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Thursday, January 29, 2004

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Picture of the Day

©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

So the twin conditions of karma are: enslavement and ignorance; i.e. the Prison and and delusion. The opposite of this is freedom and waking up (enlightenment) and an abolition of the delusional. [Philip K. Dick, Exegesis, February 25, 1980]

We thought we would begin today's page with some musings from Philip K. Dick, sci-fi writer and genius. Although we are not here today to discuss the finer points of karma, we thought his quote fit in nicely with what we work toward doing here at Signs: an experiment in abolishing our own delusions and sharing the journey with those interested.

If still alive today, Philip would have been appalled to see aspects of his visions of the future come true. We may not have publicly announced lunar concentration camps yet, but we do have robots looking for Martians, and we will have spy blimps floating in the sky rather soon operated by a shadowy organization called Homeland Security. More on that and other bizarre happenings seemingly ripped from the pages of an Ace paperback novel, accompanied with more quotes from Phil. But first we have the US political campaigns to discuss.

The first primaries signal the beginning of the 2004 election campaign in the United States, although Karl Rove's attempts to redesign Bush as an international statesman started several weeks ago. There is some speculation that Bush may want to drop Cheney, making him the fall guy for the Iraq debacle. Another analyst wonders whether Bush will be able to get himself elected president with exit polls from the two first primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire showing that the voters are more concerned with the economy than with the situation in Iraq.

Presidential vision isn't always a good thing

| By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. | 28-01-2004

The president of the United States, wrote Henry Adams, the most brilliant of American historians, "resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek."

The Constitution awards presidents the helm, but creative presidents must possess and communicate the direction in which they propose to take the country. The port they seek is what the first President Bush dismissively called "the vision thing".

[...] Born again, Bush the younger has a messianic tinge about him. He thinks big and wants to make his mark on history. Four hours of interviews left Bob Woodward with the impression, as he wrote in "Bush at War", that "the president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's master plan."

Dry Drunk Confirmed?: O'Neill's Revelations and the Mind of Bush


[...] “He tried to kill my Dad,” the President once explained. But I believe there was more to this unnecessary war than that. I believe there was a method in Bush’s madness, a method that most likely had as little to do with oil as it did to terrorism. For the answer we need to look deeply in the psyche of the man (inferred from his biography). Earlier several other writers and I likened Bush’s personality characteristics to those of a person who, in AA parlance, is “dry” but whose thinking is not really sober. Grandiosity, rigidity, and intolerance of ambiguity, and a tendency to obsess about things are among the traits associated with the dry drunk. The dry drunk quits drinking, but his or her obsession with the bottle is often replaced with other obsessions.

3 most-populous counties push for ballot paper trail

By Connie Piloto, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

WEST PALM BEACH -- Florida's three most populous counties took a rare, unified stance Monday, calling for the state legislature to require a ballot-by-ballot paper record of votes cast on electronic voting machines.

Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade county commissioners -- dissatisfied after spending millions on touch-screen voting machines since the tumultuous 2000 presidential election -- agreed paper printouts are the only way to instill public confidence in touch-screen ballots.

The tri-county coalition voted unanimously to send state legislators a letter endorsing a paper trail. [...]

"It's not too big a price to pay," Aaronson said. "We spent 36 days in 2000 trying to figure out who won the election. How much money did that cost us?"

Comment: Check out Jon Rappoport's article ELECTION FRAUD IN NEW HAMPSHIRE?

Senior politicians fear Iraq on verge of social explosion due to unemployment, instability

[...] But there are formidable economic and political problems ahead. It is estimated that 50 percent of the work force is unemployed, 60 percent of the population lives under the poverty line and the inflation rate is around 15 percent a month.

It is not unusual to see children in the street picking through garbage to get their daily meals. Meanwhile, budgets and plans to pour billions of dollars in the country during the next few months are being drawn up by both the US and international financial institutions. The question is: How and when will these funds reach the ordinary Iraqi citizen?

Senior politicians fear that the country could be on the verge of a social explosion. The weekly demonstrations by the unemployed in Baghdad and the south have been peaceful so far, but it remains to be seen how long they will stay that way. Some observers worry that instead of the many capital-intensive projects being promoted in exhibitions and conferences in neighboring countries to attract foreign companies, there should be a labor-intensive public works program started in Iraq itself, utilizing available small and medium-sized Iraqi engineering and construction companies and the tens of thousands of unemployed professionals and workers to rebuild the roads, schools and other public facilities that were neglected by the previous regime and lacked maintenance because of sanctions.

[...] There is very little systematic information either about the deliberations and inner politics of the Governing Council, or the philosophy of the majority of the council members; the way they take decisions is a cause for concern. The recent replacement of Iraqi civil law concerning family affairs with Sharia law has caused a furor in Iraq, particularly among Iraqi women, who have fought hard for their rights. What is equally unsettling is that the decision was taken without much debate and became known to the public post facto. It is now up to US civilian administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer to repeal it.

John Pilger on Bush’s occupation of Iraq: "They put the lie to their own propaganda"

[...] WHAT DO you think about the Bush administration’s claims that the resistance to its occupation of Iraq comes from "foreign terrorists."

JP: HOW IRONIC it is when American officials speak about "foreign fighters" attacking Americans? It is as if Americans are Iraqis, or that Iraqis don’t exist.

As Robert Fisk has pointed out, there are 200,000 foreign fighters in Iraq, and 146,000 wear U.S. uniforms. There may well be other foreign fighters in Iraq. The Anglo-American invasion was an assault on the Arab world, and I would not be surprised to see an ad hoc pan-Arab resistance. The French Resistance was assisted by foreigners, notably the British, and terrible things happened. There is no difference. The propaganda now is aimed at obfuscating the truth of a nationalist resistance.

Like it or not, to many Iraqis, Saddam Hussein embodied a certain nationalism, and the so-called "Saddam remnants" are nationalists. This is such a proud society, and not as divided tribally as some Western commentators would like us to believe.

The occupation does have parallels with Vietnam, but the closest likeness is the Soviet disaster in Afghanistan. And it really hasn’t begun in earnest yet. That will happen when the Shia make their move.

I understand that a Shia army is quietly forming; they have a tradition of patience, and they will wait for their moment, just as they did under the Shah in Iran. The occupation and Bush are in deep trouble.

Baghdad Is Bush's Blue Dress

Robert Scheer
LA Times
January 27, 2004

Now, can we talk of impeachment? The rueful admission by former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction or the means to create them at the time of the U.S. invasion confirms the fact that the Bush administration is complicit in arguably the greatest scandal in U.S. history. It's only because the Republicans control both houses of Congress that we hear no calls for a broad-ranging investigation of the type that led to the discovery of Monica Lewinsky's infamous blue dress.

In no previous instance of presidential malfeasance was so much at stake, both in preserving constitutional safeguards and national security. This egregious deception in leading us to war on phony intelligence overshadows those scandals based on greed, such as Teapot Dome during the Harding administration, or those aimed at political opponents, such as Watergate. And the White House continues to dig itself deeper into a hole by denying reality even as its lieutenants one by one find the courage to speak the truth.

A year after using his 2003 State of the Union address to paint Iraq's allegedly vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction as a grave threat to the U.S. and the world, Bush spent this month's State of the Union defending the war because "had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day." Bush said officials were still "seeking all the facts" about Iraq's weapons programs but noted that weapons searchers had already identified "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

Vice President Dick Cheney in interviews with USA Today and the Los Angeles Times echoed this fudging — last year's "weapons" are now called "programs" — declaring that "the jury's still out" on whether Iraq had WMDs and, "I am a long way at this stage from concluding that somehow there was some fundamental flaw in our intelligence."

Common: Good old Tricky Dick... Perhaps the flaw was not with the intelligence, but the interpretation (i.e. twisting) of that information.

Yet three days after the State of the Union address, Kay quit and then began telling the world what the administration had denied since taking over the White House: That Hussein's regime was but a weak shadow of the military force it had been at the time of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, that he believed it had no significant chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs or stockpiles in place, and that the United Nations inspections and allied bombing in the '90s had been more effective at eroding the remnants of these programs than critics had thought.

"I'm personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction," Kay told the New York Times. "We don't find the people, the documents or the physical plants that you would expect to find if the production was going on. I think they gradually reduced stockpiles throughout the 1990s. Somewhere in the mid-1990s the large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated…. The Iraqis say they believed that [the U.N. inspection program] was more effective [than U.S. analysts believed], and they didn't want to get caught."

The maddening aspect of all this is that we haven't needed Kay to set the record straight. The administration's systematic abuse of the facts, including the fraudulent link of Hussein to 9/11, has been obvious for two years. That's why 23 former U.S. intelligence experts — including several who quit in disgust — have been willing to speak out in Robert Greenwald's shocking documentary "Uncovered." The story they tell is one of an administration that went to war for reasons that smack of empire-building, then constructed a false reality to sell it to the American people.

Is that not an impeachable offense?

After all, the president misled Congress into approving his preemptive war on the grounds that our very survival as a nation was threatened by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We were told that if we hesitated, allowing the U.N. inspectors who were in Iraq to keep working, a mushroom cloud over New York, to use Condoleezza Rice's imagery, might well be our dark reward.

Now that Kay — who, it should be remembered, once defended the war and dismissed the work of the U.N. inspectors — has had $900 million and at least 1,200 weapons inspectors to discover what many in the CIA and elsewhere had been telling us all along, are there to be no real repercussions for such devastating official deceit?

Comment: Apparently not. It seems that conditions in the USA are not quite bad enough for the majority to wake up to reality. To do so would require an enormous effort on the part of each individual - but it is all too easy to ignore the signs and carry on with "normal" life. We have run numerous stories on Signs of the Times that highlight the difference between Americans' level of awareness of world events versus the awareness of those in other countries. It seems that the US economy isn't quite bad enough for most Americans to pause and take notice of the events that have led to the present situation. The truth appears to be that the economy isn't improving at all - it's getting worse:

Kraft to Cut Jobs, Take $1.2 Bln Charge

January 27, 2004

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Kraft Foods Inc., the largest North American food maker, said on Tuesday it would cut about 6,000 jobs and take charges of $1.2 billion before taxes, in an effort to offset slowing trends with cost cuts. [...]

Consumers Upbeat in Jan. But Jobs Scant

By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
Tue Jan 27,10:30 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence improved in January but Americans were still having a tough time finding work, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The Conference Board, a private research firm, said its index of confidence jumped to 96.8 in January from a revised 91.7 in December. Wall Street analysts had forecast a rise to 96.3.

"Growing optimism about the overall health of the economy continues to bolster consumers' short-term outlook," said Lynn Franco, director of research at the Conference Board.

"But consumers' assessment of current conditions, which strongly hinges on improvements in the labor market, remains both weak and volatile," she added in a statement.

The number of consumers saying jobs were hard to get dipped in January to 31.4 percent, better than December's 32.4 percent but still worse than a year ago. The proportion saying jobs were plentiful also edged down, to 12.4 percent from 12.6. [...]

In the recent past, how many times have we read a news report from the mainstream press that claims the past year has witnessed an "improving economic outlook"? Note that it is not the economy itself that is claimed to be improving; it is the future economic path that is supposed to be looking rosy. Just as Saddam's WMDs are now "WMD programs", a possible future state of the economy has been twisted into a substitute for the current financial state. Bush's spending like a drunken sailor on the War on Terror doesn't help matters much. To be fair, every now and then a site such as Reuters presents a more honest appraisal like the above excerpt.

One might argue that the future is open. We generally agree with such a statement. Perhaps the problem in this case is that the ability to "change the future" depends upon objectively observing the now. The US and world economies, however, are no doubt subject to vast and numerous manipulations. Is it even possible or feasible to change an economic system? If there are individuals in positions of power pulling the strings, so to speak, the populace as a whole may not stand a chance of affecting change. More importantly, should any of us endeavor to change what is outside of us when we have not yet even begun the task of examining and cleaning out what is inside of us? Perhaps it is this introspection and reexamination which can effectively "change" the outside world, or at least the perception of this world, but only on an individual level.

US weapons expert: "We were all wrong"

January 28, 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The former US chief weapons hunter David Kay called for a review of the US intelligence failure over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction but insisted political pressure was not to blame.

"We were all wrong," Kay told the US Senate Armed Service Committee as he was subjected to intense questioning about his explosive disclosure that a six month search had found no evidence that Iraq had banned weapons before the US invasion in March.

Kay disputed suggestions that US intelligence was warped by political pressure from the administration of President George W. Bush.

"It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgement. And that is most disturbing." [...]

He indicated that an over-reliance on high tech surveillance and foreign intelligence, and a lack of US spies in Iraq blinded US intelligence to what was occurring after 1998 as conditions worsened in Iraq. [...]

Comment: In that case, we wonder which country was providing false intelligence to the US. On the other hand, it is entirely plausible - and probable - that high-ranking US officials knew exactly what they were doing: lying. Even if selective or fabricated intelligence was used, America now has potential ammunition to point the finger at a new enemy. Or, Bush and his Neocon pals simply continue to use the ridiculous justification that Saddam was a bad man... Either way, they all get away with murder.

Iraq's Shia: "Our Day Has Come"


[...] In the last two weeks the Shi’ites, some 60 per cent of the Iraqi population, have started to express their frustrations on the street. Tens of thousands of people have marched through the centre of Basra and Baghdad to demand fair elections to select a new Iraqi assembly and government. A yellow flag with a Shi’ite slogan on it now hangs from the top of the monument which replaced the statue of Saddam Hussein famously toppled in Baghdad last year.

It is a critical moment for the US and British venture in Iraq and perhaps their last chance to conclude it without a political disaster.

News Analysis: Insurgence in Sunni Triangle result of occupation 2004-01-26 21:50:36
by Li Jizhi, Jamal Ahmed

BAGHDAD, Jan. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- Five US army helicopters have crashed and 26 US soldiers have been killed in all kinds of hostilities in Iraq in the first four weeks this year as of Monday,highlighting the fierceness of the insurgence after the capture of Saddam Hussein last December.

The incidents most occurred north and west of Baghdad, known as the Sunni Triangle, where such restive towns as Fallujah, Samarra, Baquba and Saddam's hometown of Tikrit are located.

The vast area, about the size of England, also includes Mosul and Baghdad, whose demographic nature is considered as a mixture ofvarious Iraqi ethnic sections.

Political analysts believed that the unabated attacks on US forces and those considered as their collaborators in the area populated with Sunni Arabs were more a result of the US-led occupation rather than what US officials said the incitement by Saddam's loyalists.

The capture of Saddam, instead of helping eliminating the resistance, fostered more potential attackers who had been annoyed of being associated with the Saddam regime, they said.

Now Saddam is out of the stage. More fighters could feel relieved when they take up weapons against the coalition forces in the name of patriotism and resistance to the occupation, they added.

Iraqi whispers mull repeat of 1920s revolt

Knight Ridder Newspapers
Tue, Jan. 27, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Whispers of "revolution" are growing louder in Baghdad this month at teahouses, public protests and tribal meetings as Iraqis point to the past as an omen for the future.

Iraqis remember 1920 as one of the most glorious moments in modern history, one followed by nearly eight decades of tumult. The bloody rebellion against British rule that year is memorialized in schoolbooks, monuments and mass-produced tapestries that hang in living rooms.

Now, many say there's an uncanny similarity with today: unpopular foreign occupiers, unelected governing bodies and unhappy residents eager for self-determination. The result could be another bloody uprising.

"We are now under occupation, and the best treatment for a wound is sometimes fire," said Najah al Najafi, a Shiite cleric who joined thousands of marchers at a recent demonstration where construction workers, tribal leaders and religious scholars spoke of 1920.

The rebellion against the British marked the first time that Sunni and Shiite Muslims worked in solidarity, drawing power from tribesmen and city dwellers alike. Though Shiites, Sunnis and ethnic minorities are rivals in the new Iraq, many residents said the recent call for elections could draw disparate groups together. A smattering of Sunnis joined massive Shiite protests last week, demanding that U.S. administrators grant the wishes of the highest Shiite cleric for general elections.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al Sistani has been unbending in his demand for direct elections instead of U.S. plans to select a new government through caucuses. At the request of L. Paul Bremer, the American envoy to Iraq, and several members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, the United Nations is sending a team to Iraq to study the feasibility of holding elections in time for the transition of power this summer.

Sistani's representatives expect widespread civil disobedience and violence if elections are deemed impossible.

"They know what will happen if they do not listen to us," said Sabah al Khazali, a religious scholar who joined last week's demonstrations. "They know this is a warning." [...]

"If Sistani called for revolution, I would sacrifice my life for the good of my country," said Hamdiya al Niemi, a 27-year-old street vendor whose father raised her on stories of the 1920 uprising. "My father was so proud talking about that time, how we kicked out the British and how we should never allow foreigners to rule our land."

The al Hamdani tribe, with thousands of members across Iraq, provided key organizers of the 1920 revolt. These days, the family name is linked to the cream-filled confections sold at the popular al Hamdani pastry shops throughout Baghdad.

Yaser al Hamdani, a 28-year-old tribe member whose great-uncle fought in the revolution, said he'd give up his job in the steaming bakery for a rebellion.

"Of course I would join," Hamdani said. "There would be bloodshed along the way, but sacrifice is important for success."


By Greg Palast
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

He did not say, "hello," or even his name, just left a one-word message: "Whitewash."

It came from an embattled journalist whispering from inside the bowels of a television and radio station under siege, on a small island off the coast of Ireland: from BBC London.

And another call, from a colleague at the Guardian: "The future of British journalism is very bleak."

However, the future for fake and farcical war propaganda is quite bright indeed. Today, Lord Hutton issued his report that followed an inquiry revealing the Blair government's manipulation of intelligence to claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass murder threatening imminent attack on London.

Based on the Blair government's claim, headlines pumped the war hysteria: SADDAM COULD HAVE NUCLEAR BOMB IN YEAR, screeched the London Times. BRITS 45 MINS FROM DOOM, shrieked the Sun newspaper.

Given these facts only a sissy pacifist, a lunatic or a Saddam fellow traveler would fail to see that Prime Minister "Winston" Blair had no choice but to re-conquer it's former Mesopotamian colony.

But these headlines were, in fact, false, and deadly so. Unlike America's press puppies, BBC reporters thought it their duty to check out these life or death claims. Reporters Andrew Gilligan and Susan Watts contacted a crucial source, Britain's and the United Nation's top weapons inspector. He told reporter Watts that the Weapons of Mass Destruction claims by Blair and our own President Bush were, "all spin." Gilligan went further, reporting that this spin, this "sexed up" version of intelligence, was the result of interventions by Blair's PR henchman, Alistair Campbell.

Whatever reading of the source's statements, it was clear that intelligence experts had deep misgivings about the strength of the evidence for war.

The source? Dr. David Kelly. To save itself after the reports by Gilligan and Watts, the government, including the Prime Minister himself, went on an internal crusade to out the name of its own intelligence operative so it could then discredit the news items.

Publishing the name of an intelligence advisor is serious stuff. In the USA, a special criminal prosecutor is now scouring the White House to find the person who publicly named a CIA agent. If found, the Bushite leaker faces jail time.

Blair's government was not so crude as to give out Dr. Kelly's name. Rather, they hit on a subterfuge of dropping clues then allowing reporters to play '20 questions' - if Kelly's name were guessed, they'd confirm it. Only the thickest reporters (I name none here) failed after more than a couple tries.

Dr. Kelly, who had been proposed for knighthood was named, harangued and his career destroyed by the outing. He then took his own life.

But today is not a day of mourning at 10 Downing Street, rather a day of self-congratulations.

There were no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear warheads just short of completion, no "45 minutes to doom" bombs auguring a new London blitz. The exile group which supplied this raw claim now calls the 45 minute story, "a crock of shit."

Yet Blair's minions are proclaiming their vindication.

This is not just a story about what is happening "over there" in the United Kingdom. This we must remember: David Kelly was not only advisor to the British but to the UN and, by extension, the expert for George W. Bush. Our commander-in-chief leaped to adopt the Boogey Man WMD stories from the Blair government when our own CIA was reticent.

So M'Lord Hutton has killed the messenger: the BBC. Should the reporter Gilligan have used more cautious terms? Some criticism is fair. But the extraordinary import of his and Watts' story is forgotten: our two governments bent the information then hunted down the questioners.

And now the second invasion of the Iraq war proceeds: the conquest of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Until now, this quasi-governmental outlet has refused to play Izvestia to any prime minister, Labour or Tory.

As of today, the independence of the most independent major network on this planet is under attack. Blair's government is "cleared" and now arrogantly sport their kill, the head of Gavyn Davies, BBC's chief, who resigned today.

"The bleak future for British journalism" portends darkness for journalists everywhere - the threat to the last great open platform for hard investigative reporting. And frankly, it's a worrisome day for me. I'm not a disinterested by-stander. My most important investigations, all but banned from US airwaves, were developed and broadcast by BBC Newsnight, reporter Watts' program.

Will an iron curtain descend on the news? Before dawn today, I was reading Churchill's words to the French command in the hours before as the Panzers breached the defenses of Paris. Churchill told those preparing to surrender, "Whatever you may do, we shall fight on forever and ever and ever." This may yet be British journalism's Finest Hour.

Hutton accused of 'whitewash' in Kelly affair

The judge who probed the suicide of arms expert David Kelly has been accused of a "whitewash" by much of Britain's daily press on Thursday for clearing Prime Minister Tony Blair's government of wrongdoing while rebuking the BBC.

The rightwing Daily Mail said that judge Lord Brian Hutton's long-awaited verdict, delivered on Wednesday, had attracted "widespread incredulity."

"Justice?" the paper asked in a front page headline.

It said Lord Hutton's report "does a great disservice to the British people. It fails to set its story in the context of the BBC's huge virtues and the government's sore vices."

The British Broadcasting Corporation was plunged into turmoil, with its chairman Gavyn Davies resigning, after Lord Hutton severely criticised the world's biggest public broadcaster. [...]

In a striking front-page article, with a white space left where normally a photograph would appear, the Independent asked Thursday if the Lord Hutton report was an "establishment whitewash".

The paper called Lord Hutton's conclusions "curiously unbalanced", and said they had strengthened the case for an "independent inquiry into the intelligence failures that took this country to an unjustifiable war".

The leftwing Guardian said that Mr Gilligan "got more right than he got wrong" in his reporting, adding that the BBC should now ensure "there is no collective failure of nerve in the corporation".

"BBC journalists must go on probing, must go on asking awkward questions - and must go on causing trouble," the Guardian urged. [...]

Anti-war groups slam Hutton "whitewash"

Opponents of the Iraq war have branded the inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly a whitewash and vowed to fight for Prime Minister Tony Blair's resignation. [...]

In the world he portrays, no government could ever be duplicitous or dishonourable

Oliver Burkeman
Thursday January 29, 2004
The Guardian

At around 192,000 words, excluding appendices, the Hutton report is a little longer than Jane Eyre (187,000 words), far longer than Wuthering Heights (116,000), and more than three times as long - in case you were wondering - as The Wind in the Willows (59,000).

Arguably the only person to emerge from this whole sorry affair with their reputation enhanced is a Mrs Kathy Knox, who, Lord Hutton notes in his conclusion, "has typed, with great care, the entirety of this lengthy report".

Lengthy is the word. Between flimsy blue covers, printed on what feels like British Rail toilet paper circa 1982, are 740 dense pages of evidence and conclusions - bad for the BBC, perhaps, but good for the pectoral muscles. (Not for the wallet, though: the cover price is £70. What were they thinking at The Stationery Office? The document is available free online, and the hard copy can't cost more than a few pounds to reproduce.)

"On 18 July 2003," he begins, "I was requested by the Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the secretary of state for constitutional affairs, to conduct an inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly ... "

From that first sentence, there's no fancy business. Like the good lawyer he is Lord Hutton numbers his hundreds of paragraphs and sub-paragraphs. He presents his evidence in strict chronological order. He states that he's going to reach conclusions, reaches them, states that he's reached them, then summarises them again.

But he does it all in surprisingly plain, unlawyerly language, and the result is a kind of icy clarity - a direct connection to the workings of his brain.

His tone is that of a teacher disappointed in pupils he thought capable of doing better - one specific pupil, in fact. The BBC, therefore, isn't wrong, or bad: it is guilty of "failure", or of being "defective", a word somehow particularly wounding in its total lack of malevolence.

What may have been Andrew Gilligan's worst act - telling members of the foreign affairs select committee in an email that Dr Kelly might have been Susan Watts's source - is dismissed in one paragraph, apparently because Gilligan apologised so profusely.

Given this approach, it hardly seemed likely that Lord Hutton's judgment of the government's behaviour would reach the high bar he had set, which required that its actions be proven to be "dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous". In the world he portrays, nobody is ever really that nasty.

Understandably, he seems to hate the phrase "sexing up", which consequently never appears without quotation marks, and which, he notes, "is a slang expression, the meaning of which lacks clarity in the context of a discussion of the dossier".

We can only guess what he thinks of the other infelicities on display here - the Today editor Kevin Marsh's fondness for multiple question marks, for example, or Gilligan's faithfully reproduced "erms" and "ers".

There is a smattering of implicit contempt, too, but it is saved for those outside the inquiry who thought it should have had a wider scope. "Commentators have suggested ... " Lord Hutton begins on several occasions, making his opinion of their suggestions clear before he has even described them.

When you think too hard about it, though, there's something very odd about the notion of legal truth - the way that a jury's deliberations, for example, can fix reality in retrospect, turning an alleged crime into a crime that actually happened simply by stating as much.

The effect is even stranger when, as here, the evidence, presented so fairly, might seem - to some commentators at least - to demand conclusions different to Hutton's own.

And yet, whatever anyone else's take on the facts, these 740 pages are what will be entered into the record: the True History of the Kelly Scandal, in print and bound, and yours for just £70.

And the United States wonders: “Why do they hate us?”

On the same day that David Kay, who led the American effort to find banned weapons in Iraq, said that Iraq had no stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons at the start of the “pre-emptive war” last year, Jane’s Intelligence Digest reported that the Bush administration is considering a strike on alleged Hizbullah bases in Lebanon in a presumably “pre-emptive strike” at so-called “terror bases.”

It is amazing how some people never learn.

Suicide attack on Jerusalem bus

At least 10 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack on a bus in west Jerusalem, along with the bomber.

Dozens were also injured in the blast which was detonated not far from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's residence.

Mr Sharon was not at the residence at the time of the bombing, but was said to be on his ranch in southern Israel.

Israeli interrogators accused of sodomy

By Dan Williams
Tuesday January 27, 06:40 PM

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - A former Lebanese militia chief has told a court he was forcibly sodomised on the order of an Israeli secret service interrogator who then left him shackled and soaking in excrement for almost two weeks. [...]

Israeli commandos abducted Dirani in 1994 in the hope of trading him for information on missing air force navigator Ron Arad. Dirani's Amal militia captured Arad in 1986. Dirani told interrogators he had handed the airman to Iran, but on Tuesday he said this confession was false and forced out of him. [...]

Sharon Diverts World Attention by Escalation

Annan fears Palestinian collapse

The UN Secretary-General has warned that the Palestinian Authority could collapse because of the stalemate in the Middle East peace process.

Kofi Annan was speaking after talks in Brussels with the leadership of the European Union.

He appealed for more aid, saying that deteriorating conditions were making the situation bleak for Palestinians.

Bomber may have held UK passport

A suicide bomber who killed a British soldier in the Afghan capital Kabul may have been a UK passport holder, according to reports. Officials from the Foreign Office are checking the reports which suggest the attacker was an Algerian-born British national in his 20s.

The soldier, who has not been named, was killed in an explosion near a military base in Kabul. Four other troops were injured. The Taleban said it was behind the attack and claimed the bomber was a British national.

U.S. planning al Qaeda offensive in Pakistan

Wednesday January 28, 05:29 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is making plans for an offensive that would reach inside Pakistan in coming months to try to destroy operations of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The newspaper, in a report from Washington citing military sources, said the plans involved thousands of U.S. troops, some of them already in neighbouring Afghanistan. [...]

The newspaper said the U.S. plans were driven partly by concerns over two assassination attempts last month against Musharraf, whose cooperation has been vital to U.S. anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan and who is seen in Washington as a force for stability in the volatile region. [...]

Comment: The reason for the "near miss" assassination attempts on Musharraf is now clear.

Legality questions over EU passport

Proposals for a high-tech European Union passport are facing legal questions as the clock ticks on a US October security deadline for travel documents. Plans for the 'biometric' identity document – recording a “a measurable physiological or behavioural trait of a living person” – are to be discussed at a meeting of justice ministers on February 19 after winning the backing of Europe’s leaders at last year’s Thessaloniki summit [...]

Wall of fog plan to protect nuclear plant
12:00 Thursday 29th January 2004

German authorities are planning to use artificial fog to protect a nuclear power plant against terrorist attacks. [...]

U.S. to Start Airline Background Checks

By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer
January 27, 2004

WASHINGTON - Homeland Security officials say a government plan to check all airline passengers' backgrounds before they board a plane could be implemented by this summer.

It's such an urgent priority that the government will order airlines to provide background information on their customers to test the program, Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson said Monday. [...]

Screening some foreigners after fingerprinting and photographing them already has resulted in 70 people being stopped from entering the country, although the foreigners-only program is only three weeks old, Hutchinson said.

Though none was a terrorist suspect, Hutchinson said the program, called US-VISIT, proved its ability to spot people trying to use fraudulent immigration documents to gain entry, he said. [...]

Comment: Step by step, little by little, the doors are being closed and sealed from the outside. How many Americans will be surprised when they discover to their horror that the doors cannot be opened because there aren't any keys - or even locks, for that matter.

U.S. Army Plans Four-Year Boost of 30,000 Forces

By Vicki Allen
Wed Jan 28, 6:32 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Strained by operations in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army will boost its forces by 30,000 through emergency authority it expects to last four years, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told Congress on Wednesday. [...]

The Army is already about 11,000 soldiers over the 482,000 troop limit authorized by Congress under the emergency provision the Pentagon invoked, largely through "stop-loss" orders that block soldiers from leaving or retiring and through re-enlistment incentives. [...]

He said money for the additional troops would come from the $87 billion emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan Congress passed in November.

Schoomaker said he wanted the additional troops to be incorporated into the Army's efforts to transform itself into a lighter, more mobile force for post-Cold War conflicts. [...]

Comment: Adding 30,000 troops is part of the effort to reduce the size of the armed forces?! It should be obvious by now that statements of a "leaner, meaner" military are only meant to quell America's fear of a return of the draft.

U.S. Rethinks Konanykhin Case

By Catherine Belton
Staff Writer
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004. Page 2

The U.S. Justice Department late Tuesday reversed a decision to deport controversial former banker Alexander Konanykhin back to Russia and said it would reopen hearings into his political asylum case.

[...] Konanykhin arrived in the United States in 1992 to run banking operations for Khodorkovsky there. He claims the attempt to deport him to Russia could be connected to the legal campaign against Khodorkovsky, which many in Moscow see as part of a political power battle between President Vladimir Putin and the businessman.

The Kremlin's Harmful but Beautiful Insect

By Anna Dolgov
Special to The Moscow Times
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004. Page 1

It's the country's last major broadcaster of independent news, a radio station that the Kremlin reportedly sees as hostile but still respects for its biting professionalism.

However, Ekho Moskvy, or Echo of Moscow, may be living on borrowed time. Its journalists, who say they are caught in constant disputes with government-linked majority shareholder Gazprom, seem ready to throw in the towel. They want to sell out their blocking stake in the station -- and with it, control over programming.

[...] With the main television networks firmly under government control and effectively acting as Kremlin mouthpieces, Ekho Moskvy remains critical of President Vladimir Putin's policies. Its survival so far seems partly due to the fact that it has some influential supporters within the Kremlin who turn to Ekho Moskvy for the news.

"They explain to President Putin that we are a harmful insect but a beautiful one," said Ekho Moskvy chief editor Alexei Venediktov, sitting in his tiny office off a hall covered with autographed photographs of the station's celebrity guests.

Independent media analysts concurred with Venediktov's description.

"They are now a serious and even unique radio station, and a much-needed one," said Yasen Zasursky, the dean of journalism school at the Moscow State University.

"I think that any person interested in the real spectrum of moods in society tunes in to this radio. For those who only want to hear praise, it is not a good source, but for those who want a real picture of events, this radio provides a great deal," he said.

Zimbabwe passes bill to make farm seizures easier

Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu(PF) party has pushed controversial land law amendments through parliament making it easier to seize white-owned farms for blacks, the official Herald newspaper reported today.

The move, made possible by the parliamentary majority wielded by President Robert Mugabe's party, overrides objections from a legal committee that the changes were unconstitutional. The government says the amendments will "consolidate the gains of land reform and remove bottlenecks in land acquisition".

Meet the homeland security blimp, flying high by 2006.

by Matthew Stibbe
Popular Science
February 2004

Being oversize has its advantages. Just ask researchers at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which recently dished out $40 million to arms maker Lockheed Martin to design what could soon be the world's largest pilotless airship. Measuring 500 feet long, with a volume of 5.2 million cubic feet, the prototype high-altitude airship, or HAA, will be 25 times larger than the Goodyear blimp.

[P]arked 12 miles up, it will be immune to most ground-launched missiles, and its onboard sensor systems will "see" at least 350 miles in any direction, allowing it to spy most incoming military threats. A fleet of 10, says the MDA, could provide an early-warning curtain for the continental United States.

[B]ig advantage: HAA's solar panels and fuel cells will allow it to loiter above the jet stream in a geostationary position for up to a year, something no drone or spy plane can do. [...]

"Where do we hide," Kevin said, " when an immortal plasmate which knows everything and is consuming the world by transubstantiation is looking for you?" - [VALIS, Philip K. Dick, Toronto, 1981]

Anyone can be a terrorist according to the current definition, so those things will more than likely be used to spy on you. Terrorism has been rampant for the last couple of generations, and is not anything new. It was just decided to bring it a little closer to home for US citizens, and to be put to "good" use. Philip writes why his writing edged toward the pessimistic:

Since science fiction concerns the future of human society, the world-wide loss of faith in science and in scientific progress is bound to cause convulsions in the SF field. This loss of faith in the idea of progress, in a "brighter tomorrow," extends over our whole cultural milieu; the dour tone of recent science fiction, not a cause. If a modern science fiction writer mirrors this sense of doom, he is only doing what any responsible writer does: If a writer feels that present-day saber-rattling and drum-beating are leading the world to war, he has no choice but to reproduce his feelings in his writings- unless he is writing purely for profit, in which case he never reproduces his feelings, only those sentiments that he feels will be commercially acceptable.

All responsible writers, to some degree, have become involuntary criers of doom, because doom is in the wind; but science fiction writers more so, since science fiction has always been a protest medium. In science fiction, a writer is not merely inclined to act out the Cassandra role; he is absolutely obliged to - unless, of course, he honestly thinks he will wake up some morning and find that the high-minded Martians have sneaked off with all our bombs and armaments, for our own good. [Pessimism in Science Fiction (1955), The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, Vintage, 1995]

Plenty of science fiction involved Mars either directly or indirectly, so does a lot of today's news. Even fast food restaurants are getting into the prediction game with bizarre promotions that involve Mars, water and giant shrimp.

NASA Says Second Mars Rover Experiencing Problems

Comment: Well, that's just shocking news...

NASA Prepares Rover to Roll Onto Mars

By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP Science Writer
January 29, 2004

PASADENA, Calif. - The Opportunity rover could roll off its lander and onto Mars as early as Sunday, giving NASA scientists more chances for exploration just days before the rover's convalescent twin, Spirit, could resume its own work. [...]

Life once existed on Mars, Australian scientists say

Australian scientists believe they have found evidence that life once existed on Mars.

They have found that microscopic fossils of primitive bacteria-like organisms in a Mars meteorite match characteristics of bacteria found in mud in Queensland.

The research is published today in the Journal of Microscopy.

One of the scientists, Dr Tony Taylor from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, says he expects his work will spark intense debate.

"The fossils that we have in the meteorite are the original material - the only difference is that you need a very high-powered electron microscope to image them, to see them and basically whenever we find these fossils here on Earth, no one ever questions they were made by bacteria," he said.

"The only difference is that it was in a meteorite from Mars."

Dr Taylor says he has found enough evidence of life on Mars to warrant a manned mission to the red planet and that more samples must now be collected from Mars for further investigation.

"We've now got enough evidence to warrant a sample retrieval mission and I believe it's going to be a matter of developing the technology to get authentic pieces of Mars back here on Earth where we can subject them to the really high-tech high resolution instruments that you can't possibly put on Mars," he said.

Comment: Are we slowly being conditioned for some announcement? Although, these kinds of announcements aren't really anything new.

Back in 1961 scientists from the US announced that they had discovered traces of an organic substance in the internal portions of a stony meteorite that had fallen in Kentucky, and then moved on to testing other meteorites from museums. They reported further discoveries of microscopic organisms even with controls in place that determined that they were not contaminated with terrestrial organisms.

Even earlier, 1924, to be exact, a well organized program had been set up to intercept transmissions from Mars. Amateur, military and government radio stations closed down their transmitters to listen during a particularly close Martian orbit. They weren't disappointed, and freak signals of unidentifiable origin were reported all over the world. You can read more about this world wide experiment in John Keel's Our Haunted Planet. Headlines everywhere documented this experiment, and a New York Times article described the message: "[...] at evenly spaced intervals are curiously jumbled groups, each taking the form of a crudely drawn human face."

As you can tell from BBC's history of Mars exploration timeline, we have been subjected to Mars photos and stories for a long time now.

The next few articles really need no commentary to justify their inclusion in this little sci-fi themed section:

A Quantitative Model of Seminal Cognition: The Creativity Machine Paradigm (US Patent 5,659,666)

What If A Personal Computer Knew How Its User Is Feeling? Desktop Computers To Counsel Users To Make Better Decisions

Mood Ring Measured in Megahertz

By Michelle Delio
Wired News
02:00 AM Jan. 29, 2004 PT

Your computer -- that auxiliary brain that lives outside your skull -- soon may be issuing public updates on what's happening inside your body.

Using tiny sensors, transmitters and some software, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have turned personal computers into advanced polygraph machines that they say are capable of monitoring people's emotions and abilities.

Here's how it would work: You're in a meeting, and each person in attendance is hooked up to a computer that's monitoring their perspiration and heartbeat, reading their facial expressions and head motions, analyzing their voice tones and then presenting them with a running account of how they are feeling. This information will also be transmitted to everyone else in the meeting.

Talking too much? A pop-up window appears on the screen to tell you to shut up. Feeling edgy? A message reminds you to calm down. Got a big account or project to assign? Scan the feed to see which employee is feeling the perkiest that morning.

The idea, according to Peter Merkle, who heads the Mentor/PAL program at Sandia, is to develop ways to understand and improve human performance, particularly in military or other high-risk situations.

"The future of human-machine systems can be a bright one, if we develop technology that enables us to be more fully human," Merkle said. [...]

Merkle pointed out that Mentor/PAL is being developed primarily for military use, for situations where people are making high-consequence decisions.

"Professionals like soldiers in Special Forces units and technical professionals in positions of high trust in the homeland security community must give up degrees of personal privacy in exchange for the privilege of serving others," said Merkle. [...]

Are we meant to believe that technology that will essentially allow others to control our emotional states will make us more human? Furthermore, the idea that soldiers or homeland security agents must sacrifice personal freedoms in order to fight terrorists - who allegedly want to destroy those same freedoms - is preposterous.

Korean Cell Phone is Mobile Media Player
with Mysterious "Mind Control" Option

Sweet Dreams Made by Machine

By Louise Knapp
Wired News
02:00 AM Jan. 23, 2004 PT

A new gadget designed to help people shape their nightly slumber means dreams could be full of whatever the sleeper desires -- whether it be a date with a movie star or winning gold at the Olympics.

Standing 35 inches tall, the supposed nightmare banisher has been dubbed Yumemi Kobo -- Japanese for "dream workshop" -- by its creator, Japanese toymaker Takara.

The dream machine comes equipped with a voice recorder, array of lights, picture frame, fragrance dispenser, selection of internally stored background music, two speakers and a timer.

Working in conjunction, these components allow users to design their dreams through multisensory stimuli of scents, sounds and more.

"The general concept is you'd sit down with it for a few minutes before you go to bed," said Peter Harwood, senior marketing manager with Takara USA. Once this is done, he added, you are ready to visit Venice in your dreams. [...]

"An excellent therapist I once knew made the point that in almost all cases of criminal psychotic acting-out there was an easier alternative the disturbed person overlooked. [...] the psychotic person actually chooses the more difficult path; he forces his way uphill. It is not true that he takes the line of least resistance, but he thinks that he does. There, precisely, lies his error. The basis of psychosis in a nutshell, is the chronic inability to see the easy way out. All the behavior, all that constitutes psychotic activity and the psychotic lifestyle, stems from this perceptual flaw.[...]" [Strange Memories of Death, The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, Vintage, 1995]

A good point, and one could make a good case that a lot of current sociopolitical decisions and technological "advancements" come straight from the psychotic.

Fence plan for federal campus draws fire

By Marcos Mocine-McQueen
Denver Post Staff Writer

BOULDER - Plans to fence in a large portion of a campus that houses several federal buildings have drawn strong criticism from many, including a member of the City Council and some employees the fence is supposed to protect.

The plan, which was presented to the public on Wednesday, calls for a fence around 85 acres of the campus that houses the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The barrier is needed, according to federal officials, to protect the people and equipment on the campus. [...]

Physicists Study Mad Cow-type Diseases

Using math and physics to investigate mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) and similar diseases caused by infectious proteins called prions is the aim of research by physicists Daniel Cox, Rajiv Singh and colleagues at UC Davis. The researchers are using mathematical models to study issues such as the incubation time, prion "strains" and treatment or detection strategies. [...]

Comment: Interesting, since no one has actually proven that the prion exists and a prion has never been seen.

First US Tuberculosis Vaccine Trial In 60 Years Begins

NIH/National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases

A new vaccine, made with several proteins from the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB), will soon enter the first phase of human safety testing. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has supported research on the candidate vaccine from its earliest stages. The trial will be conducted in the United States by Seattle biotechnology company Corixa and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, a vaccine manufacturer headquartered in Belgium.

"This is the first recombinant tuberculosis vaccine to reach human trials in the United States," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Indeed, this is the first new TB vaccine to be tested in our country in more than 60 years. This candidate vaccine, as well as other novel products emerging from the TB research and development pipeline, offers hope for reducing the burden of a disease that claims approximately two million lives each year." [...]

Inuit changed Arctic ecosystem long before Europeans: study

Last Updated Wed, 28 Jan 2004 13:14:29

KINGSTON, ONT. - The hunting practices of prehistoric Inuit whalers dramatically changed an Arctic pond ecosystem, long before European settlers arrived on the scene, according to a new study by Canadian scientists.

Although it's commonly assumed that High Arctic lakes and ponds were pristine before the arrival of Europeans, the study of Somerset Island, Nunavut by researchers from four Canadian universities suggest that may not be true.

"Our findings are an example of a long-term human intervention in a place where you really don't expect it," said Prof. John Smol, a Queen's University biology professor and Canada research chair in environmental change.

Since most native peoples led a nomadic life in a sparsely populated territory, scientists also thought their ancient activities didn't cause many changes to the environment.

But the new study of the region about 890 kilometres west of Baffin Island paints a different picture.

Comment: This article leaves the impression that things today are as they were: man leaves his traces in the environment. It states that the remains of about 125 whales were found near a single pond. The effects of the decomposition of this whale can been seen through samples taken under the lake bottom. This number of whales would represent about 20-25 years hunting for one group of Inuit. After which, they would leave and find another spot. Given the sparse population, by moving this way, the environment would have a chance to recover from the effects of man. The article doesn't mention this point.

Today the situation is different. There is no where to go and live while the earth recovers. The article doesn't mention this point. This silence creates the impression that man affected the environment then; he effects it now; so what.

The earth is more than capable of taking care of itself. However, what is a cure for the earth may be deadly for man.

Magnitude 6.7 Earthquake in Seram, Indonesia

Moderate Quake Jolts Southern Iran

TEHRAN, Iran - A moderate earthquake jolted the southern Iranian town of Minab on Wednesday, but caused no damage or casualties, the local governor said.

The quake was estimated at magnitude 5, Gov. Ali Khorramnasab told The Associated Press. The U.S. Geological Survey said it struck about 12:36 p.m., and it put the magnitude at 5.4.

The U.S agency said the quake was centered 16 miles underground near Minab, about 700 miles south-southeast of Tehran. [...]

Shaking might not be from quaking

Associated Press

RAPID CITY, S.D. -Experts aren't sure if it was an earthquake that caused some shaking and a loud sound west of Rapid City about 9 p.m. Friday.

The Pennington County Sheriff's Office took calls from about 20 people asking about the noise. The sound lasted about 10 seconds.

The National Weather Service checked with the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado. Officials there said the event registered a 1.8 on its seismic equipment, a very mild earthquake - if that's what it was.
A National Weather Service official, meteorologist Susan Sanders of Rapid City, said the experts didn't think it was caused by an earthquake but that they also didn't suggest what might be the cause. There was no storm, and the noise didn't sound like a sonic boom, she said.

"There was a little bit of shaking, but it was the noise that really got our attention. It sounded like an airplane coming toward the house," Sanders said.

There have been some recent earthquakes in the region. On Jan. 4, a 2.8-magnitude quake was recorded in northeastern Wyoming. And last May, an earthquake that registered a 4.4 was noted near Pine Ridge.

Comment: There is an abundance of strange little stories like this one, that receive little or no further investigation, and are quick to disappear from mass consciousness. All the better to preserve the current consensus reality.

Couple buried 21 hours in car

Jan. 29, 2004. 01:00 AM

L'ANSE-AU-CLAIR, Nfld.—A Quebec man whose car was buried under two metres of snow in a Labrador blizzard says he had resigned himself to death in the darkness.

Giant snowball stops Dutch train

Ice Knocks Out Power Along East Coast

By ROGER PETTERSON, Associated Press Writer
January 27, 2004

A storm carrying the threat of heavy snow for the Northeast coated a wide swath of the East Coast in ice Tuesday, stopping trains, closing schools and courts, and knocking out electricity to a quarter-million people.

At least 46 deaths have been blamed on snow, ice and cold from Kansas to the Carolinas since the weekend. [...]

Snow Storm Cancels Hundreds of New York Flights

By Grant McCool
Wed Jan 28,12:24 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Up to a foot of snow blanketed the New York metropolitan area on Wednesday, forcing officials to cancel hundreds of flights and close schools in a region already chilled by freezing temperatures and above-average snowfall. [...]

56 dead, 6,800 left homeless in flooding in Brazil

Illegal immigrant caught working at illegal immigrant centre

Mysterious creature baffles officials

[...] "What I saw in the video did not look that dangerous to me," he said, "but I don't know what it is. ... I just don't think we're dealing with a leopard or a jaguar. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's a cross of something that we've never seen." [...]

Baby bites snake

A baby boy has bitten a snake after it slithered out of a bag of potatoes his mother bought while shopping.

Toni Barnard bought the bag at a local Wal-Mart store in Semes, Alabama, according to reports in the Mobile Register.

She said the snake appeared after she brought her shopping home and was putting it away. When she turned her back her 11-month-old son Trevor grabbed the snake, put it in his mouth and took a bite.

Comment: Not quite the "man bites dog" story, but close enough.

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