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Luciferian News Hour

Feb. 4

Good evening, this is Jim and the Dragon coming to you live again this Friday, February 4, with the Luciferian News for the week.


Our top story of the week is about our sad state of the union:

President George W. Bush, in what has been a formal gathering of all of our heads of state to listen to the “state of the union” address by the president, told everybody what they wanted to hear. He said the union is in wonderful shape and that all is well on the home front. If you listened to his speech Tuesday night, the only thing missing was the marching band playing John Phillip Sousa flag waving patriotic songs.

One outstanding soldier who wrote a patriotic letter home just before his death in the Iraq war, and his family, were honored by Mr. Bush. What people did not know was that the mother of a second fallen hero in that war, Cindy Sheehan, was lead out of the room that night in handcuffs. That is because Mrs. Sheehan, a war protester, was wearing an objectionable black shirt that read “2,245 Dead, How Many More?”

Mrs. Sheehan wasn’t the only one booted out of the gallery that night for protesting the war. Beverly Young, wife of Republican Congressman C. W. Bill Young of Florida, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, also was removed from the gallery because she also was wearing a T-shirt with a war message. It said “Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom.”


Budget Shifting

The House of Representatives narrowly approved a budget bill slashing some 39 billion dollars over five years from federal pay outs to the elderly, indigent and students.

The bill, approved by a vote of 216 to 214, already was passed in the US Senate in December, and now goes to President George W. Bush's desk for signing.

House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert said the bill, dubbed the Deficit Reduction Act, reins in runaway federal spending.

But with provisions that limit aid to middle and lower income college students and which restrict a federal health insurance program for the poor, lawmakers like Senator Ted Kennedy condemned the legislation as heartless.

"Today the Republicans showed their true colors by turning their backs on the needs of the hardest working Americans and their families," he said.

"The passage of this Draconian bill solidifies the Bush administrations misplaced priorities and proves that special interests dictate their policies," the Democratic senator said.

Top House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi said she found particularly disturbing that the aid cuts come at a time when Congress is debating a 70 billion dollar reduction in taxes for the wealthy.

"The sad truth is all of this is to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country," she said.


Arnold Schwarzenegger Is Broke

After spending more than $44 million in last year's special election, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election committee is beginning 2006 in the red.

Campaign statements filed this week show Schwarzenegger raised $2.5 million in 2005 for his re-election campaign, but spent $3 million. Although he has about $150,000 cash on hand, the Republican's re- election committee has debts of $556,000.

The two leading Democrats looking to challenge Schwarzenegger in November are flush with cash. State Treasurer Phil Angelides reported cash of $17 million, while state Controller Steve Westly has about $24.

Prophet Aaron C. Donahue predicted Jan. 1 that Swarzenegger would not be re-elected to office this year.


The Iranian Threat

A possible resolution to the Iran nuclear issue appears to have gone up in smoke this week after “the big five,” envoys of the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia, agreed to refer Iran’s nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council.

Iranian leaders said the move has no legal justification and will end any chance for diplomacy.

Tehran and Moscow earlier agreed to expand the number of countries participating in a plan to enrich Iranian uranium in Russia. Iran’s foreign minister said the compromise was designed to satisfy U.S. concerns about the nuclear program.

Under the plan, Iran would have shipped its uranium to Russia, where it would be enriched and then returned to Iran for use in its nuclear reactor. That would, in theory, satisfy the world that Iran was using the process only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity.

Tehran claims its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, but the United States and Europe fear the Iranians are using the program as a cover to make nuclear weapons.

Uranium that is sufficiently enriched can produce materials for bombs.

The United States pressed for the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for alleged violations of an international nuclear arms control treaty. The council has the power to impose economic and political sanctions on Iran.

The good news is that Iran has reassured the OPEC oil cartel that it will keep its oil production unchanged, however. The price of crude began dropping at the news.

Iran threatened last week to cut its oil production because it is facing the looming threat of a referral to the U.N. Security Council for economic sanctions.

The bad news is that Iran now threatens to proceed with uranium enrichment on its own, defying the United Nations and a world-wide appeal for the country not to do so.


Bush Wants Iranian Democracy

In his State of the Union address President Bush vowed that he would see that the Iranian people become a democratic state. He said he wanted to promote democracy and freedom all over the world and was especially concerned about events in Iran.

On Wednesday, Bush said that the United States would defend Israel Militarily if needed against Iran. He also denounced President Mahmoud Ahmadineiad for his “menacing talk” against Israel.

"I am concerned about a person that, one, tries to rewrite the history of the Holocaust, and two, has made it clear that his intentions are to destroy Israel," Bush said.


The al Qaeda Threat

In spite of warnings by senior al Qaeda leaders, U. S. intelligence agencies say they do not have information indicating that another major terrorist attack is eminent in the United States. They said the audio and video statement appear instead to be part of a propaganda campaign to bolster morale in its ranks. Intelligence officials say al Qaeda has been severely damaged by the U.S. war on terrorism. It seems to us that now may be a time to expect an attack. This terrorist group has a way of hitting when nobody is looking.


Iraq War Heats Up

The violence continued for another week in Iraq. On Sunday, car bombs exploded in a synchronized spree of attacks outside at least four churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk, killing at least three Iraqis and wounding nine. The country's ceaseless violence killed at least 20 people, including 13 Iraqi policemen and soldiers.

That day ABC News co-anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman suffered serious head injuries when the vehicle they were traveling in, with the 4th Infantry Division, was hit by a land mine in the road. Both men were wearing body armor and  helmets.

Five American troops died Wednesday in separate attacks. A roadside bomb blast killed three US soldiers south of Baghdad, and a fourth soldier died from wounds sustained in a small-arms fire attack southwest of the capital. Then a marine was fatally wounded during combat near Falluja.

Today, five more American troops were killed in attacks, and 11 Iraqis were killed when two bombs exploded about 20 minutes apart in Baghdad. Dozens more were wounded in the explosions. A suicide bomber entered a busy outdoor market killing nine and wounding 57, reports said.



The Mohammed Cartoon


And this story has been picking up steam. It seems the reprint of an offensive cartoon, created in a Danish newspaper a few weeks ago and reprinted throughout Europe this week, has generated a fierce protest by Moslem groups. The cartoon spoofs the Prophet Mohammed. Some analysts suggest the cartoon has offended millions of Moslems and could be exploited by terrorists in their war against the west. Don’t you just feel the growing tension among the world ethnic and racial groups. These are severe times because we have forgotten how to love one another. We have forgotten who we are. We have allowed the angels to lead us down wrong spiritual pathways and they are leading us to war and self-destruction.




The Cost Of War

The White House said Thursday it would ask Congress for about $70 billion in new emergency funds for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and seek another $50 billion for those wars early in fiscal 2007.


The Bush administration also said it would seek a further $18 billion for the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast and $2.3 billion to prepare for a possible avian flu epidemic.


The new war funds would come on top of the $320 billion the White House budget office said has been allocated for the wars so far. This would mean the costs since the start of the wars through early next year will total about $440 billion. And there is no end in sight.


Americans still haven’t figured out that they are fighting a spiritual war, not a territorial one. This war has no boundaries. It exists in no specific country. Yet we are dropping bombs on a lot of people as if they were responsible for what happened to us. We are turning good people into terrorists.


Corrupted Tax Dollars

Big money has a way of creating corruption. An audit of tens of millions of government dollars that were supposed to be used for rebuilding Iraq after the war has uncovered massive corruption among the people responsible for handling the money.

The money was squandered, gambled away, and spent on useless projects that had nothing to do with what it was intended for, the report said. The auditors have recommended criminal charges be filed against the people responsible.

Thousands were spent on a swimming pool that was never used.

The report describes the Coalition Provisional Authority’s offices in Hillah, Iraq, being awash in “bricks” of $100 bills taken from a central vault without documentation.

It describes one agent who kept almost $700,000 in cash in an unlocked footlocker, and a U.S. soldier who gambled away as much as $60,000 in the Philippines.

“Tens of millions of dollars in cash had gone in and out of the South-Central Region vault without any tracking of who deposited or withdrew the money, and why it was taken out,” the report states.

It states that the corruption and incompetence reveals that much of the money has been wasted.


The Mabus Circus

Saddam Hussein's trial collapsed into chaos shortly after resuming Sunday, with one defendant dragged out of court and the defense team walking out in protest. Saddam was then escorted out after he shouted "down with America" and refused his new court- appointed lawyers.


The new chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, pressed ahead with the proceedings even after the opening drama. Three prosecution witnesses were heard and the judge sought to assert tight control over the court.


The trial proceeded on Wednesday with prosecution testimony taken even though Saddam, four other co-defendants and their defense lawyers boycotted the trial. The lawyers want the newly appointed Kurdish chief judge to quit. They are questioning his impartiality because his home town was attacked with poison gas by Iraqi forces in 1988.


The court appointed defense lawyers to represent the defendants so the trial could continue.


When the defendants and defense lawyers failed to show again on Thursday, the judge adjourned the trial after hearing the testimony of two more witnesses. It has been postponed until Feb. 13.


Dealing With Hamas


That Hamas political victory in Palestine has continued to vex United States leaders all week. They said they wanted a democratic election, But now that the people have chosen their leaders, Washington is balking. That is because Hamas is a militant group committed to destroying Israel. There is an old saying, people need to be careful what they wish for, they might get it.


Confident of a unified response to deny funding to a Hamas-led Palestinian government, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday the militant group would have to face the consequences of its policies.


Rice met Monday in London with other international powers involved in the Middle East - the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- to discuss how to respond to the Hamas's victory in Palestinian elections.


Speaking to reporters en route to London, Rice said she believed everybody would be "on the same page" and that funding must not go to a group such as Hamas which advocated violence and the destruction of Israel.


She said Hamas was going to have to live with the consequences of its stand on Israel and its refusal to renounce violence and disarm militants.


The Hamas leadership is now drawing financial support from other Moslem/Ahab nations that share the Hamas views concerning Israel.


The Israeli Flag


Shortly after making his comments about the Hamas, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said from Gaza that Israel must change its flag. "Israel must remove the two blue stripes from its national flag", said Zahar. “The stripes on the flag are symbols of occupation. They signify Israel's borders stretching from the River Euphrates to the River Nile." Israel’s national flag, a blue Star of David set between two blue stripes, was designed to resemble a Jewish prayer shawl which traditionally has stripes.


U.S. Taiwanese Policy Clarified

The United States said it was astonished by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's planned hardline policies on China, warning they could send the wrong signals to Beijing.

The independence-leaning Chen said Sunday he would "seriously consider" abolishing guidelines on reunification with China and the body that created them. It is a move that could anger its giant neighbor.

He also reportedly wanted Taipei to consider applying to rejoin the United Nations in the name of Taiwan and draft a new constitution and put it to a referendum next year.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory even though the island has been ruled as a de facto independent state since the end of a civil war in 1949. China threatens to invade if Taipei declares formal independence.

In a rare move, the US State Department issued a statement Monday defining US policy towards Taiwan. The policy emphasizes that Washington "does not support Taiwan's independence and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either Taiwan or Beijing."

The United States, which is obliged by law to offer Taiwan a means of self-defense if its security is threatened, is the leading arms supplier to the island despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

The U.S. position may go a long way to cool tensions in the region.


Bird Flu In Iraq

Health authorities in Iraq went on high alert following that war-torn country’s first reported case of the deadly bird flu virus. Thousands of birds were culled and farmers across the country warned to inspect their flocks.


The measures followed Monday's announcement that a 15-year-old girl from northern Iraq who died Jan. 17 had contracted the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. It was the first confirmed human case of H5N1 in Iraq.


New Vaccine Formula

Scientists have found a new and faster way to produce a vaccine against deadly H5N1 strains of bird flu that has protected mice. This new technique uses a genetic engineering technique that can be scaled up for stockpiling to prepare for a pandemic, a spokesman for the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, said.

This new type of vaccine can be made much more quickly than conventional vaccines and enough doses could be produced to protect people at risk. It is also effective against newer strains of flu and does not need an additive, to boost the immune system response.

 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

A U.S. appeals court in California this week said the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is unconstitutional and upheld an injunction barring its enforcement.


The decision marked the second time a U.S. appeals court has found the federal law unconstitutional.


The Bush administration keeps trying, however. The high court has not yet acted on the matter. The partial-birth abortion ban has never taken effect because of court challenges.


The issue is expected to come before the U.S. Supreme Court soon. And with conservative Justice Sam Alito now on the bench, the appellate judges may find themselves overturned.


Red Sea Ferry Disaster

An Egyptian passenger ferry, the al-Salaam Boccaccio-98, carrying about 1,400 people sank in the Red Sea last night, thus becoming one of the worst sea disasters yet of this new century. Early reports said there were as many as 314 survivors were rescued in lifeboats. That could mean an estimated 1,100 dead.


In perspective, the Titanic took 1,500 to their deaths when it sank a century ago.


The 35-year-old ship went down 50 miles off the Egyptian coast in high winds during a journey from Duba, Saudi Arabia, to Safaga, Egypt. Dozens of bodies were recovered as rescue operations continued today.


Bad weather was hampering rescue efforts as helicopters and ships searched the area.


The cause was not immediately known, but there were high winds and a sandstorm overnight on Saudi Arabia's west coast, at the time the ship disappeared from radar.


The ship was carrying 1,310 passengers and 96 Egyptian crew, authorities said. One report said the vessel was not carrying enough lifeboats for everybody on board.


Most of the passengers are Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia although some are thought to be pilgrims returning from Mecca.


There were about 100 people from other countries, including Saudis and Somalis.



Poland Roof Collapse

Authorities said 67 people died and 160 were injured when the roof of an exhibition hall in southern Poland collapsed from heavy snow on the roof. Up to 500 people were inside the building for a racing pigeon exhibition. Rescuers searched in the bitter cold weather for victims buried in the rubble as the death toll continued to rise. Those who escaped said two emergency exists were open, but other doors were locked so people were trapped inside. The large auditorium was only seven years old.


Egyptian Bus Crash

Fourteen Chinese tourists from Hong Kong were killed and 30 others wounded in a bus accident in southeast Egypt.

The bus, carrying the tourists from a Red Sea resort to the southern Nile city of Luxor was speeding when it spun off the road. One story said the driver was speeding because the tour was off schedule.

The group left Hong Kong on Friday for a 10-day trip to Egypt.


Chinese Fireworks Disaster

Fireworks explosions killed 36 people and injured hundreds more in China during a traditional Lunar New Year celebration.

In the most serious accident, 36 people at a temple fair in the central province of Henan were killed on New Year's Day Sunday when a nearby store room full of fireworks exploded.

The accident injured up to 48 other people. Sixteen were initially reported to have been killed but the death toll rose after another more bodies were discovered during clear up operations and some victims died of their injuries.


Grounded Tanker

An oil tanker carrying nearly 5 million gallons of oil and gasoline ran aground after it was struck by an ice floe while loading oil products at an Alaska refinery Thursday, causing a small oil spill.

The Tesoro-chartered double-hulled tanker, the Seabulk Pride, was loading heavy vacuum gas oil and unleaded gasoline from a refinery in Nikiski, Alaska, on the Cook Inlet, where the accident happened.


They said the ice floe parted the mooring line and sent the 600-foot tanker adrift before it went aground about half a mile north of the dock. At the time the vessel's tanks were secure


The tanker was refloated early today after the ballast tanks were pumped out and three salvage tugs successfully pulled it back into deep water.


Postal Worker Goes Postal

A female ex-postal worker opened fire at a mail processing plant in Santa Barbara, California Tuesday, killing eight people before committing suicide.


One worker died later in the hospital from bullet wounds, authorities said.


Deputies responding to a call of shots fired late Monday initially found two people dead outside the plant.


Two wounded women were located inside and were taken to a hospital. One died and the other was listed in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.


During a search of the massive mail complex, deputies found four additional bodies, including one believed to be the female shooter. The shooter, who was not identified, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.


Iraqi Pirates

Iraq has emerged for the first time as a new piracy hotspot with the waters off Indonesia remaining the most dangerous in the world, an international watchdog reported.

The International Maritime Bureau said the total number of piracy attacks worldwide dropped to 276 last year, from 329 in 2004, the lowest number reported since 1999.

Indonesian waters, with almost 30 percent of the world's attacks, were the most treacherous despite a drop in attacks to 79, from 94 the year before.


Wild Bull In Mexico

A half-ton bull named "Little Bird" has flown into Mexico's history books by leaping into a packed crowd of bullfight fans and injuring seven in a panicked frenzy.


Television images from the bullfight last Sunday shows terrified spectators scattering as the 1,107-pound  beast jumped over the heads of stunned journalists and crashed into the most expensive seats at the vast Mexico City ring.


The rampaging bull gored one woman, who is hospitalized with a 6-inch gash in her chest. Several other people were also injured before a bullfighter stabbed the animal to death with his sword.


Bolivia Flood Disaster

Bolivia's new president Evo Morales declared his first state of emergency after storms killed at least 50 people and left widespread destruction in the north of the country.

The bad weather stopped his official plane from taking off to fly over the worst hit San Borja region, about 600 miles northeast of La Paz.

The president ordered state help for 800 families who are stranded or have lost their homes in the region. Another 3,600 families have been affected.

At least 50 people were killed in floods and accidents blamed on the rainstorms over the past week. On Wednesday, a bus fell into a river and 26 people were reported killed.

The capital, La Paz, has also suffered widespread flooding.


Ice Mountain At Barrows

Ridges of sea ice packing car-sized blocks slammed onto a road at the northern Alaskan town of Barrow in quantities not seen in nearly three decades.

Two ice surges, known to Alaska Natives as ivus, stunned residents who had never seen such large blocks of ice rammed ashore.

"It just looked like a big old mountain of ice," said L.A. Leavitt, 19, who left his nightshift job at the city to check out the ridges.

Ivus are like frozen tsunamis that crash ashore violently. They have killed hunters and are among the Arctic's most feared natural phenomena.

The ivus crashed ashore last week after strong winds from Russia and eastward currents began pushing pack ice toward Barrow. By late Monday, thick, old sea ice known as multiyear ice had shoved younger, thinner ice onto shore.

Witnesses here said the northernmost ridge was about 20 feet high and 100 feet long and contained car-size blocks. Ice left a coastal road with only one lane, they said.

"It was just an amazing sight," said Elkins. "It looks like huge stacks of huge ice cubes."


Deadly Cold In Ukraine

Cold weather has killed 589 people in Ukraine since January 16 as temperatures dropped below minus 22 Fahrenheit, the health ministry said.

The latest figures show 220 people died from cold between January 21 and 27.

Across the country, 6,700 people have sought medical help since mid-January of whom more than 3,870 were hospitalized, the ministry said in a news release.

In the past few days temperatures have risen to as high as 34 Fahrenheit in places.


Siberian Record Cold Snap

A new wave of Siberian cold struck Russia this week, plunging temperatures to record lows of minus 69 degrees Fahrenheit in the far eastern part of the country and sweeping as far as Moscow.

In neighboring Georgia meanwhile one person died and two dozen were injured in the second city Kutaisi as heavy snowfalls collapsed buildings, cut power supplies and stopped a train in its tracks.

"There are no warmer temperatures in sight," said one weather forecaster, who predicted that the freeze would last at least six more days.

The temperature on Thursday night was forecast to fall to minus minus 69 Fahrenheit in western parts of Magadan region -- an area on Russia's Pacific Ocean coast once home to some of the deadliest labor camps in the Soviet Gulag and also the site of major gold mines.


New Orleans Tornadoes

Tornadoes early Thursday tore through New Orleans neighborhoods that were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina just five months ago. Fortunately, the neighborhoods hit were still in ruins from the hurricane and nobody was around to get hurt. The storm collapsed one previously damaged house and battered the airport. Roofs were ripped off and utility poles came down, but no serious injuries were reported. "Don't ever ask the question, `What else could happen?” one resident reflected.


Afghanistan Avalanche

At least 15 people were killed when an avalanche tore down a mountain in snowbound northern Afghanistan, destroying several homes in about five villages, a provincial governor said.

The avalanche struck a northern province late Monday.

"It has been snowing for seven days. Roads to 30 villages have been blocked. In the avalanche-hit villages, houses have been destroyed and people have been left homeless," he said.


La Nina Again

The return of a La Nina weather pattern this year will likely mean drought in southern and southwestern U.S. states, government forecasters said. They said it is too early to tell if La Nina would also lead to more Atlantic hurricanes in 2006.


La Nina is an unusual cooling of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures, which can trigger widespread changes in weather around the world. Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said La Nina could wreak havoc on U.S. weather through late spring, and possibly into the summer.


Groundhog’s Shadow

Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who fans claim is never wrong, predicted six more weeks of winter on Thursday. He matched the forecast of professional meteorologists.


"Phil is incapable of error. If he says six more weeks of winter, you can take it to the bank," said Mike Johnston, one of the 15 members of the Groundhog Club Inner Circle in Punxsutawney, site of the annual Groundhog Day ceremony.

According to legend, when the rodent emerges from hibernation on February 2 and sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, spring is near.


So there you have it folks. Another six weeks of snow, ice and misery ahead.


Blair Admits Global Warming A Threat

British prime minister Tony Blair has admitted that climate change is a greater threat than previously thought and that global warming is advancing at an unsustainable rate.


Blair's comments were made in a UK government-commissioned report published Monday that collates evidence presented at a conference on climate change.

The report says scientists now have "greater clarity and reduced uncertainty" about the impacts of climate change.


 Blair wrote that it is clear "the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought".


"It is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with industrialization and economic growth from a world population that has increased six-fold in 200 years, is causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable," he wrote.


Over the next century, global warming is expected to raise ocean levels, intensify storms, spread disease and shift climate zones, possibly making farmlands drier and deserts wetter.


Tropical Timber Treaty

Fifty-nine countries that trade in tropical timber have adopted a new treaty to protect tropical forests, which are disappearing at the rate of 37 million acres a year, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said.

The agreement was reached late Friday after two weeks of tough negotiations in Geneva between 33 producer countries in the developing world and 26 consumer nations.

It replaces the 1994 International Tropical Timber Agreement which expires in December.

UNCTAD nations had sought and failed last year to reach a deal on a new treaty, despite three negotiating sessions.

The treaty notes that sustainable forestry practices are important for alleviating poverty and could help combat global warming because tropical vegetation helps to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

It urges signatories to crack down on illegal logging, support reforestation and improve degraded forest land, "with due regard for the interests of local communities dependent on forest resources".

Around 500 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America depend for their livelihoods on the tropical timber industry, which earns the 33 producer countries a total of 10 billion dollars a year.

Despite efforts to protect tropical forests, some 15 million hectares of forest are destroyed every year, raising concerns about loss of biodiversity and other environmental damage.


Killer Bees In Florida

As if hurricanes, roaches, sea lice and insurance bills aren't bad enough, Floridians can add a new menace to their list of worries. Killer bees.

And they're going to change lifestyles. After decades of hype and cheesy disaster movies, Africanized honeybees have established a foothold in Florida, bringing a hair-trigger temper that makes them a threat to farm workers, landscapers, meter readers, firefighters and basically everyone who ventures out of doors.


Alabama Church Burnings

In Alabama, five small Baptist churches were burned to the ground or otherwise damaged in a string of fires that investigators said were apparently set one after another by arsonists making their way down the highway.

The fires broke out late Thursday or early today in Bibb County, about 25 miles south of Birmingham. Chief Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Weems said the blazes were set "as fast as they could drive from one location to the next."


Indonesia Quake

A major earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale rocked eastern Indonesia, cracking walls and triggering panic on Friday. Several buildings in Ambon, including the main shopping center, the Ambon Plaza, sustained cracks to the walls, but there was no major damage.


Gulf Coast Hurricane Effects

Last year's record hurricane season didn't just change life for humans. It changed nature, too.

Everywhere scientists look, they see disrupted patterns in and along the Gulf of Mexico. Coral reefs, flocks of sea birds, crab- and shrimp-filled meadows and dune-crowned beaches were wrapped up in _ and altered by _ the force of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Dennis.

"Nothing's been like this," said Abby Sallenger, a U.S. Geological Survey oceanographer, during a recent flight over the northern Gulf Coast to study shoreline changes.

For him, the changes are mind-boggling: Some barrier islands are nearly gone; on others, beaches are scattered like bags of dropped flour.


Mystery Oil Slick

Estonian officials have narrowed down their search for the ship that caused a 21-mile oil slick that has killed at least 800 birds in the Baltic Sea, singling out a Liberian-flagged tanker as the possible culprit.

"The oil tanker Flawless, which was on its way from Muuga to Singapore, may be the tanker that polluted the Estonian coastline," one official said.

Some 5,000 birds died and more than 800 cadavers have already been recovered by environmentalists and volunteers since the long oil slick was first noticed off the coast of the Baltic state on Saturday.

The Flawless reported last week to the coastguard that more than 1.5 tons of oil was accidentally pumped to the upper deck of the ship on January 23 when it was loading its petroleum cargo.


Changes In Chile

Chilean president-elect Michelle Bachelet has unveiled a cabinet comprised of an equal number of men and women as part of her promised effort to open doors in this traditionally male-dominated country.

"This cabinet is a historic step for equality between men and women in Chile," Bachelet said.

"It is a reflection of the new style of government that I have proposed."

Bachelet, 54, who won the presidential polls with 53.5 percent of the vote two weeks ago, will become Chile's first woman president when she takes office March 11.


Finland Votes Left

Finland's leftist president won another six-year term this week, defeating a conservative challenger in an election runoff.


President Tarja Halonen and her opponent, Sauli Niinisto, presented similar visions for neutral Finland's foreign policy.


Halonen, a former Social Democrat, received nearly 52 percent to Niinisto's 48 percent, with all the votes counted. Social Democratic candidates have held the president's post since 1982, although the head of state must give up party affiliation when taking office.


Politics Of Cheap Oil

Venezuela publicized its first agreement to provide cheap heating oil to Americans this winter, with full-page advertisements in major US newspapers declaring: "How Venezuela is keeping the home fires burning in Massachusetts."


President Hugo Chavez has clearly deemed the controversial diplomatic offensive a success in a battle of wills with the US president, George Bush.


Since reaching its first deal with Massachusetts in November, Citgo, a subsidiary of the state-owned Venezuelan oil firm, has expanded the program to housing projects, homeless shelters and Indian tribal reservations as well as tens of thousands of households across Maine, Rhode Island, New York's Bronx borough and the Philadelphia area, while a deal is expected with Vermont this week.


The offer from Citgo, which was an American-owned company before it was acquired by Petroleos de Venezuela, is attractive: It offers 40 per cent discounts on heating oil to low-income communities, the most aggressive effort yet in a campaign to improve US opinion of the socialist Venezuelan government.


Chavez calls it a humanitarian gesture, but is also seeking political mileage from the 55 million gallons of cheap oil he expects to provide this winter. "This is a way of telling people that what we are doing in Venezuela is not like what people are trying to present, not a communist system," said Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador to Washington.


Bad Venezuelan Relations

There is a new twist to the story of US relationships with Venezuela, however. On Thursday, Chavez accused a U.S. Naval attaché, John Correa, of spying on Venezuelan military officers and passing secret information to the Pentagon. In retaliation, the U.S. today ordered a Venezuelan diplomat to leave the United States. Our relationships with the new left Latin American countries are going from bad to worst.


The 10th Planet

Scientists say they have confirmed that a so-called 10th planet discovered last year is bigger than Pluto, but that likely won't quell the debate over what makes a planet.

The astronomers who spotted the icy, rocky body _ informally called UB313 _ had reported only a rough estimate of its size based on its brightness.

But another group of researchers has come up with what is believed to be the first calculation of UB313's diameter.

By measuring how much heat it radiates, German scientists led by Frank Bertoldi of the University of Bonn estimated that UB313 was about 1,864 miles across. That makes it larger than Pluto, which has a diameter of about 1,429 miles.


Greenspan Retires

The U.S. Senate Tuesday confirmed White House adviser Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. He succeeds Alan Greenspan who retired that same day from what has long been considered  America's most powerful economic post. The Senate approved the former Fed governor by voice vote after a short debate. He won high praise from both Republicans and Democrats.


Time Lays Off 80 Workers

Time Inc. is dropped the axe on as many as 80 employees this week in its latest round of cutbacks.

The staffers, who were being notified of their fates today, come from both the editorial and business sides of the country's largest magazine publisher.

The layoffs come just a month after Chairwoman Ann S. Moore's company reorganization. That cut 105 employees, including top talent like Eileen Naughton, who had been president at the Time Group, and Richard Atkinson, who had been head of the news and information group.


Enron Trial Opens

Former Enron Corp. chiefs Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling finally came to trial on Monday, vowing to fight charges they led the company into the biggest U.S. bankruptcy of its time by lying to investors while enriching themselves.


The long-awaited day in court comes more than four years after the former energy trading giant collapsed in disgrace in a December 2001 scandal that set off a wave of corporate scandals and tainted the Bush administration.


This promises to be a long and complicated trial. We will be keeping an eye on it and let you know how it ends up.


Exxon’s Record Profits

The world's biggest energy group, ExxonMobil Corp., said it reaped record profits of 36.1 billion dollars in 2005 thanks to sky-high oil and gas prices.

The US giant's annual profit rocketed 43 percent from 2004, while in the last three months of 2005 its earnings surged 27 percent to 10.71 billion dollars -- one of the highest quarterly totals ever.

Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips Inc. have also reported huge income over last year, which could revive political attacks that the US oil majors are profiting unduly while Americans struggle to cope with high energy prices.


Shell’s Record Profits

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has announced record profits for a UK company of $22.9 billion.

The figure was up nearly a third on last year, when it set a UK record with profits of 17.59 billion US dollars

It follows a year in which the cost of crude jumped from below $45 a barrel to hit a new record above $70.

Shell made $5.4 billion in the last quarter of its financial year, against $5.22 billion in the same period last year.


Pope Miracles

The Vatican believes it may at last found the “miracle” it needs to make the late Pope John Paul a saint in the eyes of the church. An official within the church has revealed that a nun, whose name is not told, was reportedly healed of Parkinson’s Disease, the same illness that afflicted Pope John Paul, after she prayed to him following his death on April 2. The church is investigating the story to see if it is true.


Signed “God”

One registered Republican won't be able to vote in the next election unless he appears at a Berks County Elections Board to explain the signature on his registration form.

The man is registered as Paul S. Sewell but his form is signed "God."

Sewell, 40, said he will be happy to explain. As the owner of a bail enforcement agency, he finds fugitives, he said.

"Whenever I go to arrest somebody, they say, 'Oh, God, give me another chance. Oh, God, let me go. I'll turn myself in tomorrow,'" Sewell said.


Old Woman Jumping Old Men

An elderly Cypriot woman was fined $740 after luring a elderly gentleman into the garden of her taverna with promises of a cuddle and then mugging him.

The Cyprus Mail reported that the judge also admonished the 67-year-old woman by saying "we can't very well go around jumping on old men, can we?"

The woman, who had already sent police the 200 pounds she took, apologized and said she would not do it again.

But it was her 68-year-old victim who had the last word.

Standing at the back of the court, and holding a walking stick, he said: "Excuse me your honor. I would just like to intervene in the proceedings and say that I am not an old man."


Paranormal Deception

A palm reader who claimed he could reunite a woman with her ex-boyfriend using paranormal phenomena denied charges of deception at an English court.

Indian palmist Naseem Mohammed, 42, allegedly obtained 8,000 pounds (14,100 dollars) from his victim and is charged with falsely claiming he could rekindle her relationship with a former flame by using voodoo dolls.

Mohammed allegedly deceived the woman by claiming he could break a black magic spell which caused her ex-lover to leave her.

Mohammed pleaded not guilty to seven charges of deception and one charge under the Trades Descriptions Act of recklessly making a false statement claiming he was "able to perform paranormal phenomena guaranteeing to restore the physical relationship between her and her ex-boyfriend".


Pleasing His Patients

A frustrated doctor has closed his medical practice in a small northern New Zealand seaside settlement and plans to reopen his surgery as a brothel next month.

Neil Benson closed his Cooper's Beach practice last year, complaining of a lack of support from health authorities, other doctors and the community.

He has since been granted a brothel license and plans to offer an up-market service for tourists and locals in the town about 220 miles north of Auckland.


He Sold The Church

Rev. Randall Radic, 53, pleaded guilty to embezzlement and agreed to 18 months in prison for selling the First Congregational Church in Ripon, California, where he had preached for a decade.


Radic, entered his plea as part of a deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop nine other charges.


Radic sold the church last October for $525,000, and used the money to buy a BMW. He also faked documents that gave him possession of his house, which was owned by the church, then used the property to take out loans, authorities said.


Auctioning Best Friends

Four young Australian men offering themselves on an internet auction site as instant best friends for a weekend of beer and sausages have received bids of more than 41,250 dollars (US).

"Couldn't be bothered making the effort finding new friends at the pub?" reads the offer on eBay. "Don't have friends who are up for a couple of beers, a few snags (sausages) and a hell of a good time? Or just bored with your current friends and their obsession with nerd stuff? What you need is a weekend with four fun blokes in inner Sydney."

The bidding started at 99 cents on January 25, but 96 bids later, on January 31, the top offer was 55,100 dollars, Australian currency. The bidding ends on February 4.

The men, whose eBay picture shows a fairly ordinary looking bunch of young Australians, say they won't fly the successful bidder to Sydney.

But, they say, "We'll be your best mates -- instantly!

"You won't have to try and impress us. And you'll get to experience the thrills and spills of hanging out with four good blokes in a relaxing, sun-filled environment."


Vampire Jailed

The vampire running for governor in Minnesota has been arrested on outstanding warrants in Indiana, we have learned. Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey was arrested on two felony counts, one for escaping police and the other for stalking. Instead of conducting his campaign to lead the state as its governor, The Impaler is sitting in an Indiana jail.

Apparently the publicity about his campaign, under the shadow of the Vampyres, Witches and Pagans party, gained the attention of a sharp sheriff’s officer in Indiana who remembered they had warrants for “Rocky Flash,” a name Sharkey formerly used as a professional wrestler in that state.

Remember that under the old way we used to interpret the law, people are innocent of charges until proven guilty. That he was charged of “stalking,” doesn’t necessarily mean he committed a crime. It could easily mean that somebody just wanted to get even. Remember that wrestling is a theatrical event more than a sport. But it is rough playing just the same. That he got away from the police always leads to the second charge of “escaping.” 

Wouldn’t you know the police would screw up a neat thing.


Breast Feeding Issue


In Columbia, South Carolina, in the heart of the Bible Belt, Lori Rueger was kicked out of a Victoria’s Secret store, of all places, because she was breast feeding her baby.


Anybody who knows about Victoria’s Secret stores knows they sell sensual women’s apparel. You see manikins with frilly bras and blown up images of barely covered models everywhere. But Rueger, who was doing something very natural and beautiful with her baby, apparently offended someone in the store for exposing her breast.

Rueger told her story during a hearing in support of a state bill to ensure breast feeding is allowed in public places. The story so angered a state lawmaker that he's urging women to form a national Mothers Against Victoria's Secret movement.


Burglar Stuck In A Vent

A 37 year old Orlando, Florida man was rescued Thursday after he spent the night stuck in the oven vent of the convenience store he was trying to rob, the fire department said.


Lonnie Shields climbed into a small vent on the roof of the New City Mart at about 2 a.m. and wasn't found until store employees arrived at about 8 a.m.


Shields was treated at a nearby hospital and booked into Orange County Jail on $1,000 bond. He is charged with attempted burglary.


Student’s Perfect Day

The Secret Service is investigating a seventh-grader who wrote a school essay that authorities say advocated the destruction of President Bush, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, the executives of Coca-Cola and Walmart.

The boy's homework assignment for English class was to write what he would do on a perfect day. "His perfect day would be to see the destruction of these people," the school superintendent said.


The What?

Everyone thought the humuhumunukunukuapuaa was Hawaii's state fish. As it turns out, the brightly colored fish with the excessively long name has been dethroned.

The news shook the world of Rep. Blake Oshiro, who found out the designation was no longer official from Joel Itomura, a 6-year-old fish-loving son of a friend and constituent.

"I was really surprised," said Oshiro, who has drawn up a bill that would make humuhumunukunukuapuaa _ also known as the rectangular triggerfish or "humuhumu" for short _ the official state fish for the islands.

The stubby-nosed, brightly striped and slightly aggressive little fish whose name few tourists even try to utter (it's pronounced HOO-moo- HOO-moo-NOO-koo-NOO-koo-AH-poo-AH-ah) is commonly believed to be the state's favorite. The fish figures into tourist trinkets, broadcast commercials and a much-beloved song about a little grass shack.

Much like its name, the fish's road to titlelessness is long and confusing.




And that is our news for the first week in February. Be sure to return tomorrow night at 10 p.m. Eastern for Infinite Chaos with Zurx, and Sunday night at 9 p.m. to hear Psychic and Prophet Aaron C. Donahue and his Psychic sister, Jennifer Sharpe, in Voice of Lucifer.


Goodnight and thanks for listening.

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