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December 21, 2003

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Imagine if the whole world knew your name. Then imagine that the whole world only knew lies and half-truths about you. Imagine if the world believed the press, and rarely asked you to speak up in your own defense. Imagine your name associated daily with terrorists that you do not support.

That's the life of Yassar Arafat. We are not saying that Arafat is a saint, but we are saying that the world's eyes are on him, and Bush has decided to test the waters to see how the world responds to not so veiled threats.

In "off the cuff" commentary, at the White House Christmas party, Bush says it is time for Arafat's "removal." Removal probably means one thing: assassination. It is very likely that the world would burn if such an "action" takes place. Terrorism would very likely touch us all. Just the excuse needed to finish off the "Middle East Problem." Make no mistake - we are all being set up - and it is very likely the masses will be crying out for the solution created by those who created the problem. Merry Christmas from George Bush. It is heart breaking to see this psychopath toy with the US, with US citizens used as props in his mad games.

Is it really over? That heartwarming international love story, Tony and George? According to a report from Britain, it seems the chemistry has changed between the US President and the British PM since the US nixed a Christmas trip by Tony to entertain the troops. George wants to go, and he doesn't like sharing the spotlight. Of course, it might also highlight the differences between Bush's secretive, announce-it-when-it's-over Iraq traveling, and Tony's more open travel in daylight. Has George changed toothpaste? Will Tony's smile still seem as bright and white? Stay tuned for the next episode of: As The World Burns.

Meanwhile, the Kurds are saying THEY'RE the ones who got Saddam, then drugged him up for the US to capture in a photo op. So many stories, so little truth. And what to make of the story out of Lebanon that Iraqi opposition activist Taleb al Suhail al Tamimi organized a coup attempt in 1993 against Saddam that was blown by the US when Washington decided the new man wouldn't play ball with them. So they tipped off Saddam, and Taleb al Suhail al Tamimi was assassinated at his home in Beirut, and his colleagues in Iraq died at the hands of Saddam's torturers. Count another one for US democracy.

Terror threats, plague and pandemic fears, US ships hi-tech weapons to S. Korea (actual Pentagon motto: "More lethality with fewer people"), sniper still loose, and making more mistakes than usual? Check out your levels of brainwave P300, and a strange UFO report sent in from one of our readers.

Bush declares: "We must get rid of Arafat"

JERUSALEM, (AFP) - US President George W. Bush told an Israeli journalist that "we must get rid of" Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot daily has reported.

Bush's comments came in a brief exchange with the paper's correspondent during a Christmas drinks party in Washington, several hours after a keynote speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Thursday in which he outlined plans for unilateral disengagement from peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The US government has boycotted Arafat with Bush accusing the veteran leader of failing the Palestinian people. Israel has also shunned the 74-year-old, branding him an absolute obstacle to peace and confining him to his West Bank headquarters for more than two years.

Israel's security cabinet approved Arafat's "removal" in September, with one minister even suggesting that he could be assassinated, but Washington warned Israel not to attempt to expel him.

Bush was non-commital about Sharon's speech, saying that he would wait to see what happened on the ground.

"Speeches are good things, but they are words. I am waiting for action," he was quoted as saying.

"Now is the time to do a lot in the Middle East, and I am determined and committed to doing that. You can be sure that I have done a lot until now, but I am going to keep on doing. I am going to continue to be active and committed to my vision."

FLASHBACK: Israel's 'assassination policy'

1 August, 2001
By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala

The Israeli Government of Ariel Sharon is, like its predecessors, committed to the policy of assassinating individuals who it believes pose a threat to its citizens.

Palestinian officials say that about 60 individuals have been assassinated since the start of the current Palestinian uprising, or intifada, in September last year - several belonging to Yasser Arafat's political faction Fatah.

Israeli officials have at times boldly admitted that the policy exists and is being pursued vigorously. [...]

Israel has a long history of assassination operations targeting individuals. [...]

Israel has always claimed the right to selectively assassinate its enemies. [...]

The Israeli left has argued that the assassination policy is gangster behaviour unbecoming of a government and against Israeli law. [...]

"The use of state assassinations by Israel against Palestinian suspects is undermining the rule of law and fuelling the cycle of violence in the region," an Amnesty report said.

Comment: October, 22 1994

Q: (L) On a couple of occasions it has been mentioned that Yasser Arafat was a fifth density soul and that he was a
descendant of Jesus of Nazareth. What is there about him that demonstrates these qualities or these genetics?
A: Have you not seen? Imagine what it would be like to be Yasser Arafat. Look at your perception. What is he doing
now?

Q: (L) Well the pro-Jewish point of view is not favorable to him.
A: Well, what you describe as pro anything is an obsession. And, as we know, obsession blocks knowledge which in turn blocks the ability to protect oneself against negative occurrences. Not a good idea. If you were following circumstances, Yasser Arafat is now trying to take the world upon his shoulders by making peace with the Israelis who have been enemies for a very long time. And, therefore, he is now a peace maker and knowledge dispenser.

Q: (L) In that particular conflict between the Jews and the Arabs, which side has the greater validity?
A: All sides have equal validity. It is only with individuals we find negativity or positivity.

FLASHBACK: Sharon regrets sparing Arafat

31 January, 2002
BBC

[...] Operation "Peace for Galilee" was intended to wipe out Palestinian guerrilla bases near Israel's northern border - but as defence minister, Ariel Sharon pushed all the way to Beirut and expelled the PLO from the country.

"In Lebanon, there was an agreement not to liquidate Yasser Arafat," Mr Sharon said. Yasser Arafat in Beirut in 1982

"In principle, I'm sorry that we didn't liquidate him." [...]

FLASHBACK: Sharon's Terror Child

By RAY HANANIA
CounterPunch

Hamas is considered one of Israel's greatest threats, but the Islamic terrorist organization found its beginnings in the misguided Israeli effort to encourage the rise of a religious alternative that would undermine the popularity of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Yasir Arafat. [...]

FLASHBACK: Unholy alliance - Sharon, Hamas work in concert against peace

by Rabbi Michael Lerner
Pacific News Service

The strategies of Ariel Sharon and Hamas are far less irrational than portrayed by American media. Each has been cooperating in what amounts to a tacit alliance to achieve a shared goal: the elimination of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority and its replacement by Hamas. Israel's announcement that it will not deal with the PLO any more is only one part of this process. [...]

World Court Set 'Dangerous Precedent' - Israeli

Sat Dec 20, 3:53 PM ET

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli official said the World Court's decision to hold hearings on the legality of a barrier in the West Bank was "a dangerous precedent" but said Israel would argue its right to self-defense.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice -- also known as the World Court -- announced the February hearings on Friday after the U.N. General Assembly voted to ask it whether Israel was legally obliged to tear down the barrier.

"We think from a broader legal point of view, this is a dangerous precedent that every political process can be presented in a court of law. ... This is not the proper place to deal with this," the Israeli official told Reuters. [...]

Comment: Those pesky courts are always getting in the way of "political processes", a.k.a. apartheid.

Sharon's hopeless vision

Michael Brown, The Electronic Intifada, 19 December 2003

As feared, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech on Thursday, December 18 at the Herzliya Conference provided very little hope for 2004. Sharon acknowledged there will be a Palestinian state, thereby recognizing Israel cannot control all the land between the river and the sea, but said nothing about the size of the Palestinian state. He offered no tangible vision for the Palestinians to latch on to which suggested that after decades this man is now addressing Palestinian concerns seriously.

The Israeli prime minister moved because he is rapidly being cast as intransigent and because even the Likud is beginning to recognize that at some point in the very near future it will have to decide between democracy and apartheid. Pushed back on his heels, Sharon tried to gain the upper hand by speaking the language Washington has come to know well in the last year -- that of unilateral action.

Rather than speak hard truths about Israel's responsibilities, Sharon aggressively set forth one misrepresentation after another. For instance, he claimed, "Seven months ago, my Government approved the 'Roadmap' to peace, based on President George Bush's June 2002 speech." He failed to note he accepted the Roadmap only with the insertion of 14 caveats.

Comment: This article analyzes Sharon's entire speech, translating from the Sharonian doublespeak into facts based upon his past actions. This is a land-grab, with Israel seeking to steal at least 50% of the West Bank from the Palestinians. The long-term goal is to make life for the Palestinians so impossible to endure that they will leave, of their own "free will," obviously.

Israeli, Palestinian leaders want meeting to restart peace talks

06:14 AM EST Dec 21

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli and Palestinian officials are working to set up a meeting between their prime ministers this week aimed at renewing peace efforts, the chief Palestinian negotiator said Saturday.

[...] On Thursday, Sharon said if the Palestinians do not make serious peace moves in the next few months, Israel will impose its own boundary on them. Palestinians said only a negotiated agreement can bring peace, worried unilateral Israeli action would leave them with far less land than they want for a future state.

[...] Qureia has said he would only agree to the meeting if Sharon shows a willingness to compromise on a series of contentious issues, including the construction of a security barrier that dips deep into the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Sharon has refused to stop building the barrier but has said Israel plans to ease closures, curfews and other restrictions on Palestinians.

[...] Violence on the West Bank continued Saturday as Palestinian gunmen killed a man accused of collaborating with Israeli security forces. The 23-year-old man was shot in the head at close range in the town Qalqiliya, emergency-services officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Earlier, troops arrested 16 wanted Palestinians in a series of overnight raids in five villages north of Ramallah, Israeli military sources said.

Israel seizes Hamas political leader

Sunday 21 December 2003, 12:56 Makka Time, 9:56 GMT

Ongoing Israeli raids in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and a nearby refugee camp have netted a local Hamas leader.

Occupation forces seized Adnan Asfur in the early hours of Sunday, reported Aljazeera correspondent Hasan al-Titi.

Report: Qatar mediated between US, Hamas

21-12-2003

Qatari mediation efforts brought about the Hamas' decision to respond in favor to a request from the United States and to declare a halt last month against attacks on civilians, the Palestinian Al-Ayam daily reported Sunday.

[...] According to Al Ayam, the Hamas responded positively to the US request as a goodwill gesture, even before the Americans established a deal with the Israelis regarding an end to the assassinations.

The Palestinian paper also said that senior officials in the Muslim Brotherhood movement told the Americans that the Hamas had decided to stop attacks against civilians and that the movement informed Arab and European diplomatic sources in Arab countries of this decision. The assumption is that following this, the US played a role in convincing Israel to end the assassinations of Hamas leaders.

The sources further said that the US still demands from Hamas movement to declare a complete cease-fire and to turn into a political party.

The Hamas, in exchange for this proposal, demands the removal of its name from US and European lists of "terror supporting organizations", the return of its charities' activities in Arab and western countries, the release of the movement's frozen funds, recognition as a key player in the Palestinian political arena and the release of its top officials who are jailed in Israel.

Israel muzzles Palestinian journalists

By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Sunday 21 December 2003, 11:41 Makka Time, 8:41 GMT

The international press organisation “Reporters Sans Frontiers” (RSF) recently lambasted Israel for abusing and harassing Palestinian and foreign journalists covering the Intifada against Israeli occupation.

The Paris-based group did recognise that Israel generally respected “the local (Jewish) media freedom of expression”, but criticised Israel for violating the international covenant on civil and political rights, including press freedom, especially in the occupied territories.

“Since the start of the Israeli army’s incursions into Palestinian towns and cities in March 2002, very many journalists have been roughed up, threatened, arrested, banned from moving around, targeted by gunfire, wounded or injured, had their press cards withdrawn or been deported,” it said.

Israeli troops have also killed at least 10 journalists since the outbreak of the Intifada in late August, 2000, including two European journalists covering Israeli raids into Palestinian population centres.

Aljazeera.net has spoken to dozens of Palestinian and foreign journalists in the West Bank and Israel.

Virtually all of them agreed that Israeli attacks on press freedom have assumed unprecedented ferocity, especially since the outbreak of the Intifada.

[...] “When it comes to journalists, I assure you that Israeli soldiers are more than trigger-happy. They shoot first and then ask questions.”

Ayoon wa Azan (Egypt Guarantee For Palestinian Cause)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2003/12/21

[...] Ariel Sharon is threatening Palestinians of taking unilateral steps in a few months, if they do not agree to a peace agreement set according to his own terms.

The elderly war criminal wants peace with himself and claims that he still supports the Roadmap; but is building a wall inside the Palestinian territories, which makes the implementation of this map impossible. Then he says that the Palestinians must cease their "terrorism," at a time when he destroyed the Palestinian security forces, which prevents the Palestinians from controlling security.

[...] But Sharon is wicked as much as he is murderous; and I noted the wording he used "in a few months," which means even closer to the U.S. presidential elections of November 2004, when the pressure of George Bush on him will be all the more difficult, if not impossible.

Moving from one war criminal to another, Binyamin Netanyahu warned of the threat of demography in Israel at the Likud's conference in Herzliya. He said that if the 1948 Palestinians reach 40% that would be the end of Israel.

Netanyahu is a born liar, and lying is his primary characteristic, even if not his most resentful. I will not respond to his statement, because other Israelis have already done so. Professor Friedland, a renowned demographer from Hebrew University, said literally that what Netanyahu said is evil, and that he was deliberately falsifying facts. As for professor David Newman from Ben Gurion University, he said that the percentage of Palestinians to Jews in Israel had constantly been about 20 to.80, and that many decades will pass before there is any demographic equality between the two people. Another said that even the most inflated figures state that Jews represent 73% of Israel's population, which is an absolute percentage, and the most conservative figures put the rate at 84%. The central office of statistics announced that Palestinians form 19% of Israel's population, and is expected to reach 21% in the year 2020. So your own people, Netanyahu, condemn you.

Talking about two crooks like Sharon and Netanyahu does not mean there are no inter-Palestinian problems, for which the Palestinians alone are responsible.

I have reported once and again the position of the Islamic resistance about the truce, the issue of giving authority to the Palestinian Authority, the power of decision-making. Today, I would like to expose the ideas of the other camp.

Sources from the Palestinian Authority and close to it told me that the Islamic resistance was waging a war against it, not against Israel, since it should know very well that it will never be able to liberate Palestine through armed struggle, and yet it still insists on resorting to the weakest Palestinian weapon against the strongest Israeli one. The result is that Ariel Sharon constantly finds pretexts to build the security wall and to pursue his assassinations and destruction. The Palestinian people were at the poverty line, but today they live at the hunger line.

[...] I have nothing to add except that the Palestinian situation is already very difficult when the Palestinians agree, so how is it when they disagree? I urge all parties to cooperate with the Egyptian mediators, because Egypt represents the very basis of any Arab move, and it will not squander the Palestinians or their own cause.

Arabs call on Israel to follow Libya, dismantle WMD programs

By Haaretz Service and Agencies

Leaders in the Arab world called on Israel Saturday to follow Libya’s example and dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher on Saturday called on Israel to follow Libya's example and get rid of its nuclear weapons program.

Speaking two days before he was set to arrive in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Maher said, "I hope that other countries in the region... would follow such an example... get rid of and put an end to any nuclear weapons production program," Maher said.

Maher did not specifically name Israel, but said, "You know, of course, who I mean."

Israel is the only country in the Middle East believed to possess nuclear weapons, but refuses to confirm or deny the claim. [...]

Little Joy at Sharon Speech

[...] Americans for Peace Now (APN), a largely Jewish group that strongly supported the 1993 Oslo Accords, said the implementation of any unilateral "disengagement" plan as outlined in Sharon's 19-minute speech, would amount to the unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory. [...]

At home, Sharon faces growing pressure to resume serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians ...

Revealed: the real reason for Gaddafi's WMD surrender

By Julian Coman and Colin Brown
The Telegraph
(Filed: 21/12/2003)

Libya's promise to surrender its weapons of mass destruction was forced by Britain and America's seizure of physical evidence of Col Muammar Gaddafi's illegal weapons programme, the Telegraph can reveal.

United States officials say that America's hand was strengthened in negotiations with Col Gaddafi after a successful operation, previously undisclosed, to intercept transport suspected of carrying banned weapons.

The operation is said to have been carried out under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), an international, American-led scheme to halt the spread of WMD by seizing them in transit. The PSI was first mooted by President George W Bush in May but was not officially launched until September. [...]

British reports: Libya provides intelligence on al-Qaeda activists; Bush, Blair plan to meet Gaddafi

21-12-2003,08 :02

Libya provided intelligence on hundreds of al-Qaeda and other Muslim fighters, in addition to renouncing attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, in its bid to end its pariah nation status, a British newspaper reported on Sunday.

[...] Meanwhile, another British paper The Sunday Telegraph reported that Libya's promise to surrender its weapons of mass destruction, announced late Friday by Britain and the US, was forced by the seizure of physical evidence of Gaddafi's weapons program.

[...] The Telegraph said a top US State Department official confirmed last week that the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international, US-led scheme to halt the spread of banned weapons by seizing them in transit, had "netted several seizures."

Report: ''Saddam capture - not result of American or British intelligence''

21-12-2003,08 :19

Saddam Hussein was captured by American soldiers only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for US troops to recover him, a British Sunday newspaper said.

Saddam came into the hands of the Kurdish Patriotic Front after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, quoting a senior British military intelligence officer.

The newspaper said the full story of events leading up to Saddam "exposes the version peddled by American spin doctors as incomplete".

A former Iraqi intelligence officer told the Express that Saddam was held prisoner by a leader of the Kurdish Patriotic Front, which fought alongside US forces during the Iraq war, until he negotiated a deal.

The deal apparently involved the group gaining political advantage in the region.

An unnamed Western intelligence source in the Middle East told the Express: "Saddam was not captured as a result of any American or British intelligence. We knew that someone would eventually take their revenge, it was just a matter of time."

Comment: How the stories are coming thick and fast. He was captured last week, last month, over the summer. And what if these are all wrong? What if it isn't Saddam, but one of his doubles? All we can be certain of is that we are being lied to. We are being fed stories that only serve to put a good light on the teller. What is worse, this has been going on for centuries. If we apply the same logic to our notions of "history," of how much can we really be certain? How much of what we believe is the "historical truth" is lies? How much do any of us really know?

Daughter of slain Iraqi opposition leader says US helped Saddam in 1993 to quash coup attempt

20-12-2003,20 :35

The daughter of a prominent Iraqi opposition leader, who was assassinated in Beirut by Saddam Hussein's secret service in 1994 said she would sue the ousted Iraqi president before three international courts, charging that the U.S. was a virtual accomplice in her father's murder.

Nora al Tamimi, daughter of slain Iraqi opposition activist Taleb al Suhail al Tamimi, said from Beirut in a newspaper interview published Saturday that her father had planned a coup d'etat to overthrow Saddam in1993 , operating from Beirut and Amman.

"Zero hour was set for a certain June day in 1993 to stage the coup when Saddam would have been sponsoring an official event in Baghdad," Nora told the London-based Asharq Al Awsat newspaper in an interview conducted at the family house in Beirut.

"But the Americans, who did not want the coup to succeed possibly because they were certain my father would not go along with their polices, tipped off Saddam about the impending putsch by my father and gave the names of his top aides," Nora said. "All of them died in Saddam's torture chambers."

Sheik Taleb Al Tamimi, who led a million-member Central Iraqi tribe called the Bani Tamim, was shot dead April 12, 1994 at his apartment in Beirut's Ein El Tineh district in an assassination officially blamed by the Lebanese authorities on four Iraqi embassy diplomats, who were detained and then released on the grounds they enjoyed diplomatic immunity, Nora recalled.

Saddam is The Man Who Knew too Much

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor
December 21, 2003

[...] Saddam is to face a kangaroo court in Baghdad.

[...] Saddam should be sent for trial before the UN's war crimes tribunal at the Hague. The U.S. engineered Serb tyrant Slobodan Milosevic's delivery there; why should Saddam be different?

A UN trial could improve America's negative reputation around the globe, and at least buttress Bush's lame, ex post facto claim the invasion of Iraq was all about human rights.

The greatest crime for which Saddam should be tried was his aggression against Iran in 1980. Iran suffered 500,000 casualties, 10% from Iraqi chemical weapons. The U.S. and Britain encouraged Saddam to invade Iran, helped bankroll Iraq's war effort, and supplied him technicians and intelligence plus conventional, chemical, and biological weapons.

If allowed a fair, open trial, Saddam would surely divulge how the CIA helped his Ba'ath party into power, his role as obedient servant of the West during the era of his worst internal and external crimes, and explosive revelations about his relations during the 1980s with Donald Rumsfeld, and senior CIA and U.S. military officials. Plus embarrassing dirt about other U.S.-backed Arab autocrats.

So it's unlikely the Bush administration will allow an open trial for the rogue dictator. He knows far too much. Better to bury Saddam in prison like another petty despot who dared mock the Bush family - Panama's former general, and now U.S. prisoner, Manuel Noriega.

Israeli commentator Ze'ev Schiff suggests the White House might offer Saddam a deal: a life prison sentence in exchange for a false confession that he had indeed made and hidden weapons of mass destruction, thus absolving Bush and VP Dick Cheney of the accusation of having made extravagant lies to whip up war against Iraq.

This would inflict mass political destruction on Bush's leading presidential rival, the anti-war Democrat Howard Dean.

Iraq Pipelines, Storage Tanks Set on Fire

AP
December 21, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents attacked pipelines and an oil storage depot in three parts of Iraq, setting fires that blazed for hours and lost millions of gallons of oil, officials and media reported Sunday, as the country faced a critical fuel shortage.

Rebels firing rocket-propelled grenades hit storage tanks in southern Baghdad on Saturday, creating fires that burned about 2.6 million gallons of gasoline, said Issam Jihad, a spokesman for the Oil Ministry.

Also Saturday, a pipeline exploded in the al-Mashahda area 15 miles north of Baghdad, in what Jihad called "an act of sabotage." [...]

Saddam faces months of interrogation before trial

Ed Vulliamy in Samarra, Paul Harris in New York, Jason Burke and David Rose in London
The Observer
Sunday December 21, 2003

[...] But the questions remain. Last week was one of the most violent since President Bush declared 'mission accomplished' on 1 May. A series of suicide bomb attacks and drive-by shootings claimed at least 40 Iraqi lives in the four days after Saddam's capture. Yesterday, three Iraqi policemen were killed by US soldiers in error and a former Baathist mayor was shot dead. The next US soldier to die will be the two hundredth since Bush's declaration. Will Saddam be tried, and by whom and where? Will he face the death penalty? And, most pressing of all, will his capture weaken the growing resistance?

In Samarra, Al-Alawi, who runs a restaurant in the centre of town, said Saddam had let everyone down.

'Why could he not have killed himself, like Hitler, or died shooting, like his sons?' Al-Alawi told The Observer. 'For all those years, we thought he was a bad man, but a real man. Now, he is not even that. Now, there are some people protesting that he is arrested, some people gleeful that he is arrested, and the killing is worse than ever.' [...]

The reason, Al-Alawi said, was simple. 'If there is one thing worse than Saddam, it is being invaded by the foreigners. Especially American foreigners.'

Columns of tanks now prowl the 'liberated' city 24 hours a day, kicking up the dust, scattering children. Roads are randomly closed and rolls of barbed wire laid by the Fourth Infantry Division, the unit that captured Saddam. Local Iraqi police paramilitaries screen all cars, wearing balaclavas to hide their features. One local doctor, Aisar Al-Samarrai, complained that his clinic was regularly hit by gunfire. [...]

US stops 'al-Qaeda drugs boats'

BBC
Sunday, 21 December, 2003, 05:32 GMT


Two Arab sailing boats carrying illegal drugs possibly linked to al-Qaeda have been seized in the northern Arabian Sea, the United States Navy says.

The drugs on the wooden dhows included heroin with a street value of at least $3m, it said in a statement. Twenty-one crew members were detained during an operation by the cruiser USS Philippine Sea on Saturday.

It is the second drugs haul in the region in recent days, as the US steps up efforts to tackle al-Qaeda funding. On Friday, the navy said the USS Decatur had seized almost two tons of hashish valued at up to $10m aboard a boat near the Straits of Hormuz. [...]

Comment: The headlines says it's al-Qaeda, the text says the drugs are "possibly" linked to al-Qaeda. Is that "possibly" as in, the CIA doesn't know which of its operatives it is?

BUSH AND BLAIR: THE BIG FALL-OUT

Relations in 'deep freeze' since Saddam caught

By Chris Mclaughlin, Political Editor
Dec 21 2003

TONY Blair and George Bush's love-in has collapsed over the rebuilding of Iraq.

The two leaders have fallen out over plans for the reconstruction of the country and the heavy-handed action of American troops against the civilian population.

And the rift has been deepened by a Washington ban on a proposed morale-boosting visit by the PM to British troops in Iraq during the Christmas holiday.

According to diplomats, relations between the allies have gone into "deep freeze" since the capture of Saddam Hussein last weekend.

President Bush was incensed that Mr Blair stole Washington's thunder by being the first Western leader to confirm that the former dictator had been arrested by US troops.

Downing Street rushed out Mr Blair's announcement before he had spoken to the American leader early last Sunday, when Mr Bush - six hours behind London - was still in bed.

Whitehall insiders confirmed that Mr Blair's decision was partly out of anger over a US veto on his proposed visit to British troops in Iraq during the Christmas holiday.

Presidential advisers in Washington wanted Mr Bush to be the sole leader to make a Christmas visit to troops in Baghdad and urged Downing Street to postpone any visit.

The US refused to co-operate on security arrangements for a Christmas visit by Mr Blair, who is going to spend the festive season with his family in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

Mr Blair and Mr Bush have had at least three phone conversations during the past seven days which Whitehall officials described as "increasingly terse".

A Downing Street insider said: "Relations between the two are at the lowest ebb since they first met.

"The PM is not happy at having to deal with Britain's European partners who have been left out of the rebuilding contracts. Of course they are still talking - but the diplomatic temperature is in the deep freeze."

Mr Blair has expressed his concern over Mr Bush's decision to rule Germany, France and other European countries out of the running for lucrative contracts in the reconstruction of Iraq.

The American President declared that countries which didn't support the war will not be awarded any of the rebuilding contracts. Mr Blair has complained that the move severely weakened Britain's strength in the European Union and contributed to the failure of last week's crucial EU summit.

In recent phone conversations with Mr Bush, Mr Blair has also expressed worries about heavy-handed US tactics against Iraqi civilians.

Comment: Psychopaths turn on each other when there is only room for one in the spotlight. Tony was there to serve Bush's interests, and when he was no longer needed, he is thrown out with the garbage. How could Tony imagine that his good friend George would allow him to steal the show? To carry out the PR job for UK voters when George, his imperial self, is facing a close election this year? How could Tony not understand this?

Bruised French-US ties take time to heal

www.chinaview.cn 2003-12-21 11:36:39

PARIS, Dec. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- The year of 2003 witnessed France and the United States engaged in a tense tug of war over Iraq, which culminated in a strained transatlantic relationship, bringing the ties between the two allies to their lowest level in decades.

[...] Nonetheless, any punishment to be meted out hastily by either party would take a heavy toll only on the punisher itself, since the two economies are too interwoven for any feasible retaliation.

Economically speaking, France is the third biggest foreign employer in the United States, providing payrolls for more than 650,000 Americans.

Each year, the United States exports some 20 billion dollars worth of goods to France and sells another 125 billion dollars worth of goods and services locally via affiliates.

The United States imports about 30 billion dollars in products from France annually, and French affiliates sell an extra 193 billion dollars in goods and services in the United States.

The same holds true for the political relationship between the two. The squabbling between France and the United States is in nature far from fundamentally incompatible. With the basic interests intrinsically intertwined, neither could afford to drift apart beyond retrieve.

Who's really in charge at the White House?

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor
December 14, 2003

PARIS -- As I walked along the elegant Quai d'Orsay, past France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Talleyrand's wonderfully cynical bon mot about Napoleon's murder of the Duc d'Enghien kept coming back to me: "Worse than a crime, it was a blunder."

Napoleon's foreign minister could just as well have been speaking of Iraq.

France repeatedly warned the Bush administration against invading Iraq. DGSE, the French intelligence service, had highly placed agents within Saddam Hussein's regime and informed the U.S. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, posed no threat and would, if invaded, turn into a second Lebanon or West Bank.

Warnings by France and other European powers were sneeringly dismissed by the war's principal architects, among them U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose strategy was based in large part on disinformation from shady defectors and self-serving sources.

Pro-invasion Americans hurled insults at France for impeding Washington's rush to war.

Totally wrong about Iraq, Wolfowitz and fellow neo-cons are now punishing those who were totally right.

France, Germany, Russia, Belgium, Greece, and China - and maybe or maybe not Canada - were blacklisted from $18.6 billion US of "reconstruction" contracts in Iraq.

The laughable reason: "To protect the essential security interests of the United States." Albania and Uzbekistan are approved vendors.

[...] The exclusion of some of America's oldest friends from Iraq underlines the point that the U.S. invasion was really motivated by big oil and big business, rather than the faux war on terrorism or Baghdad's non-existent unconventional weapons.

Few people realize how important the occupation of oil-rich Iraq is to America's military-industrial-petroleum complex, a major financial backer of Bush and the Republican party. Defence spending, spurred by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, will reach $3.1 trillion US over the next two years - the same amount, in constant dollars, the U.S. spent on World War II!

Much of this bonanza will go to traditional defence contractors. But a growing share will flow to U.S. firms engaged in privatized military and imperial functions. Halliburton, VP Dick Cheney's old firm, got a sweetheart contract to pump and export Iraqi oil.

Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, builds and runs U.S. military bases in Iraq, and other nations, supplying food, cleaning, water, sewage and power.

Other little-known firms with close links to the Bush administration have over 10,000 "civilian" (read ex-military) contractors in Iraq. They receive billions of dollars to train Iraq's new U.S.-run police and army, create security forces, field mercenary units and "protect" the U.S.-installed figurehead in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. In fact, a third of this year's $87 billion allocated for Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia will be spent on U.S. private military contractors.

For these members of the military-industrial complex, Iraq is a gold mine. Pentagon plans to create three major, permanent bases in Iraq and link them to new U.S. bases in Central Asia - what I call America's imperial oil route - will guarantee decades of lucrative work and generous funding for the Republican party.

The French, who have a long history of knocking off puppet African rulers who get out of line, have no great moral qualms about U.S. military intervention in Iraq, but they view Iraq as a legitimate sphere of European economic influence. Paris is furious Washington is elbowing Europe out of this rich market and stirring up an Islamic hornet's nest against the West.

There are at least five million impoverished Muslims in France living on the edge of society, 40% of them under 20 years of age - fertile ground for unrest and violence.

Washington may eventually back down over the Iraq contract dispute. Yet each week, the Bush administration seems to finds new ways to antagonize, alienate, and infuriate Europe and the Muslim world.

As a French diplomat observed to me, "Monsieur bin Laden must be tres content."

Comment: Notice that this is coming at the same time that France is debating the issue of whether or not to ban the wearing of the shawl at schools. The British and American press have been aiming little jabs at France on how poorly France has dealt with integrating Muslims into French society. So is the US consciously fomenting discord in its "former" French ally?

New U.S. commander in Afghanistan plans tactical change, to add new bases

06:14 AM EST Dec 21
STEPHEN GRAHAM

KABUL (CP) - In a significant switch in strategy, U.S. troops plan to set up bases to provide reconstruction aid in provinces plagued by Taliban attacks, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Saturday in his first interview since taking charge.

Lt. Gen. David Barno told The Associated Press the move will make the troubled south and east safer for aid workers and open the way for landmark Afghan elections next summer. He also predicted a sharp reaction from insurgents.

They're "going to realize that's the death knell to terrorist organizations in that part of the country," said Barno. "We'll be prepared for that."

A wave of violence this year has belied U.S. claims that international troops have brought security to Afghanistan, two years after a U.S.-led assault drove the Taliban from power for harbouring al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

Comment: Hey, didn't "we" already "win" the war in Afghanistan?

U.S. Puts Its Latest Arms in S. Korea

An infusion of high-tech weapons near the DMZ isn't at odds with Bush's call to end the nuclear crisis with Pyongyang via talks, officials say. [...]

"More lethality with fewer people," is the way one security analyst described the new mantra of the Pentagon when it comes to the Korean peninsula.[...]

U.S. urges Christmas terror vigilance

By Jim Wolf and Firouz Sedarat
Sunday December 21, 01:42 AM

WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - The White House has ordered U.S. security personnel to be extra vigilant for terror attacks during the Christmas period after the EU's police agency warned al Qaeda is active in Europe. [...]

The European Union's police agency Europol said in a report based on intelligence that al Qaeda-linked groups regarded Europe as a potential target for attacks.

"While the (EU) has not been a victim of Islamic extremist attacks within its boundaries (in the last year), attacks overseas, notably in Morocco, were obviously targeting its citizens and interests, confirming if necessary the previous threats from Osama bin Laden," said the report, seen by Reuters. [...]

Vancouver airport back to normal after security scare

Last Updated Sat, 20 Dec 2003 22:44:53

VANCOUVER - Air traffic returned to normal Saturday at Vancouver International Airport after a security scare grounded all U.S.-bound flights for several hours.

U.S. Customs and Immigration staff told airport officials they had "received an envelope with a threatening note and some powder, an unknown substance," said Craig Richmond, vice-president of airport operations, on Friday night. [...]

Lockerbie families demand inquiry

BBC
Sunday, 21 December, 2003, 07:09 GMT


Relatives of the British victims of the Lockerbie bombing have called for an independent inquiry into the atrocity.

The appeal comes exactly 15 years after the tragedy, which killed 259 people on the Pan Am flight and 11 residents in the Scottish town. [...]

Police seize 'Red Brigades' cache

By Frances Kennedy
BBC correspondent in Rome

Italian police have raided an alleged hideout of the Red Brigades, the country's most notorious left-wing militant group.

[...] They found explosives and arms as well as police uniforms and documents claiming responsibility for the killing of a labour consultant last year.

The raid follows the arrests of nine suspected members of the Red Brigades in October.

Philippine leader 'restores' death penalty

By John McLean
BBC correspondent in Manila

[...] President Gloria Arroyo, a devout Roman Catholic, objects to capital punishment on moral and practical grounds.

She made it her policy to commute to life imprisonment the sentence of each convict as the date of his execution drew near.

In effect, she abolished the death penalty, once again.

But recently, there has been an increase in the number of kidnappings for ransom.

The victims are usually members of the Filipino-Chinese community, who dominate the economy.

Their money would be useful for Mrs Arroyo's campaign for re-election next year.

Mrs Arroyo now says that, from January, she will no longer grant clemency to condemned kidnappers and drug traffickers.

She is restoring the death penalty, once again.

China rejects US religious freedom report

www.chinaview.cn 2003-12-21 19:14:18

BEIJING, Dec. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- China rejected the US State Department's annual report on religious freedom Sunday with "strong displeasure" and "resolute objection".

[...] China has been protecting its citizens' religious rights in accordance with the law, Liu said, adding that all ethnic groups and people from all over the country enjoy religious freedom.

In the meantime, the Chinese government bans, in accordance with law, illegal or criminal activities conducted by such organizations or individuals as the Falun Gong cult in the name of religion, the spokesman said...

Liu urged the US side to take better care of its own domestic religious freedom instead of always criticizing others and make more efforts conducive to mutual understanding and cooperation between the China and the United States instead of interfering in China's internal affairs under the guise of religious issues.

Brainwave fault explains slip-ups

Scientists have found an explanation for those mornings where you put coffee on your cornflakes and the cat in the washing machine.

They say it is because of a change in the kind of brainwaves someone produces.

But the researchers, who presented their findings to the Physiological Society Conference, said the change could have more serious consequences.

They say it may have been a factor in accidents like the Chernobyl disaster.

[...] Monitoring of the volunteer's brainwaves showed they were more likely to make a mistake following a drop in levels of a type of brainwave called P300.

Warning on 'killer' wasps (Australia)

A PLAGUE of "killer" wasps could strike Victoria in the next few weeks. [...]

U.S. would be ill-prepared in a flu pandemic

By Daniel Yee
The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Some U.S. hospitals are struggling to deal with the current flu outbreak. But that is nothing compared to what would happen if a powerful new flu strain exploded into a worldwide flu epidemic, known as a pandemic. [...]

"It's arguably the most significant biological disaster that could ever afflict a community," he said. [...]

Health experts say the world is overdue for such an event. [...]

Comment: See our Signs Supplement: The Flu Threat, which reveals the US government's involvement in the 1918 flu pandemic. Labs in the US are working with the same strains now.

Al Gore's Son Arrested for Pot Possession

Paedophile probe looms for 100,000 Scots

MORE than 100,000 Scots are facing an unprecedented trawl through their employment records in a bid to root out paedophiles and sex offenders working with children. [...]

Boys lose penises after botched circumcisions (SA)

Five youths have had their penises amputated after botched circumcisions in the Eastern Cape since the beginning of November, the provincial health department said on Friday. [...]

Conservatives Target Testicles

by Thom Hartmann

Rush Limbaugh just declared psychological war on the working white males of America, although most of them probably didn't realize it. This week Limbaugh rolled out a "funny" faux advertisement for the "Hillary Clinton Testicle Lock Box" that now any woman can use to clamp down on men's testicles just like Hillary does.

This wasn't just a whim of Limbaugh's, or a response to his recent rehab. It's part of a sophisticated psychological operations program by conservatives that explicitly targets working men in America, and dates back to research first done for Richard Nixon. [...]

Beads of doubt

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

One of the most important principles of physics, that disorder, or entropy, always increases, has been shown to be untrue. [...]

The law of entropy, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics, is one of the bedrocks on which modern theoretical physics is based. It is one of a handful of laws about which physicists feel most certain.

So much so that there is a common adage that if anyone has a theory that violates the Second Law then, without any discussion, that theory must certainly be wrong. [...]

In Ohio, More Highway Shootings Linked

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Authorities said Friday that gunfire that hit two school buses this week is connected to 16 other shootings along a stretch of highway [...]

Earthquake Rumbles Through Southern Lake County (California)

[...] Some seismologists believe a rash of recent earthquakes in the area are the result of a project to inject thousands of gallons of water into the ground to replenish steamfields. The steam drives turbines at a geothermal powerplant located at the Geysers, just six miles from the epicenter of the Middletown quake.

Time Magazine's 2003 Person of the Year: The American Soldier

Lost? Hiding? Your Cellphone Is Keeping Tabs

By AMY HARMON
New York Times
December 21, 2003

On the train returning to Armonk, N.Y., from a recent shopping trip in Manhattan with her friends, Britney Lutz, 15, had the odd sensation that her father was watching her.

He very well could have been. Ms. Lutz's father, Kerry, recently equipped his daughters with cellular phones that let him see where they are on a computer map at any given moment. Earlier that day, he had tracked Britney as she arrived in Grand Central Terminal. Later, calling up the map on his own cellphone screen, he noticed she was in SoHo.

Mr. Lutz did not happen to be checking when Britney developed pangs of guilt for taking a train home later than she was supposed to, but the system worked just as he had hoped: she volunteered the information that evening.

"Before, they might not have told me the truth, but now I know they're going to," said Mr. Lutz, 46, a lawyer who has been particularly protective of Britney and her sister, Chelsea, 17, since his wife died several years ago. "They know I care. And they know I'm watching." [...]

EU aims payback at U.S. trade law

By Jeffrey Sparshott
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
December 20, 2003

The European Union is preparing to retaliate against the United States as the Bush administration tries to extend a deadline to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling against U.S. trade law.

The European Union, Canada, Japan and other governments in January won a case at the WTO that said the United States illegally gives money to American companies from their foreign competitors.

The deadline to comply expires Dec. 27 — "a deadline which will not be met since Congress has now closed down for the year," the European Union said in a report released yesterday. [...]

Arizona Town for Sale on EBay for $5.5M

AP
Thu Dec 18,10:25 AM ET


MESA, Ariz. - Tortilla Flat, a little spot of land with a few wood buildings near the Salt River Lakes, is for sale on the Internet for $5.5 million.

Advertised as one of the "last remnants of the Old West", the town's listing on eBay has received more than 6,500 hits. [...]

Today the strangest thing happened... (Greece)

We were taking a walk in center, all the family together, enjoying the Christmas decorations and happenings. It was a beautiful sunny day, no clouds ... just the famous Attica azure sky. Suddenly my husband says: "look at this," pointing to the sky.

There were 2 airplanes crossing each other high in the sky ... and the sky was filled with little silver oval objects traveling at much higher speed than the planes ... there were HUNDREDS of them.

We were just standing there ... starring at the sky ... crying out loud ... nobody cared ... nobody even glanced at the sky ... it was so odd. Six people in the middle of a busy shopping street, shouting and pointing at the sky and NOT ONE, just out of curiosity, looks up.

 


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