Friday, August 26, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism." - Cindy Sheehan

P I C T U R E   O F  T H E  D A Y

Pierre-Paul Feyte


NEW! Signs Commentary Books are Now Available!

For the first time, the Signs Team's most popular and discerning essays have been compiled into book form and thematically organized.

These books contain hard hitting exposés into human nature, propaganda, psyop activities and insights into the world events that shape our future and our understanding of the world.

The six new books, available now at our bookstore, are entitled:

  • 911 Conspiracy
  • The Human Condition
  • The Media
  • Religion
  • The Work
  • U.S. Freedom

Read them today - before the book burning starts!

California couple harassed after Fox News links their home to Islamic radical
Last Updated Thu, 25 Aug 2005 21:06:37 EDT
CBC News

A couple is being protected by police after their home was wrongly identified on Fox News as belonging to an Islamic radical.

After the report aired on Aug.7, people have shouted profanities at Randy and Ronnell Vorick, taken photos of their house, and spray-painted "terrorist" (misspelling it "terrist") on their property.

"I'm scared to go to work and leave my kids home. I call them every 30 minutes to make sure they're OK," Randy Vorick said.

John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor who appears on the Fox News segment "Inside Scoop with John Loftus," gave out the Voricks' address during the broadcast.

He said, however, that the home belonged to Iyad Hilal, whose group, Loftus said, has ties to those responsible for the July 7 bombings in London.

But Hilal moved out of the house about three years ago.

Since the day after the broadcast, police have patrolled the Voricks' house, and have kept a squad car across the street. Police Capt. John Rees said the department is "giving special attention to the family to make sure they're safe."

The couple sought a public apology and correction.

"John Loftus has been reprimanded for his careless error, and we sincerely apologize to the family," said Fox spokeswoman Irena Brigante.

Loftus also apologized and told the Los Angeles Times last week that "mistakes happen. ... That was the best information we had at the time."

The FBI has launched an inquiry into the activities of Hilal, a grocery store owner who is allegedly the U.S. leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been banned in parts of Europe and the Middle East.

Hilal, 56, is apparently not suspected of any terrorist acts, but FBI terrorism investigators want to know more about his and the group's activities.

Comment: This is the stuff of vigilantes, of taking the law into your own hands. Imagine broadcasting the address of someone, even if he was connected to a bombing. Isn't it the role of the police to handle such a case?

But the man identified on Fox "News" is not even suspected of any terrorist acts, and he no longer lives in the house.

Mr. Loftus, acting as one of far too many in-house vigilantes at Fox "News", moves from the usual ring-wing hate rhetoric to hate act when he gives out the address. To do such a thing is to incite his listeners to get involved, and, after years of calling liberals traitors who should be shot for supporting the "terrists", what kind of emotion do we expect to be produced when Loftus falsely declares a real, bone fide, "terrist" is living in California and broadcasts where to find him? A fear-primed public will terrorise the innocent victim. It's like clockwork.

And all it takes it one crazy to go further than spray-paint or insults and decide "to deal with them terrists" himself for an innocent man, woman, or child to die.

Sure, Loftus apologises.

"Mistakes happen. That was the best information we had at the time."

Sound familiar?

"There are WMD in Iraq. Saddam purchased uranium from Niger. Saddam was behind 9/11. The people living in that house over there are terrorists. Mistakes happen. Get over it."

But here, we know, or at least have an idea that it is very highly probable, that the London bombings were the work of British intelligence, MI5. We know that people of Middle East, Central Asian, and, in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, Brazilian, descent are targeted as the patsies in order to stir up racial hatred, distrust, and fear. The propaganda whipped up by Fox "News" and its ilk since 9/11 is generating negative energy, and that energy will have to be manifested one way or another. It will express itself.

Stepping back and looking at how the scenario has developed, it even looks as if it was planned:

First, 9/11. Galvanise the population into hatred and anger towards Muslims, Arabs, and other from the Middle East and Asia.

Second, play on the great threat to the US from these forces. Make the population feel that they could be anywhere, even your neighbour.

Third, attack people who disagree by portraying them as the lackeys and patsies of the "terrorists". Portray them as do-gooders who don't understand the real world, who don't understand that the enemy will stop at nothing to conquer us, and that, therefore, we must respond in kind or be annihilated. Build up the rhetoric over a period of years, taking it up one notch at a time, until the link "dissenter=terrorist" is automatic.

Fourth, arrange an economic crisis in order to increase the pressure on the population. Arrange it so that people feel that their very way of life is under attack, not just in words, but by turning the screws ever tighter.

Fifth, at the same time, insist that everything is going well. In this way, individuals who are not making ends meet will internalise their problems and say "If the economy is doing so well, then I must be the problem."

Sixth, choose the moment for the fatal blow. Arrange it so that it can be blamed on the chosen target, in this case the Arabs (terrorism, oil), and allow the public to give vent to their anger, fear, and hatred to take out any internal opposition at home.

In another synchronous moment, we have just received the following from a member of the QFS. He points us to this recent statement from the people at, a group with web bots that patrol the net analysing data to get a sense for current tendencies and how they might develop. In a piece on Cindy Sheehan, they write:

What's so amazing to us - verging on mind boggling - is that while our technology doesn't get the precise presentation of the future, it does get the general outline close enough so that we know where to follow along and what to cover. Emotionally, we're not taken by surprise, either. We're pleased as hell that the next run should give us insight into the huge emotional tension starting to build now and which the time-piercing technology reports is scheduled for release around the first week of December.

This feeling of emotional tension is also what we are reading from our daily browsing of the Internet, though we have to resort to our own senses and aren't relying on web bots.

There is a feeling of "something's got to give".

And that ain't good.

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Police shot for more than 30 seconds at Brazilian in London subway: witness
Fri Aug 26, 2:47 AM ET

LONDON - Police fired for more than 30 seconds at a Brazilian killed in a London subway train last month in the mistaken belief that he was a suicide bomber, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The claim was made in a vivid account of the July 22 death of Jean Charles de Menezes in the tense days after the London bombings, given by a freelance journalist to an independent panel that is investigating the incident.

"The shots were evenly spaced with about three seconds between the shots, for the first few shots, then a gap of a little longer, then the shots were evenly spaced again," said the journalist, Sue Thomason, from south London.

She said there were 11 shots fired -- a figure that jibed with the one already given by the Metropolitan Police. Seven shots hit De Menezes in the head, and another in the shoulder; the other three missed him.

De Menezes was shot and killed 15 days after the July 7 attacks on three subway trains and a double-decker bus which left 56 people dead, including four apparent Muslim suicide bombers.

It also occurred a day after a failed attempt to stage a copycat attack, and exposed what had been a secret "shoot to kill" policy for armed police confronted with a suspected suicide bomber.

Comment: The police shot De Menezes eleven times over a period of thirty seconds - including seven shots in the man's head! This story sounds much like a cold-blooded, vengeful murder. No wonder the Blair government didn't want any videos of the shooting released to the public - the people would have been rioting in the streets.

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Rolling power blackouts hit southern California
Last Updated Thu, 25 Aug 2005 20:59:05 EDT
CBC News

Southern California faced rolling blackouts Thursday as state power officials declared a transmission emergency.

Sweltering heat and the loss of key transmission lines forced officials to cut off power to about half a million people at a time.

It's one of the most serious power emergencies since the 2002 power crisis.

The situation was made worse by the sudden loss of key transmission lines from the pacific northwest.

The California Independent System Operator ordered Southern California Edison to reduce demand throughout its territory, prompting initial blackouts in areas of Fontana, La Puente, Cathedral City, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Ontario, Ca.

The utility scattered the outages to lessen the impact in any one place. Blackouts were expected to last about an hour before being shifted to other areas.

In downtown Los Angeles, temperatures spiked at 34 C on Thursday.

SoCal Edison has about 13 million customers in more than 400 Southern California cities and communities.

Northern California was not affected by the power outages.

Comment: The last time California suffered from energy shortages, we had the Enron scandal. We learned that the shortages were manipulations on the part of the energy providers to jack up prices. It happened the year following 9/11.

Today we see the same shortages, but they are coming during the August lull, the calm before the storm. Is this another sign that we are not too far from the next Significant Event?

The Internet has been rife with speculation. There were discussions of the war games taking place near Charlotte. Many messages were posted speculating that it would serve as the cover for the explosion of a nuclear device. All that chatter seemed to us about as credible as last year's Aussie Bloke hoax. We think the forces behind these events, the ones at the top, are much smarter than that. We think that the chances are very good that when it comes, it will be unexpected and different from what the alternative pundits are announcing.

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Internal CIA report faults ex director, others for pre 9/11 faults
Fri Aug 26, 3:46 AM ET

WASHINGTON - An internal CIA report criticizes ex-CIA chief George Tenet and several other former and current CIA officials for not dealing effectively with Al-Qaeda before the September 11 attacks, The New York Times said.

Tenet, who resigned in July 2004 after seven years at the top, was censured for failing to develop and carry out a strategic plan to take on Al-Qaeda in the years before the attacks, two people familiar with the report told the daily.

The highly classified report, put together by Central Intelligence Agency inspector general John Helgerson, described systemic problems at the CIA before the 2001 attacks, a former intelligence official and a current government official said.

Besides Tenet, it was also critical of James Pavitt, former deputy director of operations, and Cofer Black, former director of the agency's counterterrorism center.

The report, the daily said, recommends that CIA director Porter Goss -- Tenet's successor, convene "accountability boards" to recommend disciplinary action against those faulted, the daily said.

While the daily provided sparse details of the report, which was delivered Tuesday to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees by Goss, it said an earlier draft had also found fault with the CIA for focusing too much on Al-Qaeda's leadership.

Former CIA officials familiar with the earlier draft said that by focusing on going after Osama bin Laden, the CIA missed opportunities to recruit low-level agents on the margins of Al-Qaeda who might have provided access to its inner workings. [...]

Comment: In response to the article "Iraq al-Qaeda claims Jordan rocket attack" on the August 23, 2005 Signs page, we wrote:

Of course it was all Zarqawi's doing... Remember when everything was blamed on Osama bin Laden?

Say, what ever happened to old Osama? Didn't Bush say that US forces would capture him dead or alive...?

Again, we have to ask how it is that the CIA is being blamed for going after Osama when that is exactly what Bush promised the American people he would do??

The draft also criticized the intelligence agency for allowing thousands of pages of intercepted messages in Arabic to go untranslated.

It was unclear what disciplinary action could be taken against those criticised in the CIA report. For Tenet and other retired officials, the daily said, the only action possible was to send them a letter of reprimand.

For Eleanor Hill, who served on the joint congressional inquiry into September 11, the report provides accountability for the failures that permitted the attacks.

"The families of the victims had repeatedly asked for some kind of accountability," she said, adding that the congressional inquiry did not have time to do "the kind of painstaking work necessary to assess individual responsibility."

The New York Times also said the report put Goss in "a delicate position" because as head of the House Intelligence Committee in the years before September 11, he influenced intelligence policies and monitored intelligence agencies.

After the attacks, the daily added, Goss headed the joint Congressional inquiry into the attacks and requested the CIA inspector general's inquiry that produced the report.

Comment: Gee, and now Goss is head of the CIA... Goss always seems to be right in the middle of all the action, doesn't he?

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6-month ceasefire looks precarious as new violence erupts in Holy Land
06:49 AM EDT Aug 26
Canadian Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday denounced a deadly Israeli arrest raid that killed five Palestinians, calling it an intentional provocation aimed at undermining a six-month ceasefire, but he urged militant groups to hold their fire. Militants vowed to renew attacks on Israel, a move that would undercut the good will that resulted from an Israeli pullout from 25 Jewish settlements in Gaza and part of the West Bank.

Comment: Ah, yes. The "Good Will" that comes from Israel leaving Gaza. The only problem that Israel still controls the entrances and exits, still controls the lives of the Palestinian population in the Gaza. Is that "good will" or simply repackaging and rebranding the same old terror?

Following Tuesday's completion of the most important stage of the pullout, evacuating settlers, violence flared in three places.

A rocket fired from Lebanon exploded in an Israeli village just across the border Thursday, causing some damage but no casualties. Late Wednesday, Israeli forces raided the Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank, killing five Palestinians, at least three of them armed. A few hours before that, a Palestinian stabbed two young Jewish men in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing one and seriously wounding the other.

Abbas blamed Israel for inciting the sudden escalation with its deadly raid in Tulkarem. "This murder intentionally aims at renewing the vicious cycle of violence," he said.

Raanan Gissin, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, responded that the Palestinians have failed to control militants. "We have transferred authority over this city of Tulkarem and the surrounding villages to the Palestinian Authority, and over a period of about three months, no action has been taken," Gissin said.

Comment: This is the old, faithful, the perennial Israeli excuse: blame the PA for not controlling the militants.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the department was still trying to get a clear picture of what happened in Tulkarem but stressed, "Israel has a right to defend itself."

Comment: This is the perennial American response: "Israel has the right to defend itself."

"What is important is that - and especially at this time, where we have a withdrawal taking place in Gaza and the West Bank - that both sides refrain from actions that could inflame tensions that might exacerbate the situation and make the environment in which we do have the ability of trust and confidence more difficult," he added.

Comment: This is the perennial American "analysis" that equates the violence of both sides, as if the Israeli army, equipped with the most modern arms and benefiting from billions of dollars of US aid each year is somehow equal with scattered groups of Palestinians living in refugee camps and fighting for their survival.

Since Abbas and Sharon declared a ceasefire in February, the number of violent incidents plunged. However, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have carried out attacks, claiming they were responding to Israeli violations.

Islamic Jihad sent a suicide bomber into Tel Aviv in February and another into Netanya in July. Five Israelis were killed in each attack. The cell's leadership was traced to the Tulkarem area, and Israel has been hunting its members, claiming that even under the truce, it has the right to take defensive measures.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said the arrest raid targeted those fugitives. "This was an operation against a 'ticking bomb,"' he told Israel TV. "They were planning a suicide bombing attack in Israel."

Palestinians said the Israelis opened fire first, and Mofaz did not deny that. "Weapons were drawn on the soldiers and gunfire resulted," he said.

According to Palestinian witnesses, young Palestinians were sitting outdoors, snacking on sunflower seeds and chatting with a well-known militant leader, when undercover Israeli troops jumped out of a Mercedes.

Witnesses said soldiers ordered everyone to stand up and shined a red laser at the group before opening fire. "A car came, and armed men got out and shot toward us. I was hit in the shoulder," said Samer Murai, 15. He said a gunfight followed, and several of his friends were wounded.

About 4,000 people attended a funeral for the five. Gunmen fired in the air, and many residents accused Israel of destroying the calm that prevailed during the Gaza pullout.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades vowed revenge.

"The Zionists should prepare . . . bags to collect the remains of their soldiers and settlers because we are going to hit in the depths of the entity," said Abu Abdullah, an Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip.

Hours later, militants fired two homemade rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, the army said, the first such attack since Israel began its pullout from Gaza on August 15. There were no injuries or damage. A local militant group said the rocket fire was retaliation for the Tulkarem raid, Israel Radio reported.

After sunset, hundreds of Islamic Jihad militants marched in Gaza City and Khan Younis, pledging revenge.

At midday Thursday, a rocket fired from Lebanon exploded in Margaliot, an Israeli farming village on the border. The rocket damaged a chicken coop, but no one was hurt. Army Radio reported it was the first time such a rocket has been fired at an Israeli community since Israel ended its 18-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000.

Israeli security officials have been warning that militant groups in Lebanon might try to heat up the border area during Israel's pullout from Gaza and part of the West Bank.

The Jewish seminary student killed in the Jerusalem stabbing attack was buried Thursday. He was identified as Shmuel Matt, 21, a British citizen. A second student, Sammy Weissbard, 20, from New York, was wounded.

Comment: Jews from around the world are welcomed to their supposed homeland, Israel. They may have families, houses, everything they need elsewhere, yet they are treated as lost sheep finally coming home when they land in the Zionist entity.

The Palestinians have no such luck.

They can't even get from their homes to their lands to farm them without passing through Israeli checkpoints and the infamous apartheid wall. They are treated as being as less-than-human, but don't worry, Judaism teaches that anyone who is not Jewish is less-than-human, so it isn't really discrimination.

Doesn't that make you feel better?

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The remaining 99.5 percent
By Amira Hass

"I want to ask you as a Jew to a Jewess," the young man said a few days ago. In these days, a beginning such as this invites a dialogue of the kind in which we have been drowning for several weeks now - a dialogue in which the definition "Jew" has been appropriated to describe some type of unique entity, one that is set apart from the other human species, a superior one. Sometimes it's the Jewish boy with his arms raised from the Warsaw Ghetto; sometimes it's the young girl whose orange shirt bears the slogan, "We won't forget and we won't forgive;" and sometimes it's the soldier who refuses to evacuate a Jew. A unique entity of ties of blood, sacredness and land.

"As a Jew to a Jewess," said the young man, who turned out to be a tourist from South America who has family in Israel and also understands Hebrew. It was at the Erez crossing, among the barbed-wire fencing, the locked gates, the revolving gates, the intimidating guard towers, the soldiers using special cameras to keep an eye on the handful of individuals passing through, and the booming loudspeakers through which they bark out their orders in Hebrew to women who have been waiting in the heat for five hours to go visit their sons imprisoned at the Be'er Sheva jail.

"Is it possible," he continued with his question, "that the Israelis, who are so nice and good - after all, I have family here - are unaware of the injustice they have caused here?" The images of destruction left behind by Israel in Palestinian Gaza and witnessed by him in the past few days have left a look of shock in his eyes. "I am a Jew, and my father is a Holocaust survivor, and I grew up on totally different values of Judaism - social justice, equality and concern for one's fellow man."

As naive as it may have been, the question was like a breath of fresh air. Here was a Jew who was voicing his opinion on the fate of 1,300,000 people, while the entire world appeared to be focused on every one of the 8,000 Jews who are moving house. Here was a Jew who was moved by what have become dry numbers - 1,719 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip from the end of September 2000 until today; and according to various estimates, some two-thirds of them were unarmed and were not killed in battles or during the course of attempts to attack a military position or a settlement.

Based on figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, of those killed, 379 were children under the age of 18; 236 were younger than 16; 96 were women; and 102 were the objectives of targeted liquidations during the course of which the Israel Defense Forces also killed another 95 individuals who, according to the military too, were "innocent bystanders."

Some 9,000 Gaza residents were injured; 2,704 homes to some 20,000 people were razed by the IDF's bulldozers and assault helicopters; 2,187 were partially destroyed. Some 31,650 dunams of agricultural land were left scorched. [...]

What talent it takes to live for 35 years in a flourishing park and splendid villas just 20 meters from overcrowded, suffocated refugee camps. What talent it takes to turn on the sprinklers on the lawns, while just across the way, 20,000 other people are dependent on the distribution of drinking water in tankers; to know that you deserve it, that your government will pave magnificent roads for you and neglect (prior to Oslo, before 1994) to the point of destruction the Palestinian infrastructure.

What skill it takes to step out of your well-cared-for greenhouse and walk unmoved past 60-year-old fruit-bearing date trees that are uprooted for you, roads that are blocked for you, homes that are demolished for you, the children who are shelled from helicopters and tanks and buried alongside you, for the sake of the safety of your children and the preservation of your super-rights.

For the sake of about half a percent of the population of the Gaza Strip, a Jewish half-percent, the lives of the remaining 99.5 percent were totally disrupted and destroyed - worthy of wonderment indeed. And also amazing is how most of the other Israelis, who did not go themselves to settle the homeland, suffered this reality and did not demand that their government put an end to it - before the Qassams.

A big, well-fed goat was removed from the Gaza Strip this week. And therefore, the sense of relief felt by many of the 99.5 percent is understandable - although it is a far cry from the reality emerging from the so-superficial media reports that are focusing on the celebrations of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. In the words last week in the Khan Yunis refugee camp of a former worker at one of the settlements: "The settlements divided the Strip into three or four prisons. Now, we will live in one big prison - a more comfortable one, but a prison nevertheless."

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Israel and Egypt agree on Gaza deployment of Egyptian guards
SourceWed Aug 24 2005

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel and Egypt have reached an agreement on the deployment of hundreds of Egyptian border guards along the southern border of the Gaza Strip, an Israeli official announced.

"We have reached total agreement with the Egyptians, there only remains the green light from the government and the Knesset (parliament) to be able to organise the signing ceremony," General Amos Gilad, a senior defence ministry official, told military radio.

"This is an extremely detailed accord which fixes everything down to the number of pistols" for the Egyptian guards. [...]

"All the obstacles to an agreement were lifted when the Egyptians made a commitment not to transfer arms to the
Palestinian Authority," he added. [...]

Comment: Clearly, the Gaza pullout as the first step to a Palestinian state is a ruse. Sharon fully intends to keep the Gaza Palestinian population under lock and key, forbidding them to have an effective police force, economy or government. Of course, we understand his rationale: if the Palestinian police were able to actually police Gaza and prevent the "militants" from attacking Israeli targets, Sharon would be robbed of his semblance of justification for the continued butchering of the Palestinian people.

In the meantime, the close military relationship between the US and Israel just gets cosier and cosier...

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IMI to supply ammunition to U.S. army in $300 million deal
By Ora Koren, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel Military Industries won a tender Tuesday for around $300 million to supply the U.S. army with ammunition. IMI said this is their biggest ammunition deal with the U.S. army to date.

IMI will supply light ammunition for rifles and machine guns, which will be produced in its 'Yitzhak' factory in Upper Nazareth. The deal will double the factory's scope of activity. It currently employs 350 workers, and has a revenue today of over $60 million a year. [...]

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Israeli pullout may be 'prelude to the big battle'
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY

JERUSALEM - While Israel's pullout from 25 settlements in Gaza and the West Bank took little more than a week, lasting peace with Palestinians still appears to be a long way off.

"Everybody understands that this (withdrawal) is the prelude to the big battle" over claims to land still passionately in dispute, Hebrew University political scientist Reuven Hazan says.

The battle may have already begun. Less than 48 hours after Israeli troops evacuated 15,000 settlers and activists from Gaza and four West Bank settlements - territory Israel is ceding for what could be part of a future Palestinian state - violence erupted in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israeli troops killed five suspected Palestinian terrorists during a raid in the Tulkarem refugee camp overnight Wednesday. A Palestinian stabbed to death a British ultra-Orthodox Jewish student and injured his American classmate in the first attack in Jerusalem's Old City in three years.

Comment: Just a note on the murder of the five "suspected Palestinian terrorists". Other accounts claimed that only two of those killed were Palestinian militants while the other three were innocent teenage boys. It is of course not surprising that USA Today would ignore this fact and report that all five were militants as if it were fact. The US mainstream is clearly owned by Israeli and US government sympathisers for whom the death of innocent Palestinian children is not at all newsworthy.

The violence underscores the intractable dispute to come: How will the West Bank be carved up and what will become of Jerusalem, a holy city to both sides?

Even after Israel hands over Gaza some time in October, 230,000 Israelis will remain among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank. They live in more than 220 settlements and unauthorized outposts strategically placed across the West Bank's terraced hills, as well as in three major settlement blocs that Israel says it will never give up. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said a Gaza-type withdrawal would not be repeated in the West Bank and peace negotiations would begin only after Palestinians disarm militant groups. [...]

Comment: It should be noted that the much publicised withdrawal of 9,000 illegal settlers from Gaza and a few West bank settlements constituted a tiny fraction of the 250,000 total settlers who are illegally occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Another interesting detail is that the land vacated by the 8,500 settlers in Gaza comprised about 20% of the overall land area of the Gaza Strip. For years then, 8,500 illegal settlers had been languishing in 20% of Gaza while 1.5 million Palestinians were locked into the remaining 80%.

What this means is that the amount of land being lived on by 8,500 illegal Israeli settlers is currently being lived on by about 300,000 Palestinians in the rest of Gaza. That's justice and equality for ya, Israeli government style.

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Who will weep for Palestinians?
Aug. 25, 2005. 03:47 AM

What Arab Canadians say about eviction of Gaza settlers

I asked three Arab Canadians for their reactions to the evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.

Khaled Mouammar, Richmond Hill. A Palestinian Christian from Nazareth, his family became refugees in 1948. He is a former president of the Canadian Arab Federation.

"Where were these 900 international journalists in the last five years while the entire physical infrastructure of Gaza was being destroyed?

"We see weeping settler girls and women being interviewed. But there were rarely any interviews with the thousands of Palestinian women and girls who've had their houses bulldozed, their family members killed or imprisoned.

"The settlers are being compensated between $200,000 and $300,000 (U.S.) per family. It's not that they don't have a place to go to. They are going back to their country.

"But millions of Palestinian refugees have been in exile for decades. Many are destitute. They have no status. Many are in the Israeli-occupied areas where no one cares about their suffering, humiliation and continued dispossession.

"In Albert Camus's The Plague, the French settlers in Algeria have feelings, emotions and experiences. But the Algerians are always in the background, as shadows. Today, human life and suffering does not matter if you are Arab, Muslim or from a Third World country.

"When will the dispossession and dehumanization of Palestinians get a headline?

"Still, decent human beings in Canada and elsewhere know of this injustice and feel strongly about it. That's why the Palestinians will ultimately overcome."

Sarah Karmi, Toronto. A Palestinian Muslim who came to Canada from Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War, she is chair of the Canadian board of directors for Project Hope, an NGO working with children and youth in war-stricken regions.

"The coverage of the Gaza evacuations may lead some to believe that considerable concessions have been made by Israel in the name of peace and stability. But the reality is that the disengagement doesn't even come close to being sufficient.

"The departure of 8,500 settlers is undermined by a net increase of about 10,000 settlers in the West Bank every year.

"Israel remains in occupation of internationally recognized Palestinian land, in open violation of countless United Nations resolutions.

"Since 1967, about 7,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished, leaving about 50,000 homeless. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been confiscated for illegal settlements.

"The killing of Palestinians continues. So does the construction of the separation barrier, annexing more Palestinian land and further fragmenting the West Bank. There are severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians through curfews, checkpoints and roadblocks that obstruct education, economic viability and the provision of basic medical and humanitarian assistance.

"These injustices should not slip the global consciousness on account of the recent evacuation."

Raja G. Khouri, Toronto. A Christian born in Lebanon to parents who lost their homes in Palestine in 1948, he is a former president of the Canadian Arab Federation and the author of Arabs in Canada: Post 9/11.

"An Israeli settler screamed at reporters: `You don't know what it's like to be driven out of your home and not be allowed to return to your land.' I do. Millions of Palestinians do.

"Leaving Gaza rids Israel of 35 per cent of Palestinians living on 6 per cent of Israeli-occupied land. Keeping the land and getting rid of the people has always been the Israeli way.

"By maximizing control over as much Palestinian land with as few Palestinians as possible, Israel minimizes the `demographic threat' - the growing number of Muslims and Christians living in Israel and the territories it controls.

"While the 8,500 Gaza settlers will be handsomely compensated, about 55,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem are being separated from their schools, hospital, jobs and places of worship by the wall, with no consideration for their rights and livelihood, let alone the right to compensation.

"As it encroaches into the West Bank and Jerusalem, the wall increases land on the Israeli side while leaving Palestinian populations in fragmented cantons.

"Even if some version of a Palestinian state does emerge, it will lack water resources, arable land, contiguity, economic viability and the means to control its destiny. I can't help but feel that Palestinian national aspirations are doomed."

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Palestinians fear Gaza health crisis after Israeli pullout
Thu Aug 25,11:18 AM ET

GAZA CITY (AFP) - Palestinian medical experts fear a looming health crisis after Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip unless patients are guaranteed access to life-saving treatment beyond the territory.

While Israel regards its departure from Gaza as signalling the end of its 38-year occupation, the Palestinians argue that Israel will remain an occupying power as long as it retains control of its borders and is thus still obliged to meet the health needs of the local population.

"I fear a worsening of the health situation after the withdrawal from Gaza as a result of the Israeli cordon," said Dr Majdi Ashur, president of the Palestinian relief committees.

"Israel is refusing to recognise its obligations as a continuing occupation power by meeting basic health needs of the population and we do not foresee a resumption of proper freedom of movement in the short term," he told AFP. [...]

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Gaza Pullout May Lead to Catastrophe – Russian Expert
Created: 24.08.2005 21:40 MSK (GMT 3)

How predictable is the current situation with the evacuation of the settlements, and how will the events develop further?

It's too early to talk about what is happening and how the Israeli evacuation from Gaza will end. It's a very difficult process, painful, and with many long-term consequences. It's clear that Ariel Sharon will complete it. The left-leaning establishment has long provoked the right and the settlers to start what can be called a local civil war – provoking them to physically start opposing the army and the police. Fortunately, there is not any major violence now.

What do you mean by provocations?

The attitude of the press, the attitude of Israeli politicians provoked clashes between the settlers and law enforcement authorities. Another issue is the actions of the counter-intelligence. But this situation will become public only once the smoke has cleared over the battlefield and the Israeli press is able to talk about it. Because the press in Israel is left-wing, it will not speak out on any issue – including the issue of corruption in Sharon's family. A major reason for the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza sector is the fact that Sharon's career is coming to an end, and everything that is happening surrounding the evacuation significantly helps his career, as well as the career of his children. It has nothing to do with Israeli security.

How will domestic policy in Israel change?

There is no longer a traditional dichotomy between the left and the right in Israel. Everything has become confused. Having come to power as a party leader, Sharon is not popular either among Likud members in the Central Committee, nor among regular members. Sharon cannot win a Likud election were it held today. He is supported by Avoda, Shimon Perez, the left leaning press and the left leaning prosecutors, which in the past considered Sharon their foe. Even Israel's communist party isn't criticizing Sharon.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long left the government, did so just ahead of Likud's defeat. His challenge is to either retain the title of Likud for the group that he plans to head, or unite those who are willing to follow him. In reality, Israelis today are split along the following lines: 25-30 percent support Sharon's actions in evacuating settlers, about 25-30 percent categorically oppose them, while about 40 percent understand that there's nothing left to be done in Gaza but who categorically do not agree with the way that Sharon is evacuating the settlers.

These are not the right and the left. It is a completely different configuration. Old leaders of Likud and Avoda, who are about 80 years old, are ending their political careers. They are leaving behind a political vacuum.... We can't rule out that in the near future we will see a fundamental transformation of the party scene. And right now we can't even imagine what it will look like. The traditional orientation of rich Ashkenazi Jews towards the Labor party and the orientation of poor Sephardi Jews towards Likud has changed. Today there are rich, high-placed Sephardi and poor, though educated, Ashkenazi. And this completely changes the traditional picture.

In a situation like this, is it possible to talk about a successor policy?

Sharon's course is his own personal course. There is no cause for optimism in any dimension. There are no guarantees that terrorism will decrease after the Israelis leave Gaza. Territories in Israel's south will be vulnerable to missile strikes. By leaving the Philadelphia Corridor the Israelis will permit the shipment of weapons into Gaza through Egyptian territory. An intifada on the West Bank of the Jordan is inescapable. Terroristic activity will grow stronger inside the green line. All this will provoke the Israelis to deliver a massive strike on the Palestinians. Abu Mazen is also a very old man, and there is no reason to believe that he has one successor who will formally rule Palestine. Most likely, it will break apart into conflicting enclaves headed by regional field commanders.

Under such conditions, it was be very adventurous to count on Sharon's policy, so closely tied up with his personal and family interests. There are considerable groups that force Israel to act against its interests under U.S. pressure. The "Road Map," the Iraqi constitution, the democratization of Afghanistan – these are political experiments that can end positively only after a long span of bloody mistakes. We can already see how these experiments turned out for Iraq. The country does not exist today as a state.

American pressure on Israel will lead to a regional catastrophe.

Tensions are building up in Lebanon that can evolve into a civil war. The fact that Syrians left Lebanon has ruined the hopes of the generals on salaries for their children, making the Syrian regime unstable, while it is the only thing holding the country together. Egyptian and Saudi regimes, headed by aging leaders, are facing serious Islamist pressure. All this means that in the next five-seven, ten years at most, the region will suffer global, catastrophic changes.

You say that this was Sharon's personal plan, but according to polls, a lot of people supported him.

Right now, the supporters are already a minority – 45 percent against 55 percent. Moreover, what does "support" mean? In the Soviet Union, referendums would ask people whether they wanted to live in a wealthy, united, free, democratic country called the Soviet Union? Everyone wants to live in a country like that.

It's no accident that Sharon categorically rejected a national referendum on the pullout from Gaza. Moreover, he lost the referendum in his party, where, according to his own estimates, he was supposed to win. And there's no doubt that he would have lost it on a national level. Israelis and many settlers believe that they will not be able to keep Gaza in the long run, but concessions are still concessions. The question is how you retreat. There is no peace process right now between Israel and Palestine. There is a war going on.

Any military retreat is seen in the Middle East as a signal that you need to be pursued and destroyed. It doesn't mean anything else.

The intifada that has taken thousands of both Palestinian and Israeli lives began after Barak withdrew from Lebanon. He promised the same thing as what Sharon promises now. I remember how Barak said that if a single strike is made by Lebanon on our territory, we will have our hands free to destroy their infrastructure, and we will have the support of the international community. None of that happened. Lebanon is a still a very dangerous zone, far more dangers that when the Syrians and the Israelis were dividing it.... The same thing is happening in Palestine.

A system of a single Palestinian government controlling the militants does not exist. Remember the Khasavurt retreat of Russian troops from Chechnya and talk about how Aslan Maskhadov's government is controlling the militants? But no one was controlling Maskhadov, and that was what sparked the events that followed [the invasion into neighboring Dagestan in 1999 - MosNews]. No one will control terrorist groups in Gaza, no one will be able to control them if they are invaded by militants from refugee camps in Lebanon.

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Panel calls for inspection of soldiers' 'terrorist potential'
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
07:29 26/08/2005

An Israel Defense Forces investigation into a shooting attack in Shfaram earlier this month, in which an IDF deserter shot dead four Israeli Arabs, called for the security forces to work together to identify soldiers with "terrorist potential."

The findings of investigative panel, headed by Brigadier General Ika Abarbanel, point to serious flaws in intelligence sharing both between internal IDF branches and security agencies.

The main conclusions reached by the panel were presented Thursday to IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.

The committee proposed that a number of measures be adopted immediately to increase the likelihood of spotting potential terrorists.

Among the recommendations were the strengthening of ties between the Shin Bet security service and the army regarding the profiling of soldiers who pose a potential threat, while maintaining privacy of the individual.

The panel also suggested issuing a "sensitivity evaluation," that would identify irregularities among certain soldiers that demanded attention and should be followed up during military service.

One of the main conclusions drawn by the panel is that there is insufficient information sharing between the various branches of the army. In the case of Eden Natan Zada, who opened fire on the bus in Shfaram, the panel said, not enough attention had been paid to information that could have led either to his early release from the army or his arrest for desertion.

Although different military branches were aware that a mental health officer had recommended lowering Natan-Zada's psychological profile, the fact that he spent time in military prison and the details of his desertion were not shared with other branches.

The investigative panel determined that these factors were not shared, and therefore there had been no concern that Natan-Zada could commit an act of terror.

The panel also recommended a revaluation of the policy of allowing IDF soldiers to go on leave with military-issued weapons.

Two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that two separate investigative committees appointed by the military proposed barring non-combat soldiers from taking weapons home, saying this posed a danger as non-combat soldiers are inadequately trained and could use their weapons for criminal activities, games, or to commit suicide, although the chances of them using it in a terrorist attack are low.

Halutz tends to support a sweeping policy such as the one recommended by the panel, which would bar non-combat troops from leaving their bases with weapons.

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Russia Has Lost Ex-Soviet Republics to West - Expert

Created: 24.08.2005 16:13 MSK (GMT 3)

The Kremlin has lost the former Soviet republics to the West, a leading political scientist told popular daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Wednesday after a high-ranking Kremlin official said the Russian leadership planned to overhaul its policy in the area and establish "civilized rules of the game" with the West.

Stanislav Belkovsky, the president of the Moscow-based Institute of National Strategy think-tank, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that when Putin came to power as prime-minister in 1999, Russia was the key player in the former Soviet republics and was the source of legitimacy for the regimes there.

These days, however, Moscow's influence has waned considerably and Washington has become the main source of legitimacy.

"The countries that emerged by accident out of the rubble of the Soviet Union have evolved into full-fledged nations with their own new elites," Belkovsky said. He added that the revolutions in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia happened because the Kremlin had "slept through" this nation-building process and not because the United States had conducted some underhand campaign.

He said the anonymity of the official that gave the statement showed the Kremlin was reluctant to confront Washington openly. He said it gave Putin room to refute the comments. "Putin can always say it (the statement) was not his personal viewpoint because the economic interests of Putin's entourage are all linked with Washington," Belkovsky said.

Russia apparently is in two minds about beginning civilized relations with the West, which can be seen in the very form of the statement, Belkovsky said. The Kremlin has not yet understood that only the president's words can have an effect and make sense for the international community. Politics is done in the first person, he said.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta also cited Modest Kolerov, the head of the presidential department for overseas interregional and cultural ties, as saying that statements on condition of anonymity were a commonly accepted form of address in international politics.

Comment: "Civilized rules of the game" might work if they were dealing with a civilised opponent. Unfortunately, they are dealing with a "civilising" opponent in the old European sense of the term. You know, let's go "civilise the savages".

But the idea that the US didn't conduct an underhanded campaign is simply pro-US propaganda. Just look at the US troops stationed now in Central Asia. Look at the US money that went to fund the Velvet and Orange revolutions. How would Americans feel if the Russian troops were encircling their country? We have only to go back to the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 to know the answer.

But with the US as the principal manifestation of the entropic principle on the planet today, many honeyed words are needed to try and obscure the reality.

There are a lot of people who are trying to portray the US as the victim in what is going on under the Bush Reich. Some of the "Patriots" talk about the danger from Russia and China and suggest that Chinese troops will one day be stationed on US territory to control the American population. They tell us that the real enemy is the UN or a small clique of bankers in the UK.

However, the facts on the ground are that it is American troops that are spread out in countries where they don't belong. It is US intelligence manipulations that have put regimes favorable to US dollars in power in the former Soviet Republics. It is the US that is in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the US that is the problem, not the UN, not the bankers, although we also know that Israel has a lot of power to wag the dog.

Then the "Patriots" tell us that these bankers are controlling the US government. By this, they attempt to convince us that it isn't really the US government and military that is the problem. Get rid of the bankers or the Illuminati or the Zionists or whoever, and the problem will be fixed. Somehow, "Americans" are not to blame.

Yeah, right.

Americans are to blame. They have allowed this to happen. Tens of millions of them support the policies of Bush, including his Christian terrorism. Tens of millions more aren't able to see the facts in front of their faces that suggest in very strong terms that 9/11 was an inside job, with the complicity of forces in Israel. How many Americans are willing to confront the idea that there was significant voter fraud in the last two presidential elections to get Bush the presidency? How many Americans are willing to look hard at the facts that show that the US is not a democracy, that it is being ruled by corporations and bankers.

No, the fascists in the US may not be at the top of the international hierarchy that runs things behind the scenes. That group may include bankers from the City of London and individuals from the world over. But none of that exculpates the current US regime and its population from its crimes.

While the US public may well be so dumbed down by a fraudulent education system -- fraudulent in the sense that it does not educate at all -- what then explains the fact that some people do see what is going on, people who went to the very same schools? Why do some Americans see it in its full horror while others remain fixed on their television sets?

Where does personal responsibility enter into the equation?

How many Americans still believe that the US sends its troops overseas for "democracy" and "liberty"? They are responsible, too, because they continue to believe the lie that justifies these excursions.

We're the "patriotic" generals and militia who oppose both the Bush Reich and the UN to come to power, would that make the US a bastion of freedom and good will? We don't think so. The country would still be dependent upon foreign oil and foreign manufacturing. It would still need to maintain its hegemony over the world. The livelihood of every Americans depends upon their country's exploitation of others. That is the real reason Americans once had such a high standard of living, not because they were some God-blessed people who were simply smarter and more entrepreneurial than others.

The dream is collapsing, and in the ruins a whole lot of anger and frustration is going to be set loose. Many different forces are jockeying to be in position to utilise that energy. Entropy demands competition and the fight for survival. America has chosen that ideology as its governing value, and it will live and die by it.

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U.S. Website Suspects Bio Leak as Central Russia Hit by Rabbit Fever

Created: 26.08.2005 11:30 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 11:30 MSK

An outbreak of rabbit fever, or tularemia, a rare dangerous disease, registered recently in the Volga provinces of Central Russia, could have been caused by a leak from biological warfare facilities present in the area, a U.S. Website surmised Thursday.

Earlier this week, Russian news agencies reported on dozens of cases of tularemia registered in Russia since early August. From Aug. 4 as many as 96 people including 15 children sought medical assistance at hospitals in Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan.

Earlier this week, the authorities said the outbreak had been successfully contained.

However, reports on recent cases of tularemia caused concerns in the U.S. where some media outlets surmised the outbreak may have resulted from a leak of deadly substances from biological warfare facilities present in the affected provinces.

"What makes it notable is that tularemia is a fairly rare disease. Thus, the Ryazan area had only four known cases in 2004," the PHXNews Website wrote.

"The other factor that makes these outbreaks notable is the presence of biological warfare facilities in the region, especially in the Nizhny Novgorod area. Those are, an idle biological weapons destruction facility in Chapayvevsk, Nizhny Novogorod, the Gorokhovets bioweapons storage facility in the Vladimir region and a facility used for the production of chemical weapons in Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novogorod."

On this basis, the site concluded that Russia was still involved in biological warfare research including the use of tularemia; some sort of accidental release of weaponized tularemia may have occurred. PHXNews also did not rule out that the leak may have resulted from a theft or terrorist activities.

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'Le Sheriff' predicts al-Qaeda attack in Asia
LONDON, Aug 26 (AFP)

Al-Qaeda is preparing an attack on a big financial centre in Asia, such as Tokyo, Singapore or Sydney, to undermine investor confidence in the region, France's top terrorist investigator says.

In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper Friday, Jean-Louis Bruguière added that several Asian countries are less prepared than Britain or the United States for such an attack.

"We have elements of information that make us think that countries in this region, especially Japan, could have been targeted" by the al-Qaeda network, the investigating magistrate said.

"Any attack on a financial market like Japan would mechanically have an important economic impact on the confidence of investors. Other countries in this region, such as Singapore and Australia, are also potential targets," said Bruguière.

Despite the threat, Bruguière added: "We are somewhat neglecting the capacity or desire of the al-Qaeda organisation to destabilise [the region]."

Commenting on the warning, Japan said it already had tight security in place.

"It isn't clear how concrete this report is," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the spokesman for the Japanese government.

"The Japanese government has already been cooperating internationally" to prevent attacks, Hosoda told reporters. "We would like to do our best so that no such thing happens."

Al-Qaeda has repeatedly threatened Japan, a close US ally that stations 600 troops in Iraq and hosts the largest US military base in Asia.

Nicknamed 'Le Sheriff', Bruguière has been warning about the threat of Islamic terrorists since a string of bombings rocked Paris in the mid-1980s, the Financial Times recalled.

He has overseen the arrest of more than 500 terrorism suspects over the past 20 years, heading up a specialist team of judges who work alongside anti-terrorist police and intelligence agents.

He warned of the danger of terrorists hijacking aircraft well before the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, after foiling a 1994 attempt by Algerian radicals to crash an Air France jet into the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

He said there were signs that Britain would come under attack well before the July 7 attacks on three London subway trains and a double-decker bus that killed 56 people, including four apparent suicide bombers.

He recalled that the British consulate and HSBC bank in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul were bombed on the same day in November 2003 that US President George W. Bush was paying a state visit to London.

The July 7 attacks coincided with the first full day of the Group of Eight summit of leading industrialised nations in Gleneagles, Scotland, hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair and attended by Bush.

"The symbolism is a fundamental element that we neglect in the overall problem," Bruguière said, adding that for terrorists: "The issue is not just about the number of victims. It is also the value of the event in a media, political and geopolitical context."

Comment: Exactly. The neocons behind this terror know that the media will carry these false flag operations to the four corners of our round globe...which may in fact mean that it will be an endless flood of diatribe against Muslims and Arabs because the earth doesn't have any corners, so there is nowhere for it to stop.

An "al-Qaeda" attack on an Asian financial center would be a "brilliant" move on the part of the Powers that Be. In addition to ratcheting up the fear factor another notch, Bush would have someone to point his finger at when the US economy drops, and European leaders friendly to the Neocon/Zionist cabal in Washington would have an excuse to continue the Americanisation of their countries' economic systems. If the US economy bombed without a terrorist strike, that might send a clear warning signal to the rest of the world that the US system was faulty. But with terrorism added to the equation, other world leaders can use the rationale that the terrorists struck a blow to the world financial system in part because they didn't want the Americanisation to continue. The entire world economy could then be rebuilt with little resistance, complete with implanted RFID tags for payment and anything else the PTB want.

Maybe the next attack will be carried out in two different countries on the same day, upping the ante so to speak on how organised and maniacal and dangerous those "terrorists" really are. Just think of the excuse such an attack would provide for clamping down on international travel, on the international movement of money, on the Internet...

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Gas Station Workers Face Angry Customers
Associated Press Writer
Aug 26 2:25 AM US/Eastern

DALLAS - It's a scene gas station workers say is becoming increasingly common and frightening: Customers angry over gas prices nearing $3 a gallon storm in and decide to take it out on the employees.

"They just yell and scream," said Selam Berhe, assistant manager at a Dallas Tetco station. "They think it's only us that are high-priced."

Incidents of consumer anger and gas-station crime have made headlines across the country, including the killing of a gas station owner in Alabama last week by a driver attempting to steal $52 worth of gas.

Alvin Benefield, 42, surrendered Thursday and was being held on theft and manslaughter charges in the death of Husain "Tony" Caddi, police said.

Berhe recalled the particularly belligerent behavior of a man who ranted about the prices to everyone in the station.

"He walked in the store and said, 'Do you work here? This is ridiculous,'" Berhe said. "He was telling each and every customer. I was like, I don't make the prices."

Gas prices are about $2.56 in Texas, up from $1.80 at the same time last year.

Bruce Hutton, professor of marketing at the University of Denver, said the high prices could spark even more angst than the frustrating long lines during the 1970s energy crisis because the current situation is far less clear-cut.

The 1970s crisis sparked from obvious oil shortages. But today, despite growing inventories, numerous factors are combining to drive up prices - refinery problems, growing demand from China and energy traders worried over capacity tightness.

Hutton, who has done extensive research on consumer decision-making and energy usage information, said there's also a sense of entitlement among consumers today.

"In some respects, that makes it a whole lot more anxious or anxiety- producing," he said.

Rae Dougher, manager of energy market issues at the Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, said outbursts directed at employees are common.

"The higher the prices, I think, the more frustrated and angry consumers are becoming," Dougher said. "I think that they always suffer from consumers' wrath."

She noted that, although gas prices are soaring, gas station owners are often suffering squeezed profits or even losing money - and they still have to deal with irritated customers who blame them for high costs.

"I think it's hard on a lot of the retail owners and workers to do business," Dougher said.

Bobby Poudel, who works at a Dallas Citgo station, said business has been undeniably less pleasant since prices started skyrocketing in June.

"A lot of people show their anger to me," said Poudel, 26. "Sometimes I've got to say, 'That's not me!'"

Berhe said she's looking forward to lower prices, but in the meantime people at the gas station say they'll just have to put up with some abuse.

"We just need to smile," said clerk Elizabeth Garza. "If someone tells you something, you have to smile and say, 'Have a nice day.'"

Comment: If people are becoming enraged over expensive gasoline, imagine what would happen if the economy as a whole crashed. What would it take to restore order? Martial law?

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U.S. Mint seizes priceless coins
Friday, August 26, 2005; Posted: 10:21 a.m. EDT (14:21 GMT)

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- The U.S. Mint seized 10 Double Eagle gold coins from 1933, among the rarest and most valuable coins in the world, that were turned in by a jeweler seeking to determine their authenticity.

Joan S. Langbord plans a federal court lawsuit to try to recover them, her attorney, Barry H. Berke, said Wednesday. Langbord found the coins among the possessions of her father, longtime Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt, who had acknowledged having sold some of the coins decades ago. She now operates her father's business.

David Lebryk, acting director of the Mint, had announced in a news release that the rare coins, which were never put in circulation, had been taken from the Mint "in an unlawful manner" in the mid-1930's and now were "recovered."

The coins, which are so rare that their value is almost beyond calculation, are public property, he said.

But Berke said Mint officials couldn't prove the coins had been stolen, or were subject to forfeiture.

In 2002, Sotheby's and numismatic firm Stack's auctioned off a 1933 Double Eagle coin for $7.59 million, the highest price ever paid for a coin. That Double Eagle, which is believed to have been part of a collection belonging to King Farouk of Egypt, surfaced when a coin dealer tried selling it to undercover Secret Service agents.

After a legal battle, the dealer was permitted to sell the coin at auction on the condition he split the proceeds with the Mint.

In its statement, the Mint said officials were still deciding what they would do with the seized coins, which are being held at a military fort. They said they had no plans to auction them but would consider saving "these historical artifacts" for public exhibits. Other double eagle coins seized in the past were melted down.

Double Eagles were first minted in 1850 with a face value of $20. The 445,500 coins minted in 1933 were never put into circulation because the U.S. went off the gold standard. All the coins were ordered melted down, but a handful are believed to have survived, including two handed over to the Smithsonian Institution.

Langbord declined to discuss how the coins might have come into the possession of her father, who operated an antiques and jewelry shop for 70 years and died in 1990 at 95.

The Mint contends Switt obtained a cache of the gold coins from his connections at the Mint just before they were to be reduced to bullion in 1937.

Switt admitted in 1944 that he had sold nine Double Eagle coins, but he was not charged in connection with those transactions, according to the Mint.

The family attorney said the coins were found recently, and Langbord and her son, Roy, notified the Mint of the discovery. Mint officials asked to authenticate the coins, then confiscated them after doing so, Berke said.

He contended Langbord and her son never relinquished their right to the coins.

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Base Panel Votes to Close Walter Reed Hospital
The Associated Press
Thursday 25 August 2005

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, could face closure if President Bush and Congress accept the recommendations from the Pentagon and a federal base commission.

WASHINGTON - A federal commission signed off Thursday on the Pentagon's plan to close the crown jewel of the Army hospital system as part of an effort streamline medical services across the armed forces.

Located in the nation's capital, Walter Reed Army Medical Center has treated presidents and foreign leaders as well as soldiers and veterans.

Under the Pentagon plan, the hospital's staff and services would move from Walter Reed's historic main post to the National Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Md., to create an expanded facility, as well as a regional hospital at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

The nine-member panel also was starting debate and voting Thursday on the Air Force's plans, arguably the most contentious of the group, as it steamrolled through hundreds of Pentagon proposals at a brisk pace after four months of study and preparation. [...]

Savings Estimate: $48.8 billion

Overall, the Pentagon has proposed closing or consolidating a record 62 major military bases and 775 smaller installations to save $48.8 billion over 20 years, streamline the services and reposition the armed forces.

Since the Pentagon announced its proposal in May, commissioners had voiced concerns about several parts of it, including the estimate of how much money would be saved.

In some of its first decisions Wednesday, the commission voted to keep open several major Army and Navy bases that military planners want to shut down, including the Portsmouth shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and the New London submarine base in Groton, Conn., two of the Navy's oldest bases.

"They have proved they are not a rubber stamp," said David Berteau, a Pentagon official who oversaw base closings for the Pentagon in 1991 and 1993. "But we don't know yet what the common theme is because they're dealing with each of these on a case-by-case basis."

Air Force Biggest Issue

By far, the most controversy - both on the commission and off - has surrounded the Air Force.

Most of its proposals cover the Air National Guard and would shift people, equipment and aircraft around at 54 or more sites where Guard units are stationed.

Aircraft would be taken away from 25 Air National Guard units. Instead of flying missions, those units would get other missions such as expeditionary combat support roles. They also would retain their state missions of aiding governors during civil disturbances and natural disasters.

Several states have sued to stop the shake-up, the commission itself has voiced concern that the plan would compromise homeland security, and the Justice Department was brought in to settle arguments over whether the Pentagon could relocate Air National Guard units without a governor's consent. The ruling said it could.

The Pentagon says as a package, the Air Force proposals represent an effort to reshape the service branch into a more effective fighting force by consolidating both weapons systems and personnel, given that it will have a smaller but smarter aircraft fleet in the future.

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Iraqis miss third deadline for draft constitution; talks extended one day
06:49 AM EDT Aug 26

BAGHDAD (AP) - The speaker of Iraq's parliament announced a one-day extension early Friday in talks on Iraq's new constitution, a fourth attempt to win Sunni Arab approval. But he said that if no agreement is reached, the document would bypass parliament completely and be decided in an Oct. 15 referendum. [...]

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The Iraqi Constitution and the Sunni Arabs
Juan Cole
Informed Comment
My article in is
"The Iraqi constitution: DOA?" Angry and marginalized, Sunnis are threatening to torpedo Iraq's constitution. Disaster looms, and the Bush administration's blunders are largely to blame.
See also Phillip Robertson's touching article in Salon on the death of culture in Baghdad in the conditions of guerrilla war.

And Joe Conason's "Iraq's Unhealthy Constitution, also at Salon.

It is a 21st century irony that a virtual magazine reflects the realities of Iraq, whereas many "real" magazines and newspapers carry Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld fantasies.

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Iraq on brink of meltdown
By Oliver Poole in Baghdad
The Telegraph
(Filed: 26/08/2005)

The credibility of Iraq's political process was in danger last night as parliament again failed to vote on a draft constitution which a Sunni politician said was "fit only for the bin".

The government had earlier announced plans to bypass parliament in an attempt to push through the document.

But as the final hours ran out before the deadline for approving the constitution, Hajim al-Hassani, the speaker of the parliament, appeared to overrule the country's leaders by insisting that negotiations would continue today, meaning that the deadline would be missed for the third time.

The impression of growing crisis in Iraq was reinforced when a new front erupted in the violent rebellion, with Shia Muslims fighting each other with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister, made an emergency television appeal for peace and sent two police commando units to Najaf where the fighting had started.

Throughout the day in Baghdad, politicians bickered over how to proceed with the constitution without driving the country to civil war.

As night fell, the government's official spokesman, Laith Kubba, announced that a final version of the document had been decided and compromise reached on three issues, although he did not say which. Sunni leaders said that no consensus had been reached.

Hussein al-Falluji, a Sunni member of the drafting panel, said: "If this constitution continues to include federalism, it should be put in the bin and done again."

The chances of the parliament convening declined by the minute. Kamal Hamdoun, a Sunni negotiator, said the Shia politicians - the dominant force in the national assembly - had not turned up for a meeting.

"They are acting according to the law of force instead of the force of law. We call on all Iraqis to vote No in the constitutional referendum."

Shia politicians made clear that they did not see any need for the parliament to vote. The draft is to be put to a referendum in October.

The drafting began amid the optimism engendered by January's successful elections, when Iraqis turned out to vote in defiance of bombers and gunmen. But US hopes of establishing the first secular democracy in the Arab world have foundered on ethnic and religious divisions.

Gunmen opened fire yesterday on a convoy of cars used by the president but Jalal Talabani was not in it. Four bodyguards were wounded.

In what appeared to be an attempt to inflame sectarian tensions, the bodies of 37 Shia soldiers, killed with a single bullet to the head, were found in a shallow river south of Baghdad, the latest of several such grim discoveries. Police said they had been stripped to their underwear.

The minority Sunnis, who were the masters under Saddam Hussein, are implacably opposed to the federal nature of the constitution. They fear that it will place oil wealth in the hands of the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south.

The constitutional vacuum drew in another opponent of federalism, the firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who was responsible for two uprisings in the south last summer but who has since been quiet.

At least 12 people were killed as his Mahdi Army militia clashed with members of the Iranian-linked Badr Brigade in six cities and a Baghdad suburb. Sadr has now formed common cause with the Sunnis, fearing that federalism will play into the hands of Iran.

The Badr Brigade is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which dominated the elections. It wants the southern states to become a semi-autonomous region with partial control over its revenues and security.

The speed of the violence underlined that even a "defeated" militia such as Sadr's still has a formidable arsenal and that the security forces are nowhere to be seen when the fighting starts.

Armed clashes broke out in British-controlled Basra before dawn but later subsided. In Amarah, where British troops are also stationed, Sadr supporters were reported to have killed five people when they mortared Badr Brigade headquarters.

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Earthquake jolts south Xinjiang 2005-08-26 14:39:43

URUMQI, Aug. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter Scale jolts the county of Moyu, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, at 5:08 a.m. Friday, but no casualty was reported.

According to sources with China Seismological Bureau, the epicenter is located at 37.1 north latitude and 79.3 east longitude.

The county belongs to Hetian prefecture in southern Xinjiang.

Another tremor measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale was reported to hit Awat County, approximately 300 km east to Moyu County, on Thursday.

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Rescuers evacuate submerged district in Swiss capital as floods ravage Europe
06:49 AM EDT Aug 26

BERN, Switzerland (AP) - Rescue workers completed an airlift evacuation of a half-submerged riverside district of the Swiss capital Thursday as large parts of central and southern Europe were hit by flooding that killed at least 42 people.

Hardest hit was Romania with 31 victims, many of whom were trapped inside their homes and drowned as torrents of water rushed in. Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland reported a total of 11 dead, but numbers were expected to climb as more bodies of the missing are recovered.

Across the Alps, military helicopters were ferrying in supplies to valleys cut off by flooding and evacuating stranded tourists - and even cows - isolated in mountain pastures by the rising waters.

The river Aare broke through the windows of a children's clothes shop in Bern, leaving baby strollers and toys floating in muddy water in the deserted streets of the city's Matte district.

"It really hits home when you something like this," said fire service chief Franz Bachmann, who led the evacuation operation. "Lots of people have lost their whole existence."

Residents evacuated from the low-lying area looked on in tears as water receded slowly, offering the first glimpses of streets, squares and ground floors submerged in mud. The area has been fully searched and none of its 1,100 residents remain, said city police spokesman Franz Maerki.

Police kept guard to prevent people returning to the area, warning that more water could surge down from the mountains as blockages of debris and mud give way.

"As soon as this wood is gone, the water here will rise rapidly again," said Bachmann.

Many homes there are in imminent danger of collapse, and electricity, phone lines and gas are cut off, city authorities said.

Three people were also missing in Romania's hard-hit Harghita, including a 4-year-old girl, said Maria Magdalena Sipos, a local government official.

Szillard Stranitsky, who drove through the area late Wednesday, said cars were unable to move because of the rain and mud on the roads.

"I was scared of driving over a corpse, either human or animal, because I couldn't see a thing," said the 37-year-old Stranitsky.

Meanwhile, officials in Austria turned their attention to the cleanup and reconstruction as the rain there eased up.

"The danger is over," said Doris Ita, the head of Austria's flood emergency department. "But we are still watching the situation."

In Germany, the Danube flooded part of the southeastern town of Kelheim, including its Weltenburg Monastery, founded in the 7th century and described as the oldest in Bavaria.

The ground floor of the Benedictine monastery, which draws 500,000 visitors a year, was submerged early Thursday, said Father Benedikt, the monastery's prior.

"The community is working feverishly to rescue what it can," said Benedikt.

There was some good news as Swiss railways said main routes through the Alps connecting northern and southern Europe were open again.

Swiss Reinsurance, the world's second-largest reinsurer, said economic losses from the flooding could reach $791 million US in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

Comment: Fire and water. Fire in Portugal and Spain, water in other parts of Europe.

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Hurricane Katrina hits South Florida
Last Updated Thu, 25 Aug 2005 21:29:19 EDT
CBC News

Hurricane Katrina slammed into Florida's densely populated southeastern coast Thursday with sustained winds of more than 125 km/hour and lashing rain.

Two people were killed by falling trees.

The storm strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane just before it hit land between Hallandale Beach and North Miami Beach. Weather officials said flooding was the main concern as the storm dropped a 30 cm or more of rain in some spots.

There were no immediate reports of major damage or flooding as the storm passed through the area. It's estimated 5.9 million Florida residents were in Katrina's projected path.

Rain fell in horizontal sheets and wind gusts hit 147 km/h toppling trees and street signs. Florida Power & Light said more than 412,000 customers were without electricity.

"The message needs to be very clear. It's not a good night to be out driving around," said National Hurricane Center director May Mayfield.

The usually bustling streets of Miami Beach were largely deserted as the storm pounded the area. Celebrities and partygoers are in town for the MTV Video Music Awards. MTV called off its pre-awards festivities Thursday and Friday.

Tourists and others hoping to get out of town before the storm were stranded as airlines canceled flights at Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, which both closed Thursday night.

Before the hurricane struck, Floridians wary of Katrina prepared by putting up shutters, stacking sandbags in doorways and stocking up on supplies.

Water management officials lowered canal levels to avoid possible flooding, and pumps were activated in several low-lying areas of Miami-Dade.

Katrina was the second hurricane to hit the state this year -- and the sixth since last August.

Katrina formed Wednesday over the Bahamas and was expected to cross Florida before heading into the Gulf of Mexico.

After crossing the Florida peninsula, the storm could turn to the north over the Gulf of Mexico and threaten the panhandle early next week.

Katrina is the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. That's seven more than normally form by mid-August in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The season ends Nov. 30.

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Four Dead As Katrina Plows Through Florida
Associated Press
August 26, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Hurricane Katrina flooded streets, darkened homes and felled trees with wind gusts reaching 92 mph as it plowed through South Florida and emerged over the Gulf of Mexico early Friday. Four people were killed and 1.3 million customers were left without power.

Weather officials said flooding was the main concern as the storm dropped up to 15 inches on parts of Miami-Dade County. Katrina's plodding pace meant that strong wind and heavy rain would continue to plague throughout the day.

Rain fell in horizontal sheets, seas were estimated at 15 feet and sustained winds were measured at 80 mph as the hurricane made landfall Thursday night along the Miami-Dade and Broward line. Florida Power & Light said the vast majority of people without electricity were in the two counties.

In an oceanfront condominium in Hallandale, Carolyne and Carter McHyman said heavy downpours pelted their windows after the eye passed.

"It's been horrible," Carolyne McHyman said. "Basically all our windows are leaking. We just keep mopping up and taping the windows, mopping up and taping again."

Katrina weakened into a tropical storm while over land, but strengthened over the warm waters of the gulf Friday and became a hurricane again with top sustained winds of 75 mph. At 5 a.m. EDT, Katrina was about 50 miles north-northeast of Key West and emerging over the Gulf of Mexico, heading west at 5 mph.

Forecasters said Katrina would likely strengthen and perhaps make a second landfall in the Florida Panhandle early next week.

Gov. Jeb Bush urged residents of the Panhandle and northwest Florida - areas hit by Hurricane Ivan last year and Hurricane Dennis this year - to monitor the storm.

Katrina left a trail of mayhem in its wake along the southeast coast.

In Key Biscayne, dozens of families were forced to evacuate their homes after they became flooded under 3 feet of water.

Three mobile home parks in Davie sustained considerable damage, including lost roofs. One person was trapped inside a mobile home, but officials did not know whether the person was injured, according to the Broward Emergency Management Agency.

An overpass under construction in Miami-Dade County collapsed onto a highway, authorities said. No injuries were reported, but the freeway - a main east-west thoroughfare - was closed for 20 blocks.

In the Florida Keys, a tornado damaged a hanger and a number of airplanes at the airport in Marathon, according to Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Two nearby homes were also damaged. In Tavernier in the upper Keys, part of the roof of a lumber company collapsed, deputies said.

Three people were killed by falling trees: A man in his 20s in Fort Lauderdale was crushed by a falling tree as he sat alone in his car; a 54-year-old man was killed by a falling tree in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Plantation; and a woman who was struck by a tree died at a hospital in Hollywood.

A 79-year-old man in Cooper City also died when his car struck a tree, officials said.

Three storm-related trauma patients were being treated in Hollywood, including a driver in critical condition after a tree fell on his car, said Frank Sacco, CEO of Memorial Healthcare System. [...]

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Powerful Typhoon Menaces Tokyo
Thu Aug 25,11:51 PM ET

TOKYO - A powerful Pacific storm disrupted air and rail traffic as it slammed Japan with heavy winds and rains Friday, killing one person and injuring two others, authorities said.

Typhoon Mawar drenched Japan's capital before being downgraded to a still dangerous tropical storm, with winds of 67 mph, according to Japan's Meteorological Agency. Mawar was expected to sweep out to the Pacific Ocean later in the day.

A 55-year-old man in Shizuoka state died late Thursday after slipping off the roof of his home, police said. Two other people were injured in storm-related accidents.

Japan Airlines said it canceled a total 24 flights including seven for international destinations Friday morning. All Nippon Airways said canceled seven domestic flights.

East Japan Railway, a major operator in central and northern parts of the country, said 23 trains with Tokyo links were canceled Friday morning.

Japan was struck by a record 10 typhoons and tropical storms last year, leaving nearly 220 people dead or missing - the largest casualty toll in two decades.

Typhoon Tokage, which hit in October, was Japan's deadliest, killing 83 people.

A tropical storm that landed southeast of Tokyo last month injured four people and forced hundreds to evacuate.

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Floodwaters recede in central Europe, fires still blaze in Iberia
Wed Aug 24, 3:00 PM ET

BERLIN - Floods sweeping central Europe began to subside in the Alps and move eastwards after claiming 11 more lives, while across the continent firemen fought blazes in drought-ridden Portugal.

Ten, mostly elderly, people died as floodwaters coursed through central Romania, the interior ministry said, taking the total death toll from flooding to 28 in the past week in a country that has been plagued by torrential rains since July.

Six others were missing and families were forced to evacuate 2,000 flooded homes. [...]

The weather relented over the Swiss Alps, where flooding has claimed four lives and caused damage of up to two billion Swiss Francs (1.28 billion euros). A massive clean-up operation swung into action.

Lakes remained at alarming levels and at both the Aar and Reuss rivers rescue workers rushed to clear away trees uprooted and swept along in recent days that threatened to break bridges.

In the Czech Republic, where the memories of the 2002 floods that devastated Prague are still fresh, rain abated in southern Bohemia and states of emergency were lifted.

In western Hungary, the Kapos river dropped but hundreds of homes remained at risk. [...]

By contrast Portugal and Spain continued to suffer from the consequences of drought.

In Portugal, which is suffering its worst drought since 1945, a water-dropping plane dousing a forest fire in the centre of the country crashed, but the Spanish pilot escaped serious injury.

Some 1,500 firefighters and 600 soldiers were still battling blazes that broke out six days ago, but authorities said cooler weather was helping them contain more than a dozen fires though the risk of new ones remained high.

The number of fires out of control dropped Wednesday to five from 21.

The largest was raging in a forest near Coimbra, Portugal's third-largest city, and forced the evacuation of around 60 people from a village near the central town of Penela. But firefighters saw hope.

"The intensity of the fire is diminishing considerably. Let's see if we are a bit luckier today," the fire chief of Penela, Mario Lourenco, told radio TSF.

Neighbouring Spain, too, has this week battled blazes in the north that have so far destroyed more than 19,000 hectares (46,800 acres) this month.

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Update: 3,100 Reported Ill From N.Y. Water Park
Fri Aug 26,12:39 AM ET

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - More than 3,100 people in 32 counties have reported being sickened with a gastrointestinal illness related to a state-run water playground, health officials said Thursday.

The Sprayground at Seneca Lake State Park closed Aug. 15, and officials continue to investigate how cryptosporidium ended up in two storage tanks that supply water for the park near Geneva.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the last time a similar outbreak affected more people - nearly 5,500 - was in 1995 in Georgia. Contaminated drinking water in the Milwaukee area sickened more than 400,000 people in 1993.

"We recognize this is a significant outbreak and our priority is to continue working with counties to increase public awareness about the precautions everyone should take to stop further spread of illness," said state Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond.

Dr. Andrew Doniger, Monroe County's health director, said more reported illnesses are coming from those who had contact with sick children. He said caregivers must wash their hands thoroughly and disinfect children's toys.

Cryptosporidiosis is very contagious and can cause symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever. The disease usually goes away without treatment in healthy individuals. Food service workers experiencing symptoms should stay home, as should children in day care.

Geneva is 38 miles southeast of Rochester.

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Spread of bird flu virus is a 'national emergency'
By Simon Freeman, Times Online
August 25, 2005

Veterinary experts from across Europe are meeting today to develop a strategy to stop the spread of a deadly strain of avian flu, which one British scientist has declared a national emergency.

Scientists from the other 24 member states are expected to dismiss the drastic measure adopted by the Dutch of locking up all free-range poultry, instead demanding increased surveillance of migratory birds and insisting on extra vigilance among farmers.

The EU's response to the H5N1 strain of the virus, which claimed 57 lives as it swept rapidly west across South-East Asia and has now been detected on Europe's doorstep in Siberia, has so far been fragmented.

Today, leading British scientists said that it was inevitable that the disease would be carried across the Ural mountains by migratory birds.

They believe a co-ordinated strategy is essential to prevent a potential repeat of the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 40 million - more than the First World War.

Professor John Oxford, of Queen Mary's School of Medicine, warned in January that the threat from bird flu "sent a cold shiver down the spine."

Today he went further, declaring: "This is a national emergency, how could it be otherwise? Resources are made available for natural emergencies and now many people are threatened by a virus which can decimate a country."

The two central strands to stalling the disease have been identified as stockpiling vaccines and introducing more effective surveillance measures, which will give warning of its presence at the first opportunity.

Hugh Pennington, one of Britain's leading food safety experts, said: "I've spoken to a number of senior public health officials and this is the one thing that keeps them awake at night. It's a very, very nasty virus and it would be an economical disaster if it got here, never mind the human impact.

"This is one of the nastiest potential threats we've faced for many years," he told the BBC.

The H5N1 strain of the virus, which was first detected in Hong Kong in 1997, emerged in Vietnam and Thailand in January 2004.

The virus is carried in wild birds and infects free-range poultry which mingle with wildfowl and can then be transmitted to farmers. It has so far only infected people in direct contact with birds, but the greatest fear is that it could mutate into a strain which can pass efficiently between humans, triggering a global pandemic.

In the Netherlands, where an outbreak in 2003 cost more than £100 million, all free-range chickens have been locked up. Belgium, Lithuania, Denmark and Croatia have recommended vigilance and German farmers have been told to take similar precautions by 15 September.

Many other nations - including Britain and France - are adopting a wait-and-see approach, and have advised against a mass cull of wild birds which they say would prove ineffective.

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Earth's Core Rotates Faster than Surface, Study Confirms
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 25 August 2005

The giant orb of iron and nickel that anchors Earth's center is spinning faster than the planet's surface, according to a new study that confirms scientists' expectations.

The finding is based on analyses of earthquake pairs that occur at roughly the same spot on Earth but at different times. On seismic recording instruments, the earthquake signatures from waveform doublets, as they are called, look nearly identical.

When earthquakes strike, their seismic waves can travel through the planet and surface all over the globe.

The researchers analyzed 18 sets of waveform doublets -- some separated in time by up to 35 years -- from earthquakes occurring off the coast of South America but which were recorded at seismic stations near Alaska.

Earth's core is made of a solid inner part and a fluid outer part, all of it mostly iron.

The solid inner core has an uneven consistency, with some parts denser than others, and this can either speed up or slow down shock waves from earthquakes as they pass through.

So the researchers speculated that if the Earth's inner core is rotating faster than the rest of the planet, then shock waves from waveform doublets would enter and exit through different parts of the core despite originating from roughly the same spot on the planet's surface.

By analyzing the minute changes in travel times and wave shapes for each doublet, the researchers concluded that the Earth's inner core is rotating faster than its surface by about 0.3-0.5 degrees per year.

That may not seem like much, but it's very fast compared to the movement of the Earth's crust, which generally slips around only a few centimeters per year compared to the mantle below, said Xiaodong Song, a geologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an author on the study.

The surface movement is called plate tectonics. It involves the shifting of about a dozen major plates and is what causes most earthquakes.

"We're talking about 50,000 times that of plate tectonic motion," Song told LiveScience.

The Earth can be divided into separate parts: an outer crust, a highly viscous mantle, a less viscous outer core, and a solid inner core made up of mostly iron and nickel.

Circulating magma in the molten outer core generates a weak magnetic field, which the researchers suspect may be leaking into the inner core and generating an electric current. The twisting force generated by this electromagnetic interaction may be what drives the inner core's rotation.

Song said the difference in rotation of the inner core could in turn affect the Earth's rotation and have implications for satellites, rockets and spaceships.

The study is detailed in the August 26 issue of the journal Science.

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Disputed 9-11 Pentagon Flag Destroyed
Thu Aug 25,10:28 AM ET

LOUDOUN, Va. - An American flag that purportedly flew over the
Pentagon on Sept. 11 was burned by a man who said he wanted to end questions of authenticity over the banner he bought for $25,000.

John A. Andrews II, a general contractor and developer, successfully bid for the flag on eBay and planned to fly it over the new Newton-Lee Elementary School in Ashburn, named for two passengers on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

But amid continuing questions, Andrews burned the nylon flag Wednesday.

"Since the purchase of this flag, the controversy over its legitimacy has continued," said Andrews, Loudoun's school board chairman. "For the victims' families and the community as a whole, it's a small price to pay to put the issue to rest."

Andrews said the school investigated the continuing doubts raised about the authenticity "and in all our research we couldn't find anyone who could swear it was there."

With the help of two Boy Scouts and the Loudoun County Boy Scout commissioner, Andrews and others held the flag as the stars were cut from the stripes and the banner was dissected into four pieces. The sections were then tossed into a fire in a metal drum filled with oak logs.

The disposal followed one of several methods outlined in Scout protocol.

In March, David Nicholson offered the flag, he said, to help secure his family's future. He has kidney cancer.

Nicholson, who had owned an auction house in rural Orange, said he got the flag in 2002 from a friend who worked construction and said the flag was flying atop one of his company's cranes at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

An initial eBay auction drew a successful bid of $371,300, but the bidder would not honor the sale because of questions about its authenticity raised by Facchina Construction Co., which denied having a flag flying from a crane during the attack.

Contacted Thursday, Nicholson said of the flag burning, "I don't agree with it, but it's a free country.

"I would have liked to have this flag back but I'm fighting this cancer."

Nicholson, who said his cancer has progressed to Stage 4, said an Oct. 27 court date has been scheduled in his lawsuit against Facchina Construction. He is seeking the difference between the initial bid for the flag and the $25,000 bid by Andrews.

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