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December 29, 2003

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Bush has relentlessly expanded his war, and more and more people are becoming aware of where the front is located: the USA.

With Congress as an accomplice, the police, military and intelligence agencies are blended into one seamless entity with total information awareness on you. No recourse in courts if you are declared a terrorist, and that definition is warped and grown nearly every time a bill goes through Congress, it seems. There are still individuals in jail, on US soil, never accused of a crime two years after 9/11.

During his recent interview with Diane Sawyer, Bush responded to a question about the existence or nonexistence of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction with the alarmingly honest reply: "What's the difference?" Ah, being a psychopath means never having to say you're sorry. As more children and soldiers die in Iraq, Saddam reportedly gives his interrogators information on the location of hidden weapons and billions of dollars.

More people are worried about Bush's New Year's resolutions. Do they include another helpful terrorist attack? More countries are preparing for US attacks on their sovereignty.

The Euro keeps going up, as does gold. China and Japan emerged from meetings with James Baker to say they are willing to forgive most of Iraq's debt. The Moscow Times looks at some of Khodorkovsky's American "friends" to understand why he is in jail. Do Dick Cheney, the Carlyle Group, and the American Enterprise Institute ring a bell?

Sharon keeps the steamroller running as the "Unilateral Peace Plan" gains momentum. Four outposts have been ordered to move. Funny thing is, only one of them is inhabited. Israeli police warn of New Year's Eve suicide attacks as settlers vow to fight their impending removal from the West Bank.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban claims responsibility for a suicide attack against foreign forces, and promises there will be more to come.

Are supernovas and ice ages linked? Some think so. US soldiers speak out about their duties in Iraq, "The truth can get you in a lot of trouble here." Scotland gets ready to ban smoking...anywhere, the privatization of the London tube system has led to deterioration of the service (but the neo-liberals march on), and NASA has been exploring the possibilities, or lack thereof, for sex in space.

The Pentagon Declares War on America

by Frank Morales

The "PATRIOT Act" is a repressive "coordination" of the entities of force and deception, the police, intelligence and the military. It broadens, centralizes and combines the surveillance, arrest and harassment capabilities of the police and intelligence apparatus. Homeland defense is, in essence, a form of state terrorism directed against the American people and democracy itself. It is the Pentagon Inc. declaring war on America.

The "domestic war on terrorism" hinges upon the Pentagon's doctrine of homeland defense. Mountains of repressive legislation are being enacted in the name of internal security. So called "homeland security", originally set within the Pentagon's "operations other than war", is actually a case in which the Pentagon has declared war on America. Shaping up as the new battleground, this proliferating military "doctrine" seeks to justify new roles and missions for the Pentagon within America. Vast "legal" authority and funds to spy on the dissenting public, reconfigured as terrorist threats, is being lavished upon the defense, intelligence and law enforcement "community."

All this is taking place amidst an increasingly perfected "fusion" of the police and military functions both within the US and abroad, where the phenomena is referred to as "peacekeeping", or the "policization of the military". Here in America, all distinction between the military and police functions is about to be forever expunged with the looming repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act. The latter, was passed after the Civil War to rein in the military. It bars federal troops from doing police work within United States borders, although strictly speaking, the Act refers only to the Army and the Air Force, not to the Marines or the National Guard in "state status." According to the New York Times:

"the Bush administration has directed lawyers in the Department of Justice and Defense to review the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and any other laws that sharply restrict the military's ability to participate in domestic law enforcement."

The Washington Post (7/21/02) put it a bit more starkly, stating that the Bush administration:

"has called on Congress to thoroughly review the law that bans the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from participating in arrests, searches, seizure of evidence and other police-type activity on US soil."

In other words, the "New World Law and Order" based on the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act, requires a system of domestic and global counterinsurgency led by the Pentagon. [...]

Expanded fed role against common crime called 'out of control'

Associated Press Writer

The federal government has broadly extended its power in recent decades to fight common crimes, from murder to unpaid child support, and critics say needless federal prosecutions waste money, jeopardize civil rights, and divert law enforcement from true national threats. [...]

Two Years Gone

Post-9/11 Detainee Still Held Without Charges

By Nancy Weiner

BUFFALO, N.Y., Dec. 27 — Benemar Benatta still isn't sure why the U.S. government kept him locked in solitary confinement long after it knew he had nothing to do with 9/11.[...]

Bush's New Year's Wish: Another Attack?

by Michael Arvey

 [...] 1) Bush needs another attack to distract us from the faltering economy with its stubborn and widespread unemployment, library closures, educational shortfalls, soaring medical costs, illegal immigration, homelessness, lost retirement funds, along with a queue of other civic concerns, and from the debacle in Iraq, regardless of the recent dog-and-pony show concerning Hussein--in short, to distract us from where the blame really lies, which can be deduced from a simple Not methodology:  Not liberals, not welfare moms, not AWOL dads, not Osama, not Bill or Hillary Clinton, not Saddam, not Michael Jackson, not le francaise, not university professors, not collectivists, not Marxists and socialists, not the red conspiracy, not Earth Firsters, not environmentalists, and so forth ad infinitum until there's only one place left to go--the White House, or perhaps to the environs bunkered beneath the White House, as it were.

 2) Bush needs another attack to stir up more support for further police state measures and for the suspension of what's left of the Constitution.

 3) Bush needs another attack to create momentum for the Bush Re-Election Campaign to paint himself as the only one tough enough to lead the counterattack, since the Democratic contender will be cast as weak and as anti-war. If a contender such as Dean becomes a serious threat to the imperium, the Anglo-Saxon presidency might launch its own stealth attack and blame it on the Arabs, thereby enabling it to declare martial law and suspend the 2004 election, and thus seal the fate of the rule of law and democratic jurisprudence in America for a long while.

 Fantasies of a madman? In this case, I pray they're mine, and not Bush's.

Top Ten Bush Administration Outrages

by Ben Ehrenreich
DEC. 26, 2003

  1. The War. At last count: 530 coalition soldiers dead, between 8,000 and 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed and many more uncounted Iraqi military casualties, all of these dead shamelessly defamed by Bush administration lies, from the fictional Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and al Qaeda ties which provided the pretext for the war to the staged spectacles of the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad and Jessica Lynch’s "rescue," to the daily press-briefing play-acting about how it’s all going Just Fine. The president continues to debase the dead with bottomlessly hypocritical macho posturing — his clownish May 1 flight-suit stunt on the USS Abraham Lincoln; his brave "Bring ’em on" challenge to Iraqi insurgents; his braver Thanksgiving oath to the troops, during his 140-minute tour of duty in Iraq, that "We will stay until the job is done." And guess who still hasn’t attended a single soldier’s funeral for fear he might be associated with the rising Iraqi death toll?
  2. The Occupation. From the beginning — allowing the plundering of museums and hospitals while taking pains to secure the oil ministry, handing Dick Cheney’s friends at Halliburton a $1.7 billion no-bid contract while refusing local contractors, firing on unarmed protesters — the paternalistic pretexts for the occupation have been difficult to swallow. Now, with a more "aggressive stance" against the insurgency, including Israeli-loaned tactics such as bulldozing homes and razor-wiring off whole villages, and mafia-loaned tactics like imprisoning the families of your enemies, it’s getting hard not to choke on it all.
  3. The Abandonment of Afghanistan. Despite all his grand promises, Bush did not include a single penny for Afghan reconstruction in his 2003 budget request. Most of the money that has since been allocated for Afghanistan will go toward U.S. military goals, not to rebuilding the ravaged country. There is perhaps no better symbol of the effect of the U.S. military’s efforts than the damage done by two recent air strikes, one on a Friday night in Gardez, the other the next day in Ghazni province, which between the two of them left 15 children dead. Three adults were also killed, but the targets of the strikes, suspected Taliban, were not among them. [...]

A symbiotic relationship: terrorism and arms sales

A sobering thought as 2003 draws to a close: For the first time since the end of the Cold War, defense spending is rising ­ in several countries, quite acutely.

The US defense budget, which accounts for roughly half of the world’s defense spending, has grown from $300 billion when President George W. Bush took office to $487 billion today ­ in response not to any conventional military threat, but to terrorism. In 2002, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the US was responsible for almost 75 percent of worldwide growth in military spending. Further increases ­ substantial increases ­ are planned up to 2009.

[...] But the real folly inherent in increased military spending is that the main threat to international stability today comes not from states, which can be fought with conventional military capabilities, but from terrorists, who cannot. Al-Qaeda and its like are transnational, decentralized, all but invisible. They cannot be deterred, or defeated, by conventional military capabilities and nuclear weapons. They thrive in weak and fragmented states. Defeating states ­ even genocidal states like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ­ only strengthens the terrorist threat.

Comment: But there is no money for health care, there is no money for schools, there is no money for the veterans, there is no money for daycare, there is no money for a basic income, there is no money for housing, there is no money for public transit...

Ayoon wa Azan (Where Are Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction?)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2003/12/29

Where are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

The capture of Saddam Hussein and the accompanying chaos must not divert our attention from the war's main issue, which is the accusation against Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction, his threat to world security, and the fact that no such weapons were found after Iraq's occupation.

The London-based newspaper Daily Mirror, which had opposed the war, is still publishing every day a figure; for instance, today it said that 239 days have passed without weapons of mass destruction being found. On the other hand, the U.S administration's secret code for dealing with this issue is "not yet"; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, along with other officials, keeps saying that the weapons of mass destruction have "not yet been found."

There are no such weapons, and President George Bush is getting prepared for this possibility. I noticed last week that he tried minimizing the whole issue during an interview with well-known ABC anchor Diane Sawyer, when she reminded him that the banned weapons hadn't been found. His response was: "What's the difference?"

Comment: "What's the difference?" ! ! ! ! !

The rest of this article goes on to sum up the lies told by Bush and his cronies to whip up war hysteria in the US. These are lies we have been exposing on these pages. But then, we all tell lies: to others, and more importantly, to ourselves. We live in a world of lies, of illusion, where we are forced by the very character of the world to present a false front to others, to pretend to be what we are not, to pretend to have done what we did not. Until we begin to be brutally honest with ourselves, we are each of us, little Bushes, prancing and dancing on the stage of our own lives.

The work to begin to live in the truth is difficult. At times you feel as if you are having pieces of yourself torn out. And you are. You are ripping out by their roots the programming and conditioning you have undergone all of your life, programs that have their tentacles wrapped around and through every aspect of your life. Of course this hurts, but to be able to see the world as it really is, one must begin by looking in the mirror and seeing yourself for who you really are. If you are able to do that, then seeing the world is easy.

Antioccupation songs sell well

Resistance music telling listeners to 'kick out the heretic' and 'remove America from the map' is popular with young men in Iraq. [...]

Alawi: Saddam will be Tried in Secret; Withdrawal Timeline for US Troops to be Negotiated

Saddam's trial is unlikely to be public, according to Iyad Alawi, member of the Interim Governing Council and head of the Iraqi National Accord (mainly ex-Baathist officers who cooperated in 1990s CIA plots against Saddam). Alawi made the remarks in an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper. He said there would probably be no public trial because "it is possible that he will mention names of states or persons to whom he gave money . . ." Asked if Saddam had admitted to smuggling money abroad, Alawi replied, "He has begun to admit it. He has confessed to important things." [Saddam is thought to have squirreled $30 bn. or more away in secret accounts overseas.] [...]

Saddam giving info on weapons

Monday December 29, 11:31 AM

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein has given his U.S. captors information on hidden weapons and as much as $40 billion (22.5 billion pounds) he may have seized while he was Iraq's president, an Iraqi official has been quoted as saying. [...]

Sound Off
December 17, 2003

I'm in a major army unit getting ready to deploy. The past few months have been nothing but confusion about our mission in Iraq. However, one thing is clear: We are going over there to liberate the Iraqis souls from their bodies. If this stuff doesn't strike anyone in the pro-Bush camp as similar to Vietnam.. gimme what you're smoking.

I brought up the fact that soldiers are doing details for KBR (a private corporation) to one of my bosses. He thought nothing was wrong with that! I work for you, the public American citizen, not the rich people of this nation. Stop building Haliburton stock and tell the publicly elected government to bring our troops back. I think we have inflicted enough revenge on brown people everywhere.

Name withheld.

December 14, 2003

Spec-4 Marshall L. Edgerton was 27years old. He was from Rocky Face, Georgia. He was assigned to [deleted], 82nd Airborne Division. We are based in Fort Bragg, N.C. Marshall was killed December 11th when he was escorting a delivery truck into the 82nd Headquarters in Ramadi, Iraq. The news told you that a furniture truck blew up outside the compound, and that our excellent defenses prevented a lot more people from being killed. That's a load of sh*t. The truck blew up inside the compound, and the reason only 15 people were hurt and one American killed is plain luck. They make us get on every vehicle that enters the compound, and plenty of vehicles come. It's like playing Russian roulette.

We understand water trucks and gasoline trucks. We need that stuff, even though there are still plenty of ways they could detonate one of those too. Let me tell you what was being delivered though, and what Marshall Edgerton died for. A general is decorating his office here. It's a nice office, a luxury office you might say. And it needed a carpet to go with all the new furniture. Now while the grunts and we [deleted] can get along with field tables and folding chairs, of course the general has to trick out his office like he's a Roman caesar or something. So these furniture trucks come onto our compound when we already know that a lot of people out there want to kill us. This truck was loaded with carpet.

Marshall came to Iraq to die for a general's carpet. Marshall's family will grieve so a general could have carpet. What we really need here are big trucks that can haul away all the bullshit. And a few to get our asses back to an airport.

Don't give my name or email address. The truth can get you in a lot of trouble here.


American forces kill three Iraqis as five men held in connection to Karbala attacks

29-12-2003,11 :20

American forces shot dead three Iraqis after being attacked by gunfire and grenades during a house search in the northern city of Mosul, the American military said on Monday. The announcement added that during the operation on late Sunday night, troops searching the house were assaulted by "suspected members of the Ansar al Islam terrorist group." Two troops were injured during the raid. [...]

Bombs Kill 2 U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer
December 29, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Roadside bombs killed two U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi children in central Iraq, a day after strikes in the holy city of Karbala targeted America's coalition partners and underscored how the insurgency remains strong despite Saddam Hussein's capture. [...]

Iraqi searches for son swallowed up in U.S. detention system

06:36 AM EST Dec 29

BAGHDAD (AP) - Hussein al-Jbouri was jolted from sleep. Somewhere in the house, his wife was screaming. "Ali's back!" she shrieked.

Rushing to the kitchen, a stunned al-Jbouri found his 19-year-old son standing at the door, thin and scruffy with bushy beard and long, unkempt hair. He had given up hope of ever seeing Ali alive.

"He just stood there, paralysed. He didn't say a word, only stared at me," Ali recalls of the morning he stumbled home after five weeks in U.S. custody.

Ali had been wounded in the back when American soldiers shot up a car he was riding in. Witnesses reported seeing Ali and another wounded passenger taken away by troops. But nobody knew where.

China considers forgiving Iraq debts 2003-12-29 19:19:04

BEIJING, Dec. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said here Monday that China will consider reducing the debts owned to it by Iraq out of humanitarian concern.

Wen made the remarks when meetin g with James Baker, special envoy to the US president, who began a visit to discuss the issue earlier Monday.

Japan ready to cancel Iraq debt

Japan says it is willing to write off most of Iraq's debts, provided other major creditors do the same.

The announcement came as US envoy James Baker held talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and follows similar pledges from several European nations.

Japan has already pledged $5bn in aid and will send about 1,000 troops to help reconstruction efforts in its largest foreign deployment since 1945.

Iraq owes Japan $4.1bn, but this rises to $7.75bn with late penalty fees.

"Japan would be prepared to eliminate the vast majority of its Iraqi debt if other Paris Club creditors are prepared to do so," a statement by the Foreign Ministry said after the meeting between the two men.

Most of the debt results from hospitals and power stations built by Japanese firms in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Alarming Increase in Suicides Among U.S. Soldiers Fighting in Iraq

Draft the Congress and Leave My Kid Alone

Paul Jacob
December 28, 2003

The holiday season is a magical time when fantasy can become reality. Nevertheless, let’s hope one frightening fantasy conjured up by Representative Charles Rangel of New York, Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina and David Broder of the Washington Post never becomes a reality.

Politicians Rangel and Hollings have introduced legislation to begin forcing young people into either civilian or military service to the federal government. Columnist Broder has apparently been named head cheerleader for the campaign.

As the great Daniel Webster once exclaimed, "Forbid it, Almighty God!" [...]

Still, if Misters Rangel, Hollings and Broder continue to insist, why not a compromise? There is one group in our society that very much defines the term "irresponsible," a group seemingly without any redeeming social value: the Congress. So let’s draft the Congress. [...]

Army Stops Many Soldiers From Quitting

Taliban Says Behind Attack as Kabul Debate Resumes

By Mike Collett-White
Mon Dec 29, 2:59 AM ET

KABUL (Reuters) - Remnants of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban claimed responsibility on Monday for a suicide attack in Kabul that killed five security officials and two bombers, and vowed to launch a fresh wave of violence aimed at cities.

Sunday's attack was the worst in Kabul since four German peacekeepers were killed and 31 injured by a suicide car bomb in June, and coincided with the final stages of a key debate to finalize the country's post-Taliban constitution.

Taliban guerrillas and Islamic militant allies believed to include members of al Qaeda have declared a holy war on foreign forces in Afghanistan and their local partners, including government officials, soldiers and aid workers. [...]

Kremlin Playing Oil Game For Keeps

By Catherine Belton
Staff Writer
Monday, Dec. 29, 2003. Page 1

[...] The most common explanation for why the Kremlin chose to go after Khodorkovsky and not the other tycoons is politics, that he was funding opposition parties and trying to buy a stable of loyal lawmakers.

But no less irritating to those in power is Khodorkovsky's pursuit of what is essentially an independent foreign policy, including pushing for privately owned pipelines to ramp up exports and quench U.S. thirst for a non-Saudi supplier. He has also cultivated and endeared himself to some of the most influential policymakers, politicians and businessmen in the West.

Comment: Khodorkovsky's "friends" in the US include Dick Cheney, George Bush, and Henry Kissinger, to name but three. In Europe, he is close to Lord Jacob Rothschild. Once you're in with these scoundrels, you're in with them all. Khodorkovsky was the Russian capitalist posterboy for the US, the example of the "free market" in Russia. The article makes clear what "free market" means in this case: the ability for the US to loot with no restraint.

Khodorkovsky wanted to build a private oil pipeline to furnish the US, a move that would have ended OPEC's control of the oil market as well as killing any independent Russian foreign policy. This is why he was arrested.

Khodorkovsky's holding company, Menatip, is an investor in the Carlyle Group, the people who brought us 9/11 and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This article is a must-read, even if it avoids discussing Khodorkovksy's connections with Israel.

Belarus Says to Prepare Against U.S. Attack

MINSK (Reuters) - President Alexander Lukashenko, isolated by the West for his lack of political and economic reforms, said on Friday Belarus must be prepared to defend itself against U.S. attack. [...]

"Belarus has to be vigilant and pay particular attention to strengthening its fighting efficiency. The world has returned to times when war and brute force were real instruments of foreign policy," Official news agency BelTA quoted him as saying.

"The United States declared its particular right to use military force toward countries that dare to implement independent foreign and internal policies," he said. [...]

"We are not going to do any saber-rattling. We are not going to threaten anybody. We are talking only about defending our motherland," he said.

Burdzhanadze Looks for 'Red Line' in Putin Talks

The Associated Press

President Vladimir Putin greeting Georgia's interim leader, Nino Burdzhanadze, at the start of a Kremlin meeting on Thursday.

Georgia's interim president, Nino Burdzhanadze, met with President Vladimir Putin last week and expressed hope that the two countries would hold off from antagonizing each other.

"Good relations are in the interest not only of little Georgia ... but of big Russia," Burdzhanadze said at a news conference Thursday. "We need to understand that there is a 'red line' that we cannot step over."

Burdzhanadze praised Putin for taking Russian-Georgian relations seriously enough to invite her to Moscow even though she is only a temporary leader and expressed satisfaction at the talks' openness.

However, she also showed clear irritation with some of Moscow's recent actions, including the holding of talks with leaders of separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the autonomous region of Adzharia.

Putin, Kuchma Agree to Share Azov

By Anna Melnichuk
The Associated Press

KIEV --President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma signed a framework agreement last week on mutual use of a key shipping route in an attempt to settle a long-standing dispute between the two countries.

At a meeting in Ukraine's Black Sea port of Kerch, the two presidents agreed on use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, which "historically" are joint territorial waters, Kuchma's office said.

Belgium’s Malcolm X? Dyab Abu Jahjah makes an impact

Peter Speetjens
Special to The Daily Star

He’s handsome, intelligent, fluent in Flemish, yet born in Lebanon. Loved by some, hated by many, Dyab Abu Jahjah is known as Belgium’s own Malcolm X. He’s the founder of the Arab European League (AEL), an organization that speaks out for the rights of Arab and Muslim immigrants. As such, he’s also been called a threat to society in Belgium and Holland.

So, who is Dyab Abu Jahjah and what are people so afraid of? To answer these questions and others, Jahjah recently published a book, Between Two Worlds: The Roots of a Freedom Struggle. According to Jahjah it is “a combination of political autobiography, history, an ideological manifest and a collection of personal thoughts.”

GAO Reports New Pentagon Fraud Yields $1.6 Billion

[...] Department of Defense Information Technology (IT) fraud, euphemistically called "logistic support problems" and "accounting inaccuracies," led to a $1.6 billion so-called "discrepancy" between Pentagon budget reports for fiscal year 2004. [...]

Britain to put armed marshals on some jets

Revealed: how MI6 sold the Iraq war

Nicholas Rufford

12/28/03: (The Times) THE Secret Intelligence Service has run an operation to gain public support for sanctions and the use of military force in Iraq. The government yesterday confirmed that MI6 had organised Operation Mass Appeal, a campaign to plant stories in the media about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

The revelation will create embarrassing questions for Tony Blair in the run-up to the publication of the report by Lord Hutton into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the government weapons expert.

A senior official admitted that MI6 had been at the heart of a campaign launched in the late 1990s to spread information about Saddam’s development of nerve agents and other weapons, but denied that it had planted misinformation. "There were things about Saddam’s regime and his weapons that the public needed to know," said the official.

The admission followed claims by Scott Ritter, who led 14 inspection missions in Iraq, that MI6 had recruited him in 1997 to help with the propaganda effort. He described meetings where the senior officer and at least two other MI6 staff had discussed ways to manipulate intelligence material.

"The aim was to convince the public that Iraq was a far greater threat than it actually was," Ritter said last week.

He said there was evidence that MI6 continued to use similar propaganda tactics up to the invasion of Iraq earlier this year. "Stories ran in the media about secret underground facilities in Iraq and ongoing programmes (to produce weapons of mass destruction)," said Ritter. "They were sourced to western intelligence and all of them were garbage."

Kelly, himself a former United Nations weapons inspector and colleague of Ritter, might also have been used by MI6 to pass information to the media. "Kelly was a known and government-approved conduit with the media," said Ritter. [...]

Ritter was a willing accomplice to the alleged propaganda effort when first approached by MI6’s station chief in New York. He obtained approval to co-operate from Richard Butler, then executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq Disarmament.

Ritter met MI6 to discuss Operation Mass Appeal at a lunch in London in June 1998 at which two men and a woman from MI6 were present. The Sunday Times is prevented by the Official Secrets Act from publishing their names.

Ritter had previously met the MI6 officer at Vauxhall Cross, the service’s London headquarters. He asked Ritter for information on Iraq that could be planted in newspapers in India, Poland and South Africa from where it would "feed back" to Britain and America.

Ritter opposed the Iraq war but this is the first time that he has named members of British intelligence as being involved in a propaganda campaign. He said he had decided to "name names" because he was frustrated at "an official cover-up" and the "misuse of intelligence".

Comment: Are we to believe that Ritter participated in the intelligence community's efforts to spread lies about Iraq, and then abruptly had a change of heart? From all the stories we have run on the Signs page about Iraq, it seems that Ritter and Kelly are pawns in a deadly game of greed and power, the depths of which we have yet to fully plumb.

Revealed: tube crisis as firms fined £32m

Andrew Clark, transport correspondent
The Guardian
Monday December 29, 2003

Travellers on the London Underground have endured a dramatic collapse in the network's reliability since its part privatisation a year ago, with private contractors being forced to pay heavy fines for failing to deliver on their commitments.

Internal London Underground documents seen by the Guardian reveal that the government's public private partnership (PPP) has had a disastrous start, with soaring breakdowns, track problems and points failures.

Tube Lines and Metronet, the two consortiums which took over the tube network, have been handed £1.2bn of public money to invest in the infrastructure.

Scotland weighs up public smoking ban

Gerard Seenan
The Guardian
Monday December 29, 2003

Smoking in public places looks set to be banned in Scotland under radical plans being considered by Scottish ministers.

Within the next fortnight ministers are due to publish a tobacco action plan aimed at cutting the number of tobacco-related deaths in Scotland, which has one of the highest rates in Europe. Key to this plan is a public consultation exercise in the spring to canvass opinion on a ban.

Doctors and anti-smoking groups have pressed for a ban and recent polls show there is a high level of public support.

Similar rules are already in force across certain states in the US and Canada and, closer to home, bans are also set to be implemented in Ireland and Italy.

Khamenei visits quake-shattered Bam

Iran's religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made a three-hour visit to Bam, the Iranian city wrecked by Friday's earthquake, and vowed that it would be rebuilt. Aid should continue to arrive, he said. Twenty nations have sent rescue teams, but with the official death toll at 22,000, hopes have faded. Rescuers, now into a fourth day, said they were only finding bodies, not survivors under rubble. Hundreds of mechanical diggers have arrived. After looting of humanitarian supplies on Sunday, only aid vehicles and relief workers are being allowed into the city by security forces.

Comment: The Guardian has an interactive report on the causes of earthquakes.

Israeli troops kill three Palestinians in Gaza Strip, demolish house in Nablus

29-12-2003,10 :44

Three Palestinians were killed by Israerli gunfire late Sunday next to the Gaza Strip settlement of Netzarim, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

Settlers vow to remain at West Bank outposts

Last Updated Mon, 29 Dec 2003 5:57:29

JERUSALEM - Jewish settlers said Monday they will oppose an order by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to evacuate one of four West Bank outposts.

Sharon signed the evacuation order Sunday as part of the U.S. backed road map to peace. Israel is required to dismantle more than 100 West Bank outposts.

Under the peace plan, Palestinians must dismantle militant groups, something they have yet to do.

Only one of the four outposts, Ginnot Arieh, is inhabited. Settlers have said they will go to court to fight the evacuation order.

Comment: So Sharon is trying to score brownie points with the US public by evacuating 4 settlements. That only one is actually inhabited does remove the PR effect, but we are certain this won't prevent the supporters of Israel's death machine from telling us all what a "man of peace" Sharon really is. Sharon is actually making a grab for most of the West Bank. Once the wall is in place, he will put up more and more illegal settlements on the land seized from the Palestinians.

Settlers Vow to Oppose Sharon on Outposts

By MARK LAVIE, Associated Press Writer
December 29, 2003

JERUSALEM - Jewish settlers on Monday vowed to oppose Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's order to dismantle four unauthorized West Bank outposts, warning they will resist if soldiers come to evacuate their communities.

Meanwhile, Israeli security officials warned that militant groups are planning a major attack on New Year's Eve, possibly targeting holy sites, kindergartens, apartment buildings and hospitals.

Police have been told to prepare for the possibility of an attack by air, sea or land involving simultaneous suicide bombings, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Police declined to comment. [...]

Comment: Take a wild guess where these "suicide attacks" will occur...

Sharon separation plan gathers steam

Monday 29 December 2003, 10:11 Makka Time, 7:11 GMT

The Israeli prime minister has said his incoming security adviser will prepare unilateral steps that will strip Palestinians of territory if a US-backed peace plan fails.

Word that Giora Eiland, a major general who is leaving the army to head the National Security Council, would start work on Ariel Sharon's so-called Disengagement Plan coincided with a resurgence of occupation initiated violence battering the already troubled "road map" peace plan.

"We are talking about a new line of redeployment which includes the relocation of settlements and redeployment of army camps and installations," a senior source in Sharon's office said on Sunday.

"This is not to say that we are... opting for this, it is just preparing for something we don't really want."

Palestinians condemn the Sharon plan as a veiled manoeuvre to impose borders that would carve up land they want for a state there and in the Gaza Strip.

The imposed border would follow the route of a widely-criticised separation wall Israel is building inside the West Bank.

The road map envisages a Palestinian state in both territories alongside a secure Israel.

Escalating steps

Sharon also signed an order on Sunday to accelerate the removal of four unauthorised settlement outposts, the defence ministry said. Their removal would be in line with the road map, but could also serve as a first step to the unilateral separation plan Western countries have decried.

Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saib Uraiqat said Eiland's appointment showed Israel was "escalating the implementation of unilateral steps".

A senior Israeli source said a resistance bombing that killed four Israelis on Thursday and a spate of intelligence warnings of future attacks meant Israel had to hasten the planning of an alternative to the road map.

The attack on Thursday was the first of its kind in two and a half months, but among more than 100 since the start of the three-year-old Palestinian revolt for statehood.

The bombing was in apparent retaliation for the killing, minutes earlier, of the head of Islamic Jihad's armed wing, his deputy and three bystanders in a helicopter missile strike into Gaza City.


Palestinian leaders say Israel's assassinations of resistance leaders and its constant search-and-arrest raids into Palestinian cities have sabotaged Egyptian-led efforts to coax resistance organsations into a ceasefire, vital to salvaging the road map.

Uraiqat said Israel's accelerated construction of the apartheid wall was also obstructing peace moves. Israel says the barrier keeps out Palestinian resistance fighters.

But Palestinians and most other observers see it as an attempt to annex land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

The wall often diverges from the recognised border to incorporate illegal Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank that Sharon vows never to let go under any final peace accord.

Israel’s media should do more with its freedom

Israel’s military came under heavy criticism over the weekend after one its soldiers wounded a young man with live ammunition during a demonstration on Friday against the “separation barrier” in the West Bank. What made the case controversial was not that the protester was unarmed, but that Gil Naamati, 21, was the first Israeli Jew to be shot by the Jewish state’s own troops since the intifada began in September 2000. As the popular Yediot Ahronot daily noted in an editorial, if Naamati had been a Palestinian, the incident “probably would not have got even one line in the newspaper.” That the Israeli press can say such things is a blessing; that it needs to do so is a curse.

[...] The Israeli peace camp has a long and storied history of protesting heavy-handed policies, and the far right has been just as enthusiastic in championing the use of force. The difference this time is that the left seems at last to be as angry as the right. “Today they shot my son,” Naamati’s father, Uri, told Israel Radio. “Tomorrow they’ll shoot yours.” Those are not the admonishing words of a stereotypical peacenik lecturing Israel’s ruling class on moral politics; they are the livid accusations of a man whose son recently completed two years of military service with an artillery unit after growing up on one of the collective farms idealized by early Zionists.

Israeli Group Asks Court to Open Barrier

Mon Dec 29, 2:51 AM ET
By PETER ENAV, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM - An Israeli human rights group petitioned the country's Supreme Court to permit Palestinians to move freely through gates in a security barrier completed between Israel and the West Bank.

The petition of the Jerusalem-based Association for Civil Rights in Israel, filed Sunday, followed an incident in which soldiers shot and wounded an Israeli demonstrator protesting against the barrier on Friday, setting off an outcry and two army investigations. ACRI said the two cases were not related. [...]

Comment: It seems that the Israeli government has declared war on all Israelis who oppose their governments policies, much like in the US. To begin to understand what is going on, it is important to see the wall from satellite photos.

Thousands die as Asia's forgotten wars slog into new year

Mon Dec 29, 1:30 AM ET

NEW DELHI, (AFP) - As Iraq grabbed world headlines, thousands died in obscurity across Asia in 2003 as Indonesia and the Philippines battled rebels, communists rampaged through India and Nepal, and Bhutan launched its first military operation in nearly 140 years.

Dozens of Asian insurgencies, many of them decades-old, seem destined to rage through 2004 as resolving them remains far from the new year's to-do lists of global powers. [...]

Low rate fears further undermine US dollar

By Jennifer Hughes in London
December 29 2003 11:18

The dollar slid to fresh lifetime lows against the euro and neared new three-year lows against the yen as investors continued to worry that the likelihood for low US interest rates in the US could undermine the currency further.

The euro reached a high of $1.2492 in European morning trade while the dollar slipped to Y106.91 against the yen, just above the Y106.88 low it set earlier this month.

Jobless Count Skips Millions (US)

Gold nears 8-year high as dollar slumps

By Kevin Morrison
December 29 2003 11:47

Gold on Monday hit its highest point in nearly eight years as the US dollar slumped to a new low against the euro.

Spot gold was quoted at $414.30/$415 a troy ounce in London on the first trading day since the London and US markets were closed for the Christmas holiday.

Radicals Top Vote-Getters In Serbia

The right extremist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) emerged as the victor in Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Serbia, but the ultra-nationalists are unlikely to find coalition partners to form a government.

Vojislav Seselj has won a seat in parliament, but no one expects the SRS leader to show up in the legislature any time soon: Seselj is currently on trial for war crimes in the Hague. His party members nonetheless celebrated their sound success in Sunday’s elections.

Ranchers brace for mad cow fallout

Last Updated Sun, 28 Dec 2003 23:38:28

CALGARY - Canadian beef producers are fearing the worst after the U.S. government identified Alberta as a possible source of the animal diagnosed with mad cow disease in Washington state on Dec. 23.

Meat from U.S. Holstein with mad cow may have reached 4 more states, Guam

06:35 AM EST Dec 29

WASHINGTON (CP) - Meat from a Holstein sick with mad cow disease could have reached retail markets in eight states and one territory, but still poses no health risk, Agriculture Department officials said Sunday.

[...] Agriculture Department investigators had tentatively traced the first U.S. cow with mad cow disease to Alberta, where another case of the infection was found last May, causing the United States and other countries to ban Canadian beef exports.

However, Dr. Ron DeHaven, the department's chief veterinarian, emphasized Sunday that investigators aren't certain of that because U.S. records outlining the animal's history do not match ones in Canada. Canadian officials had complained it was premature to reach any firm conclusion.

DeHaven said Sunday that DNA tests were being arranged to help resolve the matter.

Canadian reports show the cow had two calves before export to the United States, contrary to U.S. documents which classified the animal as a heifer when it arrived, meaning it had never borne calves.

Also, Canadian documents showed the diseased cow was 6½ years old - older than U.S. officials had thought. U.S. records say the cow was four or 4½ years.

Officials are concerned about the cow's age because it may have been born before 1997, the year the United States and Canada banned certain feed considered the most likely source of infection.

A cow gets infected by eating feed containing tissue from the spine or brain of an infected animal. In the past, farmers fed their animals such meal to fatten them.

Seismic testing for oil completed off Cape Breton

Last Updated Sun, 28 Dec 2003 14:35:31

SYDNEY, N.S. - Controversial seismic testing in the waters off western Cape Breton, the first step in the exploration for oil and gas in the region, was completed on the weekend.

The testing was supported by people seeking a boost for the island's economy, but environmentalists have been against it from the start.

Critics allege the underwater blasts will destroy sensitive spawning grounds, hurt snow crab, herring and lobster catches and disorient migrating whales.

Scientists have new theory on ice age

KU researchers believe gamma-ray burst caused extinctions, cooling

By Alea Smith - Special to the Journal-World
Monday, December 29, 2003

Kansas University scientists are attracting international attention with their research into the possibility a massive gamma ray explosion caused an ice age that wiped out much of the life on Earth.

"It appears that the (gamma ray) bursts are a serious danger, although not something you would expect to hit us very often, maybe every few hundred million years," said Adrian Melott, a professor of physics and astronomy. [...]

Gamma-ray bursts occur when a giant star explodes, creating a burst of nuclear energy in the form of gamma-rays, which have the smallest wavelength and most energy of all radiation. [...]

Astronomers have observed and recorded many recent gamma-ray bursts from distant galaxies that have been harmless to the Earth [...]

Melott said if a gamma-ray burst occurred within 10,000 light years on this side of the galaxy, the effects on Earth would be devastating. [...]

Comment: You can download the paper from here.

Offshore earthquake rattles Japan

Monday, December 29, 2003 (Tokyo)

A strong offshore earthquake rattled Japan's northernmost main island today. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The earthquake registered a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 and was centered 40 kilometre beneath the seabed off the coast of Kushiro. [...]

Comment: The earth has been shaking for the last seven days, even Colorado had a couple of mild earthquakes about 150 miles south of Denver.

Pregnant woman found dead with foetus stolen
13:17 Monday 29th December 2003

A missing pregnant woman has been found dead in an Oklahoma field with her abdomen cut open and the foetus removed.

A hunter found the body of Carolyn Simpson, 21, in a field near Lamar, 100 miles from Oklahoma City.

She had been shot in the head, said Tommy Graham, a State Bureau of Investigation inspector.

Police arrested a 37-year-old woman who took a dead foetus to a hospital. [...]

Air freshener the new killer drug

AIR fresheners that retail for as little as $1.50 have emerged as the deadly drug of choice for many children and teenagers in Australia and New Zealand.

Dubbed "huffing", the trend of inhaling cheap air fresheners has caused three teenage deaths in one month in New Zealand. [...]

Armies Of Fighting Fungi Protect Chocolate Trees

Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. -- Biologists have discovered a new and intricate ecological relationship between cacao trees and the ubiquitous fungi that inhabit them, in which the trees are protected by armies of "good" fungi against their "evil" counterparts. [...]

Comment: George W. Bush reportedly praised the Good Fungi for battling evil, and invited their president to his Texas ranch.

And Finally...

Space sex: Missionary impossible

MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2003 03:13:18 PM

LONDON: Now that Russia has offered a pair of ‘wealthy’ newly-weds the chance of a cosmic honeymoon aboard the international space station, the spotlight has fallen on a series of sex-related tests reportedly conducted by NASA in space.

In his book titled Living in Space , the late G Harry Stine, a former NASA technician, wrote that agency staff at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, had used a buoyancy tank that simulated low-gravity conditions to test the possibilities of having weightless sex.

"It was possible but difficult, and was made easier when a third person assisted by holding one of the others in place," The Sunday Times quoted him, as saying.


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