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December 3, 2003

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One of the biggest stories of our lifetimes gets no mainstream media coverage. Instead the media has chosen to remain complicit in murder and mayhem, and actively encourages the same. The journalists and editors might as well be pulling the trigger, pressing the button, or pulling the lever.

The Pentagon grants a US citizen enemy combatant access to a lawyer - after two years of unjust and illegal imprisonment.

Israel is so upset that Powell is meeting with peace activists that they step up their raids, and shoot yet another Palestinian child.

It appears law enforcement officials in Ohio have decided that the twelve shootings are connected after all. One school in the Midwestern state is keeping its students indoors. The dollar plummets for a fourth straight day.

In France, major flooding in the southeast has resulted in five deaths and a regional state of emergency. The sun has been undergoing an "unprecedented level of activity" and very little, if anything is understood about the long term effects. So Congress gets busy, takes time out from stripping away freedoms, and cuts funding for research.

A Palestinian "miracle baby" captivates the West Bank.

9/11 MEDIA ALERT: Press Ignores 9/11 Widow's Bush Treason Suit

Rumor Mill News

Grieving New Hampshire widow who lost her man on 9/11 refuses the government's million dollar hush money payoff, studies the facts of the day for nearly two years, and comes to believe the White House "intentionally allowed 9/11 to happen" to launch a so-called "War on Terrorism" for personal and political gain. She retains a prominent lawyer, a former Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, who served with distinction under both Democrats and Republicans and was once a strong candidate for the governor's seat.

The attorney files a 62-page complaint in federal district court (including 40 pages of prima facie evidence) charging that "President Bush and officials including, but not limited to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft and Tenet":

1.) had adequate foreknowledge of 911 yet failed to warn the county or attempt to prevent it;
2.) have since been covering up the truth of that day;
3.) have therefore abetted the murder of plaintiff's husband and violated the Constitution and multiple laws of the United States; and
4.) are thus being sued under the Civil RICO (Racketeering, Influence, and Corrupt Organization) Act for malfeasant conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death.

The suit text goes on to document the detailed forewarnings from foreign governments and FBI agents; the unprecedented delinquency of our air defense; the inexplicable half hour dawdle of our Commander in Chief at a primary school after hearing the nation was under deadly attack; the incessant invocation of national security and executive privilege to suppress the facts; and the obstruction of all subsequent efforts to investigate the disaster.

It concludes that "compelling evidence will be presented in this case through discovery, subpoena power, and testimony [that] Defendants failed to act and prevent 9/11 knowing the attacks would lead to an 'International War on Terror' which would benefit Defendants both financially and politically." Press releases detailing these explosive allegations are sent out to 3000 journalists in the print and broadcast media, and a press conference to announce the filing is held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on November 26th (commemorating the end of the first futile year of the independent National 9/11 Commission).

Imagine the world-churning implications of these charges. Imagine the furor if just one was proved true. Imagine the courage of this bribe- shunning widow and an eminent attorney with his rep on the line. Then imagine a press conference to which nobody came. (Well, more precisely, imagine a press conference at which only FOX News appears, tapes for 40 minutes, and never airs an inch.)

Now imagine the air time, column inches and talk show hysteria that same night devoted to the legal hassles of Michael, Kobe, and Scott Peterson, and divide that by the attention paid to our little case of mass murder, war profiteering and treason. (OK, this is really a trick question because no number divided by zero yields any answers whatsoever, which evidently in this case is the result preferred.)

When you present documented charges of official treachery behind the greatest national security disaster in modern history and the press doesn't show, doesn't listen, doesn't write - just what in fact is really being communicated? That despite all the deaths, lies, wars, and bizarre official actions that flowed from 9/11 there's actually nothing there to be investigated at all? That addressing desperate victim families' still unanswered cries for truth is not a legitimate journalistic concern? That news will now be what the corporate media say it will be, so drink your infotainment Kool-Aid and kindly shut up? (While the 9/11 blackout is the most flagrant sign of current media dysfunction, it hardly stands alone...

Comment: Imagine that! One of the biggest news stories ever, and it is not covered. See how important what you SEE and what you KNOW is to the Bush Reich? Ignorance and belief are our enemies.

[...] While most of us who pay attention know who was and who wasn't behind 9/11, others get their news on the fly -- basically headlines and banners. But even Americans who say they're paying attention, at least to TV, are highly misinformed. A massive University of Maryland study found that most who get their news from commercial TV held at least one of three fundamental "misperceptions": that Iraq had been directly linked to 9/11, that WMDs had been found in Iraq or that world opinion supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Not unexpectedly, Fox News viewers were the most misled. But strong majorities of CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN viewers were also confused on at least one of these points. Among those informed on all three questions, only 23 percent supported Bush's war.

Ultimately, the Iraq war was a "Rush Limbaugh/Fox News War" -- based on the premise that in our current media environment if you tell a lie forcefully and frequently enough, the lie will triumph. [ Bush and Iraq: Mass Media, Mass Ignorance, by Jeff Cohen]

American ignorance is a deliberate conspiracy keeping us in perpetual slavery - reducing us to ants who cannot think and make choices- but this conspiracy makes perfect fascist order takers, or lambs to the slaughter, as the elite battle for position in the power hierarchy. It appears that the Bush Reich's plans for perpetual war are working right on schedule:

[...] Abdul is unflagging in his rounds because he has an almost missionary zeal: to find recruits for jihad - or holy war - waged by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Himself blinded in one eye from action in Afghanistan, Abdul tells prospective recruits: "You might fight at the front line, or you might stand guard at night. You can cook for other Islamic warriors, or you can be a male nurse. Or you can give the fighters money or grain - everything is welcome because the jihad has started." [...][ On the job with a Taliban recruiter, By Massoud Ansari, Asia Times Online]

Feel safer yet?

Following Fox's Orders

When right-wing Fox News media mogul Rupert Murdoch says "jump," it appears the Bush Administration and Congress say "how high?" After the FCC deregulated media ownership laws, conservatives and progressives banded together to pass legislation through both houses of Congress that would have rebuked the Bush Administration and the FCC, preserving the limit of 35% on how many viewers one giant media company can control. According to Dow Jones, Murdoch's company, News Corp (along with Viacom) had already taken the liberty of breaking that ownership cap; this meant if the House and Senate-approved bill became law, he would have had to divest some of his holdings.

But before the bills became law, Murdoch swung into action. On 9/9/03, he told Bloomberg News that he expected the White House to veto Congress's media legislation if it came to his desk, and just two days later, the White House issued a formal veto threat. And now the fruits of that veto threat have been reaped. As Reuters reports, "U.S. legislators gave in to White House pressure on Monday and agreed to allow increased control of the airwaves by television networks." Specifically, Congress accepted a 39% cap accommodating Murdoch's News Corp. and Viacom, while ignoring the will of both houses of Congress and millions of Americans who voiced their outrage at the FCC's deregulation decision.

If This Is Freedom, What Exactly Is Dictatorship?

by Jacob G. Hornberger
November 30, 2003

Let me see if I have this right. In the United States of America:

1. The president now has the unrestricted power to declare war against a country that has not attacked the United States, wreaking death and destruction on both sides of the conflict.

2. The president now has the unrestricted power to round up unlimited numbers of American citizens within the United States and incarcerate them in military brigs or concentration camps for the rest of their lives and keep them from ever again communicating with friends, families, and attorneys, simply on the president's certification that the incarcerated Americans are "terrorists," as he has done with Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi.

3. The president now has the unrestricted power to seize American citizens abroad and remove them to its military base in Cuba, where they can be kept for the rest of their lives and kept from ever again communicating with friends, family, and attorneys, solely on the basis of his certification that the imprisoned Americans are "terrorists," as he initially did with Yaser Esam Hamdi.

4. The president now has the unrestricted power to kill American citizens abroad solely on the basis of his certification that the killed Americans are "terrorists," as he did to Ahmed Hijazi, the American who was killed with a U.S.-fired missile in Yemen.

Pardon me for asking the following two indelicate questions:

First, if all this is freedom, what exactly is dictatorship?...

Second, after the Iraqi people are freed from dictatorship, would it be asking too much to do the same for the American people through the adoption of the following two amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

"The Congress shall have the power to declare war, and this time we really do mean it." "No person shall be denied life, liberty, or property without due process of law, and this time we really do mean it."

Flashback: French accuse MI5 of harboring "terrorists"

By Kim Willsher in Paris and David Bamber

French intelligence personnel have accused Britain of failing to cooperate with European partners in the war against Islamic terrorist groups. The allegations, made by senior French officials, have angered MI5 officers.

France's security services claim that their British counterparts are refusing to share information, work with them or act against known British-based terrorist suspects.

A senior French intelligence official who reports directly to the President's office said that while there had been a "slight" improvement in cooperation immediately after September 11 last year, "things are now worse than they were before; that is to say, the British just don't appear to be doing anything. It's a pity because Britain has excellent intelligence but your people simply won't cooperate with us."

The anti-terrorist official also said that the French were certain that MI5 was sheltering Abu Qatada, a militant cleric, while officially denying knowledge of his whereabouts. Mr Qatada, named by Spanish intelligence as the "spiritual head" of al-Qa'eda in Europe, disappeared from his home in Acton, west London, at the beginning of this year shortly before new anti-terrorism laws came into force. French anti-terrorist officers in Paris believe that their British counterparts at MI5 colluded in his disappearance.

"British intelligence is saying they have no idea where he is but we know where he is and, if we know, I'm quite sure they do," the official said.

Bush And Blair Are In Trouble

by John Pilger
December 02, 2003

Shortly before the disastrous Bush visit to Britain, Tony Blair was at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. It was an unusual glimpse of a state killer whose effete respectability has gone. His perfunctory nod to "the glorious dead" came from a face bleak with guilt. As William Howard Russell of the Times wrote of another prime minister responsible for the carnage in the Crimea, "He carries himself like one with blood on his hands." Having shown his studied respect to the Queen, whose prerogative allowed him to commit his crime in Iraq, Blair hurried away. "Sneak home and pray you'll never know," wrote Siegfried Sassoon in 1917, "The hell where youth and laughter go."

Blair must know his game is over. Bush's reception in Britain demonstrated that; and the CIA has now announced that the Iraqi resistance is "broad, strong and getting stronger", with numbers estimated at 50,000. "We could lose this situation," says a report to the White House. The goal now is to "plan the endgame".

Their lying has finally become satire. Bush told David Frost that the world really had to change its attitude about Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons because they were "very advanced".

An unprecedented gathering of senior American intelligence officers, diplomats and former Pentagon officials met in Washington the other day to say, in the words of Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and friend of Bush's father: "Now we know that no other president of the United States has ever lied so baldly and so often and so demonstrably ... The presumption now has to be that he's lying any time that he's saying anything."

And Blair and his foreign secretary dare to suggest that the millions who have rumbled the Bush gang are "fashionably anti-American". An instructive example of their own mendacity was demonstrated recently by Jack Straw. On BBC Radio 4, defending Bush and Washington's doctrine of "preventive war", Straw told the interviewer: "Article 51 [of the United Nations Charter], to which you referred earlier - you said it only allows for self-defence. It actually goes more widely than that because it talks about the right of states to take what is called 'preventive action'."

Straw's every word was false, an invention. Article 51 does not refer to "the right of states to take preventive action" or anything similar. Nowhere in the UN Charter is there any such reference. Article 51 refers only to "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs" and goes on to constrain that right further. Moreover, the UN Charter was so framed as to outlaw any state's claimed right to preventive war.

In other words, the Foreign Secretary fabricated a provision of the UN Charter which does not exist, then broadcast it as fact. When Straw does speak the truth, it causes panic. The other day, he admitted that Bush had shut him out of critical talks in Washington with Paul Bremer, the US viceroy in Iraq. Straw said he was "not party to the talks, not a party to his [Bremer's] return visit". The Foreign Office transcript of this leaves out that Straw had complained that "the UK and US [are] literally the occupying powers, and we have to meet those responsibilities". The US disregard for its principal vassal has never been clearer.

Both are now desperate. The Bush regime's panic is reflected in its adoption of Israeli revenge tactics, using F-16 aircraft to drop 500lb bombs on residential areas called "suspect zones". They are also burning crops: another Israeli tactic. The parallels are now Palestine and Vietnam; more Americans have died in Iraq than in the first three years of the Vietnam war.

For Bush and Blair, no recourse to the "bravery" of "our wonderful troops" will work its populist magic now. "My husband died in vain," read the headline in the Independent on Sunday. Lianne Seymour, widow of the commando Ian Seymour, said: "They misled the guys going out there. You can't just do something wrong and hope you find a good reason for it later." The moral logic of her words is shared by the majority of the British people, if not by Blair's diminishing court. How decrepit the Independent's warmongering rival the Observer now appears, with its pages of titillation and hand-wringing, having seen off a proud liberal tradition.

"Out there", the Iraqi dead and suffering are still unpeople, their latest death toll not worthy of the front page. Neither is the Amnesty report that former Iraqi prisoners of war have accused American and British troops of torturing them in custody, blindfolding them and kicking and beating them with weapons for long periods. Investigators from Amnesty have taken statements from 20 former prisoners. "In one case we are talking about electric shocks being used against a man ... If you keep beating somebody for the whole night and somebody is bleeding and you are breaking teeth, it is more than beating," said Amnesty's researcher, "I think that's torture." The Americans hold more than 4,000 prisoners - a higher figure, it is estimated, than those incarcerated at any time by Saddam Hussein.

Comment: The concept that most people find so difficult to even entertain is that their "leaders" could or would ever lie to them. It seems that their whole comfortable world view depends entirely on the morality of their elected officials. Perhaps at some level they are aware of how vulnerable they are, of just how much free will they have all given up, and the idea that they might have given it up to a psychopath that would snuff out their lives without thinking twice if the need arose secretly terrifies them. As such they have no choice but to argue to the last that "they wouldn't do that" regardless of the clear and mounting evidence that they would and have done "that" and are planning to do it again very soon.

US Army Uses Bulldoze Threat to Get Iraqis to Talk

Wed Dec 3
By Andrew Hammond

HAWIJA, Iraq (Reuters) - When U.S. soldiers found explosives in the house of Aziz Abdel-Wahhab and his elderly wife during a raid in the Iraqi town of Hawija, they proposed swift and direct punishment -- demolishing the building.

"This house is the heart of terrorism and if you're going to harbour terrorism we're going to remove you from the community," said 1st Lieutenant Steve Brignoli, explaining the order to destroy the one-story stone house in a Hawija suburb.

"This will be a show of force, to embolden the local authorities."

The explosives were found during a major operation by the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which sent more than a thousand troops into Hawija on Tuesday to hunt for guerrillas in the town west of the strategic oil hub of Kirkuk.

"Because of stuff like this we lost two paratroopers here. This is the stuff they typically use to take American lives," Brignoli said, sifting through a box of dynamite sticks, electrical cables and switches.

A crowd of locals had gathered in the street by the time Abdel-Wahhab emerged on crutches with his wife Bushra.

"Tell him we found enough explosives to flatten this neighborhood," a soldier ordered one of the army translators.

The toothless old man could hardly talk, but mumbled a few words about his son Adel.

In a tactic used by Israeli authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but new to Iraq, a bulldozer was positioned in front of the house ready to destroy it. The translators, minority Turkmen, Kurds and Assyrian Christians, were getting nervous.

"Where's he going to go?" someone asked unit commander Major Andrew Rohling. "He's gonna go with his son who's building the bombs," Rohling barked back.

Then Bushra, her hands covered in traditional red henna, offered some information. Adel came and went from their home, but he was maybe at his brother's place, she said.

"OK, I'm not gonna destroy the house. Just the front, as a show of force," Rohling announced, at which the bulldozer brought down the front wall of the compound and Bushra was bundled into a Humvee.

"All of this is a crime against me after all the hardship I've suffered in life," the old woman muttered.

Comment: Apart from the brutality of the US forces that this article exposes, there is something that is not addressed. The Iraqis have a legitimate right to fight back against oppressors, do they not? The US presence in Iraq is about injustice. The US government and its media lackeys always present this as a fight against "terrorism" or "evil" and the Iraqis who retaliate as "terrorists", yet this is simply not the case. It comes down to a difference of opinion. The Americans feel that the Iraqi people should be thankful that the US has destroyed their country; the Iraqis do not agree and want them out. Essentially, as it is in Israel, the more powerful and aggressive party is always "right".

Stressed Out in Iraq: Tired, Terrified, Trigger-Happy

December 2, 2003

Among the less publicized incentives propelling Iraq overseer Paul Bremer's urgent dash to Washington last week was the concern in various quarters of the administration that the U.S. expeditionary force in Iraq is in a dangerously unstable state. "We are one stressed-out reservist away from a massacre," remarked one senior official closely involved in the search for an exit strategy.

He was expressing the fear that a soldier, possibly a reservist, stressed beyond endurance by the rigors and uncertainties of his or her condition in a hostile land far from home, might open up with a machine gun on an Iraqi crowd, with obviously disastrous consequences for the future of the occupation. In case anyone considers this contingency unthinkably remote, examples already abound of overstressed U.S. soldiers behaving in a lethally trigger-happy fashion.

As U.S. soldiers get more and more stressed, their tempers fray and you see more altercations on the streets, more browbeating of ordinary Iraqis by soldiers and, as a result, a general deterioration in the already tense relationship that helps convince Iraqis that the U.S. is nothing but an ugly, arrogant occupying army.

In traveling around Iraq, I always stay well away from American convoys, for reasons well known to all Iraqi drivers and best illustrated by an incident (by no means unique) outside Fallouja last month. Gunners in an armored column responded to a roadside bomb blast by opening up, apparently indiscriminately, with heavy automatic weapons on traffic moving in the opposite direction on the other side of the highway median. Six civilians died, including four in a single minivan, some of whom were decapitated. An 82nd Airborne spokesman was later quoted as insisting that "the use of force was justified." [...]

Vandergriff is also fiercely critical of the Army's practice of constantly rotating individuals, especially commanders, in and out of units. Morale and cohesion of the Army in Iraq "is deteriorating at four times the rate it did in Vietnam," he states. [...]

Tons of Depleted Uranium Polluting Iraq

December 01, 2003

WASHINGTON - U.S. forces unleashed at least 75 tons of toxic depleted uranium on Iraq during the war, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

An unnamed U.S. Central Command spokesman disclosed to the Monitor last week that coalition forces fired 300,000 bullets coated with armored-piercing depleted uranium (DU) during the war.

“The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to 1 -- a mix that would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq,” wrote correspondent Scott Peterson.

Peterson measured four sites around Baghdad struck with depleted uranium munitions and found high levels of radioactive contamination, but few warnings to this effect issued among the populace at large.

While the Pentagon maintains that spent weapons coated with the low-level, radioactive nuclear-waste are relatively harmless, Peterson notes that U.S. soldiers have taken it among themselves to print leaflets or post signs warning of DU contamination.

"After we shoot something with DU, we're not supposed to go around it, due to the fact that it could cause cancer," said one sergeant requesting anonymity.

Comment: So let's get this straight...The US military and government are well aware of the deadly effects of DU yet have no qualms whatsoever about dumping hundreds of tons of the stuff (over the 2 gulf wars) on Iraqi civilians and then watching them slowly die. Despite this Bush has the gall to say he is spreading democracy and freedom, and many Americans are unashamed to say they support him...

In reversal, Pentagon grants detainee of Saudi descent access to lawyer

Wednesday December 3, 2:46 PM

In a sudden reversal, the Pentagon allowed a US citizen being held as an "enemy combatant" access to a lawyer in what legal experts see as an attempt to ward off a US Supreme Court review of the case.

After denying him access to counsel for two years, the Department of Defense said Yaser Esam Hamdi, a US citizen of Saudi descent captured by US forces in Afghanistan in late 2001, "will be allowed access to a lawyer subject to appropriate security restrictions."

The department "decided to allow Hamdi access to counsel because Hamdi is a US citizen detained by DoD in the United States, because DoD has completed its intelligence collection with Hamdi, and because DoD has determined that the access will not compromise the national security of the United States," the Pentagon said in a statement. [...]

U.S. Issues New Warnings on Iran

Israel Fumes at U.S. Opening to Doves, Steps Up Raids

By Mark Heinrich

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel fumed Wednesday over Secretary of State Colin Powell's plan to meet the authors of a symbolic peace accord despite fierce Israeli objections.

The Israeli army stepped up raids into West Bank cities to net Palestinian militants, underscoring obstacles on the ground to a diplomatic initiative that emerged in the vacuum of the derailed U.S.-sponsored peace plan, known as the road map. [...]

An Israeli army spokesman said 27 wanted Palestinians were arrested in overnight swoops into Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's West Bank base city of Ramallah and the northern town of Jenin targeting primarily the militant faction Islamic Jihad.

Three Hamas militants and a Palestinian boy of six were killed by Israeli armored forces in an incursion into Ramallah Monday, hours before the alternative peace deal took the international stage at a ceremony in Geneva. [...]

Palestinian officials said the raid seemed timed to upset the Geneva launch and was counterproductive as it would provoke militants to hit back, spinning anew a cycle of violence prevailing for much of a three-year-old Palestinian uprising for statehood. [...]

Sharon flies to Iran under secrecy

By Amir Oren

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was not sick with the flu yesterday, as his bureau announced to explain his absence from the office. At dawn, he slipped out of his farm, hidden by a tarp concealing the rear of his farm manager's pickup, and was driven to the Hatzerim air force base, wedged into the rear seat of an F-15i like Vladimir Putin on a sudden sortie to Chechnya, and flown to Tehran for a secret meeting with Ayatollah Khamani, to make a deal with Iran - dismantling the Hezbollah, returning Ron Arad and selling weapons to Iran through the mediation of an old friend of Sharon's. The press was not suspicious, the surprise was complete.

Was the earlier report about Sharon being ill a lie? The conventional answer to such a question is yes or no, but it's not so bad, because it was a cover story for a passing operation. Senior officers in the general staff say the Israeli press is petty, self-righteous, and harmed them by presenting them as liars in the matter of the use of the secret weapon for the air assassination in Gaza, compared to the American press' admiration for President George Bush's deception so he could fly to Baghdad. The officers' blindness to the difference guarantees they'll make the same mistake again.

In any given political, security or even economic (for example, devaluation) event, secrecy can be tolerated for some time, to keep the operation safe. But such a narrow perspective can miss the broader context - the trust of the public, its elected officials and the press. The press does not hire its leaders, officials and officers to lie to it - on the slippery slope of national needs, the organizational need to get resources, and the personal need for survival and career progress. The IDF, the biggest of the secret-keepers, is also the organization that shouts loudest when suddenly, without any joint staff work, the treasury drops on it a secret plan to cut the defense budget.

Bush hid his travel plans from his parents, who were invited for Thanksgiving dinner, from most of his top administration officials and half his personal security force. The journalists summoned to accompany him signed a confidentiality agreement believing the truth was a lie, that they were being tricked. It was cover for the coverage, in the double sense of the term - reporting and camouflage - and with the knowledge that the embargo on the story was very short term, just 12 hours away. The planning of what could be reported was included in the cover, if the secret had been kept after the visit, there wouldn't have been any point to the trip. [...]

Police: 12 Shootings in Ohio Connected

By ANITA CHANG, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 2, 6:51 PM ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Authorities have linked 12 shootings along a five-mile stretch of interstate around Columbus, including one that killed a woman and another that broke a window at an elementary school.

Four of the shootings — three at vehicles and one at the school last month — were from the same gun, Franklin County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Steve Martin said Tuesday.

Although ballistics tests could not link the rest of the shootings along Interstate 270, investigators said they "are comfortable" saying all 12 are connected, he said. He would not elaborate. [...]

Ohio School to Keep Its Students Inside

U.S. Weak in Sharing Terror Information

By LAURENCE ARNOLD, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 2, 5:04 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The federal government has only marginally improved how it shares information on terrorists and threats with key people on the national, state and local levels, technology and national security experts asserted Tuesday. [...]

US cancels computer war games with Taiwan: report

TAIPEI (AFP) Dec 03, 2003

The United States has cancelled planned computer war games with Taiwan because of rising tension between the island and China over contentious referendum legislation, reports said Wednesday. [...]

Analysts said the United States was trying to give the impression it did not support the maneuvering by the pro-independence movement in Taiwan, which has called for new legislation to be used to hold a referendum on independence. [...]

MoD considers sharing new aircraft carriers

Wed 3 Dec 2003

BRITAIN and France could link up to build two aircraft carriers which would be used by the armed forces of both countries to save money on defence budgets and increase the military co-operation between the two countries.

The extraordinary deal is one of a number of proposals being considered by the Ministry of Defence to enable it to cut costs and to maintain manpower within the British armed forces.

War Spells Double Trouble for Women in Nepal

Keshab Poudel
OneWorld South Asia

KATHMANDU, Dec 2 (OneWorld) - The upsurge in violence in insurgency-torn Nepal has worsened the already dismal condition of women in the country, with a recent report stating there were 725 cases of murder, illegal detention, abduction or rape last year. [...]

'Slaves' detained

Women used for sex being held despite law to the contrary

By Brian D. Crecente
Rocky Mountain News
December 3, 2003

Some of the alleged sex slaves arrested during statewide raids at massage spas are being held at an immigration detention center despite a federal law saying victims of trafficking should not be incarcerated, the Rocky Mountain News has learned.[...]

Human trafficking is a burgeoning criminal enterprise, she said, ranking closely behind the sale of guns and drugs as the third-largest source of revenue for organized crime.

"Every country in the world has been impacted by this," she said. "The conservative estimates are that between 800,000 and 900,000 women and children a year are trafficked across international borders."

She said about 20,000 of those are trafficked into the United States annually - mostly for sexual purposes. [...]

Dollar Hits Record Low Vs Euro

By Christina Fincher
December 3, 2003

LONDON (Reuters) - The dollar hit record lows against the euro for a fourth straight trading day on Wednesday as investors warmed to the view that a recovering U.S. economy would do little to alleviate the U.S. current account deficit.

Signs that Germany was not worried by the euro's persistent climb gave added encouragement to euro bulls who bid the single currency up to peaks above $1.2115, bringing its gains to more than 15 percent since the start of the year.

The greenback also hit a fresh five-year low against the British pound, a six-year low against the Australian dollar and a seven-year low against a basket of currencies. [...]

Melbourne flooded after freak storm


Rescuers steered boats through the streets of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, today after a freak storm caused widespread flooding and left drivers stranded on the roofs of their cars.

The storms began around midnight dumping five inches of rain in less than three hours, said weather bureau forecaster Ken Dickensen who described the storm as “freakish.”

“I’ve only seen something like this a couple of times in 30 years,” he said.

A fire service spokeswoman said 12 people whose cars had stalled on a motorway amid swirling flood waters were rescued by boat.

The Victoria State Emergency Service agency said it had received 1,000 calls for help mostly for flooded homes, collapsed roofs and fallen trees.

The rains coincide with heavy water restrictions for residents of the Melbourne after levels in its major reservoirs had plunged following a two-year drought.

Hefty hail stones also pelted some parts of the city.

“The biggest one was about the size of golf balls,” said Steve Wilcox, who watched helpless as the balls of ice pummelled his vehicle and 40 others in a car park.

Lightning also hit Melbourne and a golfer, who was struck on the head as he took shelter under a tree was in serious condition in hospital.

Further north, five tourists in the Blue Mountains near Sydney suffered varying degrees of burns after being hit by lightning

France Faces 'Floods of Century', Chirac to Visit

December 3, 2003

LYON, France (Reuters) - Torrential rain drenching parts of southeastern France threatened Wednesday to worsen flash floods that have cost at least three lives and forced about 4,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Flooding along the Rhone River from Lyon to Marseille was due to hit its peak during the day, while winds of up to 93 mph were expected to lash the Mediterranean coast, officials said. Two people were still missing in the floods.

Heavy rain moving west also set off flood alerts reaching as far as the Pyrenees Mountains.

"Today we're faced with what could be the floods of the century," government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told Europe 1 radio. "We have to mobilize all our resources." [...]

Reactors shut in storm-hit France

Tuesday, 2 December, 2003

France was forced to shut two nuclear reactors on Monday as storms swept across the south of the country.
At least two people were killed or swept away and French television said thousands of people were being moved from their homes by boat.

The southern city of Marseilles was among the worst hit, with 500 emergency calls for flood-related incidents and up to 1,000 people evacuated.

Many roads were flooded and schools closed for the day.

The two nuclear reactors were shut down at the Cruas-Meysse plant in the Ardeche region, where officials feared the flooded Rhone river could sweep branches and other obstructions into the cooling system.

The two 900-megawatt reactors are among four at the plant.

A spokeswoman for government nuclear safety authority ASN described the shutdown as a "preventative measure".

Storm victims

One woman in her 50s was swept from a bridge in Virigneux in the central Loire region, reportedly as she tried to push her car to safety.

The other person who died is believed to have been found in a road tunnel in Marseilles.

In Charlieu, in the south-east France, flooding left 750 students with a day off after their school shut.

Seventeen of France's administrative departments have been placed on alert until Thursday amid forecasts that heavy rain will continue.

Officials are anxiously watching the situation in the Rhone Valley amid fears of further flooding.

The country is also battling a flu outbreak. Officials said two million cases were expected by the end of the week.

Some emergency departments in the Paris area have been filled to overflowing with flu victims, many of them children.

France battles with flu epidemic

Monday, 1 December, 2003

French official William Dab says it is nothing like the summer crisis
Hospitals around Paris have struggled to cope with a double outbreak of flu and gastroenteritis over the weekend.

Reuters news agency says more than 500,000 people in France have contracted the bugs in recent weeks, putting extra pressure on hospitals.

Officials said the epidemic had nothing in common with the summer, when nearly 15,000 people died from extreme heat.

Critics say that emergency rooms are still crowded and resources scarce, while experts say things will worsen.

As hospital staff rushed to attend to the many children brought in with symptoms of flu, waiting time for emergency patients increased to seven hours in some Paris hospitals.

Some hospitals launched a "White Plan", similar to the one during the summer heatwave, and recalled off-duty staff.

The French Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei acknowledged some services in the Paris area had been inundated.

But France's General Director for Health, William Dab, told reporters that the phenomenon was nothing like the summer's heatwave.

"At that time, we were facing a silent epidemic, but this is a typical one," he said.

Flu complications kill 2 Adams County kids (Colorado)

Toll of fatalities among youngsters in state is at least 5 [...]

Solar activity reaches new high

2 December 2003
Physics Web

Geophysicists in Finland and Germany have calculated that the Sun is more magnetically active now than it has been for over a 1000 years. Ilya Usoskin and colleagues at the University of Oulu and the Max-Planck Institute for Aeronomy say that their technique - which relies on a radioactive dating technique - is the first direct quantitative reconstruction of solar activity based on physical, rather than statistical, models.[...]

Using modelling techniques, the Finnish team was able to extend data on solar activity back to 850 AD. The researchers found that there has been a sharp increase in the number of sunspots since the beginning of the 20th century. They calculated that the average number was about 30 per year between 850 and 1900, and then increased to 60 between 1900 and 1944, and is now at its highest ever value of 76.

"We need to understand this unprecedented level of activity," Usoskin told PhysicsWeb. "Is it is a rare event that happens once a millennium - which means that the Sun will return to normal - or is it a new dynamic state that will keep solar activity levels high?" The Finnish-German team also speculates that increased solar activity may be having an effect on the Earth's climate, but more work is needed to clarify this. [...]

Comment: Isn't it interesting, that when monitoring what goes on in space is so important, the US Congress has decided to cut the budget for the Space Environment Center and the Office of Atmospheric Research? See Foolish cutback in space science. Makes one wonder if there are things going on that certain parties have decided to keep to themselves.

FIG. 2: Time series of the sunspot number as reconstructed from 10Be concentrations in ice cores from Antarctica (red) and
Greenland (green). The corresponding profiles are bounded by the actual reconstruction results (upper envelope to shaded
areas) and by the reconstructed values corrected at low values of the SN (solid curves) by taking into account the residual level
of solar activity in the limit of vanishing SN (see Fig. 1). The thick black curve shows the observed group sunspot number since
1610 and the thin blue curve gives the (scaled) 14C concentration in tree rings, corrected for the variation of the geomagnetic
field [25]. The horizontal bars with attached arrows indicate the times of Great Minima and Maxima [26]: Dalton minimum
(Dm), Maunder minimum (Mm), Spörer minimum (Sm), Wolf minimum (Wm), Oort minimum (Om), and Medieval Maximum
(MM). The temporal lag of 14C with respect to the sunspot number is due to the long attenuation time for 14C [19].[ A Millennium Scale Sunspot Number Reconstruction: Evidence For an Unusually
Active Sun Since the 1940's

Mars explorer sends back pictures


European space officials have received the first pictures of Mars sent back by the Mars Express spacecraft as it heads for a Christmas rendezvous with the red planet.

The pictures, taken from 3.36 million miles away, are not top quality but prove that the spacecraft’s high-resolution camera is in working order before it begins orbiting Mars and taking pictures close up.

The camera test is one of a series of checks and rehearsals before a series of intricate manoeuvres beginning on December 19, when Mars Express will release its British-built Beagle 2 lander towards the Martian surface on a mission to probe for signs of extra-terrestrial life.

Mars Express will then steer away from a collision with the planet and early on December 25 will fire its main engine for about 30 minutes to put it into Martian orbit.[...]

Palestinian Baby Born in Bethlehem Draws Crowds

Tue Dec 2,10:28 AM ET

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) - A baby born in Bethlehem is drawing crowds by the thousands. Palestinians in the West Bank town revered by Christians as Jesus' birthplace have been thronging to the adjacent Aida refugee camp for a glimpse of the 11-day-old infant many are calling a "miracle baby."

The boy has gained attention for being born with a large birthmark across his cheek that roughly forms in Arabic letters the name of his uncle, Ala, a Hamas militant killed by Israeli troops after he was alleged to have planned a suicide bombing.

The family, devout Muslims, called it a divine message of support for the Palestinians against Israel, though some local Christians preparing for subdued Christmas observances have quietly dismissed it as lacking any religious significance. [...]

[The infant's grandmother] said the birthmark was a sign "the soldiers can kill our sons but not our spirit." She voiced hope Israelis and Palestinians would make peace and allow her grandson to grow up free from violence.

As she spoke, an Israeli army patrol fired teargas at stone-throwing youths nearby. [...]

Adding to a tale spread mostly by word of mouth and published Monday in the Jerusalem Post, the baby ... was born on the 27th day of the holy month of Ramadan, revered as the night the Koran was revealed to the prophet Mohammad. [...]

Woman complains about unreliable horoscope
11:09 Wednesday 3rd December 2003

A Romania pensioner has lodged a complaint against a TV station claiming their horoscope is unreliable.

The woman, from Maramures, says the horoscope repeatedly predicted she would receive a big sum of money but it never arrived although she waited for three months. [...]

Trying to save a catfish as big as a bear

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) --Zeb Hogan plunges into the muddy brown waters of the Tonle Sap River and grabs hold of a 321-pound silvery giant catfish that has just slid out of a blue tarp held by several Cambodian fisherman.

[...] The Mekong giant catfish -- whose Cambodian name means "the king of fish" -- is a rare find in these waters, a Mekong River tributary.

Its sharp fall in numbers -- only eight were reported caught last year, down from about 80 a decade ago -- led to its recent listing as critically endangered, and has researchers concerned about the health of the mighty Mekong. [...]

The Mekong giant catfish can grow in excess of 650 pounds and nearly 10 feet.[...]

Shop workers demand Xmas muzak compensation
11:23 Wednesday 3rd December 2003

Shop workers in Austria are demanding compensation for the "psychological terror" of being subjected to hours of piped Christmas music.

A study by trade union leaders found that listening to endless hours of Silent Night and Jingle Bells made shop staff "aggressive and confrontational".

Austrian Trade Union Federation spokesman Gottfried Rieser said: "By the time Christmas comes around there are large scores of abused shop workers who hate the very idea of it.

"They cannot bear to listen to Christmas songs and completely lose their temper at the slightest mention of anything to do with Christmas." [...]

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