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The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.
Allan Bloom The Closing of the American Mind

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. --Voltaire--

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January 2, 2003

NEW! Many New Articles in the Aurora Journal!

U.S. Moves Troops to Gulf, Aziz Sees Invasion - More than 11,000 U.S. troops prepared to head for the Gulf on Thursday and Iraq's deputy prime minister accused Washington of planning an invasion despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction. - Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tareq Aziz, accused Washington on Thursday of planning to invade his country regardless of the result of the U.N. arms inspections as part of a plan to control the region's oil supplies. "They didn't say 'let us wait for a while for the result of the inspection and then let's decide what to do'," Aziz told European solidarity delegations in Baghdad. "When they continue their preparations for the war of aggression, what does that mean? It doesn't mean that they are genuinely afraid of an imaginary Iraqi threat. It means that they have an imperialist design," he said in English. "That design is to invade Iraq, to occupy Iraq and use the national resources of Iraq for the purposes of...the American capitalist regime," he said. "When America becomes stronger economically, when America takes over the whole oil of the region and puts it in its hands it is going to pressure politically and economically every country that needs oil," Aziz said.

Israeli Army Raids Gaza Refugee Camps - The army said it sent infantry and armor, supported by assault helicopters, into the Nusairat, Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps in central Gaza Strip as part of its "continuing battle against terrorism." - At least 1,760 Palestinians and 675 Israelis have been killed since the uprising against Israeli occupation began in September 2000.

A vote-buying scandal in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party has cut further into its once-commanding lead less than a month before Israel's January 28 election, opinion polls showed Thursday. - Before the scandal erupted, Likud had gathered strength from the Israeli electorate's sharp turn to the right and support for Sharon's tough security policies in response to a Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000. Since then, voters have turned away in growing numbers amid allegations that party activists used cash and favors to bribe members of Likud's 2,940-strong Central Committee in the selection of a list of top parliamentary candidates.

A lawyer for one of two U.S. pilots who released a bomb over southern Afghanistan in April, accidentally killing four Canadian soldiers, says the Air Force had pressured the pilots to take amphetamines that may have impaired their judgment during the mission. - But Umbach's lawyer, David Beck, said he would show at a January 13 hearing on whether to court-martial the pilots that the Air Force routinely pressures pilots to take dexamphetamine, a prescription drug also known as "go pills." He said the drug can impair judgment and is not recommended for people operating heavy equipment. Beck said the Air Force prevents pilots from flying if they refuse to take the pills. Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Ferrau acknowledged the pills are used as a "fatigue management tool" to help pilots stay alert through long missions. But she said use of the pills is voluntary, and that their effects have been thoroughly tested. "There have been decades of study on their efficacy and practicality," she said. "The surgeon general worked very closely with commanders on this."

Opponents of abortion are preparing a major push for new abortion restrictions in the next Congress, beginning with a ban on the type of medical procedure they call partial birth abortion. They say they will also push for some other measures already passed by the Republican-controlled House, including a bill making it a crime to evade parental notification laws by taking a minor across state lines for an abortion and legislation making it a separate crime to harm a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman. They also want to allow hospitals and other health care providers to refuse to perform abortions without fear of penalty, like the loss of federal money.

The threat of flooding is due to reach a "critical" point on Thursday after further rainfall deluged south-east England. More than 140 flood warnings are still in place for England and Wales, including 21 in Sussex, Kent and Hampshire. Thousands of home-owners in flood-prone areas have been warned by the Environment Agency (EA) that flooding of some homes may be "virtually inevitable". Meanwhile flooding caused disruption on the roads and the railways for many commuters returning to work on Thursday after the Christmas and New Year break.

January 1, 2003

No matter how you cut it, Dubya has painted himself into a corner. He may yet go on record as the most ill-advised and murderous US president.

Our quality of life peaked in 1974. It's all downhill now - With the turning of every year, we expect our lives to improve. As long as the economy continues to grow, we imagine, the world will become a more congenial place in which to live. There is no basis for this belief. If we take into account such factors as pollution and the depletion of natural capital, we see that the quality of life peaked in the UK in 1974 and in the US in 1968, and has been falling ever since. We are going backwards. - Capitalism is a millenarian cult, raised to the status of a world religion. Like communism, it is built upon the myth of endless exploitation. Just as Christians imagine that their God will deliver them from death, capitalists believe that theirs will deliver them from finity. The world's resources, they assert, have been granted eternal life. - One reason why we fail to understand a concept as simple as finity is that our religion was founded upon the use of other people's resources: the gold, rubber and timber of Latin America; the spices, cotton and dyes of the East Indies; the labour and land of Africa. The frontier of exploitation seemed, to the early colonists, infinitely expandable. Now that geographical expansion has reached its limits, capitalism has moved its frontier from space to time: seizing resources from an infinite future. - Every national newspaper in Britain lamented the "disappointing" volume of sales before Christmas. Sky News devoted much of its Christmas Eve coverage to live reports from Brent Cross, relaying the terrifying intelligence that we were facing "the worst Christmas for shopping since 2000". The survival of humanity has been displaced in the newspapers by the quarterly results of companies selling tableware and knickers.

Crossing Swords With General Ashcroft - I've been asked whether the growing number of Bill of Rights defense committees defying the Bush-Ashcroft-Rumsfeld attacks on our Constitutional liberties aren't really only symbolic. What can town and city councils across the country actually do to rein in the FBI, the CIA, and all the other intelligence agencies now interconnected through the homeland security act? A useful way to answer this pivotal question was reported on November 26 in the Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard : "Eugene city councilors gave in to a stampede of constituents Monday night, surprising even themselves by voting unanimously at an impassioned meeting to make Eugene the 15th city in the United States and the first in Oregon to formally seek reform or repeal of the USA Patriot Act." Said City Councilor Bonny Bettman: "We shouldn't stand by silently as those rights and freedoms are eroded. Our rights and freedoms really help distinguish us from our enemies." -

What the Eugene city council and the other Bill of Rights Defense Committees are asking for is also part of a national lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, filed in October by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and the Freedom to Read Foundation. A federal district judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered Attorney General John Ashcroft to supply the information those four organizations have requested by January 15—or the government will have to explain why it's not revealing how it is implementing the USA Patriot Act and the subsequent executive orders (Eugene's city council and others around the country are also waiting to find out). Meanwhile, in a front-page story (Washington Post , December 1), Charles Lane explores how far-reaching the Bush administration's plans are to undermine the Bill of Rights more radically than during any other presidency in our history: "The Bush administration is developing a parallel legal system in which terrorism suspects—U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike—may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, tried and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system, lawyers inside and outside the government say." -

Charles Lane reports that Solicitor General Theodore Olson—a key administration strategist in creating this parallel legal system—has argued in a recent legal brief "that the detentions of people such as Hamdi or Padilla" do not require that "the executive branch spell out its criteria for determining who qualifies as an enemy combatant." The president decides who loses his or her constitutional rights. Trust in him. He is the parallel law.

A Citizen Shorn of All Rights - The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. —James Madison, Federalist Papers, 47 -

If unchecked by the courts—and Congress—Bush's parallel legal system will push the Constitution aside and realize James Madison's prediction that when all power is commanded by only one of the three branches of government, those ensnared in that rogue system are powerless. -

On October 24, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and 18 other human rights groups, plus a coalition of 139 law professors, submitted an amicus brief to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals charging that "the detention of American citizen Yaser Esam Hamdi is unconstitutional." Reading the brief, keep in mind that the Bush administration has plans to set up "enemy combatant" detention facilities for other American citizens (Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2002). -

In stark language, the brief goes on to say that "the government's position is that the president has complete discretion to suspend the application of the Bill of Rights and the writ of habeas corpus [which requires the government to prove the legality of a person's imprisonment] to American citizens on American soil, without the authority of Congress or the courts." -

Accordingly, the Center for Constitutional Rights' amicus brief continues: "We urge this court to declare, now and for future generations, that American citizens have a right not to be detained indefinitely, without due process, and that substantive judicial review is indispensable to the Constitution's guarantee of these rights." It is not mere rhetoric to point out that the future of the Constitution for generations to come is at stake.

On February 27, 1933, a mentally deranged Dutch Communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, lit a few small fires in the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in Berlin - not enough to set the building alight, but sufficient to get him hanged as the sole perpetrator afterward. The happenings prior to that fateful evening, and the events following it, carry some lessons for those wanting to understand September 11, 2001, and the subsequent developments. [...]

The parallels with what happened in Germany in February 1933 are evident. They become clearer still when we look at the results of the attacks. Just as in Germany in 1933, the text of the new US legislation abrogating constitutionally guaranteed civil rights was ready at the time of the WTC and Pentagon attacks. Unprecedentedly, the Federal laws needed were enacted within less than a month after September 11, without significant opposition or debate. Capitol Hill legislators barely bothered to read the bills they approved. As a result, as if by flipping a switch, anyone suspected of terrorism in America is now presumed guilty until proven innocent. The authorities are free to accuse anybody of being or supporting a terrorist. Conveniently, terrorism has not been defined; however, it already has become clear that it includes exercising one's First Amendment rights. [...]

Back in the thirties, Hitler proceeded to rearm Germany and attack his neighbors on trumped-up charges of jeopardizing German interests and mistreating German minorities. Germany became the bully of the decade and started the Second World War. Although Germany lost the war and Hitler committed suicide, her arms industry, including the German subsidiaries of US car giants GM and Ford, profited handsomely. The profits due to Ford and GM were paid out after the end of the war.

Following the 9-11 attacks, President Bush readily stepped up to the challenge and declared war on terrorism on the evening news of September 11. His battle cry "If you're not with us, you're against us" is a round statement by a world-class bully, much like the accusations of treason Hitler liked to level at countries that attempted to preserve their independence before the onslaught of the supposedly invincible German war machine. America has undergone a Fascist takeover, the beneficiaries of which are the owners of big business. The system is rapidly being exported all over the world, and it is intended to become permanent. To prevent citizens from getting in the way of the massive enrichment of the already rich, and to help them accept their new position as mere consumers and sweatshop laborers without the right to uncorrupted political representation, all objections to the process are labeled "terrorism."

You may ask: What, if any, are the differences between Hitler and Bush? Not many, but one stands out: Hitler was elected to his office democratically. Bush was installed against the will of the majority of US voters, through the machinations of his brother, the Florida Governor, and the Supreme Court judges appointed by his father. Another difference may lie in the span of their reigns: Hitler killed himself after 12 years in office, while Bush stands under the curse of Chief Tecumseh, and is bound to die before his term expires in January 2005.

Death Cycle of Presidents Elected in a Zero Year - The conventional wisdom of American campains is that the bottom of the ticket, the nominee for Vice President has little or impact on the election results. However, should an old Indian curse be once again fulfilled, America could be led by a President Cheney or a President Lieberman before the year 2004. Of course there are doubters who find the notion of such a curse to be ridiculous, but in their ranks one would be hard pressed to find the families of eight past American Presidents. - In 1840, the sinister presidential death cycle foretold by Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh, began and every sitting President elected in a year ending in zero died in office, except for President Ronald Reagan who luckily survived, but still endured a serious assassination attempt. - An equally auspicious correlation is the 20-year Jupiter-Saturn cycle in earth signs, occurring in an air sign in 1980 and attributed to President Reagan's assassination escape, yet returning in 2000 to an earth sign. Is it possible even more correlation exists? - Let's crunch a few numbers. Counting all elections, including Washington's first inauguration, but not Clinton's last, there was 46 elections out of which nine Vice Presidents inadvertently inherited the Presidency…that's a 19.5% chance. Counting all inaugurations, the odds are even less…. a total of 51 out of which nine were promotions, revealing a 17.7% chance. Yet, for zero years with seven events out of a possible eight, the chances of it happening again are a whopping 87.5%!

The criminal American "High Cabal ," acting through its puppet, George W. Bush, proclaims a topsy-turvy view of the world in which small, weak nations are said to threaten the U.S., the most powerful and heavily armed nation in the world. They are following Hitler's pattern, who in 1938-1939 declared that Czechoslovakia and Poland were threats to Germany's national security--then rapidly invaded both countries. -

In every corner of the globe, informed citizens are protesting Dubya's war or the "High Cabal's" globalization scam, aware that the Bush junta threatens their very lives. They know that current U.S. military spending exceeds that of the next nine nations combined and that in the past several decades the "High Cabal" has attacked and occupied a large number of smaller nations: Panama, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Sudan and Afghanistan. -

Even American citizens are being shaken from their stupor as the Bush criminal gang begins to impose its police state tactics. Rudely shaken awake by the loss of their retirement funds or investments, American citizens now comprehend that the Bush junta has no regard for their interests. The Bush puppet regime has allowed corporate fat-cats to plunder billions of dollars in investor and retiree funds, pretending that the arrest and indictment of a few small-fry executives is sufficient.

Meanwhile the U.S. economy is steadily going down the tubes, while the country is being mangled into a rich vs. poor war zone. Lewis Lapham delineates the "High Cabal's" record of plunder: "80 percent of the nation's property now securely in the hands of 10 percent of the population, our 13,000 richest families possessed of a net worth equivalent to the assets owned by the country's 20 million poorest families, our ten most highly paid CEOs earning an average of $154 million a year as opposed to the mere pittance of $3.5 million in 1981.

The "High Cabal" didn't expect common people throughout the world to wake up to their plundering. But the Bush junta's attacks on civil liberties, its pro-industry/anti-environment stance, its failure to punish corporate criminals like Ken Lay, and its coverup of the 9/11 attacks--all this has roused the sleeping giant of world public opinion which now is demanding its due.

One of Bush's recent outrages was the appointment of war criminal Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 investigation. When world opposition was too clamorous and Henry the K too unwilling to divulge his many conflicts of interest, Henry was merely replaced with a similar villain, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean.

Now we discover that Kean has business ties with bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi, owners of the Saudi Company Delta Oil, UNOCAL's partner in the Cent-Gas trans-Afghan pipeline consortium. The bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi clans allegedly have ties to bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. The powerful financier Khalid bin Mahfouz’ younger sister is married to Osama bin Laden.

Thomas Kean is a director (and shareholder) of Amerada Hess Corporation , which is involved in the Hess-Delta joint venture with Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia. How handy for Bush that the man he chooses to lead the investigation of the 9/11 atrocity is himself connected to the people who were involved in the World Trade Center and Pentagon assaults. A coverup of the 9/11 abomination is as inevitable with Kean as it was with Kissinger.

"True conservatives and liberals unite! Bring your issues and your opinions to our young people, and create a new expectation that they will get involved, get informed, and form a view of themselves as problem-solving citizens of a democracy. Our differences from the left or right are nothing compared to the differences between the politically awake and the hypnotized drones of the new colonialism that now stalks and shreds our civilization." Granny D. "Takeover Artists," a speech at Boston, 9/27/02

"I don't think we, the American people, deserved what happened [9/11]. Nor do we deserve the sort of governments we have had over the last 40 years. Our governments have brought this upon us by their actions all over the world." Gore Vidal, interview with the Los Angeles Weekly, July 5 - 11, 2002

The persons who blame the common American people for Bush's militaristic drive for world domination and who call Americans cowards simply don't understand what's going on in the world. They sometimes equate the present American people's behavior with that of the German people in 1930's Nazi Germany. The major goal of the world progressive movement is to make sure that what happened under Hitler in the twentieth century does NOT happen with Bush in the twenty-first century. Yes, there are striking similarities between what Bush is doing now and what Hitler did in 1930s Germany. But we don't have to repeat that catastrophe. Our task is to help the common people throughout the world to wake up to what is occurring and demand that their governments serve the peoples' interests. Assuredly, our fight to retain and regain liberties will not be an easy one. And, yes, we could fail if we don't act quickly and intelligently enough.

Make your city or town a Civil Liberties Safe Zone. - Help us restore civil liberties through grassroots efforts in communities nationwide!

Bush's attacks on our civil liberties now constitutes such a CRISIS that Americans must either inform themselves or they will soon find themselves without basic freedoms.

Reasons Why Americans Must Not Support a War Against Iraq - This information sheet was compiled by a group of everyday Americans who understand that true patriotism necessarily implies a willingness to be critical of the government when it fails to represent the needs of its people.

DONALD RUMSFELD, the US Defence Secretary and one of the most strident critics of Saddam Hussein, met the Iraqi President in 1983 to ease the way for US companies to sell Baghdad biological and chemical weapons components, including anthrax and bubonic plague cultures, according to newly declassified US Government documents. - The extraordinary lengths to which successive US Administrations went to befriend Saddam, while ignoring his use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops and his own people, was highlighted in The Washington Post yesterday. It is a timely reminder of American involvement in the creation of Saddam’s arsenal as the current President Bush, who has repeatedly cited Saddam’s possession of chemical and biological weapons as a reason for disarming him, prepares for a possible US-led invasion of Iraq. - According to an affidavit sworn by Howard Teicher, a former National Security Council official during the Reagan Administration, the US “actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third-country arms sales to Iraq to make sure Iraq had the military weaponry required.” Mr Teicher said that William Casey, the former CIA Director, used a Chilean front company to supply Baghdad with cluster bombs.

Area 51: Bush Exempts Secret Base From Environmental Laws - That super-secret Air Force base near Groom Lake, Nevada -- purported site of everything from captured aliens to the highest of high-tech aircraft -- has been exempted by President Bush from environmental laws that would disclose classified information regarding base operations. President Bush's decision about Groom Lake was made last September and published December 24 in the Federal Register.

Theft of 500,000 Defense Employee Records Could Be One of the Largest ID Theft Cases Ever - Authorities said thieves took computer equipment and files with the sensitive information during a break-in Dec. 14 at TriWest, a defense contractor that provides managed health care for military personnel in 16 states. With a person's name, birth date and Social Security number, someone could easily open credit accounts and create fake documents like drivers licenses, Broader said, but officials say they do not yet know the motives or skill level of the thieves.

50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons - Number currently in the stockpile (2002): 10,600

Lying Is Now A Primary Way Of Life A Practical Guide For Lie Detection - We live in a world of lies and deception. The ability to detect these lies is one of the major differences that separates the wise from the foolish, the truly educated from 'educated' fools, realists from wishful thinkers, and the gullible from the astute. It was Mark Twain who observed that most of human grief, sorrow, and man-made calamities came not from sheer ignorance, but the consequences of untrue beliefs. 'It's not from things we don't know', he said, 'but things we know that aren't so.' - The world is now headed for a man-made calamity of enormous proportions and being led by people motivated by greed, hatred, and lust for power. These people control national and world events by their ability to manipulate people with lies and propaganda. Their power is exerted through their total control of all popular media. This extends to nearly all forms of news, information, and entertainment. - These people look upon other human beings as mere cattle to be used for any purpose that they deem desirable. This conspiracy against humanity has accomplished all this through the skillful application of lies and propaganda. If people could recognize the techniques used by lying propagandists they would not fall prey to their lies. - Learn to recognize propaganda when it comes to you. Listen to what is not said that should be. Always ask who benefits from the story that is being told. Identify known liars and evaluate what they say accordingly. Remember, there is nothing stranger than the truth.

Hundreds of masked rioters went on a rampage in Bahrain's capital city Wednesday, attacking hotels frequented by Americans and cars with Saudi license plates. - Earlier, Bahrain's new Islamic-dominated parliament warned of any U.S.-led war against Iraq. In a statement, parliament said such a war would result in "devastating consequences for the security and economies of Gulf countries and consequently world security and peace."

Most field biologists are convinced that they are already seeing important biological impacts of climate change. However, they have encountered difficulty in convincing other academic disciplines, policy-makers and the general public." The picture that emerges from their study, they argue, is persuasive in the round, even though individual species may not show a marked response to warming temperatures. They write: "The test for a globally coherent climate fingerprint does not require that any single species show a climate change impact with 100% certitude. - "These analyses reveal a consistent temperature-related shift, or 'fingerprint', in species ranging from molluscs to mammals and from grasses to trees...the balance of evidence from these studies strongly suggests that a significant impact of global warming is already discernible in animal and plant populations."

This is the year when we start waiting for nuclear proliferation to hit double figures. There are now nine states known or firmly believed to have nuclear weapons, and once the 10th emerges, the rush will almost certainly be on. - It is little short of miraculous that the lid on the nuclear genie stayed shut as long as it died. For the first 30 years of the nuclear era, there were four countries with the power of the atom; the United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France. China tested its first bomb on Oct. 14, 1964. At some still-undisclosed point on the decade after China's test, Israel joined the nuclear club. Although its nuclear weaponry has yet to be officially confirmed, Israel is now believed to have close to 200 nuclear warheads, roughly the same as Britain and France, although all of Israel's delivery vehicles are relatively short-range. In the past five years, India and Pakistan tested their own nuclear weapons. And if the statements of top U.S. officials like Secretary of State Colin Powell are to be believed, North Korea now has at least two. That brings us to nine. - The North Koreans have re-opened the nuclear box, and nuclear powers numbered 10, 11, 12 -- and maybe unlucky 13 -- are waiting in the wings. Happy New Year.

President Bush yesterday said that Saddam Hussein looms as a far greater threat than North Korea's Kim Jong-il and warned that an attack on the United States orchestrated by the Iraqi dictator could cripple the U.S. economy. - Critics charge the Bush administration with duplicity for treating Iraq and North Korea differently. They say Iraq, which claims it has no weapons of mass destruction and is allowing inspections by U.N. personnel, presents a lesser threat than North Korea, which has at least two nuclear bombs and last week ejected inspectors.

A Pakistani jeweler said Wednesday his picture is among those of five foreign-born men the FBI says may have entered the United States on falsified passports. He said he has never visited the United States. An Associated Press photograph of Mohammed Asghar taken at his shop in Lahore on Wednesday was a near-perfect match for the one included on the FBI list under the name Mustafa Khan Owasi, down to the prominent mole on Asghar's left cheek. FBI spokeswoman Angela Bell said the bureau was not able to confirm that Asghar is the man in the picture. She said the FBI planned to interview him in Pakistan.

Israel is sending a delegation to Washington next week to open talks on a multibillion-dollar aid package, hoping to ease the process by agreeing not to use the funds for settlement activities in Palestinian territories, U.S. sources said on Wednesday. The delegation, led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, will meet with top White House and Treasury officials considering Israel's request for $4 billion in military assistance and $8 billion to $10 billion in U.S.-backed loan guarantees. - The Bush administration is negotiating separate economic aid packages for U.S. allies Turkey and Jordan to help offset the economic shock of a possible war with Iraq. - Israel is already the top recipient of U.S. foreign aid, receiving close to $3 billion in mostly military assistance each year. A new aid package would come on top of existing U.S. commitments.

The Bush administration plans to continue humanitarian food shipments to North Korea in the new year, despite what President Bush has called a "diplomatic showdown" over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials said. "We expect to continue providing the same level of aid to the (United Nations) World Food Program in Korea as we have in the past," a senior administration official said on Tuesday in reply to written questions from Reuters. "We don't use food as a political weapon." In the past, the United States has argued that humanitarian food aid should be isolated from geo-strategic considerations -- an idea summed up by former President Ronald Reagan's dictum that "a hungry child knows no politics." But the timing of a U.S. food-aid announcement was up in the air while Washington pressed to reverse the North's recent steps toward restarting a nuclear program frozen in a 1994 non-proliferation deal with the United States. The aid would come at a time the reclusive Communist state -- long considered by Washington as one of its most dangerous enemies -- is perhaps more vulnerable to outside pressure than ever. In the mid- to late-1990s, as many as 2.5 million North Koreans, or about 10 percent of the population, are estimated to have died in a famine.

North Korea called on South Koreans to unite with it against America yesterday, a day after expelling inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency. Pyongyang issued a defiant New Year's message which talked of running an "army-based policy" and building a "powerful nation" which would be able to counter an American invasion. The US has branded North Korea a member of "an axis of evil", a move some believe is responsible for the current crisis in which Pyongyang has threatened to restart its frozen nuclear programme.

South Korea denounces US pressure on Stalinist North - Some South Korean analysts believe President George Bush's decision to include the North in his "axis of evil" played a central part in aggravating relations in the region. These misgivings have meshed with an upsurge of anti-American sentiment in South Korea, fuelled by anger at the acquittal by a US military tribunal of two American soldiers involved in a car crash that killed two schoolgirls.

North Korea to pull out of pact limiting nuclear weapons because of US 'threats' - Pak Ui Chun, North Korea's ambassador to Moscow, said that the US had been "threatening us with a preventative nuclear strike". "In these circumstances, we also cannot fulfil the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the basic clause of which is the obligation of nuclear states not to use the nuclear weapon against states which do not possess it," Mr Pak was quoted as saying.

A pre-emptive strike by the United States on North Korea's nuclear weapons facilities is on the back burner for now because repercussions could prove catastrophic, outside analysts and administration officials say. - An attack, while authorized by the White House's new national security strategy, could provoke North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, to attack South Korea, engulfing the region in war. Mr. Kim, with his rule at stake in one of the world's last Stalinist states, might unleash his small nuclear arsenal on South Korea or Japan. He also possesses large arsenals of chemical and biological weapons, and ballistic missiles to deliver them.

American military officials in Afghanistan have admitted that an American B-52 jet dropped a 500lb bomb on Pakistani border troops, who are supposed to be co-operating with the US in the war against al-Qa'ida and Taliban. - The incident will fuel resentment in Pakistan about American handling of the "war on terror" on their soil, which is particularly keenly felt among conservative Islamist elements. It will also reinforce American misgivings about the Pakistani security forces, which have in their ranks elements that sympathise with extremist anti-US militants.

Nine Northeastern U.S. states sued the Bush administration on Tuesday over its decision to relax clean-air rules to help coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities avoid costly pollution controls. The consortium of states -- Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont -- filed the lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, according to a news release.

Senator John Edwards of North Carolina is expected today to declare his candidacy for the White House, joining an increasingly numerous Democratic field to challenge President George Bush in 2004. - Mr Edwards becomes the third Democrat to enter the race, after Governor Howard Dean of Vermont and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Mr Kerry announced his own exploratory committee last month, shortly before Al Gore, defeated by Mr Bush in 2000, decided not to run again. - Others are likely to follow, including Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Mr Gore's vice-presidential running mate three years ago, the former House minority leader Richard Gephardt, and the Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Possible additional contenders are Bob Graham, the experienced Florida Senator, and the retired general Wesley Clark, Nato's supreme commander during the 1999 Kosovo war. General Clark has not formally confirmed he will be a candidate, but he is acting like one – contacting potential backers, visiting key primary states, and making weighty speeches.

Revellers across the globe rang in the New Year amid concerns over a looming war with Iraq and deep fears that 2003 could usher in a brave new world of nuclear and biological warfare, and even human cloning. - In the waning days of 2002, it seemed some of the worst nightmares of modern sci-fi writers were on the verge of reality. - Fears of a fresh terrorist strike, coupled with the specter of war on Iraq and the situation on the Korean peninsula, clouded New Years celebrations in the United States, where police snipers and sniffer dogs scrutinized crowds for the centerpiece party in New York's Times Square. - The looming war with Iraq and fears of global terror cast a pall over western Europe's New Years festivities as revellers uneasily pulled the cork. - Concerns over an attack on Iraq intruded into New Year's addresses by European leaders. President Jacques Chirac said France would continue efforts to make its peace message heard. "We live in an uncertain, dangerous world where threats of war are added to terrorist risks..." said Chirac. "In recent months, France got through its message of peace, stability and solidarity with poor countries .... In 2003 France will continue efforts, with the United Nations, despite the difficulties, to assert the principles that are the basis of its commitment and vision of the world." France and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, succeeded in November in getting the UN resolution on disarming Iraq adopted without a clause authorising an automatic recourse to force if Baghdad does not comply, as Washington had sought.

More flooding 'inevitable' as unrelenting rain batters southern and central England - Last night the number of flood warnings rose again to 105 – affecting the whole of the South-east apart from London, and most of the central and East Anglian areas. The situation is expected to worsen with more rain predicted today. The agency said the total amount of rainfall over the last few days had almost reached that of October two years ago, when thousands of people were driven from their homes.

Whole villages gone after giant waves crush Polynesian isle - The Polynesian island of Tikopia has been hit by massive 11 metre (36 feet) high waves which appear to have swept away entire villages and completely destroyed the lagoon around the island, experts said. Cyclone Zoe over the weekend slammed into the Tikopia and Anuta in the Temotu district of the Solomon Islands and although no word has come from them two surveillance flights Wednesday revealed extensive damage. The islands have a combined population of around 3,000 people.

Islanders desert Italy's Stromboli after giant wave - Almost all the residents of a small island off Italy have left since a giant wave caused by volcanic activity crashed into a coastal village, a rescue services spokesman said on Tuesday. (Wednesday NZT) About 260 people have left Stromboli, fearful of what the island's volcano might do next after it caused a massive wave to hit the village of Ginostra on Monday, injuring three people, damaging several homes and overturning boats. - One of the slopes of the volcano, which rumbled awake on Saturday, slid into the sea and the landslide created the wave. - Residents reported hearing an explosion on Monday that was thought to have set off the landslide, but the vulcanology institute has not confirmed the chain of events. The island was left practically deserted by Tuesday's exodus. Stromboli has an official population of 450, but civil protection officials said there were only 300 there at the time because many people were already away due to the holidays and the off-peak tourist season.

UN arms inspectors probed four Iraqi sites in their search for the weapons of mass destruction that Baghdad denies having, as the United States prepared to send new troops to the Gulf region. The new inspections came as Baghdad urged the Arab world to take inspiration from North Korea, which relaunched its nuclear programme in the face of US criticism. "We Arabs need to revise our behaviour towards the United States, as North Korea has done, to be respected," said the daily Babel, owned by President Saddam Hussein's elder son Uday. "Arabs need to learn the lesson from the Korean example to mobilize in order to stop an attack on Iraq and prevent a US-Zionist crusade in the Arab world," the paper continued. The rhetoric followed a US announcement that a US Army infantry division of up to 17,000 troops had been given orders for deployment to the Gulf region.

No case for Iraq war, says UN chief but Blair warns Britain: Be ready for conflict in Gulf - Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, said last night that he saw no justification for a military onslaught against Iraq... His remarks were a blunt warning to Britain and the United States that they will need clear evidence of clandestine weapons programmes in Iraq to win support from other nations for any military campaign against Saddam Hussein this winter. Mr Annan also said weapons inspectors in Iraq were working without interference. - His comments stood in contrast to a bellicose end-of-year statement from Tony Blair that Britain should be ready for possible conflict in the Gulf. He said he was ready to take "tough decisions" on dealing with President Saddam "regardless of short-term popularity". - America also continues to give the impression of preparing for near-certain war.

Iraqi Attack Could Cripple U.S. Economy, Warns Bush - President Bush delivered a New Year's Eve warning on Tuesday that any attack on the United States by Iraq or a group working on its behalf could cripple the U.S. economy. - His warning seemed designed to persuade Americans and a world heavily locked into the fortunes of the U.S. economy that Washington had no choice but to go to war if necessary to ensure Iraq comes clean over any weapons of mass destruction. - Calling Iraq's response so far "discouraging," Bush said: "Saddam's declaration was short, and the international community recognized that, that he wasn't forthcoming."

Comment: One has to wonder about Bush's word comprehension. Why is it that nearly the entire international community claims to be satisfied with how "forthcoming" Iraq has shown itself to be, but Bush continues to do the "we" business? How can he say that "Saddam's declaration" was short? The only way it got shortened was when Bush and Co. censored it to cover their own behinds. Sheesh! This guy is pathetic.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said earlier there was no argument for a U.S. strike against Iraq. Annan said Iraq was cooperating with U.N. inspections and he saw no need for military action until inspectors reported back to the Security Council by January 27. "I really do not see any basis for an action until then, particularly as (the inspectors) are able to carry out their work in an unimpeded manner," Annan said in an interview with Israel's Army Radio monitored in Jerusalem.

Lebanese special forces surrounded a Beirut-based satellite television station Wednesday to prevent it from airing a program containing criticism of Saudi Arabia, sources at the station -- New TV -- told United Press International. - New TV had planned to invite Saudi opposition figures to discuss the Saudi regime, political and economic conditions in Saudi Arabia, and also the use of U.S. military bases in the country in the event of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq. But the station sources told UPI that Information Minister Ghazi Aridi had asked New TV Chairman Tahseen Khayat not to broadcast the program scheduled for airing Wednesday night. When Khayat refused, Aridi told him that going ahead would lead to the government shutting down his TV station. - Saudi Arabia has been the target of Western media criticism following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and Washington and is highly sensitive to critical comment. Most of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks were Saudi citizens. In addition, the Saudi government has been charged with being slow to respond to a U.S.-led drive to track down and freeze funds belonging to the al Qaida militant group led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

Israeli troops killed four Palestinians including three teenagers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank on Wednesday, saying they had been on their way to attack Jewish settlements. The three youths were shot after sneaking into a fenced-in Israeli buffer zone in northern Gaza after dark, approaching the Elei Sinai settlement armed only with wire-cutters and a knife in an apparent suicide mission, the army said.

An 18-year-old Palestinian high school student who had just finished nightly prayers at a Hebron mosque was detained Monday night by Israeli border police in this bitterly divided West Bank town. Family and neighbors said today that his badly beaten body was found by friends 20 minutes later, lying in the middle of a road a half-mile away. - A 43-year-old Hebron taxi driver, who declined to be identified, said 10 days ago that he and his family were stopped in their private car and given a choice of being beaten or having their car smashed. When they chose the latter, he said, border police displayed a piece of paper and announced that that was what was written on it, then proceeded to smash the windows, windshield and lights. - B'Tselem released a report Monday describing an incident in Hebron on Dec. 3 in which the organization said four soldiers detained five Palestinian men at a barbershop and forcibly shaved the heads of two of them. The soldiers also used three of the men as human shields, standing behind them and firing over their shoulders at Palestinian stone-throwers, according to the report. Also on Monday, Israeli soldiers took over two medical clinics in the West Bank city of Nablus, about 30 miles north of Jerusalem, and used the building as a firing position while holding patients inside, according to the organization Physicians for Human Rights.

Tony Blair was accused yesterday of using a stark warning about threats to Britain from overseas to divert attention from a "crisis" in public services at home. Conservatives criticised Mr Blair's gloomy New Year message about the "difficult and dangerous" problems of global security and the international economy. - But Michael Ancram, the Tory foreign affairs spokesman, said: "There is a certain reality in what he is warning against, but what I think is quite extraordinary in his message is that he doesn't talk about those other areas of crisis: the crisis in the health service, the crisis in our schools, the crisis in law and order, the enormous looming crisis in pensions, which are going to hit people very hard over the next 12 months, with rising taxes in April. "I do get a faint feeling that he is trying to divert attention away on to the international side in order to divert attention from all the problems there are going to be domestically for him."

Latin America's biggest nation marked a dramatic change in leadership Wednesday with the inauguration of a former shoeshine boy as Brazil's first elected leftist president. A beaming Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took the oath of office in Brazil's Congress as tens of thousands of working class Brazilians cheered the elementary school dropout who went on to become a union leader and the head of Brazil's Workers Party. - A former radical who used to espouse socialism, Silva has promised to end hunger and economic misery in a country where an estimated 50 million of the 175 million citizens live in poverty. But he faces huge challenges: inflation has crept into the double digits for the first time in years, and a regional economic crisis that has plunged Brazil's neighbors into financial chaos. Brazil's currency, the real, lost 35 percent of its value against the dollar last year, reflecting investor concern over whether Silva will keep his pledge of financing the country's large foreign debt burden — or whether Brazil will default, as Argentina did a year ago.

In today's Zimbabwe, politics has something to do with just about everything -- especially food. With more than half the nation's 12 million citizens at risk of starvation, there is strong evidence that President Robert Mugabe's ruling party has used food as an instrument of power -- to reward allies, punish opponents and attract new supporters.

Stocks, depressed by worries about war, terrorism and corporate crimes, fell for a third straight year in 2002 in their worst performance in more than six decades. - The Dow Jones Industrial Average, reflecting the loss of confidence in blue-chip companies disgraced by scandal, fell 17 percent, after declining 6 percent in 2000 and 7 percent in 2001. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 23 percent, while the technology-driven Nasdaq Composite Index plummeted 32 percent and some European indexes crashed by more than 40 percent. The U.S. indexes have lost from 27.5 percent to 67 percent of their value in the past three years. - December turned out to be the worst month since the Great Depression, with both the Dow and S&P posting losses of more than 6 percent.

December 31, 2002

After a few days of rest, today, the last day of 2002, I resume the Signs Report with some big question marks in my mind. The biggest, of course, is: what will 2003 bring? We are already in something of a state of amazement at the rapidity of events in the past year, most of them in the second half. A Fascist regime is well on its way to dominance, led by George Bush and the Warmongers, and the Planet is more unstable than it has been since the appearance of Adolf Hitler on the World Stage.

Not only is the planet politically unstable due to the machinations of the alphabet soup guys with their One World Government Agenda with Dubya at the helm - there is evidence that the geological/climatological reality is increasingly unbalanced, what with the ice melting at the poles, floods, famines, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and general anomalous weather.

We face a frightening and uncertain future with no real statesmanship evident anywhere, a drunken psychopath at the helm of State, and events that are never quite what they seem passing before our eyes on the political stage.

Nevertheless, there does appear to be some semi-sort-of positive developments. Dubya's plans seem to be going South a bit since he can't quite seem to gather the support he wants either internationally or at home. Too many people are asking too many questions and human beings are not as stupid and asleep as the Warmongers would like to think. The plan to inoculate the entire U.S. population against Smallpox sort of collapsed with all of the internet coverage and sharing of information.

People aren't too happy with the airport "security" tactics, the snooping at libraries and in schools; and the abrogation of Constitutional Rights isn't going over too big even if the current Fascist gang in Washington have managed to push legislation through with their repeated "sleight of hand" trickery. Little by little, folks are waking up and smelling the coffee.

But is it enough? Probably not. I suspect that there will be some more "engineered" terrorism just to whip people into line. And there are certainly many people who would rather be sheeple than observe and think and act. So Bush and the Gang just may carry their agenda to its full manifestation. It will still take a heck of a lot of observing, networking, and acting to just hold the line, much less undo the damage that has already been done.

One thing that I do think will happen - ultimately - is that the whole gang of thieves and terrorists in Washington will be exposed in the most astonishing scandal of our history. They are too confident and they will go too far... and they have made too many enemies. Maybe not this coming year - we may have to batten down the hatches to get through this one - but soon.

On another note, I read a post on a message board last week that stuck in my mind. A writer commented on that mysterious quatrain of Nostradamus' about "Mabus." He pointed out that Hitler had been sort of "mentioned" in one quatrain in the following terms:

Beasts ferocious from hunger will swim across rivers:
The greater part of the region will be against the Hister,
The great one will cause it to be dragged in an iron cage,
When the German child will observe nothing.

He then suggested that the term "Mabus" might be a word indicating Bush in the same way "hister" might have indicated "Hitler."

"Mabus" then will soon die, there will come
Of people and beasts a horrible rout:
Then suddenly one will see vengeance,
Hundred, hand, thirst, hunger when the comet will run.

What is interesting is that both quatrains do talk about "beasts" and we have discussed this as a designation for nations. In the quatrain assumed to be about Hitler, it says that "the greater part of the region will be against" him, and this was certainly true about Hitler. In the one about Mabus, it says that he will "soon die," which is an interesting pronouncement if it is possible that this quatrain describes the "reign of George Bush."

The C's have said that the events of Nazi Germany were the "practice run" for our current world events. And, if that is the case, perhaps the model of Hitler's life and death is the template for Bush?

The difficult part to assess is the timing, of course. I have conjectured that, based on prophetic archetypes, Bush has 42 months from the 9-11 event to "wage war on the world." That puts the end of the Regime in the Spring of 2005.

The C's have said that something about the Denver Airport will lead to a Huge Scandal and that it will "reveal the government." I have no idea how this might play out, but it will be an interesting thing to watch for. And perhaps it has something to do with "Mabus'" death and the running of a comet.

In any event, having made it through a year in which we have lost almost all semblance of Freedom in America - if we really had any to begin with - based on a fraud that has been perpetrated on the World by the Consortium with the Bush Gang as the front men, let's hang on because it is undoubtedly going to be an interesting ride!

The insistent, pervading fear of terror that will continue to blight our lives - America's armies gather round Iraq. North Korea raises the stakes yet again in its nuclear poker game with the world. These crises (and North Korea is a "crisis", whatever Colin Powell may pretend) dominate the headlines. Yet, only in part do they explain our sense of foreboding as 2002 turns into 2003. Colouring everything is a less tangible fear: the knowledge that international terrorism could strike anywhere, any time, and in forms more terrible than the attacks of 11 September. - Certainly, the Bush administration has scored successes in its "war on terror". Several senior al-Qa'ida figures have been killed or captured and, however slowly, the rebuilding of the former terrorist lair of Afghanistan is under way. But Osama bin Laden's fate is unclear, while most of his top lieutenants are still at large. Meanwhile, the soil in which extremism takes root has never been as fertile.

The Palestine-Israel conflict generates ever more Arab resentment of the US and of its perceived bias towards Israel, while the dead-end politics and feeble economies of the Arab world offer little hope to the desperate. To these reasons to envy and dislike the West may soon be added another – a war with Iraq that will be seen in many Islamic countries as an unprovoked attack by America and Britain against one of their own. Add to this the risk of nuclear-armed Pakistan descending into anarchy, and North Korea's role as purveyor of technology for weapons of mass destruction to anyone who can pay for it, and the foreboding seems more rational by the minute.

With another five people killed in 24 hours, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis ended a violent year on a bloody note, while the region looked uneasily at the looming prospect of a new Gulf War sending shockwaves through the Middle East.

Kuwaitis seethe with anger as U.S. war drum beats - As thousands of U.S. soldiers train for war in Kuwait near the Iraqi border, some of the people they have promised to protect are growing tired of what they call U.S. President George W. Bush's "cowboy" style of leadership. "We don't like Saddam. But we hate the Americans," said Ramiz Abu Qweidar, a civil engineer who lives in the poor town of Jahra, a 30-minute drive from the capital. - Anti-American sentiment in Kuwait boiled over in November when a Kuwaiti policeman shot and seriously wounded two U.S. soldiers. There have been a number of reports of shots fired at U.S. troops training in the Kuwaiti desert. While many Kuwaitis condemned the attacks, some said U.S. policies in the Middle East invited hatred and violence.

Annan: Iraq appears to be cooperating U.N. chief says he sees no need for military action now - In Baghdad, U.N. inspectors spent the final day of the year searching for signs of an illicit weapons program in Iraq. They are scheduled to report their findings to the Security Council on January 27 after 60 days of inspections. So far, the monitors have not revealed any evidence that Iraq is developing a clandestine nuclear or biological weapons program.

US fed-up with UN dithering over Iraq as war clouds gather - The United States warned the stand-off with Iraq cannot be allowed to drag on, while UN arms inspectors pursued the hunt for banned weapons at seven sites as war clouds piled up. US Secretary of State Colin Powell may be the leading dove in the Bush administration but he suggested Washington was losing patience as arms inspectors plod on with their work. "I think that this can't go on indefinitely," Powell told NBC television. Nonetheless the United States would wait to hear from UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix before taking any decisions.

Iraq is hiding at least two weapons scientists in Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces, U.S. intelligence officials have told The Washington Times. The intelligence officials also said there are signs that Iraq's military forces recently moved chemical and biological weapons materials to underground storage areas unknown to arms inspectors from the United Nations. "They've moved the scientists to two palaces," said an intelligence official familiar with internal U.S. government reports on Iraq sent to senior officials last week. Intelligence reports about the scientists support the Bush administration's conclusion that Iraq is violating the terms of the latest U.N. resolution requiring Baghdad to cooperate fully with weapons inspections. The Iraqis are hiding the scientists apparently to prevent the arms inspectors from questioning them, the officials said. The two scientists were not identified by name. The officials said one is believed to be involved in Iraq's covert nuclear arms program and that the second is a specialist in chemical and biological weapons.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said Tuesday he feared Israel might exploit a possible U.S. war on Iraq to escalate its own military attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. - "The ghost of war that overshadows the Middle East represents today an open chance for the government of Israel and its occupation army to pursue its destructive war against our Palestinian people and against our holy Islamic and Christian places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem," Arafat said. His comments came as Israeli soldiers and Palestinians fought gunbattles near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip which left one Palestinian dead.

A Canada-based peace and disarmament group plans to launch ''weapons inspections'' in the United States to draw attention to its claim that the country is a dangerous rogue state. - The group, Rooting Out Evil, plans to assemble volunteer weapons inspectors at U.S.-Canada border checkpoints some time next year and says it has already found 'volunteers' for the campaign from Europe, North America and Asia. It is asking voluntary inspectors to sign up at its website -

Excerpt from "The Baffling Patriotism of Daniel Pipes" by Michael Neumann

I admit I'm puzzled by how America could be so blind to its own interests, but maybe that's because Israel used to be seen as a partner in the fight against communism in the Middle East. That might have made sense forty years ago, but today it's as rational as keeping a garlic wreath handy in case vampires bust into your house.

As for Israel's value in fighting terror, or Islamic fundamentalism, or Saddam Hussein, or anything else, where's the beef? Every time we want to fight any of these things, we have to bring Israel wheelbarrows of cash, bribe it to keep its head down. Some valuable ally, huh?

So let's put our cards on the table, Pipes. Don't go all candy-ass on me and talk about blown-up babies or our moral obligations to the wonderful state of Israel. This is war, you tell us; it's the defense of America. Well then, defend it, for Christ's sake. Don't bleat.

The time has come to dump Israel, hard. America's defense demands it. And if you're not with America, of course, you're against it.

The funny thing is, this isn't even callous. The best thing that could happen to Israel is for America to back the Palestinians, because only then could there be a real peace settlement. Even if you discount its small but primo-quality nuclear arsenal (enhanced by cruise missiles, satellites,ICBMs and missile-firing subs), Israel comes out so powerful that US support for the Palestinians wouldn't do too much more than level the playing field. That's what it would take to get Israel out of the occupied territories andwithin its own borders, so it can live in peace.

Decades of unconditionally supporting Israel, repeat, unconditionally supporting Israel, hasn't ended the war between the Israelis and Palestinians. America doing whatever Jewish interests want the way they want it done has, predictably, converted the US into a bigger scale copy of the Jewish state. A country that is hated in large parts of the world. A country that has to build walls around itself to protect itself from the rest of the world. A country that fears attack and panics and sacrifices its freedoms and its rights at the slightest threat.

Is it really worth it?

Quakes and floods bigger killers than terror in 2002 - Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurance company, said in an annual report on natural disasters that 11,000 people were killed by floods, earthquakes, storms and other extreme weather in 2002, and worse was likely to follow. - This year's death toll was lower than the 25,000 in 2001, when an earthquake in the western Indian state of Gujarat killed at least 19,700 people, but economic losses from such disasters soared to $55 billion from $35 billion, Munich Re said.

Flood fears for New Year as more rain is expected - Across England and Wales, 80 flood warnings are in force, with the South East, East Anglia, Midlands and North East hardest hit. Heavy rain is set to reach south west Britain before spreading north east overnight and on Wednesday. On New Year's Day, motorists are also being warned of snow in northern England and parts of Scotland. The number of flood warnings decreased from the previous number of more than 100. But the Environment Agency says more rain will probably lead to a rise in flood warnings.

Two Pacific islands 'lost' after cyclone - FEARS are growing for the safety of the 3,000 residents of two of the most remote inhabited islands in the South Pacific. Tikopia and Anuta, in the Solomon Islands, are believed to have been devastated by hurricane-force winds. Radio contact was lost after cyclone Zoe reached the maximum category five as it swept across the region, generating 200mph winds and 30ft waves.

Canadians have their backs up over American foreign policy, according to a new survey that shows the vast majority believe the United States is acting like a bully with the rest of the world. The survey suggests a chill has developed in Canada-U.S. relations compared to the empathy and support that flowed following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and for the launch of the U.S.-led "war on terrorism."

Dollar hits fresh lows as war fears persist - The dollar extended its losses as concerns over North Korea's nuclear programme and the possibility of a war with Iraq continued to weigh on sentiment towards the currency, prompting a further shift into perceived safe havens by jittery investors. There was added pessimism after soft US economic data indicated a slower-than-expected pace of business activity.

World stock markets will draw the line on Tuesday under a third consecutive year of losses which, taken together, represent the most severe bear market since the Great Depression more than 70 years ago. The MSCI World total return index has lost 20 per cent in 2002, its worst yearly performance since 1974. In the early 1970s crash, the Dow marked the most severe falls. The declines of 2002 have been spread across the globe with UK, Japan and, particularly, Germany leaving the year in deeply negative territory. This year's falls would deliver another blow to the equity culture, said Robert Buckland at Schroder Salomon Smith Barney. "Only the most experienced investors and brokers will remember a time when losses have been as severe as they have been this year, " he added.

Prosecutors in South Korea have seized documents from a biotechnology company linked to a controversial sect which claims to have created the world's first cloned baby.

Three American missionaries were shot dead in Yemen yesterday by an Islamic radical who authorities believe was part of a militant cell attacking foreigners and local politicians.

South Korea denounces US pressure on Stalinist North - The outgoing President, Kim Dae Jung, and his successor poured scorn on the American strategy yesterday, saying it would not persuade Pyongyang to change tack. - In a further sign of dissent, North Korea hinted it might pull out of the treaty on the non- proliferation of nuclear weap-ons, which seeks to confine nuclear weapons to the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China. North Korea signed the treaty in 1985, although the Americans believe it has made at least one nuclear bomb since. Russia Warns N. Korea to Stay in Treaty

New Year brings new luggage checks - The Transportation Security Administration's countdown to the new year is also a countdown to the midnight Tuesday deadline for the TSA to be screening all checked bags for explosives at the nation's airports. - More than 90 percent will be screened by expensive bomb-detection systems called EDS that use CAT scan technology or by hand-held devices called EDT that swab for traces of explosives on bags. In addition, the TSA will use canine teams, hand searches and passenger-bag matching to screen the 2 million pieces of luggage checked on average each day.

A man was charged Monday with stalking his former live-in girlfriend with help from a high-tech homing device placed under the hood of her car. Paul Seidler, 42, was arrested during the weekend. On Monday, he was charged with stalking, burglary, second-degree reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct, and ordered held on $50,000 bail.

The trial of a pollster charged with acting against national security by publishing a survey showing most Iranians wanted talks with arch-foe the United States opened Tuesday in an Iranian court. Behrouz Geranpayeh, a reformist and head of a polling company, is on trial with four others in the latest such case against pollsters. The trials have become a new battleground between President Mohammad Khatami's reformists and powerful conservatives who have blocked his efforts to bring about more open, responsible government in the Islamic Republic. Khatami's government has lambasted the trials as politically-motivated and said the pollsters' activities had been cleared by the Intelligence Ministry.

AT&T Corp. and WorldCom Inc.'s MCI residential unit are raising rates and introducing fees that take effect tomorrow for new subscribers. The phone companies will pass on some of the higher costs to current subscribers in March.

Americans believe by a 2-to-1 margin that it is prudent to hold off on more tax cuts, a centerpiece of President Bush's domestic-policy agenda, and two-thirds fear war with Iraq will lead to terror attacks in the United States, an Associated Press poll found. Despite being more cautious about their personal spending, most Americans are optimistic that their financial situation will improve. On the international front, the poll found people much more likely to view Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network as threats than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

While the President decides whether to march to Baghdad, Saddam Hussein may be poised to bring the battle to American cities via terrorism. Yet Washington's focus on creating a new Department of Homeland Security has left America's cities not much better protected than they were sixteen months ago.

There very well may be another Korean war. But there is no longer a compelling reason for the United States to get involved in it. North Korea has been rattling the nuclear saber, threatening to "destroy the Earth" if the United States does not do what it wants. U.S. intelligence agencies estimate North Korea already has two nuclear bombs. That number could grow by leaps and bounds now that North Korea has removed the seals from and disabled U.N. monitoring cameras at the Yongbyon nuclear plant, which is capable of extracting weapons-grade plutonium from spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants. If North Korea reactivates the plant, it could produce enough plutonium to build as many as 100 bombs within a year. North Korea also has tested successfully an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the West Coast of the United States.


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