Thursday, July 21, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Eyewitness Reports at Odds With Official Scenario
By Christopher Bollyn
American Free Press

INDIAN LAKE, Pennsylvania—Eyewitness testimonies have generally been excluded from the official version of 9-11. In the Shanksville area, where many residents believe Flight 93 was shot down, there are scores of eyewitnesses whose testimonies contradict the government's claim that courageous passengers fought hijackers, forcing the jetliner to crash rather than be flown into a building.

Some local residents here are deeply offended by the official explanation of what supposedly happened to United Airlines Flight 93, calling it a patriotic pack of lies.

Fearful of retribution from federal agents, many eyewitnesses who spoke with American Free Press asked that their names not be published.

While differing on some details of the plane said to be Flight 93, which passed over Lambertsville, eyewitnesses agree that unexplained military aircraft were in the immediate vicinity when a huge explosive "fireball" occurred at the reclaimed coal mine near Shanksville.

Viola Saylor saw Flight 93 pass very low over her house in Lambertsville, which is a mile north of the official crash site. She was in her backyard when she heard a very loud noise and looked up to find herself "nose to nose" with Flight 93, which she says was flying "upside down" as it passed overhead. It was blue and silver, she said, and glistened in the sunlight. It was so low that it rustled the leaves of her 100-foot maple tree in her yard.

It flew southeastward for about three more seconds and even gained elevation before it crashed over the hill with a "thud," she said.

"It was really still for a second," she said. "Then all of a sudden" she saw a "very quiet" and low-flying white "military" plane coming from the area of the crash site, flying toward the northwest.

"It was flying very fast, like it was trying to get out of here," she said. "A second or two" behind the "military" plane were two other planes, which Saylor described as "normal" planes.

Shown a photograph of a Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, a low-flying combat aircraft commonly referred to as a "Warthog," Saylor identified it as the military plane she had seen. She said she recognized the two engines on the rear and the distinctive shape of the cockpit and nose of the plane.

Similar eyewitness reports of military planes over Shanksville on 9-11 remain censored by the U.S. corporate media, although they were reported in two leading British newspapers.

Susan McElwain, a local teacher, also reported seeing a white "military" plane at the scene of the crash before witnessing an explosion. Ms. Mcelwain told The Daily Mirror what she saw:

"It came right over me, I reckon just 40 or 50 feet above my mini-van," she recalled. "It was so low I ducked instinctively. It was traveling real fast, but hardly made any sound.

"Then it disappeared behind some trees. A few seconds later I heard this great explosion and saw this fireball rise up over the trees, so I figured the jet had crashed. The ground really shook. So I dialed 911 and told them what happened.

"I'd heard nothing about the other attacks and it was only when I got home and saw the TV that I realized it wasn't the white jet, but Flight 93.

"I didn't think much more about it until the authorities started to say there had been no other plane. The plane I saw was heading right to the point where Flight 93 crashed and must have been there at the very moment it came down.

"There's no way I imagined this plane—it was so low it was virtually on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely military, it just had that look.

"It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the side," Ms. McElwain said. "I haven't found one like it on the Internet. It definitely wasn't one of those executive jets.

[However,] the FBI came and talked to me and said there was no plane around."

The plane Ms. McElwain describes is similar to the Warthog seen by Saylor over Lambertsville.

"Then [FBI agents] changed their story and tried to say it was a plane taking pictures of the crash 3,000 feet up," she said. "But I saw it, and it was there before the crash, and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want my story—nobody here did."

The U.S. media has only reported what Bill Crowley, FBI spokesman from Pittsburgh, said about other planes in the area: "Two other airplanes were flying near the hijacked United Airlines jet when it crashed, but neither had anything to do with the airliner's fate."

In an apparent slip of the tongue, Crowley said one of the planes, "a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet," had been directed to the crash site to help rescuers. The Falcon 20, however, is made by Dassault of France while Fairchild made the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the plane described by Ms. Mcelwain and identified by other eyewitnesses.

The Daily American of nearby Somerset did not want Ms. McElwain's story. In fact, the local paper has never reported that at least 12 local residents saw several unexplained aircraft at the time of the crash.

Asked why the paper has not mentioned these eyewitness reports, managing editor Brian P. Whipkey told AFP "They could not be substantiated."


At the horseshoe-shaped Indian Lake, about a mile east of the official crash site, several eyewitnesses recalled hearing "a screaming thing" that "screeched" as it passed over the golf course and lakeside community immediately before a huge explosion shook the ground.

Chris Smith, the groundskeeper at the golf course, said something with a "very loud screeching sound" passed over in the immediate vicinity of the golf course before he heard a huge explosion.

"It was like nothing I've ever heard before," Smith said.

The explosion that followed sounded like a "sonic boom," he said. Smith and others said they felt the shock wave from the explosion.

Smith said he was used to seeing a variety of military aircraft from the nearby Air National Guard bases in Johnstown and Cumberland, Md.

Another groundskeeper said he saw a silver plane pass overhead toward the crash site from the southeast after hearing the loud "screeching" sound. The large silver plane was at an elevation of several thousand feet, he said.

A local veteran who flew combat helicopters in the Vietnam War told AFP that the high-pitched screeching sound was indicative of a missile.

Shown a photo of an A-10 Warthog, the groundskeeper identified it as the kind of plane that circled the crash site at a very low altitude three times before flying away. He recognized the two vertical fins on the rear of the plane. "Nobody was interested in what we saw," he said. "They didn't even ask us."

Mobile telephones and satellite televisions in the Indian Lake area did not work at the time of the crash, he said. Paul Muro was in his yard in Lambertsville when Flight 93 passed overhead. Muro, who lives a half-mile closer to the crash site than Saylor, said the plane was flying rightside up and normally, although it was very low.

Muro told AFP that he also saw a large silver plane approaching from the south, the opposite direction of Flight 93, above the crash site at the time of the explosion.

The silver plane then turned and headed back in the direction from which it had come, he said.

Tom Spinelli works at the Indian Lake Marina. After 9- 11, he told a Pittsburgh television news reporter about the unexplained aircraft he saw. "I saw the white plane," he said.

"It was flying around all over the place like it was looking for something," he said. "I saw it before and after the crash."

AFP visited the marina and asked Spinelli about the planes he saw on 9-11.
"I'm sorry," Spinelli said. 'No comment' is all I can say."

An Indian Lake resident told AFP that federal agents had visited the marina after Spinelli had spoken to the Pittsburgh news channel, TV 4, and told him to stop talking about what he saw.

Local firefighters were also told not to talk about what they had seen at the crash site.

Comment: Here we come to another of the many, many contradictions in the official story of what happened on 9/11. As readers are no doubt aware, we produced the Pentagon Strike flash a year ago, which has now been seen by many hundreds of millions of people the world over. We have received a great deal of email from people who either claim to have been eyewitnesses or who had a friend or relative who was "at the Pentagon" or in the area when something hit the facade. The many stories are often contradictory one to another, or contradictory to the photos of the site after the explosion. For instance, one reader wrote to us and said that after the crash she had seen the tail of the plane sticking out of the building. There are no photos of the Pentagon, including those taken within minutes of the crash, that show anything sticking out of the building. There is nothing but a hole a few metres wide, hardly large enough, one would think, to fit an entire Boeing 757.

So, the most vigorous arm against the idea that it was not Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon are these "eyewitness" reports. This is all the government has to back its case. There is no video, no wreckage, no photos, nothing that shows us Flight 77 or pieces identifiable as Flight 77. There are only the eyewitnesses.

Our hypothesis is that whatever hit the Pentagon, a drone of some sort, was painted up to look like an American Airlines jet, an explanation that explains why so many people claim to have seen the 757 -- aside from the government shills who are likely paid to troll the Internet to counter the questioning of the official story.

In the case of Flight 93, the eyewitnesses give an account that is at odds with the official story. In this case, the eyewitnesses are not listened to; they are ignored, threatened, and told to shut up. The official version of the crash of Flight 93 tells us the heroic story of sacrifice on the part of the passengers who, having heard of the other flights that day, were determined to take back the plane from the "hijackers". They gave their lives to crash the plane in a field in Pennsylvania so that the intended target would be saved.

It may well be that the passengers on Flight 93 were struggling to regain control or had even managed to take back control, but we do not think that they then crashed the plane. Our analysis of the data suggests a more sinister end. We think that as they fought to get control, or perhaps even after they had succeeded, they were shot out of the sky by the military craft seen by so many people. Why? Because their stories would have contradicted the official version of the events. We would have learned that there were no "Arab hijackers" on board. The heroic passengers of Flight 93 were killed to silence them.

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Settlers stab a child to death near Nablus
Saed Bannoura, IMEMC & Agencies - Wednesday, 20 July 2005

A Palestinian medical source in Qaryout village, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, reported on Wednesday evening that an extremist settlers group stabbed a child to death.

The settlers attacked Yazan Mohammad Mousa, 13 years old, and repeatedly stabbed him, the source stated.

Yazan was with another child he they were attacked. The second child managed to escape unharmed.

A source at a clinic in the neighboring village of Qabalan said that the child died of his wounds at the clinic in spite of extensive efforts to save his life.

The Israeli police believe that the assailants are from Shilu settlement, adjacent to the village.

The Israeli police initiated a probe in the incident, and claimed that the child was involved in a fight with settler youths.

Comment: Some of the Israeli press is giving this story the spin that that youth was killed by a rival clan, that is, it was just those animals killing each other. Reading the comments on some of the Israeli sites is eye-opening in terms of the attitude of some Israelis to the Palestinians, an attitude that is reflected in the actions of the Israeli state.

But it seems that the Israelis, be they settlers or members of the IDF, are not the only ones that are killing children. Here is a report out of Iraq that you are not likely to find on Fox or CNN:

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U.S. forces behind deadly children bomb: Iraqi experts
7/18/2005 11:00:00 PM GMT

Iraqi experts are saying that the recent car bomb that killed some 18 children was not the work of the anti-occupation fighters but of the U.S. occupation troops.

A traffic lieutenant who asked not to be identified said to a media source that U.S. solders crazily raced out of the street less than a minute before the explosion and that after the blast they did not return to the bomb scene but continued to hurry out of the area.

Furthermore, a captain in the fire department said the explosion was extremely powerful and left a big crater in the earth – something that other car bombs do not do. The captain stated that this was because the bombs used by the Iraqi resistance are made from Russian-made TNT that was in the possession of the Army of the Republic of Iraq before the U.S. occupation.

According to the captain former soldiers are very familiar with the effects of such explosives, and know that during an explosion it blows upwards, not downwards, and for this reason U.S. forces prohibit the taking of photographs from the scenes of attacks where the effects of explosions are obvious.

When the fire captain was asked to clarify his remarks and whether he was accusing the Americans of setting the blast, he replied, "The Traffic Stop Director for the area, Ahmad Kamal was fired because of his statement one hour after the explosion in which he said the U.S. forces were behind the blast. This was regarded as an 'irresponsible statement' by him and attributed to the fact that he had lost control of himself and had a breakdown after the bombing and to the fact that he is a Sunni and does not want to believe that what is happening in Iraq is 'terrorism'."

Comment: And an Iraqi news outlet did their own investigation and came out with the following story...

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Who Murdered 32 Iraqi Children? (Truth Comes Out)
By: Layth on: 19.07.2005 [14:45 ]

An independent investigation of the murder last week of 32 Iraqi children has been conducted by a local Iraqi news location (Mufakirat Al-Islam / with results as follows:

The writing is in Arabic, so I will translate some highlights for non-Arabic speakers:

- All major Iraqi Resistance groups issued joint written communiqué that was distributed on Thursday proclaiming that this operation was not undertaken by any of the groups neither in terms of execution or planning or involvement.

- Interview with local residents of the bombing stated that US forces cordoned off the street under the pretence that a vehicle (a KIA) parked in the street was wired to explode.

- Local residents stated that the US soldiers began handing out candy and schoolbags attracting the children.

- When residents, fearing for their children, asked about the KIA car , the US soldiers said that it was a 'false alarm' and that there was no bomb (but that a couple of US soldiers remained fiddling with the car).

- Children from neighboring streets came upon hearing of the sweets and free bags (as well as a rumor that Pokemon toys were being given out).

- After a period of about 15 minutes from them entering the street, the US forces dumped the remaining toys/sweets in a pile in the middle of the street and frantically drove off hitting 4 children in the process with their vehicle.

- Seconds later, the KIA vehicle exploded killing 32 children and wounding about ten others who were gathered in the street.

- Residents also reported that, contrary to what the US military stated, there were no US casualties or injuries from this blast as the US forces had rushed out of the street just before the explosion took place.

- Information gathered from the Iraqi fire services stated that the explosion did not leave the signature traces of a TNT blast as used by the Resistance (being left over from Russian explosives used by the Iraqi army), as the TNT blast is always outward from the place of explosion and does not leave a crater as this car bomb did.

In conclusion, the evidence and interviews revealed what was obvious from the very start...That this evil crime was perpetrated by occupation forces with the objective of murdering Iraqi children and blaming the national Resistance so as to lessen its base of support (sounds like Vietnam tactics all over again - Phoenix).

May God grant peace to the dead, victory to the Resistance, and shame and retribution to the occupiers and their allies/supporters.

Comment: Of course, the reaction of many an American, or many a Westerner for that matter, will be to deny that such an event is possible because "they know" that the Americans would never do such a thing. Because "they know" this, they will accuse the Iraqis of making it up to support the resistance fighters. Remind those people of what US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in reply to a question on CBS in 1996 about the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children, because of the trade embargo:

"We think it was worth it."

Yes, the blood of Iraqis, even children, was worth less than US aims in the region. It still is.

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Iraqi constitution nearly ready as US warns of more attacks
Thu Jul 21, 5:04 AM ET

BAGHDAD - Drafting of Iraq's constitution appeared to be nearing its final stage, with preparations underway for an October referendum, as the Pentagon warned that insurgents remain "effective" in their attacks.

Iraqi leaders plan to put the constitution to parliament on August 1, two weeks ahead of a deadline, and hold a vote on it by October 15.

Meanwhile, rebels killed one Iraqi police commando and wounded eight more in a car bomb attack in Baghdad. Two civilians died in a separate attack in the capital.

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday revealed the contents of the latest Pentagon assessment report on the situation on Iraq, acknowledging that rebels carry out "effective" attacks on Iraqis.

"Terrorists remain effective, adaptable, and intent on carrying out attacks on Iraqi civilians and Iraqi officials," Rumsfeld told reporters.

"Extremists continue to try to foment tension, ethnic strife, and indeed even civil war between Sunni and Shia through murders and attacks on religious sites," he said.

On Wednesday Iraq's constitutional committee chief said the charter would be ready despite the killing Tuesday of two of the Sunni Arab members of the panel, an incident that led to the resignation of four others.

The murders of Dhamin Hussein and Aziz Ibrahim, two of 17 Sunni Arabs working on the constitution, had cast a shadow over the chances of the committee producing the document before August 15, the deadline laid down for parliament to approve it.

"The time is not right for writing the constitution and we think it is not possible for us to continue working in such an atmosphere," said Salah al-Mutlaq, a spokesman for the Sunni-based National Dialogue Council, which groups a number of small Sunni parties.

In Washington, a US State Department spokesman called on Sunnis to rejoin the commission in spite of the killings. [...]

Minority Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam, and who are considered the backbone of the insurgency, are opposed to a federal Iraq.

The Shiites, who dominate parliament, are pushing to give Islam a prominent role in the constitution, while their Kurds allies want a federal system granting them autonomy and control of the northern oil hub of Kirkuk.

The constitution may turn controversial as reports emerged that it could curb the rights of Iraqi women, in line with Sharia religious law.

The New York Times on Wednesday said the draft curtailed women's rights, imposing Islamic Sharia law in personal matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance, and curbing their representation in parliament.

It said legal rights for women would be guaranteed, providing they do not "violate Sharia," meaning that Shiite women could not marry without their family's permission and that husbands could divorce them simply by saying so out loud three times. [...]

In the predominantly Sunni regions participation in January was low after rebels called for a boycott of the vote.

Comment: Note how the US - the real power behind the Iraqi government - doesn't say a word about how the new constitution will curb the rights of Iraqi women. So much for "bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq"...

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Democracy was only an afterthought

The situation in Afghanistan is one of barely managed chaos
Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday July 21, 2005
The Guardian

On the day of the London bombings, President Bush proclaimed: "The war on terror goes on." Through the 2004 campaign, his winning theme was terror. He achieved the logic of a unified field theory connecting Iraq to Afghanistan by threading terror through both, despite the absence of evidence. He insisted that if we didn't fight the terrorists there, we would be fighting them at home. In January, the CIA's thinktank, the National Intelligence Council, issued a report describing Iraq as the magnet and training and recruiting ground for terrorism. The false rationale for the invasion had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. With his popularity flagging, Bush returned to the formulations that succeeded in his campaign.

In Bush's "global war on terror" (Gwot), Iraq and Afghanistan present one extended battlefield against a common enemy - and the strategy is and must be the same. So far as Bush is concerned, it's always either the day after 9/11 or the day before the Iraq invasion. Time stands still at two ideal political moments. But his consequences since are barely managed chaos.

"I was horrified by the president's last speech [on the war on terror], so much unsaid, so much disingenuous, so many half truths," said James Dobbins, Bush's first envoy to Afghanistan, now director of international programmes at the Rand Corporation. Afghanistan is now the scene of a Taliban revival, chronic Pashtun violence, dominance by US-supported warlords who have become narco-lords, and a human rights black hole.

From the start, he said, the effort in Afghanistan was "grossly underfunded and undermanned". The military doctrine was the first error. "The US focus on force protection and substitution of firepower for manpower creates significant collateral damage." But the faith in firepower sustained the illusion that the mission could be "quicker, cheaper, easier". And that justification fitted with Afghanistan being relegated into a sideshow to Iraq.

According to Dobbins, there was also "a generally negative appreciation of peacekeeping and nation building as components of US policy, a disinclination to learn anything from ... Bosnia and Kosovo".

Lack of accountability began at the top and filtered down. On the day of President Hamid Karzai's inauguration in Afghanistan, in December 2001, Dobbins met General Tommy Franks, the Centcom commander, at the airport. As they drove to the ceremony, Dobbins informed Franks of press reports that US planes had mistakenly bombed a delegation of tribal leaders and killed perhaps several dozen. "It was the first time he heard about it. When he got out of the car, reporters asked him about it. He denied it happened. And he denied it happened for several days. It was classic deny first, investigate later. It turned out to be true. It was a normal reflex."

Democracy was an afterthought for the White House, which believed it had little application to Afghans. At the Bonn conference establishing international legitimacy for the Kabul government, "the word 'democracy' was introduced at the insistence of the Iranian delegation", Dobbins points out.

However, democracy - now the overriding rationale for the Gwot - does not include support for human rights. "In terms of the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Karzai is well meaning and moderate and thoroughly honourable," said Dobbins, "but he's overwhelmed."

Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon and the White House removed restraints on torture. "These were command failures, not just isolated incidents ... You didn't have the checks and balances. They've had consequences in terms of public image." In April, the US succeeded in abolishing the office of the UN rapporteur on human rights for Afghanistan.

Dobbins believes that the operation in Afghanistan has improved, but that the administration "hasn't readily acknowledged its mistakes, and corrected them only after losing a good deal of ground, irrecoverable ground ... most of the violence is not al-Qaida type, but Pashtun sectarian violence. It's not international terrorism."

Facts on the ground cannot alter Bush's stentorian summons to the Gwot. "This is a campaign conducted primarily, and should be, by law enforcement, diplomatic and intelligence means," Dobbins said. "The militarisation of the concept is a theme that mobilises the American public effectively, but it's not a theme that resonates well in the Middle East or with our allies elsewhere in the world."

"We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don't have to face them here at home," Bush declared in June - and repeated endlessly - finally appearing vindicated with the London attacks. London, like Iraq and Afghanistan, is "there", not "here".

Comment: You can bet there are contradictions within the power pyramid when a director at Rand starts criticising the way Bush is handling things, but probably nothing that an "al-Qaeda" attack on the US can't overcome.

Speaking of the devil, word has just come in of another "incident" in the London Tube.

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London mayor says West fueled Islamic radicalism
By Andrew Gray
Wed Jul 20, 2:56 PM ET

LONDON - Western foreign policy has fueled the Islamist radicalism behind the bomb attacks which killed more than 50 people in London, the British capital's mayor Ken Livingstone said on Wednesday.

Livingstone, who earned the nickname "Red Ken" for his left-wing views, won widespread praise for a defiant response which helped unite London after the bombings. But he has revived his reputation for courting controversy in recent days.

Asked on Wednesday what he thought had motivated the four suspected suicide bombers, Livingstone cited Western policy in the Middle East and early American backing for Osama bin Laden.

"A lot of young people see the double standards, they see what happens in (U.S. detention camp) Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there isn't a just foreign policy," he said.

Police say they believe there is a clear link between bin Laden's al Qaeda network and the four British Muslims who blew up three underground trains and a double-decker bus on July 7.

"You've just had 80 years of Western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of a Western need for oil. We've propped up unsavory governments, we've overthrown ones that we didn't consider sympathetic," Livingstone said.

"I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s ... the Americans recruited and trained Osama bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians to drive them out of Afghanistan.

"They didn't give any thought to the fact that once he'd done that, he might turn on his creators," he told BBC radio.

Comment: Another distinct possibility is that once the Neocons and their Zionist pals decided to start their war on terror, they needed to blame it all on someone. Who better than CIA asset Bin Laden?


Prime Minister Tony Blair's government has insisted the bombings have no link to its foreign policy, particularly its decision to invade
Iraq alongside the United States.

But an opinion poll this week showed two-thirds of Britons see a connection between the Iraq war and the bombings. A top think tank and a leaked intelligence memo have also suggested the war has made Britain more of a target for terrorists.

That did not stop the right-wing Daily Telegraph castigating Livingstone, a maverick member of Blair's Labour party who was celebrating London's selection as host of the 2012 Olympics just hours before the bombers struck.

Wednesday's edition of the paper featured a picture of the mayor between photographs of two radical Muslim clerics under the headline: "The men who blame Britain."

Livingstone has made clear he condemns all killing, including suicide bombing. But he is also a long-standing critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

"If you have been under foreign occupation, and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work, for three generations, I suspect if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves," he said on Wednesday.

Israel's ambassador to London Zvi Heifetz accused the mayor of expressing sympathy for Palestinian militants.

"It is outrageous that the same mayor who rightfully condemned the suicide bombing in London as perverted faith', defends those who, under the same extremist banner, kill Israelis," he said in a statement.

Comment: Seem like pretty reasonable statements to us, although the right-wing pundits in the UK and US, and just about everyone that supports Israel, go ballistic when comments are made that dare to suggest that any reaction to the politics of these countries in the Middle East other than complete submission are the logical consequence of this policy. Somehow, the West and the Zionists believe they have the God-given right to invade, occupy, maim, kill, starve, humiliate, and torture people, and the victims should be grateful and lick the bottom of the boot they feel crushing down upon them.

Stating the obvious has become the quickest means to vilification by the Zionists, and here we include American and British politicians who give uncritical support to Israel -- that is, almost all of them. Stand against Zionism and you are torn to shreds like Ken Livingstone. These attacks are meant to shut up the dissidents or those who may have doubts about the politics of the neocon fantasy of the "clash of civilisations".

The next step is to begin imprisoning people for such obvious truths.

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No proof bombers Muslims - Bakri

Omar Bakri Mohammed says he would never co-operate with police
Islamic cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed does not believe the London bombers were Muslims, he has told BBC News.

The UK-based Syrian-born preacher said there was no evidence four young Muslim men filmed at a station prior to the attacks were responsible for the bombs.

He condemned "any killing of innocent people here and abroad" but said he would never co-operate with police.

The cleric is facing demands for his deportation after making comments partly blaming Britain for the bombs.


In an interview with BBC News 24, he said the government, the public and the Muslim community were all to blame for not doing enough to prevent the 7 July attacks, in which 56 people died including the four bombing suspects.

And he blamed the tabloid press for "distorting" his views and those of other clerics, including Sheikh Abu Hamza, currently on trial for allegedly soliciting people to murder non-Muslims and inciting racial hatred.

But in another interview, with BBC1's 10 o'clock News, he said there was "no way" he would condemn Osama bin Laden.

He said: "Why I condemn Osama bin Laden for? I condemn Tony Blair, I condemn George Bush. I would never condemn Osama bin Laden or any Muslims."

And he blamed the UK government's "evil foreign policy and the war on terror" for pushing Muslims in "the wrong direction".

Word of God

The London-based preacher told BBC News 24 radical Muslims were "part of the solution" not part of the problem, because they were respected by Muslim youths.

By imposing restrictions on radical clerics, the government had reduced their ability to "hold back" young Muslims angry at events in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Palestinian territories and Kashmir, he said.

He distanced himself from "moderate" Muslims, who he said "cannot hold anyone back".

He added that he would not co-operate with the British police, even to alert them if he knew another terror attack was imminent.

"I believe co-operation with the British police would never ever prevent any action like this.

"The youth will leave us. The youth will see us, at that time, the voice, the eyes and the ears of the British government.

"The way to earn the heart of the British youth is by the divine text, to say God say it and ... Mohammed say it, 'Do not attack the people you live among.' Not to tell them, 'Tony Blair say it, the law say it, don't do so.'"

The cleric, who has lived in Britain for 20 years, indicated he would not resist if he were to be deported, saying: "If God destined for me to be deported, or to be imprisoned, nobody can save me."

Comment: The trouble with the Word of God is that it is always spoken by the mouths of men, no matter what God the speaker is appealing to or in what robes He is clothed. History shows us that when God speaks, men die. One would have thought this pattern had repeated so often that we would have gotten wise to it by now, but, no, billions of people the world over still buy into the authority of God and his spokesmen.

Our lives must really be miserable and without any real hope if we constantly, generation after generation, choose to believe in a reward in the hereafter as long as we remain obedient and submissive in the here and now. We can then compensate for our submission to Him by going out and killing those who don't submit, a convenient little ploy that makes us feel, oh, so much better and righteous because we have been able to vent a bit, and we have killed in His name, which not only gets us brownie points that can be redeemed at the Pearly Gates, but also allows us to break with impunity the fundamental commandment of every religion not to kill because the injunction doesn't seem to apply to non-believers. Just look at what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians, what the Americans did to the Native populations and are now doing in Iraq, and to what the British did in their empire.

And while we think that the more notorious of the bombings attributed to the Muslims are more likely the work of intelligence agencies desirous of making the Muslims look like savages, the continued pressure on the Arab countries from the modern crusaders may well lead to an explosion of violence that does come as part of a Holy War against the aggressors. The three monotheistic religions all feed off of each other and need each other to survive -- survive that is so they can continue killing and terrorising each other.

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PM meets police and intelligence

Tony Blair is to hold talks with police and intelligence chiefs to establish what further powers they need in the wake of the London bombing atrocity.

Mr Blair's spokesman said the meeting was key "in terms of the pace and content" of any new measures.

The prime minister has indicated the issue of using phone intercept evidence in court will be discussed.

The meeting comes exactly two weeks after 52 people plus four bombers died in attacks on three trains and a bus.

Asked about the issue of intercept intelligence by Conservative leader Michael Howard at Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions, the prime minister said he was happy to consider the idea.

Matter of principle?

"My own view has always been that if we possibly can use intercept evidence, we should because of the obvious value it can provide in certain cases," he told MPs.

"The difficulty is that up to now we have been advised by the security services that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.

"However, I think in the light of what has happened, it is obviously sensible to go back and consult them again."

He added that as a "matter of principle" he would prefer to have the use of intercept evidence in court proceedings available.

Former M15 officer Michael Flint told BBC News the security services are not equipped to cope with the new kind of threat.

"You need people with ethnic backgrounds to conduct the surveillance operation. The people that they had before, white young males and females, would simply stand out."

He said in the four or five years of the current raised threat there had not been time to build up close links with intelligence services in the Middle East and South Asia.

Professor Anthony Glees, director of Brunel University's Centre for Intelligence and Security Services, said intelligence officers needed to return to "elementary tasks" like monitoring subversion, and other "Cold War tactics".

Mr Blair has also said he wants an international conference about issues arising from Islamic extremism.

He told MPs: "Though the terrorists will use all sorts of issues to justify what they do, the roots of it do go deep, they are often not found in this country alone therefore international action is also necessary."

'Indirect incitement'

On Wednesday Home Secretary Charles Clarke revealed he has asked the Home Office, Foreign Office and the intelligence agencies to establish a full database of extremists.

Anyone wanting to enter the UK would be checked against the list - and if they are on it they may be refused permission to enter the country.

In a statement on the aftermath of the London bombing, Mr Clarke also said he planned a new offence of "indirect incitement to terrorism", to add to the current offence of direct incitement.

He said it "targets those who, while not directly inciting, glorify and condone terrorist acts knowing full well that the effect on their listeners will be to encourage them to turn to terrorism".

Mr Clarke told MPs he wanted to apply more widely the home secretary's powers to exclude an individual from the UK if their presence is deemed "not conducive to the public interest".

"I intend to draw up a list of unacceptable behaviours which would fall into this - for example preaching, running websites or writing articles which are intended to foment or provoke terrorism."

The government has also announced that task force to tackle Islamic extremism "head on" is being set up in the wake of the bombings.

On Thursday, victims of the London attacks will be remembered at the British Medical Association in Tavistock Square - where a bus was blown up, killing 14 people.

A service will take place in the courtyard of the BMA's headquarters where many of the injured people were treated.

Comment: Here comes the fascist express barrelling down the tracks. The years of propaganda have sown the seed that firmly and inextricably links the words "Islam" and "terrorism" in the minds of Westerners. Now it is time to reap the harvest. They'll have an international conference about "Islamic extremism" because we have been told so often that it is real and is a threat that no one doubts its existence for a minute. Then they'll pass laws about "indirect incitement", laws that will likely be vague enough to include sites such as ours when the time comes.

Oh, yes. The fascist monster is back. And with each bomb, it is gaining strength.

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Report: 3,400 Air Violations Since 2001
Associated Press
July 21, 2005

WASHINGTON - One agency should be in charge of confronting planes that venture into restricted airspace, say congressional investigators who counted 3,400 such intrusions nationwide since the government expanded no-fly zones after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The chairman of a House committee looking into the problem said it was essential for agencies that oversee the skies to work together.

"A quick, coordinated response is absolutely vital if we are faced with a pilot or a plane with hostile intent," Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said in a statement ahead of a hearing Thursday of his House Government Reform Committee.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Transportation Security Administration are responsible for making sure pilots don't fly where they shouldn't.

Jets have been scrambled more than 2,000 times since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, including several well-publicized incidents during which private planes strayed into the restricted zone over Washington, causing the evacuation of the White House, the Capitol and other government buildings.

There is no single leader of the airspace security effort, according to a report prepared for the committee by the Government Accountability Office. [...]

Since the terrorist attacks, the government has vastly expanded the amount of airspace it restricts. Aircraft aren't allowed to fly over nuclear power plants, chemical storage areas, military facilities, the nation's capital or any area where the president is traveling, or events such as the Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, the FAA restricted airspace above wildfires in the West to ensure the safety of airborne firefighting efforts.

The report noted that airspace violations are almost all inadvertent, because a pilot is trying to avoid bad weather or doesn't check for notices of the restrictions, as they're required to do.

Pilots flying private planes are responsible for 88 percent of the violations, and most occur in the eastern United States, where air traffic is heavy and there's a lot of restricted airspace.

Almost half the violations occur around Washington, where pilots aren't allowed to fly in an area of about 2,000 square miles unless they have a special identifying signal and maintain radio contact with the FAA.

Comment: 3400 airspace violations since 9/11 works out to about 2.4 violations per day. Obviously, if so many aircraft can regularly violate restricted airspace, then Americans are no safer today than they were before 9/11.

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Bush's Grimmer Vision
By Nat Parry
July 21, 2005

Three years ago, I wrote an article entitled "Bush's Grim Vision." It began with the observation that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, "George W. Bush has put the United States on a course that is so bleak that few analysts have as the saying goes connected the dots. If they had, they would see an outline of a future that mixes constant war overseas with abridgement of constitutional freedoms at home."

Since then, the dots have not only been connected, but many of the shapes have been colored in. The immediate fear and anger following the Sept. 11 attacks have given way to the grinding permanence of a never-ending state of emergency. In many ways, the reality has turned out worse than the article's expectations.

For the last two-plus years, the bloody war in Iraq has raged with no end in sight, as more evidence emerges daily that the Bush administration misled the nation into the invasion through a mix of false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and clever juxtapositions that blurred Iraq's Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda's Osama bin Laden.

The war and the animosities it engendered have, in turn, added to the likelihood of terrorist attacks, like the July 7 bombings in London, which provide further justification for more security and greater encroachments on individual liberties.

Deformed Democracy

Already, the Iraq War has deformed the democratic process in the United States, even as Bush claims that his goal is to spread democracy in the Middle East. At home, his operatives have demonstrated that when fear-mongering isn't enough to scare the American people into line, bare-knuckled bullying is in store for those who speak out.

That is the real back story of the investigation into whether Karl Rove and other senior Bush aides unmasked CIA officer Valerie Plame in retaliation against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for being one of the first mainstream figures to accuse Bush of twisting the intelligence about Iraq and nuclear weapons.

Bush's "grim vision" always recognized that the "war on terror" abroad would require restricted freedoms at home as well as expanded powers for the police and military. So, just as in 2002, when the "Bush Doctrine" on preemptive wars laid the intellectual groundwork for invading Iraq, new doctrines are now being promulgated to justify the creation of a full-scale "security state" inside the United States.

One Defense Department document, called the "Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support," sets out a military strategy against terrorism that envisions an "active, layered defense" both inside and outside U.S. territory.

As a kind of domestic corollary to the Bush Doctrine, the Pentagon strategy paper also has a preemptive element, calling for increased military reconnaissance and surveillance to "defeat potential challengers before they threaten the United States." The plan "maximizes threat awareness and seizes the initiative from those who would harm us."

Global War

Besides lifting the traditional limits on military operations on U.S. soil, the document makes clear that global warfare will be the reality for at least the next decade.

"The likelihood of U.S. military operations overseas will be high throughout the next 10 years," the document said, adding that the Pentagon fully expects terrorists to carry out "multiple, simultaneous mass casualty (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive) attacks against the U.S. homeland."

The primary response will be "projecting power across the globe in ways that an enemy cannot predict," the paper said, promising "an unpredictable web of land, maritime, and air assets that are arrayed to detect, deter, and defeat hostile action."

For any American suspected of collaborating with terrorists, Bush has already revealed what's in store. In May 2002, the FBI arrested U.S. citizen Jose Padilla in Chicago on suspicion that he might be an al-Qaeda operative planning an attack.

Rather than bring criminal charges, Bush designated Padilla an "enemy combatant" and had him imprisoned indefinitely without benefit of due process. Now, Bush is asking the federal courts to recognize the president's sole right to strip American citizens of their constitutional protections.

"In the war against terrorists of global reach, as the Nation learned all too well on Sept. 11, 2001, the territory of the United States is part of the battlefield, " Bush's lawyers have argued in briefs to the federal courts. [Washington Post, July 19, 2005]

A Harsh 'Cure'

In effect, the Bush administration is prescribing a large dose of military action and political repression as the cure for Islamic terrorism.

Besides the question of civil liberties, the strategy represents a rejection of advice from counterinsurgency experts who warn that an over-reliance on warfare and inadequate attention to the root causes of Middle East anger could perpetuate terrorism indefinitely, rather than reduce it to a manageable problem that can be handled by law enforcement.

But Bush's "you're with us or with the terrorists" rhetoric has left little space in the U.S. political world for a frank, realistic discussion about the best counter-terrorism strategy. The bellicose conservative news media and pro-Bush operatives continue to shout down or ridicule anyone who suggests any subtlety in U.S. policy.

On June 22, for instance, Bush unleashed deputy chief of staff Rove to mock "liberals" for supposedly demonstrating a cowardly naivety in the face of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said in a speech to the Conservative Party of New York State. [See's "Baiting, Not Debating."]

This truncated public debate jumped the Atlantic after the July 7 terror bombings in London. British Prime Minister Tony Blair went ballistic whenever someone noted that Great Britain's participation in the war in Iraq was a factor in radicalizing the four suicide bombers who attacked three subway cars and a double-decker bus.

Instead of facing that reality, Blair adopted Bush's black-and-white rhetoric about "evil" terrorists. Blair's government lashed out at one private research group when it pointed out the obvious: that Great Britain had made itself a more likely target for terror attacks by becoming a "pillion passenger" to Bush's Middle East policies, using a phrase for the person who sits behind the driver of a motorcycle.

"The time for excuses over terrorism is over," snapped Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in chastising the Chatham House for its report.

But the report actually was in line with the thinking of British security services, which had noted before the July 7 attacks that the war in Iraq was worsening the terrorist threat in Great Britain. "Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the U.K.," a confidential British terror threat assessment had said. [NYT, July 19, 2005]

Despite Blair's bluster, the British public appears to have made this obvious connection, too. According to a poll conducted after the attacks, 75 percent of Britons believe that the bombings were the result of the U.K.'s participation in the Iraq War.

Timid Debate

In the United States, a few public commentators have gingerly approached this link between the Iraq War and the worsening terrorist threat. Time magazine observed that it was "bad manners" to criticize anyone besides the London bombers, but added, "we need to ask why the attacks keep coming."

Time said the link to the Iraq War couldn't be ignored. "Invading Iraq, however noble the U.S. believed its intentions, provided the best possible confirmation of the jihadist claims," Time wrote. [Time, July 18, 2005, issue]

United for Peace and Justice, a U.S.-based anti-war coalition, said it was "horrified by the senseless death and destruction caused by the bombings in London" but added that the attacks can be seen as a consequence of the Iraq invasion.

"We were told by the Bush administration that our nation had to go to war in Iraq in order to fight terrorism, to make us and the world safer," a UFPJ statement said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, none of us is more secure since the Bush administration launched its so-called war on terror."

Of course, dire predictions that the Iraq invasion would backfire and become a boon to al-Qaeda were a big part of the argument from anti-war protesters in late 2002 and early 2003. But that analysis was largely excluded from the mainstream pre-war debate, as U.S. politicians and pundits competed to out-macho each other on TV talk shows.

Even now, almost four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration and its allies continue to seek a national "group think" that permits Americans only to explain terrorism by asserting that the perpetrators hate America's freedoms and want to impose their "evil" ideology on the United States.[...]

Cementing 'Security'

Yet, instead of a serious policy reevaluation, the Republican-controlled Congress is moving toward rubber-stamping Bush's "security state" plans both at home and abroad.

Beyond the expanded domestic role for the Pentagon, the powers of the FBI are increasing. The Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation to reauthorize and expand the Patriot Act, which was passed in the hectic days after the Sept. 11 attacks with emergency provisions that were designed to expire.

Now, Congress is not only reauthorizing many of those stop-gap powers but adding new ones. "Administrative subpoena" authority, for instance, would allow the FBI to execute its own search orders for intelligence investigations, without judicial review.

The legislation also would give agents the authority to seize personal records from medical facilities, libraries, hotels, gun dealers, banks and any other businesses without any specific facts connecting those records to any criminal activity or a foreign agent.

Bush also recently ordered the creation of a domestic spy service within the FBI, called the National Security Service. Intended to centralize authority and remove barriers between the FBI and the CIA, the NSS will combine the Justice Department's intelligence, counter-terrorism and espionage units.

The NSS will have the authority to bypass traditional due-process when seizing assets of people or companies thought to be aiding the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The new police powers come on top of guidelines for intelligence-gathering that Attorney General John Ashcroft established in 2002 when he loosened restrictions that were put the FBI after the COINTELPRO political-spying scandal of the 1970s.

Under the Ashcroft guidelines, the FBI must only have a reasonable indication that "two or more persons are engaged in an enterprise for the purpose of furthering political or social goals wholly or in part through activities that involve force or violence and a violation of federal criminal law."

The investigation does not need to be approved by FBI headquarters, but rather, may be authorized by a special agent in charge of an FBI field office.

Defining Terrorism

Critics argue that the authority to investigate domestic terrorism invites political abuses because the Patriot Act adopted a broad definition of terrorism. Section 802 of the law defines terrorism as acts that "appear to be intended ... to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion," which could include confrontational protests and civil disobedience.

Civil libertarians have warned that rather than improving security or combating terrorism, the new laws and guidelines may be more useful in silencing critics of the Bush administration and chilling political dissent.

One early indication of how the government might use its expanded powers came in 2003, when the FBI sent a memorandum to local law enforcement agencies before planned demonstrations against the war in Iraq. The memo detailed protesters' tactics and analyzed activities such as the recruitment of protesters over the Internet.

The FBI instructed local law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for "possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force."

Since then, there have been many stories about the FBI's Joint-Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) harassing and intimidating political activists engaged in lawful protests. Before last summer's demonstrations at the Democratic and Republican national conventions, for instance, the JTTF visited the homes of activists, while FBI agents in Missouri, Kansas and Colorado spied on and interrogated activists.

One target of these visits, Sarah Bardwell of Denver, Colorado, said, "The message I took from it was that they were trying to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let us know that, 'hey, we're watching you.'" [NYT, Aug. 16, 2004]

Over the past few years, the FBI also has collected thousands of pages of internal documents on civil rights and antiwar protest groups. "The FBI has in its files 1,173 pages of internal documents on the American Civil Liberties Union, the leading critic of the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies, and 2,383 pages on Greenpeace," the New York Times reported. [NYT, July 18, 2005]

Another group singled out by the FBI was United for Peace and Justice, which facilitated last summer's protest at the Republican convention. Leslie Cagan, the national coordinator for the coalition said she was particularly concerned that the FBI's counterterrorism division was discussing the coalition's operations.

"We always assumed the FBI was monitoring us, but to see the counterterrorism people looking at us like this is pretty jarring," Cagan said.

But even as people around the world call for rethinking the U.S. strategy on terrorism, the Bush administration is calling for more of the same increased police powers at home and intensified war abroad.

Immediately after the London bombings, National Guardsmen were deployed on subway systems in the U.S., carrying automatic rifles. The Washington Metro is considering using random bag searches as a way to prevent a subway bombing that many people now view as inevitable.

While many Americans may see these steps as appropriate precautions to ensure public safety, it also cannot be denied that each day the United States more and more resembles an authoritarian police state.

These bit-by-bit concessions to the endless "war on terror" also may be a chilling reminder that "safety" and "security" have always served as excuses for authoritarian governments as they peel away the rights of their citizens.

Comment: Yeah, it's bad, and he's left out all the stuff about Bush and his friends being behind 9/11! That's still "too much" for most people who are opposed to Bush to consider. They see the fascist empress heading their way, although they call it, as Parry does above, "authoritarian governments", but they still can't comprehend how bad it really is. They still think that "Bush can be impeached" or some such wishful thinking that amounts to "it'll all go away if only we close our eyes and wish hard enough. The system will work."

Yeah, right. The folks that downed the WTC and shot down Flight 93 when the passengers decided to take things into their own hands, are going to let themselves be impeached! Just what part of "stealing two elections" do they not understand?

It'll take a shock commensurate with their gullibility to awaken them, to shake the scales from their eyes.

And that isn't going to be pretty.

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Pentagon report reflects "cold war mentality" 2005-07-20 22:32:17
BEIJING, July 20 (Xinhuanet, by Li Xuanliang, Meng Na and Tian Sulei)

Chinese military experts said Pentagon's annual report on Chinese military power is full of "guesswork and prejudices" and it reflects the animus and ambivalence of certain forces in the United States toward China's peaceful rise.

Although some people in the United States wantonly plays up "Chinese military threats" in the report, it won't have any obvious influence on Sino-US relations and China's military modernization won't slow down for it, says the experts.

"The report issued by the Pentagon on July 19 shows some forcesin the US military sector still view China's peaceful rise with cold war mentality," said Shi Yan, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Military Science.

The report, originally scheduled to be released in April or May, has been postponed again and again for various reasons.

"Its difficult birth indicates that this is not an objective research report," said marine expert Li Yaqiang. "If it is entirely based on facts, why should it be postponed again and again and revised again and again. Generally, only conjectures areprone to revisions."

Li, who participated in the drafting of China's national defense white paper several times, said the report made irresponsible subjective conjecture on the growth of China's military spending, development of weaponry and military modernization.

For instance, said Li, the report says China's actual military expenditure is three times that of the officially released figure.

"That's sheer nonsense!" said Li. "China's national defense is becoming increasingly transparent. The fact has been acknowledged by the world."

He said along with China's economic growth, China's expenditureon national defense has grown slightly in recent years mainly to address the gap accumulated over the years.

"Even so, China's national defense spending is still at a relatively low level compared with other big countries," he said.

China's national defense spending amounted to 211.7 billion yuan (approximately 25.5 billion US dollars) in 2004, while that the United States was 455.9 billion dollars, 17.8 times of the Chinese figure. The per capita figure of the United States was even 77 times that of the Chinese one.

Li said there's no cause to blame China's weaponry upgrade, which is necessary for China to cope with a complicated and changeable international situation, safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

Shi Yan said the report is also noted for its advocacy of the message that the Chinese mainland's military power has surpassed that of Taiwan.

"These sensational remarks constitute a tactic that has been constantly used by the report," said Shi. "Its purpose is to compel Taiwan authorities to pass an arms purchase bill involving huge expenditure to satisfy US arms dealers and bring development of relations across the Taiwan Strait to a standstill."

Choosing cooperation based on a new security concept featuring "mutual trust, mutual benefits, equality and collaboration" or choosing confrontation based on the "cold war mentality"? That's amatter that concerns not only the development and orientation of China and the United States, but also peace and Stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world, said Shi.

In spite of the report, the two experts are still sanguine about the theme of cooperation and a win-win relationship between China and the United States.

"The United States is a pluralistic society. Although the report is submitted in the name of the US Department of Defense, it is not likely to reflect the main stream opinion of the US society and less likely to change the set course of the United States' China policy," said Shi.

"In the United States, more and more people have realized that common interest between China and the United States is growing constantly. The best policy to benefit the fundamental interests of the two countries is seeking common ground while reserving differences," Shi said.

Li Yaqiang said the general situation of cooperation and a win-win relationship between China and the United States will not change, and the set pace of China's military modernization will not slow down under the effects of the report.

Comment: The next few years will show us how pluralistic US society will be allowed to be. The theocrats in power are not at all pluralistic and are putting into place measures that will give them the means to enforce their governing theology.

We note, however, that the Chinese government announced today that it was moving tentatively away from its former fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. Given the interconnectedness of the Chinese and American economies, as well as the large amount of US dollars held by China, it will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months.

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China Severs Its Currency's Link to Dollar

China Severs Currency's Peg to the U.S. Dollar, Retains Controls on Its Exchange Rate
By Stephanie Hoo
Associated Press Writer
Thursday July 21, 8:23 am ET

BEIJING -- China dropped its politically volatile policy of linking its currency to the U.S. dollar but retained controls on its exchange rate, switching the link to a basket of foreign currencies in a move that could push up the price of Chinese exports to the United States and Europe.

China strengthened the state-set exchange rate of the yuan currency to 8.11 to the U.S. dollar from 8.277, where it had been fixed for more than a decade, the government said in a surprise announcement on state television's evening news. That raised the value of one yuan by about one-quarter of one U.S. cent to 12.33 cents.

China had been under pressure for years from its trading partners to let the yuan float or at least to raise its exchange rate. The United States and others said it undervalued the yuan by up to 40 percent, giving Chinese exporters an unfair price advantage.

The change Thursday appeared to be too small to satisfy the United States or other governments, which say inexpensive Chinese imports are threatening thousands of jobs.

"This is the start of a gradual appreciation process," said Frank Gong, managing director of JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong. "It will help balance Chinese trade flows. Export volumes will come down. Import volumes will pick up. It will help reduce trade tensions."

Malaysia simultaneously announced it was dropping its own policy tying its currency, the ringgit, to the U.S. dollar and would adopt a similar arrangement.

Some U.S. lawmakers had threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs if China didn't adjust its yuan trading scheme.

The yuan will now be allowed to trade in a tight 0.3 percent band against a basket of foreign currencies, the government said. It didn't say which currencies.

It said the central bank would announce the yuan's closing price each day, and that rate would be the midpoint of the next day's trading band.

Chinese leaders have said for years that they eventually would let the yuan trade freely on world markets. But they said any decision would be based on China's economic needs, not foreign pressure.

Chinese officials said any abrupt change in its currency system would cause turmoil, hurting its fragile banks and financial industries.

Comment: The real question is: To which currencies will the yuan be tied? Now that China's currency is no longer tied to the dollar, it is widely expected that the yuan will steadily appreciate versus the dollar. The Bush administration wants us to believe that this will be beneficial for the US population, since Chinese exports will become more expensive while US goods will become cheaper to Chinese consumers, and thus help to repair the huge trade gap with China. The problem is that if you walk around your house and pick up various objects to see where they were made, a huge percentage of them will have a label of some kind that reads, "Made in China". All those goods will soon become increasingly more expensive. With already enormous personal and public debt levels, it is difficult to see how China's move could be seen as beneficial for the average American. But the really big problem seems to be massive US deficits...

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US deficits aren't just China's problem
By Martin Wolf
Financial Times
April 19 2005 20:47

If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has."
~ John Maynard Keynes

If Keynes was right, the world's creditor countries have a huge problem and the US none at all. Yet the assumption that the creditors should be more terrified than the debtor is wrong if the latter needs to continue borrowing. If creditors face an endless stream of additional borrowing and a good chance of default at the end of it, they should refuse to throw good money after bad. They will then impose huge costs on the debtor. [...]

Comment: In this case, the US is the debtor, and it needs countries like China to continue investing in the US to keep the dollar propped up. In this light, an appreciating yuan is again bad news for the US economy, which is in a terribly fragile state at present.

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Forget Unocal. Real China Risk Is Treasuries
William Pesek Jr.
July 7, 2005

Watching the U.S. Congress miss the big picture in the age of globalization has become a common occurrence. The latest example: Its tantrum over China's push to buy Unocal Corp.

There's no convincing reason to block Cnooc Ltd.'s $18.5 billion bid for the No. 8 U.S. oil company. Sure, there may be some national security issues at the margin. It's also a bit dodgy for China's state-owned banks to subsidize the deal. Yet steps like divestiture can deal with such concerns.

Here's an even bigger problem: The dustup is distracting Congress from the real threat to their nation's economic future -- fiscal irresponsibility. And China's role in enabling that trend should keep politicians up at night.

China isn't hoarding Treasuries conspiratorially. Its $230 billion of U.S. debt holdings aren't the financial Trojan horse some fear -- a way for China to attack the U.S. economy from within. Those holdings have everything to do with maintaining China's 8.3 peg to the dollar.

The upshot is that Asia's No. 2 economy has a disturbing amount of leverage over the U.S. If U.S. politicians want to protect national security, they should be looking at how much their government is becoming indebted to China.

Dumping the Debt?

What if China began dumping U.S. debt? It wouldn't even have to be about politics. Such a move might come if China decided to float its currency or it thought U.S. yields would rise, forcing it to accept losses on dollar holdings.

That might happen if record U.S. budget and current-account deficits send the dollar lower. The budget deficit was a record $412.6 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and a current- account deficit is 6.4 percent of the economy.

All this may sound a bit hyperbolic, especially when you consider China may have much to lose by letting the yuan surge or precipitating a massive drop in U.S. bond prices. Yet it's still an option for a nation that may want to flex its muscles in Washington.

The U.S. used to fear Japan, the biggest holder of U.S. debt, in this regard. Japanese officials in the past have made not-so-veiled threats about pulling the plug on U.S. debt. In June 1997, for example, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said "actually, several times in the past, we have been tempted to sell large lots of U.S. Treasuries.''

Risky to Avoid Risk

The inference, which slammed markets, was clear. The prime minister had just come from a Group of Eight summit in Denver that featured considerable U.S. chest thumping about its booming economy. Japan's leader was merely reminding Washington that while it had created a robust, productive and innovative economy, Asia holds the deed.

Whether China or others in Asia would suddenly dump their $1.1 trillion of U.S. Treasury holdings is anyone's guess. Yet it would be a mistake to ignore the risk.

The U.S. likes to claim its profligate ways are a matter of necessity amid weak demand in Europe and Asia. Such arguments ignore how the Bush administration peddled dodgy financial intelligence in order to push through huge tax cuts. This is less about the U.S. borrowing to bail out the global economy than its own fiscal policies.

For better or worse, China and other Asia nations have made it possible for the U.S. to live far beyond its means. This region ships vast amounts of its savings to the West, holding down U.S. bond yields and supporting the dollar.

Congress and Reality

Yet there's a big flaw in U.S. arguments that deficits don't matter: They will matter if Asian central banks helping the U.S. paper over them change their minds. All it would take for the whole arrangement to come undone is for some of them to shift currency reserves into euros or yen.

Granted, that hasn't happened. Those predicting a dollar crash have been humbled by its resilience. Remember, though, that the support of Asia's monetary authorities is what's allowing the U.S. to confound its critics. If Asians reverse course, look out.

It's here where Congress's efforts on Unocal seem so perplexing. Rather than hyperventilating over Chinese companies buying up household-name U.S. ones, Congress should be panicking over fiscal realities.

Why not let China take a trade surplus that totaled $162 billion last year and invest some of those dollars in U.S. companies? For one thing, foreign direct investment in the U.S. has been sluggish since the 2000-2001 recession. For another, such investments are harder to unload quickly than debt.

The Problem

The Unocal brouhaha threatens to do additional damage to relations between the U.S. and China -- two economies that need each other more than they like to admit. And just as on issues like farm subsidies and China's currency policy, the U.S. risks reminding the world it only favors globalization when it's on the winning side of it.

Perhaps what bothers Congress is that a developing nation like China is managing to shake up the world's wealthiest. Just as U.S. officials lost sleep over Japan's rise 20 years ago, they worry about how China may alter the global status quo and exert influence over the U.S.

China will indeed do that, yet not for the reasons some in Congress think. It's not China's ownership of companies that's a problem -- it's the IOUs.

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American Taxpayers Footing Israel's Withdrawal From Gaza
Charley Reese
July 16, 2005

The state of Israel – which, the last time I checked, was both a foreign and a sovereign nation – wants the American taxpayers to cough up $2.2 billion in addition to our regular $3 billion-or-so annual subsidy to pay for the withdrawal from Gaza.

Unless the American people raise hell about this, it's a done deal.

In Washington, whatever Israel wants, Israel gets.

Nevertheless, there are several reasons why the American people should rebel at the latest brazen attack on our treasury by Israel and its American supporters.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided unilaterally to withdraw from Gaza. This was in lieu of following the president's peace plan, which Sharon has ignored from the very beginning.

Where is it written, on stone or parchment or paper, that the head of a foreign government can decide to do something unilaterally and automatically send the bill to the American taxpayers?

We will derive NO benefits at all from the withdrawal.

Furthermore, Sharon's adviser spilled the beans in an Israeli newspaper interview. The withdrawal from Gaza is not part of any peace plan. It was just an excuse to put off serious peace negotiations. Sharon will remove about 8,000 settlers from Gaza who are a pain in the government's rear end anyway, shut down four tiny settlements on the West Bank, and that's it. As Sharon's adviser admitted, there won't be any serious negotiations with the Palestinians until they "turn into Finns."

A normal president would view Sharon's actions as unacceptable and his casual expectation that we would pay for it as a personal insult.

President George Bush, however, when it comes to Israel, is just like Congress – a candy-bottom.

That's why, despite all of our problems, all of our deficits, all of our debts, the U.S. government has gifted Israel with more than $90 billion in recent decades.

If Washington gives in, we taxpayers will be spending about $227,000 per Jewish settler. That's a sporty moving expense.

We paid for the Camp David peace treaty in the 1970s – some $4 billion to Israel to get out of Egyptian territory it had no business occupying in the first place.

And as part of that deal, apparently we've been paying Egypt an annual bribe of $2 billion or so a year for having signed the peace treaty.

The proper American attitude should be:

"We think, Israel, it is in your interests to make peace with your Arab neighbors.

That's your decision, however; if you would prefer to remain at war, that's OK with us, because either way – peace or war – we aren't going to pay for it."

As for those Christian cultists who take one verse out of a very large Jewish Bible and claim that it binds us to help Israel, I would just say that if you believe God wishes modern Zionists to occupy modern Palestine, let Him pay for it.

When did we get appointed fiscal agent for Almighty God?

And when did God ever need anybody's help to do whatever he wanted to do?

And where is it written in the Constitution that Congress can tax the American people and hand the money out as a gift to foreign countries?

It's been said of the suicide bombers that they hate us more than they love life.

Well, the American people are going to have to teach their congressional representatives and senators to fear them more than they fear the Israeli lobby, or the American people will continue to be not only taxed unjustly, but dragged into Israel's quarrels in the Middle East.

I always add (not that it does any good as far as hostile reactions from the Israel First crowd are concerned) that the Israeli lobby has every right to ask for anything it wants.

The fault is not with the lobby; it's with the congressional representatives and senators who betray their oath of office and betray you in order to placate a lobby that has shown itself to be not only effective but vindictive.

But, hey, it's your country.

If you wish to allow some weak-willed politicians to lay it to waste and destroy the future for your children and grandchildren, that's your decision.

But I'm a strong believer that even people who wish to commit suicide should know what they are doing.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column three times a week for King Features. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

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Sudan apologizes after scuffles mar Rice talks
July 21, 2005

EL-FASHER, Sudan - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded and received an apology from Sudan after officials and press accompanying her were "manhandled" by security staff at President Omar al-Beshir's residence.

"They had no right to manhandle my staff and the press," Rice told reporters after the incident on Thursday, in which US officials and reporters were violently barred from entering the meeting and security staff tried to confiscate press tapes.

"It makes me very angry to be sitting there with their president and have this happen," said Rice, who was in Sudan to urge Khartoum to step up efforts to end what she calls genocide in its battered western Darfur region.

Jim Wilkinson, senior adviser to Rice -- who flew straight from the meeting to Darfur -- said "she told them to apologize before we land in Darfur."

After landing in El-Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, Rice spokesman Sean McKormack said she received a personal phone call from Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail "apologising for the treatment of our delegation and the press corps accompanying the secretary."

US officials said the security men had tried to prevent them and the press from entering the meeting at Beshir's residence and tried to confiscate tapes from a National Public Radio reporter before Rice's staff intervened.

Wilkinson said he was grabbed and thrown against the wall at the entrance to Beshir's residence before he bulled his way through with Rice's personal assistant in tow behind him.

In the melee, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Connie Newman was initially barred from entering the meeting, as was Rice intepreter Gamal Helal.

"Freedom of the press is a wonderful thing and we don't appreciate being manhandled at the front door," a fuming Wilkinson told reporters.

He accused the Sudanese of breaking the first rule of diplomacy.

"Diplomacy 101 says you don't rough your guests up, especially the press," he said.

The Sudanese finally relented and let the American press in in two waves -- although Wilkinson was seen waving an angry finger at the foreign minister.

A Sudanese official quickly came out to apologise to the second group of journalists, held back in the anteroom to the residence.

"It is not our intention in any way to bar the press from doing its job," said Khidir Haroun Ahmed, chief of the Sudanese mission to the United States.

Later, when NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell tried to ask why Khartoum should be believed in its promises to crack down on militias in Darfur, she was cut off and pushed away by the Sudanese security.

Wilkinson again angrily intervened, warning: "Don't ever touch our journalists again", and Rice personally apologised to Mitchell afterwards.

Rice was in Sudan -- a country under US sanctions and still branded by Washington a state sponsor of terrorism -- as part of a five-day trip that has already taken her to Senegal and that is to end in the Middle East.

She has said she expects decisive movement from Khartoum to end the fighting in Darfur, stressing Washington still considered the conflict to be "genocide".

Beshir said at the beginning of the meeting with Rice that "we do not want to go back to war in any part of the country," but an official present for the entire meeting said he was noncommital about disarming the government-backed Janjaweed militia.

The government's proxy militia has been accused of murder, torture, widespread rape and other human rights abuses against the civilian population.

"If you only disarm one side in conflict, the result is going to be genocide," the official said.

US officials said they had frank talks with the Sudanese on Thursday. Wilkinson said Rice was "very direct about the scepticism of the international community about their ability to improve Darfur."

"She was very firm with Ismail in their meeting," he added.

Officials said the Sudanese had agreed to make an effort to crack down on violence against women in Darfur and had asked for humanitarian wavers of sanctions so they could buy spare part for railways or aircraft to help speed food deliveries and the relocation of displaced people.

Rice said she would look at it but gave no firm commitment, the officials said.

She earlier conferred with Ismail and Vice President John Garang -- a former rebel leader from southern Sudan -- before heading to Darfur to assess what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In Darfur, Rice was to visit a camp for displaced persons and meet women affected by the violence that has left up to 300,000 people dead and more than two million homeless.

The trip also came amid heightened concern about the pace of the African Union's deployment of forces to monitor the situation in Darfur.

Fighting has raged in Darfur since February 2003, when local groups rose up against Khartoum's Arab-dominated government in protest at the marginalisation of the region's black African tribes.

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Meteor seen in Siskiyou skies Tuesday
Updated: Wednesday, July 20, 2005 3:57 PM PDT

YREKA - At 2:20 Tuesday afternoon, callers began alerting Yreka police and the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department to a "fire ball" that had come from the sky and believed to have landed near the city's corporation yard.

A golfer at the Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford, Ore. was getting ready to make a shot off the second tee, when he reported seeing a flaming object with "blue and red flames coming off of it," fall from the sky. That observer thought that the object had fallen somewhere near Shady Cove, Ore.

Callers also contacted the National Weather Service offices in Medford and Roseburg, Ore. to report the sighting.

Scientists at the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory (CML) at Portland State University have determined that what was seen in the sky Tuesday afternoon was a fireball, also called a "bolide." Scientists say when a solid object enters the earth's atmosphere, it can heat up to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and will begin to glow. That object is called a meteor and if it glows brighter than the planet Venus, it is called a fireball. When there are a sufficient number of eyewitness reports of a fireball, scientists can often determine the location where the meteorite landed and samples can be recovered. Tuesday's fireball has not yet been located.

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Bizarre boulders litter Saturn moon's icy surface
* 14:30 19 July 2005
* news service
* Stuart Clark

The Cassini spacecraft has coasted to its closest encounter yet - skimming just 175 kilometres above Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. But astronomers are at a loss to explain its observations.

On 14 July, Cassini swooped in for an unprecedented close-up view of the wrinkled moon. Its Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) camera has since returned pictures of a boulder-strewn landscape that is currently beyond explanation. The "boulders" appear to range between 10 and 20 metres in diameter in the highest-resolution images, which can resolve features just 4 m across.

"That's a surface texture I have never seen anywhere else in the solar system," says David Rothery, a planetary geologist at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK.

Cracks crisscross Enceladus's surface - possibly as a result of the moon being repeatedly squeezed and stretched by the gravity of Saturn and other moons nearby. But Rothery points out the boulders avoid - rather than fill - the cracks. This might indicate that the fracturing took place after the boulders had already formed.
Alien landscape

John Spencer, a Cassini team member at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, US, agrees that the images are puzzling. "You would expect to see small craters or a smooth, snow-covered landscape at this resolution," he told New Scientist. "This is just strange. In fact, I have a really hard time understanding what I'm seeing."

NASA scientists have been locked in discussions since 15 July and are expected to pass judgment on what they think this peculiar surface might be later on Tuesday.

But Elizabeth Turtle, a Cassini imaging team member at the University of Arizona in Tucson, US, warns there will be no quick answers. "Trying to figure out what is going on is going to take a lot longer than a weekend of swapped emails," she says.

Heat source

These images - like those from previous flybys - reveal a surface clawed with fractures and swollen with ridges. It could point to a substantial heat source within the moon, driving the internal convection of ice. And this raises the possibility that Enceladus could possess a sub-surface ocean similar to that on Jupiter's moon Europa.

That could be a problem, according to Spencer. Superficially, the two worlds bear a passing resemblance, but Enceladus is six times smaller than Europa. "Enceladus seems too small to have enough internal heat to create a sub-surface ocean," he says. "But, since we don't understand the surface, we might not understand the interior either," he says. Turtle, however, is sceptical of the ocean hypothesis and says "we see no evidence of liquid flows on the surface".

Key information in this debate may come from Cassini's Dual Technique Magnetometer. It was fluctuations in Europa's magnetic field that finally convinced scientists that it harboured a subsurface ocean. Perhaps the same will be true of Enceladus. At present, the data is being analysed by scientists at Imperial College in London, UK.

Regardless of the outcome, NASA has already decided that Enceladus is worth an even closer look. They have scheduled another grazing flyby of the moon in 2008, when Cassini will skim even closer than ever - to within 100 km of the boulder-strewn surface.

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Quake jolts Indonesia's Aceh 2005-07-21 13:40:10

JAKARTA, July 21 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter Scale rocked the western coast of tsunami-hit Aceh province on Thursday, but there were no reports of damage or casualties, meteorologists said.

The under-sea quake occurred at 08:42 a.m. and its epicenter was 33 kilometers under the floor of the sea, some 17 kilometers southeast of Meulaboh, the main town in the West Aceh district, they said.

The earthquake was strongly felt in Meulaboh, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on Dec. 26.

"There are no reports of damage or injuries so far," said a meteorologist from the National Meteorology and Geophysics Agency here.

Indonesia sits on the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

The 9.3-magnitude quake off Indonesia's Sumatra island triggered the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster which left at least 220,000 people dead around the Indian Ocean. Aceh, especially its coasts, was one of the hardest hit areas.

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Quake sounds reveal Earth 'ripping apart'
Scientists may get clues for tsunami warning systems
By Marsha Walton
Wednesday, July 20, 2005; Posted: 11:33 p.m. EDT (03:33 GMT)

(CNN) -- Scientists are gaining insight about December's devastating earthquake and tsunami from the actual sounds of the magnitude 9.3 quake in the Indian Ocean.

"It's really quite an eerie sound to hear the Earth ripping apart like that. We hear it on smaller earthquakes quite frequently but something of this scale that goes on for eight minutes is very much unprecedented," said Maya Tolstoy, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

"It really gave me the chills when I first heard it," she said.

The dramatic soundtrack of the rupture of the Sumatra-Andaman Fault comes from a little known, and sometimes hard-to-access resource. The microphones that captured the sound are part of a global network of instruments that monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The microphones that picked up this earthquake were located in Diego Garcia, an island more than 1,700 miles from the epicenter of the quake.

The sounds suggest two distinct stages of the underwater temblor.

"What we are able to see is very clearly two phases in the speed of the rupture," said Tolstoy.

"The first third is much faster, the second two thirds slower," she said. The length of the rupture was about 750 miles.

"I look at it mathematically and I study the change in direction of the earthquake," she said. "We are able to tell how long it ruptured, how fast it went, and those are important things to know for disaster mitigation," she said.

Tolstoy and other scientists have had some access to data from the monitoring group, The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). In the past researchers have obtained the sounds of other earthquakes, and even the noises made when icebergs cracked.

But a spokeswoman for CTBTO, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, says the group does not have the capability to act as a disaster alert system.

"Our mandate is watching for nuclear weapons testing," said Daniela Rozgonova. "We don't share data directly with scientists. Our data is collected and analyzed, and goes to member states. They decide what to do with it," she said. A total of 121 countries have ratified the nuclear test ban treaty, agreeing "not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control."

But because of the deaths and destruction of last year's Asian tsunami, Rozgonova did say the organization would now share seismic observation data with UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. That group is working with many countries that are trying to improve early warning systems for tsunamis. But she stressed there is no way the information could be relayed "real time."

"It's a very sensitive issue obviously because you are monitoring the globe and you can hear relatively small sounds, and so countries are very sensitive about having that information openly released," said Tolstoy. [...]

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Wildfire Forces Evacuations Near Denver
Associated Press
July 21, 2005

KIOWA, Colo. - A fast-moving wildfire forced the evacuation of about 50 homes near Denver on Wednesday as flames blackened a landscape of rolling grasslands and ponderosa pines.

Deputies went door-to-door warning residents to leave a cluster of houses about 25 miles southeast of Denver. Two air tankers were dropping fire-retardant on the 800-acre blaze.

"It's doubling in size every two hours," Elbert County Sheriff Bill Frangis said. One firefighter suffered a heat-related injury, and one horse was burned, he said.

Fire crews worked quickly, containing the blaze by late evening.

"They got on it fast," said Larry Helmerick of the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center.

Only two homes remained threatened. Officials were slowly allowing people to return home, but most remained evacuated. It was not known how the fire started.

Residents said small fires started by lightning were common in the area, where homes occupy lots up to 60 acres. Many property owners are experienced in putting the blazes out themselves.

Hank Smith said he spent about two hours throwing dirt on the fire to stop it from advancing. He got so close, he said, that "when I pushed my glasses up, it burned my eyebrows."

Eleven fire departments battled the flames, which were being driven by winds of 10 to 15 mph that authorities feared could strengthen to 30 to 35 mph.

Firefighters were hampered by relentless heat. Denver reached 105 on Wednesday, tying the all-time record for hottest day, set on Aug. 8, 1878, according to the National Weather Service. It was the second straight day of triple-digit temperatures, far above the normal highs in the upper 80s.

Elsewhere Wednesday, fire crews battled two blazes near Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado and braced for the possibility that lightning could spark new blazes.

Fire information officer Jen Chase said trees were so dry that the probability of lightning starting a fire was 100 percent, and any new fires were likely to spread quickly.

A nearly 200-acre lightning-caused fire on the Ute Mountain Ute Indian reservation was 70 percent contained, and a second blaze on the reservation covering 2,318 acres was 85 percent contained.

Crews used tactics to avoid damaging fragile archaeological sites and artifacts, dropping retardant from the air.

Archaeological treasures on the reservation rival those at Mesa Verde National Park, said Tom Rice, the tribe's resource adviser. They include cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, stone tools and pottery.

In southern Arizona, a 22,500-acre fire was about 75 percent contained, thanks to burnouts and heavy rain, lessening the threat to about 30 homes and cabins and wildlife habitat in Madera Canyon.

Full containment of the blaze was expected by Thursday evening, said fire spokeswoman Donna Nemeth.

In northern California, firefighters contained a wind-blown wildfire that grew to more than 10,000 acres early Wednesday but burned past a nuclear weapons laboratory and some 500 homes without causing major damage, said Chopper Snyder, a California Department of Forestry dispatcher.

The fire left the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory untouched after an initial scare. Officials at the lab had declared an emergency, allowing other agencies to help protect an experimental test site at the facility.

In Oregon, firefighters battled a 5,000-acre blaze on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The fire was not threatening any homes, but "it's got an awful lot of potential," said Gary Cooke, fire administrator for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs.

Rafting along the nearby Deschutes River had been suspended, but by Wednesday officials allowed rafters to return. Monitors stood on the banks with bullhorns to help rafters stay out of the way of helicopters that dipped for water.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 36 large fires were active Wednesday in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Nearly 3.9 million acres of land has been burned so far this year, compared with 4.4 million at this time last year.

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Relentless Heat in Phoenix Kills 18
Associated Press
July 21, 2005

PHOENIX - A record heat wave has led to the deaths of 18 people, most of them homeless, leaving officials scrambling to provide water and shelter to the city's transient population.

For the first time in years, homeless shelters opened their doors during the day to offer respite from the blistering sun, which has delivered above-average temperatures every day since June 29. Police began passing out thousands of water bottles donated by grocery stores, and city officials set up tents for shade downtown.

"I don't know why I'm not burnt to pieces," said Chris Cruse, 48, after taking refuge in a shelter.

Four more bodies were found Wednesday. Fourteen of the victims were thought to be homeless. Authorities did not know if a man found by the side of a road Sunday had a permanent residence.

The other three victims were elderly women, including one whose home cooling system was not on, police said. [...]

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said his office was asking Congress to provide utility assistance for soaring cooling bills the same way it provides for heating bills in Eastern states.

"Fair is fair. There are too many individuals dying of heat here," Gordon said.

Maricopa County, including Phoenix and its suburbs, has a homeless population between 10,000 and 12,000 people, said Gloria Hurtado, the city's human service director.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, high temperatures dipped below the 115-degree mark Wednesday for the first time in five days. Authorities were investigating six deaths since July 14 to see if they were heat-related.

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And Finally...

Gerry Thomas, Inventor of TV Dinners, Dies
July 20, 2005

PHOENIX - Gerry Thomas, who changed the way Americans eat - for better or worse - with his invention of the TV Dinner during the baby boom years, has died at 83.

Thomas, who died in Paradise Valley on Monday after a bout with cancer, was a salesman for Omaha, Neb.-based C.A. Swanson and Sons in 1954 when he got the idea of packaging frozen meals in a disposable aluminum-foil tray, divided into compartments to keep the foods from mixing. He also gave the product its singular name.

The first Swanson TV Dinner - turkey with cornbread dressing and gravy, sweet potatoes and buttered peas - sold for about $1 and could be cooked in 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Ten million sold in the first year of national distribution.

It was fast and convenient, and fit nicely on a TV tray in the living room, so that you didn't have to drag yourself away from your favorite television show.

Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, said the TV Dinner "started a change in American eating habits bigger than any change in culinary history since the discovery of fire and cooked foods."

The TV Dinner fit in with societal changes at the time, when more women were entering the work force and did not have the time to spend all day preparing dinner, Thompson said. It also helped introduce the notion of "modular" eating: If there were only two people at home, you put only two dinners in the oven.

"Some people claim that the TV Dinner was the first step toward breaking up the American family because it made it possible for everybody to eat in a modular way," Thompson said. "That was going to happen anyway. The redefinition of the American family was going on anyway." [...]

The TV Dinner drew "hate mail from men who wanted their wives to cook from scratch like their mothers did," Thomas said, but it got him a bump in pay to $300 a month and a $1,000 bonus. [...]

"It's a pleasure being identified as the person who did this because it changed the way people live," Thomas said. "It's part of the fabric of our society." [...]

Comment: Today we mourn the passing of one of the great architects of modern American society. Thomas' ingenious TV dinner not only led to an increased addiction to television, but was the precursor to a whole range of nutritionally deficient prepackaged and pre-prepared foodstuffs custom-built from a multitude of synthetic materials and high-tech polymers. Thanks to this one man, Americans were finally able to simultaneously fill their brains and their bellies with garbage, resulting in perhaps the greatest of American revolutions.

Mr. Thomas, we salute you!

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