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Sunday, February 1, 2004

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Picture of the Day

Sunset after a storm in Gers
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Today we wanted to talk a little about magic, or rather the belief in magic. Belief in magic is so widespread it could very well be considered an epidemic. Don't call the CDC (Center for Disease Control) just yet, since they are rather busy convincing you of magical prions and magical inoculations.

Yesterday, we posted a link to the BBC story Christian foot soldiers battle for Bush. The author somehow located what he considers a typical, fundamentalist, Republican, Christian family who support Bush. This same family would surely scoff at the howling pagan savages, but there is so much magical thinking in their statements of belief that, showing up at the oracle for prognostications is surely no match on the magical scale for the powers in which they believe.

It appears evident that the family believes that preventing gay marriages will somehow help the US get back on the moral track. Gay men disappearing all together would be an even greater victory. Such a belief is rather flattering to a great many of that persuasion, we are sure, since gay men most likely have no idea that the moral orientation of an entire country with a population of 300 million, give or take a few million, was on their shoulders.

10,000 Iraqis dead, our bodies and planet full of toxins and radiation thanks to the psychopaths in the multi-national corporations, perpetual war, and diminishing freedoms, but somehow if the US prevents same sex unions, it will be a victory and a step toward morality. This is magical thinking.

The family also expressed views in support of "homeland security" and in doing so subscribe to the belief that the very essence of "evil" - that eons-old archetype - can be eradicated through the enforcement of the whimsical set of man-made values that makes up the western democratic ethos. This too is magical thinking.

We don't want to pick on these people. We prefer to not make fun of anyone's religion, and we are not making fun of their beliefs. We are all guilty of magical thinking. This thinking is exploited in advertising, and more than likely most of us will engage in it today, if it is not actually a constant presence in our lives.

The if-then statement is one sign to look out for. An example, 'If I just had this lap top computer, then I could write.' Perhaps magic is not explicitly stated, but it is there lurking about. The statement confers magical powers to the lap top, as if it had become one of the muses. Perhaps we could plausibly deny that we actually believe that a new computer will greatly increase our writing ability. But, if we are not using the tools available now, instead deferring any writing while we hold out for the big prize, then we have certainly imbued the computer with magical powers. Indeed, if we have no paper and pen, desk top computer, typewriter, etc. then we do need some sort of tool and appropriate actions should be taken immediately.

Here is how the magic "works": If something outside of myself would change, then it would result in some kind of action that is beneficial to me. For example, "if wife, husband, sibling, or friend would change, then I would be happy and could do what I am supposed to do in life." What characterizes this type of thinking is that it relies on outside forces, just like calling down spirits in some ritualistic frenzy to come do one's bidding and alter reality to better suit our wants and desires. Magical thinking impedes our abilities to see what is, to take responsibility for our lives and to make choices based on an expanded awareness.

Instead of seeing the world in black and white, we need to take into account its complexity. Often if-then statements are true, if there is a direct causality between the two items of discussion. "If it would stop raining, then I would start to dry." Sometimes it is not so easy to determine causality.

"If the US captures Saddam Hussein, then the world will be a safer place." Was Saddam responsible for so many of the world's ills, that by simply removing him from power, freedom and democracy improved? Obviously this was not true. George Bush was asking us to believe in magic. Now they have announced the imminent capture of Osama bin Laden. A ridiculous thing to do, since he has been warned and can hightail it out of his cave from which he is masterminding one of the world's mightiest terrorist organizations. George Bush is exploiting the majorities belief in magic for his regime's own ends. The Bush Reich is probably planning the "capture" of Osama just before the election, making its re-election a foregone conclusion.

Rove and gang have been carefully imbuing Osama with magical properties in a world wide propaganda campaign. "If we catch Osama then we have stopped al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is responsible for the majority of terrorism. You will be safer." We doubt it. But, then we don't believe in magic.

SuperBowl Brainwashing

By Paul Campos

This Sunday, the more than 100 million Americans watching the Super Bowl will see advertisements encouraging them to buy no less than three different drugs designed to combat erectile dysfunction.

They will see ads paid for by tobacco litigation money -- which is to say by smokers -- and brought to us by the officious busybodies at the American Legacy Foundation. (The ALF is responsible for those obnoxious ads that assume Americans are such idiots that we need to be bombarded with reminders that cigarette smoking is bad for our health.)

The Super Bowl audience will be implored to buy gas-guzzling cars and brain-numbing beer, and more generally to consume mass quantities of stuff. What they will not see is an award-winning ad that criticizes the Bush administration. The advertisement, created by Charlie Fisher of Denver, is, as political ads go, exceptionally understated.

The 30-second spot features a montage of several small children shown working at the sorts of jobs they are likely to be doing decades from now, while guitar music strums peacefully in the background. The screen is then filled with this message: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?"

This ad was rejected by CBS, which is broadcasting the Super Bowl, as "too controversial." (My brother, who let me know about this controversy, speculates that the decision is based on the Roman law doctrine that "there is to be no criticism of the Emperor during the Circus.")

This egregious bit of censorship is made all the more obnoxious by the fact that CBS will air an advertisement during the game from the White House's own Office of Drug Policy, which, in appropriately Orwellian fashion, will encourage teenagers to rat out their pot- smoking friends to Big Brother.

The White House's ad follows on the heels of the Office of Drug Policy's memorable 2002 Super Bowl advertisement, which claimed that people who use drugs (not, apparently, including erectile dysfunction drugs) are supporting terrorism. That particularly idiotic moment in the war on drugs wasn't too "controversial" to be unleashed on the public during America's annual pigskin pageant.

Some readers may remember that, in the wake of the 2002 ad, a group led by Arianna Huffington sponsored advertisements suggesting that people who drive SUVs are supporting terrorism: a claim that actually isn't quite as absurd as the claim made in the earlier White House ad. Several television stations declined to run these ads, on the grounds that they were-- you guessed it -- "too controversial."

Decisions of this sort are more than monuments to hypocrisy and double standards. Because those who have the right to broadcast over them have in effect a monopoly on the television airwaves, the television networks are regulated closely by the federal government. By law, the networks hold their broadcast rights in trust, and are thus obligated to do business in a way that is mindful of the public interest.

CBS doesn't serve the public interest when it rejects an otherwise appropriate advertisement because, in the opinion of the network's managers, the ad's message is too politically controversial. This is especially the case when the network broadcasts equally controversial political advertisements during the same program for which the rejected ad was intended.

Given that CBS is regulated so heavily, and that indeed at this moment major legislation is pending that critics argue will unduly enhance the network's market share, is it possible that "too politically controversial" really means "harmful to CBS's corporate interests?" One need not be a cynic to suspect that, as a great American journalist used to put it, "that's the way it is."

'Queer Eye' for Big Brother

By Susan Murray
January 28, 2004

When Congress passed the Patriot Act in October 2001, civil libertarians soundly criticized several provisions of the legislation, including its expansion of the government's surveillance authority. But while opponents of the law directed their outrage toward Washington, across the nation resistance to governmental intrusion was slowly being sapped by an unlikely source: reality television.

By reality TV, I don't mean C-SPAN's coverage of Congress. Rather, it's programs such as "Survivor" and "Joe Millionaire" (which scores of Americans watch for dating tips and a soap opera-like fantasy) that soften us up to accept increasing levels of governmental surveillance and that chip away at our belief in the sanctity of privacy. Strange as it sounds, " Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" may be doing some of John D. Ashcroft's dirty work.

As most of us are well aware by now, surveillance cameras are everywhere. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union found that as early as 1998, about 2,400 cameras were recording New Yorkers in a multitude of parks, stores and other public places. Recent estimates say the number of cameras has reached 7,200. In addition, the Total Information Awareness program, the brainchild of John Poindexter, once national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, promised to protect Americans by electronically tracking their every movement. Although Congress eventually scaled back the project's reach, its initial goals and its logo (an eye fixed on the globe) are chilling. Even more frightening, the U.S. government has begun scanning fingerprints and taking photographs of arriving foreigners.

We don't immediately think of reality television -- with its ever-present cameras and microphones -- in relation to the larger context of government surveillance. Perhaps this is because, in a post-Sept. 11 era, the recording and watching of others -- and ourselves -- has become a component of our everyday lives.

But reality TV does play a crucial role in mitigating our resistance to such surveillance tactics. More and more of these programs rely on the willingness of "ordinary" folk to live their lives in front of cameras. These people choose to have sex, get married, give birth, compete for prizes, work, fight, weep and brush their teeth in front of millions. We, as audience members, witness this openness to surveillance, normalize it and, in turn, open ourselves up to such a possibility.

Some of us have a desire to become reality TV celebrities; others set up a blog or a webcam. Many of the rest of us just allow video cameras and computers to follow our every movement through city streets, stores, subway stations, schools and apartment buildings. Most of us don't protest or even think about such everyday tracking. We may even take it a step further by engaging in a policing or monitoring of our own behavior -- whether or not we know cameras are present -- as we grow conscious of the fact that even the tiniest detail of an individual's life can be considered so socially significant as to warrant recording or broadcasting.

Certainly most of us want to believe that we would never actually choose to go on a reality program ourselves. Yet our collective fascination with the genre validates the decision of those who choose to do so. We long to watch people in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances so we can compare their lives and decisions to our own while simultaneously feeling the power that comes with being an observer. But we must realize that by participating in the process, we are entering into a tacit agreement to redefine our relationship to privacy. We can't all be watchers without eventually subjecting ourselves to being watched -- just as we can't expect that the surveillance techniques protected by the Patriot Act will negatively affect only those who pose a genuine threat to us.

At a time when the government is asking us to open our lives to scrutiny in the name of national security, we should be aware of all the ways in which we've already exposed ourselves to observation.

Comment: Reality, it seems, is a very subtle thing. Far from being defined and clear cut as most might assume, there is apparently no end to the illusions within which we can wrap ourselves, shielding us from the truth. Modern western society has apparently been tailored to facilitate and enhance the human tendency for escape into unreality. Can we believe that it is mere coincidence that society is structured in this way? If it is unlikely to be a coincidence, then what is the goal of the forces behind such a push? Machiavelli comes to mind. Someone somewhere, it appears, understands very well what human nature is all about, much more so than the average human being. They do not need to force the population to do anything, instead they simply use their in depth knowledge of human nature to create the right environment, where people will literally ask for that which might well spell their doom.

Life is religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts with 'God'. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the 'past.' People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the 'Future.'

Airline Program has ‘Slave’ Overtones

The proposed computerized federal airline security system that would require passengers to present identification, undergo a background check and be color-coded, based on their perceived risk, harkens back to slave laws that prevented Blacks from traveling, says a Harvard University researcher who specializes in privacy issues. “What this is really reminiscent of is what happened on plantations during slavery when Black people or persons of color had to have passes in order to travel,” says Richard Sobel, a privacy policy researcher at the Harvard Medical School. “Essentially, the 13th Amendment ended involuntary servitude, but when you have to ask the government’s permission to do certain things such as to travel or to work, you are no longer your own person.”

MATRIX - A Dossier for Every Person in Utah

"According to the Deseret Morning News former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt signed Utah's 2.4 million residents up for a pilot program that gathers dossiers on every single man, woman and child and didn't bother to tell anyone. According to the article MATRIX -- Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange ...cross-references government records from both public and private databases, putting together a dossier on individuals for use by law enforcement.' The state's homeland security specialist dismisses concerns: '...any data gleaned for Utah's participation in MATRIX is information already available to law enforcement.' The Utah legislature is trying to figure out how to get the state out of the program but the question is how was the Governor able to enroll the -whole state- without anyone knowing?"

U.N. influence in U.S. schools

By Henry Lamb
January 26, 2004

Since its beginning, the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization has been trying to impose an international curriculum to prepare students for world government. More than 500 U.S. schools are now using the International Baccalaureate program, and the Department of Education has just awarded a $1.2 million grant to expand the program in middle schools in Arizona, Massachusetts and New York.

In one of its first efforts in 1949, the UNESCO textbook, titled "Toward World Understanding," used to teach teachers what to teach, said:

"As long as the child breathes the poisoned air of nationalism, education in world-mindedness can produce only rather precarious results. As we have pointed out, it is frequently the family that infects the child with extreme nationalism."

In the 1960s, Dr. Robert Muller, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General, prepared a "World Core Curriculum." Its first goal:

"Assisting the child in becoming an integrated individual who can deal with personal experience while seeing himself as a part of 'the greater whole.' In other words, promote growth of the group idea, so that group good, group understanding, group interrelations and group goodwill replace all limited, self-centered objectives, leading to group consciousness."

The U.N.'s global education program took a major step in 1968, when UNESCO provided the funding to create the International Baccalaureate Organization, a non-government organization, in Geneva, Switzerland. The IBO is now providing the curriculum for 33,000 teachers in nearly 1500 schools around the world, 55 of which are middle schools in the Washington D.C. area.

UNESCO says the IB curriculum promotes human rights, social justice, sustainable development, population, health, environmental and immigration concerns.

"We're living on a planet that is becoming exhausted," says George Walker, IB's director-general in Geneva. "The program remains committed to changing children's values so they think globally, rather than in parochial national terms from their own country's viewpoint." [...]

The goals and methods of the IB program reach much further than the 502 U.S. schools now officially enrolled. The Center for Civic Education, which, by law, writes the curriculum for civics education in the United States, says:

"In the past century, the civic mission of schools was education for democracy in a sovereign state. In this century, by contrast, education will become everywhere more global. And we ought to improve our curricular frameworks and standards for a world transformed by globally accepted and internationally transcendent principles."

This global influence can be clearly seen in the new mission for the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies:

"The United States and its democracy are constantly evolving and in continuous need of citizens who can adapt to meet the changing circumstances. Meeting that need is the mission of social studies. Students should be helped to construct a pluralist perspective based on diversity [and] should be helped to construct a global perspective."

A critical review of "We the People; the Citizen and the Constitution," a civics textbook written by the Center for Civics Education, reveals that the teaching of historical facts is replaced with teaching attitudes and values about multi-culturalism and world-mindedness. A review of science, and even math texts, reveals that sustainable development, environmental protection and social justice dominate the material children are taught.

No longer are American children learning about the structure of a federal republic compared to a parliamentary democracy. No longer are children learning the difference between capitalism and socialism. No longer are children being taught why the United States became the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known.

Instead, they are being taught that with less than 5% of the world's population, the U.S. uses 25% of the world's resources and produces 25% of the world's pollution. They are being taught that the U.S. is the #1 terrorist nation. They are being taught that the rest of the world is mired in poverty because of the greedy capitalists in the United States.

Comment: Children in America and beyond have never been taught why the US became the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known, but the last paragraph above gives one or two clues as to the answer.

The secret society that ties Bush and Kerry

The Telegraph

Revelations that leading candidates for the US presidency were "Skull and Bones" members have provoked claims of elitism. Charles Laurence reports from New York

The "tomb" stands dark and hulking at the heart of the Yale University campus, almost windowless, and shuttered and padlocked in the thick snow of winter storms.

Built to mimic a Greco-Egyptian temple, it is the headquarters of the Order of the Skull and Bones, America's most elite and elusive secret society - and it has become the unlikely focus of this year's presidential election. It turns out that four leading contestants for the White House in November's election were 1960s undergraduates at Yale: President Bush and Democratic rivals Governor Howard Dean, Sen John Kerry and Sen Joseph Lieberman. [...]

Ground Zero

By Chris Floyd

A man in Lawrence, Kansas walks into a day-care center. He has a gun in his pocket but nobody sees it. He goes up to the second floor, where the preschool kids are having their afternoon snack of cookies and juice.

He pulls out the gun and shoots a little boy in the head, leaving his face a mass of bone-flecked goo. Then he fires into the chest of the girl in the next chair; she dies still clutching the stuffed rabbit she brings with her every day. Another boy is hit while running for the door. The man is using special bullets, tipped with depleted uranium; the shot explodes the boy's shoulder in a spray of red mist and sends his gangly body hurtling down the concrete stairwell.

A day-care worker grabs the man, tries to wrestle him down. He turns, jams the gun barrel against her womb and fires. She dies, eviscerated, clinging to his shoulders. The other children have run away screaming, except for one little girl who's fallen in the slick of blood. She tries to scramble to her feet, slips again, can't find her footing, claws at the floor in a wild panic. The man fires into her back, obliterating her spine, the heavy bullet drilling through the polished wood below.

The room is filled with smoke and the sharp tang of freshly gutted meat. The man takes a desultory look around, shrugs his shoulders, then sits down on the snack table. When the police come and ask him why he did it, he answers forthrightly, without a shred of guilt or unease, as if it were the most natural thing in the world:

"Somebody said the guy who runs this place might attack me someday. I had questions that needed to be answered: Did he have a gun or a knife -- or nothing? We must be prepared to face our responsibilities and be willing to use force if necessary."

The cops roll their eyes -- another nutball. "So," says an officer, humoring him, "did he have any weapons?"

The killer shakes his head. "Nah, don't look like it. But he could have had some. What's the difference? -- Say, you fellas aren't going to lock me up, are you? It was an honest mistake. I just got bad advice, that's all."

This fable is the precise moral equivalent of the Bush Regime's murderous misadventure in Iraq. Last week, the Regime's own duly-appointed, CIA-paid weapons hunter, David Kay, finally coughed up a dinosaur-sized bone and admitted, openly, publicly, what the sane world has long known: that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction before the war -- and in fact hadn't had any since George Bush Senior stopped supplying Saddam Hussein with the money and material to make them many years ago.

The existence of Iraqi WMD and the dire threat it posed to America and the world was the publicly stated cause for the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. The utter falsity of this claim has now been established beyond rational dispute. Likewise, it is impossible for a rational person to believe that, in the absence of any real weapons, a substantial body of credible "evidence" for this phantom stockpile could have been amassed by the Anglo-American intelligence services. You can't have real evidence of something that isn't there.

Thus we come to this unavoidable conclusion: The Bush Regime launched a war of aggression on the basis of evidence that had to be, by its very nature, insubstantial, insufficient, false. That's the only kind of evidence they could have had. What does this mean? It means they have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of children -- blown them to pieces, shot them, crushed them, terrorized them, rendered them into hunks of rotting meat -- in an act of moral insanity no different than that of a nutball in Lawrence, Kansas, shooting up a day-care center to "protect" himself from imaginary threats.

And they've reacted to the consequences of their crime with the same kind of moral nullity. Colin Powell -- the "moderate" Bushist, we're told -- simply shrugged his shoulders at Kay's revelations. "We had questions that needed to be answered," he said, while flying to Moscow to tell the Russians they must resolve all their problems peacefully, within the strict rule of law. "What was it [Saddam had]?" mused Powell. "One hundred tons, 500 tons or zero tons" of WMD? "Was it so many liters of anthrax, 10 times that amount, or nothing?"

Nothing, as it turns out. All those children -- each one of them an individual human being, each one a unique and irreplaceable vessel of consciousness, a single coalescence of the blind, churning forces of nature into a star-point of awareness, brief but incandescent, worthy beyond measure, and every bit as valuable as any mother's tow-headed darling in Lawrence, Kansas or Crawford, Texas -- killed, eliminated, snuffed out ... for nothing. For zero.

Yet Powell dismissed these pointless killings, echoing George W. Bush's Solomonic declaration on the question of existing weapons versus hypothetical ones as a basis of war: "What's the difference?" Powell said the decision to kill the children was "based on the best intelligence we had at the time" -- intelligence that, as we've seen, could not possibly have been substantial or convincing. But who cares? We heard rumors. "We had questions." We killed children. We found nothing. We're not guilty. It was bad advice, an honest mistake.

That's all they have left as a public defense: the ravings of a man who killed for no reason, who sits in the ghoulish mire he's created and calls himself good.

Bush rejects inquiry into Iraqi WMD

Saturday 31 January 2004, 15:56 Makka Time, 12:56 GMT

President George Bush has declined to endorse calls for an independent inquiry into intelligence failures regarding Saddam Hussein's alleged cache of WMDs.

Bush's Budget Tricks Wouldn't Fly in Private Sector

Charles V. Zehren
February 1, 2004

Lloyd Silverstein worked as a senior vice president of finance at Computer Associates International Inc. when federal prosecutors say the giant software maker created 35-day months to hit sales targets.

While he was there, the company booked $1 billion in revenue from anticipated contracts. This propped up CA's stock. Silverstein kept his job.

In Washington, President George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress created a $400 billion Medicare prescription drug plan to hit political targets.

They didn't book upfront expenditures but quietly pushed the actual anticipated $2 trillion cost out to the year 2024. They did this to pump up their stock with the voters and keep their jobs.

Silverstein eventually got fired, pleaded guilty last week to lying to authorities and faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The president and members of Congress keep their jobs, rake in millions in campaign contributions, and look forward to probable re-election.


By Elise Ackerman
Mercury News
Posted on Sun, Feb. 01, 2004

Poll workers in Alameda County noticed something strange on election night in October. As a computer counted absentee ballots in the recall race, workers were stunned to see a big surge in support for a fringe candidate named John Burton.

Concerned that their new $12.7 million Diebold electronic voting system had developed a glitch, election officials turned to a company representative who happened to be on hand.

Lucky he was there. For an unknown reason, the computerized tally program had begun to award votes for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Burton, a socialist from Southern California.

[...] "My biggest concern is the lack of accountability,'' said David Dill, a Stanford University computer-science professor and a leading expert on electronic voting.

Election officials and company representatives dismiss concerns about computerized voting as overblown, citing safeguards designed to ensure the reliability of computerized voting systems.

''We have the best system available on the market. It is secure and reliable and the voting public had a wonderful experience,'' said Jesse Durazo, the registrar of voters for Santa Clara County, which uses touch-screen machines from Sequoia Voting Systems.

Comment: What are you going to do when the response to questions of reliability speaks of the voting public's "wonderful experience". Since when is the civic duty of voting for your elected representatives a question of an "experience", wonderful or not?

This is how Bush supports our troops
By cutting benefits and health care for those putting their lives on the line in Iraq

by Kenneth Norris
USA Vanguard
January 28, 2004

Do you support our troops? If so, prepare to be outraged that our commander in chief does not.

The Bush Administration's 2004 budget proposed gutting Veterans Administration (VA) services, including health care funding. Proposed cuts included: denying at least 360,000 veterans access to health care; $250 annual premiums; increased pharmacy co-payments; a 30 percent increased primary care co-payments; and increased waiting time for a first medical appointment.

Because of budgetary shortfalls, the VA suspended the enrollment of veterans not injured in service earning between $24,450 and $38,100 annually. VFW officials estimated the administration's VA budget is at least $2 billion short of meeting the demand for quality health care. [...]

Bush policies exploit Reserves

By Peter Keeler
January 30, 2004
The Johns Hopkins News-Letter

Imagine being a member of the Reserves: You've spent your time in boot camp: one weekend a month, every month. In return, you expect that should the military have a sudden, urgent need for more soldiers, you might have to drop everything in your life and go serve, but the odds of that happening are low.

Unfortunately, the chances that you'll get called up now have escalated dramatically, because the army got sent into a war without adequate preparation.

So you get called up. You have to serve, so you do -- except that if you spent 180 days on duty, they'd have to give you benefits like a career soldier, so you get pulled out and sent home on day 179. When you get home, you find that your private business has collapsed without you and your benefits as a veteran have been cut.

Sounds like a pretty raw deal that might give you some second thoughts about re-enlisting in the reserves? You wouldn't be the only one. It's just not a good deal anymore to sign up: a reservist can't count on being a "Weekend Warrior' anymore. Reserves are supposed to be for filling in emergency gaps, or providing specialized services. They're not for being thrown into combat to make up for an unconscionable lack of post-war planning.

According to a recent article by Dave Moniz in last Friday's USA Today, the rate of reservists choosing not to re-enlist is expected to jump by 25 to almost 38 percent over last year's rate. The numbers might be even higher, were it not for a "stop-loss order" issued by the army, prohibiting soldiers from leaving at the end of their term of service. They can get sent back home or to base, but are required to remain available to be pulled right back. The purpose of stop-loss orders is, just like the reserves themselves -- to preserve military readiness in times of national emergency -- and these orders are being abused.

High-ranking military officials have been expressing worry in recent days about the negative effects that President Bush's war policies are having on the national Reserves. Recruitment numbers are down, re-enlistment numbers are expected to decline and without some new incentives, officials will have a hard time reversing those trends. [...]

Bush OK's Independent Probe of Prewar Intelligence

By Dana Milbank and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 31, 2004; 8:45 PM

President Bush has agreed to support an independent inquiry into the prewar intelligence that he used to assert that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, Republican and congressional sources said today.

The shift by the White House, which had previously maintained that any such inquiry should wait until a more exhaustive weapons search has been complete, came after pressure from lawmakers in both parties and from the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq.

There was no official confirmation from the White House today, but several sources in the government said Bush's announcement of support for an independent commission is imminent. Vice President Cheney has begun to call lawmakers on the intelligence committees, who have encouraged the administration to proceed with an inquiry.

Bush's shift in position represents an effort to get out in front of a potentially dangerous issue that threatens to cloud his reelection bid. An independent commission would not necessarily absolve Bush politically, congressional officials said, but it could quiet the current furor and delay calls for top-level resignations at the CIA and elsewhere until after the election, diluting the potency of the issue for Democrats. [...]

Bush gaffe in letter of thanks
10:41 Saturday 31st January 2004

George Bush dropped a clanger when he mis-spelt the title of Britain's most senior policeman in a letter of thanks. The President enjoyed his recent visit to Britain so much he wrote personally to thank Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens for keeping him safe from terrorists.

Unfortunately, the letter from the Oval Office to New Scotland Yard was addressed to the "Comissioner" of the Metropolitan Police, with the second "m" missing. It was typed on White House headed notepaper and was emblazoned with gaffe-prone Mr Bush's distinctive signature. He failed to spot the spelling error at the top of the letter before signing.

The letter read: "Dear John, Laura joins me in thanking you for the support that you and your officers provided during our visit to the United Kingdom.

"Your hard work contributed to the success of our visit. Please extend our gratitude to all who assisted."

Mr Bush's visit in November sparked a massive security operation involving the Met's Anti-Terrorist Branch, the intelligence services and the CIA. Commentators suggested the President may have brought along a team of grammar experts as the visit was noticeably gaffe free - until now.

Drug report barred by FDA:
Scientist links antidepressants to suicide in kids

Rob Waters
Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, February 1, 2004

A scientist at the Food and Drug Administration has been barred from publicly presenting his finding that several leading antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal behaviors among children, according to sources inside the FDA.

FDA medical officer Andrew Mosholder was to present his report Monday at an FDA advisory hearing in Washington that promises to be a contentious affair involving competing medical experts and parents whose children took their own lives while on the medications. [...]

Time waits for all mankind

The Telegraph

[...] Scientists are still arguing about time travel, even if it was first given serious lab cred decades ago - in 1949 - by the great logician Kurt Godel while considering a rotating universe. Godel used the general theory of relativity (which tells you how to change the shape of a blend of space and time called spacetime and is the descendant of Einstein's special theory) to create temporal loops: the river of time can contain whirlpools and eddy currents. Several later theorists also used general relativity this way to make short cuts through spacetime that allow journeys into the past. [...]

Grants fund consciousness studies

By Don Finley
Express-News Medical Editor

The Mind Science Foundation, founded almost a half century ago to apply scientific principles to the study of ESP and other paranormal phenomenon, is turning its attention to the mysteries of human consciousness.

The foundation has awarded grants of $15,000 to $30,000 each to seven research groups around the world, including one in San Antonio, to study consciousness, foundation officials said Thursday.

"Many departments and institutes around the world are pouring millions of dollars into mind and brain research, but there's no one else focused on putting funding into incubating consciousness research," said Joseph Dial, executive director of the foundation. [...]

Crop circles to be 'deciphered'


[...] According to Blake, crop circles have been noticed and documented in the US, Canada, Germany and other parts of the world.
Although mystery continues to surround the circles, researchers like Blake are certain they are not manmade. According to her, the circles appear overnight and sometimes within seconds.
"Sometimes, we keep vigil over a misty farm. There is poor visibility. Suddenly the mist clears and a crop circle appears over the farm from absolutely nowhere. We are convinced that these have been created by a force and energy that that we do not understand."
What makes the circles even more intriguing, is the fact that it has been scientifically proved that the circles have affected the cellular structure of plants and the chemical composition of the soil, in a positive manner.
"We have made several laboratory tests and have arrived at the conclusion that the productivity of the plants where a crop circle has been sighted, has improved significantly," says Blake.
According to her, the circles emit a powerful,mysterious energy,which is known to damage electronic equipment like cameras.

Mystery over Lagos air crash

Sunday, February 01, 2004

•Plane plunged into ocean — Residents
• We can't see any sign —Rescue team

THE nation’s emergency response was again called to question yesterday, 24 hours after a 25-seater aircraft plunged into the Atlantic Ocean at Goshen area of Lekki, as search and rescue team was yet to arrive the site.

Apart from a small boat provided by a private initiative, Hydro Divers, in collaboration with another private concern, Critical Rescue International (CRI), which combed the spot the aircraft was said to have plunged with a view to getting a clue, there was no presence of government rescue agencies.

Iraqi interim government censors press - bans Aljazeera

Iraq's US-installed interim Governing Council has prohibited Qatar-based Aljazeera satellite channel from covering its activities for one month. "Al-Jazeera was forbidden from covering from January 28 to February 27," the channel's Baghdad bureau chief, Abd al-Haq Saddah said on Saturday. "We wanted to attend the press conference by (current council president Adnan) Pachachi today but we were stopped at the door," he said. "The decision was then faxed to our headquarters in Doha," Saddah said, adding that the Governing Council took its decision based on the station's programme "Opposite Direction", which it said had criticised the interim government.

Comment: One begins to wonder if US and world leaders are not just 'having a laugh' at our expense. Perhaps one of these days Bush, while sternly mouthing dire warnings of death and destruction of biblical proportions, will pause, a large smile will spread across his face, and to the utter relief of so many he will declare, "got ya!". Well, maybe not - yet the situation has in truth descended to a farcical level when not only are big and brazen lies being told by government leaders, but little or no attempt is made to cover up those same lies. Take the above article for example. Is this the new and free Iraq? The ink on the new "Iraqi governing council" headed paper is hardly dry and already they have begun censoring the press? Is this "western democracy"? Actually, we know the answer to that already...

Iraq licenses first foreign banks

Saturday 31 January 2004, 19:54 Makka Time, 16:54 GMT

The first foreign banks to operate in Iraq for 40 years will open their doors to the banking public this year.

Iraq announced on Saturday it has awarded Britain's HSBC and Standard Chartered, and the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), the first licences given to foreign banks for 40 years.

Comment: Another shining example of how the Iraqi people are being brought into the work of rebuilding their country. Foreign banks, foreign corporations, the only aspect that is truly theirs is the continuing deaths and hardships.

Court Keeps Guantanamo Suspects Isolated

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jan 29,12:04 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court stepped in Wednesday to temporarily continue the isolation of terrorism suspects at the Navy base in Cuba.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor granted a request from the Bush administration to stop a lower court from communicating with a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [...]

Saddam Said Useful in U.S. Interrogation

By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
February 1, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - American officials have received useful information from direct interrogation of Saddam Hussein, a senior military official said Sunday.

The official would not say what the information was, but he said it allowed interrogators to confirm some suspicions and reject other information.

Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, the official said both documents and the results of questioning of Saddam have allowed the military to hunt for some people involved in attacks on U.S. troops.

He said military officials believe there are 14 cells of Saddam sympathizers in the Baghdad area and that many of them had already lost their leaders in U.S. raids. [...]

Double suicide attacks target Muslim celebrations
10:31 Sunday 1st February 2004

Two suicide bombers have blown themselves up at the offices of two rival Kurdish parties in northern Iraq.

Officials say the buildings were packed with hundreds of people celebrating a Muslim holiday, and there are many casualties.

The attacks happened at the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Irbil, about 200 miles north of Baghdad.

The two rival parties control the Kurdish-dominated provinces of northern Iraq. Hundreds had gathered at both party offices to mark the start of the four-day Eid holiday. [...]

244 people trampled to death during Saudi pilgrimage: Hajj minister

February 1, 2004

MINA, Saudi Arabia (AFP) - Two hundred and forty-four people were trampled to death and the same number injured in this valley near Mecca as pilgrims jostled to stone a pillar representing the devil, Hajj Minister Iyad Madani revealed.

Terror alert hits third airline

A third airline has grounded a flight to the US for security reasons.

Continental Airlines has cancelled Sunday's 1215 GMT flight 17 from Glasgow to Los Angeles via Newark, New Jersey.

It comes after British Airways and Air France called off five US-bound flights on Sunday and Monday, amid fears al-Qaeda may be targeting them.

A US Department of Homeland Security spokesman said: "We remain concerned about al-Qaeda's desire to target international aviation."

[...] A British Department for Transport spokesman said the decision to cancel the flights was made "in the light of information received".

He said: "Aviation security measures are adjusted from time to time, and occasional cancellations may be necessary.

"The first priority is always the safety of the travelling public."

Comment: After repeatedly cancelling British Airways and Air France flights, the boys at Homeland security must have realized it was getting to be a bit obvious: why was that nasty al Qaeda only focusing on European carriers? It seemed a little too much like a convenient business ploy to help the US airline indusry. So, they have finally brought Continental into the group of targeted carriers. You can almost hear them congratulating themselves on their cleverness.

As for the remarks of the British Department of Transport spokesman, he may even believe his own words. However, those who are looking more carefully know that the first priority is sowing confusion and a sense of insecurity. By keeping people off-balance, they can manuever them where you want.

Bin Laden alive and still in region, Afghan president says

06:33 AM EST Feb 01

KABUL (AP) - Osama bin Laden is alive and may be hiding somewhere along the Afghan border, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday.

[...] The U.S. military said this week it is confident of catching bin Laden, as well as Mullah Omar, by the end of the year.

Comment: You mean, just prior to the November US elections?

That’s What Friends Are For

Thursday January 29, 2004

BBC Director General Greg Dyke has resigned from his position following criticism of the BBC, in the Hutton Report into the death of Dr David Kelly.

Despite being one of Tony Blair’s biggest financial supporters, Dyke told reporters that his departure signalled that: "a line can be drawn under this whole episode".

According to a BBC report, an emotional Dyke told BBC staff at their central London headquarters: "I don't want to go. But if in the end you screw up you have to go."

Brave words that prompted BBC staff in several centres to walk out in support. Which only goes to show the gullibility of the average BBC employee.

Dyke’s initial appointment, together with Goldman Sach’s former chief economist Gavin Davies, who resigned from the BBC yesterday, was greeted with some scepticism. Both men were strong Blair supporters and both donated generously to Labour’s campaign coffers. Leading many to question the two regarding the BBC and its coverage of Tony Blair.

However their resignation following the publication of the Hutton Report would seem to vindicate their integrity.

Or does it?

If nothing else it certainly seems to vindicate Tony Blair. For shortly after the two resigned the BBC issued an unreserved apology to Tony Blair for its ‘errors’. So in a single day Tony Blair’s credibility was resurrected and the BBC’s journalistic independence regarding the British government, although still somewhat tarnished, was re-established.

Tony Blair and his backers couldn't have asked for more.

Indeed, such was the pace of events in the wake of the publication of the Hutton Report that some were left wondering if it hadn’t all been set up beforehand. In less than a week Tony Blair’s authority was fully restored, after weeks of being threatened by revolt from within his own party.

While the blur of controversy surrounding the resignation of two top BBC Governors, helped divert attention from mounting medical evidence that Dr David Kelly did not in fact commit suicide.

There is a devious, almost diabolical logic in all this and it cuts both ways. On the one hand those who don’t buy into it and see the report as a whitewash for Blair, may well view its criticism of the BBC as a credit to the corporation itself.

After all the BBC challenged Blair and his government and that can't be bad can it?

On the other hand many of those who are beginning to doubt the corporation’s credibility will view it as confirmation of their scepticism. And this in turn may bolster their support for Blair.

Either way Blair and the BBC both come out as winners. The only thing that doesn’t benefit from this whole charade is the truth itself.

Indeed, you could almost imagine Tony Blair earnestly congratulating Davies and Dyke for their sacrifice. He may even be doing so right now, for like they say, that’s showbiz and that’s all this is: a real political parody.

Comment: It would appear that Game Theory was used by Blair and his cohorts in resolving the problems that faced them over recent months.

No.10 intimidated BBC, says Dyke

Former BBC director general Greg Dyke has accused Downing Street of "systematically bullying" and intimidating the corporation over its coverage of the war in Iraq. Mr Dyke also released a letter he had written to Tony Blair showing the feuding between the Government and the BBC preceded the report that sparked the Hutton Inquiry. Mr Dyke said the Hutton Report "completely failed to acknowledge the pressure that Number 10 had been putting us under". He told The Sunday Times Mr Blair's former spin chief Alastair Campbell had been waging a "war of attrition" with the BBC at a time when it was trying to report a "very difficult story fairly and properly".

BBC dossier reveals fury at Hutton 'flaws'

The war between the BBC and the Government was re-ignited last night after a series of leaked documents revealed growing insistence within the corporation that there are fundamental flaws in Lord Hutton's report
. A confidential briefing document taking to task key findings by the Ulster judge reveals that executives throughout the BBC believe that the inquiry report was blatantly one-sided and took little account of the corporation's evidence.

Pakistan's top nuclear scientist sacked 2004-01-31 20:57:12

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 31 (Xinhuanet)-- Pakistani government Saturday removed Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of the country's nuclear program, from his post as an adviser to the prime minister, officials said.

The decision was made by the National Command Authority chaired by President Pervez Musharraf, which is in charge of the nation's nuclear button.

Qadeer Khan, long revered as "father of Islamic atomic bomb," has been emerged as the key suspect in the investigation launched in November after reports from the Iranian government and the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that a number of Pakistani scientists were involved in the proliferation of nuclear know-how.

Whistle blown on illegal CFC trade

The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, already a key route for the heroin trade, is being used for a new type of smuggling - chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

CFCs - chemicals found in aerosols and refrigeration equipment and considered to be responsible for depleting the ozone layer - are mostly banned under the Montreal Protocol.

Production is still allowed for "basic needs production" for developing countries to use in air conditioning equipment and refrigeration equipment. But now, a black market for Europe-produced CFCs has sprung up in some Asian countries.

[...] But he said that the main way was through the heroin trade.

"During the Taleban time, the heroin trade had completely dried up, so all smuggling had stopped of all illegal trade," he explained.

"Now, after the liberation of Afghanistan, everything is coming illegally. There is so much money to be brought back.

"The heroin goes out, they have to bring something back to this area to sell back."

He said he had pointed out his allegations to the Pakistani government, but he felt they were unwilling to look at them.

"If it wants to stop it, it will stop it - but I don't think the government wants to stop it," he said.

However, the Central Revenue Board in charge of customs in Pakistan denied it had received any information from Mr Mutuwala.

Comment: Pakistan has come in for a number of sharp criticisms recently. The chief scientist on their nuclear program was accused of leaking secrets. One wonders who wants Pakistan to look bad? We do not for a minute think that the situation in Pakistan is worse than in any other country. Corruption at high levels seems to be the rule. Therefore, if this information is made public, someone must want it out.

The other useful bit of information contained here is about the heroin trade in Afghanistan. As was widely known, the Taliban eradicated the cultivation of poppies. It was only a matter of months after the "liberation" of Afghanistan before the heroin trade was back in force. It has been suggested that intelligence agencies use the drug trade to finance their operations. Again, we do not think that there are any of these agencies that are cleaner than any other in this practice. But are we really to believe that it is China that is behind this? Or is this but another attempt to blow smoke in our eyes, to obscure the real beneficiaries?

Iran MPs resign over election ban

More than 100 Iranian MPs have resigned in protest at the barring of thousands of candidates in parliamentary elections later this month.

In a speech on behalf of fellow lawmakers - carried live on state radio - Mohsen Mirdamadi spoke of an "ugly body of dictatorship" in Iran.

President Mohammad Khatami has demanded that all those banned by the hardline Guardian Council, be reinstated.

Mass resignation among Iranian MPs

Sunday 01 February 2004, 12:30 Makka Time, 9:30 GMT

A third of Iran's parliament has tendered its resignation in protest over the mass disqualifications of reformers from upcoming parliament elections.

A group of 117 Iranian reformist members of parliament submitted resignations on Sunday to parliament or Majlis speaker Mehdi Karubi. The resignations were effective immediately.

In a joint statement read out by prominent reformist MP Mohsen Mirdamadi, the deputies said they "cannot continue to be present in a parliament that is not capable of defending the rights of the people and which is unable to prevent elections in which the nation cannot choose their representatives."

"They are in the process of removing the republican aspect from the Islamic republic, and installing an Islam comparable to that of the Taliban," the statement said in a cutting comparison of Iranian conservatives to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban group.

[...] The resignations will deny the 290-member Majlis of its required two-thirds quorum for future sessions, effectively paralysing pending national legislation such as budget.

Twin blasts rock Kurdish parties offices

Sunday 01 February 2004, 13:48 Makka Time, 10:48 GMT

Several people have been killed when two bombers detonated explosives strapped to themselves at the offices of two rival Kurdish parties in northern Iraq.

Sunday's blasts occurred at the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the northern city of Irbil. The two parties control the mainly Kurdish northern provinces.

Hundreds had gathered at both party offices to mark the start of the al-Adha feast, a major Islamic holiday.

North Korea reports 190 U.S. spy flights over territory, says attack planned

06:32 AM EST Feb 01

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea said the U.S. military conducted at least 190 spy flights over its territory in January, accusing Washington of mapping out a sudden attack.

North Korea's official news agency KCNA said Saturday that U-2, RC-135 and other reconnaissance planes of the U.S. military were used for "round-the-clock" operations.

"Such aerial espionage clear shows the U.S. imperialists' black-hearted design to mount a sudden pre-emptive attack on the DPRK anytime as they did to seize Iraq and Afghanistan," KCNA said.

'93 Tender Won by Exxon Annulled

By Valeria Korchagina
Staff Writer
Friday, Jan. 30, 2004. Page 1

Raising new fears about foreign investor rights, the government on Thursday canceled the results of a 1993 tender for the Sakhalin-3 gas and oil project that was won by a consortium led by the world's largest oil company, ExxonMobil.

But the decision announced by Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko appears to be a one-off case because Sakhalin-3 is one of only a handful of projects that has barely been developed since being put up for tender in the early 1990s.

The move also seems to fit into the government's latest drive to strengthen control over the country's natural resources.

Russia likely origin of Mydoom worm

Friday 30 January 2004, 16:21 Makka Time, 13:21 GMT

Russia is 80-percent likely to be the origin of the Mydoom computer worm, which has become the worst ever Internet epidemic.

A top Russian anti-virus firm said on Friday it had traced the first emails infected with Mydoom to addresses with Russian internet providers and it adds, the worm could be an attempt to distribute spam mail.

"We have special software to monitor Internet traffic across the world. This detected that the first emails infected by the worm came from Russian providers," Denis Zenkin, spokesman for the Russian security firm Kaspersky Labs told AFP.

"But there is a still a 20-percent chance that this was an attempt to mislead. Virus programmers from other countries could have registered an email address in Russia and transmitted their harmful programmes via it," he said.

US pressing EU to uphold arms embargo against China 2004-02-01 07:35:49

BEIJING, Feb. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- The Bush administration has quietly lodged a series of formal protests with the European Union and its members in an attempt to persuade the body not to lift its 14-year ban on weapons trade with China, the Washington Post reported.

Clinton, Gates back outsourcing

WASHINGTON: Some of America's best minds - Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, Bill Gates among others - have come out in support of free trade and against protectionism, issues that affect outsourcing to India.

They say fears of its impact on the US economy are unwarranted – and largely exaggerated.

In the past few days, these heavyweights, in remarks at meetings in Davos, London, Washington and elsewhere, have scoffed at the rising hysteria in the US against outsourcing being fuelled by American politicians facing re-election and pressure from their constituents worried about near-term job loss.

Their message to the American workforce: Get used to the idea. Free trade and one of its consequences, outsourcing, isn't going to stop.

At a conference in London earlier this week, Gates warned against shutting out India and China from the development process, saying "what is happening is fantastic for them."

Why Is The West Afraid Of The Arabs?

Patrick Seale Al-Hayat 2004/01/30

Western fear of Arabs and Muslims has emerged as one of the most striking political and psychological phenomena of recent years - as anyone with an Arab or Muslim name, wishing to enter the United States or even the European Union, will have noticed to his or her irritation and discomfort. Fear is perhaps too mild a word for it. The emotion that has seized the Western world ever since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 is more like paranoia.

A whole intellectual industry has sprung up in Western think-tanks, university departments, and among media pundits, seeking to dissect and understand the 'violence', 'hate' and 'fanaticism' which the Arab and Muslim world is said to direct against the West.

What is the root of this 'Arab rage'? Almost invariably, Western commentators have concluded that the essential cause lies in the 'failed' societies of the Arab world, in their absence of democracy, their abuse of human rights, their economic mismanagement, their oppression of women, their exploding populations, their soaring unemployment, their poor education, their technological backwardness, even their lack of internet access! The list of Arab ills is a long one.

Gareth Evans, a former Foreign Minister of Australia, who now heads an important think-tank called the International Crisis Group, has no hesitation in saying that all the existing terrorist threats in the world today come from the Arab world. In Davos this year, the consensus among business and political leaders attending the World Economic Forum was that poverty and economic backwardness were among the main reasons why Arabs and Muslims embraced Islamic fundamentalism, and, in some cases, resorted to terrorism.

Last Monday, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times claimed to know the essential cause of terrorist violence: it was the lack of jobs. He put the blame on Europe, which he described as 'the real factory of Arab-Muslim rage'. Europe, he wrote, had done an extremely poor job of integrating and employing its growing Muslim minorities, and of investing in North Africa and the Middle East, its natural backyard. On the same day, in an article in Britain's Financial Times , Sir Lawrence Friedman, Professor of War studies at King's College, London, wrote that the Arab world was suffering from the collapse of Jamal Abdel Nasser's pan-Arabism and from disastrous economic policies. Militant groups were waiting to exploit the anger of youth. The status quo had become untenable. By 2020, the population of the 22 Arab states would be well over 400 million.

In view of the underlying political and social tensions, his gloomy conclusion was that the 'real alternatives' for the Middle East were 'chaos or autocracy'.

Dozens of examples of this sort are to be found in Western books and journals, and in the speeches of Western politicians, which may be summed up by the proposition that the source of terrorist violence lies in the 'sickness' of Arab-Muslim society.

Exporting the problem to the Arabs

In my view, this type of analysis is neither accurate nor disinterested. It represents an attempt to export to the Arab and Muslim world the West's share of responsibility for the present highly dangerous and unstable state of affairs.

Very soon after 11 September, several commentators, especially in the United States, began to argue that the terrorist attacks were not in any way a response to American policies in the Middle East - to its limitless support for Israel, its control of Arab oil, its military bases, its client states - but sprang from the very nature of Arab-Muslim society.

This analysis provided Washington neo-conservatives with the argument they needed to press for war against Iraq. If it was accepted that Arab terrorists were the product of sick societies, then the way to protect the United States from further terrorist attack was to reform these societies, if necessary by force!

In my view, this argument was nothing more than a malicious smokescreen concealing the real motives for attacking Iraq - which were to subdue the Arab world and promote the strategic interests of the United States and Israel. But the argument in favor of Arab reform through the exercise of external military power has taken root, and has even been adopted by several Arab political analysts!

A fundamental question needs to be asked: Is the prime cause of terrorist violence sociological or political? Is the bomber in Baghdad, Kabul or Tel Aviv, in Bali, Riyadh, Casablanca or Istanbul, driven by poverty and hopelessness or by a burning sense of political grievance? Were the suicidal hijackers who demolished the twin towers of the World Trade Center driven by backwardness and unemployment or did they believe they were striking a blow against American imperialism?

In my view, the essential conflict between the Arab world and the West is not a conflict between Christianity and Islam, or a clash of civilizations. It will not be resolved by dialogue between religious leaders, or by the export of American-style 'democracy' by military force. The conflict between the Arabs and the West is political; as it has been for very many decades ever since Arab hopes for independence and unity were betrayed and disappointed after the First World War.

It will only abate once the West, and the United States in particular, address fundamental Arab grievances, of which the Palestine problem is only the most prominent.

Reform needs to be on the Arab agenda

No one can deny that the Arab world is in urgent need of radical reform. With a few notable exceptions, its social, political and economic life is profoundly stagnant and corrupt. Political pluralism, social justice, basic freedoms of expression and association - above all the rule of law -- are all glaringly absent. In several states, ruling elites have remained in power for far too long and have robbed the country with impunity. But these are not the causes of terrorist violence against the West and its Arab friends.

Arab writers, intellectuals and businessmen have been among the first to denounce the failings of the Arab world and to warn that if reform does not come soon from within these societies it will one day be imposed from outside. Many Arabs and Muslims understand that the central problem with which they need to wrestle - and which has concerned Arab reformers for generations - is how to acquire the many good things the West can offer while preserving Arab independence. Or, put another way, how to join the modern world of liberal democracy and scientific and economic achievement without losing the moral basis in Islam.

The message the United States has sought to convey by its invasion and occupation of Iraq is a different one, and is wholly focused on American interests and on American fears for its own security. Speaking in Davos last week, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney - the super-hawk of the Bush administration - gave a classic exposition of these views:

'Today,' he declared, 'we face a sophisticated global network of terrorists who are opposed to the values of liberty, tolerance and openness that form the basis of our societies…

'We must confront the ideologies of violence at the source by promoting democracy throughout the Greater Middle East and beyond… Direct threats require decisive action.'

There was no hint in his speech that American policies - its double standards and its countless interventions in the Arab and Muslim world - lay at the root of terrorist violence.

The Arabs should propose a bargain to the United States: 'Resolve the political problems that plague and distract us - Israeli expansion, the plight of the Palestinians, American armed force at the heart of our region, our still incomplete independence - and we will undertake the necessary reforms of our societies, free from the pressures of war and occupation.'

Mexico Buys Missile Launchers from Israel

La Voz de Aztlan – January 27, 2004

The Mexican Navy announced yesterday that it has bought from Israel two fully operational Aliya class speed boats capable of launching 5 Gabriel missiles each. Naval Captain Arturo Flores Gil told the Mexico City "La Jornada" newspaper that Mexico had paid Israel 60 million dollars for the two naval missile launchers and 10 missiles.

Each missile is capable of being outfitted with nuclear warheads.

Why would Mexico spend such large sums of money for weapons at a time when countless of Mexicans have no tortillas nor frijoles to eat and are being forced to migrate to the USA? Captain Arturo Flores Gil said that the highly sophisticated weapons are needed to protect the 360 PEMEX oil rigs in the waters off Campeche. The Campeche oil fields are the richest in Mexico that produces 83% of the nation's oil.

When La Jornada asked Captain Arturo Flores Gil whether the weapons purchase meant that Mexico is collaborating with the Israeli Defense Forces, he answered, "It was a purchase based strictly on commercial considerations." President Vicente Fox Quesada of the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) has been increasingly criticized for the disproportionate number of Jews in his administration and for taking large sums of money from Jewish groups in the USA during his campaign.

Heavenly pursuits

Two cultures are looking towards heaven, albeit in different ways. And the worst, says Abdel-Moneim Said, is yet to come

Arab countries are going through their third stage of state-building. The previous two stages occurred in the 1920s and the 1950s. Some of these countries are reconsidering their constitutions. Most are trying to make sense of the world around them, while exploring the link between religion and the modern state. One thing that symbolises the current perplexity is the recent debate over hijab, which was triggered by the French decision to ban conspicuous religious symbols in public schools.

Especially puzzling, for me, was the ferocious attack on Sheikh Sayed Tantawi, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, who had simply stated his opinion on the matter. My puzzlement was not just because people of less knowledge and stature than Tantawi were calling him into question. What I found particularly galling was that some tried to present Hassan Nasrallah of Lebanon and others as authorities of higher stature than the grand imam, the highest known source of religious knowledge in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

I will state my own position on the matter at the outset. It is a position I have already made clear when the Turkish Parliament prevented a deputy from entering its premises because she was wearing the hijab. My opinion was that such a move was one of secularist extremism unbefitting a democratic state, and an encroachment on personal freedoms, which could be a prelude to further encroachments.

Some Turkish intellectuals I met at the time told me that the issue at stake was not women's personal freedoms and their right to wear outfits they associate with peace and piety, but the attitude of certain political movements that use religiosity to change the nature of the state and establish a regime based more on religious law than the ballot box. I wasn't convinced. My position was that no democratic country should restrict the right of its own citizens to choose their clothing. The Turkish measure, I thought, would give a bad name to democracy and liberalism, for the essence of the latter is the protection of basic civil and human rights.

This was four years ago, and my view hasn't changed since. What happened in France, however, requires us to look more carefully into the matter, particularly since the fiercest critics of the grand imam are not known for their democratic credentials, nor do they hail from democratic societies. The criticism directed against the French decision were not based on human and civil rights, but on religious grounds.

One interesting question is: why has the French president issued such a decision at this particular time? Muslims have immigrated to western countries in search for economic betterment, public freedoms, and a broader scope for innovation. Throughout the 20th century, Islam has been the fastest growing faith in the West. As this was taking place, Islamic customs and dress codes became more visible, and no one objected to Muslim women wearing the hijab, or to men wearing any particular headdress. Actually, certain municipalities in various western states began honouring Islamic events, allowing special decorations to be set up in public squares during Ramadan and the Fitr and Adha feasts.

Suddenly, all this changed, not because of a sudden eruption of racism in the West, but because Islamic fundamentalism began infiltrating various expatriate Muslim groups. The issue of the hijab was being presented as a first step on a long path of religious duties culminating in "jihad", which could imply the destruction of all who disagree with the beliefs of a specific group. Perhaps the main issue was not even that of extremism; for there are extremists in all religions and creeds. It was that the Islamic public seemed insufficiently disturbed by the extremists in their midst.

When the 11 September events occurred (and before that the attempts to blow up the Eiffel Tower and destroy the Lost Angeles Airport on the eve of the third millennium), the overall Muslim reaction was one of denial, of conspiracy theories, and of refusal to address the significance of such catastrophic events from within the Muslim community. When westerners listened closely to what Muslim extremists were saying, they weren't reassured by prayers of the "may God break their unity and burn their offspring" variety. How often did the immigrant Muslim communities plead with God to protect and bless their adopted countries?

This was the climate in which the hijab became an issue in France. It is climate that brings into question the political motivation and the methods of propagation and recruitment among certain Muslim groups. If Muslims, and their imams, were genuinely concerned about personal -- and even religious -- freedoms, they should start by addressing the roots of the problem. It is time to save the world's Muslims not from unfair treatment, but from the extremism in their midst, which is threatening to burn all their bridges with the rest of the world. Instead, the hijab issue became an obsession. It was blown out of all proportion, infused with the tensions that followed the 11 September attacks, strewn with the obstacles that have come to separate Islam and the West.

As this was going on, Europe and the US were racing to Mars. Europe may have failed initially, but the Americans managed to land two vehicles on the red planet. As the two vehicles landed, President Bush spoke of a new US space policy that would, over the next few decades, turn man's dream of invading space into reality.

The two sets of events are somewhat linked: the hijab crisis in France and the landing on Mars. Together, they epitomise the 21st century. Humans may have succeeded in resolving the complex scientific problems encountered in space travel, but they have miserably failed to address the question of values, the causes of sedition, and the intricacies of faith. I do not wish to belabour this point -- suffice it to say that while human systems may have made stunning progress, man himself still has much to learn when it comes to values, personal freedoms and the priorities of human choice.

It is interesting to note that the Muslims who have, rightly, revolted against the French decision to ban the hijab, along with other religious symbols, have failed to revolt against the massive technological gap separating them from those who have reached Mars. Nor has there been a Muslim hue and cry over the abject poverty in which millions of Muslims live, or the widening gap in education, knowledge, and health that separate us from the West.

This gap is going to grow even wider. The landings on Mars reflect the tremendous improvement in science and technology. Humankind is now in possession of a great number of satellites orbiting the earth, a manned space station, and a collection of space shuttles. The Concorde -- once a futuristic vision -- is no more, for its technology was based on flying within the atmosphere, subject to Earth's gravity. The day when passenger planes may venture into space and back may not be far off.

There is no doubt that such developments will have major ramifications for global trade, investment, and human interaction, though, I cannot begin to imagine how it would affect such matters as the hijab. What we do know, however, is that the international balance of power is ever-shifting. Time was when superpowers would neglect countries that possessed no immediate strategic or economic worth. This led to the appearance of what was commonly known as marginalisation. Many, including myself, believed that this phenomenon jeopardised the national security of many Arab and Islamic countries. For example, the US military intervention in Somalia in the 1990s ended once 18 US servicemen were killed. The world did not care much if Somalia were to stay united or within the international community. Somalia was at best a charity case, at worst a headache.

Right now, the world is in no mood to tolerate the marginalised. For the marginalised -- of Somalia, Afghanistan, and the rest of the states that have come apart at the seems -- have proved themselves capable of upsetting a world system that is becoming organised with rigorous attention to detail. This urge to upset the world has its roots in a different set of values, in a combination of fanaticism and despair, and in the inability of the marginalised to join in the increasingly complicated world they live in.

In brief, the more the economic, scientific, and technological gap widens between those who land on the moon and those who cling to the hijab, the more arrogant will the winners become and the more fanatical and close-minded the losers. Such a state of affairs can only culminate in an assault on freedom in a world that is set to break into space, away from Earth's gravity. These are difficult moments for state-building in Arab countries, and, indeed, may prove to be more difficult than anything these countries have gone through in the past.

The Arab state is now being reproduced under the harshest of conditions, and the world's patience is running out. The worst is not over yet.

Israël espère éviter que la CIJ se penche sur le "mur de séparation"

LEMONDE.FR | 01.02.04 | 12h35

An article in Le Monde on the International Court's taking up the subject of Israel's apartheid wall notes that Israel has 33 countries backing up its case that the Court has no jurisdiction over the wall. Israel's supporters include the United States, Great Britian, France, Germany, Russia, Canada, Poland, and Australia. The excuse given is that the wall is a "political" question and is therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Court.

Le Monde quotes the reaction of the Palestinian Minister in charge of negotiations with Israel, Saëb Erakat: " The United States, Great Britain, and Germany demand that the Palestinians do not resort to violence, but when the Palestinians resort to diplomacy, they close the door."

The reason for the support for Israel is evident. These countries do not want a precedent set where the Court could intervene in other cases. "The Russians don't want the Court to get mixed up in what is happening in Chechnya and the Americans don't want to be taken to the Court for their intervention in Iraq," underlined an Israeli military commentator.

Deaths spark new bird flu fears

1 February, 2004

Health experts are examining the possibility that bird flu may have passed between humans for the first time in the current outbreak in Asia.
Two sisters in Vietnam died after possibly contracting the flu from their brother, a World Health Organization spokesman said on Sunday.

The brother died from a respiratory illness which was not identified.

At least eight people have died from the H5N1 virus, but only from direct contact with infected birds.

Comment: Never before has avian flu mutated to the point where it could be transmitted between humans, yet now, not long after the US military has been tinkering with resurrecting Spanish Flu using chickens eggs as incubators, it makes it's appearance. Suspicious? See our Flu supplement for more.

Second Caller Claims to Be Ohio Shooter

Carnegie Mellon students become ill

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Friday, January 30, 2004

Twenty-nine people at Carnegie Mellon University have an intestinal illness that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, the Allegheny County Health Department said yesterday. [...]

"We don't know the source or the cause," he said. "We don't know if it's food or something else, something that might have been spread from person to person. It would be premature to say."

Eye diseases upset body clock
09:12 Sunday 1st February 2004

Scientists say lack of sleep can be due to eye diseases which affect regulation of the body clock by light. [...]

Dr Russell Van Gelder, who led the research at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, said: "We suspect these patients have difficulty using daylight to synchronise their internal rhythms to the outside world."

Previously Dr Van Gelder found that the retina is not only used for vision, but also houses special non-visual cells that act as the eye's "light meter". [...]

Wall St., Housing Sector Get Warning Shot

By Dick Satran
Sat Jan 31, 8:36 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve's warning shot was fired with such a muffled tone there might have been a silencer on the weapon -- but Wall Street got the message just the same.

The Fed said it "can be patient" about raising interest rates but decided it could no longer say it would hold rates down "for a considerable period."

In other words, somewhere, sometime, interest rates will rise, the Fed was saying. And don't say we didn't warn you. [...]

The U.S. central bank set the market straight that low-cost money for borrowing by consumers and corporations wouldn't last forever. [...]

Housing was one sector that took the bullet. The Dow Jones housing index dropped 4 percent in the second half of the week, and the financial index lost 2 percent. [...]


But does that mean that the housing sector is about to come undone, bringing all of the related sectors down as well? Not necessarily, says Richard Yamarone, director of economic research for Argus Research.

"The housing boom is not really all about low interest rates," said Yamarone. "There are strong demographic trends, with more people entering the home buying age and with an influx of immigrants coming in and realizing the American dream much faster than before."

The leading home builders are saying that demand will hold up as long as mortgage rates stay under 7.5 percent, Yamarone said. Right now, they are 5.5 percent to 6 percent.

But Miller Tabak's Boockvar is skeptical that housing demand will remain as it has over the past year. Even a slight rise in interest rates will take the edge off demand, he said, and that is reason enough to turn bearish on pricey housing stocks. [...]

Comment: It appears that the days of low-interest loans and mortgages are numbered. The only problem is that this "cheap money" has kept the US economy going. History has shown that war is a wonderful way to shore up the economy and keep the population under control. Perhaps the hour of the next big terrorist attack and/or US invasion of a foreign land is nearing.

Disabled man kills wife with crutch

30 January 2004

COTTBUS - A man with crippling rheumatoid arthritis faced murder charges before a court in Germany Friday for using his crutch to kill his wife - because she wanted a divorce after 41 years of marriage.

Saying he had nothing to live for, the 62-year-old defendant told the court in Cottbus his 59-year-old wife had taken up with another man and had left him with nothing.

"She cleared out our flat in three hours, leaving me with only the sofa and the clothes on my back," he said. "That was all I had to show for 41 years of married life."

Claiming he only wanted to talk to his wife, he went to her new flat last August and rang the bell.

"She opened the door and just laughed at me when I told her I was a ruined man," he said. "Then she kicked my crutch and that threw me off my balance."

The two began wrestling with the crutch, which had a spiked end for added traction.

Police said the woman died as a result of 23 stab wounds. In addition, her 59-year-old live-in boyfriend was also stabbed to death, though the defendant says he has no recollection that the man was even present.

"My medical condition is getting worse and the only woman I ever loved broke my heart and now she's dead. It doesn't matter what happens to me from here on out," he told the court. The case continues.

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