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Saturday, February 14, 2004

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New! Signs Supplement: Fortean Fire

Picture of the Day

©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Valentine's Day is the day when many people ponder the concept of love and its ineffable and sublime qualities. The midpoint in the month of February was associated in ancient pre-Christian times with ideas of fertility, rebirth and renewal. It encompassed two festivals, Imbolc and Lupercus, which celebrated the first signs of the returning sun, heralding new life and new hope, as the dark days of Winter receded.

Historians tell us that pre-Christian "pagan" peoples were howling savages that hauled large stones around more or less for fun, and were so simple minded that they "worshipped" the Sun, believing it to be a "god" of some sort. The alleged simplemindedness of the Pagan peoples is, it seems, only surpassed by modern historians that make such crass attempts to understand them and their beliefs.

These pagan peoples may have understood much more about the nature of love than our modern society can even guess. The concept of cycles and circles, and all that they imply, seem to have played a central part in their perception of reality. Perhaps when they observed the life giving sun and the cyclic return of the seasons, these pagan peoples were struck by the unconditional "giving" that they were witnessing, and in this sense "worshipped" this concept. Perhaps they merely saw it as symbolic of that which they aspired to develop within themselves. The freedom that love and giving love unconditionally can offer.

With each new year perhaps they noticed the effects of this unconditional giving of the sun and nature. They noticed that there was always more each year, that nothing remained the same - that, in fact, unconditional giving of love meant that things could continue to grow and change.

"It is odd to think that there is a word for something which, strictly speaking, does not exist, namely, "rest".

We distinguish between living and dead matter; between moving bodies and bodies at rest. This is a primitive point of view. What seems dead, a stone or the proverbial "door-nail", say, is actually for ever in motion. We have merely become accustomed to judge by outward appearances; by the deceptive impressions we get through our senses." [The Restless Universe, Max Born, New York, 1951, p.1]

Physics has shown that we are surrounded by constant motion and change. Standing still is an illusion; we are always moving. There really is no such thing as a status quo. We can have an illusion of a status quo, and expend much energy in maintaining stasis, the maintaining of that which cannot be maintained.

A tree will grow old, eventually die, and fall into the forest. All the while, hordes of microorganisms and insects will be doing their job, furthering decay, and what was once a tree will go on to feed the forest. Just like the tree we are either deteriorating or growing. Our mind is either growing or deteriorating. The difference between us and a tree is that we have to choose. When a tree grows to seek out the sunlight, it is probably not making a conscious choice.

If our mind is not growing, then it is deteriorating. If we are not consciously seeking knowledge and growth in awareness, than perhaps we should consider asking ourselves a rather shocking question: Just what is our deteriorating mind fertilizing? We would make the case that not growing in awareness of the truth of our reality means that our minds are deteriorating.

Growing implies change, and probably most of us are uncomfortable with change to varying degrees. Many of us attempt to put off change or to ignore changes around us. Deterioration also implies change, and if we are unwilling to choose to grow and to meet whatever challenges exist, we lose and the process of deterioration begins. We have all kinds of beliefs, based on no facts whatsoever, that attempt to give us an illusion of rootedness or stasis. The first really strong storm that comes along could very well knock us over. We did not have the awareness of how to survive such a storm, all the while trusting that somehow we were so special that we should be saved from discomfort and decay.

Like a tree in a forest, we are not in isolation, and it is only great hubris that can cause us to consider that we exist in isolation and that our choices do not have some impact on the reality in which we reside, or the reality we will reside in the future. Unlike a tree, we can grow in awareness of our reality, and begin to make choices. We can learn to think, and to not react based on belief. As noted in the quote from Max Born, even our language contains words that reinforce illusion. Everything is always in motion.

Awareness of our present reality is of vital importance. How can we even make choices or think if we do not have any knowledge of the medium in which we swim? Science is the study and discovery of laws that operate in our reality, the search for truth. We can do the same, also becoming scientists of the soul.

We often document the many horrors that make up our present reality, and we do on occasion receive emails from those who are upset over what we do, or encourage us to lighten up. We can understand the impetus for such a declaration, but if we do not see our reality for what it really is, then we have no motivation for making choices other than what is offered; the choices offered are generally from those who have a stake in our deterioration rather than our growth. Those who have a stake in maintaining the illusion of stasis can only offer destruction, since there is no such thing as stasis.

Who knows what may be possible, or what may be discovered by those who choose to grow in awareness? Who can place limits on the mind? What happens if you decide to no longer fertilize this present reality with your deterioration? Some like this present reality, even if it is full of destruction, control and deceit. Fine, we believe in honoring free will. But for those who are seekers, there is no reason to remain rooted in the same forest as we completely decay, only to fertilize this cycle of destruction, control and deceit. Is there any hope? Sure, even if it is just a glimmer. But that hope does not reside in attempting to fix that which does not desire to be fixed. The future is open, and perhaps we should all act as if the future depended on us as individuals.

So let us not lose hope, while we teach ourselves to examine reality without flinching, while we grow in awareness of what is, and give up believing in what should be. As we learn about chaos and order, cycles and change, perhaps we can learn to contribute toward the creation of something new? What if our awareness determines the choices available?

A Valentine rose from the Cosmos

The Evolution of War

Vanunu among record 173 Nobel nominees

By Reuters and Haaretz Service

OSLO - Jailed Israeli atomic whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, the head of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei and former Czech President Vaclav Havel are among a record 173 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. [...]

"I'm speculating about Vanunu [winning], although I don't think that the Nobel Committee will be sufficiently daring to provoke Israel," said Stein Toennesson, director of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo. [...]

Iran ready to sell nuclear fuel abroad

Saturday February 14, 02:44 PM

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, his country accused by Washington of secretly developing nuclear arms, says the Islamic Republic is ready to sell nuclear fuel to international buyers.

Iran rejects U.S. charges it seeks nuclear weapons and insists it will enrich uranium only to the level needed to fuel power stations and not to higher, weapons-grade purity. [...]

US to hit Syria with sanctions

Janine Zacharia Feb. 13, 2004

The US plans to impose sanctions on Syria in accordance with the Syria Accountability Act, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate panel on Thursday. During the hearing, Powell also placed the burden for moving peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the Palestinians.

Asked whether the US intends to begin implementation of the Syria Accountability Act sometime in the near future, Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Yes. We're examining now what sections of the act we want to use."

That the administration has been reviewing which sanctions might be imposed within the next few months has been known in Washington.

But it was the first time a senior US official stated publicly that sanctions would definitely be imposed.

The president has the ability to waive sanctions if he deems it in US national security interests.

The act, signed in December by President George W. Bush, directs the president to ban US sales of weaponry and dual-use items – items that could be used for civilian or military purpose – unless Syria abandons its support for terrorism, removes its troops from Lebanon, stops the flow of terrorists into Iraq, and abandons its pursuit of nonconventional weapons.

Comment: Ah, the hypocrisy. Apparently, there is simply no end to it...

Unidentified bodies murdered by Israeli occupation troops lying on a street in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip early March 6, 2003. Photographer Ahmed Jadallah of Reuters, image courtesy Raja Mattar.

Annan Deplores Loss Of Life During Israeli Military Incursions

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today deplored the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians, including civilians, during Israeli military incursions in Gaza Wednesday.

He urged Israel to abide by its obligations under international law, including stopping the use of disproportionate force in densely populated areas and taking greater care to avoid injuring innocent civilians, his spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said.

More than 50 Palestinians were reported injured, including several critically wounded children, he said.

Attack on Iraqi forces kills 23 as UN rules out early polls

February 14, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Twenty-three people were killed in the third attack on Iraqi security forces this week, a day after the United Nations ruled out the possibility of early elections and warned of the threat of civil war in Iraq. [...]

The fantasy of democracy in an Arab state

Robert Fisk
The Independent
13 February 2004

For democracy, read fantasy. Iraq is getting so nasty for our great leaders these days that anything - and anyone - is going to be thrown to the dogs to save them. The BBC, the CIA, British intelligence - any journalist that dares to point out the lies that led us to war - get pelted with more lies. The moment we suggest that Iraq never was fertile soil for Western democracy, we get accused of being racists. Do we think the Arabs are incapable of producing democracy, we are asked? Do we think they are subhuman?

This kind of tosh comes from the same family of abuse as that which labels all and every criticism of Israel anti-Semitic. If we even remind the world that the cabal of neo-conservative, pro-Israeli proselytisers - Messers Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Kristol, et al - helped to propel President Bush and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld into this war with grotesquely inaccurate prophecies of a new Middle East of democratic, pro-Israeli Arab states, we are told that we are racist even to mention their names. So let's just remember what the neo-cons were advocating back in the golden autumn of 2002 when Tony was squaring up with George to destroy the Hitler of Baghdad.

They were going to re-shape the map of the Middle East and bring democracy to the region. The dictators would fall or come onside - thus the importance of persuading the world now that the preposterous Gaddafi is a "statesman" (thank you, Jack Straw) for giving up his own infantile nuclear ambitions - and democracy would blossom from the Nile to the Euphrates. The Arabs wanted democracy. They would seize it. We would be loved, welcomed, praised, embraced for bringing this much sought-after commodity to the region. Of course, the neo-cons got it wrong.

The latest contribution to the defence of these men came from David Brooks in The New York Times. "In truth," he writes, "the people labelled 'neo-cons'... don't actually have much contact with one another... There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office... All evidence suggests that Bush formed his conclusions independently."

It's good of the "senior" officials to let us know this - let alone the unconsciously hilarious aside that Mr Bush reaches conclusions on his own. Brooks even tries to erase the word "neo-conservative" from the narrative of the Iraq war with the absurd line that "con is short for 'conservative' and neo is short for 'Jewish'". For now, the mere use of the phrase "neo-conservative" can be anti-Semitic: Brooks actually ends his article by announcing that "anti-Semitism is resurgent".

If that's the best critics can be threatened with, then Messers Wolfowitz, Perle and the rest are on the run. They didn't say democracy would work. They didn't influence President Bush. They didn't have the power. They hardly talked to him. Neo-conservatives? Who? But it was the neo-cons who were - along with Israel itself - among the most fervent advocates of an Iraqi invasion.

They had seized upon a devastating and all-too-true fact of life in most of the Middle East: that Arab states are largely squalid, corrupt, brutal dictatorships. No surprise there. We created most of these dictators. We kicked off with kings and princes and - if they didn't exercise sufficient control over the masses - then we supported a wretched bunch of generals and colonels, most of whom wore a variety of British military uniforms with eagles instead of crowns on their hat badges. [...]

And so here we go again. No weapons of mass destruction. No links between Saddam and 11 September. No democracy. Blame the press. Blame the BBC. Blame the spooks. But don't blame Messers Bush and Blair. And don't blame the American neo-conservatives who helped to push the US into this disaster. They don't even exist. And if you say they did, you know what you're going to be called.

Airline boss apologises over evangelical broadcast

11:55 Saturday 14th February 2004

The chief executive of American Airlines has apologised after the pilot of a domestic flight went on the intercom and asked all Christians on board to raise their hands.

The pilot, Rodger Findiesen, has been grounded while the February 7 incident is investigated, Gerard Arpey said.

Findiesen, on a Los Angeles-New York flight, asked all Christians on board to discuss their faith with their fellow passengers.

"Let me assure you that we take this very seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation," Arpey wrote to Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that monitors anti-Semitism.

The airline "promotes an environment of respect for the diversity of all persons, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, age or sexual orientation".

Mr Foxman had complained about the incident.

American plan for Iraq needs complete overhaul, United Nations envoy warns

Too little time left for credible elections, compounded by 'very serious danger' of civil war

Rory McCarthy in Baghdad
Saturday February 14, 2004
The Guardian

The UN threw America's latest political plan for Iraq into disarray yesterday by making it clear that direct elections cannot be held before the June 30 transfer of power to an Iraqi authority.
This was a key demand of the Shias, whose leaders set their face against the US plan to give control of the country to panels of "the great and the good".

Last night the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, said power should still be handed over to the Iraqis this summer as planned. But his aides said there would not be time to hold "credible elections" before then.

He distanced himself from the controversial US plan, hinting that it would have to be drastically rewritten or shelved.

"I think the people who put it together realise that it needs at the very least to be improved considerably," he said. [...]

Tens of thousands of Shias have demonstrated in public in recent weeks, demanding the quick elections they know would put them in power.

The UN envoy also gave the first public warning of the risk of civil war at a time when the insurgency bombing campaign has intensified.

"I am a little bit disturbed and a little bit uneasy, because there are very, very serious dangers," he said.

"Civil wars happen because people are reckless, because people are selfish, because groups think more of themselves than they do of the benefit of their country," he said. [...]

Most Think Truth Was Stretched to Justify Iraq War

By Richard Morin and Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 13, 2004

A majority of Americans believe President Bush either lied or deliberately exaggerated evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in order to justify war, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey results, which also show declining support for the war in Iraq and for Bush's leadership in general, indicate the public is increasingly questioning the president's truthfulness -- a concern for Bush's political advisers as his reelection bid gets underway.

Barely half -- 52 percent -- now believe Bush is "honest and trustworthy," down 7 percentage points since late October and his worst showing since the question was first asked, in March 1999. At his best, in the summer of 2002, Bush was viewed as honest by 71 percent. The survey found that nearly seven in 10 think Bush "honestly believed" Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Even so, 54 percent thought Bush exaggerated or lied about prewar intelligence. [...]

Comment: Most of these "polls" are not worth the electronic paper they are printed on. The real US public opinion on Bush is very likely much worse. Of course, there is nothing like a new war to cover public unrest...

CIA Web Site Notice Seeks Iraq WMD Information

Thu Feb 12, 8:38 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA, under fire over its intelligence about Iraq's arms programs, has posted a notice on its Web site offering rewards for information on the elusive weapons.

The "Iraqi Rewards Program" notice dated Tuesday seeks "specific and verifiable information" on the location of stocks of "recently made" chemical or biological weapons, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles or their components. [...]

U.S. to start reviews of Guantanamo detainees

Friday February 13, 09:07 PM

MADRID (Reuters) - The United States will set up a board to review the cases of detainees held at its Guantanamo military base at least once a year and expects releases to speed up, a senior U.S. official has said.

The move seemed designed to counter criticism from governments and human rights groups over conditions at the camp and the legal status of prisoners, most of whom were captured by U.S. forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

"There will be an administrative review panel that will look at each case at a minimum once a year," Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, told journalists in Madrid during a video-conference on Friday.

"The detainee will have the opportunity to appear before a board (and) make his case," he said. [...]

"I expect to see more outright releases in the future as well and you will also see cases that will move into the U.S. process where there will be military commissions and other forms of investigation," Prosper said. [...]

Comment: The article seems to imply that the detainees will have to defend themselves in front of a review board. It's too bad that almost all of them have never actually been charged with a crime. Apparently, either releasing the prisoners or sending them to a kangaroo court is supposed to answer critics' questions regarding the detainees' legal status. With every prisoner that is released, the US will essentially be admitting that it imprisoned innocent people. With every conviction from a military tribunal, the US will prove that its critics' comments about America turning into a tyrannical empire are true.

Rumsfeld defends Guantanamo policy

Friday February 13, 07:30 PM

MIAMI (Reuters) - Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has launched a broad defence of America's indefinite detention of hundreds of foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Rumsfeld said interrogations of these prisoners had yielded vital information.

Speaking to a business group in Miami on Friday, he called the continued detention of the roughly 650 Guantanamo prisoners without charges or access to lawyers a "security necessity, and I might add it is also just plain common sense." [...]

Comment: If fascism under the guise of security is "just plain common sense", the world is in big trouble.

Why I Didn't Reenlist

by Casey Khan

[...] Despite these nuisances, I loved the Marine Corps and the spirit of its founding in 1775 as a defense against tyranny. As I began to understand the true nature of liberty, I began to question just what kind of " Teufelhunden " that this organization has really morphed into. No longer a shield against tyranny, it has become the abused tip of a spear to a racket for politicians and their special interests du jour . In approaching reenlistment there were two realizations that kept me from signing for a second term. First, was the realization that the U.S. Constitution is a dead and meaningless document. Second, was the realization of a heresy that has permeated modern American society for some time. [...]

Bush Orders Release of Military Records


By Cynthia Tucker
Fri Feb 13, 8:03 PM ET

By the time NBC's Tim Russert finished interviewing President Bush last Sunday, viewers were either frightened or flabbergasted or both.

Frightened because Bush -- announcing himself a "war president" -- used variations of the words "war," "terror," "kill" and "danger" more than 70 times in an interview that lasted less than an hour. It prompted memories of Cold War school drills and hiding beneath the desk.

Flabbergasted because you may have thought you had been mysteriously transported into an episode of "The Outer Limits." Was it Dec. 8, 1941? Or April 18, 1961, the day after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion? Perhaps Sept. 12, 2001?

Actually, President Bush wants you emotionally stuck in the horrible aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The weeks following the atrocities saw the president transformed into a forceful commander-in-chief and brought him sky-high approval ratings. With his ratings now down to about 50 percent, he'd love to flytrap American voters in a 9/11 mindset until November -- which, he thinks, would ensure his re-election.

But the strategy won't work. The president's fear-mongering merely created a strange discordance, since most Americans don't consider the war on terror the most important issue facing the country. A January poll by the Pew Center showed that only 37 percent view defense and security as the nation's most pressing concern. Thirty-five percent list the economy, while nearly 20 percent list other domestic issues as the most important. (The rest chose other issues or none.)

Barring another attack on U.S. soil, the presidential election won't be won or lost on the war on terror. Bush beats the war drum too late; for the past two years, he has spent precious little time enlisting the average American in the war effort. [...]

'Anti-Semitic image of France unjust': Chirac

PARIS, Feb 13 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac said in an interview with an Israeli newspaper published Friday that his country is being unfairly criticised in Israel as anti-Semitic while France is leading a "tireless struggle" against such discrimination.

"France works relentlessly to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism," he told Yedioth Aharonoth in an interview days before a visit by Israeli President Moshe Katsav.

"Israeli criticism of anti-Semitism in Europe singles out France," he said.

"I am surprised at this. I am told that in the streets of Tel Aviv, in newspaper cartoons and in conversations, the image of France as an anti-Semitic country is gradually spreading. These caricatures deeply hurt French people.

"No, France is not an anti-Semitic country. But we must remain highly vigilant. With the government, we lead a tireless struggle against anti-Semitic language and acts," he said. [...]

France and UK to join forces with new aircraft carriers

PARIS, Feb 13 (AFP) - France and Britain appeared headed towards jointly building new-generation aircraft carriers after Paris announced Friday that it would not use nuclear propulsion in its next flagship vessel.

France and UK 'plan joint military force'

The announcement confirmed long-standing speculation that France would opt for conventional power on its next aircraft carrier - instead of the nuclear propulsion in its current sole carrier, the Charles de Gaulle - in order to fall into line with plans for the renewal of the British navy.

It also underscored an ever-closer military cooperation between Britain, France and Germany that the United States fears could sideline NATO in the European theatre.

"The choice brings a response that is perfectly adapted to the operational needs of the decades to come and opens better perspectives of cooperation with the United Kingdom," President Jacques Chirac's office said in a statement. [...]

Dollar sinks further as US trade deficit swells to 4.5% of GDP

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
The Independent
14 February 2004

The US trade deficit soared to a record $489bn (£260bn) last year, driving the dollar lower amid fears the currency will have to decline even further if the huge imbalance is to be narrowed. According to the Commerce Department, the trade gap for the month of December 2003 alone far exceeded economists' expectations to reach $42.5bn. [...]

In recent months, US officials have attempted to stabilise currency markets, by leaning on China and Japan to allow their currencies to appreciate, and by agreeing at the G7 Finance Ministers meeting in Florida last weekend that the dollar's decline had gone far enough.

But on both fronts the efforts failed. If inflation begins to rise - or worse still, foreign investors grow wary of purchasing US securities to finance the deficit - the Fed may be forced to start raising short-term interest rates from their current 40-year lows. [...]

Iris scanning to begin at German airport

By Dinesh C. Sharma
Special to CNET News.com
February 13, 2004, 11:05 AM PST

A test of an iris-scanning system is set to begin Saturday at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport, as part of a project involving 18 European countries.

Airline passengers will be required to stand in front of an identification device whose cameras will automatically capture images of their iris patterns, companies participating in the trial said Friday. The iris systems--seven of which have been installed at the airport--will then identify the passenger's iris and match that information with the passport data captured by a scanner. If successful, the iris system could replace conventional systems for checking identity at airport immigration counters.

Initially, residents of European Union countries and Switzerland who fly frequently with Lufthansa will be able to take part in the trial at the main Frankfurt airport, after getting their iris data registered. Full-scale service will be launched after the six-month trial, according to Byometric Systems and Oki Electric Industry, companies implementing the project. [...]

Cuba's Castro Ridicules Gaffe-Prone Bush

By Anthony Boadle
February 14, 2004

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban leader Fidel Castro resorted to humor on Saturday to defend himself from U.S. hostility, ridiculing President Bush for his gaffes.

"Bush could not debate a Cuban ninth grader, who knows more than he does," Castro said in a speech closing an international conference of economists hosted by his communist government.

Castro had his audience of 1,400 economists in stitches when he read out some of Bush's more unfortunate statements.

Among other gaffes, Castro quoted Bush as saying: "I will have a foreign-handed foreign policy;" "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family;" "More and more of our imports come from overseas;" and "The most important job is not to be governor, or first lady in my case." [...]

Russia: prisoners sentenced to TB

Russia’s prisons are the centre of a tuberculosis epidemic, resistant to antibiotics. The collapse of the public health service has worsened the situation. On orders from the Russian justice ministry, Médecins Sans Frontières has just withdrawn its TB missions from Siberia, although prisoners need to be treated urgently, and with the right medicines. [...]

Zimbabwe government bans women's Valentine's Day peace marches

Canadian Press

Saturday, February 14, 2004

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Police banned peace marches planned by women activists to celebrate Valentine's Day, saying they would ``shoot to kill'' if the bans were defied, organizers said Saturday.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise, a women's movement, had planned peace processions by women carrying red roses in the capital Harare, the second city of Bulawayo and provincial centres.

Jenni Williams, a spokeswoman for the organization, said police prohibited the main Harare march under Zimbabwe's sweeping security laws on Friday.

"They told us they would shoot to kill if we went ahead,'' Williams said.

She said marchers were to have handed out flowers symbolizing peace and love on Valentine's Day. [...]

Brazilian flood death toll reaches 161

13 Feb 2004

BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - The death toll from devastating rains that have drenched Brazil for weeks has risen to 161 people, while 230,000 have been forced to leave their homes, the government said on Friday.

At the beginning of this week the death toll stood at 119.

The growing damage from the rains prompted the government to release 339 million reais ($116 million) in disaster relief on Friday. National Integration Minister Ciro Gomes said the funds would be used to rebuild roads and houses.

Gomes said rain levels are likely to remain heavy.

Since early January, Brazil has been hit by the heaviest rains in more than a decade, causing wide-scale damage in the poor north as well as the cities of the south. Gomes said 17 of Brazil's 26 states have been hit to one degree or another.

Towns have had mudslides, been cut off when bridges and roads collapsed or flooded by rivers that ran over their banks.

The government has also said the rains could bring epidemics and has moved to resupply medicine stocks.

EU races to thwart influx of GM food from east

Biotech giants accused of using new member states as 'trojan horse'

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Saturday February 14, 2004
The Guardian

The EU is racing against time to stop genetically modified foodstuffs entering western Europe from the east after the community's enlargement on May 1, the Guardian has learned. Some of the 10 new member states have been growing GM crops for some time, but recent checks have shown that the testing facilities to monitor their spread to neighbouring crops are either flawed or non-existent.

The biggest agricultural country in eastern Europe, Poland, which has been growing GM crops for several years, has had no testing facilities at all.

Small Earthquakes hits Utah and Idaho

February 13, 2004

At least five small earthquakes have shaken parts of Utah and Idaho, but there are no immediate reports of damage.

The largest quake, registered by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations at magnitude 2-point-8, occurred at 11:35 last night in the northern Cache Valley, along the Utah-Idaho border.

University officials say the epicenter was almost two miles southwest of Franklin, Idaho, and two miles northwest of Lewiston, Utah.

There were also at least four smaller quakes located two miles northwest of Soda Springs, Idaho. The biggest, just before five o'clock this morning, registered at 2-point-7.

The other quakes were closer to magnitude 2.

Tremor Felt in Pakistani Capital

Argentine Region May Help Unlock Celestial Secret

Fri February 13, 2004
By Alistair Scrutton

MALARGUE, Argentina (Reuters) - In this desolate corner of Argentina, scientists are using a network of observatory stations spread over an area 10 times the size of Paris to uncover one of the universe's deepest secrets.

Researchers have littered 1,160 square miles with hundreds of UFO-like containers to scour the heavens for mysterious, rare and powerful cosmic rays that bombard Earth.

Subatomic particles known as "cosmic bullets" are one of science's great unknowns. They pack more energy than any known particle in the universe, and determining what propels the "cosmic bullets" could challenge the laws of physics, such as the theory of relativity.

It could "make Albert Einstein turn in his grave," said Carlos Hojvat, an astrophysicist who manages the project funded by nations including the United States, Argentina and Brazil.

"We call these rays messengers from the cosmos. They could tell us about universe's origins. We are on the very edge of science and the unknown," he said.

The $50 million Pierre Auger Observatory in western Argentina was originally a project of the 1980 Nobel Prize-winner James Cronin of the University of Chicago.

Observatory construction began in Malargue, Argentina, in 2000. This year, the observatory started to measure particles blasted onto the atmosphere from outer space.

Scientists are unsure from where these tiny, but powerful, rays come. The rays are so rare that one hits an area the size of a football stadium every century.

The size of this observatory will give researchers unparalleled access to the "cosmic bullets" by allowing the measurement of about 50 rays every year.

Some scientists say the rays may be left over from the start of the universe, split seconds after the Big Bang. Others say they could be emitted from black holes.

Either way, discovering how the rays work will help explain how the universe operates, Hojvat said.

Low-energy particles constantly rain down on Earth, generating a background radiation long known to science. But it is the punch the "cosmic bullets" pack that baffles scientists.

"Physics offers us no explanation. These rays shouldn't exist,' said Xavier Bertou, a French astrophysicist who works on the Malargue project. [...]

Machu Picchu

Denver Post

Collection of Incan treasures from high in th Andes on display at Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Comment: Notice the elongated skull in the middle. To see more of these skulls see Laura's article Monsters. Interesting that the neither the article nor the video at the above link makes any mention of something so strange. Oh, we are sure they have some nonsensical explanation like "head binding", if pressed. There is that whole closed system of an illusory status quo to be maintained for the masses.

Doctors, Priests Form Exorcism Commission

ROME (Reuters) - Faced with growing demand for exorcisms, Catholic Church leaders in the Italian city of Genoa have created a taskforce of doctors and priests to determine when the devil is at work and when psychiatric help is needed.

The team of three priests, one psychiatrist, one psychologist and one neurologist -- dubbed the "anti-Satan pool" by Italian media -- will work on a case-by-case basis, a local church official said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

"They'll meet on a regular basis to determine when there has been a case of demonic possession and call for an exorcist, or problems better cared for by a psychologist," said the official, who asked not to be named. [...]

Comment: For one of the better studies into the demonic, we recommend Hostage to the Devil by Malachi Martin. The article Alien Abduction, Demonic Possession, and The Legend of The Vampire is also helpful in understanding such things, but blaming demonic entities for such phenomena as the recent incidents in Sicily is just ignorance.

New Device To Be Tested On Patients With Major Depression

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a technique that uses repeated short bursts of magnetic energy to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, will soon be tested at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center as a treatment for major depression.

Lab scientists may soon be shouting: It's alive

By Sue Vorenberg
Tribune Reporter

The same laboratory that gave the world the atomic bomb is now collaborating on giving birth to artificial life.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are close to creating an organism completely different from any life on Earth.
They have all the building blocks ready and are hoping in the next few years to create a new organism 10 million times smaller than the smallest bacteria, they say in an article released today in the journal Science.

"If we can build creatures like this from scratch, we can design them to do things we've never seen in nature," said Steen Rasmussen, a scientist on the project. "They could be the building blocks for self-repairing systems, but we could also design them with metabolisms not found in nature. We could make them eat the worst contaminants out there, then die when they run out of food."

These tiny critters could lead to a new field of technology that allows all sorts of things - clothing, computer components, maybe even your car - to fix themselves, Rasmussen said.

"This is the first step in a truly enabling technology," Rasmussen said. "Materials that can self-heal have far-reaching applications. Achieving that is probably many years away, but the achievement will be similar to the invention of the first transistor or splitting the atom. It will change everything."

Rasmussen's work was done with a team of United States and international scientists.

The scientists would build the organism by combining a synthetic DNA - called PNA, for lipophilic peptide nucleic acid - with a simple metabolism and a cell-like container to hold the material.

Such creatures could be released onto an oil spill in the ocean. They'd eat all the oil from the spill, breaking it down into harmless components, then die off as soon as the spill was gone. Other organisms could be designed to only eat deadly viruses, Rasmussen said.

"Although I probably wouldn't want to be the person they tested that on," he joked.

Ethics surrounding the creatures is another story, said Mark Bedau, a philosophy professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, who is working with the scientists.

"This is a powerful new kind of idea, with huge potential benefits and a lot of big risks," Bedau said. "The risks come from the fact that these things would be artificial, but they'd also be alive. They'd construct themselves out of material in their environment, reproduce themselves and evolve."

But whether this creature fits the technical definition of life remains to be seen, Rasmussen said.

"Well, defining life is notoriously difficult," he said. "Some biologists say a living entity is something that harvests resources from the environment, can evolve and can reproduce itself. But if you look at that and think of a mule, then a mule wouldn't be alive because it can't reproduce itself."

For research purposes, the Los Alamos scientists are defining life as something with a metabolism that can turn resources into energy or building blocks, genetic material and a container to hold everything. Under that definition, their creatures will certainly be alive.

"Of course, there are a lot of moral issues surrounding the idea of living systems," Rasmussen said. "Should we treat them a certain way? We don't have moral issues when we give antibiotics to kill a disease. Still, there are serious issues about how do we use a technology like this. It's like atomic technology - there are good ways and bad ways to use it. We just have to be careful."

Some of the potential problems are very serious. If the tiny creatures were harmful or toxic to humans and able to reproduce themselves, it could cause large-scale damage, Bedau said.

"Also if they're alive and can evolve, the consequences are impossible to predict," Bedau said. "Still, we need to work on this because other countries are working on it. We need to research it so if there is a problem elsewhere we know how to deal with it. Also, by working on it we'll learn how to control it and contain it."

Right now, there are no regulations preventing or monitoring the creation of artificial life. That is something that should be worked out before scientists actually create their first living cell, Bedau said.

"There may be clouds on the horizon but this technology also has the potential to open a fantastic door to all kinds of new possibilities," Bedau said. "We'll be making life. On a pure scientific level, that means we'll have a very deep understanding of what life actually is. In a more practical vein, life has very interesting and powerful properties. It's the only thing that can reproduce and repair itself." [...]

Comment: Do these people watch movies?

Bizarre Therapy Leads To $7.35M Malpractice Settlement

Treating Doctor Denies Allegations

CHICAGO -- A woman who alleged she was put under drug-induced hypnosis and then convinced she was part of a satanic cult has settled her medical malpractice lawsuit, her attorney said.

NBC5's Natalie Martinez reported Thursday that the woman using the assumed name "Elizabeth Gale" was awarded $7.35 million -- the largest malpractice settlement awarded to a single person.

A Cook County judge approved the settlement Tuesday in Gale's lawsuit against psychiatrist Dr. Bennett Braun, two of his colleagues and two Chicago area hospitals, said Todd Smith, Gale's attorney. The settlement brings closure to the "almost two decades of her life consumed by this extraordinarily bizarre therapy," he said.

But no amount of money will bring back nearly 12 years of Gale's life that she says were completely ruined by her psychiatrist. Over the course of those 12 years, Gale was hospitalized 18 separate times but only got worse.

"I can never get back those years," said Gale, 52.

She was admitted to Rush North Shore Medical Center (pictured) in 1986 and placed under Braun's care for a common depression.

"I tried different antidepressants; I was just getting more and more depressed," Gale said.

But rather than fixing the problem, Gale says Braun and his team made it worse. They reportedly convinced Gale during drug-induced hypnosis that she was repressing abuse from her childhood, that she had killed a young boy and that she would die if she contacted her family. Gale says Braun told her that her family was involved in a cult and that one of her personalities was participating in it.

"I was convinced I was what was called a breeder, that my job was to have babies for their use," Gale said.

Gale allegedly then was told to undergo a tubal ligation to avoid cult pregnancies, and she had the procedure performed with Braun's approval in 1991, Smith said.

"I did not want to have any more children that would be killed in the name of the cult," she said.

Howard T. Brinton, Braun's attorney, said Braun denies all wrongdoing and wanted to take the case to trial. He said the case was settled despite Braun's written objection. Brinton said Braun currently lives and practices in Montana with a restricted license, Martinez reported.

Braun's Illinois medical license was reinstated in 2001 after being suspended in 1999 when another woman made similar accusations regarding a satanic cult. Braun also denied those allegations.

Smith helped an Iowa woman and her family win $10.6 million in 1997. Braun convinced her that she sexually abused her two sons, ate human flesh, and had 300 personalities.

"The whole nature of therapy led to people believing these memories, when indeed they were false," Smith said.

Mary Ellen Busch, an attorney for Rush University Medical Center and Rush North Shore Medical Center, said Braun and his two colleagues treated patients at the hospitals, but were not employed by the hospitals. She said the hospitals decided to settle the lawsuit partly because they were concerned that a jury would not understand that the methods Braun and his colleagues used were widely accepted at the time.

"At the time the care was being provided, in the mid-'80s and early-'90s, Dr. Braun and his team were recognized as national experts in the diagnosis and treatment of multiple personality disorder and the recovery of repressed memories of childhood abuse," she said. [...]

Comment: From this article, in the Daily Herald, we find a few more facts:

[...] Gale was one of many patients under the doctors' care. Although the technique is controversial now, at the time it was all the rage in the medical community, said Mary Ellen Busch, an attorney who represented both Rush entities. [...]

"On hundreds of occasions, Ms. Gale was tied down, over-medicated with Inderal, a heart medication not appropriate for psychiatric disorders, and essentially brainwashed by these three defendants," a prepared statement by Merlino's firm said.

Adding to the suggestive nature of the treatment was the doctors' "basic tenet (that) you can't get better until you get worse," said Merlino, which meant patients had to admit actions that didn't happen or face more harrowing treatment. [...]

So, who benefited from convincing so many people of such a reality? If satanic cults existed on such a large scale as described by these charlatans, the very nature of such energy would surely make its presence felt in a much larger way. Are these doctors participating in some kind of Nazi-like human experimentation?

Astronomers Find a Huge Diamond in Space

[...] "You would need a jeweler's loupe the size of the Sun to grade this diamond!" says astronomer Travis Metcalfe (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), who leads a team of researchers that discovered the giant gem. [...]

The huge cosmic gem (technically known as BPM 37093) is actually a crystallized white dwarf. A white dwarf is the hot core of a star, left over after the star uses up its nuclear fuel and dies. It is made mostly of carbon and is coated by a thin layer of hydrogen and helium gases. [...]

The white dwarf studied by Metcalfe, Montgomery, and Antonio Kanaan (UFSC Brazil), is not only radiant but also harmonious. It rings like a gigantic gong, undergoing constant pulsations.

"By measuring those pulsations, we were able to study the hidden interior of the white dwarf, just like seismograph measurements of earthquakes allow geologists to study the interior of the Earth. We figured out that the carbon interior of this white dwarf has solidified to form the galaxy's largest diamond," says Metcalfe.[...]

Canada, Where a Buffalo Can Roam And Watch TV

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