Today's conditions brought to you by the Bush Junta - marionettes of their hyperdimensional puppet masters - Produced and Directed by the CIA, based on an original script by Henry Kissinger, with a cast of billions.... The "Greatest Shew on Earth," no doubt, and if you don't have a good sense of humor, don't read this page! It is designed to reveal the "unseen."
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December 13, 2003

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Something is going on.

There are undercurrents showing themselves in Europe. The Geneva Accord has polarized the situation in Palestine. The crimes of the Israelis against the Palestinians have polarized the situation in Palestine. The unwavering support of the Bush Reich for the Zionists has polarized the situation in Palestine.

Something is going on.

The recent elections in Russia saw a consolidation of Putin's power. Bush is facing elections and a deteriorating situation in Iraq.

Something is going on.

The US is trying to encircle Russia and plant its troops in the former Soviet Republics. Refusing an oil pipeline in Georgia cost Shevardnadze his job. Poland is trying to pretend it is the defender of the "small countries" in the battle for power in the EU, while it is really answering to the Americans.

Something is going on.

Muhammad al-Baradai, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has broken the official silence about Israel's nuclear program in an interview with Haaretz. The Peruvian president just dissolved the country's cabinet while on a trip to the US.

And China, what is the role of China?

Something is going on.

And the Christmas Season brings out what is most hypocritical and vain in the Western countries: conspicuous consumption, mechanical good cheer, and pre-programmed assertions of "Good Will To All."

The US will no longer be counting the civilian dead in Iraq.

This is our world, the world of our creation, the fruit of self-interest, greed, and ego. It is the reflection and exteriorization of who we are, deep within us, those parts we are afraid to show to others, unless, of course, we are at the top of some pyramid of power, lording over those below.

Yet we are all subject to the same inner disease.

But one must first recognize it in oneself, admit it to oneself, and allow the horror of that recognition to seep into every cell of one's body. We really don't have a clue about our world, ourselves, our ignorance, or why and how we arrived at such a state. Without this, how can we hope to find our way out?

We are soulless in a soulless world. Is this not clear as the pride on our face? A soul is not born, it is made, the result of a conscious decision and an irreversible commitment. But we are instructed otherwise by the Fathers of the Faith, who would have us believe that our souls are not gained through toil on the self, but are handed to us, ready-made.

A careful look at our world is evidence that this is not so, or else God is lonely in his Heaven while the Devil is running out of space below.

The Signs today are:

The "flu" epidemic now covers every state in the US with half reporting the outbreak as severe with the second school closing, this time in Ohio. If the flu doesn't get you, the FBI will.

At this point, can we discount the Haig-Kissinger plan for depopulation? Were these men joking? Is it reasonable to suggest that they would go to the bother of proposing this theory without formulating a plan to implement it in some way? Our world and the people that hold a controlling stake in it use deception as their standard operating procedure.

If depopulation were a concept that was being studied and actively pursued, how might it be achieved? Naturally it would unfold by way of deception since in this way chances of success are optimised. What the people do not know will not hurt them until it is too late to do anything about it.

What better way then to effect depopulation than to engineer it by way of something as commonly accepted as "normal" and as seemingly random as the common Flu...

In October, plans were finalized to transfer oversight of FBI counter terrorism operations to a "secret" court. Meanwhile, it seems the Bush administration is classifying darn near everything. Georgia is set to send more troops to Iraq, although US taxpayers will still foot most of the bill.

Three senators attempt to push Rumsfeld into either charging or releasing Guantanamo prisoners. The Marines conduct war games on the beaches of Florida amidst crowds of waving patriots instead of on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico.

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow indicates that contrary to the usual line, the White House is content to watch the dollar plummet. To add insult to injury, natural gas prices have soared almost 50%, but no one quite knows why.

The earth's magnetic field is decreasing at a, "fairly impressive rate."

Unusual and frightening complications with Flu outbreak

At left: Kim Collins talks to her son, Nick Collins, 9, both of Texarkana, Texas, as he opens his eyes briefly in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, Ark., Monday, Dec. 8, 2003. Nick, who arrived at the hospital on Nov.10, needs four chest tubes to drain air and fluid from three holes in his lungs caused by bacterial pneumonia.

Doctors are trying to prevent a blood clot from killing him. He's also developed a drug-resistant bacteria infection, a worrisome find thatdoctors are starting to see in other flu cases. Doctors are reporting unusual and frightening complications with this year's flu outbreak, particularly among young patients.

Flu spreads to all 50 US states

Half are considered "hit hard" by the epidemic...

Flu Outbreak Strains Demand for Test Kits

By JOHN NOLAN, Associated Press Writer

CINCINNATI - Manufacturers of tests used to determine if a patient has the flu say the current outbreak has strained their ability to meet demand from hospitals, medical laboratories and doctors' offices.

Jack Kraeutler, president of test kit distributor based Meridian Bioscience Inc., said the company is running about a week behind in filling orders.

"I don't think that there's a manufacturer or a health professional who hasn't been overwhelmed with how quickly it's moved," Kraeutler said.

The number of states hit hard by the flu has doubled to 24 over the past week and now includes most of the western half of the country. Nationwide, at least 20 children have died in what could become the worst flu season in years.

Comment: "Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire." - Robert Heinlein

US 'wants British flu vaccine'

US health officials are considering buying thousands of doses of flu vaccine from Britain because it is running short of supplies.

Parts of the US have been affected by the Fujian flu strain, which has also hit the UK.

[...] Last year, flu-vaccine manufacturers in America overproduced and had to scrap 12 million doses of the vaccine.

But this year, a combination of more cases of flu and an increase in the numbers choosing to have the flu jab has led to the shortage, experts said.

Madison closed until Monday (Ohio)

By J. Ameer Rasheed, Journal Staff Writer

After three days with 30 percent of the student body missing school, largely because of the flu, Madison Jr./Sr. High School officials decided to close school doors until Monday.

The 70 percent attendance rate is 25 percent lower than the school’s average daily attendance rate, according to school Principal Curtis Philpot. Madison Primary and Madison Intermediate are not affected by the cancellations. [...]

Flu shot, anyone?

By John McCaslin
The Washington Times

Gotten your flu shot yet? Whether you have or not, one leading congressman's warning might frighten you more than the needle.

If your doctor hasn't told you, Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, feels it is his duty to inform Americans about the "contents" of their influenza vaccines.

"As we approach the flu season, many of you will visit the doctor's office and receive an annual influenza vaccine. This might prevent the flu, but what else will it do?" Mr. Burton said. "You should be aware that the vaccine you are about to receive contains thimerosal — a mercury-laden preservative."

Mr. Burton says scientific evidence "continues to accumulate" regarding a biologically plausible connection between the preservative and certain neurological disorders. Some scientists have attributed the growth in Alzheimer's disease and autism to mercury found in certain vaccines.

During his chairmanship of the Government Reform Committee, Mr. Burton held numerous hearings on possible adverse effects of thimerosal.

As for a second opinion, we call upon Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee — a doctor in real life — who actually reminded friends in his Christmas cards last year: "Don't forget your shots: flu shot annually."

Comment: Notice how this Moonie-owned, Bush, Sr. backed rag manages to belittle Rep. Dan Burton. It is interesting that Bill Frist,

[...] authored a bill intended to protect vaccine makers, such as Eli Lilly & Co, from lawsuits regarding thimerosal found in vaccines and argued is linked to autism in children. While Frist denies having any role in the provision that was slipped into the homeland security bill passed in November 2002 protecting Eli Lilly from legal matters for their thimerosal containing vaccines, Frist is hoping to pass his original bill, which will have liability protection regarding vaccines. [...] [ Tennessee Senator hoping to protect vaccine makers from legal problems]

See the Toxic Exposure Study Trust Foundation and our Signs Supplement: The Flu Threat for more information.

CDC vaccines study slammed as cover-up

Data linking mercury exposure, neurodevelopment said 'manipulated'

Dec. 9, 2003

Rep. Weldon points out that the autism rate began to skyrocket as the number of required childhood vaccinations increased.

Canned tuna or canned poison? That was the teaser for a CBS 2 News "HealthWatch" Report of Nov. 22 that focused on high levels of mercury found in tuna and the possible health risks associated with them.

CBS 2 News reporter Paul Moniz quoted a number of physicians, who observed of the toxic substance that, "Once it gets into our bodies, a substantial part of it will end up in our nervous system, in our brains, and it's there that it causes a variety of symptoms." A pediatrician is quoted as saying, "We know that high levels of mercury can impair the cognitive development as well as the growth and development of a young child." What the report appears to be revealing is that while overweight Americans may flee to fish to lose unwanted pounds, too much of that tasty tuna could reduce the IQ more than the waistline.

What the critics of mercury in vaccines find provocative about this report is the acknowledgement by physicians that the high levels of mercury ingested from canned tuna can cause severe health risks. One such critic, the mother of an autistic child, wonders "why everyone gets up in arms over ingesting small amounts of mercury from fish or from breaking a thermometer but finds it acceptable to inject an even more toxic form of mercury directly into the bloodstream of infants. The evidence is overwhelming that hundreds of thousands of children were damaged by gross overexposure to mercury through vaccines [containing thimerosal] and millions more were and continue to be put at risk, yet network news has not addressed this in any significant way. The public needs and deserves to know the truth - not only about the biggest medical bungling in our history, but also about the extraordinary efforts of both the pharmaceutical industry and government agencies to cover it up."

A pharmaceutical and government cover-up? It is a familiar enough accusation, and this time the fuse was lit by yet another study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this one titled Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Databases. The report concluded that "no consistent significant associations were found between TCVs [thimerosal-containing vaccines] and neurodevelopment outcomes." Critics scoff at such a conclusion. "Sure," laughs one, "they say you can't eat tuna because the level of mercury you ingest isn't good for you, but there's no health risk associated with injecting high levels of mercury directly into a newborn baby?"

The CDC study, released in the November 2003 issue of Pediatrics, seemed to puzzle news media, with most who took note of it making at least a mention of the fact that the lead author, Thomas Verstraeten, was an employee of GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical giant and vaccine manufacturer, when he submitted the study for publication.

The first part of the two-phase study to determine whether there is a connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurodevelopment disorders began in 1999 and involved the review of data from Seattle's Group Health Cooperative and Northern California Kaiser, both large health-maintenance organizations (HMOs). The data used in this first phase actually revealed a significant association between TCVs administered to infants and later developmental abnormalities such as speech and language delays and neurodevelopment problems in general, such as tics and the alleged hyperactivity symptoms of attention-deficit disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

However, this conclusion was not included in the final draft; it was only made public afterward when Verstraeten's notes were revealed in another forum, according to specialists. The notes, not published with the CDC study, showed that the "relative risk" for autism was 2.48 times higher for children who received 62.5 micrograms or more of mercury from TCVs by 3 months of age. [...]

One of the few physicians in Congress, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), immediately saw the problems associated with the CDC study and notified CDC Director Julie Gerberding. Weldon wrote, "I have serious reservations about the four-year evolution and conclusions of this study. A review of these documents leaves me very concerned that rather than seeking to understand whether or not some children were exposed to harmful levels of mercury in childhood vaccines in the 1990s, there may have been a selective use of the data to make the associations in the earliest study disappear."

Weldon's letter to Gerberding goes on to observe that "the first version of the study, produced in February 2000, found a significant association between exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism and neurological developmental delays. A June 2000 version of the study applied various data manipulations to reduce the autism association to 1.69, and the authors went outside the VSD [Vaccine Safety Datalink] database to secure data from a Massachusetts HMO [Harvard Pilgrim] in order to counter the association found between TCVs and speech delays." Clear enough.

[...] Then you consider that the lead author is working for a drug company, didn't disclose this fact and also that it is one of the drug companies being sued over this mercury issue. I'm just very concerned that we're not going to get answers as long as there are careers at stake. You know there are people at the CDC who have been involved in the vaccine program who didn't recognize the amount of mercury they were giving kids, and now they're in the process of investigating themselves. Meanwhile a lot of these investigators bounce to and from the drug companies. I think it all is very, very murky and very suspicious."

Weldon summarizes: "The CDC produced an article by Dr. Verstraeten, published on Nov. 3 in Pediatrics. Dr. Verstraeten is a former CDC employee. Since 2001 he has worked for GlaxoSmithKline - a vaccine manufacturer. While working for the CDC in 2000, the first version of Dr. Verstraeten's unpublished study found an association between higher thimerosal exposures and neurodevelopment disorders, including autism. Between 2000 and 2003, Dr. Verstraeten and coauthors manipulated and stratified the data so much that each of these associations magically disappeared. I don't know if it was deliberate, but that is nonetheless what happened. This study has done nothing in my mind to put these concerns to rest, but only serves to raise suspicions."

This veteran member of Congress puts it plainly: "We're not going to get answers to these questions until Congress or some outside group starts poring through this information. But it's very coincidental that they added the hepatitis vaccine, the HiB vaccine and the chicken-pox vaccine - they added all these additional childhood vaccines around the time when the autism rate started to skyrocket. Then when you actually sit down and do the calculations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], they were giving these kids very toxic levels of mercury.
I mean as a 150- to 200-pound adult the EPA says you're not supposed to take in more than one microgram per day. They were taking little seven- and 10-pound babies and pumping 50 and 75 micrograms of mercury into them in one shot. That's like giving an adult 1,000 micrograms. And, on top of that, the World Health Organization says mercury is 10 times more toxic in children than it is in adults. It's horrifying."

Mark Geier says, "Believe us, there is no scientific issue here. This is fraud. The CDC and the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] know what is happening. They just can't admit it because it is one of the worst things ever to have happened to this United States.If a terrorist had done this, we wouldn't attack them, we'd nuke them.
We're talking about one in eight children in the U.S. that currently are in special education, and that number is going to change to about one in five. What percentage of our young population can we destroy before we realize how serious this is?"

Lyn Redwood, a registered nurse, mother of an autistic child and president and cofounder of (Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders), a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending devastation caused by the needless use of mercury in medicines, tells Insight that "there are so many problems with the study, but over time you can see how all the manipulations of the data slowly bring down the signals for neurological disorders. I think they were trying to get lower numbers. It must be very hard to admit that a program that was designed to eradicate infectious disease has resulted in an epidemic of a whole new kind of disease.But to think that we weren't given a choice when the regulators and manufacturers knew these products contained mercury is inconceivable."

[...] They need to just get the thimerosal out. It's barbaric."

Comment: Tuna - the perfect cover. The FDA in America has on various occasions warned about the dangers to pregnant women and small children of mercury in tuna, and even included the population in general depending on how much they eat. Why do almost all vaccines contain mercury? It is not essential to the effective working of the vaccine yet it is used as a base ingredient. That Mercury is toxic to the human organism is beyond doubt so why would the government seek to inject it into as many citizens as possible? Perhaps it stems from a desire to simply weaken the population, mind, body and soul, for some particular purpose.

Parents denied access to new autism reports

By Sarah-Kate Templeton Health Editor

STUDIES quoted by the government as evidence that vaccines containing mercury – linked to autism in children – are safe, are being withheld from the public.

“Factsheets” issued by the Committee on Safety of Medicines to those concerned about research which suggests that vaccines containing mercury can trigger autism in some children claim that two new studies prove that the jabs are safe.

But these studies have not been scrutinised by independent experts as part of the peer review process which all scientific studies must go through to be considered valid.

Autism campaigners have accused the government of arrogance for telling parents to “just take their word”that the jabs are safe. The diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccine (DTwP), which contains thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative, is given to hundreds of thousands of babies aged between two and four months every year.

Following research suggesting that mercury can cause autism in children, the Scottish Executive announced that parents would be allowed to choose mercury-free jabs for their babies. But parents have complained that they struggle to persuade doctors to administer the alternative jabs. The mercury-free vaccine, Infanrix, is more expensive.

The Executive has ruled out a ban on vaccines containing mercury. Dr Andrew Fraser, deputy chief medical officer, said the Executive was committed to finding mercury-free alternatives but that the government was still waiting for what it considered to be a “licensed, equally effective alternative” to become available, before banning vaccines containing thiomersal.

Comment: Now why would they make a claim that can supposedly be backed up by a study but then withhold the study? Take your time, no rush...just think logically.

Mercury's risk in tuna debated

By Katrina Woznicki
UPI Science News

WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- Tuna fish, that ubiquitous ingredient in school lunches and household casseroles across America, could contain higher levels of dangerous mercury than previously thought. But despite new warnings, some scientists still dispute whether traces of the silvery metal pose any genuine health risk to the general population.

Methyl mercury is the organic form mercury takes in fish, usually large fish that reside higher up in the aquatic food chain. Mercury pollution comes from several sources, including the burning of fossil fuels in coal-fired electric power plants, disposal of mercury-containing products in incinerators and landfills, and industrial processes such as chlorine production.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta cites mercury as a potent toxin that can be harmful to fetuses, infants and young children. The CDC estimates one in 12 women of childbearing age has unsafe mercury levels in her blood, which could place 300,000 babies at risk for mercury poisoning every year. Swordfish and shark, popular entrees in restaurants, also are high in mercury, although they are not as widely consumed as tuna. [...]

Based on MPP's calculations, one out of every 20 cans of white albacore tuna should be recalled as unsafe for human consumption. Of the 48 tuna samples, over three were found to contain mercury levels higher than the Food and Drug Administration's one-part-per-million safety threshold. On average, the white albacore tuna had mercury levels four times higher than the 12 cans of light tuna tested.

"If a 22-pound toddler ate only two ounces of white tuna with that level of mercury, they would exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's virtual safe dose, called the reference dose, by four times," Michael Bender, MPP's director, told UPI. If a 132-pound woman ate two cans of tuna per week, she would exceed the EPA's limit by four times, he added.

The issue of mercury in fish is not just an American problem -- it is a global problem..

"The seat of the blame right now is really on the FDA because they are in charge of our food supply," Greer said. "We are so far behind the ball with the FDA. They're really asleep at the switch. They're shying away from declaring a problem that they would need to solve." [...]

An FDA spokeswoman told UPI: "We have a consumer advisory and that advisory is targeted for a certain segment of the population, which is mainly pregnant women and women of childbearing age. As of now, we are standing by our consumer advisory on methyl mercury in fish. Based upon comments we've received from the food advisory committee, (the FDA is) looking into addressing the tuna issue further." [...]

In fact, little data exist on the neurological consequences of mercury poisoning from fish consumption in the United States, Rutchik explained. "I have not seen ever, or I don't know anyone who has seen, a patient with a tremor that's related to mercury or from consumption of fish." Although individuals have varying susceptibilities to mercury, most people can "tolerate a little mercury in their blood," he said. "We're not talking about all of a sudden the child becomes retarded." [...]

Another study on tuna and mercury appeared in the May 16 issue of the British journal The Lancet. The research was headed by Dr. Gary Myers, a professor of neurology and pediatrics and the University of Rochester, N.Y.

This study, an update on the Seychelles study, named after the islands in the Indian Ocean, looked at 643 children living there from before birth to age 9 who had been repeatedly exposed to ocean seafood consumption whether through their mothers or on their own. The children were born to mothers who ate an average of 12 meals of ocean fish per week -- about 10 times greater than the average American. Results showed no detectable risk from low levels of mercury. The children, born in 1989 and 1990, have been evaluated five times over the years since their birth.

"The only cases of poisoning of methyl mercury from the consumption of fish that have ever been reported are from Japan and they're from 1960s," Dr. Myers told UPI. The Seychelles study is "one of the largest epidemiological studies to look at this issue. We have not been able to find adverse effects."

Hightower said there is overwhelming evidence to counter the Seychelles study findings. "The Seychelles was one study," she said. "One study does not negate all the other studies."

Comment: So perhaps "normal" tuna does not pose a threat, tuna that have fed in polluted waters is another story. There is obviously a lot more to it than this. One would have to understand where the fish come from that are eaten etc. The point is that the "mercury in tuna" debate is possibly a smokescreen and an alibi for the government allowing it to inject mercury, aluminium and formaldehyde (and god knows what else) directly into the blood streams of millions of people. From childhood vaccinations to smallpox vaccinations to the new and improved flu shots, the government has a plan for each and every one of its "dearly beloved citizens".

Tuna Mercury levels Not Harmful According To FSA UK

May 14, 02

Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) Friday advised pregnant women, women intending to become pregnant and children under 16 years of age to avoid eating swordfish, shark, and marlin because of high mercury levels.

The elevated levels of mercury in these large predators, in the form of methylmercury, can affect the developing nervous system and might hamper children's later ability to learn, the agency said.

Tuna, which showed the fourth highest level, had mercury levels at just one third of the others and canned tuna, which uses younger fish and squeezes out oil, is lower still.

The larger predatory fish accumulate higher mercury levels both because they live longer than other fish and because they eat fish that also have mercury deposits.

Mercury mostly occurs naturally, issuing as vapor from the earth's crust, while coal combustion for power is the largest man-made industrial producer. The FSA said large fish would already have had high mercury levels 200 years ago.

The interim advice was issued as the World Health Organization (WHO) researches whether fetuses and children may be a greater risk from mercury than the general population.

The FSA stressed that fish is important to the diet and plays a key role in reducing the risk of heart attacks

Flashback: Smallpox plans sent to states

Federal officials sent states detailed guidelines yesterday for rapidly vaccinating their entire populations against smallpox should the deadly disease return through an act of terrorism.

The smallpox vaccine may be more harmful than beneficial

The American public is being prepared to accept and want the smallpox vaccine. The Center for Disease Control has been telling us that it is “when” not “if” a smallpox outbreak will occur. There are many unanswered questions that the government health agencies refuse to address. This is written to assist you in knowing more about the vaccine and its dangers, the smallpox disease and some of the misinformation. If you are a thinking person, we challenge you to do more research and check out this information, your very life and your family’s life may be in the balance. We are only asking you to consider the following information before deciding to take the smallpox vaccine. [...]

Volunteers Key to Smallpox Vaccine Plan

1.3 Million Might Be Needed for Emergency Federal Program

A federal emergency response plan for vaccinating the entire U.S. population against a smallpox attack envisions recruiting at least 1.3 million volunteers to staff health clinics 16 hours a day for a full week. [...]

Medicaid rule changes require child immunizations

Medicaid recipients who don't get their children immunized, keep them in school or take them to the doctor and dentist risk losing federal benefits under new state rules that took effect Tuesday.

Comment: Get the vaccine or else! Some might say that people are being coerced in this way in order to protect the population, since obviously there are some irresponsible people that would jeopardise their own lives and those of their children. Perhaps, but have you ever read Machiavelli?

Flashback: Revealed: how drug firms 'hoodwink' medical journals

Pharmaceutical giants hire ghostwriters to produce articles - then put doctors' names on them [...]

Flashback: Glaxosmithkline chief: Our drugs do not work on most patients

Georgia to send 500 more troops to Iraq by summer 2004: US envoy

TBILISI (AFP) Dec 13, 2003

Georgia is to send 500 soldiers to Iraq by next summer to join 70 elite troops, doctors and mine-clearing experts who were sent to Baghdad in August, the US ambassador to Tbilisi, Richard Miles, said Saturday.

Two hundred soldiers will fly out shortly, and by summer 2004 some 500 will have joined the first contingent, Miles said during a graduate ceremony for a Georgian batallion trained by US instructors under Washington's 64-million-dollar Train and Equip programme for the Georgian armed forces.

The Georgian government is paying the salaries of 400-600 dollars a month for the soldiers who flew out on August 3 for a six-month mission as part of an international task force in Iraq and who are now stationed in the town of Tikrit.

The United States is footing the bill for their uniforms, weapons and other expenses. [...]

911 For the Truth: Mariani vs. Bush

Cluster Bombs, Decapitation Bombing Killed Hundreds, Says Human Rights Watch

Jim Lobe
OneWorld US

WASHINGTON D.C., Dec. 12 (OneWorld) Hundreds of civilians were killed by Coalition cluster bombs and air strikes designed to decapitate the Iraqi leadership, according to a new report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said the high cost in civilian casualties caused by the two tactics may have violated the laws of war. [...]

Shevy's big mistake: Crossing Uncle Sam

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor

The latest recipient of Washington's "regime change" was not some miscreant Muslim state but the the mainly Christian mountain nation of Georgia.

Eduard Shevardnadze, the 75-year-old strongman who has ruled post-Soviet Georgia's 5.1 million citizens since 1991, was overthrown by a bloodless coup that appears to have been organized and financed by the Bush administration.

Shevardnadze's sin, in Washington's eyes, was being too chummy with Moscow and obstructing a major U.S. oil pipeline, due to open in 2005, from Central Asia, via Georgia, to Turkey. Georgia occupies the heart of the wild, unruly, and strategic Caucasus region, which I call the Mideast North.

In recent months, Shevardnadze had given new drilling and pipeline concessions to Russian firms.

He should have recalled the fate of Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which, like Georgia, was a U.S. client and recipient of American aid until it turned down a major pipeline deal with an American oil firm and awarded it to a Latin American consortium.

Shevardnadze was no democrat.

He rigged elections, used goon squads to silence opponents, survived two assassination attempts and ran Georgia like a medieval fief.

But he was also a fascinating man, as I found when extensively interviewing him in Moscow in 1989 when he was foreign minister of the Soviet Union.

"Shevy-Chevy," as we used to call him, looked like an amiable grandfather, with his wispy white hair and bulging eyes. In fact, he had been the tough, ruthless party and KGB boss of Georgia. Yet this dedicated communist became Mikhail Gorbachev's right hand man in implementing glasnost and perestroika reforms. He played a decisive role in ending the Cold War and breaking up that criminal empire, the USSR.

Like Gorbachev, Shevardnadze became a hero in the West, but was reviled at home as a traitor and wrecker. Many Russians believed Gorby was a British agent and Shevardnadze a CIA "asset."

After the USSR's collapse, Shevardnadze returned to Georgia and, backed by U.S. funding, seized power from the fiery post-independence leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who may have committed suicide or been murdered.

Poor and beautiful

Georgia is wild, turbulent, dirt poor and very beautiful. I still savour the memory of the majestic, mist-shrouded mountains of Abkhazia, the lovely Black Sea coast that recalls the French Riviera, and Georgia's famed, highly potent yellow wines.

Georgia has been a battleground for much of its 2,500-year history. Its knights and warriors, who fought under the banner of St. George, waged an heroic struggle against the Persian, Ottoman and Russian empires. Georgia and neighbouring Armenia are the two oldest existing Christian nations. Georgian, Albanian and Basque are Europe's oldest living languages.

Like all mountain states, Georgia is deeply divided by topography and fierce clan rivalries.

Minorities of Armenians, Azeris, Ossetians (a Christian Turkic tribe), Mingrelians and Muslim Abkhaz add further volatility. The Caucasus has over 100 feuding ethnic groups, a time bomb waiting to explode.

Abkhazia and Ossetia seceded from Georgia after bloody fighting and ethnic cleansing that killed 10,000 and left 250,000 refugees. Today, Russian "peacekeeping" troops keep the two rebellious regions, and a third Muslim enclave, Azharia, independent of Georgian control. Just to the north, Chechnya's ferocious struggle for freedom from Russian rule grinds on, with the bloody struggle spilling into Georgia.

Moscow repeatedly accused Georgia of aiding Chechen independence fighters, which is likely true.

Neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan have waged a sporadic war for over a decade.

Shevardnadze kept Georgia independent by deftly playing off the Americans against the Russians, both of whom had designs on the little nation.

But his luck finally ran out.

Washington sent high-level emissaries to warn Shevardnadze not to do anything that threatened the proposed oil corridor.

When he went ahead with Russian oil deals, Washington denounced the Nov. 2 Georgian elections as rigged, which they were, although it also turns a blind eye to rigged elections in useful allies like oil-rich Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, etc.

Cash and anti-Shevardnadze political operatives from the U.S. poured into Tbilisi to back up the president's American-educated principal rival, Mikhail Saakashvili. The rigged election ignited mass protests by Georgians fed up with corruption and crushing poverty. Saakashvili forces stormed parliament and drove out Shevardnadze, who resigned after the army and police refused to defend him.

What next? Saakashvili appears almost certain to become president. But the three political clans who united to overthrow the ancient regime, and now support him, may, true to local tradition, soon be at one another's throats. In hot-blooded Georgia, civil war is never far away.

Russia will try to limit U.S. influence in Georgia and extend its own by stirring the pot and finding new Georgian allies. Washington will shore up its man in Tbilisi, Saakashvili, and may send Special Forces troops under the pretext of the faux war on terrorism.

The entire Caucasus is near a boil. The sharply increasing rivalry between the U.S. and Russia for political and economic influence over this vital land bridge between Europe and the oil-rich Caspian Basin promises a lot more intrigue, skullduggery and drama.

Israel urged to abandon N-arms

Friday 12 December 2003, 23:42 Makka Time, 20:42 GMT

The head of a nuclear watchdog has urged Israel to relinquish its nuclear weapons arsenal as part of a future Middle East peace agreement.

Muhammad al-Baradai, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told an Israeli newspaper on Friday that Israel and its neighbours should eliminate all weapons of mass destruction from the region.

Israel has never officially admitted to having the bomb, and positions itself outside international treaties which would make it subject to inspection.

But al-Baradai told the Haaretz daily: "We operate under the assumption that Israel has nuclear arms... Israel has never denied this."

He added there is "a lot of frustration" about Israel's suspected cache, and urged the country to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty - a global pact aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear arms.

Nuclear treaty

The UN General Assembly and IAEA General Conference have adopted 13 resolutions since 1987 appealing to Israel to join the treaty, but all have been ignored.

"My fear is that without such a dialogue, there will be continued incentive for the region's countries to develop weapons of mass destruction to match the Israeli arsenal," he said.

Israel's nuclear programme was exposed in 1986 by Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu.

After a British newspaper published the revelations, Mossad agents kidnapped Vanunu in Italy and illegally smuggled him back to Israel.

He has now spent 17 years in jail, 11 of which were in a tiny solitary confinement cell - and he has just had his appeal for parole denied.

Middle East Armageddon

Vanunu will stay in jail until 2004, when his term is expected to end.

Neil Kingsnorth, a spokesman for the London-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said Israel is estimated to have between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads.

If deployed, they would be sufficient to obliterate the whole region.

"Israel doesn't admit or deny having nuclear weapons, probably for legal reasons. They don't even try to justify having them but it is obviously because they are surrounded by what they perceive as hostile Arab states," he said.

"But having nuclear weapons hasn't prevented Israel being attacked by the Palestinians. I think in the short term the principle of nuclear deterrance might work but in the long term tensions inevitably rise."


However, Kingsnorth said the whole nuclear debate, which is focussing at the moment on Iran's nuclear programme, is replete with hypocrisy.

"The US and Great Britian have thousands of nuclear warheads between them but are refusing to give them up. They are trying to make this false distinction between good states that can have nuclear weapons and bad ones who can't.

"In practice, the good ones are the ones that are willing to work with them and the bad ones are the ones who are not. I think that is an incredible oversimplification of a complex international situation."

He added: "Israel should own up to having nuclear weapons and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If countries like Israel set an example, non-nuclear states would lose the incentive to acquire these weapons. Then we could make strides to nuclear free world."

Baradei tweaks Israel with call for nuke-free Mideast

Mona Ziade
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: No peace treaty will bring stability to the Middle East in the shadow of an Arab-Israeli arms race spurred by the Jewish state’s suspected nuclear arsenal, according to Mohammed al-Baradei, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief.

Even though Israel and its Arab neighbors ostensibly agree with the notion of a nuclear-free zone, in practice they have set preconditions that make it hard to achieve, he said in remarks published Friday.

And because dialogue to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction is likely to be a long process, he added, it is imperative to start talking now.

Baradei spoke in an interview at his headquarters in Vienna with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The newspaper posted his remarks, the first to the Israeli media, on its website.

The US-educated, Egyptian-born diplomat disclosed that he has been to Israel several times. His most recent visit was during Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1996-99 tenure as prime minister.

“I was invited as a guest of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. I met with the prime minister; we discussed problems of the region, including the issues of nuclear weapons,” Baradei said.

“I also visited some installations, including Nahal Sorek,” a nuclear research facility south of Tel Aviv, he said.
But he has not been to the nuclear reactor at Dimona in the Negev Desert, he said.

Western intelligence reports say Israel has acquired up to 200 nuclear weapons since Dimona was established in 1958.

Nuclear weapons are still a taboo subject in Israel, but Baradei noted that the Jewish state has never denied it had developed such weapons.

Baradei said most of the agency’s information comes from cooperation with intelligence services, but would not explicitly admit to cooperation with the Israelis. And based on the information in his possession, neither Syria nor Libya are engaged in illicit weapons programs, as claimed by Israel and the United States.

“Yes, I have read reports about that, and I have also heard that American administration officials have raised these allegations,” he said. “But we have no information that there is any prohibited activity taking place in Syria or Libya, and that they are violating their commitments. I very much hope that these reports are incorrect.”

As for Iran, he reiterated that it has been involved in laboratory experiments, but not necessarily for military purposes. IAEA inspections have detected only half a gram of plutonium.

“Yes, only half a gram. Experiments like these and in quantities such as these are different from a country working at an industrial scale to develop a weapons program,” Baradei said. “It is highly unlikely that a program on a large scale will go unnoticed. You have to understand we can’t see every pin in a large country. But if there is a facility that has materials that can be used for weapons ­ that, hopefully, we could detect.”

However, he said, all these suspicions and overt and covert experiments feed the insecurity in the Middle East and encourage the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“I met many times with (director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission) Gideon Frank and have visited Israel several times. Just recently I met in Vienna with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. In all of these discussions, I raised the regional situation and issues of nuclear weapons with them. The status quo is not one with which I feel comfortable,” he said.

“I don’t see a reason why Israel isn’t ready to at least start the discussion,” Baradei said. “I don’t think they are ready to discuss the situation with the partners in the region; to discuss not only nuclear, but also biological and chemical weapons, and missiles. The time is now. Discussion doesn’t mean you are going to conclude now. At the very least, it will take a long time.

“My fear is that without such a dialogue, there will continue to be incentives for the countries of the region to develop weapons of mass destruction to match the Israeli arsenal, and as you know, there are already weapons of mass destruction in the region. Israel has nuclear, maybe biological and chemical (weapons); others have biological weapons. It’s not an incentive for security in the region,” he added.

Asked if he felt that the absence of dialogue would would accelerate the arms race, Baradei replied: “absolutely.”

“Israel claims that this issue can be considered only in the framework of comprehensive peace, and once peace is concluded and after Israel is recognized as part of the region,” he said. “The Arabs, on the other hand, say this is a confidence-building measure that could contribute to peace.”

He said much of the Arab frustration comes from the fact that “Israel is sitting on nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons capability, while other parties in the Middle East are committed” to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the Jewish state has not signed.

“I think every country, including Israel, will benefit in the long run from a Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction ­ not only nuclear but also biological and chemical ­ and also some limitations on conventional weapons. But for that, a dialogue has to begin.”

Baradei deserves thanks for shaking Israel’s nuclear tree

The Daily Star

Mohammed al-Baradei’s stated desire to see Israel do away with its nuclear arsenal should not have been nearly the surprise it was. As the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), part of his job is to implement the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the objective of which is the eventual dismantling of all such weapons. The only novelties relate to a few facts that no one likes to mention, uncomfortable truths whose mere utterance raises all sorts of questions about things like double standards and biased journalism. None of these facts are state secrets, of course: It is just that people who work for Western news outlets who want to keep their jobs know instinctively ­ and sometimes from experience ­ that some things are better left unsaid.

For instance, Baradei is a citizen of Egypt, an Arab country that has fought several wars with the Jewish state. In addition, Israel has steadfastly refused to sign the NPT and so has never been subjected to the sort of inspections that it demands, for example, in Iran. Then there is the fact that despite the obvious relevance of Baradei’s position to the nuclear arsenal that Israel is widely assumed to possess, the interview published by the Haaretz newspaper on Friday was his first with the Israeli media.

These are the reasons why Baradei’s comments have caused minor astonishment ­ and, paradoxically, the reasons why Western news agencies did their best to give them short shrift. It is considered impolitic to question Baradei’s probity when he enjoys the confidence of so many governments to oversee one of the diplomatic world’s murkiest endeavors. It is imprudent to note too frequently that Israel has never denied having nuclear weapons, preferring instead to maintain a policy of “constructive ambiguity” that keeps it from too unabashedly defying the international community on too hazardous a subject.

The interviewer danced around some of these subjects, mostly in terms of asking Baradei to explain why any Israeli should trust him, but studiously avoided the meat of the matter. The real issue is Baradei’s courage. Having ignored US pressure to exaggerate the nuclear threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and then risked America’s wrath by refusing to let it dictate how the IAEA would deal with Iran’s nuclear program, he has now gone one step further by urging America’s favorite scofflaw to participate in an effort to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. For this Baradei deserves the respect and admiration of everyone who wants to keep this part of the world from destroying itself. Those who feel otherwise would do well to conduct a little soul-searching.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad to form joint political, military command 2003-12-12 20:43:08

GAZA, Dec. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Two prominent hardline Palestinian resistance movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Holy War), have decided to form a joint political and military command, Palestinian sources close to the two groups said on Friday.

The current Palestinian situation "urges us to look for what unifies us instead of what splits us," the sources said.

"The political arenas of both Jihad and Hamas are meeting in many common things," they added.

"Therefore there is nothing preventing both movements from going for full cooperation and forming a joint command," they said.

The sources noted that both movements had been in full cooperation and coordination in issuing joint leaflets and statements for five months, saying "there are no political or ideological disputes between the two groups."

But the sources declined to give any more clarification about the aim of the coordination and its timing.

Ayoon wa Azan (As If It Weren't Enough)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2003/12/12

The past few days' developments have brought additional reasons to worry, as if there weren't enough reasons considering the absence of a unified Arab stance towards the U.S., and instead the existence of only bilateral relations between this or that country with Washington.

Simply put, the Arabs' position is weak because the Arab states are unable to take a unified stance over the Bush administration. It is all the more weak considering the conflicts between Palestinian factions, between Egypt and some of these factions, and maybe also with Syria, and then between Jordan and Syria. Perhaps the only hope amidst this general breakdown is that the parties to this Arab conflict are aware of the catastrophe that could follow, and this explains why Egypt expressed its cautious and blameful opinion without nonetheless shutting the doors, why Jordan tried to immediately clear out any misunderstanding with Syria when Jordanian Prime Minister Faysal al Fayez contacted his Syrian counterpart Mohamed Naji Al Otri to explain the context of King Abdullah's television interview, in which he had stated that the Syrian and Iraqi borders were not as secure as the international community would have wanted them to be and had called upon President Al Assad to deploy additional efforts to block the infiltration of anti-American fighters through his country's borders. I heard that Jordan has been insisting that King Abdullah was only repeating what President Bush had told him during their meeting, and that he was keen on having the best possible relations with Syria.

As for Egypt, in addition to every official stance taken by its president and its foreign minister, I can read its policy between the lines written by Ibrahim Nafeh, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram. Nafeh is a good friend of mine, but friendship does not count in this regard; he is also a nationalist who carries the Palestinian cause in his heart and mind, and defends it with relentless determination.

Nafeh wrote about this subject during the past four days, presenting both his convictions and his country's position. He said that the Palestinian people seem to have become a political toy in the hands of regional groups, which see in the eruption of clashes in Palestine as an opportunity to shun external pressures. He also voiced his regret that certain Palestinian parties were not being politically mature, and were failing to understand international developments. And while Ibrahim Nafeh talked at length about the hatred and ambitions of Israeli rightists, he called upon the Palestinians to become more politically aware, and insisted that the refusal to have the Palestinian Authority be in charge was not a politically clever move.

These are dangerous statements coming from a writer whom I trust as much as I trust myself, and they could be added to the hurricane between Syria and Jordan, and the tension between some of the Palestinian groups.

I will not defend anyone, nor do I support one side against another, as I stand from an equal distance to all of them; I shall report what I have heard in the past days from officials directly involved in this issue, so I will make a careful selection of what they said, and will leave the reader ponder with me.

Syrian Vice President Abdulhalim Khaddam told me in his office: there is nothing that encourages us to expect any settlement. What matters is to avoid a Palestinian division. The problem is with Israel, and we must not move it to the Palestinian camp. We told the Palestinians that what matters most is their unity; handle your matters by yourselves, through dialogue... I also got the same feedback from Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al Sharaa.

Khaddam also regretted that there was not an Arab project to counter the Israeli one. I also noted the words of my friend Khaled Mishaal after I met him last week, and the words of Dr. Ramadan Shallah during another meeting. And though I have met each one of them separately, they said approximately, and sometimes exactly, the same thing. They both said:

We accepted the truce of which you were part and a mediator, but all we had in return were assassinations of leaders and daily Israeli transgressions. Mahmoud Abbas has already testified to this. We are ready for dialogue, but are unenthusiastic about a new truce, considering our experience with the first. There can be no unilateral truce. Ceasefire is the first step to the Roadmap, and we oppose this map as much as we oppose the Beilin treaty.

They also told me that they were incapable of giving the Palestinian Authority the right to speak on their behalf, because they did not agree with its politics, and given that they are part of the opposition, how could the government speak on their behalf?

I went over all this in a phone call with Jordan's Foreign Minister Dr. Marwan Al Muasher, and he used expressions such as "it would be very dangerous not to reach an agreement" or "the situation is very, very, dangerous," or again "the situation is difficult and there are no choices left."

Dr. Marwan is not pessimistic, but rather realistic, and he talked out of his direct knowledge of the position of the U.S. administration. President Bush does not want to talk of this issue in the first place, but before the insistence on opening the subject, he said that he still supports the two-state solution. But he insisted that the Palestinians must do everything required of them before the Arab leaders went back to him, and added that a temporary truce was no longer required, instead, what is needed is a complete and permanent one that includes citizens and military in the West Bank and Gaza. He also said that security measures need to be taken (a moderated expression for dismantling the infrastructure), including closing down weapons factories and filling up the tunnels with Sinai and others.

The Jordanian foreign minister made it very clear that the gap could not be closed, and that before the Cairo meeting there was at last a glimpse of hope, but that its failure had left the entire situation hostage to dangerous winds. Israel is examining its choices, and what is available is either to withdraw the issue of an independent Palestinian state, or trigger a Palestinian civil war.

I apologize to the reader if I just gave a horrifying picture of the situation, but this is the only picture I could gather. I had been encouraging the Arab states to reach an agreement over the United States, and I am convinced that they will not get into a conflict. My old conviction remains the same, and it is that the Arab states can protect their common interests if they stand united to face the American attack, and that with their differences, they are the first ones responsible for the squandering of these interests.

Identical Policies

Maher Othman Al-Hayat 2003/12/12

Ever since he came to power, Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon never even considered the fact that the U.S. administration could exert pressure on him, as a result of his policies blocking the peace efforts in the region. This is because he knows, all too well, that the Zionist Lobby and the American right, known as the neo-conservatives, are generally more loyal to Israel than they are to the U.S., and thus guarantee him immunity against any sanctions that anyone in the Bush administration may think of. The fact is that Sharon succeeded thanks to the strong influence these groups have in America, and their power to convince the Bush administration of adopting his policies, which include boycotting President Yasser Arafat and forcing a siege on him in Ramallah, in addition to the siege over the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Washington did not express any objection, other than verbal, against the construction of the separation wall in the depths of Palestinian land. It is also not making a single comment on the Israeli army's assassinations policy, its killing of Palestinian activists, its razing of houses, while giving vent to soldiers and settlers to cut down olive trees and plough Palestinian agricultural land, which also represent one of the ugliest crimes possible.

Contrary to what certain people may think, namely that the U.S. President is now exerting some pressure on Israel to stop it from pursuing its crimes and imposing new facts on the ground, because of his need for calm until he passes what they see as two difficult tests; the situation in Iraq and the presidential elections. It appears that Sharon controls the Israeli-American relationship. He is even bold enough to announce his intention to cancel the Roadmap and replace it with a 'plan' of his making, which can certainly not lead to a true, lasting peace, and is instead intended to foster the process of eating up more Palestinian land.

The fatal mistake that some Arabs make is thinking for one moment, that the U.S. administration cares for the fate of any of the two peoples, the Palestinian or the Iraqi. For those who control Washington's policy in our Arab world, especially in Palestine and Iraq, are Zionists whose interests oppose Arab interests. Parallel to the White House's adoption of Israeli policies, the American military establishment started adopting and applying, in Iraq, the same barbaric means that the Israeli forces use in the Palestinian occupied territories; including fencing the regions with barbed wires, destroying houses and carrying out assassinations. It is known that members of the Israeli forces and intelligence train the Americans and accompany them in campaigns inside Iraq.

The Bush administration does not seem to be the least interested in either a genuinely fair and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, or in rebuilding Iraq for the good of its people. Precedents in other countries falling under American influence over the past decades show that the Americans work for the sake of their big corporations, to increase their profits and guarantee control over oil resources, wherever and whenever.

Baghdad blast brings sectarian divide to surface
Sunni, Shiite Residents of Hurriyet witness First attack since Saddam Hussein’s ouster

2 rocket-propelled grenades kill 3, destroy long-standing communal unity between sects that had co-existed for years

Nicholas Blanford
Special to The Daily Star

BAGHDAD: The Sunni and Shiite residents of western Baghdad’s Hurriyeh neighborhood have lived in harmony for years. Their families intermarry. They attend each other’s weddings and funerals and pray in each others’ mosques. It is also a calm area, with not a single attack reported against the coalition forces since April.

That co-existence, however, came to an abrupt end early Tuesday morning. An explosion beside a Sunni mosque killed three people and ripped to shreds the brittle fabric of communal unity that bound both Shiites and Sunnis, exposing the deep-rooted sectarian divisions within Iraqi society.

The Sunnis blame the explosion on militant Shiites belonging to the Al-Dawa Party and the Badr Brigades, the military wing of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The Shiites accuse Sunnis from the extremist Wahhabi sect of stirring up tensions between the two communities.

As the three victims were buried the next day, armed Sunni and Shiite gunmen took to the streets vowing revenge, while clerics pleaded for calm and grim-faced US troops, backed by Apache helicopter gunships, patrolled the neighborhood.

Comment: The Sunnis are blaming Shiites imported from Iran. The Shiites are blaming Wahhabis. The two sides are being set one against the other. Perhaps there is a third force involved, one that does not want to see Moslems of the two schools living together in peace.

Fuel lines could be a tinderbox

Edward Wong/NYT NYT

[...] With lines for gasoline stretching for miles and drivers forced to wait an entire day to fill their tanks, fuel shortages have emerged as a potent political issue with the potential to ignite civil unrest across the country. Two American soldiers were killed recently while standing guard over long lines at gas stations, and many Iraqis warn that the kind of widespread rioting that broke out in August in the city of Basra may be just around the corner.

The murky case of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man behind the neocons’ Sept. 11 obsession

BEIRUT: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a one-legged Jordanian Palestinian who by all accounts has become one of the most active of the terrorist commanders fighting the Americans and their allies, has been identified by Turkish authorities as the mastermind for the Istanbul bombings in November that killed 61 people and wounded more than 700.

The Bush administration has long branded him as the key link between Saddam Hussein, Al-Qaeda and the carnage of Sept. 11, 2001 ­ an allegation that has been largely discredited but which hard-line conservatives, pushed onto the defensive by the anarchy in Iraq they failed to foresee, are resurrecting in a politically charged debate that could impact the 2004 electoral campaign.

The Americans insist that Zarqawi is a close associate of Osama bin Laden, but European intelligence agencies say that while he may share bin Laden’s ideology and pathological hatred of the West, and fought like the Al-Qaeda leader against the Soviet Army in the 1979-89 Afghan war, he operates independently and has his own fundamentalist organization, Al-Tawheed. The Palestinian-based group is dedicated to overthrowing the Jordanian monarchy and government.

Several Al-Tawheed cells have been rounded up in Western Europe and in Jordan in recent years.

Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmed Fadeel Nazzal al-Khalayleh, has been central to the Bush administration’s allegations since Oct. 20, 2002, when George W. Bush made the case for the global terrorist threat allegedly posed by Saddam. As an example of high-level contacts between the Baghdad regime and Al-Qaeda, Bush identified Zarqawi as “one very senior Al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year and who has been associated with planning chemical and biological attacks.” Zarqawi was wounded in a US air strike in Afghanistan in late 2001, and made his way to Baghdad via Iran in March 2002. While in Baghdad one of his legs was amputated and he now uses an artificial limb.

On Feb. 5, 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had shown little enthusiasm for going to war with Iraq, told the UN Security Council that the administration had undeniable proof of a connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, and identified Zarqawi as the head of “a deadly terrorist network” based in Iraq, and as an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda lieutenants.”

US intelligence insiders, European intelligence officials who were tracking Zarqawi long before the Americans, and even Israeli intelligence, all cast considerable doubt on the US claims, and still do.

Zarqawi, 36, first became known as a player in the world of terrorism in 1999, when Jordanian authorities rounded up a cell of Islamic extremists who were later convicted ­ mostly in absentia ­ for plotting attacks on US and Israeli targets in the Hashemite kingdom. Four years later, he was considered a key terrorist leader and on Oct. 28, 2003, the Americans put a bounty of $5 million on his head.

He has been linked to a multitude of terrorist atrocities since 1999, and Turkey’s claim that he orchestrated the Istanbul bombings, albeit without any hard evidence provided, was a major boost to US conservatives who claim that he, and thus Al-Qaeda, were linked to Saddam.

Faced with the humiliation of failing to find any evidence that Saddam had active programs to develop weapons of mass destruction that threatened the “free world,” a primary justification for invading Iraq to which the administration clings with theological conviction, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration are once more trying hard to prove another of their pre-war claims, that Saddam was an international terrorist threat that had to be eliminated.

The irony is that the Americans, now grappling with an escalating insurgency in Iraq that is driving them to distraction, appear to have created in that country the very Frankenstein they conjured up to warrant their war there in the first place. It is probably true that among the insurgents are Islamic zealots and followers of bin Laden, for whom the conflict in Iraq, on Arab soil, has become part of the jihad against the United States and its allies. But the involvement of fighters with ideological links to Al-Qaeda hardly proves that Saddam had anything to do with the carnage of Sept. 11, 2001.

It seems that the post-invasion anarchy in Iraq has energized the neoconservatives in the administration to revive that claim. But it may also be a desperate ploy to counter their apparently diminishing influence in the White House because of the flawed strategy they provided regarding the invasion of Iraq.

There have been reports of contacts between Saddam’s inner circle and Al-Qaeda officials, including bin Laden, dating back long before Sept. 11. And in that time, Al-Qaeda operatives appear to have moved in and out of Baghdad without problems, but no concrete evidence of state sponsorship by the Baathist regime has ever surfaced. Still, US neocons continue to believe that Saddam was behind just about every terrorist attack on the US over the last decade. The State Department says the last such attack was the abortive attempt to assassinate George Bush the elder in Kuwait in 1993.

Amid growing pressure from Democrats, who charge that the Republican administration cooked intelligence to justify the war, the conservatives have been hitting back as the campaigning for the 2004 presidential election heats up. On Sept. 14, as US forces in Iraq reeled from one blow after another from an escalating insurgency against occupation, Vice-President Dick Cheney brought the debate back into sharp focus.

Cheney, whose power within the administration remains formidable and who avidly propagated the claim that Saddam was allied to Al-Qaeda, not only reasserted that allegation but claimed Baghdad helped, and probably financed, the Islamic terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in New York in February 1993. The neocons, including former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, have been saying that for the last decade, but Cheney’s assertion added a new twist to the administration’s conspiracy theory.

The 1993 attack, the first act of international terrorism within the US, has never been attributed to Al-Qaeda, which at the time was in its formative stages, although some of those involved later became part of bin Laden’s network. One was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who became a senior operational chief for Al-Qaeda until he was captured in Pakistan in March 2003. During interrogation, according to intelligence sources, he repeatedly denied any operational Al-Qaeda links with Baghdad.

A new book, Bush vs The Beltway, by Laurie Mylroie, an American academic, Iraq specialist and rabidly devout believer in Saddam’s sponsorship of terror, and involvement in Sept. 11, claims that Mohammed was an Iraqi agent, but US authorities refuse to investigate.

On Sept. 17, Bush himself finally conceded that there was no firm evidence that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks ­ disputing for the first time the claims made by his administration to justify the war against Iraq and, one could argue, distancing himself from the neocons in his administration. But he also insisted: “There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had Al-Qaeda ties.”

Then in late November, the right-wing US magazine The Weekly Standard, which has close ties to administration hawks, reported that Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary for defense for policy and planning and a key architect of the war with Iraq, had provided the US Senate Intelligence Committee with a 16-page memorandum of classified material that he claimed showed an operational link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda.

The Oct. 27 memo listed 50 items of raw intelligence pointing toward such an unholy alliance. With the disclosure of the Feith memo, some conservative US commentators, including William Safire in The New York Times, have resurrected claims of linkage between Saddam and Sept. 11. Safire wrote on Nov. 25 that the memo buttressed those claims, and noted: “With so much connective tissue exposed ­ some the result of ‘custodial interviews’ of prisoners ­ the burden of proof has shifted to those grimly in denial.”

Bush may have rowed back on those claims, but a recent poll showed that 70 percent of Americans firmly believe Saddam had a hand in the suicide attacks of 2001, and as Safire notes, “in the murder of 3,000 Americans.” Cheney, the Darth Vader of the Bush administration, still insists there was an operational terrorist alliance between Saddam and bin Laden ­ just as he remains unabashed about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction when all the evidence now points the other way.

Among the items cited in the Feith memo was the Czech intelligence service claim that Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian who led the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers, met at least twice in Prague in 2001 with Ahmed al-Ani, a senior Iraqi intelligence official then operating under diplomatic cover as the vice consul at Iraq’s embassy in the Czech capital, before the attacks on the US. Ani supposedly gave Atta access to $100,000.

The CIA has said it cannot confirm those meetings and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that at the time of one of the alleged contacts in Prague, on April 9, 2001, Atta was traveling between Virginia and Florida. Ani has been in the hands of the US Justice Department since July, but there has been no indication that he has confirmed meeting Atta on the dates cited. Farouk Hejazi, former head of external operations in the Iraqi intelligence service who reportedly met bin Laden and his Egyptian No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, during a secret mission to Afghanistan in December 1998, has also been in US custody since late April. If anyone could confirm any links between Saddam’s regime and Al-Qaeda it is Hejazi ­ but again, nothing.

Ani’s predecessor in Prague, Jabr Salem, has defected to the British and has been interrogated by the Secret Intelligence Service, but there has been no whisper from that quarter to substantiate the alleged Baghdad link with Al-Qaeda. The large number of CIA operatives now in Baghdad has access to tons ­ literally ­ of meticulous files kept by Iraqi intelligence, but there has been no whiff of anything to validate the neocons’ claims.

In the meantime, the elusive Zarqawi remains at large, with his secrets. But even so, the betting is that the conservatives’ renewed claims that Saddam was in cahoots with bin Laden on Sept. 11 will haunt Bush as the election campaign gathers momentum and he will distance himself from them, further eroding their influence.

Ed Blanche, a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, has covered Middle Eastern affairs for many years and is a regular contributor to The Daily Star.

Bush tells Iraq war opponents to forego debt

US President George W. Bush has called on Germany, France and Russia to forego some of the debts owed by Iraq. Bush said the three nations, who opposed the war, could now play their part by helping the Iraqi people. Bush's special envoy on Iraq's debt, James Baker, is expected in Berlin on Wednesday for talks on the issue. Iraq is believed to have around 100 billion dollars in foreign debt, around 4 billion of that are owed to Germany. Meanwhile the Pentagon has said that companies from countries opposed to the Iraq war could only expect less lucrative subcontracts in Iraq's reconstruction.

Hard to find fresh forces for Afghanistan: French defence minister

Flesh-Eating Bacteria Kills Connecticut Official
11:25 AM EST December 12, 2003

HARTFORD, Conn -- An infection caused by "flesh-eating" bacteria has killed the chairwoman of the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration.

Robin Miller, 52, of Stonington, died Wednesday at Hartford Hospital from a virulent bacterial infection known medically as necrotizing fasciitis.

Miller also was chairwoman of the state Department of Administrative Services' Employee Review Board and the Republican registrar of voters in Stonington. [...]

FBI Applies New Rules to Surveillance

Many Searches Not Subject To Regular Courts' Oversight

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 13, 2003; Page A01

The FBI has implemented new ground rules that fundamentally alter the way investigators handle counterterrorism cases, allowing criminal and intelligence agents to work side by side and giving both broad access to the tools of intelligence gathering for the first time in decades.

The result is that the FBI, unhindered by the restrictions of the past, will conduct many more searches and wiretaps that are subject to oversight by a secret intelligence court rather than regular criminal courts, officials said. Civil liberties groups and defense lawyers predict that more innocent people will be the targets of clandestine surveillance.

The new strategy -- launched in early summer and finalized in a classified directive issued to FBI field offices in October -- goes further than has been publicly discussed by FBI officials in the past and marks the final step in tearing down the legal wall that had separated criminal and intelligence investigations since the spying scandals of the 1970s, authorities said. [...]

INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: The untold story of the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy

How the public's business gets done out of the public eye

Friday, Dec. 12, the PBS television program NOW with Bill Moyers will air a report on Bush administration secrecy produced in collaboration with U.S. News. Please visit for stations and airtimes in your area. The U.S. News article, "Keeping Secrets," will be publshed in Monday's edition. Full text will be available on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m.

The Bush administration has removed from the public domain millions of pages of information on health, safety, and environmental matters, lowering a shroud of secrecy over many critical operations of the federal government.

The administration's efforts to shield the actions of, and the information held by, the executive branch are far more extensive than has been previously documented. And they reach well beyond security issues. [...]

There are no precise statistics on how much government information is rendered secret. One measure, though, can be seen in a tally of how many times officials classify records. In the first two years of Bush's term, his administration classified records some 44.5 million times, or about the same number as in President Clinton's last four years, according to the Information Security Oversight Office, an arm of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Bush: Halliburton Must Pay for Overcharge

By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
December 13, 2003

WASHINGTON - As Democrats demand further investigations of Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, President Bush says Halliburton Co. should repay the government if it overcharged for fuel in Iraq.

"If there's an overcharge, like we think there is, we expect that money to be repaid," the president told reporters Friday when asked about the contract controversy. [...]

Meanwhile, an Army spokesman disclosed that companies from France, Germany, Russia and Canada won't be eligible to replace Halliburton as the recipient of the oil reconstruction contract. [...]

Comment: Of course not. One way or another, Bush, Cheney, and all the other oil thugs will make a handsome profit on the war they have created.

US firm pushes anti-missile system for civil aircraft

DUBAI (AFP) Dec 12, 2003

A leading US defense company believes its new anti-missile system can protect civil aircraft against "all missiles in the hands of terrorists", amid increased interest after attacks on planes in Iraq and Kenya.

Northrop Grumman says its Nemesis Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) system uses laser beams to jam shoulder-fired surface-to-air-missiles (SAMs) that may pose a threat to commercial airlines. [...]

US Senators demand Guantanamo resolution

By North America correspondent Jill Colgan
Saturday, December 13, 2003

Three US Senators have written to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld demanding that he formally charge the detainees as war criminals or return them to their own countries to face justice.

The letter follows a visit by the trio to the maximum security prison this week.

The letter was sent by Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell. [...]

Noting some of the men have been held for two years, the letter says it is time to make a decision on how the US will move forward.

American Justice

Marines Land on Fla. Beaches for Exercise

By BILL KACZOR, Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 12, 5:03 PM ET

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Dozens of locals turned out Friday to welcome a group of Marines as they landed on beaches for six days of live-fire exercises.

The exercises are intended to test out Eglin as a possible permanent training site for the military. It is one of several locations under study to replace a site on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico.

The Navy closed its bombing range on the Puerto Rican island in May following a series of protests after errant bombs killed a civilian security guard in 1999.

In contrast to protests in Vieques, locals gathered along roads and beaches to wave at the 1,500 members of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C. [...]

Europe's last push to end impasse

Italy is preparing to present compromise proposals to European Union leaders struggling to reach agreement on a new constitution.

They aim to break the deadlock at the talks in Brussels by overcoming Spanish and Polish opposition.

The two nations' unhappiness over the relative voting rights of large and medium-sized countries may wreck efforts to approve the constitution.

The task is critical for the EU, which expands from 15 to 25 states next year.

EU deadlock over constitution

Saturday 13 December 2003, 8:48 Makka Time, 5:48 GMT

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels put aside wrangling over their proposed constitution to adopt a security strategy designed to make the EU a more effective player on the world stage.

Meeting on Friday to agree on the EU's first constitution, the leaders also approved a deal clinched by its main military powers, France, Germany and Britain, on a military planning cell for crisis management operations, which was watered down during weeks of negotiation amid US suspicions of its impact on NATO.

The leaders also endorsed a multi-billion-euro plan to encourage public and private investment into transport and research projects in an attempt to revitalise the European economy.


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi warned that crunch talks aiming to hammer out a first-ever EU constitution may have to be postponed until next year.

The warning on Friday, perhaps designed to concentrate the minds of bickering EU leaders, came amid fears the talks could collapse into a fiasco that would leave the bloc facing crisis as it expands from 15 to 25 countries.

[...] The summit - scheduled to last two days but which some fear could turn into a marathon haggle through the weekend - aims to agree on a constitution that will streamline the European Union's decision-making process after it expands to 25 members next May, and further in coming years.

Among the disputes are the composition of the European Commission - the EU's executive branch - the powers of a new EU president and whether the charter should refer to God.

But the key sticking point is expected to be the refusal by Spain and Poland to surrender the generous voting rights they secured at an EU summit in Nice in 2000.

Poland and Spain under pressure over EU treaty

By George Parker, Judy Dempsey, James Blitz and Stefan Wagstyl in Brussels
Published: December 12 2003 13:01 | Last Updated: December 12 2003 21:09

Spain and Poland on Friday night came under mounting pressure to back a compromise deal on a new European Union constitution amid fears that the time to strike a deal was running out.

Silvio Berlusconi, Italian holder of the EU presidency, said at the start of the treaty talks in Brussels: "Nobody can be expected to do the impossible."

He has given EU leaders until lunchtime on Saturday to agree the constitutional treaty, which aims to equip the union for an expansion to 25 members and enhance its role on the world stage.

The key to an agreement lies with the flexibility of José María Aznar, the Spanish prime minister, and Leszek Miller, Poland's premier, in accepting a new EU voting system that gives them less power. On Friday night the Polish leader showed no signs of giving ground, breaking off from the talks to declare his determination to fight for Poland's position. "Poland is a great and proud country and we are not fighting only for our interests, but also we are simply fighting for a solution which will suit big states, medium-sized states and small states. Only then can the EU function properly and achieve results."

Mr Berlusconi said the Spanish and Polish concerns were "perfectly legitimate" and hinted it might be best to let tempers cool and continue the talks next year.

Martin government blend of old and new

Last Updated Fri, 12 Dec 2003 22:01:12

OTTAWA - Paul Martin took a public oath and made a personal pledge as he became Canada's 21st prime minister on Friday, installing a government he vows will bring change to Canadian politics.

Martin's Cabinet Shifts To The Right - Votes On Key Motions Show New Ministers Are Conservative-Leaning

OTTAWA – Paul Martin today picked up as prime minister where he left off as finance minister– on a right-ward track, said NDP Leader Jack Layton, who released a breakdown of how new ministers voted on important issues that split the Liberal caucus.

“If you want to know what Paul Martin’s going to do in the future, look at what he’s done in the past,” said Layton. “His record shows he chose corporate tax reductions over investing in innovation, and today’s Cabinet indicates it’s going to be more of the same.”

Dollar Dips to Record Low Vs Euro on Snow

By Manuela Badawy
Fri Dec 12, 4:30 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar reached a lifetime low against the euro on Friday after U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said the dollar's decline was "orderly," a comment dollar bears took as a green light to sell the currency, analysts said. [...]

The euro reached a record high of $1.2306 , according to Reuters data, before drifting back to $1.2292, a gain of 0.68 percent on the day.

Laidi said Snow's remarks left markets thinking that the government's strong-dollar policy is mere rhetoric and that the White House is in fact content to see further dollar losses. [...]

US consumer sentiment falls unexpectedly

By Christopher Swann in Washington
Published: December 12 2003 16:26 | Last Updated: December 12 2003 16:26

A fall in consumer sentiment in December has further damped some of the more exaggerated hopes over the strength of the US economic recovery.

The University of Michigan's consumer confidence index - which had been widely expected to rise - fell back from 93.7 to 89.6. The bulk of the fall was caused by consumers taking a less upbeat assessment of the present state of the economy, but expectations also fell fractionally.

Economists said the figures were disappointing and appeared to be at odds with continued signs of strength in consumer spending.

Bush signs law targeting Syria

Saturday 13 December 2003, 5:14 Makka Time, 2:14 GMT

US President George Bush has signed a legislation that aims to punish Syria for its alleged ties to "terrorists" and purported efforts to obtain nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

"Today, I have signed into law HR 1828, the 'Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003,'" Bush said in a statement released by the White House on Friday.

"My approval of the Act does not constitute my adoption of the various statements of policy in the Act as US foreign policy," said Bush.

[...] The legislation directs the president to prohibit US exports to Syria of weaponry and so-called "dual-use" technology with both civilian and military applications, but also gives him authority to waive the sanctions.

And it gives the administration a range of options for punishing Damascus, from restricting US exports and business investment to downgrading Washington's diplomatic representation and imposing travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the United States.

The law also allows the US government to freeze the Syria's assets in the United States and restrict over-flight rights for Syrian aircraft inside US airspace.

Peruvian president demands whole cabinet's resignation 2003-12-13 13:55:45

LIMA, Dec. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo asked all his cabinet members, including Prime Minister Beatriz Merino, to resign to pave the way for his cabinet reshuffle, a presidential statement said late Friday.

The statement said Toledo had also demanded that all presidential advisors quit.

He said in his statement that the country's constitution accorded him the right to make such a request, and added that new cabinet members have been chosen but will only be sworn in on Monday when Merino, who is in the United States on a visit, returns home.

Iranian government to protect Nobel winner

December 12, 2003, 02:15 PM

Mohammad Khatami, the reformist Iranian President, was today quoted as saying that he had told his government to ensure that Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel peace prize-winning lawyer, could continue her work without disruption.

Khatami told French newspaper Le Monde that Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to win the prize, had in the past encountered "a few problems". He gave no details, but Ebadi is said to have powerful foes.

Despite her status as a hate-figure among Iran's religious hardliners, she has received death threats and was assigned a bodyguard by the government. Ebadi argues passionately that Islam is not incompatible with human rights.

Pirate radio station reports on UN summit

December 09, 2003, 09:40 PM

An international media freedom group, barred from a UN summit on the information society, set up a "pirate radio" service today to tell delegates what was happening at the gathering.

Robert Menard, Secretary-General of the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, told a news conference the service, Radio Non Grata, would put the organisation's point of view to delegates throughout the three-day conference.

"We will also be broadcasting details of press freedom violations by many of the countries taking part in this meeting, like Tunisia and Zimbabwe," he declared.

Comment: We have read that M. Menard is a CIA asset.

Four hurt as Haitian demos spread

Saturday 13 December 2003, 11:58 Makka Time, 8:58 GMT

Four people have been shot and wounded in Haiti as protests continued for the second day in the tiny Caribbean country.

Supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide came out in large numbers in capital Port-au-Prince to counter anti-Aristide protests on Thursday.

The United States closed its embassy and advised Americans against travelling to Haiti.

State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said the Haitian government had failed to maintain order in the capital and "in some instances has assisted in violently repressing the demonstrations".

"Some international organisations have decided to draw down their staff in Haiti," Finto said.

[...] On Thursday, thousands of students and others took to the streets to call for Aristide's resignation, blaming him for violence against protesters in the past. It was one of the largest political demonstrations in Haiti this year.

On Friday morning, hundreds of Aristide supporters gathered in front of the National Palace and marched around the block, beating drums and singing.

Some chanted, "Cut off heads, burn down houses," a battle cry of the father of Haiti's independence, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who led the country to independence from France in 1804.

Some demonstrators carried saws or swords and called out threats to students and journalists.

Some 6,000 Malaysians die of AIDS in 18 years 2003-12-13 19:55:19

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- A total of 5,934 Malaysians died of AIDS from the time the disease was first reported in 1985 up to September this year, a senior official said on Saturday.

A Baghdad Thanksgiving's Lingering Aftertaste

[...] Stars and Stripes is blowing the whistle on President Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad, saying the cheering soldiers who met him were pre-screened and others showing up for a turkey dinner were turned away. [...]

A Net of Control

Unthinkable: How the Internet could become a tool of corporate and government power, based on updates now in the works

By Steven Levy
Newsweek International

Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet. [...]

Boy gets 18yrs for murder

12/12/2003 21:28 - (SA)

New Brunswick - An 11-year-old boy who admitted he fatally beat a toddler with a baseball bat and dumped him face down in a drainage ditch was sentenced on Friday to 18 years in the custody of the juvenile justice system.

Aaron Kean, who was 10 at the time of the crime, told a judge Thursday that he brutalised the 3-year-old because the boy was bothering him and wanted to use his scooter, people who attended the closed juvenile proceeding told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Kean pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder and is expected to be sent to a specialised children's mental health facility. It was not immediately clear whether he would be eligible for early release.

Authorities said Kean lured the Amir Beeks from a library in March before beating the boy in a backyard playhouse and leaving him face down in shallow water with his pants down, leading to an initial sexual assault charge. The child died the next day at a hospital.

Magnetic Field Is Fading, but No Dire Effects Are Foreseen

New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 11 — In last spring's movie "The Core," Earth's molten core stops spinning, with dire effects on the magnetic field that protects the planet from energy-charged particles from the Sun. People with pacemakers fall dead in the street; the Golden Gate Bridge collapses.

Scientists have known for some time that the magnetic field is in fact collapsing, at a rate faster than it would if flows of molten iron in the core had stopped completely.

And while the consequences would be nowhere near as catastrophic as those in the movie, geophysicists increasingly wonder whether the magnetic field has begun one of its occasional reversals that in the next few thousand years might lead to compasses pointing south instead of north.

At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union here on Thursday, scientists presented research investigating the cause of the decline, its possible effects on the planet and what might be learned from geological records of earlier reversals.

The decline, as measured by magnetometers on Earth's surface, is 10 percent in the last 150 years. "We're seeing it's actually decreasing at a fairly impressive rate," said Dr. John A. Tarduno, a professor of geophysics at the University of Rochester. [...]

Man shot dead on Kennedy 'X'

12/12/2003 20:38 - (SA)

Dallas - A man apparently shot himself dead early on Friday on the "X" in Dealey Plaza that marks the spot where President John F Kennedy was assassinated 40 years ago, authorities said.

Witnesses said they saw a man in a camouflage jacket holding a gun on his chest and lying in the middle of the street on the spraypainted "X", an unofficial memorial maintained by the publisher of a local conspiracy-theory publication.

In the rush to protect children, 'experts' use junk science to accuse innocent parents

The Telegraph

Evidence is growing of disturbing flaws in the way allegations of child abuse are made and then pursued. James Le Fanu and David Derbyshire investigate

[A]ccording to a growing body of concerned lawyers, doctors and parents, these are not isolated cases but symptomatic of a legal and medical system so determined to protect children that it fails to protect the innocent.

In this culture junk science can be seen as fact, medical opinion is confused with truth and guilt is determined not by hard evidence, but by a checklist of medical or psychological symptoms. [...]

What they all have in common is that they are based on flawed opinions rather than forensic evidence. Too many doctors still embrace pseudo explanations for things they do not really understand. [...]

Last Civilian Lighthouse Keeper Dies

By LARRY McSHANE, Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 12, 5:17 PM ET

NEW YORK - The last living vestige of a bygone era is gone: The keeper of a Brooklyn lighthouse, who stood watch over New York's gateway to the Atlantic Ocean for 43 years, has died.

Frank Schubert, 88, was the last of the Coast Guard's civilian lighthouse keepers in the United States, said Petty Officer Mike Hvozda. He died Thursday of natural causes at his cottage beneath the 113-year-old lighthouse on Brooklyn's Coney Island.

Schubert's work earned him many fans, including President George H.W. Bush, who invited him for a White House visit.

"The Coast Guard mourns the loss of its most courageous sentry of the sea," said Capt. Craig T. Bone, commander of Coast Guard Activities New York. "His devotion to duty and courage are unequaled."

Night after night, year after year, Schubert ensured that the ocean traffic at the nation's busiest port found safe passage around the pointy end of Brooklyn. He was responsible for maintaining the grounds, light and fog signal at the 80-foot-tall lighthouse.

Over the course of his career, Schubert was credited with saving the lives of 15 sailors. He survived howling hurricanes and towering waves, keeping the lighthouse beacon flashing through the rain and surf.

Even after the lighthouse became automated by the late 1980s, Schubert stayed on as an ambassador of good will and a reminder of maritime history. [...]

Comment: The last "keeper of the light" in America has died. Coincidence? We think not.

Free Willy killer whale dies

Natural Gas Price Soars 46 Percent

AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON (AP)--A 46 percent surge in the price of natural gas since Thanksgiving has been so startling, one analyst has suggested the futures markets should be investigated. [...]

As a result, consumers could see higher energy bills as early as next month, analysts said. Any increase won't be nearly as severe as the recent run-up in futures prices because utilities sign long-term contracts for the bulk of their winter fuel over the summer.

Explanations for the rally vary, but traders are virtually unanimous in acknowledging that they were caught off guard when prices first began rising sharply at the beginning of the month. Sure, the barometer dropped and snowflakes fell--and another winter storm could hit the Northeast this weekend--but the nation's supply of natural gas is adequate for this time of year, analysts say.

"Any of us that are in the business and see the amount of natural gas in storage argues for a much lower price," said John Kilduff, senior energy analyst at Fimat USA in New York. [...]

Couple Die in Apparent Killing-Suicide

By SETH HETTENA, Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 12, 4:55 PM ET

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A man shot his terminally ill wife to death at a suburban San Diego hospital Friday, then killed himself. [...]

Judge orders man blinded for throwing acid on fiancee's face (Pakistan)

UFO buffs sue to obtain data on Pa. fireball

[...] A group of UFO enthusiasts, backed by the Sci-Fi Channel, filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking full disclosure of NASA records regarding the crash of a large, fiery object near Kecksburg.

According to a front-page story in The Plain Dealer on Dec. 10, 1965, smaller fireballs also crashed in the Elyria area, setting 10 small grass fires [...]

Vagrant elephants banned from city
09:43 Saturday 13th December 2003

Thailand's prime minister has banned vagrant elephants from the streets of Bangkok in an effort to ease traffic chaos.

Thaksin Shinawatra says elephants brought in from the countryside cause road problems in an already congested capital city.

In his national weekly radio address, he said he had told the Interior Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to "not let elephants into Bangkok".

Scores of domesticated elephants - estimates range from 60 to 250 - roam Bangkok streets with their handlers, begging for food or promoting the sale of ivory trinkets.

They sometimes get hit by vehicles or fall into drains. Many of the elephants, extensively used for logging, were made redundant by a 1989 ban on the industry. [...]

And Finally...

"This one says it all -- and thanks to Judy Peer of Rochester, New York -- who found this monument to greed and chauvenism on Winton Road there. The tattooed eagle stradles a lumpish, deflated earth (perhaps punctured by its talons) before the ranks of Humvees waiting for buyers who can take advantage of the special corporate tax break for vehicles over 6000 pounds (nice work Karl Rove!). [...]" [ Eyesore of the Month, October 2003, James Howard Kunstler, Author of The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere]

Comment: James is understandably a tad bit upset regarding the speed of entropy in the USA, and if you are sensitive to strong language, please let it be known that the Signs Team has forewarned you that such is used occassionally at his site. He mentions that, "Sometimes it's appropriate, even patriotic, to be ashamed of your country."

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