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Monday, March 01, 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

Perfection is the state of being without a flaw or defect. Historically, man seeks perfection in all things. The perfect body, the perfect mind, the perfect religion, the perfect nation, the perfect car, the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect life. It seems that this last idea, the perfect life, is the most desired. Quite often, the perfect life is defined by some combination of other ideals.

The American Dream is a good example. We convince ourselves that we live in the perfect country, jam-packed with the best of everything: freedom, democracy, baseball, apple pie - and then we strive to fill our lives with things that are generally regarded as indications that we have "made it". We think that if we have a place in such a country - complete with the spouse, house, two cars, 2.5 children, and a nice 401k - that we will have reached a certain state of heaven on earth. Some people achieve this dream, while others climb endlessly their entire lives to attempt to reach the so-called peak.

For those that do reach the summit, eventually they realize that there is something better. The neighbor has a fancier car or a bigger house, and we decide that if only we could have those things as well, then we would truly have reached that elusive state of perfection. Of course, this process will and must repeat endlessly, as there is always something better and bigger to be acquired or achieved.

Some people don't worry about material possessions; they are more concerned with the afterlife. Realizing, perhaps, that they will never be wealthy, they instead decide that perfection cannot be achieved in this world, and so they seek it in the next life. There really is no difference between the desire for material and religious perfection. In both cases, the goal becomes something invisible, intangible, and just over the horizon. The goal becomes the mirage sought by the parched inhabitants of a desert reality.

Many people desire perfection in another. Yesterday, we included an article on an Italian prime time television program:

Italians go under the knife on prime-time TV

Sophie Arie, Rome
The Observer
Sunday February 29, 2004

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. [...]

'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 silicone 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.' [...]

Now she will be perfect, right? But wait, wasn't she perfect before? Isn't truly loving someone knowing and accepting them completely? What may not have been shown on this program is the terribly painful recovery period that follows plastic surgery. One American news program showed a woman in recovery after her breast enlargement operation. Her teeth were chattering, she was shaking, and she began to cry. She said that it hurt, and it felt as if an elephant was sitting on her chest. Why would any partner would want to put his love through such a torturous process?

Perhaps we feel that we cannot be perfect, and so we seek something to perfect in another to get our "fix". The facet of the other that we wish to "improve" doesn't have to be physical. In order to get our partner to act or think or feel a certain way, we may employ all sorts of tactics - often subconsciously - to try and mold the other into the idea of perfection with which we have become obsessed. Obviously, the relentless pursuit of perfection can and often does become an addiction.

We can also seek perfection of the self. This quest can become a slightly different type of addiction that will eventually prevent us from interacting in a meaningful way with those who actually do accept us as we are. The need to be perfect creates a tidal wave of fear, a fear of making even one little mistake. When the wave crashes down upon our thoughts, any ability to see is washed away. We may become paralyzed by paranoia. Our perception of reality becomes skewed in such a way as to reinforce our paranoia. This paranoia may then cause us to be overly self-conscious. On the other hand, the entire process may have begun as a combination of self-consciousness and the obsessive need to never make a mistake.

Whatever the way in which our need to be perfect manifests, we convince ourselves that perfection will be achieved someday. Perhaps what is lacking is any thought of why we seek perfection, what perfection really is, and if it is even possible or desirable to achieve in this reality. We would suggest that perfection is symbolic, an illusion that can never be reached. There is nothing wrong with holding an ideal above others, or having a goal. We may decide that we have had enough of the entropic principle, and decide to work instead towards actually creating something of true value to others and ourselves.

Yet, in everything we do, there must be uncertainty. There must be change, especially within ourselves. As we work on stripping away our illusions and learning to see objectively, we do not know what the future holds. Perfection implies a rigid hierarchy. If we are to search for knowledge, we must always keep in mind that knowledge implies infinity, and infinity by definition cannot be subject to limitations or control. In desiring perfection of any sort, we are essentially placing limits on what can be achieved; we are deciding that the path we are traveling must take a certain route in order to reach the goal. By accepting the idea of an open universe, we accept that there are many routes to the goal, and that the goal itself may not be what or where we think it is. As such, the path must begin within each individual. How can we each know which route to take if our vision is blurred by illusions, subjectivity, and lies?

In terms of the creative principle, perfection is an illusion. There is always something more to learn. There is always something greater to become. We will all make mistakes, and these mistakes must be accepted and used as tools to learn and grow.

We at Signs of the Times also make mistakes. Perhaps the reader will want to take our discussion of perfection with a grain of salt...

US troops 'made Aristide leave'

From correspondents in Paris
March 1, 2004

HAITIAN leader Jean Bertrand Aristide was taken away from his home by US soldiers, it was claimed today.

A man who said he was a caretaker for the now exiled president told France's RTL radio station the troops forced Aristide out.

"The American army came to take him away at two in the morning," the man said.

"The Americans forced him out with weapons."

"It was American soldiers. They came with a helicopter and they took the security guards.

US Marines start Haiti peacekeeping mission after Aristide flees

March 1, 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) - US Marines were arriving in Haiti to launch an international force to restore order as exiled president Jean Bertrand Aristide sought temporary refuge in the Central African Republic.

A Marine contingent took up combat positions at Port-au-Prince airport just before the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of a multinational force in Haiti for up to three months.

Canadian special forces, who had secured the airport earlier to protect the evacuation of Canadians, were still at their posts and French troops and gendarmes were expected to arrive on Monday.

Aristide flew out from the same airport with US help more than 12 hours earlier, under pressure from a mounting insurrection and abandoned by the international community. [...]

Comment: The US seems to be very concerned with recent events in Haiti.

Aristide hits back in radio address

Deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide hit back at his politicial opponents on Monday for "chopping down the peace tree" in a radio address soon after he arrived in the Central African Republic.

Aristide, who arrived in Bangui on Monday a day after he stepped down from his post under international pressure, also thanked the leadership of the Central African Republic for welcoming him.

Aristide is expected to travel on to South Africa where he is to go into exile, according to an official from the state protocol department in Bangui.

"I declare that in overthrowing me, they have chopped down the peace tree, but it will grow again as its roots are Louverturian," he said, referring to Toussaint Louverture, who led the revolt of black slaves in Haiti in 1791.[...]

SA 'unaware' of Aristide asylum

The South African government said on Monday it was still not aware of any plan for ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to seek asylum.

"Our situation has not changed from yesterday, [Sunday} " said foreign affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa.

"We are not aware that President Aristide is making his way to South Africa."

If there was a request for asylum, South Africa would have to discuss it with the Caribbean regional organisation Caricom.

"We do not know of any such approach," he said.

His remarks coincide with a report on Monday that Aristide, who flew out of Haiti at the weekend as armed opponents pressed towards the capital, is now in Bangui.

The Agence France Presse news agency reports that he and his wife are expected to stay in the Central African Republic for a few days "before heading into exile in South Africa".[...]

Aristide arrived at Bangui's M'Poko airport at 7.15am [0615 GMT] on Monday.

The Central African Minister of Communications Parfait M'bay and junior foreign minister Guy Moskit were at the aiport along with with armed forces chief Antoine Bamdi to greet Aristide.

The embattled president resigned on Sunday under international pressure after three weeks of mounting trouble and insurrection had left scores dead.

Meanwhile, the head of the Supreme Court, who announced that he was taking charge after Aristide resigned, is a longtime jurist with a reputation for honesty in a notoriously corrupt system.[...]

'Voodoo rites are fuelling bedlam in Haiti'

Port-au-Prince - In Haiti, there are assassinations, and then there are voodoo-proof assassinations.

It isn't just about killing a political enemy. It's about how it's done as well, because the dead just may come back to life in a seance and point straight to the murderer. That's why, some claim, opposition leader Amiot Metayer was shot in each eye when he was killed late last year.

That, according to voodoo, ensures that the victim can't see, and thus can't tell who did the shooting. Metayer's brother, Buteur, claimed he found the way around it, accusing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of being behind the plot. The murder was a pivotal turning point that caused the brooding unrest to escalate into the current armed uprising.[...]

US troops arrive in Haiti

Port-au-Prince - United States Marines arrived in Haiti late on Sunday to launch an international force to restore order after the Caribbean nation's president Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled a mounting insurrection.

A Marine contingent took up combat positions at Port-au-Prince airport just before the United Nations Security Council authorised the deployment of a multi-national force in Haiti for up to three months.

Canadian special forces, who had secured the airport earlier to protect the evacuation of Canadians, were still at their posts and French troops and gendarmes were expected to arrive on Monday.[...]

Serving Two Flags: Neo-Cons, Israel and the Bush Administration

A CounterPunch Special Report
February 28 / 29, 2004

Since 9-11, a small group of "neo-conservatives" in the Administration have effectively gutted--they would say reformed--traditional American foreign and security policy. Notable features of the new Bush doctrine include the pre-emptive use of unilateral force, and the undermining of the United Nations and the principle instruments and institutions of international law....all in the cause of fighting terrorism and promoting homeland security.

Some skeptics, noting the neo-cons' past academic and professional associations, writings and public utterances, have suggested that their underlying agenda is the alignment of U.S. foreign and security policies with those of Ariel Sharon and the Israeli right wing. The administration's new hard line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict certainly suggests that, as perhaps does the destruction, with U.S. soldiers and funds, of the military capacity of Iraq, and the current belligerent neo-con campaign against the other two countries which constitute a remaining counterforce to Israeli military hegemony in the region--Iran and Syria.

Have the neo-conservatives--many of whom are senior officials in the Defense Department, National Security Council and Office of the Vice President--had dual agendas, while professing to work for the internal security of the United States against its terrorist enemies?

A review of the internal security backgrounds of some of the best known among them strongly suggests the answer. [...]

Comment: The remainder of this article contains an interesting look at Bryen, Ledeen, Perle, Wolfowitz and Feith.

Macedonian PM and the plane "crash"

Ian Black
Monday March 1, 2004
The Guardian

Boris Trajkovski was hardly a household name outside his native land. But the death of the Macedonian president in a plane crash last week was a painful blow for the EU's attempts to try to export stability to its troubled Balkan backyard.

Javier Solana, whose ponderous title of "high representative for common foreign and security policy" is meaningless except in south-eastern Europe, observed that it was a tragic irony that Trajkovski died on the very day his country was applying for EU membership. Solana, Chris Patten and the former Nato chief George Robertson, all regulars in Skopje, found him a moderate man they could do business with in the fragile former Yugoslav republic. [...]

Comment: We are well aware of the ease with which it is possible for certain groups to make any plane crash seem like a "tragedy". The death of Senator Wellstone is a case in point. The recent death of the Macedonian PM is, as the above article states, a blow to the possibility of stability in Eastern Europe. From reading the Signs, it is clear that a "dirty war" is being waged by the US against Europe. The goal it seems is to prevent the emergence of a cohesive and united Europe that would have the power to stand against the "coup de monde" that the Neocons in Washington have been planning for so long.

Taken in this context, the death of the Macedonian leader is simply too significant to be dismissed as a mere "accident". Certain people have simply too much to gain from his death and as such logic and rationale point to the likelihood that his death was deliberately orchestrated. While it is not always true, in this case the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt are ery relevant: "In Politics, nothing happens by accident, if it happens you can bet it was planned that way."

See the below link for more information on the truth about "the war in the Balkans".

Hidden Agenda: U.S./NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia

Washington and NATO strategists invoked humanitarian principles to justify their inhuman war. But they practiced the ruthless divide-and-conquer tactics used by empires since the days of Imperial Rome.

Behind the facade of concern for self-determination, they sliced away most of the republics of Yugoslavia, one by one, through economic pressure, political threats and, finally, outright warfare. [...]


Pak army helps Taliban escape

March 01 2004

NEW YORK: Pakistan army still appears to be helping Taliban in Afghanistan as they prepare for a major confrontation in coming spring, a media report said.

Pak army still appears to be helping Taliban

American intelligence officials possess satellite photos that "purportedly" show Pakistani army trucks picking up Taliban troops fleeing back across the border after a failed attack.

After the US confronted Pakistani officials with the photographs, signs of visible Pakistani aid to the rebels ceased, Time magazine said.

It quoted US and Afghan officials as saying that the US has also provided Islamabad with specific locations of two dozen suspected Taliban hideouts in the tribal badlands.

Afghan security officials, Time said, complain that their Pakistani counterparts continue to tolerate -- and even encourage -- militancy by the Taliban.

At the highest levels, Pakistan's establishment remains "nostalgic" for the Taliban, says a Western diplomat. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has cooperated in the hunt for al-Qaeda's top officials but has shown less enthusiasm for rooting out the Taliban.

Until Pakistan's security services stop sheltering Taliban leaders, US officials say, Afghanistan will never be free from the threat of their return.

Comment: The commander of the Pakistan army, Tin Pot dictator Musharraf, is a creation of the US government. The purported 9-11 ringleader - Mohammed Atta - according to ABC news, was financed by "unnamed sources in Pakistan." According to Agence France Presse and the Times of India, an official Indian intelligence report informs us that the 9-11 attacks were funded by money wired to Mohammed Atta from Pakistan, by Ahmad Umar Sheikh, under orders from Pakistani intelligence chief General Mahmoud Ahmad. The report said: "The evidence we have supplied to the U.S. is of a much wider range and depth than just one piece of paper linking a rogue general to some misplaced act of terrorism."

Guess what? General Mahmoud Ahmad was in the U.S. on September 11. Where was General Mahmoud on the morning of September 11, while Dubya was in Florida reading upside down books?

Why, the good general just happened to be having breakfast with Florida's senator, Bob Graham - our esteemed chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Also present at breakfast was Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Maleeha Lodhi. There were other members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees present.

Most people do not understand the ease with which the US has sought to and succeeded in "conquering" much of the world. This "conquering" is not necessarily achieved by force of arms. Often it is sufficient for the US to simply install a leader in a country that is loyal to US interests. This is the case in Pakistan. The Taleban were and continue to be funded by the US government. When a nation desires to create a fictitious"war on terror" it must fight this war itself, on BOTH sides, if the war is to continue indefinitely.

In much the same way as Sharon orchestrates many of the "Palestinian suicide bombings", the Neocons in the Pentagon must fight the "War on Terror" on both sides. The initial salvo was fired by the US itself when it planned and carried out the attacks on 9/11, which was then used to fuel further murderous campaigns around the world. There is no chance that this will end any time soon. In fact, it is very likely that it will increase to encompass the whole planet.

Iraqis Agree on Constitution, Islam Role

By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer
March 1, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi politicians agreed early Monday on an interim constitution with a wide ranging bill of rights and a single chief executive, bridging a gulf between members over the role of Islam in the future government, coalition and Iraqi officials said.

The document set national elections to be held by Jan. 31, 2005, to create a legislature, with a goal of having women in at least a quarter of the seats. But negotiators were unable to agree on many aspects of Kurdish autonomy, leaving them to be determined later.

The new constitution, a key step in the U.S. plan to turn over power on June 30, will be signed by top American administrator L. Paul Bremer on Wednesday, after the Shiite Muslim religious holiday of Ashoura ends, a coalition official said on condition of anonymity. The charter will remain in effect until a permanent constitution is drafted and ratified next year.

The coalition official said the document strikes a balance between the role of Islam and the bill of individual rights and democratic principles, by calling Islam a source, but not a primary one, for the implementation of civil law. [...]

Although the charter is temporary, council members and their U.S. patrons expect it to serve as the basis for the permanent constitution.

The United States, which plans to open its largest embassy in the world on July 1 in Baghdad, will still exert considerable diplomatic influence on the fledgling Iraqi government. More than 100,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq after power is handed over.

Large Explosion Heard in Central Baghdad

Mon Mar 1, 5:44 AM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A large explosion was heard Monday in central Baghdad and appeared to have come from the vicinity of the headquarters of the U.S. occupation authority.

Shortly after the blast, a Black Hawk helicopter circled over the green zone, the U.S. compound that includes Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace and serves as headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition.

There were no immediate details on the cause of the blast.

Syria rejects US reform project

Sunday 29 February 2004, 14:46 Makka Time, 11:46 GMT

Syria has joined Arab heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt in opposing Washington's plan for political and other reforms in the Middle East.

"Our position is that we do not 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-Hasan told the London-based daily Arabic newspaper al-Hayat on Sunday.

"No regime would accept the implementation of reforms under external pressure or diktats from abroad."

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both with close US ties, said last week the Arab world was going through its own reforms and would reject any change imposed from outside.

Court orders Israel to suspend construction of section of security barrier

06:10 AM EST Mar 01

JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday ordered a one-week halt to construction at a section of the West Bank security barrier where soldiers shot dead two Palestinians during a violent protest last week.

Under intense international pressure, including last week's highly publicized hearing about the legality of the barrier at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Israeli officials had already pledged to change the planned route of the barrier to ease hardships on Palestinians.

The Israeli court issued the order to temporarily stop work on a section of the barrier being built near Jerusalem while the military considers alternate routes.

Also Sunday, two Palestinian militants were killed in West Bank clashes with Israeli forces. Soldiers entered the Balata refugee camp next to the city of Nablus and traded fire with militants, killing Mohammed Zuheir Oweis, 23, Palestinians said.

Comment: By making a few cosmetic changes to the wall, the Israeli government can appear to be moderating their acts, can appear to have made important concessions to the Palestinians. In reality, they haven't conceded anything at all. But they can now demand that the Palestinians make more concessions. It is like divorce negotiations. One partner starts the negotiations asking for everything while the other begins with a reasonable 50/50 split, then the reasonable partner will end up giving up more than the unreasonable one. The unreasonable one can go from claiming the entire amount to "only" asking for 80% and say, "See, I gave in. Now it's your turn."

Chavez threatens to stop oil to US

Monday 01 March 2004, 8:33 Makka Time, 5:33 GMT

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told some 60,000 cheering supporters he would block US access to Venezuela's oil resources if Washington moves against his government.

In a three-hour anti-American diatribe that described US President George Bush as an illegitimate leader and an "asshole", Chavez spelled out on Sunday what would happen if America turned up the diplomatic pressure.

"If Mr Bush is possessed with the madness of trying to blockade Venezuela, or worse for them, to invade Venezuela in response to the desperate song of his lackeys ... sadly not a drop of petroleum will come to them from Venezuela."

He also vowed never to quit office like his Haitian counterpart as troops battled with opposition protesters demanding a recall referendum against him.

Diplomatic niceties

Chavez has long accused Washington of backing the opposition, which has tried to oust him twice - once in a nationwide strike that ended last year and in an aborted 2002 coup.

The US is keenly interested in Venezuela, its fourth-largest oil supplier and the only Latin American member of the Organisation of Oil Producing Countries, but routinely denies all accusations of creating political instability.

Comment: In the midst of the attempted coup in 2002, during the few days that Chavez was being held and the opposition claimed the government had fallen, the New York Times took a strong stand for the "new" government. When one studies the role of the US in interfering in the internal affairs of countries in Latin America, one would have to be extremely naive to believe the "routine denials" of the US.

China issues human rights record of the US

Monday, March 01, 2004

China issued the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2003 Monday
in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003 issued by the US on Feb. 25. The Human Rights Record is the fifth Chinese report in response to the annual country reports on human rights by the United States.

Released by the Information Office of China's State Council, the Chinese report listed a multitude of cases to show that serious violations of human rights exist on the homeland of the United States.

"As in any previous year, the United States once again acted as'the world human rights police' by distorting and censuring in the'reports' the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions across the world, including China. And just as usual, the United States once again 'omitted' its own long-standing malpractices and problems of human rights in the 'reports'. Therefore, we have to, as before, help the United States keep its human rights record," said the report.

The report reviewed the human rights record of the United States in 2003 from six perspectives: Life, Freedom and Safety; Political Rights and Freedom; Living Conditions of US Laborers; Racial Discrimination; Conditions of Women, Children and Elderly People; and Infringement upon Human Rights of Other Nations.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Information Office of the State Council has issued human rights record of the United States to answer the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued annually by the State Department of the United States.

Laborers' rights not well-protected in the US

The United States has turned a blind eye to the rights and interests of common laborers, leading to serious problems like poverty, hunger and homeless people.

The disparity between the rich and the poor keeps widening in the US, says the record, the fifth of its kind issued by China, in response to the annual country reports on human rights by the United States.

A 2003 report by the Office of Management and Budget under the US Congress acknowledged that the gap between the rich and the poor in the country today is wider than anytime in the past seven decades, with the wealth of the country's richest 1 percent population exceeding the overall possessions of the needy, who account for 40 percent of the population. In 2000, the rich people's wealth make up 15.5 percent of the country's overall national income, as against 7.5 percent in 1979. A report by the US FederalReserve also showed that between 1998 and 2001, the wealth gap between the country's richest and poorest had widened by 70 percent. [...]

In October, 2003, the United States Department of Agriculture released a report, which showed that in 2002 there were 12 million American families worrying about their food expenditures and 3.8 million families with members who actually suffered from hunger. [...]

Rights of women, children and elderly people lack protection in the US

[...] Statistics from the US Department of Labor indicated that in 2002, the average weekly earnings for women aged 16 and above were 530 US dollars, or 77.9 percent of the 680 dollars for their male counterparts. The department said that there were twice as many as women whose earnings were below the Federal minimum wage, compared with men. There has been serious domestic and sexual violence against women, says the record.

According to a study by the US National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 92 percent of American women rank domestic and sexual violence as one of their top worries. One out of every three women experiences at least one physical assault during adulthood, however, only one out of seven cases of domestic violence drew the attention of the police.

According to the record, the protection of children provided inthe US is far below international standard. The United States isone of the only two countries in the world that have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Children. Since 1980s, all the states in the US have lowered the age of criminal culpability against juvenile offenders, and in some states, juvenile offenders aged 10 even stood on trial in adult courts.

The US is the country that has handed most of the death penalties to juvenile offenders and carried out the executions in the world, the record says. According to a report released by the Amnesty International on Jan. 21, two-thirds of the documented executions of juvenile offenders in the world occurred in the US. Up to date, there 80 such juvenile prisoners on the death row waiting to be executed.

Moreover, among the developed nations, the United States ranks the first in the number of children living under the poverty line and the last in the span of its children's life expectancy. According to statistics released by the US Census Bureau in September 2003, 10.4 percent of all US minors lived in poverty by the definition of income in 2002, up to 13 million. And according to the United Nations Children's Fund, of the 27 well-off countries in the world, the United States ranks the first in the number of deaths of its children as result of violence and negligence.

The under-aged population are under threat in terms of physicaland mental health and they are usually the victims of sexual assault, says the record. According the US Federal Government, of all the children under the age of 18, 10 percent suffer from psychological illness of various levels. But only one fifth of them have been provided with medical treatment.

According to others reports, at least 1000 people were arrested in the United States for accused acts of eroticism targeting children since June 2003.

The record also reveals how the gray-haired are prejudiced against and mistreated, which led to higher rate of suicide among them. In the United States, people over the age of 65 account for 13 percent of the national population, and of all the people who committed suicide, the senior population account for 19 percent, it says.

US blamed on trampling human rights in other countries

The image of the United States has been tarnished by numerous misdeeds of human rights infringement in other countries, said the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2003.

The record considered it a result of unilateralism the US had been practicing in recent years, which made it indulged in military aggression around the world and brutal violation of sovereign rights of other nations.

In March 2003, without authorization by the United Nations, theUS unilaterally waged a large-scale war on Iraq based on its claim that the Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The record says that the U.S. army dropped many bombs on residential areas, shopping malls and civilian vehicles in its wanton and in discriminate bombing of Iraq.

It quoted Britain's Independent newspaper as saying the war on Iraq killed more than 16,000 Iraqis, including 10,000 civilians.

However, it's only a small consequence of the US' active sabre-rattling. According to the record, it has resorted to the use of force against other countries 40 times since 1990s.

Statistics in the book "Rouge State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower" by well-known US journalist and writer William Blum also showed that since 1945, the U.S. has attempted to overthrow over 40 foreign governments, suppressed over 30 national movements, in which millions of people have lost their lives and many more were pushed into misery and despair.

The reckless use of depleted uranium (DU) shells and cluster bombs was another evidence cited by the record.

Last December, the Human Rights Watch disclosed that the 13,000 cluster bombs US troops used in Iraq contained nearly 2 million bomblets, causing over 1,000 causalities. The quantity of depleted uranium shells it dropped and the residue of their pollutants also far exceeded those of the Gulf War in 1991.

The record points out that the US placed some of its prisoners "beyond the law". It put behind bars in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba 680 alleged die-hard Al-Qaida elements from 40-odd countries, who the US government said were not "prisoners of war" and therefore not subjected to the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

A report entitled People the Law Forgot, carried on the British Guardian newspaper last December, depicted the mental and physical tortures suffered by the 600-odd foreign detainees. [...]

In addition, the record also says the US was the largest exporter of arms. It quoted a report of the New York Times as saying that the US export of conventional arms accounted for 45.5 percent of the world's arms trade volume in 2002, ranking the first in the world. A Capitol report also said the US sold 8.6 billion US dollars worth of conventional arms to the developing nations, or 48.6 percent of all the arms procured by the developing world in 2002.

Presuming to be the "Judge of Human Rights in the World", the US publishes "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" every year and denounces unreasonably human rights status in other countries, regardless of the disparities among different countries in politics, economy, history, culture and social development, says the record.

"Meanwhile, it has turned a blind eye to its own human rights problems. This fully exposed the dual standards of the US on human rights and its hegemonism," the record says.

Putin Discusses Iraq, Yeltsin With Students

Combined Reports

President Vladimir Putin told students during a 90-minute question-and-answer session in Krasnoyarsk on Friday that the U.S. war in Iraq was a mistake that had encouraged terrorist actions there.

"We believed, and I continue to believe, that the military operation was a mistake, and the subsequent events have confirmed it," Putin told a group of about 80 students gathered at the library of the Siberian State Technological University.

"Casualties keep mounting, and terrorists feel increasingly at home there," Putin said, Itar-Tass reported.

"This is a very dangerous process," he said, adding that the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had prevented terrorists from coming to Iraq.

Many U.S. expats prefer "Anybody But Bush"

The Results Are in and the Winner Is . . . or Maybe Not

New York Times

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. - Rob Behler isn't saying Max Cleland's Senate seat was stolen by rigged electronic voting machines, but he insists it could have been. Mr. Behler, who helped prepare Georgia's machines for the 2002 election, says secret computer codes were installed late in the process. Votes "could have been manipulated," he says, and the election thrown to the Republican, Saxby Chambliss. [...]

Mr. Cleland's loss was, some say, a surprise. He was said to be leading in the polls before Election Day, but ended up losing decisively [...]

Ms. Harris argues the patches could have turned Cleland votes into Chambliss votes. "You can put in dynamic files that self-destruct after the election," she says. "There would be no evidence."

A final piece of the conspiracy theory is that Diebold's chief executive is an active Republican fund-raiser. It was probably inevitable that given all the elements — late changes, an end run around the vetting process, a manufacturer with political ties, and a surprising outcome — there would be suspicions about the results.

Some of the same factors were present in Nebraska. In his primary race in 1996, Mr. Hagel, who had lived in Virginia for 20 years, beat the state attorney general by nearly two to one. In the general election, he defeated the governor, who had been elected two years earlier in a landslide. In 2002, against Mr. Matulka, he won more than 80 percent of the vote.

What gets conspiracy theorists excited is not just Mr. Hagel's prodigious wins, but his job before jumping into the 1996 race: heading American Information Systems, the manufacturer of the machines that count 85 percent of Nebraska's votes. [...]

A healthy democracy must avoid even the appearance of corruption. The Georgia and Nebraska elections fail this test. Once voting software is certified, it should not be changed — not eight times, not once. A backup voting method should be available, so if electronic machines fail or are compromised shortly before an election, they can be dropped. [...]

When John Kerry's Courage Went M.I.A.

by Sydney H. Schanberg
Village Voice

Senator John Kerry, a decorated battle veteran, was courageous as a navy lieutenant in the Vietnam War. But he was not so courageous more than two decades later, when he covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisoners—perhaps hundreds—were never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.

The Massachusetts senator, now seeking the presidency, carried out this subterfuge a little over a decade ago— shredding documents, suppressing testimony, and sanitizing the committee's final report—when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs. [...]

Comment: Once again, we see that we are given state-sanctioned choices that are not real choices.

Kerry lays out plan on terror

Assailing Bush's efforts, he calls for more troops and police officers

The Massachusetts Democrat said he would add 40,000 military personnel and 200,000 police and firefighters to America's ranks. Schmitt of the Bush campaign replied that the president had demonstrated "an unprecedented commitment to homeland security," noting that local security funding had tripled since 2001. [...]

Comment: Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green party, Americans for Christ - it matters not. There may be those with genuinely honest intentions to "make the world a better place" but they are doomed to failure. This world belongs to the psychopath and those that will stop at nothing to feed their insatiable lust for power and wealth. We cannot stop them, it is better to leave them to it. To interact with them is to engage in the deadly dance, which we are sure to loose.

For those of us that wonder if there might be another option - we believe that there may be one, but we ourselves must create it. To do this, we must "state" clearly that we will no longer contribute to the entropic decline of this world. We make this statement by Doing.

We feed the decline and ultimate destruction of our world by believing in illusion, in that which is not real. At every opportunity we must strive to see and accept the truth, that which IS. This involves accepting the true reality and nature of our world, and accepting that we cannot change it, we cannot "make it a better place". When we understand the truth of reality and act upon that awareness, we then "state" our intentions through our actions. This can only be done by Doing. No amount of sitting and wishing for "jesus" or "space brothers" etc. to come and take you away will achieve that which you yearn for. We must take responsibility for our own ability to DO. We gain will to DO through acquiring objective knowledge about ourselves and our reality.

How Britain and the US keep watch on the world

Its computers - measured in acres occupied by them rather than simple figures - "vacuum the entire electromagnetic spectrum", homing in on "key words" which may suggest something of interest to NSA customers is being conveyed. The NSA costs at least $3.5bn (£1.9bn) a year to run. It employs at least 20,000 officers (not counting the 100,000 servicemen and civilians around the world over whom it has control). Its shredders process 40 tons of paper a day. Its junior partner is Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the eavesdropping organisation for which Katharine Gun worked. Like NSA, GCHQ is a highly secret operation.

Comment: To our readers who claim there are no conspiracy theories. Please write to the UK independent and tell them that the above story is pure nonsense and that they should know better than to publish such examples of wild paranoia. Having done this, simply retreat back into your illusory world of make believe and continue to exert the extreme efforts required to shut out reality.

Earth At Risk: New Calls For Planetary Defense

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

GARDEN GROVE, California – It is past time to get serious about planetary defense, experts say. The threat of Earth being on the receiving end of a cosmic calling card in the form of an asteroid or comet is real.

Despite increasing scientific agreement regarding the danger posed by near-Earth objects smashing into our planet, governmental steps to deal with the issue are missing-in-action. At present, only patchwork and under-funded research efforts are underway to robustly detect, track, catalog and plot out strategies to thwart menacing asteroids and comets that place Earth at risk.

First Strike or Asteroid Impact? The Urgent Need to Know the Difference An international confab of experts is taking part in The Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids here this week and sponsored by The Aerospace Corporation and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The four-days of discussion were kicked off by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of the House Science Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee

Rohrabacher noted that it took the attacks of Sept. 11 for the country to focus on global terrorism. "I hope that it won’t take that type of catastrophe for us to start paying attention to the threats of near-Earth objects," he said.

The lawmaker said the political reaction to the worries over space rocks has garnered "a very tepid response" to date, noting that money spent so far on the issue has been "a pittance."

President George W. Bush’s new visionary blueprint for NASA – including a human return to the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars – was saluted by Rohrabacher. That plan, he added, can also support planetary defense objectives.

"The Moon could well be a base of operations that we could use as a means to defend this planet in a timely way, and a more effective way, against near Earth objects," Rohrabacher explained.

Taking a "let’s get going," roll-up-your sleeves attitude, Rohrabacher said there is need to start now in readying the technologies necessary to deflect an Earth-threatening object. "What we need to do is build from right here…this moment. The people in this room can save the planet."

Warning time

There is no question that an asteroid has Earth’s name on it, astronomers agree. But where the rock is and when that impact is going to occur is unknown, said David Morrison of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the space agency’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.

NASA now supports -- in collaboration with the United States Air Force -- the Spaceguard Survey and its goal of discovering and tracking 90 percent of the Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) with a diameter greater than about one-half mile (1 kilometer) by 2008. If one of these big bruisers were to strike our planet, it would spark catastrophic global effects that would include severe regional devastation and global climate change.

By charting the whereabouts of these celestial objects, it is anticipated that decades of warning time is likely if one of the large-sized space boulders was found to be on a heading that intersects Earth.

But a uniform message from the experts attending this week’s planetary defense gathering is extending the survey to spot smaller objects, down to some 500 feet (150 meters) in diameter. These asteroids can wreak havoc too, but on a more localized scale.

For instance, if one of these smaller asteroids were to strike along the California coast, millions of people might be killed, Morrison said. A little further to the east, he added, "a nice crater out in the desert" would become a tourist attraction.

In identifying ways to deal with hazardous asteroids, a first order of business is gaining a better understanding of the enemy. That is, are they fluffy stuff, constituting a rubble pile, or are they tough-as-nails slabs of iron? Along with these physical properties, astronomers want to know more about their overall shape, rotation rate, and whether an object might play host to a smaller companion body.

Developing a robust deflection scheme so an asteroid doesn’t hit Earth means taking into account these factors and a host of other issues, said Don Yeomans, a leading asteroid and comet scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Developing a viable mitigation campaign, Yeomans explained, demands three prerequisites: "You need to find them early. You need to find them early. And we need to find them early."


Now being discussed is a way to flex, test, and calibrate present day computer and hardware tools to first detect and then keep a trained eye on a potential Earth impactor.

There are currently three Earth-impactors en route. But don’t worry. It’s all friendly fire.

NASA’s Genesis spacecraft is headed this way in September of this year. So too is the Stardust spacecraft in January 2006, as will be a Japanese asteroid sample mission in June 2007. All three are designed to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and touch down on terra firma, each carrying a precious cargo of scooped-up specimens.

"So we do have current impactors coming back," Yeomans said. While still in the preliminary discussion stage, the idea is to use these incoming spacecraft to shake out coordinated observations, sharpen orbit calculation skills, and help fine-tune procedures now in place for detecting and tracking asteroids and comets, he told .

Yeomans said about 40 objects at least 3 feet (1 meter) in size enter the Earth’s atmosphere every year. Some of these incoming objects have been observed by space-based infrared and visible sensors and other ground-based detection devices operated by the U.S. military and other government agencies, he said.

"They have indeed made many of these observations available to scientific investigators," Yeomans said. "It would be nicer to get these things [the data] a little more quickly than 3-4 months down the road,’ he added, with near-simultaneous flow of information about such events seen as ideal.

Largest meteorite fall

Space and ground sensors proved useful last year in studying a major meteor explosion in Earth’s atmosphere. The event also brought home the point of how a natural event can take on the guise of a human-made terrorist act.

Dee Pack, Director of The Aerospace Corporation’s Remote Sensing Department, detailed a large-scale meteorite fall that occurred over Park Forest, Illinois on March 27, 2003.

"This is the largest meteorite fall over a densely populated area in modern history," Pack and a team of fellow specialists reported at the meeting. The initial mass of the object is now estimated to be nearly 8 tons.

The explosion took place at nearly midnight local time. Fragments of the airbursting meteorite cut through several roofs. The explosive disintegration of the object lit up the night sky to daylight levels. Sonic booms were heard over a wide area. Numbers of meteorites resulting from the event were recovered, later classified as bits of a stony space rock.

Making it all the more jittery for those folks in the fall zone, the object exploded during Operation Iraqi Freedom, with many witnesses worried this natural event was some kind of massive explosion or nuclear event.

Pack and his colleagues contend: "These large meteors, or superbolides, are of concern to the Department of Defense due to their ability to mimic nuclear events." This type of extraordinary Earth-crossing object serves to train global observers to better recognize and characterize these naturally occurring huge explosive events.

Who do you call?

A clear and present danger for those studying planetary defense is the lack of any chain-of-command to take on the duties of dealing with the prospect of disruptive collisions from asteroids and comets.

This "who do you call?" factor deserves immediate attention, said Michael Belton of Belton Space Exploration Initiatives in Tucson, Arizona.

Belton detailed the findings of a NASA-sponsored 2002 workshop. It brought together over 75 top scientists, engineers and military experts from the United States, Europe, and Japan to review the science behind mitigating hazardous comets and asteroids.

A central finding: There is lack of any assigned responsibility to any national or international governmental organization to prepare for a disruptive collision. There is absence of any authority to act in preparation for some future collision-mitigation attempt, Belton said.

The 2002 workshop did recommend that NASA be assigned the duty to advance work in beefing up the science and ability to respond to an imminent collision with an asteroid or comet nucleus. Furthermore, the now-in progress Spaceguard Survey should be extended to scope out possible impactors down to 655 feet (200 meters) in size.

In addition, Belton said that there is need for the Defense Department to more rapidly communicate surveillance data on natural airbursts. And lastly, there’s need for governmental policy makers to formulate a chain of responsibility for action in the event a threat to the Earth becomes known.

"In other words…there isn’t anybody to call. There is nobody there. And there’s nobody with authority…nobody with any resources," Belton said. "And we need to correct that.

UPDATE: February 25, 2004 Fireball

This bright meteor was widely seen at 6:31 PM MST by residents of Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. Over 550 witness reports were received in the first 24 hours. The fireball was captured on six cameras of the DMNS allsky network, allowing excellent identification of its path. [...]

Two Naked-Eye Comets At Once

A naked-eye comet - one visible to the unaided eye without telescope or binoculars - is an enjoyable sight, particularly for the brighter comets. On average, a naked-eye comet graces our skies about once every two years.

However, most remain fairly faint or appear close to the Sun as seen from Earth, such that even experienced observers may require binoculars to spot them. Only rarely do two relatively bright naked-eye comets appear simultaneously. Such an event will take place in April and May of 2004, when skygazers will feast their eyes upon both Comets.[...]

Scientists are interested in comets for a number of reasons. "Comets are thought to have formed in the outer reaches of the solar system, and may thus contain rock and ices that date back billions of years. Also, comet tails are indicators of the solar wind and have helped us learn about the inner solar system. And not least, comets are known to hit planets from time to time, including Earth, so we need to keep an eye out for potential impactors," said Green. [...]

"Comets do a lot of things that are unpredictable," said Green. [...]

As June opens, both comets will fade as they speed ever farther from both the Sun and the Earth. Yet if current predictions hold, the brief but enjoyable appearances of Comet NEAT and Comet LINEAR will be remembered for years to come!

Thawing Subarctic Permafrost Increases Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The permafrost in the bogs of subarctic Sweden is undergoing dramatic changes. The part of the soil that thaws in the summer, the so-called active layer, has become thicker since 1970, and the permafrost has disappeared altogether in some locations.

This has lead to significant changes in vegetation and to a subsequent increase in emission of the greenhouse gas methane. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. [...]

Methane is released from the breakdown of plant material under wet soil conditions. The disappearance of permafrost and subsequent wetter soil conditions have lead to the observed increases in methane emissions.

"At a particular mire, Stordalen, we have been able to estimate an increase in methane emissions of at least 20 percent, but maybe as much as 60 percent, from 1970 to 2000," says the lead researcher, Torben R. Christensen of Lund University's GeoBiosphere Science Centre.

Despite methane being an important greenhouse gas, it is often forgotten in discussions of the greenhouse effect, the scientists say. Methane is released from rice agriculture and meat production, but the largest single source of methane is the natural wetlands.

If what is seen in subarctic Sweden is representative of the circumpolar North, this could mean an acceleration in the rate of predicted climate warming, they say. [...]

"One might imagine the cold subarctic ecosystems as very static, but in areas where the mean annual temperature is around zero [Celsius; 32 degrees Fahrenheit], the ecosystems may be extremely sensitive. The ecosystems are dynamic and their response to climate change is very rapid. This we have seen clearly here in Abisko," says Christensen.

Strong Quake Shakes Southern Greece

Monday March 1, 2004 2:31 AM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - A strong earthquake shook southern Greece early Monday and authorities said there were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage.

The Thessaloniki Seismological Institute said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 and occurred at 2:35 a.m. Giorgos Vargiemezis, an institute geophysicist, said the epicenter was just outside the southern Greek city of Kalamata, about 150 miles southwest of Athens.

Police in Kalamata said many people rushed into the streets, but that there were no reports of injuries or damage beyond cracks in some older buildings.

Quake shakes Wagga Wagga

February 29, 2004

A MINOR earthquake was reported overnight at Wagga Wagga in southern NSW.

Police said there were no reports of damage or injury from the quake, which measured 3.3 on the Richter scale. [...]

Cyclone Monty expected 'in hour'

March 01, 2004

A CYCLONE edging closer to the Western Australia coast was expected to hit the town of Mardie by 9pm tonight local time (midnight AEDT), the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said.

The latest BOM warning said category three tropical cyclone Monty was just 20km west-north-west of Mardie and 80km north-east of Pannawonica and was moving south-east at 10kph.

BOM has placed communities on Barrow Island, Mardie, Onslow, Fortescue Roadhouse, Pannawonica and Nanutarra on red alert.

Roebourne, Wickham and Karratha residents have also been warned to take shelter as destructive wind gusts up to 210kph (130mph) were expected this evening [...]

Mars: A Water World? Evidence Mounts, But Scientists Remain Tight-Lipped

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
29 February 2004

PASADENA, California -- Evidence that suggests Mars was once a water-rich world is mounting as scientists scrutinize data from the Mars Exploration rover, Opportunity, busily at work in a small crater at Meridiani Planum. That information may well be leading to a biological bombshell of a finding that the red planet has been, and could well be now, an extraterrestrial home for life.

There is a palpable buzz here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California that something wonderful is about to happen in the exploration of Mars.

There is no doubt that the Opportunity Mars rover is relaying a mother lode of geological data. Using an array of tools carried by the golf cart-sized robot -- from spectrometers, a rock grinder, cameras and powerful microscopic imager -- scientists are carefully piecing together a compelling historical portrait of a wet and wild world.

Where Opportunity now roves, some scientists here suggest, could have been underneath a huge ocean or lake. But what has truly been uncovered by the robot at Meridiani Planum is under judicious and tight-lipped review.

Those findings and their implications are headed for a major press conference, rumored to occur early next week -- but given unanimity among rover scientists and agreement on how and who should unveil the dramatic findings. Turns out, even on Mars, a political and ego outcrop hangs over science.

Comment: We suspect that "revelations" will soon be made about the existence of life on Mars, however diminutive. The goal of these "revelations" will be acclimitise the public to the idea that we are not, in fact, alone.

Week of real hatred

News film critic Jami Bernard suffers backlash to 'Passion' review

In 18 years as a professional movie critic, I've never gotten the response that I had this week to my one-star review of "The Passion of the Christ."

I knew the reaction would be hostile - movie critics routinely get hate mail, even one time for a review of "Bambi."

But, as they would say in an action movie of the kind Mel Gibson formerly made, this time, it's personal.

My review ran a day before Gibson's controversial movie opened.

Most of the hundreds of people who wrote in didn't wait to see the movie for themselves before giving me a piece of their mind.

They assumed the movie must be good, either because they believed Gibson's hype or because they confused the value of the movie with the importance of the subject, the last 12 hours of Christ's life.

Many of these E-mails were nasty and unprintable.

Some attacked me personally, dismissing my looks and assuming that if I didn't like the movie, I must be Jewish, thus betraying their own prejudices.

Just as religious leaders of all stripes have feared, the movie has become a lightning rod for the anti-Semitic undercurrent that runs through society - many of the letters I received dragged out old canards about Jews running Hollywood, the media, and having too much money.

A few of them referred to my weight, because I've been chronicling my effort to shed pounds in another section of the newspaper. "Eat a donut!" read the printable part of one missive.

Other critics who reviewed "The Passion" received similar hate mail, although Gene Seymour of Newsday told me he has yet to be called a "ho."

We traded tales of the worst responses, also noting the surreal nature of our jobs, wherein we followed up "The Passion of the Christ" with a screening of "Dirty Dancing 2."

There were also many polite, thoughtful responses.

This feedback provided a clear indication that "The Passion" is attracting two kinds of ticket-buyers — true Christians who look to the movie as a spiritual experience, and nut cases who need little excuse to spill their bile.

What interests me as a movie critic is the profusion of people who do not understand or care how to evaluate a movie.

They don't see how film images are juxtaposed to create a desired emotion, that what is left out of a screenplay can be as important as what is kept in, and how constantly and subliminally manipulative a medium this is. They cannot see through filmmaking's beautiful deceptions.

There is a famous Magritte painting of a smoker's pipe, under which are the words (in French): This is not a pipe. In other words, the representation of an object should not be confused with the object itself.

Many people mistake a movie for the actual subject, and likewise mistake movie reviews for comments on historical events.
According to this twisted logic, if I take issue with Gibson as a filmmaker, then I must be anti-Christian. If anything, I am anti-bad filmmaking.

My main objection to "The Passion" is that Gibson has used the tools at his disposal to disguise sadism as piety. My tools, meanwhile, are words.

But it takes more words than there is commonly room for in a newspaper to encompass all the fine print. Otherwise, I would have cited Soviet theories of montage to explain how Gibson turned that despicable historical figure Pontius Pilate into a sympathetic character and the Jews into an undifferentiated, bloodthirsty mob.

Due to space limitations, film reviews are like compressed files. Not all readers are able to "unstuff" them.

What really hurt this week is the realization that we don't all speak a common language, even when we seem to use the same words.

Red-State Deicide

Crucifixion as bloodbath, Christ as action hero.

Matt Zoller Seitz
New York Press

[...] Gibson will certainly argue that anti-Semitism is in the mind of the beholder—that it’s lunacy to suggest that just because a few Jews gave up Christ to the Romans, then it logically follows that all Jews are collectively responsible for Christ’s death. Such an argument would make about as much sense as insisting that African-Americans bear collective responsibility for the murder of Malcolm X, or that Muslims should collectively be blamed for 9/11.

But images have a way of making their own argument, and whatever Gibson’s intentions, The Passion is a powderkeg of anti-Semitic imagery. Gibson insists that all humankind was responsible for Jesus’ death, but the movie implies that some humans were more responsible than others. ("It is he who delivered me to you who has the greater sin," Jesus tells Pilate; if the words of Jesus don’t represent the director’s viewpoint, I don’t know what does.) I hope the film’s juxtaposition of dusky-skinned, hook-nosed Pharisees and images of a bloodied Jesus nailed up on a cross won’t make bigots feel validated, much less empowered. If the worst happens, Gibson shouldn’t be held personally responsible, any more than Martin Scorsese should be held personally responsible for presidential assassin John Hinckley’s Taxi Driver obsession. That said, it’s always preferable to be on the side of the angels. Accidentally or on purpose, Gibson makes you wonder what side he’s on. [...]

However one chooses to praise or condemn this film, one should first concede that it did not come from a corporate memo; it sprang from one filmmaker’s lifelong personal obsession, and from a schizoid Western culture that shaped the filmmaker’s personality. If there is such a thing as collective responsibility, perhaps America and her film industry bear it for having helped produce Mel Gibson and all that he represents. God help us.

Man dressed as the devil disrupts ‘Passion’ movie

By Bill Dinkel
THG News

Indiania - Moviegoers at Stadium 16 Theater in Evansville attending a showing of “Passion of the Christ” got more than they bargained for Saturday night.

They were greeted in the lobby of the theater by a man wearing a ‘red devil’ costume.  Tyler Wendell, a 19 year old freshman at the University of Southern Indiana , caused quite a ruckus with his get-up.  The audience, many who were part of church groups, was visibly upset by the antics of Wendell. ”I always like to push the limits,” Wendell said.  Many were upset that Wendell chose to wear a devil costume to a religious movie.  Many patrons jeered Wendell as he stood in line for concessions. 

Once inside the movie, Christians began pelting Wendell with Gummy Bears, Ju-Ju Bees, and popcorn.  Management got involved after a 75-year-old woman, Hazel Meyer, poured a 64-ounce Coca-Cola on Wendell. [...]

Kerasotes’ management is in the process of creating new guidelines for preventing people dressed as “evil beings” from gaining entrance to the theatre.

As of this writing, Evansville police were investigating the incident.

Comment: No dressing as Donald Rumsfeld when attending the theater in Evansville, err, these good Christians probably would have cheered Rumsfeld being equally disruptive.

Creator of film's score 'battled with Satan'

Musician: 'He was in my room a lot' during movie production

Woman Dies During Showing of "The Passion Of The Christ"

Theater's 'Passion' tickets start with 666

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ROME -- "The Passion of the Christ" and the devil have been inextricably joined in this rural town in northwest Georgia.

"The Passion" is showing at the Movies at Berry Square at Mount Berry Square Mall, and the machine that prints the tickets assigned the number 666, the biblical mark of the beast, as a prefix to all the tickets for the film.

The fact that triple-six and "The Passion" have been joined is purely luck of the draw, says Gary Smith, who owns the theater complex.

"It's from our computer and it's absolutely a coincidence," Smith said. "It has nothing to do with the film company or any vendor. It's completely in our computer. Several people have commented on it, but only one made a stink about it."[...]

"We're sold out for church groups for almost three weeks," he said.

Devout flock to weeping Virgin icon

Montreal - St. Laurent building manager discovers portrait of Mary that sheds drops of oil [...]

"It's a miracle, and many people have seen it," Mehdi said yesterday as he allowed the devout, drawn by word of mouth, into his ground-floor apartment. [...]

Row over minister's papal jibe

Reuters in Rome
Monday March 1, 2004
The Guardian

Leaders across Italy's political spectrum attacked the reforms minister, Umberto Bossi, yesterday after he ridiculed the Pope and criticised "thieving" cardinals.

After the Polish-born pontiff improvised a message in Roman dialect to visiting priests, Mr Bossi - leader of the federalist Northern League party - said he was sending the pontiff three dictionaries of northern Italian dialects so he could speak something other than Polish and Roman.

He also said priests should "go barefoot again" and referred to "thieving monsignors and cardinals".

MI5 recruitment: Terror attacks bring new age for spooks

The agency wants 1,000 more but few of the applicants will be up to the job

The application process is designed to deter thrill-seekers, and the negatives of life as a spy are emphasised: men over 5ft 11ins tall need not apply; they are too conspicuous, and the same goes for women over 5ft 8ins; there is little prospect of promotion: watching an unmoving target for hours on end can be extremely dull. But sources familiar with the recruitment needs of MI5 and MI6 say the life of a spy has become more exciting since the beginning of the war on terrorism.

Interrogation skills have also become vital. The source says: "Suspects need to be picked up fast and pumped for information. This business is all about exploiting human weakness. It is about cultivating friends in order to manipulate them. Modern agents are people who have the charisma to persuade people to do things that may be against their natural instincts."

Police to launch "anti-terror" vehicles (AUS)

Police will this week launch two specially equipped anti-terror vehicles to patrol Melbourne 24 hours a day. The units, known as critical incident vehicles, will each be staffed with a team of four, including trained hostage-and-siege negotiators. The units will be equipped with a range of non-lethal weapons not available to regular police patrols - including long-range capsicum foam, riot batons, gas masks and protective shields.

They will also have high-powered firearms and hand-held metal detectors. Police say the critical incidents vehicles will also respond to sieges, violent psychiatric cases, hostage situations and crowd violence. Police also expect the units to be equipped with electric Taser stun-guns if special operations group trials with the weapons are successful. The SOG has successfully used the 50,000-volt Taser guns twice to disable armed offenders since the trials began two months ago.

Comment: While the above report is from Australia, the same measures have been implemented in the US. When was the last time anyone saw crowds of "terrorists" on our streets? The above measures are obviously being taken to deal with a "civilian threat, crowds of civilians. No one that is reading the "Signs" can claim that they were not forewarned.

Uzbek dictator – Washington's reliable partner

Uzbekistan will allow the United States to keep military forces here as long as needed for operations in Afghanistan, and would consider a permanent US outpost if Washington wanted one, the Uzbek foreign minister Sadyk Safayev said in an interview Saturday.

Speaking before the visit of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday, Sadyk Safayev also told The Associated Press that Uzbekistan is improving its much-criticized human rights record. He said two people convicted in recent high-profile cases likely would receive amnesty soon.

One of the 'amnestied convicts' imprisoned by an Uzbek court is... a 63-year-old mother of a prisoner who was was tortured to death in Karimov's prison. Fatima Mukadirova, a retiree and a mother of 5, was convicted of anti-constitutional activity and possessing banned leaflets, but her family and activists claim the case was motivated by her efforts to draw attention to her son.

Mrs. Mukadirova's oldest son Muzaffar Avazov, b. 1967, a father of 5 minor children, was arrested in 2000 and charged with the following crimes:

-Article 156 of the Criminal Code: hate crimes - «provoking ethnic, racial or religious hatred»,

-Article 159, «Encroachments on the Constitutional System of the Republic of Uzbekistan»,

-Article 216, «Illegal organization of social unions or religious organizations»,

-Article 242, «Organization of a criminal community»,

-Article 244.1, «Production or spreading of materials containing threat to public safety and social order»,

-Article 244.2, «Creation, leadership and participation in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organizations».

According to Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Mr. Avazov was sentenced by Tashkent City Court to 20 years in confinement. He has been serving his prison term in KIN 64/71 penitentiary in the town of Jaslik, Karakalpakstan (autonomous republic in Uzbekistan).

On August 8, 2002, the coffin with the dead body of Muzaffar Avazov was delivered to his family. The body had multiple wounds from tortures, and most of the body was covered with burns. Muzaffar Avazov, 35, and his cellmate Husnuddin Alimov died after tortures when boiling water was being poured on them. The eyewitnesses reported that 60-70% of Mr. Avazov's body was covered with burns. Besides, he had a big wound in the back of his head and bruises on his forehead. His fingernails were ripped out.

Mrs. F. Mukadirova's youngest son, Mirzakarim Avazov, b. 1972, a father of one child, was arrested in 2000 and charged with crimes described in Articles 159, 244.1 and 244,2 of Criminal Code of Republic of Uzbekistan. He was sentenced to 16 years in high security penitentiary by Tashkent City Court and is now serving his time in KIN 64/18 Sangorod penitentiary, city of Tashkent.

The examination showed that Mrs. Mukadirova's youngest son was killed by boiling water being poured on him.

...Rumsfeld's visit to Uzbekistan will be his third visit here in two years, where he will meet with Tashkent dictator Islam Karimov before heading for neighboring Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry said Saturday. The US has been reiterating about its partnership relations with the Tashkent dictator and defining Uzbekistan as a key staging point for fighting against so-called 'international terrorism'.

At the same time Washington declares similar regimes in the Middle East and in some Islamic countries as being intolerant, and attacks them in order to establish 'freedom and democracy'.

This former Soviet republic went from a largely forgotten backwater to a prominent place in the war on terror after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. A US base in the southern town of Khanabad became a key staging point for American operations in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of US troops remain stationed there, and the two countries signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2002. [...]

Comment: Birds of a feather...

'Blair Slept Rough as Homeless Drop-Out'

By Jamie Lyons, Political Correspondent, PA News

Tony Blair slept rough on a park bench as a homeless drop-out, it was reported tonight.

The future Prime Minister was reportedly forced to sleep on the streets of London as he chased his failed dream of becoming a teenage rock star.

Mr Blair’s wife Cherie revealed the incredible story to guests at a Downing Street reception for homeless charity Centrepoint this week, according to the Sunday Mirror.

One guest told the paper Mrs Blair was telling guests about the work of the charity when she appeared to break away from the prepared text of her speech to tell them about Mr Blair’s experience when he first came to London as a teenager before going to Oxford University.

“She said the charity was very close to Tony’s heart because he was forced to sleep rough on a park bench when he first came to London.

“We just couldn’t believe what we were hearing. Can you imagine that the Prime Minister used to sleep rough on a bench?

“I don’t think anyone in that room at Downing Street could.”

Mrs Blair reportedly told guests her future husband was forced on to the streets near London’s Euston station during his gap-year in 1971-72.

The story comes after 15 people were arrested on the first night of 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.

It is reminiscent of Mr Blair’s claim that as a 14-year-old he tried to smuggle himself aboard a flight from Newcastle to the Bahamas. His father Leo later rubbished the tale and it emerged there were no such flights from that airport.

Comment: Ah, the psychopath. More and more we see their hand at work, even at the highest leves of Western governmenst. A little lie here, a bigger lie there. Devoid as they are of any ability to feel real human emotion, it means nothing to the psychopath that his lies result in death and suffering for thousands. Fixated exclusively on the self, with the relentlessness of an automaton, they pursue their warped and twisted goals to the detriment of all.

Columbine enigmas

State report raises more questions than it answers

By Kevin Vaughan
Rocky Mountain News

A state report designed to answer lingering Columbine questions has, instead, sparked a host of new ones.

And many of them are centered on the same general theme: In the aftermath of the Columbine attack, did Jefferson County law enforcement officials take steps to obscure the truth about their dealings with killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold before their April 20, 1999, school attack? [...]

Another driver says car possibly shot at on I-580

California - A sixth motorist came forward Saturday claiming a vehicle may have been hit by gunfire while driving on Interstate 580 on Monday, authorities said. [...]

Tajik policemen die in duel

Monday March 1, 02:04 PM

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Two policemen have died from gunshot wounds after what appears to have been an old-fashioned duel in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, police say.

The pair were guarding the mayor's office late on Sunday when they fired at each other. A police official said the motive for the duel was unclear.

"As a result of a pistol duel, the two died in a hospital from their wounds," the police official told Reuters. He said the two were non-commissioned officers, aged 29 and 33.

Duels were a popular way of settling disputes and matters of honour amongst the nobility in Tsarist Russia and claimed the lives of writers Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov, but are almost unheard-of in former Soviet Tajikistan.

Man escapes horrific ordeal

Port Elizabeth - A Port Elizabeth man is recovering from a horrific ordeal in which he was forced to watch a woman being repeatedly raped and, severely injured after being stoned and stabbed. He had to crawl through salt pans to seek help, Eastern Cape police said.

The man, Salvadore Bambi, in his 20s, was sitting in a vehicle with a 22-year-old woman outside the Cleary Park shopping centre in Gelvandale on Friday night when two men with knives got into their car, Superintendent Johann van Greunen said on Monday. [...]

"Suck it up" dying boy told by jailers

A supervisor at a juvenile jail told a dying teen to "suck it up" as the boy retched, wept and moaned from stomach pain, The Miami Herald reported Friday. Some guards tried to get help for 17-year-old Omar Paisley before he died of a burst appendix last June, but their supervisors and jail nurses believed he was faking or exaggerating, according to evidence acquired by the newspaper. [...]

Witness tells of alleged murder by 'friends'

She knew they were Hard Livings gangsters, but she never believed the four men, accused of raping and stabbing her 15-year-old friend 215 times, were capable of murder.

This was the testimony that the now 14-year-old girl - she had just turned 13 when she saw Edwina Booysen alive for the last time - gave before the Cape High Court last week.

Addressing the court via closed-circuit television at the Parow magistrate's court, the teenager testified that Elvis du Toit, one of the men facing life in prison for Edwina's rape and murder, was the Atlantis schoolgirl's "boyfriend".

Du Toit and his brother Samuel, Wilhelm Pieterse and alleged 28s gang member Steven Delport were aged between 16 and 21 when they allegedly raped and killed Edwina and buried her in a shallow grave on an Atlantis field in 2002.

The state claims that, on July 2, 2002, the accused told certain unnamed parties "die nommer is vol" (the order had been completed) and that Edwina had been buried.

All four men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

"I didn't think they would hurt us. They were our friends," the 14-year-old girl said last week.[...]

The girl testified that she and Edwina had met Elvis and Samuel du Toit at a shopping centre and had used some of the R100 Edwina had been given by a man named "Pietie" to buy alcohol.

The two girls then went with the brothers, who had been joined by Pieterse, Delport and several other men, to their shack.

Elvis du Toit then made a "white pipe" - Mandrax and dagga - and told everyone in the shack that they would be killed if they did not take a drag, the girl said. In between drags, each person in the shack had to drink a glass of wine, she added.

According to the girl, Edwina became ill and vomited from the combined effect of the drugs and alcohol.

At some point in the afternoon, the girl said Elvis du Toit told her that she should accompany him out of the shack, because he had "something to tell her". He then pushed her over the brick wall behind the shack and jumped over it as well.[...]

Trial of SA's youngest murder suspect adjourned

The trial of the country's youngest murder suspect has been adjourned to March 12. The 12-year-old girl stands accused of master-minding the brutal murder of her grandmother in September 2002. The trial had been scheduled to begin in the Pietermaritzburg High Court this morning.

Uganda to exhume massacre victims for reburial

The Ugandan government plans to exhume the victims of the country's worst massacre by rebels in years to give them a proper funeral and establish an exact death toll for the attack.

The exact number of people killed in the February 21 raid has provoked controversy in the east African country, with local officials saying more than 230 people perished compared to a government figure of 84 dead. The latest killings by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, who force hundreds of brainwashed children to fight for them, provoked outrage in northern Uganda at the government's failure to protect civilians from attacks by the 17-year-old movement.[...]

Comment: Sometimes news of the seemingly senseless slaughter related in stories like the one above can be difficult to process. This is more likely to be the case when one is lacking the information to understand some of the reasons for such brutal human interaction. The DR Congo is just one case in point. The article below sheds some light on the modern roots of the limb-chopping and psychic mutilation that has become synonymous with this West African region.

King Leopold's legacy of DR Congo violence

Of the Europeans who scrambled for control of Africa in the 19th century, Belgium's King Leopold ll left arguably the largest and most horrid legacy of all.

While the Great Powers competed for territory elsewhere, the king of one of Europe's smallest countries carved his own private colony out of 100km2 of Central African rainforest.

He claimed he was doing it to protect the "natives" from Arab slavers, and to open the heart of Africa to Christian missionaries, and Western capitalists.

Instead, as the makers of BBC Four documentary White King, Red Rubber, Black Death powerfully argue, the king unleashed new horrors on the African continent.

Torment and rape

He turned his "Congo Free State" into a massive labour camp, made a fortune for himself from the harvest of its wild rubber, and contributed in a large way to the death of perhaps 10 million innocent people.

What is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo has clearly never recovered.

"Legalized robbery enforced by violence", as Leopold's reign was described at the time, has remained, more or less, the template by which Congo's rulers have governed ever since.

Meanwhile Congo's soldiers have never moved away from the role allocated to them by Leopold - as a force to coerce, torment and rape an unarmed civilian population.[...]

Trial Opens in Belgian Girls' Slaying

ARLON, Belgium - Belgium's public enemy Number One and three co-defendants went on trial Monday for kidnapping, abusing and killing young girls in a mid-1990s crime spree that shocked the country — as much for the inept police work as for the depravity of the acts.

The jury trial of Marc Dutroux, 47, his ex-wife and two other defendants opened with the selection of a 12-member jury amid tight security and intense attention from Belgian and foreign media. The trial will likely run until mid-May.

In a letter to the VTM television network on the trial's eve, Dutroux said he was part of a criminal network with tentacles in Belgian law enforcement. [...]

Dutroux' trial focuses on six girls, two of them only eight years old, who were randomly kidnapped and abused in a cell behind a custom-built door in a cellar in one of Dutroux's homes.

Four died and two were rescued in a case that showed how shoddy police let a convicted child rapist operate unchecked. A parliamentary probe found that rival police units hindered the search for Dutroux.

Investigating magistrates have bickered over whether he was a loner or part of a pedophilia network. One magistrate was even removed for showing bias when he attended a benefit event for the victims' families.[...]

Anthrax jabs blamed for baby deaths

Soldiers who served in Iraq and their partners have expressed fears for the health of their unborn babies after other parents blamed anthrax vaccinations for a cluster of infant deaths.

The death toll of babies born in the small unit at 33 Field Hospital in Gosport, Hampshire, has provoked calls for a public inquiry into the Government's vaccination programme.

Since the war in Iraq last year, pregnancies at the base have ended in two miscarriages, three premature births, one still-birth and a forced termination.

In each of the seven cases, at least one of the parents had received the anthrax vaccination.[...]

MoD faces legal claim over Red Cap deaths

The families of six Royal Military Policemen killed by a mob in Iraq are reportedly ready to take legal action against the Ministry of Defence.

The relatives were said to be ready to sue the MoD for corporate manslaughter, claiming the deaths of the Red Caps were due to a series of avoidable Army blunders.

Tony Hamilton-Jewell, whose 41-year-old brother Simon died in the attack, told the Daily Mirror that every other route had failed and that going to court was the families' "last resort to get the truth out of the MoD".[...]

Report clears Australia on Iraq claims

CANBERRA, Australia - A parliamentary report Monday broadly cleared the Australian government of exaggerating the threat of Iraq's prewar weapons programs, saying Canberra was "more moderate" than coalition partners Britain and the United States.

"The committee found that the presentation by the Australian government was more moderate and more measured than that of its alliance partners," said David Jull, chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

Jull is a lawmaker with Prime Minister John Howard's government, and his committee is made up of five government lawmakers and three from the opposition Labor Party.

The report did point out that ministers sometimes did not mention caution expressed by intelligence agencies about the size of Iraq's arsenal and the speed with which it could be deployed. [...]

EU Imposes Sanctions on US Goods

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union (news - web sites) on Monday started imposing millions of dollars in sanctions on American goods but said it would stop the measure immediately if the U.S. Congress repeals its export tax break legislation.

The U.S. legislation was ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization (news - web sites) two years ago and it authorized the EU to impose sanctions last year.

"The U.S. has not brought its legislation in line with WTO rules. We are therefore left with no choice but to impose countermeasures," EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said in a statement.

Although the WTO has authorized $4 billion in sanctions — the biggest amount ever — the EU is taking a graduated approach, hoping to pressure the U.S. Congress to change the Foreign Sales Corporation legislation while limiting the impact on European companies and consumers.[...]

Disgraced journalist blames drugs, alcohol and 'cutthroat culture' of New York Times

Jayson Blair, a disgraced New York Times journalist whose trail of fabricated stories and plagiarism led to the resignation of the newspaper's top two editors, has struck a new blow against his former employer with a tell-all book due to be published next week. In the book, Burning Down my Master's House, Mr Blair admits the long running deception of his editors and pretending to report from places he had never visited and interview people he had never spoken to.

The New York Times eventually found errors and fabrications in three dozen of his reports. "I lied and I lied, and then I lied some more," Mr Blair writes in the book, according to a copy acquired early and reviewed by the New York Times. "I lied about where I had been, I lied about where I had found information, I lied about how I wrote the story." [...]

Comment: Without doubt this is but one small example of that which is rife in the mainstream press. Given that they are bought and paid for by the US government and its agencies, is it any wonder that they simply mouth the same lies that issue from the lips of the fascists in the White House and Pentagon?

French cinemas refuse to screen The Passion

By Kim Willsher in Paris

French cinema chains are refusing to distribute or screen Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ because of fears that it will spark a new outbreak of anti-Semitism.

France is the only European country where there is still no distribution deal for the film, which depicts the last days of Jesus Christ in graphic detail and is accused by critics of stoking anti-Jewish sentiment. [...]

'Rid Africa of weapons of mass destruction'

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says his country decided to dismantle its nuclear programme to avoid the dangers it might bring and called on other African nations to also be cleared of weapons of mass destruction.

"The nuclear arms race is a crazy and destructive policy for economy and life," Gaddafi said at the closing session of the African Union summit.

It was the first time Gaddafi had publicly addressed Libya's nuclear programme since it agreed to eliminate its facilities in December.

"Libya has informed the world that it has decided to give up weapons of mass destruction," he said of the weapons programme.[...]

Cancer kills- whether you smile or frown

Sydney - All those apocryphal mind-over-matter stories about plucky patients winning their fight against cancer are just that:apocryphal.

Research in Australia shows smiling through adversity doesn't improve your chances of surviving cancer.

A smile or a frown didn't change the fate of most of 179 lung cancer patients studied at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

Only eight of them were alive at the end of the five-year study. According to Australia's ABC Radio, the Melbourne team had expected cheery patients to live longer than gloomy ones.[...]

"We should question whether it is valuable to encourage optimism if it results in the patient concealing his or her distress in the misguided belief that this will afford survival benefits," the study's author, Penelope Schofield, wrote in Cancer.

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