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Monday, February 23, 2004

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NEW ARTICLE: Is the World Coming to An End?
Not necessarily - but the future doesn't look bright!
- Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Picture of the Day

©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Here at Signs of the Times we deal with probabilities. We say we don't know. We seek to network with those who may have another small piece of the puzzle we call reality. This type of seeking is the complete antithesis of dogmatic "thinking". Actually, saying one knows anything for certain is not thinking, rather it is belief. One answer consisting of relative truth, seems to just lead to more questions. There appears to always be further levels beyond our knowledge, a frightening concept for many.

Most of us use words everyday, assuming we know what these words mean. The word "light" is one example, but exactly what light really is has been the subject of long debate, as any introductory book of physics will tell you. Even Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary informs us briefly of this debate:

Note: Light was regarded formerly as consisting of material particles, or corpuscules, sent off in all directions from luminous bodies, and traversing space, in right lines, with the known velocity of about 186,300 miles per second; but it is now generally understood to consist, not in any actual transmission of particles or substance, but in the propagation of vibrations or undulations in a subtile, elastic medium, or ether, assumed to pervade all space, and to be thus set in vibratory motion by the action of luminous bodies, as the atmosphere is by sonorous bodies. This view of the nature of light is known as the undulatory or wave theory; the other, advocated by Newton (but long since abandoned), as the corpuscular, emission, or Newtonian theory. A more recent theory makes light to consist in electrical oscillations, and is known as the electro-magnetic theory of light.

We can use our relative knowledge of light for real world applications that work, but for further growth of knowledge we have to leave the door open. The above note says, "a more recent theory", making it clear that current understanding of light is not dogmatic, but these same theories can be used for further exploration and can lead to further knowledge in the never ending quest for truth. Also note, that we can read the above paragraph and not really know what most of those words really mean. Entire worlds of ignorance can be exposed with one paragraph.

Belief is not knowledge and is used to override our biggest fear - our fear of the unknown. Our species seems to have a terrible time confronting the fact of how little we know. Some may admit they do not know anything about quantum mechanics, but then they will believe that scientists do understand it, unaware of the raging debates that occur. Scientific journalists further perpetuate this belief and are some of the worst propagators of this calming technique: "I may not know, but someone out there does."

The largest and most hidden prison system is belief. Many of us have been locked up in the cultic-thinking-pattern cell of assuming we know something for certain at some point in our lives; leaving ourselves vulnerable, not learning how to consider probabilities. Some gladly accepted this prison. A prison may appear benign compared to the frightening journey of making choices based on probabilities, and the realization of how very little is actually known about our universe and our place in it.

Standing on the precipice of the perceived known, and looking out into the vastness of the unknown, is naturally unsettling. The energies of billions have been spent to give the appearance of reinforcing the precipice, rather than in taking that first step. Perhaps these billions have been driven by an energy known only to those mad with desire, a desire to deny the terrible subconscious knowledge that right over their shoulder lies the unknown.

Entire histories have been rewritten, wars have been fought, people have been burned at the stake, books have been burned, libraries of books and articles have been written, cults have been inserted, anomalous finds have been reburied, COINTELPRO pogroms have been implemented, and masses of propaganda have been produced detailing false promises, all just to provide the most heavily trafficked drug on the planet: belief.

Sometimes the effects of the drug begin to wear off, and rather than going through the painful withdrawal symptoms, the "search" is begun to find a new fix. The modern access to information also provides an easy method for dispensing drugs. Much of the human race has managed to close themselves off to one of the most exciting journeys imaginable. Many have not even realized that this different option, the option of not trading in the drug of belief, exists. Firm believers are drug dealers.

Can we learn how to outsmart our own ideologically based extrapolations that are founded upon our own predispositions toward belief? Perhaps a few can, and the hope of humanity may rest on the shoulders of those few who are seeking an open door that leads to sovereignty rather than just another prison cell. Can some create for themselves the freedom to say, "I don't know" and be open to relative truths that do not fit drug-induced paradigms?

It won't be easy, since it appears we live in a world full of drug-addled behavior:

Tokyo doomsday cult leader to face trial

Joseph Coleman
Feb. 22, 2004

TOKYO (AP) -- As guru of a doomsday cult, Shoko Asahara looked and sounded the part. Almost blind, his black beard flowing onto his chest, he claimed he could levitate, see into people's past lives and foretell the apocalypse.

On Friday, a Japanese court will decide whether he also commanded his disciples to murder, most terrifyingly in the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 people, sickened thousands and alerted the world to the threat of terrorism by mass slaughter.

Asahara faces the gallows if convicted of masterminding the subway deaths and 15 others, though he has the right to appeal. He also faces charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and illegal weapons production.

The closing of his trial is forcing Japan to revisit a horrifying moment in its modern history.

The shock of the attack and the Aum Shinrikyo cult behind it has been profound and long-lasting. A nation proud of its affluence and stability was confronted with the grisly spectacle of its brightest young minds bewitched into committing crimes of stunning savagery.

"The sarin attack shattered the image of Japan as a peaceful utopia," said Masaki Kito, a lawyer who has battled several cults in Japan. "This crime greatly increased the sense of crisis among the people.''

It also had global ramifications: The cult's explosive alchemy of money, technical know-how and religious zeal flashed an early warning of the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the murderous potential of fanaticism.

Defense lawyers say Asahara - whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto - had lost control over his violent flock by the time of the attack, but many of his top lieutenants have testified to his puppet-master role. [...]

The Pentagon, as we discussed yesterday, is preparing for their own version of doomsday, with plans for a few survivors, involving nuclear weapons and war. Belief is about limitations, the narrowing of possibilities. The narrowing of possibilities seems to bring out the worst in human beings. The declaration that there is only one path, and one truth, means that everything else must be destroyed, usually to maintain power. If this "secret" Pentagon report is true, it appears to be created by those who believe in a severe curtailing of options.

There is a probability that our climate will flip-flop, and we may experience one of the cyclical ice ages. We need to educate ourselves about such probabilities. This theory can be examined and used for further exploration. We also need to keep in mind that the universe is quite possibly an open universe, with unlimited possibilities. If we are not open our vision is limited, with only a narrow band illuminated. By choosing truth rather than lies, by choosing knowledge rather than ignorance, by choosing doing rather than non-doing, by choosing love rather than hate, and by choosing having fun rather than being gloomy we may become aware of our own individual responsibility. One individual, in a quantum non-linear world, can have far reaching effects. Possibly. Paradoxically, there may be only one way to find out: choosing to become an individual who thinks.

lslam Attracts Top Britons in a Growing Trend

JEDDAH, 23 February 2004 — Over 14,000 Britons have embraced Islam, according to the UK’s Sunday Times. Citing the first authoritative study of the phenomenon, the paper said that they had done so because of disillusionment with Western values, Some of Britain’s top landowners, celebrities and the offspring of senior Establishment figures have embraced Islam.

The trend is being encouraged by Muslim leaders who are convinced that the conversion of prominent figures will help protect a community stigmatized by terrorism and fundamentalism.[...]

Conspiracies and Suicide Bombings

Last Sunday morning, a "Palestinian suicide bomber" detonated a bomb he was carrying in his backpack, while on a bus in Jerusalem. Eight Israelis were killed. The bombing came the day before the International Court in The Hague was due to begin hearings into the legality of Israel's West Bank security fence. Coincidence? We think not, and here is why...

Merriam Webster:
CONSPIRE: to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act.

Using the above definition, can anyone argue that we do NOT live in a world where conspiracy is common? To suggest that conspiracy is only the domain of "conspiracy theorists" is to fly in the face of clearly observable FACTS. There is copious evidence of the conspiratorial nature of life here on the big blue marble. Did those involved in the Enron scandal (which included Dick Cheney) not " join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act"? Did President Johnson, in lying about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, that prompted the Vietnam war, not do the same? Did the boys in the Pentagon not huddle together and concoct the lies about WMD and the attack on Iraq to serve this specific agenda? Did they not "conspire"? If they did, then conspiracy exists, despite what the mainstream media would like us to believe.

All humans plan things and then carry them out. For certain events to transpire, one or more people must come together to make it happen. It is a fundamental aspect of human nature and therefore a fundamental aspect of the world in which we live. The only difference between planning and conspiring is that conspiring is done in secret and with an unlawful or wrongful act as the subject of the planning.

Conspiracy then, is simply a special type of "planning" (which gives a new slant on the US Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans").

Ariel Sharon, as Israel's prime minister, is required to plan. Do we feel confident enough to claim that people like Sharon never "plan" things that are unlawful? Sharon is presently being investigated for fraud. Try and tell the Israeli public prosecutors that are investigating his activities that he did not "plan" these things and they will surely laugh at you. Of course there is the argument that the outcome may prove that there was nothing unlawful about his plans, but he is being investigated for fraud, not charity work, and fraud is unlawful. It is possible that millions of dollars of unaccounted for income just accidentally fell into his bank account? Let's be realistic. If the outcome is that, in his planning Sharon committed an unlawful act, then he is guilty of conspiracy.

We are not suggesting that everyone plans in secret to commit and unlawful or wrongful act or "conspires". But the evidence points to the fact that this does happen regularly. All that is required for innocent planning to become "secretive and unlawful" is the existence of a motive. Those involved in Enron had financial gain as their motivation and the fact that stealing is unlawful was the motivation for them to plan in secret or conspire. Bush and Co had various motivations for their conspiracy on Iraq, one of which was to secure natural resources for the US. To simply steal another country's oil is unlawful according to international law, as such the Bush administration had this fact as their further motivation to "conspire" to achieve their goals.

Sharon wants to build a barrier dividing the Palestinian territories from Israel. If this barrier were lawful there would be no problem, it could be built and no one would protest. The fact is that it is 100% unlawful and a violation of Palestinian human rights. Sharon's argument for building of the wall is that it is needed to protect Israelis from "Palestinian suicide bombers". Naturally, the continuation of attacks by Palestinians is vital if justification for the wall is to be maintained. The wall is not in the interest of Palestinians, so naturally and logically, they would not seek to continue suicide bombings which merely provide further justification for the building of a wall that adds to their suffering. Yet in this scenario Sharon has a problem and so does his wall. It is reasonable to assume that Sharon and others would be forced to conspire to provide the vital "Palestinian suicide attacks" that justify the building of the wall.

Yes, we are suggesting that Sharon and others have "joined in a secret agreement to do unlawful or wrongful acts", but it is not a mere unsubstantiated or wild conspiracy theory. It is instead the result of logical reasoning and evidence from the real world that such tactics have been and continue to be used by various groups of people the world over.

Suicide bomber kills eight in Jerusalem bus attack

By Eric Silver and Sa'id Ghazali in Jerusalem
23 February 2004

A Palestinian suicide bomber killed eight Israelis and wounded about 60 when he blew himself up on a bus in Jerusalem during the morning rush hour yesterday.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, affiliated to Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the attack and released a farewell video showing the bomber seated in front of the group's flag. [...]

But the group later denied involvement in the bombing, which it said only served Israeli propaganda interests. It did not explain why it had issued the statement or the video.

Israel seized on the attack as a vindication of the fence. Tommy Lapid, the Justice Minister, said: "This painful attack is the answer to the world gathering in The Hague.

"It is not the state of Israel that is on trial, but the Palestinian terrorism."

PA denounces attack; IDF response muted

By Amos Harel and Arnon Regular

PA officials yesterday denounced the bus bombing in Jerusalem, saying that it harmed Palestinian national interests.

The office of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) yesterday issued a statement criticizing the suicide bombing. "We denounce this act which was carried out by a Palestinian, and which harmed innocent civilians. This attack caused damage to Palestinian interests generally, and it was particularly [damaging] due to its timing, prior to the discussions of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. We call on the government of Israel to take immediate steps to attain a cease-fire, and to put an end to the violence."

Comment: It really is bizarre the way those "Palestinian terrorists" seem determined to repeatedly play into the hands of Sharon and Israeli right wing groups. One would almost think they were both on the same side...

Flashback: Sharon's Fingerprints on Latest Suicide Bombing

January 9, 2003

It is difficult to imagine that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, with his much vaunted military and strategic acumen, did not understand the consequences of his policies over the past month.

Since the last suicide bombing on November 21, escalating Israeli military assaults have killed over sixty Palestinian civilians, culminating in the December 26 wave of killing and abductions, in which Israeli occupying forces killed at least nine Palestinians, injured more than 30 and abducted several others.

On that day alone, Israeli execution squads assassinated three prominent members from three different militant Palestinian groups: Hamza Abu el-Rab of Islamic Jihad, Ibrahim Hawash, of Hamas and Gamal Abu el-Nader of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades. All three groups vowed revenge.

As if on que, the horrific double suicide bombing near the old Tel Aviv bus station took place within two weeks of these assassinations and reports have now confirmed that the bombers were members of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades. Twenty two Israeli's and foreign workers were killed and a hundred more injured.

Any observer with elementary skills in discerning cause and effect could see this latest suicide bombing atrocity coming. In fact, the vast majority of the nearly 100 Palestinian suicide bombings since they began in 1994 have followed an almost predictable sequence: Israeli attacks that cause major Palestinian civilian casualties or Israeli assassinations of important militant leaders are the most common trigger leading to suicide bombing cycles.

But what is even more incriminating is the extent to which Sharon has systematically ordered violent Israeli military incursions and assassinations during major cease-fires by militant Palestinian groups as well as diplomatic efforts to ease the hostilities, resulting in new suicide attacks.

More notorious was Sharon's decision to assassinate leading Hamas militant Mahmud Abu Hanoud on November 23, 2001 just when the Hamas was upholding an agreement with Arafat not to attack targets inside of Israel and a few days before US envoy General Zinni was to arrive in Israel.

In a widely cited article from November 25 2001, the conservative military commentator for one of Israel's leading newspapers Yediot Aharanot, Alex Fishman, noted that this assassination had the effect of "shattering in one blow the gentleman's agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority." He continued that "Whoever decided upon the liquidation of Abu Hanoud knew in advance that [a terrorist attack inside of Israel] would be the price. The subject was extensively discussed both by Israel's military echelon and its political one, before it was decided to carry out the liquidation."

And any observer can easily discern the obvious political windfall for Ariel Sharon generated by this attack.

First, Sharon is now able to resist any pressure to agree to the latest draft of the Middle East peace "road map" drawn up by the so-called quartet, made up of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia. Sharon strongly opposed its recommendations that in the first stage, from January to June 2003, Israeli commitments would include a total freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a pullback to positions held before the uprising began in September 2000.

Second, the talks in Cairo between members of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction and representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad about a temporary cease-fire are now irrelevant.

And finally, Ariel Sharon is now almost assured re-election as Palestinian attacks inevitably give a strong boost to the hard line parties in Israel that he leads.

Palestinian officials were quick to point out the obvious following December 26 assassinations.

"The escalation of violence by (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon is aimed at creating a volatile atmosphere which he believes will serve him in his election campaign," Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told Reuters on December 27. "Sharon is inviting retaliation because he wants ... to prevent any possibility of an agreement (between Palestinian factions) on a cease fire," he continued.

In a scathing August 2, 2002 editorial in Israel's prestigious Ha'aretz newspaper, Doron Rosenblum declared that "In short, any four-year-old child who examined this pattern of events would conclude thatthis government, whether consciously or not, is simply not interested in the cessation of the terrorist attacks, for they constitute its raison d'etre".

Flashback: Israeli Roots of Hamas Are Being Exposed

by Dean Andromidas
January 18, 2002
Executive Intelligence Review

Speaking in Jerusalem Dec. 20, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer made the connection between the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Israel's promotion of the Islamic movement as a counter to the Palestinian nationalist movement. Kurtzer's comments come very close to EIR's own presentation of the evidence of Israel's instrumental role in establishing Hamas, and its ongoing control of that organization.

Kurtzer said that the growth of the Islamic movement in the Palestinian territories in recent decades—"with the tacit support of Israel"—was "not totally unrelated" to the emergence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and their terrorist attacks against Israel. Kurtzer explained that during the 1980s, when the Islamic movement began to flourish in the West Bank and Gaza, "Israel perceived it to be better to have people turning toward religion rather than toward a nationalistic cause [the Palestinian Liberation Organization—ed.]." It therefore did little to stop the flow of money to mosques and other religious institutions, rather than to schools. [...]

The ambassador's comments are an acknowledgment of what any serious Middle East observers knows: Hamas has always been seen as a tool by which Israel could undermine the nationalist movement led by Palestinian Authority President and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat. Similar statements by Arafat have been dismissed by Israel as "cranky" propaganda. In an interview with the Dec. 11 Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Arafat said,"We are doing everything to stop the violence. But Hamas is a creature of Israel which at the time of Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Shamir [the late 1980s, when Hamas arose], gave them money and more than 700 institutions, among them schools, universities and mosques. Even [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin ended up admitting it, when I charged him with it, in the presence of [Egpytian President Hosni] Mubarak."

Flashback: Tooth Fairies And Suicide Bombers

Carol A. Valentine
Curator, Waco Holocaust Electronic Museum

May 9, 2002 -- People, let's use our noggins. The suicide bombers are not what they seem to be.

For many months now, I have been reading stories about alleged "suicide bombers" in the Washington Post and the Washington Times. Within a short time after the attack, not only is the suicide bomber identified by name, but we have nice colored photos, almost portrait quality shots, of the dead culprits.

For example, on April 27, 2002, the Washington Post ran an article in the Style section, "Female Suicide Bombers: the New Factor in Mideast's Deadly Equation." Shown at the top of the article are four color photos of the faces of four Palestinian (?) women, face to the camera, posed for the photographer.

How thoughtful of the suicide bombers to have those photos taken. How thoughtful of the suicide bombers to leave the photos behind to be conveniently found by the Zionist-owned press. And what a public service the Zionist-owned press is doing the whole world by publishing these photos.

Suicide bombing articles

Typically, stories about suicide bombers tell us that the bomber went to a public place such as a bus stop, market, restaurant, pool hall, etc., and blew himself/herself up along with one, two, or many Israelis.

Funny, they rarely hit military targets. I wonder why?

The general story line is that the bomber had explosives attached to his/her person. The story goes on to describe the carnage in grisly detail -- dismembered bodies, etc. But, remarkably, the suicide bomber himself/herself is not blown to smithereens. The bomber's body is left in sufficiently good shape to be identified immediately, and of course the Israeli authorities do just that.

But even more remarkable: The Israelis come up with these nice portraits of the culprits. And what is most remarkable of all? Everything is coordinated, bombers ID'd, photos gathered, stories written -- and published all over the world by the Zionist press -- within a few hours or days after the event.

Suicide bombing - not too smart

Why would a Palestinian bent on vengeance commit suicide? Far better to go to the bus stop, market, restaurant, pool hall, etc., with a shopping bag or backpack full of explosives, casually discard the package in some inconspicuous place, and leave. Boom! Lots of Israelis die, and the bomber walks away to bomb another location next week. But no, we are asked to believe that the suicide bombers blow themselves up, too.

"Why would the bombers do that?" we ask. "Because they are fanatics, that's why," is the response.

Well, if you are a Palestinian fanatic you would surely would want to kill as many Israelis as possible. You would want to extend your life as long as possible to do that job. Committing suicide unnecessarily would be a very dumb thing to do.

Why no IRA suicide bombers?

In all the years of IRA activity in Northern Ireland and Britain, the IRA never used suicide bombers, did they? Wonder why the "Palestinians" have to?
It's the Qur'an! they do it because theya re Muslims!

There's another variation to these inane suicide bomber stories.

"The suicide bombers are not just fanatics, they are Mislim fanatics. Allah will reward them for their deeds. They want to go to heaven to be rewarded."

Yet I have never seen one cite from the Qur'an that justifies suicide, under any conditions. Quite the reverse. I have seen cites from the Qur'an which clearly prohibit suicide.

Now doubtless there are passages in the Qur'an saying eternal bliss will be endowed upon those brave souls who lose their lives while fighting God's war. Big deal. We have chaplains in the US military who, give or take, give our soldiers the same kind of message. That's their job.

If the Israelis want us to believe that the suicide bombers are fanatic Muslims, they need to come up with Qur'anic scriptures to prove their point. They don't. They can't. The Israelis are lying. What else is new?

Richard Cohen, columnist for the Washington Post. On February 5, 2002, wrote a column "Why the Turn to Suicide?"

NEW YORK -- On my first visit to Israel, the government supplied me with a guide -- a former army officer and combat veteran renowned for his hawkish views. We disagreed about almost everything, including the nature of the "enemy." I found his views simplistic and repulsive. Recently, though, I have begun to wonder if he wasn't right . . ."

Cohen then moves on to talk about suicide bombers.

It [Palestine] is now behaving as the Japanese did toward the end of World War II when, in desperation, they sent pilots crashing into U.S. ships. These kamikaze attacks were both effective and terrifying, but they were also a clear sign that Japan had gone nuts.

The kamikaze attacks were an important element in the dehumanizing of Japan. They encouraged, maybe the right word is "permitted," the use of the atomic bomb. After all, the enemy was not rational. It was barbaric. It would never surrender. It would fight to the last square inch. Better to incinerate them all.

In a similar manner, suicide bombings have transformed the image of Palestinians. Now, in the view of many, they are similar to the people my guide once so excoriated and insulted -- so different, so primitive, so cruel and indifferent to human life that they celebrate the suicide of a loved one and the simultaneous murder of innocent people [...]

Ariel Sharon, Israel's great survivor of scandals, faces allegations which could finally destroy him

by Gordon Thomas

A female whistleblower and fifty hours of secret tapes recorded by a former close aide are combining to try and finally end the authoritarian rule of Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Though he has boasted he will remain in office until 2007, seasoned political analysts in Israel are predicting Sharon will be ousted in weeks.
Before then, he could even become the first incumbent Israeli prime minister to face trial for his alleged involvement in a bribery case.

On Thursday (February 5), he was interrogated for two and a half hours by senior detectives at his own official residence in Jerusalem about his involvement with a power broker in Israel's Likud Party.

Real-estate developer, David Appel, a long-time friend of Sharon, has already been indicted for trying to bribe Sharon to win his support for the development of a tourism project on a Greek island in the 1990s.

According to the charges, Appel paid hundreds of thousands of US dollars to Mr Sharon's son, Gilad, to act as a consultant on the project - even though he had no proper professional skills to do the work.

Sharon claims he knew nothing about the deal. But already the mounting scandal has deeply eroded the prime minister's credibility. Political foes are saying Sharon's decision, the day before his police grilling, to reveal a plan for the evacuation of 17 Jewish settlements in Gaza was a ploy to divert public attention from his own increasingly serious legal problems. [...]

Nader announces presidential bid

US consumer champion Ralph Nader has announced he will run for president in the November 2004 election.

[...] An anti-establishment figure, Mr Nader won less than 3% of the vote in the last US presidential election.

But many Democrats believe he took just enough support from Al Gore to hand the contest to Mr Bush, especially in the crucial state of Florida, where Mr Nader won 97,488 votes.

Mr Bush beat Al Gore by just 537 votes in Florida.

Comment: Bush "beat" Gore by stealing the election. It is very convenient for the Democrats to use Nader as the straw man. It gives them an excuse to ignore the theft, the exclusion of over 60,000 black voters, and the other "irregularities." Are they worried that if these real issues were brought up, they would be just as guilty as the Republicans?

Schwarzenegger says foreign-born citizens should be able to run for president

06:18 AM EST Feb 23

WASHINGTON (AP) - Arnold Schwarzenegger, making his Sunday talk show debut as governor, said that he and other foreign-born citizens should be eligible to run for the White House and that President George W. Bush can carry California in November if he does more to help the state.

The Austrian-born former bodybuilder, in the capital for his first meeting with fellow governors, said he has not thought about running for president in the future. The U.S. Constitution says only natural-born citizens of the United States are eligible for the country's highest office.

The Republican governor said anyone who has been a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years - as he has - should "absolutely" be able to seek the presidency. A constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) would make that possible.

US military creates second Earth

The US Army is building a second version of Earth on computer to help it prepare for conflicts around the world.

The detailed simulation will be drawn from a real-world terrain database and will be drawn to the same scale as the original.

The software Earth is being created for the US Army by gaming company There, which is currently working on a virtual world for gamers.

The first version of the virtual planet should be finished by September.

[...] There is planning to model the entire planet at the proper scale so it would be possible to walk across the United States if participants wanted to.

However, currently the virtual Earth is almost bare as the only thing modelled in any detail is part of Kuwait City.

Comment: We wonder whether they will be using the same code that was used for making The Lord of the Rings, the code that had the computer generated figures fleeing the battlefield rather than fighting?

FLASHBACK - Signs of the Times, December 16, 2003

Smart soldiers decided to flee the Rings battle

Digital warriors thought for themselves - and their first thought was to run away

CanWest News Service
December 15, 2000

[...] "I want battles like nothing anyone has ever seen on screen," Jackson said. I want every soldier fighting for himself - you have to come up with something."

Special effects designer Richard Taylor says this led to the writing of a "massive" principal code for the battle to give more than 200,000 digitized soldiers and some 6,000 horses distinctiveness and individuality.

"So to create these individual agents, there was a code that was especially written and developed," Taylor says, adding that it was like being involved in a living work of science fiction.

"It was the fact that you could get a computer to think for itself, that you could get 200,000 agents within the computer to think for themselves.

"So each of these computerized soldiers is assessing the environment around them, drawing on a repertoire of military moves that have been taught them through motion capture - determining how they will combat the enemy, step over the terrain, deal with obstacles in front of them through their own intelligence - and there's 200,000 of them doing that."

Basically, all the necessary information for decision-making was fed into this network of computers without determining for them whether they would win or lose.

But this attempt to ensure that they acted spontaneously almost sabotaged the the battleground sequences.

"For the first two years, the biggest problem we had was soldiers fleeing the field of battle," Taylor said.

"We could not make their computers stupid enough to not run away."

Comment: It seems it is possible to make a computer act intelligently; it is a much harder task to make it act as moronically as a human being.

While the military's simulation may be able to model how we all act when we are running on automatic pilot, we doubt it will be able to model creativity, that is, that which we are able to do when we rise above our automatic responses. It is hard to go beyond the automatic. In writing these pages, we can slip into well-worn phrases about Bush, we can take yesterday's insight and render it lifeless by applying it to situations where it may not apply. In our lives, we can fall into programmed conversations with those around us rather than thinking and bringing something new to the discussion. We are all automatic so much of the time.

But we can be more than that, and this "more than that" is something that cannot be modeled for it is chaotic, non-linear, and unpredictable.

U.S. Pressing for High-Tech Spy Tools

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press Writer
Sun Feb 22, 2:27 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Despite an outcry over privacy implications, the government is pressing ahead with research to create powerful tools to mine millions of public and private records for information about terrorists.

Congress eliminated a Pentagon office that had been developing this terrorist-tracking technology because of fears it might ensnare innocent Americans.

Still, some projects from retired Adm. John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness effort were transferred to U.S. intelligence offices, congressional, federal and research officials told The Associated Press.

In addition, Congress left undisturbed a separate but similar $64 million research program run by a little-known office called the Advanced Research and Development Activity, or ARDA, that has used some of the same researchers as Poindexter's program.

"The whole congressional action looks like a shell game," said Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks work by U.S. intelligence agencies. "There may be enough of a difference for them to claim TIA was terminated while for all practical purposes the identical work is continuing." [...]

Canada may host U.S. missiles

From Monday's Globe and Mail

Ottawa — Canada is talking to Washington about the use of Canadian soil for stationing interceptor rocket launchers and radar stations as part of a continental ballistic missile defence program.

Defence Minister David Pratt yesterday said Canada is considering making some of its geography in the north available in lieu of a major cash contribution if the federal government decides to join the American program.

Until now, federal officials have said that Canadian participation in the U.S. program probably would not involve Canadian territory or a cash contribution.

But in two interviews yesterday, Mr. Pratt refused to rule out this possibility.

Rebels seize control of Cap-Haitien; now control half the country

06:18 AM EST Feb 23

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti (AP) - Rebels captured Haiti's second-largest city with little resistance Sunday, claiming Cap-Haitien as their biggest prize in a two-week uprising that has driven government forces from half the country.

The fighters shot off celebratory rounds in the air as people looted and torched buildings, sending a pall of black smoke over the city of 500,000.

[...] The victory leaves more than half of Haiti beyond control of the central government. As that reality set in, panic began spreading Sunday in Port-au-Prince.

Fifty combat-ready U.S. Marines sent to Haiti

2/23/2004 11:00 AM

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti (AP) — Fifty U.S. Marines were headed to Haiti on Monday to protect the American Embassy and diplomats after rebels overran Haiti's second-largest city and began detaining supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [...]

Palestine: Barrier will bolster occupation

Monday 23 February 2004, 16:01 Makka Time, 13:01 GMT

A barrier being built by Israel in the West Bank is not about security, but is designed to entrench occupation of Palestinian lands, the head of the Palestinian delegation at the world court hearing has said.

"The wall being built in the West Bank is not about security, it's about entrenching the occupation and the de facto annexation of large areas of Palestinian land," Nasir al-Qidwa told the UN's International Court of Justice.

"This wall, if completed, will leave the Palestinian people with only half of the West Bank within isolated, non-contiguous walled enclaves," he said at the start of proceedings in The Hague on Monday.

Thousands of Palestinians march in protest against separation barrier

2/23/2004 10:03 AM

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip marched in protest against Israel's separation barrier Monday, and in some locations were pushed back by Israeli soldiers firing tear gas.

Schools and government offices let out early for the marches, which coincided with world court hearings on the legality of the barrier. Earlier Monday, Yasser Arafat had urged Palestinians to "make their voices heard" to the court. (Related story: West Bank wall gets court test)

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia led a rally in his hometown of Abu Dis, a West Bank suburb of Jerusalem being cut off from the city by a tall concrete wall. Standing next to the wall, Qureia told the crowd that such barriers cannot guarantee security for Israel and would only breed discontent.

"If you want peace, the path is known," he said, addressing Israelis. "If you prefer violence, the path is known as well." [...]

Jerusalem bomb resonates to Dutch court

From Monday's Globe and Mail

The Hague, Netherlands and Jerusalem — An aide interrupted the final moments of a Canadian television crew's interview with Ahmed Qureia to pass him a note.

Suddenly ashen-faced, the Palestinian prime minister strained to see a television across the room. Eight people had been killed and at least 59 injured in a suicide bombing on the other side of Jerusalem.

"This is a gift to The Hague," he muttered as he removed the CTV microphone. "Stupid. Stupid."

Walker's World: Holy land's dance of death

By Martin Walker
UPI Editor
Published 2/23/2004 7:33 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The timing of the latest suicide bomber was murderously precise. Eight dead and 66 injured on Sunday's Jerusalem bus is horrific enough.

But the real target was clearly political, to provide a bloody, headline-dominating prologue to Monday's opening of three days of hearings on Israel's new 450-mile security barrier - 95 percent fence and 5 percent wall -- at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Monday will also see Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meet his Likud Party for a first discussion on his controversial plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and the abandonment of the settlements. Sharon's party and government are restive, with his foreign minister and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both criticizing his decision to start tearing down a part of the barrier -- a move aimed at improving Israel's position at The Hague.

Events gather pace in what seems to be a rush toward some fundamental shift in the Middle East logjam. The fence is one new factor. The likely abandonment of settlements is another. The apparent acceptance of some kind of failed Palestinian statelet on the far side of the barrier is another. [...]

"The most important reason to do this is that right now Israel is occupied by the Palestinians. They dominate our political life, our economy and our welfare system," Schueftan said last week, during a brief visit to Washington.

"The Palestinians -- or perhaps just Arafat -- elect our prime ministers. We are in the constant position of reacting to what they do. They put Netanyahu and Sharon into office, and we have to end this. Israel needs self-determination -- which means disengaging, and trying to control or reduce the suicide attacks by means of the fence," he added. [...]

Yes, he agrees, the barrier is no guarantee that the terror attacks will end, but will reduce them sharply. Yes, he accepts, it will not begin to tackle the deeper problem of the radicalization -- Schueftan calls it "the Palestinization" -- of the Israeli Arabs. Yes, he acknowledges, it is likely to intensify the revulsion the Europeans feel for Israeli policies, and that is serious since Europe is by far Israel's biggest trading partner. [...]

Opening the ‘Zarqawi letter’

[...] The Iraq war has just yielded a remarkable document that, if authentic, allows us to see the battle there through the eyes of Abu Musab Zarqawi, an Al-Qaeda leader who claims to be organizing much of the terrorist insurgency against US forces.

I add the caveat “if authentic” because the Zarqawi document is almost too good to be true. Even top Pentagon officials say they were initially skeptical that an Al-Qaeda leader would reveal so much about strategy in a letter to colleagues. But after checking, they have concluded the letter ­ found on a CD disk carried by an Al-Qaeda courier who was captured in a Baghdad raid in January ­ is for real.

Fragments of the Zarqawi letter surfaced in news stories this month. But the full text, released by the Pentagon last week, is worth a closer look. Assuming it is legitimate, the document provides a unique window on the thinking of an adversary that has otherwise been opaque.

Two striking conclusions emerge from the Zarqawi letter. The first is that the insurgents feel they are losing.

[...] The second stunner in the Zarqawi letter is it makes clear how much the Sunni insurgents despise Iraq’s Shiite majority.

Comment: Ah, the world of disinfo! Is this or is this not an authentic letter from Zarqawi? But what about the question that is glossed over in this article: Is Zarqawi, and by implication al-Qaeda, even in Iraq? Curious, isn't it? By placing the emphasis on the authenticity of the letter, the debate accepts the premise that al-Qaeda is actually organising the resistance to the US occupation. The Bush administration has yet to furnish the least bit of material proof that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks of 9/11. Nothing. Yet it is generally accepted that al-Qaeda carried it out. There has been no material proof that al-Qaeda is in Iraq, but wait, we have this letter!

Yesterday we carried the story of a report issued by the Pentagon on climate change. This report was discussed in Fortune and by The Guardian, but can we say for certain that it really exists? It seems to "confirm" certain theses that others have put forward, including this page. But that does not mean the document is real.

Documents appear on the Internet in electronic form, or scans of paper documents. They can look real. You may wish to believe they are real. Can you know that they are real?

Stories appear in the media. How can you judge what is real and what is not? What is a misinterpretation of the facts because of the subjectivity of the reporter? What may be a genuine attempt to pass a lie?

These are not always easy questions to answer, especially when the news serves to validate or reinforce your own point of view.

That is why working with probabilities and multiple options is so important. We must remain open to many explanations so that we do not get caught in ever more subtle belief systems.

Our work on this page, and the work on this site, is not directed towards providing any single answer to the problems facing our world and each of us as individuals. Those answers we must each discover for ourselves. No one size fits all. Our goal is to open the door to an understanding of an open and limitless world, a world of many possibilities, where what each of us do today can affect the future. There is no program, there are no beliefs that one must memorize, there is a constantly changing, eternally new world in front of us. Each day brings the possibility of finding new data, data that might well change our ideas of yesterday, might put them in an entirely new context.

Who of us is wise enough to think that they understand everything? Isn't this attitude an attempt to take the place of God?

End election 'stalling,' Shiite leader tells U.S.


BAGHDAD, Iraq - A leading Shiite member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council today demanded no more "stalling" on arranging for elections for a new government.

Stunned Kuwait demands clarification from Iraq over new land claims

Sun Feb 22, 7:31 AM ET

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - Kuwait, invaded and occupied by Saddam Hussein's army, expressed amazement and concern over new territorial claims from Iraq and demanded clarification from the interim Governing Council over statements attributed to its current president.

"The State of Kuwait followed up the statement with concern and amazement. We are awaiting clarification from the interim Governing Council of brotherly Iraq about the truth of the statement and its aim," the state-run KUNA news agency quoted an official source as saying.

It was Kuwait's first official reaction to the council's president, who said Saturday that Baghdad could consider territorial claims over neighbouring Jordan and Kuwait in the future.

"We need our Arab brothers around us. Now, we cannot discuss this matter with them at all, but in the future, we'll see," said Mohsen Abdul Hamid, in response to a question from a Baghdad consultative council member.

Shaza Hadi al-Obeidi had asked Abdul Hamid about the status of territory once linked to Iraq, such as Jordan and Kuwait, at an extraordinary meeting of the 37-member consultative council.

"This is an irresponsible statement ... It appears that the current chairman wants to become a copy of Saddam Hussein," outspoken Kuwaiti lawmaker Mussallam al-Barrak told AFP. [...]

"I believe that Iraq is the last country on earth that should be willing to reopen old files with its neighbours. It now urgently needs to focus on reconstruction," Kuwaiti political analyst and writer Sami al-Nesef said.

"Statements like these do not serve the interests of anyone ... They are harmful to the development efforts in Iraq ... The country needs to strengthen its ties with the neighbours," Nesef told AFP. [...]

Comment: Actually, such statements serve the interests of the current occupying force in Iraq.

Largest Rotation of U.S. Forces Begins

By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer
Sun Feb 22, 9:51 PM ET

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Nearly a quarter-million U.S. soldiers are within weeks of passing through this desert kingdom on their way to or from the war in neighboring Iraq, the largest such rotation of American forces in history, according to military planners overseeing the project.

"This is a breathtaking, history-making operation," said Army Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, who runs the rotation from this sand-blown base south of Kuwait City.

Explaining the troop rotation is simple: About 130,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq will go home and 110,000 will take their places for about a year, in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2. [...]

'This is war,' Rumsfeld told Bush

The Washington Times
February 23, 2004

Donald H. Rumsfeld sat in a vault-like room studded with video screens and talked with President Bush as the Pentagon burned.

"This is not a criminal action," the secretary of defense told Bush over a secure line. "This is war."

The word "war" meant more than going after the al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan, the fault line of terrorism. Bush said he wanted retaliation.

The setting was the Pentagon's Executive Support Center, where Rumsfeld held secure video teleconferences with the White House across the Potomac or with ground commanders 10,000 miles away.

The time was 1:02 p.m., less than four hours after terrorists steered American Flight 77 into the Pentagon's southwest wall.

Rumsfeld at first had dashed to the impact site. In his shirt and tie, he helped transport the wounded.

Finally convinced to leave the scene, Rumsfeld entered the closely guarded ESC, where whiffs of burned rubble penetrated the ventilation system. The video monitor in front of him was blank, but there was an audio connection with the president at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

Rumsfeld's instant declaration of war, previously unreported, took America from the Clinton administration's view that terrorism was a criminal matter to the Bush administration's view that terrorism was a global enemy to be destroyed.

"That was really a breakthrough strategically and intellectually," recalls Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. "Viewing the 9/11 attacks as a war that required a war strategy was a very big thought, and a lot flowed from that." [...]

Comment: We can't stomach any more of this nonsense. The rest of the article can be viewed here.

Rumsfeld told suicide bombers pose greatest threat

2/23/2004 9:55 AM

BAGHDAD (AP) — The chief threat to stability in Iraq is evolving away from pro-Saddam guerillas to suicide bombers and other terrorists, U.S. military officers told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Monday. [...]

Rumsfeld in Iraq to plan US withdrawal

Monday 23 February 2004, 13:11 Makka Time, 10:11 GMT

A top US official has met military commanders on plans to rapidly expand and deploy Iraqi security forces as America moves to return sovereignty to Iraq.

[...] Rumsfeld said the presence of the estimated 115,000 US troops in Iraq would "ebb and flow," pulling back from cities where they could and moving back in where Iraqi security forces proved too weak. "The success of Iraq is in your hands," US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a class training for the US-created Iraqi Civil Defence Corps at a base on the outskirts of Baghdad on Monday.

Maimed in Iraq, then mistreated, neglected, and hidden in America

By Frederick Sweet

Combat veterans wounded in Iraq were left waiting weeks and even months for proper medical attention at military bases. According to an officer, their living conditions were so unacceptable for injured soldiers he said they "were being treated like dogs." Then the Pentagon underreported the number wounded.

The Bush administration, referring to veterans of the war in Iraq, told a House panel that they would avoid last year's "mistakes" of leaving sick and injured troops at U.S. bases to wait for months to be properly treated by doctors. Adding insult to injury, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. James B. Peake told the House panel that he "was not aware" that last fall soldiers were waiting for medical care at U.S. bases and under substandard living conditions.

Wounded "treated like dogs"

Mark Benjamin’s investigative report on Oct. 20, 2003 for UPI, revealed that many wounded veterans from Iraq had to wait "weeks and months at places such as the Fort Stewart military base in Georgia, for proper medical help." They had been kept in living conditions that are "unacceptable for sick and injured soldiers." One officer characterized conditions for the wounded by saying, "They're being treated like dogs." [...]

Western appetite for diamonds fuels rape in central Africa

by Jan Goodwin
[from the March 8, 2004 issue]

Last May, 6-year-old Shashir was playing outside her home near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when armed militia appeared. The terrified child was carried kicking and screaming into the bush. There, she was pinned down and gang-raped. Sexually savaged and bleeding from multiple wounds, she lay there after the attack, how long no one knows, but she was close to starving when finally found. Her attackers, who'd disappeared back into the bush, wiped out her village as effectively as a biblical plague of locusts.

"This little girl couldn't walk, couldn't talk when she arrived here. Shashir had to be surgically repaired. I don't know if she can be mentally repaired," says Faida Veronique, a 47-year-old cook at Doctors on Call for Service (DOCS), a tented hospital in the eastern city of Goma, who took in the brutalized child.

"Why do they rape a child?" asks Marie-Madeleine Kisoni, a Congolese counselor who works with raped women and children. "We don't understand. There's a spirit of bestiality here now. I've seen 2- and 3-year-olds raped. The rebels want to kill us, but it's more painful to kill the spirit instead."

In the Congo today, age is clearly no protection from rape. A woman named Maria was 70 when the Interahamwe, the Hutu militia that led Rwanda's 1994 genocide and now number between 20,000 and 30,000 of the estimated 140,000 rebels in the DRC, came to her home. "They grabbed me, tied my legs apart like a goat before slaughter, and then raped me, one after the other," she told me. "Then they stuck sticks inside me until I fainted." During the attack Maria's entire family-- five sons, three daughters and her husband--were murdered. "War came. I just saw smoke and fire. Then my life and my health were taken away," she says. The tiny septuagenarian with the sunken eyes was left with a massive fistula where her bladder was torn, causing permanent incontinence. She hid in the bush for three years out of fear that the rebels might return, and out of shame over her constantly soiled clothes. Yet Maria was one of the more fortunate ones. She'd finally made it to a hospital. Two months before we met, she had undergone reconstructive surgery. The outcome is uncertain, however, and she still requires a catheter.

Rape has become a defining characteristic of the five-year war in the DRC, says Anneke Van Woudenberg, the Congo specialist for Human Rights Watch. So, too, has mutilation of the victims. "Last year, I was stunned when a 30-year-old woman in North Kivu had her lips and ears cut off and eyes gouged out after she was raped, so she couldn't identify or testify against her attackers. Now, we are seeing more and more such cases," she says. As the rebels constantly seek new ways to terrorize, their barbarity becomes more frenzied.

I, too, was sickened by what I saw and heard. In three decades of covering war, I had never before come across the cases described to me by Congolese doctors, such as gang-rape victims having their labia pierced and then padlocked. "They usually die of massive infection," I was told.

Based on personal testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch, it is estimated that as many as 30 percent of rape victims are sexually tortured and mutilated during the assaults, usually with spears, machetes, sticks or gun barrels thrust into their vaginas. Increasingly, the trigger is being pulled. About 40 percent of rape victims, usually the younger ones, aged 8 to 19, are abducted and forced to become sex slaves. "The country is in an utter state of lawlessness; it's complete anarchy," says Woudenberg. "In this culture of impunity, people know they can get away with anything. Every armed group is equally culpable."

In the Congo, rape is a cheaper weapon of war than bullets. Experts estimate that some 60 percent of all combatants in the DRC are infected with HIV/AIDS. As women rarely have access to expensive antiretroviral drugs, sexual assaults all too often become automatic death sentences. Médecins Sans Frontières operates five health clinics offering antiretrovirals in the conflict zone of northeastern DRC, but many women don't know about the drugs and cannot travel safely to the centers. Moreover, according to Helen O'Neill, a nurse who set up MSF's sexual-violence treatment program, such drugs must be taken within forty-eight to seventy-two hours of the rape to prevent infection. If a woman has been exposed to the virus, the treatment is 80 percent effective. But in the Congo, rape victims who are not captive sex slaves must walk for days or weeks, often with massive injuries, and risk new capture by roving rebel bands, before reaching assistance.

"So far, 30 percent of rape victims being treated at our hospital are infected with HIV/AIDS," says Dr. Denis Mukwege, the French-trained medical director of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. "And nearly 50 percent are infected with venereal diseases like syphilis that greatly increase their chances of contracting HIV."

Rape as a weapon of war is as old as war itself. What has changed recently is that sexual violence is no longer considered just a byproduct of conflict but is being viewed as a war crime, says Jessica Neuwirth, president of Equality Now, a New York-based international women's human rights organization. "Rape as a violation of war was codified in the Geneva Convention, but only now is it being taken seriously. But it is still not effectively prosecuted, not proportional to the extent that sexual violence takes place," she says. Armed forces now have a legal obligation to stop rape and hold the offenders accountable. "This is a major shift in consciousness. But it needs to be followed by a major shift in conduct," says Neuwirth.

In the DRC, rape is used to terrorize, humiliate and punish the enemy. Frequently husbands, fathers and children are forced to watch and even participate. Women sexually assaulted by members of one rebel organization are accused of being the wives of that group and raped again as punishment when a new militia takes over the area. "It's happened repeatedly to the women of Shabunda in the far east of the Congo, every time the region has changed hands," says Woudenberg.

Even the camps for internally displaced people are not safe. The barbed-wire encampment in Bunia is home to more than 14,000 people, but enemy militia infiltrate at night. Shortly before I arrived, an 11-year-old girl was dragged off and gang-raped, a not uncommon occurrence. There are more than 3 million internally displaced people made homeless by the war, many of whom have been forced to flee over and over again. UN officers admit they have nowhere near the numbers they need to be effective, or even to stay safe themselves.

"The rebels are all around us here. We don't feel secure and we've seen what these guys do to people, especially to women and girls. Our own people have been killed, after they were horribly tortured," a European UN major told me. "The DRC is the size of Western Europe. We're supposed to have 8,500 troops here, but we've only got 5,000! I was in Bosnia, which is a fraction of the size of the Congo, and we had 68,000 NATO troops, and even that wasn't enough." Patrols of MONUC, the UN's peacekeeping force in the DRC, have refused to pick up wounded rape victims and escort them to medical care when they were afraid they would be outnumbered by nearby rebels.

"People denounce the rapes but do nothing to bring the rebels to justice," says Woudenberg. "There isn't the political will, domestically or internationally, to make it happen. I've never seen anything like this, when war has become this horrible, and human life so undervalued."

Trevor Lowe, spokesperson for the UN World Food Program, echoes this view. "The nature of sexual violence in the DRC conflict is grotesque, completely abnormal," he says. "Babies, children, women-- nobody is being spared. For every woman speaking out, there are hundreds who've not yet emerged from the hell. Rape is so stigmatized in the DRC, and people are afraid of reprisals from rebels. It's a complete and utter breakdown of norms. Like Rwanda, only worse." Adds his colleague Christiane Berthiaume, "Never before have we found as many victims of rape in conflict situations as we are discovering in the DRC."

Yet where is the international media coverage? The outrage? The demand for justice? [...]

Conduct a straw poll among Americans who are usually well informed and few know of the vicious campaign of sexual violence against women in the DRC. Many are even unaware that the country is six years into a brutal conflict, in which up to 4.7 million people have died--the highest number of fatalities in any conflict since World War II. Or that six countries--Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia--have been fighting proxy wars in the DRC, and helping to plunder the country's tremendous mineral wealth to fill their coffers.

The indifference, according to Woudenberg, extends to the arms of government that should be most deeply concerned with the DRC's crisis. "In November I tried to raise the issue with the US Mission to the UN in New York, and they told me fairly point-blank that they were aware rape was going on in the Congo, and it was just not high on their priorities," she says. "I had a similar response from the US State Department."

Meanwhile, a UN Security Council panel has cited eighty-five multinational corporations, including some of the largest US companies in their fields, for their involvement in the illegal exploitation of natural resources from the DRC. The commerce in these "blood" minerals, such as coltan, used in cell phones and laptops, cobalt, copper, gold, diamonds and uranium (Congolese uranium was used in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), drives the conflict. The brutality of the militias--the sexual slavery, transmission of HIV/AIDS through rape, cannibalism, slaughter and starvation, forced recruitment of child soldiers--has routinely been employed to secure access to mining sites or insure a supply of captive labor.

If that isn't enough to awaken the international community's interest, one would think it would be of concern that "blood" business practices also fund terrorism. Lebanese diamond traders benefiting from illegal concessions in the Congo have been tied to the Islamic extremist groups Amal and Hezbollah. According to a UN report, the Lebanese traders, who operate licensed diamond businesses in Antwerp, purchased diamonds from the DRC worth $150 million in 2001 alone. Such linkage between African rebel groups and global terrorist movements is not new. Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front reportedly sold diamonds to Al Qaeda, thus helping to finance both organizations.

The lobbies of the two luxury hotels in Kinshasa, the DRC's capital, are full of elegant, $5,000-a-day corporate lawyers from New York, London and Geneva, and scruffier diamond dealers from Tel Aviv and Antwerp, as they while away the hours waiting for government ministers and senior representatives of armed groups to smooth their way. These institutional fortune-makers are 1,800 miles away from the nightmares of northeastern Congo. Yet they are not so far removed from the atrocities perpetrated there. Rape is a crime of the war they are fueling with their greed.

Comment: We challenge readers to read the above and not be horrified by the reality of our world and those that control it. Some readers admonish us for being "too negative". To those readers we suggest that if the above account is not enough, then perhaps a week in the DRC might serve as a reality check.

Hard-liners take control of Iran's parliament: More nuclear talent, fewer women elected


TEHRAN—Iran's new parliament took shape yesterday, with an outcome the opposition had said was all but preordained: a hard-line core, even in the liberal bastion of Tehran.

There were fewer women and apparent gains for lawmakers holding atomic science backgrounds, a matter of strategic interest as the Islamic state confronts suspicions that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Such results from the Friday vote were widely expected after hard-liners barred more than 2,400 candidates, many of them reformers, from running for office. Liberals had called for a vote boycott to spoil the conservatives' win.

German Chancellor Will Support Ankara in EU Drive

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder began talks Monday morning with Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Unlike the German opposition, Schröder wants to give the country hope for the EU.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was unequivocal in his support for Turkey's efforts to join the European Union upon his arrival in Ankara Sunday evening.

"One needs to deal fairly with Turkey and fair means that you stand by your word," Schröder said. "I stand by my word."

Schröder's Party Losing Members in Droves

Displeasure with the ruling Social Democratic Party's (SPD) course seems to be taking its toll among its members. In January, 10,000 Social Democrats handed back their membership cards for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's party. Inner-party dissent has been apparent since the SPD-led governing coalition initiated the chancellor's "Agenda 2010" package of controversial measures to reform the country's social, healthcare and pension systems.

Taiwan sees scant chance of war with China

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Tiffany Wu
Monday February 23, 09:58 AM

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's top China policymaker sees scant chance of war with the mainland despite Beijing's anger at the island's decision to hold its first referendum next month, but could not rule out a miscalculation in the future. [...]

Mbeki opens terrorism talks with US officials

The commander of United States forces in Europe met President Thabo Mbeki in Johannesburg on Friday for talks on America's new security strategy in Africa to combat terrorism, military officials said.

"Africa is the logical place to be concerned about," General James Jones said after the meeting.

America sees Africa as a soft target for terror networks due to weak institutions, poor security and long stretches of unguarded coastline.[...]

Citigroup Buys S.Korean Bank for $2.7 Bln

By Kim Yeon-hee and Jean Yoon
Mon Feb 23, 3:18 AM ET

SEOUL (Reuters) - In the largest ever foreign investment in South Korea, Citigroup Inc said on Monday it would buy KorAm Bank for $2.7 billion to extend its push into emerging markets. [...]

5 Feared Dead in Miss. Boat Collision

29 die as Brisbane swelters
12:24 Monday 23rd February 2004

A sweltering weekend is believed to have claimed several lives in Brisbane.

Queensland state's Ambulance Service commissioner Jim Higgins reported emergency call outs on Sunday, when temperatures soared to 41.7 C (107 F) - Brisbane's hottest ever February day - 53% higher than normal for the time of year.

From Friday afternoon to Sunday night, police were called to 29 sudden deaths. The weekend earlier, there were seven such deaths in the city of 900,000 people. [...]

Ambulance crews were so stretched that in about 20 cases, fire officers were sent to provide first aid until paramedics could get there.

Explosion traps Chinese miners

Monday, 23 February, 2004, 07:51 GMT

Thirty seven miners have been trapped underground after an explosion at a coal mine in Heilongjiang province in the northeast of China.

The Xinhua news agency said that dangerous gases were preventing rescuers from reaching them.

The cause of the blast, which happened early on Monday, is being investigated. [...]

Killer flu: Could the world cope?

By Ray Dunne
BBC News Online health staff
Sunday, 22 February, 2004

A new virus could spread quickly

It is only a matter of time before a major outbreak of potentially deadly flu, according to scientists. Could the world cope?

There have been three flu pandemics during the past 100 years.

The 1918 Spanish flu is estimated to have killed up to 50m people worldwide.

The Asian flu of 1957 was caught much earlier but still claimed one million lives. The Hong Kong flu of 1968 was responsible for a similar number of deaths.

It has been 36 years since the last major outbreak and scientists, health professionals and some governments are getting twitchy.

'Inevitable outbreak'

Most scientists agree that another flu pandemic is inevitable. Many say it is overdue.

"It really is inevitable," says Dr Alan Hay, director of the World Influenza Centre in London. "We don't know when it will arrive but we are anticipating it."

Some experts believe the next killer flu may already have arrived.

"Avian flu might yet be the next pandemic virus," says John Oxford, professor of virology at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine.

There is no evidence yet that this particular strain of the virus can be passed from human to human. Those who have been infected caught it from chickens.

However, scientists are worried that the virus could mutate and could pass from one person to another, triggering a possible pandemic.

Those fears are not groundless. Dutch scientists say three people who caught bird flu when a different strain hit The Netherlands last year may have caught it from people and not animals.

The World Health Organization has been urging the international community for years to prepare for the next flu pandemic.

It estimates a future outbreak could kill as many as 650,000 people in industrialised countries. The figure would be significantly higher in the developing world.

Recent outbreaks of bird flu and Sars have spurred some countries into action. However, others are lagging behind.

"The WHO has been desperately trying to get countries to take this seriously," says Professor Oxford. "It has 192 members but only 12 have done anything about it.

"People really need to think about what happens when this virus arrives - who is going to do what; what vaccines are available; who is going to distribute them and who is going to bury people when they die."

Emergency plans

Last week, Canada, which was hit hard by Sars, outlined its plans for dealing with a flu pandemic. The 450-page document spells out what actions authorities will take in the event of an outbreak.

Three years ago, ministers signed a deal with a local pharmaceutical company to provide a vaccine for 32m Canadians in the event of a pandemic.

Killer viruses

1918 Spanish flu killed 50m
1957 Asian flu killed around 1m
1968 Hong Kong flu killed 1m
2003 Sars killed 774
2004 Avian flu (H5N1) has killed 22 to date

Other countries have taken similar steps. In Germany, the government has drawn up plans to dispense millions of doses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

The UK government is taking similar action. "We are taking active steps to increase our stocks of available antivirals," says a spokesman for the Department of Health.

In a report last year, the WHO said countries needed to do more.

"A few member states are formulating national plans for pandemic preparedness, but only one country has completed a formal, legally sanctioned plan.

"The absence of such national plans, including projected needs for vaccines, antiviral drugs, and other essential supplies, hinders efforts to coordinate preparedness planning at the global level."

It added: "All countries need to be aware of the need to begin preparedness planning well in advance of a pandemic, as many essential activities take considerable time."

The WHO will spearhead the international response to any flu pandemic.

Some 110 national influenza reference centres in 83 countries are acting as its eyes and ears, feeding into four collaborating centres in Atlanta, London, Melbourne and Tokyo.

"There is very intense surveillance to detect any novel viruses," says Dr Alan Hay.

Vaccine search

One of the biggest challenges facing scientists if and when a powerful strain of flu emerges will be to find a vaccine to protect people against it.

Scientists around the world are already working on possible vaccines for Sars and avian flu - two of the leading contenders for the title of next pandemic virus.

Experts say a pandemic may be imminent

"We have a sort of hierarchy of likelihood viruses that may spark a pandemic," says Dr Hay.

"We have some vaccine prepared against some of these viruses. We hope they will give us a head start."

The vaccines are in very early stages of development and are based on strains of influenza that have emerged in recent years but have not sparked major outbreaks.

The hope is they can provide the basis of an effective vaccine in the event of a pandemic.

Like all new drugs, any vaccine for flu - even one for a particularly lethal strain of the virus - will take time to develop and to be made available to the public.

"It is difficult to say how long it could take," says Dr Hay.

Some experts believe a vaccine could become available relatively quickly. Others maintain it will take a year or more after the virus hits.

However, experts are hopeful that some existing drugs could provide an important first line of defence against a future pandemic.

A study published this week by scientists in Australia suggests Relenza is effective against the strain of bird flu currently affecting Asia.

The GlaxoSmithKline drug has been available since 1999 and stops the flu virus from spreading. Tamiflu, which is manufactured by Hoffmann-La Roche, works in a similar way.

Professor Oxford believes governments around the world should be stockpiling these drugs now.

"These drugs act against every known influenza virus. There is no excuse for governments not to have them," he says.

Comment: At the risk of laboring the point, we say it again. The government is behind seemingly "natural" epidemics. See our Signs Flu Supplement for the evidence.

Flashback: Glaxosmithkline chief: Our drugs do not work on most patients

Record Heatwave shrinks Sydney water supply to 45%

By Joseph Kerr
February 23, 2004

Sydney could be heading for tougher water restrictions aimed at pool owners in particular as the city's water supply shrinks towards 45 per cent of capacity.

Home owners could soon be required to apply for permission to fill or re-fill their pools if the Utilities Minister, Frank Sartor, considers further restrictions are warranted.

Restrictions were imposed across Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains on October 1. While 30 billion litres of water have already been saved, a Sartor spokesman says the minister is looking at what more can be done.

On Friday Sydney's water supply was only 52.7 per cent of capacity.

Rainstorm in California Delays Flights

By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press Writer
Mon Feb 23,12:47 AM ET

LOS ANGELES - Heavy rain throughout Southern California delayed airline flights and flooded roads and highways across the region, contributing to hundreds of car crashes.

"There's lots and lots of crashes," said Phil Konstantin, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol's San Diego area. He said the downpour Sunday washed mud and rocks onto roads near areas denuded by last year's wildfires.

The bad weather also caused flight delays and cancellations at Los Angeles International Airport, Las Vegas' McCarron International Airport and several small airports around Southern California. [...]

Fungus attacks sun lovers
February 22, 2004

A MYSTERIOUS fungus that lurks in solariums and attacks unsuspecting customers has sent a wave of panic through Sydney's affluent suburbs.

Dozens of victims - mostly women - have complained to pharmacists in recent weeks of uncomfortable rashes after sessions on sunbeds.

The condition produces white spots or brown scaling, instead of the bronzing effect the customer expected.

Once infected, victims may need treatment lasting four months. [...]

"It's a type of yeast called tinea versicolor that lives in the hair follicles, and UV light doesn't kill it." [...]

Beware of Exploding Beer Bottles

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beer bottles that exploded in the hot summer weather were one of the biggest health risks Chinese consumers faced last year, Xinhua news agency reported Sunday. [...]

National disaster in Swaziland

[...]More than two-thirds of Swaziland's population live on less than $1 per day and as many as 40% of the population are estimated to be HIV positive.

Correspondents say King Mswati, Africa's only absolute monarch, has been reluctant to declare a national disaster to avoid a close scrutiny of government spending from foreign donors. He last month requested $15m to build new palaces for his 11 wives and has been seeking to buy a royal jet.

Britain Rules Out Financial Aid to Nigeria

Spooky subatomic behavior seen on grander scale

Keay Davidson
Chronicle Science Writer

Sunday, February 22, 2004 Eight decades after one of the weirdest discoveries in the history of science -- that subatomic matter is wavelike -- Austrian scientists are studying the same phenomenon on a much bigger scale, in giant molecules of carbon.

Such research is more dramatic evidence that the spooky phenomena of quantum physics aren't confined to the infinitesimally tiny world within the atom. In fact, quantum effects influence objects much, much bigger than atoms, possibly even important molecules in the human body. [...]

So how far did the Phoenicians really go in the region?

In one of the early adventures of Asterix and Obelix, a Phoenician trade ship takes the world’s funniest Celtic warriors from the Gaul’s last village free from Roman rule to Queen Cleopatra in the land of the Nile. Now, of course this is but an image in a comic book, but still, is it possible that the Phoenicians, generally known as the greatest seafarers of antiquity, actually reached Brittany, or even further?

There’s no doubt that Phoenicians were well established all over the Mediterranean. Archeological remains prove they lived in a vast network of cities at Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Spain and the African coast, where Carthage became the powerbroker of the western Mediterranean till the rise of Rome.

Archeological finds take us even further, past Gibraltar’s “Pillars of Hercules,” to Phoenician settlements on the Atlantic coast of Morocco and Portugal. But that’s it. So far no physical proof of any further exploits has been found. However, there are some spectacular written sources.

First of all, there are two Latin texts that relate of the journey of Himilco, who in the 5th century BC sailed from Carthage around Iberia (Spain) to northern Europe. According to these sources, Himilco did not go ashore in Brittany to pick up any Celtic warriors, but crossed the Channel to Great Britain.

Fatal fire at India space centre


A fire has ripped through India's main space centre killing at least six people, police say.

A number of people are reported to have been injured in the blaze at the Sriharikota centre, on an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh state.

"Some people have been hurt. We don't know the extent of their injuries," a spokesman for the centre told the Associated Press.

The cause of the fire is not clear. It is reported to be under control. [...]

A number of successful launches have taken off Sriharikota.

Several craft carrying telecommunications and imaging satellites for a number of countries have been put into orbit from the site.

Correspondents say India has impressive ambitions in the field of space travel.

Last year the government announced plans to put a man on the moon within five years.

FLASHBACK: U.S. 'negation' policy in space raises concerns abroad

By Loring Wirbel
EE Times May 22, 2003 (1:26 p.m. ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — While much of the talk around the Pentagon these days focuses on "transformation" of the military, some of the United States' closest allies worry about another buzzword being used in subtler ways at the National Reconnaissance Office: "negation." [...]

Lack of Safety Is Charged in Nuclear Site Cleanup

New York Times

RICHLAND, Wash. — For almost half a century, the hulking factories across a vast nuclear reservation here churned out the plutonium for most of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, including the bomb used on Nagasaki.

But in the last several years, with the cold war long over, the shuttered silence of the nine nuclear reactors on this 586-square-mile site has been followed by one of the world's largest cleanups, costing $2 billion a year.

An army of workers numbering more than 11,000 faces the staggering cleanup task at the Hanford complex in the high desert of southeastern Washington, a project made more daunting with an accelerated timetable that slashed cleanup projections to 35 years from 70. The quicker pace has led to charges among some doctors, experts and lawmakers that speed has taken priority over worker health and safety. And some warn that, in its dormancy, the vast wasteland may pose even more danger to the cleanup workers than it did to those who built the nation's arsenal here when the complex was in full operation.

"Cleanup is a dangerous job," said Dr. Tim K. Takaro, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Washington who treats workers monthly at Hanford. Those at risk, he said, are the large numbers of workers who "enter the dark corners of these buildings that have not been touched for years."

The State of Washington has just begun a new investigation into accusations by an advocacy group that the federal Department of Energy and its on-site contractors are ignoring some of the risks associated with the cleanup. The state attorney general, Christine O. Gregoire, started the review after trying, her office said, without success, to get Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to look into the charges. [...]


Feb 21 2004
By Richard Smith
The Mirror

A FIELD of 1,300 fluorescent tubes light up the night sky - powered solely by the force field from overhead power lines.
Richard Box created the 60-metre display to show the hazards of living in the shadow of high-voltage pylons.

He said: "There's a crackling sound as well as light. There's a certain smell too and your hair stands on end."

Richard is artist in residence at Bristol University where researchers claim power lines increase risk of leukaemia, tumours, miscarriage and depression.

The university's Prof Dennis Henshaw said: "The installation uses the electromagnetic field to induce a current in the tubes." The display is on a hill near the M4 a few miles from Bath.

UW Study: Magnetic Fields Might Damage Brain Cell DNA

SEATTLE - Two UW researchers say prolonged exposure to magnetic fields created by electricity can damage brain cell DNA. [...]

Deliberately Exposing People To Toxins: Report Calls For More Stringent Ethical Standards In Scientific Studies

DuPont's troubled chemical

C-8 is widespread in the environment. How did it get there, and should we be worried?


A little-known manmade chemical is found in the tissue of living things around the globe.

It is in the flesh of dolphins and cormorants off the Italian coast.

It is in 5 percent of the bread, green beans and ground beef sampled in supermarkets in southern states.

It is in the blood of up to 96 percent of people in the United States, a study suggests.

The chemical is known as C-8.

C-8 is used to make the DuPont Co.'s Teflon that coats cookware. It is also released in the decomposition of fluorinated telomers, a chemical used to make some fast-food wrappers resistant to grease. Teflon and telomers are part of a family of fluorinated compounds pioneered and dominated by DuPont.

Scientists know of no other sources of C-8. [...]

Downsizing raises risk of death in workers

23 February 04

Corporate downsizing doubles the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and has serious health effects on employees who survive redundancy, suggests new research.

A Finnish study of 22,430 government employees shows that employees who are laid off are not the only ones who suffer health repercussions from major downsizing. [...]

Fred West linked to the occult

Feb 22 2004
By Caroline Wheeler

Serial killers Fred and Rose West shocked the world with an horrific murder spree that claimed at least 12 lives.

But as the 10th anniversary of the House of Horrors murders approaches, evidence has emerged of a sinister new twist to their crimes - with an expert's claims that they were devil-worshippers whose victims were human sacrifices.

Renowned Irish author Jim Cairns says new evidence shows the pair may have been part of a Midland black magic ring. [...]

Comment: It seems that it does not take much for the media to declare someone an "expert" or "renowned". These adjectives are tossed around with such ease, one would think that we are close to resolving all the issues in our reality since we are surrounded by so many well informed individuals. A 30 second search on the internet turned up Jim Cairns home page. It appears that he sees Satan everywhere. So assured that Satan and Satan worshipping is causing so many of the world's ills that he may never see anything else. Perhaps he has good intentions, but once we assume that we know the complete truth we are in trouble.

1,980-Pound Pig May Have Been Biggest

February 23, 2004

BEIJING - Chinese officials figure a 1,980-pound pig that died from lack of exercise has a shot at being named the biggest pig ever. And they plan to apply for a listing in the Guinness Book of Records, the government's news agency said Monday.

The pig, which was 8 feet 3 inches long, is already the heaviest ever reported in China, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The beast had a girth of 7 feet, 3 inches and its tusks were 5 3/4 inches long when it died Feb. 5, the agency said. It cited the pig's keeper, Xu Changjin, a farmer in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

The pig lived to be 5 years old — considered long in China, where most pigs are slaughtered by age 3 — and was kept in a "nicely built sty," the report said.

But, "it had grown too big to move around," said Liu Mingyu, a professor at Liaoning University, who said it died from lack of exercise.

China's previous heaviest pig weighed in at 1,540 pounds, Liu said, in Xinhua's report.

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