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Luciferian News Hour

Feb. 10

Welcome to yet another edition of the Luciferian News Hour. This is Jim and the Dragon and we are prepared to pump your heads full of lots of news you can use, and some you might wish you didn’t know.

Cartoon Chaos

The strangest news this week involved a world Moslem uprising over a series of cartoons published in some European and Far Eastern newspapers that mocked the Prophet Mohammad. Here is what happened:

Angry Muslim demonstrators set the Danish consulate in Beirut ablaze Sunday and five people were killed in protests in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria. Warning shots were fired outside a US consulate in Indonesia.

The violent turn in protests over publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad drew condemnation from European capitals and moderate Muslims.

The weekend also saw Denmark’s embassy in Syria burned and fury over the images continued to spread into Kashmir, Indonesia, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia and Thailand.

Syrians set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus on Saturday. They damaged the Swedish embassy and tried to storm the French mission but were held off by riot police.

Denmark is the focus for Muslim ire as images that Muslims find offensive, including one of the Prophet with a turban resembling a bomb, first appeared in a Danish daily. The response has become a face-off between press freedom and religious respect.

The Danish Foreign Ministry urged Danes to leave Lebanon and advised its citizens not to travel there. At one point police fired tear gas to disperse the protesting crowd of about 20,000 people.

Afghanistan Violence

In Afghanistan, police shot four protesters to death Wednesday to stop hundreds from marching on a southern U.S. military base. Islamic organizations called for an end to deadly rioting across the Muslim world over the drawings.

"Islam says it's all right to demonstrate but not to resort to violence. This must stop," said senior cleric Mohammed Usman, a member of the Ulama Council _ Afghanistan's top Islamic organization. "We condemn the cartoons but this does not justify violence. These rioters are defaming the name of Islam."

Other members of the council went on radio and television Wednesday to appeal for calm. It followed a statement released by the United Nations, European Union and the world's largest Islamic group on Tuesday also urging an end to violence.


French Satire


To stir the fire a little more, on Wednesday the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo printed all 12 of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as well as a new front-page caricature of its own.


A French court earlier refused to grant an injunction to Islamic organizations that tried to have the edition banned for inciting racial and religious hatred.


The paper bears the headline "Mohammed stressed out by the fundamentalists" and a cartoon of the prophet in tears uttering the words "It's hard to be loved by fools."


In addition to the 12 cartoons that have sparked fury in the Islamic world, it publishes other drawings poking fun at different religions.


We must wonder if the Christians, Buddhists and Hindus will riot now.

Another Twist

To make this story even stranger, the editor of the Danish newspaper whose caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad started this mess said Wednesday the daily would not reprint the Holocaust cartoons that were being solicited by the Iranian newspaper.

Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste said his newspaper "in no circumstances will publish Holocaust cartoons from an Iranian newspaper."

The Iranian newspaper said it held a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the Muhammad caricatures. Obviously it did not. 


Iraq War News

The Iraq war continued this week, with one spectacular event that did not involve anybody getting killed. Which is somewhat amazing considering an estimated 2 million Shiites were assembled in the holy city of Karbala to mourn the seventh century death of an early martyr, Imam Hussein.

At one point in the day, more than one million Iraqis were marching and beating themselves in what turned out to be a blood-soaked procession through the city. To make it worse, the marchers were hampered by a thick yellow sandstorm that choked the streets.

Another crowd, estimated at still another million people gathered to watch the procession, bang drums and wave flags, authorities said.

To prevent any trouble, more than 8,000 security forces and additional militiamen were stationed in the town.

There was one attempt to disrupt the proceedings. Someone launched a rocket from an area west of the city, but fortunately it fell short in a field, police said.


A car bomb at a Sunni mosque killed nine people and wounded dozens in the Doura district of Baghdad today. It was among the worst acts of violence in Iraq this week.


Taliban Amnesty

More than 170 Taliban and other Islamist fighters surrendered as part of a government amnesty scheme. They vowed to lay down arms and work to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan, officials said.


The men traveled from various provinces from across Afghanistan to Kabul for a ceremony at which their surrender was announced by the head of the government's reconciliation commission.


"We promise not to stand against the government any more," said one ex-Taliban leader.


President Hamid Karzai offered amnesty to members of the Taliban movement, which was in power from 1996 to 2001, and other Islamic militias "whose hands are not stained with innocent people's blood" from the past 25 years of war.


Afghanistan Fighting


In southern Afghanistan, however, security forces were scouring the area for suspected Taliban fighters who were behind a fierce battle late last week that left 33 people dead. Also seven policemen were killed in new attacks.


Hundreds of police and soldiers, including reinforcements from the main southern city of Kandahar, searched villages in neighboring Helmand province where the battles erupted late Friday, they said.


Friday's fighting was fiercest between security forces and remnants of the ousted Taliban regime in several months, with the rebels more often resorting to targeted, Iraqi-style suicide blasts and car bombings in recent weeks.


Pakistan Bombing

A suicide bomber blasted a Shiite procession in northwestern Pakistan Thursday, sparking riots during the Muslim sect’s most important holiday. At least 22 people were killed and more than 50 were injured.

The bomber targeted a crowded bazaar right after they emerged from the main Shiite mosque in the town of Hangu. The Shiites responded by burning shops and cars and clashing with police in the town. Army troops moved in to restore order.

Authorities said more than 60 percent of the town bazaar was destroyed in the violence.


Nepal Revolution

A general strike called by Maoist rebels to disrupt controversial elections this week has brought towns across Nepal to a standstill.


The rebels -- who want to depose King Gyanendra and turn the poverty-stricken Himalayan nation into a communist state -- called the week-long strike to disrupt Wednesday's scheduled local elections.


The guerrillas are believed to have killed two candidates and pledged to step up attacks in the run-up to polling day.


Tension rose in Nepal on the February 1 first anniversary of Gyanendra's sacking of the elected government, a step he justified by saying he needed emergency powers to quell the Maoist rebellion. The fighting has claimed some 12,500 lives since 1996.


Wednesday's polls are part of the king's declared "road map" to democracy. He has pledged they will be followed by general elections in the next 15 months.


But the municipal elections are opposed by the Maoists and opposition parties, who have formed a loose anti-royal alliance. They condemn the polls as a sham aimed at legitimizing the king's power grab.


Chavez: Bush Worse Than Hitler

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told a rally of thousands of supporters Saturday that U.S. President George W. Bush is worse than Hitler.  He vowed to buy more arms to defend his nation as diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela deteriorated.

"The imperialist, genocidal, fascist attitude of the U.S. president has no limits. I think Hitler would be like a suckling baby next to George W. Bush," Chavez said.

The frayed ties between the United States and the socialist leader worsened further this week after Chavez expelled a U.S. military attaché accused of espionage and the White House responded by ordering out a Venezuelan diplomat.

Chavez, a retired army paratrooper who often accuses Washington of trying to overthrow him, warned he could shut Venezuelan oil refineries in the United States and sell oil for the U.S. market elsewhere if Washington cuts off ties.


Hamas Attempting To Organize

A Hamas leader said Saturday that the Islamic militant group hoped to form a Palestinian government later this month after agreeing with President Mahmoud Abbas to convene parliament on February 16.

"We are starting the process and we are sure that within February we will be able to see a new government," Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said. He made the statement after his first meeting with outgoing Fata leader Abbas since Hamas won a January 25 parliamentary election.

Abbas said he cannot ask a party to form a government until parliament convenes.

Hamas, having won 74 seats in the 132-member legislature and defeated the long dominant Fatah movement, would be chosen to head a new government.

"Hamas is the biggest parliament bloc and they will have to present a name to the president so that the president will ask him officially to form the government," a government spokesman said.

Hamas has asked Abbas' Fatah party to join in a government, but Abbas has not yet given a response.


Tensions Rising

In the meantime, we are getting mixed reports on just what all of this is going to mean to Israel and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

In one ominous note, a Hamas spokesman said Wednesday it would not bow to pressure to recognize Israel despite international threats to cut aid to any government run by the Palestinian militant group.

Yet another representative said Hamas could agree to a "long-term truce" with Israel only if it is willing to return to the 1967 borders and recognize the rights of Palestinians to self-determination.


"We now say that if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, there could be peace and security in the region and agreements between the sides until the international community finds a way to solve everybody's problems,” this man said.


"Truce would be long-term but limited, because there's a Palestinian reality the international community must deal with. There are those kicked out of their land in 1948, the international community must find a solution for those people."


In other words, Hamas wants the Israelis to move back to Europe and give them back all the land. It ain’t about to happen folks. 


Will US Attack Iran?

A defiant Iran on Sunday ended snap UN checks of its nuclear sites and said it was resuming uranium enrichment. This occurred a day the UN Security Council was asked to review suspicions Iraq is building nuclear weapons.

During an appearance before an annual security conference in Munich on Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Iran of being the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.

“The world does not want, and must work together to prevent, a nuclear Iran,” Rumsfeld said.

The Iranian government rejected the statement as “ridiculous” and “outrageous.”

The Russian media now is noticing the similarities between the U.S. stand with Iran, and what was going on prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One headline read: “The US prepares for a new war – and Iran for a clash of civilizations.” The newspaper Gazeta said: “The situation is reminiscent of the situation before the start of the military campaign in Iraq.”


Cooler Heads

China said on Tuesday the Iranian nuclear standoff could still be defused through negotiations without a showdown in the United Nations, and urged countries to intensify efforts for a diplomatic compromise.

China voted for an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution on Iran because it believed that decision would encourage further talks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told reporters in Beijing.

"There are severe difficulties and complex circumstances, but nonetheless we still believe there's still space to appropriately resolve the Iran nuclear issue through negotiations," he said.

"The international community shouldn't abandon such diplomatic efforts," he added, urging "restraint and patience".


Cuba’s Castro Jumps In

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted an invitation from Cuban President Fidel Castro to visit Cuba. The invitation was made in gratitude for Cuba's support of Iran's nuclear program.

The Iranian president has accepted the invitation. During his visit, the Iranian leader will attend the September 11-16 Non-Aligned Summit in Havana.

On Saturday in Vienna, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria voted against a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over a nuclear program the West suspects is weapons-oriented.


Germany In Lock Step

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has delighted Washington with her commitment to NATO "primacy", which will embolden U.S. officials in their push to revamp the 47-year-old military alliance.

Merkel asserted at a weekend security conference that NATO should have primacy in coordinating European and U.S. policy on major strategic issues from international peacekeeping to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

While the speech left open many questions on the alliance's future, there was an audible sigh of relief from U.S. listeners who a year ago were horrified by predecessor Gerhard Schroeder's suggestion that NATO was no longer a major strategic player.


McCain On Russia

US Senator John McCain called upon world leaders to boycott the G8 summit in Russia that opened today. McCain questioned Moscow's commitment to democracy.


In a speech to the Munich Conference on Security Policy, McCain said that President Vladimir Putin has rolled back reforms in Russia and does not share the democratic values of the United States and Europe. (That is true, Russia is socialistic).


"Under Mr Putin, Russia today is neither a democracy nor one of the world's leading economies, and I seriously question whether the G8 leaders should attend the St Petersburg summit," McCain said.


The high-profile Republican senator for Arizona, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who unsuccessfully ran for the US presidency in 2000, said Russia could have helped the United States and Europe transform the world following the end of the Cold War.


"The Kremlin, however, shows no interest in such a relationship. Instead it continues to pursue foreign and domestic policies strongly at odds with our interests and values.


We are just making friends all over the place. Is the U.S. out of step, or is it everybody else?



The G8 Summit

At the summit, Russia faces pressure to provide more reliable energy supplies to the world. Finance ministers from the G8 wealthy nations flew into Moscow for talks centered this winter on gas shortages and high oil prices.

Russia, chairing the Group of Eight for the first time, has declared energy security a priority, but is now being asked to prove it is serious after a feud last month with Ukraine that temporarily halted gas flows to Europe.

Officials said they expected little in the way of concrete developments to emerge from the two-day meeting but said it was clear France and other European members of the G8 wanted Moscow to allow more foreign investment and loosen the monopoly of the Russian energy company, Gazprom.

That would involve Russia ratifying an international charter on the matter.


Last MASH Unit

The United States military has started winding down its biggest ever external relief operation in Pakistan after the October 8 earthquake.


A phased withdrawal of around 750 American troops will start in the middle of February and carry on through till the end of March, said Rear Admiral Michael Lefever, Commander of the US Disaster Assistance Center Pakistan.


They would however leave behind equipment worth six millions dollars, including an 84-bed mobile army surgical hospital (MASH), deployed the capital of Kashmir, the worst hit region.


"The US military is taking a measured approach to our drawdown and we are working diligently to ensure that there is no void in the overall relief and reconstruction efforts created by our departure," LeFever said.


He said since October, the US military has flown over 4,000 sorties on giant Chinooks, delivered over 20 million pounds of humanitarian aid, treated nearly 30,000 patients and cleared over 40,000 tons of debris.


The MASH has treated over 18,000 patients and provided 17,000 vaccinations to 7,800 patients. "This is the last MASH unit in the United States Army."


The US army will also hand over nearly 30 pieces of engineering equipment including bulldozers, backhoes, dump trucks and generator. It will also provide the Pakistani military with two portable refueling systems.


Cuban Oil Off Limits

An historic meeting between three U.S. oil companies and Cuban officials in Mexico was interrupted Saturday after someone from the U.S. government called the Sheraton Hotel, where the three-day meeting was going on, and pressured the facility to ask the Cubans to leave.

Kirby Jones, president of the US-Cuba Trade Association, said Valero Energy Corp, the largest oil refiner in the nation; the Louisiana Department of Economic Development and the Texas Port of Corpus Christi participated in the three-day meeting, which opened on Thursday.

Jones said the meeting resumed Saturday at another city hotel.

A government official said U.S. law prohibits U.S. persons and entities from providing services to Cubans. This person said the Sheraton Hotel, a subsidiary of a U.S. owned company, is thus bound by U.S. law.

It was the first private-sector oil summit between the two countries.

During the meeting, Cuban officials urged U.S. corporations to lobby against the U.S. trade embargo and invest in Cuban’s energy sector. They announced plans to double Cuba’s drilling capacity and to explore for oil in the waters off the island nation’s coast.

Since oil was found off the Cuban coast two years ago, Cuba has cut exploration deals with Canadian, Chinese, Indian and Norwegian firms. U.S. corporations, however, have their hands tied by the embargo. They have been forced to watch the flurry of activity taking place less than 60 miles off the coast of Florida.


Taiwan Wants Missiles

Taiwan's defense ministry said it needs more US-made Patriot anti-missile systems as Chinese ballistic missiles targeting the island are anticipated to more than double to 1,800 by 2013.


Officials from the defense ministry made their case to reporters for more weapons after Taiwan's opposition parties blocked a $10.6 billion arms purchase package.


China currently has at least 800 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and that number is increasing by 100 a year, the ministry said.


The China Threat


China rejected on Tuesday a Pentagon report that singled out Beijing as the major power most likely to challenge Washington's military supremacy and said it posed no threat to the outside world.


The U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review released last week said China had the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States.


"The report interferes with China's internal affairs by groundlessly accusing China's normal national defense build-up," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a news conference.


"It also whips up a Chinese military threat and misleads public opinion".


Nepal Protests

Thousands of opposition protesters flooded the streets of Nepal's capital on Thursday, as early results showed pro-government candidates sweeping local elections. The elections were marred by rebel attacks, the shooting of protesters and low turnout. More than 4,000 demonstrators swept into Katmandu's city center, waving banners, shouting slogans and calling for the punishment of soldiers who killed a demonstrator during the elections Wednesday. "Hang the culprits! Down with autocracy! We will fight for democracy," the protesters chanted.


Haiti Election

Early returns indicate that Rene Preval, a former president with strong support among Haiti's poor has taken an early lead in this week’s elections in Haiti.  Haitians turned out in droves to vote in the election, and ballot counting has been slow. Ballots are coming in by plane, truck and mule to Port-au-Prince, officials said..

Tuesday's elections were the first since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a bloody revolt two years ago. Officials said collecting and tabulating the results would take several days.

But some polling stations posted unconfirmed local results outside. These showed strong early support for Rene Preval.

Preliminary calculations showed the candidate having won 67 percent of the nationwide vote, with 16 percent of votes counted.

Preval, who is widely supported by Haiti's poor masses, was the front-runner among 33 presidential candidates. Shy and soft-spoken, Preval is the only elected leader in Haitian history to finish his term. While he does not declare himself a socialist, Preval’s party is opposed to aristocracy and capitalist imperialism.


A Woman Prime Minister?

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has decided to scrap his plan to submit a bill to the parliament to let women inherit the imperial throne, after news that a princess was pregnant raised hopes for a male heir, media reports said on Friday.

Despite strong opposition from conservative lawmakers, Koizumi had pledged to present the bill to the current session of parliament to avoid a succession crisis. Only males are currently allowed to inherit the throne, but no boys have been born into Japan's ancient imperial family since 1965.

With some cabinet ministers openly questioning his plans, news that Princess Kiko, wife of the emperor's second son, was pregnant with her third child gave Koizumi a face-saving way out of a potential political battle, some analysts said.


Global Warming

A key U.S. senator called on the Bush administration on Monday to open global climate talks, warning that the dangers of global warming were not only a threat to the United States but India and China as well.

Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the 15-nation U.N. Security Council that the world's dependence on oil and other fossil fuels damaged the environment and many nations' economies.

"With this in mind, I have urged the Bush administration and my colleagues in Congress to return to a leadership role on the issue of climate change," Lugar said.

He said the United States "must be open to multilateral forums that attempt to achieve global solutions to the problem of greenhouse gases."

The European Union, Japan and much of the rest of the industrial world are imposing mandatory cuts on emissions linked to global warming in the Kyoto treaty on global warming. The Bush administration favors asking U.S. companies to join a voluntary emission reduction program.

Lugar, as well as fellow Republican Senators Norm Coleman of Minnesota and George Voinovich of Ohio, stressed that China and India, which are spewing out more greenhouse gases than anticipated, needed to be brought into the U.N.'s 1992 Kyoto Protocol, where developing nations had received exemptions.


Winter Game Heat

Organizers of the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, are worried about an unexpected three-day heat wave, with temperatures getting as high as 60 degrees, that has melted most of the snow and ice. The Olympics opened today and will continue for the next week, but workers have been busy making snow and trucking the white stuff down from nearby mountains. “It’s like spring already,” one local resident said.


Storms Kill Seals

Herds and their pups of grey seals were nearly wiped out by a freak blizzard after coming ashore this week in eastern Canada to escape an unusually mild winter and deliver their offspring.

The seals, which usually give birth on icebergs floating in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, came ashore on Canada's Atlantic coast because warmer than usual weather had melted the ice, fisheries officials said.

Some 2,000 to 3,000 seals on tiny Pictou Island were struck by a "severe" storm that buried Canada's eastern Maritimes region in snow and kicked up high waves and strong winds.

Island resident Jane MacDonald said she awoke Thursday morning to see "wall to wall seals" and their puppies on 2.5 miles of beaches "decimated" by the storm.

"It was traumatizing," she said. "The seal puppies were literally swept away into the water because their mothers couldn't get them to higher ground."


Bottled Water Pollution

A new US study claims that bottled water consumption, which has more than doubled globally in the last six years, is heavily taxing the world's ecosystem.


"Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing, producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy," according to Emily Arnold, author of the study published by the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington-based environmental group.


Arnold said although in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can end up costing 10,000 times more.


"At as much as 10 dollars per gallon, bottled water costs more than gasoline," the study says.


It added that the United States was the largest consumer of bottled water, with Americans drinking 26 billion liters in 2004, or about one eight-ounce glass per person every day.


The manufacture and disposal of the plastic containers this water is sold in is the problem. Yet for many of us, where drinking tap water is totally unacceptable, there are few alternatives. We can all buy our own water purification systems, which are costly to own, operate and keep clean.


Thawing Permafrost

Global warming could threaten the new Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest, within a decade, a Chinese researcher said in published remarks.

Wu Ziwang, a frozen soil specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said his research over three decades reveals large areas of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau showed signs of shrinking because of more extensive thawing.

This could threaten the new railway, which is to start operations this year, Wu said.

"Fast thawing of frozen soil in the plateau might greatly increase the instability of the ground, causing more grave geological problems in the frozen soil areas where major projects such as highways or railways run through," Wu warned.


More Bed Bugs

Australia is suffering a bed-bug epidemic with the tourism industry losing an estimated at $75 million a year because of the blood-sucking insects, according to a new entomology study.

Some pest controllers have reported more than a 1,000 percent rise in bed-bug outbreaks.

The Australian problem is part of a global epidemic, with the number of bed bugs worldwide doubling each year, entomologist Stephen Doggett said.


Frog Fungus

A deadly fungus is creeping through Panama, killing hundreds of thousands of amphibians and putting the country's national symbol, the golden frog, at risk of extinction.

The rare golden frog is a much-loved national emblem that graces Panama's lottery tickets and tourist brochures. Schoolchildren are taught the story of the frogs, which, according to pre-Columbian folklore, turn to gold upon death.

Panamanians believe that people who see the frog alive will be blessed with good luck.

The mysterious mold threatening the frog is spreading quickly in Panama, according to a report published by Southern Illinois University. It grows over the animals' skin, sealing it up and effectively choking them to death,

Frogs use their skin as we use our lungs. If it gets blocked up, they die.

Global warming is blamed for the proliferation of the fungus.


Alaskan Volcano

A volcano on an uninhabited island in Alaska erupted on Monday, sending a cloud of ash 22,000 feet into the air and triggering an elevation of the mountain's threat level.

Scientists detected the morning eruption at Cleveland Volcano, a 5,676-foot peak, on satellite imagery.

The observatory issued a Code Red warning, the highest level of alert, for the volcano, because the ash cloud was near a level where it could interfere with jet traffic.

There were no reports of falling ash from the volcano located in the rugged chain of Aleutian Islands. The nearest community is Nikolski, a tiny Aleut village of 31 people that is 45 miles to the east of the volcano.


GMO Food Issue

The U.S. may push Africa to accept gene-altered (GMO) food now that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that the EU broke rules by barring GMO foods and seeds. But the Africans vowed this week to resist.

"We do not want genetically modified foods and our hope is that all of us can continue to produce non-GM foods," the Zambian Agriculture Minister said.

"The decision by the WTO does nothing to change our stand in this matter."

The WTO ruled on Tuesday that the European Union and six member states broke trade rules by barring entry to genetically modified crops and foods.

A U.S. trade official confirmed findings of the preliminary ruling, contained in a confidential report sent only to the parties. The closely watched verdict addressed a complaint brought against the EU by leading GMO producers the United States, Argentina and Canada.

The European Union's opponents asserted that the moratorium, which Brussels argued was never official, hurt their exports and was not based on science.

Manufacturers (Monsanto) of the biotech seeds, designed to increase yields and resist pests better than normal seeds, maintain they are safe for human consumption.

European consumers, fearing the effects of "Frankenstein foods" have resisted them. Even African countries facing food shortages, such as Zambia, have refused to accept gene-altered food donations, arguing their safety had not been ascertained.

GMO seeds also are hybrid seeds so farmers cannot use seed from one year’s crop to plant the following season. They are forced to purchase new seeds every season. Also, GMO seeds are found to cross-pollinate with other area plants, damaging the purity of the non-GMO seed stock.



The Captain Abandoned Ship

Survivors of the Red Sea ferry disaster said on Saturday the Egyptian captain, Sayyed Omar, fled his burning ship by lifeboat and abandoned them to their fate.

Some passengers, plucked alive from the sea or from boats after the ferry caught fire and sank early on Friday, said crew members had told them not to worry about the blaze below deck and even ordered them to take off lifejackets.

The ship began to list but the crew continued to sail out into the Red Sea rather than turn back to the Saudi port, survivors told reporters.

Egyptian survivor Shahata Ali said the passengers told the captain about the fire but he told them not to worry.

"We were wearing lifejackets but they told us there was nothing wrong, told us to take them off and they took away the lifejackets. Then the boat started to sink and the captain took a boat and left," he added, speaking to Reuters Television.

"The captain was the first to leave and we were surprised to see the boat sinking," added another survivor.

Other survivors also reported that the crew had played down the gravity of the situation and withheld lifejackets.

"There was a fire but the crew stopped the people from putting on lifejackets so that it wouldn't cause a panic," another survivor said.

Most of the passengers were poor Egyptian villagers who had found jobs in the Gulf and were bringing months if not years worth of savings back to their families.


Less than 400 of the 1,415 were confirmed to have been rescued by Sunday night, amid dwindling chances of finding any more survivors and growing fears that the sinking of the Al-Salam Boccaccio 98 would become one of the worst maritime disasters in recent history.


Manila Stampede

A stampede by thousands of people packed at the front door of a stadium near Manila to watch a television game show surged toward the gates Friday night in the mistaken belief they were open. At least 73 were trampled to death and another 500 were injured, authorities said.

About 30,000 people were waiting to get inside the arena for the "Wowowee" show when the stampede occurred  Survivors said the game show was to include a raffle with a jackpot equivalent to $384.

"The raffle tickets can be obtained at the gate so everyone was in a hurry. There was pushing and people in front of the gate were crushed," said Myrna Britania, 42, who spent all night in line.




Rome Bus Crash


Twelve Turkish tourists died and 18 others were injured when their coach left the road and plunged into a ravine in Rome.


Four of the injured were in serious condition. The coach was carrying 31 Turkish nationals in Rome for a conference organized by Ford Motor Co. for its dealers.


The vehicle was on the road leading down from Monte Mario, one of the Italian capital's hills, near the Vatican, when for an unknown reason its driver failed to negotiate a turn and it went into the ravine.




Bavarian Bush Crash


Up to 40 people were injured in two accidents involving school buses in Germany's snow-logged southern state of Bavaria, local authorities said.


Some 28 people were injured, eight of them seriously, when a bus carrying school children collided with another carrying workmen, police said.


A spokesman for the Red Cross said they had sent 30 vehicles to the scene, adding that heavy snowfall was complicating rescue efforts.




Zanzibar Drownings

Eleven school children drowned in Zanzibar Wednesday when a huge wave capsized the boat they were playing in, police said.

A police official on the Indian Ocean islands said the children were playing at a beach near their primary school on the outskirts of a Zanzibar town when disaster struck.

A Zanzibar Education Minister said it was a sad day for the semi-autonomous islands located off mainland Tanzania. "I am in consultation with the president to declare it a national disaster," he said.




Bird Flu In Europe?


An Indian sailor who died in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda may have been infected with bird flu, the Lithuanian health ministry said.


"A member of the crew of the ship M.V. Ocean Wind died in Klaipeda Monday. The suspected cause of death is bird flu," a statement from the ministry said.


If avian flu is confirmed as the cause of death, it would be the first human case of the disease in the European Union.


The dead man was the ship's cook and fell ill on February 4, according to reports from the crew.



Also a "highly pathogenic" strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus was found this week in poultry stocks in Nigeria _ the first reported case of the disease in Africa, the World Organization for Animal Health said.



China's Ministry of Health said today a woman died of bird flu in the central province of Hunan. She thus becomes the eighth person killed by the virus in the country. The victim was a 20-year-old farmer, who had shown symptoms of fever and pneumonia on January 27 after culling poultry raised in her home. She died on February 4.



Rome Abortion Issue

Pope Benedict welcomed Italy's leading anti-abortion group to his weekly blessing Sunday. He saluted Italy’s Movement for Life in a world where, he said, selfishness and hedonism often undermined the sanctity of life.

Members of the anti-abortion group waved balloons and cheered when the Pope welcomed them to St. Peter's Square. It was the Church's annual "Day of Life" in Italy.

The Pope's support for the group comes as the abortion issue in Italy heats up ahead of an April general election. Pro-choice and gay rights campaigners have protested against what they see as the Vatican's interference in political affairs.

Health Minister Francesco Storace, of the right-wing National Alliance party, supports the Church's opposition to the abortion pill -- which is still unavailable in Italy -- and has proposed that members of the Movement for Life be allowed access to the country's abortion counseling centers.



Those Sleeping Pills

Americans are taking sleeping pills like never before, fueled by frenetic workdays that do not go gently into a great night's sleep, and lulled by a surge of consumer advertising that promises safe slumber with minimal side effects.

About 42 million sleeping pill prescriptions were filled last year, according to the research company IMS Health, up nearly 60 percent since 2000.

But some experts worry that the drugs are being oversubscribed without enough regard to known, if rare, side effects or the implications of long-term use. And they fear doctors may be ignoring other conditions, like depression, that might be the cause of sleeplessness.

Although the newer drugs are not believed to carry the same risk of dependence as older ones like barbiturates, some researchers have reported what is called the "next day" effect, a continued sleepiness hours after awakening from a drug-induced slumber.

Ten percent of Americans report that they regularly struggle to fall asleep or to stay asleep throughout the night. And more and more are turning to a new generation of sleep aids like Ambien, the best seller, and its competitor, Lunesta. Experts acknowledge that insomnia has become a cultural benchmark — a side effect of an overworked, overwrought society.

Another ignored cause of insomnia is all of the energy fields that penetrate our brains through television, radio, cellphone and even secret government EMF fields.




HIV Protection?

An injection of two drugs normally used to treat HIV patients completely protected monkeys from becoming infected with the AIDS virus, U.S. researchers reported.

While it is too early to tell whether people can pop a pill and escape infection, the study provides the strongest evidence yet that it might be possible, the researchers said.

Scientists for the Centers for Disease and Prevention studied rhesus monkeys that were injected with a version of Truvada -- Gilead Sciences Inc.'s once-a-day pill that includes its drugs Viread and Emtriva.

The pill is often used in drug cocktails to treat HIV infection, although the two drugs cannot cure it.



Moussaoui Sentencing


The US justice system found itself on trial Monday at the start of penalty hearings for Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted as the "20th hijacker" of September 11, 2001.


Both prosecution and defense teams and everyone watching the trial is asking the same question: How can a man who incites so much hatred and anger, in a region still scarred by the 2001 attacks, be granted justice here?


It will be a "unique challenge," one of Moussaoui's lawyers, Edward MacMahon.


Moussaoui, signed a statement of fact along with his guilty plea last year, identifying himself as "the 20th hijacker." He has maintained that he was to form part of a second wave of strikes, probably targeting the White House.


But the straightforward nature of the task belies its complexity. The court must find a jury of 12 men and women who have not already made up their mind over Moussaoui's fate -- which will either be the death penalty or life in prison without parole.


Moussaoui, apparently inspired by the antics of Saddam Hussein who is on trial in an Iraqi court, has been putting on a show of his own, even during the swearing in of potential jurors.


He had to be removed from the federal courtroom on two occasions Monday. He stood up and loudly proclaimed “I am al-Qaida,” in the midst of jury selection. Later, at the start of the hearing, he demanded: “I want to be heard. This trial is a circus. These people do not represent me.”



Patriot Act Renewal

Senate Republicans have apparently reached a deal with the White House that clears the way for renewing the USA Patriot Act, a key element of President Bush's war on terror.

While some Democrats were quick to portray the deal as failing to address civil liberties concerns adequately, several Republicans and Democrats who had earlier balked at renewing the law gave their support. The change followed acceptance of some revisions by the White House.


Burning Churches

Fires damaged three more rural Baptist churches in Alabama following rash of suspected arsons that burned five churches south of Birmingham last week.

The fires reported Tuesday were at Dancy First Baptist Church near Aliceville, Spring Valley Baptist Church near Emelle, and Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church near Boligee.

The extent of damage was not immediately known and it wasn't immediately clear when the three churches burned. State and federal fire investigators were sent to the scenes.

Before the week was over authorities ruled that all nine church fires appear linked and at least five of the fires were shown to have been arson. The patterns of the crimes were similar . . . doors kicked in and fires started near the altar.


Killer Freeze


Polish and Ukrainian authorities have raised the human toll from the freezing weather that has gripped eastern Europe since the beginning of the year. And temperatures have plummeted again.


The deaths of eight people in the previous 24 hours means that 738 people had died from the intense cold since mid-January, the Ukrainian health ministry said.


More than 7,500 people were treated by doctors and 4,464 were admitted to a hospital. Many of those who died were homeless, the ministry said.


In Poland, police said the country's coldest winter in nearly 20 years had killed 233 people since October.


Last week alone, 19 people died of cold.



Japan Avalanche


Avalanches have halted one of Japan's bullet trains and left one person dead and 10 injured at a hot spring resort as the country endures its deadliest winter in two decades.


Some 300 passengers were safe after a bullet train was forced to stop after plowing into an avalanche of snow some 250 miles north of Tokyo.


"The driver braked hard but the train eventually ran into the snow," said a spokesman for East Japan Railway Co.


None of the passengers was hurt when the accident happened this morning, but they were waiting in the train as it was stuck between two stations, he said.


California Wildfire


A raging wildfire continued to blaze near Los Angeles Wednesday, but local authorities lifted emergency evacuation orders for thousands of residents as the fire changed direction.


The devastation of the fire, which has eaten some 3,500 acres of land, forced authorities to place nearly 2,000 homes under an evacuation order.


Despite the wildfire's change in direction, some 950 firefighters continued to battle the vast blaze Wednesday, which sent columns of smoke high up into the sky near this major west coast city.


The blaze also caused the closure of several main roads east of Anaheim, some some 25 miles to the southeast of Los Angeles.



The Bush Budget


A 2.77 trillion dollar budget for 2007 was unveiled by President Bush administration this week curbs core social programs while beefing up US defense spending.


The 2007 US budget, released Monday, will attempt to shrink a deficit that could top 400 billion dollars this year by trimming 36 billion dollars from the Medicare health program for the elderly over the next five years and reducing or eliminating 141 programs, at a cost saving of 14.5 billion dollars.


With congressional elections looming in November, the budget plan came under sharp attack by Democrats who charged that the elderly and working Americans will bear the brunt of what they called fiscal mismanagement.


The plan would cut discretionary programs outside national security by 0.5 percent. Bush wants to pare back or completely scrap 141 programs, with education, cancer research and community policing programs taking a hit.


The budget calls for a record $439.3 billion defense budget, up 4.8 percent from this year. The administration also wants to seek new financing for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not included in the budget.


Bush renewed his call for Congress to make his tax cuts permanent even though he projects an increased federal deficit to $423 billion this year, up more than $100 billion from 2005. He warned that failing to extend the tax cuts would amount to a tax increase.


This president has plunged the United States into such a deep deficit that it won’t be just our children, but our children’s grandchildren who will still be paying it off if they are even around by then.



Social Security Cuts

If President Bush gets his way, the venerable $255 Social Security death benefit will fade into history. And 16- and 17-year-old high school dropouts will lose their monthly survivor payments.

Not, however, if Democrats get their way.

"The Republican Congress has given a whole new meaning to the term 'women and children first,'" Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee, said Tuesday.

"There they go again," said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads the party's Senate campaign effort. "They can't resist trying to cut Social Security, and to cut a survivor, a widow or widower's benefits, it just shows how warped the priorities are in this budget."


Health Care Cuts

President Bush signed a measure Wednesday that trims Medicaid and Medicare spending over the next five years, but he said Congress must make bigger changes as baby boomers retire.

Bush said programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are the biggest long-term challenge to the budget. Even after the cuts he signed into law, the growth rates projected for the programs are unsustainable, he said.

"By 2030, spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget," Bush said before signing the Deficit Reduction Act.

Bush's plan aims to reduce projected Medicare payments to hospitals and other health care providers by billions over the next five years, and that it will seek further increases in Medicare premiums for high-income people beyond those scheduled to take effect next year.


Lost World Found

A team of scientists visited one of Indonesia's most remote provinces and discovered what they described as a "Lost World" - apparently never visited by humans. Members of the team said Tuesday they also saw large mammals that have been hunted to near-extinction elsewhere and discovered dozens of exotic new species of frogs, butterflies and palms.

"We've only scratched the surface," said Bruce Beehler, a co-leader of the month long trip to the Foja Mountains, an area in the eastern province of Papua, New Guinea, with roughly 2 million acres of pristine tropical forest.

"There was not a single trail, no sign of civilization, no sign of even local communities ever having been there," he said.

Now that it has been discovered, expect Christian missionaries to tromp all over the area and ruin it.


US Trade Deficit Rising

The U.S. trade deficit soared to an all-time high of $725.8 billion in pushed upward by record imports of oil, food, cars and other consumer goods. The deficit with China hit an all-time high as did America's deficits with Japan, Europe, OPEC, Canada, Mexico and South and Central America.

The Commerce Department reported today that the gap between what America sells abroad and what it imports rose by 17.5 percent from the previous record of $617.6 billion set in 2004.

It marked the fourth consecutive year that America's trade deficit has set a record and was certain to spark increased debate in Congress over President Bush's trade policies. Since mid-2000 the country has lost nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs and Democrats blame the administration's policy of emphasizing free trade agreements.


Buying E-Mail Service


Yahoo and America Online will offer "certified" email service that guarantees credible senders delivery, but for a fee.


Businesses that make the grade when it comes to legitimacy and email track records will be assured message delivery to recipients' main Yahoo or AOL inboxes for a quarter of a cent to one cent per message.


Goodmail Services of Mountain View, California, worked for more than two years with AOL and Yahoo on certified email service intended to thwart phishing and other online scams, said Goodmail co-founder Richard Gingras.


"The email inbox has become a dangerous place," Gingras said. "It doesn't say much for our email medium when it is not as reliable or trusted as it should be."


Certified email will bypass spam filters and be routed directly into the main inboxes of designated recipients. Yahoo and AOL represent half the primary personal email accounts in the United States.


Goodmail will handle sender accounts and certify mail, which will get priority handling by AOL and Yahoo. "Postage" revenues will be split evenly between Goodmail and the Internet companies.


"We will be announcing partnerships with other mailbox providers in the coming months," Gingras said. "We thought it was important to start with the big players."



That Asbestos Bill

The Senate is set a vote at any time on a controversial bill to halt asbestos lawsuits. Senators have been hurling verbal brickbats over the legislation and the intense lobbying it has engendered.

Asbestos fibers are linked to lung-scarring diseases, including cancer. Hundreds of thousands of injury claims have clogged courtroom dockets and helped push into bankruptcy proceedings more than 70 U.S. companies..

Some senators are saying the plan to create a $140 billion fund to compensate victims of asbestos-related diseases is a "terrible" proposal. They say the bill is on the Senate floor only because lobbyists representing some companies that would benefit had spent over $144 million "lobbying to get it here."


GM Cuts Expenses

General Motors Corp. halved its dividend on Tuesday, the first reduction in more than 13 years, and slashed executive pay, cutting costs and seeking leverage for sweeping, long-term changes in its labor contracts.

GM's board of directors -- which had been under pressure to make the moves from Kirk Kerkorian, its largest single shareholder -- cut the dividend to an annual rate of $1 a share, saving about $565 million a year.

At the same time, Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner's salary will be halved, while Vice Chairmen John Devine, Robert Lutz and Fritz Henderson will see their salaries cut by 30 percent.

The world's largest automaker lost $8.6 billion in 2005 as it struggled with high labor and raw material costs, loss of U.S. market share to foreign rivals, and sluggish sales of sport utility vehicles, its biggest generator of profits.


Volkswagen Layoffs


German car giant Volkswagen has unveiled a sweeping restructuring plan that would affect up to 20,000 workers over three years. VW is making the changes even though company profits soared last year thanks to previous cost-cutting efforts.


"In the next three years up to 20,000 direct and indirect employees could be affected by this restructuring program,” a company statement sid.


But the measures would include "elimination of productivity deficits, particularly in the car assembly plant," VW said.



Toshiba Buys Westinghouse


British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) announced the sale of US power plant maker Westinghouse to Japanese technology giant Toshiba for 5.4 billion dollars.


Toshiba, Japan's largest maker of power plant equipment, said it expected several minority investors to participate in the deal, but added that it intended to retain a stake of more than 51-percent in Westinghouse.


BNFL, which is owned by the British government, said it expected the sale to be finalized within around six months. BNFL had bought Westinghouse in 1999 for 1.1 billion dollars.



Now for the lighter side of the news:


Remember the Northern Bottlenose Whale that got lost and swam up the Thames River into London then died during the rescue effort? It seems an anonymous American vendor is now offering to sell its soul to the highest bidder on e-bay.

"I was accompanying the poor whale in his last journey, and he handed his soul to me,” the anonymous Minneapolis seller explained. “He asked me to sell it, so I could invest the money raised in other bottlenosed whales."

It is not the first item of whale-related memorabilia to go up for sale on eBay, an Internet auction site.

The watering can used to keep the female whale wet as rescuers vainly tried to ship her back out to sea on January 21 was sold Wednesday for $3,642. Someone is even trying to sell water from the river on the grounds the whale swam through it.

The soul seller describes the proud possession as "100 percent soul" and promises to ship it anywhere in the world.


Odd Insurance Claims

Frozen squirrels, angry wasps and obstructive potatoes were among some of the reasons given by motorists to support their insurance claims, a London insurance firm, Norwich Union reports.

Freak incidents involving animals top the list when it comes to bizarre claims, closely followed by those involving food.

The squirrel motorist said the frozen animal had fallen out of a tree and crashed through the windshield while another driver blamed a wasp sting on the leg for a sudden surge in acceleration and a bump with the car in front.

One driver even blamed a potato stuck behind the brake pedal for the inability to stop.

"We see a lot of strange things but we were surprised at how many involved animals and food of all things," said a Norwich Union spokeswoman.

One claim in particular stood out.

"As I was driving around a bend, one of the doors opened and a frozen kebab flew out, hitting and damaging a passing car," it read.

All the cited claims were legitimate and had been paid out, the spokeswoman said.


Church Pastor Arrested

Some members of a Lutheran parish on Chicago's far South Side said they were outraged when police arrested the Rev. Jimmy McCants in the middle of his sermon.


McCants, 54, has been the focus of a dispute between rival factions at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.


The church's board of directors told police the board fired McCants on Christmas Eve. But a woman affiliated with the church signed a complaint against him for trespassing on church property, police said.


The problem gets more complicated. A Lutheran Church official said the board fired McCants without going through the proper steps to resolve disputes.


"They have removed a pastor inappropriately," he said.

McCants was booked on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing and later released in lieu of $1,000 bond.



Chicken Wing King


A 22-year-old man from San Jose, Calif., won the Wing Bowl last week by setting a new record at the annual chicken wing-eating contest. They said Joey Chestnut ate 173 wings to take the title and top prize, a 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. They noted there were quite a few sick contestants in the restrooms after the contest. Eating that many chicken wings is not a good idea.


No Jesus Cartoons

The Danish newspaper that first published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad infuriating Muslims worldwide has turned down cartoons of Jesus as too offensive, a cartoonist said this week.

Twelve cartoons of the Prophet published last September by the newspaper have outraged Muslims, provoking violent protests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

"My cartoon, which certainly did not offend any Christians I showed it to, was rejected because the editor felt it would be considered offensive to readers -- readers in general, not necessarily Christians," cartoonist Christoffer Zieler said in an email to Reuters.

Zieler's five colored cartoons portrayed Jesus jumping out of holes in floors and walls during his resurrection.

The editor of the newspaper said he did not accept the cartoons because he did not think they were very good. That we have contemporary editorial cartoonists poking fun at all religious icons these days may be very good, not matter what the editors and the religiously blind masses think.


First Grade Sex

A six-year-old first grader in Brocton, Mass. was suspended for three days after school officials said he sexually harassed a girl in his class. What did he do? School officials said he put two fingers inside a girl’s waistband while they sat together on the floor. Now that is pretty sick. Can you imagine a six-year-old kid doing something as sensual as that with another first grader? Wait until he gets to second grade.


Jesus Suit Update

An Italian atheist lost his legal crusade against the Catholic Church Thursday when a judge rejected his attempts to sue a priest for saying that Jesus existed 2,000 years ago.

Luigi Cascioli, 72, argued his hometown priest and former schoolmate had effectively broken an Italian law meant to protect the public from being conned.

But instead of granting Cascioli his request to bring the case to court, the judge recommended magistrates investigate him for slandering the priest. And the fight goes on.


And that is the news for this 10th day of February, 2006. Be sure to tune in to this station tomorrow night at 10 p.m. to catch the Infinite Chaos With Zurx show, which is growing in popularity. And don’t miss the regular Sunday night Voice of Lucifer broadcast with Psychic and Prophet Aaron C. Donahue and his Psychic sister Jennifer Sharpe. Both shows start at 10 p.m. Eastern Time.



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