Today's conditions brought to you by the Bush Junta - marionettes of their hyperdimensional puppet masters - Produced and Directed by the CIA, based on an original script by Henry Kissinger, with a cast of billions.... The "Greatest Shew on Earth," no doubt, and if you don't have a good sense of humor, don't read this page! It is designed to reveal the "unseen."
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Sunday, February 29, 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

In an article on this web site, we discuss the idea of responsibility. That particular article talks about the responsibility that Americans have for the actions of their government, but this concept applies to all other members of the human race also. We are not suggesting that any one person or group can, or even should, do anything to CHANGE the status quo, but we suggest that the concept of responsibility remains. We are talking of accepting our responsibility to humanity and to the human nature that resides within all of us.

Consider the question of what, if any, responsibility comes with actually being born and living in this world. It could be said that the only thing we are really responsible for in this life is ourselves. It merely remains then to determine who we are, in order to understand our responsibilities. In a broader sense, we are all members of the human race. The self serving drive that we see displayed in the actions of people like George Bush, or Adolf Hitler, is also in us. It is the human condition. The difference of course is that Bush and Hitler took the self-serving aspect of human nature and developed it to an extreme level.

There is of course the argument that there are different types of human beings under the umbrella of the human race, yet the inherent self-serving or entropic nature is, to a lesser or greater degree, a common factor in all. The one variable may be choice. Some may have a choice, some may not have a choice, and others may not be interested in having a choice.

If I am part of a group that at some point decided unanimously on a course of action, then I, as an individual and member of the group, am, in part, responsible for the results of the group decision. If at some point I reflect on the results of the group decision, and I decide that I no longer desire to follow the course of action that the group and I chose, then I must take responsibility for my personal decision to change course. At the same time, I cannot divest myself of some form of responsibility for the results of what the group decision has wrought. After all, my contribution to the group dynamic fueled the collective action, and also to some extent the actions of any one individual.

It is in this sense that we mean that we bear responsibility to all humanity.

As members of the human race there is one thing that unites us - we are self-serving beings. The self-serving nature that fueled Pol Pot's murder of 2 million Cambodians, is also within us. We do not mean to suggest that you or I are capable of such genocide, but we possess the same essential nature, which, in the case of Pol Pot, or the Neocons in Washington, has been allowed to develop to logical - or illogical - extremes.

The benefit to of accepting this responsibility to our group called "humanity" is that it can act as a catalyst, encouraging us as individuals to change course. When we observe the actions of humanity at large, we can get an insight into that aspect of our being that is entropic, and which is reflected in our world. When we see clearly the horror of self-serving destructive orientation, and when we accept the fact that we are a member of a group that collectively contributed to so much pain and suffering in this world, we may resolve to do all we can to "pay our dues" - even if our only contribution to the group is to resolve to change the inner nature that we led to the state we are in. In an open universe of infinite possibilities, we cannot know the possible effects of the efforts of even a small group.

We say again, we cannot CHANGE anything or anyone else. The law of free will must be upheld, but perhaps through our search to find another option and by making another choice, we might provide inspiration that can point the way for other seekers.

The below article by John Kaminski serves well to bring the above commentary into sharp relief:

The New Evil Empire America has become what Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used to be

By John Kaminski
skylax@comcast.net
2-28-4

Remember the Red Menace, also known as the Communist threat? Or how about the Third Reich, the creator of which became the chief metaphor for evil in the 20th century?

Most Americans, certainly those younger than 30, don't remember either. Hell, they don't even remember Vietnam or Nixon or The Beatles. The terms and their connotations are totally unfamiliar, unless encountered in history texts. Millions of Americans simply do not remember what America used to stand for - freedom, justice, equality - and as a result, don't fully comprehend the appalling reality of what America has become.

Once upon a time, back in the days of Elvis and the hula hoop, when I was a little shaver, I was taught in school that when Germany took over France, Poland and other European countries, that was wrong, and the United States sacrificed almost a half million of its own young people to reverse those situations in the name of freedom. And that happened twice, 1916-18 and 1941-45.

In the same vein, I grew up being taught that the Soviet Union's annexation of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and all of Eastern Europe was an evil deed, and that for many years in a period called the Cold War, the American military objective was aimed at overturning this unjust oppression. Back in the 1950s when I was in elementary school, we used to have routine Civil Defense drills where we used to have to hide under our desks pretending we were about to be nuked by the Russians. Really!

It's a new world now. For one thing, the population of the planet has doubled in those mere 50 years. And for another, it is the United States that is now sweeping the world, scooping up all these other countries in the name of capitalist democracy, and telling lies about why it has to go to war. And instead of railing against the powerful giant stealing freedom from all these hapless victims, as it did in years past, the American press is now cheering it, justifying it in the increasingly ambivalent names of capitalism and democracy. Worse, the American people are cheering it, too, something that's never really happened in U.S. history, when the people support a war that they know is based on lies.

Of course, the American press is cheering it because it is the American military doing it. Even the German and Russian press aren't really criticizing it in a serious way. Because there is no country that can oppose America, which spends more on its military than all the other countries in the world combined, yet still complains that it needs to spend more, even as its bridges and schools are falling apart and its manufacturing base has completely disappeared, precipitating its imminent economic collapse. Still the military spending increases, and war plans ooze out like an evil ink stain spreading across the globe.

The evil empire, number one threat to peace in the world, is now the United States.
No more Red Menace. No more Third Reich. Now it's a War on Terror executed by the biggest terrorist of all - America, the nation that killed its own people by the thousands in order to trigger World War III and capture all the world's oil fields.

Now the shoe is obviously on the other foot. The United States has now assumed the role of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia at their worst and all rolled into one. It has troops poised and threatening in 127 other countries. By the diabolical mechanisms of the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, it has already plundered most other countries financially, stealing their utilities and impoverishing their inhabitants. And those nations who resist this financial con game, like Yugoslavia, are simply invaded and coerced into servitude. Those nations who play the game, like Russia and Argentina, are reduced to abject poverty with a few pro-Western billionaires owning everything.

And woe to those nations who won't play the game, like Iraq. They are obliterated and turned into permanent war zones. Their people are murdered in their sleep by hopped-up American soldiers who are told by their cynical leaders that they are spreading democracy, when really what they are spreading are endless opportunities for plunder by politically connected corporations.

And America's leader lie about absolutely everything. Never at any time in my personal history has there been a time when an American president has not at least accidentally told the truth about something, but that time is now.

Once upon a time, Americans used to preach the cause of freedom and justice for all. It's actually written in their Pledge of Allegiance. But they don't adhere to that anymore. After all, Americans have canceled their Bill of Rights, which once made them famous - made them loved! - all over the world. Now they are feared all over the world. Reviled. When Americans launched their worldwide war on terror - based on a treasonous event in which they killed large numbers of their own people - they betrayed the whole world. They betrayed every dream of freedom anybody ever had anywhere.

The people who did it did it for a few billion dollars. Can you blame them? It's easy money blowing up countries and blaming it on somebody else. Even you might do it if you had the chance. Americans support such an idea. It's capitalism at its best, controlling the market, make money on the destruction by selling the weapons, make money on the reconstruction by involving your friends in the contracts, no public bids, of course. So you lose a few dark-skinned lives. The world is overpopulated anyway. Look at it as population control (although that it another, much larger topic).

Things have become so ugly in the United States that the liberal opposition candidate for president tells peace activists to "Get over it!" That there will be no peace no matter who is president. That America is united to overrun and ravish the whole world, simply because there is no one to stop it. This is the America that was venerated and admired all over the world. This is what America became when there was no other power to keep it honest. It became dishonest - and a killer nation.

People overseas make a mistake when the say they have nothing against the American people, that it is simply the American government they loathe and fear. It is the American people who have permitted this to happen, and they who bear the blame and will reap the whirlwind for their inaction. [...]

The world will yet have the last laugh on America, after its own leaders have finished picking the bones of its financially depleted carcass.

Because Americans have given up defending true freedom around the world, the day will soon arrive (sooner than they think) when they will have to defend their own freedom against the very monster they have created by their own selfish indifference. The corporate beast that consumes freedom around the world will one day soon turn its gaping jaws on America itself, and the Americans, who have decided to forget how to defend true freedom around the world, will necessarily have forgotten how to defend their own. [...]

And when the rest of the world comes calling to rectify this murderous tyranny and worldwide oppression that America now practices, what will you say to them when they aim their guns at you? That you didn't know?

No Hijackers For 911: Repentant arms dealer reveals disgruntled U.S. military on the verge of revolt

By John Kaminski
skylax@comcast.net
2-28-4

Back in May 2003, a journalist in Portugal reported on a sensational, marathon meeting of a group of U.S. pilots that issued a report concluding that the story told by the U.S. government about what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 was improbable and unlikely.

Except for several notices on the Internet, that story was basically never reported in the U.S., and largely debunked when the reporter flubbed the name of the organizer, creating disbelief in the minds of many readers.

The record was corrected in stunning fashion Feb. 25 on Alex Jones' Prison Planet radio program when former Pentagon arms salesman Donn de Grand-Pre, author of three books that allege 9/11 was an inside job, set the record straight, because he was the man who organized that conference. That 72-hour non-stop symposium by a group of military and civilian pilots concluded the flight crews of the four passenger airliners involved in the 9/11 tragedy had no control over their aircraft.

de Grand Pre, a retired Army colonel, is the author of "A Window on America," "Confessions of an Arms Peddler" and his latest, "Barbarians Inside the Gates." His thesis in the third book "is that the wars we have engaged in for whatever reasons since the end of World War II have not only been unconstitutionally waged, but have caused a net loss in political power. Each war was waged to divert our attention away from the true enemy within, and toward a contrived enemy outside our borders."

de Grand-Pre explained that his third book actually has three parts: "OK, I've got three books out under the title, "Barbarians Inside the Gates." Book 1 was "The Serpent's Sting," Book 2 is "The Viper's Venom," Book 3, which just came out is "The Rattler's Revenge."

"And I'd like to quote from Book 2, which came out October of 2002. There is a very important paragraph there. It says,

"The trigger for the 911 activity was the imminent and unstoppable worldwide financial collapse which can only be prevented temporarily by a major war, perhaps to become known as World War III. To bring it off one more time, martial law will probably be imposed in the United States."

In the interview with Jones, de Grand-Pre made several stunning assertions, among them:

· There were no hijackers on the 9/11 killer jets. And he said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Richard Myers) agrees with him.

In response to a caller to Alex Jones' radio show, de Grand-Pre noted: "... the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs himself has agreed, there were no hijackers. There were no cell phone calls. Everybody aboard that aircraft, pilots and crew, were unconscious within 8 to 18 minutes after take-off. And you can take it from there. I've got it covered in books 2 and 3, what actually happened."

"These planes were being piloted by remote control, probably an AWACs aircraft taking over that airplane or airplanes or drones, unmanned drones. And flying them at 5 and 8 G-force that no pilot could withstand. So, in short, and if you read books 2 and 3, you will discover how and why this came about."

· The 9/11 planes that took off full of passengers are now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. "And I'm telling you that we are knowledgeably speculating," said de Grand-Pre in response to another caller. "Those aircraft carrying crew and passengers went over the Atlantic and that was all she wrote."

· Talk of a military coup - to reverse what he calls the administrative coup d'etat that happened on 9/11 - are rife within the corridors of the Pentagon.

In his various interviews and publications, deGrand-Pre has called 9/11 "an administrative coup d'etat." He suggests the only way the neocons can be stopped is by a military coup d'etat, and estimates 70 percent of key military personnel are in favor of such a step
. [...]

The truly patriotic members of the military have had to sit there and take all these wild schemes by corporate-controlled politicians. de Grand-Pre's prediction? "I think those days are coming to an end. The military ain't going to take it any longer."

In the interview with Jones, de Grand-Pre also asserted:

· It is common knowledge at the Pentagon that Israel fired nuclear weapons at Iraq during the first Gulf War.

· A commercial aircraft did not hit the Pentagon. Most likely it was a cruise missile or a Global Hawk.

· Flight 93, the jetliner that supposedly crashed in Pennsylvania after courageous passengers struggled with armed hijackers, was shot down by the North Dakota Air Guard. "I know the pilot who fired those two missiles to take down 93," de Grand-Pre insisted, adding that the order to shoot down the plane came from the Adjutant General of North Dakota.

· Most likely it was U.S. forces that tried to kill Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz when he visited Iraq recently.

· Military tribunals will try current U.S. public officials when the military decides to take over, de Grand-Pre predicts. "And Cheney, I reiterate, is toast." de Grand-Pre named Cheney as the one man who knows the most a bout 9/11.

In earlier interviews, de Grand-Pre has recounted that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Richard Myers, had 500 copies of the 24-page report made and sent out, including, to the White House.

Assessing Myers' reaction, de Grand Pre said, "I'm quite sure that he believed in it. I think that he still believes in it. You can understand the difficulties. The civilian administration, of course, won't recognize it as such.

"There's a definite cleavage between the military of the Pentagon and the civilian hierarchy - and never the twain shall meet."

Jones triggered a response from de Grand Pre when he mentioned a 2002 article in the Washington Times that said morale at the Pentagon had never been lower.

De Grand-Pre responded: "I can verify that from Col. Dick Schultz, who is a friend of mine in the Joint Chiefs. Morale was not only low but he said some of the troops are ready to mutiny. If it wasn't for the fact that the government, the civilian hierarchy, has control over retirements, they would probably be blood in the streets by now."

When other news outlets began checking on this story angle, Jones noted that Pentagon officials were apoplectic. "... they panicked and flew the officers on jets to luxury vacations and had these focus groups. It even talked about a possible mutiny. People were just totally distraught. What would make them become distraught overnight in the Pentagon?"

de Grand-Pre's answer was chilling, and revealed the possibility of a military coup d'etat has been simmering in the corridors of the Pentagon for some time.

"It wasn't an overnight thing. You see, as I outline in book 1, and I carry that on in book 2, as well as book 3, we were on the verge of a military coup d'etat. And this was long in the planning and even after the 78 days of bombing Kosovo, it became critical. And we were close to a coup d'etat at that time. In my survey of the reports and the pilots who worked with that, a coup was a possibility.

"In fact, a coup d'etat was pulled on the morning of September 11th. Only it was an administrative or what we call a cold coup d'etat." [...]

The group determined that the enemy is within the gates, that he has infiltrated into the highest policy-making positions at the federal level, and has absolute control, not only of the purse strings, but of the troop buildup and deployment of our military forces, including active, reserve and National Guard units.

Comment: While much of the above information coincides with our own analysis of the situation, there is a logical fallacy in the conclusions reached, and as such the comments made should be seen as another example of the ever present COINTELPRO operation. The logical fallacy is this: If the select group of "politicians" possess "absolute control", then any revolt by the military would have to form a part of the plans of the same group of politicians. We agree that there is indeed an elite group of people that possess absolute control, but we suspect that their identities remain completely hidden. It is by remaining unseen that the members of this group ensure that they retain "absolute control".

These people are the real puppet masters on this planet and they pull the strings of all existing "known" groups. So if there is a coup d'état and Bush Cheney and Co are overthrown and "hung out to dry", we can be sure that Bush, Cheney and Co. are certainly not members of the real elite group, and any coup d'état most definitely plays into the hands of these real controllers.

British government to keep key report on Iraq war under wraps

LONDON (AFP) Feb 28, 2004

The British government said on Saturday it would not disclose a key report on the legality of the Iraq war, as requested by the opposition and anti-war militants, citing a "long-standing convention that advice to governments in office is not disclosed".

The announcement came shortly after Greenpeace asked for the confidential report by Attorney General Peter Goldsmith to be published. Fourteen activists from the environmental organisation are due to go on trial next month for actions opposing the war and Goldsmith's report could be vital for their defence. [...]

Putin Says War in Iraq Encouraged Terror

The Associated Press

MOSCOW Feb. 27 — President Vladimir Putin said Friday the U.S. war in Iraq was a mistake that had encouraged terrorist actions there, adding that Russia would help bolster the U.N. role in the country.

Russia's criticism of the war in Iraq strained ties with the United States, but Moscow and Washington have sought to move past the rift.

"We believed, and I continue to believe, that the military operation was a mistake, and the subsequent events have confirmed it," Putin said at a meeting with students on a trip to Krasnoyarsk in central Siberia.

Putin is making the trip in the run-up to the March 14 presidential election he's expected to win easily.

"Casualties keep mounting, and terrorists feel increasingly at home there," Putin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

"This is a very dangerous process," Putin said, adding that Saddam Hussein's regime had prevented terrorists from coming to Iraq.

Putin said that the United States has come to realize the importance of the U.N. role in an Iraqi settlement. "We will work in cooperation with all those who are interested in that," he added.

Putin juggernaut sweeps away all in its path

By Tom Parfitt and David Wastell in Moscow
29/02/2004

With television cameras recording his every movement, Vladimir Putin chats with pensioners, inspects troops and puts on a naval uniform to stride across the decks of a nuclear submarine - just like any politician up for election.

Except that in Russia, where voters go to the polls in two weeks' time, there are few signs of opposition to his triumphant cruise to a second four-year term as president. Aided by the compliant media, and the weakness of candidates who have stood against him but are already fading into obscurity, Mr Putin is heading for a crushing victory.

He dominates Russia's state-owned television channels so comprehensively that he can well afford to honour his pledge not to campaign directly for the election. Rival candidates have struggled to get a look in.

Last week, film of him signing children's hockey sticks in Siberia took precedence over a serious diplomatic dispute: the arrest of two Russian spies in Qatar on suspicion of assassinating a former Chechen president. Mr Putin's sacking of the entire Russian government a few days earlier, a device to remove his prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, generated only a brief ripple of excitement.

It is an extraordinary and somewhat unnerving achievement by the 51-year-old former KGB colonel, who was plucked from obscurity by his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, before being anointed to take over the Kremlin four years ago. Since then, he has undergone an astonishing transformation into an symbol of power.

Opposition commentators recall the presidential poll in 2000 when, asked by a journalist for details of his programme, Mr Putin replied: "I won't tell." As he did then, the president has refused to take part in televised election debates, and his opponents are incensed that news broadcasts are skewed to boost his image.

Faced with Mr Putin's soaring popularity ratings - which are close to 70 per cent - his rivals have all but given up the ghost. None of the six candidates running against him has scored more than four per cent since the campaign began last month. All but two have openly debated pulling out, and one, Ivan Rybkin, fled to London claiming that he feared for his personal safety.

9/11 panelist may quit over Bush secrecy

February 26, 2004


WASHINGTON - Frustrated by Bush administration restrictions, a former senator said yesterday he might quit the special commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks. [...]

U.S. Pushes Plan to Go After Suspected WMDs

Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 27 (IPS) - The United States is pressing the U.N. Security Council to endorse a draft resolution that would allow the use of force against "entities and individuals" suspected of trying to develop, possess or transfer weapons of mass destruction (WMD), diplomats and observers here say.

Though they say they are equally concerned about proliferation of the weapons, many Security Council members fear the resolution would give Washington a free hand to unilaterally deal with the as yet undefined "entities and individuals".

The draft resolution states that some countries "may require assistance within their territories, and invite states in a position to" prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, rockets and vehicles capable of delivering such weapons, a phrase that makes many suspicious of U.S. intentions.

The proposal "should not be a context to whip the countries", says an Asian diplomat who did not want to be named. "How can we talk about faceless actors when there's no agreed definition of terrorists? You know, whom you called a terrorist yesterday could be a president today". [...]

Sex warfare breaks out in US election

As the race hots up, gay weddings have triggered a bitter battle between liberals and the powerful morality lobby. Paul Harris in New York and Lawrence Donegan in San Francisco report

Sunday February 29, 2004
The Observer

Standing beneath the dome of San Francisco's City Hall last week, amid floral bouquets and wide-eyed onlookers, Josephine and Gieseppina made their vows and were married; they have been together for eight years. Josephine works for the electricity company and Gieseppina works in a store. But their union is more than just an act of love. It is also a political statement.

'How come I live in the land of the free, yet am not free to spend the rest of my life in my own country with the woman I love?' said Josephine. 'If Gieseppina were a man, we wouldn't have this difficulty.' [...]

But it is not just the row over gay marriage that has rocked America. There is a wider culture war,a political war that is pitting traditionalists against liberals. And it is a geographic war that sees the East and West Coasts divided from the vast - and more conservative - heartland.

In an election year America's morals and sexual behaviour are at the centre of the political stage. From gay marriage to abortion, from Bush's promotion of sexual abstinence to cracking down on sex on TV, America is fighting a battle over values that is now at the centre of the fight for the White House.

It is also a bitter battle. On the streets outside San Francisco City Hall, a rag-tag band of Christian demonstrators, many flown in from other parts of the country, waved banners declaring 'I hate faggots but I love Aids' and hurled abuse at the happy gay couples as they left the building. 'You're hurting the children,' they screamed.

Behind the yells and the insults lies a political plan. Though Bush is undoubtedly sincerely conservative in his personal beliefs, putting sexual morals into an election campaign has the effect of energising his conservative base.

This is vital for Republican strategists. Conservatives have been rocked by recent moves allowing illegal immigrants to work in the US and the spiralling budget deficit. Moreover, in 2000 strategists estimate at least four million conservative evangelicals failed to vote for Bush. In an election both sides expect to be tight, mobilising that voting bloc could make the difference between winning and losing. [...]

Comment: Ah the great distracter. Distract and wow the people with the totally insignificant yet emotionally charged issues and the government can easily implement the next step in the plan for the complete subjugation of the people.

Iraqi Kurds demand a voice

By Barbara Plett
BBC correspondent in Baghdad

The Iraqi Kurds are putting the world on notice: they're demanding to be heard.

This week activists brought a petition to the authorities in Baghdad. They say 1.7 million people have signed up, asking for a referendum on whether to stay within a united Iraq, or to form an independent Kurdistan.

"The Referendum movement has one goal, to allow the people of Iraqi Kurdistan to decide their future themselves," says a statement announcing the campaign.

Kurds weren't consulted when Britain forcibly attached Kurdish areas to Iraq after the first World War - and they don't want history to repeat itself.

Israel on alert after three Palestinians killed in air strike

February 29, 2004

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli security services were on a high state of alert for fear of reprisals after the killing of three Palestinians in an air strike near Gaza City, including a leader of Islamic Jihad.

Police reinforcements were deployed in large numbers along the Green Line which separates Israel from the West Bank in a bid to prevent any infiltrations by would-be Palestinian suicide attackers, Israeli security sources said.

The main Erez border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel was closed, preventing thousands of Palestinians from traveling to their work in Israel or in a neighbouring industrial zone.

The radical Palestinian group had warned that the attack on Saturday night, when an Israeli helicopter blew up a car near Gaza City, would merely serve to encourage it "to continue the struggle". [...]

Comment: It is interesting that Israel seems to be doing everything in its power to ensure that the struggle continues.

HIV drugs no cure, says Zuma

It was wrong to blame the government for killing people by not giving them anti-retroviral treatment for Aids, Deputy President Jacob Zuma said yesterday.

"An impression is given that these drugs actually cure HIV and Aids," Zuma, who also chairs the South African National Aids Council (Sanac), told the Cape Town Press Club.

"People say 'this government is not giving (anti-retrovirals to) us'; we are dying because you (are) not giving us.

"This is no cure. It is a wrong impression that is being given to the public."

Zuma's remarks come amid a spate of criticism of the slow roll-out of the government's anti-retroviral treatment plan, and a threat by the Treatment Action Campaign to take the matter to court.

They also coincide with the news that the Sanac meeting scheduled for yesterday and today - the first since November - has been postponed at short notice.

Zuma said that when the government decided in November last year to implement a treatment plan it also decided it should be scientifically worked out.

"One of the factors that has been found in research is that casualties of people who are using these drugs without any scientific research are beginning to impact on the public sector."

"That is because the side effects have not been monitored at all."[...]

African elites 'desecrate their fatherland'

A senior official at the KwaZulu-Natal department of the environment has launched a stinging attack on the World Bank and other global institutions for "perpetuating the environmental enslavement" of Africa.

Dr Timothy Fasheun, head of the province's pollution and waste management division, also lashed out at members of Africa's privileged elites who collaborated with powerful northern bodies to "desecrate their fatherland and sacrifice their own people for the sake of money".[...]

African leaders say yes to peacekeeping force

Sirte - African leaders have agreed to set up a multi-national military force empowered to intervene unilaterally in serious conflicts around the troubled continent, delegates at an African Union (AU) summit said on Saturday.

The African Standby Force would begin with the deployment of 15 000 AU troops at five regional bases by 2005, expanding to a continental force by 2010, the sources said.

Heads of state and prime ministers of the 53-nation AU who met for two days at the Libyan coastal city of Sirte were expected to approve the draft declaration later on Saturday.

With fragile peace efforts in the continent's many troublespots, there has been international pressure on the Ethiopia-based AU to take an active lead in peacekeeping.

The new force will be allowed to intervene to end civil wars or genocide. [...]

Schroeder faces big reform test

By James Mackenzie
Sunday February 29, 06:41 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats will battle to avert a rout in their former stronghold of Hamburg today in an election testing public reaction to his welfare cuts.

The election in the northern port city state kicks off a year in which Schroeder faces five state and eight local ballots as well as European Parliament elections, with voters angered by painful economic reforms that took effect in January.

Opinion polls put national support for the Social Democrats (SPD) at less than 25 percent, some 20 points behind the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU). But the SPD could still return to power in Hamburg with the help of the Greens.

A string of defeats this year and next would weaken Schroeder in the run-up to the next general election in 2006. [...]

Italians go under the knife on prime-time TV

Sophie Arie, Rome
Sunday February 29, 2004
The Observer

Annamaria had always been a bit self-conscious. In the Bel Paese, where at 69 Sophia Loren still turns heads, the 20-year-old was painfully aware of her flat chest.

And then along came the adverts in Italian newspapers offering free plastic surgery. Only one drawback: you had to have it on camera, in front of several million viewers.

This week Annamaria bared her A cups to the nation on prime-time TV, dotted lines penned around them by surgeon Roy de Vita as he mapped out the planned 'before' and 'after'.

'Don't worry, my treasure,' said Annamaria, before sinking under anaesthetic. More than three million stomachs turned as the surgeon sliced open her breasts and fished around inside with his gloved fingers and a light to slide silicon implants into place.

Her boyfriend, Elis, squirmed as his girlfriend's breasts were inflated two cup sizes. She did it mainly for him. And he seemed to appreciate the gesture. 'She was already beautiful,' he said. 'But now she will be even more beautiful.'

Scalpel: Nobody's Perfect is the latest extreme in Italian reality shows. The one-hour programme features three or four young girls each week, each desperate to improve a part of her body she thinks is so ugly it is ruining her life. Along with Annamaria, Giada had five litres of fat tissue sucked out of her bottom, turning her, according to one presenter, into a 'panther'. Francesco and Roberto, twins, had their identical large noses shrunk.

In each case the 'ugly', unhappy arrivals emerge transformed and smiling after the surgeon has worked miracles with his scalpel on their ears, nose, belly, breasts or bottom.

'We have won a battle,' said Giada, admiring her new bottom in a mirror as her mother's eyes watered in the audience. 'Now at last I can be myself both inside and out.'

Scalpel is hosted by Italy's best known drag queen, a blond-wigged giant known as 'Platinette', and a formerly arch-conservative president of the lower house of parliament, Irene Pivetti. After only a few weeks on Italia 1, one of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's three Mediaset television channels, it has rapidly become one of the most watched prime-time shows. [...]

Comment: The humanist's dream is as far off as ever. If this is the pinnacle of "human evolution", then we politely request that our membership of the human race be revoked.

Killed in the name of the Lord

In Uganda's bloody civil war, a children's army is responsible for some of the worst atrocities. Callum Macrae reports

Sunday February 29, 2004
The Observer

Late last Saturday afternoon, about 200 heavily armed members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) marched into a refugee camp in northeastern Uganda. Their weapons were modern, their uniforms were smart - and almost all were children.

The children then indulged in an orgy of bloodletting that left as many as 240 people dead, probably the worst single massacre in the history of Uganda's 18-year war. Barlonyo camp, 20 miles north of Lira, was home to 4,800 internally displaced people from the Langi region, a tiny proportion of the 1.4 million people displaced by this war. It was defended by 30 men and boys with a few weeks training and an AK47 each. They didn't stand a chance.

The child soldiers of the LRA, most of whom had been abducted in earlier raids, ordered villagers into their huts and set fire to the thatched roofs. Dozens died. Those who ran outside were shot or bludgeoned to death. [...]

The LRA claims to be rooted in the Acholi people of the north, yet the Acholi are their victims. Acholi villages are raided and children stolen, to be brutalised until they become the rebel soldiers of tomorrow. In 2001, the LRA abducted 100 children. Last year, it abducted nearly 9,000.

Once captured, the children are forced to watch, or take part in, terrible acts of violence against their fellow abductees. Often they are made to kill their older siblings, creating guilt and complicity - a powerful initiation into their new lives.

John Ayura was 18 when he was abducted and forced to march, staggering under a load of looted supplies, to an LRA camp in the bush near Soroti in the north-east. After five weeks, he escaped. 'They made me kill three people; it was the young ones who ordered the killing - that size,' he said, indicating a group of children who had escaped from the rebels. All were between eight and 12.

'They forced us to kill the first one by treading on him. They made us step on him until he died.'

The barbarism in the camp was unrelenting. 'Another, they tied him and made him lie down, then told us to beat his head with big sticks until his head was crushed. The next one we killed with pangas, beating his head with the side of the blade.

'I suffer now. Sometimes I dream of them, the people I killed.' But if he had refused? 'They would have killed me.'

Another LRA escapee, 13-year-old Merigoreti, smiled sweetly. She, too, is plagued by nightmares. Merigoreti was abducted and made a 'wife' to one of the rebels. She only escaped last month and is still reluctant to talk about him. 'He was a big man and he had a beard,' was all she would say. [...]

Northern Uganda is a disaster zone

The Cambridge International Dictionary of English defines a disaster as "an event which results in great harm, damage or death or serious difficulty."

For all intents and purposes the word 'disaster' can be used to describe the situation in northern Uganda. Parliament was right to declare the north a disaster area.

An entire population has been displaced, the society has been fractured, thousands of lives have been lost, socio-economic activity has ground to a halt in places, disease and hunger mounts.

How about the rape and defilement of the womenfolk by men suspected to be infected with HIV/Aids? What about the daily abductions? What about the children who have never known the meaning of peace? There are many questions.

But our government has the audacity to argue the technicality that only the President has constitutional powers to declare a part of the country a disaster zone. This is a cynical and shameless resort to politicking.

The state's response to the House declaration brings into question its sincerity on this conflict.[...]

Today, the calamity of the north is not receiving as much attention as it should. In fact, before the massacre of more than 200 people at Barlonyo camp in Lira District last Saturday, it was largely regarded as a low-intensity conflict. [...]

Nigerian leader defends polio vaccine boycott

Kano, Nigeria - The leader of a heavily Muslim Nigerian state defended its boycott of a 10-nation polio immunisation campaign, asserting the spread of the disease was a "lesser evil" than rendering "hundreds of thousands" infertile with vaccines that some Islamic leaders have deemed an American plot against Muslims.[...]

Kenya's former president accused of bribery

Nairobi - A brother of Kenya's former foreign minister said he was offered a cabinet post, money to pay his mortgage and houses by former President Daniel arap Moi to take part in the cover-up of his brother's death 14 years ago.

Eston Barrack Mbajah testified on Thursday before a parliamentary committee that he and his wife were tortured after he refused the offer.

The committee is looking into the death of Robert Ouko, whose scorched body was found on February 16 1990 on a hill in Koru, 210km north-west of Nairobi, after he had gone missing four days earlier. He had been shot in the head. [...]

Baby found with murdered mother

NICHOLAS CHRISTIAN

A YOUNG mother was stabbed to death in the street as she pushed her baby in his pram just a few minutes’ walk from her home.

Three teenagers found mother-of-three Melanie Horridge, 25, lying on the pavement after hearing the infant boy screaming.

Police said yesterday that Horridge had fought desperately with her attacker but received fatal slash wounds to her neck and body. Her hands were also badly cut.

She was still alive when found, but died shortly after arriving at hospital.

Her four-month-old son Oliver was last night being cared for by social services because the dead woman’s own parents were too shocked to look after him. They made an emotional visit to the scene of the murder last night. Fighting back tears, family members clung to each other for support as they laid flowers.

Horridge left her mother’s home in Chorley, Lancashire, just after 6pm on Friday with her son to walk to a phone box.

Detective Superintendent Paul Buschini said:

"Early indications are that Melanie has put up a struggle. She had lacerations to her neck and hands but we are awaiting the pathologist’s report."

Buschini said detectives had "no idea as to motive at all".

1,000 trucks stuck in snow on Franco-Spanish border

BIRIATOU, France (AFP) Feb 28, 2004

More than 1,000 trucks were stranded in heavy snow on the Franco-Spanish border Saturday, while heavy weather closed in on the south of France, with snowfall even in the Riviera resort of Nice.

Emergency services reported the trucks were blocked at the border crossing point at Biriatou, with the route into Spain closed off because of snow.

Red Cross and emergency services supplied stranded drivers with food and hot drinks as they waited in a 10-kilometre (six-mile) line.

Local government officials set up a crisis unit and were organising emergency accommodation for the night with the expectation that the holdup would last over the weekend.

Strong winds, hail and heavy snow swept parts of Spain, with snow paralysing road and rail traffic in parts of the north including Cantabria in the Basque Country, Navarra and Castille-Leon.

Snow brings chaos to parts of Europe

Hundreds of furious lorry drivers are stranded at the French-Spanish border,trapped by heavy snow. They are waiting to enter the Basque Country but many roads have been closed and they are not happy. One driver said: "We have no food, nothing. They haven't given us anything since we've been stranded."

By law, most lorries are forbidden from travelling in the Basque Country and in France on Sundays, and so the drivers are anxious to move on so they are not stranded until Monday.

There have been similar problems in Italy: the motorway between Bologna and Florence is blocked and lorries are being forced to wait until the roads are cleared. Snow is usually unheard of in this area and even a small amount can cause chaos.

Further north, in Britain, a severe weather warning has been issued in the south-east, as other areas hit by bad conditions start to thaw out.

Spate of bad weather leaves Huambo in ruins

Heavy rains have killed at least 27 people and destroyed more than a thousand homes in Angola, the Lusa news agency reported on Saturday, citing United Nations aid workers in the African nation.

The rainfall, which is affecting the entire country, has destroyed over 66 000 hectares of farming land in the central province of Huambo alone, the officials said.

Torrential rains have battered much of Angola over the past month, damaging roads and bridges and preventing aid workers from distributing supplies.

The heavy rain has also raised the risk from landmines in the former Portuguese colony as it uncovers the weapons and sometimes shifts them on to roads.

Angola is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, a legacy of its decades-long civil war, which finally ended in 2002.[...]

Refugees caught up in Morocco's quake drama

Imzouren - Seidou Camara and his four friends from Mali travelled thousands of kilometres across the Sahara desert hoping for a better life. Instead they walked into the aftermath of a deadly earthquake and the hands of Moroccan police.

"In Mali I have no money, no food and no work. But what I do have is courage," said the gangling man in his mid-20s.

He and his friends are exhausted after a five-day march over the barren Rif mountains from Algeria into Morocco, which they had hoped would be the final port of call prior to a new life in Spain.[...]

Home is the landlocked west African state of Mali, one of the world's poorest countries where the average annual income is about 230 dollars and where most people die before they reach the age of 50.

Since independence from France in 1960, it has suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup and a 23-year-long military dictatorship. [...]

Underground earthquake rattles Tokyo

Tokyo - A moderate earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter scale jolted northern Japan on Saturday. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The earthquake was centred about 10km underground off the coast north of Tokyo, the Meteorological Agency said.

The quake was felt most strongly around the town of Kunimi in Fukushima prefecture, about 240km north of the capital. [...]

Cyclone Bearing Down on Australian Coast

February 29, 2004

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Residents in far northwestern Australia were being warned to brace for a severe cyclone gaining strength in the Indian Ocean, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on Sunday.

Destructive winds with gusts up to 150 miles an hour may develop near the remote Barrow Island oil fields overnight and on Monday, the bureau said.

Residents of the coastal community of Onslow, 800 miles north of Perth, have been told to expect high tides as category four Cyclone Monty approaches the Australian coast.

Cyclones are rated one-to-five in terms of severity.

Sea levels are likely to rise significantly above the normal high tide mark causing dangerous flooding, damaging waves and strong currents, the bureau said.

Soldiers jailed for making love and not war

Jerusalem - Two male soldiers and a female colleague were caught making love instead of guarding one of Israel's most sensitive army bases, military sources said on Thursday.

The sources said the three were given unspecified jail sentences after the incident several months ago, and there had been no similar offence since in the unit, which guards against nuclear, chemical and bacteriological attacks.

They were commenting after the three-way sex session was reported by the mass circulation paper Yediot Aharonot.[...]

Iraq war legal pressures denied

The government has denied claims that British military chiefs put pressure onthe attorney general to strengthen his advice on the legality of war in Iraq.

Sunday newspapers reported that Lord Goldsmith firmed up his legal opinion because of concern troops could be prosecuted for fighting an illegal war.

But speaking on GMTV, Commons leader Peter Hain denied the claims.

"We have a fog of fabrication and allegation not backed up by any evidence at all," he said.

"I think it is a deliberate effort to refocus from the most successful government and prime minister in living memory and to try to sidetrack everyone into what I think has become a very old story."

The reports are based on unpublished legal documents from the case of the former intelligence officer Katharine Gun. [...]

The government came under increased pressure to reveal the advice, when environmental group Greenpeace demanded access to it so it can defend 14 activists in court, following an anti-war protest last year.

Despite the government's refusal to hand over the advice, Greenpeace said it would continue to press for it to be made public.

"We never expected Tony Blair just to hand this over but we will ask for it in court," a spokeswoman said.

Two anti-war protesters charged with offences following a demonstration at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire are also to make a formal request for access to the advice.

Hugo Charlton, the barrister representing the Fairford protesters, said the legal advice given before the war was essential to their case. [...]

Losing our humanity

By Ibrahim Kazerooni
The Denver Post
Saturday, February 28, 2004

My biggest fear about our conquest of Iraq is that it is desensitizing us to death, destruction and deception.

Rarely a day passes without American forces being killed in Iraq. Yet, as the steady stream of tragic news seeps out of that country, we appear to be growing less concerned - not more - in the face of a rising death toll for Americans, Iraqis and others.

While some believe that, prior to the invasion of Iraq, supporters of the war abused the phrase "support our troops" mostly as a tool to intimidate those who were unsure of the invasion's necessity, there must have been at least some genuine concern on the part of the war's supporters for the safety of our armed forces.

Today, however, those same war supporters are virtually silent about showing support for our troops who are tragically being killed and maimed daily. Like so many others, they have become desensitized to the tragic and unnecessary loss of our soldiers' lives. [...]

Where are the "support our troops" rallies sponsored by Clear Channel Communications now?

With each day's news of more dead American soldiers or another suicide bombing that wipes out 50 or 100 Iraqis at once, this unnecessary war is acclimating us to violent death.

Equally disturbing is our increased tolerance for blatant lies. We all expect politicians to tell us lies that will later be exposed. However, I am appalled at our unflinching acceptance of outright fabrications that completely contradict well-established realities. [...]

Iraq council delays signing interim constitution

Iraq Donors Commit About $1 Bln for Reconstruction

By Mona Megalli and Heba Kandil
February 29, 2004

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - International donors said on Sunday they would inject about $1 billion of the $33 billion of aid earmarked for Iraq's reconstruction into two trust funds run by the United Nations and World Bank.

Several countries that opposed the U.S.-led war to oust President Saddam Hussein, including France and Germany, refused to contribute any aid to Baghdad if the United States and Britain -- who currently occupy Iraq -- control the funds.

These countries said they preferred to give aid directly to Iraq or contribute to trust funds run and audited independently. [...]

Comment: Indeed, why should any nation give money to the occupation forces in Iraq? Such donations essentially constitute an endorsement of the invasion and occupation.

Syria Rejects U.S. Reform Project

Sun Feb 29, 4:31 AM ET

CAIRO (Reuters) - Syria has joined Arab heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt in opposing Washington's plan for political and other reforms in the Middle East, according to an interview published Sunday.

"Our position is that we don't want any reform project to be dictated to us from abroad. Reforms must spring from the specifics of the region and not through the diktats of external forces," Syrian Information Minister Ahmad al-Hassan told the London-based daily Arabic newspaper al-Hayat. [...]

Number of missing from Philippine ferry blaze rises to 186

AFP
Sunday February 29, 4:52 PM

The number of people missing after a blaze aboard a ferry in the Philippines last week has risen to 186, with only one death confirmed, according to the operator of the vessel.

The adjustment was made after it was verified that the Superferry 14 had been carrying more people than initially reported when it caught fire off Manila before dawn Friday, said Aboitiz Transport spokeswoman Gina Virtusio. [...]

Phillipines Extremist Group Claims Ferry Blast

MARIVELES, Philippines (AP)--The Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility Sunday for an explosion on a ferry that sparked a fire and left 180 passengers missing, according to a radio report.

The Radio Mindanao Network, which has often been called by the Abu Sayyaf in the past, said group spokesman Abu Sulaiman claimed a bomb was planted in revenge for alleged incidents of violence in the southern Mindandao area and the rapes of some Muslim women by Philippine troops.

The Friday fire on the Superferry 14 occurred the same day that two alleged Abu Sayyaf members were convicted of kidnapping an American in 2000 and another was arraigned in a separate mass abduction.

The military downplayed the Abu Sayyaf claim, saying it may have been a bluff by the guerrillas to project strength amid battle setbacks that have considerably weakened the group.

"They just want to ride and hitch on the media mileage on this Superferry fire," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero.

Officials haven't speculated on the cause of the fire, but said they couldn't rule out terrorism even though police sniffer dogs checked the ferry before it left Manila. Witnesses said the blaze was triggered by an explosion at 12:50 a.m. Friday, two hours into the ferry's regular trip to the central and southern Philippines. [...]

Suspect arrested in bombing of JW Marriot hotel

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A Muslim activist has been arrested in central Indonesia for last year's J.W. Marriott Hotel bombing, becoming the 15th suspect detained in connection with the blast that killed 12 people, police said Sunday.
The suspect, identified only as Dahlan, was captured Thursday in the East Java town of Ngawi, about 354 miles southeast of Jakarta, said a police official in nearby Surabaya. [...]

Security tight after suicide attack on Pakistan mosque

ISLAMABAD (AP)--Security was tightened in major Pakistani cities on Sunday after a suicide attack outside a mosque, amid fears of sectarian violence as the Islamic country's Shiite minority marked the religious holiday of Muharram, officials said.

Investigators were poring over material collected from the Yadgar-e-Hussein mosque in Rawalpindi after an attacker detonated explosives strapped to his body, killing himself and injuring two other people late Saturday.

Officials said they hadn't identified the attacker and there was no claim of responsibility. The Muharram holiday has previously been marred by attacks against the government and Shiites by extremist Sunni Muslim groups.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said there may have been an accomplice with the attacker, and investigations were underway.

Security has been tightened in other cities and police have been increased outside Shiite mosques, he said. [...]

US, rebels breath down Aristide's neck

Just for how long can Jean-Bertrand Aristide take the pressure ? Rebels are on the doorstep of Haiti's capital. Now Washington has declared the situation is largely of the President's own making - the clearest indication yet it wants him to go.

Yesterday his supporters unleashed a wave of terror in Port-au-Prince in which at least three people were killed, but since then they seem to have heeded Aristide's call for calm.

Insurgents have been preparing an offensive on the capital. Washington wants them to hold off to give a political solution a chance. Rebel leader Guy Philippe says he will wait until it becomes clear exactly what the US means. [...]

Thousands of Haitians return armed

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- Already tense Dominican-Haitian relations were further complicated last week after Dominican President Hipolito Mejia confirmed that most of the conspirators against President Jean Bertrand Aristide's regime were based in the Dominican Republic.

Haiti's former police captain Guy Phillippe, exiled in the Dominican Republic, announced that he had crossed the border with a shipment of arms and is now fighting Aristide's loyalist government forces. [...]

Aristide Flees Haiti; Leadership Unclear

By PAISLEY DODDS and IAN JAMES
Feb 29, 8:34 AM (ET)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled Haiti on Sunday, bowing to pressure from a rebellion at home and governments abroad, U.S. and Haitian officials said.

Hundreds of angry Aristide militants armed with old rifles and pistols converged on the National Palace, the presidential seat in Port-au-Prince. It was not immediately clear who was in charge, but Aristide's prime minister Yvan Neptune called a news conference early Sunday.

There were reports Aristide signed a letter of resignation before he left, which would open the way for Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre to take power. Such a move would require approval by the Haitian parliament, which has not had power since early this year after the terms of most legislators expired. [...]

Coast Guard Repatriates 336 More Haitians

Sat Feb 28, 6:53 PM ET

MIAMI (AP) - More than 330 Haitians rescued at sea in separate operations were repatriated Saturday, bringing to 867 the number of Haitians returned in the past week to the strife-torn Caribbean nation, the Coast Guard said. [...]

Ties with India good, Pakistan constructive: US

Citing the Bush Administration's foreign policy success in developing better relations with Asian countries, the US has described its ties with India as "good" and its engagement with Pakistan as "constructive".
"For many years, it was thought that it was not possible to have good relations with all of Asia's powers. It was thought that good relations with China came at the expense of good relations with our ally Japan — that good relations with India came at the expense of constructive engagement with Pakistan. The President has changed this paradigm," US National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said.

"Our Asian alliances have never been stronger. Forces from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines are making important contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States has negotiated free trade agreements with Singapore and Australia.

"We are working with the 21 nations of the Asia Pacific Cooperation Forum on an ambitious agenda designed to bolster economic growth and promote common security. And at the same time, we are building a candid, cooperative and constructive relationship with China that embraces our common interests but never loses sight of our considerable differences about values," Rice said speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Sun Valley.[...]

Special forces may join hunt for Bin Laden

America's President George W Bush is said to have approved a new plan to intensify efforts to kill or capture Osama bin Laden.

The report from the New York Times quotes senior administration and military officials as saying a special force is moving to Afghanistan to take advantage of better weather along the border with Pakistan.

It's believed to be Task Force 121, a covert team of Special Operations forces and CIA officers involved in the capture of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

South Asia correspondent Geoff Thompson reports Pakistan has increased operations in the region.

Pakistan's military began operations in its border tribal regions last October to flush out Taliban and al-Qaeda loyalists.

Last week Pakistan's army launched a new operation in the tribal areas targetting what it called Taliban fighters and foreign terrorists.

Thompson says It's been persistently speculated that Osama bin Laden is hiding somewhere in Pakistan's tribal belt which borders Afghanistan[...]

Scotland to take 8,000 migrants a year

At a time when British tabloids are raising a scare about large-scale immigration from east Europe, Scotland has announced plans to welcome about 8,000 migrants a year to halt population decline.

Under a radical plan unveiled on Wednesday, Scotland touts itself as a new home for people from all over the world. It would encourage workers from countries due to join the European Union (EU) - including Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Baltic states - to come to Scotland.

People as far off as the US, South Africa, India and China too would be welcomed.[...]

Tanker explodes off Virginia coast

Using night-vision goggles, the US Coast Guard are searching for survivirs of a chemical tanker that exploded and sank off Virginia's Cincoteague Island killing at least three crew members.

Six other crew members have been hospitalized but 18 were still missing after the Singapore-flagged Bow Mariner -- carrying 3.5 million gallons of industrial ethanol -- blew up and sank 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Chincoteague's coast late Saturday.

"The water temperature is around 44 degrees, so the longer the search goes on, the less likely we find survivors," USCG spokesman Lt. Buddy Dye told CNN early Sunday. [...]

The cause of the blast is under investigation. The Coast Guard in Washington contacted Singapore, which will also take part in the investigation, Dye said.

The 570-foot vessel -- in transit from New York to Houston with 24 Filipino and three Greek crew -- called in a mayday to the Coast Guard after 6:00 p.m. Saturday to report the blast.

It sank about an hour and a half later in international waters. [...]

Japan Blasts Poultry Exec For Not Reporting Bird Deaths

TOKYO (AP)--Japan's agriculture minister on Sunday slammed a senior poultry industry executive for failing to report the deaths of tens of thousands of chickens on his farm, where officials have confirmed the country's third outbreak of bird flu.

About 67,000 of the 200,000 chickens at the farm in southwestern Japan died in the past week, but Hajimu Asada failed to alert authorities and continued to ship live chickens, meat and eggs to customers. Media reports said officials learned of the outbreak from an anonymous phone call that prompted an investigation.

"It is terribly regrettable that the report (of the outbreak) came so late," particularly because Asada is deputy chairman of the Japan Poultry Association, Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei said in comments to public broadcaster NHK.

Local media quoted Asada, chairman of Asada Nosan, which runs the farm, as saying it had decided to ship live chickens as much as two months ahead of schedule after noticing the birds were dying en masse. [...]

DEFENSELESS KIDS' GUARDIAN AGENCY WON'T COME CLEAN

THE city's Administra tion for Children's Services is so busy protecting the privacy of foster kids it won't talk about how those kids were used as HIV (news - web sites) guinea pigs.

My questions were simple:

How many HIV foster kids have they allowed to be used in experiments?

Whom could they call for relief if researchers prodded too hard, hurt them, made them cry or made them sick?

These defenseless kids couldn't run home and cry to mommy - their "mother" is the ACS bureaucracy.

From 1998 until 2002, ACS allowed HIV-positive foster kids to be used by scientists trying to solve the mysteries of the scourge illness. About 50 of them at Manhattan's Incarnation Children's Center were used as guinea pigs in the late 1990s.

Scientists push the limit - that's how they discovered penicillin, a researcher once told me.

And that's fine when we're talking about kids whose parents are looking over the doctor's shoulder.

The city's Public Advocate's Office, which looks over the shoulder of ACS, said it was surprised to hear of the policy that allowed HIV infected children to be used as guinea pigs.

"We're concerned because clinical trials are risky and we're concerned ACS just unilaterally signed up these kids," said Advocate's Office spokeswoman Anat Jacobson. [...]

Media rights group slams China's Internet policing

A Paris-based media rights group on Sunday slammed new Chinese regulations aimed at policing the Internet and accused a US-based Internet management company of colluding with the government to stifle activism on the web.

"Reporters Without Borders condemned the latest Chinese effort to gag the Internet by means of directives to portals that have discussion groups," the group said in a statement.

"Discussion forums are used by millions of Chinese and, although closely monitored, they at least offered an outlet for popular discontent and criticism, but we fear these latest measures will just make Internet users censor themselves even more."

China's Cultural Minister Sun Jiazheng last week called for tighter controls on the Internet, including 24-hour surveillance, and urged users to join in on the government effort to police the web.

"Managing Internet bars requires centralised measures, the people's prevention and monitoring and thorough control," Sun was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

Despite government restrictions, China is second only to the United States for the number of people online. The number of users rose to 79.5 million by December 2003 from 59.1 million in December 2002 — up by 34.5 per cent.[...]

Technology and Liberty

In resistance with proprietary softwares and greedy multi-national computer systems like Microsoft who usually extracts profit rather than providing an accessibly beneficial services to the people, members of an open source group- University of the Philippines Linux Users Group (UNPLUG) held a protest action in a form of an eye opening forum and workshops to university students and faculty, last Wednesday afternoon at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. The forum demonstrated the alternative use of computer technology using free and accessible software for everyone; they also pushed the university to migrate from the expensive cost of using close source softwares to open source systems and technology.

"Gearing towards open source computer technology will enable the university to provide a participatory and sustainable environment that utterly destroys the imperialist authority of Bill Gates among the academic community and the Philippines as a whole." said one of the organizers of the forum. UNPLUG inspiringly encouraged the participants to use open source operating systems like Linux, FreeBSD, etc. and make use of it by modifying the codes for them to have power over technology rather than the other way around. [...]

15 arrested in blitz on beggars

Fifteen people have been arrested in a controversial drive to clear beggars off the streets of London's West End.

They were picked up as part of a 48-hour blitz by Westminster Council designed to disrupt and deter begging in the area.

Council staff, including roadsweepers and traffic wardens, were briefed in advance to report beggars, who would then be arrested by police and have their fingerprints and DNA taken.

Kit Malthouse, deputy leader of the council, said 15 people arrested were being processed.

"It seems to be going pretty well, hopefully the message has got out."

The operation is targeting an estimated 300 beggars operating in a few square miles around areas including Soho, Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Victoria - many of them at Tube stations and cash machines.[...]

Turkmenistan bans beards

Ananova.com
February 29, 2004

A new law banning men from having unkempt hair has been passed in Turkmenistan. The country's president Saparmurat Niyazov announced that long hair, beards and moustaches will no longer be allowed.

The law was reportedly passed on the grounds that hair gives outsiders the "wrong impression" of the country and is "unhygienic". It also applies to foreigners and barbers are being set up at airports and border crossings to make sure the new ruling is adhered to.

The bizarre law is the latest in a list of strange regulations passed by MPs under pressure from Niyazov, who has been in power since 1985.

Other laws include a ban on ballet and a tax on foreigners wanting to marry women from Turkmenistan. That levy - which includes a honeymoon bed sheets tax - is a bid to clamp down on brides using online dating agencies to leave the country.

Prospective overseas suitors have been told they will have to stump up more than £25,000 and give the bride's family ten solid gold rings before they can tie the knot.

Walters gets her ogre

The Arizona Republic
Feb. 28, 2004 12:00 AM

Drat! Diane Sawyer has been skunked again. Barbara Walters has scored an interview coup on her annual Oscar special Sunday with Shrek, the animated ogre.

Like other Walters subjects, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) gets teary when talking about his mom, USA Today reports. Walters also chats with Diane Keaton, Billy Crystal and Matt LeBlanc. The special is at 5 p.m. on Channel 15 (KNXV).

Followed by even more hours of self-congratulatory blather.

And Finally...

** Humorous Statement Follows. Not To Be Taken Literally **

The Pocket Watch Of Über Doom

This concept is modeled after the 1947 Doomsday Clock which was added to, or subtracted from, based on world crises and political snafus. We here at Signs Central believe that it is the entertainment industry, and not despots Like Bush and Blair, who will ultimately lead to the heat death of the Universe.

The WB stakes "Angel."

The WB cancelled the cult/pop classic Buffy spin-off Angel, which features David Boreanz as the brooding vampire with a soul, searching for redemption in sunny L.A. We see this as a definite sign that there is no love left in the world. We find ourselves wondering if we can carry on without Angel to boost our desire to fight the good fight while wearing poofy trench coats and lotsa hair gel. We at the Signs office wholeheartedly agree that cancellations of greats shows like Angel will ultimately lead to the Heat Death of the Universe, and so we advance the Pocket Watch Of Über Doom ahead to One O'Clock and observe a moment of silence for the death of an "Angel".

** End Of Humor **
(You may resume feeling that sickening sense of impending peril.)

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