WWW The World Around The World

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Marine Captured And Held Hostage

"He's just a soldier doing his job like any other person," Sami Hassoun said in a telephone interview from his home in Beirut, Lebanon.

The brother of a U.S. Marine missing in Iraq said Tuesday that a blindfolded man shown in a video with a curved sword above his head is his brother and pleaded for captors to "just release him."

"Please leave him, for the sake of God, for the sake of his mom and dad."

The U.S. military said that Cpl. Wassef Hassoun, a Marine translator, was last seen June 19 and reported missing the following day when he did not report for duty.

Hassoun has been classified as captured, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said Tuesday, but there has been no official announcement.

In the videotape, broadcast Sunday on the Arab-language network Al-Jazeera, a man identified as Hassoun appeared as the captive of armed men who displayed his Marine identification papers. One of the captors brandished a sword above the man's head.

On the tape, a speaker said the man was lured from his base and captured, and his captors threatened to kill him unless U.S. military authorities release Iraqi prisoners.

"It is him, 100 percent," Sami Hassoun said of the hostage on the video. "I wish it was not him.

"We're Muslims like they are. It is not possible that Islam says to kill these people. And there's no religion in the whole world that supports a kidnapper and a killer. No morals, no ethics."

The military believes it is unlikely that Hassoun was captured from the base, the Defense Department official said.

Hassoun is a member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He speaks Arabic and may have a wife in Lebanon.

The Pentagon thinks he initially left the base on unauthorized leave, perhaps hoping to reach his family in Lebanon, the Defense Department official said.

The official said the corporal was believed to be having possible "family problems."

The official said the military is investigating whether Hassoun had money when he disappeared. He was last seen with his M9 service pistol.

Other hostages
Insurgents in Iraq also are holding another U.S. serviceman, Army Spc. Matt Maupin, who was captured April 9 when his convoy was ambushed outside Baghdad. On Monday, militants claimed in another videotape to have killed Maupin.

Insurgents battling U.S.-led coalition forces have killed at least four hostages in a string of kidnappings that began in April. Two of them -- American businessman Nicholas Berg and South Korean translator Kim Sun-il -- have been beheaded in killings blamed on a group called Unification and Jihad that is led by fugitive Islamic militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In another videotape delivered over the weekend, insurgents also claimed to be holding a Pakistani man working for a subcontractor of the U.S. construction contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root. The man's captors threatened to behead the hostage, identified as Amjad Yousef Hafeez, unless the United States releases Iraqi prisoners.

Al-Jazeera also aired footage over the weekend of three Turks apparently held captive by Zarqawi's Unification and Jihad group. Their captors threatened to behead the men unless Turkish companies left Iraq. But Tuesday, the Turks reportedly telephoned the Turkish Embassy to say they had been released.

Hangovers & Cactus

Overindulging in wine or spirits often makes the following morning much less enjoyable. Now there's some good news for people looking to avoid a dreaded hangover. Scientists have found that ingesting a particular plant extract prior to drinking may cut the risk of a severe hangover in half.

Just don't eat the spines!

Jeff Wiese of the Tulane Health Sciences Center and his colleagues recruited 55 healthy adult volunteers willing to raise a glass in the name of science. The subjects received either an extract of the fruit of the prickly pear Opuntia ficus indica (OFI) or a placebo five hours before they consumed alcohol. After eating a standard meal, the participants spent four hours drinking their choice of vodka, gin, rum, bourbon, scotch or tequila. The next morning the team took blood and urine samples, measured the drinkers' vital signs and assessed their overall well-being and the severity of their hangovers. Two weeks later, the study was repeated, with the OFI and placebo groups reversed.

Britney Spears Pregnant?

Britney Spears may be in a rush for the altar again, but she'll have plenty of time to pick out a wedding gown for this marriage.

Britney Spears, 22, and dancer Kevin Federline, 26, stroll in Amsterdam in May. The couple met in April in L.A.
By Bruno Press, Getty Images

Six months after her jeans-and-T-shirt Vegas wedding to childhood chum Jason Alexander, the 22-year-old singer has become engaged to dancer Kevin Federline, 26.

Sonia Muckle of Jive Records, Spears' label, confirmed the engagement but gave no further details.


Will Britney Spears make it to the altar with Kevin Federline?
No way. Her family and battalion of lawyers will set her straight
Yes, I think she finally found the right guy
The engagement will be quietly called off by the end of the summer

Sure, they'll get married. Britney knows that's what annulments are for

She just wants to use up the "buy one, get one free" card they gave in Vegas the last time she got married

But the hot couple will have an exclusive interview with People magazine in the next couple of days, and a new photo of them together will appear on the cover of the issue that arrives on newsstands Friday.

Unofficially, Star magazine's Web site reports that the couple already have met with a wedding planner. Star says the Spears-Federline wedding will take place Nov. 20, with 200 guests, five bridesmaids and five groomsmen. Still undecided: whether the couple will be married in Los Angeles or in Spears' home state, Louisiana.

The news was first reported Friday on People's Web site and on Entertainment Tonight, sending celebrity watchers into a spin. Federline and Spears have been dating for only a few months. They met in April in L.A. and just days later frolicked on a beach in front of a pack of photographers.

In May, Spears' Onyx Hotel tour began a European leg, and Federline flew there to be with her. The tour was canceled June 8 after Spears injured her knee.

Who is Kevin Federline?

Age: 26

Marital status: Single.

Children: A daughter, 2, with Moesha actress Shar Jackson (she played Niecy), who is expecting their second child in July.

Professional résumé: Dancer in 2004 film You Got Served; backup dancer for Justin Timberlake. Star
reports Federline auditioned June 18 in L.A. for a Showtime cop series, Hate.

Federline's former girlfriend, Moesha's Shar Jackson, is eight months pregnant with Federline's child. Jackson and Federline also have a 2-year-old daughter.

Jackson has been outspoken about Federline's relationship with Spears. "You both smoke, you both drink and you both cheated on significant others after three years," Jackson told Us Weekly in April. "There are two little kids — she (Spears) better be prepared to baby-sit."

When it comes to marriage, Spears certainly has had a busy year. She was hitched for 55 hours after kicking off the new year by marrying Alexander, then 22, at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas on Jan. 3. The marriage was annulled on Jan. 5.

Before Alexander and Federline, the pop princess dated fellow pop star Justin Timberlake, 23, for three years. Timberlake's current girlfriend is Cameron Diaz, 31.

We Want Them Dead Or Alive

WEEK.com: Dead Or Alive?

The Arab-language TV network Al-Jazeera is reporting Iraqi militants have killed an Ohio reservist who was assigned to a Bartonville-based unit.

20-year-old Matt Maupin, of Batavia, Ohio had been reassigned to the 724th Transportation Company. Maupin was captured in an April 9th ambush on a convoy west of Baghdad.

A videotape of the Army Specialist was broadcast at that time. Since then, there had been no word of his whereabouts or condition.

Al-Jazeera showed a statement from those who said they kidnapped Maupin, and a grainy videotape of what may have been an execution.

In Maupin's hometown of Batavia, Ohio, an Army spokesman used caution.

Major Willie Harris said, ''It has been substantiated that a videotape does exist and the Department of Defense is currently at this time looking at the videotape, trying to examine it. There is no indication that the tape contains footage of Matt Maupin.''

On Monday night, a prayer vigil was held in downtown Batavia, Ohio for Army Specialist Maupin.


Saturday, June 26, 2004

Yeah We Better Not Let Them Test WMD's

The Globe and Mail

Despite another threat by North Korea to test a nuclear bomb, the latest negotiations in the Korean crisis have made progress in easing tensions over the expanding nuclear arsenal of the Orwellian police state.

U.S. officials confirmed yesterday that North Korea has again raised the spectre of a nuclear-weapons test on the Korean peninsula. But after three days of diplomatic talks in Beijing, the Americans were pleased by Pyongyang's talk of a possible freeze in its nuclear program if the right rewards were offered.

North Korea also appeared to be open-minded about a U.S. proposal to resolve the nuclear crisis. The proposal, which offers a step-by-step exchange of energy aid and security assurances if North Korea halts and eventually dismantles its nuclear program, was a significant softening of Washington's previous hard-line stand against Pyongyang.

The U.S. offer was not immediately rejected by North Korea, although nobody saw any signs of an imminent breakthrough in the nuclear crisis.

"Looking at the last two days, I would say there's some good, some bad, some a little ugly but not as ugly as in the past," a senior U.S. negotiator told reporters in Beijing late yesterday.

If we let them test their nuclear weapons. They would probally aim that bad bitch right at us and this what one of our major cities would look like. Bush knows not to let them even have a chance to fire one of those damn things this way.
"The results would have to be described as mixed so far," he added. "There are no breakthroughs."

The Americans, along with the Chinese officials who were the hosts of the negotiations, agreed that the talks had made progress on the crucial question of the timing of a nuclear accord.

If an agreement were reached, the economic and security rewards would be given to North Korea on a step-by-step basis, so that Pyongyang would not be required to dismantle its entire nuclear program immediately.

"This round of talks already has reached some results -- a fundamental political consensus exists that a nuclear freeze is the first step toward denuclearization and corresponding measures should be adopted," said Zhang Qiyue, spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

"There has become a consensus that the first step should be an early launching of a nuclear freeze," Ms. Zhang told a news conference.

The U.S. official said the North Koreans seemed "pleased" that Washington is suggesting a series of exchanges of economic and security concessions -- "word for word, action for action" -- to resolve the crisis.

North Korea's own proposal, confirmed by its diplomats yesterday, would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for several concessions, including a massive U.S. donation of heavy fuel oil that would be equal to one-quarter of the annual needs of North Korea's thermal power plants.

The United States promised to study carefully the North Korean proposal.

"They at least made clear that this is a step toward disarmament," the senior U.S. official said. "It's been acknowledged more forthrightly than ever before."

At the same time, he said, it was unclear whether the offer of a freeze would cover Pyongyang's suspected uranium-enrichment program, which it recently denied possessing.

The possibility of a nuclear test, the U.S. official said, was mentioned by the North Koreans as something favoured by some members of the regime -- presumably military hard-liners -- but not as an official plan of the regime.

"It was not phrased as a threat," he said.

Chinese officials said there were still "differences" on the key question of how to implement a nuclear freeze. However, the willingness of all sides to study the various proposals for a nuclear freeze is "a positive sign," Ms. Zhang said.

The latest round of the Beijing talks -- the third in the 20 months since North Korea acknowledged that it was developing nuclear weapons in violation of a previous agreement -- is expected to wrap up today. Despite signs of progress, the six countries involved (North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States) are not expected to release a joint statement.

Analysts say the latest progress is largely a result of Washington's realization that its East Asian allies were unwilling to support a policy of isolating North Korea.

U.S. allies such as South Korea and Japan are willing to offer aid packages to North Korea, frustrating the intentions of Pentagon hard-liners who wanted to use heavy-duty pressure tactics against North Korea to force it to dismantle its nuclear program.


Friday, June 25, 2004

Illergic To Nickle?

Pole-dancer Donna Cleeve has been forced to quit her £1,000-a-week job because she's allergic to the metal pole.

The 20-year-old from Portsmouth, who used the stage name Honey, developed a red rash after each performance.

She worked at two clubs in Bournemouth, Dorset, and Portsmouth, Hampshire, reports The Sun.

After three months she realised nickel used in the poles was to blame. She knew she had an allergy to the element, but wasn't aware it was used in the poles.

She said: "I came back in such pain one night my housemate forced me to sit for ages in a bath. That was the only thing that ever seemed to help.

"Because I kept on dancing around the pole it just got worse and worse. It's hard to look sexy when your legs and body are inflamed. I tried to ignore it but in the end it wasn't worth the pain."

She's now given up her dancing and taken an £18,000-a-year job in sales.

She said: "I hated giving up because there's great camaraderie. If I could find a way of dancing without the allergy I'd go back."

Only 5 Days To Go.


With only five days to go before the formal handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi government, US-led coalition and Iraqi forces braced for more violence after attacks in which at least 92 people were killed in a murderous bombing wave.

A poll published in the United States indicated for the first time since last year's war that a majority of Americans believe it was a mistake to send US troops to Iraq.

Former vice president Al Gore, denying government claims of a link between former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, said: "The president took us to war when he didn't have to."

But President George W. Bush shrugged off the doubters, saying in an interview with Irish television that history would judge him to have been right.

"I do believe the world is a safer place and becoming a safer place," he said. "I will not allow terrorists to determine the fate of people who want to be free."

Across Iraq, coalition and Iraqi forces braced for a resumption of Thursday's violence, which it was feared would build up in the period leading up to the handover to sovereignty.

"We have information of possible terrorist attacks against police stations or local officials," police chief General Turhan Yussef said in the northern city of Kirkuk.

In the fighting Thursday, coordinated violence swept through Mosul in the north and the Sunni Muslim cities of Baquba, Fallujah and Ramadi in central Iraq, in the most serious challenge to the US-led coalition's efforts to restore stability since April, when Shiite Muslim radicals launched an uprising in the center and south.

"Those who are opposed to progress, those who are opposed to freedom and democracy will probably try to make a dramatic statement in this next week or perhaps the week following the transfer of sovereignty in order to try to disrupt that," US Brigadier General Carter Ham said in Mosul.

Officials said US warplanes dropped 14 bombs in strikes against targets in Fallujah and Baquba.

In the fighting, guerrillas pledged allegiance to a group called Tawhid wa al-Jihad (Unification and Holy War), a militant faction linked to Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, whom Washington accuses of being linked with Al-Qaeda.

Tawhid al-Jihad claimed the beheadings of 26-year-old American Nicolas Berg in early May and South Korean Kim Sun-Il on Tuesday. It has threatened to kill Iyad Allawi, the country's interim prime minister, considered a security hawk who enjoys close ties to the Americans.

It was the first time the group had engaged directly in fighting with the coalition, as opposed to planting bombs.

In Washington, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said al-Zarqawi is going to be "a little short handed" after air strikes on safe houses in Fallujah.

The violence cast a cloud over Iraq's future following the transfer of sovereignty. UN officials in New York said the worsening security situation made it difficult for the world body to move back to Baghdad, where a bomb explosion last year killed 22 people, including the top UN official.

"From our point of view, the first of July is not going to change the situation," said Veronique Taveau, spokeswoman for the UN's Iraq mission in Jordan. "Everything is linked to security."

Washington has turned to the UN to provide the legal umbrella for a broader international participation in Iraq.

It is also asking the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is holding a summit meeting in Istanbul next week, to take over the training of Iraqi security forces. Urging NATO intervention, Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said insurgents were "trying to derail the process of building a stable Iraq."

But a spokeswoman for French President Jacques Chirac, the leading international critic of the US-led invasion of Iraq, said he was "more than reserved" on the idea of NATO's providing anything more than technical assistance.

Iraq struggled to resume oil exports following the sabotage of southern pipelines last week. Engineers repaired one of the pipelines, enabling output of up to 900,000 barrels a day from the southern port of Basra, half as much as before the sabotage attacks.

Super Strong 5 Year Old

The boy has muscles twice the size of other children his age and half their body fat.
He was born to a muscular mother, a former sprinter. Her brother and three other relatives were also very strong — one a construction worker with a talent for hefting curbstones.

Studies have suggested that a gene called myostatin controls the growth of muscles in humans. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could one day help people with muscle wasting diseases.

The discovery followed DNA tests on the German boy, born with unusually well developed muscles. The scientists found that the boy had a mutation in the myostatin gene. This mutation meant he was unable to produce myostatin protein.

Scientists have no way right now to tell how common the boy's ability is, or if a legion of super-strong tykes will be discovered now that researchers have learned what to look for.

A fluke or the Future?

Genetic mutations have been accredited to a natural process of evolution by some. There are few components of modern evolutionary theory, however, which seem so prone to misinterpretation as the theory of punctuated equilibrium (PE for short).

PE states, essentially, that evolution occurs in jumps as opposed to a gradual change; though this definition is an oversimplification of a very complex idea.

Karakorum 2025 Featuring the Super Climbers

The discovery of the Myostatin mutation may eventually enable doctors to use myostatin hormone therapy to treat people with muscular dystrophy, a degenerative condition for which there is no cure.

It could also develop into another form of doping (take for example world 100-meter record-holder Tim Montgomery who admitted today to taking human growth hormones). Just remember though, having muscles twice the size of other mountaineers does not necessarily make a person a better climber. Just take a look at some of the climbers out there today; their strength lies in their minds, spirits and endurance.

Is Sending Troops To Iraq A Mistake?

A poll shows a big swing in U.S. public opinion against the war in Iraq this month, with a majority of Americans now saying they believe the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq.

Fifty-four percent of those who took part in a survey conducted by the Gallup polling organization for CNN television and the newspaper USA Today say U.S. military involvement in Iraq was a mistake -- the first time that opinion has been expressed by a majority of Americans.

The Gallup poll asked the same question on six earlier occasions since March 2003. During the first days of the war, 75 percent of Americans said they felt U.S. military action was the right course; since October, between 40 and 44 percent of those polled have said the U.S. military involvement was a mistake.

Teen Gets Picked #1 In The NBA Draft

New York Post Online Edition: sports
The Orlando Magic, riding the trend of younger players in the NBA, chose prep star Dwight Howard over UConn center Emeka Okafor with the first pick in the NBA Draft last night. He was the first of a record eight prep players to be picked in the first round.

But the Charlotte Bobcats, picking second, didn't keep Okafor waiting. They were ecstatic to grab the MVP of the Final Four, who is more NBA-ready than Howard.

The pick settled the two intriguing questions heading into the draft. Orlando didn't trade the pick and, unlike last year, when everyone knew the Cleveland Cavaliers were taking LeBron James, the Howard-Okafor debate raged.

"It's really hard to explain," said Howard. "To be the first player selected, it feels so good. Now I'm ready to go to work."

Okafor was flattered the Bobcats traded up earlier this week to get the No. 2 pick. He said there is more pressure having been selected by Charlotte, because he understands his role as the cornerstone of the expansion franchise.

"It makes me feel all warm inside," said the Final Four MVP. "It just shows they be lieve in my ability. I know that their staff and everybody is fully behind me and has my best intentions at heart."

With the top big man gone, the next question concerned which point guard would go first. Once again, it would force a GM to choose between a high school player or college player. The Bulls went with Ben Gordon, the former Mount Vernon star.

With the selections of Okafor and Gordon, both juniors, UConn took another step towards stamping itself as one of college basketball's best-ever programs. Not only did the duo lead UConn to its second NCAA title, it made draft history.

In 1969 UCLA's Lew Alcindor — who would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — and Lucious Allen were the first and third players chosen. Duke's Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy went two and three in 2002. UConn joins the ranks.

"It's like a fairy tale," said Gordon. "Two guys coming in in the same year, winning a championship together and then going 2-3 in the draft, it's the greatest feeling in the world."

The Clippers wasted no time in making a pick that should sit well with Elton Brand and Corey Maggette. They selected Shaun Livingston, giving the Clippers some of the best young talent in the NBA.

Colleges took the edge in the draft as Harris went fifth to Washington, which then included him in a trade package with Jerry Stackhouse to Dallas for forward Antawn Jamison.

The Hawks had a chance to select local favorite, Josh Smith, but instead opted for Stanford's Josh Childress. Atlanta took Smith with the 17th pick. The Suns took Duke's Luol Deng and traded him to the Bulls for a future No. 1 pick.

Then the draft took a strange turn. Toronto selected BYU center Rafael Araujo, the first college senior taken. After the 76ers sought to take the scoring load off Allen Iverson by taking Arizona's Andre Iguodala, Cleveland tabbed swingman Luke Jackson. Araujo and Jackson in the Top 10 were a surprise.

But nothing was more shocking than the Portland Trail Blazers using the 13th pick on Lincoln star Sebastian Telfair. There was some question whether Telfair would go in the first round.

The Nets used the 22nd pick on Victor Khryapa and immediately traded him to Portland for backup point guard Eddie Gill and cash. New Jersey prep star J.R. Smith went to New Orleans with the 18th pick.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

How SpaceShipOne Works

MSNBC - Where does �outer space� begin?
Hey I found this while I was surfing it pretty neat.Click on the link above if you would like to see how SpaceShipOne operates.After you click the link scrooll down a bit and be looking on the left hand side its the 3 box down. You will see a box with a picture of SpaceShipOne and it says interactive on the top click on the box and enjoy.

The view from a camera mounted on the SpaceShipOne rocket plane shows Earth's curvature, the blackness of space and a broad expanse of the California desert. Should this altitude be considered outer space, or perhaps "midspace" instead?

$447.2 Billion Defence Bill

The Senate last night approved President Bush's military spending blueprint for next year after a five-week struggle during which Republicans turned back Democrats' attempts to reshape it.

The 97 to 0 vote to approve the measure followed a 50 to 48 vote to defeat a proposal by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) directing the administration to report to Congress on progress in Iraq, including estimates of the number of U.S. troops who will be there at the end of next year. The Senate approved a Republican alternative requiring a report on other aspects of attempts to stabilize Iraq, but not troop estimates.

The Senate also rejected a proposal by Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) to guarantee annual increases in veterans' health benefits. The vote was 49 to 48 in favor of Daschle's proposal, but it needed 60 votes to pass because it violated budget limits.

The $447.2 billion defense authorization bill includes $25 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which may have to be augmented next year, and an increase of more than $20 billion over current levels for other expenditures. Included are record expenditures of about $70 billion for development of an array of planes, ships and weapons, surpassing even the buildup of the 1980s.

It includes a 3.5 percent military pay raise along with increases in other benefits, $10.2 billion for Bush's planned missile defense program and a go-ahead for further research on two new nuclear weapons: a low-yield "mini-nuke" and a high-yield "bunker buster" to destroy deep underground facilities.

In several votes over the past two weeks, Democrats attempted to slow what they regard as unduly hasty deployment of initial missile defenses -- the scaled-back version of President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" plan for a nuclear shield that Bush has made a centerpiece of his national security policy.

Although Republicans agreed to require operational tests next year, they balked at forcing them to be conducted by an independent testing office. They also refused to condition spending for new weaponry on any test results and rejected proposals to shift some of the funds to homeland security programs.

Democrats also failed to derail the new nuclear weapons, make war profiteering a crime and bar private contractors from interrogating war prisoners. But they succeeded in adding to the defense bill one of their major domestic priorities: legislation to toughen hate-crime laws by including gays for the first time.

The Senate-passed bill must be reconciled with a House version approved last month, a process that could prove difficult on several points. Both bills include the same framework reflecting Bush's priorities but include some politically charged differences over key details.

For instance, the House bill would delay the next round of military base closings from 2005 to 2007. The Senate's legislation would let the closures proceed as scheduled next year.

The House would permanently expand troop ranks by 39,000 -- 30,000 for the Army and 9,000 for the Marine Corps -- over the next three years. The Senate would mandate a 20,000 increase for the Army only next year. The administration opposes any mandatory increases, preferring authority to increase force levels at its discretion.

The House also included far more stringent "Buy American" rules for procurement of military materials than the Senate did. A fight over these rules delayed agreement on last year's defense bill for months, and the issue is bigger this year because of military needs and elections.

Caffeine Free Coffee

If you are one of those health conscious people who like coffee but are wary of the caffeine in it, there is god news for you.

According to Nature, Brazilian researchers have discovered naturally caffeine-free coffee by breeding 3,000 Ethiopian coffee plants as part of a programme to produce low-caffeine strains.

A natural decaffeinated version of Coffea arabica has been found growing in the wild.

They found three bushes, all derived from the same plant, that were virtually caffeine free, containing 15 times less stimulant than commercial strains. The shrubs belong to the species Coffea arabica, the most cultivated and consumed coffee in the world.

According to Paulo Mazzafera from the State University of Campinas, who co-discovered the plants, "This is the first time anyone has found a decaffeinated version of Coffea arabica."

The researchers have not been able to taste any coffee made from the plants as these will take several years to mature. The bushes also grow around 30 percent more slowly than standard arabica plants, so the team hopes to crossbreed them with their caffeine-rich relatives to produce a fast-growing, caffeine-free variety. But selective breeding like this can take ten years or more.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Top News Article | Reuters.com

Islamist militants vowed on Wednesday to assassinate Iraq's interim prime minister, hours after saying they had beheaded a South Korean hostage in the violent run-up to a U.S. handover to Iraqi rule.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian accused by U.S. officials of organizing many deadly attacks in Iraq and having links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, made the threat against Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on an Islamist Web site.

"As for you, Allawi -- sorry, the democratically elected prime minister -- we have found for you a useful poison and a sure sword," said a taped voice, purported to be Zarqawi's own.

Allawi, a tough former Baathist who plotted against Saddam Hussein from exile, responded defiantly.

"We do not care about these threats, we will continue to rebuild Iraq and work for freedom, democracy, justice and peace. Iraqis have faced these threats before," said a spokesman for Allawi.

The interim government, selected by a U.N. envoy in consultation with U.S. and Iraqi officials, will be sworn in when the U.S.-led occupation formally ends in a week's time.

Zarqawi's group, Jama'at al-Tawhid and Jihad, said on Tuesday it had decapitated South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il after Seoul refused to withdraw forces from Iraq.


Hours after finding Kim's body, U.S. forces launched an air strike on a suspected safe house of Zarqawi's group in Falluja, west of Baghdad, the second such raid in four days.

A senior U.S. military official said around 20 foreign fighters were killed in the strike, while Falluja residents said the attack destroyed a garage and killed four people.

Washington says Saddam supporters and foreign Islamist militants are intensifying a campaign of bombings, assassinations and attacks on oil industry targets in an attempt to disrupt the June 30 handover to Allawi's government

Arabic Al Jazeera television showed footage Tuesday of hooded gunmen standing over a kneeling Kim, who was blindfolded and wearing an orange tunic similar to those worn by prisoners in U.S. detention centers such as Guantanamo Bay.
"We warned you and you ignored it," one of the gunmen said. "Enough lies. Your army is not here for the sake of Iraqis but for the sake of cursed America."

Al Jazeera said the tape then showed a man cutting off Kim's head with a knife. It did not broadcast that part.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun denounced Kim's killing and said his country would still send 3,000 more troops to Iraq to join its 670 engineers and medics already in the country.

The Arabic-speaking South Korean translator, who shouted "I don't want to die" in an earlier video tape, was kidnapped in Falluja. His firm initially said he had been taken on June 17, but the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said it may have been earlier.


Washington, which views Zarqawi as a chief architect of violence in Iraq, has put a $10 million bounty on his head.

"The free world cannot be intimidated by the brutal action of these barbaric people," President Bush said.

A roadside bomb blast killed a woman and a small boy and wounded the woman's husband in Baghdad Wednesday. The husband kept asking hospital staff to call his wife, unaware she was dead. The couple had been married 15 days.

Kim's parents had urged their government to do everything to save their son, a devout Christian who had worked in Iraq for a year for a South Korean firm supplying the U.S. army.

After news of his death, they sat cross-legged and stunned in their modest backstreet house in the South Korean city of Pusan, as his sister wailed and thrashed around in grief.

Kim's killing echoed the beheadings of a U.S. hostage in Iraq last month and a U.S. hostage in Saudi Arabia last week. All three were dressed in orange before being killed by militants said to have links to al Qaeda
Since early April, dozens of foreigners have been seized in Iraq. Many have been freed, but at least four have been killed.
Signaling readiness to defuse tension with Britain, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said eight British servicemen held in Iran after their boats strayed into the Islamic Republic's waters would be freed Wednesday.

But an Iranian television station said later the release was likely to be delayed until Thursday. The report also said the three British boats would stay in Iranian naval custody.

Iranian forces captured the Britons Monday in the wreck-infested Shatt al-Arab waterway along the Iraqi border.

In Brussels, a NATO official said Allawi had asked the alliance to help train Iraq's fledgling security forces and provide other "technical assistance" to his interim government.

The United States and Britain have been keen for NATO to play a role in Iraq, but some other member countries are against the idea

College Student Auctioning His Virginity

A Bournemouth University student is auctioning his virginity on his personal website and has put a reserve of £6,000 on it.

David Vardy, 19, got the idea from Rosie Reid's sex auction in March and has received scores of emails from women around the world.

David first advertised on eBay, but they pulled the ad after 7,000 hits because of its sexual content. Now he's posted the ad on his own site.

He has already received eight firm offers, with the top bid at £6,114. If his sale is successful he plans to give £1,000 to charity, says The Sun.

David, who lists his interests as entertainment, the media, computers and money, says he is just hoping the winner is attractive.

He said: "I've never had a serious girlfriend and have never had sex. I have been wrapped up in multi-media projects since I was a teenager so I haven't had time. But saying that, I don't want to sound a geek.

"The ideal situation would be if it was a really nice woman. I hope it will be enjoyable."

Scientists Found A Way To Make Males Not Stray

Scientists say they have found how to change promiscuous wayward males into attentive home-loving husbands.

Nature magazine reports that the breakthrough has been achieved with voles but has implications for humans.

By altering one gen in the brain hormone chemistry, scientists made a promiscuous meadow vole faithful - just like its prairie vole cousin.

After mating, male prairie voles "fall in love", choosing to stick close to their chosen one, guard her jealously and help her raise their young.

Closely related meadow voles, on the other hand, mate with several females and pay little attention to their babies.

A hormone called vasopressin encourages pair-bonding in prairie voles. Scientists noticed that meadow voles have fewer vasopressin receptors and decided to try giving them more.

The results were remarkable. The meadow voles changed their ways and suddenly fixed on one female, choosing to mate with only her - even when other females tried to tempt them.

"We think what happens is when the voles mate, vasopressin activates the reward centre, and it really makes the animals pay attention to who they are mating with," co-author Larry Young, from Emory University, Georgia, told BBC News Online.

"It makes the voles think: "when I'm with this partner I feel good". And from then on, they want to spend their time with that particular partner."

The strings of human behaviour might be pulled by similar hormones and similar pathways.

"We know that vasopressin is released when humans have sex," said Professor Young. "Sex is probably involved in maintaining the bond between humans and vasopressin may play a role in that."

Ansari X Prize Worth $10M

It was yet another small step for mankind on Monday in Mojave, Calif., when SpaceShipOne left the atmosphere and returned to the earth under its own power.

The privately owned spacecraft only got about 400 feet into space, according to radar measurements, but it was enough to confirm that it no longer takes a well-heeled government project to organize space travel.

The real achievement, however, will be for SpaceShipOne to do it all over again within 14 days of the first flight. If that happens, the team behind the flight will win the Ansari X prize, worth $10 million. If they don't, there are two dozen other teams preparing for their shot at immortality.

The prize, of course, is hardly the motivating force in this privatized space initiative. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is expected to spend $20 million backing SpaceShipOne, and the two dozen teams competing for the prize are well aware there are going to be nearly two dozen losers.

But the prize does serve as a benchmark to focus all the teams' attention on the goal. Without it, it's likely not all of the teams involved would be attempting to reach outer space.

This competition is lending a sense of urgency to the goal of popularizing space travel, though it's unlikely private enterprise could compete with NASA anytime soon.

The most likely practical use for the immediate successors of SpaceShipOne is "space tourism" - the ability to send a few well-heeled people on a rocket ride into space once the technology is perfected.

Indeed, one team told the Associated Press it's already crunching the numbers for such an enterprise - that's why they built a seven-seat shuttle, four more than SpaceShipOne has.

Is all this absolutely necessary? Probably not. We feel confident that the folks who could afford to do this would be just as happy to go on an African safari or a cross-country motorcycle ride when they're feeling bored.

Still, all mankind benefits when a few people with vision reach beyond what's immediately possible to achieve something that's never been done before. Good luck to SpaceShipOne on its next flight, which we hope is soon.It was yet another small step for mankind on Monday in Mojave, Calif., when SpaceShipOne left the atmosphere and returned to the earth under its own power.

The privately owned spacecraft only got about 400 feet into space, according to radar measurements, but it was enough to confirm that it no longer takes a well-heeled government project to organize space travel.

The real achievement, however, will be for SpaceShipOne to do it all over again within 14 days of the first flight. If that happens, the team behind the flight will win the Ansari X prize, worth $10 million. If they don't, there are two dozen other teams preparing for their shot at immortality.

The prize, of course, is hardly the motivating force in this privatized space initiative. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is expected to spend $20 million backing SpaceShipOne, and the two dozen teams competing for the prize are well aware there are going to be nearly two dozen losers.

But the prize does serve as a benchmark to focus all the teams' attention on the goal. Without it, it's likely not all of the teams involved would be attempting to reach outer space.

This competition is lending a sense of urgency to the goal of popularizing space travel, though it's unlikely private enterprise could compete with NASA anytime soon.

The most likely practical use for the immediate successors of SpaceShipOne is "space tourism" - the ability to send a few well-heeled people on a rocket ride into space once the technology is perfected.

Indeed, one team told the Associated Press it's already crunching the numbers for such an enterprise - that's why they built a seven-seat shuttle, four more than SpaceShipOne has.

Is all this absolutely necessary? Probably not. We feel confident that the folks who could afford to do this would be just as happy to go on an African safari or a cross-country motorcycle ride when they're feeling bored.

Still, all mankind benefits when a few people with vision reach beyond what's immediately possible to achieve something that's never been done before. Good luck to SpaceShipOne on its next flight, which we hope is soon.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Kim Sun-il Decapitated

South Korea's president expressed sorrow over the beheading of one of his country's citizens in Iraq but said he will still send more troops there.

South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il just before being decapitated by his captors

Roh Moo-hyun also told his countrymen in a brief televised address that South Korea would deal resolutely with terrorism.

The kidnappers followed through Tuesday on their threat to 33-year-old Kim Sun-il.

He was found by the U.S. military between Baghdad and Fallujah Tuesday, said South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil. It's not clear when he was killed.

South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il pleading for his life. We have to put a stop to this. Before long one of these guys are going to slip up and we will get there ass.It has to be the same people doing this.

"It breaks our heart that we have to announce this unfortunate news," he said.

The South Korean embassy in Baghdad confirmed that the body was Kim's by studying a picture of the remains it received by e-mail, Shin said.

Al Jazeera television aired a brief extract of film Tuesday that showed a group of armed gunmen, standing over a kneeling, blindfolded figure, saying they were about to carry out their threat.

"We warned you and you ignored (the warning) ... Enough lies," one of the men said. Your army is not here for the sake of Iraqis but for the sake of cursed America."

Militants, reportedly from the al Qaeda-linked group Monotheism and Jihad, kidnapped Kim Sun-il on June 17.

On Monday, they threatened to kill him if South Korea did not withdraw from the country its 670 military medics and engineers and cancel plans to send another 3,000 troops in August. They gave Seoul 24 hours to halt the deployment plans or they would "send you the head of this Korean."

The deadline passed with South Korea government officials saying they would not change their decision.

Kim had been in Iraq for about eight months working as a Korean-English translator for the Gana General Trading, Co., a supplier for the U.S. military.

On Sunday, the Al-Jazeera TV network aired a videotape purportedly of Kim Sun-il begging for his life and pleading with his government to withdraw troops from Iraq.

"Korean soldiers, please get out of here," he screamed in English, flailing his arms.
"I don't want to die. I don't want to die."

Monotheism and Jihad is said to be led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. His group claimed responsibility for the videotaped beheading last month of American businessman Nicholas Berg.

Just last week, an American engineer working in Saudi Arabia , Paul M. Johnson Jr., was beheaded by al Qaeda militants. His captors had called for the kingdom to release its al Qaeda prisoners. The demands were ignored.

Seoul, which is eager to strengthen its alliance with the United States, says its troop deployment will make it the largest U.S. partner in Iraq after Britain.

On Saturday, Seoul warned civilians not to travel to Iraq, saying its deployment decision might prompt terror attacks on South Koreans.

A Seoul Commerce Ministry spokeswoman says all South Koreans working for firms in Iraq were likely to leave the country by early next month.

Abu Ghraib Prison Trails

A military judge ruled Monday that defense lawyers in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse trials will be allowed to question the highest-ranking U.S. military officials in Iraq and the Middle East in an effort to prove that U.S. policy-makers set the stage for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

"All seven MPs are being used as scapegoats," said Guy Womack, the Houston attorney representing Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr. "No one can suggest with a straight face that these MPs were acting alone."

Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have argued that the indicted soldiers were rogue military police who broke the rules, but defense lawyers said they will prove that the accused reservists were following orders to break detainees down for interrogation in an atmosphere created by public statements by President Bush and rulings by top military officials.

In Monday's pretrial hearings for two of the defendants -- Graner, 35, and Sgt. Javal S. Davis, 26 -- military judge Col. James Pohl granted permission for civilian attorneys to question Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East; Brig. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq; and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and now runs U.S. detention facilities in Iraq.

Pohl turned down a request to compel testimony from Rumsfeld but said he might reconsider if attorneys can show it is relevant to their case.

In interviews after the hearing, the civilian attorneys suggested they will press for testimony from Bush.

"We will ask to have the president of the United States as a witness," said Paul Bergrin, who is representing Davis. "I don't really care how much political pressure they put on me." However, neither of the lawyers petitioned for Bush's testimony at the pretrial hearing.

The question of whether the accused reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company in Cresaptown, Md., were swept up in a drive to extract information from prisoners or were simply aberrant abusers cuts to the heart of the political battle that has raged in Washington since photographs of U.S. soldiers manipulating naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners first aired on CBS's "60 Minutes II" in late April.

As the abuse scandal spread, the seven soldiers in the photos gained notoriety. One of the most infamous was Graner, 35, whose bespectacled face is seen in the amateur photos, grinning in apparent delight over a pyramid of naked Iraqi men in hoods. He is accused of stomping on prisoners' hands and punching one so hard that he lost consciousness.

But Womack said Graner had complained repeatedly to military intelligence officials running Abu Ghraib that he was being urged to abuse prisoners and carry out acts that "might put him in jail." He was told it had been ordered by military intelligence, Womack said.

Davis is charged with placing naked prisoners in a pile on the floor of Abu Ghraib's Tier 1A interrogation block and then jumping on them. Bergrin said Davis and other troops sent to Iraq last year believed there were no limits in their fight against terrorism.

"One of the last words that my client heard before being deployed was the president of the United States stating to the American public that this is a war on terrorism and that the Geneva Conventions did not and will not apply," Bergrin said.

Bush has insisted that he ordered the military to comply with international law, including the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war, but administration lawyers had argued that the conventions do not apply to some detainees, including those at Guantanamo Air Base in Cuba, who have been labeled "enemy combatants.''

Graner, who had already drawn fire for possible abuse of prisoners in his civilian job as a prison guard in western Pennsylvania, drew the same conclusions as Davis about his Iraq mission, his attorney argued.

"He had heard that the old rules don't apply here, because we are fighting irregular forces," said Womack. "They were ordered to do certain things. They were congratulated. They believed they were doing something lawful as part of the war on terrorism."

In another ruling, Pohl declared Abu Ghraib prison a crime scene and barred anyone from demolishing it before a verdict. In a speech last month, Bush had suggested that the prison be leveled to blot out the legacy of abuse and torture there under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Arguing that abysmal prison conditions had driven soldiers to extreme behavior, Bergrin said he wants to take the court's "panel," or jury, to the facility to "smell the fecal matter and the urine" in which the accused soldiers had been forced to work and live.

After weeks of dry military justice, the civilian attorneys' hard- charging courtroom strategy signaled that the courts-martial are likely to focus on U.S. policy in Iraq as much as on the specific charges. Bergrin, a criminal attorney from Malborough, N.J., who sported slicked-back black hair, a black shirt and a gold chain around his neck, told reporters he was preparing to defend his 28th client charged with murder and brushed off the seriousness of trying to prove the Bush administration's culpability in the prisoner-abuse scandal.

Little of the hearing's potential importance was apparent Monday in the small makeshift courtroom in the Baghdad Convention Center. With temperatures reaching about 120 degrees outside, the judge and attorneys took frequent swigs from bottles of water as they spoke above the whir of fans.

For a few minutes, the courtroom was plunged into total darkness as the electricity system gave out. When the lights flickered back on, Pohl -- whose dry wit marked several discussions -- looked around the room and said, with deadpan delivery: "All the parties are still here."

The pretrial hearing for Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, who is accused of putting a hooded detainee on a box with wires attached to his hands and threatening electric shock if he fell, was also scheduled to begin Monday. But that case was postponed until July 23 after his civilian lawyer, Gary Myers, failed to appear. Myers argued in a letter that the enormous risks in traveling to Baghdad effectively denied Frederick his right to a civilian attorney.

Pohl ruled out a defense request to move the trial to the United States or Germany but said he might reconsider if conditions in Iraq warrant it by the time the trial begins. No date for the proceeding has been set, but Womack said he does not expect it to begin before October.

One of the seven accused MPs, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced to a year in prison, reduction in rank and a bad- conduct discharge. A hearing for another soldier, Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, was postponed until July 12 at Fort Bragg, N.C., where she is now stationed. The military has not decided whether to refer the cases against two others -- Spc. Sabrina Harman and Pfc. Megan Ambuhl -- to courts-martial.

South Korean Held Hostage

SOUTH Korea was trying last night to negotiate with Islamic militants holding one of its nationals hostage in Iraq after a deadline for his execution by beheading passed with the man apparently still alive.

A six-member government delegation arrived in Jordan as part of frantic efforts to secure the release of 33-year-old translator Kim Sun-il.

Video images of Mr Kim begging for his life shocked South Korea, where public opposition to the war in Iraq is strong.

Several hundred South Koreans staged a candlelight vigil in central Seoul yesterday and demanded that President Roh Moo-hyun scrap the troop deployment and secure Mr Kim's release.

Officials in Seoul said the 24-hour deadline for Mr Kim's execution expired about 2am AEST yesterday. Choi Sung-gab, head of a South Korean security firm working in Iraq, said his Iraqi business partner had contacted the kidnappers and confirmed that Mr Kim was still alive and safe.

Seoul mounted a publicity campaign to convince Iraqis that thousands of South Korean troops destined for Iraq were seeking only to carry out relief and rehabilitaion work. The Government insisted it would not abandon plans to send more than 3000 troops to Iraq – the price Mr Kim's abductors put on his life.

The threat to behead Mr Kim was delivered in a videotape screened on Al-Jazeera television on Sunday and repeated several times on South Korean television networks on Monday.

The militants identified themselves as belonging to the Tawhid wa al-Jihad (Unification and Holy War), a group led by al-Qa'ida-affiliated terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The footage was released two days after the beheading of American hostage Paul Johnson by al-Qa'ida extremists in Saudi Arabia.

South Korea is standing firm on its pledge to deploy troops to the north of Iraq from August on a relief and rehabilitation mission, making it the third-largest US coalition partner in Iraq after Britain.

As part of an outreach campaign to Iraqis, South Korea used one of the few channels immediately available, Al-Jazeera. South Korea's ambassador to Qatar, Chung Moon-soo, appeared in a live interview with the pan-Arab news channel, assuring Iraqis the troop dispatch was to help with rehabilitation work.

South Korea's Defence Ministry said its military doctors in southern Iraq had suspended free treatment to Iraqi patients because of safety concerns. About 600 South Korean troops, mostly medics and engineers, have been stationed in Nasiriyah since last year.

The dean of Mosul University law school, Leila Abdullah Saad, and her husband, Falah Hassan, were shot dead in their home and had their throats slit yesterday, apparently the latest in a series of targetted killings of Iraq's technocrat class by insurgents.


Monday, June 21, 2004

Space Ship One

The privately funded rocket plane SpaceShipOne flew to outer space and into history books on Monday as the world's first commercial manned space flight.

SpaceShipOne descends to earth during the historic flight beyond Earth's atmosphere, over the Mojave Airport in California, June 21, 2004. SpaceShipOne, the first privately-funded rocket plane, flew to outer space and into history books on Monday after blasting 62 miles above the earth, marking the world's first manned commercial space flight. The flight marked the first time that a non-government spacecraft reached the altitude considered the boundary between earth's atmosphere and outer space.

The white rocket plane was released from a larger plane called the White Knight and ignited its rocket engine to enter space and reach an altitude of 328,491 feet, or 62.2 miles above the earth.

Against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, it landed safely back at a runway in the Mojave Desert in California, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Thousands had gathered for the hourlong journey.

"The sky was jet black above, and it got very blue above the horizon," said pilot Michael Melvill, 63, who earned his wings as an astronaut and was greeted by Buzz Aldrin, one of the first men to walk on the moon.

"The earth is so beautiful," added Melvill in describing the planet's vast curvature and the Southern California coast he saw during a brief three and half minutes just beyond the atmosphere.

"The flight today opens a new chapter in history, making space within the reach of ordinary citizens," declared Patti Grace Smith, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation.

The plane with its striking nose -- a pointed cone covered with small portholes -- was designed by legendary aerospace designer Burt Rutan and built with more than $20 million in funding by billionaire Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft Corp .

Rutan and Allen said the success of the project proved commercial space flight and space tourism would soon become a reality.

"We've clearly shown it can be done," said Allen, who attended the launch of the first U.S. space shuttle in 1981.

Future flights in spacecraft based on SpaceShipOne's design will be able to take at least six passengers to 93 miles above the earth, said Rutan, who designed the Voyager airplane that was flown nonstop around the world in 1986 by his brother Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager.


Sunday, June 20, 2004

Johnson's Killer

Police cars and armored vehicles and a large contingent of emergency forces filled the area, and blockades were set up at all the entrances to the al-Malaz district.

Witnesses told The Associated Press that they saw shooting between suspects and police before some men fled on foot, seeking refuge in a house.

Al-Muqrin above claimed responsibility for Johnson's killing.

It was the same area where Abid al-Aziz al-Muqran (search), believed to be the leader of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, and three other militants were killed in a shootout with Saudi security forces on Friday, hours after photos of American Paul M. Johnson's (search) body and severed head were posted on a Web site.

Police are continuing their search for Johnson's body and the militants involved in his death. Early Sunday, armored vehicles and a helicopter sealed off three neighborhoods of the Saudi capital, searching any cars that tried to leave the areas.

Earlier Sunday, an account of the kidnapping was posted on an Islamic extremist Web site that said Al Qaeda militants disguised in police uniforms and cars provided by sympathizers in the Saudi security forces set up a fake checkpoint to snare the American engineer they later beheaded.

The account of Johnson's abduction highlighted fears that some diplomats and Westerners in the kingom have expressed, that militants have infiltrated Saudi security forces, a possibility Saudi officials have denied.

In a separate article on the Web site, the leader of the Al Qaeda cell behind the abduction justified the targeting of Johnson, pointing to his work on Apache attack helicopters for Lockheed Martin (search).

Johnson "works for military aviation and he belongs to the American army, which kills, tortures and harms Muslims everywhere, which supports enemies (of Islam) in Palestine, Philippines, Kashmir," wrote al-Muqrin, who was killed by Saudi security forces in a gunbattle Friday night, hours after Johnson's slaying.

The articles in Sawt al-Jihad, or Voice of the Holy War, a semimonthly Internet periodical posted by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, came as police continued their search for Johnson's body and the militants involved in his death.

The article said militants wearing police uniforms and using police cars set up a fake checkpoint June 12 on al-Khadma Road, leading to the airport, near Imam Mohammed bin Saud University.

"A number of the cooperators who are sincere to their religion in the security apparatus donated those clothes and the police cars. We ask God to reward them and that they use their energy to serve Islam and the mujahedeen," the article read.

When Johnson's car approached the checkpoint, the militants stopped his car, detained him, anesthetized him and carried him to another car, the article said. Earlier Saudi newspaper reports had also said Johnson was drugged during the kidnapping.

The article said they then blew up Johnson's car.

Security officials said last week that Johnson's car was found near Imam University. Saudi press reports said the car was booby-trapped and later caught fire.

On the same day as Johnson's abduction, militants shot and killed another American, Kenneth Scroggs (search) of Laconia, N.H., in his garage in Riyadh.

Earlier that week, militants in the capital also shot and killed Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers (search), who was filming for the British Broadcasting Corp. when he was shot, and another American, Robert Jacobs of Murphysboro, Ill.

After the kidnapping, his captors said they would kill Johnson on Friday unless Saudi Arabia released jailed Al Qaeda militants — a demand the Saudi government refused.

Sunday's Al Qaeda article said the militants decided to behead Johnson when Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah in Washington, declared that Saudi Arabia would not negotiate with the kidnappers.

"The stupid Saudi government took the initiative and announced by the Americanized tongue Adel Al-Jubeir that it will not submit to the conditions of the mujahedeen," the statement read.

The group said it beheaded Johnson, 49, when its deadline expired Friday.

Al-Muqran's final article, written after Johnson's kidnapping, described the American as "an infidel, a warrior of the military."

Al-Muqran replied to critics urging the release of Johnson, saying: "Do those people want to see this infidel carry on the killing of the children and the raping of the women in Baghdad and Kabul?"

"We can't preserve the dignity of Muslims but through these means," he wrote.

Al-Muqran, believed to be the top Al Qaeda figure in Saudi Arabia, was killed along with three other militants in a Riyadh gunbattle Friday night, hours after photos of Johnson's body and severed head were posted on a Web site.

The others killed were identified as Faisal Abdul-Rahman al-Dikheel, Turki bin Fuheid al-Muteiry and Ibrahim bin Abdullah al-Dreiham. Al-Dikheel was believed to be the No. 2 Al Qaeda militant in Saudi Arabia.

One security officer was killed and two were wounded in the gunbattle, the official Saudi news agency reported.

The Interior Ministry said 12 suspected militants also were arrested in a sweep of the capital.

The ministry said authorities also confiscated forged identity papers, $38,000 in Saudi and American currency, three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, hand grenades, automatic rifles and other weapons.

Sex Better Than Money

How to be happy" is an unusual subject for investment advice, but an analyst's note on the topic caught the City's attention on Friday - and not just because it mentioned sex.

The suggestions for improving happiness by James Montier, global equity strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, included devoting time and effort to close relationships, meditating on the good things on life, getting enough sleep and, yes, "have sex (preferably with someone you love)".

Perhaps the most iconoclastic suggestion for a City audience was "don't equate happiness with money".

Mr Montier said he had written the note to balance his usual bearish outlook, which sometimes depressed even himself.

It was inspired by a continuing dialogue with Albert Edwards, his global equity allocation colleague, about the nature of happiness. Mr Edwards had also published a note about his pursuit of happiness through speed dating.

The biggest hurdle was getting the note approved by the bank's research department, which took five hours to clear it.

Mr Montier said: "It did get a round of applause from the trading floor, which was a first. Normally I get booed off."

He has lectured on behavioural finance, the application of psychology to markets, and published a book on the subject.

Because the note is technically investment advice, DrKW can only send it to clients and cannot post it on its website. But, in the interest of spreading happiness, an unregulated friend might just be persuaded to pass it on.

3 Bodies Found In A Lake

Three bodies tied together with nylon rope were found Saturday after they washed ashore along the Lake Michigan shoreline in southern Wisconsin.

The bodies of a man and two young children were found by an area resident at 11 a.m. in the village of Pleasant Prairie, police chief Brian Wagner said in a written statement. The town is near Kenosha, about 58 miles north of Chicago.

Police said they were submerged for a considerable period. Authorities were waiting for results of an autopsy to determine the sex of the children.

Tim Weller, a search and rescue controller for the U.S. Coast Guard based in Milwaukee, said Pleasant Prairie police contacted his office to see whether there were reports of missing persons.

The office, which patrols the shoreline from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the waters near Gary, Ind., had no such reports, he said.

Weller also contacted the U.S. Coast Guard in Grand Haven, Mich., across the lake.

"We have not been able to attribute this to anything the Coast Guard has been notified about,'' Weller said.

"We are waiting word to find out where they came from and what happened,'' he said.

O'neal & McGrady

Shock waves were still being felt throughout the NBA on Saturday after two of the game's biggest stars demanded to be traded.

The Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal and Orlando's Tracy McGrady are on the trade market, while Kobe Bryant is a free agent after opting out -- as expected -- from his contract with the Lakers.

Coach Phil Jackson also is a free agent after parting ties with the Lakers.

The news, which all came down Friday, turned the NBA into a sort of fantasy league.

''If any GM out there wants a hard-working big man who wants to win championships, call [Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak because he will entertain offers,'' O'Neal said.

The Los Angeles Daily News, quoting sources, said Kupchak plans to work immediately on granting O'Neal's request.

The New York Daily News reported O'Neal is open to the possibility of being traded only to a few teams, including Orlando, Atlanta and Dallas.

The Forth Worth Star-Telegram speculated coach Don Nelson might be willing to step aside for Jackson.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban is a lock to be interested in O'Neal, but Kupchak likely will make sure any trade will be to an Eastern Conference team.

Indiana believes it's one piece away from an NBA title, but the Pacers may be more inclined to pursue McGrady. Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh admitted having talked to the Magic about McGrady.

The Pacers likely would have to include Jermaine O'Neal in a trade for Shaquille O'Neal, and Jermaine O'Neal is considered the one untouchable on the Pacers.

Houston and Phoenix also are considered suitors for McGrady.

Some are wondering if Jackson would like to return to New York to coach the Knicks, although Isiah Thomas is believed to have dibs on that job.

Speculation also has Jackson being interested in Denver.

Possible replacements for Jackson in L.A. include Rudy Tomjanovich, who has been contacted by the Lakers, Jim Cleamons, Henry Bibby, George Karl and Kurt Rambis.

What appears most certain is the Lakers are now Bryant's team.

''The direction [the Lakers are] going in, if they're going to continue to go in the same direction, I don't want to be a part of this,'' O'Neal told the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News. ''This team, it ain't about me. It ain't about Phil. It's supposed to be about team.''

O'Neal is under contract for $27.6 million next year and $30.6 million the following season and can opt out after next year.

''When I was brought here by Jerry West [in 1996], there was a team concept. ... It was something I wanted to be a part of,'' O'Neal said. ''Now no one cares. I told you I'm all about winning championships. Now the organization is different. It seems right now they're trying to pit one person against another.''

Asked Saturday about whether Jackson desired to continue coaching the Lakers, his agent, Todd Musburger, said, ''It's pretty irrelevant. Phil was not asked to return. ... He never said he didn't want to come back.''

Meanwhile, in Orlando, GM John Weisbrod said Saturday the Magic is still in contract discussions with McGrady.

''I certainly will not confirm that T-Mac is going to be traded,'' Weisbrod said. ''I'm going to continue to say on T-Mac what I have said for the last month, which is that Arn [Tellem, McGrady's agent] and I are in discussions.''

O'Neal still lives in the Orlando area in the offseason, fueling speculation the Lakers may try to trade him to the Magic.

''I would expect that I'm going to hear from [Kupchak] on that, since I think when people talk about Shaq moving, I think they know in his mind and his heart that this would be the obvious place he'd want to go,'' Weisbrod said.

''But, when you look at the financial piece of that, it's almost an impossibility.''


Friday, June 18, 2004

Johnson Beheaded

Islamist websites showed gruesome pictures of US national Paul Johnson, who was taken hostage by Al-Qaeda gunmen in Saudi Arabia, beheaded and his head placed on his back as he lay in a pool of blood.

I feel for his family. We are at war. They cant do this to any of our soliders so they have to get civilians. I hope the animals that did this are caught, killed, and burn in hell.

"Delivering on our promise, the mujahedeen from the Fallujah Squad slaughtered the American prisoner Paul Marshall Johnson after the ultimatum set by the mujahedeen to the tyrants of the Saudi government expired," said a statement signed by "Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninula."

The sites carried three pictures of the beheaded captive, one of which showed him in a pool of blood with his head placed on his back.

Another showed the head on the back with a knife resting against the forehead, point first.

Johnson "met a just punishment ... by getting a taste of what he inflicted on Muslims (bombed) by US aircraft and missiles," the statement said.

Image of Johnson Beheaded. American man Beheaded

The aeronautics engineer with top US defense contractor Martin Lockheed was "one of four Americans overseeing the electronic programs of those same aircraft in the land of the Two Holy Mosques (Saudi Arabia)," it said.

The statement and photos were posted on http://www.qal3ah.org and other Islamist websites.

A US embassy spokesman in Riyadh said only: "we're aware of the report."

There was no immediate official comment from the Saudi government, but CNN television quoted Saudi authorities as saying that "from our end we cannot confirm this. We have not found a body yet."

"Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula" had posted a video on a website Tuesday night threatening to kill the 49-year-old Johnson unless the Saudi government freed detained militants, estimated at more than 700, within 72 hours.

Telephone numbers listed in that video showed Johnson worked, possibly on a contract basis, with a Saudi electronics firm.

Riyadh said it would not negotiate with terrorists and security forces scoured the Saudi capital in an unsuccessful bid to locate him. Washington also ruled out talks with the hostage-takers.

Johnson was abducted in Riyadh last Saturday, the same day another US national was killed in the Saudi capital as Al-Qaeda extremists escalated their attacks on Westerners in a campaign aimed at driving "infidels" from Saudi Arabia

$75M Coke Bust

Cops swooped down on a Queens warehouse yesterday and grabbed more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine worth nearly $75 million as the drugs were about to be loaded into a van and sold on the streets.

The lightning-swift action occurred early yesterday when a team of NYPD's narcotics cops picked up confidential information that one of the city's largest stashes of cocaine was being loaded into a small truck in Maspeth, authorities said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the probe began in January when Queens narcotics investigators identified a Colombian drug ring that was importing cocaine and heroin for sale in the borough.

The detectives decided to move in on the warehouse at 56-32 59th St. in an industrial enclave after they received word Tuesday night that the ring was about to move the cache.

Cops charged Ivan Milano, 32, of Elmhurst, with criminal possession of narcotics, money laundering and weapons possession.

In addition to finding cocaine, officers recovered two fully loaded weapons, a 9 mm Glock handgun and EA-15 rifle, and $190,000 in cash.

"The drugs were on their way out the doors when we acted," said Kelly as he stood with Mayor Bloomberg and Queens DA Richard Brown behind tables covered with the seized drugs at police headquarters.

"This seizure represents a huge hit to the underground narcotics economy," the commissioner added, saying the investigation was continuing.

Brown said the raid "should serve as a warning" to drug traffickers that cops and prosecutors remain vigilant against them despite earmarking resources to the war on terrorism and "protecting the city."

"We will continue to aggressively track them down and seek to put them in jail for long periods of time," Brown declared.

The seizure was announced at a press conference held moments after the NYPD honored hero cops outside Police Headquarters.

"It's fitting that on a day we honor hero police officers, we announce that outstanding police work has resulted in the biggest drug bust in two years," Bloomberg said.

Buy Narcotics on the Net

Narcotics are easily purchased over the Internet from U.S. pharmacies with no prescription, congressional investigators maintained Thursday at a Senate hearing on the dangers of buying medications online.

Investigators said they purchased the painkiller hydrocodone from eight Web sites. "It seems that the key thing here is having your credit card," Robert Cramer, a senior investigator with the General Accounting Office , said.

In no instances were GAO employees who posed as patients asked to see a doctor or provide a prescription, Cramer said.

Despite safety concerns voiced by opponents of prescription drug imports, investigators said, however, they encountered few problems with medicines purchased from Canadian Web sites.

In some instances, Canadian online pharmacies had stricter standards than those in the United States, the GAO said in new report.

Canadian pharmacies appeared to be more reputable than Internet pharmacies in other countries, it said.

Investigators who filled prescriptions on the Web in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and seven other countries were testifying Thursday to a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee. Prominent opponents of imported drugs also were to testify.

In contrast to orders filled in Canada, some of the drugs received from other foreign pharmacies were counterfeit and many came with no instructions or warnings, said the report by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress. Others arrived in damaged or unconventional packaging.

A shipment of the narcotic OxyContin arrived in a plastic compact disc case, investigators said. A bottle of pills of the AIDS drug Crixivan came inside a sealed aluminum can that was itself enclosed in a box labeled "Gold Dye and Stain Remover Wax."

All 18 Canadian sites required consumers to supply a physician-written prescription before filling orders. That was the case for five of 29 U.S. pharmacies; no other foreign pharmacies did.

Prescriptions filled in Canada and the United States came with labels from the dispensing pharmacy and generally included patient instructions and warnings, the report said.

The biggest problem investigators noted was that drugs shipped from Canada did not have FDA approval for use in the United States for reasons such as production in unapproved plants or carrying different labels.

But the medicines had a comparable chemical composition to approved pharmaceuticals, the report said.

"The samples from U.S. and Canadian pharmacies exhibited few problems otherwise," the report said.

Food and Drug Administration officials long have complained that it is misleading to say drug products are equivalent without subjecting them to extensive tests.

"Whether a foreign product contains the same active ingredient is no guarantee that it is identical to the FDA-approved product," the agency's acting commissioner, Lester Crawford, wrote in comments included with the report.

Tom Steward, a spokesman for Sen. Norm Coleman, the subcommittee chairman, said Canadian pharmacies came off well in the report.

"It gets down to strengthening Customs and FDA agents' ability to license and hold accountable these Internet Web sites wherever they are," Steward said.

Coleman, R-Minn., is among the lawmakers who recently abandoned opposition to importing drugs.

Lawmakers who advocate drug imports from Canada and elsewhere are trying to force a Senate vote to legalize the practice. The FDA has said it cannot guarantee the safety of the foreign products.

Older Americans have flocked to Canada for prescription medications as drug prices in the United States have soared and fixed incomes have not kept up, advocates say.

Several bills would strengthen federal regulation of Internet pharmacies and inspections of pharmaceutical manufacturing plants abroad.

A Town Called Fucking

Ananova - F*cking villagers vote against name change
Residents of an Austrian village called F*cking, have voted against changing the name.

The 150 or so people who live in the village debated the issue after roadsigns kept being stolen - many by British tourists.

Spokesman Siegfried Hoeppl, said: "Everyone here knows what it means in English, but for us F*cking is F*cking - and it's going to stay F*cking - even though the signs keep getting stolen."

He said the name came from Mr F*ck and his family who settled in the area 100 years ago, and added "ing", meaning village or settlement.

The villagers didn't find out about the English meaning of the word until Allied soldiers stationed in the region in 1945 pointed out the alternative meaning.

Local newspaper editor Menhardt Buzasa said there had been an increase in the number of signs being stolen, and said British tourists were usually blamed.

"I do not agree it is just the British. F*cking is universal. Germans use it as much now as the British, and it also means the same to the Americans, Australians and anyone in the English speaking world," he said.

Similar votes on a name change have taken place recently in neighbouring Austrian towns Wank am see and Petting, as well as in Vomitville and Windpassing.


Thursday, June 17, 2004

220 Puound Shipment Of Cocaine

A Colombian immigrant disappeared from a Mobile hotel without waiting for the jury's guilty verdict in her cocaine conspiracy trial.

The federal jury Wednesday convicted Maria Garcia-Flores, 48, of conspiring to bring a 220-pound shipment of cocaine into Alabama on its way to New York.

She disappeared late Monday or early Tuesday from the hotel room she was sharing with Claudina Benitez, her sister. Benitez testified that when she awoke Tuesday, Garcia was gone.

Garcia had been released pending trial and ordered to stay at her Houston, Texas home under electronic monitoring.

At sentencing, she faces between 10 years and life in prison, a sentence that could be harsher should a judge decide she deliberately fled in the middle of her trial.

She was convicted of conspiring with her husband, Jose Echeverri-Arango, and another man to possess about 100 kilo grams of cocaine and actually possessing the drugs.

Defense lawyer Dom Soto stood alone as the verdicts were read Wednesday. His client had sat impassively throughout testimony Monday, listening through interpreters.

Echeverri pleaded guilty in the case and has been sentenced to slightly under the 10-year statutory minimum, attorneys said.

Echeverri testified Tuesday that his wife knew nothing of his drug trafficking. He said he lied to her about why he needed her to drive him to Mobile last October to pick up a rental car, a trip that led to their arrest.

Dutroux Convicted

The jury convicted Dutroux, his former wife and another co-defendant of kidnapping and repeatedly raping six girls during the mid-1990s.

Jurors also found Dutroux guilty of murdering two of four girls who died after being sexually assaulted and tortured as captives in his house.

The jury said he drugged the two teenagers and then buried them alive.

Dutroux also was found guilty of murdering an alleged accomplice in the case.

Dutroux's ex-wife, Michele Martin, was found guilty in the murders of two 8-year-old girls who starved to death in her custody.

According to evidence in the case, Dutroux kidnapped the two girls, but they died under Martin's care in Dutroux's house while he was in prison on a lesser charge.

Co-defendant Michel Lelievere was convicted on the main charges of kidnapping, rape and murder.

But judges acquitted co-defendant Michel Nihoul of kidnapping after the jury disagreed on the role he played in the plot. He was convicted of smuggling drugs and people into Belgium.

The defendants, who were not in court for the initial reading of the verdicts, filed into the courtroom to hear the final verdicts -- guilty on nearly 243 main charges and not guilty on several lesser charges.

The eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated three days before the chief juror announced the verdicts in a crowded courtroom on Thursday.

Sentencing is expected to begin next week.

Dutroux, a 47-year-old former electrician, had pleaded guilty to rape and kidnapping but denied murder. He insisted that he was part of a wider pedophilia ring that also involved police officers.

In announcing the verdicts, the jury rejected that argument.

In a final courtroom appeal last week, Dutroux expressed "sincere regret" for what he did. But he told the court: "I am not a murderer."

Nevertheless, Dutroux said he bore responsibility for the four girls who died because he "did not protect them enough."

Dutroux faces life in prison, Martin and Lelievere up to 30 years, and Nihoul up to 10 years, The Associated Press reported. The country does not have capital punishment.

Relatives leaving the courtroom said they were satisfied with the verdicts.

"They are guilty of everything, even the killings, even the torture," Paul Marchal, father of one victim, told RTBF television.

"This has confirmed what I thought: They worked together," said Louisa Lejeune, mother of one of the victims. "The recognition of this is a relief."

All the bodies were discovered on Dutroux's properties after his arrest in August 1996.

The two surviving victims, Laetitia Delhez, then 14, and Sabine Dardenne, then 12, were rescued from a basement prison in his house and testified against Dutroux at the trial.

The case has led to reforms of the judiciary and police.

A parliamentary inquiry conducted in the late 1990s found that Belgian police ineptly investigated the small gang of offenders and that the deaths might have been prevented had the police done a better job.

Police searched Dutroux's home at one point but failed to find the basement prison.

In another instance, upon investigating sounds from the house, police failed to search it because Dutroux -- already a convicted child offender -- told them the sounds were children on the street.

Dutroux was out on parole at the time of the crimes after serving a prison sentence for raping young girls in the 1980s.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers said Belgians were appalled by the "heinous nature of the crimes" and the "ham-handedness of the investigation."

The authorities "at one point allowed Marc Dutroux to escape; additionally rival police investigations concealed evidence," Rodgers said.

"Lastly, and most troubling, is evidence from Dutroux and his accomplices that they are part of a larger network of European pedophiles which they allege goes into the higher echelons of the Belgian police and government."

American Held Hostage

Friends of an American held hostage in Saudi Arabia by a group linked to al-Qaida awaited word of his fate as a deadline imposed by his captors was ticking down.

A candlelight vigil for Paul M. Johnson Jr. was planned for Thursday night behind a firehouse in this rural community about 20 miles north of Atlantic City.

"We all hope Paul comes back," Dan Pomponio, a neighbor of Johnson's sister in Little Egg Harbor, said Wednesday. "You can only cross your fingers and hope."

The gathering in Johnson's hometown was to take place within a day of a deadline set by his captors, who threatened Tuesday to kill him in three days unless Saudi authorities release al-Qaida prisoners. They did not give a specific time.

The threats were made on a video shown on an Islamic Web site following Johnson's abduction over the weekend.

Johnson, 49, moved to Florida in the early 1980s to work for Lockheed Martin, and had worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade. At the time of his abduction, he had been working on targeting and night vision systems for Apache helicopters.

As friends here Wednesday remembered the clean-cut young man who liked fast cars and motorcycles, officials in Washington said U.S. and Saudi authorities had teamed to find Johnson.

"We have people and resources on the ground in Saudi Arabia," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "They've been in close touch with their Saudi counterparts on this matter."

He said Saudis "have the lead on this and we work with them."

Johnson's son appeared Wednesday on CNN to implore the Saudi government to find his father.

"I plead with the Saudi government and the group of men that are holding my father to please let him return home safely," Paul Johnson III said. "He will leave your country. You will never see him again. I just plead with them to get him home safely."

But U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg said he was discouraged after an hour-long meeting at the Capitol with the Saudi government's top foreign policy advisor, Adel al-Jubeir.

"They're at a loss. He says they're using every resource that they have to try to free him," said Lautenberg, D-N.J. "Right now the prospects are gloomy."

A U.S. official said the threat on the tape should be taken "very seriously" because the posting appeared to be credible and militants have used the site before.

Late Wednesday, Saudi security forces and police surrounded a house in Riyadh, but withdrew hours later, witnesses said. It was unclear whether anyone was detained.

Security officials would not comment on the operation.

Family members described Paul Johnson Jr. as "an honorable man" who respected Saudi Arabia's culture and traditions. He "always felt safe in Saudi Arabia" and never feared living there, said his sister, Donna Mayeux.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Where To Next

CNN.com - White House receives space vision report - Jun 16, 2004

Edward Aldridge, chairman of the commission, said Vice President Dick Cheney accepted the report "positively."
Aldridge praised America's space program as a symbol of U.S. leadership vital to economic growth, national security and the future of space exploration.

Not to long ago everyone thought that no one would walk on the moon and look what happend. Anything is possible with the technology that we have today.

"While discovery is the goal of space exploration, the journey is at least as important as the destination," he said.

He added that NASA was already on its way to realizing changes outlined in the report.

The commission's report recommends that NASA transform its basic structure to achieve manned exploration of the moon and Mars in coming decades.

It calls for a slimmed-down space agency that contracts many of the space roles it once pioneered to private enterprise and streamline its own operations.

"NASA's relationship to the private sector, its organizational structure, business culture, and management process -- all largely inherited from the Apollo era -- must be decisively transformed to implement the new ... space exploration vision," the commission stated.

The 60-page report, "A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover," made its sweeping recommendations following five months of hearings from thousands of people including space luminaries, science fiction writers and citizens.

The nine-member commission said commercialization of space should become "the primary focus" of the country's new space exploration vision. Given the proper encouragement, "an entirely new set of businesses can emerge that will seek profit in space," the report stated.

I would love to see somebody walking on Mars. I think we are going to see this pretty soon.
I give NASA 10yrs and they will be there.

It said that NASA should enter only areas where there is "irrefutable" evidence the government is solely qualified to perform space activities. The rest should become the business of a private space industry that is in its infancy despite billions in government expenditure over the last half century.

For now, that means human space flight -- at least in Earth orbit and beyond -- will remain NASA's domain.

The space agency's progress toward the stars faltered after the Apollo missions, which landed Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on the moon, ended in 1972.

The lunar program, with its unprecedented assembly of talent and innovation, later disbanded. The intervening years have not seen the same level of effort for human exploration of our solar system.

The report, if adopted, will likely change the perception of thinking about space as a government endeavor. In fact, the report suggests that opening up the cosmos to humanity will only be accomplished by making much of it a for-profit business.

"Sustaining the long-term exploration of the solar system requires a robust space industry that will contribute to national economic growth, produce new products through the creation of new knowledge and lead the world in invention and innovation," the report stated. "This space industry will become a national treasure."

To do that, NASA was advised to turn over most launch responsibilities to private firms, offer financial incentives and prizes for innovation, and foster small, entrepreneurial aerospace firms. Although the space agency now contracts many functions to private contractors, the panel said that arrangement had only produced a constellation of vendors rather than an independent industry.

Certain functions would remain the responsibility of civil servants. Human space travel, "at least in the near-term," will be a key function of the government space program.

It also suggested NASA's research and development hubs -- known as field centers -- become federally funded institutions managed by universities, non-profits and private businesses.

The panel outlined the creation of permanent Space Exploration Steering Council to advice the president. The last such body formed under the first President Bush, but disbanded after he left office.

In addition, the panel recommended three new NASA organizations be formed to address the long-standing problems within the agency.

A technical advisory board would give independent advice to NASA leadership about technology and risk mitigation plans. It would address the kinds of failures that doomed the space shuttle Columbia after damage to the shuttle's wing led to its destruction on reentry.

An accounting group would be set up to help ensure accurate estimates for NASA's infamously understated cost predictions.

Finally a "high risk/high payoff" research division capable of tolerating periodic failures would help recapture the innovative spirit that characterized previous NASA manned initiatives.

The commission called its space exploration goals "ambitious yet thoroughly achievable" and reaffirmed the agency's role as the drive behind humanity's goal to reach the stars.

"The space exploration vision offers an extraordinary opportunity to ... engage the public in a journey that will shape the course of human destiny," it said.


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