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December 11, 2003

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[In 1998] the United States shot down an Iranian civilian jet it mistakenly believed was a military craft. All 290 passengers died. When Bush senior was asked if an apology was in order, he replied, "I will never apologize for the United States. I don't care what the facts are." - as quoted by Mark Hertsgaard, The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World

That psychopathic attitude puts some of the more recent news in perspective, such as the US military killing Afghanistan children. Bush may not care about the facts, but most Signs readers do. Today's lead article documents the US record of faking evidence to justify policy or actions, "actions" being a nice word for killing and maiming. With the US record for fakery, there can be little doubt that the US would fail to use the same tactics on 9/11. The tactics have always worked for them in the past, with little outcry from US citizens.

William Blum said, "What keeps most Americans from being shocked by the shredding of the Bill of Rights is that they have yet to feel the consequences, either personally or through someone close to them. It would appear, however, that they only have to wait." We posted part of the introduction for Blum's book Rogue State yesterday. Regular readers know that his statement is not hyperbole, and that Blum is just one of the many voices putting forth fact to back up their assertions.

Some are still squeamish about considering the concept that the US would kill its own citizens, but the US has been doing that for years. Only those who are too well domesticated can repeat such banalities, and it appears that years of not caring about the rest of the world and repeating catch phrases is catching up to the average US citizen. Hopefully the lesson will be learned sooner rather than later.

The Signs today are: A bomb goes off in Tel Aviv. Suicide bomber? No, this time it is linked to Crime. Speaking of Crime, the Israelis launched another attack on the Palestinian city of Rafah, killing five. A car explodes outside a synagogue in Italy, anti-Semitism? No, but that won't stop Sharon from claiming it is.

Wolfie's decision to cut out the Coalition of the Unwilling from Iraq reconstruction contracts has earned the ire of Canada, France, Germany, and Russia. The Yanks are asking the Unwilling to forego the debt owed them from the Saddam years as their contribution to rebuilding the country. As the Russian put it, "When the Soviet Union fell apart, did anyone write off Russian debt?"

The Russians have other things to worry about. They have been informed by the US that the US military will be filling the "vacuum" created in the former Soviet Republics by building military bases there. The US is pulling out of "Old Europe," and into the former Eastern bloc.

France and Germany, having noticed that they may be welcoming more problems than they need into the EU with the arrival of these countries next May, are taking a hard line over the new European Constitution. Are they willing to let it die and go it alone with a new Franco-German alliance? On the other hand, perhaps they are pushing other member states to make a clear choice between Washington and Brussels. It seems two can play the "you are either with us or against us" game, albeit with a little more subtlety.

In France Thierry Meyssan, the author of "9/11 the big lie" loses the fight against having his book labeled "revisionism", a verdict that sets an ominous precedent.

Seems there is a conspiracy at the Pentagon. Rummie's Cabal? Not this time. Some mean old arms manufacturers are bullying a Johnny come-lately that has developed a new bullet that explodes inside a body, ravaging tissue in all directions, "creating untreatable wounds." Mercenaries on the ground in Baghdad have been impressed at the damage it wreaks on Iraqis.

A dangerous global warming trend identified called megacryometeors, the usual UFO funny business, strange noises bubbling up from the earth in Nigeria frightening residents, fun with cloning, China purchasing a US media outlet, Christian killing explained away, and the polar icecap's days are numbered.



The U.S. has a long history of fabricating evidence to justify foreign adventures. Faked evidence was a hallmark of post-World War II U.S. covert operations in Latin America. In 1954, for example, it was instrumental in overthrowing the Arbenz government in Guatemala. Arbenz, who was suspected of having Communist leanings, had tried to make the United Fruit Company comply with Guatemalan law. At President Dwight D. Eisenhower s direction, the CIA organized and armed a force of malcontent Guatemalans living in Nicaragua to invade their home country. The invasion was explained and justified when a cache of Soviet-made weapons planted by the CIA was discovered on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast. Washington alleged that the weapons were intended to support an attempt by Arbenz to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.

One of the more egregious and embarrassing uses of fake material evidence occurred on the eve of the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, when Alabama National Guard B-26 bombers attacked a Cuban Air Force base in Havana. When Cuba's UN ambassador protested, US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson (himself misinformed by the White House) insisted that the attacking planes were those of defecting Cuban Air Force pilots. Two of the aircraft were shot down in Cuba, however, and others were forced to land in Miami where they could be examined. When it became clear that the planes were not Cuban, Washington s hand was shown and Stevenson was in high dudgeon.

The war in Vietnam is replete with examples of fabrication and/or misrepresentation of intelligence to justify U.S. government policies and actions. The best-known case, of course, is the infamous Tonkin Gulf incident the one that did not happen but was used by President Lyndon Johnson to strong-arm Congress into giving him carte blanche for the war. Adding insult to injury, CIA current intelligence analysts were forbidden to report accurately on what had happened (and not happened) in the Tonkin Gulf in their daily publication the next morning, on grounds that the President had already decided to use the non-incident to justify launching the air war that very day. The analysts were aghast when their seniors explained that they had decided that they did not want to wear out their welcome at the White House.

With William Casey at the helm of the CIA during the Reagan presidency, the planting of evidence to demonstrate that opponents of governments in Central America were sponsored by the USSR reached new heights or depths. The following are representative examples:

(a) In January 1981 four dugout canoes were discovered on a Salvadoran beach. The U.S. claimed that the boats had carried 100 armed Sandinista guerrillas from Nicaragua to support leftist insurgents in El Salvador. Neither weapons nor Nicaraguans traceable to the boats were ever found, but Washington drew attention to the fact that the wood from which the boats were made was not native to El Salvador.

(b) In February 1981, the State Department issued a sensational white paper based on alleged Salvadoran rebel documents. Authored by a young, eager-to-please Foreign Service officer named John Glassman, the paper depicted damning links between the insurgents, Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. A smoking gun. Unfortunately for Glassman and the Reagan administration, Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny got access to the same documents and found little resemblance to what was contained in Glassman's paper. Glassman admitted to Kwitny that he had made up quotes and guessed at figures for the Soviet weapons supposedly coming to the Salvadoran insurgents.

(c) Certainly among the most extraordinary attempts to plant evidence was the Barry Seal affair, a complicated operation designed to incriminate the Nicaraguan Sandinista government for international drug trafficking. The operation began in 1982, when CIA Director Casey created the position of National Intelligence Officer for Narcotics. Casey's handpicked NIO wasted no time telling representatives of other agencies that high priority was to be given to finding evidence linking both Castro and the Sandinistas to the burgeoning cocaine trade.

Coast Guard and Drug Enforcement Agency officers protested that this might be counterproductive since Cuba was the most cooperative government in the Caribbean in the fight against drugs and there was no evidence showing that the Nicaraguan government played any significant role. Never mind, said the NIO, the task was to put black hats on our enemies.

In 1986 Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who had trained Nicaraguan Contra pilots in the early eighties, was facing a long sentence after a federal drug conviction in Florida. Seal made his way to the White House's National Security Council to make the following proposition to officials there. He would fly his own plane to Colombia and take delivery of cocaine. He would then make an emergency landing in Nicaragua and make it appear that Sandinista officials were aiding him in drug trafficking. Seal made it clear that he would expect help with his legal problems.

The Reagan White House jumped at the offer. Seal's plane was flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it was fitted with secret cameras to enable Seal to photograph Nicaraguan officials in the act of assisting him with the boxes of cocaine.

The operation went as planned. Seal flew to Colombia and then to Nicaragua where he landed at a commercial airfield. There he was met by a Nicaraguan named Federico Vaughan, who helped with the offloading and reloading of boxes of cocaine and was duly photographed not very well, it turned out, because the special cameras malfunctioned. Though blurred and grainy, the photos were delivered to the White House, and a triumphant Ronald Reagan went on national TV to show that the Sandinistas were not only Communists but also criminals intent on addicting America s youth.

Again, the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Kwitny played the role of skunk at the picnic, pointing out substantial flaws in the concocted story. Vaughan, who according to the script was an assistant to Nicaraguan Interior Minister Tomas Borge, was shown not to be what he claimed. Indeed, congressional investigators found that the telephone number called by Seal to contact Vaughn belonged to the U.S. embassy in Managua. It was yet another fiasco, and Seal paid for it with his life. His Colombian drug suppliers were not amused when the Reagan administration identified him publicly as a US undercover agent. As he awaited trial on other narcotics charges in Louisiana, Seal was ambushed and killed by four gunmen who left his body riddled with 140 bullets.

Fabricated evidence also played an important role in the first President Bush's attempt to secure congressional and UN approval for the 1991 Gulf War.

(a) Few will forget the heart-rending testimony before a congressional committee by the sobbing 15 year-old Kuwaiti girl called Nayirah on October 10, 1990. No congressperson, no journalist took the trouble to probe the identity of Nayirah, who was said to be an escapee from Kuwait but was later revealed to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington. With consummate skill, the story had been manufactured out of whole cloth and the 15 year-old coached by the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which has a rich history of being imbedded in Republican administrations. Similar unsubstantiated yarns made their debut several weeks later at the UN, where a team of seven witnesses, also coached by Hill & Knowlton, testified about atrocities in Iraq. (It was later learned that the seven had used false names.) And in an unprecedented move, the UN Security Council allowed the U.S. to show a video created by Hill & Knowlton.

All to good effect. The PR campaign had the desired impact, and Congress voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq on January 12, 1991. (The UN did so on November 29, 1990.) Nayirah's true identity did not become known until two years later.

Interestingly, the General Manager of Hill & Knowlton's Washington, DC office at the time was a woman named Victoria Clarke. She turned out to be less successful in her next job, as Press Secretary for the re-election campaign of President George Bush in 1992. But she is now back in her element as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.

There was a corollary fabrication that proved equally effective in garnering support in Congress for the war resolution in 1991. The White House claimed there were satellite photos showing Iraqi tanks and troops massing on the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, threatening to invade Saudi Arabia. This fueled the campaign for war and frightened the Saudis into agreeing to cooperate fully with U.S. military forces.

On September 11, 1990, President George H. W. Bush, addressing a joint session of Congress, claimed 120,000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks have poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia. But an enterprising journalist, Jean Heller, reported in the St. Petersburg Times on January 6, 1991 (a bare ten days before the Gulf War began) that commercial satellite photos taken on September 11, the day the president spoke, showed no sign of a massive buildup of Iraqi forces in Kuwait. When the Pentagon was asked to provide evidence to support the president s claim, it refused to do so and continues to refuse to this day.

This is real Terrorism not Liberation

"...the West and Israel are engaged in military action, they have created a climate, whereby "terrorism" is almost synonymously portrayed with the actions of non-State actors. Hence State terrorism is never a key feature of any discourse on the subject."

by Yamin Zakaria

What difference does it make to the parents of those murdered children in Afghanistan, whether it was caused by an accident or the result of bad intelligence? Were the US forces not dispensing an Israeli version of collective punishment when they pounded the town of Samarra with "over whelming force", destroying property and killing civilians? Why is the killing of any Westerner or an Israeli is automatically classified as "terrorism" but not the murder of civilians in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan?

Why is it that those who resist and avenge for their loved ones are constantly maligned as "fanatics" or "extremists"? Why is it, that those trigger happy soldiers, sitting in their well shielded armoured vehicles, dispensing "over whelming force" indiscriminately upon civilians, portrayed as 'heroes' and 'liberators' rather then despicable illiterate cowards? Will those (newspaper editors, TV reporters, Politicians, etc.) who never tire of hounding the Muslim community stand up and condemn those "terrorists" (criminals) who have murdered these civilians, with the same level of passion? [...]

Just examine the news reports from any of the mainstream media; there is no outcry, there is no condemnation and no such words ("terrorism") have been attributed to the recent killings of the civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? To a layperson, the line of argument presented by the Western intelligentsia is as follows: The civilians were not their intended targets but those who are actually involved in resisting the occupation. Hence, the US and her allies can never be guilty of "terrorism" since it is only applicable to those who target civilians intentionally and recently also applied to those who are fighting a guerrilla war on their own soil.

On the first point of intention, that has to be proven with evidence; after all we do not take the "innocent" plea of a murderer at face value, otherwise manslaughter would be the only outcome of all homicides. If the US forces are using "overwhelming force" in civilian areas then surely the intention is self-evident. [...]

Operation "Bloody Skulls"

Andrew Kabannikov - Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia

After arriving to Baghdad with the US troops our correspondent was shocked by the cruelty of the “liberators”.

Akhmad’s saving for a gun

Fourteen-year-old Akhmad has a treasured dream: to buy a gun and to shoot an American soldier. It’s not easy: Akhmad has no idea how he would get such a huge sum of money – 30 dollars, for which he was promised an old Colt with a full clip.

This is the kind of money his father – a shoe shiner – earned in a month. His entire family survived on this money. Now they are all dead: on April 2 an American missile targeted at the Information Ministry went slightly off-course and buried Akhmad’s parents and two sisters under the rubble of their home.

On April 9 Americans entered Baghdad and ordered everybody to stay in their homes. Akhmad no longer had a home. He was running in the street when an American soldier in an armored personnel carrier shot him in the leg. The rifle bullet went through his knee.

Akhmad knows that today in Baghdad he can make more money by begging in the street – something unseen in the city before the war. However, Akhmad cannot chase after foreigners near five-star hotels. His leg dried out and he can hardly bend it. Akhmad is sitting behind his father’s shoe shining stand he found in the ruins of his parents’ house. There’s little work: people got really poor. Still, he manages to set aside a little money for the gun.

I met Akhmad at the shelter for homeless children set up by the antiwar group “Human Shield”. “Do you really think you can shoot a man?” – I asked him. “A man – no”, replied Akhmad, - “an occupant (“khamran”, as Iraqis scornfully call the “red-faced foreigners”) – yes.”

Security sweep American style

Of course they promised the Iraqi people freedom from tyranny, democracy and future prosperity. But on November 28 Americans have suddenly surrounded the house of the local lawyer Ibrahim Al-Bussaf in Ramadi – a small town about a hundred kilometers to the west of Baghdad. It was the last day Ramadan and his large family was getting ready for a holiday dinner.

“Just the tanks and trucks there were more than thirty,” – tells me Ibrahim’s cousin Ehdris. “Later three helicopters flew in. Surprised by all the commotion Ibrahim came out to meet the Americans. He held his two-year-old daughter in his hands. They threw him face down onto the ground. Then they dragged his brother Sabah and his sister’s husband Mohammed out of the house.”

Meanwhile, Americans broke into the house from two sides. Confused inside the dark house they started shooting each other. Hearing the shooting in the house the soldiers guarding the three men on the ground outside the house shot Ibrahim, Sabah, and Mohammed in the back of the head. More Americans soldiers nearby killed five of Ibrahim’s neighbors, who had the misfortune of coming too close to the house. Another eight neighbors were wounded.

“Ibrahim was right here and here was Mohammed,” says Ehdris pointing to the blood stains in the grass. The attackers found nothing in the house of the peaceful attorney. When leaving Americans opened fire at the house from tanks and one of the helicopters. But not before they stole some gold and jewelry worth three million dinars (one-and-a-half thousand dollars) saved for Sabah’s wedding. He was supposed to get married in two days.

“American representatives came the next day,” – Ehdris concludes his sad story. “They returned the bodies of the dead and said: Sorry. We made a mistake. And, yes, they also offered a cake to the mother of the two dead brothers.” [...]

Five killed during Israeli Rafah incursion

11 December 2003

Five Palestinians have been killed and 18 others wounded during an Israeli army incursion into Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian hospital sources have said.

During the operation backed by helicopters on Thursday morning, Israeli troops encircled two houses, seeking Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists. Shots were exchanged, Palestinian security officials said.

[...] Palestinian witnesses described the incursion as the biggest Israeli operation in Rafah in the past two months. They said infantry and 20 armoured vehicles, including tanks, took part in the early morning raid, as helicopters flew overhead.

[...] The deaths brought to 3640 the number of people killed since the start of al-Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000, including 2720 Palestinians and 854 Israelis, according to an AFP count.

Explosion hits cafe in Tel Aviv

There has been a big explosion near a cafe in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

Fifteen people are reported to be injured, and there are unconfirmed reports of three fatalities.

The blast occurred at lunchtime in a busy shopping district of the city, and police said they were treating it "like a terrorist attack".

If confirmed to be a bombing, it will the first attack in Israel since a suicide bomber killed at least 19 people in Haifa two months ago.

Tel Aviv explosion less likely to be terror attack: police

JERUSALEM, Dec. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- The explosion which killed three people and wounded at least 15 others in downtown Tel Aviv on Thursday was probably criminally motivated and is less likely to be a terror attack, Israeli police sources said.

A long-time Israeli underworld figure was lightly hurt in the blast, the sources said, adding that the underworld figure, having survived several previous attempts of assassination, is apparently the target of Thursday's bombing attack.

French, Israeli FMs disagree over barrier

11 December 2003

French and Israeli Foreign Ministers, Dominique de Villepin and Silvan Shalom have expressed opposed views over Israel's "security fence" at a gala dinner given in Paris by the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

De Villepin questioned on Wednesday whether the barrier would boost security or whether on the contrary it risked "fuelling the hatred" between Palestinians and Israelis.

Addressing about 400 guests, Shalom replied that the barrier was "necessary and legitimate" and that there was no other way to protect the Israeli people against "terrorist attacks".

A barrier was "always reversible, human lives are irreversible," he said to applause. Shalom said that since the barrier was erected, the number of attacks had gone down in Israel and the number of victims was the lowest last month since the Palestinian intifada resumed three years ago.

Israel FM upbeat over Egypt talks

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom says he is encouraged by Egyptian efforts to promote dialogue with the Palestinians.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Mr Shalom in Geneva, his first talks with a senior Israeli for more than a year.

Mr Shalom said he hoped the Egyptians could promote a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

He added that there were also plans for President Mubarak to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Halt fence or 'terror will grow', Palestinian PM warns

Thu, 11 Dec 2003

JERUSALEM - Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia warned Israel "the terror will grow" if construction on the security fence and Jewish settlements continues.

As Qureia's comments were published Thursday in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, violence continued with a predawn raid the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian prime minister said Israel must halt construction of the controversial security fence that dips into Palestinian territory. Qureia warned it will only increase resentment.

"You cannot build a fence on our land, to cage us like chickens and hope all will be well," Qureia told the newspaper.

If the fence construction continues, Qureia warned "the conflict will continue, the fire will burn, the terror will grow, no one will benefit from this."

Taking apart a significant pro-Israeli policy document

Adib Farha argues strategy outlined in A Clean Break, A New Strategy for the Realm is ineffective, obsolete and based on misaligned national interests

The document we are here to discuss, A Clean Break, A new Strategy for the Realm, was originally written by the Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000 of The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. The group leader was Mr. Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute and seven other individuals known for their strong sympathy and blind support for the state of Israel.

We wouldn’t be studying this document today had it not been for the fact that three members of the group have since become key players in the current American administration. Perle is the former chair and current member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, Douglas Feith, another member of the group, is the Undersecretary of Defense and David Wurmser, yet another member of the same group, is an adviser to Vice-President Richard Cheney.

In other words, leaders of the same group that set out to draw a strategy in Israel’s interest are now key players in drawing the American strategy. The underlying, albeit wrong, assumption is that American interests and those of Israel are one and the same. Accordingly, Israel’s strategic interests are shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East, the world’s most volatile area. The conflict of interest and of loyalty is incontestable.

I will attempt to demonstrate that: a) The strategy drawn in the said document is ineffective; b) that the document has become obsolete, since many of its underlying assumptions are no longer true; and c) that US interests are not one and the same with Israel’s interests ­ despite the so-called “special relations” that exists between the two nations. I shall address key points in the document in the same order in which they were written.

Iraqi army recruits quick to quit

Globe and Mail Update

Washington — Plans to deploy the first battalion of Iraq's new army are in doubt because a third of the soldiers trained by the U.S.-led occupation authority have quit, defence officials said Wednesday.

Touted as a key to Iraq's future, the 700-man battalion lost some 250 men over recent weeks as they were preparing to begin operations this month, Pentagon officials said.

Reassessing Iraq and other colonial handiwork

The hard truth is that few if any modern Arab states were created according to the will of their own citizens. That’s why Arab national sovereignties, identities, and viabilities are so thin in most Arab countries, while concepts of tribalism, ethnic identity, Christian and Islamic religion, pan-Arabism, and other transnational identities remain so strong everywhere. And even after Arab states were created as artifacts of colonial state-craftsmanship, the citizenry rarely had an opportunity after independence to engage in the formative debates of statehood and sovereignty. The birth of the new Iraq today at the hands of the American midwife is a reminder of how most Arab countries were created by Western military powers and were endowed with governance systems largely defined by the West, reflecting European rather than indigenous values and traditions.

US plane makes emergency landing in Baghdad after engine explodes

BAGHDAD (AFP) Dec 10, 2003

A US Air Force plane made an emergency landing after one of its engines exploded after takeoff from Baghdad, an air force spokeswoman said Wednesday after reports from Washington of a possible missile hit.

"It was yesterday (Tuesday) morning about 4:00 am (0100 GMT). A C-17 shortly after departure from the airport had a flight emergency. They had an explosion in one of their engines," Captain Carrie Clear, of the 447 Air Expeditionary Group, told AFP.

One person was slightly hurt and the aircraft landed safely, she said.

The C-17, a cargo and troop transport plane, was carrying three crew and 13 passengers, Clear said. [...]

A US defence official speaking on condition of anonymity in Washington said "they believe it was hit by a surface-to-air missile based on witness reports." [...]

Iraq Spy Service Planned by U.S. To Stem Attacks

CIA Said to Be Enlisting Hussein Agents

By Dana Priest and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
December 11, 2003

The Bush administration has authorized creation of an Iraqi intelligence service to spy on groups and individuals inside Iraq that are targeting U.S. troops and civilians working to form a new government, according to U.S. government officials.

The new service will be trained, financed and equipped largely by the CIA with help from Jordan. Initially the agency will be headed by Iraqi Interior Minister Nouri Badran, a secular Shiite and activist in the Jordan-based Iraqi National Accord, a former exile group that includes former Baath Party military and intelligence officials.

Badran and Ayad Alawi, leader of the INA, are spending much of this week at CIA headquarters in Langley to work out the details of the new program. Both men have worked closely with the CIA over the past decade in unsuccessful efforts to incite coups against Saddam Hussein. The agency and the two men believe they can effectively screen former government officials to find agents for the service and weed out those who are unreliable or unsavory, officials said.

By contrast, some Pentagon officials and Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, vehemently oppose allowing former intelligence and military officials into the new organization for fear they cannot be trusted. Intelligence experts said Chalabi and his sponsors also fear some former government officials would use the new apparatus to undermine the influence of Chalabi, who wants to play a central role in a new Iraq.

Although no deadline has been set, officials hope to have the service running by mid-February. Congress had approved money for the effort in the classified annex of this year's budget. The service will focus largely on domestic intelligence and is seen by some administration officials as a critical step in the administration's effort to hand over the running of the country to Iraqis. [...]

Comment: It is not surprising that the establishment of a secret intelligence agency set up by the CIA to spy on ordinary Iraqis is viewed as a "critical step" in turning over the running of the country to the Iraqi people. After all, you can't have American-style democracy without shadowy groups conducting secret and generally horrific operations with the tax dollars and implied consent of the average citizen.

Martin wades into spat over U.S. contracts

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Ottawa and Washington — Even before taking office, incoming prime minister Paul Martin found himself in a political battle with Washington Wednesday over a Pentagon decision limiting lucrative reconstruction contracts to countries that supported the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

"I find it very difficult to fathom" Washington's action, Mr. Martin told reporters in Ottawa, noting that Canada has pledged $300-million for Iraqi reconstruction and has soldiers working alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"I'm disappointed and I don't understand that decision," he said.

Unearthing the axe

Some political stunts say more than treaties, like when an image-conscious President Chirac arrives at an EU meeting in the German chancellor's Audi. Jabeen Bhatti reports.

A top French official ponders aloud the virtues of a France-German union. German officials play coy, saying little about it.

Heads turned when Schroeder asked Chirac to represent him at the EU summit And once again the Franco-German romance is making headlines. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has been talking up the advantages of a "Franco-German union". The process of rapprochement, he said, is "the only gamble that we can't afford to lose."

This is perhaps a tactic to chill opponents of a draft EU constitution, mused Le Monde, but then French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin also offered this: "If a Europe of 25 fails, what will be left for France? The initiative of a Franco-German rapprochement."

And in response, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer deftly sidestepped the issue: "We talk about a lot of subjects," he said of Berlin and Paris.

When the furor erupted in November, it was the just the latest dance in the ever-deepening relationship between France and Germany and the suspicion it sometimes sets off in other European capitals and across the Atlantic.

Some see the relationship between the pair as a natural marriage, the two economic and political heavyweights of continental Europe coming together. "It is a difficult relationship, as France and Germany are different in big ways," says Andreas Schwab, president of the Franco-German Forum, a Freiburg-based association that promotes bilateral ties.

Chancellor Gerhard "Schroeder interrupted the once close relationship then realised that this does not work - he realised that there is no other option for Germany," he says.

Some EU countries watch the romance warily, worried about the EU being dominated by the two major players just as it adds 10 new countries next year. "After October 2002, the ever-present fears of other EU countries really became concrete after a series of bilateral initiatives" said Martin Koopmann, an expert in Franco-German relations in Berlin.

"What needs to happen is for the two to look for other partners in Europe. "French President Jacques Chirac has rebuffed such concerns, saying that "everyone knows agreement between the two countries is key to building Europe."

"Moreover, when in the past we have chanced not to be in agreement, we have very swiftly been denounced by all our partners as being the ones blocking the building of Europe," he told reporters in Berlin in June.

"So we are absolutely determined not to give rise to that accusation."

Schroeder believes Germany's only realistic European partnership is with France
Some in Germany worry that the relationship will sideline Germany and further damage transatlantic ties already in trouble after Schroeder's vehement opposition to the war on Iraq.

Some top US officials have warned Germany that it must stop following France's lead in politics or it will further harm ties with Washington.

"There is such a strong tendency for France and Germany on every occasion to express solidarity - in the mistaken belief that somehow that is what is essential to peace in Europe and that this can obscure the really very difficult issue of Europe and the Atlantic," said Richard Perle, a senior US defence advisor, at an October security conference in Berlin.

It wasn't always easy for the two continental titans.

Five years ago, Schroeder broke tradition when he reached out to Brit ain's Tony Blair instead of Chirac after winning his first term.

In 2000, Paris and Berlin were so at odds that they created a series of informal meetings to rebuild their relationship, then election battles, EU disputes and opposition to the war in Iraq transformed once-frosty handshakes.

These days, the pair meet constantly. So do their ministers. So do parliamentary and regional leaders.

And in October, heads turned when Schroeder asked Chirac to represent him at the European Union Summit October 17. The French president arrived - in a German Audi - and grinned mischievously when he got out.

Comment: While it unlikely that France or Germany, the founding fathers of the EU, would actually seek to dissolve the Union, they may be pushing other member states to make their allegiances clear. Despite the attempts by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to present a generally unified front, it is clear that a lot is going on behind the scenes and that France and Germany have very a definite vision of what the EU should be and the position it should hold on the world stage.

U.S. allies threaten retaliation for Pentagon decision to ban war critics from contracts

December 11, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Critics said a U.S. decision to bar opponents of the war in Iraq from reconstruction contracts could complicate American efforts to restructure Iraq's estimated $125 billion debt as Europe reacted swiftly and angrily to the decision.

French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin all raised the contracting issue during previously scheduled telephone calls with President Bush on Wednesday, the White House said.

"Iraq's debt to the Russia Federation comes to $8 billion and as far as the Russian government's position on this, it is not planning any kind of a write-off of that debt," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters earlier, responding to a question about the contracts. "Iraq is not a poor country," he said.

Much of Iraq's estimated $125 billion debt is owed to France, Germany, Russia and other nations whose companies are excluded under the Pentagon directive.

Reacting to the international outcry against the decision, the White House said it was not up for reconsideration. The only consolation offered to angry allies was that the Bush administration "will welcome the opportunity to talk to them and explain to them about why this decision was made," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

The White House says countries wanting a share of the $18.6 billion in reconstruction contracts in the 2004 U.S. budget must participate militarily in the postwar effort.

"These are countries that have been with us from Day One, these are countries that are contributing forces, that have been making sacrifices and that's why this decision was made," McClellan said. "If additional countries want to participate with our efforts in Iraq, then circumstances can change."

US president calls French, German, Russian leaders by phone

December 11

US President George W. Bush called French President Jacques Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to talk about Iraqi debt, White House officials said. [...]

Bush last week named Baker, a former secretary of Treasury and State and a presidential confidant, to try to get countries to forgive debts owed by Saddam's regime of up to 120 billion dollars.

U.S. Bars Russia From Iraq Business

By Valeria Korchagina
Staff WriterThursday,
Dec. 11, 2003

Russia was woken up by a slap in the face Wednesday, with a Pentagon announcement overnight that implicitly bars the country from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq.

The decision, appearing on a U.S. Defense Department web site, effectively says that the Bush administration is punishing countries that failed to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, including France, Germany and Canada.

[...] "We believe the interests of a political settlement of the situation in Iraq, and the rebuilding of Iraq, are best served by uniting the efforts of the international community and not splitting it," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists during a visit to Berlin.

"As regards the reconstruction of Iraq, I think that it's a general desire, and all who are prepared to participate in this should be given every possibility to do that."

In Moscow, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov threatened a tit-for-tat response, suggesting that Russia may not restructure some $8 billion in Iraqi debt.

"As for the Russian government's position on this, it is not planning any kind of a write-off of that debt. Iraq is not a poor country," he said at a news conference. "When the Soviet Union fell apart, did anyone write off Russian debt?"

Russia could also retaliate against the U.S. decision by switching its oil exports to euro-denominated prices, said Dmitry Rogozin, co-leader of the populist Rodina bloc, which mustered a surprise fourth place in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

"The decision is obviously an aggressive move by the U.S.," Rogozin said by telephone Wednesday. "Furthermore, it's totally groundless. After all, Russia has pretty much forgiven U.S. actions in Iraq by now."

"Coming up with this list also shows the very primitive vindictiveness of the current U.S. administration."

[...] Yet the U.S. decision to allow economically insignificant countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea or Moldova to compete for contracts -- while excluding other, far more powerful countries -- appears to be primarily a political move.

EU blasts 'gratuitous' US contracts policy

Thursday 11 December 2003

A high ranking EU official has condemned Washington's decision to bar Iraq war opponents from reconstruction contracts in the country.

External relations commissioner Chris Patten branded the policy as "gratuitous and extremely unhelpful" in a press release on Thursday.

"Returning to old arguments and divisions doesn't seem particularly constructive. We should be seeking to bring people together not divide them."

But Washington has side-stepped criticism concerning its plans to limit competition for 26 Iraqi reconstruction contracts worth up to $18.6 billion.

[...] France, Germany, Canada and Russia blasted the US decision on Wednesday, privately suggesting it was up to the Iraqis to decide who was awarded contracts after a fair and transparent bidding process.

The move could also complicate a US effort to gain an international consensus for relieving Iraq's $125 billion in foreign debt.

The European Commission said it was investigating whether the ruling violated global trade rules.

Bush Discusses Iraq Contract Row with European Leaders

U.S. President George Bush spoke with the leaders of Germany, France and Russia on Wednesday, one day after Washington chose to shut out those countries’ companies from lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

Bush had planned to use the pre-scheduled telephone calls to Berlin, Paris and Moscow to push the three leading opponents of the war in Iraq to forgive Baghdad’s debt. But the Pentagon’s decision on Tuesday to release a memo excluding all the firms from all nations that failed to support Washington’s military efforts put the White House in damage control mode.

According to a U.S. government spokesman, Bush told German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin that he planned “to keep the lines of communication open” regarding the contracts. Bush also reportedly tried to present the new policy as an invitation to other countries to join Washington’s camp rather than a form of punishment.

Deal Reached for Trade, Political Ties with Syria

The European Commission said Wednesday it has struck a deal that could further distance the European Union’s foreign policy towards "rogue states" from that of the United States. The Commission said it would develop political and trade ties with Syria, extending Brussels' policy of constructive engagement with countries dubbed "rogue states" by the U.S. government.

"We managed yesterday, in Damascus, to reach an understanding with the Syrian side on all remaining issues in the negotiations for a Euro-Mediterranean association agreement," a Commission spokesperson said. The deal includes a clause on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and rules which will facilitate trade ties. The EU has backed a policy of engagement with Iran, Libya and Syria to address human rights, non-proliferation and terrorism issues. Syria was the last of 12 states to sign the deal forming the association.

Poland 'may veto' EU constitution

Poland may veto a proposed new European constitution if its voting rights are downgraded, says the Polish president.

Aleksander Kwasniewski is due to meet German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Thursday to discuss the issue ahead of the weekend's EU summit in Brussels.

Poland and Spain want to keep voting rights they gained three years ago.

The new proposals suggest distribution of votes in the European Commission should be proportional to the size of population of member states.

Under current rules, Poland and Spain have almost as many votes as countries such as Germany and France, which have much bigger populations.

Comment: Is it possible that France and Germany, feeling that certain countries in the EU are soon to join the EU are Trojan Horses for the US, are willing to scuttle the idea of "Europe" in favour of a Franco-German alliance? With Bushist lap-dogs running Italy, Spain, and Britain, not to mention the countries of the former Eastern Bloc, Chirac and Shröder may have decided they can do without the problems the US dictated policies of these countries will bring.

Zyuganov Sticks Up For SPS, Yabloko

By Anatoly Medetsky and Francesca Mereu
Staff Writers
Dec. 11, 2003

The Communists announced on Wednesday that an alternative tally of the State Duma vote has revealed ballot stuffing that pushed the Kremlin-crafted United Russia party only a trifle higher, but was sufficient to squeeze Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces out of the Duma.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the tally, organized in conjunction with the two liberal parties, has so far covered only 15 percent of polling stations but already has turned up at least 3.5 million extra votes for United Russia. A total of 58 million people voted in Sunday's elections.

"We can't accept the results of a vote that is 100 percent a scam. We're demanding a recount of the ballots by hand," Zyuganov said at a news conference.

Central Elections Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov stuck by his count, branding the alternative tally "not serious" and "swindling."

[...] It was not immediately clear which regions the alternative count has covered so far -- a factor that may cause the results to change dramatically as more regions are included.

The numbers of the alternative count, however, roughly correspond to those of an exit poll conducted by ROMIR Monitoring and commissioned by The Moscow Times, Soros Foundation and Renaissance Capital.

Interestingly, even an exit poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation -- run by Kremlin-connected pollster Alexander Oslon -- showed the highest discrepancies for SPS and Yabloko.

But all the figures are within the margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Washington Tells Moscow It's Moving East

By Simon Saradzhyan
Staff Writer
Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003

In the first meeting of its kind, a senior U.S. official briefed Russian diplomats Wednesday on Washington's plans to move troops closer to Russia's borders, stressing that the realignment should not be taken as aggression.

While U.S. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov, President Vladimir Putin courted the defense ministers of 10 former Soviet republics with promises of continued military training and discounted weapons.

Moscow and Washington could find themselves set on a collision course should the United States decide to open bases in former Soviet republics, which Russia considers a zone of its strategic interests.

Grossman, who oversees political affairs at the State Department, emerged from his 90-minute meeting with few details about what had been discussed.

"I tried to emphasize ... that the Cold War is over and that the positions of American forces around the world sometimes reflect the Cold War and not the threats that we face today," he said at a news conference.

"As NATO expands south and east, obviously our military forces have the opportunity to follow that expansion," he said.

[...] Speculation that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have discussed the possibility of opening military bases during recent visits to Azerbaijan and Georgia has been swirling in the Russian press. The press also has been quick to point out that a consortium of Western companies plans to build a pipeline through Azerbaijan and Georgia to deliver Caspian oil to Turkey and beyond.

Rumsfeld made no public statements about opening U.S. bases, but he did urge Russia to withdraw from its bases in Georgia.

A Defense Ministry official said Wednesday that Grossman's visit along with Rumsfeld's call for Russia to withdraw from Georgia are part of a campaign to "push Russia out" of its zone of vital interests.

"It is an attempt to create a momentary vacuum that could be instantly filled by the U.S.," the official said on condition of anonymity.

[...] Moscow is rightfully concerned about Washington's vaguely worded plans to expand its military presence eastward, said Ivan Safranchuk, head of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information's Moscow office.

While Washington's declaration that it needs to cut its dependence on Old Europe by opening bases in former Warsaw Pact countries is "understandable," any arguments about needing permanent bases in former Soviet republics to battle terrorism are far from being convincing, Safranchuk said.

One clear reason that the United States might want to establish bases in the southern Caucasus region would be to secure the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, he added.

With Moscow's consent, the United States deployed troops in several Central Asian countries in 2001 to support U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan. The deployment was supposed to be temporary.

Russia maintains military bases in Armenia, Tajikistan, Georgia, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan. Russian troops were supposed to be withdrawn from Georgia and Moldova in accordance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, but their withdrawal has stalled.

Comment: Ah, the old, "the expansion of NATO give our armed forces the opportunity to follow" trick! One "obviously" follows from the other, does it not? You can imagine the response of the US if Russia opened bases in Canada and Mexico. Look at the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

French 9/11 'lie' book ruled revisionist

PARIS, Dec 8 (AFP)

A Paris judge Monday struck down a defamation lawsuit lodged by a French author of a best-selling book questioning the reality of the September 11, 2001 attacks, ruling the work could be called "revisionist".

The verdict was a defeat for Thierry Meyssan, who had taken a magazine to court for applying that description to his book, "9/11: The Big Lie", in which he accuses US authorities of stage-managing the 2001 attacks for their own political and commercial ends and postulates that a hijacked aircraft never crashed into the Pentagon.

Meyssan had claimed EUR 8,000 (USD 9,800) against the publication Impact-Medecin for an April 5, 2002 article titled "On-line delirium" that dismissed his book as "revisionist", because he felt such a term was usually used for historians who rejected Nazi war crimes.

But the judge said Monday that the adjective aimed only "to highlight the isolated character of this hypothesis which — against international opinion unanimously convinced of the reality of the attack on the Pentagon and its attribution to Islamic 'fanatics' — contends that this attack was purely a set-up resulting from a plot thought up by an American military-industrial group close to the president of the United States."

It was the second time Meysson, a polemicist who enraged many Americans with his theory, has lost a case over the book. On October 3 a court upheld the right of the French newspaper Liberation to provide sharply sceptical coverage of the work as conspiracy-mongering.

Comment: It just so happens that at present there is a Council of Europe protocol on "Racism and Xenophobia" (an amendment to the "Convention on Cybercrime") which is awaiting ratification. When ratified it will become law, enforceable in any of the states that have ratified it. Article 6 of the protocol states:

Article 6 – Denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity

1. Each Party shall adopt such legislative measures as may be necessary to establish the following conduct as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right:

distributing or otherwise making available, through a computer system to the public, material which denies, grossly minimises, approves or justifies acts constituting genocide or crimes against humanity,as defined by international law and recognised as such by final and binding decisions of the International Military Tribunal, established by the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, or of any other international court established by relevant international instruments and whose jurisdiction is recognised by that Party.

Already we see the beginnings of the treatment of "conspiracy theories" about 9/11 as essentially the same as holocaust denial. Soon it seems there will be enforceable legislation to prosecute anyone disseminating information that merely questions the party line "truth" about the attacks on September 11th 2001.

No criminal or terror link to Italian synagogue blast


A man with emotional problems killed himself when he parked his car near an Italian synagogue today, set the vehicle on fire and blew it up.

The prefect of Modena, Italia Fortunati, said all indications pointed to a “desperate” act by a Jordanian man known to have “serious problems,” including alcohol abuse, financial and mental problems.

“He was suffering from depressive crisis, he was out of work,” he said. “I repeat, it’s a gesture of a desperate man.”

Fortunati stressed that no explosives were found in the car.

Police spokesman Cinzia Ricciardi said the man apparently set fire to a tank of flammable liquid inside the car, and that the flames then made the main petrol tank explode.

The blast blew out some nearby windows, including several in the synagogue, and caused minor damage to the roof of the building.

Comment: "No criminal or terror link", but was there an anti-Semitic link? It is likely that this will be the question asked and insinuation made by Sharon and extremist elements in Israel to back their claims that a "new wave of anti-Semitism is sweeping Europe", further alienating the Jewish people and ripening the environment for the biblical showdown that Sharon and his ilk crave so much.

U.S. military defends action in raid that killed 6 children in Afghanistan

06:21 AM EST Dec 11

KABUL (AP) - The U.S. military defended its raid on a suspected renegade commander's compound that resulted in the deaths of six Afghan children, saying Thursday the site was packed with weapons and soldiers were fired on from inside.

News of the Dec. 5 raid in eastern Paktia province emerged Wednesday, just days after a botched weekend attack in neighbouring Ghazni in which nine children, all under 12 years old, were killed. The children and two adults in the Paktia compound were found crushed to death under a wall.

The twin operations have provoked outrage and expressions of concern from ordinary Afghans all the way to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. But U.S. military spokesman Lt.-Col. Bryan Hilferty said American forces exercised proper restraint in the Paktia operation against a weapons storage depot allegedly used by Mullah Jalani, a suspected associate of Taliban-ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

"Certainly, we followed the law of proportionality in this compound," Hilferty said Thursday. "From the compound, they were shooting at us with machine-guns. Jalani has more ammunition at his house then the coalition keeps at Bagram," the U.S. headquarters.

Global Eye -- Bullet Points

Chris Floyd

Sometimes the smallest sliver of glass can reflect the brilliance of the entire moon, full and blazing in the midnight sky. And just so, a simple story in an out-of-the-way journal can illuminate the ethos of an entire age, piercing the murk with a sudden flash of stark and painful truth.

The brutal essence of the Bushist Era was thus laid bare last week in the unlikely venue of the Army Times, a corporate-owned military newspaper in Washington. In an article detailing the effectiveness of a new kind of ammunition, the paper -- inadvertently, we assume -- stripped away the patriotic tinfoil wrapped around the arms industry and revealed that "patriotism" for what it really is: extortion, crude and thuggish, a raw greed driven by threats -- including the threat of turning their death-wares against the Americans they are purporting to defend.

The story, by John Roos, deals with the controversy over a new bullet made by a Texas firm, RBCD, and distributed by Le Mas Ltd. of Arkansas. As Roos explains, the new 5.66-mm Le Mas round is "frangible" -- it will "penetrate steel and other hard targets but will not pass through a human torso." Instead, it effectively explodes inside a body, ravaging tissue in all directions, "creating untreatable wounds."

The ammo has not been adopted by the U.S. military yet, but it is being used by some of the "private security consultants" hired by the Bush administration to prowl the streets of occupied Iraq. These mercenaries are not always bound by the laws and codes of honor that govern regular military forces, so they're free to do any dirty work that the Bushists want to keep off the books. They are also free to carry out productive "field experiments" of new ammo on human targets, the paper reports.

Roos writes of hired gun Ben Thomas, who works for an unnamable company carrying out unspecified tasks in Iraq for the Bush Regime. Thomas cheerfully relates his first kill with Le Mas' fabulous frangible, during what he said was a skirmish with Iraqi gunmen in a rural village near Baghdad. "It entered his butt and completely destroyed everything in the lower left section of his stomach," Thomas said of the single bullet from his M4 carbine. "Everything was torn apart. Nobody [could] believe this guy died from a butt shot."

Thomas and his fellow irregulars made sure to examine his handiwork when the fight was over, exploring the dead man's exploded rectum to study the effects of the new round. The verdict? The bullet's a beaut. "There's absolutely no comparison, whatever, none" to the piddling damage caused by lesser 5.56-mm cartridges, Thomas said. And he should know, telling Roos that he has "shot people with various types of ammo" in his shadowy work around the world. He's stocking up on the Le Mas butt-buster, he added, and will be taking plenty to his privatized pals when he returns to Baghdad after a brief chill-out in Florida.

But it seems there's trouble in this shooter's paradise. Despite the butt-buster's marvelous ability to create untreatable wounds -- guaranteeing an agonizing death to any enemy (or innocent bystander, or victim of friendly fire, etc.) -- the Army has yet to place an order with Le Mas. Army experts say earlier tests show the bullet doesn't wreak appreciably more tissue-ripping havoc than ammo already in stock. Although more tests have been mandated by well-greased Bushist congressmen, Army brass have remained dubious.

But Hell hath no fury like an arms dealer scorned. Le Mas says the Army's tests were fatally flawed: They fired the bullets into cold gelatin, while the ammo's true effectiveness can only be measured by blasting live animals (or Iraqi villagers). Company officials hint darkly of a conspiracy among Pentagon brass to protect their own favored ammo programs. To break the power of this dastardly cabal, Le Mas has hired lobbyist Bill Skipper to carry the fight to Washington. And Skipper has a simple message: cross our palms with public silver -- or else.

"When I heard of the ballistic characteristics of this ammo, as a retired military officer, I realized it has to stay in the good guys' hands," Skipper told Army Times. "This is an issue of national security."

Let's ponder that for a moment. Why is the Army's decision in this matter "an issue of national security?" It's obvious: because if the "good guys" don't buy Le Mas' gut-chewing ammo, then they will sell it to the bad guys -- to anyone who'll pay the price. There is no other possible way to construe the firm's position. The Army's failure to purchase the ammunition can only put the nation's security at risk if Le Mas sells the bullets to America's enemies. If they would forswear this possibility, there would be no such risk. Instead, they have made it the linchpin of their money-grubbing campaign.

Here we see the "morality" of those who traffic in death -- from small-time players like Le Mas to the Bushist boardrooms of the Carlyle Group, the corruption-riddled Boeing Corporation, Britain's scandal-plagued BAE and all the other masters of war who girdle the planet with blood and steel. Stripped of high-vaulting, self-deluding rhetoric, their pitch boils down to this: Pay us to help kill your enemies -- or we'll help your enemies kill you. The money is what matters.

Tear off that mask of patriotism and this is the reality: a death's head with dollar signs glowing in its empty eyes.

Government accused of creating a 'Guantanamo Bay' on British soil

By Robert Verkaik Legal Affairs Correspondent
11 December 2003

Ministers were accused today of creating a Guantanamo Bay on British soil where foreign terror suspects have been held without trial for almost two years.

The emergency internment laws introduced in the wake of the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 were also criticised as a "perversion of justice."

Amnesty International's damning report over the detention of terror suspects in Belmarsh and other high-security prisons comes two days after four Algerian men were finally cleared by the Scottish courts of offences under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The men spent four months in custody and a further eight months on bail with the charges hanging over them. Their lawyers said that their clients' lives had been ruined and are calling for a public inquiry to establish whether the prosecutions were politically motivated

Amnesty's report claims that the Government's anti-terrorism measures have created a "Guantanamo Bay in our own backyard". The human rights group said that emergency legislation introduced by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, had created a "shadow" criminal justice system for foreigners.

By allowing them to be locked up indefinitely without charge or trial, ministers had failed to meet international standards, the group claimed. [...]

Tale of rape and murder on Burmese pipeline haunts US

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
11 December 2003

The United States oil giant Unocal sought to deny responsibility yesterday for alleged murders, rapes and torture associated with an oil pipeline project in Burma.

The case is being seen as a legal landmark for human rights campaigners wanting to hold multinationals accountable for their business decisions.

Unocal, which has been based in California for seven years, argued that the case should never have come to court in the US because responsibility for criminal behaviour associated with the $1.2bn pipeline lay with its subsidiaries in Burma.

Daniel Petrocelli, the lawyer who represents Unocal, told a Los Angeles federal court: "If the subs can pay, the case goes away. That's the beginning and end of this trial."

The plaintiffs argue that Unocal is responsible for alleged atrocities by the Burmese military along the Yadana natural gas pipeline, which stretches from the Andaman Sea to the border with Thailand.

They say that the subsidiaries have no autonomy and provide the parent company with no legal protection.

Judith Chomsky, the lawyer who represents one of the plaintiffs, said: "These are sham corporations created solely to allow Unocal to hide from liability."[...]

The case has already spooked the White House, which has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Unocal's behalf arguing that the suit is a threat to its war on terrorism.

The Bush administration has a policy of active support of overseas energy projects by US corporations, many of whom have been generous Bush campaign donors.

Ordering Unocal to stand trial in August, the federal judge Victoria Chaney appeared to agree that Unocal knew what it was getting into.

She said: "Prior to its involvement... Unocal had specific knowledge that the use of forced labour was likely, and nevertheless chose to proceed."

Spinitaway Media Sanitation Services

When Christians Kill

December 8, 2003

"Our troops" (preferred term. Avoid "military" or "bombs", as those words can get people upset) seem to have, regrettably, killed nine children inside a home in another inevitable accident in Afghanistan. This is going to present us with yet another challenge, linguistics-wise, because as you surely know by now, we have a very, very Christian President, which means that everything he orders his military to do, and everything his military orders our troops to do, is of course consistent with Christian principles.

I've been on the horn all morning with Washington on this potential PR disaster, and I know that my readers are concerned as well, lest our military missions or our rules of engagement be questioned (Tess Tip: "rules of engagement" reliably quells opposition, as it sounds too official and sophisticated for the average reader to dare question). But not to worry, Tess is on the case. A bit of shuffling around is in order, but if we work fast, we can prevent the usual whining about how "US aggression" has led to more civilian deaths, etc., blah blah blah.

Never fear, Dear Reader: As long as we get the words right, people will have forgotten all about those nine juveniles by, oh, Tuesday at the latest.

You see, when Christians kill, we have to have certain-wording. The right wording has been brilliantly used by our leaders these last two years to nip in the bud any dangerous notions that killing is somehow un-Christlike. I mean we all know that Jesus would be the first to commend the bombers for their good intentions - after all, they were trying to kill "the enemy" and rid the world of evil, and just had a little, well, accident.

And Jesus said well never mind. Let's move on to pious-sounding words from the other parts of the Bible or from cherished old hymns that are, well, more amenable to our purposes than all that stuff that Jesus taught, which really has no pertinence here. (Tess Tip: you'll save a lot of time by skipping the Gospels altogether when justifying military defense killings, or when sanitizing military offense killings disguised as defense killings. I know all this is rather confusing, but the simple rule of thumb is in these situations is: Don't quote Jesus.) [...]

Military to Test Missile Defense in Hawaii

By B.J. REYES, Associated Press Writer
December 11, 2003

HONOLULU - Six months after a missile fired from sea failed to connect with an airborne target in a test of a ballistic missile defense system, military officials have returned to try again.

For the Thursday test, an Aegis cruiser will be deployed to an undisclosed location in the Pacific. It will fire a missile to intercept a rocket launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the federal Missile Defense Agency in Washington. [...]

India to send commandos to Afghanistan

Thursday 11 December 2003

India is to send crack commandos to protect Indian installations in Afghanistan, days after two Indian road workers were kidnapped by Taliban militia.

[...] Some 700 to 800 semi-skilled Indian workers are currently in Afghanistan with private companies, including a tiny number of highly-skilled professionals such as doctors and engineers, the paper said.

India has been in the forefront of reconstruction work in Afghanistan since the Taliban was dislodged from power following the US global campaign against terrorism after September 2001.

India has already given 274 buses, three Airbus aircraft, has pledged $70 million for construction of a road and has donated one million tonnes of wheat.

"The kidnapping of the two Indians is a signal to India from the Taliban and the pro-Pakistan lobby," former Indian special envoy to Afghanistan, S K Lambah said. "They want to discourage our people from going and working there," he added.

Syrian minister calls for ‘enlightening’ Americans

Pat McDonnell Twair
Special to The Daily Star

LOS ANGELES: Buthaina Shaaban is on a tough mission in the United States seeking to win the hearts and minds of Syrian expatriates by presenting Damascus’ views on the dispute with Washington.

On many stops on the tour, she tailored her remarks to suit her role as Syria’s principal government spokesperson and minister of expatriates.

Addressing the Los Angeles World Affairs Council this week, the articulate diplomat highlighted Syria’s support for the United States in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, for which the United States has shown no gratitude.

“Syria was one of the first nations after Sept. 11 to cooperate with the US in its ‘war against terrorism,’” she said. “In seven different instances, our intelligence saved American lives. We tried to control our mutual border with Iraq to prevent escaping leaders of Saddam Hussein’s regime from entering. We also tried to quiet Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

“What thanks did we get? The US Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act,” she said.

[...] Giving her audience the benefit of the doubt, Shaaban said most Americans probably aren’t aware of military tactics in which Palestinian and Iraqi homes are invaded at night and the men dragged away. She cited ongoing Palestinian losses since the onset of the intifada that include 250 murdered children, 10,000 destroyed homes and 200,000 uprooted olive trees even as the Israelis build the apartheid wall and announce plans for 232 new illegal settlements.

“If the objective of the US is peace and security in the Middle East, then Syria is eager to be its partner. But if the objective is to maintain occupation, it is a different story,” she said.

Washington, Shaaban emphasized, tends to underestimate the intellect of the Arab people and assume they are unaware of the hypocrisy.

“What’s going on is against the interests of the American people. Proof is the huge barricades built to protect American embassies throughout the Middle East,” she said, but averring Arabs distinguish the American people from the forces formulating US foreign policy.

As for Bush’s frequently stated concerns for “downtrodden” Arab women, Shaaban said: “This makes us smile. My great-grandmothers were writers. Sixty percent of Syria’s professors are women. The Prophet’s wife, Khadija, was a businesswoman.

“Why should the Americans know better how to run our country than we do? It is our country and we are intelligent enough to handle our own affairs,” she said.

French headscarf ban recommended

Muslim girls in France could be barred from wearing headscarves in schools after an expert commission recommended a ban on "conspicuous" religious signs.

The official commission headed by former minister Bernard Stasi is publishing its findings on issues relating to religion and the state.

French President Jacques Chirac will then have to decide whether to follow the commission's recommendation.

The ban would include the Islamic veil and the Jewish skull-cap.

Mr Stasi consulted a wide cross-section of public opinion, including teachers, religious leaders, sociologists and politicians before handing in the report to the president on Thursday.

Medallions allowed

A report by France Info radio in Paris said the ban would outlaw the Jewish kippa, large crosses and the Islamic headscarf, which would be considered overt religious symbols.

Medallions and pendants which merely confirm the person's religious faith would be allowed, it said.

French public life has a strong secular tradition which has existed since the revolution, but the commission has now recommended that the plan be enshrined in law.

Mr Chirac has hinted that he could back a formal ban.

Last week he said France felt "in a certain way under attack as result of the display of ostentatious religious signs, which is totally contrary to its secular tradition".

He added: "We cannot accept ostentatious signs of religious proselytism, whatever the religion."

Japan needs to rethink its military role: newspaper 2003-12-11

BEIJING, Dec 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Despite strong voter opposition, Japan's cabinet approved a basic plan on Tuesday to dispatch its Self-defence Force (SDF) to Iraq, clearing the way for what could be the nation's biggest and most dangerous overseas military mission since World War II.

At the request of the occupying authorities rather than the Iraqi Government, Tokyo's decision, for the first time, enables the country to send its SDF troops equipped with the heaviest artillery they have ever taken overseas to an occupied country where war has not yet officially ended.

'Fresh activity' at N Korea nuclear plant

South Korea is investigating reports of fresh activity at the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted US and South Korean officials as saying that a US satellite detected fumes rising from a boiler at the lab.

Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said Seoul was trying to confirm this.

Pyongyang said in July that it had reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods to extract plutonium, and has since vowed to boost its nuclear deterrent.

West 'risks new Ethiopia famine'

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ethiopia's efforts to feed itself and avoid another famine are being fatally undermined by Western policy, a senior scientist has told BBC News Online.

Dr Tewolde Egziabher, of the country's Environmental Protection Authority, says it can become self-sufficient.

But he says the Western insistence on private sector answers to hunger means Ethiopia cannot construct food stores.

So it has been unable to save the grain left over from good harvests to see its people through subsequent lean years.

[...] He said Western institutions were determined to allow only the private sector to secure its food supply, and this was preventing the government from raising the loans it needed to build granaries and depots.

In the mid-1980s almost a million Ethiopians are believed to have starved to death, and there is concern that millions more could soon be suffering severe hunger.

Asked about the probability of another devastating famine, Dr Tewolde said: "Ethiopia will avoid a food crisis only if the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the US Agency for International Development allow us to raise the loans we need.

"Last year about 14 million people, less than a quarter of the population, depended on foreign food aid. This year's harvest is likely to be 60% up on last year's.

"But the Bank, the IMF and Usaid are stopping us borrowing the money to build the stores, the roads and the other infrastructure we need to conserve what's left over.

No action

"The problem is that many people don't have the cash to buy it, and the country hasn't the means to store it.

"For three years from 1999 onwards, we had bumper harvests. If we had an effective private sector we'd have begun building up reserves then, but it didn't happen.

"The North's preoccupation with the supposed potential of the private sector risks preventing us moving towards self-sufficiency, and could possibly create the conditions for another famine.

"I'm not saying it's a deliberate attempt to make us dependent on foreign aid, though. I think it's more a matter of dogma."

Comment: The myth of the private sector, so dear to neocons, neoliberals, and libertarians. Dogma before human life, although we are less convinced that the reasons are strictly based on "principle." The next few years may well see a chaotic shift in the earth's weather, with certain scientists predicting global warming leading rapidly to a new ice age. Such a shift would eliminate much of the northern agricultural lands. Could this insistence on "private answers" be tied to this? Ways for the Western elite to ensure they will have access to grain once this shift occurs?

Threat of suicide leads to ban of major antidepressants for children

By Andrew Clennell
10 December 2003

All major antidepressant drugs other than Prozac, known as SSRIs, are set to be be banned for children under 18 by the Government today, amid concerns that the drugs cause young patients to commit suicide.

Sources at the Department of Health confirmed reports last night that four antidepressant drugs would be banned for children. Two drugs in the same group, Seroxat and Efexor, were banned in June and September respectively. An announcement is expected in Parliament today from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Doctors will be told not to prescribe Lustral (chemical name setraline), Cipramil (citalopram), Cipralex (escitalopram) and Faverin (fluvoxamine) to under-18s. Fifty thousand children are estimated to be on antidepressants in Britain.

The MHRA was said to have told doctors last night they should not prescribe any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), other than Prozac. It will also warn that Prozac will help only one child out of 10. However, the agency will say that patients already on medication should not stop it suddenly, to avoid withdrawal symptoms. [...]

Are falling ice balls a product of global warming?

By Michael Woods
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BARCELONA, Spain -- A Spanish-American scientific team will be scanning the United States this winter for what might be one of the weirdest byproducts of global warming: great balls of ice that fall from the sky.

The baffling phenomenon was first detected in Spain three years ago and has since been reported in a number of other countries, including the United States. So scientists now plan to monitor in a systematic way what they call "megacryometeors" -- or great balls of ice that fall from the sky.

"I'm not worried that a block of ice may fall on your head," said Dr. Jesus Martinez-Frias of the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid. "I'm worried that great blocks of ice are forming where they shouldn't exist."

Ice balls, which generally weigh 25 to 35 pounds but can be much bigger, have punched holes in the roofs of houses, smashed through car windshields, and whizzed right past people's heads.

Incidents like those may be just the beginning, according to Dr. David Travis, who chairs the department of geography and geology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

"If megacryometeor formation is linked to global warming, as we suspect, then it is fair to assume that these events may increase in the future," Travis said.

Martinez-Frias pioneered research on megacryometeors in January 2000, after ice chunks weighing up to 6.6 pounds rained on Spain for 10 days.

At first, scientists thought the phenomenon was unique to Spain. During the past three years, however, they've accumulated strong evidence that megacryometeors are falling all around the globe.

More than 50 falls have been confirmed, and researchers believe that's a small fraction of the actual number, since others may hit unoccupied areas or melt before discovery.

Travis said most megacrymeteor falls occur in January, February and March.

Researchers were able to analyze ice samples from the 2000 incidents, thanks to witnesses who kept the material cold. Martinez's team quickly ruled out obvious explanations.

The ice balls, for instance, were not frozen water from toilets flushed on jetliners. The ice contained no human waste and none of the blue disinfectant used in airplane toilets. Air traffic control records showed that no planes flew over the areas near the ice falls, so the ice had not been shed from aircraft wings.

Chunks of debris from a comet? Again, lab tests showed that ice in megacryometeors had the distinctive chemical signature of ice in ordinary terrestrial hailstones.

Hail forms in the updrafts and downdrafts of thunderstorms. The updrafts carry droplets of super-cooled water, which freeze. More droplets hit the frozen particles as winds toss them around. The water freezes instantly and the hailstone grows, layer by layer.

Most hailstones weigh a fraction of an ounce, with 27 ounces the U. S. record.

Megacryometeors show the telltale onionskin layering seen in hailstones. They also contain dust particles and air pockets found in hail. But they are formed in cloudless skies, a notion that defies research on hail formation.

"Scientists are naturally reluctant to say something never can happen," said Charles Knight, a hail expert at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "But oh, dear. I would be tempted to say 'never' on this."

Knight has reviewed scientific papers on megacryometeors, and thinks the explanation that cites unusual atmospheric conditions possibly linked to global warming, is probably wrong, although he doesn't have a better one.

Global warming involves higher temperatures on Earth's surface, but creates colder conditions in the stratosphere, the uppermost layer of the atmosphere, according to Travis.

He has linked megacryometeor events to unusual conditions in the "tropopause," the boundary between the troposphere (the lower atmosphere) and the stratosphere. Located 5 to 9 miles above the surface, the tropopause marks the limit of clouds and is important in the development of storms.

Global warming may be making the tropopause colder, moister and more turbulent, Travis said, creating conditions in which ice crystals grow like ordinary hailstones in thunderclouds.

Comment: Their web site can be found here (in English or Spanish) and is slightly more through in explaining their research. Of particular interest, is the A History of Ice Falls page, which records date like, "In the late 1700s, a gargantuan chuck of ice 'as big as an elephant' was said to fall on Seringapatam, India, and took three days to melt."

Polar icecap soon to dissappear

By Steve Connor
11 December 2003

It is one of mankind's final frontiers, a place of extreme cold and extraordinary beauty. But the North Pole's icecap is thawing fast. And many of us will live to see it disappear altogether [...]

Geologists investigate mysterious noises in Plateau rocky area

By Taye Obateru
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

JOS —  THE Plateau State Government has sent a team of geologists to a village in the central part of the state where strange noises have been reported from rocks in the area. Residents of Humbul village in Bokkos Local Government Area were said to have reported strange rustling noises from the rocks which dot the area, creating panic.

Vanguard gathered that although such noises from the rocks were not entire strange as they have experienced them for years, the increase in the noise level is said to be disconcerting to them. As is usual in such situations, various explanations, some weird, were being given for the phenomenon.

While some blame it on the existence of some spirits inhabiting the rocks, some more scientific minded ones describe it as a usual occurrence resulting from various climatic factors.

However, following the increase in the level of the noise, the villagers, it was gathered decided not to leave anything to chance and reported the matter to the state government. In response, the state government constituted a team led by the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Mr Maurice Dallen to investigate the development. The outcome of the team’s investigations is expected to guide government’s further actions. A similar incident was recorded at Maza village in Jos North local government area of the state some years ago when muddy liquid accompanied by some strange noises was oozing out of a mountain in the area.

Xinhua unit acquires U.S. news business

BEIJING, Dec. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- A subsidiary of China’s Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that it has agreed to buy New York-based Market News International in the first acquisition of an American news business by a Chinese company.

Embryo made using lab-built sperm

Scientists believe they have been able to produce working "sperm" from cells taken from another part of the body.

The cells were able to "fertilise" a mouse egg and begin the process of making an embryo.

If proved safe, stem cells could be a source of viable sperm for infertile men, although scientists say that this is many years away.

[...] In half the experiments, a first cell division took place, while in one fifth, the embryo progressed to the "blastocyst" stage, forming a ball of cells ready to implant into the womb.

However, no live births have yet been achieved, and some experts believe that the sperm cells produced this way may not carry all the information needed to produce a viable foetus.

Pretty women scramble men's ability to assess the future

[...] Male students, when shown pictures of pretty women, were more likely to opt for short-term economic gain than wait for a better reward in the future. [...]

Raid might have broken drug-dog rules

The Associated Press
Mon, Dec. 08, 2003

CHARLESTON — The Goose Creek Police Department appears not to have followed its own rules on using drug dogs in its guns-drawn raid at Stratford High School last month.

A videotape the Police Department released shows a police dog passing close by students who had been forced to kneel on the floor during the Nov. 5 raid. It also captures an officer lecturing students as that part of the raid ends. [...]

More than 100 students were in the hallway that morning as a police dog passed close by, barking and excitedly sniffing their backpacks. At one point, the dog grabs a backpack with its mouth and shakes it. At another time, the dog jumps briefly on its hind legs onto his handler as they check students huddling in an alcove.

The department’s procedure on "illegal narcotics detection" states, "Only after the on-scene supervisor has cleared the area of all personnel will the canine enter and conduct an illegal narcotics detection." [...]

Who murdered Joanna Parrish? Part 1: Getting rid of the evidence (France)

The unsolved investigation into the murder in Burgundy of British student Joanna Parrish is a scandal which her parents are determined to expose. The history of the enquiry is a catalogue of incompetence which beggars belief and defies all reasonable explanation. We begin here the first in a series of reports by Graham Tearse about this very disturbing case, which highlights the failings of the French judicial and investigative system.

Patrice Bardot vividly remembers the morning of 17 May 1990. That was when he discovered the body of Joanna Parrish.

It was just after 8am when Bardot, a keen angler, left his home in the small Burgundy village of Monéteau to wander down to the nearby river Yonne. He wanted to check on conditions in preparation for a spot of fishing later that day.

On the banks of the river, which winds through the village, he met up with another angler. While the two chatted, Bardot surveyed the water, rippled by a breeze which he decided was too strong for any proper chance of a catch.

Suddenly, Bardot noticed a plastic drum bobbing in the water about 20 meters away. He was used to finding debris in the river here.

Bardot, an unemployed dustman, reckoned the drum might come in useful. He went to have a look.

"When I got close I saw it was a body. She was lying face down," he recalled, uneasily. "It felt like my heart had stopped. I thought I was going to have an attack. I still have nightmares."

The naked body was that of 20-year-old British student Joanna Parrish.

Joanna, a modern languages undergraduate with Leeds University in Britain, had come to France, as part of her degree course, to work as an English teaching assistant at a secondary school in the nearby town of Auxerre. The autopsy would later conclude that Joanna had been severely beaten, trussed, raped and strangled before her body was thrown into the river. She was the third woman to have been murdered in this same region of Burgundy within 12 months. All three cases remain unsolved.

The early history of the investigation into Joanna's murder reads like a farce. The more recent developments are chillingly sinister.

They include revelations of how a self-confessed serial killer mysteriously escaped being charged with the murders and disappearances of seven other young women in the same area, despite the existence of a solid case against him which was known to the local justice authorities.

For 11 years, Joanna's parents, from Gloucestershire, in Britain, have led a dogged campaign for justice for their daughter despite being shunned by the investigating authorities. What they have recently discovered leads them to fear that the killers may have been protected by a cover up. [...]

'Child rape for cash' parents on trial (France)

SAINT-OMER, France, Dec 8 (AFP) -
A trial of two parents accused of "renting" their children to three other couples to be raped and sexually molested by them began in this northern French town Monday.

The case, which was expected to run to Friday, was to be closed to the public at times, particularly when any of the six children involved were to testify, officials and lawyers said.

The parents of the children and the three couples were all facing charges. In France, a conviction for raping a minor under 15 carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The identities of the adults were not given. The children are today aged 16, 12, 11, 10, seven and five.

According to prosecutors, the parents "rented" the children out to the three other couples between 1997 and 2000 to be raped, molested and to be made to feature in pornographic videos and photographs.

The parents have retracted an earlier confession admitting to the allegations, they said, adding that the father had initially boasted that he had earned nearly EUR 15,000 (USD 18,000) from the transactions.

Social welfare officials raised the alarm after early suspicions prompted them to start putting the children in foster care. Once away from their parents, the children were said to have gradually revealed the acts to which they had been subjected.

Vatican Radio officials in court charged with voluntary homicide

VATICAN. 9 Dec 2003

Three Vatican Radio officials are charged with "voluntary homicide" in a case brought by Italian government prosecutors that involves the electromagnetic emissions from broadcasting towers. The prosecution says that the emissions are responsible for a higher than normal rate of leukemia among people who live near the station's antennas, some 20 miles from Rome. The defense maintains that there is no correlation between the incidence of leukemia and the emissions.

The case started with a civil complaint against Vatican Radio directors in 2001. It charged the station with exceeding the level of emissions allowed by law. A Rome court dismissed the case in 2002, finding that the treaty between the Vatican and the state protected the radio station.

An appeals court reversed the decision this year.

Man eats nephew's head (SA)


Nairobi - A Kenyan man has been arrested after allegedly decapitating his infant nephew and eating parts of the severed head after a row with the boy's mother, police said on Tuesday.

"The man chopped off the head of a young child using a panga, tapped and sucked blood and then drunk it, before starting to eat part of the head," Rift Valley deputy police chief Peter Leiyan said.

"Police were alerted by the wailing mother and neighbours and we arrested the suspect while he was boiling the head to drink the soup as well as eat it," in a village in Koibatek district on Saturday, Leiyan added.

The man's motives were being investigated, said police, adding that he had no known history of cannibalism.

Mom, Boyfriend Charged With Drowning Kids

Skies Over UK Still Swarming With Astounding UFO Activity


UFO magazine has released a documentary regarding the experiences & sightings of Anthony Woods which is named the "Journey." Featured in the documentary are some of Anthony's footages including the fleets from 2001 & 2002 + the sensational red objects with light that he filmed on march 27th 2002. It is available on video & DVD. Details & information can be found at

THROUGHOUT the summer of 2002 I was fortunate enough to film several interesting sightings, some of my best footage since the fleets footage showing clear intelligence which happened in August -- in particular on the 13.8.02 I was lucky to film several very good sightings including a sphere that crossed the sky at tremendous speed passing through the clouds as it went over head & a double sphere sighting where both objects together instantaneously blinked out on film in less than one frame.

Another interesting sighting clearly shows intelligence happened several days later on the 16.8.02 above my parents home; I managed to film a sphere that hovered absolutely motionless for over 10 minutes high in the sky, eventually the object moved off slowly but I managed to get over twenty minutes of footage.

From my own experience of observing these objects it is evident they have the capability to be individual objects "when required" or they can morph or join up to make a larger craft. When they come together there seems to be some sort of energy or plasma substance that surrounds and holds them together. The more I see these objects the more I am certain they are living individual life forces of some sort rather than manufactured vehicles. [...]

Did UFO land in Rainhill?

St. Helens Star

THE mystery surrounding an apparent sighting of a UFO above a power station 25 years ago deepened further when an amateur radio operator raised the possibility the 'light in the sky' actually landed in a local farmer's field.

Robert Bennett revealed how in January 1978 he sat for five hours in his living room with three policemen, listening over the wires as enthusiasts and police tracked the craft across St Helens.

He claims that from conversations he heard between officers in his Nutgrove home and those on the ground, the UFO actually landed on a field in Rainhill.

The 71-year-old came forward with his version of events after former St Helens journalist, Ian Brandes, wrote in the Star of how the mysterious sighting had recently been logged in a X-Files style police database.

Ian revealed how Detective Constable Gary Heseltine had officially entered the sighting above Bold Power Station in the Police Reporting UFO sightings logging system. [...]

Researcher reports more sightings

Airdrie Echo  — Two recent Airdrie Echo articles on UFO sightings in and around Airdrie continue to spur on other residents to come forward with their stories of strange lights in the sky. [...]

Sheep camouflaged to confuse big cats
09:30 Thursday 11th December 2003

A Scottish farmer has spray painted her sheep in a bid to deter big cat attacks.

Charlotte Brayley made patterned stencils and then used red, green and purple paint on six of her animals.

Striped camouflage, like that of a zebra, is said to confuse cats because the contrasting bold stripes break up the animal's shape. [...]

"It only took about 15 minutes to paint each one and they were quite content to have it done. It doesn't matter that the colours are bright. It is the patterns that are important because cats only see in black and white."

As well as helping out on the family farm, she studies fine art and sculpture at Glasgow School of Art.

Scientist's formula for the perfect Christmas turkey
09:47 Thursday 11th December 2003

A physicist is claiming to have come up with a formula for cooking the perfect Christmas turkey.

Peter Barham, of Bristol University, says his heat-transfer equation accounts for every relevant variable, including the difference in temperature between fridge and oven.

It also accounts for the ratio of the specific heat of the turkey to the specific heat of the air, and the radius, girth and precise physical geometry of the turkey, reports The Times.

He said breast meat benefits from cooking at a high temperature to bring out the flavour, while legs and wings are better cooked for longer at lower temperatures.

Dr Barham says using cooking times based on weight is likely to result in birds part undercooked and part overcooked or even burnt. "The main problem is that different muscle groups on the breast, wings and legs benefit from different cooking times and temperatures," he says.

The scientist says his formula shows how to calculate the complete temperature profile of the turkey at all times, but his guidelines start with the conclusion: "The best method is to split the bird into separate pieces and cook the breast, legs and wings separately."

Those cooking the bird whole, Dr Barham says, should cover the breast with aluminium foil "to keep it cooler than the legs and wings, while at the same time allowing the collagen in the legs and wings to be heated to a sufficient temperature".

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