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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--

Faith of consciousness is freedom
Faith of feeling is weakness
Faith of body is stupidity

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January 16, 2003

San Francisco zookeepers perplexed by endless circle-swimming penguins - A few penguins swimming leisurely at the San Francisco Zoo is nothing new. But dozens of them doing laps in unison for hours has zookeepers perplexed. [Photo] AP Photo "We've lost complete control," said Jane Tollini, the zoos penguin keeper. "It's a free-for-all in here. After 18 years of doing this job, these birds are making mincemeat of me." It all started in November when six newcomer Magellannic penguins, formerly of Sea World in Aurora, Ohio, were brought in. Since then the penguin pool at the San Francisco Zoo has been a daily frenzy of circle swimming by all of the 52 birds at once. The penguins start swimming in circles early in the day and rarely stop until they stagger out of the pool at dusk. The six penguins from Ohio started it all, Tollini said, apparently convincing the others to join them for the watery daily circuit. "I can't figure out how the Aurora penguins communicated and changed the minds of the other 46," Tollini said.

Comment: Maybe it is just a coincidence? Maybe the new birds arrived at a time when all of them began to "sense" something? Reader comments: Since animals are widely known to be much more sensitive to geologic precursors to earthquakes and such, one thought that occurred to me was that what was happening is that the penguins have "sensed" something coming and are simply trying to figure out how to escape. Or maybe they are just swimming laps.

Bush Has Not Yet Convinced Public on Need for War; Support Could Increase if Inspectors Find Weapons - President Bush has yet to convince Americans that war with Iraq is justified, according to a poll that suggests the White House has much work to do to win public support for military force. "I think a little more diplomacy would be in order," said Creig Crippen, an 84-year-old retired Air Force veteran from Deland, Fla. There is widespread support for removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but that support is conditional on proof of a threat from Iraq and on the support of allies, said the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The poll was released Thursday as the United Nations said it had discovered empty chemical warheads south of Baghdad.

Comment: It is just SO astonishingly handy that, almost the same instant the poll comes out, the "inspectors" find something that is being cooked up as a "smoking gun!" We note again: Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said "We are worried about pressure being put on inspectors by certain circles in Washington," Ivanov told reporters after talks with his Italian opposite number. "Some publications and official declarations...cast doubt on some aspects of the inspectors' work."

Inspectors Find 11 Empty Chemical Warheads in Iraq - The United Nations said it discovered empty chemical warheads south of Baghdad Thursday and the weapons had not been reported by Iraq. An Iraqi official said the weapons were old artillery shells listed in its December declaration. - A 12th warhead, also of a 122 mm, was found that requires further evaluation, according to the statement by Hiro Ueki, the spokesman for U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad. “It was a discovery. They were not declared,” Ueki told The Associated Press. But Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer to the inspection teams, said they were short-range weapons imported in 1988 and mentioned in Iraq’s December declaration to the United Nations. “I would like to express the astonishment of the Iraqi government about the fuss made about the discovery by a U.N. inspection team. ...It is no more than a storm in a teacup,” Amin said in a news conference called hastily after the U.N. issued its written statement. “We shall remain patient and we shall continue to deal with all this calmly,” Amin said.

Iraq on Thursday dismissed a U.N. report of the discovery of empty warheads designed to carry chemical agents as a storm in a teacup over arms that had long expired. "These are 122mm rockets with an empty warhead. There are no chemical or biological agents or weapons of mass destruction or linked to weapons of mass destruction," said the head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, General Hussam Mohammad Amin. "These rockets are expired...they were in closed wooden boxes...that we had forgotten about," he told a news conference. He challenged U.N. inspectors to disprove his claim and described the issue as a "storm in a teacup." A U.N., spokesman said in Baghdad that weapons inspectors had found empty warheads designed to carry chemical warfare agents.

The Case of the Missing Information about Iraq’s Weapons - The major media in the US seem intent on following a script worthy of an Agatha Christie mystery. They lay out a few clues at best and withhold or obscure facts that could give you a better picture of why and how the crime was committed. The plot? The missing 8,000 pages the United States edited out of Iraq’s 11,800-page dossier on weapons before it passed on a “sanitized” version to the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations security council, according to a December 22 story in the Glasgow, Scotland Sunday Herald.

The five permanent members of the security council—the US, the UK, France, China and Russia—were given access to the complete “top secret” version of the dossier. Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan called it was ‘unfortunate’ that the UN had allowed the US to take the only complete dossier and edit it. Norway, a fellow (non-permanent) member of the Security Council, was miffed; its UN spokesperson said Norway felt like it was being treated like a “second-class country” because it wasn’t made privy to the complete dossier.

Without all the information, the authors point out, the non-permanent members of the Security Council will have no way of testing the US claims for themselves if the US and the UK go back to the Security Council seeking authorization to wage war on Iraq due to alleged breaches of resolution 1441. The UN weapons inspectors’ report is expected to be made to the UN this month.

Hans von Sponeck, former assistant general secretary of the UN and the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq until 2000, told the Scottish authors, “This is an outrageous attempt by the US to mislead.” So now we know about the missing pages. But the Scottish journalists don’t offer a clue as to what was in them. Yet surely we need to know that information in order to understand why those pages were removed.

We watched and waited for more details, thinking surely our “major media” would be on the case, giving front-page coverage to this monumental mystery. But no—it was holiday time; the front pages were filled with stories about shoppers in malls and ruminations about North Korea. The crime of omission wasn’t even brought up.

The needed information came through on December 18 by way of a Geneva-based reporter, Andreas Zumach. He broke the story on the US national listener-sponsored radio and television show "Democracy Now!,” reporting that he had found that the missing pages provided the names of US corporations, government agencies and even nuclear labs that over the years have helped arm Iraq, and train Iraqi personnel in the use of these arms—illegally.

"We have 24 major U.S. companies listed in the report who gave very substantial support especially to the biological weapons program but also to the missile and nuclear weapons program," Zumach said. "Pretty much everything was illegal in the case of nuclear and biological weapons. Every form of cooperation and supplies was outlawed in the 1970s."

US corporations listed in the missing pages of the report include Hewlett Packard, DuPont, Honeywell, Rockwell, Tectronics, Bechtel, International Computer Systems, Unisys, Sperry and TI Coating. Further, the missing information shows that US governmental agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Commerce, and Agriculture, as well as the U.S. government nuclear weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia, all illegally helped Iraq to build its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs by providing supplies and/or training. [...]

Iraq provided two copies of its full 12,000-page report, one to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Geneva, and one to the UN in New York. Zumach claims the U.S. broke an agreement of the Security Council and pressured Colombia, which at the time was presiding over the Council, to take possession of the UN's only copy. The US then made copies of the report only for the four other permanent Security Council nations. Several days later, the other members of the Security Council received their copies—with all references to foreign companies removed. [...]

The real mystery, then, isn’t so much the missing pages—it’s the case of the missing news. And what possible motive could there be for this news to be omitted?

Why we don't trust Bush - The British are usually undaunted by the prospect of war, and Tony Blair is generally the most effective communicator of his political generation. So you can appreciate the bafflement inside Downing Street that the Prime Minister is finding it so difficult to convince his country that he is right to mobilise military force against Saddam Hussein. Mr Blair's advisers are frustrated, and increasingly bewildered, that all his exertions of rhetoric and argument have not managed to swing public opinion behind the case for disarming the Iraqi tyrant.

If anything, the more he talks about dealing with Saddam, the more anti-war sentiment seems to spread within his own Government and across the country.

There can be few people who don't know that Saddam Hussein is a mass murderer who treats his own subjects with hideous cruelty and would not hesitate to inflict the most appalling suffering on others.

He has committed dreadful atrocities against internal opponents and twice launched invasions - into Iran and Kuwait - of his neighbours. There can be few people who aren't aware that the Iraqi despot has a lusty appetite for acquiring weapons of mass destruction and he has failed to account to the UN inspectors for the deadliest elements of his arsenal. [...]

These are compelling arguments which have been vigorously promulgated by the Prime Minister. So why is he having so little traction on his country?

Why can't he even convince a majority of his own Cabinet? I think Mr Blair's essential difficulty can be summarised in three words: George Walker Bush.

"I've no hang-ups about removing Saddam. I've no hang-ups about joining the United States in military action," one impeccably loyal and Atlanticist Labour MP commented to me recently. "It's following that cowboy which I find so hard to stomach."

He speaks not just for many Labour MPs and activists, but also for much of Britain. You'd expect the Left, especially those strands of the Left whose thinking is still framed by the Vietnam War, to be repelled by the idea of saddling up for a posse led by this very Right-wing American President. What is striking is how George W Bush arouses so much anxiety and antagonism across centrist and conservative Middle Britain. A former Conservative Cabinet minister regards Bush as "like a child running around with a grenade with the pin pulled out".

Across British public opinion, George Bush is seen as the global village idiot. This is a one-dimensional caricature of the man - albeit a caricature that he has rather encouraged. The point is that the cartoon cowboy image is now pretty indelibly stuck. The broad British view of George Bush is that he is Ronald Reagan without the brains. One of the Prime Minister's own advisers on foreign policy privately describes the American President as "cretinous". [...]

People may be just about prepared to trust Mr Blair's judgment on Iraq. What scares them is the man who they know to be calling the real shots. Mr Blair has been exerting some influence, but the perception persists that the Prime Minister is being sucked into conflict on the slipstream of an American President driven by a thirst for oil and revenge on behalf of his daddy. [...]

If he wants to go to war in Iraq, Tony Blair's task is not convincing Britain that Saddam Hussein is wicked. The bigger hurdle is persuading the British that George W Bush isn't all bad.

Britain: Train drivers refuse to move supplies for war vs. Iraq - In a courageous stand, a group of rail workers based in Motherwell, Scotland, have refused to drive a freight train loaded with military supplies for the British government’s war against Iraq. Details remain sketchy as the British press, save for two articles in the Guardian, has all but blacked out news of the boycott. The train drivers union ASLEF has also remained silent on the protest and have refused requests for information.

According to accounts in the Guardian, however, the train—which is owned by the English Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS)—was due to be moved on January 8. Among EWS’s contracts is the supply route to the huge NATO munitions store at Glen Douglas, on Scotland’s west coast, where missiles and other arms are buried within a hillside. The drivers’ protest forced EWS and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to initially delay and ultimately cancel the contested service. As the drivers were the only workers at the Motherwell depot trained to move a freight train over the route, EWS and the MoD were forced to offload the train’s contents into trucks and complete the journey by road.

EWS initially denied that the protest had taken place, claiming that “commercial issues” had caused the train’s cancellation. The MoD for its part cited poor weather conditions. Their claims were refuted by Guardian journalist Kevin Maguire, who said that his contacts in the industry had confirmed EWS had contacted leaders of the drivers’ trade union, ASLEF, to put a stop to the workers’ protest. Maguire said he had been informed that EWS management had told ASLEF the boycott was illegal, and the union could face court action unless it was ended. Further contradicting EWS and the MoD’s claims, Maguire said he had been told by one of the workers’ supporters that their action was motivated by “conscientious” objection to the Blair government’s war drive. Up to 15 workers at the depot are said to have supported the drivers’ stance and are considering taking other forms of anti-war industrial protest.

Veterans for Common Sense Press Statement - Our press conference today marks the first time families with deployed service members and Gulf War veterans are joining forces to raise legitimate questions about our administration's headlong rush to war. - Despite the lack of a threat, U.S. preparations for a second major war against Iraq continue. Those of us gathered here today strongly believe the President has failed to justify a U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Veterans for Common Sense and Military Families Speak Out believe war against Iraq is neither necessary nor inevitable. - This is our message today. We are non-partisan. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. We are strongly patriotic. We are not hawks, nor are we doves. We believe in protecting democracy and American values. [ Read all...]

Revisiting a jarring television commercial from the Cold War era, a grass-roots anti-war group has remade the 1964 "Daisy" ad, warning that a war against Iraq could spark nuclear Armageddon. Like the original, the 30-second ad by the Internet-based group depicts a girl plucking petals from a daisy – along with a missile launch countdown and a nuclear mushroom cloud. The original ad was produced by President Johnson's campaign to paint his Republican rival, Barry Goldwater, as an extremist who might lead the United States to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The ad created such negative reaction that it was pulled after only one showing, but Johnson went on to a landslide victory. released its version to the media Wednesday and was to air the ad Thursday in 13 major U.S. cities at a cost of $400,000.

Earthquakes in the past 10 hours:
2003/01/16 10:07:31 42.66N 111.02W
5.0 ~ 3.4 WYOMING
2003/01/16 08:45:04 30.46N 50.54E 33.0 ~ 4.6 NORTHERN AND CENTRAL IRAN
2003/01/16 06:52:04 44.24N 128.85W 10.0 ~ 4.9 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 06:34:55 44.28N 129.03W 10.0 ~ 4.3 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 05:30:57 44.23N 129.13W 10.0 ~ 4.3 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 05:06:16 44.32N 129.51W 10.0 ~ 4.5 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 05:03:29 44.20N 129.19W 10.0 ~ 5.2 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 03:42:27 27.20N 128.75E 56.5 ~ 5.0 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
2003/01/16 03:38:28 44.19N 129.07W 10.0 ~ 3.6 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 02:25:04 44.30N 129.40W 10.0 ~ 5.3 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 02:07:42 27.98N 55.51E 33.0 ~ 4.7 SOUTHERN IRAN
2003/01/16 01:22:43 44.38N 129.25W 10.0 ~4 .0 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 01:06:30 44.21N 129.27W 10.0 ~ 5.3 OFF COAST OF OREGON
2003/01/16 00:53:15 44.31N 129.09W 10.0 ~ 6.2 OFF COAST OF OREGON

Looks a bit busy off the coast of Oregon, eh?

Congo Seeks UN Court After Cannibalism Charges - The Democratic Republic of Congo urged the United Nations on Thursday to set up an international tribunal to prosecute rebel soldiers blamed for a wave of cannibalism, rape and torture in northeastern Congo. Congo U.N. Ambassador Atoki Ileka said a special court was needed to bring to justice those behind acts of genocide and other serious human rights violations in Congo's Ituri province. U.N. investigators said in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa said on Wednesday they had corroborated reports of cannibalism, looting, systematic rape, summary executions and kidnappings in the remote and densely forested area near the Ugandan border inhabited by Pygmies. The investigators blamed the atrocities on fighters from the Ugandan-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo, led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, and two smaller rebel factions.

On Monday morning, January 13, Gaston-Armand Amaudruz was jailed in Switzerland for having expressed doubts about the existence of homicidal gas chambers in World War II German concentration camps, and for saying that he did not believe the figure of six million wartime Jewish dead. The publicist and retired teacher, who is 82 and in poor health, is to be held for three months in a special "high security" prison. Robert Faurisson, a prominent European revisionist scholar, immediately informed Robert Ménard, founder of "Reporters Without Borders," of Amaudruz' jailing. Ménard is author of a recently published work, La Censure des Bien-Pensants ("Censorship of the Right-Thinking"), which defends the right of revisionists to express their views, while dismissing them as entirely wrong.

THE POWER TO DESTROY Net censorship? Tax activist's streaming broadcast knocked off air - "Someone doesn't like our message," a constitutional activist has concluded after his streaming web-based broadcast urging Americans not to pay taxes to the federal government until it addresses a series of "grievances" got knocked off the air. Bob Schulz, founder of the constitutional education organization We The People and planner of numerous tax-reform protests – including a personal 20-day hunger strike – to press the federal government to prove the legality of the income tax, suspects his latest endeavor may have been intentionally thwarted.

Pentagon database plan hits snag on Hill - A plan to link databases of credit card companies, health insurers and others--creating what critics call a "domestic surveillance apparatus"--raises concern on Capitol Hill. - A Pentagon antiterrorism plan to link databases of credit card companies, health insurers and others--creating what critics call a "domestic surveillance apparatus"--is encountering growing opposition on Capitol Hill. Sen. Russ Feingold , D-Wisc., is planning to introduce a bill on Thursday to halt the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program.

A representative said on Wednesday that if passed, the legislation would suspend the TIA program until Congress can "review the data-mining issues." Even if Congress never acts on Feingold's proposal, the unusual step of trying to suspend a military program may prompt the Defense Department to review the TIA program in a way few other tactics could. The bill will also provide TIA critics with a focal point for activism.

If fully implemented, TIA would link databases from sources such as credit card companies, medical insurers and motor vehicle departments for police convenience in hopes of snaring terrorists. It's funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Over the last two months, scrutiny of TIA has been growing, with newspaper editorials claiming that one of the project's leaders, Adm. John Poindexter, is unfit for the job because of his participation in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s. As a protest gesture, activists and critics of TIA have posted Poindexter's personal information online, which may lie behind the removal of information from the TIA Web site on at least three occasions. On Tuesday, a coalition of civil liberties groups sent a letter to Congress asking that hearings be convened to investigate TIA.

ACLU report: U.S. heading toward Big Brother society - The report says a growing "surveillance monster" is emerging in which the private and the public sector are monitoring Americans with video cameras to the extent that it is becoming almost impossible to walk the streets of major cities without being filmed. Yet there are virtually no rules governing what is allowed to be done with those tapes, like employing face-recognition technology to investigate and identify people. Also, computer chips used for motorists' tollbooth speed passes might one day be used on identification cards to allow police officers to "scan your identification when they pass you on the street," the report says.

The study points to the Total Information Awareness pilot project, in which the Pentagon is seeking to maintain a database of Americans' medical, health, financial, tax and other records. Yet there are few privacy laws to prevent businesses from selling the government such information, Steinhardt said. "If we do not act to reverse the current trend, data surveillance - like video surveillance - will allow corporations or the government to constantly monitor what individual Americans do every day," the report says. Moreover, under the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorist legislation passed by Congress immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, the government can demand that libraries turn over reading habits of patrons. Authorities can more easily attain telephone and computer wiretaps, and conduct searches in secret without immediately notifying the target. -

"It is not just the reality of government surveillance that chills free expression and the freedom that Americans enjoy," the report says. "The same negative effects come when we are constantly forced to wonder whether we might be under observation."

The university scientist who allegedly destroyed vials containing plague was arrested Wednesday, a law enforcement source said. Dr. Thomas Butler, 61, was leading a study aimed at developing antibiotics to fight the plague. He is chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Texas Tech University's Department of Internal Medicine. Law enforcement sources said that he is charged with making false statements to the FBI. He is expected to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate Thursday morning in Lubbock, the sources said. The vials were destroyed sometime before January 11, sources said, and Butler allegedly did not fill out the required documentation. One law enforcement source said it was Butler who first notified the school that the vials were missing. He repeated this assertion when the FBI questioned him, saying he did not know how or why the vials came to be missing, but he later recanted and admitted destroying them himself, the source said. Comment: Well, this stinks to high heaven! The guy reports it, then "recants" and says he "did it himself." ???

Floods sweeping northern and central Tunisia have left at least eight dead, including six children, officials said on Thursday. Torrential rains have drenched most of the North African nation's provinces over the past week, flooding some northwestern areas as rivers burst banks. Officials said most of the dead were schoolchildren taken by surprise by suddenly rising water as they crossed rivers on their way home from school.

6.0 Earthquake off the coast of Oregon

More than 400,000 chickens at a San Bernardino County commercial farm were ordered destroyed Wednesday after testing positive for a disease that has forced the quarantine of Southern California's poultry. It was the fifth commercial chicken farm hit by Exotic Newcastle Disease, which is a threat to the state's $3 billion industry and forced the slaughter of more than 1.7 million chickens since it was discovered in September.

Flooding has left thousands of people homeless in Mozambique and Malawi, adding to the misery of a hunger crisis gripping the two southern African countries, officials said on Thursday. Two weeks of heavy rains have destroyed thousands of homes in eight districts in Malawi, leaving 300,000 people homeless and struggling to survive in make-shift shelters made from plastic sheeting, said Malawi's chief relief official James Chiusiwa. Overcrowding in shelters had raised the prospect of the outbreak of diseases, such as cholera, he told Reuters. Government officials said last week that the floods had killed at least seven people. Villagers from affected districts of southern Malawi said dozens more were still missing. "The situation is critical," Chiusiwa said. "These people are in urgent need of blankets, more plastic sheeting for shelter and urgent food supplies."

Two cyclones have torn through the South Pacific in as many weeks, underscoring forecasts that the region can expect a violent and active hurricane season in 2002/03 because of the El Nino weather pattern. Cyclone Zoe, the strongest South Pacific storm in three decades, hammered isolated islands at the easternmost end of the Solomons chain just before the new year. Cyclone Ami killed at least six people in Fiji earlier this week. Neither storm was considered unusual for the hurricane belt in the vast Pacific, said weather specialist Jim Salinger of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. But with the Pacific in the grip of El Nino since early 2002, the region should be braced for more storms while areas east of the dateline, usually safe from tropical cyclones, can also expect to cop an unusually large share.

Tom Cruise has won a $10 million judgment in a 2001 lawsuit against a gay porn star who claimed he had a homosexual encounter with the "Mission: Impossible" actor, Cruise's attorney said Wednesday. A Los Angeles judge entered the default judgment in late December after defendant Chad Slater admitted that his story was false and said he would not actively defend himself against the lawsuit, said Cruise's attorney Ricardo Cestero. - The judgment marks the second time Cruise has prevailed in lawsuits he filed to quash rumors that he is gay. In 2001, the 40-year-old actor sued Michael Davis, the Los Angeles publisher of "Bold Magazine," for $100 million after Davis claimed to have a videotape of Cruise engaged in homosexual acts. The actor dropped the suit later that year after Davis retracted his claim and agreed to a stipulation that Cruise "is not, and never has been, homosexual and has never had a homosexual affair." Comment: Psychopaths EVERYWHERE! And they all act the same...

The European Court of Human Rights to hear lawsuits brought by Chechens accusing the Russian army of executions, torture and rights violations in Chechnya. Thursday's landmark announcement paves the way for six Chechen plaintiffs to plead the case that Moscow violated their rights in the breakaway republic, where Russian forces have been battling separatist militants for years. A registrar for the court, Roderick Liddell, said that more than 100 complaints were still being investigated for suitability but that six had been deemed worthy of a hearing in the Strasbourg court. Human rights groups have regularly accused both Russian forces and Chechen militants of numerous rights violations in Chechnya, where tens of thousands of people have been killed.

A judge ruled Wednesday that 17-year-old sniper suspect John Lee Malvo will be tried as an adult, a decision that will make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted. Comment: No doubt they want this one out of the way...

Greenland's month-old coalition government has collapsed amid political squabbling set off by a top official's use of a healer to cleanse government offices. Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen, leader of the social democratic Siumut party, threw the left-wing Inuit Ataqatigitt (IA) party from his ruling coalition late on Tuesday night, leaving the Arctic island of 56,000 without a government. The coalition's demise was linked to last month's hiring of a healer to chase away evil spirits from government offices. The healer was hired by the semi-autonomous Danish territory's top civil servant, Jens Lyberth, who was dismissed on Sunday. Most islanders belong to Denmark's Lutheran church, but some maintain ancient Inuit traditions, like drum dances, that are practised during community gatherings.

WTO Judges: US Breaks Rules with Byrd Law - World Trade Organization (WTO) appeals judges have ruled that a U.S. law channeling anti-dumping duties to U.S. firms violates global trade accords, diplomats said on Thursday.

North Korea's military has been alerted to prepare to increase its combat readiness, but U.S. intelligence officials said the notice does not indicate an increased danger of conflict. - The Bush administration has been trying to defuse the crisis over North Korea's new push for nuclear arms by offering concessions if Pyongyang agrees to reverse its nuclear arms program. U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching North Korean military forces for any signs of increased alert status, the officials said. So far, the only indicators are preparations by military forces for routine winter training exercises, the officials said. - As for the nation's preparations to deal with any North Korean attack, Gen. Myers said defense planners are continuing routine work on war-fighting preparations. Defense and military officials are "working all sorts of contingencies for various situations" related to Korea, Gen. Myers said.

North Korea believes the United States has made no fundamental change in its hard-line stance towards the Stalinist regime and will push for a climbdown from Washington before agreeing to ease the nuclear crisis, officials said here. North Korea late Wednesday dismissed an offer of talks from Washington to end the standoff as a publicity stunt. North Korea has said it wants "unconditional" talks while Washington says Pyongyang must first dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. An unidentified North Korean foreign ministry official told the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that "the rumor about 'dialogue' with the DPRK (North Korea) spread by the United States recently (was) a bid to mislead the public opinion."

South Korea said on Thursday it was prepared for a worst-case scenario that included war on the peninsula if diplomacy failed to resolve the crisis over the North's suspected nuclear weapons ambitions. At the same time, the top U.S. envoy for Asia said in Beijing the whole international community agreed that the Korean peninsula must be free of nuclear weapons but held out little hope of a speedy outcome. "It's going to be a slow process to make sure we achieve this in the right way," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly told reporters after talks with Chinese leaders. Kelly spoke hours after Pyongyang scornfully dismissed as "pie in the sky" U.S. offers of possible food and energy aid if the impoverished North would halt its nuclear program. In Seoul, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jun told parliament that war would be unavoidable if diplomacy failed. "If the North Korean nuclear problem cannot be solved peacefully and America attacks North Korea, war on the Korean peninsula will be unavoidable," Lee said. "Our army is prepared for the worst-case scenario."

Russia joined efforts on Thursday to defuse the nuclear standoff between North Korea and the United States by sending an emissary to Pyongyang, as South Korea warned of war if diplomacy fails. Though Russia is one of the few countries that have a close relationship with the isolated communist state, analysts said the chances of any breakthrough from this mission were slim. Comment: My guess is that this whole thing is a scripted drama for the World Stage.

Iraq must do more to avoid the threat of war, UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix warned, calling the situation "very dangerous." - He said there were two avenues towards resolving the crisis: inspections and disarmament or the use of force. Blix said he hoped the first road was still possible but added: "We feel that Iraq must do more than they have done so far in order to make this a credible avenue." Comment: Gee, sounds to me like Blix is becoming a talking head for Bush, Blair and Co.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said "We are worried about pressure being put on inspectors by certain circles in Washington," Ivanov told reporters after talks with his Italian opposite number. "Some publications and official declarations...cast doubt on some aspects of the inspectors' work.

U.N. arms experts paid surprise visits to the homes of two Iraqi scientists in Baghdad on Thursday, in their first foray into private residential quarters in search of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. On the eve of the 12th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War, witnesses said an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team arrived unannounced in Baghdad's Ghazaliyeh neighborhood and went into a building where Faleh Hassan, a scientist who heads al-Razzi State Company, lived. - The inspectors also went to the flat of nuclear scientist Shaker al-Jabouri in the same block. Neither man was home, so the inspectors waited outside their apartments while Iraqi officials brought them back from their offices. Once they returned, the inspectors entered the scientists' flats. It was not clear if the inspectors wanted to interview the men or search their apartments. - Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Wednesday he would tell Iraqi officials they needed to submit new evidence on any weapons of mass destruction or face possible warfare.

Iraq on Thursday accused U.N. arms experts of being spies helping the United States prepare for war, but vowed to continue cooperating with the inspections of its suspect sites. Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, in an interview with state news agency INA, said the inspectors were involved in intelligence work, adding that Baghdad was ready for the worst. "You now see the inspection teams carrying their work in an intelligence (gathering) manner and the American administration is stepping up its aggressive tone while preparing for its attack on Iraq," Ramadan said. "We don't call for war but we are ready for the worst eventualities. God willing, we will foil the plots of the evil doers," he added.

The UN Security Council was set to hold a tough debate on a US move to keep Iraq arms inspections on a tight timetable under threat of war. That debate was to follow a US request Wednesday for NATO support against Iraq, tough talk and more muscle from close US ally Britain, and a US warning to Iraq not to use civilians as human shields in wartime. It also comes on the heels of a tense confrontation in Baghdad between weapons inspectors who entered a presidential palace, and Iraqi officials who called the move "sensitive" and a "provocation."

Russia flexed its diplomatic muscle on Thursday, starting a peace mission in Baghdad to avert a U.S.-led war against Iraq after U.N. experts hunted for banned weapons deep inside President Saddam Hussein's main palace. "We have to seize any chance to achieve and find a diplomatic and peaceful solution," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov, whose country has kept closer ties than many with Iraq and is one of the U.N. Security Council's five veto-wielding members. He landed in Baghdad on Wednesday. Russia opposes military action against Iraq without a new U.N. mandate, but the United States and Britain have reserved the right to wage their own war if the United Nations fails to force Baghdad to surrender any weapons of mass destruction. It was unclear whether Saddam was at his palace office when inspectors drove into the compound. The U.N. team complained of having to wait for keys to safes during their visit. Moscow made its peace bid a day after President Bush warned Saddam that his patience was running out, and Canada joined anxious states in Europe and the Middle East in demanding that U.N. approval be a condition for any war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to restore close diplomatic ties Syria at a meeting with Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam. Putin and Khaddam promised to defend each other's interests as military confrontation loomed over Iraq, and to work together to help calm Israeli-Palestinian violence. "Russian-Syrian relations are very important. We must hold dialogue and hold to a line that answers our interests," Putin said. His remarks came in an introductory speech to Khaddam that was broadcast on Russian television. The meeting, which is also aimed at preparing a visit to Moscow by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, then went into closed session. Both Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and Syria, which is currently a non-permanent member, are opposed to any US military strikes on Iraq. Putin said Moscow and Damascus had to draft joint policies, both on the looming confrontation over Iraq and on ways to solve Israeli-Palestinian violence. Comment: Yup, sure looks like Putin is gathering his allies for the "other pole" of the upcoming Global Clash. And so far, they've got Bush painted into a corner. Very clever...

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien indirectly reprimanded his own defense minister on Wednesday for suggesting Canada could join a U.S.-led strike on Baghdad outside the auspices of the United Nations. Chretien, facing dissent within his ruling Liberals over policy on Iraq, said Canada was sticking to its official position that it would participate only in an Iraq campaign authorized by the U.N. Security Council. Defense Minister John McCallum upset some Liberal legislators last week by announcing in Washington that Canada could send troops to join a unilateral U.S. campaign against Baghdad. "He replied to a hypothetical question that he has reflected upon. And he has corrected that since that time. The position of the government has always been very, very clear," Chretien told a news conference. Asked whether there were any circumstances under which Canada could join a U.S.-led attack that was not backed by the United Nations, Chretien replied: "I don't answer speculative questions."

Prime Minister Tony Blair readied more troops for war Wednesday and insisted that Britain had the right to attack Iraq without U.N. backing, despite warnings that military action could tear his Labor Party apart. Speaking to parliament, Blair underlined his commitment to giving U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq time to search for suspected illegal arms and refused to be drawn on the possible timing of any attack. Despite tough questions from Labor parliamentarians who staunchly oppose a strike on Baghdad without U.N. approval, Blair reserved the right to wage war without a second U.N. mandate if Iraq were to defy an existing resolution.

U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past - On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2½-page document marked "TOP SECRET" that outlined the plan for going to war in Afghanistan as part of a global campaign against terrorism. Almost as a footnote, the document also directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq, senior administration officials said. The previously undisclosed Iraq directive is characteristic of an internal decision-making process that has been obscured from public view. Over the next nine months, the administration would make Iraq the central focus of its war on terrorism without producing a rich paper trail or record of key meetings and events leading to a formal decision to act against President Saddam Hussein, according to a review of administration decision-making based on interviews with more than 20 participants. - With the nation possibly on the brink of war, the result of this murky process continues to reverberate today: tepid support for military action at the State Department, muted concern in the military ranks of the Pentagon and general confusion among relatively senior officials -- and the public -- about how or even when the policy was decided.

War Bad, Economy Bad, Senate Bad - Bush's New Year Devolution - We're two weeks into January and already George W. Bush is hitting the wall. The president's military commanders have been widely quoted as being against the war he'd so love to wage in Iraq. UN arms inspectors say it could take a year to finish their work, and then only if Saddam Hussein cooperates. The UN Security Council won't give in until the results are in. Even Bush's one staunch ally, British prime minister Tony Blair, is dragging his feet, asking that the inspectors be given more time. Now come reports of a revolt within the Senate Republican establishment. Led by John Warner of Virginia, senators at last week's GOP retreat lashed out over Bush's "arrogance." It's payback time for an administration that has at best ignored lawmakers and at worst deliberately kept them in the dark. [...]

Warner is quoted by Bob Novak as having ripped into White House chief of staff Andrew Card: "I will not tolerate a continuation of what's been going on the last two years." Warner was quickly backed up by Kansas senator and former marine officer Pat Roberts. Senator Kit Bond of Missouri even asked Card to explain the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Bush's troubles within his own party are playing out as the economy remains in the doldrums, with no sign of relief in sight save Bush's nutty dividend taxation plan—another sticking point for GOP senators—and a wacko new policy aimed at replacing unemployment insurance.

Maureen Dowd: George W. Bush designed his entire political career and presidency to make sure he would never face this moment. The moment where he would pick up USA Today one morning midway through his term and read that his stratospheric approval numbers were dropping because more and more people think he is out of touch with average Americans. For the first time since 9/11, Mr. Bush's ratings have slipped below 60 percent in a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll that reflects growing unease with his approach on the economy and taxes, domestic policy and international threats. - In the new poll, Mr. Bush is still seen as a strong and decisive leader whom the American people want to support. They liked his tough talk after 9/11; they did not want America to be pushed around, or seem afraid. But in these anxious times, people are uneasy about the inconsistency of his foreign policy and the inflexibility of his domestic agenda, with conservatives setting the pace at home and in Iraq.

It's hard to understand the economic or political logic of Mr. Bush's relentless tax cuts. Felix Rohatyn wryly suggests that, if you want to push the Dow up a few percentage points, it would be better to take the $360 billion in tax breaks and use it to just buy stocks directly. The states are struggling with giant deficits, tax increases and cutbacks in programs so severe that some are releasing prisoners. So what good will it do to put Mr. Bush's little tax break in one pocket while taking money from the other pocket to pay higher state taxes?

Despite their desire to support their president, many Americans are uncomfortable with the ideological rigidity of the administration — the headlong tax cuts unashamedly benefiting the wealthy; the selection of judges who want to reverse two decades of social policy; the moves to impose new restrictions on abortion, and the deletion of information on a Centers for Disease Control Web site about lifesaving condoms, which are viewed by the religious right as morally wrong.

It's equally hard to fathom the president's bipolar approach to nuclear threats. Yesterday he hurled new ultimatums at Saddam Hussein. "I'm sick and tired of games and deception," he said, even as he responded to Kim Jong Il's games and deception with pleas and promises to send food and oil to Pyongyang. There are inspectors in Iraq who are not finding nuclear weapons, while inspectors have been kicked out of North Korea, which has admitted to a nuclear weapons program.

So what's the message here? If Saddam had already developed nukes, we'd send him a fruit basket? But since he hasn't, we'll send him Tomahawk missiles. We know Saddam's weak, but we're pretending he's strong so America can walk tall by whupping him.

North Korea used its own version of our pre-emptive strike doctrine to blackmail us, and make the administration's global swaggering look suspiciously selective.

And where in the name of Rummy is Osama?

The Rev. Jerry Falwell says war is just, inevitable - Sounds like Whitley Strieber's rant. Now I'm SURE they are mind-controlled vectors of disinformation.

9-11 Do you know where Bin Laden was? - Was JFK assassinated by his own government? No doubt in my mind. Do US Generals connive phony wars? Some do, you bet. Is the US government the fount of laughable propaganda? Yup, just not very visible to the propagandized. Will elements of the US Government create incidents for their own ends? Remember the Maine, Pearl Harbor and the Gulf of Tonkin, all phony as three dollar bills—and the scholars who revealed the lie hounded from academia. Indeed, some scholars close to the Government boast of the analogy, saying 9-11 was a “new Pearl Harbor” and saying it was needed.

When Reagan was shot, he apparently assumed that his Vice President did it. It seems that shortly after he woke up, he asked for a DC patrol officer, had this person find a US ship that had just reached the area, and soon sailors with sidearms guarded his bedside while he placed the whole hospital under his direct command and swore all to secrecy. They buffered him from the Secret Service and anyone else. He trusted no one—and perhaps, by protecting himself with unentangled sailors and officers fresh from sea, saved his own life, and the country from one more black mark of shame.

I thought this was all rather fun gossip until I heard on TV that the assassin's father had dinner with the Bush family the night before…and the story simply vanished from sight. No one denied it, it was just not spoken of. But everything good Reagan did do, Bush when he came to power tried to reverse.

Now perhaps there is more to it except that for a US President, he showed some common sense, especially with Haig and his men boasting they were in control of the government. Indeed, I cannot offhand think of one Latin, no, any assassinated leader in the last century who was not done in by the malfeasance or with the non-feasence of their own guards as higher-ups were involved. That fact is invisible to us in the US, where we are always told it was a lone conspirator so secretive that even his landlord knew nothing except he paid the rent on time.

The whole 9-11 business has had an added air of unreality in that Bin-Laden’s family were bigwig partners of, of all things, Bush family interests, while simultaneously the press seems quite uninterested in the whole history of US Support for Bin-Laden practically up to the day the horror occurred, his espionage involvements, and the fact that he was a has-been on death‘s door from a disease when suddenly he became the Most Wanted Man on Earth.

Indeed, people seem to forget that a year and more after he was fingered as the culprit—we still have not seen the evidence that Bin Laden did anything. The films of him confessing were immediately discredited, yet keep resurfacing like Dracula in growing tones that they are somehow self-evident proof and the matter is closed. On 9-11, my wife wisely kept printouts of e-news lines no longer obtainable. They show the surprising fact that barely 50 minutes after disaster was reported and well before a general alert was called, Bin-Laden was identified as the culprit. On that day I wondered if we were seeing a new Lee Harvey Oswald being created before our eyes while the real truth was being concealed, and I still wonder. [...]

About one week after the attack, I received a disturbing call from a pro-Libertarian who is well-connected in Pakistan. As US reaction was unfolding, my contact revealed that he had learned from several sources that Bin-Laden was not that hard for the US to find. Like the others that the US has charged in 9-11, Bin-Laden was in at least indirect US Custody or Protection the whole time. In Pakistan. [...]

Rumor or truth, the Pakistani press was not picking up the story. It was bottled up in the country except for people who phoned abroad and sent e-mails abroad, soon to be monitored by the US government. [...]

Then came, like the meeting of the Bush family with the family of the Reagan-attempted assassin, a brief flash of evidence. Now in government sabotage manuals, they always say get the true story out there somewhere on newspaper page Z-42 so if something gets discovered or you need to backtrack, you can say “See? No one was hiding anything—the story was there all the time"—and you can then spin it around as you wish, usually claiming bureaucratic foul-up or blaming some other group.

But what followed was even more intriguing, and tended to confirm at least the outlines of what my informant had picked-up. Amid the US media silence was one more key story I heard on CBS in Pittsburgh where it was [2] briefly revealed that Bin-Laden was indeed on September 11th at a Pakistani Military hospital for treatment under official government supervision. This was consistent with previous reports by Afghan locals to the world press that that the dying man had been taken on September 10th to Pakistan for medical reasons. And if you have followed anything about what happens over there, or been there, you know that means US Military and CIA supervision—the local US Generals have begun a trend in being first to boast they are “pro-consuls“ of the US government as in Rome‘s Empire, if that gives you any clues. The story was presented as semi-confirmed, but with a peculiar denial by the Pakistani government: specifically limited to one night.

Then the issue also vanished amid the uproar of ‘what Bush knew' about potential Taliban attacks. Talk about red herrings.

The story drifted to Limbo. If false, one would expect a complete denial at least from the Pakistanis, who look stupid if the story is true and have nothing to lose by denying it. If true, they might just sit on it, seeing it is impolitic to blame the Americans but useful to leave it in Limbo, especially amid bizarre-sounding reports by Indian intelligence that Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, had handled money to the 9-11 alleged hijackers [3]. Reportedly, the ISI head, General Ahmad, was having breakfast with Sen. Graham in the Capitol as events unfolded, days after he supposedly had seen to the money transfer, before being whisked away with everyone else as fears mounted the Capitol itself might be attacked. [ More...]





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