US panel votes against Bush plan

English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

The Senate Foreign Relations vote comes a day after Bush asked the country to give his war against Iraq "a chance to work." March 20 will march the fourth anniversary of the start of Bush's war against the Iraqi people.

A US Senate committee has rejected the US president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, sending the measure to the full Senate for a vote which is expected next week.

[More:]


The vote by the Foreign Relations Committee is nonbinding, but supporters hope it will convince the president to reconsider.

On a bipartisan vote of 12 to 9 on Wednesday, the panel approved a resolution expressing disapproval of George Bush's Iraq policy.

The decision comes after Bush used his seventh annual State of the Union address to urge Congress to give his Iraq plan "a chance to work".

"We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder," said Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the sole Republican to join 11 Democrats in support of the measure.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, the panel's chairman, said the legislation is "not an attempt to embarrass the president. ... It's an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq."

Pressing ahead

Dick Cheney, the US vice president, bluntly dismissed the congressional objections. During an interview with CNN he declared "it won't stop us".

"It would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops," he said.

"The Congress has control over the purse strings. They have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding. But in terms of this effort, the president has made his decision," the vice president said.

"We are moving forward. We are moving forward. We'll continue to consult with the Congress. But the fact of the matter is, we need to get the job done."

Asked whether the White House bore responsibility for the bloody chaos in Iraq, Cheney defended fully the invasion in March 2003 to despose Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam Hussein would still be in power. He would, at this point, be engaged in a nuclear arms race with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, his blood enemy next door in Iran."

"What we did in Iraq in taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do; the world is much safer today because of it."

Agencies

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    The Myth of "Oil Independence": Let's call an end to oil alarmism

    English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

    The oft- stated objective of "energy independence" is as devoid of substance and irrelevant to our security as "computer independence" or "clothing independence." Philip Auerswald writes

    By Philip E. Auerswald

    Oil prices have ended their steep ascent -for now - and are headed downward. The near-universal alarm among politicians, pundits and consumers over
    America's dependency on foreign oil has yielded to a wary sense of relief. But both the prior alarm and the current relief are misguided.

    [More:]

    Few propositions are at once more widely accepted and less rooted in fact than the notion that increasing U.S. reliance on foreign oil is a security threat requiring urgent action. Such concern reflects a view of markets that has been rendered obsolete by globalization. The oft- stated objective of "energy independence" is as devoid of substance and irrelevant to our security as "computer independence" or "clothing independence."

    Consider the following facts:

    Oil producers don't like oil prices that are "too high." Adel al-Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, offered
    this frank assessment to The Wall Street Journal in 2004, just as oil prices began to increase sharply: "We've got almost 30 percent of the world's oil.
    For us, the objective is to assure that oil remains an economically competitive source of energy. Oil prices that are too high reduce demand growth for oil and encourage the development of alternative energy sources."

    In response, Saudi Arabia ramped up oil production, from 8.5 million barrels per day in 2002 to 11.1 million in 2005. Far more dependent on oil revenue
    than the West is on oil, the Saudis lose if a high price today prompts their customers to develop substitutes.

    The upswing in the price of many commodities, including oil, over the past five years reflects positive economic developments. In the next two decades or so, most of the world's population - including a couple of billion in China and India - will finally become full partners in the world economy.

    This is good news. For the foreseeable future potential supply problems - whether caused by terrorism, political disputes or other issues in the
    Middle East or elsewhere - will have far less of an impact on prices than these changes on the demand side.

    Oil can't easily be used as a strategic instrument of aggression against the United States. Petro- alarmism focused on the Middle East often emphasizes
    the concentration of oil reserves and spare production capacity in a few oil-producing nations, particularly Saudi Arabia. But reserves are only
    useful as a strategic weapon in pushing prices down. Only by withholding output - and threatening their own livelihood - can producers push prices higher.

    The impact of higher fuel prices on most U.S. consumers is minimal. From 1980 to 2005, the share of consumer spending on energy dropped from 8
    percent to 6 percent; the 2006 figure will be higher, but not enough to signal a consumer calamity. True, the impacts of higher energy prices are unevenly felt. But the fact that U.S. oil companies celebrate record profits while the rural poor economize on trips to the grocery store is a matter of domestic politics, not international security.

    Oil price movements do not have a major impact on the economy as a whole. What actual damage did the recent oil price run-up cause? When the price of
    oil doubled, as many long dreaded, which crippling effects were observed?

    None. Economic growth continued apace. Any slowing had more to do with higher interest rates. The U.S. economy is far more adaptable than petro-alarmists would have us believe.

    Regardless of the cause, rising oil prices during this decade have helped the national interest in the long term. In an open society with a market
    economy, only high prices have the brute power to compel the adjustments required to address the real energy-related challenge facing us: global
    climate change. For this reason, the public should worry not that oil prices might climb again, but rather that they might continue to fall. Energy
    independence is a hollow objective, but addressing threats from climate change is not.

    The notion that oil imports lead to energy insecurity suits environmentalists, military hawks, foreign- policy idealists, subsidy-seeking oil executives and even anti-U.S. propagandists, but it does not fit the facts. Politicians and pundits alike would do well to put this treasured, but frayed, idea aside.

    International Herald Tribune

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      US occupation troops in Baghdad battle

      English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

      Bush's Battle of Baghdad is already underway


      The US military wants to isolate all "active insurgents" to gain control of this key Baghdad location.]

      BAGHDAD, Iraq _ US-led forces have battled fighters in what they said was an operation to regain control of a major street cutting through the heart of Baghdad.

      [More:]

      "There is a fight going on. Units are engaged," Steven Lamb, a US military spokesman said on Wednesday, confirming an operation was under way to restore control to the mainly Sunni Arab area.

      Thirty suspected fighters were killed and 35 more detained during day-long battle in the area, Mohammed al-Askari, Defence Ministry spokesman said.

      Haifa Street, a long street of high-rise buildings, runs along the west bank of the Tigris River that cuts through the capital.

      US helicopters attacked armed men holed up inside the buildings, where US and Iraqi forces said they killed more than 100 fighters earlier this month.

      Lamb said Wednesday's operation involved US forces and the Iraqi police and army.

      US armoured vehicles firing their heavy machine guns joined the fighting and troops also fired mortars after coming under machinegun, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade attack during the operation to restore Iraqi security control of the Sunni stronghold.

      "A lot has been coming from high-rise buildings. We are firing at terrorists in those buildings," Lamb said.

      'People killed , buildings demolished'

      The Sunni Muslim Scholars Association condemned the raid, calling it "a campaign of genocide" and said a number of buildings had been demolished and people killed.

      The US military said Wednesday's mission was "not an operation designed solely to target Sunni insurgents, but rather aimed at rapidly isolating all active insurgents and gaining control of this key central Baghdad location".

      Meanwhile, a US soldier and two marines have been killed in Iraq, the military said, raising its losses this month to 53.

      The soldier was shot dead and two were wounded on Wednesday while on patrol in central Baghdad, a statement said.

      Security sources said a helicopter owned by Blackwater, a US security company, that crashed in the area on Tuesday was forced down after the pilot was shot dead.

      Three others on board the aircraft, which had been guarding a diplomatic convoy on the ground, may have been shot on landing, they said, although other reports suggested they died when the aircraft crashed.

      A fifth person on a second Blackwater helicopter was also shot dead.

      Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, paid his condolences to the security contractors, who helped protect US embassy personnel, saying he had known them personally.

      "We lost five fine men. It was a very bad day yesterday."

      Agencies

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        The Union of the State

        English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

        The State of the Union is in very dire straits. The new Congress and those who voted for it should resist President Bush's efforts to unite the nation on the basis of fear, blind pride, ignorance, and intolerance and return to the rule of law through clear thinking, sane policies, and mature behavior, Laurie King says.

        Editorial
        By Laurie King

        It's time again for an annual political ceremony full of formal flair, rhetoric, and ritual: The State of the Union speech. This event is Washington officialdom's theatre, complete with roles, entrances and exits and a script. President George W. Bush's seventh State of the Union speech, however, approaches the theatre of the absurd.

        [More:]

        Even previously jingoistic television stations like CNN have given up hope on the Bush administration. Those who watch television news just once a week cannot escape the alarming reality: domestically and internationally, the State of the Union is in very dire straits.

        This year, President Bush faced a new Congress reflective of changing opinions and perspectives across the United States. Democrats now control both houses of Congress. Most new legislators owe their seats to widespread and growing public dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and the excesses of this administration's "war on terror." Millions of dollars and dozens of lives - American and Iraqi - disappear into the maw of the Iraq war every week. Even Americans who do not have family members serving their third or fourth tours in Iraq know that this is an unsustainable disaster.

        Despite the renewed and resurgent participation of Americans in democracy, as witnessed by last November's elections and the consequent shift to Democratic control of Congress, the Bush administration persists in thinking and acting as if it has the legitimacy, skill, knowledge, and right to do whatever it pleases in Iraq and the wider Middle East. Although the Iraq Study Group Report called for a more sane and balanced US foreign policy in the Middle East, the draw-down of US military forces, and a more just and sensible approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Bush Administration blindly persists in its failed policies. Although it is not clear where the President Bush will find the funds and bodies to shore up his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq, and although respected military leaders have voiced concerns and critiques publicly, we are on the verge of not only expanding US efforts in Iraq, but perhaps on the edge of engaging Iran militarily as well. This scenario does not accord with the will of the people.

        The Union of our State requires clear thinking, courageous decisions, and humility in the face of mistakes that have destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

        The good news is that nearly 70 percent of the American public knows something is wrong. More Americans are paying more attention to their government's engagements abroad and asking critical questions. Americans' concerns and attention may be too little too late, but increased public awareness, commentary, debate, and involvement means that the Union of the State is increasing and strengthening.

        But what is it that unifies the United States? By the end of President Bush's State of the Union address, it was clear that the unifying force upon which this administration continues to depend is fear - of terrorists and purveyors of evil who wish to harm or destroy our civilization. The attempt to scare Americans back into line, and into silence, was palpable in the President's invocations of the horrors of September 11th and his dire warnings that more horrors await us if the US withdraws from Iraq and leaves it to the terrorists.

        Should we be terrorized by such discourses into accepting the views and interests of a small group of men, led by President Bush and Vice President Cheney? Should we leave life and death decisions about war and peace to people who have never been in a combat zone, who have shredded the Geneva Conventions and undermined international and multi-lateral frameworks of peace keeping and diplomacy while filling the coffers of corporations and special interest groups?

        The United States was founded to be a state of laws, not of men. Bush and those closest to him have moved America far from this ideal. They have done so by deceiving the public, passing laws that undermine the values of a great democracy and a just society, and dampening debate and accurate media coverage by equating criticism of the administration with a lack of patriotism or a dearth of resolve in facing the dangerous terrorists, all of whom, it seems, live in the Middle East.

        Americans on many points of the political spectrum have begun to question this vision of the world and America's role in it. We the people are increasingly aware that we will not bring democracy to the Middle East by dismantling it at home, and that we cannot spend countless millions of dollars rebuilding Baghdad while New Orleans still lies in ruins. We cannot have a just society with a growing gap between the very rich and the very poor.

        The State of our Union is not good. The Union of our State requires clear thinking, courageous decisions, and humility in the face of mistakes that have destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. The new members of Congress, as well as the people who voted for them, should resist the easy escape of uniting Americans on the basis of fear, blind pride, ignorance and intolerance. The State of our Union can be strengthened and renewed only with clear thinking, sane policies, mature behavior, and a return to the rule of law at home and abroad. We the people can do this. We must do it: President Bush has amply demonstrated that he cannot.

        Laurie King is a co-founder of Electronic Iraq. A social anthropologist, she is former editor of Middle East Report and the author of numerous articles on human rights and international humanitarian law.

        Electronic Intifada

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          Tired of killing Palestinians, Zionist rabbi and Israeli official propose bribing them to leave Palestine

          English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

          Zionists propose transfer-for-case plan

          "Those poor people have been suffering for six decades...I don't want to keep killing them...so (let's) encourage them to leave" -- Rabbi Shlomo Aviner and MK Benny Elon

          By Matthew Wagner

          A new proposal designed to solve Israel's Arab demographic concerns suggests offering a million Palestinian residents of refugee camps in Judea and Samaria incentives totaling as much as $50 billion to convince them to leave the area.

          [More:]

          Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Kohanim Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party) have joined forces to promote the proposed program, which they said would be funded by the state. The two men, who are next door neighbors in Beit El, propose paying the refugee camp residents $50,000 to $100,000 each if they agree to emigrate.

          "Those poor people have been suffering for six decades," said Elon. "I believe that if we give them the option of leaving they will grab it."

          Elon said that he was astounded to discover that Palestinians who want to leave had difficulty getting to Ben-Gurion Airport, for security reasons.

          Elon said many western countries, including Canada as well as some in South America, were open to immigrants, especially if they brought cash with them. He said he hoped to gain the cooperation of western countries for the program by emphasizing its humanitarian dimension.

          Aviner, a respected halachic authority, has written an article advocating the transfer-for-payment idea, which appeared this weekend in Be'ahava U'Be'emuna, a pamphlet that is distributed in thousands of synagogues across the nation every Shabbat.

          "Arabs are busy killing Jews or providing aid, cover and legitimacy to terrorists," Aviner said in a telephone interview.

          "There is no end in sight. I do not want to keep killing them to protect myself. So the best solution is to encourage them to leave," he said. "As soon as the word gets around that Israel is paying compensation to anyone who leaves, it will have a snowball effect."

          Aviner quoted the Koran as well as the Bible to demonstrate that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.

          Arabs who agreed to stop all terrorism against Israel and to accept second class citizenship, without voting rights, would be allowed to stay, Aviner said.

          MK Ibrahim Sarsour (United Arab List-Ta'al) called the proposal "satanic," "fascist," and "nearly Nazi."

          "Palestine is an integral part of Waqf-administered sacred Islamic land," said Sarsour, who is also the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel. "It belongs to the Muslim people. Benny Elon and others like him will have to trample over our dead bodies to remove us from this place."

          Sarsour said "Islam" was willing to normalize relations with a sovereign Israel within the Green Line. He said all Jews living in the West Bank or eastern Jerusalem must leave their homes or renounce Zionism and agree to second-class citizenship, without voting rights.

          "But Elon is trying to push for the option of conflict and extinction of both peoples," he said.

          Sarsour said "zealots" like Elon and Aviner had caused the destruction of the Second Temple, and that history could repeat itself.

          "The weak do not stay weak forever, nor do the strong," Sarsour said.

          Jerusalem Post

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            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

            By Mazin Qumsiyeh

            Standing ovations to a criminal spouting lies
            Regurgitated in News and Editorial pages
            Yet, what is censored is far more important
            and its ramifications far more significant
            Some victims adopted the language of their oppressors
            Others resigned to their proscribed fates

            [More:]

            Many in a peace movement co-opted or afraid
            letting others pay the sacrifices
            Goebbles would have envied their media devices
            allowed to endlessly quibble
            Baghdad burning while they argue over the sound of the fiddle
            (using colonial language)
            "How do we fix Eyraq?"
            "How do we fight Eyran"?
            "How do we isolate the radicals"?
            (even the majority wanting freedom)
            "How do we kill more extremists"?
            (even as we created the largest green house to grow them)
            How do we get more subservient UN institutions?
            While violating all human rights resolutions.
            maybe more money to Dahlan, Al-Hurra, and Iraqi puppets?
            more tours of duty, fancy words and better bullets?
            more new clothes for old generals
            or old cloths for new programs?
            maybe better hasbara language of
            us vs them, them vs them,
            terrorism vs democracies
            Palestinians vs Israelis
            Shi'i vs Sunni
            Arabs vs Jews
            blacks vs whites
            black and white
            language of hate and diversion
            language of murder and deception
            language of Nero and Ghenkis Khan
            Churchill and Balfour
            Hertzl and Samuels
            Clinton and Pelosi
            Browne and Raymond enriched from Oil
            that somehow got under our soil
            Starbucks' Schultz pontificating
            that Israel must do more killing

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            They tell us if victims stop
            just maybe, maybe they can drop
            some of the worst torture methods
            maybe allow some of us to live on our lands
            with limited supervised demilitarized autonomy
            if we promise the occupiers security
            maybe then revive the US constitution
            bring kinder pimps for prostitution
            maybe share 10% of the privatized resources
            with the manufactured competing provinces
            promises to give us a glimmer
            of tunnels which may have light less dimmer
            A promise of another Condi trip peddling a map
            like Kissinger peddling his Zionist crap
            to get accolades from his masters
            and money from his (undisclosed) consultants
            While committing and supporting war crimes
            with designer suits and fake smiles
            fake words of democracy and million dollar bonuses
            they play musical chairs
            in countless institutions with deceptive names
            occasionally jumping to corporations
            and then back to government halls
            that keeps its only credibility by spreading fear
            of Arabs and Muslims
            While manufacturing Abrams tanks and misnamed think tanks
            while US trained death squads kill the innocents
            and propagate the ageless game of conquer, divide, and pillage

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            They said "our policy for the Iraq-Iran war was to get them to kill each other"
            Deduct the one million who perished in that war
            deduct the 1.5 million killed by US led sanctions
            deduct the 650,000 Iraqis who perished and
            those yet to perish in neocons' latest war
            How many Iraqis will be left in five years?
            Will they bring Democracy to the last Iraqi standing alive or hang her?
            But Iran is next and Maybe China (hence the nuclear deals with India)
            Meanwhile Arabs and Muslims are fair game
            and don't run fast enough

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            Dare not speak of empire they say
            nor recognize the new empire's day
            Dare not point the finger at the new king
            but follow his instruction and go shopping
            And remember to support the marching liberators
            spreading depleted uranium and enriched phosphorous
            Dare not care for Americans, Iraqis, Israelis, Palestinians,
            for freedom is on the march
            Dare not care for global warming for the poor or for those dying
            for Bush is supervising
            Dare not mention Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel/Palestine
            for freedoms are of corporations to operate in Venezuela and Iran
            Freedom is to do what they want to you and your inferior civilization
            Dare not say anything here in America for you will be named
            anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli, anti-yourself
            Dare not, they say
            lest you lose your job
            or be shipped to Negev or Guantanamou

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            They say if only we would pay our taxes without complaints
            if only we would accept crimes as gifts
            if only we would manage to smile under their boots
            if only we would stop squirming
            if only we would elect those complying
            if only we would do that or this mission
            that they debate endlessly on television
            if we stop wanting to live
            if we would abandon people's love
            if we would stop refuse kneeling
            if we stop breathing
            maybe they will change to golden sneakers
            slap us with a velvet gloves
            and make us a new Grenada

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            They condemn the "Islamic government" for oil rich Sudan
            Imagine if we use "Jewish government" for atrocity in Palestine
            They think we can forget larger genocide
            in Congo and Iraq that they decide
            They think we can blithely ignore
            Genocide of Native America
            Israeli and American support of Apartheid South Africa
            Death squads and dictators in South America
            Millions of blacks enslaved
            "third world" natural resources plundered
            Terrorism on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
            role of corporations and Zionists in Hitler's Nazism
            They think peace will come (to them) from the barrel of their guns
            They think we cannot effect the change for peace with peaceful means
            They invoke certain laws when it suits their greed
            even as carpet bombing, massacres, and starvation their proud deed
            Yet, they know well that the largest violator of UN resolutions,
            not only goes unpunished but gets our taxes in the billions.
            Dozens of US vetoes to protect that sacred cow
            from human rights and International law
            While they sharpen more knives
            and cut a bit deeper
            to finish off Palestine, Iraq, America,
            and the truth
            all sacrificed at the altar of Straussian neoconservatism,
            Well-dressed think tank pieces, and social Darwinism

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            They ask us to drop Mandela's way of fighting to end apartheid
            Truth and reconciliation later, the ANC said, as they struggled
            while being labeled all sorts of vile names
            While DeKlerk met with Sharon, the real terrorists
            But history gets distorted and Bush dares to celebrate MLKs Birthday
            Eved while adopting the dictums of Sharon, Olmert and Peres
            Through wars and propaganda they dictate
            with genocide merely a collateral damage to their crusade

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            They emphasize
            in all manner of disguise
            that we cannot yell,
            should not rebel,
            above all not question,
            their self-declared notion
            to steal the land
            to cleanse the people
            to maximize geography
            and minimize demography
            to kill and then cry about victims' wrath
            the left deludes itself with "suffering on both sides"
            the right deludes itself with social Darwinism
            while masters argue over their future
            silence discussions
            relegate those who speak honestly to insignificant positions
            promote those who espouse racism to head committees
            in our Congress and in greenback-financed Knesset halls
            and in peace movements
            Tribalistic language merges with libels of hate, violence, and extremism
            to tar those who dare to stray from 100% loyalty

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            We heard that language from historians
            Red Devil native barbarians
            standing in the way of "our manifest destiny"
            to "bring them democracy"
            or at least to manage those left behind
            circling the wagons
            buttoning the hearts
            shooting the guns
            showing no mercy
            to those inexplicable native savages
            screaming incomprehensible shouts
            hurting the delicate ears
            conspiring to kill the white civilized
            for no apparent reason
            so God gave the instructions to feed the machine guns
            and load the bombers
            and pray to win more

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            For those going to demonstrate to talk about bringing the troops home (now?)
            For those who claim Democrats will end the war (HOW?)
            For those who support the neocon agenda
            or Hamilton-Baker neo-colonial mishmash of propaganda
            for those not wanting to talk about "sensitive issues"
            like the Israeli lobby
            like global warming
            like real nuclear proliferation
            like our individual responsibility
            like the media monopolies
            like the lies and distortions
            like ongoing genocides
            like ethnic cleansing
            like decency
            For all of those we plead: untill when

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            Their rampages, their racism, their lies and distortions
            as obvious as the naked emperor
            to millions who do not care to
            sell their soul and conscience
            for pennies
            But many sinking in tar fields of privileges
            not learning from history, drugged with traditions
            Celebrating Thanksgiving and Hanukkah but forgetting
            that ancient stones and distorted history
            are manufactured identities killing children
            Others are trapped by prostituted imperial language
            July and August, "Middle East",
            security, war on terrorism
            and yes "democracy"
            worrying about paying bills
            for shopping at sweatshop Wallmarts
            Many oblivious to suffering they inflict
            by simply paying taxes,
            by voting lesser of two evils,
            by being consumers not citizens,
            and by being afraid,
            for their robotic lives,
            their comfort levels,
            their gods and their mythologies
            Deluding themselves that they cannot change
            That is ultimately the tragedy of humanity
            accepting meritocracy and apathy
            accepting racism
            A shame on us all

            Forgive them for they know not what they do?

            Arab Children murdered by bullets made in America
            Truth assassinated by professional lies in cowardly media
            Viciously attacking a president who is asking a question
            Palestine: peace or apartheid? Outrageous notion!
            Even as he failed to address apartheid inside
            Even when he ignored the 65 villages unrecognized
            ignored the 6 million Palestinian refugees
            ignored the 250,000 "Present absentees"
            ignored Israeli schools segregated
            ignored that those advocating democracy means being outlawed
            ignored the blatant racism
            the fruit of political Zionism
            he and a million others are condemned
            their good deeds no longer remembered
            but they do not understand that being ruthlessly tough
            makes more people stand together to demand enough is enough!
            So go ahead and escalate and fail
            OR Give peace a chance
            give peace a chance

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              All he is saying is, "Give war a chance"

              English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


              While a majority of Americans want to end the war in Iraq, Bush plans to escalate it.

              George Bush, the US president, has used his seventh annual State of the Union address to urge Congress to give his Iraq plan "a chance to work".

              [More:]


              He warned against "failure" in Iraq and described the war there as part of a larger battle against Sunni and Shia extremists who were "faces of the same totalitarian threat".

              Bush accused Iran of spreading violence across the region, saying it was "funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah - a group second only to al-Qaeda in the American lives it has taken".

              He also addressed domestic issues, proposing cuts to curb climate change and health and education reforms.

              'Totalitarian threat'

              He said the Iraq war had changed dramatically with the outbreak of sectarian warfare and reprisals.

              "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in," he said.

              "Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq - because you understand that the consequences in failure would be grievous and far reaching," Bush said.

              He said Shia extremists backed by Iran and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaeda and the "old regime" would take over in Baghdad if America "failed" in Iraq.

              The US leader described al-Qaeda as "possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology".

              "Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite.

              "They preach with threats ... instruct with bullets and bombs ... and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent."

              He said the most important mission in America's history was to "spare the American people from this danger" and asked for support for his plan to send an extra 21,500 US troops to Iraq.

              A Washington-Post/ABC News poll released on Monday gave Bush a job approval rating of 33 per cent, showing him to be at the weakest point of his presidency.

              In his address to a nation increasingly opposed to the Iraq war and to a congress which for the first time in his presidency is controlled by Democrats, Bush stressed the need for unity.

              Domestic policy

              Bush also used the address to outline a domestic policy for the year.

              "A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy - and that is what we have. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising," he said, adding that more enterprise rather than increased government intervention was key.

              Full Text:
              Bush's State of the Union speech
              Official Democratic Party response

              He also called for Republicans and Democrats to overcome differences concerning the direction of social security spending.

              He proposed a reduction in US fuel usage by 20 per cent in 10 years, an increase in health care for Americans, a new immigration policy and improvements to education.

              Bush said that improved vehicle fuel standards and diversification of energy sources – such as the use of ethanol fuel – was necessary.

              "It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply and the way forward is through technology," he said.

              The energy proposals by Bush fall short of seeking mandatory caps on carbon emissions which are sought by some Democrats in the congress.

              Bush is not pushing for a specific increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which many experts see as critical to reduce oil usage but which the White House fears would prompt manufacturers to build smaller, less-safe cars.

              Instead, he will ask congress for authority to reform CAFE standards, with the goal of reducing projected annual fuel use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, according to Joel Kaplan, the deputy White House chief of staff.

              Strategic reserve

              Bush also called for doubling the strategic petroleum reserve from 727m barrels to 1.5bn barrels, in a bid to bolster US energy security.

              The US will begin buying extra oil this spring as part of a plan by the Bush administration to expand emergency reserves, the White House said on Tuesday.

              Bush's move to increase troop numbers in Iraq
              has not met with universal approval [AFP]
              "Expanding the strategic petroleum reserve is a wise and a prudent policy decision that would provide an additional layer of protection for our nation's energy security," said Sam Bodman, the US energy secretary.

              Meanwhile, Bush's health care plan will propose making health insurance taxable income and deductible up to $15,000 a year for families, starting in 2009.

              The move could raise taxes for as many as 30m Americans but lower costs for many others.

              A US official said the plan would cost $30bn to $40bn in its formative years but eventually pay for itself.

              Source: Agencies

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                Palestinian seeking work in Israel shot dead at Gaza border

                English (US)  January 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                The death brings to 5,629 the number of people killed since 2000

                Israeli troops have shot dead a Palestinian and arrested two others near the Kissufim crossing point between the south of the Gaza Strip and Israeli territory.

                [More:]


                The Israeli army said on Wednesday the men tried to sneak into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

                Palestinian security officials in Gaza said Israel had informed them of the incident, which took place early on Wednesday, and that the three men had apparently been manual labourers trying to slip into Israel to find work.

                "During the night, soldiers spotted three Palestinians approaching the security barrier [between the Gaza Strip and Israel] and fired warning shots, first into the air and then at their legs, after having ordered them in vain to stop," an Israeli military spokesman said.

                He said: "The three men were not armed. One of them was killed, the two others lightly wounded. They were evacuated to a hospital in Israel and are to be questioned."

                The latest death brings to 5,629 the number of people killed since the start of the intifada or uprising in September 2000, most of them Palestinians, according to a count by the AFP news agency.

                Jazeera

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                  A Tepid Response to Bush's Iraq Plea

                  English (US)  January 23rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                  By John Nichols

                  The most pained look of the State of the Union night came from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mid-way through President Bush's address.

                  [More:]

                  The president had just delivered the key lines from the foreign-policy section of the speech:

                  "If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict," said Bush, who was making the case for his surge of 21,5OO additional troops to Iraq. "For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens... new recruits ... new resources ... and an even greater determination to harm America."

                  Then, again seeking to forge a link between the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and the struggle in Iraq, Bush declared: "To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September 11th and invite tragedy. And ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East ... to succeed in Iraq ... and to spare the American people from this danger."

                  The carefully-crafted applause line brought Rice to her feet, and she scanned the House chamber to see if it had connected with a Congress that has in recent weeks heard bipartisan expressions of concern about the president's scheming to expand the war. There was little question that she was hoping for a signal that members of the House and Senate were prepared to give Bush the time he was pleading for in a speech that featured the line: "Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq -- and I ask you to give it a chance to work."

                  The response to the "nothing is more important" line on Iraq was anything but enthusiastic, as many -- perhaps most -- members remained seated. The applause died within moments.

                  Rice grimaced almost as agonizingly as when she was trying to make the case for Bush's surge earlier this month in an excruciating appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee --during which she was grilled not just by Democrats but by Republicans.

                  Rice knew that the job of selling the surge had not been made any easier by this State of the Union address.

                  John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal, Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into the intentions of the founders and embraced by activists for its groundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability. After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone political writer Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "John Nichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, The Genius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less with the particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and instead combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the "heroic medicine" that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

                  The Nation

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                    Israeli president faces rape charge

                    English (US)  January 23rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                    Corruption in Israeli society is a top down phenomenon--the rottennes of the Zionists' ideology and their collective brutality against the indigenous people of Palestine has infected the personal behavior of those individuals who impose that burtality on the Palestinians. Finally, they will be consumed by their own brutality.

                    Moshe Katsav, Israel's president, could be indicted on charges of rape and abuse of power, the attorney general has said.

                    [More:]


                    A final decision on the indictment would be made only after a hearing, where Katsav could present his case, Meni Mazuz said on Tuesday.

                    Katsav has denied the charges, stemming from complaints made by four women who worked for him during his tenure as president and, before that, as a cabinet minister.

                    The president's office said Tuesday it had no official comment.

                    Mazuz's office issued a statement on Tuesday saying that it had collected enough evidence to support an indictment against Katsav on charges of rape, harassment, abuse of power and obstruction of justice, among other crimes.

                    The president enjoys immunity while in office and could be tried only after his resignation or end of term, which is later this year. His lawyers had indicated he would resign if indicted.

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                      The debt we owe to Deborah Lipstadt for her commentary on Pres. Carter's book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid

                      English (US)  January 23rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                      By Xymphora

                      Deborah Lipstadt has written a very important commentary on Jimmy Carter and his book on the Palestinians (I won’t link to it at Amazon as Amazon has been playing peculiar games with it, presumably in order to suppress its sale). Lipstadt, a woman who until now has been famous only for having all of David Irving’s money, expressly makes the connection between Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and what was done to the Jewish people in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

                      [More:]

                      This argument usually hides in the weeds. It is the real basis behind all defenses of Israeli actions against the Palestinians, as well as many of the peculiarities of Israeli exceptionalism, such as Israel’s unique ability to shelter international gangsters on the basis that they are Jews, or Israel’s unique right to make peremptory attacks against other countries on the basis that there might be a possible threat against the state of the Jewish people. This doctrine has now been extended, in the case of Iran, to allow for peremptory attacks even when there is no threat against the Jewish people.

                      In Lipstadt’s view, which is the view shared by all Jewish defenders of Israel, Carter is wrong for failing to emphasize the Holocaust in a book about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today. This lack of logic from Lipstadt would be the stuff of comedy if it did not form the basis for all the atrocities that Israel commits. Most apologists for Israel are too smart to put it in so many words, so we owe a bid debt of gratitude to Lipstadt for being so fucking stupid as to let the cat out of the bag. In fact, I think many people sympathetic to Israel don’t really realize the basis for the chip on Israel’s shoulder as they can’t bring themselves to believe that the basis could be something that is so insane.

                      The bigger picture is that many Jews feel that the Holocaust gives Jews, and by extension the Jewish state, a permanent ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card. The world stood by and let horrible things happen to the Jews, so the Jews have a unique right to obtain retribution in whatever way they see fit. One of the main ways they have seen fit to obtain justice is to grab themselves a country. No non-Jew has the moral right to complain about it, as every non-Jew inherits the guilt for the Holocaust. Thus, Jimmy Carter has no right to criticize the Jewish state for what it is doing to the Palestinians. Despite the fact the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust (in fact hardly anyone alive today had anything to do with the Holocaust), they also have no moral right to criticize what is being done to them. This is the kind of reasoning which makes sense to young children, and many criminals (“I have a right to rob banks because I had a sad childhood’), but doesn’t make any sense to the rest of us.

                      One of the peculiarities of the Jewish post-Holocaust experience is the fact that there is a certain sexual frisson created by fantasies of how the world will again conspire to destroy the Jewish people -- and seeing the Holocaust everywhere can have some amusing consequences. (http://www.ajn.com.au/news/news.asp?pgID=2423").

                      Benny Morris (of all people) is obviously getting off on describing how the Jews will be destroyed by the inevitable nuclear attack from Iran, while the rest of the world secretly applauds. It’s Jewish masochistic porn. Of course, Morris isn’t an idiot, and is perfectly aware that Iran hasn’t threatened Israel’s existence, has no nuclear weapons, and has no foreseeable chance of having nuclear weapons, while Israeli leaders have directly threatened Iran and Israel has such weapons, so Morris’ fantasy is closer to sadistic porn rather than masochistic porn. Morris is following the same reasoning as Lipstadt. A Jew is entitled to write propaganda advocating an attack on innocent civilians living in a country that poses no threat to Israel. Why? Because of the Holocaust!

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                        Bush Poll Ratings Before Speech Fall to Nixon's Level

                        English (US)  January 23rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                        By Nadine Elsibai

                        President George W. Bush's approval ratings are now the lowest for any president the day before a State of the Union speech since Richard Nixon in 1974, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

                        [More:]

                        Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as president while 33 percent approve. The rating matches Bush's career low in a May 2006 poll.

                        Seventy-one percent of Americans said the country is on the wrong track, up from 46 percent in an April 2003 poll, the month after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. A majority of those polled this month don't approve of how Bush is handling the Iraq war, terrorism or the economy.

                        Bush, who addresses the nation before a joint session of Congress tomorrow, will face many members of his own party who blame him for Republicans' losing majority control of the House and Senate in the November 2006 midterm elections.

                        White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush's State of the Union speech will focus on issues including the Iraq war, energy independence, health-care, immigration and education.

                        Bush also received career-low approval ratings in a new CNN poll. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of how Bush has handled his presidency and 34 percent said they approve. Sixty percent disapproved and 38 percent approved of Bush's performance in a March 2006 CNN poll.

                        CBS, NBC Polls

                        Bush reached an all-time low 28 percent approval rating in a CBS poll released today. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed in the CBS poll said they opposed Bush's sending 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, and 75 percent said the war there is going badly. Fifty percent said Congress shouldn't provide money for the 20,000 additional troops.

                        The CBS poll surveyed 1,168 adults nationwide by telephone from Jan. 18 to 21. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

                        Almost two-thirds of people in the U.S. don't support a troop increase in Iraq if Congress passes a resolution opposing it, and don't believe the war can succeed, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Investigators questioned 1,007 adults from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20, and the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

                        Giuliani, Clinton

                        Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led among Republicans and New York Senator Hillary Clinton paced Democrats in a CNN poll on potential 2008 presidential candidates.

                        Giuliani received support from 32 percent of Republicans surveyed; Arizona Senator John McCain followed with 26 percent; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was third at 9 percent.

                        Giuliani and McCain have both formed presidential exploratory committees. Gingrich has yet to say whether he will seek the party's nomination for president.

                        Support for Clinton dropped to 34 percent from 37 percent a month earlier, the poll found. Illinois Senator Barack Obama followed with 18 percent, up 3 percentage points from a December 2006 poll. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards was third at 15 percent.

                        Clinton, Obama and Edwards have each filed papers allowing them to raise and spend money through a presidential exploratory committee.

                        Of the 1,008 adults in the CNN poll, 365 were asked about the Republican nomination and 467 were asked about the Democratic candidates. The margin of error for Republicans was plus or minus 5 percentage points, and plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for Democrats.

                        The Washington Post-ABC News telephone poll of 1,000 adults nationwide was conducted Jan. 16-19. Opinion Research Corporation conducted the CNN telephone poll of 1,008 Americans Jan. 19-21. Both surveys had a 3 percentage point margin of error overall.

                        To contact the reporter on this story: Nadine Elsibai in Washington at nelsibai@bloomberg.net .

                        Bloomberg

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                          Raid on the First Amendment: The Pentagon vs. Press Freedom

                          English (US)  January 23rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                          By Norman Solomon

                          We often hear that the Pentagon exists to defend our freedoms. But the Pentagon is moving against press freedom.

                          [More:]

                          Not long ago, journalist Sarah Olson received a subpoena to testify next month in the court-martial of U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada, who now faces prosecution for speaking against the Iraq war and refusing to participate in it. Apparently, the commanders at the Pentagon are so eager to punish Watada that they've decided to go after reporters who have informed the public about his statements.

                          People who run wars are notoriously hostile to a free press. They're quick to praise it -- unless the reporting goes beyond mere stenography for the war-makers and actually engages in journalism that makes the military command uncomfortable.

                          Evidently, that's why the Pentagon subpoenaed Olson. They want her to testify to authenticate her quotes from Watada -- which is to say, they want to force her into the prosecution of him. "Army lawyers are overreaching when they try to prosecute their case by drafting reporters," the Los Angeles Times noted in a Jan. 8 editorial.

                          The newspaper added: "No prosecutor should be able to conscript any reporter into being a deputy by compelling testimony about a statement made by a source -- or go fishing for information beyond what a reporter presents in a story -- unless it's absolutely vital to protect U.S. citizens from crime or attack. This principle should apply whether or not the source was speaking in confidence, or whether or not the reporter works for a media organization."

                          Olson is a freelancer whose reporting on Watada has appeared on the widely read Truthout.org website and has aired on the nationwide public radio program "Making Contact." (Full disclosure: I was a founder of that program and served as an advisor.) For a number of years, she has been doing the job of a journalist. Now, in its dealings with her, the Pentagon is despicably trying to trample on the First Amendment.

                          As the LA Times editorialized, "there is something especially chilling about the U.S. military reaching beyond its traditional authority to compel a non-military U.S. citizen engaged in news-gathering to testify in a military court, simply to bolster a court-martial case. ... Sustaining the military subpoena would set a troubling precedent. It's time for the Army to back off."

                          But the Army hasn't shown any sign of backing off -- despite an outcry from a widening range of eminent journalists, mainstream media institutions and First Amendment groups.

                          "Trying to force a reporter to testify at a court-martial sends the wrong signal to the media and the military," said the president of the Military Reporters and Editors organization, James W. Crawley. He commented: "One of the hallmarks of American journalism, as documented in the Bill of Rights and defended by our armed services, is a clear separation of the press and the government. Using journalists to help the military prosecute its case seems like a serious breach of that wall."

                          By sending subpoenas to Sarah Olson and to another journalist who has reported on Watada (Gregg Kakesako of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin), the Pentagon is trying to chip away at the proper role of news media.

                          Two officials of the PEN American Center, a venerable organization that works to protect freedom of expression, put the issue well in a recent letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "If Olson and Kakesako respond to these subpoenas by testifying, they will essentially be participating in the prosecution of their source. Reporters should not serve as the investigative arm of the government. Such a role compromises their objectivity and can have chilling effects on the press."

                          Writing for Editor & Publisher magazine, Sarah Olson summed up what is at stake: "A member of the press should never be placed in the position of aiding a government prosecution of political speech. This goes against the grain of even the most basic understanding of the First Amendment's free press guarantees and the expectation of a democracy that relies on a free flow of information and perspectives without fear of censor or retribution."

                          And Olson added: "You may ask: Do I want to be sent to prison by the U.S. Army for not cooperating with their prosecution of Lieutenant Watada? My answer: Absolutely not. You may also ask: Would I rather contribute to the prosecution of a news source for sharing newsworthy perspectives on an affair of national concern? That is the question I wholly object to having before me in the first place."

                          The Pentagon's attack on journalism is an attack on the First Amendment -- and an attempt to drive a wedge between journalists and dissenters in the military. Resistance is essential for democracy.

                          For more information about Pentagon moves against journalists, go to: www.FreePressWG.org

                          Norman Solomon is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

                          Counterpunch

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                            The Manipulation of the American Mind: Only Impeachment Can Prevent More War

                            English (US)  January 23rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                            By Paul Craig Roberts

                            Everyone knows that Bush's Iraq "surge" will not work. Even the authors of the plan, neoconservatives Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, have emphasized that the plan cannot work with any less than an addition of 50,000 US troops committed to another three years of combat. Bush is only adding 40% of that number of troops, and Defense Secretary Gates speaks of the operation being over by summer's end.

                            [More:]

                            On January 18 a panel of retired generals testifying on Capitol Hill slammed Bush's surge plan as "a fool's errand." Even the easily bamboozled American public knows the plan will not work. Newsweek's latest poll released January 20 shows that only 23% of the public support sending more troops to Iraq and that twice as many Americans trust the Democrats in Congress than trust Bush.

                            A majority of Americans (54%) believe Bush to be neither honest nor ethical, and 57% believe that Bush lacks "strong leadership qualities."

                            Nevertheless, Bush defended his surge plan, telling a group of TV stations last week, "I believe it will work."

                            Bush is correct that it will work--indeed, the surge is working. We have to be clear about how the plan works. It does not mean that 21,500 more US troops will bring order and stability to Iraq. The surge is working, because it is deflecting attention from the Bush Regime's real game plan.

                            The real game plan is to orchestrate a war with Iran and to initiate wider conflict in the Middle East before public and military pressure forces the Bush Regime to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

                            Two US carrier attack groups have been deployed to the Persian Gulf. US missile systems are being sent to oil producing countries to counter any incoming missiles from Iran should any survive the US attack. Israeli pilots have been training for an attack on Iran. US war doctrine has been changed to permit pre-emptive nuclear attack on non-nuclear countries. US attack aircraft have been deployed at bases in Turkey. A neocon admiral who attends AIPAC events has been made commander in chief of US forces in the Middle East. Obviously, the ground war in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the focus of the Bush Regime's new military deployments. The Bush Regime is focused on attacking Iran.

                            In CounterPunch (January 16) Col. Sam Gardiner reports that the Bush Regime has put into operation a group led by National Security Council staff whose mission is to create and foment outrage against Iran. Col. Gardiner details various signs of the Bush Regime's escalation and indicates some of the final deployments that will signal an imminent strike on Iran, such as "USAF tankers moved to unusual places, like Bulgaria" in order to position them for refueling B-2 bombers on their way to Iran.

                            Both Michel Chossudovsky (ICH Jan. 17) and Jorge Hirsch (CounterPunch Jan. 20) have recently documented evidence that the Bush Regime is orchestrating a crisis with Iran that can lead to the use of nuclear weapons to attack Iran.

                            Civil libertarians who have observed the Bush Regime's concentration of dictatorial powers in the presidency expect that war with Iran, especially if fearful nuclear weapons are used, will be accompanied by Bush's declaration of a state of emergency. The Bush Regime will use the state of emergency to grab more arbitrary and dictatorial powers in the name of protecting "national security interests" and American citizens from "terrorism."

                            As the Regime's crimes against the US Constitution and humanity will be monstrous, dissent will be throttled in ways that will make Americans afraid to speak, or even to think, the truth. By stifling dissent, the Bush Regime will escape accountability for launching wars on the basis of blatant lies. It will complete its destruction of the civil liberties that protect free speech, dissent, and Americans from arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without charges or access to attorneys.

                            Congress is wasting precious time with non-binding resolutions and debates over cutting off war funding. The Bush Regime is rushing the country into a war and a domestic police state. Writing in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick reports that one of the main goals of the so-called "war on terror" (essentially a propagandistic hoax) is to achieve a massive expansion in unaccountable executive power. This is a long-time goal of VP Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington. It is also the main goal of the "conservative" Federalist Society, an organization of Republican lawyers from whose membership Republican judicial nominees are drawn.

                            American public opinion is being manipulated. In the name of protecting "American freedom and democracy," the Bush regime rides roughshod over both as it ignores both the public and Congress and proceeds with a catastrophic policy supported by no one but the Bush Regime and a cabal of power-mad neoconservatives.

                            Nothing can stop the Regime except the immediate impeachment of Bush and Cheney. This is America's last chance.

                            Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

                            Counterpunch

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                              Israeli and US Zionist officials "optimistic" at idea of "regime change" in Iran

                              English (US)  January 22nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                              The Israeli Zionists and the Zionist Occupation Government of the USA are using the same divide-and-conquer tactics that all Western imperial-colonist-settler governments have used since 1492 -- this time pitting Sunni Arab Muslims against Shia Iranian Muslims. The ultimate goal is to fractionate the Arab-Muslim world into tiny enclaves that are dependent on the US and, of course, to control all of the oil in the Arab countries.

                              By Haviv Rettig

                              A quiet Sunni Arab strategic realignment was the topic of conversation among senior American and Israeli analysts - both official and unofficial - gathered at the Herzliya Conference on Sunday, the opening day of the conference. Many were cautiously optimistic that Iranian influence in the Middle East could be curtailed, and that this process has already begun. The causes: isolation in the international system, economic mismanagement and a growing opposition to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

                              [More:]

                              "The Saudis have stopped hiding the fact that there are joint interests for Israel and Saudi Arabia, and [Saudi officials] are telling the media that the Iranian threat is greater than the Israeli one," Col. (res.) Eran Lerman, director of the Israel/Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee and a former senior IDF intelligence analyst, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

                              "It is ironic that [the Sunni Arab states] have lived for two generations with the assumption that the Jews have a nuclear weapon, but only when the Shi'ites are developing one do we hear [that they are developing their own options]," Lerman continued.

                              There is a real strategic opportunity for Israel to reach out to moderate Sunni governments, asserted Dr. Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group and an expert on US foreign policy. This is "particularly true [in the face of] the active promotion of conflict and the aggressive policies of this particular Iranian government," he told the Post.

                              According to Robert Einhorn, a former US assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation and a member of the American Council on Foreign Relations, "there's a Sunni Arab-Israeli commonality of interest in containing an ideologically aggressive Iran."

                              Einhorn even told the Post that the recent Gulf Cooperation Council declaration that the Gulf states would seek nuclear technology was "a message to Iran that others can do what they are doing and a message to the United States and the West that they had better stop Iran."

                              The main pressure on the Iranian regime appears to be local, and the lever of domestic opposition was on everybody's mind at the conference.

                              While "six months ago, Iranians were proud their country was seen - even in the Arab world - as a leader," said Einhorn, "at this point, they are beginning to see Ahmadinejad as a liability."

                              According to Bremmer, "this [Iranian] government's economic mismanagement" has left it vulnerable to economic action against the regime, particularly centering on the country's energy supplies. "The Iranian economy is under pressure in a way that Saudi Arabia and Russia are not." It is for this reason that "the Saudis are reluctant to talk about limiting energy production," despite the fact that the price of oil has dropped in recent months from $78 per barrel to the current price of $52. "A $50 price pressures Iran," Bremmer believes.

                              "There are millions of Iranians who want to see regime change," asserted former senior American defense official Richard Perle, declaring that "the failure to help them [on the part of the US administration] is a shocking dereliction."

                              Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said the American administration saw Iran as increasingly more isolated in the international community. He noted tellingly to conference-goers that "Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are US allies," later listing only four countries which support Iran: Belarus, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela.

                              "With friends like that," Burns jibed to the audience's chuckles, "you can finish the sentence..."

                              Jerusalem Post

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                                Ex-US Official Uber-Zionist Richard Perle: Bush would approve Iran attack

                                English (US)  January 22nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                Super Zionist and neoconservative Richard Perle, a former Pentagon adviser and one of the original architects of the Iraq war, is now pushing for a war on Iran and he is making the same arguments that were found to be totally false in pushing for war on Iraq -- that Iran is developing nuclear weapons (a claim that is utterly unsubstantiated and, in fact, contradicted by the International Atomic Energy Agency), that there is a majority of Iranians waiting greet American soldiers as liberators, and presenting nightmare visions of "the mushroom cloud" if the US doesn't act now. Why should Americans believe Perle and his Zionist neocon collaborators when they lied about Iraq? As Pres. Bush would say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, ah, yeah, well, you can't fool me twice, see?"

                                By Yaakov Lappin

                                If all options were exhausted in the attempt to stop the Iranian nuclear project, and US military involvement was needed for a successful strike on Tehran, US President George Bush would give the green light for the operation, former director of the US Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, Richard Perle, told the Herzliya Conference on Sunday evening.

                                [More:]


                                "The worst outcome is a failed military option," Perle said. Discussing a possible US involvement in a strike on Iran , he added: "Would this president do it? I think that until the day he leaves office, this is a president that, if he is told, 'Mr. President, you are at the point of no return,' I have very little doubt that this president would order the necessary military action."

                                Perle began his speech by saying it wasn't clear whether "it's our time or Iran's that is over."

                                He said the "current policy… will not by itself lead the Iranians to abandon their nuclear weapons program. If we continue to do what we are doing, Iran will become a nuclear weapons state."

                                "Iran with nuclear weapons will not be so easily deterred and contained as we sometimes think, as we have become accustomed to deterrence in the Cold War," Perle said, adding: "When deterrence fails, it fails not gently, but catastrophically."

                                Nuclear grievous damage

                                Perle hypothesized a nightmare scenario, saying: "In possession of nuclear weapons, or even in possession of nuclear material, Iran is perfectly capable of using its terrorist networks to enable others to inflict grievous damage."

                                "At some point, those of us who believe that the current policy will not lead to an abandonment of nuclear weapons (by Iran)… have to begin to face the question of when is the point of no return," Perle added.

                                Perle expressed astonishment at the lack of support granted by the West to Iranian opposition movements who wish to overthrow the regime of the Ayatollahs.

                                "I'm not convinced that we have a lot of time. Given the peril that would result, its astonishing to me that we do not now have a serious political strategy with Iran," he said, adding he thought regime change is "the only significant effective way" to deal with the Iranian threat.

                                "If we continue on our current course, we have only a military option. So what I'm urging, and this should have happened a very long time ago, is that we make a serious effort to work with the internal (Iranian) opposition," Perle said.

                                Ynet News

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                                  War-mongering Zionists urging world toward war on Iran

                                  English (US)  January 22nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                  Israel minister calls for harsher Iran sanctions

                                  TOKYO - Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday urged the international community to impose harsher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, but stopped short of calling for military action.

                                  Full story at
                                  The Star

                                  Full story at: Israel chief Rabbi urges world to isolate Iran headOnline San Diego

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                                    US asks Czechs to host radar base

                                    English (US)  January 22nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                    Topolanek's centre-right government was confirmed in power after a confidence vote on Friday

                                    The United States has asked the Czech Republic to host a key part of its global anti-missile system, the country's prime minister has said.

                                    An opinion poll released earlier this month indicated two thirds of Czechs were against a missile interceptor site on Czech territory, but about 60 per cent would agree with just a radar.

                                    [More:]


                                    The official request came minutes after Mirik Topolanek's centre-right government was confirmed in power in a parliamentary confidence vote which ended more than seven months of political deadlock.

                                    "Late last night we were informed that they would like to launch negotiations over the possible siting of an anti-ballistic missile defence system in our country. Concretely, this would be a radar station," Topolanek said.

                                    The government has previously backed Czech participation in the system.

                                    Washington wants to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar station in Europe to reinforce its defences against the threat of a ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran.

                                    The US has been negotiating with the Czech Republic and Poland, both former communist states that now belong to Nato, over hosting a missile defence site in Eastern Europe.

                                    It has also suggested that the system could be split between the two countries.

                                    Russian objections

                                    Russia has protested against Washington's plans, saying it could lead to a new arms race.

                                    "We are convinced that a possible deployment of the radar station on our territory is in our interest." -- Mirik Topolanek, Czech prime minister

                                    Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defence minister, called it a "destabilising" move that Russia would respond to.

                                    "The government is ready to seriously consider the United States' request," Topolanek said, adding that a committee would be set up in the next week to discuss the issue.

                                    He said it could take several months before a decision is taken on whether to host the radar system.

                                    If the plan is approved, about 200 specialists would be deployed to the base which would become operational in 2011.

                                    "We are convinced that a possible deployment of the radar station on our territory is in our interest," he said on Saturday. "It will increase security of the Czech Republic and Europe."

                                    Sensitive issue

                                    The siting of a foreign base on Czech soil is a sensitive issue and both houses of parliament would have to approve it.

                                    Topolanek's three-way coalition only commands 100 votes in the 200-seat lower house and was only confirmed in power thanks to two rebel Social Democrats.

                                    The opposition Social Democratic Party has called for a national referendum on the issue, but Topolanek opposes the idea.

                                    An opinion poll released earlier this month indicated two thirds of Czechs were against a missile interceptor site on Czech territory, but about 60 per cent would agree with just a radar.

                                    Agencies

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                                      'Invisible hand' of Israel maintains death grip in Gaza

                                      English (US)  January 21st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                      Despite the removal of its settlements in 2005, Israel maintains a form of occupation [GALLO/GETTY]

                                      By Laila El-Haddad

                                      Israel controls life in Gaza with an "invisible hand", despite its "disengagement" from the area over a year ago, according to a report by an Israeli rights group.

                                      [More:]


                                      Despite the removal of illegal settlements and permanent army bases from Gaza in August 2005, Israel continues a form of occupation, says the report, released on Wednesday.

                                      "Israel has not relinquished control over Gaza but rather removed some elements of control while tightening other significant controls," according to Disengaged Occupiers: the Legal Status of Gaza, a report by Gisha, the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, a Tel Aviv-based rights group.

                                      Instead Israel has "changed the way in which such control is effectuated", the report says.

                                      This includes control over Gaza's air space and territorial waters, its borders, the movement of goods and people, the taxation system, fiscal policy and the population registry.

                                      "Israel controls Gaza through a kind of 'invisible hand', which is hard to see but felt intensely by Gaza residents, who know that their ability to do basic things – buy milk, turn on electric lights, travel abroad – depend on decisions made by Israel," Sari Bashi, director of the institute and co-author of the report, said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

                                      The report makes the case that despite "disengagement", Israel never relinquished the control over Gaza that it maintained as an occupying power and so it is still liable for the welfare of its residents according to international law.

                                      Israel completed its "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip, a plan masterminded by Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, on September 12, 2005 with the removal of illegal Israeli settlements and permanent military installations from Gaza.

                                      Tel Aviv said this constituted an end to its military governance of Gaza and Sharon declared it "the end of Israeli control over, and responsibility for, the Gaza Strip", in a speech to the UN.

                                      But Israeli control and closure policies have since grown tighter and more rigorous, and the occupation is far from over, according to Bashi.

                                      "A Gaza university cannot receive visits from a foreign lecturer unless Israel issues a visitor's permit; a Gaza mother cannot register her child in the Palestinian population registry without Israeli approval; and a Gaza fisherman cannot fish off the coast of Gaza without permission from Israel," she said.

                                      Bashi says Gisha's 100-page report, which is based on internal and public Israeli military documents and extensive interviews, "challenges an assumption held by Israelis and even some international policy-makers that Israel's disengagement plan ended the occupation of Gaza".

                                      Limbo

                                      After its disengagement from Gaza, the Israeli government's position has been that Israel is no longer in control of the territory and so bears no legal responsibility for the welfare its residents, leaving them in legal and political limbo.

                                      It is a situation that Bashi says is no longer sustainable.

                                      "Israel controls Gaza through a kind of 'invisible hand', which is hard to see but felt intensely by Gaza residents" -- Sari Bashi, director of Gisha

                                      She said: "They can't have it both ways. Israel is keeping quiet about its declaration that Gaza is no longer occupied, in part to avoid questions about its continued control over Gaza - control which has contributed to the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

                                      "The European community and many in the international community operate on the assumption that Gaza is still occupied, which explains Israel's control over it. Israel's position – that it no longer controls Gaza and owes no obligations there – should, I think, spark questions among foreign policy makers and politicians.

                                      "In the current political context, Israel's position means Gaza is cut off from the West Bank, too."

                                      Gaza's main commercial crossing has been closed for more than half the time since disengagement, according to a UN estimate, and as a result only four per cent of Gaza's harvest has been exported.

                                      The report cites the example of Yunis Abu Shabana, a Palestinian farmer who exports cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers to Europe, as an example of how the closure affects Palestinians.

                                      Shabana said: "Last January, I had 40 tonnes of produce waiting to be transported at Karni crossing … after 20 days of waiting, the produce was destroyed.

                                      "Right now, my workers are not working and I am supposed to destroy the produce that remains in the factories and greenhouses."

                                      Rafah crossing

                                      In addition, Israel maintains control over Gaza resident's only passage in and out of the territory - the Rafah crossing.

                                      This has been open less than 14 per cent of the time since June 2006 and its use is restricted to holders of Gaza ID cards – the issuing of which Israel continues to control despite disengagement.


                                      The Rafah Crossing has been open less than 14
                                      per cent of the time since June [GALLO/GETTY]

                                      The report examines the cases of Palestinians living in Gaza who "do not exist", since Israel will not recognise them as residents and issue ID cards or family re-unification permits.

                                      Tens of thousands of Palestinians fall into this category, according to the Palestinian ministry of civil affairs.

                                      One such Palestinian is Mirvant Alnahal, a 31-year-old lawyer and mother of three who entered Gaza on a visitor's permit in 1994.

                                      "My husband's ID card says he is married, but the box for 'spouse's name' is blank. My children were born in Gaza to a mother who, officially, does not exist," she is quoted as saying in the report.

                                      Israeli authorities have refused to extend Alnahal's permit or issue her residency status in Gaza.

                                      "Since I came to Gaza, I am trapped here. I cannot leave, for fear that I won't be allowed to return," she said.

                                      Travel between Gaza and the West Bank has also been completely severed.

                                      The report says these actions, including Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues, have caused an unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

                                      Jazeera

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                                        They Kept On Walking

                                        English (US)  January 21st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                        David Rovics' newest CD, "Halliburton Boardroom Massacre," is available at www.davidrovics.comBy

                                        By David Rovics

                                        Our taxi dropped us off at the checkpoint outside Nablus, so we could then walk through the checkpoint and take another taxi into the city. With the travel restrictions and hundreds of checkpoints everywhere, this is the way you have to travel, if you’re lucky enough to be allowed to travel at all.

                                        [More:]

                                        There, on the outskirts of this ancient Palestinian city, as with every other city in the West Bank, was a heavily-armed gang of young Israeli men and women in green IDF uniforms. One of the men inspected my passport, and spent a few minutes trying to discourage me from entering Nablus. “It’s crazy in there. There are Arab terrorists. There are bombs every night. It’s not safe.” I thanked him for his warning, and thought to myself that he might have an entirely different experience in Nablus if he visited the city in a role other than that of occupation soldier.

                                        We got into another taxi and drove towards the city center, passing one destroyed factory after another, bombed in 2002 when Israel invaded, leaving much of the city in ruins. Several of the factories used to make soap, Nablus was known for them, but no longer.

                                        Inching along in gnarled traffic, we eventually got to the campus of An-Najah National University. I was to do a concert there that evening to a large and appreciative audience. Due to circumstances beyond my control, each organizer on my tour of Palestine had only a few days to put together a concert, and Saed Abu-Hijleh managed to pull it off brilliantly.

                                        Contrary to the warnings of the Israeli soldier, I only met really nice people like Saed during my stay in Nablus. He was my age, in his late thirties, a good-looking man in a sports jacket. He greeted us warmly and together we walked across the campus to his office. As we passed hundreds of students and other people on this extremely crowded, bustling campus, it was obvious that Saed commanded a deep respect and admiration from everyone.

                                        Saed is a professor, and administrator in charge of public relations. Under the current restrictions of the Israeli occupation, the only way he could potentially get out of Nablus would be on foot at great personal danger. He, and his car, are not allowed to leave the city. Before the Al-Aqsa Intifada, when travel was easier for most Palestinians, he had studied for nine years in Iowa City, and remembered his time there fondly.

                                        We got to his small office, and Saed was showing me a lovely booklet one of his students had made with Arabic translations of some of my songs, which was to be handed out to everybody coming to the concert that night. There was a picture of a woman on his desk, and I asked him who she was. He explained to me that she was his mother, and she had recently been killed by Israeli occupation soldiers.

                                        They had pulled up to the house where both of them lived, where he still lives, and opened fire. Saed didn’t know whether they meant to kill her or him. Her greatest crime was being involved with a program that distributed food to poor people in Nablus. His crime was being a prominent member of his community, and an eloquent critic of the occupation. Just the sort of voice the Israelis have a habit of silencing.

                                        Later I asked Saed if he had considered trying to leave Palestine after his mother was assassinated. He seemed slightly annoyed at the question, and told me that everybody was a target. He pointed to various students nearby. “Him, her, him – they’re all targets. Why should I be the one to leave? I’m not special. These are my people, this is where I belong. I’m not leaving.” Along with the annoyance, there was a look on his face that I would describe as a sort of fierce compassion.

                                        Events like the assassination of Saed’s mother are a daily occurrence under the Israeli occupation. You can read a blow-by-blow account on the website of the International Middle East Media Center from Bethlehem. Woman killed by Army as she tries to save man bleeding to death on her doorstep. Settlers beat girl to death in Hebron. 21 residents of Jenin rounded up and arrested by the Army. Electricity plant bombed by IDF, several towns without electricity or water. Pregnant woman and her baby die in childbirth, prevented by Army from reaching hospital. Helicopter gunship demolishes home, killing Hamas activist and family of seven. Two school girls shot by snipers as they sat at their desks in their classroom.

                                        And for each person like Saed’s mother, there is someone like Saed, refusing to be cowed. For every school girl shot by Israeli snipers, there are a hundred more who still go to class the next day.

                                        The daily carnage in Palestine rarely makes it into the corporate news media, but every once in a while developments are dramatic enough to warrant the reluctant attention of the New York Times. During the recent Israeli invasion (“incursion”) of Beit Hanoun in Gaza, there was a stand-off at a mosque. Sixty resistance fighters had taken refuge in it, trying to avoid being killed by Israeli tanks. The IDF had surrounded the building.

                                        From the local radio station the call went out for women to come to the mosque and try to protect those inside, in the hopes that the Israelis wouldn’t massacre a crowd of unarmed women. Scores of women responded quickly to the call and walked in between the tanks and the mosque. The Israelis then proceeded to start firing with tank-mounted machine guns directly into the crowd of women.

                                        One line in the Times’ article particularly caught my eye. Women were falling from the gunfire, many injured and screaming in pain, two dead, and dozens running from the scene in panic. Still other women, though, were doing something else. The Israelis were firing, their compatriots were falling all around them, but they kept on walking towards the mosque.

                                        A few days later, Gaza once again made it into the Times. The Israelis had identified a house in Jabaliya as being inhabited by a resistance fighter. Of course, the house was also occupied by his entire extended family. And of course, his was a legitimate resistance against a brutal, illegal, horribly violent occupation. Nonetheless, the IDF was preparing to do to his house what they had done to thousands of other homes around Palestine – destroy it with missiles fired from an American fighter jet.

                                        This time the IDF telephoned the house first and told everybody to get out, that the house would be destroyed. On countless other occasions, the Israelis have destroyed houses with no warning, or almost immediately after issuing a warning, while people were still in the house, and many people have died that way. Knowing this, the residents of the house refused to leave.

                                        Instead, they called on the community to come join them, which they did. People packed into the house and on the roof, including the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Hanieh. Knowing that death was quite likely around the corner, the people stood their ground. This time, the IDF backed down, and left the house intact.

                                        It’s in moments like these, and in the faces of people like Saed Abu-Hijleh, that you can get a glimpse of the dignity that pervades the spirit of the Palestinian people. As with the women outside the mosque in Beit Hanoun, as with the boys and girls defiantly returning to school day after day, as with those trying simply to live in their houses, the Palestinian people are increasingly faced with the reality that they have only two real choices. To stand their ground one way or to stand their ground another. To die the death of a martyr or to live the life of a hero.

                                        Before I got to Palestine I was having dinner in Beirut with an older, well-respected Lebanese man who worked for the UN there. I asked him what he thought of Israel. His was a long-term, philosophical outlook, I suppose. “The Moors occupied Spain for 800 years, but eventually they were kicked out, because they didn’t belong there,” he said. “The Romans occupied Jerusalem for 700 years, but they were eventually kicked out, because they didn’t belong there. Israel has been a state for only 50 years.”

                                        Whether it takes eight years or 800 years to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, there will surely be many more martyrs like Saed’s mother. And just as surely, as long as there are Palestinians left alive, there will be many like Saed -- refusing to leave, standing up, there in what remains of Nablus when the occupation is finally defeated.

                                        David Rovics is a singer-songwriter who tours regularly around North America, Europe and occasionally elsewhere. His website is www.davidrovics.com.</em>

                                        1512 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                          10-year-old Palestinian girl dies from Israeli gas bomb shot to her head

                                          English (US)  January 21st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                          Abir was carrying a book, a notebook and some pens in her 10 year old hands. She has yet to participate in a demonstration or a march protesting occupation, but that did not stop Israeli soldiers from hitting her.

                                          By Maisa Abu Ghazaleh

                                          Abir Aramin was only injured at first by the gas bomb that was shot at the back of her head. She had just stepped out of the Anata School for Girls after taking a test when the gas canister hit her and she was knocked to the ground.

                                          [More:]

                                          Israeli forces in Jerusalem had penetrated the town and began indiscriminately opening fire while detonating gas and sound bombs. Some young people responded with stones. Abir was the victime of the war game that the Israeli soldiers play daily when they enter the town during school hours and begin shooting near the Anata schools. These children are under 13 years of age, and do not fall prey to the taunting.

                                          Abir's father, Bassam Aramin, said, “I contacted the school administration while I was on my way to work and they told me that my daughter had been knocked to the ground and suffered a head injury. I thought it was just something simple. I contacted her mother and asked if she could go to the school and check it. But over the telephone I learned that the soldiers had done it and that Abir had been rushed to Makassed Hospital.”

                                          "During her first examination we learned that her skull had been fractured and that she had bleeding in her brain. She was initially treated and then we rushed her to Hadassah Hospital, Ein Karim Branch, in order to follow up the situation which was described in both hospitals as serious. Abir was lying in intensive care and in critical condition. She underwent brain surgery at 9:00 pm as her health deteriorated."

                                          On Thursday Abir died from the injuries.

                                          Abir's father works for the Jerusalem Society for Democracy and Dialogue and said, “I work in peace organizations and want to appeal to the entire world that what we want is a just and honorable peace. That is what is not wanted by the Israeli leadership.”

                                          Bassam Aramin had some words for the Israeli government. “The victims among the Palestinian people are no less important than Israeli people. We are all human beings.” He called on Israeli mothers to not be “tools of the occupation by sending their children to the battlefield without reason.” Aramin explained, “My daughter is a victim of a systematic oppressive policy and the Israelis must end the occupation and say yes to peace.”

                                          The Director of the Anata School for Girls said Wednesday that she regrets what happened to Abir Aramin. “What happened yesterday is a deliberate and provocative exercise practiced by border guards since the beginning of exams at the end of the first quarter at students in all of the Anata Secondary schools.” She added, “The border guards are present daily at the doors of the Anata School for Boys and that for girls, and around Saladin Street where they know the kids must pass to reach buses or to walk home. They provoke the students by throwing grenades at them.”

                                          The school director appealed for international protection for Palestinian school students.

                                          Palestine News Network

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                                            How the Moon rules your life

                                            English (US)  January 21st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                            At last, scientists claim to have found a link between our satellite and human behaviour - like how it governs the size of your dinner

                                            By Roger Dobson

                                            For eons, folklore has blamed the Moon for everything from lunacy to bad luck. And, for the last few centuries, scientists have scoffed. Now, according to new research they're not so sure. The Moon may not be made of cheese, but it seems to influence a lot more down on Earth than we previously thought.

                                            [More:]

                                            According to new research, the Moon affects not only the tides of the oceans but also people, producing a range of symptoms from flare-ups of gout to bladder problems. It may even lie behind the causes of car crashes and affect people's hormonal balances.

                                            Having carried out new research and reviewed 50 other studies, scientists suggest that doctors and the police even need to prepare for how their work rate will increase at different points in the lunar cycle. Among the findings examined by the researchers were studies that showed GP consultations go up during a full moon, according to Leeds University. Appointments rise by 3.6 per cent, which works out at around three extra patients for each surgery. The researchers did not speculate on the nature of the moon-related problems or why they happened, but said that "it does not seem to be related to anxiety and depression".

                                            Gout and asthma attacks peak during new and full moons, according to work carried out at the Slovak Institute of Preventive and Clinical Medicine in Bratislava, where attacks over a 22-year period were monitored.

                                            Data from 140,000 births in New York City showed small but systematic variations in births over a period of 29.53 days - the length of the lunar cycle - with peak fertility in the last quarter. "The timing of the fertility peak in the third quarter suggests that the period of decreasing illumination immediately after the full moon may precipitate ovulation.''

                                            A study in Florida of murders and aggravated assaults showed clusters of attacks around the full moon. A second study of three police areas found the incidence of crimes committed on full-moon days was much higher than on all other days. And a four-year study into car accidents found that the lowest number happened during the full-moon day, while the highest number was two days before the full moon. Accidents were more frequent during the waxing than the waning phase.

                                            Another study of some 800 patients with urinary retention admitted to hospital over a period of three years found higher retention during the new moon compared with other phases of the cycle. Interestingly, patients didn't show any other daily, monthly or seasonal rhythms in their retention problems.

                                            Even what we eat and drink is affected by the lunar cycle, according to a study at Georgia State University. Researchers looked at lunar variations in nutrient intakes and the meal patterns of 694 adults. They concluded: "A small but significant lunar rhythm of nutrient intake was observed with an 8 per cent increase in meal size and a 26 per cent decrease in alcohol intake at the time of the full moon relative to the new moon.''

                                            While scientists have been trying to prove for some time that the Moon does exert an effect, what has not been established is why. Scientists have until now examined the theory that the Moon triggers changes through its gravitational pull. But the latest research points to an effect on people's hormones. "The lunar cycle has an impact on human reproduction, in particular fertility, menstruation and birth rate. Other events associated with human behaviour, such as traffic accidents, crimes, and suicides, appeared to be influenced by the lunar cycle,'' said Dr Michael Zimecki of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

                                            "Although the exact mechanism of the Moon's influence on humans and animals awaits further exploration, knowledge of this kind of biorhythm may be helpful in police surveillance and medical practice,'' he said.

                                            The researchers also found links between the lunar cycle and the likelihood of people being admitted to hospital with heart or bladder problems and with diarrhoea. The menstrual cycle, fertility, spontaneous abortions and thyroid disease were also affected. Just how the Moon could have an effect needs further research. Dr Zimecki suggests that it may be the effect of the Moon's gravity on immune systems, hormones and steroids.

                                            He said: "At this stage of investigation, the exact mechanism of the lunar effect on the immune response is hard to explain. The prime candidates to exert regulatory function on the immune response are melatonin and steroids, whose levels are affected by the Moon cycle.

                                            "It is suggested that melatonin and endogenous steroids [which are naturally occurring in humans] may mediate the described cyclic alterations of physiological processes. Electromagnetic radiation and/or the gravitational pull of the Moon may trigger the release of hormones.''

                                            Whatever the root cause of the Moon's influence over us, its hold over the imagination will endure as long as the shining sphere of rock remains in the sky.

                                            Only 12 people have walked on the Moon: the first were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, the last were Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in 1972. But last December, Nasa announced plans for a permanent base on the Moon in preparation for a manned mission to Mars.

                                            Construction of the base is scheduled to take around five years, with the first voyages beginning by 2020.

                                            http://news.independent.co.uk

                                            900 words posted in ScienceLeave a comment

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                                              Deadly Saturday in Iraq

                                              English (US)  January 21st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                              Thirteen US soldiers died in a helicopter crash that was reportedly shot down by Iraqi resistance fighters Saturday. Another five soldiers died and three were woundedin an attack in the southern Iraqi holy city of Kerbala. Earlier on Saturday, the US military announced the deaths of three other soldiers in different attacks across Iraq. In other incidents during the day, at least 20 Iraqis were killed in a string of attacks, including three when several mortars were fired at a Sunni district of Baghdad, security sources said.

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                                                Pentagon sees U.S. war cost in Iraq rising to $8.4b a month

                                                English (US)  January 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                By Richard Cowan

                                                WASHINGTON -- The steadily rising Iraq war price tag will reach about $8.4 billion a month this year, Pentagon spokesmen said on Thursday, as heavy replacement costs for lost, destroyed and aging equipment mount.

                                                [More:]

                                                The Pentagon has been estimating last year's costs for the increasingly unpopular war at about $8 billion a month, having increased from a monthly "burn rate" of around $4.4 billion during the first year of fighting in fiscal 2003.

                                                During testimony at a House Budget Committee hearing, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said that nearly four years into the war, the Pentagon's war costs were rising because it was having to replace big-ticket items such as helicopters, airplanes and armored vehicles that are wearing out or were lost in combat.

                                                "We have a backlog and are seeing an increase," England told the panel.

                                                When factoring in U.S. combat costs in Afghanistan, the Pentagon will spend about $9.7 billion a month during the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, according to Pentagon spokesmen.

                                                Early next month, the administration is expected to ask Congress for a further $100 billion in "emergency" war money, on top of the $70 billion already approved for this year. The request comes as President George W. Bush has sketched out an increase of 21,500 U.S. troops in Iraq that could cost about $5.6 billion.

                                                House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, a South Carolina Democrat, said he hoped Congress could avoid recurring emergency funding bills for the war. "We would like to get a better grasp of the cost of the Iraq war and the global war on terrorism -- a way of accounting of costs to date and projecting costs to come."

                                                Since fiscal 2001, Congress has approved $503 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other aspects of the U.S. "global war on terrorism," according to Congressional Budget Office testimony. Of that, $344 billion has gone for military, diplomatic and other security costs in Iraq, the CBO said.

                                                Most of the funds have been provided on an emergency basis, outside regular budget procedures. Critics say that obscures the true cost of the war and results in less congressional oversight.

                                                'RESIDUAL TAIL'

                                                Democrats won control of Congress in elections last November due largely to the Iraq war's unpopularity. England said the financial burden of the conflict would persist for some time.

                                                He said even after the war ends, and he did not estimate when that would be, there would be two years of a "residual tail" of costs for rebuilding the military.

                                                Democrats and Republicans on the budget panel grilled England on whether the Pentagon was slipping money for expensive, nonemergency projects into the emergency war funds requests.

                                                Specifically, they inquired about reports Bush would ask for money to pay for two "Joint Strike Fighter" airplanes that are several years from being ready for combat, along with money for ballistic missiles and Navy aircraft repairs and procurement that is unrelated to Iraq combat.

                                                England would not comment specifically on the upcoming request for emergency war money. But he said that when equipment was lost in Iraq, it was not replaced with "something old," but with new equipment.

                                                Democrats have promised tougher oversight of defense spending, while challenging Bush's plans to broaden the American war effort in Iraq.

                                                Reuters

                                                541 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                  First Bomb Carter; Then Nuke Iran! The Israel Lobby Trips and Tilts

                                                  English (US)  January 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                  By Alexander Cockburn

                                                  Suppose the movers and shakers in the Israel lobby here -- Abe Foxman, Alan Dershowitz and the rest of the crew -- had simply decided to leave Jimmy Carter’s Palestine Peace Not Apartheid alone. How long before the book would have been gathering dust on the remainder shelves? Suppose even that Dershowitz had rounded up his unacknowledged co-authors in all their tens of thousands and sallied forth to buy up every copy of Carter’s book and toss each one into the Charles River, would not that have been a more successful suppressor than the blitzkrieg strategy they did adopt?

                                                  [More:]

                                                  Of course it would. For weeks now the lobby has hurled its legions into battle against Carter. He has been stigmatized as an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, a patron of former concentration camp killers, a Christian madman, a pawn of the Arabs who “flatly condones mass murder” of Israeli Jews. (This last was from Murdoch’s New York Post editorial, relayed to its mailing list by the Zionist Organization of America.)

                                                  Any day now I expect some janitors at the Carter Center to resign, declaring that they can no longer in all conscience mop bathrooms that might have been used by the former President, their letter of protest duly front-paged by the New York Times, just like the famous fourteen members of the Carter Center’s Board of Councilors. Actually there were, at the time of resignations, 224 people on this board, where membership is mostly a thank you for a financial donation to the center. So the headlines could be saying, “Nearly 95 per cent of Carter Center Board Members Back Former President.”

                                                  But the assault on Carter is all to no avail. With each gust of abuse, Carter’s book soars higher and higher on the bestseller lists, reaching number 4 on Amazon itself. This doesn’t prove the lobby has no power. It proves the lobby can be dumb. Adroit lobbying consists in preventing unpleasing material reaching the light of day. Lobbying thrives in furtive darkness: slipping language into a bill at the last moment, threatening to back a campaign opponent, making quiet phone calls to the Polish embassy. Pressure is now being exerted on Farrar, Straus and Giroux to abandon its impending publication of Mearsheimer and Walt’s attack on the lobby.

                                                  The Israel lobby retains its grip inside the Beltway, but it’s starting to lose its hold on the broader public debate. Why? You can’t brutalize the Palestinian people in the full light of day, decade after decade, without claims that Israel is a light among the nations getting more than a few serious dents. In the old days, Mearsheimer and Walt’s tract would have been deep-sixed by the University of Chicago and the Kennedy School long before it reached its final draft, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux wouldn’t have considered offering a six-figure advance for it. Simon & Schuster would have told President Carter that his manuscript had run into insurmountable objections from a distinguished board of internal reviewers. But once a book by a former president with weighty humanitarian credentials makes it into bookstores, it’s hard to shoot it down with volleys of wild abuse.

                                                  The trouble with the lobby and the Christian zealots who act as its echo chamber is that they believe their own propaganda about Israel’s equitable social arrangements and immaculate political and legal record in its relations with the Palestinians. Use the word apartheid and they howl with indignation. The shock is about thirty years out of date. Israeli writers have used the word apartheid to describe arrangements in the occupied territories for years. Hundreds of prominent South African Jews issued a statement six years ago making the same link.

                                                  As in so many things, conventional elite opinion lives in a bubble, believing mere assertion and ranting about anti-Semitism will carry the day. The New York Times featured a spectacularly disingenuous hatchet job by its deputy foreign editor, Ethan Bronner, and another assault by former Clinton-era Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross. The latter rolled out the ritual accusations about Arafat’s rejection of Clinton’s proposals in December 2000, which is nonsense, as Ross surely knows. Clinton himself acknowledged in 2001 what later historians have substantiated, that both sides accepted his proposals in principle, while filing reservations. (Israel’s amounted to 20 single-spaced pages.)

                                                  The Times’ attacks were matched in the Washington Post by Jeffrey Goldberg, formerly of the IDF and a notorious trafficker in fictions, such as the supposed terror ties between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Amazon ran his vulgar ravings under the “Editorial Reviews” heading—a space usually reserved for short blurbs from Publishers Weekly and the like.

                                                  But if the lobby is fighting rearguard and increasingly futile actions to suppress all discussion here of what Israel is doing to Palestinians, it continues to exercise very serious clout in such enclaves of timidity as the U.S. Congress. Bush was not foolish in singling out Iran for threats in his January 10 address. The Democratic reaction to Bush’s escalation against Iraq and Iran has mostly been confined to nervous talk of “symbolic votes.” This temperate posture is surely not unconnected to the fact that the lobby’s prime foreign policy task, joined by Israeli hawks like Bibi Netanyahu, has been to rally support for an assault on Iran.

                                                  What an irony! Desperate for an end to the war, the voters hand Congress to the Democrats. Barely more than two months later Bush is kidnapping Iranian diplomats from in their consulate in Irbil, Iraq -- a calculated provocation arousing scant tumult here. Bush is also deploying a larger naval force to the Persian Gulf, as Israel plants stories about its possible recourse to nuclear weapons. Some provocation, maybe a seizure by the U.S. of an Iranian tanker, is easy to imagine in February. In the Congress, there’s barely a whimper out of the Democrats amid these terrifying prospects. It may have made a mess of its war against Carter’s book, but as a ferryman across the Styx toward Armageddon the lobby is doing a competent job.

                                                  Counterpunch

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                                                    For the Republic

                                                    English (US)  January 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                    CAN A SINGLE MAN FORCE A NATION TO FIGHT an unpopular war it does not want to fight, expand a war it does not want to expand -- possibly to other countries? If he can, is that nation any longer a democracy in any meaningful sense? Is its government any longer a constitutional republic? Here's how Congress can stand up to Bush.

                                                    World opinion is against it. The American people are against it. The Democratic Party is against it. The Congress of the United States is against it. The Iraq Study Group is against it. The Iraqi people are against it. The Iraqi government is against it. Many Republican lawmakers are against it. The top brass are against it. But George W. Bush is going to do it: send 21,500 more troops into Iraq.

                                                    [More:]

                                                    Can a single man force a nation to fight a war it does not want to fight, expand a war it does not want to expand--possibly to other countries? If he can, is that nation any longer a democracy in any meaningful sense? Is its government any longer a constitutional republic? If not, how can democratic rule and the republican form of government be restored? These are the unwelcome questions that President Bush's decision has forced on the country.

                                                    The troop increase itself is not likely to change much in Iraq. Troop strength fell to about 115,000 in early 2004. By late 2005 it had risen to 160,000, only to fall to 130,000 again in mid-2006. Neither the 2005 increase (much larger than the one now ordered by Bush) nor the 2006 ebb had any demonstrable effect on the course of the war. In any case, almost everyone declares by now that there is no military solution in Iraq, only a political one. But the hard truth is that there is probably no political solution, either. Certainly, it is beyond the power of the United States to achieve one. Only Iraqis have the capacity to solve their political problems, yet there is no sign that they are headed in this direction. On the contrary, they are sliding deeper into a sort of half-smothered, underground civil war of extraordinary brutality. The professed mission of the American troops is to stop this internal war. But how can that be done with an M-16? "Whom do you shoot at--the Sunni or the Shia?" Senator John Warner has appropriately asked. Perhaps both? In that case, which Iraqis are American troops fighting for?

                                                    The only thing new about the increase is its prime-time announcement by the President and its label, the "surge." But the Iraq War is not going to be won by a label--or by the very modest military step that it refers to, either. Indeed, the problem with American policy was never that it chose this or that bad strategy in Iraq but that it planted itself in Iraq at all. Once that was done, all strategies were bad, condemning the United States to stumble from error to error--doing more of the fighting, doing less; attacking Shiites, attacking Sunnis; helping Shiites, helping Sunnis; writing a Constitution, letting "the Iraqis" write a Constitution; disbanding the Baath Party, inviting back the Baathists; letting Kurds opt out of Iraq, dragging them into Iraq. Now, four years into the game, American policy has gone from mistaken to unintelligible--its actions not so much misguided as irrelevant to the ghastly conflict now under way. The killing is real, but Bush's war is a fantasy.

                                                    The President, then, has not bought victory, but he may have bought more time. But for what? One much-mentioned possibility is a wider war, perhaps against Iran. That possibility was explicit in his announcement that he will "interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq" and also deploy Patriot missiles to Gulf allies. The very implausibility of the "surge" as a solution forces us all to ask now what will happen when it fails. When the President said his support of the Maliki government is not "open-ended," he fanned dovish hopes that his escalation was one last roll of the dice, after which he would order a withdrawal. However, nothing else he said supported that prospect. It was only from the Maliki government, not from the American intervention in Iraq, that Bush withdrew open-ended support. Regarding the war itself, he was still staying the course. "Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States," he said. And, "for the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq." The new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, said to the press, "At this pivotal moment, the credibility of the United States is on the line in Iraq." Nothing in these statements suggested a readiness to withdraw.

                                                    Unwanted war, the threat of a wider, even less wanted war, a constitutional crisis: The United States has experienced this combination before, and not so long ago. The war of course was Vietnam, ending in defeat in 1975, and the President was Richard Nixon, driven out of office under threat of certain impeachment the year before. Commentators of every stripe have been reaching back to this period for analogies. Is the present moment a repeat of 1968, when President Johnson, facing defeat in his renomination bid in the Democratic primaries, resigned from the campaign and opened peace negotiations; or of 1970, when Nixon widened the war by invading Cambodia and touched off an explosion of protest around the country that forced him to reverse course (and led Congress to prohibit funding for Cambodian operations); or of 1974 and 1975, when the Nixon Administration and the war ended (not accidentally) seriatim? Iraq is different from Vietnam and Bush is different from Nixon, yet the elements of the crisis are the same, as if we were still looking through the same kaleidoscope but after it had been given a shake. Again, we have the war launched on the basis of deceptions, again the duel between popular opinion and executive power, again executive secrecy, again the contempt for law, again the smearing of political opponents as abettors of the foe, again wiretapping, again defiance of Congress, again the imperial pretensions.

                                                    But more important than the similarities is the direct continuity between the two crises. The war in Iraq was framed as the culmination of a long campaign to overcome what the current President's father called the "Vietnam syndrome." The goal--probably the most important of the many aims of the whole enterprise--was to demonstrate that the United States had at last restored its ability, thrown into question by Vietnam, to determine the political future of nations (to accomplish regime change) through the use of military force. And this aim was in turn a pillar of the grandiose ambition, announced in White House documents, of achieving global dominance for the United States. Likewise, the most important theme of Bush's other usurpations--for example, of power to wiretap without a warrant, in contravention of statute, and to imprison and torture citizens as well as foreigners without due process--was to swell the power of the presidency at home. For in the minds of the Bush officials, Nixon's pre-impeachment presidency was not a cautionary tale but a model to be imitated, as Vice President Cheney, for one, has stated on many occasions. It is not only the Vietnam syndrome but the Watergate syndrome that they want to overcome. If the keynote of Nixon's character was covertness (not for nothing was he called Tricky Dick), then the keynote of Bush's character is brazenness: He seeks to carry out in broad daylight, as his formal right, the usurpations that Nixon committed under cover of night.

                                                    Thus, the deepest theme of the whole three-decade story, now presented in almost outlandish caricature by the President's tug of war with the nation and the world over Iraq, is the issue of power and how it shall be constituted in the United States, and the deepest question the crisis presents is whether this country will continue to be a constitutional republic or bow down to the new system of one-man rule asserted by President Bush. It's an issue that must concern every citizen, and the antiwar movement is in fact reviving it. It is calling its renewed effort a "peace surge." Meanwhile, Congress faces concrete choices. For the time being it is picking its way through a minefield of remedies. Should it simply pass a resolution disapproving of the troop increase, as favored by Senator Carl Levin? Should it aim at a reauthorization for the war on the ground that its fundamental purposes defined in the original authorization have changed, as proposed by Senator Edward Kennedy? Should it condition new funding on policy requirements (no more escalation, no wider war), as proposed by Representative Jack Murtha? Should it provide funds only to protect and withdraw the troops, as proposed by Representative Jerrold Nadler? Should it simply set a date for withdrawal and look at cutting off funds after that date, as proposed by Senator Russell Feingold? Should it attempt to pull many of these elements together in a broad proposal, such as that being advanced by Progressive Caucus co-chairs Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey? Or will it be better to pursue the myriad investigations that may produce the evidence for impeachment?

                                                    The experience of the earlier round of the crisis in the Nixon years offers food for thought. That episode presents a paradox. Faced with the most dangerous President in American history so far, the public passed up the easy route for getting rid of him--voting him out of power in 1972--and instead chose the harder route of impeachment two years later. More paradoxical still, opposing the unpopular war had a political cost attached, whereas impeachment did not. The challenge to Nixon's misguided war policies in 1972 by Democratic candidate Senator George McGovern, leading to Nixon's landslide re-election that year, created a horror of opposing any President's war policies that has paralyzed the Democrats down to this day. But the more drastic remedy of impeachment produced no such backlash, leading in fact to huge Democratic gains in the Congressional races that fall and to Jimmy Carter's election as President in 1976. It is true that between the 1972 re-election and the 1974 impeachment, American combat operations in Vietnam had ended. Therefore, a vote for impeachment was no longer a vote against the war. The curse of looking "weak" on national security had been lifted. Still, it remains a noteworthy fact, on which today's Congress members may want to reflect, that the drastic remedy of impeachment was more acceptable to the public than the apparently less drastic one of defunding a rogue President's war. Should Congress, then, impeach President Bush while letting him fight his war? Decency and respect for human life forbid such a conclusion. What is quite permissible, however, is to recall that investigations that could lead to impeachment may, as one ingredient of Congress's activity, strengthen rather than weaken the efforts to end the war. Investigations, resolutions, legislation, not to mention citizen action, can all find their place as part of the common effort. For the Republic, for peace, let all these surge together.

                                                    The Nation

                                                    1866 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment1 comment

                                                    1 response(s) to For the Republic

                                                    1. nikki [Visitor] Email says:

                                                      it's not a SINGLE MAN. You forgot that sycophant Joe Lieberman.

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                                                    'US bomb used' in Pakistan raid that killed 10 people

                                                    English (US)  January 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                    The markings on the unexploded missile shown
                                                    to journalists were clearly indentifiable

                                                    Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive pictures of the aftermath of an airstrike by Pakistani forces which killed at least 10 people.

                                                    [More:]

                                                    The footage shows an unexploded bomb that could not have been fired from the helicopter gunships that the Pakistani military said carried out the raid.

                                                    Pakistan's military said the airstrike on Tuesday targeted suspected al-Qaeda compounds but villagers in Zamzola said only civilians were killed.

                                                    In Salamat Ghundi, another village, residents told Reuters news agency that an unmanned US drone aircraft carried out the attack.

                                                    "This is wrong. We have already denied it. This is usual that such things are said on such occasions but these are wrong," Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan's military spokesman, said on Friday.

                                                    Unexploded bomb

                                                    On Thursday, journalists, who were escorted to Zamzola by armed men, were shown an unexploded missile which was just under two metres long and marked 'MFP AMF YORK 0873'. Villagers said it was dropped during the airstrike but its casing appeared to be old and weathered.

                                                    "This attack was basically carried out with five missiles fired by a Predator. The helicopters came in later and attacked," Jalindar Khan Kikari, a villager, said.


                                                    Villagers said that only civilians had been killed

                                                    Another villager, called Bashir, said: "The missiles were fired from a distant place, maybe from a spy plane, but I did not see that," before going on to describe how Pakistani helicopters arrived minutes later.

                                                    Another villager, Mohammad Ali, told Reuters on the day of the attack that he had seen a drone circling overhead but a Reuters journalist saw helicopter gunships take off from the army base at Miranshah before the attack and return soon after.

                                                    The type of unexploded bomb shown to journalists would not have been dropped from an unmanned drone aircraft.

                                                    Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking anonymously, have said that up to 20 al-Qaeda fighters were killed but there were no troops on the ground to confirm it.

                                                    Local villagers have insisted that only civilians died.

                                                    "No foreigner or Afghan was killed in this attack. Only labourers from Mehsud and Salmanzai tribes were killed," Awaz Khan, whose son and nephew were killed, told Reuters.

                                                    Over the past year, people in the tribal areas have challenged the official version of attacks in their lands, frequently saying that the United States was involved. Verifying the circumstances of such incidents is extremely difficult.


                                                    Al Jazeera and agencies

                                                    405 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                      We, the Jewish state

                                                      English (US)  January 19th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                      Demolition of Bedouin homes by Israeli security forces in the village of Al-Twail in the northern Negev last week

                                                      The state of Israel seems poised to impose its Zionist character using the force of the law. With this legislating of loyalty, it reveals its racism, writes Jonathan Cook* in Nazareth

                                                      When I published my book Blood and Religion last year, I sought not only to explain what lay behind Israeli policies since the failed Camp David negotiations nearly seven years ago, including the disengagement from Gaza and the building of a wall across the West Bank, but I also offered a few suggestions about where Israel might head next.

                                                      [More:]

                                                      Making predictions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be considered a particularly dangerous form of hubris, but I could hardly have guessed how soon my fears would be realised.

                                                      One of the main forecasts of my book was that Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line -- those who currently enjoy Israeli citizenship and those who live as oppressed subjects of Israel's occupation -- would soon find common cause as Israel tries to seal itself off from what it calls the Palestinian "demographic threat": that is, the moment when Palestinians outnumber Jews in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

                                                      I suggested that Israel's greatest fear was ruling over a majority of Palestinians and being compared to apartheid South Africa, a fate that has possibly befallen it faster than I expected with the recent publication of Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. To avoid such a comparison, I argued, Israel was creating a "Jewish fortress", separating -- at least demographically -- from Palestinians in the occupied territories by sealing off Gaza through a disengagement of its settler population and by building a 750 kilometre wall to annex large areas of the West Bank.

                                                      It was also closing off the last remaining avenue of a right of return for Palestinians by changing the law to make it all but impossible for Palestinians living in Israel to marry Palestinians in the occupied territories and thereby gain them citizenship.

                                                      The corollary of this Jewish fortress, I suggested, would be a sham Palestinian state, a series of disconnected ghettos that would prevent Palestinians from organising effective resistance, non-violent or otherwise, but which would give the Israeli army an excuse to attack or invade whenever they chose, claiming they were facing an "enemy state" in a conventional war.

                                                      Another benefit for Israel in imposing this arrangement would be that it could say that all Palestinians who identified themselves as such -- whether in the occupied territories or inside Israel -- must now exercise their rights in the Palestinian state and renounce any claim on the Jewish state. The apartheid threat would be nullified.

                                                      I sketched out possible routes by which Israel could achieve this end: by redrawing borders, using the wall, so that an area densely populated with Palestinian citizens of Israel known as the "little triangle", which hugs the northern West Bank, would be sealed into the new pseudo-state; by continuing the process of corralling the Negev's Bedouin farmers into urban reservations and then treating them as guest workers; by forcing Palestinian citizens living in the Galilee to pledge an oath of loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" or have their citizenship revoked; and by stripping Arab Knesset members of their right to stand for election.

                                                      When I made these forecasts, I suspected that many observers, even in the Palestinian solidarity movement, would find my ideas improbable. I could not have realised how fast events would overtake my projections.

                                                      The first sign came in October with the addition to the cabinet of Avigdor Lieberman, leader of a party that espouses the ethnic cleansing not only of Palestinians in the occupied territories (an unremarkable platform for an Israeli party) but of Palestinian-Israeli citizens too, through land swaps that would exchange their areas for the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

                                                      Lieberman is not just any cabinet minister; he has been appointed deputy prime minister with responsibility for the "strategic threats" that face Israel. In that role, he will be able to determine what issues are to be considered threats and thereby shape the public agenda for the next few years. The "problem" of Israel's Palestinian citizens is certain to be high on his list.

                                                      Lieberman has been widely presented as a political maverick, akin to the notorious racist Rabbi Meir Kahane whose Kach Party was outlawed in the late 1980s. That is a gross misunderstanding: Lieberman is at the very heart of the country's right-wing establishment and will almost certainly be a candidate for prime minister in future elections, as Israelis drift ever further right.

                                                      Unlike Kahane, Lieberman has cleverly remained within the Israeli political mainstream while pushing its agenda to the very limits of what it is currently possible to say. Kadima and Labour urgently want unilateral separation from the Palestinians but are shy to spell out, both to their own domestic constituency and the international community, what separation will entail.

                                                      Lieberman has no such qualms. He is unequivocal: if Israel is separating from the Palestinians in parts of the occupied territories, why not also separate from the 1.2 million Palestinians who through oversight rather than design ended up as citizens of a Jewish state in 1948? If Israel is to be a Jewish fortress, then, as he points out, it is illogical to leave Palestinians within its fortifications.

                                                      These arguments express the common mood among the Israeli public, one that has been cultivated since the eruption of the Intifada in 2000 by endless talk among Israel's political and military elites about "demographic separation". Regular opinion polls show that about two-thirds of Israelis support transfer, either voluntary or forced, of Palestinian citizens from the state.

                                                      Recent polls also reveal how fashionable racism has become in Israel. A survey conducted last year showed that 68 per cent of Israeli Jews do not want to live next to a Palestinian citizen (and rarely have to, as segregation is largely enforced by present authorities), and 46 per cent would not want an Arab to visit their home.

                                                      A poll of students that was published last week suggests that racism is even stronger among young Jews. Three-quarters believed Palestinian citizens are uneducated, uncivilised and unclean, and a third are frightened of them. Richard Kupermintz of Haifa University, who conducted the survey more than two years ago, believes that responses would be even more extreme today.

                                                      Lieberman is simply riding the wave of such racism and pointing out the inevitable path separation must follow if it is to satisfy these kinds of prejudices. He may speak his mind more than his cabinet colleagues, but they too share his vision of the future. That is why only one minister, the dovish and principled Ophir Pines Paz of Labour, resigned over Ehud Olmert's inclusion of Lieberman in the cabinet.

                                                      Contrast that response with the uproar caused by the Labour leader Amir Peretz's appointment of the first Arab cabinet minister in Israel's history. (A member of the small Druze community, which serves in the Israeli army, Salah Tarif, was briefly a minister without portfolio in Sharon's first government).

                                                      Raleb Majadele, a Muslim, is a senior member of the Labour party and a Zionist (what might be termed, in different circumstances, a self-hating Arab or an Uncle Tom), and yet his appointment has broken an Israeli taboo: Arabs are not supposed to get too close to the centres of power.

                                                      Peretz's decision was entirely cynical. He is under threat on all fronts -- from his coalition partners in Kadima and in Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu, and from within his own party -- and desperately needs the backing of Labour's Arab party members. Majadele is the key, and that is why Peretz gave him a cabinet post, even if a marginal one: minister of science, culture and sport.

                                                      But the right is deeply unhappy at Majadele's inclusion in the cabinet. Lieberman called Peretz unfit to be defence minister for making the appointment and demanded that Majadele pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Lieberman's party colleagues referred to the appointment as a "lethal blow to Zionism".

                                                      A few Labour and Meretz MKs denounced these comments as racist. But more telling was the silence of Olmert and his Kadima Party, as well as Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud, at Lieberman's outburst. The centre and right understand that Lieberman's views about Majadele, and Palestinian citizens more generally, mirror those of most Israeli Jews and that it would be foolhardy to criticise him for expressing it -- let alone sack him.

                                                      In this game of "who is the truer Zionist", Lieberman can only grow stronger against his former colleagues in Kadima and Likud. Because he is free to speak his and their minds, while they must keep quiet for appearance's sake, he, not they, will win ever-greater respect from the Israeli public.

                                                      Meanwhile, all the evidence suggests that Olmert and the current government will implement the policies being promoted by Lieberman, even if they are too timid to openly admit this is what they are doing.

                                                      Some of those policies are of the by-now familiar variety, such as the destruction of 21 Bedouin homes, half the village of Al-Twail, in the northern Negev last week. It was the second time in a month that the village had been razed by Israeli security forces.

                                                      These kinds of official attacks against the indigenous Bedouin -- who have been classified by the government as "squatters" on state lands -- are a regular occurrence, an attempt to force 70,000 Bedouin to leave their ancestral homes and relocate to deprived townships.

                                                      A more revealing development came this month, however, when it was reported in the Israeli media that the government is for the first time backing "loyalty" legislation that has been introduced privately by a Likud MK Gilad Erdan's bill that would revoke the citizenship of Israelis who take part in "an act that constitutes a breach of loyalty to the state", the latest in a string of proposals by Jewish MKs conditioning citizenship on loyalty to the Israeli state, defined in all these schemes very narrowly as a "Jewish and democratic" state.

                                                      Arab MKs, who reject an ethnic definition of Israel and demand instead that the country be reformed into a "state of all its citizens", or a liberal democracy, are typically denounced as traitors.

                                                      Lieberman himself suggested such a loyalty scheme for Palestinian citizens last month during a trip to Washington. He told American Jewish leaders: "He who is not ready to recognise Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state cannot be a citizen in the country."

                                                      Erdan's bill specifies acts of disloyalty that include visiting an "enemy state" -- which, in practice, means just about any Arab state. Most observers believe that after the Justice Ministry has redrafted Erdan's bill it will be used primarily against the Arab MKs, who are looking increasingly beleaguered. Most have been repeatedly investigated by the attorney-general for comments in support of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, or for visiting neighbouring Arab states. One, Azmi Bishara, has been put on trial twice for these offences.

                                                      Meanwhile, Jewish MKs have been allowed to make the most outrageous racist statements against Palestinian citizens, mostly unchallenged.

                                                      Former cabinet minister Effi Eitam, for example, said back in September: "The vast majority of West Bank Arabs must be deported... We will have to make an additional decision, banning Israeli Arabs from the political system... We have cultivated a fifth column, a group of traitors of the first degree." He was "warned" by the attorney-general over his comments (though he had expressed similar views several times before), but remained unrepentant, calling the warning an attempt to "silence" him.

                                                      The leader of the opposition and former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the most popular politician in Israel according to polls, gave voice to equally racist sentiments this month when he stated that the child allowance cuts he imposed as finance minister in 2002 had had a "positive" demographic effect by reducing the birth rate of Palestinian citizens.

                                                      Arab MKs, of course, do not enjoy such indulgence when they speak out, much more legitimately, in supporting their kin, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, who are suffering under Israel's illegal occupation. Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, for example, was roundly condemned last week by Jewish political parties, including the most left-wing Meretz Party, when he called on Fatah to "continue the struggle" to establish a Palestinian state.

                                                      However, the campaign of intimidation by the government and Jewish members of the Knesset has failed to silence the Arab MKs, or stop them visiting neighbouring states, which is why the pressure is being ramped up. If Erdan's bill becomes law -- which seems possible with government backing -- Arab MKs and the minority they represent will either be cut off from the rest of the Arab world once again (as they were for the first two decades of Israel's existence, when a military government was imposed on them) or threatened with the revocation of their citizenship for disloyalty (a move, it should be noted, that is illegal under international law).

                                                      It may not be too fanciful to see the current legislation eventually being extended to cover other "breaches of loyalty", such as demanding democratic reforms of Israel or denying that a Jewish state is democratic. Technically, this is already the position as Israel's election law makes it illegal for political parties, including Arab ones, to promote a platform that denies Israel's existence as a "Jewish and democratic" state.

                                                      Soon Arab MKs and their constituents may also be liable to having their citizenship revoked for campaigning, as many currently do, for a state of all its citizens. That certainly is the view of the eminent Israeli historian Tom Segev, who argued in the wake of the government's adoption of the bill: "In practice, the proposed law is liable to turn all Arabs into conditional citizens, after they have already become, in many respects, second-class citizens. Any attempt to formulate an alternative to the Zionist reality is liable to be interpreted as a 'breach of faith' and a pretext for stripping them of their citizenship."

                                                      But it is unlikely to end there. I hesitate to make another prediction but, given the rapidity with which the others have been realised, it may be time yet again to hazard a guess about where Israel is headed.

                                                      The other day I was at a checkpoint near Nablus, one of several that are being converted by Israel into what look suspiciously like international border crossings, even though they fall deep inside Palestinian territory.

                                                      I had heard that Palestinian citizens of Israel were being allowed to pass these checkpoints unhindered to enter cities like Nablus to see relatives. (These familial connections are a legacy of the 1948 War, when separated Palestinian refugees ended up on different sides of the Green Line, and also of marriages that were possible after 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, making social and business contacts possible again). But when Palestinian citizens try to leave these cities via the checkpoints they are invariably detained and issued letters by Israeli authorities warning them that they will be tried if caught again visiting "enemy" areas.

                                                      In April last year, at a cabinet meeting at which the Israeli government agreed to expel Hamas MPs from Jerusalem to the West Bank, ministers discussed changing the classification of the Palestinian Authority from a "hostile entity" to the harsher category of an "enemy entity". The move was rejected at the time because, as one official told the Israeli media, "there are international legal implications in such a declaration, including closing off border crossings, that we don't want to do yet."

                                                      Is it too much to suspect that before long, after Israel has completed the West Bank wall and its "border" terminals, the Jewish state will classify visits by Palestinian citizens to relatives as "visiting an enemy state"? And will such visits be grounds for revoking citizenship, as they could be under Erdan's bill if Palestinian citizens visit relatives in Syria or Lebanon?

                                                      Lieberman doubtless knows the answer already.

                                                      * The writer is an author and journalist living in Nazareth, Israel. His book, Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State , is published by Pluto Press.

                                                      Al Ahram

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                                                        Israel to release Palestinian tax money it has withheld for almost a year

                                                        English (US)  January 19th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                        WILL THE JEWISH STATE PAY INTEREST ON THE $660 MILLION OF PALESTINIAN MONEY THAT IT HAS WITHHELD FROM THE PALESTINIAN GOVERNMENT FOR ALMOST A YEAR? Israel is releasing the funds under pressure from US Sec. of State Condolezza Rice who visited Israel and Occupied Palestine last weekend. The pay out is part of the US-Israeli effort to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and destroy the democratically elected Hamas government.

                                                        Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, will transfer $100 million in frozen funds to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president "within the next 24 hours".

                                                        [More:]


                                                        A senior Palestinian official in the West Bank confirmed on Thursday the imminent release, saying the money would be "transferred... into the account of the Palestinian Authority."

                                                        The money is part of about $660 million in customs duties that Israel has withheld from the Palestinians for almost a year.

                                                        Israel stopped transferring the funds when Hamas movement took over the PA after winning a landslide election victory in January 2005.

                                                        "This is supposed to be spent according to Palestinian priorities. It is not for Israel to determine where it goes" -- Samir Abu Aishah, Acting Hamas Finance Minister

                                                        An Israeli official said the money would be turned over to Abbas by Friday.

                                                        The transfer, which will help to ease the serious cash-flow crisis suffered by the Palestinian Authority, was promised by Olmert when he met with Abbas on December 23.

                                                        But it will not be used for salaries of government workers, who have not been fully paid since Hamas took office.

                                                        Hamas angrily criticised the Israeli restrictions on the money, after Israeli officials said they needed assurances the money would not reach the movement.

                                                        Taxation

                                                        Israel collects about $50 million in taxes from the Palestinians each month, which has contributed to a financial crisis for the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

                                                        Samir Abu Aishah of Hamas, the acting finance minister for Hamas, said that the government should decide how the money is spent.

                                                        "This is supposed to be spent according to Palestinian priorities. It is not for Israel to determine where it goes," he said.

                                                        "We have no problem if that money goes through the president's office, but it must be spent in the areas in which they are needed, according to our priorities."

                                                        Abbas has been pushing Hamas to join his party in a moderate coalition government, hoping to end the international boycott against the Palestinian government.

                                                        On Saturday, he is scheduled to travel to Syria for talks with Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader, in hopes of working out a deal.

                                                        Agencies

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                                                          France hails Iraq war critic-Nobel prize-winner Harold Pinter

                                                          English (US)  January 18th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                          Pinter praised France for its
                                                          stance on the war in Iraq [AFP]

                                                          Harold Pinter, the Nobel prize-winning British playwright and ardent critic of the US-led war in Iraq, has been awarded the French Legion d'honneur.

                                                          [More:]

                                                          Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, presented Pinter with the award at the residence of the French ambassador to the UK in London on Wednesday.

                                                          De Villepin saluted 76-year-old Pinter, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, saying his "words express the anguish and the torrent that is human life".

                                                          The presentation took place following talks between de Villepin and his British counterpart, Tony Blair, at Downing Street.

                                                          Blair, who has been previously branded a "deluded idiot" by the playwright, was not present at Pinter's presentation.

                                                          Tough stance

                                                          De Villepin said: "Dear Harold Pinter, your words are actions. Your words are a shout. They are rough, engaged in violent hand-to-hand combat that makes them talk, that makes them speak out."

                                                          Dominique de Villepin

                                                          "Dear Harold Pinter, your words are actions. Your words are a shout. They are rough, engaged in violent hand-to-hand combat that makes them talk, that makes them speak out"
                                                          In his acceptance speech, Pinter praised France for its tough stance against the Iraq war.

                                                          The presentation event was attened by prominent celebrities including the British actor Jude Law.

                                                          The London-born writer, who has suffered from cancer of the oesophagus since 2002, is one of the most successful authors in the world.

                                                          He began his career as an actor and made his playwriting debut in 1957, with The Room.

                                                          That was followed by one of his masterpieces The Birthday Party, and his conclusive breakthrough came with "The Caretaker" in 1959.

                                                          He turned down the offer of a British knighthood, the equivalent of the Legion d'honneur, though he is one of Queen Elizabeth II's 65 Companions of Honour.


                                                          Source: Agencies

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                                                            Thursday is Call-in day: Tell Joseph Lieberman to Listen to His Constituents and Stop his Support for Bush’s Troop Escalation and the War in Iraq

                                                            English (US)  January 18th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                            CONTACT JOE LIEBERMAN IN CONNECTICUT
                                                            PHONE: 860-549-8463; FAX: 860-549-8478

                                                            Joseph Lieberman has been one of the strongest supporters of President Bush’s plan to send over 20,000 more U.S. troops to the quagmire that is the war and occupation in Iraq.

                                                            [More:]

                                                            ver 3,000 U.S. troops and over 600,000 Iraqis have died in this illegal and immoral war. Sending more troops will only result in more U.S. and Iraqi deaths.

                                                            A majority of people and the U.S. and Connecticut residents oppose the war in Iraq and Bush escalation plans. Senator Lieberman is ignoring the over 70% of people in Connecticut who oppose the war and the overwhelming 86% who oppose the troop increase. [1]

                                                            Senator Joe Lieberman has a different view from the majority of Americans, who do not support the escalation and want the troops to come home. Lieberman applauded President Bush for pursuing a new course in Iraq. He only wants U.S. troops brought home after we allow, enable, and support them in accomplishing their mission in Iraq. How many more U.S. and Iraqi deaths does Joe Lieberman want to see before the mission is accomplished?

                                                            Senator Lieberman says the American people are frustrated by the miscalculations, lack of progress in the war, and by the daily scenes of violence and causalities. He ignores the 70% of people in the U.S. who do not support the war waged by Bush, and that we are angry by the mounting causalities and the hundreds of billions of dollars on this conflict.

                                                            On Thursday, January 18th from 12 noon-1pm Connecticut peace activists will rally and protest in front of Senator Lieberman’s Hartford office.

                                                            Please join us, but if you can not please call the office, especially between 12noon and 1pm at 860-549-8463 or send a fax to 860-549-8478 and tell Lieberman to:

                                                            Stop supporting Bush's troop escalation in Iraq.

                                                            Stop supporting the war in Iraq.

                                                            Listen to his constituents, the overwhelming majority who do no support the war and troops escalation.

                                                            Take action in the U.S Senate to bring all of our troops home now.

                                                            [1] According to a Quinnipiac University poll in May, 2006, 71% of Connecticut voters opposed the administration's handling of the War in Iraq and 86% opposed a troop increase http://www.quinnipiac.edu/x1296.xml?ReleaseID=909

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                                                              Cost of War in the Region 1 School District

                                                              English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                              Here is what each town in the Region 1 School District in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut paid for President Bush's war against the people of Iraq.

                                                              Canaan: $6.5 million
                                                              Cornwall: $4.1 million
                                                              Falls Village: $3 million
                                                              Kent: $7.6 million
                                                              Salisbury: $11.4 million
                                                              Sharon: $8.1 million

                                                              By March, 2007, the six towns in Region 1 collectively will have contributed $40.7 million -- more than three time the approximately $13.5 million shared cost for Housatonic Valley Regional High School and special education throughout the K-12 school district, to a war most residents didn't want in the first place and don't want to continue now.

                                                              For more details about your town or any town in Connecticut click here: COST OF WAR IN CONNECTICUT TOWNS

                                                              110 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment1 comment

                                                              1 response(s) to Cost of War in the Region 1 School District

                                                              1. Marshall Miles [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                Great post and story...I related it to my listeners and viewers...

                                                                Marshall

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                                                              Libby Trial, Day One: Can You Trust Cheney?

                                                              English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                              By David Corn

                                                              "Would any of you have any difficulty fairly judging the believability of former or present members of the Bush Administration?"

                                                              In a Washington courtroom on Tuesday morning, federal district court Judge Reggie Walton read that question to the pool of potential jurors, and that was a fair way of summing up the big question of the trial: did Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff lie to cover up his own participation in a White House campaign that was mounted to protect the Bush administration's misleading case for war in Iraq?

                                                              [More:]

                                                              Libby is on trial for having made false statements to FBI and a grand jury investigating the leaking of Valerie Wilson's CIA identity. But his credibility (or lack thereof) is a reflection of the administration's credibility (or lack thereof). Yet due to the normal workings of a federal court, Libby will be judged by Washington, DC, residents who are in a distinct minority: people who have not already concluded that Bush officials are not to be trusted.

                                                              Libby's defense is that he forgot the truth when he appeared before FBI agents and the grand jury. At issue is what he said about his involvement in the CIA leak. The reality is this: in June and July 2003, when the White House was trying to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson (who was accusing the administration of exaggerating the prewar intelligence), Libby, as part of this effort, disclosed information about Wilson's wife (a.k.a Valerie Plame) to two reporters--Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time. After the Plame leak became a criminal matter, Libby (who was not a source for the Robert Novak column that outed Valerie Wilson) told investigators that he had learned about Valerie Wilson and her CIA connection from reporters and had passed this information along to other reporters. In other words, he was just sharing gossip, not official information; he had no reason to know if this hearsay was true.

                                                              The problem (for Libby) is this: Fitzgerald has developed plenty of evidence showing that Libby actively sought and received information on Joseph Wilson and his wife before the whole Wilson imbroglio detonated and before Libby spoke to reporters. This information--which noted that Wilson's wife was a CIA officer--was classified. It came to him from the State Department, the CIA and Cheney.

                                                              So Libby's faulty memory defense goes beyond a simple I-forgot-who-said-what. What he--or his lawyers--claim is that he completely forgot his own attempts to gather material on Wilson (and also forgot the information he obtained) and that when reporters several weeks later supposedly passed him rumors about Valerie Wilson, this did not jog his memory and cause him to recall what he had previously known. One major obstacle for Libby is that the reporters in question--including NBC's Tim Russert, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Cooper and Miller--do not support his version of events.

                                                              More important, Libby's account relies on two purported major memory lapses that may be difficult for a jury to accept: that after collecting material on Wilson and his wife, Libby had no memory of doing so and that he completely confused his recollection of conversations he had with the reporters. Libby is essentially arguing that he forgot to remember what he had once known but had forgotten.

                                                              Yet Libby's advocates claim that Cheney's former chief of staff was the victim of a minor memory slip because he was a busy guy. On NPR the day the trial began, Ted Olson, the former solicitor general and conservative activist, said, "It's true. If you are involved in high-pressure situations....in the afternoon you don't remember exactly what you did in the morning." And when I ran into Lanny Davis, the former spinner for President Bill Clinton and Yale classmate of George W. Bush, during the trial's lunch break, he insisted that Libby might have indeed misremembered events. "That's what happens when you're doing push-back," Davis insisted. If Cheney is called as a witness by Libby's attorneys--as is expected--his testimony will presumably bolster such an argument.

                                                              Will a jury go for this? Will jurors believe that Libby, the ever-attentive aide, forgot within weeks that Cheney had told him that Valerie Wilson worked at the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA?

                                                              All that will be decided when the jury votes. But first, jurors have to be selected. As Judge Walton, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and Libby's lawyers reviewed the initial nine prospective jurors--searching for people with little knowledge and few opinions of the case--they found some who said they could not be impartial. One young woman noted that she was "completely without objectivity" regarding the integrity of Bush administration officials. She did not believe them. She was gone. After being extensively questioned, a financial planner conceded that if Cheney's testimony was contradicted by another witness he could not regard the vice president as equally credible. He, too, was excused.

                                                              Walton hopes to have jurors selected by the end of Thursday, and opening arguments are scheduled for Monday. But it may be tough for the judge to find citizens who truly have no hard-and-fast views on the honesty of Cheney and the Bush administration. And that's the point.

                                                              The Nation

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                                                                Bush Backs Down on Warrantless Wiretaps

                                                                English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                By John Nichols

                                                                Does it matter that Democrats took charge of the Senate this month?

                                                                George Bush seems to think so.

                                                                In a letter sent today to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales writes that, "the president has determined not to reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program when the current authorization expires.

                                                                [More:]

                                                                "Any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," explains the attorney general's letter.

                                                                The FISA Court was created by Congress in 1978 with the specific intent that it would supervise electronic eavesdropping within the United States. But the Bush administration, which launched its spying program in 2001, had until today refused to obey the court's authority.

                                                                When it was learned late in 2005 that Bush had repeatedly authorized the monitoring of the phone conversations and emails of Americans, the president and his lawyers claimed that the White House did not need to consult with FISA courts before engaging in such surveillance.

                                                                With Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, a somewhat critical but cautious player, in charge of the Judiciary Committee, the administration showed no inclination to seek proper authorization.

                                                                But Specter lost his chairmanship when Democrats took charge of the Senate after the November 7 elections.

                                                                With Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, a critic of warrantless wiretapping, now in charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and with Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, who proposed censuring the president for failing to obtain proper authorization for his surveillance program, now in charge of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, the White House has suddenly developed a newfound respect for the rule of law.

                                                                This is not the end of the story, however. The Congress still needs to investigate whether the warrantless wiretapping program was used to monitor not merely terrorist threats but domestic dissent. If it was the latter, Feingold's censure resolution will still be needed -- along, perhaps, with the more stringent sanction of an article of impeachment from the House.

                                                                It ought not be forgotten that the second article of impeachment against Richard Nixon, as authorized by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, was concerned with the former president's "directing or authorizing [federal] agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office."

                                                                Of course, the same article of impeachment declared that Nixon had acted "in disregard of the rule of law" and had "failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed." If those standards were applied today, the history of the warrantless wiretapping program over the past six years would provide more than enough justication for similar action against Bush.

                                                                John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal, Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into the intentions of the founders and embraced by activists for its groundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability. After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone political writer Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "John Nichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, The Genius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less with the particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and instead combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the "heroic medicine" that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

                                                                The Nation

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                                                                  US accused of raid on Sudan embassy

                                                                  English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                  The US raided an Iranian liaison office in Arbil last week detaining a number of Iranians [AFP]

                                                                  Sudan has summoned the senior US diplomat in Khartoum after it said American troops raided the Sudanese embassy in Baghdad, violating diplomatic conventions, a foreign ministry spokesman has said.

                                                                  [More:]


                                                                  In Baghdad, Christopher Garver, US spokesman, denied US troops had raided the Sudanese embassy, which is near the airport road where many bombs have targeted troops and convoys.

                                                                  Ali al-Sadig, Sudan's foreign ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday: "Nine American soldiers in four military vehicles forcibly went into the embassy after overpowering the guards and searched the embassy offices inside."

                                                                  The embassy has been officially closed for more than a year after Sudanese diplomats were targeted in attacks in an effort to get Arab states to withdraw their diplomatic representation in Iraq.

                                                                  But al-Sadig said two Sudanese guards still worked at the embassy.

                                                                  Garver said he had no knowledge of any such raid: "We have no record of any MNF-I [Multi-National Force-Iraq] troops conducting a raid on the Sudanese embassy."

                                                                  But al-Sadig said Sudan had demanded an apology from the US charge d'affaires in Khartoum, who said he would consult his headquarters before replying.

                                                                  "This violates all international norms and we expect an apology," al-Sadig said.

                                                                  Sudan has tense relations with the US, which has imposed stringent economic sanctions on the African nation, and lists it as a "state sponsor of terror".


                                                                  Source: Agencies

                                                                  239 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                    Iraq: The War Becomes More Unholy

                                                                    English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                    The US military apparently has learned the obscene lessons of defecating in other people's holy places from its Zionist counterparts. The Israeli Occupation Forces have a long documented record of spreading their excrement around both in mosques and churches, and also in government offices as they did during their brutal invasion of the West Bank in March-April 2002. Government workers returned to their offices after the siege only to find Zionist turds in their filing cabinets and elsewhere. A sure way to win hearts and minds...

                                                                    By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

                                                                    FALLUJAH, Jan. 17 (IPS) - A stepped up military offensive that targets mosques, religious leaders and Islamic customs is leading many Iraqis to believe that the U.S.-led invasion really was a 'holy war'.

                                                                    Photographs are being circulated of black crosses painted on mosque walls and on copies of the Quran, and of soldiers dumping their waste inside mosques. New stories appear frequently of raids on mosques and brutal treatment of Islamic clerics, leading many Iraqis to ask if the invasion and occupation was a war against Islam.

                                                                    [More:]

                                                                    Many Iraqis now recall remarks by U.S. President George W. Bush shortly after the events of Sep. 11, 2001 when he told reporters that "this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while."

                                                                    "Bush's tongue 'slipped' more than once when he spoke of 'fascist Islamists' and used other similar expressions that touched the very nerve of Muslims around the world," Sheikh Abdul Salam al-Kubayssi of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), a leading Sunni group, told IPS in Baghdad. "We wish they were just mere slips, but what is going on repeatedly makes one think of crusades over and over."

                                                                    Occupation forces claim that mosque raids are being conducted because holy places are being used by resistance fighters.

                                                                    A leaflet distributed in Fallujah by U.S. forces late November said mosques were being used by "insurgents" to conduct attacks against "Multi-National Forces", and that this would lead to "taking proper procedures against those mosques."

                                                                    The statement referred to daily sniper attacks against occupation forces in Fallujah in which many U.S. soldiers have been killed.

                                                                    Local people refute these claims made by coalition forces.

                                                                    "Fighters never used mosques for attacking Americans because they realise the consequences and reactions from the military," a member of the local municipality council of Fallujah told IPS on condition of anonymity. "Nonetheless, U.S. soldiers always targeted our mosques and their minarets."

                                                                    During Operation Phantom Fury of November 2004, scores of mosques in Fallujah were damaged or destroyed completely. Fallujah is known as the city of mosques because it has so many.

                                                                    Many of these are Sunni mosques. AMS leaders are now enemy number one for U.S. occupation forces as well as the Shia-dominated government.

                                                                    Through continuous arrests of its members and the raids against mosques all over the Sunni areas of the country, including their headquarters on the outskirts of Baghdad, the AMS has often expressed feelings of persecution.

                                                                    On the other hand, the occupation forces have been supportive of clerics who took part in the political structure that the U.S. coalition created in Iraq. These include Shia clerics and political leaders like current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of the Dawa Party. Maliki has called AMS leader Dr. Harith al-Dhari a "terrorist leader" and a murderer.

                                                                    Many Sunnis who are more secular also feel persecuted by the occupation.

                                                                    "I am not a follower of al-Dhari or any other leader," Prof. Malik al-Rawi of the National Institute for Scientific Research of Baghdad told IPS. "In fact most Sunnis do not literally follow any leader for religious reasons. Yet after we found Americans targeting our religious symbols, we had to stand together around the man who did not sell us to the occupation."

                                                                    Dr. Rawi, avowedly a secular Sunni, told IPS that the number of Iraqis who believe the occupation is waging a "religious war" increased dramatically after the 2004 attacks on Fallujah.

                                                                    "Those sieges, along with all the events that followed in Samarra, al-Qa'im, Haditha and now Siniya have led people to think of the crusades," he added. "Americans do hate us for some reason and we do not find any reason but religion."

                                                                    It is not just Sunni Iraqis who claim that their mosques are not respected by occupation forces. The mostly Shia city of Najaf was exposed to massive U.S. military assaults during August 2004. Many attacks came dangerously close to the sacred Imam Ali shrine, damaging its outer walls.

                                                                    Other U.S. raids on Shia mosques in Baghdad have infuriated Iraq's Shia population.

                                                                    Some Iraqi analysts say the perceived religious conflict seems to have expanded as the occupation has progressed.

                                                                    "The world must be aware that this U.S. administration is pushing the situation to the black hole of a new religious conflict by giving the green light to their soldiers to attack mosques and arrest clerics whenever they feel like it," Kassim Jabbar, an Iraqi political analyst from Baghdad University told IPS.

                                                                    "Even people with the highest education standards are wondering why U.S. leaders have not restricted attacks upon religious symbols in our country."

                                                                    (Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and has been covering the Middle East for several years.) (END/2007)

                                                                    Inter Press News Agency

                                                                    890 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                      Artist hopes to float giant banana over Texas

                                                                      English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                      TEXAS -- HOME OF THE TOP BANANA

                                                                      A Montreal artist wants to construct an enormous banana that would float over Texas, but critics say the project isn't worth government funding.

                                                                      [More:]


                                                                      Artist Cesar Saez

                                                                      Cesar Saez conceived the project, called "Geostationary Banana Over Texas," and prefers to let the art speak for itself.

                                                                      When asked why he would want a helium-inflated 300-metre banana to hover above Texas for a month, he simply told CTV Montreal: "Texas is as symbolic as the banana."

                                                                      Then he added: "The banana has a lot of symbolism: phallic, humour, and political, too."

                                                                      But some people were less than amused by the idea, considering both the federal and Quebec governments have already spent thousands of dollars for Saez's research and planning.

                                                                      "I'm paying $65,000 to send a banana to space?" one woman balked.

                                                                      Another said the money should have been spent on solving Montreal's homelessness problem instead.

                                                                      The Canada Council for the Arts has defended the project, arguing Saez is an established artist and his proposal was chosen by a jury of his peers.

                                                                      "The project was eligible and went to a committee, and the committee felt that the project had merit according to the criteria of the programme," said the council's Claude Schryer.

                                                                      Beatrice Pepper, of the Quebec Council for Arts and Letters, said the attention focused on "Geostationary Banana Over Texas" can only benefit Quebec culture, because most contemporary artists are ignored.

                                                                      "It's a big, big, big day today for visual arts in Quebec," she said.

                                                                      "For probably one of the first times, a piece of visual art is getting the attention that it never gets from the media."

                                                                      The project will likely require a total of $1 million before Texans see the giant banana sailing above their heads.

                                                                      With a report by CTV Montreal's Caroline Van Vlaardingen
                                                                      CTA News

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                                                                        Israeli Prime Minister Olmert Olmert to face corruption probe

                                                                        English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                        If Israelis can investigate their prime minister for alleged financial shenanigans, and indict their president for rape, why can't Americans impeach their president for high crimes and misdemeanors -- treason -- for repeatedly lying to the American people and leading the country into an aggressive, unnecessary imperialist war that has killed more than 650,000 Iraqis and 3,000 Americans?


                                                                        The investigation will consider Olmert's alleged use of political influence while acting finance minister

                                                                        Israel's justice ministry has said its chief prosecutor has ordered an investigation of Ehud Olmert, the country's prime minister, over his alleged role in the privatisation of Israel's second-largest bank.

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        The investigation will consider allegations that Olmert attempted to influence the sale of Bank Leumi to the benefit of close associates.

                                                                        "The justice ministry confirms that the state prosecutor, Eran Shendar, called on the police to open a criminal investigation into a suspected offence of insider trading in the sale by the state of its majority holding in Bank Leumi," a ministry source said.

                                                                        Use of influence

                                                                        The website of Ha'aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, said the investigation will focus on suspicions that Olmert, when acting finance minister in 2005, tried to direct the tender for the sale of the bank toward Frank Lowey, a real estate businessman, and another close friend.

                                                                        The bank was eventually sold to another company with no relation to Lowey.

                                                                        Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a decision would be made later Tuesday about which police unit would carry out the investigation.

                                                                        Olmert was informed of the decision Tuesday afternoon. Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin refused to comment.

                                                                        Eli Zohar, Olmert's lawyer, said the prime minister was keen to clear his name.

                                                                        "I welcome the decision to open an investigation so that once and for all we can end this irrelevant misunderstanding," Zohar told Israel Radio.

                                                                        "We hope the investigation will be conducted quickly and efficiently so that the witch hunt and criticism will disappear."

                                                                        Loss of confidence

                                                                        Ha'aretz said police opened an unofficial inspection into the suspicions two months ago. The newspaper said Shendar opted for a criminal investigation after Menachem Mazuz, the attorney general, removed himself from the case due to the fact that his sister, Yemima Mazuz, is a legal adviser at the ministry of finance.

                                                                        Davd Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said that the allegations against Olmert were potentially extremely damaging to public confidence in Israeli politics.

                                                                        "The [allegations] are adding to the sense of paralysis at the heart of the Israeli government, because the whole of the top echelon at the moment seems to be mired in lots of scandal.

                                                                        Other senior Israeli politicians are facing legal challenges. Moshe Katsav, Israel's president, could be indicted on charges of rape and other serious offences.

                                                                        Haim Ramon, former justice minister, is on trial for allegedly forcibly kissing a female soldier and Avraham Hirchson, the current finance minister, could be implicated in an embezzlement case during his tenure in a previous position.

                                                                        Chater said that the Olmert probe could also destabilise peace efforts brokered by the US.

                                                                        "It could damage the peace process at a very crucial time - when Condoleezza Rice [the US secretary of state] is trying to add new momentum to the peace process. This kind of scandal will absolutely undermine those efforts," Chater said.

                                                                        Long process

                                                                        "[The allegations] could damage the peace process at a very crucial time - when Condoleezza Rice [the US secretary of state] is trying to add new momentum to the peace process" -- David Chater, Al Jazeera correspondent in Jerusalem

                                                                        After the investigation is completed, its findings would be turned over to the attorney general's office, which would have the final say about whether an indictment would be filed. The process is likely to take months.

                                                                        Speaking to reporters in Beijing last week, where he was on an official visit, Olmert refused to make any comment on the reports.

                                                                        "According to what I've heard from the justice ministry, there is nothing going on, so there is nothing I should react to," he said.

                                                                        He insisted that he had "acted clean-handedly" over the privatisation of the bank.

                                                                        "I have no doubt that the process was conducted in the best way possible," he said.

                                                                        The prime minister has been the subject of several corruption investigations involving property deals and appointments. No formal charges have been filed against him.

                                                                        Olmert's ratings are at their lowest since he became prime minister in May 2006. A poll published last week showed Olmert's approval ratings have slipped to 14 per cent and that his Kadima party would lose nearly two-thirds of its strength if new elections were held.
                                                                        Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                          Escalation Against Iran: The Pieces Are Being Put in Place

                                                                          English (US)  January 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                          By Col. Sam Gardiner

                                                                          The pieces are moving. They’ll be in place by the end of
                                                                          February. The United States will be able to escalate military operations against Iran.

                                                                          The second carrier strike group leaves the U.S. west coast on January 16. It will be joined by naval mine clearing assets from both the United States and the UK. Patriot missile defense systems have also been ordered to deploy to the Gulf.

                                                                          [More:]

                                                                          Maybe as a guard against North Korea seeing operations focused on Iran as a chance to be aggressive, a squadron of F-117 stealth fighters has just been deployed to Korea.

                                                                          This has to be called escalation. We have to remind ourselves, just as Iran is supporting groups inside Iraq, the United States is supporting groups inside Iran. Just as Iran has special operations troops operating inside Iraq, we’ve read the United States has special operations troops operating inside Iran.

                                                                          Just as Iran is supporting Hamas, two weeks ago we found out the United States is supporting arms for Abbas. Just as Iran and Syria are supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon we’re now learning the White House has approved a finding to allow the CIA to support opposition groups inside Lebanon. Just as Iran is supporting Syria, we’ve learned recently that the United States is going to fund Syrian opposition groups.

                                                                          We learned this week the President authorized an attack on the Iranian liaison office in Irbil.

                                                                          The White House keeps saying there are no plans to attack Iran. Obviously, the facts suggest otherwise. Equally as clear, the Iranians will read what the Administrations is doing not what it is
                                                                          saying.

                                                                          It is possible the White House strategy is just implementing a strategy to put pressure on Iran on a number of fronts, and this will never amount to anything. On the other hand, if the White House is on a path to strike Iran, we’ll see a few more steps unfold.

                                                                          First, we know there is a National Security Council staff-led
                                                                          group whose mission is to create outrage in the world against Iran. Just like before Gulf II, this media group will begin to release stories to sell a strike against Iran. Watch for the outrage stuff. The Patriot missiles going to the GCC states are only part of the missile defense assets. I would expect to see the deployment of some of the European-based missile defense assets to Israel, just as they were before Gulf II.

                                                                          I would expect deployment of additional USAF fighters into the bases in Iraq, maybe some into Afghanistan.

                                                                          I think we will read about the deployment of some of the newly arriving Army brigades going into Iraq being deployed to the border with Iran. Their mission will be to guard against any Iranian movements into Iraq.

                                                                          As one of the last steps before a strike, we’ll see USAF tankers moved to unusual places, like Bulgaria. These will be used to refuel the US-based B-2 bombers on their strike missions into Iran. When that happens, we’ll only be days away from a strike.

                                                                          The White House could be telling the truth. Maybe there are no plans to take Iran to the next level. The fuel for a fire is in place, however. All we need is a spark. The danger is that we have created conditions that could lead to a Greater Middle East War.

                                                                          Sam Gardiner is a retired colonel of the US Air Force. He has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College.

                                                                          Counterpunch

                                                                          599 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                            Bush Must Go: Only Impeachment Can Stop Him

                                                                            English (US)  January 15th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                            By Paul Craig Roberts

                                                                            When are the American people and their representatives in Congress and the military going to wake up and realize that the US has an insane war criminal in the White House who is destroying all chances for peace in the world and establishing a police state in the US?

                                                                            Suddenly, we are hearing Bush regime propaganda that there are Iranian networks operating within Iraq that are working with the Iraqi insurgency and killing US troops. This assertion is a lie and preposterous on its face. . .To manufacture evidence in behalf of this lie to feed to the gullible American public, US forces invaded an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq and kidnapped five consulate officials, claiming the Iranians were part of plans “to kill Americans”. . . Just as he lied to the entire world about Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Bush is lying about Iran. Bush and the neoconservatives are frantic for war with Iran to get underway before the US Congress forces a US withdrawal from the failed adventure in Iraq.

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            Americans don’t have much time to realize this and to act before it is too late. Bush’s “surge” speech last Wednesday night makes it completely clear that his real purpose is to start wars with Iran and Syria before failure in Iraq brings an end to the neoconservative/Israeli plan to establish hegemony over the Middle East.

                                                                            The “surge” gives Congress, the media, and the foreign policy establishment something to debate and oppose, while Bush sets his plans in motion to orchestrate a war with Iran. Suddenly, we are hearing Bush regime propaganda that there are Iranian networks operating within Iraq that are working with the Iraqi insurgency and killing US troops.

                                                                            This assertion is a lie and preposterous on its face. Iranian Shi’ites are not going to arm Iraqi Sunnis, who are more focused on killing Iraqi Shi’ites allied with Iran than on killing US troops. If the Iranians wanted to cause the US trouble in Iraq, they would encourage Iraqi Shi’ites to join the insurgency against US forces. An insurgency drawn from 80 per cent of the Iraqi population would overwhelm the US forces.

                                                                            CBS reports that the news organization has been told by US officials “that American forces have begun an aggressive and mostly secret ground campaign against networks of Iranians that had been operating with virtual impunity inside Iraq.” To manufacture evidence in behalf of this lie to feed to the gullible American public, US forces invaded an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq and kidnapped five consulate officials, claiming the Iranians were part of plans “to kill Americans.” In typical Orwellian fashion, Secretary of State Condi Rice described Bush’s aggression against Iran as designed to confront Tehran’s aggression.

                                                                            Iraqi government officials in the Kurdish province and the Iraqi foreign minister have refused to go along with Bush’s propaganda ploy. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced that the Iranian officials were no threat and were working in a liaison office that had Iraqi government approval and was in the process of being elevated into a consulate.

                                                                            The Iraqi foreign minister said that US troops tried to seize more innocent people at the Irbil airport but were prevented by Kurdish troops.

                                                                            The Kurds, of course, have been allies of the US forces, but Bush is willing to alienate the Kurds in the interest of provoking a war with Iran.

                                                                            If Bush is unable to orchestrate war with Iran directly, he will orchestrate war indirectly by having US troops attack Iraqi Shi’ite militias. Bush has already given orders for US troops to attack the Iraqi Shi’ite militias, who oppose the Sunnis and have not been part of the insurgency. Obviously, once Bush can get US troops in open warfare with Iraqi Shi’ites, the situation for US troops in Iraq will quickly go down hill. Bush will be able to blame Iranian Shi’ites for arming Iraqi Shi’ites that he can say are killing US troops.

                                                                            Bush has also ordered the Persian Gulf to be congested with TWO US aircraft carrier attack groups. There is no military or diplomatic reason for even one attack group to be in the Persian Gulf. If Bush fails to orchestrate a war with Iran by kidnapping its officials or by attacking Shi’ite militias, he can orchestrate an event like the Tonkin Gulf incident or have the Israelis pull another USS Liberty incident and blame the Iranians.

                                                                            The Tonkin Gulf incident was used by the Johnson administration to deceive Congress and to involve the US in the Vietnam war. Johnson alleged a North Vietnamese attack on US warships.

                                                                            In 1967 Israel attacked and destroyed the US intelligence ship Liberty, because Liberty’s crew had picked up proof that Israel had initiated the war with Egypt and intended to attack Syria the next day. Some have speculated that Israelis hoped their attack on the Liberty could be blamed on Egypt and used to draw the US into the war against Egypt.

                                                                            In 2003 the Moorer Commission, headed by Admiral Tom Moorer, former Chief of Naval Operations and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, concluded:

                                                                            “That in attacking the USS Liberty, Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States.”

                                                                            “That fearing conflict with Israel, the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of USS Liberty.”

                                                                            “The Captain and surviving crew members were later threatened with court-martial, imprisonment or worse if they exposed the truth; and were abandoned by their own government.”

                                                                            “That due to the influence of Israel’s powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people.”

                                                                            “That a danger to our national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation, and specifically are unwilling to challenge Israel’s interests when they conflict with American interests.”

                                                                            On the 30th anniversary of Israel’s destruction of the liberty, Admiral Moorer said that Israel attacked the Liberty because Israel knew that the intelligence ship could intercept Israel’s plans to seize the Golan Heights from Syria, an act of Israeli aggression to which the US government was opposed. Admiral Moorer said, “I believe Moshe Dayan concluded that he could prevent Washington from becoming aware of what Israel was up to by destroying the primary source of acquiring that information--the US Liberty. Moorer reports that after a 25 minute air attack “that pounded the Liberty with bombs, rockets, napalm and machine gun fire . . . three Israeli torpedo boats closed in for the kill . . . the torpedo boats’ machine guns also were turned on life rafts that were deployed into the Mediterranean as well as those few on deck that had escaped damage.”

                                                                            Admiral Moorer says, “What is so chilling and cold-blooded, of course, is that they [Israel] could kill as many Americans as they did in confidence that Washington would cooperate in quelling any public outcry.” The US invasion of Iraq and the looming US attack on Iran are proof that Israel has even more power over the White House today.

                                                                            Bush has many ways to widen his war in the Middle East. His brutal aggression against Somalia has largely escaped criticism for the war crime that it is. On January 11 the US National Intelligence Director told Congress that Hezbollah in Lebanon may be the next US threat. Just as he lied to the entire world about Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Bush is lying about Iran. Bush and the neoconservatives are frantic for war with Iran to get underway before the US Congress forces a US withdrawal from the failed adventure in Iraq.

                                                                            Bush’s entire “war on terror” is based on lies. The Bush Regime, desperate to keep its lies covered up, is now trying to prevent American law firms from defending the Guantanamo detainees. The Bush Regime is fearful that Americans will learn that the detainees are not terrorists but props in the regime’s orchestrated “terror war.”

                                                                            On January 13 a New York Times (editorial) said that “Cully Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, tried to rally American corporations to stop doing business with law firms that represent inmates of the Guantanamo internment camp.” Stimson alleged that it was “shocking” that American law firms were “representing detainees down there.” He suggested that when corporate America got word of if, “those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms. We want to watch that play out.”

                                                                            The only reason for the Bush Regime’s policy of indefinite detention without charges is that it has no charges to bring. The detainees are not terrorists. They are the Bush Regime’s props in a fake war that serves as cover for the Regime’s hegemonic policy in the Middle East.

                                                                            The only action that can stop Bush is for both the Democratic and Republican leadership of the House and Senate to call on the White House, tell Bush they know what he is up to and that they will not fall for it a second time. The congressional leadership must tell Bush that if he does not immediately desist, he will be impeached and convicted before the week is out. Can a congressional leadership that lives in fear of the Israel Lobby perform this task?

                                                                            All the rest is penny-ante. Revoking the Iraqi War Resolution as Rep. Sam Farr has proposed or requiring Bush to obtain congressional authorization prior to any US attack on Iran simply lets Bush and his Federalist Society apologists for executive dictatorship claim he has commander-in-chief powers and proceed with his planned aggression. Cutting off funding is not itself enough as Bush can raid other budgets. Non-binding resolutions of disapproval are meaningless to a president who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

                                                                            Nothing can stop the criminal Bush from instituting wider war in the Middle East that could become a catastrophic world war except an unequivocal statement from Congress that he will be impeached.

                                                                            Bush has made the US into a colony of Israel. The US is incurring massive debt and loss of both life and reputation in order to silence Muslim opposition to Israel’s theft of Palestine and the Golan Heights. That is what the “war on terror” is about.

                                                                            Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

                                                                            Counterpunch

                                                                            1788 words posted in American Empire, Iraq war, , IranLeave a comment

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                                                                              SUPPORT FREE SPEECH IN CONNECTICUT: Free Kenny Legal Defense Fund Bash, Friday, 1/19/07

                                                                              English (US)  January 15th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                              Journalist/activist/law student Ken Krayeske

                                                                              Who? You! And as many freedom loving friends as you can bring!

                                                                              [More:]

                                                                              What? The Free Kenny Legal Defense Fund Bash for Ken Krayeske, featuring beer, wine, hors d'ouerves, music and free speech.

                                                                              Where? La Paloma Sabanera, 405 Capitol Ave., Hartford

                                                                              Why? Because lawyering up to defend free speech isn't cheap.

                                                                              When? Friday, Jan. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m.

                                                                              How much? $25 suggested donation, or whatever you can give to help defray Ken Krayeske's legal expenses, which arise from his arrest and detainment while photographing Gov. M. Jodi Rell's inaugural parade Jan. 3. If you can't attend, but still want to support the battle to protect civil liberties, click here for info on how to send a check.

                                                                              For more information, email Steve Colangelo at stevencolangelo@sbcglobal.net or call him at 860-508-4740. No RSVP needed.

                                                                              For more info on the arrest, see
                                                                              Activist's arrest is raising uncomfortable questions
                                                                              http://www.rep-am.com/story.php?id=18284

                                                                              Drop the Charges, Apologize
                                                                              http://www.theday.com/re.aspx?re=bfdd4493-ed2c-47ed-a91a-58bebac6021c

                                                                              A Lack of Intelligence
                                                                              http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-krayeske.artjan09,0,439648.story?coll=hc-headlines-editorials

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                                                                                Schaghticokes seek testimony from anti-Indian group, lobbyist

                                                                                English (US)  January 15th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                By Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

                                                                                KENT, Conn. - The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has asked a Washington, D.C., Superior Court judge to move forward with its lawsuit against an anti-Indian sovereignty group and its powerful Washington lobbying firm, a partnership the tribe has accused of illicitly and harmfully interfering with its federal acknowledgement.

                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                In a motion filed in early December, the tribe asked Judge Melvin Wright to lift a stay he imposed in October and allow attorneys to take testimony under oath from members of Town Action to Save Kent and lobbyist Barbour, Griffith and Rogers.

                                                                                TASK and BGR have responded with motions asking the court to continue the stay and to dismiss the tribe's lawsuit.

                                                                                After the tribe received federal recognition in January 2004, a group of wealthy residents in Kent, where the tribe has a 400-acre reservation, formed TASK and hired BGR specifically to overturn the acknowledgement.

                                                                                A relentless and orchestrated opposition campaign among TASK, BGR and Connecticut elected officials, and others, resulted in the Interior Department reversing both the Schaghticoke and the Eastern Pequot tribal nations' federal recognitions on Columbus Day 2005. The unprecedented action sent shock waves through Indian country, which was already rocked by the backlash from the unfolding stories of corruption and deceit among elected officials and federal appointees involved with criminal former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

                                                                                The tribe alleges that TASK and BGR violated federal regulations and a court order prohibiting communication with Interior officials by using improper political influence to engineer the reversal of the tribe's federal acknowledgement, harming the tribe's ''reasonably expected government-to-government relationship with the United States.'' The lawsuit asks for a jury trial to determine unspecified damages.

                                                                                Wright stayed the proceedings last fall pending rulings in another legal action - the tribe's appeal of the reversal of its federal recognition. That lawsuit, filed in Connecticut federal district court, names former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason among the defendants.

                                                                                Tribal attorneys want the wrongful interference lawsuit to go forward now because the tribe's request to question TASK and BGR under oath was denied by in the appeals case.

                                                                                ''Defendants' disregard of court orders and federal statues designed to protect the integrity of the federal tribal recognition process is a serious public concern and has resulted in a great injustice to the tribe. If this court does not allow such discovery, any illicit conduct on Defendants' part will be buried forever,'' the tribal nation's attorneys said.

                                                                                TASK and BGR argued that the case against them would not be ''ripe'' to be heard until the federal court ruled on the tribe's appeal - an argument that directly contradicts their claim of exemption in the appeal case, the tribe said.

                                                                                TASK also claimed that affidavits provided by TASK co-founder Ken Cooper, BGR Vice President Bradley Blakeman, and Cason attesting that there were no contacts between TASK, BGR and Interior are sufficient evidence of their innocence.

                                                                                But the tribe alleges that TASK and BGR conducted a covert campaign to reverse the tribe's acknowledgement process. Hundreds of pages of documents from Freedom of Information Act requests draw an intricate web of connections between TASK/BGR, the Connecticut governor, other governors, the state attorney general, town and state officials, the White House and Interior officials - even the national anti-Indian umbrella group One Nation United.

                                                                                By November 2004, the documents show, Cooper described TASK's ''beneath the radar assault'' on the tribe's recognition, and TASK co-founder Jim Perkins told Kent former First Selectman Lorie Schiesel that they were about to hire BGR because so many Washington decisions ''are not decided on their merits, but rather in backroom deals.''

                                                                                By Jan. 7, 2005, Perkins wrote that BGR had ''now worked the offices of our Congressional delegates, met with key Committee Chairs in both the House and the Senate, and have had discussions with the Department of Interior as well.''

                                                                                In a later deposition, Schiesel revealed that she, Perkins, Cooper and Blakeman ''met with somebody at the White House'' on May 10, 2005.

                                                                                Blakeman, a top White House aide to President Bush until he joined BGR in the middle of 2003, had maintained close connections with his former White House colleagues.

                                                                                The group talked about ''the impacts on Kent if it were to have a recognized tribe,'' Schiesel said, but her memory failed when asked who they talked to at the White House.

                                                                                ''He was a staff person in intergovernmental affairs. I should remember his name, but I don't,'' Schiesel said. Earlier in the deposition, Schiesel noted that BGR representatives had told her that ''a lot of things happen through staff.'' Schiesel did not say if the White House aide contacted Interior officials on their behalf.

                                                                                The White House meeting took place a day before a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing where Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell and almost the entire state congressional delegation trashed the BIA's decision to recognize the Schaghticokes.

                                                                                The next day, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals vacated the tribe's recognition and sent it back to the BIA for reconsideration.

                                                                                Other documents show BGR coordinated the ''political efforts'' with the ''legal strategy'' of state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Perkins Coie, another powerful and connected Washington lobbyist.

                                                                                Still other documents show that BGR wrote a letter for Rell to send to former SCIA Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accusing the BIA of ''illegal activity'' and claiming the Schaghticoke is ''an illegitimate tribe.'' BGR also offered to connect Rell with Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, Norton's mentor, as a way to get messages to Norton indirectly.

                                                                                The documents show that former 12-term Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., who introduced a bill to terminate the tribe, recommended BGR to TASK. And on Sept. 14, 2005, a month before the BIA's decision to rescind the Schaghticoke federal recognition, Johnson spent $2,100 on a party for BGR in Washington.

                                                                                TASK also planned to engage the help of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to use his influence at the White House to overturn the tribe's recognition, according to e-mails.

                                                                                A status conference on the tribe's lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 26 and will be open to the public.

                                                                                Indian country Today

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                                                                                  "Native Americans" in the Wild West Bank

                                                                                  English (US)  January 15th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                  Drawing a comparison between indigenous Native Americans whose land was stolen by European colonist-settlers, and indigenous Palestinians whose land continues to be stolen by European colonist-settlers, peace activists held a demonstration at a West Bank roadblock, dressed up as Native Americans in a bid to get their message through to visiting US secretary of state.

                                                                                  Palestinians and international peace activists launched a one-month campaign in the West Bank Sunday, titled '30 days against the roadblocks'. Inspired by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to the area, some of the protesters chose to convey their message in an original way and dressed up as Native Americans.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  At about 11 a.m. the protesters gathered at the Hawara roadblock south of Nablus, and held up signs in English denouncing the military roadblocks across the territories.

                                                                                  Several of the demonstrators, mainly children, were dressed up as Native Americans and wore traditional headdresses.


                                                                                  "The Indian wars are not over, Ms. Rice. We are still here too." (Photo: AFP)

                                                                                  The demonstration was organized by a group called 'Palestinians for Peace, Dialogue and Equality'.

                                                                                  The protesters also criticized the difficulties created by the checkpoints, and the limitations they impose on the Palestinians' freedom of movement.

                                                                                  One of the signs at the protest read, "The roadblocks are ruining the Palestinians' lives," while another poster aimed to juxtapose between the Native Americans, whose lands were stolen by the newcomers from Europe, and the Palestinians.

                                                                                  "The Indian wars are not over, Ms. Rice. We are still here too," the sign said.

                                                                                  Rice met Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas told Rice he opposes the establishment of a provisional Palestinian state in temporary borders.

                                                                                  Rice responded by reiterating the US commitment to the Road Map. “My work is going to be best targeted, I think, in these next months on trying to accelerate progress on the Road Map, which after all would lead us then to a Palestinian state and to helping the Palestinians and Israelis think through the political horizon,” she said.

                                                                                  Ynet

                                                                                  5 response(s) to "Native Americans" in the Wild West Bank

                                                                                  1. jackfrost [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                    In this age of "victims R us" how long will it take for someone to take offense at these guys dressing up as Indians?

                                                                                  2. okwachawe [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                    In this age of self-righteous assholes how long will it take for jackfrost to take his head out from his ass?

                                                                                    actually, he couldn't due to the vaccu-seal his puckered sphincter muscle has created around his neck.

                                                                                  3. Dave Becker [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                    How long will it take the PC NCAA to deny the Palestinians any opportunity to hold championship events on the campus of Palestine State U. unless they cleanse their campus of those offensivre charicatures of Native-Americans?
                                                                                    What's next? Strip them of their football scholarships?

                                                                                  4. jackfrost [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                    okwachawe scores a "threefer":1.answers my question,2.makes my point,and 3.exhibits his IQ. He seems to be part of the vast PC crowd that firmly believes it possible to pick up a feces by its clean end.

                                                                                  5. okwachawe [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                    jackfrost... if you had a clue you still wouldn't know what to do with it.

                                                                                    I really like this sentence from the article. "Several of the demonstrators, mainly children, were dressed up as native-Americans and wore traditional headdresses."
                                                                                    So what tribe are those headdresses traditional to? Maybe jackfrost's tribe? They should be offended by this!~
                                                                                    I think it's awesome that they chose to use one of our causes to draw sympathy to their own... but at least they could've made better outfits! Next time they should consult jack's tribe for tips.

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                                                                                  Abbas rejects temporary border plan

                                                                                  English (US)  January 14th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                  Every time Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has had his picture taken with Secretary of State Condeolezza Rice, within days or weeks he has tried to undermine the authority -- or existence -- of the democratically elected Hamas government. After recent Rice visits, Abba changed the previously agreed-to terms of a unity government (because the US does not want Fatah and Hamas to have a unified government) and threatened to hold new elections, a power he does not have under the Palestinian constitution. Let's see what he tries to do to Hamas this time.

                                                                                  Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has told Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, that he opposes the establishment of a provisional Palestinian state within temporary borders.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  Abbas made the announcement after meeting Rice in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Rice visited Abbas as part of a fact-finding tour of the Middle East.

                                                                                  "We told secretary Rice that we reject any temporary solutions, including a transitional stage, because we don't see it as a realistic option," Abbas said during a news conference with Rice on Sunday.

                                                                                  More US involvement

                                                                                  The border plan was floated last month by Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, and is also part of the US backed "road map".

                                                                                  In response to Abbas, Rice said that the road map was the way towards a lasting solution.

                                                                                  "My work is going to be best targeted, I think, in these next months on trying to accelerate progress on the road map, which after all would lead us then to a Palestinian state and to helping the Palestinians and Israelis think through the political horizon," she said.

                                                                                  She also said that the United States needed to deepen its involvement in Middle Eastern peace efforts.

                                                                                  "You will have my commitment to do precisely that," she said.

                                                                                  "The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their own state. The Israeli people have waited a long time to live in security and peace with their neighbours," Rice said.

                                                                                  Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas confidant, said after the meeting that Rice "showed understanding" for the Palestinian position.

                                                                                  However, Rice did not consult any member of the democratically elected Hamas Palestinian government during her trip.

                                                                                  Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, said the US policy of backing Abbas and ignoring Hamas was "doomed to fail because the Palestinian people are not bought with money, and no one believes that trying to lure some [Palestinians] will lead to results".

                                                                                  "American policy has not changed for a long time, and it attempts to create rifts between the parties," he said.

                                                                                  Walid Batrawi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Ramallah, said that despite Rice's visit to Abbas, the US' main focus for her Middle East tour was the US military plan for Iraq.

                                                                                  However, Batrawi said that the US has said in the past that a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is necessary for security across the wider Middle East.

                                                                                  Early elections

                                                                                  Abbas said he will aim to go ahead with early elections if current coalition talks with the Hamas government fail.

                                                                                  However, Abbas said it was too early to talk about a meeting between him and Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's leader, who is based in Syria.

                                                                                  Views: "Unless the US administration is prepared to read the riot act to the Israeli government... nothing will be achieved" -- Nehad Ismail, London, UK

                                                                                  Abbas is to visit Syria later this month.

                                                                                  The Palestinian leader said early elections are still an option. "We hope and we work to achieve this [a unity government] as soon as possible," he said. If not, "we will return to the people and hold the early parliamentary and presidential elections".

                                                                                  Rice's meeting with Abbas followed talks on Saturday, Livni, and Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister.

                                                                                  Last month, Livni proposed setting up a provisional Palestinian state, with a border based on the separation barrier Israel is building in the West Bank.

                                                                                  For full details on the US-supported road map for the Middle East can be found on the US state department website, click here.

                                                                                  Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya criticises US and Israel

                                                                                    English (US)  January 14th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                    Ismail Haniya, the Hamas-aligned Palestinian prime minister, has accused Israel and the US of trying to stoke Palestinian civil war, in an address delivered shortly before Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, begins a regional tour.

                                                                                    "The American and Israeli policies seek to push the Palestinian people towards civil war and internal conflict so that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict becomes a Palestinian-Palestinian conflict," he said on Saturday.

                                                                                    Haniya urged an end to internal violence on Saturday and called for fresh efforts to form a unity Palestinian government.

                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                    Deadly clashes

                                                                                    At least 30 Palestinians have been killed in factional fighting since Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of the rival Fatah, called last month for early parliamentary elections to try to break a political deadlock with Hamas over creating a unity cabinet.

                                                                                    The Hamas government, formed in March, has also been hit hard by an international aid boycott and had only paid partial salaries to 165,000 employees.

                                                                                    Haniya said: "I call on the Palestinian people and factions, in particular Hamas and Fatah, to halt internal clashes.

                                                                                    "We must protect national unity and work to form a national unity government."

                                                                                    Hamas took control of the government in March, after beating the once dominant Fatah in elections.

                                                                                    On Saturday, officials from both sides said significant progress has been made in secret coalition talks between the supreme Hamas leader and envoys of Abbas.

                                                                                    Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas's political bureau in Damascus, confirmed the secret talks and said Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader, would meet Abbas early next week in the Syrian capital.

                                                                                    "I hope his meetings in Damascus would be constructive and lead to a resolution of all outstanding problems that have ruptured the dialogue in the past," he said.

                                                                                    Planned meeting

                                                                                    An Abbas aide said the meeting would take place on Monday.

                                                                                    Al Jazeera's correspondent in Damascus reported quoting two aides of Abbas that agreement has been reached on identifying independent figures to run the finance and foreign ministries, with Haniya holding on to the prime minister's post.

                                                                                    Ziyad Abu Amr and Mohammed Rashid, the aides, were headed first for Doha to meet Qatari officials, and then for the Syrian capital again to arrange for the Abbas-Meshaal meeting.

                                                                                    For his part, the Palestinian left for Jordan on Saturday to brief Jordan's King Abdullah II on the developments.

                                                                                    On Sunday, he is to be back in the West Bank, to meet Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, who is touring the Middle East.

                                                                                    Strike cancelled

                                                                                    In another development, the Palestinian civil servants' union announced on Saturday that it was ending a 135-day strike it had launched to protest against non-payment of salaries by the government.

                                                                                    The union is dominated by Fatah and the strike was seen as part of the power struggle between the two sides.

                                                                                    All civil servants will go back to work on Sunday, Bassam Zakarneh, the head of the union, said at a joint news conference with Samer Abu Aisheh, finance minister, and Nasser Shaer, deputy prime minister, both of Hamas.

                                                                                    In September, about half the civil servants, including teachers and health care workers, went on strike, while 80,000 members of the security forces remained on the job.

                                                                                    The finance minister said full salaries will be paid, starting next month, and that the back wages will be paid in instalments.

                                                                                    Abu Aisheh said the government has more than $30m in donations in an Arab League account and that Qatar has promised $22m.


                                                                                    Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                      Palestinian children embrace the UN

                                                                                      English (US)  January 14th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                      Students from the American International School of Gaza cannot return home until the Rafah border opens

                                                                                      By Omar Khalifa

                                                                                      Students from Gaza have taken part in a mock UN conference for the first time, but painful realities back home have superseded their ambitions to work in international diplomacy.

                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                      More than 450 children, aged 13 to 18, from 50 different schools, most of which are in the Middle East, took part in the miniature imitation of the UN in Doha, Qatar.

                                                                                      The 'Model UN' is a global conference bringing children into the world of international diplomacy to work through problems and conflicts that face the UN today.

                                                                                      Issues tackled during the three-day event included the conflict in Iraq, North Korean nuclear development, and the situation in Darfur.

                                                                                      Organised by the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, the conference raised more intense and heart-felt debates than many other Model UN meetings.

                                                                                      It brought together students from schools in a Middle East beset by conflict.

                                                                                      "I saw how people are living differently, enjoying their time. In Gaza it's all the time shooting and dying. It's different" -- Al'a Hamouda, AISG

                                                                                      For some Palestinian students, it was their first time leaving Gaza, in itself an eye-opening experience.

                                                                                      Al'a Hamouda, from the American International School of Gaza (AISG), said: "I saw how people are living differently, enjoying their time. In Gaza it's all the time shooting and dying. It's different."

                                                                                      Alia Oriban, an AISG teacher, said: "Exposing the children from different cultures and societies has opened the minds of all the students."

                                                                                      Young diplomats

                                                                                      For the children, it was a unique opportunity to take on the roles of senior diplomats.

                                                                                      Dana Al Kahlout, the mock "vice chair of the UN Security Council", said the conference was a "window that we, as future leaders, can look through to see the world".


                                                                                      Almost 450 students took part in the Model UN

                                                                                      "It allows us to step into another person's position and be them, act like them, understand them, and represent them well."

                                                                                      But not all of the children were inspired to become tomorrow's diplomats, particularly those from the occupied Palestinian territories.

                                                                                      Waseem Uschev, an AISG student, said: "It was a good experience, but I want to be an engineer.

                                                                                      "I don't like wars and things like that. I want to be in my own business."

                                                                                      Fellow student, Al'a, wanted to work in the emergency services. "We see many things like this so I guess it is not a surprise," she said.

                                                                                      Border worries

                                                                                      AISG could not afford the journey to the first model UN conference in Cairo last year due to a lack of funds. But, the financial crisis in Gaza was not the only reason.

                                                                                      "If these kids were running the world, it would probably be a better place" -- Alia Oriban, AISG teacher

                                                                                      Thankful that she was present at all during the conference, Alia said: "We were very blessed that the border was open.

                                                                                      "We never know when the border is open. The minute I crossed the Rafah border, I knew I was coming to Qatar."

                                                                                      The American International School in Tel Aviv hosted a conference to which AISG were invited in 2005, but Alia pointed out that all but two of the students were refused entry.

                                                                                      One of those allowed to enter was picked up by the Israeli army and sent back after 24 hours.

                                                                                      She said: "Young people in Palestine between 18 and 35 have little hope of a good education firstly because many can't afford it, and secondly, if they get scholarships elsewhere, they can't leave.

                                                                                      "I have to explain to my kids what it feels like to be on a boat, on a rollercoaster, in a museum. Gaza has no theatre, no ballet, nothing.

                                                                                      "All that stands between us and whatever terrible abyss is out there is our ability to talk to each other" -- Tim Sebastian, journalist

                                                                                      "As they grow, the kids lose their teenage years. Not because of lack of education, but because of overexposure."

                                                                                      She described how Palestinian children can "differentiate between the bullets of a 100-calibre gun, a 1000-calibre gun," and how "an F16 fighter aircraft over their head doesn't even make them flinch".

                                                                                      "All this exposure has stopped their natural journey from youth to maturity."

                                                                                      Equal representation

                                                                                      The students' hopes and aspirations in the mock conference echoed those of people everywhere.


                                                                                      Bahrainis Khalid and Jassim enjoyed their roles

                                                                                      Two Arab students from Bahrain had to slip into somewhat uncomfortable shoes and represent Israel.

                                                                                      Jassim Al Aimer, from Bahrain Bayan School, said: "We got to socialise with some Israeli students who were okay. They were friendly, and it was a good experience."

                                                                                      He, and fellow school friend Khalid Al Shawi, were driven by other global issues.

                                                                                      "I wish that world hunger is solved and no one is hungry in the world. I wish that the Iraqi conflict will end as soon as possible."

                                                                                      But the situation on the ground for most Palestinian children is entirely different to that of the privileged surroundings of a Doha hotel.

                                                                                      Alia said: "When you try to tell the children that the majority of Israelis are normal people, in normal homes, watching television, it's difficult for them to imagine them as anything but soldiers, as helicopter pilots, or tank drivers."

                                                                                      Communication

                                                                                      Many of the Palestinian children from both Ramallah and Gaza, gathered around the table of the Israeli ambassador to Qatar. They asked questions about the poor conditions in Gaza, the fighting, and the future.

                                                                                      Two young Gazan students wanted to give the ambassador a badge of the Palestinian flag as a symbolic gesture.

                                                                                      Tim Sebastian, a veteran journalist, made a keynote address at the conference which, though sombre, inspired many of the students.

                                                                                      He said:

                                                                                      "All that stands between us and whatever terrible abyss is out there is our ability to talk to each other.

                                                                                      "If we can't somehow urgently improve on those communication skills, generations are going to go on dying locked into the same cycle of violence that we have so conspicuously failed to break."


                                                                                      Al'a, left, and Khalid hope for a better future

                                                                                      Unfortunately for the students from Gaza, they will now have to spend a week in Cairo waiting for the Rafah border to open, before they can return to their school and their families.

                                                                                      But Alia reflected on a positive conference for the students.

                                                                                      "Everybody was here to try, to change, to revolutionise. I would love to see some of them in the real United Nations.

                                                                                      "If these kids were running the world, it would probably be a better place."

                                                                                      Jazeera

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                                                                                        Ahmadinejad, Chavez to spend billions to free countries of US domination

                                                                                        English (US)  January 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                        The two countries agreed to establish a $2bn fund for projects in the developing world

                                                                                        The presidents of Iran and Venezuela have agreed to spend billions of dollars to help other countries free themselves from US domination.

                                                                                        [More:]


                                                                                        Hugo Chavez made the comments in a speech on Saturday with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his Iranian counterpart, who is on a tour of Latin American nations.

                                                                                        They had previously announced plans to establish a $2 billion fund for projects across the developing world but they said on Saturday that the money would also be used for projects in friendly third countries.

                                                                                        The two also called for Opec oil production cuts to support falling crude prices.

                                                                                        'Imperialist yoke'

                                                                                        Chavez said the fund "will permit us to underpin investments...above all in those countries whose governments are making efforts to liberate themselves from the [US] imperialist yoke".

                                                                                        "This fund, my brother," Chavez said referring to Ahmadinejad, "will become a mechanism for liberation.

                                                                                        "Death to US imperialism."

                                                                                        Protect prices

                                                                                        Chavez said: "We agreed this afternoon to coordinate our forces within Opec.

                                                                                        "Today we know that there is too much crude in the market, that's why we support, we will support the decision that have been taken to reduce production and protect the price of oil."

                                                                                        He emphasised that he was sending the message "to all the heads of state in the Opec countries to continue to strengthen our organisation in this direction".

                                                                                        Members of the 11-nation organisation of the petroleum exporting countries have expressed concern about the falling price of oil, which has slid some 14 per cent since the start of the year.

                                                                                        Venezuelan support

                                                                                        Ahmadinejad has praised Chavez for his outspoken support of Iran's nuclear program, which the US and European governments say is part of a project to build atomic weapons.

                                                                                        Facing sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council over its uranium enrichment work and the threat of international isolation, Iran is keen to demonstrate it has backing among a number of leaders in Latin America.

                                                                                        Chavez is the most vocal supporter in Latin America for Iran and its president, with both men calling each other "brother" and relishing their status as fierce opponents of Washington's influence.

                                                                                        Views: "Iran has not instigated any conflict with any other nation in recent history" -- Farsoldier, Canada

                                                                                        "Hugo is my brother," Ahmadinejad said during his last visit to Venezuela in September, when the two leaders inaugurated a joint oil well. "Hugo is the champion of the fight against imperialism."

                                                                                        In September 2005, Venezuela was alone in opposing a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that found Iran in violation of nuclear safeguards. Since then, Chavez has completely backed Iran's right to enrich uranium.

                                                                                        Iran and Venezuela are both important players in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and have signed numerous co-operation agreements in the energy sector and other fields.

                                                                                        During a visit to Iran last September, Chavez came out in support of Iran's nuclear programme, as well as denouncing Israeli military operations in Lebanon.

                                                                                        The two presidents also signed deals covering iron and steel production, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and health care equipment, and munitions.

                                                                                        While Ahmadinejad seeks to cultivate Latin American allies, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, is in the Middle East to rally Arab support for a new US strategy in Iraq and to counter Iran's alleged interference in Iraq.

                                                                                        Ecuador ceremony

                                                                                        After his one-day visit to Caracas, Ahmadinejad plans to head to Managua to hold talks with Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's president and a US Cold War foe.

                                                                                        On Monday, Ahmadinejad will take part in the swearing-in ceremony of Ecuador's new president Rafael Correa, who has vowed to forge stronger ties with Venezuela and not to renew a lease for a US military air base on the country's Pacific coast.

                                                                                        The Iranian president will also hold meetings with other South American presidents including Bolivia's Evo Morales on the sidelines of the ceremony in Ecuador, before finishing his tour on Tuesday.

                                                                                        Source: Agencies

                                                                                        657 words posted in World1 comment

                                                                                        1 response(s) to Ahmadinejad, Chavez to spend billions to free countries of US domination

                                                                                        1. Al Gould [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                          Two peas in a pod, ready to be stepped ON. How does one spell Scum-bags. Forget it thery aren't worth the time I just spent typing this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                                                                          A Proud American!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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                                                                                        With the worst "brand name" in the world, Israel looks for extreme makeover

                                                                                        English (US)  January 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                        Huda Ghaliya, a sixth-grade student, became the new symbol of Palestinian suffering and loss when television audiences around the world saw her running from body to body screaming "Father! Father! Father!" after an Israeli terrorist attack killed seven members of her family and wounded six others as they picknicked on the beach in Gaza on June 9, 2006. This is the kind of image Israel is trying to wipe out of the public memory with a multi-million dollar public relations campaign.

                                                                                        Analysis

                                                                                        By Bill Berkowitz

                                                                                        OAKLAND, Ca _ It hasn't been the easiest year for Israel.

                                                                                        There was this past summer's widely condemned attack on Lebanon and the recent disclosure by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that his country has a nuclear arsenal, not to mention the ongoing death and destruction resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                        Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter strongly criticised Israel in his new bestselling book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," and a recent international consumer survey found that Israel has the worst "brand name" of any country in the world.

                                                                                        Finally, The Sunday Times of London reported this week that the Israeli Air Force may be preparing to use low grade, tactical nuclear weapons to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. So perhaps it is not surprising that Israel -- whose international image is of a country in continuous conflict -- would engage in a serious long-term effort to reshape global perceptions of itself.

                                                                                        As part of its "re-branding" strategy, according to a report in the Washington Times, Israel is turning to "the wisdom of Madison Avenue".

                                                                                        Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has "met with public relations executives, branding specialists and diplomats à in Tel Aviv to brainstorm about improving the country's image by using the marketing insights first developed to sell peanut butter and Pontiacs," the newspaper reported.

                                                                                        "When the word 'Israel' is said outside its borders, we want it to invoke not fighting or soldiers, but a place that is desirable to visit and invest in, a place that preserves democratic ideals while struggling to exist," Livni was quoted as saying by Reuters.

                                                                                        John Stauber, executive director of the Centre for Media and Democracy, whose website PRWatch.org has been tracking developments in the public relations world for several years, told IPS, "These days branding, which has most frequently been associated with creating a feel-good, positive impression for a product, service, or a company, is now being used more and more by countries."

                                                                                        "Branding campaigns by nations are a type of propaganda designed to manage and manipulate the perception of in-country citizens or foreigners toward a government," he said. "Countries engaged in controversies, just like companies, will turn to branding methods as a crisis management technique to manage and manipulate public opinion and press coverage."

                                                                                        "Often nations with serious PR or image problems involving social justice issues are engaging in branding efforts. For instance, after 9/11 the United States launched a branding campaign that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in a failed effort to improve the image of the U.S. in Arab and Muslim countries."

                                                                                        "Given recent developments involving Israel, it is not at all surprising that it would ratchet up its spending on public relations and branding," added Stauber.

                                                                                        Although the new public relations effort is still in its formative stages, and a budget for it has yet to be developed, a staff person with the London-based global advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi acknowledged that it is already working with the Israelis free of charge on the re-branding effort.

                                                                                        Unlike public relations campaigns that are more immediately targeted and less durable, branding aims at changing long-term perceptions. The Anholt Nation Brands Index is an analytical ranking of the world's nations as brands developed by author Simon Anholt, an independent British researcher and an adviser to governments on branding, who is also the founding editor of "Place Branding," a quarterly British journal devoted to the relatively new practice of place branding.

                                                                                        The Anholt Nation Brand Index recently polled 25,903 online consumers from 35 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America and found that Israel finished dead last in the survey, behind Estonia, Indonesia and Turkey.

                                                                                        Among the factors considered in a nation's "brand" are the quality of the country's government, its culture, its people, its business and investment climate, and its desirability as a tourist destination.

                                                                                        "A nation's brand is a deep-seated perception that does not change a great deal," Anholt pointed out. "There is no evidence that re-branding campaigns change people's minds."

                                                                                        "If Israel's intention is to promote itself as a desirable place to live and invest in, the challenge appears to be a steep one," Anholt concluded.

                                                                                        David Saranga, the counsel for media and public affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York, told PR Week that the government was in consultation with a number of public relations and advertising firms and had not yet decided what the re-branding campaign would focus on. Saranga did point out that two important groups that the government wanted to reach are "liberals" and people aged 16 to 30.

                                                                                        Ambassador Gideon Meir, deputy director general for media and public affairs at Israel's Foreign Ministry, recently spent time in the U.S. meeting with media professionals working in the various Israeli consulates across North America. Meir told Haaretz's chief U.S. correspondent that he would "rather have a Style section item on Israel, then a front page story."

                                                                                        In a paper titled "The Israel Brand -- Policy Paper Proposal," Rommey Hassman, a marketing communications strategist and consultant to leading officials, corporations and organisations in Israel's government, non-government and business sectors, pointed out that "Nation-branding is still in its infancy; scholars have yet to conceive a theoretical basis for it."

                                                                                        There have been successes and failures, Hassman, who heads Tel Aviv University's Nation Branding Project, notes: "Spain presented the MIRO- based national logo at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, to much acclaimà [while] in contrast, the United Kingdom's controversial 'COOL Britannia' campaign was abandoned as a failure four years after its 1997 inception."

                                                                                        Jeremy Kahn, former managing editor at the New Republic and a former writer at Fortune magazine, recently told American Public Media's "Marketplace" that countries are "not a cereal box that can be retooled quickly. To transform a country's image, first you have to transform the country. "

                                                                                        Kahn, who recently wrote a piece on nation branding for Foreign Policy magazine, pointed out that "In the absence of political transformation, nation branding often amounts to nothing more than misdirection."

                                                                                        "The transformation of a country's image can only come after the country is transformed. Throwing millions at public relations firms, hiring marketing consultants, creating snappy slogans or cool logos is basically a monumental waste of time, money and energy," he said.

                                                                                        "Israel also recently spent three years and millions of dollars developing and test marketing an advertising campaign," Kahn noted. "And yes, Israel does indeed 'start with I', as the country's new tag line helpfully points out. But so does Intifada -- and it will take more than a new marketing campaign to get potential investors and tourists to forget Israel's ongoing conflict with the Palestinians."

                                                                                        "In fact, it might require something beyond the abilities of even the most talented marketing consultant: peace."

                                                                                        Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column "Conservative Watch" documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.

                                                                                        IPS News

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                                                                                          Dan Levine Annotates Krayeske Arrest Report

                                                                                          English (US)  January 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                          By Christine Stuart

                                                                                          Click here to read CTNewsjunkie.com Founding Editor Dan Levine's annotation of the now infamous police report on the arrest of reporter/activist Ken Krayeske.

                                                                                          28 words posted in Media Watch1 comment

                                                                                          1 response(s) to Dan Levine Annotates Krayeske Arrest Report

                                                                                          1. Julianna [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                            The Web page has expired, wherein Dan Levine remarks upon Ken Krayeske's arrest.

                                                                                            Police ought to have mentioned that his proximity to the parade was perhaps discomfiting to ranking members of the political committee, and what was it anyhow that he'd implied he'd like to stir up(?)


                                                                                            Well, that is what I think.
                                                                                            One could find such events very quite disturbing.

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                                                                                          SPECIAL REPORT: Israel's International Image

                                                                                          English (US)  January 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                          The Anholt Nation Brands Index

                                                                                          By Simon Anholt and GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.)

                                                                                          Nation brand is an important concept in today's world. Globalisation means that countries compete with each other for the attention, respect and trust of investors, tourists, consumers, donors, immigrants, the media, and the governments of other nations, so a powerful and positive nation brand provides a crucial competitive advantage. It is essential for countries to understand how they are seen by publics around the world; how their achievements and failures, their assets and their liabilities, their people and their products are reflected in their brand image.

                                                                                          Countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say.

                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                          The Anholt Nation Brands Index is the only analytical ranking of the world's nation brands. Each quarter, we poll our worldwide panel of over 25,000 consumers on their perceptions of the cultural, political, commercial and human assets, investment potential, and tourist appeal of 36 developed and developing countries. This adds up to a clear index of national brand power, a unique barometer of global opinion.

                                                                                          How it works

                                                                                          The Anholt Nation Brands Index measures the power and appeal of a nation's brand image, and tells us how consumers around the world see the character and personality of that brand. The nation brand is the sum of the perceptions of a country and its people across six areas of national assets, characteristics and competence. Together, these areas make the Nation Brand Hexagon.

                                                                                          Tourism

                                                                                          Tourism is often the most visibly promoted aspect of the nation brand, since most tourist boards spend lots of money on 'selling' the country around the world. Blue skies and golden sands or snow capped mountains are only a tiny part of the reality of a country, but because these images are often so aggressively promoted, they have a disproportionate effect on people's perceptions of the country as a whole.

                                                                                          Exports

                                                                                          In this point of the hexagon, we ask consumers about their tendency to actively seek out or actively avoid products from each country, what marketers call the "country of origin effect": the power of the "Made In…" label to add value to products and services. We also ask what kinds of products people would expect to be produced in each country, and whether they think the country has particular strengths in science and technology. Whether we like it or not, commercial brands are increasingly performing the role of transmitting national culture: they have become one of the primary vectors of national image, and are more and more often the means by which people form their views about national identity.

                                                                                          Governance

                                                                                          Here, we ask respondents to rank countries according to how competently and fairly they believe them to be governed, and how far they would trust their governments to make responsible decisions that uphold international peace and security. We also explore people's perceptions of the government's sense of responsibility towards the reduction of poverty and the global environment. We also ask for an adjective that best describes the government in each country.

                                                                                          Investment and Immigration

                                                                                          This point of the hexagon looks at the 'business-to-business' aspect of the nation brand, asking respondents about their personal willingness to live and work in each country for a substantial period. We also ask them how much value they would ascribe to an educational qualification gained in the country. Finally, we ask for an adjective that best describes the country's current economic and social condition.

                                                                                          Culture and Heritage

                                                                                          In this point of the hexagon, we ask questions that are designed to measure perceptions of the country's cultural heritage as well as people's appreciation of or intention to consume its popular, more commercial cultural products and activities. We also ask about the country's sporting excellence. Lastly, we ask respondents to name what kind of cultural activity they most expect to find in each country.

                                                                                          People

                                                                                          To understand how the 'human capital' of each country is viewed, we ask a 'business-to-business' question ("Imagine you are a manager and need to make an important hiring. Please rank the following countries in order of your preference for the nationality of your candidate") and a 'non-business' question ("How much would you like to have a close friend from the following countries?"). We also ask respondents to select the adjective that best describes the people in each country.

                                                                                          As regular observers of the Anholt Nation Brands Index will know, we now include a 'guest' country in each quarterly edition of the survey, in addition to the regular list of 35 nations. For the third quarter of 2006, we have included Israel for the first time in the NBI, as there has been more speculation than usual about the country's international image during recent months, not least as a result of the conflict in Lebanon, which took place just as the Quarter 3 NBI was being researched. In fact, the Government of Israel has recently announced that it will be undertaking a 'branding campaign' in an attempt to address negative perceptions of the country around the world. As Reuters reported on September 30th, 2006:

                                                                                          After decades of battling to win foreign support for its two-fisted policies against Arab foes, Israel is trying a new approach with a campaign aimed at creating a less warlike and more welcoming national image. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has argued that the protracted conflict with the Palestinians is sapping Israel's international legitimacy, this week convened diplomats and PR executives to come up with ways of "rebranding" the country. "When the word 'Israel' is said outside its borders, we want it to invoke not fighting or soldiers, but a place that is desirable to visit and invest in, a place that preserves democratic ideals while struggling to exist," Livni said.

                                                                                          The article goes on to mention that advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi is helping the Israeli government free of charge in this campaign.

                                                                                          The Israeli Government is certainly right to be concerned as the international image of the country is in very poor shape indeed. Israel's brand is, by a considerable margin, the most negative we have ever measured in the NBI, and comes in at the bottom of the ranking on almost every question. Only Bhutan, the first 'guest country' we included in the NBI, achieved similarly low scores. However, this was because very few of our respondents in the 35 countries in which the survey is run had even heard of the tiny Himalayan kingdom, let alone held any firm views about it.

                                                                                          Israel's poor scores are clearly not the result of anonymity: it is one of the most famous countries in the world.

                                                                                          It is in the areas of governance that, perhaps predictably, Israel achieves its lowest scores. In response to one of the questions in this section of the survey, "how strongly do you agree with the statement that this country behaves responsibly in the areas of international peace and security?", Israel scores lowest of all the 36 countries in the NBI. Even the U.S. panel, otherwise one of the more positive panels towards Israel, places Israel 35th out of 36 on this question (China is last).

                                                                                          Russia gives Israel its highest rankings, and the views of the Russian panel are noticeably out of kilter with those of the other 35 countries polled (the only bottom ranking given to Israel by the Russian panel is for the country's natural beauty). On the question of international peace and security, Russia ranks Israel 20th overall.

                                                                                          One of the most significant questions in the NBI, that over the last two years we have found to be one of the best indicators of generally positive or negative feelings about countries, is the one that asks people how willing they would be to live and work for an extended period in the country. Changes in responses to this question also reflect overall changes in perceptions of the country more accurately than any other question in the survey. Here, Israel is ranked last by every panel including the Americans, and even the Russians only give it a 28th ranking. For the related tourism question about the likelihood of a respondent visiting the country if money were no object, Israel is ranked bottom overall at 35th amongst Americans and 32nd amongst Russians. When we ask whether respondents believe that the people of the country would make them feel welcome if they visited, Israel again comes bottom of the list, 29th amongst Americans and 32nd amongst Russians.

                                                                                          Israel's intention is, as the Foreign Minister says, to promote itself as a desirable place to live and invest in, the challenge appears to be a steep one. Israel would seem to be in a lonely position too, as far as public opinion goes. Despite the fact that official government policy towards Israel is supportive amongst its allies, public opinion in these countries is considerably less warm. Israel ranks at or near the bottom of the Index for all the European and North American panels.

                                                                                          Palestine is not included in the NBI, but it seems likely that public opinion amongst its allies and supporters would more closely reflect the official position of their governments than is the case with Israel.

                                                                                          The country panel least positive about Israel in the NBI is Egypt. It ranks Israel 36th on every question in the survey, apart from a 29th position on the question "How strongly do you agree with the statement that this country makes a major contribution to innovation in science and technology?" – the question on which Israel typically receives its best marks (Russia gives Israel 12th position here).

                                                                                          But even a country like Germany, where views on Israel amongst the general population are likely to be more balanced, seldom ranks Israel above the bottom 10 places in the survey. The highest ranking given to Israel by the German panel is a mere 23rd place on the question that asks whether respondents agree with the statement that 'this country has a rich cultural 'heritage', a ranking which is arguably very much lower than the country objectively deserves. The political aspects of the country's image appear to be contaminating
                                                                                          perceptions of other areas of national interest which, in theory, should be entirely unrelated. However much one might disapprove of the policies of a country's government or even of successive governments, this shouldn't really have any impact on one's views of its natural landscape or its past cultural achievements. Yet the case of Israel shows that there is no absolutely impenetrable barrier between the world's perceptions of national politics and its perceptions of national culture, society, economics, history or even geography, and if the politics create sufficient disapproval, no area of national interest is safe from contamination.

                                                                                          America should take note. As I mentioned earlier, Israel appears to recognise the problem, and is determined to do something about it. But as regular readers of the NBI and my other work will know, I find it inconceivable that any country can change the way the world views it as a whole purely through marketing communications and forms of deliberate propaganda. Products, such as tourist destinations, exports, investment opportunities or even cultural attractions, can certainly be marketed by conventional means through the media. Indeed, in these areas, countries have no choice because their competitors are doing the same. But these are well-defined products being sold to a well-defined audience, and marketing communications play a clear role. There is no evidence whatsoever from the mass of data in the Nation Brands Index and City Brands Index over the last two years that national 'branding campaigns', where governments attempt to alter international perceptions of their country as a whole, have the slightest effect on the images of any countries that undertake them.

                                                                                          This is surely because all countries, at some level, get the reputation they deserve – either by things they have done, or by things they have failed to do – and it is astonishingly naive to imagine that the deeply rooted beliefs of entire populations can possibly be affected by advertising or public relations campaigns unless these campaigns truthfully reflect a real change in the country itself. With questions of national image, both the problem and the solution always have far more to do with the product than with the packaging.

                                                                                          The NBI and much other research confirm that national image is a phenomenon that changes very slowly if it changes at all. A country's brand is like a truck without wheels, and many national stereotypes, both positive and negative, seem positively rusted into place. Sometimes, national image can take a severe knock from a catastrophic piece of behaviour: the Danish cartoon incident is a case in point, but as we shall see later in this report, the impact was by no means universal nor permanent, and after a time, people almost always seem to revert to their previous beliefs about countries. The only thing that can permanently change a country's image is a change in the country and in the way it behaves. As I have often said, a reputation cannot be constructed: it has to be earned.

                                                                                          Unfortunately for places like Israel, it is virtually impossible for a country to argue with public opinion. If Israel feels, as it clearly does, that it is misunderstood and misrepresented, simply repeating its own side of the argument is unlikely to achieve very much, no matter how creatively, loudly or persuasively it does so, and no matter how much it spends on media to reinforce the argument. Fighting negative perceptions with commercial communications techniques is akin to fighting terrorism with conventional weapons: no matter how vast the defense budget or how sophisticated the weaponry, the 'enemy' is simply too diffuse, too mobile and too committed for such measures to have any real effect.

                                                                                          Public opinion on such matters tends to be largely immovable except where it is very lightly held, and this is clearly not the case with Israel. As the NBI data confirms, people's views about Israel are notably passionate. Indeed, major publicity or propaganda campaigns like those Israel seems to be contemplating are likely to be counter-productive in such circumstances. The more people suspect that a foreign power is trying to make them change their minds about something, the more firmly they will believe that it is attempting to deny or conceal the truth, and the more fiercely they will maintain their views.

                                                                                          The Israeli Government's idea that improving people's understanding of its position and broadening knowledge of the non-military facets of their country will alter people's view of the country is a common one in such situations. As I have often commented before, 'to know us is to love us' is also a long-standing American fixation. Sadly for the United States, it is becoming clear that for the populations that like America least, the opposite is true: the more they know about the USA, the less they like it, and the same may well be true for Israel. The fact that the pendulum of popular opinion within the United States now appears to be moving strongly against George W. Bush and Republican politics is far more likely to restore international acceptance of American power and American values than any amount of State Department public diplomacy, and a similar dynamic likely applies to Israel as well.

                                                                                          Countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say. As America is discovering to its cost, when public opinion is strongly against a country, even its most praiseworthy and disinterested actions are likely to be ignored or interpreted in a negative light. Nothing less than a sustained and comprehensive change of political, social, economic and cultural direction will ultimately result in a changed reputation. Therefore, it is no surprise most governments feel that unpopularity is the lesser cost of the two (some even find a grim sense of vindication in their very unpopularity). It is also unsurprising that, like the Israelis, so many governments are tempted against all logic, experience or common sense to pursue the chimerical third option of directly manipulating international public opinion. But it is clear that propaganda can only work well in closed and controlled societies, and in our massively interconnected, media-literate and healthily sceptical globalised world, it is a currency whose value has fallen virtually to zero.

                                                                                          Overall Ranking
                                                                                          1 United Kingdom
                                                                                          2 Germany
                                                                                          3 Italy
                                                                                          4 Canada
                                                                                          5 Switzerland
                                                                                          6 France
                                                                                          7 Sweden
                                                                                          8 Japan
                                                                                          9 United States
                                                                                          10 Australia
                                                                                          11 Spain
                                                                                          12 The Netherlands
                                                                                          13 Denmark
                                                                                          14 Norway
                                                                                          15 New Zealand
                                                                                          16 Belgium
                                                                                          17 Portugal
                                                                                          18 Ireland
                                                                                          19 China
                                                                                          20 Russia
                                                                                          21 Brazil
                                                                                          22 Hungary
                                                                                          23 Argentina
                                                                                          24 Singapore
                                                                                          25 India
                                                                                          26 Mexico
                                                                                          27 South Korea
                                                                                          28 Czech Republic
                                                                                          29 Egypt
                                                                                          30 Poland
                                                                                          31 Malaysia
                                                                                          32 South Africa
                                                                                          33 Estonia
                                                                                          34 Indonesia
                                                                                          35 Turkey
                                                                                          36 Israel

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                                                                                            Escalation vs. withdrawal

                                                                                            English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                            By Tom Grieve

                                                                                            Joe Lieberman said today that people who oppose the president's escalation of the war in Iraq "have an obligation to offer a plan that moves toward the goal of maximizing the chances of success in Iraq." It's a standard line of argument now for pro-escalation politicians like Lieberman and John McCain. But what the escalationists don't acknowledge is that the opponents of the president's plan have already done what they're asking of them.

                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                            True, some who have called for an immediate or a phased withdrawal from Iraq have done so based on a fatalistic -- but not necessarily faulty -- view that Iraq is going to hell no matter what happens, and that there's no reason for any more American troops to die in the process. But most escalation opponents in Congress have argued that drawing down American troops isn't just a matter of giving up on Iraq; rather, they say, it is the best way to "maximize the chance for success" there.

                                                                                            As Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi argued in their letter to Bush last week, a phased withdrawal would "make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq." Sending more troops, they said, would do exactly the opposite: It would "undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future."

                                                                                            It's not exactly a new argument. It's the same one George W. Bush used to make for not sending more troops to Iraq. ("Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight.") And it's the same one Gen. John Abizaid gave the Senate back in November when McCain asked about sending more troops to Iraq. ("We want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.")

                                                                                            Bush and Abizaid seem to have abandoned that theory; Bush said everything changed after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in February 2006, and Gen. Peter Pace said today that Abizaid has told him he's good with a troop escalation now. But back when Bush was arguing against sending more troops to Iraq, Lieberman was saying that the president's plan for Iraq was a "good one." So perhaps Lieberman is the one with an obligation now -- an obligation to explain how the theory underlying the president's "good plan" back in 2005 is somehow all wrong today.

                                                                                            As for McCain, he said today that escalation opponents have an obligation to say what they think the "consequences" of withdrawal would be. Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered his view of the consequences of "failure" in Iraq: "an emboldened and strengthened Iran, a safe haven and base of operations for jihadist networks in the heart of the Middle East, a humiliating defeat in the overall campaign against violent extremism worldwide, and an undermining of the credibility of the United States."

                                                                                            But as Jim Webb told Gates this afternoon, that parade of horribles is already marching past the reviewing stand. "In many ways," Webb said, "those have been the results of the invasions and occupation." (Gates had admitted as much, at least on one point, earlier in the day when he said that the Iranians have felt free to cause more problems in Iran "as they have gained confidence that we're in trouble there.")

                                                                                            Webb, whose son is serving in the Marines in Iraq, said that "it's not really true that an American withdrawal in and of itself would be catastrophic." After all, he said, "I think we all agree -- I hope -- that we will eventually withdraw." The only question, he said, is what the "circumstances" will be when that day comes. Gates agreed: "Whether or not our withdrawal is a catastrophe will depend very much on the circumstances under which we withdraw," he said, "and our goal is to eventually withdraw."

                                                                                            So everyone agrees that the ultimate goal -- or one of them, anyway -- is the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Everyone agrees that success in Iraq will come -- if it comes at all -- when the Iraqi government takes the political steps it needs to take. The question, then, is really one of sequencing. Escalation opponents say the Iraqis won't make any hard political decisions as long as they know that our troops will be there to protect them. Escalation supporters say the Iraqis can't take those steps unless we send even more troops.

                                                                                            It's not unreasonable for McCain to argue that escalation opponents must be honest about the worst-case scenarios that could arise after a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. But neither is it unreasonable for escalation opponents to demand that the Bush administration say clearly what it intends to do if Nouri al-Maliki's government reneges on its latest promises and the "new way forward" doesn't work. Both sides are engaged in leaps of faith here. Only one of them puts an additional 21,000 American troops in the line of fire.

                                                                                            Salon

                                                                                            859 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                              Listmakers, Show Your Faces!

                                                                                              English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                              Norman A. Pattis

                                                                                              By Norman A. Pattis

                                                                                              Not long ago Cliff Thornton called. He is the former Green Party candidate for Governor in Connecticut. He asked me to represent his former campaign manager, who had just been arrested for something or other. . . I agreed. . .

                                                                                              You’ve probably heard the client’s name by now: It is Kenneth Krayeske. He’s the young man who was arrested for taking pictures of Jodi Rell at her inaugural parade. He was then held on a $75,000 bond until after the inaugural ball was over.

                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                              Full story at: The 40-year plan

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                                                                                                China's Middle East journey via Jerusalem

                                                                                                English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                ANALYSIS

                                                                                                By M K Bhadrakumar

                                                                                                Two prominent leaders of the Middle East headed abroad last weekend, canvassing support from the international community. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad went on a tour of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador, the "red rain land" of Latin America, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert headed for China.

                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                By coincidence, on Wednesday, while Ahmadinejad was being received in Managua by the charismatic Marxist revolutionary Daniel Ortega at his inauguration as the democratically elected president of Nicaragua, Olmert was received with state honors in Beijing. Nothing can bring home as vividly the complexities of the emerging "multipolar" world order.

                                                                                                The intimacy between Iranian Islamists and Latin American socialists is now out in the open. One view is that the newfound rapport between the left and
                                                                                                the jihad is only an evanescent residue of the "war on terror". But Fred Halliday, a British academic specialist on the Middle East, wrote recently,
                                                                                                "There are signs of a far more developed and politically articulate accommodation in many parts of the world between Islamism as a political
                                                                                                force and many groups of the left."

                                                                                                Halliday visualized critically that the left might be seeing "some combination of al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas and not least Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad as exemplifying a new form of international anti-imperialism that matches - even completes - their own historical project".

                                                                                                But that is small comfort for Ahmadinejad's goodwill mission. Any axis between Islamists and the left cannot seriously change the "co-relation of
                                                                                                forces" in the Middle East. What is obvious, though, is that Olmert's visit to Beijing holds deep implications for the security of the region. The
                                                                                                Chinese leadership in discussions with Olmert has come down rather sharply on the Iranian stance in the impasse over Tehran's nuclear program.

                                                                                                Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao openly rebuffed Tehran's claim that the United Nations Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran was a mere
                                                                                                "piece of paper". Wen said, "Resolution 1737 adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council members reflects the concerns of the international
                                                                                                community about the Iranian nuclear issue."

                                                                                                Olmert couldn't hide how pleased he was to hear the Chinese position. First, his mission to China was the final leg of his tour of the UN "permanent
                                                                                                five" capitals (after London, Paris, Moscow and Washington) with a view to ratcheting up international pressure on Iran. He told the media in Beijing that he heard "many surprising and positive things" from Wen on the Iran nuclear issue, and that Wen "made it absolutely clear" Beijing opposed "an
                                                                                                Iran with a nuclear bomb".

                                                                                                Even making allowance for Israeli exaggeration and Olmert's own keenness to draw attention away from the scandals weakening his political standing at
                                                                                                home, the fact is Wen's statement appeared soon after consultations by Iran's chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, Ali Larijani, in Beijing.
                                                                                                Chinese President Hu Jintao told Larijani last Thursday, "The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1737, which reflects the shared
                                                                                                concerns of the international community over the Iranian nuclear issue, and we hope Iran will make a serious response to the resolution".

                                                                                                The shift in the Chinese position comes at a particularly opportune moment for Washington when it has decided to get tough on Iran. US President George W Bush's address on Wednesday on a new Iraq strategy contained no conciliatory references to tapping Iran's regional influence. On the contrary, Bush cited Iran as responsible for supporting Shi'ite "death squads", for providing safe haven to "terrorists and insurgents", and for sustaining "networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq".

                                                                                                Bush stated his intention to "interrupt the flow of support from Iran" and to "seek out and destroy" the networks allegedly maintained by Iran. Bush
                                                                                                explained in this context the deployment of an additional aircraft-carrier strike group to the region and plans to "expand intelligence-sharing and
                                                                                                deploy Patriot air-defense systems to reassure our friends and allies".

                                                                                                The geopolitics of Bush's Iraq strategy no doubt cast Iran as his main adversary. Syria receded into a distant second place - almost as if it were
                                                                                                an afterthought. Bush said failure in Iraq would be a "disaster" as radical Islamists might topple moderate Arab governments, and Iran would be
                                                                                                "emboldened in its pursuit" of nuclear weapons. Bush summed up that the US would work with other countries to "prevent Iran from gaining nuclear
                                                                                                weapons and dominating the region".

                                                                                                China's helpful stance at this juncture will considerably strengthen the US strategy to "contain" Iran. Britain continues to be solidly with Washington. France is far too preoccupied with upcoming presidential elections. Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel is restoring the traditional flavor of its trans-Atlantic ties. Thus, with China's "defection", Washington hopes to
                                                                                                isolate Russia within the Security Council by the time the March deadline comes for the reviewing progress on Resolution 1737.

                                                                                                Indeed, Tehran could anticipate that China's partnership instinct was highly susceptible to US influence. A report by the Iranian Majlis (parliament) Research Center last April concluded that Beijing's cooperation with Tehran would proceed no further than the threshold that held the potential to displease Washington.

                                                                                                After Larijani's visit to Beijing, in a rare public taunt of China (and Russia) by the Iranian leadership, the influential head of the Majlis
                                                                                                National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alae'ddin Broujerdi, told the Iranian official news agency, "We expect Moscow and Beijing to show more
                                                                                                strength, power and independence ... We expect them to use their veto power as a show of their independence and political strength, as the US invariably does in instances involving the Zionist regime."

                                                                                                But China will unlikely draw inspiration from Iranian exhortations to show grit and valor. Without a doubt, China will carefully weigh pluses and
                                                                                                minuses of its fruitful economic relations with Iran. Trade with Iran was an estimated US$10 billion in 2006. Almost 13% of China's imports of oil come
                                                                                                from Iran. Chinese business is steadily expanding into diverse sectors of the Iranian economy. But Beijing would be justified in assessing Iran's
                                                                                                greater need of "partnership" with China at this juncture. True, China has initialed long-term energy deals with Iran, but it has made them conditional
                                                                                                on a satisfactory resolution of the nuclear issue.

                                                                                                China has to keep up the image of a responsible rising power on the world stage. Besides, its relationship with the US and other Western powers must have foreign-policy priority. China's trade, investment and technological exchanges with the US are profound. China sees that six-party talks over the North Korea nuclear crisis have strengthened China-US relations. China counts on the United States to rein in the independence elements in Taiwan as well as in working out its differences with Tokyo.

                                                                                                Also, China could be losing patience with Iran's perceived "intransigence" and "inflexibility" with regard to nuclear negotiations with the permanent
                                                                                                five plus Germany, and with Tehran's actions that might undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. Thus, having largely
                                                                                                deferred to Russia to take the initiative on Iran so far, China seems to be gently disengaging from Moscow. Beijing's interests in the Middle East and
                                                                                                the Persian Gulf do not coincide with Moscow's.

                                                                                                But the most important factor in Chinese thinking will be the strategic considerations of its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The exchange of visits by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud and Hu to each other's capitals within a four-month period early last year greatly cemented Saudi-Chinese political equations.

                                                                                                The crucial Saudi role in the proposed buildup of China's strategic oil reserves should not be underestimated. China is planning to build four
                                                                                                strategic reserve bases at Zhenhai, Daishan, Xingang and Huangdao, which when completed next year will be able to hold the equivalent of one month's national oil imports. Beijing plans to expand the reserves to the equivalent of three months' net oil imports by 2015.

                                                                                                Saudi Arabia's credentials for helping China fulfill its target are far more credible than Iran's. Apart from supplying 17% of China's total oil imports
                                                                                                currently and making multi-billion-dollar investments in China's petrochemical sector, Saudi Arabia, as a "swing producer", has unique
                                                                                                capability to produce oil significantly above its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries quota. The expert estimation is that if Saudi Arabia
                                                                                                chose to produce for the next three-year period an extra half-million barrels of oil a day for Beijing, that alone would bring China's strategic oil reserve to three months' supply. That is why China has offered extraordinary privileges to Saudi Arabia in the collaboration over the setting-up of the strategic oil reserve.

                                                                                                The criticality of China's "Saudi connection" needs no further elaboration. Besides, China cannot hope to diversify significantly away from the Middle
                                                                                                East for its oil supplies. Two-thirds of proven oil reserves are in that region. According to the International Energy Agency, China's dependence on
                                                                                                the Middle East will exceed 75% of its total imports by 2015.

                                                                                                Translated to the geopolitical plane, simply put, China has to be sensitive about the Saudi stance toward Iran. Riyadh's animus toward Tehran is real.
                                                                                                It is born out of the instincts of self-preservation of the Saudi regime. It is quite intractable insofar as it is intertwined with acute factional rivalries within the Saudi royal family. These rivalries seem to be coming to a boil. The Associated Press reported that King Abdullah was considering a major cabinet reshuffle that might include the key posts of foreign minister and oil minister.

                                                                                                Shi'ite empowerment in Iraq threatens to spill over to Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern provinces. Saudi Arabia dreads the spread of Iran's regional influence. China also has to take careful measure of the bizarre regional realignment involving the US, Israel and the "moderate" pro-Western Arab power elites (including Wahhabi-dominated Saudi Arabia) on one side arrayed against the forces of political Islam identified with the (democratically inclined) Hamas, Hezbollah and Muslim Brotherhood and Iran
                                                                                                and (secular) Syria. It really needs the ingenuity of Bush to give an ideological spin to the current regional lineup.

                                                                                                The heart of the matter is that ideology or no ideology, as China's integration with the world economy grows deeper it is in China's interest to
                                                                                                help the Bush administration preserve the stability of the Middle East's political order. China's low-key presence in the international debate over
                                                                                                the US occupation of Iraq, China's readiness to play a bigger role in peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, and China's acquiescence with the US strategy of pressuring Iran over the nuclear issue can be seen in this light. Curiously, within the three-way equation involving the US, China and Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration is justified in seeing interesting possibilities.

                                                                                                Washington has already grasped China's helping hand in steering the Security Council resolution on the tribunal for Lebanon (which serves the Saudi-Israeli regional agenda). The agenda in Iraq is much more complex.

                                                                                                China's cooperation in the Security Council could prove crucial in the coming months. Whatever downstream success there is for Bush's Iraq strategy
                                                                                                will depend on the establishment of a UN-mandated Arab peacekeeping force under the Arab League, under the pretext of supporting Iraq's Sunnis, which,
                                                                                                in turn, would enable a US troop withdrawal and Washington's extrication from the Iraqi quagmire.

                                                                                                In his address, therefore, Bush pointedly called on "countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states" to understand the "strategic threat to their survival ... [and] step up their support for Iraq's unity government". Bush offered to reform the "de-Ba'athification laws and establish a fair process for considering amendments to the Iraqi
                                                                                                constitution", which is a prerequisite for the pro-US Arab regimes.

                                                                                                But any such effort by Washington will have to begin with "containing" Iran, which is by no means easy, as Tehran holds trump cards in Iraq, Lebanon and
                                                                                                Palestine. Interestingly, the only American political figure Bush mentioned by name in his entire speech on Wednesday was Senator Joe Lieberman, the steadfast sentinel of Israel's interests on Capitol Hill. Bush thereby implied Israel's centrality in his Iran strategy.

                                                                                                In recent months, the US has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah fighters to take on Hamas, which enjoys Iran's backing.

                                                                                                Huge quantities of arms and ammunition from Jordan and Egypt are pouring into Gaza and the West Bank via Israel for the use of Fatah cadres.

                                                                                                Against this background of gathering storms, Olmert was given a red-carpet welcome in Beijing with full military honors at the Great Hall of the People
                                                                                                facing Tiananmen Square. During the banquet in Olmert's honor, the band played "Jerusalem of Gold". Aides accompanying Olmert recalled with excitement that there used to be a time when Chinese diplomats wouldn't say the word "Jerusalem" in deference to Palestinian sensitivity.

                                                                                                M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years, with postings including ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-98) and to Turkey (1998-2001).

                                                                                                Asia Times

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                                                                                                  Israeli PM Olmert investigated for bribery, fraud, breach of trust

                                                                                                  English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                  The Zionists can no longer hide the moral bankruptcy upon which the entire "state of Israel" is shakily built. Israel's shameless and continuing theft of Palestinian land and its brutal murder and oppression of the indigenous people of the land define the fundamental character of rot, corruption and violence that layers through Israeli society.


                                                                                                  Support for Olmert has fallen after last summer's war against Hezbollah in Lebanon

                                                                                                  Israeli police have evidence which could see Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and other Israeli politicians charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

                                                                                                  In a recent Israeli poll, 85 per cent of the Israeli public believes their political leadership to be corrupt. A leading newspaper described Israel as "mafia-like".

                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                  Olmert's approval ratings have slipped to 14 per cent and a poll published on Friday said the opposition Likud Party could easily win control of the government in a new vote.

                                                                                                  Israeli police from the economic crimes unit have collected enough evidence against Olmert to launch a formal investigation.

                                                                                                  The inquiry centres around the privatisation of a prize state asset, Bank Leumi, Israel's second largest bank.

                                                                                                  Allegations

                                                                                                  Allegations state that when acting finance minister, Olmert intervened in the wording of the tender to benefit close business associates.

                                                                                                  The Israeli prime minister insists he is certain of his innocence in the affair. But if the evidence is substantiated he could face charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

                                                                                                  Michael Eitan, a Likud member of the Knesset, said that there is no hiding from corruption in Israel.

                                                                                                  "In Israel there are vigilant investigators, rule of law and public opinion that applaud investigations there is no immunity, anyone can see himself tomorrow or the next day interrogated by the police."

                                                                                                  The allegations against the Olmert are the latest in a series of scandals that have convinced ordinary Israelis there is something rotten in the body politic.

                                                                                                  Avraham Hirshson, Israel's finance minister, is under police investigation on suspicion of theft, fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

                                                                                                  The prime minister's personal secretary is under house arrest as part of a corruption probe.

                                                                                                  The director of Israel's tax authority has suffered a similar fate after an extensive police investigation into officials accepting bribes in return for tax breaks.

                                                                                                  Moshe Katsav, Israel's president, is facing allegations of rape and sexual assault, eavesdropping, fraud, breach of trust and improprieties in gift distribution.

                                                                                                  Public opinion

                                                                                                  In a recent Israeli poll, 85 per cent of the Israeli public believes their political leadership to be corrupt.

                                                                                                  A leading newspaper described Israel as "mafia-like".

                                                                                                  David Landau, editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said: "We're basically still young country, a young democracy, and we've come up against a situation where people, even people of good will, don't know where is right and where is wrong.


                                                                                                  Katsav maintains he is innocent

                                                                                                  "We're working it out, and it's an ugly, painful and bloody process, and there’s blood on many carpets."

                                                                                                  Olmert's ruling Kadima party has plummeted in popularity, while according to a poll in Haaretz, the Likud party could easily win control of the government in a new vote.

                                                                                                  Kadima was formed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon when he left Likud in 2005. Olmert took over after the popular Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke last year.

                                                                                                  Support for Olmert has fallen after he was widely seen to have mishandled last summer's war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

                                                                                                  Only 14 percent of those polled said they were satisfied with Olmert.

                                                                                                  Jazeera

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                                                                                                    Costly tortillas anger Mexican poor

                                                                                                    English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                    Price of tortillas has soared since conservative president elected


                                                                                                    Calderon wants to show he has the interest of Mexico's poor at heart

                                                                                                    Mexico's president says he will tackle the price of tortillas, the corn-based foodstuff that acts as a dietary staple for millions of the country's poor.

                                                                                                    Tortilla prices have soared by as much as 400 per cent recently and Felipe Calderon said on Thursday the government would take "all the measures within reach… to avoid escalating prices."

                                                                                                    [More:]


                                                                                                    The move could see the business-friendly conservative government face off with Mexico's powerful monopolies after a federal antitrust watchdog announced it was investigating allegations the country's corn tortilla companies were manipulating prices, and limiting supply, especially among the poor.

                                                                                                    Tortillas are part of the daily diet for millions of Mexicans in the form of tacos, and wraps for a variety of foods such as beans and chicken.

                                                                                                    For many poor families, tortillas are the main source of calories but prices have climbed steeply across Mexico in recent weeks. The La Jornada newspaper reported prices reaching 30 pesos ($2.72) a kilogramme in Durango state, representing a 400 per cent increase from 6 pesos (54 cents) in November.

                                                                                                    The minimum wage in Mexico is about $4.50 a day and, according to the government, about half of the country's 107 million citizens live in poverty.

                                                                                                    Angry housewives have shouted at Calderon at public appearances this week and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost last July's presidential election to Calderon said, "The tortilla has never cost so much in the country's history."

                                                                                                    Mexico, considered by many archeologists as the birthplace of corn, now imports much of the grain from the United States, where prices rocketed 80 per cent to their highest levels in a decade last year because of demand for corn-based ethanol fuel.

                                                                                                    One of Calderon's main priorities since taking office in December has been to try to convince poor Mexicans he has their interests at heart.

                                                                                                    Federal investigation

                                                                                                    He promised to clamp down on price speculators, hold down the price of some corn flour sold by the government and look elsewhere for cheaper grain to import.

                                                                                                    "I don't care if they have to bring it from thousands of kilometres, what matters is that this is not an argument to raise prices," he said while on a tour in the state of Veracruz.

                                                                                                    But he could come into conflict with some of his key supporters in big business after the Federal Competition Commission regulatory body said it will launch an investigation into tortilla prices.

                                                                                                    "The objective of the investigation is to determine whether there is any collusion to fix prices, restrict amounts of the goods or divide markets between competitors," it said.

                                                                                                    Mexico lifted price controls on tortillas in the 1990s, and is unable to directly fix the cost of the foodstuff.

                                                                                                    Mexican consumers also are coping with higher prices for other staples. The cost of white bread and fresh fruit and vegetables all rose more than inflation in 2006, according to the central bank.

                                                                                                    The tortilla increase outpaced inflation and minimum wage hikes of about 4 percent for the past year.

                                                                                                    Agencies

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                                                                                                      Did the President Declare "Secret War" Against Syria and Iran?

                                                                                                      English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                      The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

                                                                                                      By Steve Clemons

                                                                                                      Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                      The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

                                                                                                      The bare outlines of that order may have appeared in President Bush's Address to the Nation last night outlining his new course on Iraq:

                                                                                                      Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

                                                                                                      We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

                                                                                                      Adding fuel to the speculation is that U.S. forces today raided an Iranian Consulate in Arbil, Iraq and detained five Iranian staff members. Given that Iran showed little deference to the political sanctity of the US Embassy in Tehran 29 years ago, it would be ironic for Iran to hyperventilate much about the raid.

                                                                                                      But what is disconcerting is that some are speculating that Bush has decided to heat up military engagement with Iran and Syria -- taking possible action within their borders, not just within Iraq.

                                                                                                      Some are suggesting that the Consulate raid may have been designed to try and prompt a military response from Iran -- to generate a casus belli for further American action.

                                                                                                      If this is the case, the debate about adding four brigades to Iraq is pathetic. The situation will get even hotter than it now is, worsening the American position and exposing the fact that to fight Iran both within the borders of Iraq and into Iranian territory, there are not enough troops in the theatre.

                                                                                                      Bush may really have pushed the escalation pedal more than any of us realize.
                                                                                                      ~~~

                                                                                                      UPDATE: This exchange today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and Senator Chuck Hagel with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is full of non-denial denials and evasive answers to Biden's query about the President's ability to authorize military operations against forces within Iran and Syria:

                                                                                                      SEN. BIDEN: Last night, the president said, and I quote, "Succeeding in Iraq requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges, and that begins with addressing Iran and Syria." He went on to say, "We will interrupt the flow of support for Iran and Syria, and we will seek out and destroy networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

                                                                                                      Does that mean the president has plans to cross the Syrian and/or Iranian border to pursue those persons or individuals or governments providing that help?

                                                                                                      SEC. RICE: Mr. Chairman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was just asked this question, and I think he perhaps said it best. He talked about what we're really trying to do here which is to protect our forces and that we are doing that by seeking out these networks that we know are operating in Iraq. We are doing it through intelligence. We are then able, as we did on the 21st of December, to go after these groups where we find them. In that case, we then asked the Iraqi government to declare them persona non grata and expel them from the country because they were holding diplomatic passports.

                                                                                                      But the -- what is really being contemplated here in terms of these networks is that we believe we can do what we need to do inside Iraq. Obviously, the president isn't going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq.

                                                                                                      The broader point is that we do have and we have always had as a country very strong interests and allies in the Gulf Region, and we do need to work with our allies to make certain that they have the defense capacity that they need against growing Iranian military build-up, that they fell that we are going to be a presence in the Persian Gulf Region as we have been, and that we establish confidence with the states with which we have long alliances, that we will help defend their interests. And that's what the president had in mind.

                                                                                                      SEN. BIDEN: Secretary Rice, do you believe the president has the constitutional authority to pursue across the border into Iraq (sic/Iran) or Syria, the networks in those countries?

                                                                                                      SEC. RICE: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think I would not like to speculate on the president's constitutional authority or to try and say anything that certainly would abridge his constitutional authority, which is broad as commander in chief.

                                                                                                      I do think that everyone will understand that -- the American people and I assume the Congress expect the president to do what is necessary to protect our forces.

                                                                                                      SEN. BIDEN: Madame Secretary, I just want to make it clear, speaking for myself, that if the president concluded he had to invade Iran or Iraq in pursuit of these -- or Syria -- in pursuit of these networks, I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that. I just want to set that marker.

                                                                                                      SEN. HAGEL: I want to comment briefly on the president's speech last night, as he presented to America and the world his new strategy for Iraq, and then I want to ask you a couple of questions.

                                                                                                      I'm going to note one of the points that the president made last night at the conclusion of his speech. When he said, quote, "We mourn the loss of every fallen American, and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice" -- and I don't think there is a question that we all in this country agree with that -- but I would even begin with this evaluation; that we owe the military and their families a policy, a policy worthy of their sacrifices, and I don't believe, Dr. Rice, we have that policy today.

                                                                                                      I think what the president said last night -- and I listened carefully and read through it again this morning -- is all about a broadened American involvement, escalation in Iraq and the Middle East. I do not agree with that escalation, and I would further note that when you say, as you have here this morning, that we need to address and help the Iraqis and pay attention to the fact that Iraqis are being killed, Madame Secretary, Iraqis are killing Iraqis. We are in a civil war. This is sectarian violence out of control -- Iraqi on Iraqi. Worse, it is inter-sectarian violence -- Shi'a killing Shi'a.

                                                                                                      To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives, to be put in the middle of a civil war is wrong.

                                                                                                      It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong. We will not win a war of attrition in the Middle East.

                                                                                                      And I further note that you talk about skepticism and pessimism of the American people and some in Congress. That is not some kind of a subjective analysis, that is because, Madame Secretary, we've been there almost four years, and there's a reason for that skepticism and pessimism, and that is based on the facts on the ground, the reality of the dynamics.

                                                                                                      And so I have been one, as you know, who have believed that the appropriate focus is not to escalate, but to try to find a broader incorporation of a framework. And it will have to be, certainly, regional, as many of us have been saying for a long time. That should not be new to anyone. But it has to be more than regional, it is going to have to be internally sponsored, and that's going to include Iran and Syria.

                                                                                                      When you were engaging Chairman Biden on this issue, on the specific question -- will our troops go into Iran or Syria in pursuit, based on what the president said last night -- you cannot sit here today -- not because you're dishonest or you don't understand, but no one in our government can sit here today and tell Americans that we won't engage the Iranians and the Syrians cross-border.

                                                                                                      Some of us remember 1970, Madame Secretary, and that was Cambodia, and when our government lied to the American people and said we didn't cross the border going into Cambodia. In fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee.

                                                                                                      So, Madame Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. Matter of fact, I have to say, Madame Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out. I will resist it -- (interrupted by applause.)

                                                                                                      Worrisome.

                                                                                                      Indybay

                                                                                                      1675 words posted in Iran, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                        The Islamists were the one hope for Somalia

                                                                                                        English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                        EDITORIAL

                                                                                                        By Martin Fletcher

                                                                                                        My colleague Rosemary Righter wrote last week that the defeat of Somalia’s Islamic courts by Ethiopian forces was the “first piece of potentially good news in two devastating decades”.

                                                                                                        As one of the few journalists who has visited Mogadishu recently, I beg to differ. The good news came in June. That is when the courts routed the warlords who had turned Somalia into the world’s most anarchic state during a 15-year civil war that left a million dead.

                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                        I am no apologist for the courts. Their leadership included extremists with dangerous intentions and connections. But for six months they achieved the near-impossible feat of restoring order to a country that appeared ungovernable.

                                                                                                        This was not done by “suppressing, with draconian punishments, what remained of personal freedoms” — unless you count banning guns and the narcotic qat, which rendered half Somalia’s menfolk senseless. The courts were less repressive than our Saudi Arabian friends. They publicly executed two murderers (a fraction of the 24 executions in Texas last year), and discouraged Western dancing, music and films, but at least people could walk the streets without being robbed or killed. That trumps most other considerations. Ask any Iraqi.

                                                                                                        The Islamists have now been replaced — with Washington’s connivance — by a weak, fragile Government that was created long before the courts won power, that includes the very warlords they defeated and relies for survival on Somalia’s worst enemy.

                                                                                                        For the sake of the long-suffering Somali people I hope it can impose its authority. But Washington has taken a big gamble, and nobody should be surprised if the warlords are soon plundering Somalia again or the Islamists are waging guerrilla war.

                                                                                                        The Government’s appeal for Somalis to hand in their vast arsenal of guns has flopped. The courts’ militiamen have mostly melted back into the population, much as Saddam’s army did after the US invasion of Iraq. Mogadishu’s powerful Hawiye clan regards with deep suspicion a Government led by a Darod, President Abdullahi Yusuf. An African Union peacekeeping force is far off and Somalis will not tolerate the presence of troops from (“Christian”) Ethiopia for long.

                                                                                                        Washington backed military intervention by Ethiopia’s unsavoury regime because it regarded the courts as a new Taleban, and accused them of harbouring al-Qaeda terrorists. It would surely have done better to try engaging the courts.

                                                                                                        The US has a record of confronting Islamic movements. It backed Israel’s disastrous war against Hezbollah last summer. It never accepted the Palestinians’ election of a Hamas Government. It cold-shouldered Iran even when the relatively moderate Mohammed Khatami was President. In each case it succeeded only in boosting the extremists.

                                                                                                        Information Clearinghouse

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                                                                                                          U.S. hypocrisy on Palestine

                                                                                                          English (US)  January 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                          EDITORIAL

                                                                                                          The U.S., France and other imperialist powers claim to be “appalled” over fighting between the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent call for a halt to the fighting, however, is sheer hypocrisy. Washington, Tel Aviv and the European imperialist powers have used every weapon in their arsenal to exacerbate tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                          In January 2006, the Palestinian people overwhelmingly voted in legislative elections for Hamas, a group known for determined struggle against occupation. Neither U.S. finance capital nor its clients in Tel Aviv accepted the Palestinian people’s choice, and have waged a most brutal campaign for “regime change” ever since.

                                                                                                          For the last year, Israel, the U.S. and European imperialists have waged economic war on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to render it ineffective. The U.S. and Europe have withheld promised funds, and U.S. banks have imposed a financial blockade on PA banks, denying the PA funds from Arab League countries or anyone else. Israel has held back the $55 million in PA tax monies it collects monthly. These funds account for a third of the PA’s budget and pay the wages of the PA’s 160,000 civil servants, including the security forces involved in current clashes. A third of the Palestinian population depends on this money to survive.

                                                                                                          At the same time, Israeli occupation forces—bankrolled and armed by the U.S.—have laid siege to Gaza and the West Bank, continue daily military incursions, bombings, arrests, huge land confiscations and destruction of homes, and are building the apartheid wall. Some call these assaults the most serious in the entire history of the Palestinian struggle.

                                                                                                          It is within the context of this brutal imperialist economic squeeze, military onslaught and truly untenable situation for the Palestinian people that tensions have risen between Fatah and Hamas.

                                                                                                          Imperialism is trying to use the weapon of “divide and conquer” to disrupt the struggle in Palestine, just as it is used to “Balkanize” Iraq. Washington and Tel Aviv now clearly favor Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who is the PA president, over Hamas, which controls the PA cabinet and legislature. Before Hamas became part of the PA government, however, Israel vilified Abbas and refused to speak with him.

                                                                                                          In the name of “peace,” the U.S. and Israel are waging war against the PA and the people who have elected Hamas. But the real goal is to destroy every attempt by the Palestinian people to assert true self-determination and build a sovereign Palestine. Palestinian sovereignty provides the only hope for true peace.

                                                                                                          This is one of the most difficult times in the history of the Palestinian resistance. International support is needed more than ever to lift the siege on this heroic national liberation struggle. The anti-war movement here can be most helpful by renewing the fighting to get U.S. imperialism out of the Middle East, and to stop all U.S. aid to Israel.

                                                                                                          Free from the bone-crushing burden of foreign interference and U.S.-financed Israeli domination, the Palestinian people can and will resolve peacefully any differences among them on how to best liberate and run their country.
                                                                                                          Articles copyright © 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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                                                                                                          577 words posted in Op-EdsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                            US warplanes bomb Baghdad neighborhood

                                                                                                            English (US)  January 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                            NEWS NOT FOUND ON CNN OR FOX:
                                                                                                            Today in Iraq -- Daily war news for Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007

                                                                                                            Baghdad:

                                                                                                            U.S. warplanes on Thursday bombed parts of Baghdad's Shiite-majority neighborhood of Sadr city, while joint Iraqi-U.S. forces raided some areas in the district, eyewitnesses said. The planes hovered above the Sadr City until 3:00 a.m. and bombed some areas there, one of the witnesses told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The witness did not say if there were arrests but reported heavy shootings during the aerial bombing.

                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                            Five policemen, in civilian clothes and off duty after leaving work, were killed when gunmen ambushed them in al-Khadra neighbourhood in western Baghdad, said a security source and a medical official at the local hospital.

                                                                                                            A man was killed and two others wounded when armed men barged into a money changer's outlet in downtown Baghdad.

                                                                                                            The Russian embassy in Iraq twice came under automatic gunfire on Wednesday evening, the Foreign Ministry's website reported on Thursday. No one was injured, but the embassy building sustained material damage, the ministry said.

                                                                                                            U.S. forces killed eight suspected insurgents and detained seven more during raids to capture al Qaeda leaders in the area of Tarmiya, on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, between Saturday and Monday, the U.S. military said.

                                                                                                            Nahrawan:

                                                                                                            Four Oil Ministry officials were kidnapped from a minibus near Nahrawan, just southeast of Baghdad.

                                                                                                            Dhi Qar:

                                                                                                            The [Australia] Defence Department says one of its armoured vehicles has been in a road accident in southern Iraq, with one soldier suffering minor injuries. The department said that the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) accidentally drove into a tank ditch while on routine patrol about 8pm Monday, (Iraq time). The incident was said not to be a result of enemy activity.

                                                                                                            Samarra:

                                                                                                            Three Iraqis were killed and 31 others wounded in an initial toll of a suicide car bombing outside the house of Samaraa local council chief on Thursday, a police source in Samaraa said. "A suicide attacker driving a pick-up targeted at 11:00 a.m. the house of Sheikh Assad Ali al-Yassin the chief of Samaraa local council in al-Khadraa neighborhood in central Samaraa," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone.

                                                                                                            Mosul:

                                                                                                            Police found the bodies of eight people from different districts of Mosul 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.

                                                                                                            Two mortars fired by insurgents hit a mainly Sunni Arab girls' school in Mosul on Wednesday, wounding nine people including four students and three other children, the U.S. military said.

                                                                                                            Gunmen shot dead assistant dean of Mosul law faculty , a security source said. "Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Dr. Kamel Abdul-Hussein, assistant dean of the law faculty in Mosul University at noontime, killing him immediately," the source in Ninawa police operations rooms told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

                                                                                                            Diyala Prov:

                                                                                                            The Multi-National forces in Iraq said they killed eight gunmen and detained seven others in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, while joint forces killed 85 gunmen and detained 25 south of Balad Roze, Diala province.

                                                                                                            "Coalition Forces killed eight (gunmen) and detained seven suspected (gunmen) during a series of raids which began Saturday and ended Monday to capture al-Qaida in Iraq leaders in the Tarmiyah area," the forces said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). (…)

                                                                                                            Another statement said that joint Multi National-Iraqi forces launched a massive operation south of Balad Roze.

                                                                                                            "After seven days of combined operations south of Balad Roze, Iraqi Army soldiers, in partnership with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, continue to discover large weapons caches and destroy anti-Iraqi forces throughout the Turki Village area," it said.

                                                                                                            "Having cleared over 200 kilometers of terrain, the 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army, with support from 3-1 Cav., has unearthed approximately 20 caches, killed more than 85 (gunmen) and detained 25 suspected anti-Iraqi forces," the statement added.

                                                                                                            In Country:

                                                                                                            Suspected Sunni insurgents attacked and set fire to a large oil pipeline in northern Iraq on Thursday, about 155 miles north of Baghdad, interrupting the flow from the Kirkuk oil fields, an official of the Northern Oil Company said. The 26-inch pipe, which feeds into a line running to Turkey's Mediterranean oil terminal, was still burning late on Thursday morning, and U.S. forces had cordoned off the area.

                                                                                                            http://dailywarnews.blogspot.com

                                                                                                            714 words posted in American Empire, Media Watch, , Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                                                              Killed in Somalia raids: Civilians 100- Al Qaeda 0

                                                                                                              English (US)  January 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                              The US has vessels positioned
                                                                                                              off the coast near Somalia [AFP]

                                                                                                              Clan elders and residents of southern Somalia have said that about 100 civilians were killed in US and Ethiopian air attacks this week.

                                                                                                              A senior US official said the US had only carried out one raid in Somalia and no civilians had died.

                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                              The raid also missed three senior al-Qaeda figures wanted over bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, he said.

                                                                                                              Eight to 10 "terrorist targets" were killed but the United States was still in pursuit of the three most wanted suspects, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

                                                                                                              "All I can say ... is that it was a targeted strike at al-Qaeda connected or affiliated people," he said.

                                                                                                              The Pentagon has said the operation was prompted by "credible intelligence" that the "principal al-Qaeda leadership" in east Africa was in the area that was hit by an AC-130 gunship on Monday.

                                                                                                              Somali casualties

                                                                                                              Sheikh Abdullahi Ali Malabon, an elder in the Afmadow area, one of several hit during air attacks this week, said 100 bodies had been counted.

                                                                                                              "We have sent a team to assess the casualties there and they have confirmed more than 100 people killed," he told the AFP news agency by telephone from the remote area. "Many others were wounded, but we don't have an exact number."

                                                                                                              The US official said it was "possible" the civilian casualties that have been reported resulted from aerial attacks launched by Ethiopian forces that helped Somalia's transitional government defeat the Union of Islamic Courts.

                                                                                                              Somali and Ethiopian forces skirmished with Islamic courts fighters in southern Somalia on Thursday, setting off a brush fire, residents told the Associated Press by two-way radio.

                                                                                                              'Mop-up operations'

                                                                                                              The fighting comes after Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian interim prime minister, said his forces were carrying out "mop-up operations" against Islamic courts fighters in the extreme southern corner of Somalia and that he expected to withdraw his troops within a few weeks.

                                                                                                              The remote, forested area has few residents and high-frequency radio is the only reliable form of communications.

                                                                                                              One resident, asking not to be named for fear of retribution, said: "We are hearing bombardment in Ras Kamboni. It started around 6am and the strike is now continuing. We can't see planes, but we can hear heavy explosions."

                                                                                                              Mosa Aden Hersi, who lives 25km from Ras Kamboni, said earlier fighting in the area had triggered a brush fire. At least 35 civilians were killed along with fighters during the battle.

                                                                                                              "We saw the dead bodies of 17 men in military uniform under a small hill, but we do not know their identity."

                                                                                                              In Washington, officials said US special operations forces are in Somalia hunting suspected al-Qaeda fighters, but Pentagon officials dismissed the idea that they are planning to send any large number of ground troops to the African nation.

                                                                                                              US and Somali officials said on Wednesday that a small American team has been providing military advice to Ethiopian and Somali forces on the ground. The officials provided little detail and spoke on condition of anonymity.

                                                                                                              Related: US role: What's at stake in the Horn of Africa?

                                                                                                              Jazeera

                                                                                                              513 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                YouTube interview with reporter/activist arrested at Gov. Rell's parade

                                                                                                                English (US)  January 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                Bloggers CT Bob and Maura interview reporter/activist Ken Krayeske, who was arrested at Gov. Jodi Rell's inaugural paradge, charged with disorderly conduct, and interfering with an officer.

                                                                                                                Related stories:
                                                                                                                Legislators and governor question reporter/activist's arrest
                                                                                                                Arrested reporter posts photos
                                                                                                                Reporter arrested for political activism

                                                                                                                49 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment1 comment

                                                                                                                1 response(s) to YouTube interview with reporter/activist arrested at Gov. Rell's parade

                                                                                                                1. patrick cloutier [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                  How ironic that people in a Third World dictatorship (Morocco)were so quick to prevent the police from violating Ken's civil rights (such as they might be over there,) even though he was obviously a foreigner, while people at the parade in Connecticut did not lift a finger to help; it is a measure of how successful the totalitarian conditioning of Americans has been for Big Brother.

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                                                                                                                U.S. role: What's at stake in the Horn of Africa

                                                                                                                English (US)  January 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                By Monica Moorehead

                                                                                                                Published Jan 7, 2007 9:05 PM
                                                                                                                An estimated 15,000 Ethiopian troops invaded Mogadishu, the capital of the African country of Somalia, in late December to militarily defeat the Islamic Courts Union. The ICU until recently controlled large sections of the southern part of that country. It has now pulled back from the cities and said it will conduct guerrilla warfare against the invaders.


                                                                                                                This war and invasion began to escalate in early 2006. Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, which has been put together with U.S. and British connivance, supported the invasion.

                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                As of Jan. 1, the ICU forces have been pushed back on a temporary basis. The ICU has a mass base among many Somalis, along with other Muslims throughout the region, due in part to social services it provides for the poor, especially in the areas of health and education.

                                                                                                                The U.S. government has openly supported this invasion under the guise of the Bush administration’s on-going war against “terrorism,” which began after 9/11. This war began with the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and now has spread its tentacles into the Horn of Africa. Millions of Muslims view Bush’s endless war as a ploy to attack Islam, not just as a religion but also for daring to resist imperialist and colonial aggression.

                                                                                                                This recent conflict has drawn Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda into an anti-ICU alliance. Jakkie Ciliers, executive director of South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies, stated in the article “Africa, Root Causes and the War on Terror,” that “The potential impact upon the region is catastrophic, and may, if not checked, open the Horn as the latest battleground between the U.S. and Islam with disastrous consequences for its peoples, regional stability and the consolidation of African development, peace and security.”

                                                                                                                A U.N. resolution orchestrated by the U.S. and Britain, which hold permanent positions on the Security Council, is being used to justify sending a “peacekeeping force” to Somalia to protect the transitional U.S.-backed government there from the ICU forces.

                                                                                                                Fighting “terrorism” or quest for oil?

                                                                                                                What has been the concrete involvement of the U.S. in this war between Ethiopia and Somalia, two of the poorest countries in the world?

                                                                                                                According to William Church, director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, the CIA has been funneling between $100,000 and $150,000 monthly to the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism, which includes Somali officials recognized by the West, “warlords” and business people. Military equipment has also been donated to the Somali military by Select Armor, a private company based in Virginia.

                                                                                                                The Pentagon also sent $19 million worth of weapons and loans to Ethiopia in 2005 and is scheduled to provide another $10 million worth of weapons this year. (Sudan Tribune) In countries as poor as Somalia and Ethiopia, this is a lot of money.

                                                                                                                Just as Bush used the phony excuse of “fighting terrorism” to invade and occupy Iraq, he is using the same excuse to justify Washington’s support for the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia. And just as controlling another country’s oil reserves was the real reason for invading Iraq, the same holds true for this recent invasion of the Horn of Africa.

                                                                                                                The Horn has great strategic value, since naval bases there can control the traffic of tankers and other ships through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. In addition, however, the U.S. is well aware that Africa has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, after the Middle East and Latin America.

                                                                                                                Industry sources say these reserves amount to over 95 billion barrels, or about 8 percent of the world’s total. Nigeria is the largest producer of oil on the African continent. It remains one of the poorest countries because Shell, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, not the Nigerian people, control the oil production, wealth and profits there.

                                                                                                                Much of Africa’s overall oil reserves are untapped and are strategically located in the Horn of Africa, which is on the Red Sea and is a direct route to the oil-rich Middle East.

                                                                                                                The Pentagon established a Central Command in Africa in 2002 and stationed naval warships off the Horn of Africa. The excuse was that they were monitoring the movements of al-Qaeda members based in Afghanistan.

                                                                                                                Just last month, the Pentagon sent a proposal to the White House requesting that an African Command be set up to oversee all U.S. military maneuvers throughout the African region. Bush is expected to approve this request within the next few months.

                                                                                                                Can there be any doubt that both these commands will carry out the same task of working on behalf of Big Oil transnational corporations in an attempt to oversee the drilling for oil that is expected to occur in the Red Sea?

                                                                                                                The U.S. has expressed concern that representatives of the Chinese government recently visited Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia to discuss oil and trade agreements with those governments. China is offering developing countries better terms than those established by the imperialist powers. This is another reason why the U.S. wants to deepen its economic influence in Africa through military hegemony.

                                                                                                                The U.S. ruling elite and its military arm could care less for the people of Somalia, Ethiopia or the African people in general. Friends can become enemies and vice-versa at a blink of the eye when securing profits is at stake.

                                                                                                                A case in point is during the early 1990s, when the U.S. military invaded Somalia under the guise of providing humanitarian aid. The troops were driven out by the heroic resistance of the Somali people. Another example is that the U.S. was a major enemy of the 1974 Ethiopian revolution until it was weakened and then eventually overthrown by internal and external factors, including U.S. intervention. Today, the government in Ethiopia is to the liking of the White House.

                                                                                                                It is important for revolutionaries and progressive activists to expose what is going on in the Horn of Africa and connect this development to the overall struggle against U.S. imperialist designs in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere. The people of Africa deserve reparations, political stability and economic development free from imperialist domination and plunder.

                                                                                                                E-mail: mmoorehead@workers.org

                                                                                                                --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                Articles copyright © 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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                                                                                                                1090 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                  Bush strikes Iran consulate in first step of illegal pre-emptive war

                                                                                                                  English (US)  January 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                  US storms Iran consulate in Arbil

                                                                                                                  US troops arrested five staff members at the Iranian consulate in Arbil, northern Iraq [EPA]

                                                                                                                  US forces, backed by helicopters, have raided the Iranian consulate's offices in Arbil, the Kurdish capital in northern Iraq.

                                                                                                                  [More:]


                                                                                                                  A number of arrests were made and computers and documents seized during Thursday's raids.

                                                                                                                  An Iranian foreign ministry official said US troops arrested five staff members, including diplomats and staff.

                                                                                                                  The US military made no direct mention of Iranians in a statement issued after the raid but said six "individuals" had been arrested during "routine" operations in the area.

                                                                                                                  They were held on suspicion of being "closely tied to activities targeting Iraqi and coalition forces," it said

                                                                                                                  According to Iranian state television, Tehran's embassy in Baghdad has sent a note to Iraq's foreign ministry calling for the immediate release of the arrested staff members.

                                                                                                                  A Kurdish TV station said Kurdish security forces took over the building after the Americans left the area.

                                                                                                                  The offices of the Kurdish prime minister and Kurdish president expressed their "disturbance and condemnation" at the pre-dawn operation and urged the US military to release employees arrested during the raid.

                                                                                                                  International law 'violated'

                                                                                                                  Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman condemned the raid and said it was a violation of international law.

                                                                                                                  "There is no justification for this behaviour of the Americans, particularly because Iraqi officials were not informed about this move."

                                                                                                                  Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman
                                                                                                                  "The activity of all those people at our office in Arbil was legal and was in co-operation with, and had the approval of, the Iraqi side," Hosseini told Iran's state-owned Arabic language satellite channel Al-Alam.

                                                                                                                  "There is no justification for this behaviour of the Americans, particularly because Iraqi officials were not informed about this move," he added.

                                                                                                                  On Thursday, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, warned Iran that the United States would not "stand idly by" if Tehran tries to disrupt Washington's renewed effort to stabilise Iraq.

                                                                                                                  Speaking just hours after the Arbil raid, Rice said Washington was determined to crack down on Iran's "regional aggression".

                                                                                                                  US officials have repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in Iraq and supplying Shia militias with weapons.

                                                                                                                  In December, US forces in Baghdad arrested a number of Iranians they said were suspected of planning attacks on Iraqi security forces, including diplomats who were later turned over to Iraqi authorities.

                                                                                                                  Jazeera

                                                                                                                  399 words posted in American Empire, IranLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                    Ominous Signs of a Wider War

                                                                                                                    English (US)  January 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                    By Michael T. Klare

                                                                                                                    On January 5 Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he was replacing Gen. John Abizaid as commander of the Central Command (Centcom)--the body responsible for oversight of all US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and the greater Middle East--with Adm. William Fallon, currently the commander of the Pacific Command (Pacom). Fallon is one of several senior officers recently appointed by Gates to oversee the new strategy for Iraq now being shaped by President Bush.

                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                    The choice of Fallon to replace Abizaid was highly unusual in several respects. First, this is a lateral move for the admiral, not a promotion: As head of Pacom, Fallon commanded a larger force than he will oversee at Centcom, and one over which he will exercise less direct control since all combat operations in Iraq will be under the supervision of Gen. Dave Petraeus, the recently announced replacement for Gen. George Casey as commander of all US and allied forces. Second, and more surprising, Fallon is a Navy man, with experience in carrier operations, while most of Centcom's day-to-day work is on the ground, in the struggle against insurgents and warlords in Iraq and Afghanistan.

                                                                                                                    Part of the explanation for this move, of course, is a desire by the White House to sweep away bitter ground-force commanders like Abizaid and Casey who had opposed an increase in US troops in Iraq and argued for shifting greater responsibility for the fighting to Iraq forces, thereby permitting a gradual American withdrawal. "The Baghdad situation requires more Iraqi troops," not more Americans, Abizaid said in a recent interview with the New York Times. For this alone, Abizaid had to go.

                                                                                                                    But there's more to it. Abizaid, who is of Lebanese descent and served a tour of duty with UN forces in Lebanon, has come to see the need for a regional solution to the crisis in Iraq--one that inevitably requires some sort of engagement with Iran and Syria, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group. "You have to internationalize the problem, you have to attack it diplomatically, geo-strategically," he told the Times. "You just can't apply a microscope on a particular problem in downtown Baghdad...and say that somehow or another, if you throw enough military forces at it, you are going to solve the broader issues in the region of extremism."

                                                                                                                    If engagement with Iran and Syria was even remotely on the agenda, Abizaid is exactly the man you'd want on the job at Centcom overseeing US forces and strategy in the region. But if that's not on the agenda, if you're thinking instead of using force against Iran and/or Syria, then Admiral Fallon is exactly the man you'd want at Centcom.

                                                                                                                    Why? Because combined air and naval operations are his forte. Fallon began his combat career as a Navy combat flyer in Vietnam, and he served with carrier-based forces for twenty-four years after that. He commanded a carrier battle wing during the first Gulf War in 1991 and led the naval group supporting NATO operations during the Bosnia conflict four years later. More recently, Fallon served as vice chief of naval operations before becoming the head of Pacom in 2005. All this means that he is primed to oversee an air, missile and naval attack on Iran, should the President give the green light for such an assault--and the fact that Fallon has been moved from Pacom to Centcom means that such a move is very much on Bush's mind.

                                                                                                                    The recent replacement of General Abizaid by Admiral Fallon, along with other recent moves announced by the Defense Secretary, should give deep pause to anyone concerned about the prospect of escalation in the Iraq War. Contrary to the advice given by the Iraq Study Group, Bush appears to be planning for a wider war--with much higher risk of catastrophic failure--not a gradual and dignified withdrawal from the region.

                                                                                                                    The Nation

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                                                                                                                      Why a Troop Escalation Won't Bring Peace to Iraq

                                                                                                                      English (US)  January 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                      Bush's Blood-Soaked Myths About Baghdad

                                                                                                                      By Patrick Cockburn

                                                                                                                      During one of the so-called Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century the Chinese military forces suffered repeated defeats. But officials in Beijing were not downcast by these humiliating setbacks because they believed China possessed a secret weapon which would ultimately compel the British to negotiate.

                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                      The confidence of the officials in Beijing was based on their mistaken belief that that they had a world monopoly on the supply of rhubarb. They were convinced furthermore that, without the consumption of rhubarb, no natural bowel movements could take place. Cut off the supply of rhubarb to Britain, so argued the wily courtiers attending the emperor, and the British would be faced with the prospect of mass constipation. Regardless of the state of play on the battlefield, they would be forced to meet Chinese terms.

                                                                                                                      New White House plans to win a victory in Iraq are at about the same level of puerile idiocy as the scheme of those ill-informed Chinese officials 150 years ago. The plan, to be announced this week, comes just after the gruesome and semi-public execution of Saddam Hussein. Seen by Iraq's 5-million-strong Sunni community as a sectarian lynching, aided and abetted by the US, his killing will ensure that the Sunni insurgent groups will be flooded with more recruits than they can handle.

                                                                                                                      At the heart of President George Bush's scheme to stave off defeat is the famous "surge" in US troop numbers of some 20,000 to 30,000 men, in addition to the 145,000 soldiers already in Iraq. These extra forces are somehow expected to gain control of greater Baghdad--with a population of 7 million--and central Iraq, something the US army has failed to do in three and a half years.

                                                                                                                      It is one of the most long-sustained American myths in Iraq that if they had had significantly more combat brigades in the first year of the war, the insurgency would have been swiftly crushed. Generals in the Pentagon critical of the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and eager to put all the blame on him for the débâcle, claim all would have been well had he sent a bigger army. A rash of best-selling books in the US published last year--much of their information leaked by those same generals--take it as a proven fact that a central reason for US failure to control Iraq then was lack of troops. Essentially, the same argument is used to justify the temporary dispatch of reinforcements today.

                                                                                                                      As a means to victory the "surge" is likely to be as effective for the US army as cutting off the supply of rhubarb was for the Chinese. Belief in the utility of sending reinforcements ignores one of the main lessons of the war in Iraq. The Iraqis do not like being occupied any more than anyone else.
                                                                                                                      Most were glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein but they never welcomed the occupation. The Iraq Study Group chaired by James Baker understood this. It pointed out that 61 per cent of Iraqis favor armed attacks on US- led forces, according to reliable opinion polls.

                                                                                                                      The occupation has always fuelled the insurgency. More US troops means more resistance. Everybody in Baghdad wants armed men they can trust from their community protecting their street. A friend in Sunni west Baghdad told me: "The Mojahideen (insurgents) have ordered all the young men in our districts to take their guns and organize shifts so we are permanently guarded."

                                                                                                                      It is doubtful if the US can make a dent in the ever-growing strength of the Sunni guerrillas. But the extra troops might be used for an ever more dangerous purpose. They could be used to take on the Mehdi Army, the followers of the nationalist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whom the US currently believes to be the source of so many of its woes.

                                                                                                                      The US government has shown an extraordinary inability to learn any lessons from its failures in Iraq. The last time Muqtada al-Sadr's men fought the US, on two occasions in 2004, they lost a lot of militiamen but gained greatly in credibility in the eyes of Iraqis. This time round they will be much stronger. They also have far more legitimacy for Iraqis than many of the returned exiles, the so-called "moderates" that Washington is ceaselessly trying to promote despite their dismal showing at the polls. The one certainty about the "moderate" government Washington is seeking to install is that it would be more dependent on the US than that of Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister.

                                                                                                                      There is a hidden history to the US and British occupation of Iraq. In 1991 President George Bush senior did not want to overthrow Saddam Hussein for fear that he would be replaced by Shia religious parties sympathetic to Iran. The same dilemma faced George W. Bush, the son, after 2003. When the US was compelled to hold elections in 2005 the 60 per cent of Iraqis who are Shia voted for these religious parties.

                                                                                                                      Ever since, the US has been trying to divide the Shia political alliance and keep the Iraqi government under its effective control. Mr al-Maliki says he cannot move a company of soldiers without US permission. The US army said it was handing over security control of Najaf to Iraqis--and a few days later killed the representative of Muqtada al-Sadr in the city. Just possibly the US might succeed in allying itself with the Badr Organisation--the Iranian-trained militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq--against the Mehdi Army. But the result would likely be an intra-Shia civil war in addition to Sunni-Shia war and the Sunni-US war.

                                                                                                                      While the White House pretends that American defeat can be avoided in Iraq, real measures to end the fighting languish. The building blocks for peace should include the appointment of a peace envoy: probably a senior official from the Arab world trusted in the US and the Middle East and acting on behalf of the UN. He should start talks about calling an international conference at which all the players inside and outside Iraq can meet.

                                                                                                                      A central theme of the conference should be the total withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq, leaving no bases behind. Any final agreement should be in the shape of an international treaty including guarantees for minorities such as the Iraqi Kurds and Sunni. Finally Iraq should be neutralized like Austria in Europe in the 1950s.

                                                                                                                      There is no chance of this happening under Mr Bush. The reversal of policy would be too great and the admission of failure too humiliating.

                                                                                                                      Instead he is responding to failure like a First World War general on the Western Front, sending another 20,000 to 30,000 surging over the top in the vain hope that they will finally make the vital breakthrough which will lead to victory.

                                                                                                                      Patrick Cockburn is the author of 'The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq', published by Verso in October.

                                                                                                                      Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                        Interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal

                                                                                                                        English (US)  January 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                        Following are excerpts from Hamas leader Khaled Meshal's interview with Reuters. Meshaal lives in exile in Syria.

                                                                                                                        Q: What does Hamas want?
                                                                                                                        A: We in Hamas are with the general Palestinian and Arab position and we are with the consensus of the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state on the June 4 borders, including (East) Jerusalem, the right of return and the withdrawal of Israel to these borders.

                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                        Q: Does accepting the 1967 borders presuppose the existence
                                                                                                                        of Israel?

                                                                                                                        A: The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel, the problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent. There is a reality that Israel exists on Palestinian territory. The problem is that the Palestinian state does not exist. My concern as a Palestinian is to found this state. International relations are not based just on recognition.

                                                                                                                        Q: Does that mean you accept Israel exists?
                                                                                                                        A: We do not want to go into issues that complicate the struggle. We are offering a real chance that the Arabs and Palestinians believe in. There will remain a state called Israel, this is an issue of fact but the Palestinians should not be required to recognize Israel. Not all international relations are based on the basis of recognition. Who will be the one to grab this chance?

                                                                                                                        Q: Does that mean you can formally recognize Israel?
                                                                                                                        A: We as Hamas and as Palestinians do not talk about recognizing Israel or accepting it as a reality. As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or a state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land. This is reality but I don't deal with it from the point of view of recognizing or admitting it. It is a fact that was the result of historical factors.

                                                                                                                        Q. Could Hamas recognize Israel in the future and alter its charter which calls for Israel's destruction?
                                                                                                                        A: Why should we occupy ourselves with a distant future when we have urgent needs to achieve in the near future? The distant future will have its own circumstances and positions could be determined then.

                                                                                                                        Q. Are you saying you will drive a harder bargain than other negotiators in past?

                                                                                                                        A. The method used by Israel in its negotiations with the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and in its attempts to take free compromises in return for limited small offers will not work with the Hamas movement. Hamas today has the confidence of the people and won the ballot. Hamas cannot accept the logic of bargains with Israel. Israel has to respect Palestinian rights. We are demanding a Palestinian state on the 1967 border including Jerusalem and the right of return. Israel has to say yes I agree and withdraw. But for Israel to suck us into bargains in stages and in packages, this road constitutes an attempt to weaken the Palestinian position, to lure the Palestinians into lowering the ceiling of their demands and to use the time factor and pressure which will not work with us.

                                                                                                                        Q. Will there be a new Palestinian government?
                                                                                                                        A. We had a plan to go for a government of national unity that was not technocratic but with ministers who were experts and we were searching for a formula that would not bring symbols into the government. But this project failed. Now we say 'we go to an unconditional dialogue. Each side present their vision.' And at this stage we are committed to the formation of a government of national unity headed by current Prime Minister Haniyeh and on the basis of the national accord document. Then we agree on the details regarding the formation of the government.

                                                                                                                        Haaretz

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                                                                                                                          Talks on with Fatah, says Hamas

                                                                                                                          English (US)  January 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                          Meshaal, the Damascus-based Hamas leader, says
                                                                                                                          he welcomes new national unity talks [AFP]

                                                                                                                          Fatah and Hamas will enter a fresh round of talks, according to Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader, but Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, insists that an agreement be reached within two weeks.

                                                                                                                          [More:]


                                                                                                                          Also on Wednesday, Rafiq Husseini, the Palestinian president's chief of staff, said in the West Bank town of Ramallah that Abbas would allow two weeks for renewed dialogue on a national unity government that is due to begin next week.

                                                                                                                          He said: "The president has given a period of only two weeks for a national dialogue ... after those two weeks we will either come to agreement or not."

                                                                                                                          Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, and Abbas's Fatah are locked in a deadly power struggle in Gaza which has raised fears of a civil war.

                                                                                                                          Meshaal, who is based in Syria, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday in Damascus: "There are negotiations that are going on between us and Fatah and Abu Mazen [Abbas] ...

                                                                                                                          "True that in the past there were failures in dialogue but we as Palestinians have no option but dialogue.

                                                                                                                          "There are chances for the success of the dialogue ..."

                                                                                                                          Meshaal insisted that Ismail Haniya must keep his post as prime minister.

                                                                                                                          Failed unity bid

                                                                                                                          Efforts to form a new government late last year failed after talks between Abbas and Hamas broke down over the composition and policies of a new cabinet to be made up of technocrats.

                                                                                                                          Differences between the two main Palestinian groups have widened since last year's failure to get a unity government deal and threatened to spill over into an all out war in Gaza.

                                                                                                                          "Now we are seeking the establishment of a government of national unity in which various factions and parliamentary blocs will be represented ...."

                                                                                                                          Few details

                                                                                                                          Meshaal said, he gave few other details. Several Palestinians have been killed over the past month in sporadic fighting between Hamas and Fatah fighters in Gaza.

                                                                                                                          He said US and Israeli interference was stoking tensions among Palestinian factions.

                                                                                                                          The US announced this month that it is planning to spend more than $80m to arm and train forces loyal to Abbas.

                                                                                                                          He said: "This external intervention in the internal Palestinian affairs is pouring fuel on the fire and pushing the political differences to feed conflict and internal struggle."

                                                                                                                          Foreign sanctions

                                                                                                                          Meshaal said foreign sanctions and demands that any Palestinian government recognise Israel would not defeat Hamas: "These sanctions lost their effectiveness in subjugating Hamas or the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                          "I say that this situation will not continue. N ow or tomorrow sanctions must end. The bet that the sanctions would defeat Hamas will not pay off."

                                                                                                                          He said Abbas's call for early elections last month was "an illegal and illegitimate step" that would not happen.

                                                                                                                          He said the Palestinian president had no authority to dissolve the legislative council. "I think Abu Mazen knows that. If he insists on this step it means that he wants to detonate the Palestinian situation."

                                                                                                                          Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                            Legislative Leaders and Gov. Question Reporter's Arrest

                                                                                                                            English (US)  January 8th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                            By Christine Stuart

                                                                                                                            Democratic legislative leaders expressed concern Monday with the details surrounding the arrest of journalist and political activist Ken Krayeske. Gov. M. Jodi Rell echoed some of their concerns in a letter she wrote Monday to Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle.

                                                                                                                            In her letter, Rell called for a complete review of Krayeske’s arrest. Lawmakers went one step further by asking the police to hand over its dossier of Rell's political enemies.

                                                                                                                            Full story at CT News Junkie

                                                                                                                            80 words posted in Media Watch, Politics1 comment

                                                                                                                            1 response(s) to Legislative Leaders and Gov. Question Reporter's Arrest

                                                                                                                            1. nikki [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                              there ya go. Jodi *I KNOW NOTHING* Rell ON THE CASE.

                                                                                                                              she watched too much Hogans' Heros as a child. Or in college.. she's kind of old.

                                                                                                                              wait.. she didn't go to college. Strike that.

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                                                                                                                            Al-Maliki plans Baghdad crackdown

                                                                                                                            English (US)  January 7th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                            Iraqi leader says armed groups will be crushed "regardless of sect or politics".

                                                                                                                            The Iraqi government plans to bring in reinforcements to take part in a major security plan for Baghdad but a US general has said the key to success would be a balanced approach rather than sheer force.

                                                                                                                            [More:]


                                                                                                                            Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, announced the plan on Saturday, vowing to crush armed groups "regardless of sect or politics".

                                                                                                                            His plans suggested that he may be ready to tackle forces loyal to his fellow Shia, as demanded by Washington and the Sunni population.

                                                                                                                            Al-Maliki's proposed plan was not welcomed by the head of the largest Sunni group in Iraq, saying, the proposal will lead to civil war if implemented.

                                                                                                                            Interviewed on Al Jazeera on Sunday, Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, said on Sunday: "We will not let it go because if we do, then we will have no future in Iraq, and we represent a high percentage in Iraq and have the right to live in our country.

                                                                                                                            "Even the Shia are not happy with The plan will only lead the country to a civil war between Sunnis and Shia. People on both sides would hate that."

                                                                                                                            He also criticised the planned move by George Bush, the US president, to increase the number of US troops in Iraq, saying that it will add to the existing problems and create hatred among Iraqis towards the American forces.

                                                                                                                            'No authority'

                                                                                                                            Reacting to al-Maliki's announcement, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the outspoken Sunni Arab speaker of the Iraqi parliament, told Al Jazeera on Sunday: "Al-Maliki has no authority under the constitution to enforce security plans unless approved by the parliament.

                                                                                                                            "After the suspension of the martial law, which empowers al-Maliki with extraordinary executive powers, he is in no position to implement security plans that were not approved beforehand by the parliament."

                                                                                                                            There has been no Shia opposition to al-Maliki's plan.

                                                                                                                            Plan blueprint

                                                                                                                            Sami al-Askari, an adviser to al-Maliki, said two brigades from northern Iraq, comprising mostly Kurdish soldiers, and one from the mainly Shia south would be sent to Baghdad to help implement the plan.

                                                                                                                            The plan foresees Iraqi forces taking responsibility for inner Baghdad while US forces will be in charge of the surrounding areas, he said. Al-Askari said the government was determined to crack down on fighters' infiltration of the armed forces.

                                                                                                                            "It takes time because it's not an easy task ... [but] without it the people will not trust the security forces."

                                                                                                                            Continuing violence

                                                                                                                            Meanwhile, on the ground, violence continues to take its toll.

                                                                                                                            On Sunday, the US military announced the deaths of five more soldiers and police found 17 death squad victims around Baghdad.

                                                                                                                            In Hilla, south of Baghdad, a woman was killed and another 13 people injured in a car bomb blast in a bus stop in the city's centre.

                                                                                                                            Habib al-Shimiri, a senior education ministry official, survived a roadside bomb attack on his car near the al-Shaab football stadium in east central Baghdad, but two of his guards were killed, police said.

                                                                                                                            In the town of Samarra, where a revered Shia shrine was bombed last February triggering nationwide sectarian violence, hundreds of Sunni Arabs gathered outside the mosque on Sunday to protest against Saddam Hussein's hanging.

                                                                                                                            Baghdad violence

                                                                                                                            In other incidents in the Iraqi capital on Sunday, two people were killed and another two injured in a roadside bomb blast.

                                                                                                                            An interior ministry source reported attacks in several Sunni neighbourhoods though it was not immediately clear who was responsible or whether there were any casualties.

                                                                                                                            Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Ahle al-Iraq (General Council for the People of Iraq), which is a member of the mainly Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, said that armed militia attacked the districts of Rahmaniya and Amil in Baghdad and that fierce clashes erupted between the residents and the assailants.

                                                                                                                            Three residents were killed, more than 10 injured and five houses set on fire, he said.

                                                                                                                            Meanwhile, the British army, stationed in southern Iraq, said that one soldier died and another one was injured in a road traffic accident.

                                                                                                                            Security threat

                                                                                                                            Speaking about the Bush plan to deploy more US forces, Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno, the new commander of US combat troops in Iraq, said a previous US operation launched in August to secure Baghdad had flaws.

                                                                                                                            "We were able to clear the areas. We were not able to hold the areas," he said. "You have to go after both Shia and Sunni neighbourhoods and Together Forward was focused mostly on Sunni neighbourhoods and we've got to do both.

                                                                                                                            "We have to have a balanced approach about going after both Shia and Sunni extremists."

                                                                                                                            Odierno said US commanders had also "overestimated the availability of Iraqi security forces" in the earlier operation, and said US troops would also remain in neighbourhoods to ensure Iraqi forces did not pursue their own sectarian agendas.

                                                                                                                            Washington has identified the Mahdi Army militia of Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr as the biggest threat to security. Al-Sadr, whose supporters played a key role in al-Maliki's appointment as a compromise prime minister in April, denies supporting violence.

                                                                                                                            Criticism rejected

                                                                                                                            Al-Maliki has repeatedly rejected criticism that he has not confronted the Mahdi Army before now, saying the Shia armed groups can be tamed through political dialogue.

                                                                                                                            Odierno said US forces would leave dealing with al-Sadr to Iraqi authorities.

                                                                                                                            "I'm not sure we can take him down," he said. "There are some extreme elements [of the Mahdi Army] ... and we will go after them. I will allow the government to decide whether [al-Sadr] is part of it or not.

                                                                                                                            He is currently working within the political system." Odierno said he believed 80 per cent of militia fighters could be integrated into the regular security forces, while a hard core of 20 per cent needed to be captured or killed.

                                                                                                                            Jazeera

                                                                                                                            962 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                              The greatest settler

                                                                                                                              English (US)  January 7th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                              From Sam Bahour in Ramallah:

                                                                                                                              Dear friends,

                                                                                                                              This article, by one of the many brave Israeli journalists, speaks volumes. Don't miss the last few sentences. Too bad such discussion will never make it into the US press.

                                                                                                                              Tomorrow, I will be going on a tour of this divided and troubled city with an expert guide from one of the leading Israeli human rights organizations,
                                                                                                                              the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.. I will try to take pictures and report back as soon as possible.

                                                                                                                              Jerusalem is hemorrhaging, as is Bethlehem! The Cities of Peace are now the Cities of Cement,
                                                                                                                              Sam
                                                                                                                              ~~~

                                                                                                                              By Gideon Levy

                                                                                                                              Among the many obituary notices published by various groups after the death of Teddy Kollek, one group's notice was conspicuous in its absence: the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements. It is a bit difficult to comprehend this ingratitude by the settlers toward the person who brought approximately 200,000 Jews to the occupied territories - perhaps more than any other person. The settlement enterprise owes a great historic debt to Kollek. Neither Rabbi Moshe Levinger nor Hanan Porat nor Aharon Domb nor Ze'ev "Zambish" Hever are responsible for settling so many Israelis beyond the Green Line as Kollek, the enlightened Viennese liberal.

                                                                                                                              In our eyes [Israeli eyes], but only in our eyes, not every settlement is the same and each settlement has its own moral code. But this is a game we play with ourselves. Every home built beyond the Green Line - in Yitzhar or Itamar in the West Bank, in Nov in the Golan, or in French Hill in Jerusalem - is built on occupied land and all construction on occupied land is in violation of international law. Occupation is occupation. Not everything is legal, even if it is anchored in Israeli law, as in the case of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.

                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                              The fact that most of the eulogies for the former Jerusalem mayor left out this detail and that Yesha did not embrace the mega-settler Kollek is no coincidence. Israeli society has adopted sundry and strange codes to whitewash the settlement enterprise. The settlement of the occupied territories in Jerusalem has never been considered hitnahalut (the term used for Jewish settlement in the territories). And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy's term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue.

                                                                                                                              The fact that almost no one in the world recognizes this enterprise and the new borders it charts does not change a thing: In our eyes, but only in our eyes, not every settlement is the same and each settlement has its own moral code. But this is a game we play with ourselves. Every home built beyond the Green Line - in Yitzhar or Itamar in the West Bank, in Nov in the Golan, or in French Hill in Jerusalem - is built on occupied land and all construction on occupied land is in violation of international law. Occupation is occupation. Not everything is legal, even if it is anchored in Israeli law, as in the case of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.

                                                                                                                              The Israelis invent patents for themselves, but this sophisticated semantic laundering will not meet the legal and ethical test. The Ramot neighborhood is a settlement. There is no difference between the "neighborhood" of Pisgat Ze'ev and the "settlement" of Givat Ze'ev. This artificial distinction does not end with the Jerusalem region. In the West Bank, distinctions are also made between settlements and "illegal outposts," another virtuoso but groundless exercise in semantics with regard to an enterprise that is entirely illegal. There are also no settlements (hitnahaluyot) in the occupied Jordan Valley, but rather yishuvim, a generic word for settlements, unrelated to the 1967 borders. An ethical blemish has never been attached to the residents of these Jordan Valley settlements. Why? Because this is the way it was determined by Labor governments at the time, when they established moshavim and kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley - not "settlements."

                                                                                                                              Does this make any difference from the perspective of international law? Certainly not. Were the moshavim in the Jordan Valley not built on the land of residents who were disinherited? Have they not crushed the surrounding residents?

                                                                                                                              With regard to the Golan Heights, we went up another level in the word game we play with ourselves. There are no hitnahaluyot there at all. Why? Because we decided so. There are towns, kibbutzim and moshavim, just like in the Jezreel Valley. But no word game or Knesset legislation can alter the unequivocal fact that the Golan Heights is occupied Syrian land and all of its residents are settlers and that international law regards them as criminals.

                                                                                                                              This phenomenon reached its peak in Jerusalem, which will celebrate 40 years of its "unification" this year. This act of unification was an act of occupation and the fact that a charming and charismatic figure like Kollek presided over it does not change a thing. Kollek demolished a neighborhood in the Old City and built the new neighborhoods on Palestinian land for Jews only - apartheid at its worst - and this should also be remembered in the balance of his considerable achievements.

                                                                                                                              The Jerusalem mayor Kollek left behind is a divided and wounded city, despite and because of its enormous development, replete with explosives that will yet explode in our faces. In fact, it was never unified. Like any colonialist city, there is a dark backyard for the natives. To this day, most Israelis do not set foot in Palestinian neighborhoods and the Palestinians avoid Jewish neighborhoods. The city remains divided, despite all of the lofty words about its unification for eternity. Regarding equality, there is nothing to say of course. It is sufficient to travel to the Shuafat camp or even to Sheikh Jarrah to note the outrageous disparity between the services in the eastern and western parts of the city.

                                                                                                                              Societal neglect, piles of garbage, no playgrounds or community centers, no sidewalk and no streetlights. Gaza in Jerusalem, all on the basis of abominable ethnic discrimination. This did not begin with Ehud Olmert nor with Uri Lupolianski. This began with the wily Kollek. A city whose rule in the Palestinian section is conducted through the strength of arms, with surprise checkpoints and hundreds of violent Border Policemen routinely patrolling the streets, and whose residents are subject to prohibitions that violate their fundamental liberties, is not a "unified" city. Teddy is responsible for this.

                                                                                                                              The history of the occupation, which has already lasted more than twice the amount of time than the years the state existed without it, is full of "men of peace" from the "left" who are responsible for this injustice. What would the settlement enterprise be without Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir and Yisrael Galili and, of course, Shimon Peres? Kollek must now be added to them, belatedly. He brought the wide world to Jerusalem but only to its Jewish part. He loved his city very much, and built and developed it in an impressive way, but on the downtrodden back of half of its residents. Moshe Amirav wrote in his article on Thursday ("Division, where unification failed") that Kollek said to him in his waning years: "We failed to unify the city. Tell Ehud Barak that I support dividing it." Better late than never, but why did we not hear a word about this in the lofty eulogies?

                                                                                                                              Haaretz

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                                                                                                                                Arrested reporter posts his photos of Gov. Rell's inaugural parade

                                                                                                                                English (US)  January 7th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                Rell Walking (Ken Krayeske photo)

                                                                                                                                By Christine Stuart

                                                                                                                                Reporter Ken Krayeske has uploaded some of the photos he took of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s inaugural parade just moments before he was arrested Wednesday and charged with breach of peace and interfering with an officer.

                                                                                                                                Krayeske claims on his Web site, http://www.the40yearplan.com that the metadata embedded in the photos proves he was able to snap 23 photos during a 30 second period before his photo shoot “was unceremoniously terminated,” by police. Krayeske’s argument is that in order to obtain these photos he would have had to be standing still for at least 30 seconds.

                                                                                                                                Full story at: CT News Junkie

                                                                                                                                112 words posted in Human Rights, Media Watch, , PoliticsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                  REVEALED: ISRAEL PLANS NUCLEAR STRIKE ON IRAN

                                                                                                                                  English (US)  January 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                  By Uzi Mahnaimi, New York and Sarah Baxter, Washington

                                                                                                                                  ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

                                                                                                                                  Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

                                                                                                                                  Related: Ritter: Israel Lobby Pushing Iran War

                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                  The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

                                                                                                                                  Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

                                                                                                                                  “As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

                                                                                                                                  The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

                                                                                                                                  Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

                                                                                                                                  Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

                                                                                                                                  Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.

                                                                                                                                  Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme:

                                                                                                                                  * Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment

                                                                                                                                  * A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels

                                                                                                                                  * A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb

                                                                                                                                  Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely and prevent them from having to live in fear of a “second Holocaust”.

                                                                                                                                  The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.

                                                                                                                                  Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.

                                                                                                                                  Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.

                                                                                                                                  Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

                                                                                                                                  Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

                                                                                                                                  Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.

                                                                                                                                  The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

                                                                                                                                  However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West.

                                                                                                                                  Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

                                                                                                                                  Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”

                                                                                                                                  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2535310,00.html

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                                                                                                                                    DEMOCRATS: NUCLEAR IRAN UNACCEPTABLE

                                                                                                                                    English (US)  January 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                    By Hilary Leila Krieger

                                                                                                                                    Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable, new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Jerusalem Post hours after entering the party leadership position.

                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                    The Maryland Democrat said the view is shared by his party, rejecting assertions that the Democrats would be weaker than the Republicans on Iran.

                                                                                                                                    He also said that the use of force against Teheran remained an option.

                                                                                                                                    Hoyer, second only in the hierarchy of the House of Representatives to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is charged with articulating and strategizing on party policy.

                                                                                                                                    He spoke to the Post on Thursday, the opening day of the 110th Congress, after making an appearance at the National Jewish Democratic Council reception honoring the six new Jewish members of Congress.

                                                                                                                                    The council gathering was one of scores of events on Capitol Hill held to celebrate the start of the new session.

                                                                                                                                    Hoyer is considered close to the Jewish community and many Israel supporters have hailed his elevation in the House.

                                                                                                                                    He was one of the few non-Jewish lawmakers to attend the council reception.

                                                                                                                                    Hoyer said the Democrats' position, like that of the Bush administration, was that preventing a nuclear-armed Iran had to be done through "discussions, negotiations, sanctions." Hoyer added that the US needed to work with the international community to block Teheran's nuclear ambitions.

                                                                                                                                    At the same time, Hoyer said the use of force hadn't been taken off the table.

                                                                                                                                    "I've not ruled that out," he said, but added, "It's not an option we want to consider until we know there is no other option."•

                                                                                                                                    Jerusalem Post

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                                                                                                                                      Abbas outlaws Hamas security force

                                                                                                                                      English (US)  January 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas takes the next step in carrying out the US-Israeli plan to destroy the democratically-elected Hamas government

                                                                                                                                      Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has declared a Hamas security force in the Gaza Strip 'illegal' after a surge in internal violence, officials said.

                                                                                                                                      Related:
                                                                                                                                      Olmert and Abbas tag team pushing the wedge in Palestine
                                                                                                                                      The Hamas Factor
                                                                                                                                      Bush fuels civil strife in Palestine with $100 million to Abbas's militia
                                                                                                                                      Bush-Israeli plan for Palestinians to kill each other is working: Connect the dots

                                                                                                                                      [More:]


                                                                                                                                      Shortly after Abbas' statement on Saturday, Hamas responded that it would double the number of its 'executive force' in Gaza, formed in the months after taking power in early 2006.

                                                                                                                                      Abbas's decision is likely to further fuel tension between Hamas and the president's once-dominant Fatah faction.

                                                                                                                                      One Hamas spokesman has said it will retaliate if any action is taken against Hamas' executive force.

                                                                                                                                      A spokesman for Abbas said: "The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas ... considers the executive force, both officers and individuals, illegal and outlawed."

                                                                                                                                      Integration call

                                                                                                                                      The executive force is illegal... and will be treated as such if it is not immediately integrated -- Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president

                                                                                                                                      The president's spokesman also said the Hamas force would remain illegal until it complied with a previous decision by Abbas to integrate into the established national security apparatus.

                                                                                                                                      A statement from the presidency said: "The executive force is illegal... and will be treated as such if it is not immediately integrated... into legal security services as stipulated by basic law."

                                                                                                                                      Abbas took the decision "in light of the increasing security chaos, numerous assassinations... that do not spare children, and following the failure by the Palestinian groups and security services to respect the law and protect citizens."

                                                                                                                                      Hamas has warned Abbas that it will retaliate if any moves are made against its armed wing.

                                                                                                                                      Khaled Abu Hillal, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled interior ministry, said: "[Abbas' demand] is hasty and we warn against making any move, which will be met with force."

                                                                                                                                      Just hours after Abbas declared the Gaza-based unit illegal, Hamas said it would double the size of the unit to 12,000 personnel.

                                                                                                                                      Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the executive force, said: "A decision was taken to increase the number of the executive force to 12,000."

                                                                                                                                      "We call upon all sincere citizens to prepare themselves to join the force," he said.

                                                                                                                                      'Green light'

                                                                                                                                      After agreeing a halt to the violence with Abbas on Friday, Haniya called for "an end to the tension."

                                                                                                                                      "I repeat that we have to prevent any fighting," he said.

                                                                                                                                      However, one spokesman for Hamas-controlled interior ministry has accused Abbas of giving the "green light" for attacks on Hamas security men.

                                                                                                                                      Gaza has seen factional violence for several days, with 13 people killed in clashes on Wednesday and Thursday between forces loyal to Abbas' Fatah party and those of Hamas.

                                                                                                                                      Shortly after Abbas's statement, fighting broke out between members of two powerful clans in Gaza City killing three men from one family and injuring nine other people.

                                                                                                                                      It was the first deadly clash since early on Friday.

                                                                                                                                      Jazeera

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                                                                                                                                        Hurricane Carter

                                                                                                                                        English (US)  January 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                        By Henry Siegman

                                                                                                                                        FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER'S NEW BOOK, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, provoked an uproar even before its publication. The reason for the controversy was the book's title more than its content, for it seemed to suggest that the avatar of democracy in the Middle East may be on its way to creating a political order that resembles South Africa's apartheid model of discrimination and repression, albeit on ethnic-religious rather than racial grounds.

                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                        Since the appearance of the book coincided with the recent Congressional elections, leaders of the Democratic Party went into near panic and fell over one another disassociating themselves from Carter's book and his criticisms of certain Israeli policies. Indeed, the panic was so intense that so independent-minded a man as Howard Dean, chair of the party, who in the past has had the courage to challenge the conventional wisdom of the party's establishment on a whole range of issues, joined the herd as well.

                                                                                                                                        None of this, of course, is in the least surprising. In the face of overwhelming international criticism of President Bush for his failure to engage in the Middle East peace process and for his unbalanced support of Israel, the Democratic Party's Congressional leadership has managed to criticize Bush for being too soft on the Palestinians and not sufficiently supportive of Israel. So the criticism of President Carter is noteworthy only for what it reveals about the ignorance of the American political establishment, both Democrat and Republican, on the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

                                                                                                                                        I would challenge the incoming Democratic chair of the House International Relations Committee, Tom Lantos (not to mention the outgoing chair, Henry Hyde), to identify the author of the following comment, made at the time when Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was about to bring Rehavam Ze'evi, head of Israel's Moledet Party, into his Cabinet. Ze'evi and his party were advocates of "transfer," a euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the West Bank and in other parts of "Greater Israel":

                                                                                                                                        The transfer party's joining the government is a profound political, moral and social stain, a dangerous infection penetrating [Israel's] government. Anyone who includes the transfer [party] among the Zionist parties of the coalition is in effect confirming the UN Resolution that says Zionism is racism.

                                                                                                                                        Had an American made such a statement, he would unquestionably have been accused of hostility to the State of Israel, if not anti-Semitism. If the person had been Jewish, he would have been branded a self-hating Jew.

                                                                                                                                        In fact, the author of this statement was Benny Begin, the right-wing son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a Likud "prince" who relentlessly attacked the Labor Party for recognizing the PLO, which he insisted, even after Oslo, was nothing more than a terrorist organization. And the man who was described at the time in the Jerusalem Post as "the most vociferous among the cabinet ministers opposing the appointment, saying it was inconceivable that a man with Ze'evi's ideology should serve as a minister," was none other than Ehud Olmert, another Likud prince.

                                                                                                                                        When Olmert, as deputy prime minister in Ariel Sharon's government, proposed that Israel withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, his justification was that given Palestinian demographics, a continuation of the occupation would sooner or later turn Israeli Jews into a minority. He warned that the Jewish State would then find itself under attack from American Jewish organizations that boycotted South Africa's apartheid regime.

                                                                                                                                        Several months ago, the same Olmert who worried publicly about the stigma of apartheid appointed Avigdor Lieberman, a man of racist and antidemocratic convictions, as his deputy prime minister. Lieberman, who heads a right-wing party of mostly Russian immigrants, Yisrael Beiteinu, holds political views that would have made Rehavam Ze'evi sound like a charter member of the ACLU. Neither Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's anti-immigrant National Front, nor Austria's neofascist Jörg Haider (whose role in forming an Austrian government provoked international outrage that led to a diplomatic boycott), has called for measures as outrageous as Lieberman. Lieberman advocates not only the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from the occupied territories but getting rid of Arabs who are Israeli citizens. He has urged that Arab members of Israel's Knesset be executed for having contacts with Hamas or for failing to celebrate Israel's Independence Day.

                                                                                                                                        Lieberman was also appointed by Olmert as the minister in charge of responding to "strategic threats" to Israel. If Israel does indeed face an existential threat from Iran--and listening to Iran's Ahmadinejad's rantings at an obscene event he orchestrated in Tehran for Holocaust deniers, it is difficult not to take the threat seriously--it is hard to imagine a more effective way of trivializing that threat than with the appointment of Lieberman. Indeed, the decision is so reckless as to suggest it is Olmert and his government--including his Labor Party partners, who overwhelmingly approved Lieberman's appointment--who pose the existential threat to their country.

                                                                                                                                        The appointment also raises the question of how a government whose deputy prime minister is a man who does not recognize the right of Palestinians to even one square inch of territory in Palestine can impose draconian sanctions on a Hamas government that will not recognize Israel's legitimacy. Talk about double standards!

                                                                                                                                        Not the least of the ironies of the controversy generated by Carter's book, or by its title, is that on any day of the week, there appear in virtually all major Israeli newspapers and in its other media far more extreme criticisms of the policies of various Israeli governments than one finds anywhere in the United States. Most of Israel's adversarial editorializing would not be accepted in the op-ed pages of America's leading newspapers.

                                                                                                                                        It is also worth noting how uninformed Democratic and Republican mavens are even about the voting patterns of American Jews. The panic aroused by Carter's book title was based on the belief of these mavens that American Jews share the hard-line right-wing views of organizations like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and AIPAC, organizations that would go out of business if Israelis elected a government committed to a political solution rather than a military one. Indeed, when former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin came into office in 1992 and concluded that Israel's security would be far better served by a peace agreement that recognizes Palestinian rights than by beating the Palestinians into submission, both the Conference of Presidents and AIPAC went into institutional eclipse, from which they did not emerge until Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in 1996.

                                                                                                                                        The uncritical pro-Israel advocacy of these organizations has never been an accurate barometer of the political thinking or behavior of American Jews. Surely there is something Republican and Democratic leaders can learn from the fact that after six years of the presidency of the man believed by Israelis and by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States to be "the best American president Israel ever had," 87 percent of American Jews voted for the Democratic Party, whose chair is seen by the pro-Israel lobby as untrustworthy at best.

                                                                                                                                        To be sure, the overwhelming majority of American Jews care deeply about Israel's security and well-being. But that concern does not translate for most of them into mindless support for the policies of Israeli governments that seem to undermine Israel's security. Most American Jews understand how recklessly both Democratic and Republican politicians manipulate the Israel-Palestine issue to their own advantage, just as most Israelis understand the same about many of their own politicians.

                                                                                                                                        Carter's book recapitulates the crucial role he played as convener of the Camp David summit meeting in 1978, which resulted in the landmark peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. His description of the two fascinating protagonists, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, makes for compelling reading no matter how familiar the story's general outline.

                                                                                                                                        When President Sadat met Carter at the White House not long after Carter assumed the presidency in 1977, Carter was surprised by how "well developed" Sadat's determination to work with him on peace negotiations with Israel already was. Even more surprising was a letter Carter received from Sadat following this meeting, in which he urged that the President not do anything that would interfere with Sadat's determination to negotiate directly with the Israelis--in dramatic contrast to Sadat's fellow Arab leaders, for whom any contact with Israel, however indirect, was anathema.

                                                                                                                                        Equally surprising was Carter's impression of Begin when the two first met in Washington. He found Begin to be a man of far less rigid views than widely believed to be the case, and open to the ideas Carter had discussed with Sadat.

                                                                                                                                        The optimism sparked by these initial encounters, which were dramatically reinforced by Sadat's precedent-shattering visit to Jerusalem--a display of extraordinary political courage for which Sadat was soon to pay with his life--was seriously undermined by his deep disillusionment with Begin's return visit to Egypt, at which time Begin insisted that Israeli settlements remain in the Sinai. Sadat saw his conversations with Begin as a fatal setback to his peace initiative and planned to publicly condemn Begin as a betrayer of the peace process in a speech he had scheduled to deliver in the United States. He was persuaded to drop that idea only after intense efforts by Carter. The Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was intended to bring about not only an end to the conflict between Israel and Egypt but a process that would grant autonomy--or "full autonomy," a term Begin oddly insisted on--to Palestinians, something the treaty did not deliver.

                                                                                                                                        Under the terms of the Camp David agreement, Israel and the Egyptians established a joint committee to implement the treaty's provisions that dealt with Palestinian national rights and the creation of a self-governing Palestinian authority. Both Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman represented Israel on this committee, and both resigned when they realized that Begin was not serious about implementing those provisions. Begin replaced them with a more trustworthy member of his Cabinet, Dr. Joseph Burg, a venerable leader of the Mizrahi, the religious Zionist organization (and father of Abraham Burg, a former head of the Jewish Agency and Speaker of the Knesset).

                                                                                                                                        The older Burg was a close friend of my family, and I often visited him when I was in Israel. I once saw him while he served on this joint Egyptian-Israeli committee and asked him what progress was being made. Burg, who was a marvelous raconteur, answered with a story. There is an old Jewish tale about a prince who asked a poor and simple Jew in the Pale of Settlement to teach his dog to speak and threatened to expel the Jews who lived within his princely domain if this Jew failed to do so within a year. When the Jew came home with the prince's dog and explained to his startled wife what had happened, she became hysterical. Her husband calmed her by saying that he had an entire year before the prince returned, and that by then "either the prince will die or the dog will die."

                                                                                                                                        I told Burg I knew the story. "Then let me tell you the sequel," Burg said, which he had obviously made up himself. The prince returned a year later and summoned the Jew, who showed up without the dog. The prince angrily demanded that the Jew produce the dog immediately, but the Jew pleaded with the prince to allow him to explain the situation. He assured the prince that the dog had indeed learned to speak, but that once he did, the dog began telling embarrassing stories. "What kind of stories?" asked the alarmed prince. "Stories about where you regularly took him at night when you told your wife you were taking the dog for a long walk." The prince went into a panic and ordered the Jew to produce the dog immediately so that he could shoot him. "Don't worry," said the Jew. "I already did it for you, dear prince."

                                                                                                                                        That, said Burg, is what has happened with the Israeli-Egyptian talks on Palestinian autonomy. We shot the dog.

                                                                                                                                        Carter places the blame for Israel's failure to implement the provisions of the Camp David agreement for "full Palestinian autonomy" squarely on Begin because of his violation of a promise to freeze further settlement activity. Carter blames himself for not having obtained Begin's promise in writing, and sees that as "the most serious omission of the Camp David talks." In Carter's view, Begin saw the peace treaty with Egypt as providing him "renewed freedom to pursue the goals of a fervent and dedicated minority of [Israel's] citizens to confiscate, settle and fortify the occupied territories."

                                                                                                                                        The destructive impact of Israel's continued confiscation of Palestinian land for its ever-expanding settlements on all subsequent efforts to end this conflict, and of the draconian regime imposed by Israel's army on the occupied territories--which today include well over 500 Israeli military checkpoints and hundreds of other physical obstacles that have utterly shattered Palestinian life--is the thread that runs through the various chapters in Carter's book, in which he reviews the Oslo agreement, the Camp David summit in 2000 and Clinton's peace proposals, the road map, the Geneva Accord of 2003 and Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, as well as the legislative elections won by Hamas, the war in Lebanon and the deteriorating situation in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                        The recent cease-fire announced by Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert, and the conciliatory tone--if not the unremarkable content--of Olmert's latest speech in Sde Boker, led some to believe that a breakthrough in the long-stalled peace process was imminent. But these hopes were quickly dashed by Olmert's rejection of the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that President Bush re-engage vigorously in the Israel-Palestine peace process, not only to put an end to one of the world's longest-lasting conflicts but also because an Israeli-Palestinian agreement could significantly improve America's standing in the region and the ability of friendly Arab states to assist it in extricating itself from the Iraqi quagmire.

                                                                                                                                        That a serious engagement in peacemaking by an American President who has been embarrassingly one-sided in his support of Israel's government would so frighten Olmert and his Cabinet tells us all we need to know about the sincerity of his search for a Palestinian peace partner. The avoidance of a bilateral process in order to set Israel's boundaries unilaterally has been the strategic objective of both Sharon's Likud government and now of Olmert's Kadima-Labor coalition government. It is a strategic goal that apparently remains unchanged despite Olmert's repeated promises to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, a meeting for which he had not been able to clear his calendar for almost a year. That meeting has finally taken place. Not surprisingly, Olmert used it to announce some limited humanitarian gestures and financial assistance to help strengthen Abbas's security forces in their confrontation with Hamas's forces. Olmert's own foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, noted dryly that these gestures (none of which have been implemented as of this writing) did nothing to bring a peace process any closer.

                                                                                                                                        Indeed, whatever little good Olmert's gestures might have done was undone within forty-eight hours of the meeting, when Israel's government announced it had authorized the establishment of a new settlement in the Jordan Valley, well outside the so-called security fence it is building. And if that were not enough to discredit Abbas and vindicate Hamas, it was also revealed that various Israeli governmental ministries secretly collaborated in the construction of permanent new housing in illegal outposts that Olmert (and previously Sharon) had promised the United States would be dismantled.

                                                                                                                                        Carter's harsh condemnation of Israeli policies in the occupied territories is not the consequence of ideology or of an anti-Israel bias. He expresses deep admiration for the Israeli people and their remarkable achievements and empathy for the suffering they have endured as a result of Palestinian suicide bombings, and warns Palestinians that terrorism is discrediting their national cause. Carter repeatedly cites three conditions that he believes are necessary for a resumption of the peace process and a resolution of the conflict, of which the first is guarantees for Israel's security, the second a complete end to Palestinian violence and terrorism, and the third recognition by Israel of the Palestinian right to statehood within pre-1967 borders.

                                                                                                                                        But Carter is equally empathetic to the suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation, which he has seen firsthand during his many visits there. For most Westerners, including most Israelis, the Palestinian ordeal is invisible and might as well be taking place on the far side of the moon for all they know or seem to care about it.

                                                                                                                                        Accusations by Alan Dershowitz and others that Carter is indifferent to Israel's security only prove that no good deed goes unpunished. Arguably, the single most important contribution to Israel's security by far was the removal of Egypt--possessing the most powerful of the military forces in the Arab world--from the Arab axis that was intent on the destruction of the State of Israel in its early years. Egypt's peace agreement with Israel permanently removed the possibility of such a combined Arab assault against the Jewish State, something for which the late Syrian president Hafez Assad could not get himself to forgive Sadat, even after he was assassinated.

                                                                                                                                        Assad's bitterness over Sadat's "betrayal" was a major theme of a four-hour meeting I had with him in 1994. He cited it as the reason he would not meet with Rabin or engage in other confidence-building measures that would help dispose Israelis to support the return of the Golan Heights, something I had urged him to do. He insisted that any concessions before an agreement is fully signed would be seen by the Syrian people as a repeat of Sadat's betrayal.

                                                                                                                                        Carter's book provides an important reminder that the Camp David agreement not only created a durable peace between Egypt and Israel but served as a model for all of the major Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives that were to follow. Oslo's concepts of a self-governing Palestinian Authority, of a five-year process that concludes with agreements on permanent-status issues, of negotiations on such issues that begin no later than in the third year of the agreement and of an armed Palestinian police force to maintain order are all spelled out in the Camp David agreement. And the outline of what an Israeli-Palestinian settlement would have to look like if an agreement is to be reached is also adumbrated in the Camp David accords of 1978, which included Begin's acceptance of Egypt's insistence on the return of all Egyptian territory held by Israel. The magnitude of that accomplishment places the pettiness of the critics of President Carter and his latest book in proper perspective.
                                                                                                                                        The Nation

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                                                                                                                                          Keith Olberman video on "Sacrifice"

                                                                                                                                          English (US)  January 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                          "Sacrifice, Mr. Bush? No, sir, this is not 'sacrifice. This has now become "human sacrifice.'"

                                                                                                                                          View Keith Olberman video here.

                                                                                                                                          If in your presence an individual tried to sacrifice an American serviceman or woman, would you intervene?

                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                          Would you at least protest?

                                                                                                                                          What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them?

                                                                                                                                          What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them - and then announced his intention to sacrifice hundreds, maybe thousands, more?

                                                                                                                                          This is where we stand tonight with the BBC report of President Bush's "new Iraq strategy," and his impending speech to the nation, which, according to a quoted senior American official, will be about troop increases and "sacrifice."

                                                                                                                                          The president has delayed, dawdled and deferred for the month since the release of the Iraq Study Group.

                                                                                                                                          He has seemingly heard out everybody, and listened to none of them.

                                                                                                                                          If the BBC is right - and we can only pray it is not - he has settled on the only solution all the true experts agree cannot possibly work: more American personnel in Iraq, not as trainers for Iraqi troops, but as part of some flabby plan for "sacrifice."

                                                                                                                                          Sacrifice!

                                                                                                                                          More American servicemen and women will have their lives risked.

                                                                                                                                          More American servicemen and women will have their lives ended.

                                                                                                                                          More American families will have to bear the unbearable and rationalize the unforgivable - "sacrifice" - sacrifice now, sacrifice tomorrow, sacrifice forever.

                                                                                                                                          And more Americans - more even than the two-thirds who already believe we need fewer troops in Iraq, not more - will have to conclude the president does not have any idea what he's doing - and that other Americans will have to die for that reason.

                                                                                                                                          It must now be branded as propaganda - for even the president cannot truly feel that very many people still believe him to be competent in this area, let alone "the decider."

                                                                                                                                          But from our impeccable reporter at the Pentagon, Jim Miklaszewski, tonight comes confirmation of something called "surge and accelerate" - as many as 20,000 additional troops - for "political purposes" ...

                                                                                                                                          This, in line with what we had previously heard, that this will be proclaimed a short-term measure, for the stated purpose of increasing security in and around Baghdad, and giving an Iraqi government a chance to establish some kind of order.

                                                                                                                                          This is palpable nonsense, Mr. Bush.

                                                                                                                                          If this is your intention - if the centerpiece of your announcement next week will be "sacrifice" - sacrifice your intention, not more American lives!

                                                                                                                                          As Senator Joseph Biden has pointed out, the new troops might improve the ratio our forces face relative to those living in Baghdad (friend and foe), from 200 to 1, to just 100 to 1."Sacrifice?"

                                                                                                                                          No.

                                                                                                                                          A drop in the bucket.

                                                                                                                                          The additional men and women you have sentenced to go there, sir, will serve only as targets.

                                                                                                                                          They will not be there "short-term," Mr. Bush; for many it will mean a year or more in death's shadow.

                                                                                                                                          This is not temporary, Mr. Bush.

                                                                                                                                          For the Americans who will die because of you, it will be as permanent as it gets.

                                                                                                                                          The various rationales for what Mr. Bush will reportedly re-christen "sacrifice" constitute a very thin gruel, indeed.

                                                                                                                                          The former labor secretary, Robert Reich, says Senator John McCain told him that the "surge" would help the "morale" of the troops already in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                          If Mr. McCain truly said that, and truly believes it, he has either forgotten completely his own experience in Vietnam ... or he is unaware of the recent Military Times poll indicating only 38 percent of our active military want to see more troops sent ... or Mr. McCain has departed from reality.

                                                                                                                                          Then there is the argument that to take any steps toward reducing troop numbers would show weakness to the enemy in Iraq, or to the terrorists around the world.

                                                                                                                                          This simplistic logic ignores the inescapable fact that we have indeed already showed weakness to the enemy, and to the terrorists.

                                                                                                                                          We have shown them that we will let our own people be killed for no good reason.

                                                                                                                                          We have now shown them that we will continue to do so.

                                                                                                                                          We have shown them our stupidity.

                                                                                                                                          Mr. Bush, your judgment about Iraq - and now about "sacrifice" - is at variance with your people's, to the point of delusion.

                                                                                                                                          Your most respected generals see no value in a "surge" - they could not possibly see it in this madness of "sacrifice."

                                                                                                                                          The Iraq Study Group told you it would be a mistake.

                                                                                                                                          Perhaps dozens more have told you it would be a mistake.

                                                                                                                                          And you threw their wisdom back, until you finally heard what you wanted to hear, like some child drawing straws and then saying "best two out of three - best three out of five - hundredth one counts."

                                                                                                                                          Your citizens, the people for whom you work, have told you they do not want this, and moreover, they do not want you to do this.

                                                                                                                                          Yet once again, sir, you have ignored all of us.

                                                                                                                                          Mr. Bush, you do not own this country!

                                                                                                                                          To those Republicans who have not broken free from the slavery of partisanship - those bonded, still, to this president and this administration, and now bonded to this "sacrifice"- proceed at your own peril.

                                                                                                                                          John McCain may still hear the applause of small crowds - he has somehow inured himself to the hypocrisy, and the tragedy, of a man who considers himself the ultimate realist, courting the votes of those who support the government telling visitors to the Grand Canyon that it was caused by the Great Flood.

                                                                                                                                          That Mr. McCain is selling himself off to the irrational right, parcel by parcel, like some great landowner facing bankruptcy, seems to be obvious to everybody but himself.

                                                                                                                                          Or, maybe it is obvious to him and he simply no longer cares.

                                                                                                                                          But to the rest of you in the Republican Party:

                                                                                                                                          We need you to speak up, right now, in defense of your country's most precious assets - the lives of its citizens who are in harm's way.

                                                                                                                                          If you do not, you are not serving this nation's interests - nor your own.

                                                                                                                                          November should have told you this.

                                                                                                                                          The opening of the new Congress on Wednesday and Thursday should tell you this.

                                                                                                                                          Next time, those missing Republicans on Captiol Hill will be you.

                                                                                                                                          And to the Democrats now yoked to the helm of this sinking ship, you proceed at your own peril, as well.

                                                                                                                                          President Bush may not be very good at reality, but he and Mr. Cheney and Mr.Rove are still gifted at letting American troops be killed, and then turning their deaths to their own political advantage.

                                                                                                                                          The equation is simple. This country does not want more troops in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                          It wants fewer.

                                                                                                                                          Go and make it happen, or go and look for other work.

                                                                                                                                          Yet you Democrats must assume that even if you take the most obvious of courses, and cut off funding for the war, Mr. Bush will ignore you as long as possible, or will find the money elsewhere, or will spend the money meant to protect the troops, and re-purpose it to keep as many troops there as long as he can keep them there.

                                                                                                                                          Because that's what this is all about, is it not, Mr. Bush?

                                                                                                                                          That is what this "sacrifice" has been for.

                                                                                                                                          To continue this senseless, endless war.

                                                                                                                                          You have dressed it up in the clothing, first of a hunt for weapons of mass destruction, then of liberation ... then of regional imperative ... then of oil prices ... and now in these new terms of "sacrifice" - it's like a damned game of Colorforms, isn't it, sir?

                                                                                                                                          This senseless, endless war.

                                                                                                                                          But - it has not been senseless in two ways.

                                                                                                                                          It has succeeded, Mr. Bush, in enabling you to deaden the collective mind of this country to the pointlessness of endless war, against the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

                                                                                                                                          It has gotten many of us used to the idea - the virtual "white noise" - of conflict far away, of the deaths of young Americans, of vague "sacrifice" for some fluid cause, too complicated to be interpreted except in terms of the very important-sounding but ultimately meaningless phrase, "the war on terror."

                                                                                                                                          And the war's second accomplishment - your second accomplishment, sir - is to have taken money out of the pockets of every American, even out of the pockets of the dead soldiers on the battlefield, and their families, and to have given that money to the war profiteers.

                                                                                                                                          Because if you sell the Army a thousand Humvees, you can't sell them any more until the first thousand have been destroyed.

                                                                                                                                          The service men and women are ancillary to the equation.

                                                                                                                                          This is about the planned obsolescence of ordnance, isn't, Mr. Bush? And the building of detention centers? And the design of a $125 million courtroom complex at Gitmo, complete with restaurants.

                                                                                                                                          At least the war profiteers have made their money, sir.

                                                                                                                                          And we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

                                                                                                                                          You have insisted, Mr. Bush, that we must not lose in Iraq, that if we don't fight them there we will fight them here - as if the corollary were somehow true, that if by fighting them there we will not have to fight them here.

                                                                                                                                          And yet you have re-made our country, and not re-made it for the better, on the premise that we need to be ready to "fight them here" anyway, and always.

                                                                                                                                          In point of fact, even if the civil war in Iraq somehow ended tomorrow, and the risk to Americans there ended with it, we would have already suffered a defeat - not fatal, not world-changing, not, but for the lives lost, of enduring consequence.

                                                                                                                                          But this country has already lost in Iraq, sir.

                                                                                                                                          Your policy in Iraq has already had its crushing impact on our safety here.

                                                                                                                                          You have already fomented new terrorism and new terrorists.

                                                                                                                                          You have already stoked paranoia.

                                                                                                                                          You have already pitted Americans, one against the other.

                                                                                                                                          We ... will have to live with it.

                                                                                                                                          We ... will have to live with what, of the fabric of our nation, you have already "sacrificed."

                                                                                                                                          The only object still admissible in this debate is the quickest and safest exit for our people there.

                                                                                                                                          But you - and soon, Mr. Bush, it will be you and you alone - still insist otherwise.

                                                                                                                                          And our sons and daughters and fathers and mothers will be sacrificed there tonight, sir, so that you can say you did not "lose in Iraq."

                                                                                                                                          Our policy in Iraq has been criticized for being indescribable, for being inscrutable, for being ineffable.

                                                                                                                                          But it is all too easily understood now.

                                                                                                                                          First we sent Americans to their deaths for your lie, Mr. Bush.

                                                                                                                                          Now we are sending them to their deaths for your ego.

                                                                                                                                          If what is reported is true - if your decision is made and the "sacrifice" is ordered - take a page instead from the man at whose funeral you so eloquently spoke this morning - Gerald Ford:

                                                                                                                                          Put pragmatism and the healing of a nation ahead of some kind of misguided vision.

                                                                                                                                          Atone.

                                                                                                                                          Sacrifice, Mr. Bush?

                                                                                                                                          No, sir, this is not "sacrifice." This has now become "human sacrifice."

                                                                                                                                          And it must stop.

                                                                                                                                          And you can stop it.

                                                                                                                                          Next week, make us all look wrong.

                                                                                                                                          Our meaningless sacrifice in Iraq must stop.

                                                                                                                                          And you must stop it.

                                                                                                                                          1864 words posted in Op-EdsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                            Letter to Gov. Rell: "Outraged" at arrest of Ken Krayeske

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  January 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                            Governor.Rell@po.state.ct.us

                                                                                                                                            Dear Governor Rell:

                                                                                                                                            I am outraged that the Hartford police arrested Ken Krayeske for taking your photo on the grounds that he is an "activist". I'm proud to call myself an activist, active on many public issues. I don't see the slightest evidence that he did anything illegal. He was jailed for 13 hours and initially told he would have to make $75,000 bail. The arrest is clearly unwarranted and unconstitutional.

                                                                                                                                            I ask your assistance in getting the charges immediately dismissed and a public apology issued.

                                                                                                                                            Stanley Heller
                                                                                                                                            West Haven, CT

                                                                                                                                            95 words posted in Media Watch2 comments

                                                                                                                                            2 response(s) to Letter to Gov. Rell: "Outraged" at arrest of Ken Krayeske

                                                                                                                                            1. nikki [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                                              nicely put.

                                                                                                                                              I've sent one to my local rep too.

                                                                                                                                              What happened.. is an outrage.

                                                                                                                                            2. joe [Visitor] says:

                                                                                                                                              We need to get the Rev. Al Sharpton on the case. Let us pray . . .

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                                                                                                                                            Beltway Insiders Versus Neo-Cons: Clash of the Elites

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  January 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                            By John Walsh

                                                                                                                                            A titanic power struggle is being waged within the policy elite or power elite, or more simply the U.S. ruling class. The clash is taking place over the war on Iraq, U.S. policy toward Israel--and ultimately over the best way to run the U.S. empire.

                                                                                                                                            The war on Iraq is shaping up as such a disaster for the empire that it can no longer be tolerated by our rulers in its present form. The struggle is as plain as the nose on your face; nevertheless it draws little comment. One reason is that we are taught to view matters political through the prism of Democrat versus Republican, whereas this struggle among our rulers cuts across party lines.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                            On the "Left," few so much as allude to this internecine war, much less use it to good effect. This is apparently due to a very rigid, very dogmatic view of how empires function, indeed how they "must" function, and due to a fear of being labeled anti-semitic and thus running afoul of the Israeli Lobby. In many cases this silence reflects an actual sympathy among "liberals" for neocon foreign policy, either out of a latter day do-gooder version of the White Man's Burden, or an attachment to Israel.

                                                                                                                                            This struggle is in no way hidden and definitely not a secret conspiracy. It is out in the open, as it must be, since it is in great part a battle for the hearts and minds of the American public. This fact makes the absence of commentary about it all the more chilling. The fight among our rulers sets the neocons against other very important elements in the establishment: the senior officer corps, represented by Jack Murtha and Colin Powell; the old money like Ned Lamont; the oil men, like James Baker (With Baker against the war, how then can oil be the only reason for the war?); those who want to see the American imperium run effectively, like Lee Hamilton and Robert Gates of the Iraq Study Group; many in the CIA, both active duty and retired; policy makers like Zbigniew Brzezinski who has long opposed the war which he has ascribed to the influence of certain "ethnic" groups; and even former presidents Gerald Ford who kept his mouth shut and Jimmy Carter who has not and whose frustration with Israel and the neocons is all too clear in his book "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid."

                                                                                                                                            Influential voices tied to the ruling circles include some writers for the militantly anti-war publication of the Old Right, The American Conservative.
                                                                                                                                            On the other side are the neocons, based in the Washington "Think" Tanks, in the civilian leadership of the pre-Gates Pentagon, in Dick Cheney's office, in large parts of both parties in Congress, and in the editorial and op-ed pages of the print media. Most of the House and much of the Senate is still under the control of the neocons thanks to the fund-raising exertions and threats from AIPAC and its minions. Hence, the most powerful political allies of the neocons are the leading Democrats, who indulge in the most intense and shallow anti-Bush rhetoric but are reliable allies in the neocon crusades in the Middle East. The neocon side has relied heavily on the power of ideas,. This in turn hinges on the second rate level of those writing for the mass media who think little for themselves and go along with whatever framework for policy discussion is put forward by the neocons. Good examples of this are most op-ed pages, TV programs like the Sunday morning talk shows, Weekend Edition on NPR and Washington Week in Review on PBS. The neocons have not dominated the weekly news magazines, with the exception of U.S. News and World Report, but they are working to remedy that. Witness, for example, the adoption of William Kristol as a star columnist at Time!

                                                                                                                                            Given this balance of forces, it would seem that the neocons must lose ­ but the outcome remains an open question. If they do prevail, that will be the end of our democracy and freedoms as we have known them. If you have any doubts about that, consult their philosopher, Leo Strauss. The neocons cannot be automatically counted out, even though their base is narrow, for they can draw on all the resources of a mighty nation state, Israel, a modern Sparta, with its vaunted intelligence services and special forces which span the world and operate in the U.S., as well as its ability, if it desires, to launder cash and deliver it to U.S. operatives. And of course the war profiteers like Halliburton and others love the Iraq adventure. The arms manufacturers may be less happy with it, since money is not being spent on profitable high-tech weapons which do not have to function but rather on highly unprofitable "boots on the ground."

                                                                                                                                            The public forays of the anti-neocons in this struggle are well-known. James Wilson in the New York Times, accusing Bush of lying about uranium from Niger; Richard Clarke's expose on the incompetence behind 9/11; the exposure of Judith Miller as lying about WMD, thus corrupting the NYT reportage (even the Washington Post, dominated as its opinion pages are by the neocons did not allow its reporting to be undermined by the likes of Judith Miller); the antiwar stance of John Murtha indicating the unhappiness of the senior officer corps with the dominance of US Middle East policy by the Israel-first neocons; Mearsheimer and Walt's paper, as important for who wrote it as for its content, which finally took on the Israeli Lobby, the core adversary of the anti-neocons; and most recently Jimmy Carter's book which inevitably raises the question of the shedding of American blood to preserve Israeli apartheid and to lay waste every and any nation perceive by Israel to be a threat. Add to this the report of the Baker Commission and the near-simultaneous removal of Rumsfeld and his replacement with a member of the Baker Commission.

                                                                                                                                            The biggest blow to the neocon agenda came from the people themselves, in the form of the 2004 election defeat of the Republicans. Unfortunately, this defeat amounted only to a registration of national disgust over the war in Iraq but not one which would result in policy changes since the establishment Dems are solidly neocon in their foreign policy ­ especially when it comes to the Middle East and Israel. The same is true of many progressives. One looks in vain for a reference to the Lobby on the Michael Moore web site for example or in the missives from UFPJ or from "P"DA.

                                                                                                                                            Two questions emerge. Are there advantages to be gained from this struggle for the peace movement? Most definitely. We are being provided with powerful testimony from the most unassailable sources ­ Jimmy Carter, Richard Clarke and Mearsheimer and Walt to name a few. And we should not allow this important information to be discredited by the neocons. The leading anti-neocons are not anti-empire, but at least they want to end the bloody war on Iraq and the dominance of Israel over key segments of U.S. foreign policy. That is a step forward. And second, given the key power of the Israel Lobby, can the peace movement fail any longer to ignore it as though it were irrelevant? Absolutely not. We ignore it at our peril. And we must get rid of all fears of being labeled as anti-semites. Most Jewish Americans, much to their credit, oppose the policies of the Lobby, which in the long run may be responsible for stirring up considerable anti-semitism in the U.S. and around the world. Would it not be wonderful if an anti-Lobby organization of Jewish Americans emerged with a title like "Not in Our Name"?

                                                                                                                                            Finally, given the balance of forces at play, it is difficult to discern what Bush is likely to do in the coming days and months. The punditry is now predicting an escalation of the war in Iraq (aka a "surge"), but Bush surprised once with the firing of Rumsfeld of which there was no advance hint ­ quite the contrary. He is certainly under enormous pressure to alter course, and he may have to do so no matter how much he recoils from it. He may even do so after a "surge" which could be used as a smoke screen for a policy shift. But escalating the conflict even temporarily will sink his ratings below 30% and make him the most unpopular president in history. We shall see.

                                                                                                                                            John V. Walsh can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com.

                                                                                                                                            Counterpunch

                                                                                                                                            1440 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                              Reporter Arrested for Political Activism -- Taking Photos of Rell

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                              Journalist Ken Krayeske was arrested while taking pictures of Gov. Jodi Rell's inaugural parade. (Gale Courey Toensing photo)

                                                                                                                                              By Christine Stuart

                                                                                                                                              A freelance journalist, who has worked on political campaigns, was arrested by Hartford Police Wednesday as he took photos of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s inaugural parade in downtown Hartford.

                                                                                                                                              Ken Krayeske, who worked on Green Party candidate Cliff Thornton’s campaign for governor against Rell, was near the corner of Ford and Pearl Street photographing Rell’s inaugural parade when, according to the police report, he was identified as a “political activist” and a threat to the governor. Krayeske was arrested and charged with breach of peace and interfering with an officer.

                                                                                                                                              "We’re not admitting we did anything wrong,” Pattis {Norman A. Pattis, Krayeske's attorney) said Friday. But if the “governor’s goons” take exception to that then he looks forward to a “vigorous and spirited fight in court,” he said.

                                                                                                                                              Full story at: CT News Junkie

                                                                                                                                              160 words posted in Human Rights, PoliticsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                Round Two: Goes to the HMO's

                                                                                                                                                English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                By Christine Stuart

                                                                                                                                                Superior Court Judge George Levine agreed Thursday to delay enforcement of his decision last month that would force three health care companies to disclose information about how it spends over $700 million to insure 310,000 low-income children and families.

                                                                                                                                                Levine who sided with the Freedom of Information Commission and health care advocates last month, sided today with the health care companies. He said “there’s certainly a risk if the stay is denied that irreparable harm will be suffered” by the health care companies, while if the stay is upheld there would be little harm to the public.

                                                                                                                                                Full story at: CT News Junkie

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                                                                                                                                                  "Views" vs. "Comments"

                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                  When The Corner Report was upgraded last month after a major spam attack, a new feature called "Views" appeared at the bottom of stories next to "Comments."

                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                  A few readers have asked about the function of "Views."

                                                                                                                                                  After poking around a bit in the "back office" of the web site, I discovered that the numbers that show up in "Views" do not represent the number of times a story has been visited or "viewed," but rather the number of times someone has tried to post a comment to a story. The upgrade included a feature that requires comments to be monitored before they are posted. The Corner Report is still getting spammed, but now the spam is monitored and blocked.

                                                                                                                                                  So if you see "2 Views" but "No Comments," it means two spammers tried to post their nasty little messages, but they were blocked.

                                                                                                                                                  "Views" is kind of a useless feature, and I plan to eliminate it soon.

                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for reading!

                                                                                                                                                  The Editor

                                                                                                                                                  162 words posted in General News3 comments

                                                                                                                                                  3 response(s) to "Views" vs. "Comments"

                                                                                                                                                  1. Dave Becker [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                    I too thought "views" reflected how many times an article was read and would reflect how much interest there might be in a particular subject.
                                                                                                                                                    Guess that shows ya nwhat common sense will getcha.

                                                                                                                                                  2. admin [Member] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                    Hi, Dave
                                                                                                                                                    I'm a big admirer of common sense, but common sense tells me it doesn't work 100 percent of the time -- and this is one of those times!
                                                                                                                                                    On further poking around, I've discovered that there could be a "1" under "Views," but when I go to the place in the "back office" where I monitor comments before allowing them to be posted, that single spammer could have tried to post hundreds -- literally, hundreds -- of comments randomly all over the site. I've also discovered that these attempted spammers are not included in the daily number of hits to the site. I'm told these spam messages are sent out somehow mechanically by mischief makers, but it's all beyon my technologically challenged understanding. I'm trying to connect with Computer Guy to clear it all up.

                                                                                                                                                  3. paulbartomioli [Member] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                    Gale, perhaps your computer guy could put in a bit more security.

                                                                                                                                                    Many sites, including the Courant's Husky blogs now require the poster to enter the "secret code in the box," you know the jumbled letters, numbers and stuff that looks like numbers and letters. That may help.

                                                                                                                                                    New member, finally. Will poke around a bit and put in my 2 cents.

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                                                                                                                                                  FBI Files: Rehnquist Had Hallucinations

                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                  Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist

                                                                                                                                                  By Mark Sherman and Pete Yost
                                                                                                                                                  Associated Press Writers

                                                                                                                                                  WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI's file on former Chief Justice William Rehnquist _ made public more than a year after his death _ indicates the Nixon and Reagan administrations enlisted its help in blunting criticism of him during confirmation hearings.

                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                  The file also offers insight into the hallucinations and other symptoms of withdrawal that Rehnquist suffered when he was taken off a prescription painkiller in 1981. A doctor was cited as saying that Rehnquist, an associate justice of the Supreme Court at the time, tried to escape the hospital in his pajamas and imagined that the CIA was plotting against him.

                                                                                                                                                  The FBI on Wednesday released 1,561 pages of documents on Rehnquist to The Associated Press, other news organizations and scholars in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act following Rehnquist's death in September 2005. An additional 207 pages were withheld under the federal disclosure law, and the FBI said an entire section of his file could not be found.

                                                                                                                                                  Much of the FBI's file on Rehnquist appears to have been compiled almost exclusively for his two Senate confirmations _ his initial nomination to the court by President Nixon in 1971 and his nomination as chief justice by President Reagan in 1986. Administration officials apparently hoped to prevent any surprises from sinking his nominations.

                                                                                                                                                  In 1971, Deputy Attorney General Richard Kleindienst directed the FBI to conduct investigations of witnesses who were planning to testify at a Senate hearing against Rehnquist's confirmation. Fifteen years later during the Reagan administration, the FBI was enlisted to conduct background checks on witnesses who were scheduled to testify against Rehnquist's nomination to become chief justice.

                                                                                                                                                  The late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 when Rehnquist was nominated to be chief justice. John Bolton, who resigned in December as President Bush's U.N. ambassador, was an assistant attorney general under Reagan.

                                                                                                                                                  "Thurmond just gave these names to Bolton they will testify for the Democrats and we want to know what they are going to say," a Justice Department official told a counterpart at the FBI, according to a memo in Rehnquist's file.

                                                                                                                                                  Alexander Charns, a Durham, N.C., lawyer who received the file and has extensively researched the FBI's relationship with the court, said the new disclosures show the two administrations went to some lengths to discredit Rehnquist opponents.

                                                                                                                                                  "In many ways, I guess it's the same old story of the political use of the FBI," Charns said.

                                                                                                                                                  The documents show that the FBI was aware in 1971 that Rehnquist had owned a home in Phoenix with a deed that allowed him to sell only to whites. The restrictive covenant was not disclosed until his 1986 confirmation hearings, at which Rehnquist said he became aware of the clause only days earlier.

                                                                                                                                                  Also detailed in the declassified file was Rehnquist's 1981 hospital stay for treatment of back pain and his dependence on powerful prescription pain-relief medication.

                                                                                                                                                  The FBI investigated his dependence on Placidyl, which Rehnquist had taken for at least 10 years, according to a summary of a 1970 medical examination.

                                                                                                                                                  When Rehnquist checked into a hospital in 1981 for a weeklong stay, doctors stopped administering the drug, causing what a hospital spokesman at the time said was a "disturbance in mental clarity."

                                                                                                                                                  The FBI file, citing one of his physicians, said Rehnquist experienced withdrawal symptoms that included trying to escape the facility and discerning changes in the patterns on the hospital curtains. The justice also thought he heard voices outside his room discussing various plots against him.

                                                                                                                                                  The doctor said Placidyl is a highly toxic drug and that she could not understand why anyone would prescribe it, especially for long periods.

                                                                                                                                                  Prior to his hospitalization, Rehnquist occasionally slurred his speech in his questions to lawyers at Supreme Court arguments. Those problems ceased when he changed medications, the doctor said.

                                                                                                                                                  Charns said some of the censored documents provide intriguing hints of what else Rehnquist's file might contain.

                                                                                                                                                  In one previously secret memo from 1971, an FBI official wrote, "No persons interviewed during our current or 1969 investigation furnished information bearing adversely on Rehnquist's morals or professional integrity; however ..." The next third of the page is blacked out, under the disclosure law's exception for matters of national security.

                                                                                                                                                  "It would be nice to know what is still classified, three decades later," Charns said.

                                                                                                                                                  Breitbart

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                                                                                                                                                    His Last Hurrah: Bush Cuts and Runs from Reason

                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                    By Paul Craig Roberts

                                                                                                                                                    On January 2 the BBC reported a leak from a "senior administration source" that President George W. Bush is going to give a speech, whose "central theme will be sacrifice," announcing an increase in US troops in Iraq for security purposes. Speculation abounds whether the leak is designed to block Bush's insane policy with protests or to soften its controversial edge when announced. The BBC reports that "already one senior Republican senator has called it Alice in Wonderland."

                                                                                                                                                    If Bush adopts the Keane/Kagan "plan," he should be impeached for putting two special interests--the military-industrial complex and Israeli Zionist settlers--ahead of America's interests and the interests of peace in the Middle East. The crimes of the Bush regime already stand at a horrendous level. There is no support for the Keane/Kagan "plan" in the American political establishment, among Middle East experts and the American public, or within the Bush administration itself.

                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                    Bush's proposal, if he makes it, is the work of retired army general Jack Keane and Frederic W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. AEI is the second most important Israeli lobby in Washington after AIPAC.

                                                                                                                                                    Keane and Kagan profess to believe that 30,000 more US troops can bring security to Iraq. Keane and Kagan argue that more US troops would permit the US military to retain control of an area after they had cleared it of insurgents. They ignore that Iraq has progressed from insurgency into civil war. There can be no Iraqi army independent of the sectarian conflict. The military problem for the Americans is no longer a small insurgency drawn from a minority of the population, but sectarian strife involving all of Iraq. Today the only choice for US forces is to ally with one side or the other in the civil war or to depart Iraq.

                                                                                                                                                    Knowledgeable people regard the Keane/Kagan plan as a proposal designed to continue for a while longer the blood profits of the US military-industrial complex and to advance Israel's interests by spreading Sunni-Shi'ite conflict throughout the Middle East.

                                                                                                                                                    The neoconservatives' original plan was to give Israel hegemony in the Middle East by using the US military to overthrow Iraq, Iran, and Syria. The failure of US forces to subdue Iraq has led to a new neoconservative plan to give Israel supremacy by spreading sectarian conflict among Muslims throughout the region. No Arab state would be stable, and Israel could proceed with its seizure of Palestine.

                                                                                                                                                    If Bush adopts the Keane/Kagan "plan," he should be impeached for putting two special interests--the military-industrial complex and Israeli Zionist settlers--ahead of America's interests and the interests of peace in the Middle East. The crimes of the Bush regime already stand at a horrendous level. There is no support for the Keane/Kagan "plan" in the American political establishment, among Middle East experts and the American public, or within the Bush administration itself.

                                                                                                                                                    The American electorate, or stolen elections, have put in the presidency an ignorant and moronic person who is guided not by sense and reason but by an enormous ego that can admit no mistake. In the name of a concocted "war on terror," the American public has permitted Bush an endless stream of mistakes. These mistakes are destroying any prospect for peace in the Middle East, committing America to endless and pointless conflict, destroying America's soft power while demonstrating the limits of its military power, creating a domestic police state, and endangering the US dollar. There is no imaginable gain from the Middle Eastern conflict that Bush has initiated that could possibly offset these costs to Americans.

                                                                                                                                                    The US electorate attempted to rein in Bush in the November election by giving Democrats control of Congress. But Bush refuses to listen to the electorate as he prepares, instead, to mire America deeper in illegitimate conflict that does not serve America's interests.

                                                                                                                                                    President George W. Bush is destroying America. Will Congress stop him?

                                                                                                                                                    Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

                                                                                                                                                    Counterpunch

                                                                                                                                                    706 words posted in Iraq war, Op-EdsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                      Indeed there is Apartheid in Israel

                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                      This article by Shulamit Aloni, the Israeli Prize laureate who once served as Minister of Education under Yitzhak Rabin, is from Yediot Acharonot, Israel’s largest circulating newspaper, which appeared in the Hebrew Ynet but not in the English-language Ynetnews.
                                                                                                                                                      It is tranlated by Sol Salbe, an Australian editor, whose comments are in square brackets.


                                                                                                                                                      By Shulamit Aloni

                                                                                                                                                      A new order issued by the GOC Central command bans the conveyance of Palestinians in Israeli vehicles. Such a blatant violation of the right to travel joins the long list of humans rights violations carried out by Israel in the [Occupied] Territories.

                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                      Jewish self-righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what’s right in front of our eyes. It’s simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.

                                                                                                                                                      The US Jewish Establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp. All this is done in order to keep an eye on the population’s movements and to make its life difficult. Israel even imposes a total curfew whenever the settlers, who have illegally usurped the Palestinians’ land, celebrate their holidays or conduct their parades.

                                                                                                                                                      If that were not enough, the generals commanding the region frequently issue further orders, regulations, instructions and rules (let us not forget: they are the lords of the land). By now they have requisitioned further lands for the purpose of constructing “Jewish only” roads. Wonderful roads, wide roads, well-paved roads, brightly lit at night – all that on stolen land. When a Palestinian drives on such a road, his vehicle is confiscated and he is sent on his way.

                                                                                                                                                      On one occasion I witnessed such an encounter between a driver and a soldier who was taking down the details before confiscating the vehicle and sending its owner away. “Why?” I asked the soldier. “It’s an order – this is a Jews-only road”, he replied. I inquired as to where was the sign indicating this fact and instructing [other] drivers not to use it. His answer was nothing short of amazing. “It is his responsibility to know it, and besides, what do you want us to do, put up a sign here and let some antisemitic reporter or journalist take a photo so he that can show the world that Apartheid exists here?”

                                                                                                                                                      Indeed Apartheid does exist here. And our army is not “the most moral army in the world” as we are told by its commanders. Sufficient to mention that every town and every village has turned into a detention centre and that every entry and every exit has been closed, cutting it off from arterial traffic. If it were not enough that Palestinians are not allowed to travel on the roads paved ‘for Jews only’, on their land, the current GOC found it necessary to land an additional blow on the natives in their own land with an “ingenious proposal”.

                                                                                                                                                      Humanitarian activists cannot transport Palestinians either.

                                                                                                                                                      Major-General Naveh, renowned for his superior patriotism, has issued a new order. Coming into affect on 19 January, it prohibits the conveyance of Palestinians without a permit. The order determines that Israelis are not allowed to transport Palestinians in an Israeli vehicle (one registered in Israel regardless of what kind of numberplate it carries) unless they have received explicit permission to do so. The permit relates to both the driver and the Palestinian passenger. Of course none of this applies to those whose labour serves the settlers. They and their employers will naturally receive the required permits so they can continue to serve the lords of the land, the settlers.

                                                                                                                                                      Did man of peace President Carter truly err in concluding that Israel is creating Apartheid? Did he exaggerate? Don’t the US Jewish community leaders recognise the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of 7 March 1966, to which Israel is a signatory? Are the US Jews who launched the loud and abusive campaign against Carter for supposedly maligning Israel’s character and its democratic and humanist nature unfamiliar with the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 30 November 1973? Apartheid is defined therein as an international crime that among other things includes using different legal instruments to rule over different racial groups, thus depriving people of their human rights. Isn’t freedom of travel one of these rights?

                                                                                                                                                      In the past, the US Jewish community leaders were quite familiar with the meaning of those conventions. For some reason, however, they are convinced that Israel is allowed to contravene them. It’s OK to kill civilians, women and children, old people and parents with their children, deliberately or otherwise without accepting any responsibility. It’s permissible to rob people of their lands, destroy their crops, and cage them up like animals in the zoo. From now on, Israelis and International humanitarian organisations’ volunteers are prohibited from assisting a woman in labour by taking her to the hospital. [Israeli human rights group] Yesh Din volunteers cannot take a robbed and beaten-up Palestinian to the police station to lodge a complaint. (Police stations are located at the heart of the settlements.) Is there anyone who believes that this is not Apartheid?

                                                                                                                                                      Jimmy Carter does not need me to defend his reputation that has been sullied by Israelophile community officials. The trouble is that their love of Israel distorts their judgment and blinds them from seeing what’s in front of them. Israel is an occupying power that for 40 years has been oppressing an indigenous people, which is entitled to a sovereign and independent existence while living in peace with us. We should remember that we too used very violent terror against foreign rule because we wanted our own state. And the list of victims of terror is quite long and extensive.

                                                                                                                                                      We do limit ourselves to denying the [Palestinian] people human rights. We not only rob of them of their freedom, land and water. We apply collective punishment to millions of people and even, in revenge-driven frenzy, destroy the electricity supply for one and half million civilians. Let them “sit in the darkness” and “starve”.

                                                                                                                                                      Employees cannot be paid their wages because Israel is holding 500 million shekels that belong to the Palestinians. And after all that we remain “pure as the driven snow”. There are no moral blemishes on our actions. There is no racial separation. There is no Apartheid. It’s an invention of the enemies of Israel. Hooray for our brothers and sisters in the US! Your devotion is very much appreciated. You have truly removed a nasty stain from us. Now there can be an extra spring in our step as we confidently abuse the Palestinian population, using the “most moral army in the world”.

                                                                                                                                                      [Translated by Sol Salbe]

                                                                                                                                                      Hebrew original: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3346283,00.html

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                                                                                                                                                        New book by Ritter: Israel, Lobby Pushing Iran War

                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                        By Nathan Guttman

                                                                                                                                                        A FORMER UNITED NATIONS WEAPONS INSPECTOR and leading Iraq War opponent has written a new book alleging that Jerusalem is pushing the Bush administration into war with Iran, and accusing the pro-Israel lobby of dual loyalty and “outright espionage.”

                                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                                        In the new book, called “Target Iran,” Scott Ritter, who served as a senior U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and later became one of the war’s staunchest critics, argues that the United States is readying for military action against Iran, using its nuclear program as a pretext for pursuing regime change in Tehran.

                                                                                                                                                        “The Bush administration, with the able help of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel Lobby, has succeeded,” Ritter writes, “in exploiting the ignorance of the American people about nuclear technology and nuclear weapons so as to engender enough fear that the American public has more or less been pre-programmed to accept the notion of the need to militarily confront a nuclear armed Iran.”

                                                                                                                                                        Later in the book, Ritter adds: “Let there be no doubt: If there is an American war with Iran, it is a war that was made in Israel and nowhere else.”

                                                                                                                                                        Ritter’s book echoes recent high-profile attacks on the pro-Israel lobby by former President Jimmy Carter and by scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Ritter, who recently returned from a weeklong speaking engagement on The Nation cruise, speaks of a “network of individuals” that pursues Israel’s interests in the United States. The former weapons inspector alleges that some of the pro-Israel lobby’s activities “can only be described as outright espionage and interference in domestic policies.” Ritter also accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of having an inherent dual loyalty. He called for the organization to be registered as a foreign agent.

                                                                                                                                                        Representatives for both Aipac and the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on Ritter’s accusations.

                                                                                                                                                        In his book, Ritter also accuses the pro-Israel lobby of invoking the memory of the Holocaust and of crying antisemitism whenever Israel is accused of betraying America. “This is a sickening and deeply disturbing trend that must end,” Ritter writes.

                                                                                                                                                        According to Ritter, Iran is far from developing a nuclear weapons program and will not do so in the future if the world makes sure that stringent inspections are in place to verify that the Iranians live up to the requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

                                                                                                                                                        “If Iran does make a political decision to develop nuclear weapons, it will take them a decade and it won’t go undetected,” Ritter said. “But it will take the U.S. only five weeks to build up a force capable of destroying Iran by air strikes. It’s a timeline of five weeks compared to a decade, so I’m not worried about taking a risk.”

                                                                                                                                                        As for Israeli and American fears regarding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who vowed to “wipe Israel off the map,” Ritter dubbed the leader a “sick joke” and asserted that he does not make the decisions in Tehran.

                                                                                                                                                        Ritter argues that the Bush administration knows that inspections can solve the Iranian nuclear problem but, at the urging of Jerusalem and its American allies, is in reality pursuing a different goal: regime change in Tehran.

                                                                                                                                                        “Israel has, through a combination of ignorance, fear and paranoia, elevated Iran to a status that it finds unacceptable,” Ritter writes in his book. “Israel has engaged in policies that have further inflamed this situation. Israel displays arrogance and rigidity when it comes to developing any diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue.”

                                                                                                                                                        Ritter is no stranger to controversy.

                                                                                                                                                        As a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, he headed several surprise inspection missions that were denied access to suspicious sites, and led to the Saddam Hussein regime accusing Ritter of being an American spy. The frequent refusal of the Iraqis to provide Ritter and his team access to sites of interest led eventually to the abandonment of the inspection regime in Iraq. Ritter resigned his post in 1998, accusing the United States and the U.N. of caving in to the Iraqis.

                                                                                                                                                        But Ritter later became a leading voice warning against taking military action against Iraq, arguing that a resumption of inspections would be sufficient to contain Hussein. He accused the United States of trying to use the U.N. inspection force for spying purposes and claimed that Iraq was deliberately held to higher standards than other countries in order to justify a military invasion.

                                                                                                                                                        In early 2004, Ritter charged in an interview on the Web site Ynet, operated by the daily Yediot Aharonot, that Israeli intelligence had deliberately overstated what it knew to be a minimal threat from Iraq in an effort to push America and Britain to launch a war. Ritter’s accusations were roundly rejected across the Israeli political spectrum. Security officials interviewed by the Forward insisted that no branch of the military could or would deliberately skew the findings in that way, but they also said that Israeli intelligence tended to exaggerate threats because it was operating under flawed assumptions.

                                                                                                                                                        Now Ritter is arguing that a similar effort is under way to produce an attack against Iran.

                                                                                                                                                        Speaking to the Forward this week, Ritter stressed that he is not accusing all American Jews of having dual loyalty, saying that “at the end of the day, I would like to believe that most of American Jews will side with America.”

                                                                                                                                                        Ritter is already working on his next book, due for publication in March 2007. In this tome, he sets out to teach the anti-war movements that he supports how to wage an effective campaign to win over American public opinion.

                                                                                                                                                        The Jewish Daily Forward

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                                                                                                                                                          A Challenge to the Supreme Court: Can the US Kill Iraqi Children Legally?

                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  January 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                          By Bert Sacks

                                                                                                                                                          "Imagine if a U.S. cruise missile were to land on a kindergarten and kill 165 children. Imagine now that it was launched knowing it would hit that kindergarten, and further, that one of these missiles was launched at a different kindergarten every day for a month. That's 5,000 children.

                                                                                                                                                          "To kill that many children as a matter of state policy would be unspeakable. The American commander in chief would be condemned as a barbarian. And yet, that is what the economic embargo of Iraq has done."

                                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                                          This is from a Seattle Times editorial six years ago. For ten years I have wanted to ask one very basic question: Not were the sanctions barbaric. But were the sanctions legal? Could the U.S cause the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children every month for years and do so legally?

                                                                                                                                                          I will finally get a chance to ask this of the U.S. Supreme Court in a petition I'll file this month.

                                                                                                                                                          I need to show what deaths occurred and why: UNICEF reported "there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five [in Iraq] during the eight year period 1991 to 1998." The New England Journal of Medicine explained: "The [Gulf War] destruction of the country's power plants had brought its entire system of water purification and distribution to a halt, leading to epidemics of cholera, typhoid fever, and gastroenteritis, particularly among children."

                                                                                                                                                          In 2004, Robert Fisk (British International Journalist of the Year seven times) put it this way: "In other words, the United States and Britain were well aware that the principal result of the bombing campaign ­ and of sanctions ­ would be the physical degradation and sickening and deaths of Iraqi civilians. Biological warfare might prove to be a better description. The ultimate nature of the 1991 Gulf War for Iraqi civilians now became clear. Bomb now: die later."

                                                                                                                                                          Did U.S. officials intend this or understand it'd occur as a result of U.S. policies? In 1991, USAF Colonel Warden (called the architect of the Gulf Air War) said we bombed Iraq's electrical plants for "long-term leverage." Another Pentagon bombing planner stated more candidly: "People say, 'You didn't recognize that it was going to have an effect on water or sewage.' Well, what were we trying to do with [UN economic] sanctions --- help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of sanctions."

                                                                                                                                                          In 1998, Senator Craig of Idaho testified in a Senate hearing on Iraq sanctions: "The use of food as a weapon is wrong. Starving populations into submission is poor foreign policy." In 1996, Madeleine Albright famously said on national TV that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were "worth the price" ­ but that no child would have died if Saddam just complied with the UN. But she contradicted her own position and Secretary of State Baker in 1991 when he informed Congress, "UN sanctions [would stay] in place so long as Saddam remains in power."

                                                                                                                                                          No one can say that our government officials didn't know what their policies were doing.

                                                                                                                                                          In 1997, I traveled to Iraq to deliver medicine to desperately needy civilians. In response, the U.S. government fined me $10,000. I announced I'd refuse to pay the fine. Several Seattle attorneys offered pro bono support. Our case began in district court and then to appeals court.

                                                                                                                                                          Despite widespread notions to the contrary, it was not hard to show that U.S. policies lethally targeted civilians, using famine and epidemic as tools of coercion, violating international law.

                                                                                                                                                          But the courts declined to invalidate the U.S. embargo. According to the trial court, provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child didn't count because the U.S. (along with Somalia) hasn't ratified it. The Geneva Convention is not "self-executing" so it doesn't help me! And the Genocide Convention, which was partially ratified, created no "substantive or procedural right enforceable by law by any party in any proceeding." Finally, the court ruled, if Congress wants to violate customary international law it may do so and the U.S. courts are powerless to stop it.

                                                                                                                                                          I hope the Supreme Court will decide otherwise. The issue is simple: there are certain norms of international behavior ­ often called 'jus cogens' ­ that are so fundamental to the rule of law that no nation may violate them. Genocide, wars of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are among them. So is the killing of 500,000 children to coerce a foreign government.

                                                                                                                                                          Bert Sacks, who lives in Seattle, has been fined $10,000 by the U.S. government after going to Iraq to distribute medicine; Sacks has refused to pay any fines. More of his writings are at: http://bertoniraq.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                                                          Counterpunch

                                                                                                                                                          787 words posted in Iraq war, LawLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                            Bush seeks bipartisan backing to escalate war, increase repression, transfer wealth to the rich

                                                                                                                                                            English (US)  January 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                            By Bill Van Auken

                                                                                                                                                            President George W. Bush appeared with his Cabinet Wednesday in the White House Rose Garden to make an appeal for bipartisan collaboration between the administration and the incoming Democratic-led Congress. He called upon Democrats to join him in pursuing an agenda that includes an escalation of the US war in Iraq, intensified political repression and a continuation of social and fiscal policies aimed at transferring wealth from the broad mass of working people to America’s financial oligarchy.

                                                                                                                                                            Numerous press reports based on interviews with administration officials, however, leave no room for doubt that in the face of mass popular opposition to the war, the Bush White House intends to escalate the violence.

                                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                                            The brief remarks came on the eve of the 110th Congress’s opening session Thursday and expressed the White House’s determination to continue its reactionary policies, both foreign and domestic, despite their overwhelming defeat at the polls in November’s midterm elections—and its confidence that it will be able to do so.

                                                                                                                                                            “The Congress has changed; our obligations to the country haven’t changed,” said Bush.

                                                                                                                                                            His speech begged the question that dominated the November elections and continues to overshadow all aspects of American political life—the debacle confronting the US in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                                            Bush spoke for little more than five minutes before turning on his heels and marching back to the White House without taking any questions from the assembled media. He commented on the Iraq war only indirectly when he discussed his plan to submit a five-year budget proposal next month. He said that this document would include provisions to address “the need to protect ourselves from radicals and terrorists, the need to win the war on terror, the need to maintain a strong national defense, and the need to keep this economy growing by making tax relief permanent.”

                                                                                                                                                            In addition to demanding that his tax cuts for the rich be made permanent, Bush called for “spending restraint” and the “reform” of entitlement programs, including Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, which he suggested were on the verge of “bankrupting our country.”

                                                                                                                                                            His brief remarks closely tracked an opinion piece published under his byline in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, headlined “What Congress Can Do for America.”

                                                                                                                                                            As examples of the ability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, this column cited passage of the repressive USA Patriot Act and the misnamed No Child Left Behind legislation. It dealt more explicitly with the Iraq war—which Bush could have also invoked as an example of bipartisan collaboration.

                                                                                                                                                            Bush wrote, “If democracy fails and the extremists prevail in Iraq, America’s enemies will be stronger, more lethal, and emboldened by our defeat. Leaders in both parties understand the stakes in this struggle. We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus to fight and win the war.”

                                                                                                                                                            What Bush has in mind is to be revealed to the American people in a speech reportedly scheduled next week. Numerous press reports based on interviews with administration officials, however, leave no room for doubt that in the face of mass popular opposition to the war, the Bush White House intends to escalate the violence.

                                                                                                                                                            The New York Times reported Tuesday that Bush “seems all but certain not only to reverse the strategy” of reducing the US military presence in Iraq, but also to speed up the replacement of the top military commander in the country, Gen. George Casey, who had championed this strategy.

                                                                                                                                                            According to administration officials interviewed by the Times, Bush had grown “concerned that General Casey, among others, had become more fixated on withdrawal than victory.”

                                                                                                                                                            “Whatever form the new strategy takes, it seems almost certain to include a ‘surge’ in forces, something that General Casey insisted earlier this year he did not need and which might even be counterproductive,” the Times reported.

                                                                                                                                                            Similarly, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, “For the Bush administration, deploying tens of thousands of additional troops to Iraq may not be as tough a call as deciding when to bring them home.

                                                                                                                                                            “White House officials say a troop ‘surge’ almost certainly will be the centerpiece of Mr. Bush’s new strategy for Iraq to be unveiled mid-month. But while administration officials have gone to great lengths to emphasize that the extra troops will be in Iraq only temporarily, there is no clear definition of how long that might be.”

                                                                                                                                                            The Journal article indicates that the plans for an escalation involve leaving the newly deployed troops in Iraq for a year to 18 months, or even indefinitely. “Mr. Bush has staked his presidency on Iraq, and several White House aides say they believe he would be inclined to leave the extra troops there until improvement is evident,” the paper reports. “Senior commanders, by contrast, have expressed concern that leaving extra troops too long risks lasting damage to the US armed forces.”

                                                                                                                                                            BBC News reported that the “central theme” in Bush’s impending war speech will be “sacrifice.” The British news network added, “The speech, the BBC has been told, involves increasing troop numbers.”

                                                                                                                                                            Less than two months after an election in which the American people went to the polls to express their opposition to the war in Iraq and their demand for US troops to be withdrawn, plans are well advanced for a major escalation of the killing that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 3,000 American troops.

                                                                                                                                                            In the face of this catastrophe, the political calculations guiding the preparations of the Democratic leadership to assume control of both houses of Congress are so transparently cowardly and cynical as to assume the character of farce.

                                                                                                                                                            The Democratic farce will take the form of a “100-hour” legislative charade aimed at scoring a propaganda victory in advance of Bush’s State of the Union address. The package of bills includes some token reform measures, few of which will clear the Senate any time soon without significant alteration, or for that matter survive a presidential veto.

                                                                                                                                                            Among them is a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years—a measure that does not even compensate for inflation’s erosion of real income over the ten year period since the last increase, and which is expected to be joined with yet another tax break for business. Also contemplated are measures lowering interest rates on student loans and funding stem cell research, as well as a slight rollback of subsidies for big oil and as another round of cosmetic congressional ethics reforms.

                                                                                                                                                            The Democratic agenda also includes the implementation of all of the “homeland security” proposals of the 9/11 Commission, including a raft of measures that further threaten civil liberties and increase the police powers of the state. Its centerpiece on economic policy is a return to the “pay-as-you-go” budget rules that prevailed during the Clinton administration—a formula for fiscal austerity and further cuts in social spending. At the same time, the Democrats have foresworn any effort to roll back the tax windfalls for the rich passed under Bush.

                                                                                                                                                            The “100 hours” of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is presumably meant to invoke the famous “100 days” that inaugurated Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term. But any comparison between the two only underscores the steady drive to the right by the Democratic Party over the intervening seven decades and the bankruptcy of its current reformist pretensions.

                                                                                                                                                            Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership is preparing to vote next month for another $100 billion “emergency” appropriation to continue the war in Iraq, even as Bush sets in motion plans to escalate the bloodbath. No legislative initiatives are proposed in the first 100 hours, or the first 100 weeks for that matter, to bring the troops home, or to repeal the reactionary legislation that Democrats helped pass under Republican congressional leadership, such as the USA Patriot Act or the Military Tribunals Act.

                                                                                                                                                            Bush has made it clear that he feels in no way compelled to alter his policies in Iraq or at home in the face of their mass repudiation at the polls. And the Democrats have no intention of fighting on the basis of the popular anti-war mandate that brought them control of Capitol Hill.

                                                                                                                                                            What is certain is that the slaughter in Iraq will intensify in the coming weeks and months. An inevitable corollary of an escalation of this war will be an intensification of political repression at home against the mass opposition that it will provoke.

                                                                                                                                                            The opening of the 110th Congress and the ascension of the Democrats in the House and Senate only underscores the basic reality that it is impossible to wage a successful struggle against war and in defense of democratic rights within the existing political institutions and the two-party monopoly exercised by the corporate and financial interests that control America.

                                                                                                                                                            WSWS

                                                                                                                                                            1462 words posted in American Empire, Politics, , Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                              CT News: Blumenthal sues federal energy agency over $800 million surcharge

                                                                                                                                                              English (US)  January 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                              Public Service Announcmenet from the Office of the Attorney General

                                                                                                                                                              Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has filed suit to stop federal regulators from imposing an unnecessary $800 million surcharge on Connecticut ratepayers. If successful, Blumenthal’s action would reduce the state’s stratospheric power prices by about $200 million a year.

                                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                                              Blumenthal’s lawsuit, filed with the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeks to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) decision to impose the surcharge on Connecticut and other New England ratepayers over four years, supposedly to encourage construction of new power plants. FERC will give the money to existing power generators without requiring them to construct new plants.

                                                                                                                                                              Joining Blumenthal in the action is Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly. FERC is tying the amount charged each state to the percentage of New England’s electricity they use. Connecticut and Massachusetts together consume about two-thirds of New England’s power.

                                                                                                                                                              Blumenthal and Reilly filed the lawsuit under a provision of the Federal Power Act that requires electricity rates to be “just and reasonable.” Blumenthal said that FERC’s plan unfairly increases rates and enriches plant owners, while failing to accomplish its goal of increasing the electricity supply.

                                                                                                                                                              “Our suit must stop FERC from inflaming our raging electricity price inferno,” Blumenthal said. “FERC’s special surcharge plan unfairly increases electricity rates, unconscionably enriching plant owners, and failing in its goal of enhancing energy supplies. The so-called transition payments are being added to bills – combined with other charges – beginning this month. FERC’s supposed solution is part of the problem.

                                                                                                                                                              “Without our court action, FERC will make this holiday surprise surcharge a limitless money tree for the energy industry. We say the surcharge breaks the law as well as consumer budgets and our economy.

                                                                                                                                                              “Congress could never have intended that consumers already paying the highest rates in the continental U.S. – twice the national average – should be compelled to subsidize power plant owners with hundreds of millions of dollars in the name of free market ideology. This system violates the Federal Power Act, which requires that rates be ‘just and reasonable.’ These rates are neither just nor reasonable. The federal bureaucrats behind this plan are out of touch and out of bounds – and should be put out of power.”

                                                                                                                                                              Blumenthal noted the owners of the Millstone plants and the Bridgeport coal-burning facility, which already earn profits of 44 to 120 percent, will receive a majority of the $800 million. The attorney general is calling for a windfall profits refund that would return half those plants’ profits over 20 percent to ratepayers.

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                                                                                                                                                                Four reported killed, 25 injured in Israeli invasion of Ramallah

                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  January 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                                Israeli forces used bulldozers to clear the
                                                                                                                                                                streets in the centre of Ramallah

                                                                                                                                                                By Gale Courey Toensing

                                                                                                                                                                Israel launched a large-scale military invasion of the West Bank city of Ramallah Thursday, according to reports on the Al Jazeera and Ma'an News Agency websites.

                                                                                                                                                                Four people were reported killed and at least 25 injured during the invasion.

                                                                                                                                                                "There's a real seething anger here against the scale and the violence of this incursion," Al Jazeera's David Chater said from Ramallah.

                                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                Ma'an News Agency said its photojournalist Fadi Arouri was shot "in the flank" by Israeli military forces while photographing the incursion.

                                                                                                                                                                Arouri reported that one of those killed is Yusif Abdul-Qadir, 23. The others killed have not yet been identified.

                                                                                                                                                                Israeli military vehicles were shooting heavily as they invaded the central West Bank city.

                                                                                                                                                                Israeli bulldozers destroyed cars and street-level shops to clear a path for large military vehicles.

                                                                                                                                                                Palestinians threw stones at the Israeli bulldozers and military vehicles as Israel carried out what it called a "routine arrest operation." According to Israeli sources, Israeli troops detained four people in Ramallah and another in a separate incursion in Bethlehem.

                                                                                                                                                                Palestinian sources said that an Israeli special forces unit had entered the city earlier and was besieged in a building.

                                                                                                                                                                A senior leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades said the operation was aimed at capturing one of its members.

                                                                                                                                                                Pictures from Al Jazeera showed ambulances carrying away injured people away from the scene.

                                                                                                                                                                Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, condemned the Ramallah raid saying it "proved that the Israeli calls for peace and security are fake.''

                                                                                                                                                                "The continued aggression will only lead to the destruction of all efforts aimed at realising peace,'' he said in a statement.

                                                                                                                                                                The West Bank operation came only hours before a meeting between Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Hosni Mubarek, the Egyptian president, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

                                                                                                                                                                The two leaders were expected to discuss ways to restart Middle East peace talks and how to free an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian fighters.

                                                                                                                                                                Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in late November, but military incursions have continued in the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                                During the raid in Ramallah, bulldozers and armoured personnel carriers were seen driving through the central Manara Square, clearing cars out of the way.

                                                                                                                                                                The army fired smoke grenades, and at one point, an Israeli helicopter fired, witnesses said. The Israeli army confirmed the helicopter fire, which it says was as a deterrent and in open areas.

                                                                                                                                                                After the Israeli military withdrew Palestinians went out onto the streets of Ramallah to demonstrate against the raid.

                                                                                                                                                                "There's a real seething anger here against the scale and the violence of this incursion," Al Jazeera's David Chater said from Ramallah.

                                                                                                                                                                Jazeera
                                                                                                                                                                Ma'ann News Agency

                                                                                                                                                                462 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment3 comments

                                                                                                                                                                3 response(s) to Four reported killed, 25 injured in Israeli invasion of Ramallah

                                                                                                                                                                1. Yo [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                                  Dude, pretty skewed reporting. Why don't you also tell us something about what prompted the Israeli army to carry out this incursion?

                                                                                                                                                                2. admin [Member] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                                  Yo!
                                                                                                                                                                  Read again as in below. Israel was carrying out a "routine arrest operation." Routine. Meaning it happens all the time. Or, in the words of Elmer Fudd, "Be vewwy, vewwy quiet! We're hunting tewwerwists!"

                                                                                                                                                                  "Palestinians threw stones at the Israeli bulldozers and military vehicles as Israel carried out what it called a "routine arrest operation." According to Israeli sources, Israeli troops detained four people in Ramallah and another in a separate incursion in Bethlehem."

                                                                                                                                                                3. Dave Becker [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                                  I betcha our folks in Iraq wished it was just rocks being tossed at them.

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                                                                                                                                                                Tom Friedman, Condoleezza Rice, Virgil Goode – The Polluting Of Our National Discourse

                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  January 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                By Dr. James Zogby

                                                                                                                                                                An article by Tom Friedman, a quote from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a letter by a Virginia Congressman hit in one day last week reminding me how tolerant our national discourse has become of bigotry toward Arabs and Muslims and how condescending policy- makers and analysts have become in their dealings with the Middle East region.

                                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                Tom Friedman's Article

                                                                                                                                                                In the lead up to the Iraq War, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman was one of the invasion's strong advocates. Friedman has now figured out why the war has gone so badly and so in a rather remarkable piece appearing in the Times this week, he offers advice to President Bush.

                                                                                                                                                                Never known for humility or apologies, here's what Friedman has concluded: it's the Arabs' fault. I said the article was remarkable, and it was, not for its wisdom, but for its shameless self-serving bigotry.

                                                                                                                                                                Here's why.

                                                                                                                                                                The article "Mideast Rules To Live By" makes the following observations:

                                                                                                                                                                Arabs are dishonest (they say one thing in private, another in public);
                                                                                                                                                                Arabs are illogical (prone to conspiracies);
                                                                                                                                                                Arabs are weak-kneed, without principles ("moderates", in particular, are dissemblers, with no backbone);
                                                                                                                                                                Arabs are more violent and vengeful than "we" are;
                                                                                                                                                                Arabs are petty and tribal, and so on.

                                                                                                                                                                The Friedman lesson for the President appears to be, "It's not your fault, sir, it's theirs. You and I weren't wrong about the war; they weren't ready for the gift you were giving them." I have often been disturbed by Friedman's dismissive tone coupled with his weird obsession with all things Arab. With this piece my reaction went from disturbed to outrage.

                                                                                                                                                                As I read through Friedman's 15 rules for dealing with "Middle Easterners" (as he terms the objects of his condescension), I wondered, "what if an Arab had written a comparable piece about Jews?" The reaction would have been swift and justifiable condemnation.

                                                                                                                                                                European imperialists wrote this way about their subject natives. And whites, at one time, wrote much the same was about blacks. But, this is the 21st century and here, in the "enlightened" New York Times, is bigotry and condescension on display - passing as enlightened analysis.

                                                                                                                                                                Which brings me to...

                                                                                                                                                                Secretary Rice's Quote

                                                                                                                                                                In a long interview with the Washington Post Rice notes , "The old Middle East was not going to stay. Let's stop mourning the old Middle East. It was not so great and it was not going to survive anyway."

                                                                                                                                                                The condescension and arrogance at work here is stunning. In one sweeping stroke, Rice dismisses the tens of thousands who have died, the civil war in Iraq and the volatile mess left by our neglectful and misguided policies in Lebanon and Palestine as the mere passing of the "old Middle East", which wasn't "so good" anyway. There is, therefore, no need to beat our breasts with mea culpas, no reason to fret about the failures and the devastating consequences of our misguided policy. It is not our fault, it is theirs. And, in any case, things are better off now, because we said they were.

                                                                                                                                                                Thank you for the clarification and the history lesson, Madame Secretary.

                                                                                                                                                                If Friedman and Rice weren’t bad enough, the worst quote of the week came in the form of…

                                                                                                                                                                Rep. Virgil Goode’s (R-VA) Letter

                                                                                                                                                                In a letter to constituents, Republican Congressman Virgil Goode expressed his concern with the intention of newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison to take the oath of office using the Qur’an.

                                                                                                                                                                Goode wrote, “I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. …[I]f American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.”

                                                                                                                                                                This ugly rant conflates a number of bigoted threads that have infected our national discourse, including xenophobia and Islamophobia. I’ve heard them on our radio talk shows and read them in blogs but coming from a Congressman on official stationary is another matter.

                                                                                                                                                                Facts don’t matter to bigots, only hate and fear. Ellison is an African American who traces his ancestry back to the 1700’s. The largest component group of U.S. Muslims are African American converts, not immigrants. There are a number of American Muslim immigrants serving with distinction at the highest levels in the Administration and in the US military.

                                                                                                                                                                But, facts don’t matter. What does matter and is of concern here, is that it has become acceptable to spew this type of venom.

                                                                                                                                                                All of this raises serious and troubling questions we must answer. How do we face up to the mess we made in the Middle East and find a way forward? How can we capture and preserve the “values and beliefs” that we claim if a Congressman can write like this, a Secretary of State can be so dismissive of the human tragedy created of our blunders and the respected New York Times can publish such ugly bigotry?

                                                                                                                                                                Resolving to answer these questions might be a great way to start the New Year.

                                                                                                                                                                For comments and questions, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

                                                                                                                                                                940 words posted in Media Watch, Op-Eds2 comments

                                                                                                                                                                2 response(s) to Tom Friedman, Condoleezza Rice, Virgil Goode – The Polluting Of Our National Discourse

                                                                                                                                                                1. Khalil [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                                  U.S. Policy has lead to the killing of somewhere between 1 and 2 million people in Iraq since 1991. The U.S. has just had a public hanging broadcast for the world to see.

                                                                                                                                                                  Yet, It is the Arabs who are the barabrians!

                                                                                                                                                                  Wow!

                                                                                                                                                                2. Dave Becker [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                                                                  I think if your suggestion that between 1 and 2 million Iraqis had been killed since '91 is true then the right individual was on the business end of that rope.

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                                                                                                                                                                HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  January 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                WASHINGTON, DC _ Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees.

                                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

                                                                                                                                                                “In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

                                                                                                                                                                In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.

                                                                                                                                                                In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale at park bookstores of Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a book claiming the Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters and members of Congress that there would be a high-level policy review of the issue.

                                                                                                                                                                According to a recent NPS response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PEER, no such review was ever requested, let alone conducted or completed.

                                                                                                                                                                Park officials have defended the decision to approve the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, claiming that park bookstores are like libraries, where the broadest range of views are displayed. In fact, however, both law and park policies make it clear that the park bookstores are more like schoolrooms rather than libraries. As such, materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, unlike a library the approval process is very selective. Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item — the creationist book.

                                                                                                                                                                Ironically, in 2005, two years after the Grand Canyon creationist controversy erupted, NPS approved a new directive on “Interpretation and Education (Director’s Order #6) which reinforces the posture that materials on the “history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism [and] Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes.”

                                                                                                                                                                “As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan,” Ruch added, pointing to the fact that previous NPS leadership ignored strong protests from both its own scientists and leading geological societies against the agency approval of the creationist book. “We sincerely hope that the new Director of the Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job.”

                                                                                                                                                                For more information contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337

                                                                                                                                                                Read the PEER letter to NPS Director Bomar here

                                                                                                                                                                View the NPS admission that no policy review on the creationist book has occurred here

                                                                                                                                                                See the 2005 NPS Director’s Order #6 on Interpretation here

                                                                                                                                                                Original story at:
                                                                                                                                                                Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

                                                                                                                                                                630 words posted in Environment, Science, , ReligionLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                  TV studio shut down for "incitement to violence" after showing footage of Saddam mourners

                                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  January 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                  Statement, Reporters Without Borders, 3 January 2007

                                                                                                                                                                  Reporters Without Borders has condemned the closure of the Baghdad studios of privately-owned satellite TV al-Charkiya, which was accused of "inciting sectarian violence" for showing footage of Iraqis mourning the death of former president Saddam Hussein. The authorities should show more restraint so that pluralism of news and information remains a reality in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                  The announcement of his execution and the broadcast of footage of his hanging produced sharply different reactions in the Iraqi media. Some, particularly state-owned publications, celebrated the death of the "tyrant", while others lamented his death.

                                                                                                                                                                  "We are very concerned by the attitude of the Nuri al-Maliki government which is imposing more and more restrictions on the press," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "The authorities should show more restraint so that pluralism of news and information remains a reality in Iraq."

                                                                                                                                                                  The interior ministry decided on 1st January 2007 to shut down the offices of the al-Charkiya, in the capital's Yarmuq neighbourhood for "incitement to sectarian violence" and "to hatred". The same day the channel had showed film of several demonstrations opposed to the execution of Saddam Hussein, in Bagdad, Tikrit (province in which the president was born) and in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where his daughter, Raghad Hussein, lives. Elsewhere, presenters on public al-Iraqiya condemned "Iraqi and Arab TV channels showing sympathy for the tyrant Saddam Hussein". Al-Charkiya is still broadcasting from its studios in Dubai and Amman.

                                                                                                                                                                  The Iraqi authorities already ordered the closure, on 5 November 2006, of TV stations al-Zaura and Salah-Eddin for showing footage of demonstrators brandishing pictures of the former president and protesting at his death sentence. Both stations were accused of inciting sectarian violence and have still not been allowed to resume broadcasting.

                                                                                                                                                                  Elsewhere, Reporters Without Borders has learned of the murder, on 29 December 2006, of the journalist Akil Sarhan, of sports TV channel al-Riyadia (member of the Iraqi media Network). His car was attacked by an armed group as he drove to work and he was killed on the spot. His assailants escaped.

                                                                                                                                                                  Electronic Intifada

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