Thursday, July 14, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Belief Systems
Signs of the Times Commentary

Looking back over the history of the monotheistic religions, one could make a pretty good case for the argument that:

  1. They are systems of control used to manipulate groups of people within societies;
  2. They are systems of control used to provoke hatred between peoples who worship different aspects of the overall monotheistic theology;
  3. They discourage independent thought and critical thinking;
  4. They encourage ritualistic behaviour the real meaning of which has been lost and is not understood by the practitioner;
  5. They have taken whatever germ of spiritual truth they may have had initially and crushed it;
  6. Their impact on human life is overwhelmingly negative.

The foundation of the monotheistic religions are the books of the Jews, works that are claimed to be the word of God himself, but which were more likely to have been artfully cobbled together from various sources during the exile in Babylon to give a common history to disparate tribes. No archaeological work has ever uncovered anything in the way of remains of the supposed Temple of Solomon, nor does it show Jerusalem of the Davidic epoch to be anything more than a "typical hill country village" during the period ascribed to David. You can be certain that both Jewish and Christian archaeologists have been spending years looking for such hard evidence because so much is riding on the find, but they have found nothing to confirm the glorious tales of David and Solomon as told in the Bible.

If the historical veracity of the great kingdom of David goes down the drain, the rest of the Bible goes with it. But the Temple is not the only historical problem.

The story of Moses and the slavery of the Jews in Egypt appears to have been a rewriting of events that occurred during the time of Akhenaton, perhaps mixed with the history of an exodus from Egypt that occurred much earlier. The curious result of accepting the Bible as history is that it is then used to date Egyptian dynasties, usually by Christians from Europe who had a vested interest in making Egyptian history fit the "Biblical record". As result of this, the dating of the reign of Akhenaton is several hundred years after it is most likely that he lived. Events of Akhenaton's rule appear to us to match the period of the eruption of Thera on the island of Santorini which has been dated to 1628 BC. For more information on these topics, we refer you to The Secret History of the World by Laura Knight-Jadczyk.

The Old Testament is not history, it is fantasy. What about the history of Jesus? Was there an historical figure from Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans, whose story is accurately recounted in the Gospels?

No.

Textual analysis of the gospels shows us that they were put together at different times and for different audiences. They were based upon an earlier document, known as Q, that collected the sayings of a Cynic-like teacher. The earliest documents mention nothing of the crucifixion, nothing of the life of the man behind the teachings. That story, in other words, "the historical Jesus", was put together much, much later, and there exists no historical evidence from the period that would independently confirm the gospel stories. All we have to go on are the religious texts of Christianity itself, which as we have seen from the Jewish texts, are being promoted by people with a vested interest in the outcome of the debate.

Islam claims to be a further development of the same tradition. Yet if the historical basis for the first two have been shown to be invalid, then the religion of the sons and daughters of Ishmael is also deprived of its foundations. All three appeal to a divine source, a source that cannot be put into question by mere mortals. Their authority rests upon this divine source and the belief that the texts are literally "the word of God". The literal believers of the Word of God, be it the Judaic, the Christian, or the Islamic, are put into a corner because modern archaeological and textual research have removed the foundations of their belief systems, and we know what happens when someone is backed into a corner and is given no way out. They will fight to the death to preserve themselves. And since each version of monotheism invalidates its predecessor, they must fight each other as well as that modern demon, secular society.

There is something about our root systems of belief, and this extends beyond religion to the modern, rational forms of belief such as humanism, or certain forms of belief in science or even democracy, that they seem to us both self-evident and unquestionable. To question the basis of our beliefs is to put ourselves as individuals into question because we identify so strongly with them. A fervent evangelical Christian could no more put this system of ideas and beliefs into question than could the Pope, the settlers in the occupied territories killing Palestinians to steal their land, an imam in a Moslem country, or Richard Dawkins at his desk at Oxford.

However, we see that these beliefs are constantly under attack because the mere existence of another system claiming the same status as final arbiter of behaviour, custom, and thought, and therefore, of identity, is a threat. There can only be one absolutist position, one place at the top of the pyramid, one boss. Therefore, the true believer must draw around himself a line in the sand that circumscribes Truth, within which stand the faithful, and outside of which are found the pagan, the heathen, the non-believer. Here we find a second level of identification, a negative form of "all that I am not" whereby one takes all attributes of "good" and "holy" for oneself and assigns the opposite attributes to the Other, to those outside of the circle. Having done this calculation, it is then very easy for the believer to be manipulated into believing that the Other is less-than-human. Such demonisation is necessary during periods of conflict and war. When the two sides have thoroughly demonised the opponent, they will stop at nothing, no humiliation, no form of torture or brutality, because inflicting such punishment is a way to reinforce one's own specialness.

This process is repeated by each and every member of any absolutist belief structure, which means just about every person on the face of the planet. No wonder things are such a mess.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the rise of rationalism in the West, the religious structure began to be replaced by the scientific mindset which displaced the Earth from the centre of the universe, posited the existence of other worlds in the Cosmos, and proposed that mankind, rather than being created in the physical image of God, was the result of a long process of evolution from simpler forms of life. The Word of God as transcribed in the Bible was put into question. Identification with national structures became more and more pronounced, so that one's nationality took precedence over one's common religious affiliations in many Western countries. To reconcile the religious and the national, politicians would claim that God was on their side. Many Jews continue to place their tribal or religious affiliation before their national identity, while among the Arabs, there is still a strong pan-Arab sentiment that is closely tied in with Islam.

Against the modern way of structuring the world arose the first forms of modern Christian fundamentalism, an attempt to return to the old days of certainty and unquestionable rules, coupled with the fervent belief that no matter the trials and tribulations in the here and now, there was a better world awaiting in the hereafter for those who maintained their faith in the face of their earthly suffering.

In Arab countries, the existence of corrupt, secular states that were beholden to Western interests laid the groundwork for the rise of calls to a return to traditional Islam, or the return to Islamic law, the Sharia. Here, religious, national, and pan-Arabic structures all come into play because with globalisation, Western customs are imposed, in this case, with appeals to the divinity of "the market", and traditional ways of life, which may only be tangentially linked with Islam, are lost. This interweaving of different levels heightens the tensions. The ruthless use of force on the part of Israel, the United States, and their allies in imposing the belief structures of "the market", Judaism, or Christianity on the Arab and Muslim people calls forth a resistance. This reaction is normal and quite mechanical. Newton described it in his third law of dynamics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When one body exerts a force on another, the second body exerts on the first a force of equal magnitude in the opposite direction. We should therefore not be surprised that there is a reaction on the part of Muslims to the modern Crusade launched by Bush and his neocon friends.

As this reaction is easily predictable, the next step is for the aggressor to seek to control it. We know that American intelligence agencies were in Afghanistan while the Russians were there, supporting the Islamic "freedom fighters". This was, of course, before these same people became "terrorists" after the Russians were expelled. There are sites that offer evidence that British intelligence has long been connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. None of this should be surprising. It simply makes sense from a strategic point of view for the occupier to infiltrate and seek to manipulate the resistance.

While we may appear to have moved away from our initial discussion on religion, it should be clear that religion is a powerful motivator because it appeals to absolutes. Things are always all or nothing. One is saved or one is not. One is a believer, or one is an infidel. It is a zero-sum game where only one player can win, and every gain for one player means a loss for another player.

Clearly, the only way out of this impasse is to get rid of such belief structures altogether, but as they are so tightly bound with our ideas of who we are, as they are the foundations of all we think and believe, the work of rooting them out can only take place one individual at a time. Such work cannot be imposed on anyone because it would then become nothing more than the replacement of one structure by another, based upon an appeal to the authority of the one with the power to impose it. Rooting out belief structures must be done by each of us, at our own speed, motivated by an internal drive to be free. Only then can we put our basic assumptions into question. A group of like-minded individuals is also necessary because we often are blind to the deepest of our beliefs. They are so "self-evident" that we don't see them. But, here again, the group is not there to impose its point of view. It exists to help us free ourselves and find the answers for ourselves, or to be able to admit where there is not enough data in hand to come to a response and so the answer must be held in abeyance.

Such a liberatory structure is more a method than a system of answers because any answer has the potential to be revised when new data arrives. Furthermore, the more we learn, the more we learn how to learn so the method itself is open to constant improvement. In short, nothing is fixed except the direction we wish to move. When we start, we may not even know enough to have more than an intuition of what the destination is like. We do not have the knowledge to judge it or to know it in detail beforehand.

But of one thing we can be certain from observation: the monotheistic religions are traps. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are walls we erect within us to keep us apart and above others on the ladder of power. Whatever spiritual truths they hold come from a far older tradition, one that encouraged people to see the world objectively and free from the type of all-encompassing explanatory and belief structures these religions have become. It is likely that these religions arose in opposition to this older tradition, as means of co-opting it and turning its deeper, spiritual truths into a tool for power in the material world.

The first step to the spiritual life is the renunciation all forms of belief systems, and that includes religion.

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The NASA hacker: Scapegoat or public enemy?
Colin Barker
ZDNet UK
July 13, 2005, 13:35 BST

Gary McKinnon has a lot to worry about. His job prospects are bleak. He will shortly have to leave his home in North London and could be facing up to 70 years in a US federal prison - a prospect that terrifies him.

His actions have been well recorded. Over a period of years he managed to bypass the security of what should be the most sophisticated IT systems on the planet, many of which belong to the US Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA.

That was back in 2002 and he has already been investigated thoroughly by the legal authorities in this country and released without charge. No one in the UK justice system considered him a threat. But the slow-working cogs of the US legal system have finally clicked into action leaving him hanging in limbo awaiting an extradition hearing later this month.

The unemployed UFO enthusiast was, metaphorically speaking, able to walk right in, look around and make himself at home in what are supposedly some of the most secure systems in the world. Although breaking into the DoD required a combination of ingenuity and hours of mindless drudgery, ultimately it was the "dangerously lax IT systems" that made it possible, he claims. And as for the "minor" damage to the systems concerned, it was not deliberate but happened accidentally while he was trying to cover his tracks.

Mckinnon, now 39, admits that there was a period of his life when he was "addicted" to computers. It threatened his life, his health and his relationships at the time, but he couldn't leave them alone.

His interest in IT was sparked, as it was for many others, by an interest in science, science fiction and the unknown. It was the search for proof of extraterrestrial life and a potential cover-up around the events of 11 September, 2001, that led him to the restricted government sites to begin with.

His story raises some critical issues around the rights of British citizens accused of committing a crime in the US, the state of IT security internationally and the possible existence of antigravity technology in a US military establishment.

Q: Why do you think the US authorities behaved the way they did, with an extradition order?
A :Well, the reason they give is that I, on my own, closed down the entire metro district of Washington for a few days, including a weapons station, which I dispute. My thing was being quiet and not being seen and getting the information out. And also, when I was there, you do a NetStat routine and you see all the other connections to that machine and there is a permanent weakness for foreign hackers because their security is not even lax, it is non-existent. You wouldn't believe it.

They might claim that by installing a remote control program, I opened them [the systems] up, but the access was already there. I didn't even have to crack passwords.

What about the damage you are said to have caused?
What they call damage is really just them realising that they have been accessed without authorisation. Then they say things like I deleted 300 users, deleted systems files and such. That was one instance when I did a batch file to clean up all my stuff. I think once and only once, though perhaps I ran it on the root drive of the "c:" drive. But it certainly wasn't every machine I was on and, if you believe them, they talk about 94 networks being damaged.

Surely all the data was backed up anyway?
Well, it should be and it should be behind a firewall, and the local administrator should not have a blank password. Take one defence computer where they use image-based installation techniques where most of the machines have the same BIOS, the same hard drive, the same hardware specification and you just whack it out across the systems. Unfortunately for them, the local system administrator's password was blank. So you don't even need to become the domain administrator. That's 5,000 machines all with a blank system level administrator password. To be fair to them, as I got deeper into it they closed me down pretty quickly.

Did it worry you, this lack of protection for systems?
I was always very frightened when I realised there were always other people from all over the world on there. These were like foreign ISPs, routinely going through things. It is very worrying that it is the world's only superpower and it is that easy to breach security.

What were you doing prior to the most recent arrest?
I wanted to get the trailing documentation to screw the Americans. I looked at things and I didn't like what I was seeing. They talk about the war on terror and meanwhile they are training people in torture techniques, breaking and entering and close-quarter fighting and these are all little South American dictatorships. And then there is the humanist angle of anti-gravity technology and the 9/11 thing, but that didn't get very far.

Was your main motivation the search for extra-terrestrials?
That is how it started off and it then grew into suspicions about 9/11, because there are hundreds of unanswered questions about 9/11, the dragging away of all the forensics evidence, and the sale of all the concrete and steel to China. Even the firemen of New York organised their own web site to complain that this isn't a proper process. Then there are the schools for terrorists run by America to help Latin-American dictatorships and stuff.

So when you were searching for extraterrestrial life how did you feel about it? Was it just fun?
It was mainly very, very boring. You had to trawl through so much and bear in mind that it wasn't publicly accessible Web sites, it was all private military Web sites. So it was about logistics, support and, basically, as soon as I controlled a network I ran a file-searching program looking for keywords in files. So it was exciting every time you did turn up something, which only happened a few times, that was very exciting. I called it research, but it is a bit of a misnomer really.

Was the fun part just in being where you are not supposed to be?
Yes. There is a definite illicit thrill that didn't last very long. The issues around the UFO thing, as I discovered more and learned more, became much more serious. Eventually it became all about the issue of suppressed technology. I know for a fact that they have antigravity and the basic quantum-physical mechanics of having antigravity imply a free source of energy, getting energy direct from the vacuum. Now to me that would stop all the wars over oil. It would help fight famine and with irrigation. It would be free energy and that is a huge thing.

So the US has have developed an antigravity device?
Yes. Recently, I think two years ago, Boeing Aerospace announced that they were putting $50m (£28m) into investigating antigravity research. For me, the timing was interesting because I think it is something they already have, but it's not general knowledge and if they were caught they would probably say that it was renegade factions high-up in NASA, high-up in the military and high-up in commerce.

How do you come across these things? Is information on antigravity devices freely available?
Some of it is but it is a combination of what is freely available and what isn't. Take the Disclosure Project which is a Washington lobbyist group run by Steven Greer, a military doctor, and he had 300 testimonials in his book from people, ranging from civilian air traffic controllers to ex-commanders-in-chief of NATO, all saying 'yes, UFOs exist, yes certain parts of the military know about this, and have this and are using the technology and implementing a trickle-down thing so that eventually the technology will be everywhere.'

How does the possibility of being extradited to the US make you feel?
Better than I was the first time around [the 2002 case], although it is very similar. I had lots of work lined up which was Internet-related - computer games testing - and I have lost that because of my bail conditions. My landlord wants me out, because of all the press and police attention we had so it is a bit of a rerun of 2002. Lost the flat, lost the work but I managed to keep the girlfriend this time. For a few days it was very dark but I am feeling quite up now because we have been talking to [Conservative MP] Boris Johnson who is leading a Parliamentary Early Day Motion against the 2003 Extradition Act along with the Enron Three [three British bankers who are also facing extradition to the US] - or the NatWest Three as they like to be called now. So together we are trying to get a judicial review going and change the law.

So what is the official position?
I asked my solicitor why the CPS had taken my case away from the UK police and handed it to the US. She was speaking to someone who was fairly high up and he said that it had gone way above his head. Reading between the lines, that means the Home Office.

Is that a good thing?
No. It almost sounds like a done deal to me. The fact that I am not alone is encouraging. We are getting nearly 70 MPs signed up to the early-day motion.

Have you had much response, or help, from the hacker community?
I never really mixed with the hacker community, if you can call them that. In fact, after all of this happened back in 2002, some of them contacted me but they are not really hackers. In fact they are all professionals, but they used to hack, and they are very good and they are a knowledgeable lot. Some know about the law, some know forensic computing, and there has been a good bit of support there. In fact, the Free Gary Web site came from one of those people.

A Web site you are not allowed to use, of course, because of your bail conditions?
Right, I have to collect printouts of my emails and stuff. Which is silly as I have been free to use the Internet for three years, although I haven't actually had my own Internet account.

For more information see:

The Free Gary McKinnon web-site

The charges against McKinnon

The Disclosure Project

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Fire and Bomb Resistant IDs in London
Kurt Nimmo
Wednesday July 13th 2005, 12:44 pm

Cockamamie. No other way to describe it. The Boston Herald tells us the “terrorists” (possible patsies) in London “were all carrying personal documents” because “they wanted their identities to be known,” according to the Times of London. You’d think if this was indeed the case the “terrorists” (patsies) would have sent a statement to the newspapers, put a message on the internet, done something to leave a mark. Nope. Instead they left behind their IDs and such. Now a normal person would have big problems with this scenario, mostly because any documents on the bodies of the alleged suicide bombers would be incinerated or blown to smithereens. But miraculously, like Mohammed Atta’s passport found in the smoldering rubble of the WTC (and in nearly pristine condition), the “personal documents” of the native-born Pakistani heritage suicide bombers were found in the wreckage. It’s sort of like the Magic Bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland Hospital shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy. Point is, if people are stupid enough—or intellectually lazy enough—to believe this obvious nonsense they probably deserve what the neocon world order has in mind for them: a repressive police state, endless war (donating of first born will be mandatory), and an ever sliding standard of living as the neolibs take over the planet and turn it into a cheap labor gulag.

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THE TEACHER BOMBER
Sky News
Last Updated: 07:56 UK, Thursday July 14, 2005

One of the bombers who brought carnage to London taught disabled children, it has emerged.

Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, of Dewsbury, was a supply teaching assistant who taught disabled children in Beeston, it has been revealed.

A picture of him carried on the front page of The Times shows the bearded bomber caring for young children at the school.

The news came as police told Sky News they were hunting a fifth man involved in the plot to kill 52 people in Britain's first suicide strikes.

Sky News' crime correspondent Martin Brunt said: "Police have to assume that there were others working with these four."

The Times reported that the mastermind of the attacks was a Pakistani in his 30s who arrived through a British port last month but left a day before the bombings.

Detectives are piecing together the lives of the suicide bombers - four home-grown young men.

Three of the four bombers are believed to be Shehzad Tanweer, 22, of Leeds, Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, of Dewsbury, and Hasib Hussain, 19, of Leeds.

A fourth man from Yorkshire has been identified by police but not yet named.

He is believed to have been on the train which was devastated near Russell Square Tube station and is thought to be a friend of the other three suspects.

Bashir Ahmed, 65, the uncle of Shehzad Tanweer, said: "The family is shattered. This is a terrible thing."

Mr Ahmed said it was hard for the family to accept their son had caused such loss of life, adding: "It wasn't him. It must have been forces behind him."

Meanwhile, police have raided homes in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Brunt said police had received a tip-off that they might find explosives in a home.

In other related news:

:: Italy has arrested and is questioning 174 Islamic extremists.

:: It is thought that the explosives originated in the Balkans, where it is possible to buy the material on the black market after the Balkan wars.

:: The entire European Union will hold two minutes' silence at noon tomorrow in response to last week's London terror attacks.

:: Security services fear there could still be a second suicide bomb team waiting to strike and that any al Qaeda mastermind may have already fled the country.

:: Police are now focusing efforts on Leeds, where homes have been raided, and Luton, where two cars thought to have been used by the suspects were found.

:: A house being searched by police in Leeds was being used as an operational base for the suspected bombers, according to a local MP.

:: One of the men had been reported missing by his mother after the attacks, apparently worried he may have been caught in the tragedy.

:: Friends of another man said he had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan within the last six months, prompting fears he may have attended an al Qaeda training camp.

:: A relative of one of the men was arrested in West Yorkshire and is being quizzed by the anti-terrorist branch after police were given more time to question him "on suspicion of the commission, instigation or preperation of acts of Terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000".

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It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq

Tony Blair put his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power
Seumas Milne
The Guardian
Thursday July 14, 2005

In the grim days since last week's bombing of London, the bulk of Britain's political class and media has distinguished itself by a wilful and dangerous refusal to face up to reality. Just as it was branded unpatriotic in the US after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington to talk about the link with American policy in the Middle East, so those who have raised the evident connection between the London atrocities and Britain's role in Iraq and Afghanistan have been denounced as traitors. And anyone who has questioned Tony Blair's echo of George Bush's fateful words on September 11 that this was an assault on freedom and our way of life has been treated as an apologist for terror.

But while some allowance could be made in the American case for the shock of the attacks, the London bombings were one of the most heavily trailed events in modern British history. We have been told repeatedly since the prime minister signed up to Bush's war on terror that an attack on Britain was a certainty - and have had every opportunity to work out why that might be. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq wars, there has been a string of authoritative warnings about the certain boost it would give to al-Qaida-style terror groups. The only surprise was that the attacks were so long coming.

But when the newly elected Respect MP George Galloway - who might be thought to have some locus on the subject, having overturned a substantial New Labour majority over Iraq in a London constituency with a large Muslim population - declared that Londoners had paid the price of a "despicable act" for the government's failure to heed those warnings, he was accused by defence minister Adam Ingram of "dipping his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood". Yesterday, the Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy was in the dock for a far more tentative attempt to question this suffocating consensus. Even Ken Livingstone, who had himself warned of the danger posed to London by an invasion of Iraq, has now claimed the bombings were nothing to do with the war - something he clearly does not believe.

A week on from the London outrage, this official otherworldliness is once again in full flood, as ministers and commentators express astonishment that cricket-playing British-born Muslims from suburbia could have become suicide bombers, while Blair blames an "evil ideology". The truth is that no amount of condemnation of evil and self-righteous resoluteness will stop terror attacks in the future. Respect for the victims of such atrocities is supposed to preclude open discussion of their causes in the aftermath - but that is precisely when honest debate is most needed.

The wall of silence in the US after the much greater carnage of 9/11 allowed the Bush administration to set a course that has been a global disaster. And there is little sense in London that the official attitude reflects the more uncertain mood on the streets. There is every need for the kind of public mourning that will take place in London today, along with concerted action to halt the backlash against Muslim Britons that claimed its first life in Nottingham at the weekend. But it is an insult to the dead to mislead people about the crucial factors fuelling this deadly rage in Muslim communities across the world.

The first piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that al-Qaida and its supporters have no demands that could possibly be met or negotiated over; that they are really motivated by a hatred of western freedoms and way of life; and that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination. The reality was neatly summed up this week in a radio exchange between the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, and its security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was left disabled by an al-Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia last year. Was it the "very diversity, that melting pot aspect of London" that Islamist extremists found so offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's capital, Marr wondered. "No, it's not that," replied Gardner briskly, who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. "What they find offensive are the policies of western governments and specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim lands, notably Iraq and Afghanistan."

The central goal of the al-Qaida-inspired campaign, as its statements have regularly spelled out, is the withdrawal of US and other western forces from the Arab and Muslim world, an end to support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and a halt to support for oil-lubricated despots throughout the region. Those are also goals that unite an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere and give al-Qaida and its allies the chance to recruit and operate - in a way that their extreme religious conservatism or dreams of restoring the medieval caliphate never would. As even Osama bin Laden asked in his US election-timed video: if it was western freedom al-Qaida hated, "Why do we not strike Sweden?"

The second disinformation line peddled by government supporters since last week's bombings is that the London attacks had nothing to do with Iraq. The Labour MP Tony Wright insisted that such an idea was "not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense". Blair has argued that, since the 9/11 attacks predated the Iraq war, outrage at the aggression could not have been the trigger. It's perfectly true that Muslim anger over Palestine, western-backed dictatorships and the aftermath of the 1991 war against Iraq - US troops in Arabia and a murderous sanctions regime against Iraq - was already intense before 2001 and fuelled al-Qaida's campaign in the 1990s. But that was aimed at the US, not Britain, which only became a target when Blair backed Bush's war on terror. Afghanistan made a terror attack on Britain a likelihood; Iraq made it a certainty.

We can't of course be sure of the exact balance of motivations that drove four young suicide bombers to strike last Thursday, but we can be certain that the bloodbath unleashed by Bush and Blair in Iraq - where a 7/7 takes place every day - was at the very least one of them. What they did was not "home grown", but driven by a worldwide anger at US-led domination and occupation of Muslim countries.

The London bombers were to blame for attacks on civilians that are neither morally nor politically defensible. But the prime minister - who was warned by British intelligence of the risks in the run-up to the war - is also responsible for knowingly putting his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power. The security crackdowns and campaign to uproot an "evil ideology" the government announced yesterday will not extinguish the threat. Only a British commitment to end its role in the bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to do that.

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U.S. Seeks to Firm Up Terrorist Sanctions
By NICK WADHAMS
Associated Press
Wed Jul 13, 9:37 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS - The United States on Wednesday moved to strengthen U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban, circulating a draft resolution that would spell out in far greater detail those who could be punished.

U.N. sanctions currently require all 191 U.N. member states to impose a travel ban and arms embargo against those "associated with"
Osama bin Laden's terror network and the former Afghan rulers and to freeze their financial assets.

The resolution dedicates almost half a page to better defining those groups and individuals who should fall under the sanctions regime. Among other things, they would include those who helped finance, plan or otherwise support al-Qaida, bin Laden, the Taliban "or any cell, affiliate, splinter group or derivative thereof."

"We felt it was important to clarify who was covered by the definition of 'those associated with Osama ban Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban,'" U.S. mission spokesman Richard Grenell said.

Grenell said the definition will help close loopholes that have allowed some terror suspects to go unpunished. It's hard to say when the resolution will come up for a vote; it could be a few days or as much as a couple of weeks.

Earlier this year, a U.N. team investigating compliance with the sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban found that bin Laden's followers still have easy access to bombmaking materials and money.

The report also noted that no member state reported a violation of the travel ban for the three years the sanctions had been in force - but it was "difficult to believe" no al-Qaida or Taliban member had crossed a national border.

The U.S. draft resolution would also set up a monitoring team to assess national efforts to implement sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban. The team would also help come up with ways to punish countries that willingly ignore the sanctions.

Third, the resolution would also share more information with two other U.N. committees: one that focuses on counterterrorism and one that deals with nuclear nonproliferation. It would also ask that the list of those under sanction be included in an Interpol database.

Comment: In other words, the US wants to change the rules so that when US leaders claim that some individual or group is associated with "al-Qaeda", the world will actually believe them. To make sure that other nations play along, a monitoring team will regularly check up on each country's efforts to pretend that "al-Qaeda" is real, and that the "evildoers" (read: normal folks like you and me) are "brought to justice" (read: tortured, detained indefinitely, and/or killed).

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Islamic cleric gets life in prison
By Debra Erdley and Betsy Hiel
Thursday, July 14, 2005

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Saying his words steered young men into terrorist training camps that are the lifeblood of a movement that plants bombs on subways and trains, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema sentenced an American Islamic scholar to life in prison Wednesday.

Ali al-Timimi, 42, of Fairfax, Va., who had ties to a now-defunct Pittsburgh-based magazine that advocated holy war, was convicted in a lengthy jury trial in federal court here last spring of recruiting a group of northern Virginia men to travel to Pakistan and train to take up arms for the Taliban. The men, who played paintball and went to shooting ranges to train for holy war, were dubbed the Virginia Paintball Jihad.

Before the trial, nine of al-Timimi's followers were convicted or pleaded guilty in the conspiracy prosecutors said grew in the shadow of the nation's capital in the days before 9/11 and blossomed on al-Timimi's advice in the week after the terrorist attacks.

Al-Timimi's conviction for soliciting treason and other charges marked the first post-9/11 trial in which the government won a terrorism verdict for actions tied to words designed to aid the enemy, rather than actual deeds such as providing money, equipment or engaging in combat.

Al-Timimi's name surfaced in Pittsburgh more than a decade ago. A scholar with an international following whose lectures still are sold on tape here and in England, al-Timimi was listed as a member of the advisory board of Assirat al-Mustaqeem, a militant Arabic language magazine that was published in Pittsburgh from 1991 through 2000.

Al-Timimi's attorneys, Edward MacMahon and Alan Yamamoto, characterized the scholar, who recently received a doctorate for work related to cancer research, as a gentle man of peace who had never been convicted of a crime or owned a weapon. They said he did nothing more than advise the young men to seek out a nation where they could practice Islam in safety.

They vowed to appeal the verdict, charging it was based on an anti-Muslim bias fueled by the unpopular sentiments on 10-year-old tapes of al-Timimi's lectures on Islam.

Brinkema took issue with those claims.

"This was not a case about speech. This was a case about intent. ... The real issue in this case was what the defendant intended by his speech," she said.

Brinkema said that prosecutor Gordon Kromberg specifically told jurors al-Timimi's sentiments did not represent Islam, but rather the beliefs of a small group within the faith.

She said testimony about a closed-door meeting between al-Timimi and his followers five days after 9/11 in which witnesses said al-Timimi urged them to aid the Taliban strongly supported the government's contention that there was indeed a scheme to aid the enemy.

Moreover, she said there is little argument that schools in Pakistan are used to "train people to go into subways, train stations and buildings and kill a great number of people."

Al-Timimi, who remained silent during his lengthy trial, told Brinkema yesterday he is innocent. He read a six-page statement, reciting the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and likening his trial to that of Aaron Burr, who served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson and was later tried and acquitted of treason. Finally, he compared himself to Socrates.

"I too like Socrates am accused and found guilty of nothing more than corrupting the youth and practicing a different religion than that of the majority," al-Timimi said. "Socrates was mercifully given a cup of hemlock. I was handed a life sentence."

As several women in head scarves, seated among his supporters, wiped tears from their eyes, the burly scholar, dressed in a business suit, identified himself as a prisoner of conscience and sat down.

Like Brinkema and the prosecutors, Evan Kohlman, a New York-based terrorism researcher and analyst who testified as an expert for the government, said the case had nothing to do with Islam.

"It has to do with a guy who incited a group of impressionable young people to go abroad to a terrorist training camp and get terrorist training in order to kill and maim civilians," Kohlman said yesterday.

None of al-Timimi's followers ever made it to Afghanistan. Several did leave the United States and train in terrorist camps in the mountains of Pakistan. They found themselves marooned there when the nation's mountain border with Afghanistan was closed as American soldiers routed the Taliban.

Brinkema conceded that life without parole for al-Timimi's seemingly removed role in the scheme might seem harsh, but said it's mandatory on one of the charges in his 10-count conviction, a weapons charge. The longest single sentence any of the other charges carried was 30 years in prison.

Reactions to the sentence were mixed among legal and civil rights experts.

Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio, Texas, applauded prosecutors.

"The government has to have the ability to pierce the veil of religion and get to what these guys are advocating, and that's murder, and that is not protected speech," Addicott said.

"This is a tragedy for all of us because it brought into question the sanctity of the First Amendment," said El-Hajj Mauri Sallakhan, of the Maryland-based Peace and Justice Foundation, an Islamic human rights organization

David Cole, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, characterized al-Timimi's sentence as overly harsh and said the case raises questions about the violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

Comment: The police state has just moved up another notch. This first case establishes a precedent. The teacher had students who went to Pakistan, and "we all know about Pakistan". There are other American soldiers of fortune who go off and fight for hire as soldiers of fortune. As there is no Islamic teacher guiding them, and they work for money, not religious ideology, the state leaves them alone. Hey, the state hires them!

But make no mistake, if it starts here, it will move to other cases where it will be the words alone that the authorities will say "comforted the enemy".

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U.N.: Uzbeks Troops to Fault in Uprising
By SAM CAGE
Associated Press
Tue Jul 12, 9:01 PM ET

GENEVA - Uzbekistan's security forces gave no warning before opening fire on demonstrators in May in an eastern city, the
United Nations said Tuesday, citing testimony of witnesses.

It demanded an international inquiry into "what amounted to a mass killing."

Uzbek opposition groups and human rights activists claim more than 700 people - mostly unarmed civilians - were killed on May 13 in Andijan. Uzbek authorities say fewer than 200 died and deny that government troops fired on unarmed civilians.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, reiterated a call for an independent investigation, and said the probe should establish what happened to the bodies.

"Grave human rights violations, mostly of the right to life, were committed by Uzbek military and security forces," the office of the High Commissioner said in a report compiled after a mission to neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbek forces did not try to use nonviolent methods before resorting to firearms, and failed to give a clear warning of their intent to fire, the report said.

"It is not excluded - as it was described by eyewitnesses interviewed - that the incidents amounted to a mass killing," the report said. [...]

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has blamed the violence on Islamic militants and rejected U.S. and other Western calls for an independent international inquiry.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the U.N. report added to other credible witness accounts of the shootings.

"Certainly the Uzbekistan government owes its citizens and owes the international community a serious, credible and independent investigation of these events," said the spokesman, Tom Casey.

The report also said there was urgent need for neighboring countries to halt deportations of Uzbek asylum seekers and Andijan witnesses back to their home, saying they would face the risk of torture if returned to Uzbekistan. [...]

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Poll suggests drop in Bush's personal credibility
Reuters
Thu Jul 14, 7:25 AM ET

WASHINGTON - President Bush's personal credibility appears to be eroding at a time when Iraq has become the top public priority and the White House is engulfed in controversy over senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, a poll released on Wednesday suggested.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed the percentage of Americans who believe Bush is "honest and straightforward" fell to 41 percent from 50 percent in January, while those who say they doubt his veracity climbed to 45 percent from 36 percent.

The telephone survey, which was conducted July 8-11 and included responses from 1,009 adults, also showed that Iraq has replaced jobs as the leading issue among Americans.

With a 3.1 percent margin of error, polling data said 40 percent see Iraq as the top priority for the United States, against 34 percent who view jobs as their main concern. In January, jobs ranked highest among 46 percent to 39 percent for Iraq.

The new poll also showed Bush's overall job approval rating slipping to 46 percent from 47 percent in May, while his disapproval rating crept upward to 49 percent from 47 percent.

The White House this week has been reeling amid controversy over Rove, the top Bush political adviser who was named by a Time magazine reporter as one of the sources who identified
CIA agent Valerie Plame to the media in 2003.

Democrats have called on Bush to fire Rove or block his access to classified information. But Bush, who originally pledged to dismiss anyone responsible for leaking Plame's identity, said he will withhold judgment on his deputy chief of staff for now.

Comment: We always take polls with a grain of salt, but we just had to include this one. Remember what happened the last time that Bush's approval ratings were low? Here's a hint: 9/11.

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Dems aim to increase army size
Roxana Tiron
TheHill.com
July 13, 2005

A team of Senate and House Democrats today are planning to introduce legislation today aimed at significantly increasing the size of the U.S. Army.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services (SASC) airland subcommittee, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), a SASC member, and Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), both members of the House Armed Services committee, are pressing for the passage of the United States Army Relief Act.

The legislation seeks to raise the cap of the Army's end strength, said an aide to Tauscher.

The Army already is working on increasing its troop levels by 30,000. Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, has said on numerous occasions that it costs about $1.2 billion a year for every 10,000 people added to the Army.

Both the House and the Senate have called for an increase in troop levels in their 2006 defense authorization bill and it is likely that troop levels will be increased when the conferees meet.

Comment: Given the difficulty the military is having meeting current recruiting goals, where do they think the armed forces will find new cannon fodder? Another "terrorist" attack? The return of the draft??

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Human Toll of a Pension Default
By Dale Russakoff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 13, 2005; Page A01

Ellen Saracini lost her husband, United Airlines Capt. Victor J. Saracini, when his Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Now she stands to lose more than half of her widow's pension in a very different kind of crash -- United's default of its $9 billion pension obligations.

The scale of the default, the largest in U.S. history, has received more attention than the toll on the lives of the bankrupt airline's 120,000 employees and pensioners. Saracini discussed its impact on her and her two daughters in an interview yesterday, saying she hopes her story will help shift the focus to the laws and policies that allow such defaults.

"My own situation is not a crisis -- I have my husband's life insurance to keep us secure in our house," she said from her home in Yardley, Pa. "But a lot of other people have real hardship -- medical costs they won't be able to afford, houses they won't be able to keep. If I can help draw attention to them, I'll do it in a heartbeat."

Saracini was among about 2,000 United pensioners and employees who e-mailed their stories to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) in recent days for what he called an online hearing on the human impact of the default. "We have been overwhelmed -- both numerically and emotionally -- by the response," said Miller, one of several politicians in both parties warning that a wider crisis will loom if the nation's pension security laws are not revised.

More than 20 other companies have defaulted on pension funds of more than $100 million in the past three years, and last week, executives of troubled Delta and Northwest airlines said they may be next. Miller has proposed a six-month moratorium on defaults, as Congress debates how to fix what many lawmakers call "broken" pension protection laws.

"Like Enron, workers' lives and retirements have been ruined," Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said last week. "But unfortunately, this time it's perfectly legal."

In e-mails to Miller that his staff is posting online, and in interviews, United retirees recounted stories of job-hunting in their sixties and seventies, facing medical costs they no longer can afford, uprooting families to move to lower-cost communities, selling dream retirement homes and losing money they had counted on to support elderly parents.

The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. (PBGC), the federal insurance program that faces its own solvency crisis and is to take over the United pensions, ensures a maximum of $45,000 a year in benefits for those who retired at 65, but considerably less for those who retired younger -- much as Social Security pays less to early retirees. This particularly hurts pilots, whom the law requires to retire from major airlines at 60 and who now collect as much as $125,000 a year in pensions, depending on length of service. The PBGC's maximum coverage for those who retire at 60 is $28,000 -- a cut of 50 to 75 percent for pilots. Saracini will receive even less because her husband was 51 when he was killed.

The PBGC limits cover full pensions for most United retirees, but those still working will have their pensions frozen, meaning they will accrue no more benefits and will have less money for retirement than they had counted on -- in some cases, much less.

Dale Cassady, a flight attendant for 32 years who lives in Arlington, wrote to Miller that she exhausted most of her savings putting her daughter through college and now will have to take in a boarder to be able to pay her mortgage and property taxes. Floyd Channell, 72, a retired United ramp worker at Dulles International Airport, said he worries how today's workers will fare in old age with even smaller pensions than his. Although PBGC probably will protect his full benefit, he said he needs one-third of it just to pay medical costs -- beyond what Medicare covers -- for his wife, who has disabling back pain. He has taken a part-time job at a church, "but when you're 72, you can't get much," he said.

For pilots, the six-figure drop in pension benefits follows losses of tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in United stock they received in the 1990s in exchange for major pay and benefit concessions -- and were required to hold until retirement, as the stock plummeted in value. Other employees lost stock as well, but had less to lose.

"I call it legalized crime," said United pilot Klaus Meyer, 47, of Bethlehem, Pa. "I lost almost all my United stock value in the bankruptcy, and here's another part of the retirement I was promised that is gone. And now my Social Security is at risk. Where does it all end? You feel brutalized by the system."

Meyer agreed to be interviewed despite warnings from the pilots' union that United may penalize employees who talk to reporters. "What are they going to do to me -- cut my pension in half?" he said.

Retired pilots nationwide who spent their work lives expecting six-figure pensions told of scrambling to downsize as fast as possible. "The last thing I thought was that I would depend on Social Security as the cornerstone of my retirement," John J. Pinto, 60, of Annapolis, wrote to Miller. Pinto said he is job-hunting, and has found that he and his wife, a schoolteacher, probably will earn together less than a fourth of his pay as a pilot.

In the late 1990s, United pilot Gerald Innella had $500,000 in United stock and a promised $110,000 pension for life. His children grown, he and his wife built a "dream home" on a golf course in Somerset County, N.J. His stock sold at $10,000 in the bankruptcy, and his pension stands to drop almost $80,000 a year. Innella, now 60, and his wife recently sold the dream home, moving in first with their son and now a niece. Interviewed at his niece's home in Glen Gardner, N.J., Innella was preparing for a pre-dawn flight to Antigua; he is back at work as a full-time charter pilot at one-third of his former salary.

Last week, United Chief Executive Officer Glenn Tilton testified to the Senate Finance Committee about $4.5 million he is receiving from United to replace benefits he had accrued over a 32-year career at Texaco, his previous employer. Tilton said that the default will not affect the payment, and that he has $1.5 million left to collect. He said this does not represent a double standard because United promised him the money in his contract.

"He is saying, 'United guaranteed that to me,' " said retired pilot John D. Clark of Charlottesville, who flew United planes for 36 years out of Dulles and whose $125,000 annual pension is to be reduced by more than 70 percent. "Why is the promise made to him understandable, and the one made to me can go by the wayside?"

Clark said he is more enraged at the injustice of the pension default than at his own situation. "The company is at fault, the Congress is at fault, the president is at fault, past presidents are at fault. There's plenty of fault to go around, but we live in a time when nobody takes responsibility," he said. [...]

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From China, Some Relief on Oil Demand
By KEITH BRADSHER
The New York Times
July 14, 2005

PARIS - A sudden and mysterious drop in China's oil consumption helped to push down the International Energy Agency's estimate on Wednesday of global demand for this year.

After growing 11 percent in 2003 and 15.4 percent last year, China's overall oil use declined 1 percent in the second quarter from the comparable quarter a year earlier, the agency said.

The drop is the latest in a series of unclear and often conflicting indications about whether the Chinese economy is still growing strongly. Top officials of the agency said in interviews they believed that the decline was temporary and that they expected Chinese demand to rebound in the second half of the year, but added that world oil prices could take a heavy blow if Chinese use did not increase.

The International Energy Agency, supported by the governments of the world's leading consuming nations, has recently become known for warning that the world does not have enough oil and calling for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to push its member countries to increase their output. But William C. Ramsay, the agency's deputy executive director, said Wednesday that there were signs that worldwide production capacity was starting to move ahead of demand for the year, and he expressed surprise that oil prices had nonetheless stayed high. [...]

While many traders have expressed concern about China's announcement a week ago that it was close to completing the first of three oil tank farms for a strategic reserve, Mr. Ramsay said he doubted that Chinese officials would opt to fill the reserve quickly as long as oil remained around $60 a barrel. [In New York on Wednesday, oil for August delivery declined 61 cents, settling at $60.01 a barrel.]

China's strong demand for energy has helped push Cnooc, one of its leading oil companies, to make an $18.5 billion proposal to acquire Unocal of California.

Officials of the International Energy Agency said there were four possible explanations for China's drop in oil demand in the second quarter, the most probable being that this was a temporary decrease. The most likely cause, said Fatih Birol, the agency's chief economist and head of economic analysis, was that China had not been allowing the domestic price of electricity and many refined products, like gasoline and diesel fuel, to rise nearly as quickly as world prices. This has caused power-generating concerns and service stations to sell less electricity, and less gasoline and diesel fuel, so as to limit their losses.

Many Chinese power stations have stopped burning fuel oil to produce electricity because the prices they are allowed to charge per kilowatt are not high enough to cover the cost of importing fuel. Chinese refiners have been selling part of their output overseas at higher prices than they can get in the highly regulated domestic market - where gasoline, for example, now sells for $1.63 a gallon.

China's consumption of fuel, a portion of overall oil consumption, plunged 19 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, said Jeff Brown, an oil-demand analyst here, while growth in refined fuel consumption slowed to a crawl.

Mr. Birol said that artificial energy shortages caused by distorted prices were the most likely basis for the curtailed availability of fuel, especially diesel.

But while diesel-fuel shortages and lines of trucks at empty service stations were a visible problem in China in April, they were not evident during trips over the last three weeks through southern China and to Beijing, and there has been little talk of continuing shortages in news media on the mainland or in Hong Kong.

When told this, Mr. Birol said there had been a vigorous debate in the last two days within the International Energy Agency over how to explain the decline in Chinese consumption, and he acknowledged that other, longer-term explanations were possible.

These include the possibility that the overall Chinese economy is starting to slow, that China is generating more of its electricity from coal instead of oil, and that China is improving energy conservation in response to high prices.

Economic statistics have been contradictory. Exports are still growing rapidly. But energy-intensive production of steel, cement and other construction material has started to slow as the government cracked down on real estate speculation.

In the last year, China has considerably expanded the production capacity of its coal mines and, just as important, the capacity of its railroad system to haul coal to markets. It has also exhorted businesses and households to use less energy, through steps like setting thermostats higher so air-conditioning systems do not have to work as hard.

Comment: The combination of increased reliance on coal-fired power plants, an increase in coal mine productivity, and energy conservation efforts by the public during the past year would certainly explain the 1% drop in oil consumption during that time period.

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Scientists predict brave new world of brain pills

Common use of drugs to improve the mind poses ethical challenge
Alok Jha, science correspondent
The Guardian
Thursday July 14, 2005

Can't remember phone numbers, worried about an upcoming exam or desperately want to give up smoking? In future, the answer will be simple: just pop a pill.

The idea that an array of easily available and addiction-free drugs could be used to improve memory or increase intelligence is the stuff of science fiction dystopia - in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley created a whole planet under the spell of a pleasure drug called Soma.

But a new report by leading scientists in the fields of psychology and neuroscience argues that, very soon, there really will be a pill for every ill.

"It is possible that [advances] could usher in a new era of drug use without addiction," said the report by Foresight, the government's science-based thinktank.

"In a world that is increasingly non-stop and competitive, the individual's use of such substances may move from the fringe to the norm."

However, the report said the widespread adoption of new brain-enhancing drugs was not without risks and would raise "significant ethical, social and practical issues."

Drugs that work on the brain are already common - many people can hardly begin their days without the mind-sharpening effects of caffeine or nicotine.

Launching the report yesterday, the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, said that brain-enhancing drugs developed to treat diseases such as Alzheimer's were likely to find increased use among healthy people looking to improve their perception, memory, planning or judgment.

Ritalin, prescribed to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is sometimes used by healthy people to enhance their mental performance. Modafinil, a drug developed to treat narcolepsy, has been shown to reduce impulsiveness and help people focus on problems.

"It improves working memory - your ability to remember telephone numbers - it gives you an extra digit or two," said Trevor Robbins, an experimental psychologist at Cambridge University and an author of the Foresight report.

"It also improves your planning when you're doing complex, chess-like problems. It makes you more reflective about a problem: you take a bit longer but you get it right."

Modafinil has already been used by the US military to keep soldiers awake and alert and some scientists are considering its usefulness in helping shift workers deal with erratic working hours. It has also been tested for cocaine users. "It produces some of the subjective effects of cocaine without the chronic dependence," said Prof Robbins. Other drugs are being touted as "vaccinations" against substances such as nicotine, alcohol and cocaine. The treatment would work by causing the immune system to produce antibodies against the drug being abused - these antibodies would render the drug impotent when taken and prevent it from having any effect on the brain.

"How [the vaccinations are] used depends on clinical judgments," said Prof Robbins. "Informed consent is important."

But he cautioned against any plan to pre-vaccinate people against narcotics. "One would be very careful indeed about trying to sign one's children up for such treatment," he said. "That, to me, sounds reprehensible."

In the long term, drugs that can delete painful memories could also be used routinely. "We are now looking 20-25 years ahead," said Prof Robbins. "Very basic science is showing that it is possible to call up a memory, knock it on the head and produce selective amnesia."

That has obvious uses for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but there is also the tantalising possibility that it could be used to treat harmful addictions.

"Drug addiction can be understood very much as an aberrant learning process," said Prof Robbins.

"Many of these drugs hijack the learning processes of the brain and produce aberrant habits, which dominate behaviour.

"Clearly the possibility exists that you can call up a drugrelated memory and produce amnesia for it, thus removing craving for that particular drug."

As drug research improves, the harmful effects of today's recreational drugs could even be engineered out. [...]

On the menu: range of treatments

- Ritalin (methylphenidate) is used by a small number of students in an attempt to improve exam results and by business people to improve performance in the boardroom

- D-amphetamine also improves memory but only for people of a certain genetic make-up

- Rimonabant is used as an antidote to the intoxicant effects of cannabis and a treatment for heroin relapse. But it is sometimes also used to enhance the high produced by these drugs by reducing their side-effects

- Naltrexone is already used to treat chronic alcoholism and narcotic abuse. It works by blocking the pleasure receptors that are normally activated in the brain when people use the drugs

- Propranolol, a beta-blocker, is used to treat high blood pressure, angina, and abnormal heart rhythms. It is also used sometimes by snooker players to calm their nerves

- Modafinil, a stimulant developed to treat narcolepsy, has been used by soldiers to improve memory and judgment. It is also used in treatment of cocaine addiction

Comment: Yes indeedy, the pharmaceutical companies have big plans for your brain. Can't concentrate? Pop a pill! Nervous about terror attacks? Pop a pill! Experiencing PTSD from killing "terrorists" in Iraq? There's a pill for that, too!!

Eventually it will get to the point where our brains are filled with more artificial than natural chemicals. What seems to be missing in this article is a discussion of the brain's own ability to produce all the "drugs" it needs. Popping more pills to deal with our more difficult moments is a wonderful way to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for our actions - or to take the easy way out instead of allowing ourselves to suffer a bit and grow from the experience. Think about it: A pill that wipes bad memories from our minds?!

"Barbara, I know you're sad because Little Johnny was taken away by the NSS, but I have the perfect solution: just take this little government-issued blue pill and you'll forget you ever had a son!!"

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Universe 'too queer' to grasp
By Jo Twist
BBC News science and technology reporter
Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK

Scientist Professor Richard Dawkins has opened a global conference of big thinkers warning that our Universe may be just "too queer" to understand.

Professor Dawkins, the renowned Selfish Gene author from Oxford University, said we were living in a "middle world" reality that we have created.

Experts in design, technology, and entertainment have gathered in Oxford to share their ideas about our futures.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is already a top US event.

It is the first time the event, TED Global, has been held in Europe.

Species software

Professor Dawkins' opening talk, in a session called Meme Power, explored the ways in which humans invent their own realities to make sense of the infinitely complex worlds they are in; worlds made more complex by ideas such as quantum physics which is beyond most human understanding.

"Are there things about the Universe that will be forever beyond our grasp, in principle, ungraspable in any mind, however superior?" he asked.

"Successive generations have come to terms with the increasing queerness of the Universe."

Each species, in fact, has a different "reality". They work with different "software" to make them feel comfortable, he suggested.

Because different species live in different models of the world, there was a discomfiting variety of real worlds, he suggested.

"Middle world is like the narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum that we see," he said.

"Middle world is the narrow range of reality that we judge to be normal as opposed to the queerness that we judge to be very small or very large." [...]

Comment: Note how Dawkins talks about "different realities." His theory makes it logical for psychopaths and organic portals and "souled" humans to occupy different "realities".

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Triple Sunset: Planet Discovered in 3-Star System
Michael Schirber
SPACE.com
Wed Jul 13, 2:07 PM ET

A newly discovered planet has bountiful sunshine, with not one, not two, but three suns glowing in its sky.

It is the first extrasolar planet found in a system with three stars. How a planet was born amidst these competing gravitational forces will be a challenge for planet formation theories.

"The environment in which this planet exists is quite spectacular," said Maciej Konacki from the California Institute of Technology. "With three suns, the sky view must be out of this world -- literally and figuratively."

The triple-star system, HD 188753, is located 149 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The primary star is like our Sun, weighing 1.06 solar masses. The other two stars form a tightly bound pair, which is separated from the primary by approximately the Sun-Saturn distance.

"The pair more or less acts as one star," Konacki told SPACE.com.

The combined mass of the close pair is 1.63 solar masses.

Using the 10-meter Keck I telescope in Hawaii, Konacki noticed evidence for a planet orbiting the primary star. This newfound gas giant is slightly larger than Jupiter and whirls around its central star in a 3.5-day orbit. A planet so close to its star would be very hot.

Although other so-called hot Jupiters have been found in such close-in orbits, the nearby stellar pair in HD 188753 likely sheared off much of the planet making material in the disk that would likely have existed around the primary star in its youth. Since this proto-planetary disk holds the construction materials for planets, there does not appear to be any safe place for this far-off world to have been assembled. [...]

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NASA Says Mysterious Light May Be Space Station

'Jumping Around' Claim Only Inconsistency In Theory
NewsNet5.com
3:56 pm EDT July 12, 2005

CLEVELAND -- NASA is coming up with an answer for the mysterious red light seen in the Brook Park sky over the weekend, reported NewsChannel5.

NASA said the rate of movement, time of night, and brightness of the light are consistent with the theory that the light is from the space station.

The only report that conflicts with this theory is that some witnesses claimed that the light was "jumping around."

Witnesses say they saw the light for about 10 minutes. It takes the space station seven minutes to go from horizon to horizon.

There was a high layer of cirrus clouds that night, which would affect the color of the light.

NASA also said the light was not a meteor because meteors last only seconds.

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Corpse Falls Into Traffic in Texas
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 13, 2005; 4:05 PM

DALLAS -- The body of a Louisiana man strapped to a gurney fell from the back of a pickup truck Tuesday onto a south Dallas highway and into the path of oncoming traffic. "I didn't think it was possible for that to happen," said Mary Ellen Douglas, who was driving to work when she saw what she initially thought was a package that had fallen from a truck. "I wanted to get out of there. It was too freaky for me," she said in a story in Wednesday's editions of The Dallas Morning News.

Authorities said the driver was carrying the body to a Shreveport, La., funeral home after the man died Monday at a Mesquite hospital.

"The driver of the truck was not aware that he had lost the body," Dallas police Lt. Rick Andrews said. "He saw the open door. He stopped and looked. He turned around, went back and retraced his steps and found the body."

Drivers swerved to avoid the corpse and gurney.

Dallas police Senior Cpl. Max Geron said no charges are expected to be filed.

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Asian quake tears 1,000km rupture
By Richard Black
BBC News Environment Correspondent

The earthquake which triggered last December's Asian tsunami caused a rupture in the ocean floor more than 1,000km long, a new study reveals.

The finding is based on data gathered from Asian research stations which used GPS to monitor ground movements.

Scientists say they were surprised that such a large quake could happen in south-east Asia.

They tell Nature magazine that further studies into the behaviour of Asian earthquake zones would be prudent.

High accuracy

Over the last few years Christophe Vigny, from the Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS), has been leading a European Union-funded project which aims to measure seismic activity and tectonic movement in south-east Asia.

The idea is to establish research posts whose locations can be determined to within a few millimetres. By plotting their positions over a number of years, researchers can detect how tectonic plates are moving with high accuracy.

Each station in this "Seamerges" programme monitors several GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites continuously and updates its position every 30 seconds. The raw data is processed to compensate for any external influences, such as disturbances in the atmosphere which could distort the GPS signal.

Similar systems exist in South America, another earthquake-prone region.

Dr Vigny is on vacation and uncontactable for interview; but his colleague Professor Raul Madariaga told the BBC News website what stations in the Seamerges programme, and others in Asia, saw in the early hours of 25 December.

'Giant zip'

"It started around Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra, and spread northwards to the Nicobar Islands," he said.

"It all happened over a period of about five minutes - the quake travelled around 3km/s, the sea floor opening up something like a giant zip."

The biggest displacement was registered in Phuket, Thailand, where the Earth's crust moved by 27cm; stations thousands of kilometres away, at Kunming in China, Bangalore and Hyderabad on the Indian mainland, and even Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, showed displacements of several millimetres.

"This was the biggest earthquake since Chile in 1960," said Professor Madiaraga, "and we don't know why it was so big.

"People thought earthquakes like this could only happen in Chile and Alaska; now there's a lot of concern in Japan about much bigger quakes."

GPS has given seismologists a powerful new tool for investigating seismic and tectonic movements, and clearly the data generated in south-east Asia will be of special interest in the coming months - particularly as another Nature study, published last month, showed that the threat of a further serious earthquake and, therefore, a tsunami, remains very real.

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Experts eye SA meteor site
14/07/2005 07:44 - (SA)
Craig Bishop

Durban - In just four minutes, the face of the planet changed forever.

A meteorite the size of a mountain hurtled from outer space and struck earth some 2020 million years ago, just south-west of where Johannesburg is today. The whole planet physically shook under the impact.

South Africans have called this area Vredefort and experts at the 29th annual World Heritage Committee meeting that is being held in Durban are expected to award it World Heritage Site status.

This is the oldest meteor site on the planet, but won't be the last, warns Wits University Professor of Mineralogy in the School of Geosciences, Prof Wolf Reimold.

"The impact of large extraterrestrial bodies with earth is an ever-present danger that humanity has only recently begun to recognise," said Reimold, who is the co-author of a new book called Meteorite Impact! The Danger from Space and South Africa's Mega-Impact: The Vredefort Structure.

The book explains how Vredefort is teaching a new generation of scientists around the world about the reality and danger of similar events in the future.

Three giants stand out

The book also reviews more than 200 000 years of human habitation in the area, starting with the early San hunters, whose art survives on the rocks formed during the meteor strike.

The successive settlements of Sotho-Tswana, Afrikaner and British farmers are also discussed, including landmark wars that affected the region over the last three centuries.

The book also provides a guide to more than 20 sites that highlight the heritage of this area.

Of the 175 impact craters found on the planet so far, three giants stand out - Chicxulub in Mexico, which wiped out 75% of life 65-million years ago, Sudbury in Canada, and Vredefort in South Africa. Each of these events catastrophically altered the global environment and was strong enough to drastically change life on our planet.

The Vredefort Impact Structure, with a 300km diameter, is nearly twice the size of the Chicxulub crater.

The outcroppings around the towns of Vredefort and Parys, known as the Vredefort Dome, show the scars of the cataclysmic forces that accompanied the impact event.

The rocks, ripped from the depths of the crust by the impact, also tell a far older story that stretches back to more than 3 500 million years ago, when the first continents formed on the primitive earth, and to the time when fabulous gold deposits accumulated on the margins of the ancient Witwatersrand sea.

There are already 788 world heritage sites in 134 countries in the world.

In South Africa, the sites are Robben Island in the Western Cape, the Cradle of Humankind that houses the fossil hominid sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs in Gauteng and North West, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu-Natal, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in Limpopo and the Cape Floral Region of the Western Cape.

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