Saturday, October 02, 2010

Official Presidential Portrait of United State...Image via Wikipedia

Conspiracy theories about 9/11 persist in Muslim world - some are laughable...

ISTANBUL – About a week ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to the United Nations that most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

To many people in the West, the statement was ludicrous, almost laughable if it weren't so incendiary. And surveys show that a majority of the world does not in fact believe that the U.S. orchestrated the attacks.

However, the belief persists strongly among a minority, even with U.S. allies like Turkey or in the U.S. itself. And it cannot be dismissed because it reflects a gulf in politics and perception, especially between the West and many Muslims.

"That theory might be true," said Ugur Tezer, a 48-year-old businessman who sells floor tiles in the Turkish capital, Ankara. "When I first heard about the attack I thought, 'Osama,' but then I thought the U.S. might have done it to suppress the rise of Muslims."

Compassion for the United States swept the globe right after the attacks, but conspiracy theories were circulating even then. It wasn't al-Qaida, they said, but the United States or Israel that downed the towers. Weeks after the strikes, at the United Nations, President George W. Bush urged the world not to tolerate "outrageous conspiracy theories" that deflected blame from the culprits.

However, the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provided fodder for the damning claim that the U.S. killed its own citizens, supposedly to justify military action in the Middle East and to protect Israel. A 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that significant majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey — all among the most moderate nations in the Islamic world — said they did not believe Arabs carried out the attacks.

Two years later, a poll of 17 nations by, an international research project, found majorities in nine of them believed al-Qaida was behind the attacks. However, the U.S. government was blamed by 36 percent of Turks and 27 percent of Palestinians.

Such beliefs have currency even in the United States. In 2006, a Scripps Howard poll of 1,010 Americans found 36 percent thought it somewhat or very likely that U.S. officials either participated in the attacks or took no action to stop them.

Those who say the attacks might have been an "inside job" usually share antipathy toward the U.S. government, and often a maverick sensibility. Besides Ahmadinejad, high-profile doubters include Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura has questioned the official account. Conspiracy theorists have heckled former President Bill Clinton and other prominent Americans during speeches.

Controversy over U.S. actions and policies, including the widely discredited assertions that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, reinforced the perceptions of conspiracy theorists. Iranians dug deeper into history, recalling the U.S.-backed coup in their country in 1953.

"Initially, I was doubtful about the conspiracy theories. But after seeing the events in later years, I don't have any doubt that it was their own operation to find a pretext to hit Muslim countries," said Shaikh Mushtaq Ahmed, a 58-year-old operations manager in a bank in Pakistan. "It's not a strange thing that they staged something like this in their own country to achieve a big objective."

In March, an editorial in The Washington Post harshly criticized Yukihisa Fujita, a lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, for saying in an interview that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers were alive and that shadowy forces with advance information about the plot played the stock market for profit. Fujita said the article contained factual errors.

The record shows that al-Qaida agents on a suicide mission hijacked four American passenger planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people. The evidence is immense: witness accounts, audio recordings, video and photographic documentation, exhaustive investigations and claims of responsibility by al-Qaida.

Yet every fact and official assertion only feeds into alternative views that become amplified on the Internet, some tinged with anti-Semitism because of the close U.S.-Israeli alliance. They theorize that a knowing U.S. government stood by as the plot unfolded, or that controlled demolitions destroyed the Twin Towers, and the Pentagon was hit by a missile.

"All this, of course, would require hundreds if not thousands of people to be in on the plot. It speaks volumes for the determination to believe something," said David Aaronovitch, the British author of "Voodoo Histories: the role of Conspiracy Theory in Modern History."

"This kind of theory really does have a big impact in the Middle East," he said. "It gets in the way of thinking seriously about the problems in the area and what should be done."

A U.S. State Department website devotes space to debunking conspiracy theories about Sept. 11, in the apparent belief that the allegations must be addressed forcefully rather than dismissed out of hand as the ruminations of a fringe group.

"Conspiracy theories exist in the realm of myth, where imaginations run wild, fears trump facts, and evidence is ignored. As a superpower, the United States is often cast as a villain in these dramas," the site says.

Tod Fletcher of Petaluma, California, has worked as an assistant to David Ray Griffin, a retired theology professor, on books that question the Sept. 11 record. He was cautious about the Iranian president's comments about conspiracy theories, suggesting Ahmadinejad may have been politically motivated by his enmity with the U.S. government.

"It seems like it's the sort of thing that could lead to further vilification of people who criticize the official account here in the United States," Fletcher said.


Acknowledgements: Torchia reported from Istanbul. Associated Press Writers Gulden Alp in Ankara, Turkey, and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report

Space view of Christchurch and surrounding areas.Image via Wikipedia 
Have the Gods got something in for New Zealand's South Island?

OPINION: First published at Fortitude

by peter petterson

Many, if not all, readers would have heard or read about the extremely destructive 7.1 earthquake that struck Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury district nearly three weeks ago. Actually there are many people around the globe who think New Zealand is part of Australia anyway. Well, this is not designed as a geographical guide but more as a factual newspiece expanding on what you may or may not know about this mind-numbing earthquake that has been repeated by a total of  1200 aftershocks which occur  everyday and night since. Yes, I did say 1200 aftershocks! I've never heard of so many after an earthquake, have you?

At 7.1 on the Richter Scale this earthquake was identical in destructive force to the one in Haiti mamy months ago that killed tens of thousands, injured scores of thousands and probably made a million homeless for some period of time. What was the difference?

New Zealand is a first world country with extremely high standards of building, has a small spread out population — Christchurch, which is New Zealand's second largest city, has only 400,000 at the most, including its environs. But the saving grace of Christchurch during this shocking earthquake was the time — 4-35am. A few hours earlier and thousands would have been caught in restaurants, cafes, bars and on the streets; and a few hours later the early shoppers would have been caught in malls, shops, cafes and also on the streets.

The authorities, both local and central government agencies moved extremely quickly to support the victims of the earthquake. The prime minister, John Key and some of his ministers were down in Christchurch by the Sunday morning to see at first hand the results of this shocking earthquake and what should be done initially to help the local council's support of the victims. Nobody was killed, though there have been some fatal heart attacks which could be attributed to the earthquake, and only a few were seriously injured. One middle aged man was hit by a collapsing chimney that came through his bedroom ceiling and was seriously injured; and remains in a critical condition nearly three weeks later.

Finacial support has been given to help residents in the first few weeks, and companies with less than twenty employees were given wage subsidies later in the first week, for the first month to get their business operational and to help the local economy get back into gear.

Experts moved into action on the Monday morning examining damaged buildings in the city's CBD and then out into the residential areas both within the central city, suburbs and the outlying areas. Welfare centres were set up in schools, an indoor stadium and at Addington Raceway for homeless and those unable to go back to their homes for a variety of reasons, including the lack of sewerage, running water, and for psychological reasons caused by the repetitive aftershocks which were like minor earthquakes on their own.

Christchurch looked like a bombsight initially with the wreckage of buildings scattered throughout the streets of the city, making them extremely difficult to travel through. Within days it soon became obvious just how much damage had been caused, roughly how many buildings would be condemned and need to be destroyed for safety reasons. Red stickers were placed on condemned buildings and homes, and green stickers for those that could be saved and repaired. Insurance assessors were quickly involved in doing their particular tasks within the first few days. In New Zealand the state Earthquake Commission pays for the first $100,000 of individual damage caused by earthquakes.

Cleaning up the streets, repairing sewerage and water mains and ensuring the homeless were taken care of in the welfare centres was the first priority in the days after the earthquake. And the aftershocks continued day and night creating psychological torture for the residents of Christchurch and out in the rural districts. While many streets showed evidence of the destructive force of this huge earthquake, out in the countryside the faultline looked as though bulldozers had carved up the earth for miles and miles lifting flat and even paddocks into untidy piles of earth in some places. The faultline had been there for 16,000 years and nobody had been aware of its existence.

The early estimates of two billion dollars in damage and estimated reconstruction, had doubled to four billion within a week — about three billion in American dollars. This is undoubtably New Zealand's worst civil disaster in monetary terms. The lack of fatalities and serious injuries are in fact incredible. Slowly but surely life has resumed, most children are back to school, and people are going back to work as their employers get their businesses back into operation. Life is not normal, of course, but the city is breathing some life again, and hopes are rising and the people are becoming positive once again. There are still many people who are homeless in the city, and a few hundred in the eastern suburbs who still do not have sewerage and running water — they are still using chemical toilets and have to wash at the local mall.

But they often say things go in threes. The day following the earthquake, at Fox Glacier a few hundred miles southwest of Christchurch, a small plane crashed on takeoff killing all nine onboard.

Just last weekend New Zealand was hit by a polar-like storm with snowstorms in the deep south being the worst in decades. In Invercargill city the local indoor stadium and some other buildings, were totally destroyed by the heavy snow, and out in the rural area farmers have lost a million newborn lambs. Throughout the rest of the country galeforce winds and rain caused considerable damage to homes and property. One would have to seriously consider that the South Island was on the receiving end of some retributive Karma force. Or perhaps somebody forgot to pay their bills?

As I close, quite safe and remote here in Wellington some 220 miles north of Christchurch, incidently my home town, I hear that the aftershocks are continuing, albeit less frequent and a little milder. My extended family members have been quite safe down south, and don't appear to have much damge caused to their homes, and have not suffered any personal injuries, apart from those psychologically.

Christchurchites are anticipating some better nights' sleep in coming weeks. And nobody will begrudge these hearty souls!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Artist's impression of the planetary system ar...Image via Wikipedia



By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer – Wed Sep 29, 7:19 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is sometimes called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right.

Not too far from its star, not too close. So it could contain liquid water. The planet itself is neither too big nor too small for the proper surface, gravity and atmosphere.

It's just right. Just like Earth.

"This really is the first Goldilocks planet," said co-discoverer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

[Related: Seven best places to sleep under the stars]

The new planet sits smack in the middle of what astronomers refer to as the habitable zone, unlike any of the nearly 500 other planets astronomers have found outside our solar system. And it is in our galactic neighborhood, suggesting that plenty of Earth-like planets circle other stars.

Finding a planet that could potentially support life is a major step toward answering the timeless question: Are we alone?

Scientists have jumped the gun before on proclaiming that planets outside our solar system were habitable only to have them turn out to be not quite so conducive to life. But this one is so clearly in the right zone that five outside astronomers told The Associated Press it seems to be the real thing.

"This is the first one I'm truly excited about," said Penn State University's Jim Kasting. He said this planet is a "pretty prime candidate" for harboring life.

Life on other planets doesn't mean E.T. Even a simple single-cell bacteria or the equivalent of shower mold would shake perceptions about the uniqueness of life on Earth.

But there are still many unanswered questions about this strange planet. It is about three times the mass of Earth, slightly larger in width and much closer to its star — 14 million miles away versus 93 million. It's so close to its version of the sun that it orbits every 37 days. And it doesn't rotate much, so one side is almost always bright, the other dark.

Temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero, but in between — in the land of constant sunrise — it would be "shirt-sleeve weather," said co-discoverer Steven Vogt of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

It's unknown whether water actually exists on the planet, and what kind of atmosphere it has. But because conditions are ideal for liquid water, and because there always seems to be life on Earth where there is water, Vogt believes "that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent."

The astronomers' findings are being published in Astrophysical Journal and were announced by the National Science Foundation on Wednesday.

The planet circles a star called Gliese 581. It's about 120 trillion miles away, so it would take several generations for a spaceship to get there. It may seem like a long distance, but in the scheme of the vast universe, this planet is "like right in our face, right next door to us," Vogt said in an interview.

That close proximity and the way it was found so early in astronomers' search for habitable planets hints to scientists that planets like Earth are probably not that rare.

Vogt and Butler ran some calculations, with giant fudge factors built in, and figured that as much as one out of five to 10 stars in the universe have planets that are Earth-sized and in the habitable zone.

With an estimated 200 billion stars in the universe, that means maybe 40 billion planets that have the potential for life, Vogt said. However, Ohio State University's Scott Gaudi cautioned that is too speculative about how common these planets are.

Vogt and Butler used ground-based telescopes to track the star's precise movements over 11 years and watch for wobbles that indicate planets are circling it. The newly discovered planet is actually the sixth found circling Gliese 581. Two looked promising for habitability for a while, another turned out to be too hot and the fifth is likely too cold. This sixth one bracketed right in the sweet spot in between, Vogt said.

With the star designated "a," its sixth planet is called Gliese 581g.

"It's not a very interesting name and it's a beautiful planet," Vogt said. Unofficially, he's named it after his wife: "I call it Zarmina's World."

The star Gliese 581 is a dwarf, about one-third the strength of our sun. Because of that, it can't be seen without a telescope from Earth, although it is in the Libra constellation, Vogt said.

But if you were standing on this new planet, you could easily see our sun, Butler said.

The low-energy dwarf star will live on for billions of years, much longer than our sun, he said. And that just increases the likelihood of life developing on the planet, the discoverers said.

"It's pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions," Vogt said.



The National Science Foundation:


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Image:Queensland Government Logo.svgImage via Wikipedia.

The Government or Mr Big...

Queensland Govt's $27m 'drug money' grab nears its end - them or Mr Big...

The Queensland government will know before the end of the year whether it has been successful in seizing up to $27 million in assets from a Gold Coast drug baron.

Charles Edward Cannon has been fighting the government in the Supreme Court in Brisbane, as authorities try to confiscate money they claim he made from drug trafficking.

The government alleges the former Finks bikie associate accumulated cash and property worth up to $27 million by selling methamphetamines between 1995 and 2003.

This makes it the highest sum of criminal proceeds ever sought in Queensland.

Cannon, 51, was convicted in 2005 of trafficking and possessing dangerous drugs and was jailed for nearly 13 years.

After his arrest, the state's crime watchdog froze Cannon's assets - including his Jaguar car and waterfront mansion - estimated to be worth about $4 million.

However the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is now alleging the fortune made from Cannon's drug empire is much higher.

Lawyers acting for the CMC, on behalf of the government, started a five-day proceeds assessment hearing in August.

However the application was adjourned mid-hearing so Cannon could change lawyers.

The matter has encountered further delays so Cannon's new legal team can be properly briefed.

During a review on Thursday, the court was told both sides will be ready to make their final submissions before Justice Peter Applegarth on December 3.

Justice Applegarth is then expected to hand down his decision before Christmas.

Acknowledgements: yahoo 7 News

Monday, September 27, 2010

New book on infamous Crewe murders blames blames investigating police officer...

Arthur Allan Thomas says he backs a new book on the murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe that claims the killer was a police officer who investigated the case.

Thomas was originally arrested for the double murder in 1970. He was found guilty by two juries despite a strong alibi. Thomas was then pardoned in 1979 and a Royal Commission of Inquiry found that key evidence had been fabricated by the police.

Author Ian Wishart's new book, Arthur Allan Thomas: The Inside Story, claims that Det Sgt Len Johnston did more than plant evidence. He writes that Johnston was responsible for killing the Crewes and framing Thomas.

Thomas told TV ONE's Breakfast today that he had never before considered Johnston as the killer, believing that the culprit was most likely Len Demler, Jeanette's father.

But Wishart said his investigations brought to light new evidence that led him to focus on Johnston.

"Everywhere we went, Len Johnson kept on turning up in this case... as the person planting all of the key evidence...(fabricating) the case against Arthur Thomas."

Wishart said that Johnston's motive may have stemmed from blackmail over a burglary and insurance fraud.

The Police Association has dismissed the claims. Spokesman Greg O'Connor described Wishart's book as "scurrilous rubbish".

But Thomas is backing Wishart's theory.

"I'm not surprised, the police were corrupt to the highest degree in my case."

Thomas said that even now people struggle to accept his innocence. He said he has been let down by the police, the courts and the justice system.

"I had great faith in the police in the early days... I had nothing to hide. I helped the police where I could and they let me down," he said.

Back in July, Thomas' ex-wife, Vivien, spoke out about the murder mystery. She sent a letter to Justice Minister Simon Power, requesting he re-open the cold case.

Now known as Vivien Harrison, she was accused by police of being involved in the double homicide by feeding the Crewes' baby.

While a statement from a local farmhand led to her being cleared of any involvement, the case did lead to the demise of her marriage and force her from the country.

Vivien filed for divorce after Thomas' guilty verdict remained in place after the second trial. The pair never spoke again, but she remained a staunch supporter of his innocence, maintaining he was home with her at the time of the murders.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Description: Trees were knocked down and burne...Image via Wikipedia

Is Another Siberian Apocalypse Close at Hand?

by Alex Michael Bonnici

As my good friend Ralph Buttigieg has recently written the Earth had another close encounter with a Tunguska sized body a week ago today. It is becoming more and more apparent that the issue of Near Earth Objects must be seriously addressed before some city or other densely populated area falls victim to a Celestial 9/11 event. It is my personal belief that another Siberian Apocalypse very much like that which befell the Tunguska region of Siberia a little more than a century ago is very close at hand.

The object that came dangerously close to us last week goes by the mild mannered and rather obscure designation of 2009 DD45. But as the British weekly science journal New Scientist reported in its March 7th, 2009 issue:

An asteroid about the size of the one that levelled the forest in Tunguska, Siberia, a century ago flew past Earth on Monday - well within the Moon's orbit. The risk of a future impact with the object is not yet known.

The asteroid, dubbed 2009 DD45, whizzed just 72,000 kilometres above the Earth's surface. That is less than a fifth of the distance to the Moon and just twice the distance to geosynchronous satellites.

KR says:

But was it really an asteroid? Was it something else that can't be explained? We call them UFO's - Unexplained Flying Objects. We have to keep an open mind until our technology catches up to our imagination. What really happened at Tunguska?

Read more below: