- Signs of the Times Archive for Fri, 28 Dec 2007 -

Sections on today's Signs Page:

SOTT Focus
Benazir Bhutto - A Warning To Us All

Joe Quinn
2007-12-27 09:34:00

Benazir Bhutto - Murdered by the Pathocrats

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was murdered Thursday December 27th, 2007 in Rawalpindi, a city near Pakistan's capital Islamabad. Having survived an attempted assassination in October, today under the cover of a "suicide bombing" Ms. Bhutto was shot in the neck and head from close range.

Coincidentally (or not) almost 29 years ago her father, Zulfikar Bhutto, also a former PM of Pakistan, was hung in the very same city by then Pakistan dictator General Zia Ul-Haq. In 2003, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested in Rawalpindi. The evidence for Khalid's involvement came largely from the now destroyed CIA torture tapes. Small world. It should come as no surprise therefore that, while separated by decades, the untimely deaths of Ms. Bhutto and her father are, in the context of the American-led war on terror, inextricably linked. Suffice to say, the fingerprints of the Pathocrats are everywhere.

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Best of the Web
Creeping Fascism: Lessons From the Past

Ray McGovern
Common Dreams
2007-12-27 06:07:00

"There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theater...Perhaps the only comparably odd thing is the way that now, years later...."

These are the words of Sebastian Haffner (pen name for Raimund Pretzel), who as a young lawyer in Berlin during the 1930s experienced the Nazi takeover and wrote a first-hand account. His children found the manuscript when he died in 1999 and published it the following year as "Geschichte eines Deutschen" (The Story of a German). The book became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages-in English as "Defying Hitler."

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The Ron Paul Technicolor Dream Machine

Les Visible
Smoking Mirrors
2007-12-28 03:42:00

I'm assuming that everyone who comes here already knows what I'm talking about and has visited the same news sites that I do. I'm not a foreign correspondent. I wouldn't be allowed to do that. I'm not about giving you links that I am sure you have seen. I trust that you will know what I'm talking about on various issues. This is to say, you are not alone. Many of us share the same hopes with the same passion for the future. We seek change and we seek freedom from those who oppress us... some more than others in all cases.

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U.S. News
Driver was texting when his SUV hit teen

Anna Badkhen
Boston Globe
2007-12-28 15:44:00

The man accused of killing a 13-year-old boy in a hit-and-run in Taunton told police he was behind the wheel typing a text message on his cellphone when he lost control of the sport utility vehicle and hit what he thought was a mailbox, a prosecutor said today in court.

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San Francisco Tiger May Have Been Taunted

May Wong
2007-12-28 09:39:00

Police are reportedly investigating whether one or more of the young men mauled by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo may have taunted the animal before its deadly rampage, a possibility the father of one of the victims said Thursday he hoped wasn't true.

"I don't think my son would do something like taunt animals," Carlos Sousa told ABC's "Good Morning America." "It's unbelievable, but only the evidence can prove that. And right now I can't say much."

His son, Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, was one of three men attacked by a Siberian tiger around closing time on Christmas. Police shot the 300-pound animal to death after it killed Sousa and severely mauled two brothers who also were visiting the zoo.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, police found a shoe and blood in an area between the gate and the edge of the animal's 25- to 30-foot-wide moat, prompting the possibility that one of the victims dangled a leg or other body part over the edge of the moat.

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Most Literate U.S. Cities: Minneapolis and Seattle

Jeanna Bryner
2007-12-28 09:33:00

Residents of Minneapolis and Seattle are the most bookish and well-read, according to results from a new survey released today of the most literate American cities.

The survey focused on 69 U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or above. Jack Miller of Central Connecticut State University chose six key indicators to rank literacy. These included newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources.

Overall, the top 10 most literate (and wired) cities included:

1 - Minneapolis, Minn.
2 - Seattle, Wash.
3 - St. Paul, Minn.
4 - Denver, Colo.
5 - Washington, D.C.
6 - St. Louis, Mo.
7 - San Francisco, Calif.
8 - Atlanta, Ga.
9 - Pittsburgh, Pa.
10 - Boston, Mass.

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The Best Moments in Mike Huckabee's Extremism

Avenging Angel
Daily Kos
2007-12-28 06:33:00

Mike Huckabee's conservative and religious views are both radical and frightening.

As former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee catapults to the top of the 2008 Republican presidential race, amazed media on-lookers ponder his meteoric rise. The authentic, charismatic former minister, they say, is swaying disheartened conservative voters, especially the legions of evangelicals in Iowa and other states, disillusioned with President Bush and unimpressed with his potential successors. But despite emerging stories from his checkered past such as the Wayne Dumond affair or his past AIDS bigotry, a true portrait of Mike Huckabee as a radical reactionary and dangerous extremist has yet to be painted.

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Behind the Edwards Surge: Right Message at the Right Time

John Nichols
The Nation
2007-12-28 06:08:00

The anti-corporate message of the Edwards campaign has hit a nerve.

Much was made of Illinois Senator Barack Obama's superb speech to a huge crowd of Iowa Democrats at the mid-November Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines. Without a doubt, it helped to propel Obama ahead of New York Senator Hillary Clinton in polls conducted in the weeks after the event.

But Obama's speech in November may not turn out to be the definitional statement of the fight for Iowa.

What could turn out to be the most critical comment of the campaign came from John Edwards in the last debate between the Democratic contenders -- and the former senator from North Carolina may well claim the caucus-night victory that is the reward for delivering the right message at the right time.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Democratic Congress

Brian Beutler
Media Consortium
2007-12-28 05:54:00

A look at a year of trying to gavel the Bush administration into order.

As the year draws to a close, it will be tempting for pundits -- liberal and otherwise -- to despair at the Democrats' inability to wield their new congressional leadership to affect real and swift change in the country. After all, the war in Iraq not only continues, but 2007 was its deadliest year. FISA presents a greater danger to American civil liberties today than it did when the Democrats took their gavels in January. And the radiant vision of Karl Rove being escorted down Pennsylvania Avenue to jail never came to pass.

But there have been successes, too. Many have emerged as part of an aggressive oversight effort, which has dragged a number of scandals out of the shadows and into the cleansing daylight. Democrats in both the House and Senate have led the way in rooting out corrupt leadership at the Department of Justice, in revealing just how shadowy the president's domestic spying program was (and how unpopular it was among members of the federal law enforcement community), and in alerting the country to the damaging and deadly role private military contractors play in war zones.

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The Imperial Presidency: The '08 Candidates Weigh In

Arianna Huffington
2007-12-28 05:46:00

How do '08 hopefuls view Bush's abuse of executive power?

Looking back over the last year, it's one of the most important issues America faced. Looking ahead, it could turn out to be the "sleeper issue" of the 2008 presidential race.

I'm talking about executive power, the way it is used -- and has been abused over the last 7 years.

In a very revealing piece in the Boston Globe, Charlie Savage lays out the results of a questionnaire the Globe sent to the presidential candidates on the limits of executive power, asking their views on the Bush administration's expansive view of presidential authority.

It's hard to overstate how vital this issue is, or how far off the media radar screen it remains. Indeed, it's hard to think of another issue in which the importance-to-the-public /attention-paid-by-the-media ratio is as out of whack.

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Carnation killings details: Daughter and boyfriend did it

Tracy Johnson, Kathy Mulady and Levi Pulkkinen
2007-12-28 04:38:00

Michele Anderson (left, in 1997 Cedarcrest High School yearbook photo) and Joseph McEnroe could be charged as soon as Friday in the deaths of Anderson's family.

Armed with guns and a plan, Michele Anderson and her boyfriend entered her parents' home on Christmas Eve, killed them both and dragged their bodies to a backyard shed, investigators said in court papers filed Thursday.

An hour later, when Anderson's brother, his wife and their two children showed up to celebrate the holiday, she and Joseph McEnroe feared the relatives would be witnesses and shot all four to death, too, investigators said.

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Women Are the New Coyotes

Claudia Nunez
2007-12-28 01:19:00

Women are active participants, and often the masterminds, behind the world's third most lucrative illegal activity: people smuggling.

(Editor's Note: This piece was part of a four-part investigative series for the Spanish-language newspaper La OpiniĆ³n.)

"Gaviota" (not her real name) has six phones that don't stop ringing. Her booming business produces net profits of more than $50,000 a month. She has dozens of customers lining up for her in a datebook stretching three months ahead.

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Buy Some Stuff, Enslave Somebody

Josh Rosenblatt
The Texas Observer
2007-12-14 00:41:00

Years from now, when the story of our corporate age is told with the clarity of hindsight, I'm guessing one of the phrases scholars will keep coming back to is "plausible deniability." The tale will capture our era's wide disparities in wealth, and its almost universal indifference to the rampant mistreatment of workers from countries less fortunate than our own.

After all, when we buy a product - a piece of fruit, a new suit, an iPod - how many of us really comprehend what was required to bring that product to our tables, our backs, or our pockets? The expanding global economy demands that corporations seek out the cheapest possible labor to maximize profit, and stimulate growth and innovation. With free trade has come an explosion of global inequality that has left more than 2.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day. We in the wealthy West, living and dining off the fruits of their labor, can honestly say we are unaware of the devil's bargain we bought into. Or that if we do know, the problem is simply too great to comprehend and beyond our means to do anything about, save changing our lifestyles entirely. Best, in other words, not to think about it.

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Ridiculous Propaganda: Bush, Sen. Clinton top 'most admired' list

Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence
USA Today
2007-12-27 18:45:00

President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton again top Gallup's annual list of "most admired" men and women, the pollsters just announced.

As Gallup Poll editor in chief (and Gallup Guru blogger) Frank Newport says in the video we've attached below, U.S. presidents typically come in first in this yearly rite (done this year as part of the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll).

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UK & Euro-Asian News
France introduces nationwide smoking ban January 1

RIA Novosti
2007-12-28 15:05:00

France will introduce a nationwide ban on smoking in most public places from January 1, 2008, the French health minister said Friday.

Eleven months after smoking became illegal in offices, schools, hospitals, airports and train stations, Europe's heaviest smokers, the French will now be banned from smoking in cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, clubs and casinos.

"The ban has been ready for a year and everyone knows that it is coming into effect. No one can say they were taken by surprise," said Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot.

However, the minister said the ban will be enforced gradually and police will be in no hurry to impose fines for those caught smoking on the first few days after New Year.

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US Congressmen call for the removal of Turkish troops from Cyprus

Famagusta Gazette
2007-12-28 05:05:00

US Congressmen Albio Sires and Gus Bilirakis have introduced a resolution that calls for the removal of Turkish occupying troops from Cyprus.

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Dangerous places to drive in Europe

2007-12-28 04:33:00

It may be worth taking extra care next time you cross a road or get behind the wheel in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Despite the decreasing number of road deaths across the Continent, these countries' burgeoning economies have placed more cars on area roads--putting residents at increased risk of traffic-related deaths.

In Estonia, there are 151.7 road fatalities per million inhabitants.

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The Abraham Lincoln Brigade - A Profile in Courage, Honor and Hope

Stephen Lendman
SJ Lendman Blog
2007-12-26 01:43:00

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade was an American contingent of about 2800 volunteers who fought on the side of the Second Spanish Republic during the country's 1936 - 1939 Civil War against the fascist Nationalist rebellion under General Francisco Franco. From 1937 through 1938, it aimed to stop international fascism under Hitler and Mussolini that led to WW II. This essay explains who the "Lincolns" were, why they're important, and what their relevance is to America today under George Bush. First a look at the Spanish Civil War and why these Americans fought in it.

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Around the World
Flashback: Pakistan blames West for terrorism

Duncan Campbell
The Guardian
2006-08-20 15:03:00

The banners that flutter at the roadside leading from Islamabad to Rawalpindi show the face of General Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled the country under martial law for more than a decade and died when his plane exploded in mysterious circumstances on 17 August 1988, killing him, along with five generals and the American ambassador. The flags refer to his 'martyrdom', although their presence may have more to do with the fact that his son is now a government minister than any nostalgia ordinary Pakistanis may have for his ruthless regime.

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Government explanation a "pack of lies": Top Bhutto Aide

Isambard Wilkinson
The Telegraph
2007-12-28 14:54:00

The burial of Benzair Bhutto was today marred by heavy violence across Pakistan as a bitter row broke out over how she died.

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Who really killed Benazir Bhutto?

Ismail Salami
Press TV
2007-12-28 14:22:00

The assassination of the charismatic Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi earlier Thursday is to be considered an affront to and a violation of people's rights in that country.

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Native 'residential school' activist found dead

2007-12-27 14:18:00

The woman behind the landmark lawsuit for residential school survivors died Thursday in what police are calling a "suspicious death."

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Bhutto: Death by Sunroof?

Rana Jawad
Agence France-Presse
2007-12-28 13:36:00

Pakistan's interior ministry said Friday that Benazir Bhutto was killed after smashing her head on her car's sunroof while trying to duck, and that no bullet or shrapnel was found inside her.

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Bhutto: It was not a bullet, president told at high-level meeting

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
The News International
2007-12-28 12:59:00

Islamabad: Benazir Bhutto was not hit by a bullet but by a shrapnel of the suicide bomb which was triggered exactly when the bomber saw her emerging from her vehicle's sun roof to wave to the crowds, a top-level meeting presided over by President Pervez Musharraf was informed on Thursday night.

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Pakistani Police Ordered to Shoot On Sight

Isambard Wilkinson
The Telegraph
2007-12-28 09:40:00

Pakistani security forces were given orders to shoot on sight today to curb unrest as millions across the country mourned Benazir Bhutto.

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Chavez Warns of Assassination Plot

Associated Press
2007-12-28 09:38:00

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned on Wednesday that a plot to assassinate him was being hatched in Guatemala, saying he might not attend the inauguration of the country's new president next month because of the alleged scheme.

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Murder Inc.

Arnaud de Borchgrave
United Press International
2007-12-28 09:31:00

(Editor's note: The following piece was published Oct. 25, soon after Benazir Bhutto returned home to Pakistan and escaped an assassination attempt against her. Prior to traveling to Pakistan, she told UPI Editor at Large Arnaud de Borchgrave in an e-mail message that she had received intelligence that three men -- Baitul Masood, an Afghan, Hamza Bin Laden, an Arab, and a Red Mosque militant -- had been sent to kill her. In the message, she also said she had told Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf of the threat.

Bhutto was killed Thursday by an assassin at a political rally she was addressing in the city of Rawalpindi.)

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Sheik 'faked' to stir up ill-feeling

Richard Kerbaj
The Austrialian
2007-12-28 09:15:00

MUSLIMS believe a mysterious cleric who insulted the family of an Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan could be a fake deliberately stirring up anti-Islamic sentiment.

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Kenya: Election Official Dies

The East African Standard
2007-12-28 09:12:00

An Electoral Commission of Kenya official died instantly and four of his clerks are admitted at Mandera District Hospital in critical condition after the vehicle they were travelling in was involved in road accident at Wargadud, 70km from Rhamu town.

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Kenya: Mysterious Police Trips Fuel Poll Rigging Claims

The East African Standard
2007-12-28 09:06:00

With the elections only hours away, at least 20 civilian buses drove out of a high security facility in Nairobi on Monday night as The Standard and KTN undercover reporters and crew watched.

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Benazir Bhutto: An Age of Hope is Over

Barbara Crossette
The Nation
2007-12-28 05:36:00

Our preoccupation with Muslim terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan often blocks out the bigger picture: South Asia is a region drenched in blood.

Nineteen years ago at the end of December, Benazir Bhutto, fresh from her first, exhilarating election victory and newly sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, met Rajiv Gandhi, the youthful prime minister of India, for talks in Islamabad. She was 35, he was 44. There was obvious good will, almost intimacy, between them. The air was full of promise and hope that these two modernizing scions of dominant political families would turn decades of war and hostility between their nations into a new era of peace.

Three and a half years later, Gandhi was assassinated. There had been no breakthrough with Pakistan to bolster his legacy. Now Bhutto is dead, at another moment of renewed anticipation. An age of hope is over.

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Hypocrisy from world leaders after Bhutto's assassination

Matthew Tostevin
2007-12-28 04:10:00

London - World leaders voiced outrage at the assassination on Thursday of Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and expressed fears for the fate of the nuclear-armed state.

©REUTERS/Nadeem Soomro
Supporters of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto protest against her assassination after setting a bank on fire in her home town of Larkana, December 27, 2007.

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Argentina hopes nurse abducted in Somalia is freed Friday

Agence France-Presse
2007-12-28 01:48:00

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina's government expressed hope Thursday that an Argentine nurse who was kidnapped in Somalia this week will be released as early as Friday.

"There is an atmosphere of positive hope," Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana told reporters. "We think that tomorrow (Friday) morning there could be a positive solution for this matter, which worries us and which we are following very closely."

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Big Brother
FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics

Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post
2007-12-28 16:34:00

The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.

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Axis of Evil
Britain Drops 'War on Terror' Label - but not propaganda

Daily Mail
2007-12-28 15:34:00

The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country's chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.

Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless "death cult."

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Flashback: Will America Assassinate General Musharraf?

Abid Ullah Jan
Al Jazeera
2006-07-20 15:15:00

General Musharraf wants to remain president-in-uniform till 2012. America wants to keep Pakistan occupied by its armed forces for as long as possible. It seems that with these complimentary objectives, Musharraf and Washington are getting along well. The reality, however, is totally different.

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Flashback: Israelis Killed Gen. Zia, Claims Ex-US Amabassador

Huma Aamir Malik
Arab News
2005-12-04 14:46:00

The Israeli secret agency Mossad most probably killed Gen. Zia ul- Haq, suspects John Gunther Dean, who was the American ambassador to India in 1988, according to an article in the latest issue of World Policy Journal by Barbara Crossette, who was the South Asia Bureau Chief of the New York Times from 1988 to 1991.

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U.S. Engineered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan to Create a Facade of Democracy

Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post
2007-12-28 10:03:00

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism.

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Bhutto photographer: 'Gunshots rang out and she went down'

2007-12-28 09:33:00

The photographer who took images of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto moments before her assassination Thursday told CNN he was "surprised" to see her rise through the sunroof of her vehicle to wave to supporters after delivering her speech.

Moore took images of Benazir Bhutto moments before her assassination.

"I ran up, got as close as I got, made a few pictures of her waving to the crowd," Getty Images senior staff photographer John Moore told CNN's online streaming news service, CNN.com Live, in a phone interview Thursday from Islamabad, Pakistan.

"And then suddenly, there were a few gunshots that rang out, and she went down, she went down through the sunroof," he said. "And just at that moment I raised my camera up and the blast happened. ... And then, of course, there was chaos."

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Bhutto: Omar Sheik assassinated Osama bin Laden

2007-12-28 09:27:00

Approximately 6 minutes into this Al Jazeera interview, Benazir Bhutto offhandedly mentions that Osama bin Laden was assassinated by Omar Sheik.

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More Than Historical Stupidity in Paul's Slavery Crack

Earl Ofari Hutchinson
New America Media
2007-12-28 07:42:00

Ron Paul tossed out yet another juicy zinger this time on "Meet the Press" when he said that Lincoln was a bad guy for fighting the civil war.

No shot GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul tossed out yet another juicy zinger this time on "Meet the Press" when he said that Lincoln was a bad guy for fighting the civil war. Paul's solution: simply shell out some cash, buy the slaves, and set them free. One would like to believe that Paul is just jerking off the press and the public with his shoot from the lip, loose brained, solutions on everything from taxes to ending the Iraq war. And that his dig at Lincoln for fighting the Civil War is the latest in the train of dumb wit Paulisms.

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2007: Top Ten Tales of War and Empire

2007-12-28 06:13:00

Which ones did you miss?
2007 was an incredibly frustrating year for opponents of the seemingly endless "War on Terror," and all that it is used to justify.

Democratic control of Congress had little impact on U.S. foreign policy and progressive lawmakers made little progress towards ending the disastrous occupation of Iraq. The legal black hole in Guantanamo Bay remains the most visible symbol of America's global clandestine detention system, and, incredibly, the same hawks who sold the invasion and occupation of Iraq are still given credible hearings in the media -- this time around they're trying to pitch an attack on Iran that would potentially make the debacle in Iraq look like the cakewalk that the neocons originally promised.

At AlterNet, we did our best to bring some critical discourse to the debaate surrounding the so-called "Long War." Here are your most popular stories on the subject from 2007...

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What 'Peace' means to Israel: As talks resume, Israeli forces kill negotiator's bodyguard

International Herald Tribune/Associated Press
2007-12-28 04:25:00

Jerusalem: In a nighttime raid in the West Bank, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian who served as a bodyguard for a Palestinian negotiator, the military and Palestinian officials said Friday.

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Middle East Madness
Fallujah, the Information War, and U.S. Propaganda

Stephen Soldz
Information Clearing House
2007-12-28 09:44:00

The U.S. Army's Intelligence Analysis of the April 2004 Fallujah Attack

Comment: An interesting insight into the sick deluded mind of US Military Intelligence.

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Group: "Bin Laden" to release Iraq message amid flagging support for Bush's war

Associated Press
2007-12-28 09:18:00

Terror leader Osama bin Laden will release a new Internet message that focuses on Iraq and an al-Qaida linked insurgent group, a terrorism monitoring group said Thursday.

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Unholy dust-up at Nativity church

2007-12-27 22:17:00

Members of rival Christian orders have traded blows at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, with four people reported wounded in the fray.

Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic priests were sweeping up at the church following the Christmas rites of the Western churches earlier in the week.

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The Loan Gunmen
What if it's not just subprime?

Floyd Norris
The New York Times
2007-12-28 15:14:00

What if it's not just subprime?

As 2007 ends, it seems that the financial world shakes every time a company reveals some new exposure to the disastrous world of subprime mortgage lending.

But just how different was subprime lending from other lending in the days of easy money that prevailed until this summer? The smug confidence that nothing could go wrong, and that credit quality did not matter, could be seen in the many other markets as well.

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Dollar's Share of Currency Reserves Falls, IMF Says

Christopher Swann and Kevin Carmichael
2007-12-28 15:07:00

The dollar's share of global foreign-exchange reserves fell to a record low in the third quarter as demand for U.S. assets waned after the subprime- mortgage market collapsed.

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US November New Home Sales Plunge 9 Pct to 12-Year Low

Dennis Moore
Thomson Financial News
2007-12-28 13:16:00

Sales of new homes in the US fell dramatically in November as the lack of mortgage availability and rising consumer pessimism led to the worst rate in more than twelve years.

The Commerce Department today reported that last month's new home sales were down 9 pct to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 647,000 units, the lowest sales rate since 621,000 in April 1995.

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'Gospel of Wealth' Facing Scrutiny

Eric Gorski
Associated Press
2007-12-27 21:26:00

The message flickered into Cindy Fleenor's living room each night: Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.

And so the 53-year-old accountant from the Tampa, Fla., area pledged $500 a year to Joyce Meyer, the evangelist whose frank talk about recovering from childhood sexual abuse was so inspirational. She wrote checks to flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinn and a local preacher-made-good, Paula White.

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The Living Planet
2007 set to be warmest year on record for Russia

RIA Novosti
2007-12-27 19:07:00

2007 is set to be the warmest year in one and a half centuries for Russia, the head of the Hydrometeorological Centre of Russia said on Thursday.

"We are 99% sure that this will be the warmest year in the 150-year period in which accurate weather records have been kept," Roman Vilfand told a press-conference.

Vilfand said that on a wider scale, the year was set to become one of the top five warmest years our planet has seen since global temperatures have been recorded. He said it meant "that a warming of the climate is undoubtedly going on."

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Health & Wellness
Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Subliminal messages can influence us in surprising ways

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
2007-12-28 16:18:00

Flag waving is a metaphor for stirring up the public towards adopting a more nationalistic, generally hard-line stance. Indeed, "rally 'round the flag" is a venerable expression of this phenomenon.

It comes as some surprise, then, that studies conducted by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have shown that exposing people to a subliminal image of the national flag had just the opposite fact -- moderating their political attitudes.

Further, the researchers say that their studies indicate that, in general, subliminal messages -- that is, messages that are processed by our brains but never reach our consciousness - do indeed influence explicit attitudes and real-life political behavior, a significant extension to what we know about the effects of non-conscious processes.

The studies, led by cognitive scientist Dr. Ran Hassin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Psychology Department, show that the subliminal presentation of a national symbol affects not only political attitudes, but also voting intentions and actual voting in general elections.

In an article in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Hassin reported on a set of experiments that examined the effects of the subliminal presentation of the national flag. The experiments involved over 300 participants who were recruited on the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University.

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Public Policy Fails to Address the Effects of Media Violence on Children

Blackwell Publishing
2007-12-28 15:51:00

Highly publicized events such as school shootings arouse public interest in the effects of media violence exposure on children, yet there is still considerable public debate about whether to take this issue seriously. A recent article in Social Issues and Policy Review summarizes the research on the effects of media violence and convincingly demonstrates the profound influence that media violence is having in our society.

The many studies that have been compiled on the effects of viewing media violence show that there are at least 14 scientifically documented effects on children's physiological and psychological well-being, both in the short and long term. Although many different types of studies have been conducted, they converge on the same conclusion: Violent media exposure increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Video games are of special concern because their effects may be particularly pronounced.

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Terriers Join Fight Against a Killer Disease in Humans

E.J. Mundell
2007-12-28 10:13:00

A feisty breed of terrier could stop scientists from barking up the wrong tree as they research a deadly lung disease in humans.

The illness, called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), affects 128,000 Americans, is typically fatal within three years of diagnosis, and kills more than 40,000 people in the United States annually -- a death toll equivalent to that of breast cancer.

A fatal condition that looks remarkably like IPF also strikes the diminutive West Highland White terrier ("Westie"), however. And recently, medical scientists from the human and veterinarian worlds met for the first time to share information and pool resources against a mysterious killer.

"People may be a little startled at first to learn about this idea -- 'You're kidding me, you actually think there's promise in studying this dog to help my Dad with this disease?' And the answer is -- 'Yes'," said Mark Shreve, chief operating officer of the patient advocacy group Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis, based in San Jose, Calif.

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After 10 years, bird flu still baffles scientists

MSNBC/Associated Press
2007-12-28 05:12:00

Hanoi, Vietnam - Baffled scientists first watched a mysterious virus called H5N1 jump from birds to humans a decade ago in Hong Kong, killing six people and forcing the territory to slaughter its entire poultry population. It quieted for a while, but resurfaced in 2003 with even more questions.


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New Jersey Requires H.I.V. Test in Pregnancy

Jeremy W. Peters
The New York Times
2007-12-28 04:06:00

Trenton - An H.I.V. test is about to become as routine as an ultrasound for pregnant women in New Jersey.

Under a bill signed into law on Wednesday, all pregnant women in the state will be tested for the virus as part of their prenatal care unless they object. The law also requires testing for newborns if the H.I.V. status of the mother is unknown.

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Supreme Court To Decide Fate Of Girl In Coma

Medical News Today
2007-12-28 03:55:00

The father of Javona Peters, a 16-year old girl who went into coma after an operation to relieve pressure on her brain, has gone to Bronx Supreme Court for a decision on whether to take her off life support - the case is set for January 7th.

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Science & Technology
Remains of ancient civilization discovered on the bottom of a lake

Nikolai Lukashov
RIA Novosti
2007-12-28 13:20:00

An international archeological expedition to Lake Issyk Kul, high in the Kyrgyz mountains, proves the existence of an advanced civilization 25 centuries ago, equal in development to the Hellenic civilizations of the northern coast of the Pontus Euxinus (Black Sea) and the Mediterranean coast of Egypt.

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Ancient pyramid found in central Mexico City

Miguel Angel Gutierrez
2007-12-28 10:24:00

Archeologists have discovered the ruins of an 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought.

Mexican archeologists found the ruins, which are about 36 feet high, in the central Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political centre for the Aztec elite.
©Henry Romero/Reuters
A general view shows the 'Plaza de las Tres Culturas', or the plaza of the three cultures, in the central Tlatelolco area of Mexico City December 27, 2007. Archeologists have discovered the ruins of the 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought. The pyramid, found last month as part of an investigation begun in August, could have been built in 1100 or 1200, signaling the Aztecs began to develop their civilization in the mountains of central Mexico earlier than believed.

The pyramid, found last month as part of an investigation begun in August, could have been built in 1100 or 1200, signaling the Aztecs began to develop their civilization in the mountains of central Mexico earlier than believed.

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International Robotic Rivalry in Space

Leonard David
2007-12-28 10:05:00

It has to be some sort of record. At no time over the five decades of sending robot craft into the heavens have so many spacecraft been on duty at such a variety of far-flung destinations or en route to their targets.

Ballistic buckshot of science gear is now strewn throughout the solar system - and in some cases, like Voyager hardware - have exited our cosmic neighborhood to become an interstellar mission.

But the march of time has also meant that more nations have honed the skills and know-how to explore the solar system. For example, Europe has dispatched probes to the Moon, Mars and Venus - and their Rosetta spacecraft is on a 10-year journey to investigate a comet in 2014.

Meanwhile, Japan's Kaguya and China's Chang'e 1 lunar orbiters have each just settled into an aggressive campaign of surveying the Moon. India is set to orbit the Moon with its Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, and the German space agency is also prepping for a future robotic lunar mission as is the United Kingdom.

All this action at the Moon - including the rekindling of Russian and U.S. lunar missions - bodes well for bolder ventures ever-deeper into the solar system by multiple nations.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is operating its Kaguya Moon orbiter. The probe has made the world's first continuous reflectance spectra of the far side of the Moon in the visible and near infrared region - enabling a precise determination of the type and breakdown of minerals on the lunar surface.

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Invention Turns Toxic Waste into Electricity

Charles Q. Choi
2007-12-28 10:02:00

New technology could clean toxic messes from mines and create electricity at the same time.

Contaminated water seeping from coal and metal mines is a serious environmental hazard that endangers the safety of drinking water supplies and the health of plants and animals. This caustic pollution - loaded with metals such as arsenic, lead, copper, iron and cadmium - is currently difficult and costly to treat.

Environmental engineers at Pennsylvania State University are now developing a device that could both fight this environmental problem and provide a new source of energy.

The researchers tested a lab-scale version of their invention on fluids tainted with iron, similar to polluted water from mines. The device attacked the dissolved iron, removing electrons from it. This generated electricity while at the same time making the iron insoluble, thus efficiently pulling this contaminant from the water.

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Terri Irwin to Launch Whale Research

2007-12-28 09:48:00

The widow of TV "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin announced Thursday she will launch non-lethal research of whales in Antarctic waters next year in hopes of showing that Japan's scientific whale kill is a sham.

Tokyo has staunchly defended its annual cull of more than 1,000 whales as crucial for research, saying it is necessary to kill the whales to properly gather information about their eating, breeding and migratory habits.

Environmentalists and anti-whaling nations say the slaughter is commercial whaling in disguise, because much of the meat from the whales ends up being sold commercially.

Terri Irwin said that a whale watching program she started to honor her late husband would expand into scientific research in 2008. Steve Irwin, the high-profile wildlife show host and environmental campaigner, was killed by a stingray last year off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

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Is the Hydrogen Age Just Around the Corner?

Jerry Brown and Rinaldo Brutoco and James Cusumano
2007-12-28 06:00:00

Hydrogen fuel cells will never be a practical source of power, right? Wrong. The technology is set to take off sooner than you think.

You may think hydrogen power is some futuristic fantasy, fit only for science-fiction writers. Or, at best, you might consider it a promising technology that won't be ready for prime time for another 40 to 50 years. If so, think again. In a special edition on "Best Inventions 2006," Time magazine praises the decision by Shanghai-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies "to design and market the H-racer, a 6-inch-long toy car that does what Detroit still can't. It runs on hydrogen extracted from plain tap water, using the solar-powered hydrogen station."

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Our Haunted Planet
Poland opens first exorcism center

RIA Novosti
2007-12-19 21:59:00

Poland plans to open its first exorcism center, for those who believe they are possessed by the devil, in the town of Poczernin 30 km (18 miles) from the city of Szczeczin, Polish media said Wednesday.

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Don't Panic! Lighten Up!
U.K. to launch James Bond stamps

RIA Novosti
2007-12-28 14:22:00

The U.K. will launch six extra-long stamps to mark the centenary since the birth of Ian Fleming, known as the creator of the world's best known secret agent, James Bond, Royal Mail said Friday.

The stamps will be issued in January, 2008, and will feature different editions of Fleming's most famous novels, including Casino Royale and Dr No.

The 54 penny stamps will reveal the covers of Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, and the final series of the 78 penny stamps will display For Your Eyes Only and From Russia With Love.

In October, 007, Her Majesty's secret agent, or just plain, "Bond - James Bond," celebrated 45 years as a big screen hero.

Dr No, the first of Ian Fleming's novels about the smooth-talking British spy to be made into a movie, was released in 1962.

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Rare 'Upside-Down' Stamp Sells for $825,000

2007-12-28 09:29:00

A collector from New York has purchased a rare 24-cent stamp depicting an upside-down airplane for $825,000, according to an auction house.

The unidentified buyer of the "Inverted Jenny" stamp was described as a Wall Street executive and longtime coin collector by Heritage Auction Galleries, which announced the sale Wednesday.

The 1918 stamp depicts a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," a World War I training aircraft that became an airmail plane. About 700 of the stamps were misprinted, but inspectors caught all of but 100 before they were sold.

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The Year in Review: World records

Simon Usborne
The Independent
2007-12-28 01:51:00

...and finally:

* Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, of San Jose, California, won this year's World Hot Dog Eating Championship at Coney Island, New York, having consumed 66 in 12 minutes - a world record, but disgusting.

* Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell broke the world 100 metres record in September, running 9.74sec in Rieti, Italy.

* And let's hear it for Paul Collins of Seaton and Sonia Feukes of Poole, men's and women's winners of the 11th World Nettle Eating Championships in June at The Bottle Inn, Bridport, Devon.

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Chinese teenager has 24 fingers and toes

RIA Novosti
2007-12-27 18:58:00

A Chinese teenager was born with six fingers and toes on each hand and foot, China's Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

Hao Hao, 16, who weighs in at a hefty 135 kilograms (297 lbs), says his extra digits do not interfere with his life and he runs and climbs trees like any ordinary teenager.

However, his extra fingers mean he has difficulty holding a pen and has been unable to continue his education.

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