Tuesday, August 09, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Secret terror courts considered
Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Special courts sitting in secret for pre-trial hearings in terror cases are being considered by the Home Office.

Judges would look at whether there was enough evidence against suspects for cases to proceed.

On Friday, Tony Blair said the government was looking into a new court procedure allowing pre-trial hearings, as he unveiled new terror measures.

Labour home affairs committee chairman John Denham has called the government's anti-terror plans "half-baked".

The Home Office said details of how terror cases would be tried were still being worked out, but confirmed a move to judge-only courts was under active consideration.


Sources told BBC News that one possibility was a model similar to the Special Immigrations Appeals Tribunal, which sits in secret and keeps the details of charges from those facing them.

Defendants are represented by special advocates, who have access to the evidence but do not brief their 'clients' on the details.

The Home Office has said there is no truth in newspaper reports that the courts would be able to use phone-tap evidence, which is currently inadmissible.

Liberal Democrat President Simon Hughes suggested there "may be a case" for security-vetted judges to undertake special work.

But he doubted a major extension of the time suspects were held, which some experts believe may result from the plans, could be justified.


Conservative spokesman Edward Garnier urged the government to "calm down and think these things through" and to consult other parties on the detailed proposals.

Ian Macdonald QC, who resigned last year as a barrister in special terror cases, said he thought the secret courts proposal might be botched.

"It will in fact be a method of extending detention of suspects for more than two weeks," he said.

Unveiling a raft of counter-terror proposals on Friday, Mr Blair said British hospitality had been abused but people should know the "rules of the game are changing".

He also announced plans to extend powers to deport or exclude foreigners who encourage terrorism, perhaps through changing human rights laws.


There could also be new powers to close mosques and automatic refusal of asylum to anyone with anything to do with terrorism.

Police and lawyers are also meeting this week to discuss the possibility of charging some outspoken Islamist radicals with treason.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have accused the government of confusion by continuing to announce new measures in response to the 7 July attacks.

Senior Labour MP Mr Denham said the ministers had initially produced a considered response to the London attacks, but that it now looked like they were acting in a knee-jerk fashion.

"I think they have got to get a grip on it very, very quickly, stop floating half-baked ideas and get back a proper cross-party consensus on the serious measures that have to be taken."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Tony Blair had made it clear how he wants to proceed.

Comment: At what point do we seriously begin to consider the clear parallels between what is currently happening in the UK and the US and events in Germany leading up to WWII? Using the excuse of a trumped up threat from dangerous groups that were, the NAzis claimed, seeking to sow discord in Germany society, the Nazis slowly imposed totalitarian rule on the German people. Today, Bush and Blair are using the equally bogus claim that "Islamic extremists" want to destroy Western civilisation and freedom to justify the imposition of a third Reich-sytle regimes in Britain and America, where any and all previously-held social freedoms must give way to the need to protect the people from those that our leaders claim want to take away those freedoms. Coincidentally, this "protection" involves the removal of those same social freedoms by our leaders who claim their goal is to protect them. It's a mind-job for sure, and Bush and Blair are betting on their subjects' inability to figure it out.

So tell us; how bad does it have to get before we all begin to stand up and point out the big, stinking dead elephant in the room? Remember, as it was in the case of Nazi Germany, the takeover of a previously Democratic country by a fascist cabal from within occurs in the absence of general awareness that anything untoward is happening. Precious few German citizens were able to admit to themselves the truth that was staring them in the face, being blinded by the government lies and propaganda that bombarded them daily. Those that did realise were surely only able to do so as a result of careful consideration of the facts, while at the same time dismissing any idealistic notions about what their government SHOULD be or what it would or would not do.

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UK court remands suspected militant wanted in U.S.
Mon Aug 8, 2005

LONDON (Reuters) - A British court on Monday remanded in custody a suspected Islamist radical arrested on a U.S. extradition warrant which accuses him of trying to set up a militant training camp in the state of Oregon.

Haroon Rashid Aswad, a 30-year-old British citizen, was arrested at Northolt military airbase in northwest London on Sunday after being deported from Zambia.

Dressed in a long black robe, Aswad appeared at Belmarsh high-security courtroom in east London.

He stood behind a glass screen, flanked by police officers with bulletproof vests, and spoke only to confirm his identity and that he understood the charges against him.

"He denies any suggestion he's a terrorist or has engaged in any terrorist activity," his lawyer Hussein Zahir told reporters.

A judge ordered Aswad to appear in court again on Thursday for the start of extradition proceedings against him.

The U.S. warrant accuses Aswad of plotting with others between October 1999 and April 2000 to train and equip people to fight in Afghanistan.

He was arrested on July 20 in Zambia.

Initial media reports linked him to the July 7 London suicide bombings that killed more than 50 people, but British police say he was not thought to be involved in those attacks.

Comment: So, eh..where exactly is the crime in training people to fight in Afghanistan during 1999 and 2000? Wasn't that the period of time when the evil Taleban were in power? Is this man perhaps then an Afghan freedom fighter? Should it not have been the remit of the "greatest Democracy on earth" to aid such people in their efforts?

But of course, we forget.

At that time, the evil Taleban were being wooed by the US state department at luxury dinners in Texas and Washington in an attempt to get their permission for the laying of a Unocal oil pipeline through their country. When they refused the terms offered to them by the Bushes, 9/11 coincidentally came along and, hey presto, the Taleban were converted into Islamic terrorists.

In fact, the Taleban really did (and still do) fit the profile of "terrorists", but then the US government was well aware of that fact, having trained and funded them in the late 70's and early 80's, first against the Fledgling Afghan Democracy headed by Nur Mohammad Taraki of the PDPA, and then later against the Russians.

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Scientists release harmless gas in NY security test
Mon Aug 8, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists released a harmless gas in the streets and subways of New York on Monday in a drill to see how to respond to a chemical or biological attack.

The exercise came as the city, already on high alert since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, raised security following bombings on the London mass transit system last month.

Peter Bengtson, spokesman for the Urban Dispersion Program which is funded by the U.S. Department for Homeland Security, said it was the first of six test days between now and August 26 when the gas would be released at different locations and times of day to see how it spreads in various conditions.

He said the distinctive skyscraper canyons of Manhattan and the variety of buildings made it difficult to predict how the wind would carry a gas released either in an attack or by accident. "The air flows are not intuitive," he said.

"These models are to aid and improve training for emergency responders ... so they can determine where and how the winds flow and determine where to evacuate people and where to tell people to take shelter," Bengtson said.

Bengtson said the gas drill was one of the most complex ever conducted as the releases would be not just outdoors but in the subway and in a building.

Around 100 scientists and 50 assistants are working on the project and have set up more than 200 sampling instruments on rooftops, the sides of buildings and other sites. Two detector boxes were seen hanging from a lamp-post in Times Square.

Bengtson said two gases were being used in the drills, sulfur hexafluoride and perfluorocarbon, which are both odorless and colorless. The scientists planned to release the gases three times during each of the test days.

Comment: Given that on the morning of 9/11 the US government was conducting a simulated terror attack in New York City, we should view this drill as prediction of future events rather than a mere precautionary test measure.

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We warned London of the threat of attack: France

PARIS, Aug 8 (AFP) - A confidential report by France's intelligence service that was finalised days before the 7 July London bombings pointed to the threat of an Al-Qaeda attack on Britain, the French daily Le Figaro said Monday.

The conservative daily said the report by the DCRG intelligence agency also highlighted the need to closely observe France's Pakistani community with a view to preventing an attack on French soil.

An official at the interior ministry confirmed the existence of the report, but cautioned it was "a very technical study on the Pakistani community in France".

He said it was not aimed at lecturing Britain on what might happen on its own soil.

Le Figaro said the report, which focused on France's Pakistani community, was completed just before the July 7 attacks on London in which 56 people were killed, including the four suicide bombers.

According to the report quoted by Le Figaro, "the United Kingdom remains under the threat of plans decided at the highest level of al-Qaeda".

"These (plans) would be put into practice by operatives, with support of Jihadists within the large Pakistani community in Britain," it said.

"France is not immune from this kind of violent group", the report said, adding "observation of the Pakistani community" was essential to prevent any acts of violence on French territory.

Comment: Indeed, observation of the Pakistani ISI is even more essential to protect against further "terror attacks", given that then Pakistani ISI chief had wired $100,000 dollars to alleged chief hijacker, Mohammed Atta, and just happened to be having breakfast with Senator Bob Graham on the morning of 9-11. French intelligence seems to be well aware of the status of Pakistan's ISI as the 'middle man' between "Islamic terrorists" (read hired hit men) and their CIA (and possibly Mossad) paymasters.

The report pointed to "the multiplication of passages through France by Pakistani activists from south Asia or London and the setting up of underground or official representations of the main extremist groups".

In particular it named the Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organisation which is linked to Al-Qaeda, adding that several hundred Pakistanis living in France "have chosen the path of terrorism and salafism to express their hatred of the West." Salafism is one of the most radical expressions of Islam.

Le Figaro said that in April 2005 France had refused entry to a Pakistani Islamic senator who was a member of a Pakistani parliamentary delegation in Europe "because of his membership of an Islamist group linked to the Taliban".

The hardline Islamic Taliban, which had ties with al-Qaeda, ruled Afghanistan until it was ousted in a US-led campaign in late 2001.

Another Islamist senator managed to stay in France in November 2004, even though he had been banned from French soil, the report said.

After he left, police arrested the people who had helped him stay in France, Le Figaro said.

The report said that the refusal to deliver visas had unleashed strong criticisms against France from "Pakistani extremists".

Comment: Obviously, there are divisions within the French elite over how to proceed. Elements such as Sarkozy want an open alliance with Zionism. Others do not. We assume that this division extends into the French alphabet soup agencies as well. The Atlanticists in France have been working for a closer relationship with Washington since WWII. Fortunately, the strong Gaullist current in France has been able to maintain a semblance of independence.

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Terrorists Turn to the Web as Base of Operations
By Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 7, 2005; Page A01

In the snow-draped mountains near Jalalabad in November 2001, as the Taliban collapsed and al Qaeda lost its Afghan sanctuary, Osama bin Laden biographer Hamid Mir watched "every second al Qaeda member carrying a laptop computer along with a Kalashnikov" as they prepared to scatter into hiding and exile. On the screens were photographs of Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta.

Nearly four years later, al Qaeda has become the first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace. With laptops and DVDs, in secret hideouts and at neighborhood Internet cafes, young code-writing jihadists have sought to replicate the training, communication, planning and preaching facilities they lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations on the Internet.

Al Qaeda suicide bombers and ambush units in Iraq routinely depend on the Web for training and tactical support, relying on the Internet's anonymity and flexibility to operate with near impunity in cyberspace. In Qatar, Egypt and Europe, cells affiliated with al Qaeda that have recently carried out or seriously planned bombings have relied heavily on the Internet.

Such cases have led Western intelligence agencies and outside terrorism specialists to conclude that the "global jihad movement," sometimes led by al Qaeda fugitives but increasingly made up of diverse "groups and ad hoc cells," has become a "Web-directed" phenomenon, as a presentation for U.S. government terrorism analysts by longtime State Department expert Dennis Pluchinsky put it. Hampered by the nature of the Internet itself, the government has proven ineffective at blocking or even hindering significantly this vast online presence.

Among other things, al Qaeda and its offshoots are building a massive and dynamic online library of training materials -- some supported by experts who answer questions on message boards or in chat rooms -- covering such varied subjects as how to mix ricin poison, how to make a bomb from commercial chemicals, how to pose as a fisherman and sneak through Syria into Iraq, how to shoot at a U.S. soldier, and how to navigate by the stars while running through a night-shrouded desert. These materials are cascading across the Web in Arabic, Urdu, Pashto and other first languages of jihadist volunteers.

The Saudi Arabian branch of al Qaeda launched an online magazine in 2004 that exhorted potential recruits to use the Internet: "Oh Mujahid brother, in order to join the great training camps you don't have to travel to other lands," declared the inaugural issue of Muaskar al-Battar, or Camp of the Sword. "Alone, in your home or with a group of your brothers, you too can begin to execute the training program."

"Biological Weapons" was the stark title of a 15-page Arabic language document posted two months ago on the Web site of al Qaeda fugitive leader Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, one of the jihadist movement's most important propagandists, often referred to by the nom de guerre Abu Musab Suri. His document described "how the pneumonic plague could be made into a biological weapon," if a small supply of the virus could be acquired, according to a translation by Rebecca Givner-Forbes, an analyst at the Terrorism Research Center, an Arlington firm with U.S. government clients. Nasar's guide drew on U.S. and Japanese biological weapons programs from the World War II era and showed "how to inject carrier animals, like rats, with the virus and how to extract microbes from infected blood . . . and how to dry them so that they can be used with an aerosol delivery system."

Jihadists seek to overcome in cyberspace specific obstacles they face from armies and police forces in the physical world. In planning attacks, radical operatives are often at risk when they congregate at a mosque or cross a border with false documents. They are safer working on the Web. Al Qaeda and its offshoots "have understood that both time and space have in many ways been conquered by the Internet," said John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School who coined the term "netwar" more than a decade ago.

Al Qaeda's innovation on the Web "erodes the ability of our security services to hit them when they're most vulnerable, when they're moving," said Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA unit that tracked bin Laden. "It used to be they had to go to Sudan, they had to go to Yemen, they had to go to Afghanistan to train," he added. Now, even when such travel is necessary, an al Qaeda operative "no longer has to carry anything that's incriminating. He doesn't need his schematics, he doesn't need his blueprints, he doesn't need formulas." Everything is posted on the Web or "can be sent ahead by encrypted Internet, and it gets lost in the billions of messages that are out there."

The number of active jihadist-related Web sites has metastasized since Sept. 11, 2001. When Gabriel Weimann, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel, began tracking terrorist-related Web sites eight years ago, he found 12; today, he tracks more than 4,500. Hundreds of them celebrate al Qaeda or its ideas, he said.

"They are all linked indirectly through association of belief, belonging to some community. The Internet is the network that connects them all," Weimann said. "You can see the virtual community come alive."

Apart from its ideology and clandestine nature, the jihadist cyberworld is little different in structure from digital communities of role-playing gamers, eBay coin collectors or disease sufferers. Through continuous online contact, such communities bind dispersed individuals with intense beliefs who might never have met one another in the past. Along with radical jihad, the Internet also has enabled the flow of powerful ideas and inspiration in many other directions, such as encouraging democratic movements and creating vast new commercial markets. [...]

Comment: The web has become the only widely accessible source for real news in recent years. With the controlled media in those nations whose leaders support the war on terror - especially the major US news outlets - the masses read whatever their leaders want them to read. The internet is still relatively free and open, and with a little digging and fact-checking, one can learn volumes about the lies spread by our leaders.

Recently, we have seen a lot of talk about "al-Qaeda on the web". As we remarked previously, how many of us have actually seen these alleged terrorist web sites? The answer is most likely none of us, because we would all be too afraid to be associated with the "terrorists" who are detained indefinitely and rendered to countries like Egypt to be tortured.

Contrast these alleged sites with alternative news sites like Signs of the Times, where the reader is provided with information and news articles that can open the door into further research and verification. The reader has the possibility to discover the truth about Bush and Blair's current crusade, or at the very least to verify that we aren't just making things up. The same cannot be said for the supposed terrorist web presence that has received so much press in recent weeks. You really have to hand it to the powers that be: not only are people afraid of the idea of evil terrorists using the internet to plan attacks, but they are afraid of even attempting to verify that such terrorists exist or that they are in fact on the internet!

It seems that the whole point is to associate the internet and groups who communicate via the internet with terrorism in an effort to get an iron grip on the remaining bits and pieces of the media that remain relatively free. Censorship of the web will be accepted with open arms if it is couched in terms of "fighting the evil terrorists". Just as the Bush Reich's recent moves on the Patriot Act and the use of US troops inside the "homeland" met with little resistance despite Bush's rock-bottom ranking in the polls. We do not expect much of an uproar when the internet is effectively locked down.

If the Bush gang follows its standard operating procedure, the entire internet will not be shut down; rather, heavy censorship will be employed to maintain the illusion of the "free internet". Why else would the US want to retain such tight control of the internet's DNS servers?

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Parts of Patriot Act are offensive-lawyers group
By Andrew Stern
Mon Aug 8, 4:43 PM ET

CHICAGO - The president-elect of the nation's largest lawyers group on Monday said some of the federal government's investigative powers included in the anti-terrorism Patriot Act are a threat to constitutional rights.

Michael Greco criticized aspects of the act, passed to bolster security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, at the American Bar Association convention, where U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged the U.S. Congress to renew it.

"We support the (Bush) administration in its efforts to secure the nation but we have taken policy positions, four or five of them, where we think due process has not been followed," Greco said in an interview with Reuters.

He criticized exceptions the law makes to the constitution's privacy protections that give law enforcement the power to search a home without the homeowner's knowledge and without a judge-approved search warrant.

"The ABA position is that some of these provisions are so invasive of individual liberties that there has to be a sunset provision. They're offensive, I think, to democracy," Greco said.

Members of a conference committee in Congress seeking to reconcile competing versions of the law's renewal are debating whether to include a four-year or 10-year "sunset" clause that would allow some of those provisions to expire.

In his address, Gonzales insisted the Patriot Act was essential to fighting terrorism and accused critics of clouding the debate with "a litany of misstatements and half-truths."

Comment: Well, that's original: "We're not fascists. Our critics are all liars!" Unfortunately for Mr. Gonzales, his critics present all sorts of interesting facts about the provisions of the Patriot Act, while Alberto himself has nothing but hot air and insults to defend himself.

"We are fighting terrorism with the tools and techniques provided for in the Patriot Act, tools that have long been available to fight crime," he said. "We are doing this in a manner that protects individual rights and liberties.

"We are not interested in the reading habits of ordinary citizens (and) we are subject to the oversight of federal judges," Gonzales said, citing an oft-ridiculed provision that gives law enforcement powers to review library records and bookstore sales.

Although delegates to the group's annual convention did not single out President Bush, several resolutions appeared aimed at administration stances.

The group, which represents more than 400,000 attorneys, judges and law students, passed by unanimous voice vote a resolution calling for respect for judges.

Bush, for instance, has complained in the past about "activist judges" whose rulings have allowed gays to marry and otherwise angered conservatives. An outcry led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay also followed judicial rulings in the right-to-die case involving Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead Florida woman whose former husband ultimately succeeded in having her feeding tube removed.

ABA delegates this week were expected to approve a halt to a perceived erosion of attorney-client privilege and a federal shield law for reporters seeking to protect their sources.

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Bush Signs Massive Energy Bill Into Law
Associated Press
August 8, 2005

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - President Bush on Monday signed sweeping legislation that provides billions of dollars in tax subsidies to energy companies, yet does little quickly to ease gas prices or lower America's reliance on foreign oil.

"This bill is not going to solve our energy challenges overnight," Bush said just before signing the bill into law. "It's going to take years of focused efforts to alleviate those problems."

Bush traveled here from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to sign the 1,724-page bill, which was passed, with bipartisan support, to end a yearlong standoff in Congress over national energy policy.

The bill-signing ceremony at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque begins a week of events meant to highlight recently passed legislation and underscore economic and national security issues. In coming days, Bush meets at his Texas ranch with his defense and economic advisers and travels to Illinois to sign a highway bill.

Supporters of the energy bill say that in the long run, the new law will refocus the nation's energy priorities and promote cleaner and alternative sources of energy. Bush has said he believes the nation must find new ways, besides fossil fuels, to power the economy.

"This economy is moving, and what this energy bill does is that it recognizes that we need more affordable and reliability sources of energy," Bush said. "This bill launches an energy strategy for the 21st century and I've really been looking forward to signing it."

But even the bill's sponsors acknowledged the legislation will have little, if any impact, on today's energy prices or less dependence on oil imports.

Crude-oil prices rallied to a new high above $63 a barrel on Monday, reflecting market fears over the U.S. embassy closure in Saudi Arabia due to security threats and concerns that shutdowns of U.S. oil refineries would reduce supply.

When he arrived, Bush took a tour of the Energy Department's national solar thermal test facility, which was built in 1976 in response to the oil embargo and energy crisis. Bush walked in a field of mirrored solar panels, wearing shirt sleeves and sunglasses to ward off the bright midday sun.

New Mexico is home to Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, a driving force in getting the measure passed. Domenici, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the bill is not for today or tomorrow, but is a "bill for the future."

"It means less dependence on foreign oil," he said. "When we expand ethanol and the other things in this bill, we will grow less dependent, not all the way, but less dependent."

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the top Democrat on Energy Committee, praised the passage of the bill but said more must be done to tap the potential of renewable energy, address global warming and use less oil from overseas.

The bill did not "markedly reduce these imports," Bingaman said in a statement. "We need to build a consensus around effective steps to use less oil in our transportation sector, which is the basic cause of our increasing reliance on oil imports."

The measure funnels billions of dollars to energy companies, including tax breaks and loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants, clean coal technology and wind energy.

But for the first time, utilities will be required to comply with federal reliability standards for its electricity grid, instead of self-regulation. That is intended to reduce the chance of a repeat of a power blackout, such as the one that struck the Midwest and Northeast in the summer of 2003.

For consumers, the bill would provide tax credits for buying hybrid gasoline-electric cars and making energy-conservation improvements in new and existing homes. Also, beginning in 2007, the measure extends daylight-saving time by one month to save energy.

"If you're in the market for a car, this bill will help you save up to $3,500 on a fuel-efficient hybrid or clean-diesel vehicle," Bush said.

The bill's price tag - $12.3 billion over 10 years - is twice what the White House had first proposed. It does not include Bush's desire to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. Drilling advocates, however, have a backup plan that is expected to unfold in mid-September.

Domenici said he will include a provision authorizing Arctic drilling as part of a budget procedure that is not subject to filibuster. A similar maneuver is being planned in the House, although the final strategy is being worked out.

Critics of the energy bill are speaking out while Bush is in New Mexico. The League of Conservation Voters, The Wilderness Society, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, USAPIRG and others plan to highlight what else is not in the energy bill.

Martha Marks of Santa Fe, N.M., president of the National Republicans for Environmental Protection, said the 10-year-old grass-roots organization was disappointed in the final version passed by Congress.

"It really gives a short shrift to conservation and it still continues to subsidize the well-established oil and gas industries that really don't need subsidizing especially when (crude) oil is $60 a barrel," she said.

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American Economy As Bowling Alley
SOTT Reader Comments

From: Globalisation is an anomaly and its time is running out

A Reader Comments:

Regarding U.S. economic sprawl:

"The American suburban juggernaut can be described succinctly as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. The mortgages, bonds, real estate investment trusts and derivative financial instruments associated with this tragic enterprise must make the judicious goggle with wonder and nausea."

How true this is.

The era of cheap credit, legalized counterfeiting, and the constant attempts to get people to take on ever increasing amounts of debt in order to finance the American "dream", is resulting in a classic misallocation of resources that can be observed in the over expansion of real estate related construction. I can see symptoms of the raging credit disease as I drive down the old 2 lane road, which became a 4 lane highway only a few years ago.

Some visual symptoms:

1. A housing boom has gripped the area. Everyone is going to get rich building "spec" houses and selling them for a tremendous profit.

2. The giant home improvement chain store(Loew's) is building a huge new store/warehouse only 12 miles from their existing store. This new store is going to be even bigger than their existing big box store which is only 12 miles away. This is a direct response to the overheated construction market and the homeowner use of loan refinancing to expand their current house by adding on to it.
There are also 3 or 4 other building supply warehouse stores in the area. (Home Depot, etc).

3. Auto and truck dealers are expanding their lots and are building new sales offices, etc. This is a side effect of the home loan refinancing boom.

4. Real estate offices now permeate the landscape. Many of these are not the old one or two level offices but are now 4 level high complexes, stuffed with newly licensed brokers who are all going to get rich selling homes.

5. A Wal-Mart cashier, about 22-25 years old, just got her real estate license and looks forward to making a career in real estate.

6. Loan and lending offices have sprung up like weeds, advertising loans for every occasion. The standard highway advertising billboard urges people to refinance their homes and enjoy the cash windfall.
A picture of a loan officer holding a big flower basket of dollars out to passing drivers was erected recently. "Get yourself some green!", the sign says.

7. Local political officials, hand in hand with the local Chamber of Commerce and churches, applaud all of this as a new golden era for the people.

The motto seems to be:

Eternal growth = prosperity = moral superiority.
U.S. flags are plastered over much of the landscape.
In the minds of these people, the proof of American moral superiority is provided by the "booming" economy.

According to these folks, the American way of life represents a divine display of superior economic success combined with superior morality.
Naturally, they feel the clearest proof of this is found in themselves.
See what happens when you worship the one true God!

However, most of this mind-numbing reality is in fact a sham.
This particular form of "economic growth" is not true wealth creation. It's financed by a fundamentally dishonest system that creates phony money, drops it on the population in the form of E-Z loans, which in turn drives up the prices of selected assets. More and more resources are funneled into the maw of this "growth", as the perception of getting something for nothing becomes imprinted on the people.

The equations that emerge from this experiment in dishonesty are:
debt = prosperity - asset inflation = wealth creation.

As long as prices of the inflating assets are fueled by an ever increasing creation of debt, everything is fine. I suspect that when the saturation point for debt is reached, and when public confidence in the scheme starts to waver, the "boom" that's going on here is going to produce a "bust" of epic proportions. The loan defaults alone could be enough to suck this area into an economic black hole.

Not only are these people going to owe more on their houses than they're worth, there won't be many buyers for those homes.
When the house price spiral reverses, the vast majority of people here will be flat broke, busted.

They have been set up like bowling pins, believing all the lies about the "superior" American economy.

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Delphi posts loss, bankruptcy possible
By David Bailey
August 8, 2005

CHICAGO - Delphi Corp. on Monday posted a second-quarter loss on production cuts by major customer General Motors Corp. and said it may have to file for bankruptcy if it cannot reduce high wage and benefit costs.

The largest U.S. auto parts supplier, whose shares fell nearly 14 percent, said it expects continued year-over-year declines in North American vehicle production this quarter, hurting revenue and margins.

"Clearly Delphi is under pressure here, and their threat (of bankruptcy) is a real threat," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer for Solaris Asset Management. "Their first order of business is to try to renegotiate some of those (union) deals and terms to ensure the viability of the U.S. business."

Delphi reported a net loss of $338 million, or 60 cents per share, compared with year-earlier net income of $143 million, or 25 cents per share.

Excluding $49 million of restructuring charges, Delphi reported a loss of 52 cents per share, missing by a penny the forecast from analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

Revenue fell to $7 billion from $7.5 billion. An 18 percent decline in sales to GM more than offset growth of 6 percent in other revenue to about $3.6 billion, Delphi said.

Besides lower production from GM, high commodity costs and increasing costs for pension and health care benefits contributed to the quarterly loss, Delphi said. The company's non-GM business outside the United States performed well.

Delphi, which has struggled to become profitable since GM spun it off in 1999, is in talks with the world's largest automaker and the United Auto Workers union about cutting high U.S. wage and benefit costs to try to avoid bankruptcy.

The company wants the right to close underperforming plants and cut about 4,000 inactive union workers, although the discussions include the entire U.S. work force, acting Chief Financial Officer John Sheehan told Reuters.

"We are not able to fix, sell or close a facility without the agreement of the union," Sheehan said. "We want to be able to take the actions that a management team needs to take in response to a changing industry environment."


Delphi has sufficient liquidity to finance its operations during the period of its discussions with the unions and GM, Sheehan said.

Delphi said it would consider a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization of U.S. operations if it cannot cut wages and benefits. In a quarterly regulatory filing, the company said a change in U.S. bankruptcy law should reduce the flexibility of corporations that file for bankruptcy protection after Oct. 17.

Troy, Michigan-based Delphi inherited union contracts from GM requiring it to pay wages at the much higher automaker level, putting it at a competitive disadvantage against other parts companies.

The company has about 48,690 U.S. employees, including 34,000 unionized hourly workers. The UAW represents about 24,800 of the union workers. [...]

Shares of Delphi were down 68 cents, or 13.7 percent, at $4.28 in morning New York Stock Exchange trade. Through Friday, the stock was off 45 percent for 2005, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up about 1.2 percent.

Comment: In yesterday's Signs Economic Commentary, Donald Hunt wrote:

Notice also that the strongest sector was retailing - people spending money they shouldn't on new cars, having been lured by incentives for 2005 models that have hurt profits for auto companies while calling into question the sales for 2006 models which will be introduced soon.

The sale of new cars is used as proof that the US economy is still growing, yet the two biggest suppliers to the two big auto manufacturers in the US, GM and Ford, are currently in severe financial difficulty...

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Delphi, Visteon Post Losses on Labor Costs

Delphi, Visteon Blame Second-Quarter Losses on Labor Costs and Production Cuts
By Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writer
Monday August 8, 4:52 pm ET

DETROIT -- The nation's biggest auto-parts suppliers reported second-quarter losses Monday, citing high labor costs and production cuts by ailing domestic automakers. Delphi Corp. said it's considering bankruptcy, but Visteon Corp.'s outlook is brighter as it approaches a major restructuring next month. [...]

Delphi, which was spun off from General Motors Corp. in 1999, said it's trying to work out a restructuring plan with GM and the United Auto Workers union, but bankruptcy is an option if those talks fail. [...]

No. 2 U.S. supplier Visteon said it expects to report a second-quarter loss of $1.2 billion after writing down the value of assets being transferred to former parent Ford Motor Co. The company, based near Detroit in Van Buren Township, is sending 24 unprofitable facilities back to Ford in a restructuring deal expected to conclude Sept. 30. [...]

Both companies said production cuts at GM and Ford hurt their bottom line. GM slashed production by 11 percent between January and June and plans a 9 percent cut in the third quarter, while Ford cut production by 7 percent in the first half and plans a 2 percent cut in the third quarter. Ford accounts for 64 percent of Visteon's business, while GM makes up half of Delphi's sales.

Delphi and Visteon also blamed their losses on high labor costs set by the automakers before the spin-offs. The number of UAW-covered hourly employees at Visteon will drop from 17,400 to 5,000 once the restructuring is completed, but Delphi remains saddled with high labor costs until 2007, when GM renegotiates its contract with the UAW, which represents about 25,000 Delphi hourly workers.

Miller said Delphi is paying $130,000 per hourly worker in annual wages and benefits. In the second quarter, he said, Delphi spent more than $100 million for idled hourly workers who are still entitled to some pay.

"We can no longer wait to address this issue," Delphi's acting chief financial officer John Sheehan said. "Our business outside of the U.S. is going very well, and non-GM business is growing. This high U.S. legacy cost structure is overtaking the good side of our company."

GM spokeswoman Toni Simonetti said GM is reviewing Delphi's proposed restructuring plan, which would require some financial assistance from GM. Miller wouldn't say how much Delphi is seeking from GM, which lost $286 million in the second quarter.

"We will review the proposal that they submitted to us and will make a determination of what, if any, participation in their restructuring would be in the best interest of GM and our shareholders," Simonetti said. [...]

Himanshu Patel, an analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., said in a note to investors that Delphi's comments could be construed as a veiled threat to GM and the UAW.

"This is fairly explicit language," he said.

But Patel believes the chances of a bankruptcy aren't high because it is in the best interest of GM and the UAW to work out a deal. If Delphi declares bankruptcy, GM would be forced to absorb some of Delphi's pension costs and would likely have to pay higher prices for parts. UAW retirees also would likely see a major reduction in their benefits, Patel said. [...]

Comment: 12,400 UAW employees at Visteon are in big trouble, and and a similar process is likely to unfold at Delphi before the changes in bankruptcy laws take effect in October of this year. In the end, the losers will be the hourly employees - i.e. the average American taxpayer. Note also the comment about how if Delphi declares bankruptcy, UAW retirees would likely see major reductions in their benefits. We have already seen this very problem strike the airline industry. Obviously, despite all the upbeat talk from Bush and the Neocons, all is not well with the US economy...

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Terror concerns drive oil price toward $65
www.chinaview.cn 2005-08-09 16:52:38

LONDON, Aug. 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Warnings of a possible terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia coupled with concerns about Iran's resumption of its nuclear program helped push crude prices to nominal records, with analysts fearing the per barrel price could soon breach 65-US dollar mark, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

Crude futures in New York on Monday approached 64-dollar a barrel and US gasoline futures reached highs as an already-tight market reacted to warnings from the United States, Britain and Australia of potential attacks in Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer.

Britain talked of "credible reports" that terrorists were in the "final stages of planning attacks" in the kingdom, a warning that was echoed by the Australian government and came as the United States closed its missions in Saudi Arabia, also citing a terrorist threat.

Comment: Oil prices are going up because of "credible reports" and "warnings" from those always reliable intelligence agencies of the US, Britain, and Australia. And we are completely sincere when we say these agencies are reliable: you can't believe anything they say. How much more reliable could they be?

So here we see one of the ways that the financial markets are manipulated: through the "leaking" of warnings and "credible reports". In the aftermath, the markets do their predictable dance, and someone out there is making big bucks.

The futures market has been driven higher by one of the worst sequences of refinery stoppages in years.

Prices were also lifted by Iran's resumption of nuclear activities at a uranium conversion plant in Isfahan -- a move that brings Tehran closer to threatened United Nations sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will hold an emergency meeting of its board of governors on Tuesday to discuss Iran's decision.

Oil traders fear Iran's resumption of its nuclear program could prompt the European Union to back US calls for sanctions against the second-biggest oil producer in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Meanwhile, lack of spare capacity means refineries could face difficulties meeting global oil demand this winter.

The International Energy Agency, the industrial countries' energy watchdog, has forecast that oil consumption will reach 85.9-million barrels a day in the fourth quarter, up from the current 83.7 million.

Comment: Rising oil prices should make Mike Ruppert rejoice. He thinks it should go up to $180 a barrel. Dick Cheney would probably love to see that price, too.

Mike Ruppert wrote that Dick Cheney was behind 9/11, then he played Pied Piper to lead a portion of the 9/11 skeptics movement to Peak Oil. We don't know if Cheney has given Ruppert the key to Hamlinburtin yet, but we imagine it'll come. And Ruppert will have earned it.

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US Dependent on Saudi Arabia
Juan Cole

The Bush administration and its Neocons have shot themselves in the foot big time if they thought they could use Iraq to reduce US dependence on Saudi Arabia. If you want to understand the problem, look at it this way. The world produces about 80 million barrels of petroleum every day. But only a fraction of that is exported, since producing countries use a lot of it at home.

Rather than being marginalized, Saudi Arabia has entered a new economic golden age. This was not what the Neocons were going for.

Of course, a lot of the problem is at home. The United States is an oil hog. Sorry to be blunt. But these were the top oil consuming countries in 2004, below. The United States gobbles up a fourth of all the petroleum produced every year, even though it only has about 5 percent of the world's population.

2004 Top Petroleum Consumers:

1. United States 20.5
2. China 6.5
3. Japan 5.4
4. Germany 2.6
5. Russia 2.6
6. India 2.3
7. Canada 2.3
8. Brazil 2.2
9. South Korea 2.1
10. France 2.0

Some of the consumers have their own sources of petroleum, so the top importers is a slightly different list:

1. United States 11.8
2. Japan 5.3
3. China 2.9
4. Germany 2.5
5. South Korea 2.1
6. France 2.0
7. Italy 1.7
8. Spain 1.6
9. India 1.5
10. Taiwan 1.0

So, since we like to drive rather than take the train, and since we don't really care about things like gas mileage or efficient use of energy, where are we going to get all the petroleum, since we produce less than half of what we use?

Meet the biggest oil exporters. You can think about them as your friends or your suppliers (in another context). In short, they are people you have put yourself in the position of desperately needing. The US doesn't necessarily get petroleum directly from these countries. But since there is just one, world-wide, petroleum market, that doesn't matter. We still depend indirectly on what they produce.

2004 top petroleum exporters (millions of barrels a day):

1. Saudi Arabia 8.73
2. Russia 6.67
3. Norway 2.91
4. Iran 2.55
5. Venezuela 2.36
6. United Arab Emirates 2.33
7. Kuwait 2.20
8. Nigeria 2.19
9. Mexico 1.80
10. Algeria 1.68
11. Iraq 1.48
12. Libya 1.34
13. Kazakhstan 1.06
14. Qatar 1.02

Saudi Arabia is actually producing 9 million barrels a day, of the 80 million total in the world, or 11 percent. It has a small population and doesn't use much itself, so it can export almost all of it. (Russia produces about as much as Saudi Arabia, but uses much more).

Since the Bush administration mismanaged Iraq into chaos, it is producing far below its capacity. Cheney thought it would be doing 3 million barrels a day by now, but it is only managing half that, because of sabotage. If it was calm and invested billions in overhauls, it could maybe produce 5 million barrels a day five years out. Maybe 20 years out it could match what Saudi Arabia and Russia do today. But since its population is growing quickly and it will want to industrialize, it will probably use a lot of its petroleum in-country.

That is, there is no prospect in my lifetime of Saudi Arabia being less than indispensable to the United States in the global energy market.

If you don't like the dependency, here are your present options:

Put in wind generators like crazy. They're just about competitive at the current $60 a barrel price, and would help national security. They also make a lot of noise (or at least give off vibrations) and are annoying, and if you put them in the wrong place they'll kill a lot of birds.

Put in nuclear power plants. They don't produce greenhouse gases and are economically viable (especially if you factor in the cost of global warming otherwise, and of national security). They also sometimes melt down and they produce a byproduct that can be used to make very big bombs, and their waste is toxic and lasts thousands of years.

Go to solar panels , as Germany and Japan are doing, and now California. On the surface, solar is more expensive than fossil fuels (at the moment, ten times more expensive). Few are going to volunteer to pay a $1000 for something they can get for $100. But if you factor in the costs of global warming, who knows? Also the production of photovoltaic cells involves the use of some pretty toxic materials, which will become a pollution issue eventually.

Conserve. You could probably cut US consumption to 13 million barrels a day if you made the right laws, about gas efficiency, insulation of buildings, etc. There would be a cost, but in the medium run you'd save your money and be less dependent.

That's about it as far as I can see. Hydrogen is a dream twenty years off at least. [Update: See below about a possibility Israeli scientists have come up with that may shorten the wait.] Oil is still about the cheapest way to power modern life, and in economics cheapness trumps. For all the noise about alternative energy, only 6.4 percent of US energy was provided by them last year; it may rise to 6.7 this year. The energy bill passed by Congress does almost nothing to help, and probably hurts.

Despite Americans' talk about not liking to be dependent on the Saudis, their actual policies (and certainly those of the Bush administration) are calculated to increase the dependency, not lessen it.

Remember that the next time you complain about those spreading Wahhabi-influenced madrasahs. You might as well complain about cows while eating ice cream.

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No more yuan moves soon: economist
www.chinaview.cn 2005-08-09 09:37:21

BEIJING, Aug. 9 -- China would not adjust the yuan's exchange rate any further in the next three to six months while it assessed the impact of last month's 2.1 percent revaluation, a senior economist said.

“Policymakers will observe the effects of the revaluation on the economy and the degree to which it is digested. This is an adjustment period,” said Ba Shusong, a vice director with the State Council's Development Research Center.

“Exchange rate reform will affect trade, employment, farm products, and the overall economy. Companies and financial institutions all need time to adjust,” Ba said in a weekend interview with the Shanghai Securities News.

The Development Research Center advises the State Council, China's Cabinet, on economic policy.

Ba said the long-awaited revaluation, which also scrapped the yuan's peg to the dollar in favor of an exchange rate managed with reference to a currency basket, would make it easier for the central bank to fight speculators betting on further appreciation.

“Under the floating exchange rate system, the initiative to take on speculators is in the hands of the central bank, while under the fixed exchange rate system, the initiative is actually in the hands of speculative capital,” Ba said.

The modest size of the revaluation had not given speculators much of a profit, while the new managed float system introduced uncertainty by allowing the yuan to move up or down, Ba said.

The revaluation would help bring about an overall balance in China's trade account, but would have only a very small effect on China's huge surplus with the United States, Ba said.

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ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings Dies at 67
AP Television Writer
Mon Aug 8,11:47 AM ET

NEW YORK - Peter Jennings, the urbane, Canadian-born broadcaster who delivered the news to Americans each night in five separate decades, died Sunday. He was 67.

Jennings, who announced in April that he had lung cancer, died at his New York home, ABC News President David Westin said late Sunday.

"Peter has been our colleague, our friend, and our leader in so many ways. None of us will be the same without him," Westin said.

With Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, Jennings was part of a triumvirate that dominated network news for more than two decades, through the birth of cable news and the Internet. His smooth delivery and years of international reporting experience made him particularly popular among urban dwellers. [...]

Jennings was the face of ABC News whenever a big story broke. He logged more than 60 hours on the air during the week of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, offering a soothing sense of continuity during a troubled time. [...]

Jennings' announcement four months ago that the longtime smoker would begin treatment for lung cancer came as a shock.

"I will continue to do the broadcast," he said, his voice husky, in a taped message that night. "On good days, my voice will not always be like this."

But although Jennings occasionally came to the office between chemotherapy treatments, he never again appeared on the air. [...]

Jennings returned to the evening news a decade after his unceremonious departure. In 1978, ABC renamed its broadcast "World News Tonight," and instituted a three-person anchor team: Frank Reynolds based in Washington, Max Robinson from Chicago and Jennings, by then ABC's chief foreign correspondent, from London.

Following Reynolds' death from cancer, ABC abandoned the multi-anchor format and Jennings became sole anchor on Sept. 5, 1983. Brokaw became solo anchor at NBC just days later. Rather had taken the CBS anchor job in 1981.

Starting in 1986, Jennings began a decade on top of the ratings. His international experience served him well explaining stories like the collapse of European communism, the first Gulf War and the terrorist bombing of an airplane over Lockerbie, Scotland. He took pride that "World News Tonight," as its name suggested, took a more worldly view than its rivals. Fans responded to his smart, controlled style. [...]

With Americans looking more inward in the mid to late-1990s, NBC's Tom Brokaw surpassed Jennings in the ratings. ABC was still a close No. 2, however. When Brokaw stepped down in December 2004, followed shortly by Rather, ABC began an advertising campaign stressing Jennings' experience - an ironic twist given how his ABC News career began.

But ABC was never able to learn whether Jennings could take advantage of his role as an elder statesman; his cancer diagnosis came only a month after Rather left the anchor chair. [...]

Jennings also led a documentary team at ABC News, which struck a chord in 2000 with the high-rated spiritual special "The Search for Jesus." [...]

Comment: Jennings also did a recent special on the UFO phenomenon. It is a bit curious that one month after the "Rather Scandal" and the departure of Tom Brokaw from NBC, the one remaining "superanchor" who did not intend to step down is diagnosed with lung cancer...

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Paper apologizes for John Irving review
Last Updated Mon, 08 Aug 2005 14:04:28 EDT
CBC Arts

After running a negative review of John Irving's latest novel, Until I Find You, the Washington Post has issued an apology.

The paper says reviewer Marianne Wiggins failed to disclose a previous relationship with the author of The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Wiggins, a fellow novelist and a U.S. National Book Award finalist, isn't the only one who panned Irving's latest. For instance, the reviewer for the New York Times called Until I Find You "hideously overstuffed" and said it "feels as though it had been written on automatic pilot."

On July 10, the Washington Post published the review of the Irving novel in which Wiggins called the 824-page work a "mass of lazy, unrefined writing."

"The story reads as if Irving woke from a recurring nightmare and started dictating compulsively," she wrote.

In an Editor's Note Sunday, the paper said: "Had we known that Irving had dedicated one of his earlier novels (A Son of the Circus) to Marianne Wiggins' ex-husband, Salman Rushdie, and had we known that Irving and Wiggins had socialized with each other in the past, we would not have made the assignment. ... We apologize to our readers for this misstep."

The paper also said it requires critics to disclose "any contact, friendly or otherwise" with the author of the book they are to review.

Irving had issued a complaint to the newspaper, noting his personal relationship with Wiggins, who divorced his longtime friend Rushdie in 1993 after a five-year marriage.

Comment: Isn't it nice of the Washington Post to take issues of conflict of interest so seriously. We have a question, though. How many of the Post's reporters, columnists, and editors socialise with the neocons, with Zionist lobbyists, with heavy donors to either of the two corporatist US political parties, or with members of the Bush administration?

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Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me--can't get fooled again
Juan Cole

The bizarre report by Jim Miklaszewski of NBC news that US military sources are saying Iran is the source of more sophisticated bombs used by Sunni Arab guerrillas in Iraq seems so unbelievable because it is. Poor Jim is the victim of a high-level Department of Defense black psy-ops operation (or perhaps such an operation has been supplied by a sub-contractor). You wonder if it is Doug Feith's parting gift to the American people-- laying the groundwork for a war with Iran.

This is the give-away sentence:

' Intelligence officials believe the high-explosives were shipped into Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary guard or the terrorist group Hezbollah, but are convinced it could not have happened without the full consent of the Iranian government.

Earlier in the article it was alleged that the supposedly captured shipment came from northeastern Iran. Yet by this later paragraph, the US military intelligence guys can't tell whether it came from the west or the east, or whether it came from Iran or Hizbullah. But if you don't know whether something comes from Lebanon or Iran, then you really don't know where it came from at all, do you? Lebanon and Iran are not like each other. One speaks Persian, the other Arabic. Why, they aren't even close to one another.

Let's look at a map.

Do you notice how Hizbullah (Hezbollah), which is Shiite, is in southern Lebanon, way over in the west of the map, on the Mediterranean? Do you notice how northeastern Iran (also Shiite) is way over to the east of the map, near the Caspian sea? Do you notice how there isn't any way to get from Lebanon to Iran except through Syria and then Turkey? Do you notice how there isn't any way to get from Lebanon to Iraq except via Syria or Syria-and-Jordan? (You could fly, but if the Lebanese government is permitting air transport of 500 pound bombs out of Beirut, we have other problems than just some Iraqi arms smuggling).

Do you notice how there are 250,000 tons of missing munitions in Iraq, such that it is not necessary for the Baath military intelligence to import very many from elsewhere?

Do you notice how the US military has not captured any Lebanese Hizbullah in the company of Sunni guerrillas in Iraq? Do you notice how only the Baathist ex-Minister of the Interior, Falah al-Naqib, an appointee of CIA asset Iyad Allawi, ever alleged that he had captured Lebanese Hizbullah in Iraq? (Do you notice how Allawi's Minister of Defense, Baathist Hazem Shaalan, charged that Iran was Iraq's number one enemy when he was briefly in power last year?)

Do you notice how there are two, count them, two, Iraqi organizations called "Hezbollah" (which just means "party of God") and how Americans frequently are confused and think these are the Lebanese party, which they are not?

Do you notice how the US military has not captured any Iranians in the Sunni Arab provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin, etc.? (Occasionally Iranian pilgrims have been captured in Shiite areas, where they threw in with Shiite militants.)

Do you notice how the US military has captured lots of Sunni Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Sudanese, etc.?

Do you notice how the Sunni guerrillas talk nasty about the Shiites and blow them up and slit their throats? Do you notice how some people are depending on you not to know that radical Shiites and extremist Sunnis don't like each other?

Do you notice how the elected (Shiite) Iraqi government that the guerrillas are trying to kill has excellent relations with (Shiite) Iran?

Do you notice how some regional forces wanted US wars against both Iraq and Iran and are probably unhappy that they are only going to get one bonbon, not two?

Do you notice how some regional forces may have intelligence officers in northern Iraq that would be in a good position to pass disinformation to the clueless (or overly eager) Americans?

Do you notice how the story of Iranian agents coming in through Kurdistan looks a lot like the story the FBI had accused spy Larry Franklin feed AIPAC to see if they would run off to the Israeli embassy with it? Is it a counter-sting?

Do you notice how a cabal of plotters, including Franklin, Michael Ledeen, Harold Rhode, and the Italian Defense Department and military intelligence met with "the Iranian Chalabi," fraudster and Iran-Contra figure Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, in an attempt to torpedo better relations between Iran and the United States?

Be afraid when you begin to see US government agencies themselves handing out this highly suspect sort of information to major news networks. It means that the sting on the American people has moved from the smoke-filled back rooms to some higher operational level.

Or maybe trial balloons are being floated to see how gullible we are.

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US skeptical over Europe’s approach to Iran

PARIS, Aug 5 (AFP) - The United States has "enormous scepticism" over Europe's approach to Iran's nuclear programme, even if it has publicly backed the efforts, a French diplomat said Friday.

"I have to say that the United States has followed our negotiations with enormous scepticism, thinking that it will lead nowhere and that we are being duped by the Iranians," said the diplomat, who was briefing journalists on condition of anonymity Britain, France and Germany welcomed US President George W Bush's reserved support earlier this year of the EU initiative to have Iran drop parts of its nuclear programme that could be used for military purposes in exchange for trade and security cooperation deals.

"That made our job easier and allowed us to show the Iranians that we had not a backing of the Americans but an understanding of the task," the diplomat said.

"That hasn't stopped the Americans continuing to watch us with deep scepticism. We don't consult them as such, but we are telling the Americans what direction we're going in without providing details on all of our positions," he said.

The officials was speaking after Britain, France and Germany made a package of offers to Iran promising accords in various areas if it agreed to limits that would guarantee its nuclear programme could be used for exclusively civilian ends.

Comment: This approach also allows the US to keeps its hands clean and remain free to find fault with any future agreement, should agreement be reached.

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Pentagon Plans to Send More Troops to Iraq
AP Military Writer
Mon Aug 8, 3:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Anticipating a new burst of insurgent violence, the
Pentagon plans to expand the U.S. force in Iraq to improve security for a planned October referendum and a December election.

Although much public attention has been focused recently on the prospect of reducing U.S. forces next spring and summer, defense officials foresee the likelihood of first increasing troop levels.

Lawrence Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, noted Monday that troop levels were raised last January during Iraq's first elections, and then returned to the current level of about 138,000 several weeks later.

"It's perfectly plausible to assume we'll do the same thing for this election," he said, while stressing that no decisions had been made.

Di Rita said he did not know how many extra troops might be needed during the referendum and election period.

Other officials have said that once the election period has passed and the troop total recedes to the 138,000 level, a further reduction in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 is possible next spring and summer. That could change, however, if the insurgency intensifies or an insufficient number of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces prove themselves battle ready.

Last January the U.S. troop level rose as high as 160,000. This was accomplished mainly by overlapping some units arriving in Iraq to begin a one-year tour with those who were ending their yearlong tours. In at least one case an Army brigade was kept a little longer than its scheduled 12 months in Iraq, and Di Rita said he could not rule out this happening again this fall, although the intention is to avoid tours longer than 12 months.

"The units that are there have been told to expect that," he said. "It's possible that your planned rotation dates back to the U.S. will be affected by the need to keep a higher level for a longer period of time. They understand that."

Di Rita said commanders may also ask for volunteers to serve extended tours.

Another possibility is that some U.S.-based troops will be sent to Iraq to augment the force during the election period. One unit called upon most frequently for that kind of duty is the 82nd Airborne Division, which currently is deploying a battalion to Afghanistan to bolster security in advance of Sept. 18 elections there.

Di Rita said no elements of the 82nd had been alerted to prepare for similar duty in Iraq this fall.

U.S. commanders predict a need for extra troops this fall in Iraq because the insurgents have tended to intensify their attacks when key political milestones approached. If a draft constitution is ready by Aug. 15, as intended, then a national referendum on that charter is to be held Oct. 15, followed by December elections based on the constitution. [...]

Among the Army units scheduled to deploy to Iraq in coming months is the 101st Airborne Division, which was part of the original invasion force in 2003 and returned home early in 2004, as well as the 4th Infantry Division, which arrived in Iraq shortly after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. Those two divisions have since been reorganized and now have four combat brigades each, rather than three each.

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Plainclothed Russian Commandos to Retake Uzbekistan Airbase After Americans Leave — Report

Created: 08.08.2005 14:51 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 15:04 MSK

Russian soldiers have been staying in Uzbekistan for more than a month preparing to take charge of the Khanabad airbase after the U.S. troops withdrawal, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported.

As the editor-in-chief of an Uzbek news agency Fergana Daniil Kislov told the paper, “several hundreds of Russian servicemen — presumably spetsnaz troops of airborne commandos — remain at a former geological exploration airbase near the military installation, wear civilian clothes and try not to get in touch with local people without urgent need”.

However, Uzbek diplomats and Russian Defense Ministry officials neither confirmed nor dismissed the report, but a military source that wished to remain anonymous said in an interview with the daily that Russian troops will oversee the handover of Karshi-Khanabad airbase that has been used by the U.S. since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime, which was accused of harboring al Qaeda.

“Americans expected they would stay there forever, and were setting aside a lot of funds for the base infrastructure. Our task is to make them hand the aerodrome — the runway, communications and watch facilities — over to Uzbekistan upkeep,” the source said.

Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry have also confirmed the reports. One of them said that after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization demanded U.S. troops withdrawal from the former Soviet republic, China immediately expressed interest in the base. Thus, Russian troops had to rush to the country in order not to lose their chances of taking control of an area that used to belong to the USSR. “Uzbeks did not mind,” he pointed out.

Khanabad used to be the second-largest airbase in the Soviet Union, hosting strategic Tu-22MZ planes and Tu-95 heavy bombers during the invasion into Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan has imposed new limits on the U.S. use of its Karshi-Khanabad air base, after Washington criticized Uzbekistan’s bloody crackdown on anti-government rioting in May that killed around 200 people according to the official toll, though human rights activists say up to 750 died.

Shortly afterwards the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional alliance led by China and Russia, called on the U.S. to set a date for withdrawing forces from bases in the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

No official requests concerning base withdrawal, however, have been voiced by the Uzbek government so far.

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London bomb suspect says aim was to scare, not kill

Tue Aug 9, 2005 12:59 PM BST
By Shasta Darlington

ROME (Reuters) - One of the prime suspects in the failed July 21 bombings in London told domestic and Italian investigators on Tuesday that a bag packed with explosives and nails had been meant to scare, not to kill.

Hamdi Issac was seized in Rome on July 29 after fleeing London following the botched strike on the city's transport system in which no one was hurt. The government charged three fellow suspects in the attacks with attempted murder on Monday.

Issac, also known as Osman Hussein, was questioned in a Rome jail for three hours in the presence of British investigators.

"He knew there were explosives, but it was just to make noise, not to kill," Issac's lawyer, Antonietta Sonnessa, told reporters after the questioning. "It was just for show and was not intended to hurt anybody."

But Issac acknowledged that along with the explosives, the rucksack he was carrying on the day of the attacks also contained nails, she said.

The questioning was presided over by Rome magistrate Domenico Miceli, who is due to hold an extradition hearing on August 17. Sonnessa said five Britons were also present during the interrogation.

Sonnessa has said Issac may be able to avoid extradition due to proceedings against him in Italy, where he is suspected of international terrorism and carrying false documents.

The July 21 attack came exactly two weeks after four young British Muslim men killed themselves and 52 other people with bombs on three underground trains and a bus in London.

Italian police have said Issac is an Ethiopian national who lived in Italy from 1991 to 1996 before moving to Britain.

Comment: How considerate of MI5 to only want to scare people.

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Genetic Contamination Spreads in 'GM-Free' Australia
By Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Mon, 8 Aug 2005 15:45:34 -0700

Environmentalists say Australia is facing "the most serious genetic contamination event" in its history, after the West Australian government confirmed low levels of genetically modified canola had been found in non-GM canola.

A spokeswoman for WA Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said that tests had shown positive results of GM material but samples had been sent overseas for further testing and until more detailed results were confirmed no further details could be released.

The latest test results come after GM material was found during routine testing by the Australian Barley Board in June of an export consignment of Victorian canola seeds bound for Japan. About 0.01 per cent of the consignment contained the GM material.

It is believed the modification found in Victoria, known as Topas 19/2 and developed by Bayer CropScience, was also found in the WA sample tested.

Following Monday's announcement, Greenpeace Australia campaigner Jeremy Tager said state governments must now take immediate action to protect Australia's GM free status.

"This is the most serious genetic contamination event that Australia has ever faced and the response from state governments in the coming days will determine their commitment to upholding Australia's (GM) free status," Mr Tager said.

"The WA and Victorian governments have instituted rigorous testing.

"They are taking this issue extremely seriously but the lack of any response from the NSW and South Australian governments is disturbing.

"States that have not conducted testing, or taken steps to determine if Topas is a problem in their agricultural areas, are putting Australian farmers and our (GM) free status at risk."

WA's Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said he would like to see legislation put in place at a national level to govern liability for GM contamination. [...]

Comment: GM crops are like a virus. It seems they may be intended to spread to non-GM fields around the world, forcing all farmers to purchase their seeds each year from the psychopathic corporations that engineer them. Think about what would happen if certain crops became irreparably contaminated with the GM variety across the globe, and the corporation that produces them was, say, wiped off the face of the earth by a natural disaster...

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GM maize cleared as animal feed
Leo Cendrowicz in Brussels
The Guardian
Tuesday August 9, 2005

The European commission yesterday cleared imports of genetically modified maize produced by the US biotechnology firm Monsanto for use as animal feed.

The commission granted Monsanto a 10-year licence to export the maize.

This is the third GM product to be approved by the EU since the end of its six-year moratorium in April last year, and it comes after a tortuous authorisation process. EU governments and environmental activists have consistently questioned the safety of the maize, known as MON 863.

The maize was approved by the commission in spite of opposition from more than half of the EU's 25 governments. When EU environment ministers were asked to vote on the maize at a meeting in Luxembourg in June, 14 opposed, four abstained, and only seven - including Britain - backed the plans.

In September, EU health ministers will vote on whether to clear the same maize for human consumption. Environmental groups argue that GM crops have not been proved to be safe for human consumption and may contaminate other crops, but the commission insisted the maize was subject to "a rigorous pre-market risk assessment".

Comment: Given the opposition in the EU to GM crops, and the fact that those crops were nevertheless approved, we can only conclude that GM crops are being forced on the population against the wishes of the people and national governments. The September vote will no doubt result in another approval for human consumption. It is also interesting that as smoking is banned in more and more EU countries due to the "health risks", GM crops are being mysteriously approved even though no one really knows what long-term effects such engineered food products will have on the health of the people.

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Broad Environmental Damage Seen From Shuttle
By Jeff Franks, Reuters
Updated: 08/04/05 12:38 PM EDT

HOUSTON - Commander Eileen Collins said astronauts on shuttle Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned on Thursday that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.

Her comments came as NASA pondered whether to send astronauts out on an extra spacewalk to repair additional heat-protection damage on the first shuttle mission since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

Discovery is linked with the International Space Station and orbiting 220 miles above the Earth.

"Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world," Collins said in a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used," said Collins, who was standing with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in front of a Japanese flag and holding a colorful fan.

Collins, flying her fourth shuttle mission, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected, too.

"The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have." [...]

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Meteor impacts may be good for Earth
Science Daily

CALGARY, Alberta, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Meteor impacts are often regarded as killers and the cause of mass extinctions on Earth, but researchers say meteors might have helped early life.

Canadian geologists reported Monday there's a chance the heavy bombardment of Earth by meteors during the planet's youth actually spurred early life on our planet.

A study of the Haughton Impact Crater on Devon Island, in the Canadian Arctic, has revealed some very life-friendly features at ground zero, researchers said. Those include hydrothermal systems, blasted rocks that are easier for microbes to inhabit, plus a protected basin created by the crater itself.

If the theory is correct, the scientists say impact craters could represent some of the best sites to look for signs of past or present life on Mars and other planets.

The study was presented Monday during a presentation on the biological effects of impacts at Earth System Processes 2, a meeting co-convened by the Geological Society of America and Geological Association of Canada in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

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Moderate Earthquake In Nicobar Island
August 09, 2005 22:20 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 (Bernama) -- A moderate earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale occurred in the Nicobar Island, Indonesia at 7.23pm Tuesday, according to a statement by the Malaysian Meteorological Service.

The statement said the centre of the earthquake was located 232km from Banda Aceh and 913km Northwest of Kuala Lumpur, at co-ordinates 7.5 North, 94.7 East.

The department said based on its location and magnitude, the earthquake was not expected to generate a tsunami that could affect the coasts of Malaysia.

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Monstrous waves were whipped up by Ivan
04 August 2005

Striking observations of the effects of Hurricane Ivan – which swept across the Atlantic in 2004 – reveals the 100-foot wave which ended the movie The Perfect Storm were no cinematic exaggeration. And new meteorological predictions warn that 2005 may be a bumper year for North Atlantic hurricanes.

Sensors resting at 60 and 90-metre depths in the Gulf of Mexico, off Mississippi, US, measured one wave at 91 feet (28 metres) high and half a dozen waves higher than 50 feet as Ivan passed directly over the waters.

Yet even those impressive measurements missed the peak of the storm, says Bill Teague at the US Naval Research Laboratory branch in Mississippi. At the peak of the Category 4 storm, when sustained winds roared at 140 miles per hour (225 km/hour), he estimates waves reached 130 feet (40 metres).

Hurricane winds whip up high waves over the open ocean, but their heights are notoriously hard to measure because the rough seas inevitably rip the standard buoy instruments loose from their moorings before the peak of the storm.

Barnacle-like sensors

Waves up to 80 feet (24 metres) high have hit offshore oil rigs, but operators thought these were isolated "rogue" waves. But Teague told New Scientist the new measurements suggest that "what's been called a rogue wave may be fairly common in intense storms".

The group used novel sensors that stick like barnacles to the sea floor – allowing them to survive Ivan’s fury – to measure wave height by monitoring water pressure. However, each of the six sensors monitored wave height for only 512 seconds each eight hours, so they missed the peak of the storm.

Meanwhile, the US National Weather Service declared on 2 August that 2005’s hurricane season would be “extremely active”. After recording seven tropical storms in the North Atlantic in June and July, the agency predicts 11 to 14 more storms will develop through to November – giving a total of 18 to 21 during the season. A total of 9 to 11 are expected to reach hurricane strength. On average there are 10 tropical storms and six hurricanes in the season.

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River flowing with cocaine indicates 'vast' drug use
05 August 2005

A “vastly larger” number of people than thought may abuse cocaine, suggest the results of a study measuring a breakdown product of the illegal drug in an Italian river.

Levels of a cocaine residue excreted in human urine were measured in the River Po, Italy’s largest river. The river has a catchment basin for about five-million people, with major cities like Turin and Milan situated in the valley.

The equivalent of about 4 kilograms of cocaine flowed in the river each day, say the researchers from Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, and the University of Insubria in Varese.

The analysis indicates that at least 40,000 packets of the drug are snorted each day – 80 times more than the official estimate of just 15,000 doses taken per month by people living in the area. If the study’s estimates are true, a staggering $150 million in street value of cocaine is dealt each year in the valley, say the researchers. [...]

The high estimate of cocaine use is still likely to be too low, believe the researchers. This is because some of the cocaine and its metabolites are likely to be lost or degraded before they had reached the sampling sites.

The team thinks panicked traffickers hastily flushing their goods down the toilet is “highly unlikely” to contribute to their estimates, which are based on multiple samplings. Any dumping of cocaine would be picked up by a rise in the cocaine to benzoylecgonine ratio.
Local trends [...]

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Our X-Files

HIDDEN files, cover-ups and pressure on witnesses to "forget" the UFOs they say they saw – these are the Queensland X-Files.

Australian UFO Research Centre investigator Dominic McNamara has spent two years uncovering restricted files from the Federal Government's top-secret national archives.

For the first time, The Sunday Mail is able to disclose three sightings previously marked classified and deemed to be a matter of national security.

Mr McNamara said there was little doubt the files – detailing UFO sightings between 1950 and 1970 – were deliberately hidden or made difficult to find.

"We are under the impression that some files are yet to be found or they are in something deeper that we are never going to get a look at," he said.

Mr McNamara said Queensland had a spate of sightings for which there did not seem to be much explanation.

"It's a bit of a hot spot," he said.

"The bureaucratic solution is to contain it, especially if your mandate is to be able to explain what goes on in the sky.

"There were a number of sightings in that time, where there was something really strange going on in Queensland.

"The best evidence we have are the witnesses who have risked their social lives, their career and their sanity to come forward at a time when it was extremely difficult to do so and make a report."

The engineer said there was too much unexplained activity to simply discount extra-terrestrial life.

He said sightings tended to peak around the time humans extended their push into the skies, with events such as rocket launches or nuclear bombs.

Mr McNamara said a lot of people thought he was "mad" and compared his work as a UFO investigator to that of TV character Fox Mulder of The X-Files.

"It's hard for people to consider that there's such a thing as alien life, but it's harder to accept that their can't be any," he said.

The sightings include:

WITNESSED by Harold Jackwitz at Wulkuraka, west of Ipswich, on July 14, 1958, at 1.45pm. The object was seen by 12 members of a construction gang employed at the partly built electric shunting and marshalling yards.

Mr Jackwitz, of North Ipswich, described the object as round, silent and cloud-like, giving off light reflection, solid in construction, but emitting no sound or any obvious means of propulsion.

When seen, it was to the northwest and apart from one period where it appeared to hover, the direction remained constant until visual contact was lost.

Bruce Stephens, of Auchenflower in Brisbane, who was at the location, made observations of the phenomenon through his theodolite for about eight minutes.

He drew a detailed sketch.

Interrogators reported, "the possibility of it being an aircraft is most unlikely . . . the observers gave straightforward information, showed no tendency to embellish and their details were identical".

No RAAF or civil aircraft was airborne or operating within these confines at the time.

ROLAND Roberts, witnessed a UFO at Daunia Station, via Nebo, near Mackay, on June 24, 1965, at 6.45pm.

"Saucer shape with silver dome top and black underneath . . . with lights around the side of it brilliant bluish white," Mr Roberts wrote.

He included a sketch of his sighting. He described the object moving from southwest until it vanished in a northeast direction.

"It had a constant red jet tail or slip stream at the rear the colour did not vary," the report read. "Never seen anything move as fast as the object observed."

Mr Roberts was a grazier at his homestead when he saw the object, which he said "would have been between 30 to 50 feet (9m to 15m) across, could see no legs or landing gear under the object".

Mr McNamara said there was great interest in this sighting because there was a boat which made a similar UFO report in Darwin.

POLICE officer Leslie Gray saw a UFO from his address at Kedron in Brisbane on November 12, 1966, at 7.55pm.

Mr Gray, then 36, said he was watching Russian satellites from his back yard with his family when a slightly illuminated boomerang-shaped object travelled overhead.

"I said to the children, come and look and try and remember what you've seen because no one will ever believe you," he told The Sunday Mail this week.

The sighting was confirmed by his then-wife Elva and two children Robyn, then 13, and Stewart, then 5.

He described the object moving from the north to the south before it disappeared about 30 degrees above the horizon.

Mr Gray said lights in straight lines covered the object and there was a faint glow outlining the whole object, giving the impression of a brighter light above it.

"I thought no one's going to believe me, but I would like to get it recorded," he said.

No aircraft were reported as being in the area.

"Being a policeman I knew that you don't ring the police and talk about things like that, so I called a friend in the air force," he said.

Mr Gray said he was interviewed soon after he reported it, but "he was the most uninterested person I have ever met and thought I was crazy," he said.

"I haven't heard a thing since."

Mr Gray said a newspaper article appeared soon after about a banana-shaped object burnt into the ground in Victoria.

Mrs Gray said it had been hard to convince others.

"People would brush you off, saying you've been drinking, but we'll never forget it."

• All documents obtained from the National Archives of Australia.
Australian UFO Research Network Sightings Hotline: 1800 772 288.

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Dragons in the Tibet Sky
The Epoch Times
Aug 07, 2005

A photo of two peculiar dragon-shaped objects taken from a plane flying over Tibet’s Himalayas piqued many users’ interest when displayed on a Chinese website. The photographer is an amateur.

On June 22, 2004, the photographer went to Tibet’s Amdo region to attend the Qinghai-to-Xizang Railroad laying ceremony, and then took a plane from Lhasa to fly back inland. When flying over the Himalaya’s, he accidentally caught these two "dragons" in a picture that he took. He called these two objects "the Tibet dragons."

Looking at the photo, these two objects appear to have the characteristics of crawling creatures: The bodies seem to be covered by scales, the backs have spine-like protuberances, and also they have gradually thinning rear ends. Although the photo caught only a portion of the entire scene, it was sufficient create the appearance of two gigantic dragons flying in the clouds.

This photo, shown on some websites such as post.baidu.com and other forums, aroused the website visitors’ curiosity. One person commented, “No wonder that China is the homeland of the dragon! Nature is truly mysterious and powerful, it can always produce spectacular sights beyond people's expectations.”

“Is it really true? Is it possible there is an ancient civilization that we don’t know about is preserved in places that are sparsely populated?”

“It really looks like the dragons in fables, and I really hope it is.”

Certainly, most website visitors hoped that someone could confirm the authenticity of the dragons in the photo.

In Chinese fairy tales, the dragon is a kind of rare heavenly creature. Fables say that it can conceal or reveal itself. It ascends to heaven in the spring breeze and dives and hides in deep water in the autumn wind. It can promote clouds and bring about rain. It also became the symbol of imperial authority later on; all emperors of previous dynasties self-designated as dragons, utensils were also decorated with dragons.

Culturally, the dragon is the Chinese ancestors' totem. Nearly all races in China had fables and stories with dragons as the main subject, such as dragon boat races, the dragon lantern dance to celebrate holidays, sacrificial offerings to the dragons to implore timely wind and rain for good crops.

Whether this kind of creature really exists is still an unsolved riddle. In the previous dynasties in China, there had been many documents recording eyewitness accounts of magical dragons. The most amazing events are the various "falling dragons," dragons that suddenly fell to the ground under peculiar circumstances, and were witnessed by many. A relatively recent tale occurred in the puppet Manchuria regime in August, 1944. A black dragon fell to the ground at the Chen Family’s Weizi Village, about 9.4 miles northwest of Zhaoyuan County, on the south shore of the Mudan River (the old name of a section of Songhua River) in Heilongjiang province. The black dragon was on the verge of death. The eyewitness said that this creature had a horn on its head, scales covering its body, and had a strong fishy smell that attracted numerous flies.

The records from previous dynasties also mentioned the connection between the emergence of these kinds of mysterious creatures, “dragons,” and the transition of dynasties on earth. The appearance of Tibet’s magical dragon invites our curiosity and imagination.

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And Finally...

German lawyer sides with Britons in timeless row over sun loungers
Mon Aug 8, 1:19 PM ET

LONDON - A lawyer in Cologne has sprung to the defence of British holidaymakers fed up with Germans using towels to bag all the best sun loungers at European resorts.

"A British tourist would be quite within their legal rights to ignore the reservation implied by the towels if there is nobody there," Ralf Hocker, 34, told Monday's The Guardian newspaper.

In a book titled "The New Dictionary of Popular Legal Errors" -- based on a study of laws in Spain and Germany -- Hocker also says that bar-goers who leave coats on chairs, and pedestrians who try to claim parking spots for yet-to-arrive cars, are also on shaky legal ground.

"The towel things is not such a big deal in Germany, but I have to say that the stereotype is true -- German people do reserve all the loungers," Hocker said, upholding a timeless bit of British holiday folklore.

"It's also worth saying that it also infuriates some German people."

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