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September 29, 2003

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At LAST! Laura's popular series on the Holy Grail is BACK! Click here to read

A meteor shower lights up the night sky. Five people were injured and two houses gutted when a meteorite crashed to earth in eastern India after panicking hundreds of villagers as it shot across the sky, reports and residents said.

See yesterday's Signs coverage if you missed it.

We have further updates on India and the Tulane, LA meteor strike in today's Signs.

Blackout exposes Italy power crisis

Energy officials have warned of serious deficiencies in Italy's electricity system, following Sunday's massive power cut that left almost the whole country in darkness.

[...] A Swiss power company said the problem began when a tree touched a 380,000 volt transmission line near the town of Brunnen at 0300 (0100GMT).

Atel, a Swiss power supply company, said that two French transmission lines also failed shortly afterwards.

Tree branch partly blamed for blackout in Italy

Last Updated Mon, 29 Sep 2003 2:44:09

A falling tree branch appears to have knocked out a power transmission line in Switzerland, causing a chain reaction that left Italy in the dark, according to preliminary investigations.

[...] Authorities were quick to assure people that the blackout was not an act of sabotage or terrorism, and urged everyone to remain calm.

All of Italy was affected, with the exception of the island of Sardinia. By Sunday afternoon, most of Rome and areas in the north had power back. By Monday morning, more than 95 per cent of power had been restored.

Comment: Darn, not another problem tree! That's what caused the blackout in the US and Canada! Really, we should just start to slash and burn the whole world and get rid of all those trees. Their branches are worse than their bark, and they're making a sap out of modern life. We need to root out the problem so that they'll leave our power alone.

Laura Bush received by Chirac ahead of UNESCO meeting
2003-09-29 18:57:32

PARIS, Sept. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- United States first lady Laura Bushwas received by French President Jacques Chirac on Monday morning before attending a ceremony marking her country's return to UNESCO after 19 years of absence, the French presidential office announced.

[...] In the afternoon, Mrs. Bush is to attend the UNESCO general conference and celebrate her country's return to the UN body with a flag-raising ceremony. She is to address the conference at about1500 (1300 GMT).

The United States under president Ronald Reagan withdrew from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1984 to protest what it criticized as mismanagement and anti-Western bias.

No wonder America has so many enemies

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor
September 28, 2003

President Bill Clinton was impeached by a Republican-controlled Congress for lying about sex. President George W. Bush and aides lied the United States into a stupid, unnecessary colonial war that has so far killed more than 305 Americans and seriously wounded more than 1,400. It has also cost many thousands of Iraqi dead, and $1 billion US weekly.

Lying about sex is an impeachable offence; lying the nation into war apparently is not.

I was no Clinton fan, but give me his iffy morals any day over Bush's Mussolini-like strutting.

[...] Last week, Bush received a glacial and scornful reception at the United Nations that symbolized the world's contempt and disgust for his administration. Not since Nikita Khrushchev pounded his shoe on the speaker's rostrum has a major leader so embarrassed himself and his nation before the world body.


By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Sep 26, 2003

"During extended remarks delivered at the Pulaski County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 11, 2001, General Clark declared: 'And I'm very glad we've got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice... people I know very well - our president George W. Bush. We need them there.'"

Clark praises United States President George W. Bush with these words:

"President George Bush had the courage and the vision... and we will always be grateful to President George Bush for that tremendous leadership and statesmanship."

"Do you ever ask why it is that these people in these other countries can't solve their own problems without the United States sending its troops over there? And do you ever ask why it is the Europeans, the people that make the Mercedes and the BMW's that got so much money can't put some of that money in their own defense programs and they need us to do their defense for them?

"And I'll tell you what I've learned from Europe is that are a lot of people out in the world who really, really love and admire the United States. Don't you ever believe it when you hear foreign leaders making nasty comments about us. That's them playing to their domestic politics as they misread it. Because when you talk to the people out there, they love us. They love our values. They love what we stand for in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

Comment: Only now is it becoming clear that Wesley lives on some other planet, and only drops in here every once in a while to talk BS to the media.

Justice Department looking into possible White House connection to leak of CIA name

Associated Press Writer Sunday, September 28, 2003

WASHINGTON - Authorities are looking into allegations that White House officials revealed the identity of a CIA operative, in possible violation of the law.

The naming of the intelligence officer's identity by syndicated columnist Robert Novak came shortly after her husband had undermined President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa.

Bush national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday she was unaware of any White House involvement in the matter.

"I know nothing of any such White House effort to reveal any of this, and it certainly would not be the way that the president would expect his White House to operate," she told "Fox News Sunday."

Secretary of State Colin Powell also denied knowledge of the matter.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Justice Department has received a letter from CIA Director George Tenet to look into the matter.

The department and the FBI are trying to determine whether there was a violation of the law and, if so, then whether a full-blown criminal investigation is warranted, the official said. [...]

Dad arrested in abuse death of son, 11 months

Karina Bland
The Arizona Republic

Police arrested a 25-year-old father late Thursday on suspicion of first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of his 11-month-old son.

The boy was sodomized last Friday and died after his heart ruptured during the attack. [...]

Man gets life for killing bedwetting 3-year-old

Mom faces charges of tossing baby out window

Judge Orders Statements Of Columbine Gunman's Parents Destroyed

Victims' Families Object To Ruling

DENVER -- A magistrate has ordered the destruction of sealed statements from parents of the Columbine High School gunmen that were given as part of a wrongful death lawsuit that was later settled. [...]

"What these people are doing is corrupt. The public should be asking themselves what possible interest could the court have in destroying documents that tell the truth about the worst school shooting in the nation's history," said Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Danny, died at Columbine. [...]

A Hummerdinger of a Tax Loophole?

By Al Kamen
New York Times

"Allow me to introduce you to a fabulous opportunity," Chris Thorpe , a sales representative for Hummer of Alaska, writes in a promotion letter. "A tax 'loophole' so big you could drive a Hummer H2 through it! Imagine being able to purchase the #1 large luxury SUV in America today . . . and receive a deduction for the entire purchase amount from your taxes this year!"

"How is this possible?" Thorpe asks. "Thanks to the Bush administration's recent economic stimulus package, small businesses and the self-employed are eligible to deduct the entire purchase cost of new equipment up to $100,000 the year of the purchase." But these provisions are supposed to help farmers and small-business owners buy equipment to transport merchandise and haul stuff. No matter. "The Hummer H2 qualifies for this IRS Sec. 179 deduction by its gross vehicle weight of over 6,000 lbs. Cars and medium sized SUV's don't qualify for this deduction," Thorpe writes. "If you are seriously considering acquisition of a new vehicle, step up to the vehicle that can take you where you want to be, financially and otherwise." [...]

Cops: Man Steals ID Of Sex Offender

Alleged Fake ID Scam Backfires

CLINTON, Conn. -- A good rule of thumb for an identity thief is not to steal the name of someone whose reputation is worse than yours -- such as a sex offender.

Police said James Perry stole the name and identity of a neighbor who turned out to be a convicted sex offender. [...]

Quarterback Says Teammates Broke His Jaw After Poor Game

Police Investigating High School Player's Claims

A high school quarterback in Wilkes-Barre said his jaw was broken when several teammates assaulted him because of a poor performance during a junior-varsity game, a claim police and prosecutors were investigating. [...]

Proposed Afghan constitution to be made public this week, officials say

05:47 AM EDT Sep 29

KABUL (AP) - A new constitution to be submitted soon for ratification declares Afghanistan a Muslim state but stops short of imposing Islamic Shariah law, a contentious issue in this conservative nation, an Afghan official told The Associated Press on Sunday.

As they draw up a constitution aimed at unifying the fragmented nation, conservatives and secularists have been hotly debating how to enshrine Islam into law after years under the Taliban, who enforced a harsh version of Shariah that some Afghans recall with horror but others support.

[...] Even though the 35 members of the Constitutional Review Commission have finally agreed to the wording of the text, it is far from certain whether members of the loya jirga will reach a consensus. Many of the council's members are warlords and may feel their authority would be undermined by a strong national constitution.

Karzai's administration has little authority outside of the capital, Kabul, and many initiatives to expand his power have failed because of opposition from the warlords, who have private militias and rule their territory as if they were fiefdoms.

US gives up on Indian troops

Monday 29 September 2003, 10:49 Makka Time, 7:49 GMT

United States no more believes that India would send troops to Iraq in aid of the US-led occupation forces.

Confessing this in an interview with CNN, US Secretary of State, Colin Powell said: "The Indians…have indicated they would not be in a position to provide troops and I don’t expect that position to change."

Powell said he was disappointed, "but, you know, each nation has to make its own judgement."

"We can't order troops in by dictate. We have to persuade them that it is in the interest of international order," he said.

Comment: Powell and Bush are having trouble convincing anyone that "it is in the interest of international order." It is too clear that the only interest is to get the Bush Reich out of the deep hole it has dug for itself. As for the Indians, they are building their bridges with the Israelis, as we have been reporting over the past few weeks, cementing an anti-Islam alliance.

India, US to hold biggest joint naval exercise
2003-09-29 14:02:22

NEW DELHI, Sept. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- India and the United States will hold the biggest-ever joint naval exercises off the Kochi coast in which for the first time an American nuclear submarine is to take part, a Naval Spokesman said Monday.

Indian troops kill separatists

Monday 29 September 2003, 11:40 Makka Time, 8:40 GMT

Indian soldiers say they have shot dead 15 Muslim separatists overnight after they crossed from the Pakistani zone of Kashmir into the Indian side of the disputed territory.

Al-Aqsa Intifada Enters 4 th Year

Nazir Majally
Asharq Al-Awsat

GAZA CITY, 29 September 2003 — Palestinian groups renewed their vows yesterday to continue the intifada uprising against Israel as thousands of people around the Middle East hit the streets to mark its third anniversary.

[...] At least3 , 497people have been killed —2 , 612Palestinians and822 Israelis — since the intifada began at the end of September2000 .

Serious violence erupted on Sept. 29 of that year with bloody clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in annexed East Jerusalem.

But many Palestinians say it was sparked when the then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, now prime minister, paid a provocative visit to the compound the previous day.

Egypt 'resumes gas talks' with Israel

Sunday 28 September 2003, 18:20 Makka Time, 15:20 GMT

In a controversial move, Egypt has reportedly restarted talks with Israel on supplying it with gas after a three-year break in negotiations because of the Intifada.

Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) is ready to supply Israel Electric Company (IEC) through its intermediary, East Mediterranean Gas, according to the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) in its Monday weekly report.

The Egyptians are offering seven billion cubic metres of natural gas a year for 20 years via the underwater pipeline from al-Arish, says MEES, citing a letter from EGPC's chairman Ibrahim Salih to IEC.

MEES says Israeli authorities have set a November deadline for reaching a deal with the Egyptians.

The proposed deal is likely to cause an outcry among Egypt's many native pro-Palestinian supporters, coming as it does amid continuing clashes between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Web tribute to Abd al-Nasir

Monday 29 September 2003, 10:40 Makka Time, 7:40 GMT

Gamal Abd al-Nasir’s daughter has launched a new website containing all the speeches of the late Egyptian president.

Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Huda said her goal was to reach as many young people as possible, enabling them to understand his views on Arab nationalism and social justice.

The website,, contains over 8000 pages of speeches, 1200 radio broadcasts and even television broadcasts from between 1960 and 1970 – a mass of information that took her three years to compile.

The site also contains a bibliography and documents from British archives about her world famous father.

16 Expats Arrested for Practicing Sufism

Staff Writer

AL-JOUF, 29 September 2003 — The Kingdom’s religious police have arrested 16 expatriate workers after raiding a house in Sakaka, the capital of the northern Al-Jouf region, for allegedly practicing sufism, Al-Madinah reported yesterday.

The paper said officials of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice entered the house at about 11 p.m. after receiving a tip-off. The officials seized a large number of videocassettes, magazines and other publications which the expatriates were using to spread sufism.

Final agony of RAF volunteer killed by sarin - in Britain

As the inquest into the death of a 'human guinea pig' at Porton Down opens, a witness breaks 50 years' silence to recount the horrors he saw

Antony Barnett, public affairs editor
Sunday September 28, 2003
The Observer

[...] 'I had never seen anyone die before and what that lad went through was absolutely horrific... it was awful,' he said. 'It was like he was being electrocuted, his whole body was convulsing. I have seen somebody suffer an epileptic fit, but you have never seen anything like what happened to that lad... the skin was vibrating and there was all this terrible stuff coming out of his mouth... it looked like frogspawn or tapioca.' [....]

There was another reason why Thornhill kept quiet. 'I was called into an office and read the riot act by a medical officer. He made me sign something and told me if I ever spoke a word about what I saw at Porton Down I would be sent to prison. I was frightened and didn't want to go to jail, so I didn't tell any of the other lads what I had seen.' [...]

From 1945 more than 3,000 men were sent into the gas chamber; various amounts of liquid nerve gas were dripped by pipette onto their arms. Many believed they were helping to find a cure for the common cold.

Ronald Maddison died 45 minutes after 200mg of the deadly nerve agent sarin was dripped onto a patch of uniform on his arm.The coroner's report was never released but Lord Chief Justice Woolf has now ordered a fresh inquest. [..]

Comment: The bolded text above is talking about Britain - NOT German Nazis, NOT Saddam, but the supposed "good" guys. For more documentation of human experimentation see our COINTELPRO timeline.

Britain demands Iran come clean on nuclear ambitions

Iran must declare "unequivocally" that it harbours no ambitions to develop nuclear arms, Britain's Europe Minister Denis MacShane said Monday.[...]

ran on Sunday signalled its willingness to comply with the demands of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, but vowed to continue its uranium enrichment programme.

"We are trying and we are determined to cooperate" with the IAEA, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told ABC television in the United States.

The IAEA has given Iran until October 31 to answer all its questions concerning allegations that it is seeking to develop atomic weapons.

Comment: Iran is being given the same spiel as Iraq was before the invasion. Yet another country soon to become a radioactive wasteland, along with poisoning the troops sent there.

Iran ready to cooperate with IAEA

Monday 29 September 2003, 5:12 Makka Time, 2:12 GMT

Iran's foreign minister has said that his country is willing to cooperate with the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, though its nuclear power programme would go ahead.

"We are trying and we are determined to cooperate (with the International Atomic Energy Agency)," Kamal Kharazi told ABC television.

"The problem is that United States administration asked us to stop enrichment activities in Iran. While it is legal ... and nothing is wrong as long as it is under the auspices of the IAEA and the inspection regime," he said.

World snooker champion embraces Islam

Monday 29 September 2003, 8:26 Makka Time, 5:26 GMT

Former world snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has left the Roman Catholic faith to embrace Islam.

The 2001 world champion converted at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent's Park in London last month, according to his mother.

"Ronnie is a lot better in himself since he converted. I hope it will steady him," she said a British newspaper this Sunday.

Army appoints Guinea-Bissau president

Monday 29 September 2003, 0:35 Makka Time, 21:35 GMT

The tiny West African country of Guinea-Bissau got a new interim president on Sunday, ending a fortnight of uncertainty that followed a military coup.

Politicians, army officers and diplomats applauded Henrique Rosa after he took office in a ceremony at a hotel in capital Bissau.

Islamic law in the dock

By Roshan Muhammed Salih
Thursday 25 September 2003, 13:54 Makka Time, 10:54 GMT

Let's face it, no one really cares about Amina Lawal.

The Nigerian woman who was acquitted of adultery and escaped death by stoning on Thursday has been cynically exploited by those who oppose Islamic law, and those who would exploit it.

Christian groups and human rights organisations have used the Lawal case to peddle their anti-Islamic, or Sharia law agenda.

And ambitious Nigerian Muslim politicians have vigorously defended the death verdict in order to bolster their own standing.

Worse still, the case’s notoriety has succeeded in demonising Islam in the eyes of the world.

Does Iraq Fiasco Signal a Threat to US Supremacy?

Hassan Tahsin
Special to Arab News

Rebuilding Iraq doesn’t require US or any foreign presence. The return of authority to the Iraqi people, the police force going back to work, rebuilding a portion of the Iraqi military force and the end to foreign interference would be sufficient to rebuild Iraq within a few years.

But the reality is that Iraq’s enormous oil wealth is the principal reason why Washington wants to stay in Iraq.

By Military Force, Partnership Or Pressure, The Bush Administration Is Determined To Change The Middle East

Raghida Dergham
Al-Hayat 2003/09/26

What is important is that stability is unfavorable for the American administration at this moment. The chaos, confusion, worry and disgust that the Arab region produces greatly help the logic justification of this region's need for change. At the same time, instability and the transformation of Iraq into a central battlefield in the war on terror provide the pretexts for the American troops to hang about in Iraq, in this large number and on high alert.

The current president of the Iraqi ruling council, Mr. Ahmad Chalabi, pointed out that "sovereignty in Iraq does not mean, in any form or manner, the departure of American troops. We want the American troops to stay in Iraq to help us protect our country's borders." He added: "Our mission is to make sure that Iraqi sovereignty is completely returned to the Iraqis, and that the presence or absence of the foreign military troops in Iraq would be in application of a treaty rather than an occupation."

An occupation now. Multinational troops soon. Then, a 'treaty' with the American troops to stay in Iraq. The nomenclature differs, but the result is the same. The result, according to strategic American thinking, is the necessity to keep the American troops in Iraq until the required sorting of the Iranian, Saudi and Syrian arenas, and its repercussions in the neighboring environment of these countries, is done. The American President pointed out to the international community, in his speech at the General Assembly, that the will not allow it to hasten or delay or hinder the American schedule in Iraq. He also insisted that it is the U.S.'s right to adopt the pre-emptive strikes principle. He spoke of the war on Iraq with a tone of complete victory ignoring all talk of its lacking credibility of the justifications to wage it, whether it was related to the weapons of mass destruction or the overthrown regime's link with Al Qaeda. He said that the reform Secretary General Kofi Annan had talked about was good, provided that it turns the international organization into a social observer, not an authority with influence that challenges the world's single superpower.

[...] These few people see that Russia, Germany and France's submission, following the challenge, is dangerous ammunition for the hawks of the American administration. These countries are now eager to please the Bush administration at the time when this administration is in trouble in Iraq. They opposed the war, but do agree on its results surpassing the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime. They refused, and still do, to legitimacy to the war through a UN resolution. They are prepared to save the U.S. from its predicament of the war on Iraq, without calling the past to account and with no transparency in future accountability.

Thereby, these countries are contributing to real reform of the UN. They refuse to seize a historical opportunity, fearing American accountability of them. All rhetoric of drastic reforms in the UN will remain just that. Unless it happens through the Iraqi issue. And it won't.

Iraqi police, U.S forces hold largest-ever joint raids; France wants transfer of power to Iraqis by end of 2003

29-09-2003,07 :11

Iraqi security forces, supported by U.S. military police, carried out their largest-ever joint raid on Monday in an effort to arrest those responsible for a wave of deadly attacks against American forces and to break the resistance movement in Saddam Hussein's ancestral hometown.

The overnight raid involved over 200 U.S.-trained Iraqi police and dozens of soldiers from the U.S. Army's720 th Military Police Battalion. The Iraqis were trained by the Military Police, one of the only U.S. military units to patrol the city on a daily basis.

[...] "We think we are turning the corner with the police. This was completely led by the Iraqis." Poirier said. "We hope this operation has tightened the noose on the bad guys."

[...] Meanwhile, France called a U.S. proposal for Iraqis to adopt a constitution in six months "a step forward" but still wants Washington to transfer power to an Iraqi government by the end of2003 .

US troops under fierce attacks west of Baghdad
2003-09-29 18:45:19

BAGHDAD, Sept. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- The US forces came under fierce attacks on Monday in restive areas west of Baghdad, local radio reported.

According to Sawa, a US-backed broadcasting station in Iraq, US military convoys were attacked by bombs and rocket-propelled grenades Monday morning in Fallujah, 50 km west of Baghdad, and Khaldiyah, 30 km further west.

Witnesses said heavy casualties were inflicted on the American forces in the attacks and subsequent firefighting, which lasted several hours.

But the US military in Baghdad did not confirm the incidents or any casualties.

Marchers Demand U.S. Pullout From Iraq

By PAUL CHAVEZ, Associated Press Writer
September 29, 2003

LOS ANGELES - Anti-war protesters on both coasts took to the streets to denounce President Bush and demand a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Rallies were held Sunday in Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco, and followed international protests Saturday in London, Athens, Paris and other cities.

"George Bush, Uncle Sam, Iraq will be your Vietnam!" some of the estimated 3,000 demonstrators chanted while walking down Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard. No arrests or injuries were reported.

"We are supposed to be a democratic, free nation and I want to express my feelings against this criminal administration," said Pilar Happori, 58, of Garden Grove. "This is a dangerous administration for destroying not only the U.S., but the world." [...]

Much Iraqi Defector Information Unusable - NY Times

September 29, 2003

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Defense Intelligence Agency internal review determined that much of the information Iraqi defectors gave to U.S. officials could not be substantiated or was otherwise unusable, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing federal sources.

Also, some defectors from Iraq that the Iraqi National Congress had introduced to U.S. intelligence officials gave false information about their credentials and misled interviewers about how much they knew about the Iraqi government's weapons program, said the paper.

Other Defense Department officials, who defended the arrangement between the exile group and defense intelligence agents to the Times, said U.S. officials had already met the information with skepticism but it still helped improve awareness and helped confirm what agents already knew. [...]

Comment: It is highly probable that the reason none of the defectors know about Iraq's WMDs is because the weapons and the programs to develop them were eliminated after the first Gulf "War." Furthermore, how does the defector's lack of knowledge confirm "what agents already knew"?

Ethnic and Religious Fissures Deepen in Iraqi Society

Tensions Escalating Over Land, Power and Loyalties

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 29, 2003

HAIFA, Iraq -- The Kurds who descended upon this hardscrabble Arab village in northern Iraq 11 days ago were so confident they would be able to evict everyone and seize the surrounding farmland that they brought along three tractors.

But instead of responding by fleeing, as thousands of other Arab villagers in northern Iraq have done when confronted with similar Kurdish demands, the residents of Haifa refused to budge. "Our people went to them and said, 'What the hell are you doing here? This area doesn't belong to you,' " recalled Kadhim Hani Jubbouri, the village sheik.

Words were exchanged. Threats were hurled. When the Kurds began tilling a field lined with golden flecks of harvested hay, gunfire erupted.

Arabs contend the Kurds shot first. Kurds maintain it was the Arabs who opened fire. Both agree, however, that the 15-minute firefight was one of the clearest signs of the growing fissures between Iraq's two dominant ethnic groups -- its Arab majority and its Kurdish minority -- since the fall of former president Saddam Hussein's government.

Comment: The legacy of the imposition of American freedom...

SA home sweet home to the world's criminals? (South Africa)

September 26 2003 at 09:26PM
By Willem Steenkamp and Megan Power

South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world and it seems this fact has not escaped international criminals, con artists, bank robbers and even the odd terrorist who have made this country their preferred place of residence.

To make matters worse, a senior official of the department of home affairs admitted they had no solutions to the growing problem.

From German con artist Jurgen Harksen to Symbionese Liberation Army member James Kilgore to American bank robbers Nova Guthrie and Craig Pritchert, all kinds of criminals have sought a haven in South Africa.

'It's a big headache at the moment'
Of course, the fact that the success rate of the understaffed police in solving crimes is so poor may well have convinced many a foreign fugitive from justice to seek sanctuary here.

Syria And Europe: A Big Step Forward

Patrick Seale
Al-Hayat 2003/09/25

After six years of hesitation and ten rounds of difficult negotiation, Syria is at last about to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. The signature is expected to take place before the end of the year. This is a major development, which will have very considerable economic and political consequences. Among the countries bordering the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, Syria is the last one to sign with the EU under the so-called Barcelona process - with the sole exception of Libya, which, now that sanctions against it have been lifted, is expected to start negotiations shortly.

Visa retail card spending soars 42 percent in the Middle East

Visa International, has announced a 42 percent increase in annual retail card expenditure across the Middle East region with $6. 4billion achieved in the year ending June30 ,2003 . In Kuwait alone growth in Visa card retail expenditure topped 81 percent to reach $1. 6billion.

Putin's Sinister Afghan Anecdote

By Matt Bivens
Monday, Sep. 29, 2003. Page 10

WASHINGTON -- A reporter this weekend asked why nothing exciting comes from these boring U.S.-Russian summits.

"Where do some questions come from?" objected Vladimir Putin. "People expect from us constantly some kind of revolutions." Instead, Putin said, just be happy Russia and America are friends. Then, in the summit's most revealing and least-noted moment, Putin shared an example of why it's good to be friends:

"I have never said this in public [before]," Putin said. "When [the U.S.-led] counterterrorist operation began in Afghanistan, we were approached by people, through several channels, we were approached by people who intended to fight against Americans in Afghanistan. And if by that time President Bush and I had not formed an appropriate relationship, as we have, so no one knows what turn the developments in Afghanistan would have taken."

Wow. So, when U.S. forces moved into Afghanistan, Putin says "we" were "approached" by "people" eager to start killing Americans.

Who are these "people"?

Did these would-be American-killers "approach" Putin for his permission, his blessing? Or was their "approach" an invitation to Putin to join them? The account is menacingly vague, so let's brainstorm a bit.

Perhaps old-guard KGB elements saw a chance to do to the Americans in Afghanistan what the CIA did to the Soviets. Perhaps Russian extremists wanted to wage a terror war, and were hoping the Kremlin might wink and look away, the way Riyadh does for some Saudis.

But Putin spoke of being approached via "several channels," and that almost sounds like repeated diplomatic overtures. So perhaps Putin received envoys from, say, the Chinese government, to talk about a covert operation to bog America down in Central Asia and bleed it dry.

Whatever this was, it was not a good thing. Nor is it good that the Russian president would trot out such an ominous anecdote. It almost works as a mafia-style threat: Deal with me -- some of my partners are real gorillas, and I can only hold them back so long.

[...] Look, if we're such great friends, why do we still have around 30,000 nuclear weapons -- including thousands on hair-trigger launch alert? (China, in distant third place, has about 400.)

Under the Nonproliferation Treaty -- the one we keep rolling up to whack North Korea and Iran with on the nose -- Russia and the United States also have solemn obligations to work toward complete nuclear disarmament.

After the Summit: Time to Act

By Nikolas K. Gvosdev
Monday, Sep. 29, 2003. Page 10

No one doubts that the two presidents have an excellent personal rapport. The problem is not that the leaders cannot find common ground on issues ranging from combating international terrorism to stopping nuclear proliferation. It is that neither president has been successful in translating their personal relationship into effective, broad-based cooperation between Russian and U.S. institutions.

[...] In the past year, Russia has been asked to forgive a large portion of its Iraqi debt, cease profitable trading arrangements with Iran, and accept the possible loss of lucrative contracts in Iraq with no guarantee that the billions in lost revenue (not only to Russian business but to the state itself) would be recouped elsewhere. Many Russians feel they have already conceded so much to the United States -- with little to show for it -- that further concessions are unwise.

Russia ignores pleas to ratify environment pact

29.09.2003 11:00 UTC

President Vladimir Putin has snubbed U.N. pleas to set a date for ratifying the so-called Kyoto protocol on combating global warming, saying Moscow needed more time to study the plan. Moscow's ratification is vital for the pact to become valid, after a U.S. pullout in 2001. In recent weeks, Russia has attached strings, including guarantees of economic benefits. Kyoto seeks to rein in emissions of gases like carbon dioxide from factories and cars, blamed for driving up temperatures, causing heatwaves, floods, droughts and raising sea levels.

Hurricane Juan slams into N.S.

Last Updated Mon, 29 Sep 2003 5:29:40

HALIFAX - An ambulance driver was killed and part of a four-storey apartment building collapsed early Monday as Hurricane Juan smashed into Nova Scotia's most densely populated area.

[...] Large sections of [Halifax and Dartmoutn] lost power as the Category 1 storm, with winds of more than 145 km/h, hit just before midnight local time.

Hundreds of people living in low-lying areas around Nova Scotia's capital had moved to higher ground late Sunday, before the hurricane swirled ashore.

PM foresees more Pacific intervention (Australia)

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Monday, September 29, 2003.

Prime Minister John Howard has predicted more Australian police and military interventions in the South Pacific. The Prime Minister says Australia's military must be able to operate both as part of US-led coalitions and also independently in the Pacific region.

"In the future we need to have a niche capability to engage in coalition operations but we also, importantly, need a capacity for Solomon Islands type operations," Mr Howard said.

"I think there'll be more of those in the future and we certainly have to make sure that we have a capacity to deal with them."

Mr Howard would not give a date for the withdrawal of Australian soldiers from the Solomon Islands intervention, which began in July.

Comment: John Howard, "Yes Georgie mate, you can look after the Middle East and we'll look after the Pacific."

Pell's elevation to cardinal gets mixed reaction

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Last Update: Monday, September 29, 2003

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, says he believes he has the support of the majority of Australian Catholics following his appointment as a cardinal by the Pope. Dr Pell, who was born in Ballarat and once played in the AFL, was widely expected to be elevated to the College of Cardinals.

He is being promoted less than two-and-a-half years after his appointment as Archbishop of Sydney. The Prime Minister, John Howard, has congratulated Dr Pell.

"It's a great personal tribute to him as a person and it's also a great recognition of the significance of Catholic community to the life and experience of Australia," Mr Howard said.

"I have a very high personal regard for George Pell, I think he's a great intellect and a person of great determination and strength."

But Dr Pell's promotion has not been welcomed by some sections of the Church. The Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra, Pat Power, believes it is a signal the Church is moving away from liberal theology toward conservatism. [..]

Bishop Rigali Has Close Ties to Vatican

Monday September 29, 2003
Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Archbishop-elect Justin Rigali, a friend of Pope John Paul II and a conservative who has been criticized for his reaction to the clerical sex abuse crisis, is America's latest cardinal.

Rigali, 68, who has held various Vatican positions over three decades before being sent to St. Louis in 1994, was appointed a cardinal Sunday. He is to be installed as archbishop of Philadelphia next month.

[..] Like Bevilacqua, Rigali is a conservative with close Vatican ties.

Two of Rigali's former Vatican positions are often held by trusted insiders: president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the school for Vatican diplomats that is considered the Vatican's West Point, and secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, which made him the No. 2 man in the office that recommends bishops to the pope for appointment worldwide.

"Rigali is very much a part of John Paul II's vision of church, a conservative man, who is very reluctant to say anything that isn't vetted and endorsed by the pope,'' said Kenneth Parker, an associate professor of historical theology at Saint Louis University who is active with an advocacy group for survivors of clergy abuse.

Comment: The 31 new cardinals were mainly conservative, much like the trend in Western politics.

Boeing's 757 jetliner may be nearing end

29.09.2003 7.45 am

SEATTLE - After a two-decade run with more than 1,000 aircraft sold, Boeing's 757 jetliner is about to fly off into the sunset, a victim of age, competition and a nasty market slump, industry experts say.

Antibiotics may be useless in a decade


ANTIBIOTICS could be rendered useless in little over a decade because over-prescription is leading to increased resistance from disease, a leading expert has warned.

Prof Hugh McGavock, a specialist in prescribing science, has claimed that an antibiotic crisis could lead to thousands of people dying from previously treatable illnesses by 2015.

Refinery Ablaze After Japan Aftershocks

Associated Press

TOKYO -A storage tank caught fire at an oil refinery in northern Japan on Sunday as aftershocks jolted the region following a powerful earthquake two days earlier. No injuries were reported.

It was the second time in three days that firefighters battled a quake-related blaze at the refinery, run by one of Japan's largest oil companies, Idemitsu Co., and located in the northern town of Tomakomai. A magnitude 8 quake hit the area Friday, setting off a fire in another tank that consumed 188,700 barrels, of crude oil. [...]

The danger of tsunami

[...] Friday's powerful earthquakes, one with a magnitude of 8.0 on the open-ended Richter scale, caused widespread damage in Hokkaido. They originated off the coast of the Tokachi area and measured lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in the town of Urakawa and other areas.

Tsunami warnings were issued for coastal areas, and waves up to 4 meters were recorded. Such tsunami have not been seen in our waters for nine years.

The earthquakes and tsunami caused extensive damage to homes and vehicles. Hundreds of people were injured. Since the seismic centers of the quakes were deeper than previous major temblors, the resulting waves were relatively small, with minimal casualties.

[...] Technological advances cannot save people if they put themselves in harm's way after a tsunami warning is issued. Tsunami can move as fast as 800 kph.

In the case of the Hokkaido Nansei-Oki Earthquake in 1993, tsunami warnings were issued five minutes after the initial jolt. A massive wave swept Okushiri Island between three to five minutes after the jolt. People who had immediately rushed to high ground were saved, while more than 200 others perished. [...]

Hubble Uncovers Smallest Moons Yet Seen Around Uranus

Astronomers have discovered two of the smallest moons yet found around Uranus. The new moons, uncovered by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, are about 8 to 10 miles across (12 to 16 km) — about the size of San Francisco. [...]

"Not all of Uranus's satellites formed over 4 billion years ago when the planet formed," Lissauer says. "The two small moons orbiting close to Belinda, for example, probably were once part of Belinda. They broke off when a comet smashed into Belinda." [...]

Hunt on for meteorite remains


BHUBANESWAR, SEPTEMBER 28: The search for the remnants of the huge meteorite, which sped across the sky in coastal Orissa last night by district authorities continued today amid reports of villagers in Kendrapara district stumbling upon two strange objects this morning.

Officials in Kendrapara said they had received reports about the findings in Paschima Suniti and Benakanda villages under the coastal Mahakalapada block. Efforts were on to retrieve the objects from the villages, they said.

Revenue Minister Biswabhushan Harichandan had last night directed the collectors of all districts where the phenomenon had been sighted to inquire and submit their reports to the government.

The villagers spotted the two stones in a paddy field, Gagan Bihari Pradhan, the sarpanch of Suniti Gram Panchayat said. While the object at Benakanda village was blown to smithereens, the one found at Paschima Suniti — supposedly weighing 5.7 kg — had been preserved at the local panchayat office, he said. The ball of fire, described by scientists as a meteorite, streaked across the sky from west to east at about 6.30 pm yesterday and was witnessed by people in at least 11 districts in the coastal belt.

Meanwhile, one of the 11 people admitted to hospitals in Kendrapara, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj districts after witnessing the spectacle died in the SCB Medical College Hospital at Cuttack today.

Sukadeb Singh (75), who along with two others, had been shifted from Kendrapara hospital to Cuttack, died this morning, the sources said. Five persons, including three from one family, were admitted to hospitals in Jajpur district while three others were hospitalised in Mayurbhanj district.

People at Sudusudia village had claimed to have seen the ball of fire landing on a thatched house in their village last evening. SP Y.B. Khurania said preliminary investigations had not yielded any remnants of the suspected meteor though the house had been completely burnt. The three persons who fell unconscious after the incident were recovering in hospital. A 75-year-old man, Harekrushna Behera, said he had lost his vision after seeing the fire.

Scientists scotch rumours on meteor

Sunday, 28 September , 2003

Kolkata : After reports of a very bright object streaking across the twilight sky poured in from parts of coastal Orissa and West Bengal, scientists confirmed today that the luminous body was a meteor and scotched rumours that it could bring climatic changes in the region.

The small streak of luminuous yellow light which turned to orange and finally brilliant blue before disappearing from the sky at around 6.15 pm was a typical meteor, though it came a wee bit closer to the earth than the normal ones, senior scientist and director of the research division of M P Birla Planetarium Dr Debi Prasad Duari told PTI here.

"The classical light pattern of a meteor was unmistakable -- yellow and orange signifying medium heat, and blue meaning the hottest form when the meteor came closest to earth before disappearing about 15 degrees above the south-south west horizon," he said.

On prelimnary analysis of reports that poured in from Kendrapada, Mayurbhanj, Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur in Orissa as well as Midnapore and Bankura districts of West Bengal, astrophysicists said chances of finding any fragments of the meteor were rare.

"Any big meteorite that could strew fragments or minor cosmic body that comes dangerously close to the earth is generally tracked down by NASAs Near Earth Asteroid Research (NEAR) programme and intimated to astrophysical organisations by the Smithsonian Institute. But this one has no mention," he said.

Pointing out that it was a normal cosmic phenomenon and had nothing to do with the tidal ebb or rise in coastal Digha of East Midnapore district, Duari appealed to the masses not to believe in rumours.

Follow up to yesterday's meteor crash in Tulane, Louisiana

"I'm in shock," Fausset said after learning the rock had been identified as a meteorite. "Oh, that's scary. I will certainly go to church this Sunday, because the Lord was certainly sending me a message."

Comment: Meteorites seem to put the fear of god in people. We don't recommend feeling so special about one's self that one believes it is a message from god, but the universe seems to be letting us know that something is up. These reports pop up some what regularly these days. It is becoming more and more obvious that knowledge of the real dangers are kept hidden to maintain the status quo. On September 9, 2002, CNN ran a story that stated:

A space rock big enough to cause widespread damage and death will hit the Earth only about once every 1,000 years, but experts say the destruction would be so extreme that nations should develop a joint defense against asteroids. - Such a rock, estimated at 180 feet across, scorched through the atmosphere over Tunguska in Siberia in 1908 and flattened trees across 800 square miles of forest land. No crater was found and experts believe the damage came from atmospheric shock.

We have four pages of coverage regarding this activity from all over the world in our Signs Supplement: Meteors, Asteroids, Comets, and NEOs .

For Atlantis, turn right at Cyprus

MYRTLE BEACH AREA: Reported UFO sightings since 1995

There have been 18 reported UFO sightings in the Myrtle Beach area since 1995. Seven of those sightings occurred this summer:

More Mysterious Muck in New Zealand!


A house in Huia has now been hit by the mystery brown muck appearing on roofs around the country.

Plumber Murray Norris returned home from work on Friday night to find what appeared to be faeces splattered on the west wall and roof of his home.

"If there's anyone who knows what shit looks like it is me - and that's what it looked like," Mr Norris said.

Some patches of the mess were almost 3m wide but it did not smell.

The suspicious substance has appeared on homes in Takapu Valley near Wellington, Te Awamutu in the Waikato, and Blenheim. [...]

U.S. Army Private In Iraq And Fiancee In Italy Marry In Montana -- But Neither Attend Ceremony

AP 2003/09/27

A U.S. Army soldier stationed in Iraq married his Italian fiancee in a Montana double proxy ceremony that neither attended.

Instead, Pfc. David Gaynor's parents exchanged vows and rings Friday for the absent couple -- and sealed their son's marriage with a kiss.

Inventor comes up with banana lunchbox
12:37 Monday 29th September 2003

A German man has invented a special lunch box for bananas. Detlef Kruse says he came up with the idea to protect his lunch time snack.

"I'd take a banana in to work each day, and eventually, you get angry because they end up all brown and mushed up," he said.

He works for Kruse Kunststoff, an Emsdetten company that specialises in plastics, and used his expertise to solve the problem.

The curved, bright yellow container, named Banabox, measures about 9.8 inches from tip to tip and has a two inch diameter. Priced at about £2.70p, the box is sold via the company website.

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