Wednesday, August 31, 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

Toxic Flood waters in Louisiana


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!

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PART TWO: Feelings of Doom

New Song! Signs of the Times

As featured on our latest podcast page, Relic has written, produced, and performed a new song called "Signs of the Times".

"Signs of the Times" words & music by Relic

There are UFOs over Mexico
Hurricanes in Florida
You may be surprised to know
It's raining frogs in Serbia

Tornadoes over Texas
California quakes
The ring of fire is the next to blow
And all of Europe is left to bake


These are the Signs of the Times
The world is burning, yeah
These are the Signs of the Times
The tides are turning, yeah
See the signs

The weather's changed
Everything is strange, somehow
It's all connected

Our leaders lie
Our children die, somehow
It's all connected

Locust plagues and wildfires
Ice age follows climate change
What to do with the avian flu
And HAARP is turned on again

The beast of revelation
Is living in the states
Jesus seen in a grilled cheese
Virgin Mary's on the interstate


Butterfly wings
Start so many things, somehow
It's all connected

Gravity waves
Change your DNA, somehow
It's all connected

There's drought in Australia
While China floods
Tsunami wash it all away
Persian rivers run with blood

The sun's dark companion
Comes around again
Auroras in the atmosphere
Meteors falling down like rain


So raise your voice
Time to make a choice, somehow
It's all connected


Copyright 2005 Relic

Download MP3 (Right click and "Save link as...") (6 MB)

Let us know what you think.

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Bush Cancels Vacation to Focus on Relief
Associated Press Writer
Aug 31 12:23 AM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - Medical disaster assistance teams from across the country were deployed to the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The Red Cross sent in 185 emergency vehicles to provide meals. And President Bush cut short his vacation Tuesday to return to Washington to focus on the storm damage.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president will chair a meeting Wednesday of a White House task force set up to coordinate the federal response and relief effort.

"We have a lot of work to do," the president said of the storm FEMA director Michael Brown has termed catastrophic.

"This hurricane has caused devastation over a wide area," Brown said.

Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott urged the president to visit the damaged region.

"Mr. President, the people of Mississippi are flat on their backs. They're going to need your help," Lott said in a call to Bush. "I urge you to come to Mississippi. Your visit would be very good for the morale of Mississippians who are hurting right now." [...]

Comment: Things must be serious if Bush is cutting his vacation short. Then again, with his rock-bottom approval ratings, Bush's Brain no doubt saw an opportunity to attemp to boost the president's ratings if he toured those states struck by Katrina. We're not sure how much good it's going to do, though:

Bush's approval rating falls to new low

By Richard Morin and Dan Balz
The Washington Post
Updated: 12:02 a.m. ET Aug. 31, 2005

Rising gas prices and ongoing bloodshed in Iraq continue to take their toll on President Bush, whose standing with the public has sunk to an all-time low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found Bush's job approval rating at 45 percent, down seven points since January and the lowest ever recorded for the president in Post-ABC surveys. Fifty-three percent disapproved of the job Bush is doing. [...]

What may have pushed Bush's overall ratings down in the latest poll is pervasive dissatisfaction over soaring gasoline prices. Two-thirds of those surveyed said gas prices are causing financial hardship to them or their families. Gas prices stand to go even higher after Hurricane Katrina's rampage through the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico.

More ominously for the president, six in 10 Americans said there are steps the administration could take to reduce gas prices. Slightly more than a third say the recent run-up has been due to factors beyond the administration's control. [...]

Dissatisfaction is not limited to the president. Fewer than four in 10 Americans -- 37 percent -- approve of the way the Republican-controlled Congress is doing its job, the lowest rating for lawmakers in nearly eight years.

The survey also provided bad news for Democratic leaders, who are judged as offering Bush only tepid opposition. Slightly more than half of those surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with congressional Democrats for not opposing Bush more aggressively. [...]

In any case, the aftermath of the hurricane is turning out to be worse than many expected...

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Mayor blasts failure to patch levee breaches
Wednesday, August 31, 2005; Posted: 3:35 a.m. EDT

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana -- A day after Hurricane Katrina dealt a devastating blow to the Big Easy, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Tuesday night blasted what he called a lack of coordination in relief efforts for setting behind the city's recovery.

"There is way too many fricking ... cooks in the kitchen," Nagin said in a phone interview with WAPT-TV in Jackson, Miss., fuming over what he said were scuttled plans to plug a 200-yard breach near the 17th Street Canal, allowing Lake Pontchartrain to spill into the central business district. An earlier breach occurred along the Industrial Canal in the city's Lower 9th Ward.

The rising flood waters overwhelmed pumping stations that would normally keep the city dry. About 80 percent of the city was flooded with water up to 20 feet deep after the two levees collapsed.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working to repair the levee breaches, the agency said Tuesday, but it gave no timetable for repairs.

The Corps has workers assessing damage at the two locations. The National Guard, Coast Guard and state and federal agencies are working with the agency to speed the process, it reported.

"These closures are essential so that water can be removed from the city," a statement from the Corps of Engineers' headquarters in Washington said.

Walter Baumy, the agency's engineering division chief, said the Corps is trying to line up rock, sandbags, barges, helicopters and cranes to patch the damaged levees.

Col. Kevin Wagner, a Corps official in Baton Rouge, told reporters that engineers also were eyeing the prospect of filling shipping containers with sand and lowering them into the breaches to stanch the flooding.

The National Weather Service reported a breach along the Industrial Canal levee at Tennessee Street, in southeast New Orleans, on Monday. Local reports later said the levee was overtopped, not breached, but the Corps of Engineers reported it Tuesday afternoon as having been breached.

But Nagin said a repair attempt was supposed to have been made Tuesday.

According to the mayor, Blackhawk helicopters were scheduled to pick up and drop massive 3,000-pound sandbags in the 17th Street Canal breach, but were diverted on rescue missions. Nagin said neglecting to fix the problem has set the city behind by at least a month.

"I had laid out like an eight week to ten week timeline where we could get the city back in semblance of order. It's probably been pushed back another four weeks as a result of this," Nagin said.

"That four weeks is going to stop all commerce in the city of New Orleans. It also impacts the nation, because no domestic oil production will happen in southeast Louisiana."

Nagin said he expects relief efforts in the city to improve as New Orleans, the National Guard and FEMA combine their command centers for better communication, followup and accountability.

Comment: There are two things that pretty much anyone with two neurons in contact with another knew about the aftermath of Katrina: first, that people would need to be rescued; and second, that New Orleans is a giant bowl below sea level, so repairing levees and controlling flood waters would have to be done before any other repairs could be made. And yet it appears that the helicopters intended to fight the flooding were diverted to rescue people... In other words, we are supposed to believe that either there weren't enough helicopters because of bad planning, or they were misappropriated because of "too many cooks in the kitchen". The end result is an estimated one month setback in getting the city back on its feet.

We are reminded of the following article:

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Flashback: Hysterica Passio
Global Eye
By Chris Floyd
October 22, 2004

Now we come at last to the heart of darkness. Now we know, from their own words, that the Bush Regime is a cult -- a cult whose god is Power, whose adherents believe that they alone control reality, that indeed they create the world anew with each act of their iron will. And the goal of this will -- undergirded by the cult's supreme virtues of war, fury and blind faith -- is likewise openly declared: "Empire."

You think this is an exaggeration? Then heed the words of the White House itself: a "senior adviser" to the president, who, as The New York Times reports, explained the cult to author Ron Suskind in the heady pre-war days of 2002.

First, the top Bush insider mocked the journalist and all those "in what we call the reality-based community," i.e., people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." Suskind's attempt to defend the principles of reason and enlightenment cut no ice with the Bush-man. "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality," he said. "And while you're studying that reality, we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." [...]

Comment: Consider hurricane Katrina in light of the Bush insider's claims that they "create reality" and the rest of the plebes just watch... Well, gee - maybe the Bush gang did, indeed, create the current reality!!! From the January 9, 2005 transcripts:

Q: Regarding the recent [Indonesian] earthquake and tsunami, there is a huge buzz on the net that this was not a natural phenomenon. Some say it could have been a meteor; others say it was a US nuke; others say it was India and Israel playing around in deep sea trenches. Then there is the speculation on an EM weapon of some description. The New Agers are saying it was the start of the final 'Earth Changes'. So what really caused this earthquake that happened one year minus one hour after the earthquake in Iran?

A: Pressure in earth. Not any of the proffered suggestions. But remember that the human cycle mirrors the cycle of catastrophe and human mass consciousness plays a part.

Q: In what way does mass consciousness play a part?

A: When those with higher centers are blocked from full manifestation of creative energy, that energy must go somewhere. If you cannot create "without" you create "within".

Q: In other words the acts of the STS consortium in trying to suppress, steal, and control the creative energy from those with higher centers may be the cause of their own destruction because that energy is uncontrollable... but they bring it on everyone's head also.

Then just throw a little "poor planning" into the recovery efforts, and you've got yourself an economic crash you can blame on the weather!

While the final damage assessments are not yet complete, a month of oil production downtime could be catastrophic. According to the following article, the real negative economic effects of the hurricane are yet to come...

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Oil infrastructure damage 'ugly'; gas nears $3

Experts: The storm's effect is yet to be felt by consumers
The Associated Press and the Enquirer
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The potential damage to oil platforms, refineries and pipelines that remain closed along the Gulf Coast drove energy prices to new highs Tuesday, with crude futures briefly topping $70 a barrel and wholesale gasoline costs surging to levels that could lead to $3 a gallon at the pump in some markets.

Companies scrambled planes and helicopters to get an aerial view of their assets and began escorting some previously evacuated workers back to offshore facilities to conduct detailed inspections of rigs and underwater pipes. Some producers found that a rig or platform had disappeared or drifted, while others reported that damage appeared minimal.

Onshore, wind and flooding from Hurricane Katrina is expected to have caused enough damage to pipelines, storage tanks and refineries that it could take weeks, and in some cases months, before operations return to normal, analysts said.

"It's ugly," said Lawrence J. Goldstein, president of the New York-based nonprofit Petroleum Industry Research Foundation. "Power is a problem, but the water issue is unbelievable."

The storm's effect is yet to be felt by consumers. Tuesday's national average price of a gallon of unleaded gas dropped a penny to $2.60, according to the Oil Price Information Service. The average in Northern Kentucky also fell a penny to $2.68, but rose four cents in Southwest Ohio, OPIS said. [...]

The production and distribution of oil and gas remained severely disrupted by the shutdown of a key oil import terminal off the coast of Louisiana and by the Gulf region's widespread loss of electricity, which is needed to power pipelines and refineries.

The trading frenzy on futures markets reflected the uncertainty and fear about the full extent of the damage Katrina inflicted as well as the constraints being felt where actual shipments of gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel are bought and sold.

"This is an extremely serious situation," said Tom Kloza, editorial director of OPIS, based in Wall, N.J.

Light sweet crude for October delivery rose $2.70 to settle at $69.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices had reached as high as $70.85, a new high on Nymex, although still below the inflation-adjusted high of about $90 a barrel that was set in 1980.

September gasoline futures rose 41.44 cents to $2.4750 a gallon on Nymex, where trading was halted briefly after the exchange's 25-cent trading limit was reached. Heating oil futures climbed by 16.71 cents to $2.0759 a gallon.

In wholesale markets on the Gulf Coast, some gasoline was being priced as high as $2.85 a gallon and in the Midwest, prices were as high as $2.65 a gallon, according to Kloza. Retail prices are typically 60 cents higher, meaning motorists in these regions could very well see $3 a gallon at the pump in some markets.

In a sign of the havoc Katrina caused, Houston-based Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. reported one missing rig and another that broke free from its moorings but was found about 9 miles north of its original location.

Houston-based Newfield Exploration Co. said one of its production platforms has disappeared. It had produced about 1,500 barrels a day. Newfield Exploration Co. expects to replace the platform within six to seven months.

A spokesman for the Natural Gas Supply Association said it was too soon to determine the entirety of the damage inflicted on the industry. Analysts believe the operations of natural gas processors and chemical manufacturers, who depend heavily on natural gas as a feedstock, could be disrupted for weeks.

Critical infrastructure that remained out of service included:

- The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest oil import terminal in the United States.

- The Colonial Pipeline, which transports refined products such as gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel from Houston to markets as far away as the Northeast.

- The Plantation Pipe Line, which transports fuel from refineries in Mississippi and Louisiana to consuming markets as far away as northern Virginia.

- The Capline pipeline system, which transports crude oil from the Gulf to the Midwest.

Comment: With four major pipelines that supply oil to the northeastern and midwestern US out of order, some residents are already being warned about sky-high gas prices - and even gas shortages:

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Drudge Report Flash
Tue Aug 2005 30 22:23:23 ET

Metro Atlanta drivers are facing the possibility of paying considerably more than $3 a gallon for gas by Labor Day -- if they can get it at all, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting Wednesday.

The two pipelines that bring gasoline and jet fuel to the region are down -- powerless to pump as Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on electrical infrastructure.

The metro Atlanta region generally has about a 10-day supply of gasoline in inventory, said BP spokesman Michael Kumpf. The pipelines have been down for two days.

Alpharetta, Ga.-based Colonial Pipeline Co., cut off from its suppliers on the Gulf Coast, is now pumping gas from huge storage tanks, many in Powder Springs, Ga. Whether electric power can be restored to the pipeline pumps before supplies run out is "the great uncertainty ... that hangs over all of us," said Daniel Moenter, a spokesman for Marathon Ashland Petroleum, a major supplier of metro Atlanta's fuel.

Comment: Amidst the chaos and uncertainty, some analysts are claiming it will take a week just to assess the damage to the oil infrastructure. Repairs could take weeks more...

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Hurricane 'will force consumers to reduce fuel use'
By Peter Klinger and Adam Sage in Paris
Times Online
August 31, 2005

OIL prices soared to record levels yesterday as nervous traders ignored pledges of additional supplies from Saudi Arabia and instead worked feverishly to calculate the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

The price of a barrel of US light crude touched $70.85 a barrel, five cents higher than Monday's peak, while Brent in London jumped $3.55 to $68.42 when trading resumed after Bank Holiday Monday. Gas prices in the United States also rose sharply.

The record prices prompted governments in France and Belgium to flag populist measures to protect consumers.

However, the International Energy Agency (IEA), a leading forecaster, and analysts advised against government intervention, saying that the $70 price could provide the much-needed jolt that would force consumers to reduce their oil consumption.

The French Government was in disarray yesterday, with ministers squabbling over a proposal to cut the national speed limit to reduce fuel consumption. Dominique Perben, the Transport Minister, had called for a 115kph (71mph) limit on motorways, down from 130kph at present, saying that it would save motorists €7 on a 500km journey and also reduce the road death rate. His call sparked fierce criticism from within the governing centre-right Union for a Popular Movement. A spokesman for the party said that the measure was "inappropriate".

In Belgium, Didier Reynders, the Finance Minister, proposed a €75 government cheque for every household to soften the blow of expensive fuel.

Claude Mandil, the IEA's Executive Director, said that a much-needed change in consumer habits, required to halt the oil-price run, would not happen if governments intervened by lowering taxes on the price of fuel. He said: "It's not because I want people to be hurt, it's just because I think that market signals are useful."

Economists expect the European Central Bank to increase its 2005 and 2006 inflation forecasts this week to take into account the rapidly rising oil price, although economic growth projections are likely to remain unchanged.

Yesterday's new oil price record came despite promises from Saudi Arabia, Opec's biggest crude oil producer, to bring an additional 1.5 million barrels of oil to the market if needed. The United States Government also confirmed that it would consider dipping into its strategic reserves, depending on the severity of the damage inflicted by the storm.

Nervous traders, however, maintained their bearish outlook on the scale of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, which forced widespread shutdowns of production and refining facilities in the Gulf area. At the hurricane's peak, eight oil refineries in southeastern Louisiana were closed, disabling almost 10 per cent of America's refining capacity. About 1.4 million barrels a day, or a quarter of American total crude oil production, was affected. Analysts said that it would take at least a week to assess the extent of damage caused by Katrina.

Traders also gave warning that the North American hurricane season was still two weeks from its official start, suggesting that Katrina may just be a prelude for what is to come.


Shell reported aerial sightings of damage to Mars, one of its largest Gulf of Mexico production platforms, yesterday. However, it was unable to give details of its extent. Two drilling rigs chartered by the oil company were adrift.

Comment: The Financial Times also reports:

The damage from Hurricane Katrina has been worse than expected, initial assessments showed on Tuesday, prompting a new rise in oil prices to record levels and raising concerns about the cost of insurance in the Gulf of Mexico.

Industry sources said that one big underwriter had already stopped providing business-interruption insurance in the Gulf and others warned that rising storm losses would lead to premiums so high that insuring platforms could become uneconomic.

In other US economic news:

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Poverty Rate Rises to 12.7 Percent
Associated Press
August 30, 2005

WASHINGTON - Even with a robust economy that was adding jobs last year, the number of Americans who fell into poverty rose to 37 million - up 1.1 million from 2003 - according to Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.

It marks the fourth straight increase in the government's annual poverty measure.

The Census Bureau also said household income remained flat, and that the number of people without health insurance edged up by about 800,000 to 45.8 million people.

"I was surprised," said Sheldon Danziger, co-director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. "I thought things would have turned around by now."

While disappointed, the Bush administration - which has not seen a decline in poverty numbers since the president took office - said it was not surprised by the new statistics.

Commerce Department spokeswoman E.R. Anderson said they mirror a trend in the '80s and '90s in which unemployment peaks were followed by peaks in poverty and then by a decline in the poverty numbers the next year.

"We hope this is it, that this is the last gasp of indicators for the recession," she said.

Democrats seized on the numbers as proof the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

"America should be showing true leadership on the great moral issues of our time - like poverty - instead of allowing these situations to get worse," said John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate. He has started a poverty center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Overall, the nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year. Of the 37 million living below the poverty level, close to a third were children. [...]

The increase in poverty came despite strong economic growth, which helped create 2.2 million jobs last year - the best showing for the labor market since 1999. By contrast, there was only a tiny increase of 94,000 jobs in 2003 and job losses in both 2002 and 2001.

Asians were the only ethnic group to show a decline in poverty - from 11.8 percent in 2003 to 9.8 percent last year. The poverty rate for whites rose from 8.2 percent in 2003 to 8.6 percent last year. There was no noticeable change for blacks and Hispanics.

The median household income, meanwhile, stood at $44,389, unchanged from 2003. Among racial and ethnic groups, blacks had the lowest median income and Asians the highest. Median income refers to the point at which half of households earn more and half earn less.

Regionally, income declined only in the Midwest, down 2.8 percent to $44,657. The South was the poorest region and the Northeast and the West had the highest median incomes.

The number of people without health insurance coverage grew from 45 million to 45.8 million last year, but the number of people with health insurance grew by 2 million.

Charles Nelson, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau, said the percentage of uninsured remained steady because of an "increase in government coverage, notably Medicaid and the state children's health insurance program that offset a decline in employment-based coverage."

The estimates on poverty, uninsured and income are based on supplements to the bureau's Current Population Survey, and are conducted over three months, beginning in February, at about 100,000 households nationwide.

Comment: Meanwhile, it seems US authorities are having a hard time maintaining order in the regions hit by the superstorm:

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Looters Take To Streets; Conditions Deteriorate

New Orleans Injuries, Deaths Still Unclear
1:20 pm CDT August 30, 2005

NEW ORLEANS -- Looters in New Orleans are taking advantage of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina.

At a Walgreens drug store in the French Quarter Tuesday morning, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers.

When police finally showed up, a young boy stood at the door and shouted a warning -- and the crowd scattered.

A tourist from Philadelphia compared the scene to "downtown Baghdad."

Nearby, looters ripped open the steel gates from the front of stores on Canal Street.

They filled industrial-sized garbage cans with clothing and jewelry and floated them down the street on bits of plywood and insulation.

WDSU-TV reported that martial law was declared in some parts of New Orleans Tuesday morning.

The declaration is imposed to restore order in times of war and emergency.

Search For Survivors

Rescuers in boats and helicopters furiously searched Tuesday for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

The top homeland security official in New Orleans said bodies have been spotted drifting in the floodwaters.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the devastation being seen Tuesday morning "is greater than our worst fears."

She described it as "totally overwhelming." Blanco said there are no casualty figures yet, but that "many lives have been lost."

She said 700 people were rescued overnight from flooded areas.

Harrison County coroner Gary Hargrove had this advice for rescuers who encounter bodies: "If they're dead, they're dead. We've got the living to take care of." [...]

Conditions At Superdome Called 'Miserable'

Despite very poor conditions at the Louisiana Superdome, National Guard troops have brought in more refugees who are trying to escape rising water in New Orleans.

Eight of the people who arrived Tuesday had spent the night in the attic of a flooded beauty salon. They had to hack through the ceiling to reach the attic as the water rose.

Another man had spent the night in his own attic -- and said he "almost died" in the water.

They've now reached safety -- but not comfort. The air conditioning has been out since power was lost Monday morning.

The bathrooms are filthy and barrels are overflowing with trash.

Rosetta Junne said conditions at the New Orleans Superdome are miserable, and besides, "Everybody wants to go see their house. We want to know what's happened."

There are over 10,000 people in the makeshift shelter.

An official of the company that manages the Superdome said two people have died there, but offered no details. [...]

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Official: Prisoners Riot, Take Hostages in New Orleans

Children Reportedly Among Those Held Captive
ABC News
Aug. 30, 2005

Inmates at a prison in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans have rioted, attempted to escape and are now holding hostages, a prison commissioner told ABC News affiliate WBRZ in Baton Rouge, La.

Orleans Parish Prison Commissioner Oliver Thomas reported the incident to WBRZ.

A deputy at Orleans Parish Prison, his wife and their four children have been taken hostage by rioting prisoners after riding out Hurricane Katrina inside the jail building, according to WBRZ.

Officials are expected to hold a press conference regarding the riots at 9 p.m. ET.

A woman interviewed by WBRZ said her son, a deputy at the prison whose family is among the hostages, told her that many of the prisoners have fashioned homemade weapons. Her son had brought his family there hoping they would be safe during the storm.

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Clouds blamed for lights scare
29 August 2005

AUSTRALIA - A CLOUDY night could be the reason why bright orange lights were seen over Hobart on Saturday night.

Or a very bright meteor breaking up.

Police, the Tasmanian UFO Investigation Centre and The Mercury received many calls about the strange phenomenon.

Reports included a shower of lights and nine in a zig-zag formation over Glenorchy, which lined up over Hobart.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," said a policeman who did not want to be identified.

Another witness, Jackie Benson, was at Moonah and saw six lights sweep the sky.

"They were going across the sky at different speeds," she said yesterday.

Speculation was rife about the origin of the lights, with one caller saying he saw a spaceship over Glenorchy.

Last night, Southern Cross Observatory director Shevill Mathers said low cloud and reflected light might have been the cause.

The observatory is at Cambridge and Mr Mathers said he had seen an intense glow in the sky over Hobart.

"Bright light sources reflect on the base of low clouds, such as lights from the casino and other sources, and appear as orange lights," he said. "It may be affected by the water vapour level and drop size in the clouds.

"Different drop sizes refract light at different angles, as with rainbows.

"I almost got my camera with a wide-angle lens because it was such a good picture of light pollution.

"That's when light heading skywards prevents us seeing dimmer objects in the sky, because the light heading up is stronger."

Mr Mather said another possibility for Saturday night's light was the position of Venus and Jupiter.

"We've got a couple of bright planets in the sky at the moment, which are low in the west after sunset," he said. "Venus is rising and getting brighter. Above it is Jupiter.

"Seen through the clouds, they can be seen as a diffused glow, which is unusual.

"Another possibility could have been a very bright meteor breaking up, which could also produce the effects described by some observers."

Comment: The meteorite explanation seems to be the most intriguing since one just fell on Zimbabwe...

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Meteorite hits Zimbabwe
30/08/2005 11:07 - (SA)

Harare - People in a remote northern Zimbabwe village are living in fear after a meteorite plunged through the atmosphere last week and landed in a field, a state newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"The villagers heard some noise, which resembled that of a helicopter, coming from the eastern direction and the noise was followed by clouds of dust," police spokesperson Michael Munyikwa told the Herald.

The meteorite, measuring 21cm by 13cm and weighing around 4kg, left a 15cm-deep crater when it plunged into a field not far from Chaworeka village, the paper said.

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Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Tuesday August 30, 2005
The Guardian

Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.

Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

He is using the wide powers of his committee to force the scientists to produce great quantities of material after alleging flaws and lack of transparency in their research. He is working with Ed Whitfield, the chairman of the sub-committee on oversight and investigations.

The scientific work they are investigating was important in establishing that man-made carbon emissions were at least partly responsible for global warming, and formed part of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convinced most world leaders - George Bush was a notable exception - that urgent action was needed to curb greenhouse gases.

The demands in letters sent to the scientists have been compared by some US media commentators to the anti-communist "witch-hunts" pursued by Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.

The three US climate scientists - Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University; Raymond Bradley, the director of the Climate System Research Centre at the University of Massachusetts; and Malcolm Hughes, the former director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona - have been told to send large volumes of material.

A letter demanding information on the three and their work has also gone to Arden Bement, the director of the US National Science Foundation.

Mr Barton's inquiry was launched after an article in the Wall Street Journal quoted an economist and a statistician, neither of them from a climate science background, saying there were methodological flaws and data errors in the three scientists' calculations. It accused the trio of refusing to make their original material available to be cross-checked.

Mr Barton then asked for everything the scientists had ever published and all baseline data. He said the information was necessary because Congress was going to make policy decisions drawing on their work, and his committee needed to check its validity.

There followed a demand for details of everything they had done since their careers began, funding received and procedures for data disclosure.

The inquiry has sent shockwaves through the US scientific establishment, already under pressure from the Bush administration, which links funding to policy objectives.

Eighteen of the country's most influential scientists from Princeton and Harvard have written to Mr Barton and Mr Whitfield expressing "deep concern". Their letter says much of the information requested is unrelated to climate science.

It says: "Requests to provide all working materials related to hundreds of publications stretching back decades can be seen as intimidation - intentional or not - and thereby risks compromising the independence of scientific opinion that is vital to the pre-eminence of American science as well as to the flow of objective science to the government."

Alan Leshner protested on behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, expressing "deep concern" about the inquiry, which appeared to be "a search for a basis to discredit the particular scientists rather than a search for understanding".

Political reaction has been stronger. Henry Waxman, a senior Californian Democrat, wrote complaining that this was a "dubious" inquiry which many viewed as a "transparent effort to bully and harass climate-change experts who have reached conclusions with which you disagree".

But the strongest language came from another Republican, Sherwood Boehlert, the chairman of the house science committee. He wrote to "express my strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation".

He said it was pernicious to substitute political review for scientific peer review and the precedent was "truly chilling". He said the inquiry "seeks to erase the line between science and politics" and should be reconsidered.

A spokeswoman for Mr Barton said yesterday that all the required written evidence had been collected.

"The committee will review everything we have and decided how best to proceed. No decision has yet been made whether to have public hearings to investigate the validity of the scientists' findings, but that could be the next step for this autumn," she said.

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'Arizona Daily Star' Drops Ann Coulter's 'Shrill' Column
By E&P Staff
August 29, 2005

NEW YORK - The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson has had enough of conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

In a column announcing a wide range of changes in the paper's opinion pages Monday, Editor and Publisher David Stoeffler revealed that the paper was dropping Coulter's syndicated column.

"Many readers find her shrill, bombastic, and mean-spirited. And those are the words used by readers who identified themselves as conservatives," the recently appointed Stoeffler wrote.

One recent example of Coulter's controversial approach was in her Aug. 10 column. She wrote: "(T)he savages have declared war, and it's far preferable to fight them in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York -- where the residents would immediately surrender." [...]

"Running a newspaper is something like building a three-legged stool," Stoeffler explained. "We need to understand and satisfy a broad audience. Through a combination of market research and regular contact, we come to know what readers want."

Comment: Bush cuts his vacation short, and a mainstream paper drops Ann Coulter...?

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Sheehan Glad Bush Didn't Meet With Her
Associated Press Writer
Aug 30 11:33 PM US/Eastern

CRAWFORD, Texas - A woman who led an anti-war protest for nearly a month near President Bush's ranch said Tuesday that she's glad Bush never showed up to discuss her son's death in Iraq, saying the president's absence "galvanized the peace movement."

Cindy Sheehan's comments came as war protesters packed up their campsite near the ranch and prepared to leave Tuesday for a three-week bus tour.

"I look back on it, and I am very, very, very grateful he did not meet with me, because we have sparked and galvanized the peace movement," Sheehan told The Associated Press. "If he'd met with me, then I would have gone home, and it would have ended there."

Sheehan and about 50 other peace activists arrived in the one- stoplight town Aug. 6, the day after she spoke at a Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas. She and a few others spent that night in chairs in ditches, without food or flashlights, off the main road leading to the president's ranch.

The Vacaville, Calif., woman vowed to stay until Bush's monthlong vacation ended unless she could question him about the war that claimed the life of her 24-year-old son Casey and more than 1,870 other U.S. soldiers.

Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day, but the president never did - although he has said that he sympathizes with her and acknowledged her right to protest. His vacation is to end Wednesday, two days early, so he can monitor federal efforts to help victims of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

Sheehan's vigil attracted crowds of other anti-war demonstrators. Most stayed a few hours or days at the original roadside camp or at the second, larger site about a mile away on a private lot offered by a sympathetic landowner.

The massive response has transformed her life, she said.

"I thought our country was going down, down, down. I thought nobody cared about our children killed in the war, but millions care, and millions care about our country and want to make it better," she said. "The love and support I've received give me hope that my life can someday be normal."

The protest also sparked counter rallies by Bush supporters who accused Sheehan of using her son's death to push the liberal agenda of groups supporting her. Critics also said the anti-war demonstration was hurting U.S. troop morale while boosting the Iraqi insurgency.

Many Bush supporters pointed out that Sheehan never spoke against Bush or the war when she and other grieving families met the president about two months after her son died last year.

Sheehan said she was still in shock over Casey's death during that meeting. She said she became enraged after independent reports disputed Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons - a main justification for the March 2003 invasion.

After leaving Crawford, protesters will spread their message on a three-week "Bring Them Home Now Tour" with stops in 25 states. Buses on three routes will meet in Washington, D.C., for a Sept. 24 anti-war march.

Sheehan will leave the tour next week to spend time with her family, including her mother who recently suffered a stroke, which caused Sheehan to miss a week of the protest. She plans to attend the march in the nation's capital, hoping to reunite with people who converged on the Texas roadside that came to be known as "Camp Casey."

"When I first started here, I was sitting in the ditch thinking, 'What the heck did I do? Texas in August, the chiggers, fire ants, rattlesnakes, uncomfortable accommodations' - but I'm going to be sad leaving here," Sheehan said. "I hope people will say that the Camp Casey movement sparked a peace movement that ended the war in Iraq."

Comment: All Bush had to do was meet with Sheehan, and she would have gone away. Instead, Bush reportedly refused to meet with "that b*tch" against his advisors' advice. This is all quite an embarrassment for Bush who, in true psychopathic fashion, cannot stand to be made to look like a fool. Speaking of embarrassment..

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Another Embarrassment for Bush
By Robert Scheer
August 31, 2005

No amount of crowing over a fig leaf Iraqi constitution by President Bush can hide the fact that the region's autocrats, theocrats and terrorists are stronger than ever.

Who lost Iraq?

Someday, as a fragmented Iraq spirals further into religious madness, terrorism and civil war, there will be a bipartisan inquiry into this blundering intrusion into another people's history. The crucial question will be why a "preemptive" American invasion -- which has led to the deaths of nearly 2,000 Americans, roughly 10 times as many Iraqis, the expenditure of about $200 billion and incalculable damage to the United States' global reputation -- has had exactly the opposite effect predicted by its neoconservative sponsors.

No amount of crowing over a fig leaf Iraqi constitution by President Bush can hide the fact that the region's autocrats, theocrats and terrorists are stronger than ever.

"The U.S. now has to recognize that [it] overthrew Saddam Hussein to replace him with a pro-Iranian state," said regional expert Peter W. Galbraith, the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and an advisor to the Iraqi Kurds. And, he could have added, a pro-Iranian state that will be repressive and unstable.

Think this is an exaggeration? Consider that arguably the most powerful Shiite political party and militia in today's Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its affiliated paramilitary force, the Badr Brigade, was not only based in Iran but was set up by Washington's old arch-foe, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It also fought on the side of Iran in the Iran-Iraq war and was recognized by Tehran as the government in exile of Iraq.

Or that former exile Ahmad Chalabi is now one of Iraq's deputy prime ministers. The consummate political operator managed to maintain ties to Iran while gaining the devoted support of Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, charming and manipulating Beltway policymakers and leading U.S. journalists into believing that Iraq was armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Chalabi is thrilled with the draft constitution, which, if passed, will probably exponentially increase tension and violence between Sunnis and Shiites. "It is an excellent document," said Chalabi, who has been accused by U.S. intelligence of being a spy for Iran, where he keeps a vacation home.

What an absurd outcome for a war designed to create a compliant, unified and stable client state that would be pro-American, laissez-faire capitalist and unallied with the hated Iran. Of course, Bush tells us again, this is "progress" and an "inspiration." Yet his relentless spinning of manure into silk has worn thin on the American public and sent his approval ratings tumbling.

Even supporters of the war are starting to realize that rather than strengthening the United States' position in the world, the invasion and occupation have led to abject humiliation: from the Abu Ghraib scandal, to the guerrilla insurgency exposing the limits of military power, to an election in which "our guy" -- Iyad Allawi -- was defeated by radicals and religious extremists.

In a new low, the U.S. president felt obliged to call and plead with the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, Abdelaziz Hakim, to make concessions to gain Sunni support. Even worse, he was summarily rebuffed. Nevertheless, Bush had no choice but to eat crow and like it.

"This is a document of which the Iraqis, and the rest of the world, can be proud," he said Sunday, through what must have been gritted teeth. After all, this document includes such democratic gems as "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation," and "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam," as well as socialist-style pronouncements that work and a decent standard of living are a right guaranteed by the state. But the fact is, it could establish Khomeini's ghost as the patron saint of Iraq and Bush would have little choice but to endorse it.

Even many in his own party are rebelling. "I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur," said Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel last week, one of a growing number of Republicans who get that "we should start figuring out how we get out of there."

Not that our "what-me-worry?" president is the least bit troubled by all this adverse blowback from the huge, unnecessary gamble he took in invading the heart of the Arab and Muslim worlds. "What is important is that the Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion, not at the barrel of a gun," Bush said.

Wrong again. It was the barrel of a gun that midwifed the new Iraq, which threatens to combine the instability of Lebanon with the religious fanaticism of Iran.

Robert Scheer is the co-author of "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq".

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Hundreds killed in Iraq stampede
August 31, 2005

BAGHDAD - More than 630 people were killed in a stampede and attacks in Baghdad as thousands of Shiite Muslim faithful gathered near a sacred shrine, officials said.

Many of the dead drowned after falling of a bridge in a surge of panic triggered by rumours there were suicide bombers in the crowd, in what is by far the deadliest single incident since the US-led war on

"Some 637 deaths have been accounted for and 238 wounded according to information obtained from five hospitals," a security official told AFP, while a hospital official said 20 people had died of poisoning.

The stampede occurred shortly after the Kadhimiya shrine had come under mortar fire, which left at least seven people dead and dozens wounded, as crowds gathered to commemorate the death of a revered figure, Imam Mussa Kazim.

"Dozens of pilgrims fell in the river Tigris as they panicked following rumors of the presence of two suicide bombers in the crowd, while they were crossing Al-Aaimmah bridge near the mosque," the source said.

The US military said helicopters had fired on suspected rebels who carried out the mortar attack on the shrine and had sent ground units to the area to assist in tracking down those responsible. A dozen individuals were detained for questioning.

"Many women and children were crying as panic broke out after the attacks," said an Iraqi army officer.

Six other people were wounded when gunmen opened fire on Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighbourhood, an interior ministry source said.

"The pilgrims were heading towards the Kadhimiyah shrine and had passed a Sunni mosque on the way when some gunmen opened fire on them," the source said.

In another rebel attack, three Iraqis, including a policemen were killed in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk when rebels attacked a police patrol.

The latest round of violence came a day after US air strikes on suspected Al-Qaeda hideouts near the Syrian border killed what a security source said was at least 56 people.

The US military said it had no exact number of casualties, but claimed three strikes targeting "terrorist safe houses" were thought to have killed Abu Islam, a reported Al-Qaeda operative, and several associates.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said changes to Iraq's draft constitution were still possible, raising the hopes of disgruntled Sunni Arabs.

The move came as the Sunnis, whose community is believed to form the backbone of the raging insurgency, were seeking alliances to defeat the charter in an October 15 referendum. [...]

Comment: Here again we see the Bush gang's "we create our own reality" belief at work. It didn't matter that Saddam didn't have anything to do with 9/11 and that he didn't have any WMD's - Iraq was attacked anyway. It didn't matter that there were no "al-Qaeda terrorists" hiding out in Iraq - they were created by the US occupation and torture of innocent people. In the broader war on terror, it doesn't matter if someone isn't a terrorist - he will just be declared an enemy combatant and tortured into confessing. The US economy is in dire straits, but don't expect Bush to admit it - the Neocons will attempt to shape reality to their desires.

There seems to be only one problem: ignoring reality can be hazardous to one's "health":

"Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the 'past.' People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the 'Future.'" - Cassiopaeans

The only question that remains, then, is how many of us will allow ourselves to be taken down with them?

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Drone crashes in Iran
Sat Aug 27, 7:44 AM ET

TEHRAN - An unmanned single-engined plane has crashed in a mountainous area of western Iran and the wreckage has been recovered by the Iranian armed forces.

It was not clear if the plane was Iranian or foreign, although the influential Kayhan newspaper pointed out that "usually these sort of planes are used for spying on other countries".

The reports quoted Ali Asgar Ahmadi, deputy head of security in the interior ministry, as saying the plane went down on Thursday in the Alashtar mountains near the city of Khorramabad, the capital of Lorestan province, 350 kilometres (220 miles) southwest of Tehran.

The hardline Kayhan newspaper said that as soon as the plane crashed, police sealed off the area -- just 150 kilometres from the border with Iraq -- and "a group of experts from Kermanshahr airbase went to examine the fuselage".

"It is under investigation," a local official quoted as saying.

No further details were given.

Earlier this year the former intelligence minister Ali Yunessi confirmed the presence of "American spying instruments" in the skies over Iran and warned that they would be targeted by the military.

"Americans have been conducting spying activities in the Iranian sky for a long time," he said in February.

US media reports earlier this year also said the United States has been flying drones over Iran since April 2004, seeking evidence to back up its claims that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and probing for weaknesses in Iran's air defences.

The administration of US President George W. Bush has refused to rule out possible military action over Iran's nuclear activities, charging that its efforts to develop nuclear fuel are a cover for an atomic weapons programme.

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Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet

A trail of hidden clues suggests Google is building its own Internet -- and might be looking to let everyone connect for free
By Om Malik
September 2005 Issue
Business 2.0

What if Google (GOOG) wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America? And what if it had technology capable of targeting advertising to a user's precise location? The gatekeeper of the world's information could become one of the globe's biggest Internet providers and one of its most powerful ad sellers, basically supplanting telecoms in one fell swoop. Sounds crazy, but how might Google go about it?

First it would build a national broadband network -- let's call it the GoogleNet -- massive enough to rival even the country's biggest Internet service providers. Business 2.0 has learned from telecom insiders that Google is already building such a network, though ostensibly for many reasons. For the past year, it has quietly been shopping for miles and miles of "dark," or unused, fiber-optic cable across the country from wholesalers such as New York's AboveNet. It's also acquiring superfast connections from Cogent Communications and WilTel, among others, between East Coast cities including Atlanta, Miami, and New York. Such large-scale purchases are unprecedented for an Internet company, but Google's timing is impeccable. The rash of telecom bankruptcies has freed up a ton of bargain-priced capacity, which Google needs as it prepares to unleash a flood of new, bandwidth-hungry applications. These offerings could include everything from a digital-video database to on-demand television programming.

An even more compelling reason for Google to build its own network is that it could save the company millions of dollars a month. Here's why: Every time a user performs a search on Google, the data is transmitted over a network owned by an ISP -- say, Comcast (CMCSK) -- which links up with Google's servers via a wholesaler like AboveNet. When AboveNet bridges that gap between Google and Comcast, Google has to pay as much as $60 per megabit per second per month in IP transit fees. As Google adds bandwidth-intensive services, those costs will increase. Big networks owned by the likes of AT&T (T) get around transit fees by striking "peering" arrangements, in which the networks swap traffic and no money is exchanged. By cutting out middlemen like AboveNet, Google could share traffic directly with ISPs to avoid fees.

So once the GoogleNet is built, how would consumers connect for free access? One of the cheapest ways would be for Google to blanket major cities with Wi-Fi, and evidence gathered by Business 2.0 suggests that the company may be trying to do just that. In April it launched a Google-sponsored Wi-Fi hotspot in San Francisco's Union Square shopping district, built by a local startup called Feeva. Feeva is reportedly readying more free hotspots in California, Florida, New York, and Washington, and it's possible that Google may be involved. Feeva CEO Nitin Shah confirms that the company is working with Google but won't discuss details.

Google's interest in Feeva likely stems from the startup's proprietary technology, which can determine the location of every Wi-Fi user and would allow Google to serve up advertising and maps based on real-time data.

So is Google about to offer free Net access to everyone?

Characteristically, the company is cryptic about its goal. "We are sponsoring [Feeva] because [it is] trying to make free Wi-Fi available in San Francisco, and this matches Googles goal to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible," says Google spokesman Nate Taylor. "We don't have anything to add at this point about future plans."

To which we speculate: Today San Francisco, tomorrow the world.

Comment: We have had personal experience with Google and censorship. Of course, Google always claims that there's just something wrong with our page, and so their spiders don't like it. The problem is that certain other web sites that like to badmouth us and the other works of Laura Knight-Jadczyk always seem to have top rankings in Google, even though their readership is almost nonexistent and no on ever links to them!

So, when Google starts to create a network and offer free Wi-Fi that can track every user, well - let's just say the whole thing makes us a tad suspicious. Perhaps the GoogleNet, with its Big Brother-approved tracking technology and censorship, will be the Neocon's replacement for an internet that was shut down by "terrorists"...

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White People's Burden

It's time for white Americans to fully acknowledge that in the racial arena, they are the problem
By Robert Jensen
August 31, 2005

Editor's Note: This essay is excerpted from The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, forthcoming from City Lights, September 2005.

The United States is a white country. By that I don't just mean that the majority of its citizens are white, though they are (for now but not forever). What makes the United States white is not the fact that most Americans are white but the assumption -- especially by people with power -- that American equals white. Those people don't say it outright. It comes out in subtle ways. Or, sometimes, in ways not so subtle.

Here's an example: I'm in line at a store, unavoidably eavesdropping on two white men in front of me, as one tells the other about a construction job he was on. He says: "There was this guy and three Mexicans standing next to the truck." From other things he said, it was clear that "this guy" was Anglo, white, American. It also was clear from the conversation that this man had not spoken to the "three Mexicans" and had no way of knowing whether they were Mexicans or U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage.

It didn't matter. The "guy" was the default setting for American: Anglo, white. The "three Mexicans" were not Anglo, not white, and therefore not American. It wasn't "four guys standing by a truck." It was "a guy and three Mexicans." The race and/or ethnicity of the four men were irrelevant to the story he was telling. But the storyteller had to mark it. It was important that "the guy" not be confused with "the three Mexicans."

Here's another example, from the Rose Garden. At a 2004 news conference outside the White House, President George W. Bush explained that he believed democracy would come to Iraq over time:

"There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."

It appears the president intended the phrase "people whose skin color may not be the same as ours" to mean people who are not from the United States. That skin color he refers to that is "ours," he makes it clear, is white. Those people not from the United States are "a different color than white." So, white is the skin color of the United States. That means those whose skin is not white but are citizens of the United States are ...? What are they? Are they members in good standing in the nation, even if "their skin color may not be the same as ours"?

This is not simply making fun of a president who sometimes mangles the English language. This time he didn't misspeak, and there's nothing funny about it. He did seem to get confused when he moved from talking about skin color to religion (does he think there are no white Muslims?), but it seems clear that he intended to say that brown people -- Iraqis, Arabs, Muslims, people from the Middle East, whatever the category in his mind -- can govern themselves, even though they don't look like us. And "us" is clearly white. In making this magnanimous proclamation of faith in the capacities of people in other parts of the world, in proclaiming his belief in their ability to govern themselves, he made one thing clear: The United States is white. Or, more specifically, being a real "American" is being white. So, what do we do with citizens of the United States who aren't white?

That's the question for which this country has never quite found an answer: What do white "Americans" do with those who share the country but aren't white? What do we do with peoples we once tried to exterminate? People we once enslaved? People we imported for labor and used like animals to build railroads? People we still systematically exploit as low-wage labor? All those people -- indigenous, African, Asian, Latino -- can obtain the legal rights of citizenship. That's a significant political achievement in some respects, and that popular movements that forced the powerful to give people those rights give us the most inspiring stories in U.S. history.

The degree to which many white people in one generation dramatically shifted their worldview to see people they once considered to be subhuman as political equals is not trivial, no matter how deep the problems of white supremacy we still live with. In many comparable societies, problems of racism are as ugly, if not uglier, than in the United States. If you doubt that, ask a Turk what it is like to live in Germany, an Algerian what it's like to live in France, a black person what it's like to live in Japan. We can acknowledge the gains made in the United States -- always understanding those gains came because non-white people, with some white allies, forced society to change -- while still acknowledging the severity of the problem that remains.

But it doesn't answer the question: What do white "Americans" do with those who share the country but aren't white?

We can pretend that we have reached "the end of racism" and continue to ignore the question. But that's just plain stupid. We can acknowledge that racism still exists and celebrate diversity, but avoid the political, economic, and social consequences of white supremacy. But, frankly, that's just as stupid. The fact is that most of the white population of the United States has never really known what to do with those who aren't white. Let me suggest a different approach.

Let's go back to the question that W.E.B. Du Bois said he knew was on the minds of white people. In the opening of his 1903 classic, The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois wrote that the real question whites wanted to ask him, but were afraid to, was: "How does it feel to be a problem?" Du Bois was identifying a burden that blacks carried -- being seen by the dominant society not as people but as a problem people, as a people who posed a problem for the rest of society. Du Bois was right to identify "the color line" as the problem of the 20th century. Now, in the 21st century, it is time for whites to self-consciously reverse the direction of that question at heart of color. It's time for white people to fully acknowledge that in the racial arena, we are the problem. We have to ask ourselves: How does it feel to be the problem?

The simple answer: Not very good.

That is the new White People's Burden, to understand that we are the problem, come to terms with what that really means, and act based on that understanding. Our burden is to do something that doesn't seem to come natural to people in positions of unearned power and privilege: Look in the mirror honestly and concede that we live in an unjust society and have no right to some of what we have. We should not affirm ourselves. We should negate our whiteness. Strip ourselves of the illusion that we are special because we are white. Steel ourselves so that we can walk in the world fully conscious and try to see what is usually invisible to us white people. We should learn to ask ourselves, "How does it feel to be the problem?"

Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Britain's elite get pills to survive bird flu
Sarah-Kate Templeton and Jonathan Calvert
Times Online
August 28, 2005

MEMBERS of Britain's elite have been selected as priority cases to receive scarce pills and vaccinations at the taxpayers' expense if the country is hit by a deadly bird flu outbreak.

Workers at the BBC and prominent politicians - such as cabinet ministers - would be offered protection from the virus.

Ken Livingstone, the London mayor, has already spent £1m to make sure his personal office and employees have their own emergency supplies of 100,000 antiviral tablets.

If there is an avian flu pandemic in the coming months there would be enough drugs to protect less than 2% of the British population for a week.

The Department of Health has drawn up a priority list of those who would be first to receive lifesaving drugs. Top of the list are health workers followed by those in key public sector jobs.

Although senior government ministers would be among the high-priority cases, the department said this weekend that it had not decided whether to include opposition politicians.

Comment: Yeah. Who needs them, anyway?

BBC employees would be protected because the corporation is required to broadcast vital information during a national disaster.

Politicians and the media have been placed before sick patients, heavily pregnant women and elderly people by government planners.

Yesterday, leading BBC presenters were surprised to learn that they would be given preferential treatment. Jeff Randall, the BBC's business editor, said: "Are you really telling me that I am on a priority list for bird flu jabs? Marvellous. I always knew there would be an advantage from working at the BBC."

John Humphrys, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said: "I think if I were offered the jab I would probably pass it on to someone 40 years younger than me."

Nick Clarke, presenter of BBC Radio 4's World at One, said: "I'm sure I wouldn't qualify. My programme has news and comment and the one thing you can do without in a pandemic is comment . . . They would want to have Huw Edwards and reassuring newsreaders on radio."

Fears that a "doomsday" virus may sweep the world have been heightened by the recent spread of the lethal strain of avian flu, H5N1. The death toll, estimated at 120, has been of people whose work brought them into close contact with infected birds. Scientists have warned that millions could die if H5N1 mutates.

The Department of Health would not currently be able to cope with such an onslaught. Although it has ordered 14.6m doses of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug thought to be effective against the H5N1 strain, only 900,000 doses are in stock so far. The full supply will not be delivered until March 2007, at a total cost of about £100m.

Besides the NHS and BBC, firemen, police and the armed forces are among those listed in the two top-priority groups to receive the vaccine.

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Most scientific papers are probably wrong
Kurt Kleiner
30 August 2005

Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true.

John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.

"We should accept that most research findings will be refuted. Some will be replicated and validated. The replication process is more important than the first discovery," Ioannidis says.

In the paper, Ioannidis does not show that any particular findings are false. Instead, he shows statistically how the many obstacles to getting research findings right combine to make most published research wrong.

Massaged conclusions

Traditionally a study is said to be "statistically significant" if the odds are only 1 in 20 that the result could be pure chance. But in a complicated field where there are many potential hypotheses to sift through - such as whether a particular gene influences a particular disease - it is easy to reach false conclusions using this standard. If you test 20 false hypotheses, one of them is likely to show up as true, on average.

Odds get even worse for studies that are too small, studies that find small effects (for example, a drug that works for only 10% of patients), or studies where the protocol and endpoints are poorly defined, allowing researchers to massage their conclusions after the fact.

Surprisingly, Ioannidis says another predictor of false findings is if a field is "hot", with many teams feeling pressure to beat the others to statistically significant findings.

But Solomon Snyder, senior editor at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, US, says most working scientists understand the limitations of published research.

"When I read the literature, I'm not reading it to find proof like a textbook. I'm reading to get ideas. So even if something is wrong with the paper, if they have the kernel of a novel idea, that's something to think about," he says.

Journal reference: Public Library of Science Medicine (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124)

Comment: Remember this article the next time you hear the scientific and medical "experts" speaking with authority.

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Scientists baffled by mystery heat source on Saturn's moon
By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent
The Telegraph
Filed: 31/08/2005

Space scientists said yesterday that they were baffled and excited at the discovery of a mysterious heat source beneath the surface of Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons.

Readings taken by the Cassini spacecraft and unveiled yesterday unexpectedly showed the 311 mile-wide moon had an atmosphere composed mostly of water vapour.

The most detailed images yet of the moon show a series of long and intriguing fault lines around Enceladus's south pole.

Cassini's instruments identified an unexplained source of heat below the moon's surface in this region that appears to be shooting out jets of gas, ice and dust particles.

Scientists are intrigued because neither radioactive decay nor gravitational tidal forces, thought to be the only two potential sources of internal heating of planetary bodies, should be able to generate the effects measured by Cassini.

Prof Michele Dougherty, of Imperial College London, and principal investigator for Cassini's magnetic field measuring equipment, said: "It was a complete surprise to find these signals at Enceladus.

"These new results from Cassini may be the first evidence of gases originating either from the surface or possibly from the interior of Enceladus." [...]

Also unexpected was the detection of frozen methane and other simple organic chemicals on the moon and in its atmosphere.

Infrared measurements showed an unexpected temperature distribution with a patch of "warm" temperatures, around -188C (-307F), near the southern fault lines.

Enceladus is believed to be losing material from its interior at the rate of around half a ton a second, probably settling an old debate about whether it is the source of material for Saturn's "E-ring", the outermost of the planet's famous rings.

Scientists do not know what is creating the heat source but believe is has to be a combination of radioactive decay of rock and tidal heating - frictional heating of the moon's interior caused by the gravitational pull of Saturn.

Cassini, a £2 billion joint European Space Agency and Nasa mission, has been exploring Saturn and its large family of moons since July last year.

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'Tenth planet' hunted in wrong part of the sky
From New Scientist Print Edition
20 August 2005

AS scientific goof-ups go, there have been worse. But it has added an element of suspense to the debate about whether the newly discovered "10th planet" beyond Pluto is really a planet at all. It turns out that astronomers failed to aim NASA's infrared telescope at 2003 UB313 correctly, so the object could be even bigger than their estimates suggest.

The Spitzer Space Telescope did not spot any infrared radiation emanating from what was thought to be the direction of 2003 UB313. Given the object's distance and the telescope's sensitivity, this led Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to estimate its maximum diameter to be about 3000 kilometres.

But Brown, who discovered the object, has now learned that the telescope was looking at the wrong place in the sky. "Those observations failed due to human error, which caused the telescope to point in the wrong direction," Brown writes on his website. Brown will attempt another observation of 2003 UB313 later this month.

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What if...? Exploring alternative scientific pasts
Gregory Radick news service
20 August 2005

Who hasn't wondered what their life would be like today if some past event had turned out differently - that inconsequential decision, for example, that led you to meet the love of your life. Sometimes, small choices change everything. And that is just as true of world history as it is of your personal life.

Time was when the past was seen as a long march towards an inevitable present. But historians have come to realise that the present is anything but inevitable. And so New Scientist asked a panel of experts to speculate on the scientific pasts that might have been. [...]

What if…the Nazis had won; Newton had abandoned science; electric motors had pre-dated steam engines; Darwin had not sailed on the Beagle; Charles II had no interest in science and a young Einstein had been ignored?

ANYONE who has read Robert Harris's book Fatherland is familiar with the concept of counterfactual history. The idea is simple: pose a "what if..." about the past, in Harris's case, "what if the Nazis had won the war?", and then answer it with a plausible and entertaining account of what might have been.

Counterfactual history might sound like a frivolous exercise, fit only for airport potboilers and lowbrow TV drama-documentaries. But a growing number of historians consider it an indispensable tool, especially for understanding political events. What kind of world would we be living in now, for example, if Al Gore had been declared the winner of the 2000 US presidential election?

But science is another matter. There is no shortage of tantalising what-ifs: what if Newton had carried out his threat to quit science? What if Darwin hadn't sailed on the Beagle? What if Einstein hadn't found a job that allowed him so much time to daydream? The trouble is that until recently, the answer to these questions seemed to be disappointing: science would look much as it does today.

As far back as the 1820s, British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay concluded that science had a life of its own. Once knowledge had progressed to a certain point, he argued, discoveries became inevitable. We could be confident, he wrote in his essay on the poet Dryden, that "without Copernicus we should have been Copernicans, that without Columbus America would have been discovered, that without Locke we should have possessed a just theory of the origin of human ideas."

Macaulay's general conclusion lives on. Who hasn't heard it said that while only Shakespeare could have written Hamlet, somebody else would have come up with evolution by natural selection if Charles Darwin hadn't? (Famously, Darwin thought somebody else had.)

However humbling for individual scientists, this mindset pays great tribute to science itself, by granting it an authority which nothing else in our culture enjoys. If scientists are bound to arrive at roughly the same conclusions whatever the accidents of history, then science must reveal how nature truly is.

Not everyone has been prepared to accept this cosy conclusion, however. In the 1970s and 1980s, some sociologists and historians of science developed an aversion to it, with results that were often subversive. In his well- known 1984 book Constructing Quarks, for example, Andrew Pickering, now at the University of Illinois, suggested that physicists only came to believe that quarks were real thanks to an entirely arbitrary preference for particular types of particle accelerators, detectors and other hardware. Had they chosen differently, physics might be flourishing just as happily - but without quarks.

Such extreme claims unsurprisingly horrify many scientists and, in the 1990s, they precipitated what are now known as the "science wars". These were regrettable on a number of counts, but they had the salutary effect of rousing scientists and science-watchers alike from their dogmatic slumbers concerning counterfactual history. There is now an acceptance that the question of inevitability in science is not an idle one. On the contrary, it goes to the very heart of our basic understanding of what science is, how it has developed, and how much respect it deserves. And with this acceptance has come a willingness to ask what might have been.

That is not to say that science historians are now all beavering away on "what if" questions. At least one of the old prejudices against counterfactual history remains stubbornly in place. This is the idea that we can never really know what might have happened, so it's pointless to enquire. Despite recent rebrandings as "virtual history" or "rerunning the tape", counterfactual history still looks to its critics like so much worthless speculation.

It's undeniably true that we can usually speak much more confidently about what actually happened than what might have. Suppose I state, for example, that on 26 June 2000, the rough draft of the human genome was announced in Washington DC. If challenged, I could produce stacks of newspaper reports, TV clips, official documents and so on, all corroborating this statement. No counterfactual argument can ever be backed so conclusively, so why bother?

But there is, I believe, a very good reason to bother. Showing conclusively that something happened isn't the be-all and end-all of history. Historians must also try to explain the past. And, whether they like it or not, doing so involves asking and answering "what if" questions. It is widely accepted that the rough draft of the human genome was completed when it was because Craig Venter's private project put pressure on the public one. But this claim has a flip side: were it not for Venter, the sequence would have taken longer. And whatever plausible evidence you can produce in favour of the factual claim doubles up as evidence for its counterfactual counterpart.

There's no opting out, then, from counterfactual history. The choice is between engaging it furtively or openly. So, let us now ask, what if Newton had abandoned science? What if Darwin had not sailed on the Beagle? And, of course, what if the Nazis had won the war?

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What if... the Nazis had won
Steve Fuller news service
20 August 2005

IN EARLY 1941, the Nazis invaded Russia, a disastrous decision that ultimately cost them the second world war. But it wasn't the only course they could have taken. As John Keegan points out in his 1999 essay "How Hitler could have won the war", the Nazis could easily have chosen to conquer the Middle East's oilfields instead. Even if this had not been entirely successful, Hitler would have probably ended up controlling enough of Europe's energy supplies to force a stalemate, ending the war two or three years early. This outcome would have prevented most - if not all - of the Holocaust, which may have been inspired by the cosmic approval that Hitler read into his early Russian victories. The consequences for science would also have been profound.

Had the Nazis won (or at least not lost), the scientific agenda of the next half-century would have been dominated not by subatomic physics and nuclear energy, but by ecology. Ideas such as biodiversity, the precautionary principle and animal rights would be the dominant concepts of a political form of social Darwinism, built on the tenets of racial hygiene.

At first sight this seems an unpalatable conclusion. It is hard to believe that the success of Nazism could have given rise to a world with any redeeming features. But even in the real world, the Nazi defeat did not stop much of their science from being assimilated by the victor nations. Had we been heir to a Nazi victory, Nazi science would now appear in an even more positive light.

Suppose, then, a 1943 peace treaty allowed Hitler to retain his European and Asian conquests. Nazi economists, aware of Germany's lack of natural resources, would have demanded a re-agrarianisation of conquered nations to prevent them from becoming competitors. Command over at least some of the Middle East's oil would have allowed the Nazis to limit the pace of competition among the remaining free nations. The Nazi empire would thus have become a global superpower.

What would that have meant for science and technology? The ideology of racial hygiene - which pre-dated Hitler's rise and declined only with his fall - took Earth's point of view, nowadays popularised as Gaia, with deadly seriousness. Racial hygienists held, for example, that global misery resulted from misguided human attempts to reverse the effects of natural selection. Thus, one important result would have been the end of mass immunisation, which the Nazis considered emblematic of "counter-selection". For racial hygienists, vaccines did not restore the body to a natural state, but artificially enhanced the body. Vaccine research had also historically been driven by the mixing of peoples caused by imperial expansion, which led racial hygienists to conclude that only states with stable and "pure" populations could survive naturally. The implications for medical research and policy would be clear. The Nazis would have omitted vaccines from what we now call preventive medicine, a field in which they were otherwise pioneers.

This interest in preventive medicine, however, meant that research into the health effects of radiation, asbestos, heavy metals, alcohol and tobacco would have advanced more rapidly. The Nazis would have also mandated the production of organic foods, outlawed vivisection and encouraged vegetarianism and natural healing. What is more, the eco-friendly Nazis' sensitivity to the scarcity of the world's oil supply would have sparked an early scientific interest in curtailing carbon emissions and shifting to alternative energy. In short, the late 1940s would have seen scientifically informed policies that only began to be pursued for real in the late 1960s.

There would also have been compulsory sterilisation and permissible euthanasia, done in the name of reversing the "damage" caused to the human ecosystem by those 19th-century enemies of biodiversity, the bacteriologists Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, who failed to grasp that, say, tuberculosis was nature's way of culling an unsustainable human population. Over time, as a balance to nature was deemed to have been restored, sterilisation and euthanasia might no longer have been required.

All of these developments presuppose a state-enforced "corporate environmentalism" that would have reached an early accommodation between big business and the environment. In the process, however, the value of human life would have become negotiable. Those who raised objections to the natural selection of Homo sapiens would be consigned to the political and scientific margins. The centre ground would be occupied by debates over whether the culling of humans should be an active or passive process.

The Nazis would also have pioneered the first manned space missions. They would have realised that sending surplus people into space might enable them both to test the limits of their most advanced physical sciences - astrophysics and aeronautics - and to expand the Reich's carrying capacity to other planets or orbiting space stations. The latter would have come to be seen as a humane yet informed alternative to culling.

Finally, what of nuclear physics? An early end to the war would have halted the race to build the atomic bomb, which the Nazis had undertaken grudgingly in response to the Manhattan Project. And with much of the ecosystem under direct political control, there would be little need to research nuclear energy. The very idea of smashing atoms to release untold energy, as outlined in Albert Einstein's letter of 2 August 1939 encouraging President Roosevelt along these lines, would have been used to stoke the flames of anti-semitism. Jews would have been demonised for having recommended a bomb that upon explosion would have brought about a different but equally lethal final solution.

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The Mirror
29 August 2005

ALMOST 80 per cent of us believe in aliens - and we think Nelson Mandela would best represent Earth in a close encounter.

One in 15 people think they have seen a UFO, with most sightings coming from the North West, according to the Science Museum in London. It will host a new exhibition, the Science of Aliens, from October.

ET was found to be women's all-time favourite sci-fi movie whereas most men preferred Star Wars.

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