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Monday, January 26, 2004

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The following is taken from a history of COINTELPRO operations in the United States. It outlines some of the main techniques used by the FBI, the CIA, and other US government agencies against individuals and groups who expounded ideas that Washington considered to be unAmerican: things like equal rights for Blacks, justice for the poor, and decent working conditions for American workers.

COINTELPRO Techniques

From: COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story

Compilation by Paul Wolf with contributions from Robert Boyle, Bob Brown, Tom Burghardt, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, Bruce Ellison, Cynthia McKinney, Nkechi Taifa, Laura Whitehorn, Nicholas Wilson, and Howard Zinn.

From its inception, the FBI has operated on the doctrine that the "preliminary stages of organization and preparation" must be frustrated, well before there is any clear and present danger of "revolutionary radicalism."

At its most extreme dimension, political dissidents have been eliminated outright or sent to prison for the rest of their lives. There are quite a number of individuals who have been handled in that fashion.

Many more, however, were "neutralized" by intimidation, harassment, discrediting, snitch jacketing, a whole assortment of authoritarian and illegal tactics.

Neutralization, as explained on record by the FBI, doesn't necessarily pertain to the apprehension of parties in the commission of a crime, the preparation of evidence against them, and securing of a judicial conviction, but rather to simply making them incapable of engaging in political activity by whatever means.

For those not assessed as being in themselves, necessarily a security risk, but engaged in what the Bureau views to be politically objectionable activity, those techniques might consist of disseminating derogatory information to the target's family, friends and associates, visiting and questioning them, basically, making it clear that the FBI are paying attention to them, to try to intimidate them.

If the subject continues their activities, and particularly if they respond by escalating them, the FBI will escalate its tactics as well. Maybe they'll be arrested and prosecuted for spurious reasons. Maybe there will be more vicious rumors circulated about them. False information may be planted in the press. The targets' efforts to speak in public are frustrated, employers may be contacted to try to get them fired. Anonymous letters have been sent by the FBI to targets' spouses, accusing them of infidelity. Others have contained death threats.

And if the subject persists then there will be a further escalation.

According to FBI memoranda of the 1960s, "Key black activists" were repeatedly arrested "on any excuse" until "they could no longer make bail." The FBI made use of informants, often quite violent and emotionally disturbed individuals, to present false testimony to the courts, to frame COINTELPRO targets for crimes they knew they did not commit. In some cases the charges were quite serious, including murder.

Another option is "snitch jacketing" - making the target look like a police informant or a CIA agent. This serves the dual purposes of isolating and alienating important leaders, and increasing the general level of fear and factionalism in the group.

"Black bag jobs" are burglaries performed in order to obtain the written materials, mailing lists, position papers, and internal documents of an organization or an individual. At least 10,000 American homes have been subjected to illegal breaking and entering by the FBI, without judicial warrants.

Group membership lists are used to expand the operation. Anonymous mailings of newspaper and magazine articles may be mailed to group members and supporters to convince them of the error of their ways. Anonymous or spurious letters and cartoons are sent to promote factionalism and widen rifts in or between organizations.

According to the FBI's own records, agents have been directed to use "established local news media contacts" and other "sources available to the Seat of Government" to "disrupt or neutralize" organizations and to "ridicule and discredit" them.

Many counterintelligence techniques involve the use of paid informants. Informants become agents provocateurs by raising controversial issues at meetings to take advantage of ideological divisions, by promoting emnity with other groups, or by inciting the group to violent acts, even to the point of providing them with weapons.

Over the years, FBI provocateurs have repeatedly urged and initiated violent acts, including forceful disruptions of meetings and demonstrations, attacks on police, bombings, and so on, following an old strategy of Tsarist police director TC Zubatov: "We shall provoke you to acts of terror and then crush you."

A concise description of political warfare is given in a passage from a CIA paper entitled "Nerve War Against Individuals," referring to the overthrowing of the government of Guatemala in 1954:

The strength of an enemy consists largely of the individuals who occupy key positions in the enemy organization, as leaders, speakers, writers, organizers, cabinet members, senior government officials, army commanders and staff officers, and so forth. Any effort to defeat the enemy must therefore concentrate to a great extent upon these key enemy individuals.

If such an effort is made by means short of physical violence, we call it "psychological warfare." If it is focussed less upon convincing those individuals by logical reasoning, but primarily upon moving them in the desired direction by means of harassment, by frightening, confusing and misleading them, we speak of a "nerve war". 8

The COINTELPROs clearly met the above definition of "nerve wars," and, in the case of the American Indian Movement in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the FBI conducted a full-fledged counterinsurgency war, complete with death squads, disappearances and assassinations, recalling Guatemala in more recent years.

The full story of COINTELPRO may never be told. The Bureau's files were never seized by Congress or the courts or sent to the National Archives. Some have been destroyed. Many counterintelligence operations were never committed to writing as such, or involve open investigations, and ex-operatives are legally prohibited from talking about them. Most operations remain secret until long after the damage has been done.

This kind of operation continues to this day, and not only in political or environmental groups. The New Age movement is full of this kind of COINTELPRO operative. It is not unusual to find cases where people begin with interesting ideas, only to be waylaid in one manner or another, and what once was an honest attempt at finding out the truth of things on the planet becomes but another channel for disinformation.

For more, see our Cosmic COINTELPRO timeline as well as the article Cosmic COINTELPRO.

The document includes sections on a number of political prisoners in the US and details the operations carried out against them and other individuals identified as dangerous. With the USA Patriot Act, this kind of subterfuge is no longer merely institutionalized, it is becoming legal.

Speaking of manipulation...

Space impact 'saved Christianity'

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Did a meteor over central Italy in AD 312 change the course of Roman and Christian history?

A team of geologists believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity.

It was just before a decisive battle for control of Rome and the empire that Constantine saw a blazing light cross the sky and attributed his subsequent victory to divine help from a Christian God.

Constantine went on to consolidate his grip on power and ordered that persecution of Christians cease and their religion receive official status.

Civil war

In the fourth century AD, the fragmented Roman Empire was being further torn apart by civil war. Constantine and Maxentius were bitterly fighting to be the sole emperor.

Constantine was the son of the western emperor Constantius Chlorus. When he died in 306, his father's troops proclaimed Constantine emperor.

But in Rome, the favourite was Maxentius, son of Constantius' predecessor, Maximian.

With both men claiming the title, a conference was called in AD 308 that resulted in Maxentius being named as senior emperor along with Galerius, his father-in-law. Constantine was to be a Caesar, or junior emperor.

The situation was not a stable one, however, and by 312 the two men were at war.

Constantine overran Italy and faced Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber a few kilometres from Rome. Both knew it would be a decisive battle with Constantine's forces outnumbered.

'Conquer by this'

It was then that something strange happened. Eusebius - one of the Christian Church's early historians - relates the event in his Conversion of Constantine.

"...while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvellous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related by any other person.

"...about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the Sun, and bearing the inscription 'conquer by this'.

"At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle."

Spurred on by divine intervention, Constantine's army won the day and he gave homage to the God of the Christians whom he believed had helped him.

This was a time when Christianity was struggling. Support from the most powerful man in the empire allowed the emerging religious movement to flourish.

Like a nuclear blast

But what was the celestial event that converted Constantine and altered the course of history?

Jens Ormo, a Swedish geologist, and colleagues working in Italy believe Constantine witnessed a meteoroid impact.

The research team believes it has identified what remains of the impactor's crater.

It is the small, circular Cratere del Sirente in central Italy. It is clearly an impact crater, Ormo says, because its shape fits and it is also surrounded by numerous smaller, secondary craters, gouged out by ejected debris, as expected from impact models.

Radiocarbon dating puts the crater's formation at about the right time to have been witnessed by Constantine and there are magnetic anomalies detected around the secondary craters - possibly due to magnetic fragments from the meteorite.

According to Ormo, it would have struck the Earth with the force of a small nuclear bomb, perhaps a kiloton in yield. It would have looked like a nuclear blast, with a mushroom cloud and shockwaves.

It would have been quite an impressive sight and, if it really was what Constantine saw, could have turned the tide of the conflict.

But what would have happened if this chance event - perhaps as rare as once every few thousand years - had not occurred in Italy at that time?

Maxentius might have won the battle. Roman history would have been different and the struggling Christians might not have received state patronage.

The history of Christianity and the establishment of the popes in Rome might have been very different.

Comment: For more on this period and the centuries following it, see the series Truth or Lies.

For a meteor impact that had a different result:

FLASHBACK!

A Bolt From the Blue

There is no stranger true story on record than that of the sudden and dramatic manner in which a civil war was brought to an end in Nicaragua. The year was 1907 and [...] a military group was seeking to shoot its way into office.

The Rebels were making considerable headway under the astute leadership of General Pablo Castilliano. He had ample weapons, plenty of money, and an excellent background of military training.

General Castilliano and his forces were within easy striking distance of complete victory. The government forces had been defeated twice in quick succession, many of the troops had deserted and others were ready to throw down their arms if it looked like the rebels were going to win again. Castilliano and his officers had their troops strategically placed along a ridge overlooking the enemy positions. The blow which should bring them victory was timed for daylight the next morning. General Castilliano bade his staff good night and retired to his tent to set down a record of the day's events in his diary. At about ten o'clock he blew out his candle and went to bed.

A few minutes later the camp was lighted up as if by a gigantic flare. A flaming mass was streaking down from the clear night sky - coming straight for the camp. The terrified guard outside the General's tent yelled and threw himself to the earth.

The fireball struck squarely into General Castilliano's tent with a roar like that of dynamite. It blasted out a pit ten feet deep and about fifteen feet in diameter. The General died instantly. His guard lived for two days, long enough to confirm that it had indeed been a fireball from the sky, just as the other sentries claimed. Their story was later found to be true when pieces of the shattered meteorite were found in the pit.

The General's dramatic and almost unprecedented death demoralized his troops. They took it as a sign that their cause was in disfavor in Heaven and the rebellion collapsed overnight. It remains to this day the only known case where a war was brought to an end by direct intervention of a celestial object. [Strange World, Frank Edwards, p. 222, NY 1964]

How many times have meteors or other celestial objects played a role in shaping human history? There has been recent discussion that if such an explosion took place in the atmosphere, it could be mistaken for a nuclear attack. Imagine such an explosion over Israel or another region where tensions are very high. It is within the realm of possibility that, if misinterpreted as a nuclear attack, it could unleash a real nuclear war.

More than half of Americans object to Bush's new term of office

26.01.2004,

NEW YORK, January 26 (Itar-Tass) - More than a half of the Americans are against George Bush’s second term of presidency. This is shown by the results of a national public opinion poll, held by the Newsweek magazine. Fifty-two per cent of those polled said they had enough of Bush’s four-year term in the White House, while 44 per cent want him to be re-elections.

According to the results of the poll, John Kerry has the best chances to beat the Republican president at the November elections. He now leads the electoral race among the Democrats. If the elections were held today, forty-nine per cent of the voters would have cast their ballots for Senator Kerry. Bush would get only 46 per cent of the votes. Allowing a three per cent error, the incumbent president is now actually on an equal with the other contenders from the Democratic Party – Wesley Clark and John Edwards.

More than three quarters of Americans believe George Bush may nevertheless win the elections for the second time irrespective of their likes or dislikes. However, this should not dampen the ardour of the White House boss, political analysts presume. Bush’s rating has dropped to a certain extent. His work as president is approved now by exactly one half of the respondents, i.e. four per cent less than at the beginning of the month. The Head of the U.S. administration should be particularly alarmed by the fact that this has happened after his “State of the Union” message, which usually helps to rally the nation around its leader. As a matter of fact, judging by the poll, 52 per cent of the Americans are displeased with what had happened in their country this year.

Taking part in the poll were 1,006 U.S. citizens not younger than eighteen.

Comment: It has been suggested, from leaked press memos, that the real decision makers in the White House will not allow Bush to go head to head in debates with other presidential candidates later this year. This decision for this, it seems, is that Bush's "advisors" cannot rely on him to hold his own in any debate against even the weakest of candidates. This of course leaves open the question of just what the Republicans in the White House are planning to do to ensure victory for their main candidate. Perhaps this year, the people that had the power to rig the elections back in 2000 will decide to cancel them altogether in 2004. The scene has already been set.

Democrats gear up for first primary

Monday 26 January 2004

New Hampshire is all geared up for the first Democratic primary on Tuesday, with some candidates predicting a long road ahead to the party's presidential nomination.

Frontrunner John Kerry appeared to have a lock on the New Hampshire primary with a double-digit lead over the rest of the field, although a large number of undecided voters and a forecast of snow added an element of uncertainty to the poll.

Pundits, and even some candidates, have said the contest to choose Democrats' nominee to face Republican President George Bush will almost certainly become more competitive as the battlefield shifts to the 3 February contests in South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere.

"This is going to be a long process, this nomination," North Carolina Senator John Edwards predicted on Sunday.

Kerry plays safe

Kerry's stunning victory in the Iowa caucuses last week blew the Democratic field wide open and forced his rivals to come up with a good showing in the New Hampshire vote, the nation's first primary and considered a bellwether for those to come.

But Kerry, 60, said he was not taking victory for granted.

"I'm fighting for every vote in this. I'm going door-to-door," he said. "We're working right up to the last minute."

On Sunday, he brushed aside a Republican charge branding him as being too liberal to be president. "The American people are looking for more than labels," he countered.

Kerry went on to challenge conventional wisdom that a Yankee could not win in the South.

"We have to stop separating the South," he said. "The South is not a foreign country. This is America. And these Americans in the South care about the same things that we care about in New Hampshire and elsewhere."

Kerry noted key endorsement for his campaign from a former South Carolina governor, and current US senators in Georgia and South Carolina.

Edwards lags behind

North Carolina Senator John Edwards, the number-two finisher in Iowa, has frequently interrupted his campaigning in New Hampshire to travel to South Carolina, and has said he is positioned to do well there next week.

"I grew up in the South. I have lived there almost my entire life. And not only that, I've represented the South in the Senate, which means I've dealt with the day-to-day problems that Southerners face," he told CNN on Sunday.

In New Hampshire so far, Edwards has had tepid support, but he insists his campaign is catching on.

"What's happened now is we're at the end stage. And people are looking for vision, they're looking for strength," Edwards, 50, said.

"I have had the strongest, most positive, optimistic, hopeful vision for the country."

Lieberman surges

Meanwhile, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, whose support had long been stuck in single digits, enjoyed a sudden bounce in some polls.

According to a USA Today/ CNN/Gallup poll of 700 people, Lieberman gained four points to move into third place with 12%, after Kerry and Dean.

"My staff says that in New Hampshire today there is an outbreak of "Joe-mentum'," the Connecticut senator quipped late on Saturday.

Retired army general Wesley Clark said he too, was preparing for the next phases of elections.

"We've got good organisations in South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Michigan, Wisconsin," he said.

"We've got an incredibly strong basis of support, especially in the South, but really across the country."

Dean lies low

And former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who has watched his lead evaporate in most polls, avoided the high-pressure on Sunday talk shows, and sought venues that might soften his "angry" image after his disastrous loss in Iowa and the debacle of a much-ridiculed concession rant.

"There are more and more women who are becoming the sole supporters of their families," Dean said at a forum on women's issues in Manchester, where his wife, Judith Steinberg Dean, made a rare campaign appearance at his side.

"These are enormous issues, that have enormous impacts on families," said Dean, amid news that his slide in opinion polls might finally have stopped, although he remained far behind Kerry.

The US is now in the hands of a group of extremists

Fundamentalism has spawned an ideology of American supremacy

George Soros
Monday January 26, 2004
The Guardian

The invasion of Iraq was the first practical application of the pernicious Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military action, and it elicited an allergic reaction worldwide - not because anyone had a good word to say about Saddam Hussein, but because we insisted on invading Iraq unilaterally without any clear evidence that he had anything to do with September 11 or that he possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The gap in perceptions between America and the rest of the world has never been wider. Abroad, America is seen as abusing the dominant position it occupies; opinion at home has been led to believe that Saddam posed a clear and present danger to national security. Only in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion are people becoming aware they have been misled. [...]

And we have been deceived. When he stood for election in 2000, President Bush promised a humble foreign policy. I contend that the Bush administration has deliberately exploited September 11 to pursue policies that the American public would not have otherwise tolerated. The US can lose its dominance only as a result of its own mistakes. At present the country is in the process of committing such mistakes because it is in the hands of a group of extremists whose strong sense of mission is matched only by their false sense of certitude.

[...]

Government adviser: killing children with defects acceptable

NICHOLAS CHRISTIAN
The Scotsman

A UK Government adviser on genetics has sparked fury by suggesting it might be acceptable to destroy children with ‘defects’ soon after they are born.

John Harris, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, told a meeting at Westminster he did not see any distinction between aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and killing a child after it had been born.

Harris, who is a professor of bioethics at Manchester University, would not be drawn on which defects or problems might be used as grounds for ending a baby’s life, or how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed.

Harris was reported to have said that he did not believe that killing a child was always inexcusable.

In addition, it was claimed that he did not believe that there was any ‘moral change’ that occurred between when the baby was in the womb and when it had been brought into the world.

He did not say how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed

Harris, who also gives advice to doctors as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), is understood to have argued that there was no moral distinction between aborting a foetus found by tests to have defects and disposing of a child where the parents discovered the problems at birth.

The words drew a furious response from anti-abortion campaigners. The Pro-Life lobby group, who had members present at the meeting, noted what Harris had said and condemned his words.

Julia Millington, the group’s spokeswoman, said: "It is frightening to think that university students are being educated by somebody who endorses the killing of new-born babies, and equally worrying to discover that such a person is the establishment’s ‘preferred’ bioethicist." [...]

Comment: Morality is a personal choice. To attempt to impose one uniform morality on humanity is an attempt to distract from the requirement that each person must learn and choose for him/herself. It is only through acceptance of the responsibility to choose, which forms an integral part of the experience of being alive and conscious, that we can even claim to be alive or awake at all. Most people reject this responsibility and by default remain asleep awaiting the time when someone or something else will make the choice for them.

Morality is the attempt to codify an inner knowing that we have lost.

Woman's treatment at border 'Orwellian'

Edmonton - A Calgary woman who was detained at the Alberta-Montana border this week says she believes her rights were violated.

Anik See was on her way to visit friends in Minnesota when she was stopped by U.S. customs officers.

See, a Canadian citizen, had borrowed her sister's car to make the trip and says officials barred her from entering the U.S. because she didn't have a letter of permission to use the vehicle. See says she was also told she didn't have the proper financial documents to enter the country. She was carrying only credit cards and bank cards, no cash. She was also told she didn't have enough clothes for a week-long stay. "I was so mad I couldn't even speak," she said. Her car was searched and she was questioned, fingerprinted and photographed.

"It's Orwellian," she said. "It's discriminatory. The whole process is demoralizing and degrading, I think." See says she was told she couldn't leave the detention centre until she submitted to the procedure, and she wasn't allowed to call a lawyer. "They had my car keys, they had my passport," she said. "They weren't going to let me go unless I was fingerprinted and photographed and I felt like I had absolutely no choice about anything.

"That felt, to me, like a violation of a lot of human rights. Whether it's the right to express how I feel or the right to legal representation. I couldn't do anything and that seemed to me to be a trap and I had done nothing wrong."

Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security say customs officers have the right to fingerprint and photograph anyone who is refused entry. Calgary immigration lawyer Michael Greene says it's a reality that Canadians have to live with post-September 11. "They have tremendous authority," he said. "They've got increasing levels of intrusion into privacy that their law allows them to do and you have to grin and bear it." Greene says the onus is on Canadians to prove they're genuine visitors to the United States and they should approach the border with the appropriate documentation.

Female GIs reporting rapes by U.S. soldiers

Women say response lacking within military, some even threatened

MILES MOFFEIT AND AMY HERDY
Denver Post
Sat, Jan. 24, 2004

Female troops serving in Iraq are reporting an insidious enemy in their own camps: fellow American soldiers who sexually assault them.

At least 37 female service members have sought sexual-trauma counseling and other assistance from civilian rape-crisis organizations after returning from war duty in Iraq, Kuwait and other overseas stations, women's assistance and advocacy organizations say.

"We have significant concerns about the military's response to sexual assault in the combat zone," said Christine Hansen, executive director of the Connecticut-based Miles Foundation, which says it has assisted 31 women.

The women, ranging from enlisted soldiers to officers, have reported poor medical treatment, lack of counseling and incomplete criminal investigations by military officials. Some say they were threatened with punishment after reporting assaults.

The Pentagon did not respond to repeated requests for information about the number of sexual assault reports during the conflict. Defense officials would say only that they will not tolerate sexual assault in their ranks.

"Commanders at every level have a duty to take appropriate steps to prevent it, protect victims, and hold those who commit them accountable," a written statement from the Pentagon said.

Ousting Saddam 'no cause for war'

A leading human rights group has said the US and UK are wrong to use the toppling of a brutal regime in Baghdad to justify going to war against Iraq.

The group, Human Rights Watch asked why George Bush and Tony Blair did not try remove Saddam Hussein much earlier.

[...] In its annual World Report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch also said:

  • Human rights are deteriorating in Afghanistan due to a reliance by US-led forces on warlords to defeat Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters
  • The Bush administration uses threats to national security to justify putting executive action in the United States above the law
  • Russian authorities justify the war in Chechnya as their contribution to the war on terror, while European and other governments ignore appalling human rights abuses there
  • There was a "moment of hope" in Africa with African leaders trying to stop regional wars and the associated abuses, through bodies like the African Union

Six Iraqi policemen killed

Monday 26 January 2004, 15:30 Makka Time, 12:30 GMT

Six Iraqi policemen have been killed and several others injured in two separate rocket-propelled grenade attacks.

Osaka police conduct antiterror drill at Kansai airport

Friday, January 23, 2004 at 12:14 JST

OSAKA — Osaka police, tightening security measures against potential terror attacks in Japan, conducted a drill Friday to prepare for possible nuclear, biological and chemical attacks on Kansai International Airport.

Law-enforcement authorities have been on high alert since Japan began dispatching members of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq and nearby countries in recent weeks. (Kyodo News)

Hamas offers Israel limited truce

Monday 26 January 2004, 3:17 Makka Time, 0:17 GMT

The Palestinian resistance group Hamas has said it could declare a 10-year truce with Israel if Tel Aviv withdrew from territory occupied since 1967.

Hamas spokesman Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi told journalists on Sunday that the organisation had come to the conclusion it was "difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation".

"We accept a state in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We propose a 10-year truce in return for [Israel's] withdrawal and the establishment of a state," he said from his hide-out in the Gaza Strip.

Putin plays down disputes with US

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the visiting US secretary of state that US-Russian ties are strong enough to overcome any differences.

Colin Powell said earlier he would be seeking "candid conversations" on democracy under Mr Putin and Russia's relations with other ex-Soviet states.

Recent developments had given caused concern in the US, he said, in a letter published today in the Russian press.

His visit comes just weeks before Russia holds a presidential election. Correspondents say Mr Powell's agenda has Cold War echoes despite America's current good ties with Russia.

[...] Our correspondent says that Moscow will be seeking concrete reassurances from Mr Powell that the US is not trying to supplant Russian influence in Georgia gas a Western oil pipeline is laid through the Caucasus state.

Thailand warns on bird flu deaths

Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 13:10 GMT

Thailand has warned that the death toll from an outbreak of bird flu could be as high as six, amid fears about the virus' spread across Asia.

[...] The World Health Organization said the flu's rapid spread posed a potential threat for a serious human outbreak.

However, there has been still been no sign of it jumping from human to human.

A WHO spokesman told the BBC that it was becoming clear that the strain had been around in the region much longer than first thought.

That multiplied the risk of human infections, he added, and of the virus mutating, perhaps by attaching itself to human flu and becoming far more deadly.

Bird flu found in Pakistan

www.chinaview.cn 2004-01-26

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- Pakistan has for the first time detected the avian influenza in chickens in southern Sindh province, local media reported Monday.

The News Network International (NNI), a private news agency, quoted sources from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock as saying that the preliminary reports indicate that the disease has hit chicken flocks in Sindh.

Around 10 percent to 25 percent of chickens in farms of the province have likely been infected, said the NNI.

It said the authorities have started providing vaccine to all poultry in the province to prevent further outbreaks and eradicating all the infected chickens.

There has been no evidence indicating that human has been infected by the bird flu so far in the country.

Taskforce prepared for mutant flu's arrival (Australia)

By Julie Robotham, Mark Metherell and Jonathan Pearlman
January 24, 2004

NSW Health will use the recommendations of the taskforce it set up to manage last year's SARS threat as the backbone of contingency plans to contain the Asian bird flu virus, should it arrive in Australia and prove capable of being transmitted between humans.

Paul Armstrong, the department's acting director of communicable diseases, said the State Government was more concerned than during previous bird flu outbreaks, because the present one was "unprecedented in its size".

In addition, it was now being detected in rural areas where there was a lower chance of containment, and coincided with the human flu season in the northern hemisphere, increasing the chance it could combine with human flu into a deadly new strain." [...]

Comment: We still find it very interesting that the development of this year's Flu vaccines in America and the US government's recent (successful) attempt to resurrect the 1918 "Spanish Flu" were both carried out using chicken's eggs as incubators. As yet there is no mutated version of Avian Flu that can be transmitted from human to human, but how long can we expect this to remain the case, and just what might give rise to a human/Avian Flu hybrid?...

See our Flu supplement for more info.

Fossil find is oldest land animal

Scientists have decided that a fossil found near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire is the remains of the oldest creature ever to live on land.

It is thought that the one-centimetre millipede which was prised out of a siltstone bed is 428-million-years-old.

Opportunity made 'interplanetary hole-in-one'

After safe landing in crater, rover beams home pictures

Monday, January 26, 2004

PASADENA, California (CNN) -- The Mars rover Opportunity is sending fresh data, including new photographs taken on the vehicle's parachute trip to the planet's surface, to mission control.

Enthusiastic scientists told reporters that the rover, which touched down in a small crater on the red planet, was in "excellent condition" and that its landing site was unique.

"What we have done here is landed in a geological unit fundamentally different than anywhere else on Mars," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit.

Squyres said the terrain is darker than at any previous Mars landing site and has the first accessible bedrock outcropping ever seen on the red planet. The bedrock layers should yield valuable information, he said.

Engineers were marveling over the new set of photographs, which show a different landscape from the one seen in the images captured by Spirit on the other side of the planet.

The pictures revealed large white outcroppings amid a darker gray soil, not at all like Spirit's Gusev Crater landscape of reddish dust with scattered small rocks. The rovers are designed to study rocks and soil samples to try to learn about the planet's past.

A scientist described the photographs taken on the vehicle's parachute landing as "fantastic." [...]

Comment: The level of excitement around the present US and European missions to Mars is very interesting. The talk of researching Mars' past and looking for water, all seem a little contrived to the staff here at Signs of the Times. Suffice it to say that, if in the not too distant future we hear of startling "discoveries" from the Mars mission control rooms, perhaps a microbe or two, we will not really be surprised. It will merely mean that certain people have decided that the time has come to begin taking the first tentative and subtle steps to acclimatizing the world to the idea that there might actually be some sort of "life" "out there".

Snow and freezing in parts of U.S..

Monday, January 26, 2004

(AP) -- Snow and freezing rain showers barreled across the Great Lakes, mid-Atlantic and Midwest early Monday, a day after winter storms further south left roadways treacherous from the central Plains to the East coast.

Schools, businesses and government offices were closed Monday in North and South Carolina, while school districts across Ohio canceled classes in anticipation of slippery commutes.

"It has the potential of being a major ice storm," said meteorologist Jonathan Lamb with the National Weather Service in Greer, South Carolina "This type of situation is something to be prepared for."

A winter storm warning was issued for southern areas of New Jersey and road crews scrambled in Maryland and Delaware to prepare for what was predicted to be the heaviest snowfall of the season.

"It's going to be the biggest one of this winter," Maryland-based National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Woodcock said. "It will definitely be an impact, especially on the Monday morning commute."

At least 16 people died in weather-related car wrecks over the weekend. Dozens of airline flights were delayed or canceled from Missouri to South Carolina, and sporadic power outages were reported.

In Ohio, 14 people had to be rescued from Lake Erie by helicopter and airboat after high winds cracked the ice they were fishing on, separating them from Catawba Island, authorities said.

Rapid snowfall forced the cancellation of some flights out of Ohio's Dayton International Airport and Kansas City International Airport. Some connecting flights were canceled in South Carolina's Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

In North Carolina, freezing drizzle Sunday afternoon coated an earlier covering of snow. Troopers responded to 2,000 traffic accidents by mid-afternoon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety said.

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency, allowing him to activate the National Guard. Fifty solders were to report to armories early Monday and be ready to respond if hospitals or nursing homes lose power.

A winter storm warning was out Monday for much of Minnesota, Virginia and Indiana. Empty trains ran overnight in northern Virginia to keep tracks clear for morning commuters.

"It's a pretty large storm system coming through the Tennessee Valley, moving up through the Ohio Valley, then through New England by Tuesday," said Anita Silverman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Global warming will plunge Britain into new ice age 'within decades'

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
25 January 2004

Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by global warming, new research suggests.

A study, which is being taken seriously by top government scientists, has uncovered a change "of remarkable amplitude" in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic.

Similar events in pre-history are known to have caused sudden "flips" of the climate, bringing ice ages to northern Europe within a few decades. The development - described as "the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments", by the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which led the research - threatens to turn off the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe's weather mild.

If that happens, Britain and northern Europe are expected to switch abruptly to the climate of Labrador - which is on the same latitude - bringing a nightmare scenario where farmland turns to tundra and winter temperatures drop below -20C. The much-heralded cold snap predicted for the coming week would seem balmy by comparison.

[...] When the Gulf Stream abruptly turned off about 12,700 years ago, it brought about a 1,300-year cold period, known as the Younger Dryas. This froze Britain in continuous permafrost, drove summer temperatures down to 10C and winter ones to -20C, and brought icebergs as far south as Portugal. Europe could not sustain anything like its present population. Droughts struck across the globe, including in Asia, Africa and the American west, as the disruption of the Gulf Stream affected currents worldwide.

Bill Gates to be knighted: Report

SUNDAY, JANUARY 25, 2004

LONDON: Microsoft supremo Bill Gates is to receive an honorary British knighthood for services to global enterprise, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Gates, 48, was recommended for knighthood - which is to be formally conveyed by Queen Elizabeth II - by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, the newspaper said, adding that an announcement would be made on Monday.

That is when Gates, among other captains of global industry and finance, will be in London attending a major conference titled Advancing Enterprise: Britain in a Global Economy , organised by Brown.

Britain also gives the title of honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or KBE, to distinguished non-Britons, many of them Americans.

Such foreign knights cannot, however, prefix their names with 'Sir'.

Americans who have received a KBE include former president George Bush, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, film director Steven Spielberg, and US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who will also be at Monday's conference, the Sunday Telegraph said

Comment: No comment.

War and Peace: Has the distinction between the two collapsed?

Suicide bomber stopped in his tracks

Comment: Can't help thinking this one sounds more like fiction than fact.

Ugandan official awed by 'ethnic massacre'

Bad weather kills six and shuts Suez canal.

Floodwarning for Windhoek after heavy rains

SA's high AIDS toll fuels new invention

Goma lives in fear of volcanoes next erruption.

Diamond and dung on cow's road to fame


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