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Sunday , March 28, 2004

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New Article: Jupiter, Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and the Return of the Mongols - Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12

Picture of the Day

Alley in Lectoure (Gers)
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

A case for the mechanical nature of the average human being

This planet is a dangerous and hostile place. Every single human being must struggle daily (to varying degrees) just to keep body and soul (if present) together. In prehistoric times, we are told that the average "cave" person lived on a planet devoid of any industrialization or organised social structure. An average day in the life of the prehistoric human would have consisted of a struggle just to keep the physical body fed and protected. Long hours, we are told, were spent stalking and killing prey. Later the kill would have to be prepared and eaten, and clothes made of the skin, leaving little time left to do anything else. Today, despite our comparatively technologically advanced civilisation, each of us must still struggle for survival, with most people spending most of their waking hours working, essentially in order to feed and cloth themselves. For the cave person, "happiness" was a big kill, for the modern human "happiness" is securing the elusive promotion, or the even more elusive ideal partner or any number of other self serving goals. "The hunt" however, remains the unchanged dynamic.

While today we can simply stop at the nearest store to purchase clothes, or grab a burger at the nearest fast food stop, leaving us more time to diversify just what it is that we hunt, it is arguable that little has really changed in the essential dynamic of our daily lives. In fact, it could be argued that, in terms of real evolution, or that which might lead to a fundamental change in human nature, we have regressed in our evolution since the time of our "cave dwelling" ancestors. The Industrial and technological advancements we have made have simply provided us with more free time to delve deeper into the feeding and hunting dynamic, inventing more and more complex ways to satiate this basic aspect of our nature - this feeding of the idea of the self. In doing so we have progressively distanced ourselves from the possibility that we might evolve towards a new expression of "humanness". We have become "souped-up" cave people.

When we say that we are mechanical, we do not mean that we do not possess self awareness. It is clear that we do, but this faculty has merely lead us to focus solely on the self to the exclusion of all else. After all, a machine could be programmed to attempt to obtain as much as it can from a given arena. If the machine were given self awareness on top of this program, it would simply mean that it would believe that it had a "personal" investment in the fulfillment of the set of programs. As "human machines", we are no different.

The addition of self awareness into the human machine then, has simply enhanced our basic feeding nature or program, making the achievement of the goal a personal matter. Self-awareness is a key factor in ensuring that human machines are able to adapt to any outside influences that might seek to change the mechanical state, because it leads us to believe that we ourselves were the authors of the program and therefore chose it. There is no need then for "higher consciousness" in our basic program to focus on and feed the self, it is an automatic instinct, regardless of what we might think.

There may be hope however.

There may be a chance for some of us, as human machines, to awaken to the reality of our mechanically self aware state. There may exist the ability to choose more than the programs that have been installed; the ability to create new programs, that are therefore truly chosen and truly our own. In doing so we may attain to a state of true sovereign self-awareness. The key to doing so is to use the same faculty of self-awareness that has been used to run the programs and turn it in on ourselves. We must observe the programs that we run, in all their complexity, and we must be ruthless with ourselves in identifying and stopping them. It will not be done overnight, but necessitates deliberate and repeated efforts. We must realise that it will be a battle, in every sense. We must forcibly retake control of our own mind and being. It is nothing short of an an internal coup d'etat. Perhaps this was what was meant by the words attributed to Jesus when he allegedly said:

"The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force, and it is those who do violence to themselves who will hold it."

Frank Rich: Operation Iraqi Infoganda

March 28, 2004

Real journalism may be reeling, but faux journalism rocks. As an entertainment category in the cultural marketplace, it may soon rival reality TV and porn. Television is increasingly awash in fake anchors delivering fake news, some of them far more trenchant than real anchors delivering real news. Even CNBC, a financial news network, is chasing after the success of Jon Stewart; its new nightly fake newscast, presided over by a formerly funny "Saturday Night Live" fake anchor, Dennis Miller, is being promoted with far more zeal than was ever lavished on CNBC's real "News With Brian Williams."

Turn on real news shows like "Dateline NBC" and "Larry King Live," meanwhile, and you're all too likely to find Jayson Blair, the lying former reporter of The New York Times, continuing to play a reporter on TV as he fabricates earnest blather about his concern for journalistic standards. Elsewhere on the dial you'll learn that a fake news show ("The Daily Show") has been in a booking war with a real news show ("Hardball") over who would first be able to interview the real (I think) Desmond Tutu. At such absurd moments, and they are countless these days in our 24/7 information miasma, real journalism and its evil twin merge into a mind-bending mutant that would defy a polygraph's ability to sort out the lies from the truth.

This phenomenon has been good news for the Bush administration, which has responded to the growing national appetite for fictionalized news by producing a steady supply of its own. Of late it has gone so far as to field its own pair of Jayson Blairs, hired at taxpayers' expense: Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia, the "reporters" who appeared in TV "news" videos distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services to local news shows around the country. The point of these spots - which were broadcast whole or in part as actual news by more than 50 stations in 40 states - was to hype the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit as an unalloyed Godsend to elderly voters. They are part of a year-plus p.r. campaign, which, with its $124 million budget, would dwarf in size most actual news organizations.

When one real reporter, Robert Pear of The Times, blew the whistle on these TV "news" stories this month, a government spokesman defended them with pure Orwell-speak: "Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some research on modern public information tools." The government also informed us that Ms. Ryan was no impostor but an actual "freelance journalist." The Columbia Journalism Review, investigating further, found that Ms. Ryan's past assignments included serving as a TV shill for pharmaceutical companies in infomercials plugging FluMist and Excedrin. Given that drug companies may also be the principal beneficiaries of the new Medicare law, she is nothing if not consistent in her journalistic patrons. But she is a freelance reporter only in the sense that Mike Ditka would qualify as one when appearing in Levitra ads.

As for the mystery of Alberto Garcia's journalistic bonafides, it remains at this writing unresolved. His reporting career has not left a trace on any data bank. Perhaps he is the creation of Stephen Glass, the serial fantasist who once ruled the pages of The New Republic.

Back at Comedy Central, Jon Stewart was ambivalent about the government's foray into his own specialty, musing aloud about whether he should be outraged or flattered. One of his faux correspondents, though, was outright faux despondent. "They created a whole new category of fake news - infoganda," Rob Corddry said. "We'll never be able to keep up!" But Mr. Corddry's joke is not really a joke. The more real journalism declines, the easier it is for such government infoganda to fill the vacuum.

George W. Bush tries to facilitate this process by shutting out the real news media as much as possible. By the start of this year, he had held only 11 solo press conferences, as opposed to his father's count of 71 by the same point in his presidency. (Even the criminally secretive Richard Nixon had held 23.) Mr. Bush has declared that he rarely reads newspapers and that he prefers to "go over the heads of the filter" - as he calls the news media - and "speak directly to the people." To this end, he gave a series of interviews to regional broadcasters last fall - a holding action, no doubt, until Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia could be hired to fill that role. When the president made a rare exception last month and took questions from an actual front-line journalist, NBC's Tim Russert, his performance was so maladroit that the experiment is unlikely to be repeated anytime too soon.

There's no point in bothering with actual news people anyway, when you can make up your own story and make it stick, whatever the filter might have to say about it. No fake news story has become more embedded in our culture than the administration's account of its actions on 9/11. As The Wall Street Journal reported on its front page this week - just as the former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke was going public with his parallel account - many of this story's most familiar details are utter fiction. Mr. Bush's repeated claim that one of his "first acts" of that morning was to put the military on alert is false. So are the president's claims that he watched the first airplane hit the World Trade Center on TV that morning. (No such video yet existed.) Nor was Air Force One under threat as Mr. Bush flew around the country, delaying his return to Washington.

Yet the fake narrative of 9/11 has been scrupulously maintained by the White House for more than two years. Although the administration has tried at every juncture to stonewall the 9/11 investigative commission, its personnel, including the president, had all the time in the world for the producer of a TV movie, Showtime's "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis." The result was a scenario that further rewrote the history of that day, stirring steroids into false tales of presidential derring-do. Kristen Breitweiser, a 9/11 widow, characterized one of the movie's many elisions in Salon. To show the president continuing to sit and read with elementary school kids "while people like my husband were burning alive inside the World Trade Center towers," she wrote, "would run counter to Karl Rove's art direction and grand vision."

To shore up the Rove version of 9/11 once Richard Clarke went public with his alternative tale on last Sunday's "60 Minutes," the White House placed Condoleezza Rice on all five morning news shows the next day. The administration is confident that it can reinstate its bogus scenario - particularly given that Ms. Rice, unlike Mr. Clarke, is refusing to take the risk of reciting it under oath to the 9/11 commission.

After 9/11, similar fake-news techniques helped speed us into "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The run-up to the war was falsified by a barrage of those "modern public information tools," including 16 words of Tom Clancy-style fiction in the State of the Union. John Burns of The Times, speaking by phone from Iraq to a postmortem on war coverage sponsored by the University of California journalism school in Berkeley this month, said of the real press back then: "We failed the American public by being insufficiently critical about elements of the administration's plan to go to war." What few journalistic efforts were made to penetrate the trumped-up rationales for war were easily defeated by the administration's false news reports of impending biological attacks and mushroom clouds. To see how the faux journalism sausage was made, go to www.reform.house.gov/min, where a searchable database posted by Representative Henry Waxman identifies "237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell and National Security Adviser Rice in 125 separate public appearances."

Once the war began, the Defense Department turned a warehouse in Qatar into a TV studio, where it installed a $250,000 Central Command briefing stage, shipped from Chicago by FedEx for an additional $47,000. The set was lent authority by a real-news set designer, whose previous credits included ABC's "World News Tonight" and "Good Morning America." As for the embedded journalists who filled in the rest of the story, a candid assessment was delivered by Lt. Col. Rick Long, the former head of media relations for the Marine Corps, also speaking at Berkeley 10 days ago: "Frankly, our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment. . . . Overall, we were very happy with the outcome."

The "news" of the war included its fictionalized Rambo, Pfc. Jessica Lynch, and its fictionalized conclusion, the "Mission Accomplished" celebration led by the president on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. (Mr. Bush said that the premature victory banner was the handiwork of the ship's crew when in fact it was the product of the White House scenic shop.) But for all that fake news, we still don't know such real news as how many Iraqi civilians were killed as we gave them their freedom. We are still shielded from images of American casualties, before or after they are placed in coffins.

Now that the breakdown in pre-9/11 security is threatening to dominate the real news, the administration is working overtime to overwhelm it with its latest, thematically related fake story line. Time magazine reports that employees of the Department of Homeland Security have been given the goal of providing the president "with one homeland-security photo-op a month." The Associated Press reports that the department is also hiring a "liaison to the entertainment industry" - with a salary as high as $136,000, plus benefits - "to make sure that dramatic portrayals of it are as accurate as possible." (The deadline for applications, do note, is tomorrow.) Of course "accurate" in that job description should be read as "inaccurate," since the liaison's real task, like that of the intrepid reporter Karen Ryan, will be to make sure that any actual news of our homeland security's many holes is kept on the q.t. According to E! entertainment news, we can even expect a new TV show, "D.H.S. - the Series," to which both Mr. Bush and Tom Ridge will contribute endorsements and sound bites.

When it comes to homeland security, you can be sure that the administration's faux news will always be good news - though this is the one story in which the real news can sometimes become just too intrusive to ignore.

Comment: The Stalinist character of the US media is so bad that the major media themselves are having to do a mea culpa on their reporting. Notice, however, that they still haven't raised the issue of the rigged election in 2000. Yes, Iraq was a mistake, but, hey, it's too late to do anything about that now!

As for 9/11, the most we can hope for from all of these revelations is that the cover story for what really happened will shift from "We didn't know and couldn't do anything" to "well, yeah, we had some warning and we didn't do enough." This shift will still ignore the many questions that remain to this day: Who told the Air Force to stand down? How did a 747 make a hole only a couple of yards wide in the Pentagon? How did Mohammed Atta's passport find its way to the top of a pile of debris in Manhattan when the plane exploded in a ball of flames? How do they keep the lawn at the Pentagon so clean?

Prelude to an Attack on Syria?

The Yassin Assassination

By GARY LEUPP

Everyone is predicting a spate of horrific suicide bombings in Israel as Hamas and other Palestinian groups respond to the "targeted assassination" of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (and killing of seven other people) by an Apache helicopter air strike a few days ago. According to MSNBC, Israel's army chief has stated that Yassir Arafat and the Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah will also be assassinated. I take it for granted that the assassins, proud of their work, convinced of its necessity and goodness, know exactly what they're doing. They have factored in ghastly reprisals, and have plans about how to follow up.

Some observations and predictions:

1. The foreign policy of the Bush administration has since 9-11 been steered by officials who have a well thought out and clearly articulated plan to affect regime change throughout the Middle East. Such change in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and a number of other Muslim countries is central to the neocons' world-transforming project. While Israel's security is not the key issue in Bush Middle East policy, it is a very important secondary one, and U.S. and Israeli policies are closely coordinated.

2. Last October 5, Israel responded to an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in Haifa by staging an air strike on Syria, the first time it had bombed Syria in 30 years. Ariel Sharon argued that Damascus "sponsors" Islamic Jihad and "Palestinian terrorism" in general and so Israel was acting in self-defense.

3. While condemned by European leaders, including the British foreign minister, and almost everybody else, the attack was justified by President Bush as necessary to "defend the homeland." (Note: not "your homeland" but "the homeland." Bush seems not to distinguish.) It was praised by leading neocon Richard Perle (then still on the Defense Policy Board), who declared, "I am happy to see the message was delivered to Syria by the Israeli air force, and I hope it is the first of many such messages." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated, "There will have to be change in Syria, plainly."

(This makes me recall the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel---an interesting novelette written around 160 BCE, and incorporated into the Old Testament. The neocons are, in effect, saying: "The handwriting is on the wall; Bashir Assad's days are numbered; his kingdom will be divided---not between the Medes and the Persians, but--- between the Americans and the Israelis." http://www.inisrael.com/golan/ )

4. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, administration point man on Syria, argued last fall in Congress for the "Syria Accountability Act," which was passed, 398-5, by the House of Representatives Oct. 16. (99% approval. Isn't it great to live in a democracy where well-informed elected officials can express varied views about the Middle East?) Then it sailed through the Senate.

Officially vilifying Syria (which has actually been an ally against al-Qaeda), it accuses Damascus of sponsoring terrorism, amassing weapons of mass destruction, and occupying Lebanon, and applies economic sanctions against the Arab nation. Bolton accuses Syria of allowing "terrorists" to cross its border to abet the resistance in Iraq, receiving some of those elusive WMD from Iraq, and providing banking services for the Iraqi resistance. So there is a long list of charges against Syria, as there was against Iraq, and as there is against Iran---enough to persuade the sufficiently impressionable that Syria should be attacked and occupied.

5. The assassination of the wheelchair-bound paraplegic 75 year old Yassin was condemned by Kofi Annan, and by European leaders, including British foreign minister Jack Straw, but Condoleeza Rice, speaking for the Bush administration, refused to criticize it, merely appealing for everybody in the region to keep calm. While the Bush administration denies any foreknowledge of the attack, it will of course stand by Mr. Sharon, whom Bush with his characteristic distance from the real world has dubbed "a man of peace."

6. The neocons have suffered a series of setbacks, including the highly embarrassing revelations of Bush's former top anti-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, who charges that Bush demanded intelligence forces concoct links between 9-11 and Iraq to justify an invasion. Anyone paying attention now knows that the Iraq stage of the Terror War was based on lies. The bleeding sore of the occupation saps Bush's political support, and he and his world-transforming ideologues may be out of jobs come November. That prospect doesn't make the neocons more humble, but rather more desperate to achieve such pieces of their ambitious program as they might in the next seven months.

7. This month has seen a "human rights" demonstration in Damascus and a couple days of Arab-Kurdish ethnic rioting following a soccer game. These are unusual events in tightly-controlled Syria. There may be an outside hand in them, endeavoring to destabilize the Syrian regime preparatory to some major, externally organized action.

8. A major Hamas suicide bombing would provide a fine pretext for an attack on Syria, perfectly legitimate to anyone predisposed to think Hamas=international terrorism=Syria.

9. At least one Hamas leaflet has suggested that the U.S. bears partial responsibility for Yassin's assassination: "The Zionists didn't carry out their operation without getting the consent of the terrorist American administration and it must take responsibility for this crime."

Let's think about this statement. If the U.S. government can say "you're for us or against us," and make no distinction between "terrorist organizations" and those who "sponsor" them, surely your good, decent, normal Palestinian on the street can draw a connection between an assassination conducted on the explicit orders of Ariel Sharon (whose government is, as the number one recipient of U.S. foreign aid, subsidized by the U.S. to a mind-boggling $ 3 billion---some say $ 6 billion---per year and enjoys about the most intimate relationship with Washington that any foreign government has ever had) and the American administration. Condoleeza Rice has said the U.S. had no prior knowledge of the assassination, but then she also says honest Richard Clarke's recent charges about Bush's handling of the al-Qaeda issue are "ridiculous." The sad fact is that Condi is ridiculous, and her job absolutely requires that she deny U.S. links to assassinations if such occur.

Is the Hamas statement implausible? It seems in fact unlikely that Sharon would undertake his extremely newsworthy action without consulting with the government which subsidizes his own. So Hamas could say: "We make no distinction between those defying international law and assassinating our leaders, and those who sponsor them." Still, it is unlikely that they would undertake an attack on Americans on U.S. soil, however much either al-Qaeda or the neocons might want that (and even be inclined to stage it) in order to exacerbate the confrontation between Islam and the west that they both relish, for their different reasons.

In any case, the statement about "responsibility for this crime" cited above was immediately trumpeted in the U.S. media as a Hamas threat to attack the U.S., something it has never done, would be stupid to do, and probably has no intention of doing. Hamas is not al-Qaeda, however much the Bushites want to conflate all opponents of the U.S. and Israel into a single, simple terroristic Evil. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge immediately indicated that Washington takes "quite seriously" a threat never explicitly made. But Hamas, as it mourns the loss of its founder, and speculates about what forces produced his murder, becomes demonized, al-Qaeda-ized, another object of American fear.

Start worrying now, everybody, that terrorist Hamas, angry about the death of their terrorist founder at the hands of our Israeli friends---a death we support---is going to attack us, because they blame us for it! That's the message.

Hamas having been hit by a strike condemned by the entire world (except the U.S. and Israel) and having, in perfectly rational response, expressed outrage, now in its injured state becomes more targeted by the U.S. than ever. Henceforth whatever Sharon does against Hamas, he will be able to depict as an effort to defend not merely his country but the American Homeland threatened by these angry anti-American Palestinians. And whatever measures the Bushites take against "Palestinian terrorism" will be undertaken as "Homeland Defense" measures as well, the Israeli and American homeland boundaries having been thoroughly blurred long since.

10. Let us say Perle's dream comes true and the Israeli air force does attack pro-Hamas Syria. Let's say it does so big-time, Sharon-style, and does major damage. Enough to cause enough disorder for the U.S. to argue that a deteriorating situation requires international intervention. The Iraq attack required months of preparation, but intervention in Syria will happen very quickly, coming like a thief in the night as it did in Haiti. Perle has suggested that there are troops to spare in Iraq that can occupy "weak" Syria in short order. Even if Israeli action provides the context, Israeli forces won't be needed, and U.S. action will be lent some thin international legitimacy if a few hundred "coalition" troops participate. Thus a second Arab nation will become Americanizedly "free," while Palestinians infuriated by these events will commit acts that will justify the "ethnic cleansing" of the West Bank.

I truly hope my imagination has gotten the better of me, that I am a false prophet, and that what I describe will not come to pass.

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Sharon to Fall? Bibi To Rise?

MER
Washington - 3/28/2004

Whether Sharon is forced out, resigns, is indicted, or dies at this point in history may not be all that important any more. He's already done much of what he came to the pinnacle of power to do. The role of Israeli Prime Minister of late is one in which different personalities are used to accomplish different missions at crucial historical times -- as Sharon's friends Generals Rabin and Barak as well as his former Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, have in recent years found out before him..
Sharon has already made a real, 'viable', true Palestinian State all but impossible. The system of worse-than-Apartheid has been established. The Apartheid wall is nearly in place. Internationally working through his infamous Washington lobby and the Israeli-centric 'neocons' Sharon and his kind have not only enflamed the 'clash of civilizations', they were the main force propelling the invasion/occupation of Iraq and the enlistment of the United States more in Israel's militant corner than ever before in history.

There are many who now want to see Sharon go. And that may well include his friend in the White House, George Bush, who is in his own fight for political survival and has kept putting Sharon's appeals for a tenth visit to the Oval Office off as the scandals surrounding both men just keep on coming. Whether the now maybe finally scheduled visit in April takes place remains uncertain at this point -- certainly don't bet on it.
Moreover, if and when Sharon departs from the scene, maybe this time for the final time, there is Bibi, and a list of others, ready and willing to take the helm and from whom even worse can now be expected.

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Israeli state prosecutor urges bribery charges against Sharon: TV report

07:24 AM EST Mar 28

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's state prosecutor has recommended charges against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for allegedly taking bribes from a businessman, Israel's Channel Two TV reported Saturday.

The station said prosecutor Edna Arbel will present a draft charge sheet to Attorney General Meni Mazuz, who will then decide if prosecution is warranted. The report said his decision will probably be released in about a month.

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Israel PM faces resignation calls

An Israeli Cabinet minister has led calls for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to step down amid reports that he may be charged in a corruption case.

"Under such circumstances, the prime minister should resign," Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said.

Members of the opposition Labour and Yahad parties have made similar calls.

On Saturday, Israeli media said State Attorney Edna Arbel had concluded there were sufficient grounds to charge Mr Sharon, who denies any wrongdoing.

The prime minister is being investigated for possible bribery.

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Sharon: The power and the land

By James Reynolds
BBC correspondent in Jerusalem

There is a small house amid lemon trees on a farm in central Israel. It is here, on this land, that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was born.

It was here, he says, that his convictions were formed.

"When the land belongs to you physically," he writes in his autobiography, Warrior, "that is when you have power". "Your strength," he concludes, "comes from the land."

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Comment: We are not surprised the Sharon is so attached to the land. It seems to be a good indicator that someone has no capacity for being in touch with the higher centres. Before our readers get upset with this statement, let us clarify what we mean. Sharon is speaking of possession of the land, about the land belonging to him. His strength comes from the land "belonging to [him] physically". One also thinks of Bush's attachment to his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Once more, a case of possession.

Sharon shows what he really thinks of land, or of the Earth, when he sends in the IDF to uproot centuries old olive groves that belong to the Palestinians. Bush shows what he really thinks of the land when he covers Iraq with depleted uranium. This land has no value because they do not own it. They are incapable of seeing it from the higher perspective of the Earth as a whole as the home of all mankind, as something to be tended that we hold as caretakers and will be bequeathing to our children.

Ayoon wa Azan (On Low Fire)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2004/03/27

A dish is being cooked on low fire, in an attempt to activate a peace process led by Egypt, in coordination with Jordan and Syria, the cooperation of the United States, and an active British role.

During the past few weeks, I noticed the numerous visits of high-ranking Palestinian officials to the British capital. British representatives visited Palestinians during the mandate period, but the representative today is American. Every Palestinian official I have seen gave a pretext for his visit to London, but I am used to disbelieve the words of any official - even believing the opposite.

The information I gathered from three Palestinian officials who visited London, are about a peace dish that consists of a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and going back to the situation of 28/9/2000 in the West Bank, within a six months period, which is near the end of August or the beginning of September. Then, new negotiations would start to implement the Roadmap.

President Husni Mubarak is the key element in this new move, and General Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence, represents him personally in negotiations with the Israelis, Palestinians, and U.S. officials in the region.

Suleiman heard positive rhetoric from Ariel Sharon when he met him earlier this month; the Israeli Prime Minister promised a complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, evacuating the settlements without destroying them, and leaving the borders under Egyptian control, with a promise that the settlers would not be transferred to the West Bank. However, inasmuch as he is a murderer, Sharon is a liar; the assassination of Ahmad Yassin has many reasons, one of which is Sharon's attempt to destroy the new initiative or cause its failure before it even starts.

I heard from Gen. Suleiman that there were positive elements that united in support of the Egyptian move, as progress in the peace process would help George W. Bush in the elections, ease the political pressures on Ariel Sharon, and please the other peace sponsors; the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. It also falls in the best interest of the Palestinians, who find themselves inside a tumult of violence they cannot escape.

There are conditions for continuing with the peace process, the most important being that President Yasser Arafat acts as an element of help and not of obstruction, and that Palestinians unite security in three agencies; national security, the police, and the intelligence. The Egyptians should train and habilitate the security agencies, while some forces of the Egyptian border guards would be responsible for the Egyptian-Palestinian borders, with President Mubarak's insistence that no Egyptian forces would interfere in the Gaza Strip itself, as he does not want the Egyptian forces to become a police officer working for the interest of Israel.

The British are the communication medium with the U.S., and they promised to assist the Palestinian security forces by training them and giving them some equipment to rebuild them, after Sharon destroyed them.

The entire project is under the umbrella of the Roadmap, and while Sharon wishes to withdraw for his own reasons, he does not want the Roadmap; the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, and the threat to assassinate all Hamas leaders, are attempts to stop the Egyptian proposal. Sharon wishes for Palestinians to kill each other, after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and that they create an independent identity from the West Bank, which majority would remain under occupation, to prohibit the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Sharon entered a confrontation early with Hamas, as he insists that Israel would withdraw out of strength and not weakness, while Hamas replies that the armed resistance forced Israel to consider withdrawal, and get ready to implement it.

The Palestinian leaders I spoke to in London, know Sharon's objectives very well. Hamas is negotiating the administration of the Gaza Strip after the withdrawal, but do not compete with President Arafat on the leadership; it also does not attempt to have sole authority in Gaza, and does not work to achieve this, as it wishes for its representation in the coming government to reflect the size of Palestinian support for it.

While Sharon did not lose hope in igniting a Palestinian civil war in the Gaza Strip, I find this a very unlikely matter. Fatah and Hamas had entered negotiations that outraced Mahmoud Abbas's (aka Abu Mazen) participation in the authority; together, they form 90% of Palestinians. These negotiations did not lead to agreement, since they were preceded by events such as the Abbas government, followed by the Hudna (truce), then the Ahmad Qureih (aka Abu Alaa) government, and did not end in disagreement, but laid ground for negotiations in proportion to these factions' size.

The Palestinian leaders I spoke to were comfortable with the Egyptian role and with President Mubarak in person, but they were not certain of the result, as Sharon has many means to abort the process. He killed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin in a cowardly operation. Yassin who is old and confined to a wheelchair, and prays the five prayers of the day in the mosque next to his house. Thus, his entry and exit of the mosque are very well known, but his assassination came with his negotiations about the future of the Gaza Strip following the withdrawal.

The only guarantees of the new dish are Husni Mubarak, and his man of tough missions Gen. Omar Suleiman.

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Arab summit postponed over policy rift

Last Updated Sun, 28 Mar 2004 0:25:18

TUNIS, TUNISIA - Deep divisions over proposed political reform have prompted Arab leaders to call off a long-awaited summit that was scheduled to begin Monday.

The U.S. push to expand democracy in the Middle East and bring about major economic and social change was at the heart of the disagreement, organizers said.

The postponement was announced Saturday by Tunisia, the country chosen to host the event.

Differences "particularly over the issues of modernization and reform … to reactivate Arab institutions" meant an agenda could not be agreed on, Tunisian Foreign Ministry official Hatem bin Salem told reporters.

In addition to debating whether to support greater freedoms and individual rights in the region, Arab leaders had also been scheduled to revive a 2002 peace proposal to Israel.

But after Israel's recent assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, some Arab countries opposed any more overtures.

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Summit cancellation upsets Arab leaders

Sunday 28 March 2004, 15:17 Makka Time, 12:17 GMT

Arab leaders believe the unprecedented last-minute postponement of the Arab summit in Tunis could have dangerous consequences for the region.

Palestinian Minister for Negotiation Affairs Saib Uraiqat on Sunday said the postponement would encourage Israel to increase its attacks against Palestinians.

"I am afraid that this will bring dangerous consequences since it comes after the assassination of Shaikh (Ahmad) Yasin and the US using the veto in the (UN) Security Council (against a draft resolution) condemning the assassination," he said.

"We are afraid that this will allow Israel to carry out even bigger or large-scale actions against the Palestinians."

"We know the Arab divisions are not new and we should not really exaggerate this too much as the divisions have existed for a long time," said Uraiqat.

Arab leaders have universally condemned Israel's killing of Shaikh Yasin and the Palestinians had been hoping that the summit in Tunis would serve to increase the diplomatic pressure on the Israelis.

[...] However Israel said the cancellation was a "positive sign" that the Arab world is in the throes of change.

"It is a postive sign which shows that the Arab world is changing and that hostility to Israel is no longer a sufficient common denominator," said an Israeli official, speaking on condition he not be named.

"Arab union has always favoured extremists," he added, linking the postponement to "the crisis in the Arab world following the US intervention in Iraq."

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W. Va. Sen. on Iraq: 'My Vote Was Wrong'

AP
Sat Mar 27,10:29 AM ET

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller regrets his vote to authorize a war against Iraq.

"If I had known then what I know now, I would have voted against it," Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Friday. "I have admitted that my vote was wrong."

The Democratic-led Senate approved the war resolution 77-23 on Oct. 11, 2002, one day after the U.S. House approved a similar resolution.

"The decision got made before there was a whole bunch of intelligence," said Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I think the intelligence was shaped. And I think the interpretation of the intelligence was shaped.

Comment: So which is it: there wasn't enough intelligence, or the intelligence was misinterpreted?

"We had this feeling we could be welcomed as liberators. Americans don't know history, geography, ethnicity. The administration had no idea of what they were getting into in Iraq. We are not internationalists. We border on being isolationists. We don't know anything about the Middle East." [...]

Comment: Perhaps American senators also don't know much about history, geography, or ethnicity. Then again, perhaps not - American leaders have known enough about the Middle East in the past to arm dictators, stir up conflict, and steal as much oil as possible. Representatives like Rockefeller seem to be just as guilty as the Bush administration for steering America into another invasion of Iraq.

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Officials: Intelligence Hindered by Rules

By DAFNA LINZER, Associated Press Writer
Sat Mar 27, 2:07 PM ET

More than two years after the Bush administration won pledges of support from dozens of countries eager to join the war on terrorism, Washington and its allies still keep a jealous hold on intelligence — snarling the information sharing needed to shut down al-Qaida.

With public attention focused this week on the failures leading to the Sept. 11 attacks, officials acknowledged that information-sharing is a problem that will be difficult to change despite a new resolve on both sides of the Atlantic after the deadly bombings this month in Spain.

In his testimony before the bipartisan commission investigating the attacks on New York and Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said this week that countries were cooperating and "sharing intelligence."

But there are rules involved when passing on information and those rules — designed to protect sources and methods — make it hard for countries to work together on counterterrorism.

One such restriction, known within the intelligence community as the "third-country rule," forbids the country receiving a tip from passing it along to anyone else.

The United States, France, Britain, Russia and other countries with large intelligence services all observe the third-party rule. When they share intelligence, it is done bilaterally and the tips are often watered-down to protect sources.

"The originator of the intelligence controls the dissemination of the intelligence," said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief. "That's the rule and that's the problem." [...]

Comment: It seems that intelligence is not about knowledge, but rather secrecy and control. Every country that has an intelligence agency is afraid of breaking the third-country rule for fear of losing their connections. Given the alleged purpose of the intelligence community, this restriction is completely ridiculous.

How hard would it be for an organization like Mossad to feed false intelligence to the US, UK, Spain, or just about any other country out there? All these countries might then talk amongst themselves, each saying that their anonymous source told them the same thing. Furthermore, the originating agency might allow certain countries to release information down the line, so that the information might flow like so: Mossad -> US -> UK -> Spain. Thus, Spain only knows that the UK has some intelligence that looks good, but who knows where they got it from?

The entire intelligence community is therefore based on what is, at best, completely unreliable information. Even if the intel is gathered firsthand, who's to say it wasn't planted by another agency? It all appears to be a sick game in which we are all the unfortunate pawns.

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Israel 'exaggerated' Iraq threat

Sunday 28 March 2004, 15:02 Makka Time, 12:02 GMT

An Israeli parliamentary subcommittee has criticised the country's intelligence services for exaggerating the risk of an Iraqi attack before and during last year's US-led invasion.

In a 80-page report, due to be presented to President Moshe Katsav later on Sunday, the subcommittee blamed the intelligence establishment for having exaggerated the threat of non-conventional weapons while ignoring the threat posed by Libyan nuclear projects.

[...] A member of the parliamentary subcommittee that prepared the report said that Israeli intelligence ahead of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on "assessments rather than hard information." He spoke on condition of anonymity.

The report said that such hearsay, sent to the United States for verification, was leaked to the Israeli media in the guise of fact.

Apparently, the information was recycled and accepted as fact by the Israeli government, it said. It was not immediately clear at what point rumours and speculation were presented as fact.

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French lawyer to defend Saddam

By Noah Barkin
Saturday March 27, 03:25 PM

PARIS (Reuters) - The French lawyer known for defending Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and guerrilla Carlos the Jackal says that Saddam Hussein's nephew has chosen him to represent the deposed Iraqi president. [...]

Verges, who is also defending former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, said he had accepted the job of defending Saddam and suggested his strategy would focus on the role played by the United States and other countries in supporting the Iraqi leader in the 1980s.

"We know very well that the Anglo-Americans armed Saddam Hussein, that the chemical weapons were sold by the allies," Verges said in a telephone interview.

SIGHTS ON RUMSFELD

Washington helped Saddam obtain intelligence and military equipment and, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control document in the U.S. Senate record, Iraq also obtained from the United States biological agents that could have been turned into weapons.

The United States was at the time supporting Iraq in its war against the old U.S. foe Iran, at a time when Saddam used chemical weapons against Iranian forces and Iraqi Kurds.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the former Soviet Union also supplied Iraq with equipment, expertise and funding over the years. [...]

Verges singled out U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a key advocate of last year's U.S.-led war to oust Saddam, for his role 20 years ago as a special envoy of U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

He said that if a trial of Saddam took place, Rumsfeld would have to "take a seat next to the leader". [...]

Comment: In an interview with ABCNews, Verges stated, "The United States considers they are the master of the world and they are not to be judged."

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Saddam trial 'will not be fair'

A controversial French lawyer appointed by Saddam Hussein to defend him has said a fair trial would be impossible.

Jacques Verges, who made his reputation defending some of the world's most notorious figures, told the BBC he feared for the ex-Iraqi leader's life.

In his long career, Mr Verges has defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, Carlos the Jackal and former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

He says Saddam Hussein's nephew wrote to him enlisting his services.

Mr Verges says he will also defend former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. He will be supported by a dozen other French lawyers to mount a defence case.

Comment: There is something fitting about Saddam Hussein being defended by a French lawyer. It should serve to solidify the image of the French as America's "enemies" in the ever malleable minds of US citizens. Who is writing this script, anyway?

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Court Opens Door To Searches Without Warrants

TheNewOrleansChannel.com
4:36 pm CST March 26, 2004

NEW ORLEANS -- It's a groundbreaking court decision that legal experts say will affect everyone: Police officers in Louisiana no longer need a search or arrest warrant to conduct a brief search of your home or business.

Leaders in law enforcement say it will provide safety to officers, but others argue it's a privilege that could be abused.

The decision was made by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Two dissenting judges called it the "road to Hell."

The ruiling stems from a lawsuit filed in Denham Springs in 2000.

New Orleans Police Department spokesman Capt. Marlon Defillo said the new power will go into effect immediately and won't be abused. [...]

"There are checks and balances to make sure the criminal justce system works in an effective manor," Defillo said.

A QFS Member Comments: I thought the "constitution" was the check and balance. Little by little... one piece at a time.

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Plane searched after tip

By GRANT BOXLEITNER
news-press.com
March 27, 2004

A Dallas-bound jet was searched by federal and local security at Southwest Florida International Airport on Friday after a psychic called and said a bomb might be on board.

The crew of American Airlines Flight 1304 was evacuated while bomb-detecting dogs and members of the Transportation Security Administration and Port Authority Police searched for explosives, said Doug Perkins, local TSA director.

Nothing suspicious was found. None of the 128 passengers had boarded the aircraft before the search began, Perkins said.

“We were notified early today of a call that was made by a supposed psychic that said there may be a bomb on board an aircraft,” Perkins said. “It’s unusual, but in these times, we can’t ignore anything. We want to take the appropriate measures.”

Tim Wagner, a American Airlines spokesman, also said the call came from a psychic, but his company was told about it by the TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

TSA officials would not say where the call was made from or who it was made to. [...]

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White House Trying to Explain Rice Policy

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent
Sat Mar 27, 2:18 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Condoleezza Rice says the Bush administration has a good story to tell about fighting terrorism and she's pouring it out in television appearances, interviews and newspaper articles. The one place she won't talk is in public, under oath, before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

That is blossoming into a public relations nightmare.

The White House finds itself in the awkward position of trying to explain why Rice, the national security adviser to President Bush, can talk at length to reporters but not at the commission's televised hearings because of the constitutional principle of separation of powers. [...]

Instead of testifying publicly, Rice is requesting a private meeting with the commission — her second such session — to discuss what the White House says are mischaracterizations of her statements.

"I don't know necessarily what the difference is" between a private interview and public testimony, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said. "She's going to tell it exactly how it happened," he said. [...]

Comment: The fact that McClellan made such a blatantly preposterous statement is not very shocking - politicians and their spokespersons lie all the time. What is perhaps a bit shocking and disheartening is the continued lack of any response from the majority of Americans.

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Bush is brought to book

28/03/2004

Following last week's publication of Richard Clarke's attack on the President's anti-terrorism policy, the propaganda battle has been bloody, ruthless and fed by pre-election panic, reports Julian Coman

In the heart of the White House on Wednesday afternoon, as Richard Clarke spoke to the September 11 Commission on Capitol Hill, groups of officials huddled to watch monitors in anxious silence.

While the President's former counter-terrorism chief testified that the Bush White House, despite repeated dire warnings, did not consider al-Qaeda terrorism an urgent issue before 9/11, an unwatched office television showed pay-per-view coverage of the Chelsea versus Arsenal European Cup tie.

Improbably, among the White House ranks of baseball fans and American football followers, one senior official is a fanatical Arsenal supporter. Two days after Mr Clarke's tumultuous delivery, the official still had no idea of the Chelsea result.

"There's been no time for anything," he told the Telegraph. "Since Clarke we've been working 14- or 15-hour days. In his book and testimony, Clarke is claiming that one of the most tragic events in our history could have been prevented, and his accusations are completely, completely unfounded."

Mr Clarke's book, entitled Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, was published last Monday - rushed out a week early to coincide with his 9/11 testimony. Washington has never seen a book launch like it. On Friday, one senior Democrat was still coming to terms with what he had witnessed.

"A respected counter-terrorism tsar leaves the administration after the worst terrorist attack in America's history," said the official. "Then he writes a book placing most of the blame on the White House. Then he gives the same testimony to a congressional committee, filmed by national television, and is applauded by watching relatives of the attack's victims. All this happens just as the criticised President is running for re-election on the platform of keeping America safe. Did I dream this?"

The Bush administration is still hoping to wake up from the nightmare. Wrongfooted by Mr Clarke, "Team Bush" has begun to add surreal touches of its own to the drama. During a journalists' dinner on Wednesday, hours after Mr Clarke had accused him of needlessly focusing military resources on Saddam Hussein, President Bush presented a spoof slide-show. As images appeared of the President searching high and low in the Oval Office, he provided a commentary: "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere. Nope, no weapons under there." The laughter was immediate. The angry objections from the families of dead American soldiers came the next day.

This is not the first time an unflattering book has been written about the Bush White House. Paul O'Neill, the President's former Treasury Secretary, who was unceremoniously sacked, recently gave his account of events in The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind. In acerbic style, Mr O'Neill disdainfully recalled an intellectually weak President who led cabinet meetings "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people".

Asked to comment, administration officials noted airily that it was not their role to provide "book reviews". But Mr Clarke has got under the collective skin of the White House. For President Bush, the price of losing the loyalty of his former counter-terrorism chief is proving prohibitive.

"The President is running for re-election," said Stephen Hess, a senior aide in the Nixon administration. "And Clarke's text is aimed at the place that could be most damaging - the argument that he is the best wartime president for America."

Washington is agog. Less than a week after its publication, Against All Enemies is into its fifth printing run. The Washington bookshop Politics and Prose was obliged to re-order copies three times in three days. Soundbites from Mr Clarke's testimony before the September 11 Commission, chaired by Thomas H. Kean, a Republican senator, have been re-played endlessly on television.

Mr Clarke, who before last week was an obscure ex-apparatchik, has appeared on Larry King Live, ABC news and the CBS 60 Minutes show. In a poll taken at the end of last week, nine out of 10 Americans said that they had heard of the Clarke allegations, an extraordinarily high percentage, and for President Bush, one that indicates a dangerous level of interest from the heartland. [...]

Stephen Hess, a senior aide in the Nixon administration, predicts it will all blow over. "The economy is the key issue for voters. And latest polls show that Bush holds a whopping lead over Kerry on national security."

There is no doubt, however, that President Bush and his team are badly shaken. National Security is the President's home turf, and last week Mr Clarke rampaged through it.

Comment: It is clear that the powers that be have decided that Bush and Co. must go. It is clear also that Bush and Co are not really disposed to the idea. They have grown used to having the world bow at their feet. It will be interesting to watch the dynamic, since, by now, we understand that in any political wrangling, more than one agenda is always being served. For example, the one thing that would secure the removal of the current US administration would be revelations of White House complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Such a revelation however could also be used to implicate Israel. We can only imagine the response of Sharon or Bibi to such an accusation. We feel however that Israel will be allowed to remain as the tail wagging the dog in Washington, at least until the Middle East in general has been further "ripened".

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Putin to discuss integration in Europe with Chirac, Schroeder

28.03.2004

SOCHI, March 28 (Itar-Tass) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the question of cooperation between Russia and the European Union would be discussed, among other things, at planned meetings with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder early in April.

“It will be interesting for me to learn how the process of adopting a European constitution is developing from the viewpoint of France and Germany. We know that this is not a simple thing and that the document is being born in pains,” Putin told reporters.

The president pointed to the importance of decisions, taken by France and Germany concerning the visa regime with Russia. “We would like, apart from reinforcing these decisions, to spread them to the space of the entire EU,” Putin noted.

The Russian leader noted that Germany is “the biggest trade and economic partner of Russia in Europe”. “The volume of trade with Germany is bigger than with the U.S. – over 20 billion euros,” Putin stated. He pointed to the regular nature of meetings with the German leadership. According to the Russian chief executive, this “is fully substantiated and is necessary both for Russia and for Germany”. According to the president, economic cooperation will be the main topic of his coming meeting with Schroeder.

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Annan accepts blame for Rwandan genocide

A memorial conference on the 1994 Rwanda genocide began Friday with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan accepting blame for the slaughter of 800,000 civilians.

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Ex-Rwandan PM reveals genocide planning

At least 800,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the genocide at a rate - over just 100 days - that was far faster than the Holocaust of the Jews in World War Two. Kambanda's testimony was recorded as a transcript of 60 hours of interrogations and according to Melvern's account of it, included in her book "Conspiracy To Murder - The Rwandan Genocide", it goes into remarkable detail about the way the genocide was organised. The book reveals many machetes were imported before the genocide. The detailed planning is important to record because it took a long time for the outside world to realise how carefully the mass killings were planned.

The genocide was often portrayed in the West as a spontaneous, uncontrollable outpouring of ethnic hatred which, as such, could not be stopped. The UN Security Council pulled most of a small UN peacekeeping force out shortly after the genocide began and key members of the Council - the US, Britain and France, lobbied against reinforcing the UN presence in a way that UN commanders on the ground recommended.

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Poll opens in Georgia's parliamentary election

www.chinaview.cn 2004-03-28 11:15:28

MOSCOW, March 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Georgia's eligible voters began tocast their ballots on Sunday to fill 150 of the 235 seats in parliament. Opinion poll show the ruling party of President Mikhail Saakashvili is widely expected to win a landslide victory.

Comment: The exit polls show the predictable landslide for Saakashvili's ruling party.

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Afghan poll delayed until September

Afghanistan's first post-Taleban elections have been postponed until September.

President Hamid Karzai announced the delay, saying that parliamentary and presidential elections would now be held at the same time.

The elections had been due to be held in June, according to the timetable established in late 2001.

But security concerns and delays in voter registration had led to concerns about the original timetable.

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Vajpayee still "first choice" for next Indian PM: poll

www.chinaview.cn 2004-03-28 17:27:07

NEW DELHI, March 28 (Xinhuanet) -- An opinion poll shows that AtalBihari Vajpayee was still the "first choice" for next Indian PrimeMinister with 51 percent of the sample favoring him followed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, at 28 percent.

The Hindu, a leading English newspaper, reported Sunday that the Indian People's Party led National Democratic Alliance is likely to get over 265 seats in the coming Lok Sabha (House of thePeople) elections in April followed by the Congress and its alliesat 196 plus seats.

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Nepal to hold general elections within 12 months: king

www.chinaview.cn 2004-03-28 17:13:57

KATHMANDU, March 28 (Xinhuanet)-- Nepali King Gyanendra announcedSunday that the country's parliamentary elections will be held within the next 12 months.

The polls of the House of Representatives (lower house of the parliament) will be held within the next Nepalese year which begins on April 13, the king said while addressing in a civic reception in Pokhara city, 200 km west of Kathmandu.

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'Coup attempt' in DR Congo capital

Shooting has broken out in various parts of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, in what is feared to have been a coup attempt.

One soldier was killed and two injured as unknown gunmen attacked military installations and a TV station.

"There appears to have been a coup attempt," UK Ambassador in Kinshasa Jim Atkinson told Reuters news agency.

The government says the situation has been put under control and has appealed to the people to remain calm.

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Ukraine to investigate disappearance of hundreds of missiles

www.chinaview.cn 2004-03-28 13:08:18

KIEV, March 27 (Xinhuanet) -- The Ukrainian military will launch an in-depth investigation into the disappearance of hundreds of missiles, Defense Minister Yevgeni Kirillovich Marchuk has promised.

In a recent review of the military's arsenal, the armed forces found that hundreds of missiles had been lost, Interfax-Ukraine News Agency quoted the minister as saying late Friday.

[...] The missiles were decommissioned in the 1980s, and can no longer be used in actual combat, he added.

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Twenty-five years ago today... Three Mile Island

1979: Nuclear leak causes alarm in America

Radioactive steam has leaked into the atmosphere in Pennsylvania, USA.

The accident happened when a water pump broke down at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, 10 miles (16km) south-east of the state capital Harrisburg.

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Cod fishery closed again due to historically low stocks.

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - There won't be a cod fishery this year off the east and northeast coast of Newfoundland and the south coast of Labrador.

Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan said Wednesday stocks remain at historically low levels and prospects for rebuilding are poor.

Instead, the minister has asked officials with the Fisheries Department to work with the industry to develop a practical plan for the management of cod bycatch in the areas.

The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council has been given until April 22 to come up with recommendations on the Gulf cod stock off the west coast.

The federal government is considering whether to allow a limited cod fishery in the area.

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5.8-magnitude earthquake hits Tibet

The Associated Press
3/27/2004, 8:45 p.m. ET

HONG KONG (AP) — A strong earthquake struck the Chinese region of Tibet early Sunday, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

The observatory said the 5.8-magnitude quake struck 315 miles northwest of the Tibetan city of Lhasa at 2:52 a.m. Hong Kong time.

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Strong earthquake shakes eastern Turkey

28 March 2004

ISTANBUL - A strong earthquake shook eastern Turkey on Sunday, days after another quake killed 10 people in the region. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in Sunday’s quake.

The quake centered in Erzurum province had a preliminary magnitude of 5.3, the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory said.

Private CNN-Turk, which said the quake struck around 6:50 a.m. (0350 GMT), said residents fled their homes in panic following the temblor, but did not report any immediate damage.

Ten people were killed following a magnitude 5.1 earthquake on Thursday that destroyed mud-brick homes in 15 villages in Erzurum. Most of the dead were children sleeping in their beds.

More than 100 aftershocks followed the initial quake. Erzurum is some 900 kilometers (540 miles) east of Ankara, the capital.

Most of Turkey lies on the active north Anatolian fault. In August 1999 a quake killed more than 17,000 people in western Turkey.

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Slow brainwaves 'cause seizures'

Low levels of electrical activity in the brain may cause some people with epilepsy to have seizures, say experts.

[...] Doctors have known for many years that sleep can trigger epileptic seizures. However, they have been unable to explain exactly why this happens.

Previous studies have suggested it may be linked to very slow electrical activity in the brain.

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While you were out doing something else...

ASTEROID FLYBY: Another small asteroid flew past Earth this weekend. 2004 FY15, which measures about 25 meters (75 feet) across, was only 0.6 lunar distances from our planet on March 27th (20:00 UT). At closest approach, the space rock was about as bright as a 14th magnitude star; now it's receding and fading fast.

Comment: A reader sent us a report that says the asteroid flew by at only 23,786 kilometres, not the 230,400 kilometres (0.6 LD) claimed. We don't know which distance is the accurate one, but we do note that these things are coming with greater and greater frequency.

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Experimental hypersonic aircraft breaks world speed record, flies at Mach 7

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Methane find on Mars may be sign of life

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
The Independent
27 March 2004

A strong signal of life on Mars has been detected by scientists at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and the European Space Agency.

Each group has independently discovered tantalising evidence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Methane, a waste product of living organisms on Earth, could also be a by-product of alien microbes living under the surface of the Red Planet.

The detection of methane has been the holy grail of scientists studying the Martian atmosphere, as its presence could provide unequivocal proof that there is life beyond Earth.

Neither Nasa nor the European Space Agency (ESA) has publicly announced the findings, but specialists who have seen the data believe the discovery is genuine - although they are unsure what it means in terms of confirming the presence of life. [...]

Comment: Boring! Why don't they just get it over and done with? It is so patently obvious that they are building up to a "big revelation" of something they have known for decades.

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Raelians protest Mardi Gras rejection

Representatives of the UFO-related Raelian movement gathered in Taylor Square on Saturday to protest against their exclusion from this year’s Mardi Gras parade. More than 20 members of the Raelian movement erected posters proclaiming "No god, no guilt", "Debaptise yourself from your homophobic religion" and "Raelian gays not welcomed by Mardi Gras".

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