Air Force imagery confirms Columbia wing damaged. “High-resolution images taken from a ground-based Air Force tracking camera in southwestern U.S. show serious structural damage to the inboard leading edge of Columbia’s left wing, as the crippled orbiter flew overhead about 60 sec. before the vehicle broke up over Texas killing the seven astronauts on board Feb. 1.

According to sources close to the investigation, the images, under analysis at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, show a jagged edge on the left inboard wing structure near where the wing begins to intersect the fuselage. They also show the orbiter’s right aft yaw thrusters firing, trying to correct the vehicle’s attitude that was being adversely affected by the left wing damage.” [more] Spaceflight Now

Paint It, Black:

“Researchers have created the blackest black ever made on Earth… This new super-black coating … is designed to revolutionise the manufacture of optical instruments.

It reflects 10 to 20 times less light than the black paint currently used to reduce unwanted reflections in instruments. And this means the super-black coating may one day help improve the vision of the Hubble Space Telescope…” New Scientist

"We decided not to run it…"

‘Here’s an interesting story. It’s an important one, and it’s not being covered.

After Colin Powell spoke to the UN Security Council yesterday, a bi-partisan bill was introduced in Congress by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ron Paul (R-TX). It wasn’t just any bill – this is legislation that looks to repeal the Iraq Use of Force Resolution passed by Congress in October.’

After the repeal, Congress could take a thoughtful look at the evidence and, if warranted, vote to authorize war in due time, but it would slow down the process and allow for continued lesser efforts in the meanwhile. Sound like a good idea? This piece goes on to describe how the bill has gotten virtually no major media attention. ‘It’s not news’??


‘Agree with DeFazio and Paul? Dial up the Congressional toll-free switchboard at 1-800-839-5276 and urge your Congressman to sign onto their bill, H.J. Res 20, which aims to repeal the Iraq Use of Force Resolution.’ Ruminate This

Gate-Crasher Hands Bush ‘Message From God’
‘The Rev. Richard “Rich” Weaver, nicknamed “Handshake Man” because of his knack for getting up close and personal with the high and mighty, struck again yesterday morning. The Post‘s David Montgomery reports that the 57-year-old Weaver, a nondenominational Christian minister from Sacramento, crashed the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton, breezing through the ballroom entrance without a ticket and handed President Bush what he later described as an eight-page typed “message from God” about Iraq.’ Washington Post. Oh my God, it could just have easily been a left-winger!

Speaking of Precedents:
Terry Jones: “I’m losing patience with my neighbours, Mr Bush. I’m really excited by George Bush’s latest reason for bombing Iraq: he’s running out of patience. And so am I!

For some time now I’ve been really pissed off with Mr Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street. Well, him and Mr Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I’m sure Mr Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven’t been able to discover what. I’ve been round to his place a few times to see what he’s up to, but he’s got everything well hidden. That’s how devious he is.” Guardian UK

Dying for War

Missing the bloody point:

Saddam Hussein is a despot, a dictator, a torturer, and a fiend. That’s not the question. To be sure, the Iraqi people would be better off in a democracy. And perhaps Saddam really is hiding weapons he should not have (though convincing evidence has yet to be presented). The issue, rather, is whether risking the lives and health of American troops, provoking likely terrorist attacks on New York and other U.S. targets, and most certainly wiping out many thousands of Iraqis—the UN predicts upwards of half a million Iraqis requiring medical treatment as a result of “direct or indirect injuries” related to the war—is the best way to disarm Saddam and improve the lives of the people suffering under his rule. Not to mention the related consequences of gutting civil liberties and eviscerating social spending here, and taking the chance of regional conflagration in the Middle East.

Village Voice

Whose Smoking Gun? Powell’s evidence shouldn’t mean war:

Iraq hawks are troubled by the failure of some Americans to fall in line behind President Bush after Wednesday’s impressive performance by Colin Powell. Now that Powell has so clearly shown that Iraq has illegal weapons, they ask, how could anyone argue for continuing United Nations weapons inspections, rather than just fast forwarding to war? Actually, it’s not as hard as you’d think. — Robert Wright,


Failing to make the case for war:

The White House’s arguments for war all along have been less conclusions based on evidence than evidence based on conclusions – less like the determination of a judge, and more like the lawyers arguing to the jury. Powell’s presentation to the U.N., with its more concrete evidence and its more sober demeanor, should be considered every bit as critically, and skeptically, as those of the more hyperbolic prosecutors preceding him.

And, to quote the late, wondrous Peggy Lee: Is that all there is? — Geov Parrish,


Powell’s dubious case for war:

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council today wasn’t likely to win over anyone not already on his side. He ignored the crucial fact that in the past several days (in Sunday’s New York Times and in his Feb. 4 briefing of UN journalists) Hans Blix denied key components of Powell’s claims.

Blix, who directs the UN inspection team in Iraq, said the UNMOVIC inspectors have seen “no evidence” of mobile biological weapons labs, have “no persuasive indications” of Iraq-al Qaeda links, and no evidence of Iraq hiding and moving material used for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) either outside or inside Iraq. Dr. Blix also said there was no evidence of Iraq sending scientists out of the country, of Iraqi intelligence agents posing as scientists, of UNMOVIC conversations being monitored, or of UNMOVIC being penetrated. — Phyllis Bennis,

Foreign Policy in Focus via AlterNet

The inspections flap: both sides are wrong

The verbal fight about the search for weapons in Iraq is a waste of words. This fractious debate, like the search for the weapons themselves, is a red herring – a diversion from the real reasons for war. Oddly, those who oppose the war are trapped by the inspection regime’s logic every bit as much as President Bush is. In a mirror image of each other, both are beholden to the wrong standards, pretending to follow the rules, and letting more important issues slide by. — John Tirman,


Trust Colin Powell? A retrospective:

The U.S. news media promoted two “themes” about Secretary of State Colin Powell’s trip to the United Nations where he buttressed George W. Bush’s case for war with Iraq by presenting satellite photographs of trucks outside buildings and snippets of intercepted conversations.

While the “evidence” on its face didn’t seem to prove much of anything, the media’s first “theme” was that Powell is a trustworthy man of principle, a straight talker who wouldn’t be part of some cheap propaganda ploy. The second “theme” was that Powell’s appearance before the United Nations was a kind of sequel to Adlai Stevenson’s convincing case that Soviet missiles had been installed in Cuba in 1962.

But both themes – Powell’s trustworthiness and the Cuban missile precedent – may be misleading, as articles below from the Archives will demonstrate.

The Consortium

E.J. Dionne and David Brooks, NPR’s Friday evening political pundits summarizing the week’s news on “All Things Considered”, come at it from the supposed two sides of the political spectrum, but they agreed in this evening’s commentary that the American public’s debate about the war is over after the State of the Union address and the Powell U.N. speech. If indeed the American public has been convinced, shame on them. First, if we had all this evidence for so long, why wait until now to pull it out of the hat? I just don’t buy the business about an intense debate within the administration about whether to jeopardize intelligence sources. We would never have insisted on reestablishing the inspection process if we already had proof (not to mention that it is proof that is not supported from on the ground, according to the chief inspector…). Secondly, all the evidence about Iraq’s concealing weapons misses the point, upon which the Europeans continue to insist, that there is no imminent threat from Iraq. Thirdly, to attempt to make the case for a clear and present danger by linking Iraq and al Qaeda is a stretch so huge that it was painfully embarrassing to listen to.  Finally, and most important, it has been the dysadministration’s game of three card monte all along to configure this debate around WMD, which is only the pretext for war. Oh, so that’s why the big charade about the inspection process. If you’re only paying attention to what’s going on in my right hand, I can do anything I want with my left.. But:

Is this war now unstoppable?

In a host of developments yesterday, the Pentagon said 113,000 US troops were in the Gulf, on course for the target of 150,000 ­ the accepted minimum for a war ­ by 15 February. An important unit, the 20,000-strong 101st Airborne Division, was ordered to the Gulf.

Independent UK

Since Chirac has signalled that France will not change its position, and would use its UN Security Council veto to stop a second resolution authorizing force, the US will fall back on its “coalition of the willing” with its new toadies in eastern Europe, and exercise the right upon which it has insisted to go it without UN authorization. William Saletan, writing in

Slate, tallies How Powell Did in the Security Council:

In his presentation to the U.N. Security Council Wednesday morning, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell sought to convince the council of three things: 1) that his evidence was solid and damning; 2) that Iraq’s current level of cooperation was unacceptable under Security Council Resolution 1441, thereby justifying war; and 3) that this failure to cooperate rendered inspections futile, clearing the way for an imminent war decision.

After Powell spoke, representatives of the remaining 14 council members delivered their preliminary judgments of his presentation. Their comments on the three key questions, summarized in the table below, indicate that Powell succeeded on the first question and gained the upper hand on the second but failed to attract enough support on the third. The bottom line is that the council’s sanctions on Iraq will stay in place, and if the United States can wait, the council (as presently constituted) will eventually authorize war. But if the United States insists on going to war now, it will have to do so without that authorization.

So it is coming soon — the buildup, the rhetoric and the logistics say it has to be this year rather than next when the Presidential campaign will be gearing up, and it has to be before it gets too hot. Oh, and by the way,

France is no longer an ally of the United States and the NATO alliance “must develop a strategy to contain our erstwhile ally or we will not be talking about a NATO alliance” the head of the Pentagon’s top advisory board said in Washington Tuesday.

Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and now chairman of the Pentagon’s Policy Advisory Board, condemned French and German policy on Iraq in the strongest terms at a public seminar organized by a New York-based PR firm and attended by Iraqi exiles and American Middle East and security officials.


To cap it off,

US chooses Saddam’s successor

Sydney Morning Herald.

Caught in the Act:

British dossier on Iraq copied academic paper

A British government dossier intended to show how Iraq is obstructing of UN weapons inspectors via an “infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation” has been revealed to have lifted significant sections from academic papers.

The document was issued by the UK in January 2003 and described as drawing “upon a number of sources, including intelligence material”. It aims to demonstrate “how the Iraqi regime is constructed to have, and to keep, weapons of mass destruction”.

But a number of pages of the document were copied virtually word for word from a paper published in the journal Middle East Review of International Affairs in September 2002. This was written by Ibrahim al-Marashi, an academic at the Centre for Non-proliferation Studies in California in the US.

Further sections of the dossier were copied from articles written by Sean Boyne and Ken Gause that appeared in the military journal Jane’s Intelligence Review in 1997 and 2002.

Military analysts and opposition politicians in the UK have described the copying as “scandalous”, saying the dossier was presented as being the product of the very latest government intelligence.

(…)The revelation is particularly embarrassing as US Secretary of State Colin Powell gave special mention to the dossier in a key presentation of evidence against Iraq at the UN Security Council on Wednesday. New Scientist