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Thursday, February 12, 2004

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New! Signs Supplement: Fortean Fire

Picture of the Day

©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

We often talk about objectivity and subjectivity on the Signs page, and the need to have more of the former and less of the latter. However, the first question to address is why should we even try to divest ourselves of our false view of the world and our place in it, what are the benefits of attempting to see the world as it is?

Most obviously, if we willingly seek to know the truth in all situations, we are afforded protection from the pain of reality ultimately encroaching and forcing us to accept the truth we have been refusing to see. A classic example is the cuckolded spouse who believes so fervently that his or her mate is faithful that he or she is totally blind to the facts. His or her sincerity of belief (born of a fear of having to confront that reality) means that he is the last to realise that it is a lie. Cognitive dissonance steps in to ensure that obvious signs of infidelity are blanked out. Yet, finally, the truth must be accepted. The level of pain experienced is often directly related to the depth of his delusion and the length of time spent believing the lie.

Subjectivity, then, is the enemy.

A major factor of subjectivity is the concept of symbolism. Many of us might be surprised to realise the extent to which our understanding of our lives, and the things and people in it, is governed, not by objective observation of their true nature, but by what they symbolise for us. All too often we assign a meaning to something or someone that simply does not exist in that thing or person. A simple object or person can in this way be transformed into the embodiment of, or the potential for the fulfillment of, the deepest unconscious desires and longings of another.

It appears that, as humans, many of us are born into the world with an inherent, yet unconscious, drive to improve ourselves; to become more, to achieve something real. This is essential in order to motivate us to interact with the world, to live.

However, it appears that there is more than a touch of desperation about the way in which we go about the process of living. It is not, it seems, a matter of take it or leave it. Indeed it can be hard to reconcile the bustling activity of the world and our lives with the utter aloneness that we can experience in the quiet moments of our own thoughts. Far from being happy-go-lucky then, many are driven by an unconscious desperation to "find something" to fill the void that sits as a perpetual backdrop to our lives. Yet most of us are hard pushed to enunciate just what it is that we seek. When asked, we speak vaguely about "happiness" or "love". Yet what abiding happiness can there be in this life when we can expect no more than 70 years of it on average? It seems clear that when we talk of finding "happiness", we are talking about something more enduring than the ephemeral nature of physical fulfillment. It is as if on some level we realise that this world, and being alive in it, poses more than just a mortal danger to us. In fact one could say that in the process of life, there is the awareness that we are fighting for our souls, not simply our physical lives. We realise that while this life may be a game, the stakes may also be very high.

It is with this unconscious understanding and motivation as a backdrop that we live our lives seeking the elusive "something" that will fulfill us in a deep and meaningful way. From early childhood, however, we are taught to seek happiness and love in all the wrong places, in the world "out there". Often we associate enduring happiness with the idea of perfection; the belief that if we and our environment are perfect in every way, that happiness will be found.

Yet how can we find or even understand perfection when we seek to achieve it in the outside world or in the people with whom we share it?

Despite this, we continue to attempt to imbue other people or things with the potential to fulfill us, to save us, a potential which they simply do not possess. It is unsurprising then that, with this desperation motivating us, and having been pointed in the wrong direction, many people give up the struggle to find happiness within and look to an external savior. It is not merely to classical saviors such as gods or "spacebrothers" that we look, but also to other people that share our lives. We believe that if we can create -- usually by manipulation, and usually unconsciously -- that which we most desire and need and which is lacking in ourselves within another, that we will somehow save ourselves; we will have found that which we have been seeking. In doing so, not only are we dooming ourselves to failure, but we are determining the needs of another, robbing them of the right to choose for themselves. This is equally true when another is apparently willing to be saved. It is merely the case that they, too, are seeking to find happiness, and they, too, are only too willing to let us tell them where and how it is to be achieved: a perfectly symbiotic relationship that assures a mutual and endless search.

The truth is that we are selfish beings by nature, despite our apparently "helpful" motivations. Our desire to save, fix or rescue another is motivated at a fundamental level by our own fear and desire to save ourselves. In this way we come to assign the potential for true and lasting fulfillment to something other than ourselves. We turn the other into the symbol of our own salvation, measuring our own forward march by their growing conformity to our vision of who they need to be to set us free.

This naturally can only lead to unhappiness and unfulfillment for all concerned.

Which takes us back to the need for objectivity and the protection it can afford us from needless pain in our quest to find a way to fulfill our possible potential: to become more (or to become truly ourselves), to be. Let us not prove true the assessment of Henry David Thoreau when he said:

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."

Desperation can become the raw material of drastic change if it is viewed consciously and objectively. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

Le relais français du « clash des civilisations »: Nicolas Sarkozy agite le voile islamique

Le débat qui agite la France depuis huit mois « à propos » du voile islamique a en réalité été volontairement provoqué par le ministre de l'Intérieur Nicolas Sarkozy.

Summary: This article, appearing in the French journal, Voltaire, publication of the Réseau Voltaire, has a interesting take on the current furour in France over the Islamic veil. Voltaire suggests that the debate is the creation of French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose purpose is the destabilization of French President Jacques Chirac. Sarkozy wants Chirac's job. It seems he wants more than that.

The argument is developed as follows (this is a paraphrasing of the article):

Debate about the Islamic veil must start with a definition of secularism, a term everyone is using to stigmatize their adversaries.

Secularism is a mode of social organization where the Law is the fruit of reasoned debate where individual convictions are excluded. This system guarantees to each the freedom of conscience (which includes the right to apostasy and blasphemy) and social peace.

By twisting the meaning, it is being used to impose identical obligations on all students.

In order to understand the political function of the current debate, we must analyze its genesis and the role played by a highly media savvy politician.

On April 19, 2003, Sarkozy deliberately relaunched a highly polemical debate on the veil when he spoke to the annual meeting of the Union of Moslem Organizations of France (UOIF). This debate, which was apparent during the 80's, had fallen silent, as the graph supplied with the article demonstrated.

In order to manufacture a quarrel, Sarkozy appeared at the meeting. He offered his congratulations on the founding of the Union in a paternalistic way. No one was surprised at this interference by the State in the religious domain. The Minister spoke about the regulations for photos for the national identify cards, insisting that in no case would anyone be permitted to wear the veil for these photos. There was no reason to discuss this question; there had been no reports of problems or administrative litigations on this topic. Part of the audience reacted in front of the TV cameras unfavourably to this remark, TV cameras that had been brought along precisely to capture this reaction. The debate began in the media, and for those who only had their information from this short televised extract, it appeared that it was begun by the Moslems against a member of the government who had come as a "friend."

This initiative by Sarkozy came one month after France threatened to veto the US at the UN Security Council. The article says that it can be interpreted as a desire to import to France the US strategy of the "clash of civilizations." The Interior Minister thus killed two birds with one stone: as a confirmed Atlanticist (that is, a Frenchman who believes in strong ties with the US), he was putting into question the Mid-East politics of France; as a permanent rival of Jacques Chirac, who had already been accused by the US of anti-Semitism, Sarkozy is harassing Chirac on a new religious question, trying to force Chirac to take some distance from the Moslems.

Within the President's political party, the UMP, the president of the National Assembly, Jean-Louis Debre, began a commission to collect information on the wearing of religious insignia at school. In order to extricate himself from this commission, Chirac put in place an independent commission.

But rather than looking at the philosophical and political questions, the commission came up with a managerial approach well-known in the public service. Rather than defining consensual principals, they issued a series of regulations that opened a multitude of polemics on implementation.

The debate artificially provoked by Sarkozy raises issues that go beyond the question of the veil, and is being used by some as a convenient pretext to symbolically exclude French Moslems from the public sphere. The theologian Tariq Ramadan, who has been warning his coreligionists against the reflex of turning into themselves and who is inciting them to become politically engaged, has thus become the target of the Atlanticists. He was accused of anti-Semitism before being held responsible for the views of his brother and father. A televised debate was organised between Sarkozy and Ramadan during which the Minister pressured his opponent to renounce his family.

The message is clear: in the US strategy of the "clash of civilizations," what is demanded of European Moslems is not to adapt their religious practices to Western society, but rather to break with the populations of the Near East. But in playing the card of the US in order to satisfy his personal ambitions, Nicolas Sarkozy is awakening the old demons of intolerance.

We will return in the future to a remark made by Sarkozy at this debate, a remark that shows he follows the same politics as the neoconservatives in the US.

Rybkin Suggests He Was Hiding

The Associated Press

In a rambling hourlong radio interview, presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin suggested Wednesday that for at least part of his five-day absence in Ukraine he was hiding out from shadowy operatives -- but at the same time he lashed out at authorities for not being able to inform Russians about his whereabouts.

Rybkin also announced "a weeklong time-out" to decide whether or not to scrap his candidacy in the March 14 election, which President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win.

Rybkin, a long-shot presidential candidate and fierce Kremlin critic, resurfaced in Kiev on Tuesday. He flew back to Moscow, returning to a torrent of questions about what happened since he was last seen by his bodyguard and driver outside his Moscow home on Thursday night.

Initially, Rybkin suggested his absence was just a much-needed rest from the swirl of activity around his campaign, but after arriving back in Moscow, he hinted at a more sinister reason.

"If I had started to say what I'm saying to you now ... it is possible that we wouldn't be having this conversation," Rybkin said on Ekho Moskvy radio on Wednesday.

But when asked point-blank if he was the victim of violence or some type of assassination attempt, he answered evasively, "I don't want to qualify it."

Moscow police on Wednesday formally closed their investigation, which began Sunday when Rybkin's wife, Albina, and his campaign staff officially reported him missing.

Rybkin gave odd accounts of people that he came across in Kiev who might have been involved in intrigues against him. He never specified exactly what he meant, however.

"For the last two years, I've been shadowed," he said, adding later that when he saw the news reports about his disappearance, he suddenly felt "very uncomfortable" and felt the need to hide out.

Responding in Kind?

By Matt Bivens

"Moscow does not negotiate with terrorists -- it destroys them."

-- President Vladimir Putin responding to Friday's terror attack

[...] For last February, the Russian human rights group Memorial documented 41 "disappearances" -- cases in which people were taken into custody and never heard from again. All told, Memorial documented 269 disappearances in 2003, of which several dozen have turned up as corpses.

Put aside guerrillas being gunned down in fire fights, or women and children caught in the regrettable crossfire; put aside those who stepped on mines, or succumbed to war-zone diseases; put aside kidnappings or arrests where the victims were ransomed, or freed, or at least formally accounted for. Consider only the disappearances (people last seen alive being led away by men with guns and never heard from again) and these alone have been averaging about 22 victims every month.

And that's a conservative undercount. Memorial is only able to document a fraction of atrocities in Chechnya -- a patch of mud and mountains in the Caucasus still too dangerous for a United Nations mission. Memorial guesses that for every documented atrocity, two or three go unrecorded. That works out to an average of 66 to 88 disappearances each month. (That jibes with figures from the Kremlin-approved Chechen administration, which last August was already reporting 400 disappearances, plus dozens of mass graves containing the remains of about 3,000 civilians.)

So on top of the landmines and diseases and such, there have been 22 or 44 or 66 or maybe 88 disappearances every month, for more than a year now, with no end in sight. In terms of tragedy and death, that's in the ballpark of one Moscow metro bombing every month.

But the metro bombing was carried out, presumably, by a group of criminals -- people we really have no control over. It was immediately and loudly denounced by the entire world. Even the London representative of Chechen president-in-exile Aslan Maskhadov condemned it. The Kremlin declared a national day of mourning and accepted condolences from governments on every continent.

The Chechen disappearances, by contrast, were ultimately carried out not by unaccountable criminals, but by a democratically elected government -- Vladimir Putin's. They occurred with little comment or complaint, even as they were exhaustively documented in reports to the UN and other bodies.

White House toughens stance on Bush's National Guard service

05:12 AM EST Feb 12

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House hardened its defence of President George W. Bush's National Guard service Wednesday, saying his critics are "trolling for trash." Yet, several members of an Alabama unit Bush was assigned to said they couldn't recall ever seeing him.

The Associated Press contacted more than a dozen people who were members of the Montgomery-based 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in 1972. All were quick to point out that the unit had as many as 800 members and Bush was not yet famous.

Bush, who spent most of his service in Texas, received permission to perform his duties in Alabama while working on a family friend's political campaign.

"I don't remember seeing him. That does not mean he was not here," said Wayne Rambo, who was a first lieutenant with the 187th. "I don't want to cast any aspersions or to say he was or was not there."

Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the renewed requests for additional records show that some people "are more interested in trolling for trash for political gain" with the presidential election nine months away. "This is nothing but gutter politics."

In a new development Wednesday, a retired Texas National Guard officer said he overheard a conversation in 1997 between then-governor Bush's chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, and then-adjutant general Daniel James of the Texas Air National Guard in which he contends those two men spoke about getting rid of any military records that would "embarrass the governor."

Former Lt.-Col. Bill Burkett told The AP that he saw documents from Bush's file discarded in a trash can a few days later at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Burkett described them as performance and pay documents. He said the documents bore the header: "Bush, George W. 1lt." - meaning first lieutenant.

James and Allbaugh deny the allegation.

"The alleged discussion never happened," said James, who appointed by the president in 2002 to lead the Air National Guard. "I have never been involved in, nor would I condone any discussion or any action to falsify any record in any circumstance for anyone."

Allbaugh, now a Washington lobbyist, told the Dallas Morning News that Burkett's assertions were "hogwash."

Bush said in a television interview last weekend that he would be willing to open his entire military file and would "absolutely" be willing to authorize the release of anything that would put the matter to rest.

The White House late Wednesday released a copy of a dental evaluation Bush had in the National Guard in Alabama on Jan. 6, 1973. It documents the president serving at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Alabama, McClellan said in a statement.

The record was accompanied by a statement from Dr. Richard Tubb, the president's current physician, who stated that he read Bush's records, which covered a period from 1968 to 1973, and concurred with the doctors' assertion that Bush was "fit" for service.

McClellan said 13 pages of military pay records released Tuesday showed that Bush fulfilled his military requirements. McClellan stopped short of saying the White House would never release more information to document Bush's record, especially for the several months Bush served in Alabama.

"If there is new information that comes to our attention we will let you know - if it's relevant to this issue," McClellan said.

Democrats say they want to see paperwork that would shed light on why Bush missed an annual physical exam in May 1972. The White House says he did not need to get one because he was not flying at the time. The Democratic National Committee wants to see Bush's complete Guard personnel file.

"I don't know the status of where it is," McClellan said. "It's my understanding the Department of Defence asked that those records be sent here and we expect that we will receive some information as well."

McClellan did not say whether any of it would be released. "We'd have to see if there is any new information in that," the spokesman said.

Democrats are delving into Bush's service, especially since Vietnam veteran John Kerry has become the presidential front-runner. The party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, helped resurrect long-running questions about Bush's National Guard record when he charged that the president had been "AWOL," or absent without leave, during his time in Alabama.

Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Air Force Base in Texas in May 1968. He spent most of his service time based near Houston.

In May 1972, records show Bush requested and got permission to perform his duties in Alabama while he worked as political director on the Senate campaign of Winton (Red) Blount, a Bush family friend.

Democrats are focusing on a one-year period, from May 1972 to May 1973, in which Bush was assigned in Alabama and then was back in Texas.

Payroll records released by the White House show Bush was paid for 25 days during that one-year period. There are gaps in service that Democrats have questioned.

The records, for example, show Bush was not paid for any service during a more than five-month period in 1972, from April 17 to Oct. 27. He was paid for two days in late October 1972, four days in mid-November 1972 and no days in December 1972. He was paid for additional days in 1973.

McClellan says Bush recalls serving in the Guard both in Texas and Alabama. The pay records do not say where he served on the days he was paid, or what he did.

Norman Rahn was a major with the 187th Supply Squadron in 1972-73 who had responsibility for out-of-state guardsmen training with his units. He said he does not remember Bush. But he seriously doubts whether anyone would remember Bush or any other transient pilot who spent a total of six days to 10 days on base in a three-month period.

"He was not a member of our unit," Rahn said. "We didn't own him."

Emily Curtis, who dated Bush during the time he spent in Montgomery working on Blount's campaign, said she cannot remember seeing him in uniform or going to Guard duty while he was in Alabama.

But she said: "He called me after he had left Montgomery to say he was coming back to do his Guard duty. It was either late November or early December (of 1972)."

To solidify its case, the White House cites a memo written by retired Lt.-Col. Albert Lloyd, the former personnel director of the Texas Air National Guard.

Lloyd wrote that the records, some released for the first time, show Bush had "satisfactory years" for the period of 1972-73 and 1973-74, proving that he "completed his military obligation in a satisfactory manner."

Old Crimson Interview Reveals A More Radical John Kerry

The Crimson reported Kerry called for U.N. control of troops in 1970

Crimson Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Ten months after returning home from Vietnam, a young John Kerry strolled into the offices of The Harvard Crimson on Feb. 13, 1970 as an obscure underdog in the Democratic Congressional primary.

The decorated veteran, honorably discharged after a tour of duty in the Mekong Delta, spoke in fierce terms during his daylong interview with The Crimson’s Samuel Z. Goldhaber ’72.

But almost 34 years later, Kerry’s remarks on American military and intelligence operations vastly diverge from opinions expressed by the present-day Sen. John F. Kerry, D.-Mass., the leading candidate in the Democratic primary for president.

“I’m an internationalist,” Kerry told The Crimson in 1970. “I’d like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations.”

Kerry said he wanted “to almost eliminate CIA activity. The CIA is fighting its own war in Laos and nobody seems to care.” [...]

As a candidate for president, Kerry has said he supports the autonomy of the U.S. military and has never called for a scale-back of CIA operations. [...]

Politicians' fury at Janet flash

Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 09:19 GMT

Politicians and TV regulators expressed outrage at singer Janet Jackson's Super Bowl breast flash at two hearings in Washington DC on Wednesday.

The heads of broadcaster Viacom and the National Football League were grilled by Senate and Congress committees.

Congresswoman Heather Wilson accused Viacom - which owns network CBS, which aired the Super Bowl - of planning the incident to "line your pockets". [...]

A reader comments:

I am astounded by the controversy around Janet Jackson's breast-bearing. The debate is so heated, the complaints so vociferous, the outrage palpable. "Indecent! Indecent!" is the cry. The government is forced by the public outcry to raise fines against TV networks responsible for airing indecent material.

Decency. Moral decency is the issue. Yet we in the U.S. have multiple weekly television series that feature (are built around) murders -- they are about murder -- they show the murders. Murder is apparently considered decent, definitely so when compared with breast-bearing.

Peter Jennings recently showed real killings on his newscast, forewarning viewers that "you will see men die" as he showed
Iraqis "involved in suspicious behavior" being shot to death by American helicopters. "Smoke 'em," was the audible order from the commanding officer. The resulting hail of bullets tore the bodies apart.

The objective conclusion would seem to be that America considers murder among decent things to do -- definitely okay to show or dramatize on TV where anyone, even children, can see it and become accustomed to it. This case of partial nudity vs. killing others makes it easy to see that logic just doesn't work in the public mind, and that the popular conception of decency makes no sense. Even more perverse, nudity is engaged in by everyone in private by pure necessity, but killing others is the activity of only a tiny minority. Yet nudity is offensive and indecent when public, and depictions of murder are not. I feel anew the shock of realization that America is truly insane.

Al-Baradai warns of nuclear destruction

Thursday 12 February 2004, 11:14 Makka Time, 8:14 GMT

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog has warned that the spread of atomic weapons technology could lead to the world's destruction.

[...] Al-Baradai echoed US President George Bush's call in a speech on Wednesday for states to tighten up control of their companies' nuclear exports to proliferators.

[...] The father of Pakistan's atom bomb, Abd al-Qadir Khan, admitted last week that he and fellow scientists leaked nuclear secrets.

They are believed to have been part of a global nuclear black market organised to help countries under embargo such as Iran, North Korea and Libya skirt international sanctions and obtain nuclear technology that could be used to make weapons.

The massive illicit network has touched on at least 15 countries around the world.

[...] In a clear jab at the US, which plans to forge ahead with research into the so-called mini nukes, Al-Baradai said the world must drop the idea that nuclear weapons are fine in the hands of some countries and bad in the hands of others.

French foreign minister on short trip to Kabul

Thu Feb 12, 3:05 AM ET

KABUL (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin arrived in Kabul for a brief visit which will include talks with President Hamid Karzai.

The French minister met the new special United Nations representative for Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, and was due to hold talks with Karzai and Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah before heading to India.

De Villepin's visit to Kabul "comes at a time when Afghanistan has a new constitution and is taking a crucial step: the preparation of presidential and legislative elections," a foreign ministry spokesman said. [...]

Diplomats: Iran failed to declare centrifuge designs

By Reuters

VIENNA - Iran failed to declare highly sensitive designs for uranium enrichment centrifuges to the United Nations nuclear watchdog, calling into question the Islamic republic's cooperation with the agency, diplomats said Thursday. [...]

Comment: The war drums continue to beat loudly. It is just a matter of time before something happens - probably a terrorist act - and either Iran or Syria will be blamed.

Iraqis stranded by passport freeze

By Ahmed Janabi
Sunday 08 February 2004, 15:52 Makka Time, 12:52 GMT

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been trapped inside their own country since the occupation of Iraq last year because of an inoperative immigration department.

[...] The Iraqi authorities have been unable to issue new passports or use the passport books that survived the looting. Only those holding valid passports issued before the invasion are able to travel.

[...] The occupation authorities have started to issue interim travel documents for Iraqis who want to travel abroad. The document is valid for one trip and is accepted only in Syria and Jordan.

US troops, allies suffer casualties, mortar blast near Japanese base

February 12, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Two US soldiers were killed and a total of nine coalition soldiers wounded following a spike in violence targeting mainly Iraqi security forces blamed on Al-Qaeda, coalition officials said.

A mortar round also exploded early Thursday near where Japanese troops are deployed in the southern Iraqi city of Samawa, but there were no casualties, a Japanese official said. [...]

US news commentator apologizes for backing Iraq war

WASHINGTON (AFP) Feb 11, 2004

Bill O'Reilly, the news commentator who has called his legions of fans to boycott France and any other nation that opposed the war in Iraq, said he now regrets his support for the conflict.

The Fox News Channel's conservative talk-show host said he had wrongly judged the need to invade Iraq.

"Well, my analysis was wrong and I'm sorry," O'Reilly told ABC News, according to a transcript of an interview released Wednesday.

On his show, "The O'Reilly Factor," the commentator had staunchly supported President George W. Bush's argument for war -- that Saddam Hussein posed a danger to the United States because he possessed weapons of mass destruction.

And he vociferously attacked war opponents such as France, Canada and Germany.

"I don't believe a word (French President) Jacques Chirac says. I think he's a phony," he once said on his show.

But the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq contributed to O'Reilly's change of heart. O'Reilly had promised viewers before the war began in March that he would apologize if no illegal arms were found in Iraq.

"I am much more skeptical of the Bush administration now than I, I was at that time," he said.

When the interviewer asked him again about his new position, O'Reilly responded: "Yeah, I just said it. What do you want me to do? Go over and kiss the camera?"

Comment: How hard would it have been for O'Reilly to have simply repeated Bush's new excuse for Gulf Invasion II? If people like O'Reilly are turning against Bush, it is for a reason.

The Tale of The Lying Defector
How an Iraqi 'fabricator' duped America's spooks

By Mark Hosenball and John Barry

Feb. 16 issue - If the CIA had a smoking gun, evidence of Saddam Hussein's mobile weapons labs was it. The agency's first tip-off came in 2000. "The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who had supervised one of these facilities," Secretary of State Colin Powell told the world in his address to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003. Elisa Harris, who was in charge of the WMD brief at the National Security Council in 2000, doesn't remember the report as being that detailed. But the tip was "worrisome," she says. There seemed to be evidence to suggest Iraq was reconstituting a program to both make and spread so-called BW—biological weapons.

In 2001 a second informant emerged: an Iraqi engineer, as Powell later described him. The CIA hardened its view, but still hedged in its white paper in the second half of 2001. "Baghdad continues to pursue a BW program," the report said, expressing concern about "the likely availability of mobile covert facilities." In 2002 two more informants on mobile labs turned up, one of them a "major" who defected. Now the CIA's 2002 National Intelligence Estimate took on a tone of certainty: Baghdad "has established a large-scale... BW production capability, which includes mobile facilities." Citing the four informants, Powell told the U.N.: "The description our sources gave us of the technical features required by such facilities is highly detailed and extremely accurate." When three suspicious tractor-trailers were found in Iraq after the war, the CIA crowed that its intelligence had been solid.

Ten months later, all that was once solid seems to be melting away. Like so much else about Saddam's elusive WMD, the mystery of the mobile labs has only deepened. "There is no consensus within our community over whether the trailers were for [weapons] use or if they were used for the production of hydrogen," CIA Director George Tenet admitted in a speech last week. David Kay, until recently head of the agency's Iraq Survey Group, says he believes the trailers weren't used for weapons at all.

So how did the trucks become one of the most compelling briefs in America's case for war? The transformation of the mobile-lab intel from speculation to fact is a case study in the enduring fallibility of "humint," human intel-gathering—and how U.S. agencies fail to communicate. NEWSWEEK has learned that as early as May 2002, analysts at the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency issued a warning about the credibility of one of the mobile-lab informants, believed to be the Iraqi major. According to an official who has read the still-secret warning, known as a "fabricator notice," the document reported that he had been "coached by Iraqi National Congress," an exile group eagerly pushing to Pentagon hawks the urgent need to depose Saddam. [...]

Comment: Yet another interesting new maneuver. Now it seems that it is the Iraqis themselves who are at fault for the invasion and the thousands of deaths that resulted. It would not be surprising if the "defectors" were coached by some group - but our first guess would not be the Iraqi National Congress. Perhaps one should think more along the lines of an incredibly devious and omnipresent intelligence agency that really doesn't like Arabs...


Bin Laden has bought fleet of 15 ships for terror attacks

By Gary Jones
The Mirror
Feb 12 2004

OSAMA bin Laden has a "terrorist navy" of 15 ships.
And Scotland Yard has warned one could sail up the Thames to attack Parliament.

The vessels - capable of carrying lethal chemicals or a dirty bomb - could also ram cruise liners, oil rigs or enter ports on missions of destruction.

A private memo sent to police chiefs by the Met's marine unit is headlined: Next Terror Attack Waterborne?

Ship insurer Lloyd's of London is said to be helping MI6 and the CIA trace vessels bought by al-Qaeda from a Greek shipping magnate with links to bin Laden. [...]

Comment: It appears that it was about time for the old "Osama under the bed" routine. Bin Laden seems to be a rather resourceful guy. Even when he is on the run or hiding in caves, he can still manage to whip up a 15-ship Terror Navy. Meanwhile, Bushy is lounging in the White House. Even with the most powerful military in the world and an impressive array of technological toys, Dubya can't even come up with a convincing piece of evidence or a good lie regarding WMD's in Iraq.

Hamas calls for wave of suicide attacks after 15 Palestinians die

By Eric Silver in Jerusalem
12 February 2004

Hamas leaders threatened a massive wave of suicide bombings yesterday after Israeli troops killed at least 15 Palestinians and wounded more than 40 during two gun battles in the Gaza Strip.

Comments: Remember a couple of weeks ago when Hamas was offering a ceasefire outside of the occupied territories? Sharon's response was to step up the butchery of Palestinians civilians. Now this is Hamas's response.

Israeli Lawyers Sue Gov't. over West Bank Wall

Ben Lynfield
Christian Science Monitor

JERUSALEM, Feb 11 (CSM) - Israeli human rights lawyers have fired off the first salvoes of a battle to thwart the construction of Israel's separation barrier deep inside the occupied West Bank.

The project "cannot be carried out inside an occupied territory without violating international law," attorney Michael Sfard told Israel's Supreme Court this week during a two-hour opening session.

It came just two weeks before the International Court of Justice in The Hague is due to deliberate the barrier's legality at the behest of the United Nations. Israel says the network of fences and walls is critical to security and is the only way to put an end to relentless suicide bombings on buses, in malls, and in cafes by Palestinians who have infiltrated Israeli towns over the past three years.

The Israeli court has a long history of legitimizing policies of deporting Palestinians and demolishing their homes, although legal experts say that in recent years international law has played a larger role in its decisionmaking. This time it is under unprecedented international scrutiny because of the case in The Hague. [...]

At Nazi camp, Israeli army chief rejects genocide claims

Wed Feb 11, 1:45 PM ET

BERLIN (AFP) - Israel's army chief defended the Jewish state against what he claimed were accusations of genocide, in a speech at a former Nazi concentration camp near Berlin.

General Moshe Yaalon, armed forces' chief of staff, said the charges were "spiteful" and arose out of an alarming anti-Semitism directed against Israel and Jews worldwide. [...]

Israeli soldier charged with Briton's manslaughter

15:40 Thursday 12th February 2004

An Israeli soldier has been charged with the manslaughter of a British activist in the Gaza Strip.

Manchester Metropolitan University student Tom Hurndall, 22, died in a London hospital on January 13 after spending nine months in a coma.

He was shot in the head while in southern Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group whose activists volunteer to serve as buffers between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. [...]

B.C. parents lobby against circumcision

Last Updated Wed, 11 Feb 2004 20:27:13

PENTICTON, B.C. - The parents of a newborn who died following circumcision surgery are pushing for hospitals to inform patients of the possible dangers associated with the removal of foreskin.

Brent and Tanna McWillis's month-old son Ryleigh died in August 2002 after he suffered severe hemorrhaging two days after he was circumcised at Penticton Regional Hospital.

Haiti, Lesotho face severe food shortages: UN

Last Updated Wed, 11 Feb 2004 18:16:42

ROME - The United Nations put the world on notice Wednesday that two nations, Haiti and Lesotho, could run critically short of food if their situations don't soon change.

[...] Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, lies at the heart of what aid workers describe as an unprecedented regional disaster. Harvests have been meager in recent years because of the drought and severe insect infestations.

The warnings come as the World Food Programme is already dealing with other severe food shortages in North Korea, Ethiopia and Chad, as well as earthquake-devastated Bam, Iran.

Break in case of jailed Canadian held in Israel

Last Updated Wed, 11 Feb 2004 20:32:01

JERUSALEM - An Israel court ruled Wednesday that a lawyer for jailed Palestinian-Canadian student Jamal Akkal can interview Israel interrogators involved in his client's case.

Jamal Khatib will be able to question the interrogators at a closed court session in March.

Last fall, Israel charged Akkal with conspiracy to commit murder and with illegal military training after the former University of Windsor student confessed to being a member of the Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement.

Khatib said the confession was given under duress and that unscrupulous methods were used to elicit it.

"We claim that they got the confession under duress. We need to hear all the interrogators that interrogated him and our claim that they used physical force and that they threatened to do harm to his brothers in Canada and Germany," said Khatib, who claims Akkal was only detained because some members of his extended family in Gaza belong to Hamas.

EU membership touted for Israel, Palestine, Jordan

Last Updated Wed, 11 Feb 2004 12:48:53

JERUSALEM - If the Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians sign a peace agreement, they should be offered membership in the European Union, where the three countries could form a trading partnership, says former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.

Fossil points to earlier land invasion by insects

Last Updated Wed, 11 Feb 2004 20:07:40

LONDON - A fossilized insect uncovered from a museum vault may be the oldest ever found. Scientists say the discovery could push back the origins of one of Earth's most successful life forms.

The 400-million-year-old set of miniscule jaws could push the appearance of insects on land some 10 million to 20 millions years into the fossil record.

Police took my novel, writer says

Last Updated Wed, 11 Feb 2004

TORONTO - An award-winning writer says police seized her latest manuscript in a search that led to unrelated criminal charges against her common-law husband

Marsha Boulton says a novel she worked on for three years was taken last summer when Ontario Provincial Police searched the home she shares with crime writer Stephen Williams. Williams was subsequently charged with violating publication bans on materials related to the case of sex killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

[...] She says her latest work, a historical novel, has nothing to do with the Bernardo/Homolka case, and was stored on her own computer in the farmhouse she shares with Williams.

"My office is entirely separate," she said. "It's on the second storey, while Stephen Williams's office is on the first floor. My office is quite different."

Nonetheless, Boulton says investigators took the computer and backup discs that held her manuscript.

An OPP spokesman confirmed Wednesday that investigators still have the computer. He said its seizure was authorized by a court order.

Groundwater sinking to new depths


NEW DELHI: Is the ground slipping from under our feet? With India mining its groundwater reserves, red spots are beginning to show on the radar. In fact, warn experts, it could soon be time to ring the alarm bell.

Nobody knows the full scale of the problem; it just hasn't been studied systematically. But thirsty Indians are guzzling groundwater reserves — 85 per cent of rural supply and more than 50 per cent of feel-good India's urban and industrial supply is mined. In some areas, too much water has been pumped out.

In others, contamination is reaching serious proportions.

Researchers pinpoint brain areas that process reality, illusion

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Feb. 10, 2004 — Marvin Gaye wailed in the '60s hit "Heard it through the Grapevine" that we're supposed to believe just half of what we see.

But a new collaborative study involving a biomedical engineer at Washington University in St. Louis and neurobiologists at the University of Pittsburgh shows that sometimes you can't believe anything that you see. More importantly, the researchers have identified areas of the brain where what we're actually doing (reality) and what we think we're doing (illusion, or perception) are processed. [...]

Brain Maps Perceptions, Not Reality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When we experience an illusion, we usually have the impression we have been fooled, or that our minds are playing tricks on us. New research published in the Oct. 31 issue of the journal Science indicates our perceptions of these illusions are no hoax, but the result of how the brain is organized to process the information it receives from our senses. [...]

Comment: Reality and illusion are continual topics at this site. Determining what is real or rational, discerning between subjective or objective. Realizing that we can only have relative truth, but with an open and skeptical mind we can take continual steps toward perceiving what is, rather than what we are told, or what we "think" should be. A journey, a quest that few even will want to begin, even if they could imagine such an option exists. Too dangerous, too difficult and entirely too unsettling, particularly when we realize that we cannot entirely trust our perceptions. The Signs page is really not for those who have it all figured out, or want easy answers. In the spirit of attempting to figure just what exactly going on this planet lets take a look at the anomalous news ...

UFO sightings at all-time levels

Is it time for the tinfoil hats?

Steve Hammer

Strange things have been happening lately. Global warming is about to cause a massive new Ice Age, George Bush is looking more and more like a one-term president and al Qaeda says it now has nuclear capability.

While we have all the money in the world to spend on the military and on security, the United States can’t spend one dime to implement the Kyoto protocols, which would at least give us a chance at stemming the upcoming disasters.

At the same time, UFOs are being sighted at all-time levels, our Mars rovers keep sending back strange images and alien abductions appear to be on the rise as well.

It may well be time to break out the tinfoil hats and start stocking up on food and water, as the Apocalypse appears to be nigh.

In Canada, the environmental minister is warning that global warming is a bigger long-term threat than terrorism because climate changes will cause the relocation of millions of people and leave North American agriculture in ruins.

“Terrorism is unlikely to give us the strong possibility of 500 million refugees,” said the minister, David Anderson. “Climate change is likely to give us that if it goes unchecked.”

While we have all the money in the world to spend on the military and on security, the United States can’t spend one dime to implement the Kyoto protocols, which would at least give us a chance at stemming the upcoming disasters.

It’s a bizarre time to be alive. While every generation likes to boast that the end is near, in this case the predictions may actually be true. We may just be a year or two away from a near-total economic collapse in America, resulting in massive rioting in our cities.

And the reason the UFOs appear to be showing up in record numbers is because aliens apparently like to watch the action, in the same way I used to watch the goings-on in my ant farm.

My eyes have been opened to all of these possibilities thanks to the great Art Bell, the radio talk-show host who explores these things on Saturday and Sunday nights.

In fact, the other night, I called into his show after a very bizarre event happened in my own life.

I’d come home from work on a Monday feeling dog-tired. I got home, took a shower, shaved, gave food and water to my cats and laid down for a nap around 5:30 p.m. I slept for what felt like hours, having very vivid dreams.

When I woke up, most of the cats’ food and water had been consumed. When I walked into the bathroom, I had the beginning of a 5 o’clock shadow. I felt totally refreshed from my nap.

But when I looked down at my watch, it was only 6:30 p.m. Obviously, there’d been some sort of time manipulation at work.

So when I asked Bell about my situation, he told me that I’d been the victim of what is called a “time slip.” It apparently happens pretty frequently and its cause is unknown. Some have said that it is connected with the abduction phenomena, while others see it as only a time-space anomaly.

Either way, it was bizarre. [...]

Now, do I really believe in alien abductions, UFOs and the forthcoming apocalypse? Not necessarily. What I do know is that there are many things which science cannot adequately explain and which the U.S. government has been covering up for decades.

If there are no UFOs, then why haven’t the records from the 1947 Roswell crash ever been released? Why have a succession of presidential candidates promised to open up all the UFO-related files and then reneged?

I remember enough from my physics class that any extraterrestrial pilot would have to be traveling at faster than light speed to even come close to bridging the considerable distance between earth and any other life-bearing entity.

The nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is about four light years away from us. That’s approximately 24 trillion miles. It would take tens of thousands of years for us to get there if we traveled at the fastest rate possible today. So the possibility of these abductions all being real seems small.

But, as I said above, these are bizarre times. I’m not ready to completely discount anything in this realm.

There are individuals who’ve claimed to be the victims of alien implants. Doctors have removed objects from them that appear to be comprised of materials previously unknown to us.

If there are indeed extraterrestrials roaming around our planet, I wouldn’t be so sure their intentions are good. If they’ve expended all this effort to reach us, I’m relatively sure that they want something more than just to observe us.

And, according to some who’ve studied the issue, a very high percentage of humans today are actually a hybrid of human and alien. Maybe the level is as high as 40 percent.

Who am I to say none of this is true? While it’s pretty ridiculous on its face to believe in any of this, I’m keeping an open mind.

And I’m keeping my tinfoil hat at the ready.

Comment: A good article, although we would be hesitant to trust much of what comes from Art Bell's shows. It appears that very little discernment goes on in determining who gets air time and who doesn't. Although, it is really up to each individual to use their own critical skills and not trust something just because it comes from a position of authority. The author tentatively makes an excellent point that very likely all these upheavals are connected: political, social, dimensional, Fortean...

What if Bob Lindsay abducted an alien and no one cared?


On January 14, Lindsay [...] noticed something odd. A security camera trained on a couple of the plant's boiler stacks happened to capture an object moving across the sky .

"I saw a long, black object, and I could see flames starting at its nose and going up both sides of it," Lindsay tells the Strip.
Lindsay wasn't sure what he was seeing, so the 52-year-old did what he figured was the responsible thing -- he made a videotape of the flight and alerted the media .

He had better luck with KMBC Channel 9 , which aired Lindsay's tape and called NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command), only to find that the U.S. military claimed not to know anything about a re-entering piece of space junk over Kansas City. The ABC station also consulted an astronomer, who said the object was probably a large meteor. [...]

Comment: A large flaming meteor is more interesting than a UFO, particularly since those sightings have greatly increased. UFO reports still beat out fireball reports in terms of quantity.

Vancouver tops in reported UFO sightings across Canada


WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Vancouver and Toronto topped the list of Canadian cities with sightings of unidentified flying objects, according to an annual report.

According to the 2003 Canadian UFO Survey released Tuesday by Ufology Research of Manitoba, there were 673 UFO sightings across Canada last year, 39 percent more than in 2002. Of the sightings reported last year, 41 were in Vancouver and 34 in Toronto.

"It's still puzzling why we're seeing an increase," survey author Chris Rutkowski said. "It could be that more people are willing to admit they've seen a UFO because they see other people admitting it. The ridicule barrier is almost completely eliminated."

Of the total sightings, 17 percent remain unexplained.

"We have enough information to judge that the other objects were a star or an aircraft," Rutkowski said.

Comment: The 2003 reports can be found here.

Close encounter on Highway 7

Family of 3 witnesses UFO


John Stewart doesn't believe in aliens but he would like an explanation for the saucer-like object he saw in the sky last summer. The Stony Mountain resident, along with his wife and 11-year-old son, reported seeing the unidentified flying object on Aug. 23 while driving into Winnipeg.

"It was the freakiest thing I've ever seen in my life," said Stewart, who works for a local recording company. "It was absolutely amazing to see and the more I think about it, the more I wish I could see it again."

Stewart's sighting was one of 25 reported in the province last year, according to the 2003 Canadian UFO Survey. The survey was released yesterday by an independent research group led by Winnipegger Chris Rutkowski.

Stewart said the saucer caught his eye while driving past a farmer's field on Highway 7 about 6:45 p.m. that day. He initially assumed it was a small airplane or helicopter, hovering 30 to 40 metres above the ground, but he realized it was much more than that after the object flew over the highway median and turned sideways as it passed cars at speeds of up to 140 km/h.

"Me and my wife looked at each other and said 'What the hell is that?' " Stewart recalled yesterday. "It wasn't aerodynamic at all, so it shouldn't have been able to have been flying, let alone flying while going that fast."

The object was pewter in colour and had a diameter of about three metres, he said, with black and symmetrical, ball-like windows along the side. After it flew over Stewart's truck, the family lost sight of the UFO only 90 seconds after first spotting it.

"I have no idea what it was," he said. "If I believed in aliens I'd have thought it was a probe of some sort but I don't know about that."


At Rutkowski's urging, all three family members drew a picture of what they saw. All three drawings were strikingly similar, said Stewart.

He said he wouldn't have come forward if he had spotted the object while alone, saying there is a stigma attached to people who report such sightings. Even his friends were skeptical when he told them about it.

"Nobody believed me until my wife said she saw it, too," he said. "So they now believe we saw something."

Stewart's sighting was one of 115 in Canada last year that have no apparent explanation, said Rutkowski. [...]

Family flee home as 'ghost' moves in

MEMBERS of a Gravesend family say they have been forced to flee their home after a ghostly apparition turned rooms cold and burned candles black.

Even a blessing from a vicar - called in by Gravesham Council - has failed to deter the spirit from spooking the family.
Now Lisa Bruce is concerned for her 24-year-old sister and six-year-old niece after the unexplained happenings at their flat in St Patrick’s Gardens, Gravesend.

Lisa, 30, of nearby Raphael Road, said: “Since just after Christmas there has been some sort of poltergeist or presence in her flat.”

The ghostly goings-on have included:

* Shadows in the hallway
* Rooms suddenly turning from hot to cold
* A feeling someone else is in the room

Most recently the letter M appeared scratched on a toy blackboard and patterns have been appearing in sheets after beds have been made.

Even the family’s usually confident Staffordshire bull terrier Rusty is reluctant to go into the flat.

Gravesham Borough Council brought in a ghostbusting vicar to bless the council flat after a visit from staff last week.

A Gravesham council spokesman said: “A council officer visited the property and made a full assessment, noting the tenant’s queries. These were followed up on return to the council, but we could not find any realistic conclusion.

“As this was the case we made enquiries on behalf of the tenant with St Aidan’s Church to see if they could offer any suggestions.”

Vicar Peter Rich from St Aidan’s visited to bless the flat and placed candles and crosses in some of the rooms.
He said: “The council did contact me and we are trying to do what we can to help the family. You do get this sort of situation happen from time to time.”

But it was when the candles given to the family began to burn black, with black smoke plumes and the wicks changing colour, that the family decided enough was enough.

Lisa’s sister, who asked not to be identified, took the decision to move her and her daughter out of the flat. They are now sleeping on the floor in her disabled mother’s bungalow.

Gravesham council has said it had no plans to move the family into temporary accommodation. But Lisa said: “We never believed in any of this but until it happens to you, you don’t know. My sister loves her flat and would like to return when whatever it is goes away, but my sister and my niece can’t sleep on the floor forever.”

Local medium Linda Rowden Allen said: “It is hard to speculate without knowing the family. They could move back in and ignore it or they could try and find out what or who it might be.

Translated by a reader from Spanish to English

Indigenous people hunt for animal that cuts up birds into pieces

El Universal
February 6th 2004

[...] An indigenous community in Yucatan has dedicated the last few days to try to hunt at night with shotguns the "huay keken" (diabolical depredator in Maya) which -according to their story- has cut into pieces their poultry, with the disbelief of the authorities. Abrisel Ek Baas, farmer and mother, slept in her house of metal roof when she heard noises on the back of her house. "The birds went wild. I was scared. It sounded like something big that walked on two feet", she says. The next morning, Abrisel found the birds, turkeys and chicken, destroyed and bitten.

[...] People say that the "huay keken" is a huge animal with legs of a horse, gray hairy body, female body from the waist up and makes a noise with a very high tone. From one of the communities, Chicxlub, the local sheriff Jorge Luis Aguilar said that every night the residents guard with weapons, and one of them described the beast as "a dog two meter high, with red eyes, that spits fire".

[...] The state secretary of Protection and Transit, Javier Medina Torre, urged people to remain calm because "while the beast doesn't exist, the hunting could cause someone getting shot and that would become a serious action". However, the rumour is still growing.[...]

Myth-hunters in fear in Yucatan

February 5th 2004

While the presence of evil entities advances in Yucatan and motivates an atmosphere of terror among residents, the State Department of Protection and Transit [of Yucatan] warned this Wednesday that it will not allow and will even punish people who use weapons on their attempt to hunt these allegedly supernatural beings.

The reason is that for a second consecutive dawn the residentes of Texan Palomeque, in the municipality of Hunucma, did not sleep and armed themselves with the intention to kill a supposedly female werewolf, that in the last few days has created panic among the members of that and other communities in Yucatan, besides having destroyed hundreds of poultry and other domestic animals. [...]

Legend of sea serpent in Virginia still credible?

[...]Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution agreed to examine the tape. The panel called Frew's tape "intriguing," and concluded that, "The usual explanations of partially submerged logs, a string of birds or marine animals, optical illusion, etc., seem inappropriate for the dark, elongated, animate object." [...]

Ancient stone circle has made us ill

Feb 11 2004
Robin Turner
The Western Mail

A PAIR of psychic investigators looking at the healing properties of an ancient stone circle claim it has made them seriously ill.

Brian Perinton and mother-of-two Claire Williams visited Carn Llechart stone circle in the Swansea Valley three months ago. They planned to investigate the healing properties and positive energy which standing in the centre of circle, said to have been constructed in around 2,000BC, was reputed to give to people.

Mr Perinton said yesterday, "I have never seen anything like it. Claire was bodily thrown from the centre of the circle by some kind of force. I felt it too. It was like being punched in the stomach.

"Since our visit we suffered severe headaches, stomach problems, lethargy and general illness. It was almost as if our energy was completely sapped by whatever was in the centre of those stones.

"We are starting to recover now but we want to find out if anyone else has had similar experiences. We would love to speak to them to find out if the illnesses and general feeling of weakness are the same.

"Then we can start some kind of scientific investigation into what could be causing this."

No one is entirely certain why the stone circles were created but they are a Celtic phenomenon. Archaeologists believe they could be giant calendars with stone shadows tracing the alignment of the moon and sun. [...]

Comment: Yep, those "howling savages" were so stupid that they dragged all those stones around just to have a calendar. If you believe that, we have ancient Atlantean relics to sell you.

One of the upheavals occurring in our society is the dominance of the psychopath and most people's ignorance of this strange phenomenon leaving them vulnerable. Most psychopaths are smart enough to not get caught, and to stick to the letter of the law. Most are not serial killers, like the US president. They exact their toll on society in a myriad of other ways, such as becoming corporate CEOs.

Black magic ritual to create vengeful ghosts

February 11 2004 at 06:06AM

Two Hong Kong girls were allegedly killed and then raped as part of a black magic ritual to create ghosts to torment their killer's wife, a news report said on Wednesday.

The girls, aged one and 11, were allegedly snatched within two weeks of each other by father-of-three Duong Vinh Cuong after his wife walked out on him, prosecutors told Hong Kong's High Court on Tuesday.

Duong, who claimed to have learned black magic in Thailand, apparently later admitted to police that he killed the girls then raped them as part of an occult ritual to make them related to him by blood, the court heard. [...]

Girl, 20 Killed Over Alleged Witchcraft Pushed Down From 3-Storey Building

A 20-year-old girl, Nkiru Iruka, has been murdered by her cousin, ThankGod Ukwueze, 19, who accused her of witchcraft. [...]

12 victims of 'Ripley' killer?

By Finian Davern, Evening Standard
11 February 2004

Fears are growing that a serial killer has murdered 12 men, hidden their bodies and assumed their identities, police have revealed.

Detectives believe the killer followed the pattern of The Talented Mr Ripley, the character portrayed on film by Matt Damon, who murdered a friend and took over his victim's wealth and his life. [...]

Body parts of abuse teacher found in garden grave

By Jack Mathieson

THE dismembered corpse of a pervert teacher was found in a shallow grave yesterday.Disgraced Alan Wilson's body was discovered in a garden in Edinburgh's posh Merchiston area. [...]

Wilson, 52, was the former principal history teacher at James Gillespie's School in the city.

He was jailed for 18 months in May 2000 on eight counts of sex abuse against teenage pupils over a five-year period. He plied his victims with drink before abusing them. [...]

Yesterday, his neighbours in the posh block refused to discuss Wilson, saying they had 'held a meeting' and decided not to comment.

Wilson had become awell-respected school figure in his 20-year career, even advising education authorities about teaching matters. [...]

Wilson had always been fascinated with death, gore and grisly murder.

Dressed in black, hooded cloaks, he would teach his tour guides to recount macabre tales of death and torture to tourists in candlelit underground vaults, including the once plague-ridden street of Mary King's Close.

Together with his then friend and colleague, Des Brogan, he co-wrote a book, Ghostly Tales and Sinister Stories of Old Edinburgh.

It revels in the tales of dismembered bodies that the guides still tell nightly.

A former guide who worked for Wilson, who did not wish to be named, said: 'He loved all those gruesome tales of the grisly side to old Edinburgh and, in particular,stomach-churning murders. The book he wrote is dripping with guts and gore.

'He would make sure all the stories we told were full of all the grisly details too blood, pain and torture.

'There are all the famous tales like the one of the infamous bodysnatchers Burke and Hare.

'But after Wilson was sent to prison, he cut all ties with the company and I never knew what happened to him.

'So it seems incredible that he ended up as murdered like that, as though he were in one of his very own stories.

'It sounds horrible to say, but I suppose in years to come people will be telling tales of how he was killed.'

Unlucky motorcyclist hit by small fortune

Thursday February 12, 07:51 AM

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Relatives of a kidnap victim in Taiwan struck a passing motorcyclist with more than $600,000 in cash when they tossed the ransom money to the kidnappers from a highway overpass.

The T$20 million (317,000 pounds) ransom, packed into two nylon bags, landed on 57-year-old Lu Fang-nan when he rode under the overpass just as a relative of the victim delivered the money according to kidnappers' instructions, local media said on Thursday.

"What does this have to do with me? Why did I get hit? I'm certainly unlucky enough," the mass-circulation United Daily News quoted Lu as saying.

Lu, who later sought medical attention for swelling and bruising of his left leg, said he rode off not realising he had been toppled off his motorcycle by a small fortune.

Newspapers said police were closing in on several suspects in the kidnapping of an electronic components merchant, who was returned unharmed to his family.

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