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Wednesday, February 25, 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

The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness. And 'consciousness' cannot evolve unconsciously. The evolution of man is the evolution of his will, and 'will' cannot evolve involuntarily. The evolution of man is the evolution of his power of doing, and his 'doing' cannot be the result of things which 'happen.' -- G. Gurdjieff

The evolution of Consciousness, Will, and Doing. We are a long way from Darwin and the Creationists. Unfortunately, the idea of evolution in our day has been emptied of any higher meaning and has been reduced to the mechanical changes within the body, changes that 'happen' involuntarily and unconsciously. Here we are confronted yet again with false choices: Darwin, or some form of Darwinian natural selection, modified and improved, or the idea that God made us in his image. But neither of these "solutions" or explanations force us to confront the real issue: what are we doing to evolve our consciousness, to evolve our will, and to become individuals who can DO.

The many problems facing us can only be solved through this "other" evolutionary work. If as individuals we are unable to DO, because we have no inner unity of will, what difference does it make if a hundred or a thousand or even if a million people get together? Any work they undertake will still be the work of a million mechanical beings, reacting to events rather than finding truly creative ways out of the impasse.

But how to do this work?

We are told that the study of consciousness is difficult. You need to do double blind psychology tests or have laboratories to analyse the chemicals that are given off when different neurons fire with brain scanners to distinguish which receptors are on the receiving end.

This idea is bunk. We each have the best subject for our experiments that we could ever need: ourselves.

The key to the evolution of our consciousness is the study of the only consciousness which we can know: our own.

As I write, I notice that part of me is thinking about what to say next. Another part of me is thinking about taking a nap because I got up earlier than usual today. Another part of me notices that my back is starting to hurt from sitting at the computer and working. Another part is thinking about something that happened yesterday. So the first declaration that I can make about my own consciousness is that it is multiple. It is not one, unified "I".

If someone enters the office and gives me some news that is upsetting, I feel an immediate change in my consciousness. I can feel certain physiological changes within the different parts of the body, perhaps a lump in my gut. It may aggravate the sensation of pain in my back. It takes an effort of will to return to the part of me that had started writing these lines.

Every minute and hour of the day is spent like this. Thoughts 'happen' without any will on my part. They just enter into my stream of consciousness. With effort I can stop these automatic thoughts and focus on what I am writing. Then I find I am becoming engrossed in the interplay of my fingers and the keys of the keyboard. ARGH! Back to what I am writing.

We are continually jolted and jostled by different impressions during the day. Each jostle may set off a reaction within my stream of consciousness. This is not 'willed,' it just 'happens.' This is what Gurdjieff means when he says that we cannot DO because things 'happen' to us. These constant, automatic and unconscious reactions to impressions and stimuli are what make us mechanical beings. To move beyond this state requires developing our will. We can develop the will to act by gathering knowledge on which to act. For example, it is by gathering knowledge about the many competeing "I"s within me that I afford myself the choice to do something about it. If am ignorant of the existence of something, or if I choose to deny its existence, I can do nothing about it. Arriving at the point where we can choose is not everything however. Once we choose to "retake the throne" we must be prepared for a difficult struggle. "Thrones" are not usually given up so easily, but with persistence we can prevail, and in doing so we may finally be able to say "I" and truly know that we mean it.

From this simple example, we see that it is possible to study consciousness. It can be done critically by carefully watching your reactions and studying how you respond to impressions and stimuli. It is repeatable. The experience can be shared with others and compared. There is no mumbo-jumbo, no hocus-pocus, no transportation of consciousness to other realms or so-called "higher states" decked out with colours and energy or any other psychedelic phenomema. The "higher state" we are seeking is that of seeing clearly what is before us, in our relationships, in our world, and being able to maintain that awareness while the jostling, jolting, and external shocks continue to try to beat us back into automatism.

Any change to the world must begin here, with this process, within each one of us.

Without this, it won't matter if there are a million or ten million in the streets protesting against the next war. If, however, there were a million people who were no longer reaction machines, who were in fact able to DO, there is no telling what the effect might be, or what options for REAL evolution it might present.

No one was quite sure at the beginning where 2004 AS1 was headed

Earth almost put on impact alert

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Astronomers have revealed how they came within minutes of alerting the world to a potential asteroid strike last month.

Some scientists believed on 13 January that a 30m object, later designated 2004 AS1, had a one-in-four chance of hitting the planet within 36 hours.

It could have caused local devastation and the researchers contemplated a call to President Bush before new data finally showed there was no danger.

The procedures for raising the alarm in such circumstances are now being revised.

[...] At about 30m wide, the asteroid was cosmic small fry, not the type of thing to wipe out the dinosaurs or threaten our species, but still big enough to cause considerable damage after exploding in the atmosphere.

Potentially, the loss of life could have been much worse than 11 September.

[...] And 2004 AS1? It turned out to be bigger than anyone had thought - about 500m wide. It eventually passed the Earth at a distance of about 12 million km - 32 times the Earth-Moon distance, posing no danger to us whatsoever.

Violent film lovers suddenly sensitive

Critics who praised decapitations in 'Gladiator' blast Gibson movie

February 25, 2004

Many reviewers of Mel Gibson's film are displaying a "New Puritanism," condemning "The Passion of the Christ" for being too violent while lauding other violent films, charged a Catholic leader.

"Having failed to tag the movie as anti-Semitic, those who hate everything about Mel's masterpiece are trying to convince the public not to see it because it's too violent," says Catholic League president William Donohue.

"Alas, there is a New Puritanism in the land," he said. "Violence has now joined cigarettes as the new taboo."

Gibson's controversial film about the last 12 hours of Jesus' life opens today.

Donohue points to New York Daily News reporter Jami Bernard, who voted the "super-violent" film "Gladiator" the best picture of 2000, but brands Gibson's film "a compendium of tortures that would horrify the regulars at an S&M club."

Yet, Donahue says, Bernard is a big fan of the Marquis de Sade – the pervert who wrote the book on S&M – and that is why she liked 'Quills.'"

Reviewer Peter Rainer, the Catholic leader noted, also condemns "Passion" for delving into "the realm of sadomasochism," yet commended director Steven Spielberg for the "gentleness" he brought to the bloody war hit "Saving Private Ryan."

Richard Corliss of Time, he noted, thinks the only people who will be drawn to Gibson's film are those "who can stand to be grossed out as they are edified."

Yet, said Donahue, Corliss called the "body halvings, decapitations, [and] unhandings" of "Gladiator" a "pleasure that we get to watch."

Newsweek's David Ansen says "The Passion" will "inspire nightmares," though he hails as "a must-see" movie a film about incest, "The Dreamers."

David Denby of the New Yorker cites "The Passion" as being so violent it "falls into the danger of altering Jesus' message of love into one of hate."

Says Donahue: "This is the same guy who said of 'Schindler's List' that 'the violence [is] neither exaggerated nor minimized."

"The New Puritans will not win this one," Donahue said. "The public does not share their deep-seated aversion to religion nor their phony pacifism."

A New York Times review today by A.O. Scott says Gibson "has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle that is also, in the end, a depressing one."

The review says, "It is disheartening to see a film made with evident and abundant religious conviction that is at the same time so utterly lacking in grace."

"What makes the movie so grim and ugly is Gibson's inability to think beyond the conventional logic of movie narrative," charges the critique.

In a scathing review in the Boston Globe, James Carroll says the subject of the film is the "sick love of physical abuse, engaged in for power."

"'The Passion of the Christ' by Mel Gibson is an obscene movie," says Carroll to open his critique. "It will incite contempt for Jews. It is a blasphemous insult to the memory of Jesus Christ. It is an icon of religious violence."

In contrast to these reviews, the many Protestant and Catholic leaders who have screened rough cuts of the film over the past several months have praised it as the most powerful cinematic treatment of the subject they have ever seen.

Comment: It is interesting to note that both sides of the argument above are in fact correct. If the film is meant as a christian movie with a christian message, then it is appropriate that it portrays "sick love of physical abuse, engaged in for power", since this is the essence of Christianity and most organised religions. It is also appropriate then that many Protestant and Catholic leaders should praise it. We are not disappointed in Gibson's movie, since its blood and gore correctly reflect the nature of modern Christianity. We should add however that the only thing lacking is any historical accuracy, but then that too reflects the basis upon which Christianity, Judaism and Islam were formed.

US stops import of French meats

The US has suspended imports of French meat products on safety grounds.

Items such as sausages, hams and foie gras are affected, France's Agriculture Ministry has reported.

The US has introduced the ban after a team of American farm officials visited the 11 French firms allowed to export such products to the States, it said.

Tuesday's move came hours after the European Union introduced a Europe-wide total ban on US poultry and egg imports after a bird flu outbreak in Texas.

American poultry farmers feel the pinch as more countries ban U.S. imports

04:03 AM EST Feb 25

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - America's poultry growers are feeling increasing pain as more of the country's trading partners ban imports of U.S. chickens, turkeys, eggs and other products following the discovery of a dangerous strain of avian flu in Texas.

On Tuesday, South Korea and the European Union banned all poultry imports from the United States, while Mexico banned most U.S. imports. The three countries bought U.S. poultry meat products totalling $340 million US last year, nearly 20 per cent of the $1.8 billion US worth of such exports by American producers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Earlier this month, Russia, China, Japan and other major importers imposed localized trade bans after a less potent form of bird flu turned up in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Putin Fires Kasyanov 19 Days Before Vote

Members of the outgoing Cabinet said the decision caught them off guard. They seemed unfazed by the shake-up, though. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who said he got the news from Putin's television address, called the move "correct, brave and fair."

[...] Kudrin and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is seen as a close friend and confidant of the president, have long been named as the two most likely choices for the next prime minister.

Kryshtanovskaya and Stanislav Belkovsky, of the Center for National Strategy, which is often linked with the security services elements of Putin's team, the so-called siloviki, both added a third name to the list: Igor Shuvalov, a deputy head of the Kremlin administration.

Shuvalov, a former chief of staff for Kasyanov who took up the post as the Kremlin point man for economic reforms in May, "has been meeting with federal officials over the past few months and telling them that he could soon become prime minister," Belkovsky said. "But you can never tell with Putin. He plays his cards close to his chest."

Kudrin's appointment would be seen as a victory for the liberal technocrats he represents, while Ivanov's appointment would be seen as bolstering the siloviki.

EU Stands Firm in Spat With Russia

By Alex Fak
Staff Writer

A dispute between Russia and the European Union has intensified, with the EU emphasizing that its partnership agreement with Moscow is not up for renegotiation.

Russia must apply the agreement to new member states "without precondition or distinction by May 1, 2004" to "avoid a serious impact on EU-Russia relations in general," the EU foreign ministers said in a statement Monday.

"It's a threat of sanctions," one EU diplomat told Agence France Presse after the meeting in Brussels, Belgium. If Russia starts discriminating against goods from the new member states, the EU could hit back with trade sanctions, another official told the London daily The Independent.

[...] French President Jacques Chirac said Tuesday that the European Union must show more respect for Russia's national interests as Moscow adjusts to the EU's enlargement, Reuters reported.

Speaking in Budapest, Hungary, Chirac said the EU had in the past been too tough on Moscow.

"Russia is making an enormous effort to regain its rightful place in the world," Chirac said. "We must convince Russia that we regard its efforts with friendship."

Rybkin 'Best Speaker in the History of the Duma'

By Anatoly Medetsky
Staff Writer

[...] Vlast magazine, in its Feb. 16 issue, described Rybkin as easy to manipulate, a feature also highlighted by the North Caucasus expert. "Rybkin is the kind of person that can be used in various games," the expert said. "That's an impression he makes."

Rybkin swept aside the allegation, saying that he is simply a team player.

US may have understated Guantanamo numbers

By Shaheen Chughtai
Tuesday 24 February 2004, 22:23 Makka Time, 19:23 GMT

The number of prisoners at the US naval base of Guantanamo is much higher than previously reported, says a prominent Qatari lawyer representing scores of detainees' families.

Qatar's minister of justice from 1996 to 1997, Dr Najeeb bin Muhammad Ahmad al-Nauimi, also says secret telephone calls have taken place between certain selected prisoners and their families.

The US has been tight-lipped about the exact number of detainees; reports about Guantanamo normally reckon 660 captives are at the Camp Delta detention centre. But al-Nauimi disputes this.

"There are more than 660," he says, "because many others were arrested after Afghanistan. Some of them are 'very classified'. We believe there are more than 700, up to about 800."

He says the number of inmates has been boosted by the transfer of people detained in various countries after the 2001 Afghanistan war.

U.S. charges first Guantanamo prisoners

Tuesday February 24, 07:06 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has brought conspiracy charges against a Yemeni man and a Sudanese man, both described as having close ties to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, making them the first Guantanamo Bay prisoners to face criminal charges, the Pentagon says.

The Defense Department said on Tuesday Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan were charged with a single count each of conspiracy to commit war crimes and will be brought to trial before a military tribunal.

Pentagon spokesman Major John Smith said Pentagon prosecutors do not plan to seek the death penalty against either man if convicted.

Both are among the roughly 650 foreign terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Comment: Apparently, conspiracies are real - but only when they apply to the actions of "terrorists."

Bush Unhappy With Iranian Elections

Tue Feb 24, 1:29 PM ET

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Tuesday declared himself "very disappointed" in Iran's disputed elections that put conservatives back in control of parliament.

"I join many in Iran and around the world in condemning the Iranian regime's efforts to stifle freedom of speech," the president said in a statement. "I am very disappointed."

Bush specifically criticized moves by the ruling Islamic establishment to ban more than 2,400 candidates from running in the elections and to close two leading reformist newspapers in the run-up to the vote.

"Such measures undermine the rule of law and are clear attempts to deny the Iranian people's desire to freely choose their leaders," Bush's statement said. "The United States supports the Iranian people's aspirations to live in freedom, enjoy their God-given rights and determine their own destiny." [...]

Comment: Didn't Bush say the same thing before the invasion of Iraq?

'Bankrupt' Forces may shut 5 bases

Internal reports say $500M shortfall may cause closures from Winnipeg to Labrador

Chris Wattie
National Post
February 24, 2004

Canada's army, navy and air force are facing a funding shortfall of up to half a billion dollars, defence sources told the National Post, and the military is recommending drastic measures to make up the difference, including closing some of the largest bases in the country.

The federal government is stalling the release of internal documents that outline the looming financial crisis, but military sources said the reports indicate that in the fiscal year beginning on April 1, the air force expects to be $150-million short of funds needed to fulfill its commitments, the navy will be $150-million shy of its needs and the army will be as much as $200-million short.

The figures were submitted to General Ray Henault, the Chief of Defence Staff, last month by the heads of the land staff, the maritime staff and the air staff in anticipation of this year's defence budget.

The military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the reports foresee a situation so dire that they recommend curtailing operations, dry-docking ships and mothballing vehicles or aircraft and closing at least four Canadian Forces bases.

Unless additional funding is awarded by the government, the air force is suggesting closing bases at Goose Bay, Nfld., Bagotville, Que., North Bay and Winnipeg, the sources said.

Further, the air force report says that unless its fleet of ageing CC-130 Hercules transport planes is replaced or modernized, the main transport base at Trenton should be closed within 10 years. "There won't be enough Hercs flying by then to justify keeping that base open," one air force source said.

The navy predicts it will not be able to live up to treaty obligations to NATO and other alliances and cannot carry out enough patrols of Canadian waters to comply with agreements with other government departments such as Immigration Canada or Fisheries and Oceans.

"We will not be able to meet our domestic defence obligations," one naval officer said. [...]

Comment: Whatever will they do? Perhaps a "joint defense force" with the US? Canada is already thinking about allowing its land to be used for the US missile defense system.

US envoy tells Germany to spend more on military

BERLIN (AFP) Feb 25, 2004

Two days before German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visits the White House, the US ambassador to Berlin told Germany on Wednesday that it had to increase the amount of money it spends on defence.

Daniel Coats suggested in a newspaper interview that Germany was one of a number of NATO countries whose relatively low defence spending could threaten the alliance's long-term effectiveness.

"If Germany wants to have the necessary military capabilities, it must dedicate at least two percent of its gross domestic product to defence," Coats told the Berliner Zeitung daily in remarks translated into German.

Germany defence spending this year is a little more than 24 billion euros (30 billion dollars), which corresponds to 1.4 percent of GDP. [...]

Israel's Sharon Is Up to Something in Gaza. But What?

What's up with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent announcement that Israel intends to withdraw from its settlements in Gaza?

by Jonathan Rauch
The Atlantic Online

No one knows what Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is up to with his recent announcement that Israel intends to withdraw from most of its settlements in Gaza, but everyone knows it is momentous. Less than a year ago, notes David Makovsky, a senior fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Sharon insisted that he considered settlements in Gaza to be as important as Tel Aviv. Now Sharon is proposing to walk away, and to abandon a few, as yet unspecified, settlements in the West Bank as well.

"It's of historic significance that the architect of the settlement movement has declared his willingness to oversee the dismantlement of that enterprise in Gaza," Makovsky says. "That creates a new baseline."

At the Brookings Institution, senior fellow and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk remarks that no previous prime minister was willing to abandon even a single settlement outside the context of a final agreement with the Palestinians. "It's a revolution," Indyk says.

But what kind of revolution? That depends on what Sharon is up to. Take your pick:

1) Distraction. Sharon promised Israelis security but hasn't delivered. His popularity sank from over 50 percent after the Iraq war to 33 percent by late January. Worse, he is under threat of indictment. What better way to regain the political initiative and deflect the spotlight from his personal problems than to announce a bold policy change that, as it happens, 60 percent of Israelis support? Sure enough, following his Gaza stunner, Sharon's poll numbers rose.

Well, Sharon is a foxy politician, but it seems unlikely that he would repudiate a guiding principle of his career for momentary political advantage. He has something bigger in mind. But what?

2) Deal-breaking. Sharon has always resisted any final-status negotiation that would cede the West Bank, much of which he regards as essential to Israel's defense. He has also floated various schemes to unilaterally impose a meager, geographically discontinuous pseudo-state on the Palestinians. His government is building a barrier between Israel and the West Bank on the Palestinian side of the pre-1967 Green Line. Palestinians claim that the barrier will ultimately both encircle and divide them, preventing the establishment of a viable state. The Gaza plan, then, might merely be part of a design to subvert any chance of a negotiated settlement.

This is a reach. If Sharon wanted to deal-break, he could perfectly well encircle and carve up the West Bank without abandoning Gaza. Nor is there any evidence that the security barrier, either as built so far or as planned, will encircle the West Bank. In any case, neither the White House nor mainstream Israeli opinion would countenance a deal-breaking strategy, and Sharon is tough but not suicidal.

3) Delay. Sharon says the Gaza pullout will begin only if the U.S.-sponsored "road map"—a plan to establish a new bilateral peace process—remains stalled after six months or so. And he has hinted that a pullout might take two years. Perhaps, then, he is merely buying time to avoid repudiating the road map before the American elections.

Possible, but again a reach. Sharon has made plain that he wants American approval for his Gaza plan, and he has begun intensive diplomacy toward that end. The United States will ask for clarifications and adjustments in exchange for support and dollars to pay for the relocation of Gaza settlers. Initiating such a process in bad faith, while expecting never to deliver, would be the surest way to alienate President Bush, which Sharon cannot afford to do. It would incense both Palestinians and mainstream Israelis. Sharon is too smart to bluff if he knows his bluff will be called.

4) Demographics. In recent months, the Israeli media have been filled with predictions that Israel must separate physically from the West Bank and Gaza to avoid being demographically swamped by the Palestinians. Pulling out of Gaza and building a physical barrier are logical steps toward disentangling the Israeli and Palestinian populations.

Demographic self-defense is undoubtedly a major factor in Sharon's decision. And an ironic one. Israelis, after years of swearing they would never allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on their borders, now find they desperately need one, both to suppress terrorism and to preserve Israel's Jewish identity. Still, why choose to act on demographics now, when unilateral withdrawal may weaken Israeli deterrence by convincing Hamas that violence works? Demographics or no, why would a tough-minded general retreat under fire in a war of attrition?

5) Despair. Perhaps Israel is weakening. Sharon's government, even as it prepared its Gaza bombshell, agreed to a prisoner swap with Hezbollah, an Islamist paramilitary and terrorist group, on ridiculously uneven terms (400 Hezbollah prisoners for one live Israeli and three dead ones). Then came the Gaza announcement, which Hamas gleefully touted as a victory. Is Israel losing its will to fight?

That would be alarming news. Israel is a critical front in the war on terror, and the collapse of that front would inspirit and embolden suicide bombers from Baghdad to Bali. But, in fact, no such collapse is apparent. Three grisly years have taught Israelis that their society can withstand suicide bombers' battering; the bombings are horrific, but not an existential threat to the state. Israelis are suffering, but not as much as Palestinians are; in that tragic sense, Israel is winning the war of attrition. It may indeed be this realization that frees Israelis to contemplate the prisoner swap and the Gaza pullout.

Israelis, in other words, are not so much despairing as preparing for a long standoff. Which leads to a sixth possible Sharon aim—the single most plausible:

6) Digging in. Sharon is a general, and when a general decides he is in for a long siege, he consolidates his lines. A long siege is what Israel must now prepare for, even while hoping for a breakthrough. [...]

Comment: Let us propose a seventh option, and one that we feel is much more likely, based on the observable evidence. Sharon is planning to withdraw Israeli settlers from the occupied Palestinian territories and build a wall that will encircle and cut off the Palestinian populations in those areas. While the settlers are unaware of it, he may be doing this for their own good. Given that Sharon has a track record of inhuman brutality, specifically in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres in 1982 where he commanded militias as they brutally murdered hundreds of defenseless men, women and children, we have little faith that there is anything he would NOT do.

The building of the wall and the withdrawal of settlers are acts that suggest that Sharon is planning something that he wants to shield the rest of Israel from. Let us put it this way. In Vietnam, because the Vietcong were so well dug in and so adept at guerilla war, utilising an intricate network of tunnels, US troops were often unable to rout them from a given area. The US army response to this was usually to order an air strike to carpet bomb the entire area. Naturally just prior to this, the US forces in the area were withdrawn to a safe perimeter. It is not then without significance that the above article refers to Sharon as a "tough-minded general".

We suspect that Sharon has for a long time harbored plans to utterly destroy the Palestinian people, and in this way "resolve" Israel's problems, he is merely waiting for the most advantageous time to do it. We suspect that the wall and the withdrawal of settlers, signals the beginning of the implementation of this plan.

Ayoon wa Azan (The Wall's Failure)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2004/02/24

Eight Israelis were killed and 40 others were injured in a suicide attack in Jerusalem. The butcher, Ariel Sharon, said that this is evidence that the wall is needed.

This is proof of the wall's failure, but I no longer understand what is going on in the world; Israel's Prime Minister killed eight Israelis and injured 40 others by his persistence on the policy of killing and destruction. I expected him to switch the truth while defending a policy that promised to accomplish security. However, this policy completely destroyed it, along with Israel's economy, and perhaps, its claimed democracy. What I did not expect is for Israeli newspapers to agree with him or let it pass without holding Sharon somewhat responsible.

Boim: Is Palestinian terror caused by a genetic defect?

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim, addressing the issue of why much of local, regional and world terrorism is directed by extremist Muslims, asked Tuesday, "What is it about Islam as a whole and the Palestinians in particular? Is it some form of cultural deprivation? Is it some genetic defect? There is something that defies explanation in this continued murderousness." Boim was speaking at a memorial ceremony for the victims of a bus attack on the Coastal Highway 26 years ago.

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said in response that "whoever says that Palestinian behavior is caused by a genetic defect has a brain defect himself and the values of a racist fascist."

Comment: The Israelis have been developing ethnic specific weapons. Might not these weapons be designed to rid the world of the Palestinian "genetic defect"? It is horrifying to see the Israelis speaking of the Palestinians in the same terms used by the Nazis about the Jews.

Israel Says Won't Arrest Vanunu After Jail Term Ends

By Jeffrey Heller
Tue Feb 24, 4:32 PM ET

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided on Tuesday that nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu will be placed under supervision but not arrest after he completes an 18-year prison term in April, Sharon's office said.

It gave no details about restrictions but Israeli security sources said Israel would ban the former atomic reactor technician from traveling abroad, monitor his movements in Israel and tap his telephone. [...]

Stunned Kuwait Demands Clarification From Iraq Over New Land Claims

Sunday, February 22, 2004
Agence France Presse

KUWAIT CITY - 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.

This is an irresponsible statement ... It appears that the current chairman wants to become a copy of Saddam Hussein.

Kuwaiti lawmaker Mussallam al-Barrak
"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 neighboring 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.

Comment: The hypocrisy is stunning, yes. The US invaded Iraq in 1991 because Saddam attempted to snatch Kuwaiti land. Now that the US is in charge in Iraq, Kuwait is again under threat, but this time it's Uncle Sam, so it's ok - apparently.

Investigation May Shed Light on Columbine

By ROBERT WELLER, Associated Press Writer
Tue Feb 24, 4:31 PM ET

LITTLETON, Colo. - Nearly five years after the Columbine High massacre, officials will release a new report and thousands of pieces of evidence Thursday that may explain why authorities, parents and friends missed so many warning signs from the teenage killers. [...]

Among the material to be displayed this week for the first time are the murder weapons, ballistic reports and shell casings. There will also be a 38-minute sheriff's video of the crowd in a nearby park immediately after the shootings and a 94-minute patchwork of videos made by the killers before the attack, including footage shot inside the school.

"It will be all the physical evidence in the Columbine case," sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Talman said.

What will not be released is the school's own investigation into the massacre and a deposition given by Wayne Harris, father of one of the killers. Both remain sealed. Some parents also believe authorities have withheld other evidence.

While parents hope Salazar will shed light on lingering questions, they are upset that some information will probably never become public.

"There is a ton of information that is being hidden, in some cases by a federal court," said Brian Rohrbough, whose 15-year-old son, Daniel, died at Columbine. "They are hiding things that are absolutely important to understanding this and preventing it in the future." [...]

Of particular interest is an investigation begun by former Detective John Hicks in 1998 after the Browns complained about the Web site threats.

Judy Brown said she remembers calling Hicks and leaving a message saying she had seen Eric Harris in a supermarket buying a copy of a gun magazine just days after five people were slain at a school in Jonesboro, Ark.

She said she left a message on the detective's answering machine: "Eric's into guns. You have to call me back. It's going to happen here."

A warrant was drafted to search Harris' home, but it was never executed and the investigation was dropped. A report by Hicks found tucked inside a training manual last fall triggered the new investigation; at the time, Sheriff Ted Mink said it seemed obvious the sheriff's office knew of Harris and Klebold long before the slayings. [...]

Report: Slavery 'Alive and Well' in U.S.

Associated Press Writer
February 25, 2004, 12:14 AM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Modern-day slavery is alive and well in Florida, the head of a human rights center said Tuesday as it released a report on people forced to work as prostitutes, farmworkers and maids across the state.

Human traffickers bring thousands of people into the United States each year and Florida is believed to be one of the top three destinations, along with New York and Texas, according to the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. [...]

Aliens exist, say researchers

By Sarah Stanton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Alien abductees and university professors who specialize in extraterrestrial research gathered last night at University Medical Center to share their out-of-this-world experiences.

UA professor Gary Schwartz emceed a free lecture titled “Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life?”

More than 50 people attended the event, which featured two documentaries and a question-and-answer session with two doctors who believe that extraterrestrial life exists in some form.

Schwartz, the director of the UA’s Human Energy Systems Lab, said, “Our lab works in controversial areas, but the topic tonight is extremely controversial.”

Dr. Lynne Kitei, a cardiologist from Phoenix, recounted her numerous UFO sightings and showed the audience a documentary featuring her home video of the phenomena, titled “The Phoenix Lights.”

Kitei had her first UFO sighting in 1995. She was taking a bath when her husband started screaming to her from their bedroom to come see the unusual lights that were “hovering” outside the window.

Kitei described the lights as “three amber orbs, each about 3 to 6 feet in diameter, about 50 to 75 feet above us, hovering in a triangular formation.”

She took video and still photos of the lights as they “dimmed away.”

Two years later, on March 13, 1997, Kitei said a mass UFO sighting occurred in Phoenix and throughout Arizona. Up to 10,000 people saw the orbs of light that Kitei described as they waited to see the Hale-Bopp comet.

Panic ensued as people called the police departments and fire departments. No one knew what caused the unusual lights that some described as being attached to some sort of ship that was said to be more than a mile long, she said.

Kitei called Luke Air Force base and could not obtain any information. She contacted the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, where one air traffic controller and one commercial pilot reported seeing the lights. Nothing showed up on the radar.

The mystery went unsolved until 2000, when the National Guard staged an air show to prove to the public that an Air Force maneuver was behind the mysterious “Phoenix lights.” They flew planes with flares attached to them over the city to “re-enact” the event.

But the people who had witnessed the real Phoenix lights, including Kitei, were still skeptical.

Kitei contacted Schwartz, who was reluctant to take on the subject.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t really want to see her,” he said.

But Schwartz found Kitei’s evidence very convincing and said that she was “alarmingly sane.”

[...] Schwartz said we as a culture need to stop denying reliable data on controversial subjects.

“Shakespeare said, ‘To be or not to be; that is the question.’ But for us, it’s, ‘To see or not to see; that is the question,” he said.

Swiss air crash controller killed

Wednesday, 25 February, 2004

Most of those killed in the air crash were Russian schoolchildren

The air traffic controller on duty when two planes collided over southern Germany in July 2002 has been killed at his home in Zurich.
Police are looking for a man, speaking broken German, who fled on foot after stabbing the controller in front of his wife after a brief exchange of words.

They said they could not rule out a link between the killing and the crash.

Seventy-one people - mostly Russian schoolchildren - died in the disaster. The controller was not publicly named.

Swiss police said a link to the crash was a "central issue" in their hunt for the attacker, who is described as being powerfully built and aged around 50.

"(Revenge) cannot be ruled out," public prosecutor Pascal Gossner told Reuters news agency. "We are looking into whether there is a link between the killing and the air accident." [...]

Expert admits Tulloch ghost confounds science

Ross-Shire Journal

GHOSTLY goings-on at reputedly haunted Tulloch Castle Hotel in Dingwall were this week put down to "extreme high levels of electromagnetic-induced energy" from a minor earthquake which took place in the Moray Firth. But the Dutch scientist who travelled to Dingwall to investigate the terrifying experience reported by a hotel guest admitted that one of the occurrences has left him baffled.

[...] Scientist John W Dijkslag and his team heard of the Tulloch Castle incident and travelled to Dingwall to carry out their own investigations. Mr Dijkslag believes that the reason for Tulloch Castle being the subject of so many apparent hauntings can be explained scientifically as the site lies between two natural faultlines in the earth, the Tor Achilty fault and the Strathglass fault. He says that through a process known as tectonic strain, caused either by a seismic event (earthquake) or human activity, energy is released through a faultline or faultlines. While passing through the faultline a certain amount of pressure is released which fractures rocks creating an electromagnetic discharge to the surface.

Three days before Tommy Tan's experiences at Tulloch, said Mr Dijksalg, there was a recorded earthquake in the Moray Firth basin, at a depth of 4.8km and not able to be felt by local residents. He believes that the suffocating sensations experienced by Tommy Tan can be explained by extremely high levels of electromagnetic activity stimulating the brain stem and causing minute fluctuations of electric currents in the brain itself. The sensation of a presence in Mr Tan's room can also be explained by this, he said, as could the flickering of lights in the Grand Hall which was was also experienced by others in the hotel.

His team surveyed residents in Marybank, Contin, Dingwall, Evanton and Alness, and 94 per cent reported interference in TV and radio reception, telephone lines and also flickering lights around that time.

However, regarding Tommy Tan's recognition of the two little girls in the painting, the scientist reported, "This has to remain unexplained within current parameters." And in the foreword of his findings, Mr Dijkslag wrote, "I would like to dedicate this Survey to 'The Green Lady of the Castle' which managed to keep the last aspect of this survey still a secret."

Half of young Americans to get sex diseases

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
Tuesday February 24, 08:31 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Half of all young Americans will get a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25, perhaps because they are ignorant about protection or embarrassed to ask for it, according to several reports.

The reports, issued on Tuesday publicised by two non-profit sexual and youth health groups, said there were 9 million new cases of STD among teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 in 2000. [...]

Crops 'widely contaminated' by genetically modified DNA

16:43 23 February 04 news service

US scientists are warning of a potentially "serious risk to human health" after the discovery that traditional varieties of major American food crops are widely contaminated by DNA sequences from GM crops.

Crops engineered to produce industrial chemicals and drugs - so-called "pharm" crops - could already be poisoning ostensibly GM-free crops grown for food, warns the study by the Washington-based Union for Concerned Scientists, released on Monday.

"If genes find their way from pharm crops to ordinary corn, they or their products could wind up in drug-laced corn flakes," says the report's co-author, UCS microbiologist Margaret Mellon.

In trials, crops have been genetically engineered to manufacture proteins for healing wounds and treating conditions such as cystic fibrosis, cirrhosis of the liver and anaemia; antibodies to fight cancer and vaccines against rabies, cholera and foot-and-mouth disease. Conventional drugs manufacture is subject to stringent controls to prevent them entering the food chain or contaminating the natural environment. But there are currently no such controls to prevent the spread of DNA sequences from pharm crops.

The UCS asked two commercial laboratories to test traditional varieties of three crops - maize, soybeans and canola or oil-seed rape - for specific sequences of DNA that have been introduced into GM varieties currently grown on US farms. The sequences studied mostly give resistance to proprietary pesticides.

The labs reported that the seeds were "pervasively contaminated with low levels of DNA sequences from GM varieties". Up to 1 per cent of individual seeds, and more than half the batches of seeds, contained one or more of the GM sequences.


There is no evidence that the crops tested were unsafe, say the authors. But they fear this may not be true for second-generation GM crops that contain DNA sequences that manufacture drugs and industrial chemicals.

"Seed contamination is the back door to the food supply," says Mellon. "The realisation that some seeds may already have been contaminated [by pharm crops] is alarming" and could pose a "serious risk to human health".

Until now concern about GM contamination has focused on cross-pollination in the field. But the authors guess that much of the contamination has arisen from a failure to keep GM and traditional seeds apart during manufacture and distribution.

The tests did not discover any crops contaminated with sequences from pharm or industrial crops because there are no current tests for them. But co-author and plant pathologist Jane Rissler warns: "Until we know otherwise, it is prudent to assume that engineered sequences originating in any crop - including genes from crops engineered to produce drugs, plastics and vaccines - could potentially contaminate the seed supply."

Somerset farm says new milk will help people sleep better
11:51 Wednesday 25th February 2004

A farm in Somerset has come up with a type of milk it claims can help people sleep better.

Scientists recently discovered that younger cows produce higher levels of melatonin - the chemical which makes humans feel drowsy - if they are milked before dawn.

After research processors at Cricketer Farm in Bridgwater have come up with Night Time Milk. It contains twice the normal levels of melatonin and the farm says early feedback suggests the drink does aid sleep, reports the Western Morning News. [...]

The Gun Lobby's Bull's-Eye

A woefully pliant Congress seems intent on protecting a small but lethal minority of shady gun dealers.

The Senate is on the verge of approving a new sop to the gun industry that is the latest sad example of what has become of the gun control debate. Many Americans have labored under the mistaken impression that this was a debate about the Constitution and public safety, about the balance between saving lives and assuring law-abiding gun owners and cultural conservatives that the Second Amendment is being protected. In fact, as the legislation before the Senate demonstrates, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress have long been focused simply on making it easier for gun manufacturers and gun dealers to turn a profit. [...]

Muslim groups at barrier hearing

Two Muslim groups are expected to criticise Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its construction of the West Bank barrier.
The Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference are scheduled to testify on the final day of hearings.

The court has heard from a series of parties backing the Palestinian cause since the start of proceedings. Palestinians say the barrier is a land grab, but Israel says it keeps suicide bombers out of the Jewish state.

The 55-member OIC is expected to dismiss Israel's claims. [...]

Egypt releases Toronto Man

There were conflicting reports as to why he was detained; one source close to the case said he was picked up as a "threat to security," but his relatives in Cairo said officials told them he was being questioned at the behest of a "foreign government." [...]

Blunkett gets tough over terror

The Home Secretary is preparing to unveil tough new terror measures, thought to involve the use of secretly taped phone calls as evidence.

Other changes are predicted to include the hearing of parts of some trials in secret, without a jury.

David Blunkett told BBC's Newsnight he had been told it was inevitable the UK would face a terrorist attack.

On Wednesday he will detail the expansion of MI5, with 1,000 new staff, many of them Arabic and Urdu speakers.

Mr Blunkett told the BBC the security services needed more powers to apprehend terrorists before they strike.

But MPs will debate criticisms of current laws allowing foreign terror suspects to be detained without trial.[...]

Can globalisation be tamed?

A new report has called for radical changes in the direction of world economic policy, to overcome the negative effects of globalisation.

Major changes in trade and immigration policy are needed if the world's poor are to share in the benefits of globalisation, according to the UN-sponsored report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation.

"There a deep-seated and persistent imbalances in the current workings of the world economy, which are ethically unacceptable and politically unsustainable," the report said.

[...]But with the world's largest economy, the United States, firmly committed to working on development issues largely on its own, such developments may be some distance from realisation.

And international economic policy coordination, whether on exchange rates or growth packages, is still stalled amid disagreements between the rich countries.

Nevertheless, President Mkapa stressed that developing countries were not "begging, but seeking a fair system of exchange" so that turbulence could be replaced by hope and cooperation.

Catholics respond to Tutu

Cape Town - The Catholic Church in South Africa says it is "dismayed" at Archbishop Desmond Tutu's criticism of the church's stand against condoms.

Tutu, an Anglican, earlier this week used an international Aids conference in Dublin to speak out against Catholic disapproval of condoms as a way of preventing the spread of Aids.

He said the idea that promoting condoms caused promiscuity was totally untrue. [...]

Morrocco quake toll edges near 600

The death toll in a powerful earthquake that shook north-east Morricco has risen sharply, with nearly 600 now known to have died.
Thousands of survivors spent the night in the open, fearing more tremors.

Rescuers have been digging through rubble with pick-axes, while others dug with their bare hands.

A rescue operation involving the army and the Red Crescent is under way, but they have had difficulty reaching remote mountain villages.

The Moroccan Health Minister Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah said at least 564 people were killed in the quake which struck rural areas around the Mediterranean city of Al Hoceima early on Tuesday morning.

France was flying out rescue workers with sniffer dogs and lifting equipment, and the United Nations and the international Red Cross have teams on standby.

The US, Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Spain have all offered assistance. [...]

Three killed in avalanche in eastern Turkey

Schools closed after blizzards

More than 120 schools in Aberdeenshire have been closed, as the wintry weather takes its toll on the area

All schools in Orkney and Shetland were also shut on Wednesday, while there were 18 closures in the Highlands.

Grampian Police said a night of low temperatures and blizzards had left roads badly affected by snow and ice.[...]

Snowstorm Closes Schools in New Mexico

De Beers eyes return to the US

Diamond giant De Beers, part-owned by Anglo American, is in advanced talks to settle a price-fixing charge and return to the US market, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

Citing people close to the talks, the story said De Beers signalled last year it might agree to plead guilty and pay a fine to settle allegations that date back to shortly after World War II when the Justice Department alleged that it fixed the price of industrial diamonds and followed with another suit in 1994.

"We have outstanding legal issues with the Department of Justice and the European Union, and we're working to resolve them," said Lynette Hori, the spokesperson for DeBeers's diamond trading company, according to the Journal.[...]

Trauma Tours

[...]The problem is boredom. Once away from the high-octane craziness of everyday South African life, it doesn’t take long for the withdrawal symptoms to set in. Be honest, how many foreign news broadcasts can you watch where the top story is about a car-crash that killed five people instead of 65? How many times can you read newspapers where the headlines deal with lost kittens rather than with maniacs feeding people to lions? It’s just not the same. We’re disaster junkies, traumaholics. We’ve been raised on a diet of murder and mayhem, and anything else we’re fed seems as bland and unsatisfying as vegan boerewors. [...]

Sprawled along the riverbank at the confluence of the Brassac, Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, Phnom Penh is home to just over a million of the most pleasant and insane people you’re ever likely to meet. Had it not been for five years of auto-genocide under the regime of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, the population would be considerably higher. Pot and his cronies were adherents of an unusually extreme form of Marxism; a system that included the forced evacuation of all urban centres, the banning of clocks, currency and cars and, tragically, the torture and execution of up to three million Cambodians.[...]

A trip to Interrogation Centre S-21 (Tuol Sleng), a former school on the west side of the city, is a must-see highlight of the trip. The grimy classrooms where 17 000 men, women and children were interrogated and tortured before being shipped out to the killing field at Choeung Ek will leave all but the most jaded of trauma tourists silent and reflective. If the blood-spattered ceilings of the cells don’t do it, then wall after wall of black-and-white prisoners' mug shots will. Children. Women with babies in their arms. They stare at the camera with eyes that speak volumes on the subject of terror. These people knew what was coming, even if they didn’t know why. [...]

Comment: This point of view is from a more affluent South African citizen...

'Arnold didn't know he was marked for death'

A member of the notorious Americans gang was lured into a game of soccer with three fellow gangsters - but he did not know he was already marked for death.

Afterwards they shot him in the back of the head and threw him in a ditch, the Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.[...]

In chilling testimony, it was revealed by a former Americans gang member, who may not be named, that the Booysen brothers and Jansen had played soccer with Boonzaaier before killing him. They took him into the bush to smoke a Mandrax pipe before shooting him in the back of the head.

Arnoldus was shot dead at Stevens's home, where he had expected some Mandrax, the court was told.[...]

Comment: South African gang warfare, with an 'American' twist.

Man arrested for sneaking knife on plane

Jerusalem - An Israeli man was arrested on Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany while trying to smuggle a knife on board an El Al Airlines flight, the airline said.

"During a security check of passengers on flight 358 from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon a knife and scissors were found on a passenger," an El Al statement said, adding that he had been handed over to the German authorities.[...]

Group Talks Defending Earth From Asteroid

Feb 23

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) - The asteroid believed to have wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago was rare but hardly unique, say scientists gathered to discuss ways of aggressively defending our planet from another such space rock, including by detonating nukes in space.

Asteroids capable of inflicting damage on a global scale hit the Earth roughly every million years, and we shouldn't dawdle in developing a method of deflecting them, say the scientists attending a four-day planetary defense conference in suburban Orange County.

Scientists have proposed a variety of strategies to nudge an asteroid off course. The list is the stuff of science fiction and includes using lasers, mirrors or atomic weapons launched from Earth.

Unlike any other type of natural hazard, an asteroid impact could kill billions of people. But it's also the only natural hazard that can be prevented, at least in principle, scientists said.

"It's a thing we know will happen sometime in our future so the responsible thing is for people to do something about it," said William Ailor, of The Aerospace Corp., which sponsored the conference with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Astronomers estimate there are between 900 and 1,100 near-Earth asteroids one kilometer - about six-tenths of a mile - or larger in diameter. Of those, nearly 700 already have been discovered and cataloged.

It's not clear what sort of damage one of those rocks could cause were it to strike Earth, although destruction on a global scale is likely.

"We don't know what they would do, and we don't want to conduct a science experiment to find out," said David Morrison of NASA's Ames Research Center.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., introduced a bill this month to bolster NASA spending on the search for near-Earth asteroids 100 yards or more across.

Even something of that size, were it to strike, say, the Pacific Ocean, could generate a tsunami capable of destroying the major cities along the West Coast, Ailor said.

Early detection of an inbound asteroid could provide years to decades of warning - enough time to mount a mission to push it off course, Ailor said. Slowing an asteroid down by even a few inches a second could change its trajectory enough to prevent its ever crossing paths with the Earth.

The Earth moves in space the equivalent of its own diameter in just six minutes. So to move an Earth-bound asteroid off target, it would be enough to delay its arrival time by six minutes, allowing it to harmlessly sweep past, Morrison said.

Comment: It is simplistic statements on a very complicated subject such as the above that serve to further anesthetise the public against any real involvement in the events of the world which threaten to impact us all in a very direct way.

Prof sees light at end of death's tunnel

By Sarah Stanton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, February 23, 2004

The existence of an afterlife is a mystery that has plagued religion, philosophy and psychology since their conception - until now.

For seven years, Gary Schwartz, a UA professor and director of the Center for Frontier Medicine in Biofield Science, has been conducting afterlife experiments and research that he believes prove the survival of human consciousness after death.

"When you look at the totality of the data, the simplest and most parsimonious explanation that accounts for the largest amount of data is the survival of consciousness hypothesis," he said. [...]

Rare coin find stuns historians

A man with a metal detector has unearthed a Roman bronze coin so rare it bears the face of a mystery emperor who "ruled" Britain for a matter of days.

Brian Malin, from Oxfordshire, found it in a field in the county.

It bears the face of Emperor Domitianus and is only the second coin ever found which bears the image of the self-proclaimed ruler of Britain and France in 271AD.

A similar coin was found in France 100 years ago but until now its uniqueness had meant both Emperor Domitianus and the coin were dismissed as a hoax.

Historians say the British discovery confirms the French find is genuine and Domitianus existed.

They believe he was an upstart from the Roman legion who was ousted for treason for daring to declare himself emperor and have the coins made.

Mr Malin found the coin in a field 10 miles south-east of Oxford.

The coin was among a pot of 5,000 all bearing the heads of emperors and stuck together, providing the perfect "timeline" for archaeologists.

He handed his find to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford which passed it to experts at the British Museum who began separating the coins.

The coins dating from 250AD to the mid 270sAD spanned five emperors during a time of great upheaval for the Roman empire.

The Domitianus coin is going on display at the British Museum.

Six Australian rugby league players are accused of gang rape at hotel

By Kathy Marks in Sydney
25 February 2004

Six members of one of Australia's leading rugby league teams have been questioned about the alleged gang rape of a woman in a hotel swimming pool at a coastal resort at the weekend.

Police in Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales are investigating the incident, which allegedly happened early on Sunday morning. According to a statement given by the 20-year-old woman, she was dragged into the pool fully clothed and assaulted by a number of the players in turn.

The allegations have plunged rugby league, the most popular form of football in New South Wales and Queensland, into turmoil. The sport has been trying to attract younger supporters as it competes for fans with rugby union. The players facing the allegations are members of one of Australia's oldest and best-known teams.

A rugby league player was questioned in connection with a similar incident last year at the same place, the Novotel Pacific Bay hotel, but was cleared because of a lack of evidence.

The sport has tried to clean up its imagein recent years by sending its star players on compulsory courses to teach them how to avoid getting into fights at pubs or engage in "inappropriate behaviour" with women.

The 25-man squad was staying at the hotel after a pre-season match on Saturday night. A police source said the woman went to the hotel to try to find a friend who was looking after her wallet. As she walked past the pool she was allegedly dragged into the water, then assaulted a number of times at the edge of the pool.

Mother Accused Of Pimping For 18-Year-Old Daughter

February 22, 2004

CHICAGO -- Chicago police said they have arrested a 42-year-old North Side woman for allegedly acting as a pimp for her 18-year-old daughter.

Undercover Vice Officer Roger O'Brien said police noticed an advertisement for "erotic school girls" recently in a free weekly newspaper, so he called the number and arranged to meet the two for $600.

O'Brien said that once he was solicited for sex, he arrested Bonnie Smith, her daughter, Sandy Villareal, and a 22-year-old woman named Nicole Bryant.

Smith was charged with soliciting for a prostitute, while the two younger women were charged with prostitution.

O'Brien said the daughter told him she was addicted to heroin, and had been working out of her mother's apartment as a prostitute since she was 14.

Urgent Need to Protect Women and Girls from Rape

The Government of Burundi and the international community should take urgent action to stop widespread sexual violence, including rape, against women in Burundi, Amnesty International urged today in a new report entitled Burundi: Rape - the hidden human rights abuse.[...]

'UK's double standards means death for many'

London - The British government was accused by leading charities on Wednesday of allowing the export of deadly weapons components to countries where human rights abusers could use them to kill, torture and rape at gunpoint.[...]

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw provoked fury among members of the ruling Labour Party when he announced new export guidelines in July 2002 which allowed the sale of parts of military equipment to countries such as Indonesia and Israel.

"These new criteria allow arms components to go to a whole host of countries where human rights abuses are common," Rebecca Peters of the International Action Network on Small Arms said.

"It seems that the government is attending to the needs of the British defence industry above the human rights of people living in countries where the weapons will be used." .

International charity Oxfam accused the government of exercising "double standards" on export licences, making it easier to obtain a licence for weapons components while tightening up on licences for entire weapons.

"The government has put lives at risk by setting up false and dangerous double standards. Whether a machine gun comes in pieces or ready-made, the suffering it can cause in the wrong hands is just the same," said Justin Forsyth, Oxfam's director of policy.

Archaic breast rule scrapped after outcry

Hong Kong - A provincial government in central China has scrapped a rule that its female civil servants must have "symmetrical breasts" after a public outcry, a news report said on Wednesday.[...]

Plague of locusts could descend on Africa

Rome - A locust plague is threatening several west African nations and could affect the Middle East this spring, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned on Monday.

In a statement, the Rome-based agency said exceptional rains in early 2003 had initiated locust breeding over wide areas, with another exceptional rainfall in October 2003 allowing further generations of locusts to breed sufficiently to produce swarms.

"The locust situation continues to deteriorate in the western and northern areas of Mauritania, and in the Western Sahara," FAO said. "Those that escape control are likely to move into Algeria and Morocco within a matter of weeks or even days, where a further cycle of breeding may take place in spring."

FAO said a locust outbreak was also in progress on the Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia and warned that despite intensive control operations, some of these were expected to move into the central interior of the country where a further generation of breeding could occur.[...]

'Foetus' in garden sparks police alert

A major police alert was sparked after the discovery of a 'foetus' which turned out to be a child's toy baby alien.

A shocked householder called in police after discovering the curled-up mess in the back garden of his home in a small County Durham former pit village.

Shocked officers immediately called in detectives, forensic colleagues and the force surgeon to investigate the grisly discovery.

It was only on closer inspection that the Durham Constabulary surgeon realised what it was, to the relief of the assembled ranks.

The discovery was made by a man in Bruce Glazier Terrace, Shotton Colliery, County Durham, whose dog is understood to have possibly chewed at the toy which was covered in dirt.

A force spokesman said that despite the initial fears that a major crime had been committed, everyone saw the funny side of the incident.

He said: "It's easy to see why someone could think it was a foetus and because nobody was 100% sure it was treated as a potential crime. Everyone was much relieved when it turned out to be something else."

The popular synthetic alien toys, which come complete with their own slime, are sold in most toy shops and are known to UFO enthusiasts as 'greys' due to the colour of the misshapen body.

Eye of mummy stares back at Peruvian workers

Arequipa - Two of the oldest mummies ever found in Peru - so well-preserved that one had an eye and internal organs intact - went on display on Monday after being discovered by construction workers at a school.

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