Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Thin-Air Display Is Promising, but Thin on Details, Too: "LAKE FOREST, Ill.

IMAGINE a touch screen on which the elements of the image displayed can be moved around with a fingertip. Now imagine the same scene without the screen: the image can still be moved with a fingertip, but it floats unsupported above a quietly whirring gray box that is connected to a laptop computer.
That describes what took place here when the prototype of a new device called the Heliodisplay was shown publicly for the first time."

Monday, December 29, 2003

New Scientist: "The court ruled that the games firm must return Hongchen's virtual belongings. The company was found liable because flaws in its servers had allowed the hacker to gain access to Hongchen's account. It has not been revealed whether the company must also pay out damages.
The court battle is the 'first virtual property rights dispute case' in China, says Xinhuanet. But the case is just another example of how the line between online games and the real world have begun to blur. Some gamers already trade game goods and characters for real money through online auction sites like eBay.
Edward Castronova, an economist at California State University at Fullerton, calculated that those playing the popular US game Everquest could make on average $3.42 an hour by simply playing the game.
Some companies have sought to exploit this phenomenon by developing games that integrate real money. Project Entropia, launched in January 2003, lets players buy equipment with money and exchange goods acquired through the game for real cash."
Japan's Empire of Cool (washingtonpost.com) In the cacophony of cool, foreigners mingle with streams of Japanese descending by a cave-like hole into the entrance of Mandarake, the world's largest Japanese manga -- comics -- and anime department store. They buy original celluloids, or cels, from Japanese animation, most at about $30 each, along with comic books, action figures, posters and CDs. Hundreds of online orders come in daily to operators speaking Japanese, English, Spanish, French and Korean.
Company President Masuzo Furukawa, whose office is entered through an anime-like tube with round, orange electronic doors, is direct about the reason: "If it's Japanese, the world wants it. Japan is hot."
Even as this country of 127 million has lost its status as a global economic superpower and the national confidence has been sapped by a 13-year economic slump, Japan is reinventing itself -- this time as the coolest nation on Earth.
Analysts are marveling at the breadth of a recent explosion in cultural exports, and many argue that the international embrace of Japan's pop culture, film, food, style and arts is second only to that of the United States. Business leaders and government officials are now referring to Japan's "gross national cool" as a new engine for economic growth and societal buoyancy.
Revenue from royalties and sales of music, video games, anime, art, films and fashion soared to $12.5 billion in 2002, up 300 percent from 1992. During the same period, Japanese exports overall increased by only 15 percent. Its cultural exports are now worth three and a half times the value of all the televisions this nation exported in 2002, according to a report by the research arm of the trade conglomerate Marubeni
US sees tide turn on Iraq insurgents | csmonitor.com: "Violence is down in the Tikrit region, the heartland of the insurgency. Yet further south a bomb killed 13 on Saturday.
TIKRIT, IRAQ – Surveying Tikrit from their compound on a bluff high above the Tigris River, a short distance from where Saddam Hussein was captured two weeks ago, America's military commanders are convinced they've finally turned the corner against the insurgency in the former dictator's home base.
Attacks on soldiers have dropped steeply in the Tikrit area over the past month. After more than six months of intensive raids, foot patrols, and intelligence gathering, commanders believe they have tapped into the rhythm of the insurgency. "We're making steady, [unstoppable] progress,'' says Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who commands the 1st Battalion of the 22nd Infantry.
"
Quake aid may open door for US and Iran | csmonitor.com: "decade, four American military aircraft landed in Iran Sunday in a gesture between two countries more noted for acrimony than mutual aid.
The US, joining dozens of other countries in providing emergency aid after Friday's earthquake, delivered about 120,000 pounds of medical supplies and water to the nation once branded by President Bush as part of the 'axis of evil.'
But it is often at humanity's most trying moments that old foes are brought together in a spirit of cooperation and compassion.
'The reception was very warm,' said Lt. Col. Vic Harris in a phone interview after returning to his base in Kuwait. 'We worked side by side with Iranian soldiers to download the supplies. The Iranian base commander said he hoped this would be the beginning of a new relationship.'
But analysts note that there's a small but emerging détente of late, a spin-off from the US-led war in Iraq. Iran's decision to recognize the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council indicated a certain acquiescence to Washington's plans in Iraq. This tacit agreement with US policy in Iraq stems in part from Iran's perception that Washington shows no signs of opposing Shiite predominance in Iraq, a country that has long been ruled by its Sunni minority. Iran, the only other majority Shiite country, has become more influential in postwar Iraq and sees a pro-Iranian government there as a key to regional stability.
Concurrent with Washington and Tehran's discovery of mutual interests in Iraq, Iran has also showed its willingness to comply with demands to inspect its nuclear program. That appears to be a sign that it has no interest in upping the ante with Washington nor with Israel, the country which feels most threatened by - and would be mostly likely to launch an attack on - Iran's nuclear capabilities, notes a recent report by Stratfor, a Washington-based research service."
Reuters News Article: "DUBAI (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein has given his U.S. captors information on hidden weapons and as much as $40 billion he may have seized while he was Iraq's president, an Iraqi official was quoted as saying on Monday.
'Saddam has confessed the names of people he told to keep the money and he gave names of those who have information on equipment and weapons warehouses,' Iyad Allawi, a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily."
DEBKAfile - The Stryker: US Military`s Great White Hope against Iraqi RPGs: "At Camp Udairi in Kuwait, US armament technicians are working extra-hard in giant hangars on a Christmas gift for US troops plagued by guerrilla attacks in Iraq. It is the Stryker, an eight-wheel drive armored combat vehicle, the first new armored carrier to enter service in the US army since the Abrams tank was introduced in the 1980s.
DEBKAfile’s military sources quote US civil administrator Paul Bremer as informing the emergency White House consultations last month on the mounting guerrilla war in Iraq that soldiers of the US 2nd division fighting in the Baghdad area and the 4th division under constant attack in the Sunni triangle, “can’t wait to get their hands” on the Strykers.
These innovative vehicles are destined to eventually replace the heavy Abrams M1 battle tank and the Bradley M2 fighting vehicles in Iraq. They are more mobile and agile, have a far greater turn of speed, superior night visibility and unmatched high-tech instruments.
US military chiefs in Washington and Baghdad believe the Stryker, built by General Motors Defense of Canada and General Dynamics Land Systems Division of the United States, will provide American troops with a better response to the ubiquitous rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), favorite weapon of Saddam Hussein’s loyalists. They are expected to show their rapid- response mettle against the guerrillas’ agile RPG pick-up trucks, which turned up for the first time in the Samarra battle of November 30 after an absence of several months."

Sunday, December 28, 2003

DEBKAfile - Al Qaeda’s Turkish Knife Hangs over Europe: "
The Jewish and British sites devastated in two rounds of coordinate attacks this week, in which at least 55 people lost their lives and 750 were maimed, are standard targets for al Qaeda, which has declared war on the West and the Jews. However, what the Turkish prime minister was quick to grasp was that Osama bin Laden’s network had joined with at least one Turkish partner-in-terror - The Islamic Greater Easter Raiders Front (IBDA-C) and possibly others - for bigger goals and is not yet done. Turkey has been selected as the favored target of the Islamic international terror network for three main reasons:
>>>Despite its cooperation with Al Qaeda, IBDA-C is very different from the fundamentalist Islamic group. Although it is comprised of Sunni Muslims, the group espouses the Trotskyite version of Communism. Mirzabeyoglu, a professional boxer in his youth, has written 42 books, including “Diary of a Fox” – compulsory reading for all new recruits who are required to memorize it. The terrorist-boxer-author has described his doctrine as a mixture of Plato, Hegel, Trotsky and Sufi Islam, the last based on the belief that there is no real difference between good and evil and that Allah determines the will of man. The Sufi sect is particularly strong among Kurds and in Turkey, making that country a fertile ground for the IBDA-C.
Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri have little use for the IBDA-C’s philosophy. It is just one more fringe organization under the radar and at their beck and call. Their willingness to use the group points again to their operational flexibility and shows how little Western intelligence services really know about what is happening in the labyrinth of Islamic terror."
DEBKAfile - Palestinian Tribulations from Jerusalem’s al Aqsa to Baghdad: "The Palestinians, therefore, are confronted with Mubarak’s rancor, Assad’s willingness to ditch them (he recently told American visitors to Damascus that the Palestinians entered into peace talks in Oslo and launched two uprisings without consulting Syria) and uncertainties in Jerusalem. In post-Saddam Iraq, their situation is tricky.
Some 140,000 Palestinians live in Baghdad along the eastern bank of the Euphrates, most concentrated on Haifa Street. Times were good when Saddam Hussein was in charge, and Palestinians were among his biggest supporters. The former Iraqi leader used them as middlemen for overseas business deals and treated them as a loyal elite.
Now they are paying the price. More and more Iraqis want to deport them and seize their property. Jordan, according to our sources, has spurned approaches to take them in. They are regarded with suspicion by the US civil administration and military commanders.
And now, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, a Palestinian is found to have taken part in a suicide bombing on December 11 in the city of Ramadi. The bombers gained entry to the headquarters of the US 82nd Airborne Division disguised as deliverymen bringing furniture to the base. A U.S. soldier was killed and 14 wounded in the explosion."
Threats Force Retreat From Wide-Ranging Plans for Iraq (washingtonpost.com): "BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 -- The United States has backed away from several of its more ambitious initiatives to transform Iraq's economy, political system and security forces as attacks on U.S. troops have escalated and the timetable for ending the civil occupation has accelerated.
Plans to privatize state-owned businesses -- a key part of a larger Bush administration goal to replace the socialist economy of deposed president Saddam Hussein with a free-market system -- have been dropped over the past few months. So too has a demand that Iraqis write a constitution before a transfer of sovereignty."
Report: Saudi Police Foil Airliner Attack (washingtonpost.com): "LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi security forces have seized light planes packed with explosives near Riyadh's King Khalid airport, foiling a plot by suicide pilots to blow up a Western airliner on the runway, a British newspaper said on Sunday.
Two pilots apparently intended to crash their light planes into a Western jet as it taxied slowly on the tarmac, the Mail on Sunday quoted Patrick Mercer, homeland security policy chief for Britain's opposition Conservative Party as saying.
'My understanding is that (the light planes) were found on the flight line and that the plan was to fly them into a passenger jet either about to land or take off,' Mercer told the paper.
The two pilots were among several people arrested after the planes were discovered some time in the past few weeks, the paper said.
It said British Airways was believed to be the most likely target, although several other European carriers also use the airport."

Saturday, December 27, 2003

We Hate Spam, Congress Says. Except From Us. Even as Congress was unanimously approving a law aimed at reducing the flow of junk e-mail, members were sending out hundreds of thousands of unsolicited messages to constituents.
The spasm of activity is aimed at attracting voluntary subscribers to the lawmakers' e-mail lists, which would not be subject to House rules that normally impose a 90-day blackout before an election for taxpayer-supported Congressional mass communications.
In September, the House Administration Committee voted, 5 to 3, along party lines to allow e-mail messages to the subscribers to be sent in the blackout period, but maintained the ban on free postal mail from House members to voters. The policy change affected only House rules and was not part of the junk e-mail legislation.
At least 40 House members have bought or agreed to buy e-mail address lists from at least four vendors. The lists, which each have tens of thousands of addresses, are generally created by a process called e-mail appending, taking voter registration files from a member's district. The next step is to cross match them with large databases of names and e-mail addresses assembled by consumer data companies like Equifax, which has a database of more than 75 million e-mail addresses. E-mail addresses can usually be found for 10 percent to 20 percent of the voter file.
Many members of Congress praise the new policy for allowing cheaper and more effective communications with constituents. But consumer advocacy groups say the policy may unfairly give an advantage to incumbents over challengers because it allows elected officials to use government resources to communicate with voters right up to Election Day. In addition, the consumer advocates say, sending bulk e-mail messages to constituents who have not agreed to receive it is essentially electronic junk mail, or spam.
MSNBC - Bin Laden's Iraq Plans: "Dec. 15 issue - During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, three senior Qaeda representatives allegedly held a secret meeting in Afghanistan with two top Taliban commanders.
The confab took place in mid-November in the remote, Taliban-controlled mountains of Khowst province near the Pakistan border, a region where Al Qaeda has found it easy to operate frequently even using satellite phones despite U.S. surveillance.
At that meeting, according to Taliban sources, Osama bin Laden's men officially broke some bad news to emissaries from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the elusive leader of Afghanistan̢۪s ousted fundamentalist regime. Their message: Al Qaeda would be diverting a large number of fighters from the anti-U.S. insurgency in Afghanistan to Iraq. Al Qaeda also planned to reduce by half its $3 million monthly contribution to Afghan jihadi outfits.
All this was on the orders of bin Laden himself, the sources said. Why? Because the terror chieftain and his top lieutenants see a great opportunity for killing Americans and their allies in Iraq and neighboring countries such as Turkey, according to Taliban sources who complain that their own movement will suffer. (Though certainly not as much as Washington would like: last week Taliban guerrillas killed a U.N. census worker in an ambush, and a rocket struck near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul only hours after a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.) Bin Laden believes that Iraq is becoming the perfect battlefield to fight the American crusaders and that the Iraqi insurgency has been 100 percent successful so far,according to a Taliban participant at the mid-November meeting who goes by the nom de guerre Sharafullah."
"Will Bush the Younger be a one-term president?:
The accompanying chart displays the relationship between the percent of GNP spent by the federal government, on the one hand, and the popular vote for president over the last 33 elections, beginning with the 1872 contest, on the other. White dots mark those years when the incumbent party's ticket received a majority of the two-party vote and black dots when it did not.
Observe that changes in the slope of the line connecting the dots follow a discernable pattern. In 18 of 22 cases a clockwise turn in the line, representing a cut in spending or, alternatively, in its rate of growth (e.g., 1936, 1964), coincides with victory in the popular vote for the incumbents, either the president or his party's candidate. By contrast, in 9 out of 11 cases administrations under which spending accelerated relative to the previous term, described by counter-clockwise turns in the line, were defeated."

Friday, December 26, 2003

Inside the Ring - The Washington Times: Inside the Ring: "Anthrax terror
The CIA has been quietly building a case that the anthrax attacks of 2001 were in fact the result of an international terrorist plot.
U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports tell us the information showing a terrorist link to the anthrax-filled letters sent by mail in the weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks is not conclusive. But it is persuasive.
Asked to comment, a U.S. official said, 'There is no evidence at this point to suggest a foreign terrorist link or connection. But the matter is still under investigation and we're not ruling anything out.'
Some officials think the intelligence is at least as valid as the FBI's 'mad scientist' theory, which has produced dead ends so far for the G-men after more than two years of investigation. This theory says a U.S. biological weapons scientist with access to highly refined anthrax powder stole some and used it to awaken the U.S. government to the threat of deadly anthrax. "
TCS: Tech Central Station - The Internet and Mobocracy: "Mobocracy?
The Dean movement likes to refer to itself as a Smart Mob. I believe that there is no such thing. If the future of politics in America is to swing back and forth between Freepers and MoveOn'ers, then I fear that we really will turn into Weimar Germany.
In my view, the genius of our nation's founders was not that they gave people the opportunity to vote. It was that they created a Constitution with limited government. If those Constitutional limitations still held, then we would be safe from whatever fads the Internet might facilitate. We would not have to fear what Alexis de Tocqueville called the 'tyranny of the majority.'
Instead, our Constitutional protections have largely broken down. A mass movement led by a popular demagogue would have the potential to curb individual freedom."
>>>My concern here is the combination of weakened Constitutional protection and Internet-facilitated extremism. In my lifetime, I believe that what has protected our country from extremist demagogues has been the need for coalition-building in the two-party system. To build a winning coalition at the national level, each party must lean toward the center.
The Internet might change the dynamic. It appears that in 2004, the Democrats will be taken over by left-wing militants. My view is that this is because the centrist forces in the party are poorly motivated. The question is whether this could happen to both parties at the same time. If so, then some day we may see an election in which each party is captured by a narrow, rabid constituency. I hope that the Internet does not end up fostering such a mobocracy.
E-Notes: Europe's Native Terrorism - FPRIAll of Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and France have experienced native, middle-class Marxist/totalitarian terrorism in recent decades: Britain at the hands of the IRA since the late 1960s; in Germany, Italy, and Belgium, by the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, the Red Brigades, and the Combatant Communist Cells, respectively, during the 1970s; and in France by Action Directe during the early 1980s. All have defeated it, often with legislation tougher than the legislation they now condemn when applied to Colombia, a country facing a far more serious totalitarian threat than they ever were.
Today, it is Spain that has the dubious distinction of being the only EU member with a serious terrorist problem — albeit the Italian Red Brigades are increasingly showing signs of revival, and the IRA in Ulster, its protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, is still engaged in violence and helps others — like the Colombian communists of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)— to promote “socialist revolution.”
What is important here is not Spanish idiosyncrasies, or the rather peculiar problem of the EU community’s not providing Spain with significant and effective support. It is the EU’s general problem in dealing with, or even understanding, the fact that there is a problem with terrorism— domestic or other. Legalistic approaches, such as Britain’s preventive detention of suspected terrorists or the German ban on groups known to be linked to terrorism— are more often than not rejected by courts. Spain’s approach, more radical and realistic, is still limited to domestic (i.e., ETA) terrorists. Indeed, as long as existing legal parameters continue to be applied, the terrorist issue will remain intractable in Europe— just as it may in the U.S., once the legal process weighs in on the Bush administration’s post-September 11 decisions. In the American case, however, unlike in Europe, there is some awareness that the rules have to be changed to meet the new times, while in Europe as a whole, that is far from being the case.
Subliminal News - Task Force 121 to Use Saddam's Spies and Israeli Commandos in Assassination 'Manhunts': "Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker that the new Task Force 121 death squad will use members of the 'upper ranks of the old Iraqi intelligence services' to 'provide information about individual [Iraqi] insurgents for the Americans to act on.' Apparently the strongly possibility of false intelligence provided by Saddam's spooks leading to the deaths of innocent people is not a problem."
Here's a good paraphrasing of New Yorker article about Task Force 121, which gives some interesting info, but seems to have a decidedly negative tone. Every tactic the U.S. tries will fail, according to this article. Pretty defeatist.
Special Forces Get Bigger Role: "Under Rumsfeld, the Special Operations Command, located in Tampa, has taken on a prominent new combat role in Afghanistan and Iraq. Special Operations teams are active in the ongoing, low-intensity conflicts and manhunts of both regions, where military officers and analysts say the small, secretive units have pulled off some stunning successes.
The command also is getting generous resources to do its job - its 2004 budget is $4.6 billion, a 35 percent increase over the previous year. About $2 billion will be used to expand the size of the command to 49,000 active and reserve members, an increase of 5,000 troops.
But the move toward expanding the force carries with it special concerns for military leaders and policymakers alike.
Rumsfeld's vision for a transformed military, some analysts say, relies too heavily on the ability of Special Forces units, possibly calling on them when more conventional forces should be deployed.
The latest phase of the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan has turned the force into a large man-hunting operation. And while that can be effective, some say it also can take Special Operations units away from the more subtle use of intelligence and stealth that they are trained to employ.
>>>The secretive nature of the Special Operations teams' work also means that failures and problems can be concealed from broader scrutiny and correction, even within the military.

Telegraph | News | Exercise 'may make people more alert': "Exercise enthusiasts may be right - getting out and moving around might increase blood flow in the brain and could make people more 'engaged with life', say researchers.
Tests on monkeys show that exercise helps foster blood vessel development in the brain, making those that exercised more alert."
AP Wire | 12/25/2003 | Scientists begin measuring pollution in human bodies
For decades, researchers have sampled the air, land and sea to measure pollution from power plants, factories and automobiles. More recently, they have expressed concern about mounting "e-waste" - discarded tech gadgets that contain flame retardants, lead and other toxins.
But there's been trouble determining precisely how much pollution gets absorbed by humans.
Now, in a process called biomonitoring, scientists are sampling urine, blood and mother's milk to catalogue the pollutants accumulating in humans. They call the results "body burden."
Though the tests are yielding scary lists of contaminants found in the body, their links to disease are less clear. Nonetheless, proponents say such testing will help researchers learn what role the environment plays in causing disease and how to treat it.
Many chemicals such as PCB and DDT, both banned decades ago, remain in the environment for years and build up in the body over a lifetime.
Others see political motives behind some of the tests.
But until now, researchers were left mostly to guess about exactly how much and how many of the toxins lingered in our bodies.
Few of the estimated 75,000 chemicals found in the United States have been tested for their health effects, Baltz and other biomonitoring proponents say. By looking directly in the human body, they hope to catalogue the environmental influences that may cause disease.
Already, several studies have been completed
Everyone's exposed to substances and there's no evidence that the low levels people are exposed to are harming anybody,' said Steven Milloy, author of 'Junk Science Judo: Self Defense Against Health Scares and Scams.' 'It's a waste of time and money that only serves to scare people.'
Milloy noted that despite all the chemicals, the overall U.S. population is living longer and healthier."
BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Afghans eye up new constitution: "For most democracies, the foundation stone of the state is a written constitution.
The future of Afghanistan is about to be decided
Most take years to write - but in Afghanistan, one has been produced at break-neck speed.
In just eight months, a draft has been prepared which will, in the coming weeks, be considered by 500 delegates to a loya jirga - a grand assembly of tribal and regional leaders.
The meeting is being held in the Afghan capital, Kabul."
BBC NEWS | South Asia | Bomb blast hits UN Kabul compound: "A bomb explosion has destroyed the wall of a United Nations compound in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
-There were no casualties in the blast, which happened at about 0500 local time (0300 GMT) close to the presidential palace, Afghan police said.
-'It was a bomb. This is the work of the enemies of Afghanistan,' Kabul police chief Baba Jan told the AP news agency.
-The blast followed several rocket attacks on Kabul over the past week, which were blamed on Taleban militants.
-Police have launched an investigation.
-The blast happened in a residential area, several kilometres from the Kabul university building, where the Afghan grand assembly, or loya jirga, continues to debate the new constitution.
-It was the third blast in the capital since the meeting began 10 days ago, and the authorities say Taleban insurgents might be trying to disrupt the assembly.
-The loya jirga is expected to ratify the constitution, paving the way to national elections next year."
WorldNetDaily: Al-Qaida assassins after Gadhafi: "Canadian intelligence suggests al-Qaida-backed militants in Libya want to assassinate Col. Moammar Gadhafi, possibly shedding light on the dictator's sudden efforts to cozy up to the West."In order to achieve their goals, the LIFG has made numerous attempts to kill Col. Gadhafi," said the "Unclassified: For Official Use Only" report, dated September 2002 and recently obtained by the Canadian daily.
"-The group has clearly stated its view on the use of force, promoting the ideology that Libyan people can only gain freedom by actively supporting the mujahedeen in the war against Gadhafi's regime," the report continued. "
>>>The London-based Arab daily also quoted Saif al-Islam as saying President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair plan to visit the African country early next year.
-Washington and London hope to use the Libyan breakthrough to increase the pressure on other rogue states. For his part, Gadhafi appears willing to act as their poster-boy.
-When asked by reporters yesterday if he had a message for other leaders, especially the heads of Syria, Iran and North Korea, he replied: "They should follow the steps of Libya, or take an example from Libya, so that they prevent any tragedy being inflicted upon their own peoples."

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Hunting Hussein Led U.S. to Insurgent Hub (washingtonpost.com): "TIKRIT, Iraq -- As U.S. forces tracked Saddam Hussein to his subterranean hiding place, they unearthed a trove of intelligence about five families running the Iraqi insurgency, according to U.S. military commanders, who said the information is being used to uproot remaining resistance forces.
-Senior U.S. officers said they were surprised to discover -- clue by clue over six months -- that the upper and middle ranks of the resistance were filled by members of five extended families from a few villages within a 12-mile radius of the volatile city of Tikrit along the Tigris River. Top operatives drawn from these families organized the resistance network, dispatching information to individual cells and supervising financial channels, the officers said. They also protected Hussein and passed information to and from the former president while he was on the run.
-At the heart of this tightly woven network is Auja, Hussein's birthplace, which U.S. commanders say is the intelligence and communications hub of the insurgency. The village is where many of the former president's key confidants have their most lavish homes and their favorite wives.
-When U.S. forces sealed off Auja in late October, they separated the leaders of the insurgency from their guerrilla forces, dealing the anti-occupation campaign a major blow, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, which is responsible for the Tikrit area."
Suspicious Passengers Questioned In France (washingtonpost.com): "U.S. government officials said yesterday they believe some of the passengers boarding one of the three Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles that were canceled this week because of security concerns might have intended to hijack it and crash-land in Las Vegas or another city along its flight path."

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

FOXNews.com - Top Stories - U.S. Helicopters Hammer Baghdad Insurgents"BAGHDAD, Iraq U.S. helicopter gunships backed an artillery bombardment aimed at insurgents in southwest Baghdad (search) on Wednesday, as troops raided homes and arrested a Sunni (search) sheik said to be close to the most wanted man in Iraq.
In northern Iraq, a car bomb exploded outside the office of the Interior Ministry in Irbil (search), near Kirkuk (search), and several people were killed or injured, said Kamil Kerkukly, an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
U.S.-Russia Team Seizes Uranium At Bulgaria Plant (washingtonpost.com): "MOSCOW, Dec. 23 -- An international team of nuclear specialists backed by armed security units swooped into a shuttered Bulgarian reactor and recovered 37 pounds of highly enriched uranium in a secretive operation intended to forestall nuclear terrorism, U.S. officials said Tuesday."
fight3.swf (application/x-shockwave-flash Object) This is a stick figure kung-fu extravaganza! Wow!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

CNN.com - Gadhafi: Iraq war may have influenced WMD decision - Dec. 22, 2003: "TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) -- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, in an exclusive interview with CNN, acknowledged Monday that the war in Iraq may have played a role in his decision to dismantle his country's weapons of mass destruction programs.
He also told CNN's Andrea Koppel that though his country has certain programs and machines, it has no chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear arms.
'We have not these weapons,' he said, adding that the programs he is prepared to dismantle 'would have been for peaceful purposes -- but nevertheless we decided to get rid of them completely.
'There are many rumors, propaganda,' he said.
FOXNews.com - Views - CATO - Three Cheers for Holiday Lights: "Known world oil reserves (search) are more than 20 times greater now than they were when record keeping began in the 1940s; world gas reserves (search) are almost four times greater than they were in the 1960s; world coal reserves (search) have risen fourfold since 1950. Transient developments, often political, can drive supplies down and prices up, but the raw mineral resource base is abundant--and expanding in economic terms thanks to an inexhaustible supply of human ingenuity and exploratory capital.

Record energy consumption has been accompanied by improving air quality. Urban air quality is a third better today than in 1970. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that air emissions of the criteria pollutants declined by 25 percent, as energy usage increased by 150 percent. Further air emission reductions are expected, but they will not be accomplished by forcing higher prices or inconvenience on consumers. Future reductions will be accomplished with market incentives, technological improvement, and regulation based on sound science, not alarmism.

Should good citizens think twice about holiday lighting, given global warming (search) and other suspected climate changes supposedly caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide? Hardly. A moderately warmer, wetter world, whether natural or anthropogenic (search), such as experienced in the 20th century, is a better world. Carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels 'greens' the biosphere through the well-documented carbon fertilization effect (search). But most importantly, the wealth created from affordable, plentiful energy provides the primary means for societies to improve the environment. In the final analysis, wealth produces environmental health, which explains why increasing energy usage and environmental improvement have gone hand in hand in the Western world."
Al-Qaida may target both major cities, remote areas

WASHINGTON -- Al-Qaida operatives may be plotting several unrelated attacks in the United States, targeting not only major cities but also remote bulwarks of the 'critical infrastructure' in an effort to cause mass casualties and major economic damage throughout the nation, U.S. officials said Monday.
>>>Much of the recent intelligence makes broad references to large urban areas, including New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, while other pieces of intelligence cite such obscure locales as Rappahannock, a county in Virginia, and Valdez, Alaska, where tankers load oil from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, according to several senior U.S. officials.
According to information received as recently as Monday, authorities remain primarily concerned about al-Qaida operatives plotting to hijack commercial airliners and cargo planes and fly them into U.S. targets, as Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Sunday...
>>>But the FBI, the CIA and other authorities have also picked up troubling intelligence about other plots, and efforts to blow up chemical and hazardous materials facilities, nuclear power plants, dams, power grids, ports and airports.
>>>One senior federal law enforcement official said the FBI and other authorities are alarmed and frustrated because the intelligence varies so widely according to potential targets and methods of attack, as well as by its degree of specificity and corroboration. Of particular concern, he said, are vague references to upcoming attacks on "major metropolitan areas and events that we're looking at ... bowl games, New Year's events, that kind of thing."
Yahoo! News - GDP Roars Ahead at 8.2 Percent in Q3: "WASHINGTON - The U.S. economy, propelled by tax cuts and low interest rates, roared ahead at an 8.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the best showing in nearly 20 years, while Americans' incomes and spending both showed healthy gains in November."

Monday, December 22, 2003

MSNBC Officials say al-Qaida operatives may be fully trained airline pilots: Terror threat to extend through January: "Authorities raised the terrorist threat assessment over the weekend after new intelligence indicated that operatives of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network, possibly trained and licensed to fly passenger jets, may now be pilots for some foreign airlines, ideally positioning them to carry out suicide attacks, U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday.
Reinforced cockpit doors intended to thwart hijackers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks would now protect any terrorist pilot at the controls, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Authorities would not describe the terror threats in detail publicly, but the U.S. officials told NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski that the threat alert would remain at “orange,” or high, through the end of January, which they said was an indication of its seriousness.

Al-Qaida may have dirty bomb
New intelligence indicates that al-Qaida remains intent on attacking large gatherings of people with chemical or biological weapons, official said. They said law enforcement agencies were looking closely at two rural locations — one in the East and the other in the Southwest — that were believed to be high on the terrorist target list.

Most troubling, the officials sad, were indications that al-Qaida may already possess a radiological weapon, or so-called “dirty bomb.” They did not elaborate."
Several hundred caught in Iraq sweep after Saddam arrest: US: "'With the capture of Saddam Hussein, we learned a little bit more about how they're organized and some of the individuals involved,' said the general, who has just returned from a visit to Iraq.
'And what you see now is forces taking advantage of that intelligence and going out and rounding up people. We've got over 200 detainees so far.'
Myers told Fox News television 'we think they're some of the leadership of this insurgency, absolutely, some of the cell leaders.'
The top US military officer said that Saddam was not cooperating with US interrogators but reaffirmed the case that the capture had been a major blow in the campaign to secure Iraq."
Reuters : "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces captured a former general in Saddam Hussein's once-feared security services, officers said on Monday, the latest of hundreds of reported arrests since the ousted Iraqi dictator's detention.
Working on what the top American general said was information gleaned when Saddam was captured on December 13, troops have rounded up suspected insurgents in swoops on mainly Sunni Muslim towns north and west of Baghdad.
The Sunni areas have been the scene of the fiercest armed resistance to U.S. occupation and a bedrock of Saddam loyalists."
WorldNetDaily: U.S. fails to follow terror money trail: "Criminal investigators of all kinds have long believed the best route to solving crimes is by 'following the money.'
So far, according to government investigators, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies trying to track the funding sources of international terrorists haven't done such a good job.
Terrorists, says a General Accounting Office report, use the illicit drug trade, interstate cigarette dealing and charities as principal sources of money-raising in the U.S. According to officials from the ATF, Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaida have earned assets through trafficking in contraband cigarettes or counterfeit cigarette stamps. The report includes a diagram highlighting bootlegging from North Carolina to Michigan with the profits going to Lebanon."
Haaretz : "Egyptian FM assaulted by Palestinians on Temple Mount
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher was lightly injured Monday after being assaulted by young Palestinians during a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
According to some witnesses, Maher was attacked by Muslim extremists who attempted to choke him. Other witnesses reported that he was shoved and heckled, and that items were thrown at him in reaction to the fact that he climbed the mount via the Mugrabi Gate, which is generally an access route for non-Muslims.
Security guards and Jerusalem police drove off the assaulters, and escorted the Egyptian minister off the Mount."
TheStar.com - Canadians marvel at Kabul's transformation
KABUL - As Afghanistan wrestles to adopt a new constitution, and the United Nations strengthens its call for more soldiers outside Kabul, Canadian soldiers are noticing dramatic changes in the security and economic well-being of the Afghan capital.
'You can see buildings that weren't there a couple of months ago,' said Lt.-Col. Don Denne, the commanding officer at Camp Julien, the largest Canadian Forces base in Afghanistan, as he toured Kabul on Saturday.
'I'm beginning to see new shops everywhere. Some pretty nice houses too.'
Even some of Canada's hockey greats, in Kabul to boost the morale of Canadian troops, have recognized the impact the soldiers have had on security in the capital."
The Australian: Single women stay sane
From correspondents in London
THE key to happiness - and sanity - for women could be to spend the whole of their lives single, British research suggested today.
A survey of almost 4,500 men and women found that women who stayed single enjoyed much better mental health than those who had married or suffered a relationship split.
But the same was not true for men, who fared better mentally if they were in a relationship."
>>>
The team, led by Dr Michaela Benzeval, also found that serial relationships were good for men's mental health, but had an adverse effect on women.
While men did better mentally if they simply lived with a partner, marriage was more beneficial to a woman's mental health.
Break-ups were also painful for both sexes, but women generally took longer to recover.
Women's mental health also got progressively worse the more break-ups they had and the more new relationships they had to start.
And women who remained alone after a marriage split had the worst mental health of all those surveyed, apart from those who were alone immediately after breaking up with a partner.
We got him: Kurds say they caught Saddam - www.smh.com.au:
Washington's claims that brilliant US intelligence work led to the capture of Saddam Hussein are being challenged by reports sourced in Iraq's Kurdish media claiming that its militia set the circumstances in which the US merely had to go to a farm identified by the Kurds to bag the fugitive former president.
However, in the early hours of Sunday, a Kurdish language wire service reported explicitly: 'Saddam Hussein was captured by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. A special intelligence unit led by Qusrat Rasul Ali, a high-ranking member of the PUK, found Saddam Hussein in the city of Tikrit, his birthplace.
'Qusrat's team was accompanied by a group of US soldiers. Further details of the capture will emerge during the day; but the global Kurdish party is about to begin!'
The head of the PUK, Jalal Talabani, was in the Iranian capital en route to Europe. "
Economist.com | Coffee-houses: "Coffee fuelled the information exchanges of the 17th and 18th centuries
WHERE do you go when you want to know the latest business news, follow commodity prices, keep up with political gossip, find out what others think of a new book, or stay abreast of the latest scientific and technological developments? Today, the answer is obvious: you log on to the internet. Three centuries ago, the answer was just as easy: you went to a coffee-house. There, for the price of a cup of coffee, you could read the latest pamphlets, catch up on news and gossip, attend scientific lectures, strike business deals, or chat with like-minded people about literature or politics.
The coffee-houses that sprang up across Europe, starting around 1650, functioned as information exchanges for writers, politicians, businessmen and scientists. Like today's websites, weblogs and discussion boards, coffee-houses were lively and often unreliable sources of information that typically specialised in a particular topic or political viewpoint. They were outlets for a stream of newsletters, pamphlets, advertising free-sheets and broadsides. Depending on the interests of their customers, some coffee-houses displayed commodity prices, share prices and shipping lists, whereas others provided foreign newsletters filled with coffee-house gossip from abroad."

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Yahoo! News - Saddam was held by Kurdish forces, drugged and left for US troops
Mideast - AFP from Yahoo! news
LONDON, (AFP) - Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was captured by US troops only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for American soldiers to recover him, a British Sunday newspaper said.
Saddam came into the hands of the Kurdish Patriotic Front after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, which quoted an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer.
The newspaper said the full story of events leading up to the ousted Iraqi president's capture on December 13 near his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq (news - web sites), 'exposes the version peddled by American spin doctors as incomplete'."
Telegraph | News | Revealed: the real reason for Gaddafi's WMD surrender: "

Revealed: the real reason for Gaddafi's WMD surrender
By Julian Coman and Colin Brown
(Filed: 21/12/2003)

Libya's promise to surrender its weapons of mass destruction was forced by Britain and America's seizure of physical evidence of Col Muammar Gaddafi's illegal weapons programme, the Telegraph can reveal.

United States officials say that America's hand was strengthened in negotiations with Col Gaddafi after a successful operation, previously undisclosed, to intercept transport suspected of carrying banned weapons."
>>>
President Bush and Tony Blair had praised Libya's decision to give up its WMD and allow international inspectors to oversee their destruction.

Mr Bush described it as a "wise and responsible choice" while a statement issued by the Libyan foreign ministry said that the country had agreed "of its own free will" to destroy its unconventional weapons.

The PSI operation, however, added decisively to the pressure already brought to bear on Col Gaddafi by America and Britain as they prepared to attack Iraq in March.

One Cabinet minister said: "It demonstrates that change can be brought about by standing tough. There is no question that this change of heart by Gaddafi was brought about by the fact that the US and Britain were seen to be standing up to and called Saddam Hussein's bluff."

The Travellers Club in Pall Mall, beloved of spy novelists and frequented by senior officers in the intelligence services, was the venue last week for the final breakthrough talks between MI6 and Libyan intelligence officials.
Lost? Hiding? Your Cellphone Is Keeping Tabs: "Driven by worries about safety, the need for accountability, and perhaps a certain 'I Spy' impulse, families and employers are adopting surveillance technology once used mostly to track soldiers and prisoners. New electronic services with names like uLocate and Wherify Wireless make a very personal piece of information for cellphone users - physical location — harder to mask."
>>>
Still, personal location devices are beginning to catch on, largely because cellular phones are increasingly coming with a built-in tether. A federal mandate that wireless carriers be able to locate callers who dial 911 automatically by late 2005 means that millions of phones already keep track of their owners' whereabouts. Analysts predict that as many as 42 million Americans will be using some form of "location-aware" technology in 2005.
TIME.com: EXCLUSIVE: SADDAM HUSSEIN SPIT ON A G.I. AS HE WAS HANDCUFFED LAST WEEK OUTSIDE HIS SPIDER HOLE, U.S. GOVERNMENT SOURCES TELL TIME - SOLDIER PROMPTLY SLUGGED SADDAM


This may or may not be true. Of course lots of things may or may not be true.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Aftenposten Nettutgaven, Local: "Arabs recruited from Norway to fight in Iraq

Italian police suspect that Norway is being used as a recruiting ground for terrorists and insurgents seeking Arab fighters against the USA in Iraq. They believe that al-Qaida and mullah Krekar's group Ansar al-Islam are behind the activities.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Italian investigators link al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam to a network of recruits to Iraq to fight the USA. Besides Norway, Germany and Spain were listed as countries where these groups were active."
MSNBC - Infrared window opens on the universe
Newly named Spitzer Space Telescope makes visual splash
NASA / JPL-Caltech / CfA
This image from the Spitzer Space Telescope showcases a nearby galaxy much like our own Milky Way, called M81. The picture resolves features not seen before, astronomers said, and will allow them to estimate the rate of star formation.

NASA announced the formal name of its newest space telescope on Thursday and released the first science pictures. The images support a promise that the orbiting observatory, now called the Spitzer Space Telescope, will provide top-notch science and entertainment on a par with the Hubble Space Telescope.

'Every time we take a picture, we see something spectacular,' said Giovanni Fazio of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Initially called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, the observatory is now named after the late Lyman Spitzer Jr., who in the 1940s first proposed putting telescopes in space to overcome the limiting effects of Earth's atmosphere.

The name was chosen from 7,000 public suggestions.

Spitzer, as the telescope is sure to be informally known, launched Aug. 25 and spent its first weeks in space undergoing instrument checkout. It is working 'extremely well,' project scientist Michael Werner, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a press conference."

Friday, December 19, 2003

BBC NEWS | Africa | Libya to give up WMD: "Libya to give up WMD

Libya's leader Colonel Gaddafi has admitted his country sought to develop weapons of mass destruction capabilities, but will now dismantle them.

Colonel Gaddafi said Libya was ready to play its role in building a world free from weapons of mass destruction and all forms of terrorism.

He said the process of dismantling the programme would be 'transparent and verifiable' and the range of all Libya's missiles would be restricted to 300km.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the decision and called it 'an historic one and a courageous one and I applaud it'."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

NATO chief in parting shot over Afghan force: "NATO chief George Robertson warned members of the transatlantic alliance that they had to 'wake up' and bolster support for a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, or face failure there."
>>>
The 5,300-strong peacekeeping force, which was set up in December 2001 only a few weeks after the defeat of the hardline Taliban regime, is currently confined to Kabul.

NATO has pledged to expand it outside the Afghan capital, but Robertson has had to battle to secure the resources needed.
FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Report: Saddam Says He'd Still Win Election

A defiant, deranged Saddam Hussein is making outrageous statements to CIA interrogators, claiming his government never surrendered - and that he would win by a landslide in new Iraqi elections, The Post has learned.


Saddam is also denying that his regime committed atrocities, charging that it was Iran that launched the murderous chemical-weapons attacks on the Kurds in the late 1980s, according to U.S. officials who have been briefed on the bizarre interrogation sessions.

Refusing to acknowledge the desperate circumstances in which he finds himself, the imprisoned, egomaniacal ex-tyrant is demanding to be treated with respect, the officials said.

The Butcher of Baghdad has repeatedly insisted during this week's sessions that he is still president of Iraq and said his military and government never surrendered during the war, U.S. officials said.
ABCNEWS.com : Saddam's Agents Infiltrated U.S. in Iraq

Dec. 18— Agents for deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have penetrated the U.S. command in Iraq, ABCNEWS has learned. As a result, they have the potential to undermine U.S. authority.

Among the documents found in Saddam's briefcase when he was captured last weekend was a list of names of Iraqis who have been working with the United States — either in the Iraqi security forces or the Coalition Provisional Authority — and are feeding information to the insurgents, a U.S. official told ABCNEWS.

"We were badly infiltrated," said the official, adding that finding the list of names is a "gold mine."

The United States has been rapidly recruiting Iraqis to take over security in the war-torn nation. Some 162,000 Iraqis have been trained in the areas of civil defense, police and other security activities since May.

On a recent trip to Baghdad, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was told by the commander of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division that every two or three weeks the military discovers someone who should not have made it through the vetting process.

William Rosenau, who once served in the Pentagon's Office of Special Operations, says the spies could have caused great harm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

MSNBC - A Net of Control

"Issues 2004 - Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet."

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Gaddafi announces his separation from the Arabs - www.smh.com.au: "'The era of nationalism and of Arab unity is forever gone. These ideas which once mobilised masses no longer have any value,' he said.

Gaddafi called on the Popular Congress, the basic structure of the Libyan political system, to 'confirm Libya's withdrawal from the Arab League,' envisioned by Tripoli for months but never realised.

'The Arab League is in the middle of giving up the ghost, and Arabs will never be strong even if they unite... They will remain content every night to watch bloody newsreels from Palestine and Iraq.'

Colonel Gaddafi had some strong words for the Arabs, denying them human qualities, and publicly challenging their former policy of helping movements and political groups from Arab countries.

'Libya has for too long endured the Arabs, for whom we have paid blood and money,' he said, adding that as a result, his country had been 'boycotted by the US and demonised by the West.'

'In return, the Arabs joined forces with the US and Israel against Libya,' he continued, as he confirmed his African orientation, viewing the continent as 'a source of great force' for his country.

This confession was made by an appeased leader, whose country had its international sanctions lifted after agreeing to pay $US10 million ($14.6 million) to the family of each of the 270 victims killed during the explosion of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, blamed on Libyan bombers."

Monday, December 15, 2003

One Hand Clapping

There is solid evidence that Iraq, before Saddam seized power, helped fund ANO's start-up costs. Nidal had represented Fatah, Yasir Arafat's group, in Baghdad. Saddam continued Iraq's ties to ANO, severing them in 1983 to gain American support for his war against Iran. (Saddam invited the ANO back after the war.) Syria, Iraq and Libya supported ANO also, providing money and material support, and sometimes hiring it for dirty jobs.

ANO was a deadly outfit. It killed about 900 people in 20 countries and attacked Arabs whom it didn't consider sufficiently anti-Israeli. In December 1985, the ANO shot up El Al airline counters in Rome and Vienna, an attack I remember well because I lived in Germany at the time, where the attacks got enduring, graphic coverage. Eighteen people died and more than 100 were injured.

Nidal himself was not a very healthy man, reportedly suffering from heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Power politics by Arab countries began freezing ANO out of favor in the late 1980s. Eventually, Abu Nidal set up headquarters in Baghdad, ostensibly because of the medical care available there, but just as likely because only Saddam would have truck with him.

In August 2002, Abu Nidal died in Baghdad of lead poisoning, the 9mm kind. Saddam's government announced Nidal had committed suicide while seriously ill.

The UK Telegraph reported shortly after he died that he had been killed on orders of Saddam Hussein. The reason?
>>>
I have no doubt Saddam did have Nidal bumped off - not because he would not train al Qaeda, but because he did, in a very particular way, and Saddam wanted to eliminate the trail. Via Glenn Reynolds, the Iraq Governing Council says that Nidal in fact did train al Qaeda terrorists - specifically Mohammed Atta, ringleader of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001.

Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist.

Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.

In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy". ...

"We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," he [Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee] said. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks."

There is ironclad proof that al Qaeda and Saddam were formally allied after 9/11. Osama bin Laden publicly urged Muslims to fight alongside Saddam's forces against the Americans. (I wrote a lot about al Qaeda and Iraq, start here .)

But the sticking point has always been whether al Qaeda and Saddam cooperated with one another before 9/11. The evidence, including this revelation from the IGC, is mounting that they did.

But why would Saddam have Nidal shot because he trained Atta and perhaps other terrorists? Recall that in July-August 2002, the Bush administration began turning its attention in earnest toward Iraq. Janes.com said it confirmed Nidal was killed by Saddamites, then explained,
>>>
The story of the IGC documents needs to be followed closely. If authentic, the documents provide ironclad proof that Saddam was complicit in killing 3,000-plus Americans and other nationalities on Sept. 11, 2001, even to the point of at least co-selecting the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and whatever the fourth target was supposed to be.

The Bush administration never directly claimed such a connection as a justification of the Iraq campaign. But it didn't try to dissuade Americans from believing it, either. At the time, the administration's dissembling was attacked by its opponents as deceptive. But it may now turn out that there were excellent reasons, known to the administration soon after 9/11, to believe Saddam was complicit in al Qaeda's terror activities - and that the administration later had credible, though not conclusive, evidence that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Even so, the real significance of the IGC documents - again, I stress that American agencies have not authenticated them - is not merely providing an ex-post-facto, concrete inclusion of the Iraq campaign into the anti-terror war. It is the web of al Qaeda connections that Iraqi documents will almost certainly reveal, and from what other countries al Qaeda received actual assistance in the form of money, materiel, training or other resources. I'd say at the top of the list is either Syria or Iran, with the other occupying second place.

Another thing a confirmation of the connection will do is completely cut the rug from under France's and Germany's opposition to America in Iraq. Both nations' governments are slimy in their collusion with Saddam over many years. French President Jacques Chirac was personally so much in bed with Saddam that he should be charged with political prostitution. Neither Chirac nor German Chancellor Gerhard Shroder are very secure in their offices; such news cannot improve their standing among their own constituents.

What this means is that Old Europe will be less able to oppose America's next steps in the anti-terror war than before, whatever those steps turn out to be. Iranians opposing the mullah's regime will be likely be emboldened as the mullahs find their apologists in Europe are muted. Syria's dictator Bashar Assad has long been fearful his regime is next on Bush's list; even retroactive additional justification for Iraq's invasion will shake him badly. He may attempt to walk the straight and narrow placate America. That won't be good news for Hezbollah, which relies on Syrian patronage to sustain its anti-Israel terrorism.

Finally, a verified connection between Saddam and 9/11's infamy may drive the Saudi royal family decisively toward crushing al Qaeda within its borders.

Although the blog I'm quoting from here makes some very interesting points, apparently the assertion that evidence exists linking Saddam, Abu Nidal, and Al Quaeda's Mohammed Atta is false.
DEBKAfile - Indications Saddam Was Not in Hiding But a Captive: "Indications Saddam Was Not in Hiding But a Captive

DEBKAfile Special Report
A number of questions are raised by the incredibly bedraggled, tired and crushed condition of this once savage, dapper and pampered ruler who was discovered in a hole in the ground on Saturday, December 13:

1. The length and state of his hair indicated he had not seen a barber or even had a shampoo for several weeks.

2. The wild state of his beard indicated he had not shaved for the same period

3. The hole dug in the floor of a cellar in a farm compound near Tikrit was primitive indeed 6ft across and 8ft across with minimal sanitary arrangements - a far cry from his opulent palaces.

4. Saddam looked beaten and hungry.

5. Detained trying to escape were two unidentified men. Left with him were two AK-47 assault guns and a pistol, none of which were used.

6. The hole had only one opening. It was not only camouflaged with mud and bricks it was blocked. He could not have climbed out without someone on the outside removing the covering.

7. And most important, $750,000 in 100-dollar notes were found with him (a pittance for his captors who expected a $25m reward) but no communications equipment of any kind, whether cell phone or even a carrier pigeon for contacting the outside world.

According to DEBKAfile analysts, these seven anomalies point to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein was not in hiding; he was a prisoner.

After his last audiotaped message was delivered and aired over al Arabiya TV on Sunday November 16, on the occasion of Ramadan, Saddam was seized, possibly with the connivance of his own men, and held in that hole in Adwar for three weeks or more, which would have accounted for his appearance and condition. Meanwhile, his captors bargained for the $25 m prize the Americans promised for information leading to his capture alive or dead. The negotiations were mediated by Jalal Talabani's Kurdish PUK militia.

These circumstances would explain the ex-ruler's docility described by Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez as resignation in the face of his capture by US forces. He must have regarded them as his rescuers and would have greeted them with relief.

From Gen. Sanchez's evasive answers to questions on the $25m bounty, it may be inferred that the Americans and Kurds took advantage of the negotiations with Saddam's abductors to move in close and capture him on their own account, for three reasons:"

Always take Debka with a grain of salt. Some of it's good info.
NOTE: A few days later, and this version of Saddam's capture seems to be gathering steam
Telegraph | News | Terrorist behind September 11 strike was trained by Saddam

Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist.

Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day 'work programme' Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.

In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta 'displayed extraordinary effort' and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be 'responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy'.

The second part of the memo, which is headed 'Niger Shipment', contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.

Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.

'We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda,' he said. 'But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks.'"

Sunday, December 14, 2003

FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Military Releases Details of Saddam's Capture: "The troops cordoned off an area of 1.5 square miles around the house and began a careful search, Odierno said.

What they found was a small walled compound with a metal lean-to and a mud hut, Sanchez said. Pulling back a rug, they dug down, finding a Styrofoam panel that covered a tiny tunnel, Odierno said. Sanchez called it a 'spider-hole.'

'The spider-hole is about 6 to 8 feet deep and allows enough space for a person to lie down inside of it,' Sanchez said. He showed video images of an air duct and a ventilation fan.

Inside lay Saddam, wearing a long, salt-and-pepper beard and disheveled hair. He had a pistol on his lap, Odierno said, but didn't move to use it. When asked about his identity, the former dictator confirmed he was Saddam, Odierno said.

Soldiers searched the hut, made up of two rooms -- a bedroom and a kitchen. The soldier who participated in the raid described it as 'just two rooms and a sink, there was one bed and one chair and some clothes and that's about it.' Soldiers seized two rifles, a pistol, a taxi and $750,000 in U.S. currency in a suitcase.

'We didn't stay there long. It smelled really bad,' the soldier said. 'It looked more like a garage than a proper house.'

Within an hour -- at about 9:15 p.m. -- a helicopter whisked Saddam away, heading south toward Baghdad, Odierno said. Officials didn't say where he was being held.

Sanchez, who saw Saddam in detention, described him as talkative and cooperative, but also as 'a tired man, and also I think a man resigned to his fate.'

Members of the Iraqi Governing Council visited as well, finding Saddam sitting on a bed in a white gown and dark jacket.

'He was subservient and broken,' council member Mouwafak al-Rabii said. 'He was speaking as if he did not know what was going on around him.'

The council members peppered Saddam with questions about assassinations and massacres, asking him why he killed so many people. But al-Rabii said Saddam was unrepentant.

'Saddam appeared in his true face, using bad language and insults,' he said. 'Saddam looked like a thug or the leader of a mafia.'"
FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Saddam Could Face Special Tribunal

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez , the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said the American-led coalition must still decide on Saddam's status.

"At this point, that has not been determined. We continue to process Saddam at this point in time, and those issues will be resolved in the near future," Sanchez told reporters at the coalition's Baghdad headquarters.

Before Saddam's capture, top U.S. officials in Baghdad had privately acknowledged the former dictator likely would be handed over to the new Iraqi government to stand trial.

Amnesty International, however, criticized the new Iraqi tribunal as flawed. It demanded that Saddam -- as commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces -- be classified as a prisoner of war.

The legal codes for the new, five-judge tribunal, were based on international law, including existing U.N. war crimes tribunals -- such as those for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia -- and those used by the International Criminal Court.

>>>
"Saddam will stand a public trial so that the Iraqi people will know his crimes," said Ahmad Chalabi, another member of the Governing Council.

Human rights activists also welcomed Saddam's arrest because of accusations he committed gross human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
>>>
Human rights groups cautioned that the Iraqi decree establishing the new tribunal was fundamentally flawed because it was proclaimed by an unelected body and without consultation with the Iraqi people or the international community.

Activists also said the decree did not ensure that guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

'Another concern is the death penalty,' Shoueiry said. 'He should be punished for his crimes, but the death penalty is not included. That goes without saying.'

Like other human rights groups, Amnesty International is vehemently opposed to capital punishment, and has repeatedly called for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also warned that the new tribunal law lacked key provisions to ensure legitimate and credible trials.

It also said the authorities must not be allowed to mount a political show trial, adding that foreign prosecutors and investigative judges should be called in because the Iraqi judicial system lacked experience in organizing trials 'lasting more than a few days.'

'It's ... important that the trial is not perceived as vengeful justice,' said Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director."
FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Historic Afghan Constitutional Loya Jirga Begins

KABUL, Afghanistan A landmark constitutional convention began in Afghanistan (search) on Sunday with solemn prayers, the songs of children and a stirring speech by the nation's former king, who echoed the aspirations of his war-weary countrymen with a call for unity and peace.

Some 500 delegates from village mullahs to Western-educated exiles were gathered at a huge tent in Afghanistan's battle-scarred capital, Kabul, to hammer out a new constitution in a traditional loya jirga (search), or grand council. Among the issues they were expected to spar over were the role of Afghan women, Islam's place in politics and the sharing of power in a nation accustomed to fighting over it.

"The people are relying on you and you should not forget them," the 88-year-old former monarch, Mohammad Zaher Shah (search), told the assembly. "I hope you will try your best toward maintaining peace, stability and the unity of the Afghan people."

The loya jirga is a key step in the two-year drive to stabilize the country under an empowered central government, and is supposed to lead to landmark national elections slated for June.
My Way News: "Saddam Hussein Captured Alive Near Tikrit

Dec 14, 9:33 AM (ET)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Without firing a shot, American forces captured a bearded and haggard-looking Saddam Hussein in a dirt cellar under a farmhouse near his hometown of Tikrit, ending one of the most intensive manhunts in history. The arrest was a huge victory for U.S. forces battling an insurgency by the ousted dictator's followers.

'Ladies and gentlemen, we got him,' U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer told a news conference Sunday, eight months after American troops swept into Baghdad and toppled Saddam's regime.

'The tyrant is a prisoner.'

In the capital, radio stations played celebratory music, residents fired small arms in the air in celebration and passengers on buses and trucks shouted, 'They got Saddam! They got Saddam!'

Washington hopes Saddam's capture will help break the organized Iraq resistance that has killed more than 190 American soldiers since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1 and has set back efforts at reconstruction. U.S. commanders have said that while in hiding Saddam played some role in the guerrilla campaign blamed on his followers.

In the latest attack, a suspected suicide bomber detonated explosives in a car outside a police station Sunday morning west of Baghdad, killing at least 17 people and wounding 33 more, the U.S. military said.

Saddam was captured at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in a walled farm compound in Adwar, a town 10 miles from Tikrit, said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq. The cellar was little more than a specially prepared 'spider hole' with just enough space to lie down. Bricks and dirt camouflaged the entrance."

Saturday, December 13, 2003

PHXnews.com | Breaking News from the Phoenix area, Tucson & Flagstaff, Arizona :

President Bush wants to send Americans back to the moon and may leave a permanent presence there in a bold new vision for space exploration, administration officials said yesterday.

The return to the moon would be for the purpose of technological advancements in technology, including energy exploration and testing a military rocket engine.

And a permanent presence likely will include robots and communication satellites.

But beyond the nuts and bolts, Bush's call for a to return to space would give Americans something new to hope for - amid a period of permanent anxiety about terrorism. It would also help move NASA beyond last February's space shuttle Columbia disaster.

Sources said the president may also give the go-ahead to pursue a manned trip to Mars - a long range goal.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told an advisory council yesterday that 2004 will be a "seminal time" for the agency.

"There's an effort under way that will focus the administration's view very prominently on options we can consider. We are looking at some significant changes," O'Keefe said.

Bush could spell out his new plan for space travel on the 100-year anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight, Dec. 17, officials said.

The White House refused to comment on Bush's future plans for NASA, saying the president hasn't yet made a decision about what he'll announce.

But high-level meetings involving the White House and NASA have been going on for months.

Sources says Vice President Dick Cheney recently went up to Capitol Hill to meet with Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and other key congressmen to discuss space exploration. They discussed resuming manned trips to the Moon, and even the idea of establishing a permanent station on the Moon, sources said.

If the president does announce his new space vision on Dec. 17, it would be 100 years after the Wright Brothers first set an airplane in flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., and it would be two days before the 30th anniversary of the last manned lunar landing.

Two Texas Republican senators recently sent Bush a letter saying America's space program has been floundering.

"We urge you to elevate the priority of the space program and develop a bold and coherent national mission for NASA," wrote Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (search) and John Cornyn .
CND: UCLA Study On Friendship Among Women: "UCLA Study On Friendship Among Women

An alternative to fight or flight

2002 Gale Berkowitz
A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research---most of it on men---upside down. Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it."
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It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There's no doubt, says Dr. Klein, that friends are helping us live longer.

In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses' Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.
New Scientist: "Light 'frozen' in its tracks

18:00 10 December 03

NewScientist.com news service


A pulse of light has been stopped in its tracks with all its photons intact, reveal US physicists.

In a vacuum, light travels at the phenomenal speed of 300,000,000 metres per second. Scientists can exploit the way that the electric and magnetic fields in light interact with matter to slow it down.

Over the last few years, scientists have become masters of the light beam. Speeds of a few metres per second are now reached routinely in laboratories around the world. It is rather harder, however, to stop light completely and previous attempts have halted light but lost its photons in the process.

Mikhail Lukin and colleagues at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts managed to stop light without this loss by firing a short burst of red laser light into a gas of hot rubidium atoms.

This is then 'frozen' with the help of two control beams. The light in the control beams interacts with the rubidium atoms to create layers that alternately transmit and reflect the pulse.

As the signal tries to propagate through these layers, the photons bounce backwards and forwards between them. As a result, the pulse makes no forward progress - the light is 'frozen' in place. The pulse is set free when the control beams are turned off.

Ulf Leonhardt at the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, says the technique is novel in that the effect the control beams have is 'like storing light behind bars'."
The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Thousands of Iraqis call for end to violence


BAGHDAD, Iraq Five thousand to 10,000 Iraqis tried to send terrorists a cease-and-desist message yesterday from downtown Baghdad in the biggest demonstration against violence to date.

The protesters snarled traffic by filling Fateh Square near the National Theater and Fardos Square in front of the Palestine Hotel. Chanting "No, no terrorism" and "Yes, yes Islam," they carried photographs of religious leaders and unfurled banners that read "The Iraqis Should Not Forget Palestine."

Coalition officials have said that despite pockets of resistance, most Iraqis support the presence of American troops and oppose the resistance. By strengthening Iraqi security forces and announcing a plan to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis by next summer, the United States hopes to stem some of the anger and frustration many Iraqis have voiced.

Protest organizers, including Brig. Gen. Tawfik al Yassiri, a member of the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, which the Pentagon established in February, had invited political parties, religious groups, schools and unions to participate.

"We didn't expect this big a crowd to respond," said al Yassiri, who's also secretary-general of the Iraqi National Coalition, an exile group. "It was hard to organize all these groups who filled the streets and the sidewalks."

Marchers cited a number of reasons for demonstrating.

"There are so many jobless people. If foreign companies were to come here, there would be more jobs, but they will not come if they are afraid of terrorism, so we should protect these companies. We want to live," said Kareem Abed Kareen, 52, who's unemployed.

"All these shortages electricity, propane for cooking, benzene (gasoline), oil for heating and the high prices for all of these things, are connected to terrorism," said Amar Anwar, a 50-year-old hospital security guard who complained about sabotage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

www.smh.com.au - 'Prehistoric man began global warming': "Measurements of ancient air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice offers evidence that humans have been changing the global climate since thousands of years before the industrial revolution.

From 8000 years ago, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide began to rise as humans started clearing forests, planting crops and raising livestock, a scientist said on Tuesday. Methane levels started increasing 3000 years later.

The combined increases of the two greenhouse gases implicated in global warming were slow but steady and staved off what should have been a period of significant natural cooling, said Bill Ruddiman, emeritus professor at the University of Virginia.

The changes also disrupted regular patterns that dominated the 400,000 years of atmospheric history that scientists have teased from samples of ancient ice.

'You have 395,000 years of history, which sets some rules, and 5000 years that break those rules,' Professor Ruddiman said.

He briefed reporters on his theory at the autumn meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Tuesday. Further details appear in the December issue of the journal Climatic Change.

Previously, scientists assumed widely it was only with the onset of the factory age that human activity had any significant effect on the global climate. The prehistoric changes in carbon dioxide and methane levels have been noted before but were attributed to natural causes, Professor Ruddiman said."
Iraqis demonstrate against terrorism - The Washington Times: United Press International: "Iraqis demonstrate against terrorism

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Thousands of Iraqis took to Baghdad's streets Friday condemning terrorism and urging a halt to political violence.

The demonstrators shouted 'death to terrorists' and called for confronting and uprooting 'this evil trend which is foreign to Iraqi society.'

The march, in which an estimated 4,000 protesters took part, was organized by 30 minor political parties which are not represented in the U.S.-sponsored Iraq Governing Council."
Little shown picture of Iraq

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - It's a little-known footnote in postwar Iraq that an unassuming Army Civil Affairs captain named Kent Lindner has a bevy of blushing female fans.

Every time Lindner checks in on the group of young, deaf Iraqi seamstresses at their factory here, the women swarm him with admiration. 'I love you!' one of them writes in the dust on Lindner's SUV.

Such small-time adoration is not the stuff of headlines against the backdrop of a country painfully and often violently evolving from war. So on this day, when Lindner and his fellow soldiers are cheered as they fire the deaf workers' boss, a woman who has been locking the seamstresses in closets, holding their pay and beating them, the lack of TV cameras on hand is no surprise.

But later that night, mortars hit nearby. Cameras are rolling, and 15 minutes later folks back home instead see another news clip of Baghdad's latest violence. It's a soda-straw view that frustrates soldiers, like those in Lindner's Civil Affairs unit, who are slowly trying to stitch together the peace while the final stages of the war play out on television.

'We've got a lot of good things going on, but when I went home (on leave), people were just like 'We never hear that stuff,' ' said Civil Affairs Pvt. Amy Schroeder. 'That's what makes the families worry.'

What Iraq looks like on TV, and what Iraq is like for the 130,000 troops living here, sometimes feels like two different realities.

That's especially true for the Army's Civil Affairs soldiers, reservists who often serve as civil engineers in their 'real life' jobs, and who are here working in Iraq's schools, hospitals and factories. There are thousands of Civil Affairs soldiers in Iraq, and their daily missions take them into all regions of the country, from the water plants in Basra to the south, to canning factories up north in Irbil.

'Our stories aren't the sexiest,' says the 432nd Civil Affairs Brigade commander, Gary Beard. 'But what we do will build the success of this country.'"
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Across town, another mission is under way.

"Welcome, welcome to our school," chants a line of 7-year-old girls in Arabic at the Abu Ghuraib Primary School, which the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion took under its wing to restore after it was badly looted postwar.

The now-bright-blue school has new equipment and new electrical wiring that feeds bright bulbs by the teachers' blackboards.

As each soldier walks through the entrance to the official ribbon-cutting, the girls chant louder in Arabic, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Inside, headmistress Ibistam Mahdi cuts a yellow ribbon, and thanks the men through a translator.

"For the 350 girls here, it is a lot better," Mahdi says.

Despite the violent news images seen most often at home, these soldiers say it's more common to see boys selling water jugs of gasoline to passing cars than it is to see a roadside bomb.

In the cities, the convoys pass through marketplaces where women walk, arm in arm, to shop for trendy beaded skirts that sparkle in the sun. They pass blocks of electronics stores where men carry home boxes of MP3 players and satellite TV dishes. On busier streets, hundreds of roadside "money exchanges," where Iraqis trade dollars for dinars, pop up like lemonade stands.

"Oh, I'm an Ali Baba now," says Staff Sgt. Justin Lockhart to a squirming 11-year-old Iraqi boy named Aaday. Aaday has the sergeant's handcuffs and is busy playfully locking Lockhart up.

"It sounds bad, but I try and play with the kids as much as possible," says Lockhart, of the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion. "It's safer with them around. The only times I'm scared are when there are kids around us, and they leave. Or when adults come get them - it's right after that that we leave a place," because it may signal a coming attack, he said.

Even in Fallujah, a city 30 miles west of Baghdad that in the last month has become characterized as one of the more hostile cities in Iraq because of recent attacks, Civil Affairs teams still make daily trips out of their compound to help get the city's day-to-day needs functioning. And the men and women stationed there say it's just not as violent as it looks.

"I go out every day," says 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion Sgt. Bill Belongea. "I have not had to raise my weapon yet. It's not as bad as the media portrays it."

On another mission in Baghdad, soldiers from the 352nd Civil Affairs command pull up to the Ministry of Labor and Social Services to follow up on victims of a recent police-station bombing. By the gate, hundreds of needy Iraqis line up for welfare payments.

The soldiers of the 352nd have stopped in to pick up food and clothing for a family of 26. The family members survived the attack on the Adamiyah Police Station, but the explosion destroyed their apartments.

"All they have left is what they pulled out of the rubble," says Capt. Chuck Timney. "These people could have a long wait for a new home, so we're going to try and make it as comfortable as possible."

As the soldiers wait, news of a nearby roadside bomb comes in through the static on the Humvee's radio. A command post dispatches rescue helicopters, and a few minutes later two Black Hawks buzz past.

Maj. Jeff McKone is listening in the Humvee's front seat, and his reaction is one of relief - that this particular bombing is not one he has to worry about. He continues to snack on an MRE through the dispatches, and then hops down from the Humvee to help load boxes for the family.

As the soldiers arrive at the displaced family's temporary quarters, the parents and children rush out to open the gate and help carry the packages.

Both Timney and Capt. Mike Self, who has brought colored paper and pens sent by his church back home for the kids, check specifically on the youngest child. The toddler stopped speaking or moving after the car bomb. Although still mostly listless in her mother's arms, the girl wails during this visit. It's the first noise they've heard from her, and it's a sign of relief for the soldiers, who have clearly bonded with the family.

As they say their goodbyes, the soldiers look happy, accomplished.

"If you can't feel good about today," McKone says, "then you shouldn't be here."