning was part of an intense mid-afternoon storm that also produced heavy rain and hail.

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Snow closes 5 camps in Yosemite for summer
Wed, Jun. 22, 2005
By Glennda Chui
Mercury News

Five popular High Sierra camps in Yosemite National Park will remain closed all summer because of heavy snow, which is still piled up to 15 feet deep, the park announced Tuesday.

It's only the second time since 1916 that the camps have not been able to open, according to a spokeswoman for the concession company that operates them. The first was in the El Niño year of 1996.

The closing does not affect campgrounds on the Yosemite Valley floor, where most park visitors stay. But it is a blow to the more than 4,300 hikers who won High Sierra camp reservations in an annual lottery. [...]

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California Wildfires Force Evacuations
Jun 23, 5:49 AM (ET)

MORONGO VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - The first major wildfire of the summer raced across more than 5,500 acres of tinder-dry desert brush, destroying at least seven homes, threatening hundreds of others and sending residents of this sparsely populated Mojave Desert community fleeing for their lives.

A second fire, about 35 miles away, burned across more than 2,000 acres but did not threaten any structures, authorities said. The larger blaze started when a single home went up in flames Wednesday afternoon and those flames quickly spread into nearby desert brush and tall field grass.

Elsewhere, fire crews fought back fast-moving flames approaching Arizona communities near the Tonto National Forest. Two lightning-sparked brush fires blackened 12,500-acres, forcing the evacuation of 175 people from homes in the area. No injuries were reported. [...]

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Heat, Drought Back Haunting Europe On First Day Of Summer
(AFP) Jun 21, 2005

Paris - With tens of thousands of deaths in a sizzling summer of 2003 still fresh on people's minds, Europe suffered in a new heat wave Tuesday, the first day of summer, while farmers warned of a historic drought.

In Paris, the health ministry ordered authorities in three counties to activate their heat wave plans after they were informed that "the current wave could present a health risk for the population as of June 21."

Record temperatures for mid-June have been registered in northern France, with the thermometer registering 35.7 degrees Celsius (97 F) on the outskirts of Paris Monday.

The heat has already killed a 41-year-old marathon runner who died in hospital after collapsing during the 24th kilometer (15th mile) of a race at the picturesque Mont Saint Michel in Normandy on Sunday.

Also worried were farmers in Portugal, where rising temperatures are likely to worsen an already stinging drought - the worse the country has seen in 60 years.

According to the national water institute, as of mid-June 50 percent of mainland Portugal is suffering from extreme drought, and another 30 percent is witnessing a "severe" drought. [...]

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Lack of rain keeping Texas as dry as Dust Bowl days
June 22, 2005, 1:59PM

Severe drought state could occur within 2 weeks

June, at least according to the Specialty Tea Institute, is National Iced Tea Month.

Unfortunately, that's about the only thirst-quenching thing going for a month that's been so dry only a flood insurer could love it.

Indeed, with no more rain this month - and chances are close to nil for at least the next several days - Houston would set a record for the driest June since annual data collection began in 1889.

At Bush Intercontinental Airport just 0.08 inches have fallen, about the thickness of a nickel. The record for June is 0.12 inches, set in 1934 during the Dust Bowl era.

And although it hasn't been the hottest month ever, daily highs and lows have been, on average, 2 or 3 degrees above normal for the region. [...]

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Shark kills seven-year-old New Zealand girl in Vanuatu
23 June 2005 0926 hrs - AFP/de

WELLINGTON : A seven-year-old New Zealand girl was killed by a shark while swimming off a beach in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, New Zealand's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Alysha Margaret Webster was killed off Malekula Island in northern Vanuatu on Wednesday, the ministry said. She had been in Vanuatu with her family on a yachting holiday.

The family, who did not wish to speak to the media, was returning home to Whitianga, in the North Island of New Zealand.

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Landslide on Crimean beach kills teenager, traps others
(AFP) Jun 21, 2005

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine - A landslide on a beach in southern Ukraine Tuesday killed at least one teenager, officials said, as rescuers searched for others feared trapped underneath.

The landslide occurred around noon (0900 GMT) on a city beach in Sebastopol in the Crimea, when some 600 cubic meters (21,000 cubic feet) of soil came crashing down onto the beach below, a spokesman for the emergencies ministry told AFP.

One person was killed as a result, said a top Sebstopol city official.

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New storm returns cross lost to Hurricane Ivan in Panhandle
Jun 20, 12:26 PM EDT

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- A foot-tall cross washed away from a ground-floor condominium unit during Hurricane Ivan's storm surge last September was washed back ashore when Tropical Storm Arlene hit the Panhandle earlier this month.

As Island Echoes condominium workers watched Arlene roll in June 11, they noticed an object that had been swept in by the oncoming water.

"I looked down and said, 'Pick up the cross,' " recalled general manager Phyllis Shanks.

For all she knew the cross could have come from anywhere, but a closer look showed "1E" inscribed on the bottom of its pedestal. Shanks then suspected it must have come from the Island Echoes because other nearby condos number their units differently.

Unit owners Dean and Ruth Lindsey, of Carmel, Ind., were stunned when they got an e-mail from Shanks about the cross being found.

"It was amazing," Ruth Lindsey said. "It's the most miraculous thing I've ever seen."

The couple leave it in the condo when they return to Indiana after spending the winter in the Florida Panhandle and will do so again. They say summer tourists who rent the unit are respectful of it.

"Maybe that cross will protect us," Ruth Lindsey said. "We just assumed everything was gone. All the furniture (in the condo) was smashed against the wall."

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Police nab bank robbery suspect
By Käri Knutson | Winona Daily News

Bank robbers usually try to conceal their identity, but according to Winona police, that wasn't the case Saturday.

Police say a man walked into Fortress Bank, 225 Lafayette St., at 9:52 a.m. and handed a teller a note that said, "Hi, I am Thomas Mason."

The note went on to demand $1,000 in $100 and $20 bills and that he would, "kill everyone in the bank if he had to come back with weapon in hand," police reports said.

The teller gave the man the money and the suspect left. Bank employees saw him go to Midtown Foods, police said. The employees then continued to watch the Midtown Foods entrance until police arrived.

Police searched Midtown but couldn't find the suspect.

At 10:14 a.m., Officer Chris Stark found a man matching the description of the robber behind Third Street Liquor. The man was drinking beer from a case he'd just purchased from the liquor store and scratching off the $100 worth of lottery tickets he'd purchased from Midtown Foods.

According to Stark's report, when he approached, the man said, "I think I am the guy you want."

The man is identified as Thomas Eugene Mason, 37, of 252 W. Seventh St.

Stark patted him down and found $813 cash and the note but no weapon.

Mason is being charged with aggravated robbery and terrorist threats and is being held at the Winona County Jail. His past criminal history includes a theft conviction.

The incident was captured on the bank's security tape.

"He's not a career bank robber," said Sgt. Chris Nelson. "He certainly makes the list of dumbest criminals."

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Therapy for the Energy Secretary

Boy it must be fun to be in the Bush cabinet. Take today’s Presidential trip to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant, for example. Energy secretary Samuel Bodman (who?) joined Bush on the exciting trip and here is how his boss paid him back:

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate the Secretary of Energy joining me today. He's a good man, he knows a lot about the subject, you'll be pleased to hear. I was teasing him -- he taught at MIT, and -- do you have a PhD?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, a PhD. (Laughter.) Now I want you to pay careful attention to this -- he's the PhD, and I'm the C student, but notice who is the advisor and who is the President.

Yipee! Take a field trip and have your ego smashed. Ain’t it great fun? The Army should try this to get its recruitment numbers up: "Now I want you to pay careful attention to this -- he's the soldier, I'm the one who avoided active service, but look who's sending people to die?" — FRED BECKER

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