US attack kills six children

American style freedom for these kids...


US attack kills six children

By Stephen Graham in Kabul
December 10, 2003

SIX children were crushed to death by a collapsing wall during an assault by US forces on a compound stuffed with weapons in eastern Afghanistan, an American military spokesman said today.

It was the second time in a week that civilians have died in action against Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects.

The children died during a night attack on Friday against a complex in Paktia province where a renegade Afghan commander, Mullah Jalani, kept a huge cache of weapons, said Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty.

"The next day we discovered the bodies of two adults and six children," he said. "We had no indication there were noncombatants" in the compound.

Jalani is believed to be an associate of renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister who has joined the resurgent Taliban. The military believes Jalani was involved in recent attacks against coalition forces, but has not provided any details.

Jalani was not at the site, 20 km east of Gardez, but Hilferty said nine other people were arrested. He did not identify the adults that were killed or say whether they were combatants or civilians.

Hilferty said US warplanes and troops attacked the compound, setting off secondary explosions.

Hilferty expressed regret over the death of civilians in Afghanistan, but said it was impossible to completely eliminate such incidents.

"We try very hard not to kill anyone. We would prefer to capture the terrorists rather than kill them," Hilferty said.

"But in this incident, if noncombatants surround themselves with thousands of weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and howitzers and mortars in a compound known to be used by a terrorist, we are not completely responsible for the consequences."

There was no word of US casualties in the operation. Hilferty said gunfire was directed at the troops from inside the compound.

The US military, which on December 2 launched what it describes as its biggest operation against militants since the fall of the Taliban two years ago, says it found hidden storage compartments containing hundreds of 107mm rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and several howitzers at the compound.

It was unclear if the wall was knocked down by troops searching for weapons or the secondary explosions. Hilferty said it was still too dangerous to search the whole site.

The news comes on the heels of a tragic US military blunder in neighbouring Ghazni province on Saturday. Nine children were found dead in a field after an A-10 ground attack aircraft targeted a Taliban suspect.

US officials have apologised for that incident. They originally claimed that the attack killed the intended target, a former Taliban district commander named Mullah Wazir suspected of recent attacks on road workers. But yesterday US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said that was no longer certain.

Villagers say the man killed was a local labourer who had just returned from Iran and that Mullah Wazir had left the area days before the attack.

The Ghazni deaths produced outrage and concern, from Afghan villagers to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said he was "profoundly saddened" by the deaths and urged a full investigation.

Afghan officials warned that such mistakes would undermine support for the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and tolerance of foreign troops.

"I can't guarantee that we will not injure more civilians," Hilferty said. "I wish I could."

Karzai said today that he was "very sad," about the Ghazni killings and indicated he was working with the Americans "to fund ways to prevent incidents like that" from happening again.

Under its new Operation Avalanche, involving about 2000 troops across the south and east of the country, the US military began an air assault in Khost province along the mountainous border with Pakistan.

Hilferty said less than 100 troops took part - far less than suggested yesterday - and that he had no information on any combat or casualties.

The Associated Press



Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq

Does anyone still doubt the strong ties of politics and money between Israel and the USA?


Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday December 9, 2003
The Guardian

Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq.

US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.

But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections.

US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.

"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a hunter-killer team," said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."

"They are being trained by Israelis in Fort Bragg," a well-informed intelligence source in Washington said.

"Some Israelis went to Iraq as well, not to do training, but for providing consultations."

The consultants' visit to Iraq was confirmed by another US source who was in contact with American officials there.

The Pentagon did not return calls seeking comment, but a military planner, Brigadier General Michael Vane, mentioned the cooperation with Israel in a letter to Army magazine in July about the Iraq counter-insurgency campaign.

"We recently travelled to Israel to glean lessons learned from their counterterrorist operations in urban areas," wrote General Vane, deputy chief of staff at the army's training and doctrine command.

An Israeli official said the IDF regularly shared its experience in the West Bank and Gaza with the US armed forces, but said he could not comment about cooperation in Iraq.

"When we do activities, the US military attaches in Tel Aviv are interested. I assume it's the same as the British. That's the way allies work. The special forces come to our people and say, do debrief on an operation we have done," the official said.

"Does it affect Iraq? It's not in our interest or the American interest or in anyone's interest to go into that. It would just fit in with jihadist prejudices."

Colonel Ralph Peters, a former army intelligence officer and a critic of Pentagon policy in Iraq, said yesterday there was nothing wrong with learning lessons wherever possible.

"When we turn to anyone for insights, it doesn't mean we blindly accept it," Col Peters said. "But I think what you're seeing is a new realism. The American tendency is to try to win all the hearts and minds. In Iraq, there are just some hearts and minds you can't win. Within the bounds of human rights, if you do make an example of certain villages it gets the attention of the others, and attacks have gone down in the area."

The new counter-insurgency unit made up of elite troops being put together in the Pentagon is called Task Force 121, New Yorker magazine reported in yesterday's edition.

One of the planners behind the offensive is a highly controversial figure, whose role is likely to inflame Muslim opinion: Lieutenant General William "Jerry" Boykin.

In October, there were calls for his resignation after he told a church congregation in Oregon that the US was at war with Satan, who "wants to destroy us as a Christian army".

"He's been promoted a rank above his abilities," he said. "Some generals are pretty good on battlefield but are disastrous nearer the source of power."



USA kills more children...

Huzzah for the liberators!


U.S. Strike Mistakenly Kills 9 Children

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Dec. 7) - A U.S. warplane in pursuit of a "known terrorist'' attacked a village in eastern Afghanistan, mistakenly killing nine children, officials said Sunday.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said he was "deeply saddened'' by the "tragic loss of innocent life,'' and had spoken to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the attack. He said it had targeted a former Taliban commander named Mullah Wazir.

Also Sunday, officials said two Turkish engineers and an Afghan had been kidnapped in Afghanistan, bringing to five the number of workers who have been abducted in Afghanistan in the last three days.

Army Maj. Christopher E. West told The Associated Press that the suspect was killed in the attack, which saw an American A-10 aircraft strike an area south of the city of Ghazni, 100 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul.

"At the time we initiated the attack, we did not know there were children nearby,'' West said from the U.S. military headquarters at Bagram, north of Kabul.

Khalilzad said Wazir "had bragged of his personal involvement in attacks on innocent Afghan citizens.''

But Jawaid Khan, the Ghazni governor's secretary, said Wazir was not among the dead. He also said eight children and two men were killed.

"The Americans wanted to bomb Mullah Wazir, but they bombed a different house,'' Khan told the AP. "The people there are very afraid. They have no idea why the Americans bombed their village.''

The 11,500 U.S.-led troops hunting Taliban and al-Qaida remnants in south and east Afghanistan often are supported by air power, and there have been a string of ``friendly fire'' incidents.

The worst occurred in July 2002, when Afghan officials said 48 civilians at a wedding party were killed and 117 wounded by a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship in Uruzgan province, which borders Ghazni province.

On April 9, a U.S. warplane mistakenly bombed a home, killing 11 civilians. Another air strike in Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan on Oct. 31 reportedly killed at least eight civilians in a house.

West called Saturday's target a "known terrorist.'' Khalilzad said he was involved in attacks on road workers and aid groups.

Coalition forces "will make every effort to assist the families of these innocent casualties and determine the cause of the civilian deaths,'' West said. "We regret the loss of any innocent life and we follow stringent rules of engagement to specifically avoid this type of incident while continuing to target terrorists who threaten the future of Afghanistan.''

West said U.S. troops collected "extensive intelligence over an extended period of time'' and located the suspect targeted in Saturday's strike at an "isolated, rural site.''

"Following the attack, ground coalition forces searching the area found the bodies of both the intended target and those of nine children nearby,'' he said.

During the Taliban regime, Wazir was a local district commander and was not known as a major player in the Taliban resistance.

Military investigators went to the scene to try to determine if U.S. forces were at fault, West said. Afghan officials said the site was sealed off by coalition forces on Sunday.

Local Afghan official Ahmad Zia Masood said that Wazir had fired at U.S. helicopters on Friday. Masood said it was unclear if the 10 victims were Wazir and his family or their neighbors.

Another official, deputy governor Khial Mohammed Husseini, said Wazir's immediate family lived in Pakistan.

The Afghan officials said the attack took place in the village of Atla, just north of where the two Indian road engineers were kidnapped.

The Turkish engineers and an Afghan colleague were abducted Friday when unidentified men burst into the office of a Turkish construction company southeast of the capital, said Nick Downie of the Afghanistan NGO Security Office, which protects aid workers.

The Ministry of the Interior and the Turkish Embassy were both investigating the abduction.

On Saturday, suspected Taliban kidnapped two Indian engineers working on the road. Taliban recently freed a Turkish engineer from the project after a month in captivity.

The engineers were working for an Indian contractor helping resurface part of the Kabul-Kandahar road, a reconstruction project mainly funded by the United States. The road was to be officially opened later this month.

Taliban attacks have plagued the flagship project. Four construction workers were killed in August, and de-mining operations along the road were suspended last month after a carjacking. The Turkish engineer was abducted along the road Oct. 30, and released after one month.

In other violence Saturday, a bomb in Kandahar, the main southern stronghold of the Taliban, ripped through a bustling bazaar, wounding 20 Afghans. Taliban fighters claimed responsibility, saying the blast was aimed at American soldiers but went off late.

The bomb, apparently attached to a parked motorcycle or bicycle, exploded in front of a hotel at about 12:30 p.m. in the city's main commercial district. The wounded included three children, state TV reported.

The Taliban, ousted from power in a U.S.-led offensive in late 2001, have stepped up attacks in recent months, targeting foreign aid workers and perceived allies of the coalition.

International aid agencies have reduced operations in Afghanistan's south and east due to escalating violence, including the Nov. 16 drive-by shooting death of a French U.S. aid worker.

12/07/03 06:32 EST


USA restricts freedom of citizens speaking against their government

Typical. The USA is becoming a police state. Those who speak out against Bush and his war crap are having their freedoms restricted.


No-fly blacklist snares political activists

A federal "No Fly" list, intended to keep terrorists from boarding planes, is snaring peace activists at San Francisco International and other U. S. airports, triggering complaints that civil liberties are being trampled.

And while several federal agencies acknowledge that they contribute names to the congressionally mandated list, none of them, when contacted by The Chronicle, could or would say which agency is responsible for managing the list.

One detainment forced a group of 20 Wisconsin anti-war activists to miss their flight, delaying their trip to meet with congressional representatives by a day. That case and others are raising questions about the criteria federal authorities use to place people on the list -- and whether people who exercise their constitutional right to dissent are being lumped together with terrorists.

"What's scariest to me is that there could be this gross interruption of civil rights and nobody is really in charge," said Sarah Backus, an organizer of the Wisconsin group. "That's really 1984-ish."

Federal law enforcement officials deny targeting dissidents. They suggested that the activists were stopped not because their names are on the list, but because their names resemble those of suspected criminals or terrorists.

Congress mandated the list as part of last year's Aviation and Transportation Security Act, after two Sept. 11 hijackers on a federal "watch list" used their real names to board the jetliner that crashed into the Pentagon. The alerts about the two men, however, were not relayed to the airlines.

The detaining of activists has stirred concern among members of Congress and civil liberties advocates. They want to know what safeguards exist to prevent innocent people from being branded "a threat to civil aviation or national security."


And they are troubled by the bureaucratic nightmare that people stumble into as they go from one government agency to another in a maddening search to find out who is the official keeper of the no-fly list.

"The problem is that this list has no public accountability: People don't know why their names are put on or how to get their names off," said Jayashri Srikantiah, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. "We have heard complaints from people who triggered the list a first time and then were cleared by security to fly. But when they fly again, their name is triggered again."

Several federal agencies -- including the CIA, FBI, INS and State Department -- contribute names to the list. But no one at those agencies could say who is responsible for managing the list or who can remove names of people who have been cleared by authorities.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman David Steigman initially said his agency did not have a no-fly list, but after conferring with colleagues, modified his response: His agency does not contribute to the no- fly list, he said, but simply relays names collected by other federal agencies to airlines and airports. "We are just a funnel," he said, estimating that fewer than 1,000 names are on the list.

"TSA has access to it. We do not maintain it." He couldn't say who does. Steigman added he cannot state the criteria for placing someone on the list, because it's "special security information not releasable (to the public)."

However, FBI spokesman Bill Carter said the Transportation Security Administration oversees the no-fly list: "You're asking me about something TSA manages. You'd have to ask TSA their criteria as far as allowing individuals on an airplane or not." In addition to their alarm that no agency seems to be in charge of the list, critics are worried by the many agencies and airlines that can access it.

"The fact that so many people potentially have access to the list," ACLU lawyer Srikantiah said, "creates a large potential for abuse."

At least two dozen activists who have been stopped -- none have been arrested -- say they support sensible steps to bolster aviation security. But they criticize the no-fly list as being, at worst, a Big Brother campaign to muzzle dissent and, at best, a bureaucratic exercise that distracts airport security from looking for real bad guys.

"I think it's a combination of an attempt to silence dissent by scaring people and probably a lot of bumbling and inept implementation of some bad security protocols," said Rebecca Gordon, 50, a veteran San Francisco human rights activist and co-founder of War Times, a San Francisco publication distributed nationally and on the Internet.

Gordon and fellow War Times co-founder Jan Adams, 55, were briefly detained and questioned by police at San Francisco International Airport Aug. 7 after checking in at the American Trans Air counter for a flight to Boston. While they were eventually allowed to fly, their boarding passes were marked with a red "S" -- for "search" -- which subjected them to more scrutiny at SFO and during a layover in Chicago.

Before Adams' return flight from Boston's Logan International, she was trailed to the gate by a police officer and an airline official and searched yet again.

While Gordon, Adams and several of the detained activists acknowledged minor past arrests or citations for participating in nonviolent sit-in or other trespassing protests, FBI spokesman Carter said individuals would have to be "involved in criminal activity" -- not just civil disobedience -- to be banned from U.S. airlines.


But, Carter added, "When you say 'activists,' what type of activity are they involved in? Are they involved in criminal activity to disrupt a particular meeting? . . . Do you plan on blowing up a building? Do you plan on breaking windows or throwing rocks? Some people consider that civil disobedience, some people consider that criminal activity."

Critics question whether Sister Virgine Lawinger, a 74-year-old Catholic nun, is the kind of "air pirate" lawmakers had in mind when they passed the law. Lawinger, one of the Wisconsin activists stopped at the Milwaukee airport on April 19, said she didn't get upset when two sheriff's deputies escorted her for questioning.

"We didn't initially say too much about the detainment, because we do respect the need to be careful (about airline security)," the nun recounted. "They just said your name is flagged and we have to clear it. And from that moment on no one ever gave me any clarification of what that meant and why. I guess that was our frustration."

Five months later, the 20 members of Peace Action Wisconsin still haven't been told why they were detained. Even local sheriff's deputies and airline officials admitted confusion about why the group was stopped, when only one member's name resembled one on the no-fly list.

At the time, a Midwest Express Airlines spokeswoman told a Wisconsin magazine, the Progressive, that a group member's name was similar to one on the list and "the (Transportation Security Administration) made the decision that since this was a group, we should rescreen all of them."

At a congressional hearing in May, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller about the Milwaukee incident, asking him pointedly for an assurance that the agency was not including people on the list because they had expressed opinions contrary to the policies of the U.S. government.

Mueller's response: "We would never put a person on the watch list solely because they sought to express their First Amendment rights and their views."


The law orders the head of the Transportation Security Administration to work with federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies to share database information on individuals "who may pose a risk to transportation or national security" and relay it to airlines, airports and local law enforcement. It also requires airlines to use the list to identify suspect passengers and "notify appropriate law enforcement agencies, prevent the individual from boarding an aircraft or take other appropriate action."

In November, Nancy Oden, a Green Party USA official in Maine, wound up being a suspect passenger and was barred from flying out of the Bangor airport to Chicago, where she planned to attend a Green Party meeting and make a presentation about "pesticides as weapons of war."

Oden said a National Guardsman grabbed her arm when she tried to help a security screener searching her bags with a stuck zipper. The middle-aged woman, who said she was conservatively dressed and wore no anti-war buttons, said the guardsman seemed to know her activist background.

"He started spouting this pro-war nonsense: 'Don't you understand that we have to get them before they get us? Don't you understand what happened on Sept. 11?"

Airport officials said at the time that Oden was barred from boarding because she was uncooperative with security procedures, which she denies. Instead, Oden pointed out that the American Airlines ticket clerk -- who marked her boarding pass with an "S" -- had acknowledged she wasn't picked by random.

"You were going to be searched no matter what. Your name was checked on the list," he said, according to Oden.

"The only reason I could come up with is that the FBI is reactivating their old anti-war activists' files," said Oden, who protested the Vietnam War as a young office worker in Washington, D.C. "It is intimidation. It's just like years ago when the FBI built a file about me and they called my landlord and my co-workers. . . . They did that with everyone in the anti-war movement."


In his testimony before Congress, Mueller described the watch list as an necessary tool for tracking individuals who had not committed a crime but were suspected of terrorist links.

"It is critically important," he said, "that we have state and locals (police) identify a person has been stopped, not necessarily detained, but get us the information that the person has been stopped at a particular place."

None of this makes the peace activists feel any safer -- about flying or about their right to disagree with their government.

"It's probably bad for (airport) security," said Sister Virgine. "Stopping us took a lot of staff away from checking out what else was going on in that airport."

Ultimately, she said, "To not have dissent in a country like this would be an attack on one of our most precious freedoms. This is the essence of being an American citizen -- the right to dissent."

E-mail Alan Gathright at



At last, someone gets it!

I'm amazed that the press is actually publishing some rational opinions. Usually they publish whatever fits the party line. But this guy Soros is on the right track.


Financier Soros puts millions into ousting Bush

Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday November 12, 2003
The Guardian

George Soros, one of the world's wealthiest financiers and philanthropists, has declared that getting George Bush out of the White House has become the "central focus" of his life, and he has put more than $15m (??9m) of his own money where his mouth is.

Mr Soros argues that the Bush White House is guided by a "supremacist ideology" that is leading it to abuse US power in its dealings with the rest of the world, and creating a state of permanent warfare.

He has mounted a single-minded campaign involving a book, magazine and newspaper articles as well as multi-million dollar donations to liberal groups, all aimed at defeating President Bush in the November 2004 elections, a contest he describes as "a matter of life and death".

The Hungarian emigre and finance genius has given nearly $5bn to oppose dictators in Africa, Asia and the former Soviet bloc, but now he is directing his energies at the elected leader of his adopted country.

"It is the central focus of my life," he told the Washington Post in an interview published yesterday, after announcing a donation of $5m to a liberal activist organisation called The gift brings the total amount in donations to groups dedicated to Mr Bush's removal to $15.5m.

Other pledges of cash have gone to America Coming Together (ACT), an anti-Bush group that proposes to mobilise voters against the president in 17 battleground states. Mr Soros and a friend, Peter Lewis, the chairman of a car insurance company, promised $10m.

Mr Soros has also helped to bankroll a new liberal think-tank, the Centre for American Progress, to be headed by Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, John Podesta, which will aim to counter the rising influence of neo-conservative institutions in Washington.

The 74-year-old investor, who made a fortune betting against the pound in the late 80s and against the dollar this year, is to lay out the reasons for his detestation of the Bush administration in a book to be published in January, titled The Bubble of American Supremacy, a polemic which he has half-jokingly dubbed the 'Soros Doctrine'.

In the book, he will argue that the US is doing itself immeasurable harm by its heavy-handed role in the world. "The dominant position the United States occupies in the world is the element of reality that is being distorted," he writes, according to an excerpt to be published in next month's Atlantic Monthly magazine. "The proposition that the United States will be better off if it uses its position to impose its values and interests everywhere is the misconception. It is exactly by not abusing its power that America attained its current position."

The Bush administration's "war on terrorism" cannot be won, he argues, but is instead ushering in "a permanent state of war". He uses the emotive terms like "supremacist ideology" deliberately, saying that some of the rhetoric coming from the White House reminds him of his childhood in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

"When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans," he said in yesterday's interview. "My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitised me."

His remarks have infuriated the Republican party, which has accused him of promoting his interests with the steady flow of money to like-minded institutions, and avoiding federal limits on donations to political parties - an allegation which Democrats consistently level at big business for its links with the Republicans.

"George Soros has purchased the Democratic party," said Christine Iverson, a Republican national committee spokeswoman.,13918,1083165,00.html


Spreading American values

Didn't Bush say they were installing American style democracy, spreading American values, giving Iraq American style freedom of speech and such? Riiight. It was always complete crap, of course. Now they're arresting people who speak out against the USA's activites there.


US troops arrest Iraqi for criticising them


American soldiers handcuffed and firmly wrapped masking tape around an Iraqi man's mouth as they arrested him today for speaking out against occupation troops.

Asked why the man had been arrested and put into the back of a Humvee vehicle on Tahrir Square, the commanding officer told Reuters at the scene: "This man has been detained for making anti-coalition statements."

He refused to say what the man said.

A US military spokesman said he had no immediate information on the incident.

US politicians and military commanders often say they toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein so that Iraqis can enjoy free speech and democracy after years of iron-fisted rule.

Another US soldier swore at Iraqis as he ordered them to move back. School teachers and young students looked on.

The troops had earlier closed off the sprawling square with barbed wire to search for home-made bombs, which along with rocket-propelled grenades have killed 153 American soldiers since major combat was declared over on May 1.



USA guilty of biological weapons development... again...

After accusing Iraq of possessing biological weapons, invading and killing over 7,000 Iraqi civilians, and finding no evidence of the claims (evidence which should have been supplied by the USA before going to war), the USA is itself now developing more deadly new diseases. Yay. Got to love hypocrisy.


US develops lethal new viruses

19:00 29 October 03

A scientist funded by the US government has deliberately created an extremely deadly form of mousepox, a relative of the smallpox virus, through genetic engineering.

The new virus kills all mice even if they have been given antiviral drugs as well as a vaccine that would normally protect them.

The work has not stopped there. The cowpox virus, which infects a range of animals including humans, has been genetically altered in a similar way.

The new virus, which is about to be tested on animals, should be lethal only to mice, Mark Buller of the University of St Louis told New Scientist. He says his work is necessary to explore what bioterrorists might do.

But the research brings closer the prospect of pox viruses that cause only mild infections in humans being turned into diseases lethal even to people who have been vaccinated.

And vaccines are currently our main defence against smallpox and its relatives, such as the monkeypox that reached the US this year. Some researchers think the latest research is risky and unnecessary.

"I have great concern about doing this in a pox virus that can cross species," said Ian Ramshaw of the Australian National University in Canberra on being told of Buller's work.

Ramshaw was a member of the team that accidentally discovered how to make mousepox more deadly (New Scientist, 13 January 2001). But the modified mousepox his team created was not as deadly as Buller's.

No rebound

Since then, Ramshaw told New Scientist, his team has also created more deadly forms of mousepox, and has used the same method to engineer a more deadly rabbitpox virus.

But this research revealed that the modified pox viruses are not contagious, he says. That is good news in the sense that these viruses could not cause ecological havoc by wiping out mouse or rabbit populations around the world if they escaped from a lab.

However, this discovery also means some bioterrorists might be more tempted to use the same trick to modify a pox virus that infects humans. Such a disease, like anthrax, would infect only those directly exposed to it. It would not spread around the world and rebound on the attackers. But there is no guarantee that other pox viruses modified in a similar way would also be non-contagious.

Ramshaw's team made its initial discovery while developing contraceptive vaccines for sterilising mice and rabbits without killing them. The researchers modified the mousepox virus by adding a gene for a natural immunosuppressant called IL-4, expecting this would boost antibody production.

Instead, the modified mousepox virus was far more lethal, killing 60 per cent of vaccinated mice. The addition of IL-4 seems to switch off a key part of the immune system called the cell-mediated response.

Maximised production

Now Buller has engineered a mousepox strain that kills 100 per cent of vaccinated mice, even when they were also treated with the antiviral drug cidofovir. A monoclonal antibody that mops up IL-4 did save some, however.

His team "optimised" the virus by placing the IL-4 gene in a different part of the viral genome and adding a promoter sequence to maximise production of the IL-4 protein, he told a biosecurity conference in Geneva last week.

Buller has also constructed a cowpox virus containing the mouse IL-4 gene, which is about to be tested on mice at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Cowpox infects people, but Buller says the IL-4 protein is species-specific and would not affect the human immune system. The experiments are being done at the second-highest level of biological containment.


Ramshaw says there is no reason to do the cowpox experiments, as his group's work on rabbits has already shown the method works for other pox viruses. While viruses containing mouse IL-4 should not be lethal to humans, recombinant viruses can have unexpected effects, he says. "You'd hope the combination remains mouse-specific."

Why his group's engineered viruses are not contagious is a mystery, he says. It is not, for instance, because the host dies faster than usual, taking the virus with it. But his findings could explain why pox viruses containing IL-4 have never evolved naturally, even though the viruses frequently pick up genes that affect their host's immunity.

Despite the concerns, work on lethal new pox viruses seems likely to continue in the US. When members of the audience in Geneva questioned the need for such experiments, an American voice in the back boomed out: "Nine-eleven". There were murmurs of agreement.

Debora MacKenzie, Geneva


99 Luftballoons

Just a great old Cold War protest song that I really like. Enjoy the read.


99 Luftballoons

Notes : Also performed in english : "99 red balloons"

--- Deutsch ---

Hast Du etwas Zeit fuer mich
Dann singe ich ein Lied fuer Dich
Von 99 Luftballons
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
Denkst Du vielleicht grad' an mich
Dann singe ich ein Lied fuer Dich
Von 99 Luftballons
Und dass sowas von sowas kommt

99 Luftballons
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
Hielt man fuer UFOs aus dem All
Darum schickte ein General
'ne Fliegerstaffel hinterher
Alarm zu geben, wenn's so waer
Dabei war'n da am Horizont
Nur 99 Luftballons

99 Duesenjaeger
Jeder war ein grosser Krieger
Hielten sich fuer Captain Kirk
Das gab ein grosses Feuerwerk
Die Nachbarn haben nichts gerafft
Und fuehlten sich gleich angemacht
Dabei schoss man am Horizont
Auf 99 Luftballons

99 Kriegsminister
Streichholz und Benzinkanister
Hielten sich fuer schlaue Leute
Witterten schon fette Beute
Riefen: Krieg und wollten Macht
Mann, wer haette das gedacht
Dass es einmal soweit kommt
Wegen 99 Luftballons

99 Jahre Krieg
Liessen keinen Platz fuer Sieger
Kriegsminister gibt's nicht mehr
Und auch keine Duesenflieger
Heute zieh ich meine Runden
Seh' die Welt in Truemmern liegen
Hab' 'nen Luftballon gefunden
Denk' an Dich und lass' ihn fliegen

--- English ---

You and I in a little toy shop
buy a bag of balloons
with the money we've got
Set them free at the break of dawn
'Til one by one, they were gone
Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message,
"Something's out there"
Floating in the summer sky
99 red balloons go by.

99 red balloons
floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, it's red alert
There's something here
from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
Where 99 red balloons go by.

99 Decision Street,
99 ministers meet
To worry, worry, super-scurry
Call the troops out in a hurry
This is what we've waited for
This is it boys, this is war
The president is on the line
As 99 red balloons go by.

99 Knights of the air
ride super-high-tech jet fighters
Everyone's a Silverhero
Everyone's a Captain Kirk
With orders to identify
To clarify and classify
Scramble in the summer sky
As 99 red balloons go by.

As 99 red balloons go by.

99 dreams I have had
In every one a red balloon
It's all over and I'm standin' pretty
In this dust that was a city
If I could find a souvenier
Just to prove the world was here...
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go.


USA blocks UN resolution against Israel... again...

Remember how I said the USA is always protecting Israel and Israel's ethnic cleanising activites? They're at it again.


US veto on Israel wall protest

From correspondents in New York
October 15, 2003

THE United States has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel for building a barrier that cuts into the West Bank.

The veto came after the US suggested an alternate draft that would have called on all parties in the Middle East struggle to dismantle terrorist groups.

The United States was the only country to vote against the resolution, using its veto as one of five permanent members of the council. Four of the 15 members of the Security Council abstained: Bulgaria, Cameroon, Germany and Britain.

US Ambassador John Negroponte said the resolution "was unbalanced" and "did not further the goals of peace and security in the region".

The vote came after a fierce open debate in which about 40 countries spoke. Several speakers portrayed the wall as racist and colonialist, a blatant land-grab, worse than the Berlin Wall, and an overreaction that would turn some parts of the Palestinian territories into "open-air prisons".

Syria's UN Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad, whose country is the only Arab nation on the 15-member council, introduced the draft resolution last Thursday on behalf of the 22-member Arab League.

The request for Security Council action came a week after the Israeli Cabinet approved an extension of the barrier that would protect Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank.

After the open meeting, the Security Council adjourned and diplomats said the US was seeking changes. Negroponte has insisted that any resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must also condemn terrorist activities by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups.

A council diplomat said the Palestinians indicated they were willing to continue discussions on the draft, but Syria forced the vote on the resolution even though it knew the US would veto it.

Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman praised the veto, saying the resolution "failed to draw attention to Palestinian terrorism".

During the open debate, almost all countries condemned the wall. Many delegates lamented that the wall crossed over the "Green Line" delineating Israel's pre-1967 boundary with the Palestinian territories and categorised it as a violation of international law, including the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

Several countries said the wall would not be nearly as objectionable if it were built solely on Israeli land.

Gillerman said the barrier allowed the passage of some Palestinians and would allow greater freedom of movement for many Palestinians because Israel would remove roadblocks within the West Bank.

The Associated Press,4057,7567019%255E1702,00.html


Here we go again...

Didn't we see this kind of hype leading up to the Iraq invasion? Proof first! Provide the proof, THEN discuss it. Don't pretend there is smoke before anyone even thinks of lighting a fire.

In other words, ladies and gentlemen, this is pure crap. Lies manufactured by the establishment in Britain and the USA, released through opposition ex-patriot groups who have the backing of those governments, with the intention of giving people the incorrect idea that Iran is being naughty. Wake up. Remember all the lies the USA told about Iraq? And they never provided proof? Well, this is the same thing again.


Claims over secret Iranian atomic site

From correspondents in Vienna
October 15, 2003

IRAN is secretly building a nuclear site in the west of the country to test centrifuges that could be used to make highly enriched uranium for military purposes, a leading Iranian opposition group said.

The site, 15 kilometres from the city of Isfahan, is used to test 120 and 180 centrifugues that can be used to produce highly enriched uranium, which is neccessary for making nuclear weapons, said a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The group had in August 2002 announced the existence of a secret nuclear plant in the central city of Nantaz, where the UN's nuclear agency subsequently discovered traces of enriched uranium during inspections last year.

Iran, which says its nuclear programme is for civilian and not nuclear purposes, said the traces came from accidental contamination from nuclear material imported from abroad.

The NCR spokesman for Austria, Firouz Mahvi, said that the 150,000-hectare (370,000-acre) Isfahan site is known under the name of a "fuel research and production centre" and also has other installations operating for Iran's nuclear programme.

Tehran "is continuing its uranium enrichment programme despite demands by the IAEA (the UN's nuclear agency) to the contrary," he said.

The comments by the NCR, which is the political wing of the Paris-based People's Mujahadeen resistance group, come a day before the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, leaves for Iran following an invitation from the Islamic republic.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given Tehran an October 31 deadline to dispel suspicions it is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

Agence France-Presse,4057,7566181%255E401,00.html


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