- Signs of the Times for Mon, 10 Jul 2006 -

Sections on today's Signs Page:

Signs Editorials

Editorial: Zionist Israel - The True Enemy Of The Jewish People

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times

A recent Time magazine report on the effects of the current Gaza crisis on the many Palestinians whose family members are being held in Israeli prisons, many on no charge, quite clearly shows (as if we needed any confirmation), that the Israeli government, in refusing to end the crisis, cares nothing for the suffering of the Palestininan population.

From the report:

Ghalia Baroud's every emotion is on display when she speaks of her son, Ibrahim. Sitting in her tidy home in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp, surrounded by pictures of Ibrahim - jailed since 1986, at the age of 21, for taking part in attacks on Israeli troops - she is by turns furious and woeful. She doesn't deny her son's actions; what almost all Israelis see as terrorism, she sees as justified resistance. But when asked about the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Palestinian militants since June 25, she is instantly empathetic. "We know Israelis love their children just as we do," she says softly.
Very importantly, however, the Time magazine report also deals with the effects of the crisis on the family of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the alleged reason for the current crisis, and in doing so shows equally as clearly, that the Israeli government is in no way concerned for the suffering, or the will, of the Israeli population either.
The Shalit family's love for Gilad is indeed palpable in the northern Israeli town of Hila, where his parents, Noam and Aviva, live and where a banner hangs reading gilad: we are waiting for you at home. Noam, a compact man with close-cropped white hair and blue eyes, has no sympathy for the actions of the militants of Hamas or the Popular Resistance Committee, but he is keenly aware that the current military operation in Gaza - launched with the stated intent of freeing his son, but since greatly expanded to counter Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, and to make a political point - is imposing extraordinary hardships on noncombatants there. "Thousands of ordinary Palestinians are suffering for this issue," he said last week.
Olmert continually claims that his goal is to stop the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants, yet, at every turn, Olmert, like Sharon before him, has sought to exacerbate the conflict with the Palestinians.

Consider the fact that, when elected to power in Palestine in January this year, Hamas had been holding to a year-long unilateral ceasefire with Israel i.e. while Israel continued to attack and kill militants and civilians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Hamas did not respond. Despite this, on their election, Olmert immediately sought to isolate Hamas internationally and he successfully convinced most Western governments into agreeing to cut-off all international aid, effectively crippling the fledgling Hamas government. To add insult to injury, Olmert announced that newly and democratically-elected Hamas officials would be subject to assassination attempts by Israeli forces. Olmert also began a policy of preventing essential supplies from entering Gaza, including food and medecine, in what was a clear attempt to punish the entire Gaza population for electing the "wrong", from Israel's point of view, leaders. In the midst of the complete control that Israel has always wielded over the lives of the 1.3M people of Gaza, Olmert has the gall to claim that, following the withdrawal of Israeli settlers last year from Gaza, Gazans were now a free people in their own land!

As Israel (and Condi Rice) sought to lay the blame for the current crisis at the door of Hamas, important facts about recent events in Israel and Palestine were conspicuously absent from the mainstream press:

The first of these is the already-mentioned fact that, up until the current impasse, Hamas had been holding to a 16 month unilateral ceasefire with Israel.

The second is the report that a large-scale Israeli army incursion into Gaza had been planned many months ago.

The third is that the day before the Hamas-led attack on the Israeli army post that led to the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israeli agents had infiltrated Gaza and abducted and imprisoned two Hamas politicians, while Hamas was still holding to its ceasefire.

The fourth is that, in the two weeks prior to the Hamas attack, Israeli forces had murdered 23 Palestinian civilians.

Hamas captured one Israeli soldier. 10,000 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli prisons, many of them women and children. Hamas has asked that the women and children be released in exchange for the release of Shalit. Olmert has refused, point blank.

What we conclude from all of this is that the Israeli government, under the leadership of PM Ehud Olmert, is following its own agenda, and it is an agenda that not only does not include any consideration for the welfare of Palestinian civilians, equally so it eschews any care for the lives of the Israeli population. I say this because Olmert's agenda, conscious or otherwise, seems destined to ignite a major war in Israel-Palestine and the greater Middle East, and out of such a war, no group of people will emerge unscathed, regardless of their religious affiliation or what their "God" promised them 2,000 years ago.
Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Signs Economic Commentary

Donald Hunt
Signs of the Times
July 10, 2006

Gold closed at 631.10 dollars an ounce on Friday, up 2.4% from $616.20 for the week. The dollar closed at 0.7806 euros Friday, down 0.2% from 0.7819 at the close of the previous week. That puts the euro at 1.2810 dollars compared to 1.2790 for the week. Gold in euros would be 492.66 an ounce, up 2.3% from 481.78 at the end of the previous week. Oil closed at 73.79 dollars a barrel, down less than 0.1% from $73.85 for the week. Oil in euros would be 57.60 euros a barrel on Friday, down 0.2% from 57.74 at the close of the Friday before. The gold/oil ratio closed at 8.55 on Friday, up 2.5% from 8.34 for the week. In U.S. stocks, the Dow closed at 11,090.67 on Friday, down 0.5% from 11,150.22 at the close of the previous week. The NASDAQ closed at 2,130.06, down 2.0% from 2,172.09 for the week. In U.S. interest rates, the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 5.13%, down one basis point from 5.14 at the close of the week before.

Last week it was revealed that repulsive Vice President Richard Cheney is betting on a U.S. economic collapse. The following piece by Mike Whitney was run on the Signs of the Times page last week, but it's worth rerunning:

The Veep's Curious Investment Portfolio
Is Cheney Betting On Economic Collapse?

By Mike Whitney
July 5, 2006

Wouldn't you like to know where Dick Cheney puts his money? Then you'd know whether his "deficits don't matter" claim is just baloney or not.

Well, as it turns out, Kiplinger Magazine ran an article based on Cheney's financial disclosure statement and, sure enough, found out that the VP is lying to the American people for the umpteenth time. Deficits do matter and Cheney has invested his money accordingly.

The article is called "Cheney's betting on bad news" and provides an account of where Cheney has socked away more than $25 million. While the figures may be estimates, the investments are not. According to Tom Blackburn of the Palm Beach Post, Cheney has invested heavily in "a fund that specializes in short-term municipal bonds, a tax-exempt money market fund and an inflation protected securities fund. The first two hold up if interest rates rise with inflation. The third is protected against inflation."

Cheney has dumped another (estimated) $10 to $25 million in a European bond fund which tells us that he is counting on a steadily weakening dollar. So, while working class Americans are loosing ground to inflation and rising energy costs, Darth Cheney will be enhancing his wealth in "Old Europe". As Blackburn sagely notes, "Not all bad news' is bad for everybody."

This should put to rest once and for all the foolish notion that the "Bush Economic Plan" is anything more than a scam aimed at looting the public till. The whole deal is intended to shift the nation's wealth from one class to another. It's also clear that Bush-Cheney couldn't have carried this off without the tacit approval of the thieves at the Federal Reserve who engineered the low-interest rate boondoggle to put the American people to sleep while they picked their pockets.

Reasonable people can dispute that Bush is "intentionally" skewering the dollar with his lavish tax cuts, but how does that explain Cheney's portfolio?

It doesn't. And, one thing we can say with metaphysical certainty is that the miserly Cheney would never plunk his money into an investment that wasn't a sure thing. If Cheney is counting on the dollar tanking and interest rates going up, then, by Gawd, that's what'll happen.

The Bush-Cheney team has racked up another $3 trillion in debt in just 6 years. The US national debt now stands at $8.4 trillion dollars while the trade deficit has ballooned to $800 billion nearly 7% of GDP.

This is lunacy. No country, however powerful, can maintain these staggering numbers. The country is in hock up to its neck and has to borrow $2.5 billion per day just to stay above water. Presently, the Fed is expanding the money supply and buying back its own treasuries to hide the hemorrhaging from the public. It's utter madness.

Last month the trade deficit climbed to $70 billion. More importantly, foreign central banks only purchased a meager $47 billion in treasuries to shore up our ravenous appetite for cheap junk from China.

Do the math! They're not investing in America anymore. They are decreasing their stockpiles of dollars. We're sinking fast and Cheney and his pals are manning the lifeboats while the public is diverted with gay marriage amendments and "American Celebrity".

The American manufacturing sector has been hollowed out by cutthroat corporations who've abandoned their country to make a fast-buck in China or Mexico. The $3 trillion housing (equity) bubble is quickly loosing air while the anemic dollar continues to sag. All the signs indicate that the economy is slowing at the same time that energy prices continue to rise.

This is the onset of stagflation; the dreaded combo of a slowing economy and inflation.

Did Americans really think they'd be spared the same type of economic colonization that has been applied throughout the developing world under the rubric of "neoliberalism"?

Well, think again. The American economy is barrel-rolling towards earth and there are only enough parachutes for Cheney and the gang.

The country has lost 3 million jobs from outsourcing since Bush took office; more than 200,000 of those are the high-paying, high-tech jobs that are the life's-blood of every economy.

Consider this from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) June edition of Foreign Affairs, the Bible of globalists and plutocrats:

"Between 2000 and 2003 alone, foreign firms built 60,000 manufacturing plants in China. European chemical companies, Japanese carmakers, and US industrial conglomerates are all building factories in China to supply export markets around the world. Similarly, banks, insurance companies, professional-service firms, and IT companies are building R&D and service centers in India to support employees, customers, and production worldwide." ("The Globally integrated Enterprise" Samuel Palmisano, Foreign Affairs page 130)

"60,000 manufacturing plants" in 3 years?!?

"Banks, insurance companies, professional-service firms, and IT companies"?

No job is safe. American elites and corporate tycoons are loading the boats and heading for foreign shores. The only thing they're leaving behind is the insurmountable debt that will be shackled to our children into perpetuity and the carefully arranged levers of a modern police-surveillance state.

Welcome to Bush's 21st Century gulag; third world luxury in a Guantanamo-type setting.

Take another look at Cheney's investment strategy; it tells the whole ugly story. Interest rates are going up, the middle class is going down, and the poor dollar is headed for the dumpster. The country is not simply teetering on the brink of financial collapse; it is being thrust headfirst by the blackguards in office and their satrapies at the Federal Reserve.

Looking at the Great Depression of the 1930s, one of the biggest differences between now and then is that the stock market crash of 1929 came as much more of a surprise. Midway through 2006, we face the possibility of a world collapse that has been predicted off and on for three decades. Many people, including apparently Dick Cheney, are actively preparing for a future collapse, learning the lesson in advance. The generation who lived through the Great Depression kept saving tin cans and used rubber bands throughout the disposable consumer prosperity of the fifties and sixties. Most of us, facing a depression, are getting in one last spending spree before it all ends. No doubt it is best to learn the lesson in advance. We should have been saving tin cans and rubber bands throughout the nineties and two thousands. I stopped throwing away old clothes and shoes with holes in them.

So, if we want to learn the lessons in advance, what lessons should we learn? One lesson is to watch out for popular fascism and private armies. A new book by Newsweek journalist Jonathan Alter about Franklin Roosevelt's first 100 days in office, The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006), paints a startling picture of the political climate in the United States in the dark days of early 1933. Among the political establishment, there was overwhelming support for a fascist dictatorship. Alter points out that in early 1933, the word 'dictatorship' had a positive connotation. It was a near miss, we almost had fascist America seventy years ago.

Here is Alter on the economic situation in March 1933:

The American economic system had gone into a state of shock, its vital organs shutting down as the weekend began. On Friday, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading indefinitely and the Chicago Board of Trade bolted its doors for the first time since its founding in 1848. The terrifying "runs" that began the year before on more than five thousand failing banks had stripped rural areas of capital and now threatened to overwhelm American cities. At dawn on Saturday, only a few hours before FDR's swearing in, the governors of New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania signed orders closing the banks in those states indefinitely; which meant that thirty-four out of forty-eight American states, including the largest ones, now had no economic pulse...

As frightening as life had become since the Great Depression began, this was the bottom, though no one knew that at the time. The official national unemployment rate stood at 25 percent, but that figure was widely considered to be low. Among non-farm workers, unemployment was more than 37 percent, and in some areas, like Toledo, Ohio, it reached 80 percent. Business investment was down 90 percent from 1929. Per-capita real income was lower than three decades earlier, at the turn of the century. If you were unfortunate enough to have put your money in a bank that went bust, you were wiped out. With no idea whether any banks would reopen, millions of people hid their few remaining assets under their mattresses, where no one could steal them at night without a fight. The savings that many Americans had spent a lifetime accumulating were severely depleted or gone, along with 16 million of their jobs. When would they come back? Maybe never. The great British economist John Maynard Keynes was asked by a reporter the previous summer if there were any precedent for what had happened to the world's economy. He replied yes, it lasted four hundred years and was called the Dark Ages.

Late in 1933, the journalist Earle Looker peered backwards several months to assess the Hobbesian states as FDR assumed office: "Capitalism itself was at the point of dissolution. Would men continue to work for profit as our forefathers understood it and as our people now understand it? This was a real question, for money was now useless. Would it be necessary soon to organize our families against the world, to fight, physically, for food, to keep shelter, to hold possessions?" (Jonathan Alter, The Defining Moment, pp. 1-3)

Most people at that time saw only two paths out of the crisis of world capitalism: communism and fascism. A few saw social democracy as another way out. Roosevelt when he assumed the presidency was actually poised between fascism and social democracy, and, if Alter is to be believed, had enough support for either option that he was facing a free-will choice. It was a close call.

Roosevelt's Inaugural Address had begun the process of restoring hope, but not everyone caught the new mood right away. The press coverage that morning largely downplayed or ignored FDR's line: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The New York Times and most other newspapers relegated the line to their inside pages, while focusing instead on the vivid wartime allusions he employed five times during his speech - martial metaphors that suggested that there was, in fact, plenty to fear after all. The greatest applause line from the large crowd on the east side of the Capitol came when Roosevelt said that if his rescue program was not quickly approved: "I shall ask Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis: broad executive power to wage war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe."

The United States had not been "invaded by a foreign foe" since 1812, but this felt like it. Arthur Krock of the Times compared the mood in Washington on Inauguration Day to a 'beleaguered capital in wartime.' For the first time since the Civil War, armed men patrolled the entrances to federal buildings, while machine gunners perched on rooftops. Editors knew that that the world war, just thirteen years in the past, had concentrated great power in the hands of Woodrow Wilson's government. To them it looked as if FDR were proposing the same thing. And so the approving headline FOR DICTATORSHIP IF NECESSARY ran in the New York Herald-Tribune on March 5, with similar notes stuck in the Inaugural coverage of other major papers.

Exactly what was "necessary"? No one knew, including Roosevelt. Even before being sworn in, he had decided on a federal bank "holiday" (a festive term he preferred to Herbert Hoover's "moratorium") to give the people who now ran the country a few days to figure out what to do. Then what? Should he assume wartime authority on a temporary basis? Call out the Army to protect banks and maintain order? Mobilize veterans? Unrest was already growing in the farm belt, where mobs had broken up bankruptcy auctions. Four thousand men had occupied the Nebraska statehouse and five thousand stormed Seattle's county building. The governor of North Carolina predicted a violent revolution, and police in Chicago clubbed teachers who had not been paid all school year. Everywhere bank runs threatened to turn violent. By the Inaugural weekend, police in nearly every American city were preparing for an onslaught of angry depositors. At least some were certain to be armed.

With so many banks involved, the U.S. Army - including National Guard and Reserve units - might not be large enough to respond. This raised the question of whether the new president should establish a makeshift force of veterans to enforce some kind of martial law. The temptation must have been strong. It hardly seems a coincidence that FDR decided that the first radio speech of his presidency would be specially addressed to a convention of the American Legion, the million-member veterans' organization co-founded after World War I by his fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (Ibid., pp. 3-4)

The American Legion occupies a special place in the history of American Fascism. Alter found a draft statement that was handed to Roosevelt before his first radio address calling for such a fascist force:

The short speech was scheduled for that Sunday evening at 11:30 p.m. EST, with all the radio networks carrying it live across the country. In preparing for the broadcast, someone in the small Roosevelt inner circle offered the new president a typewritten draft of suggested additions that contained this eye-popping sentence:

As new commander-in-chief under the oath to which you are still bound I reserve to myself the right to command you in any phase of the situation which now confronts us.

This was dictator talk - an explicit power grab. The new president was contemplating his "right" to command World War I veterans - mostly men in their late thirties - who had long since reentered civilian life. It was true that they had sworn an oath to the United States on entering military service and that the 1919 founding document of the American Legion pledged members to help "maintain law and order" and show "devotion to mutual helpfulness." But the commander in chief had no power over them. Here Roosevelt would be poised to mobilize hundreds of thousands of unemployed and desperate men by decree, apparently to guard banks or put down rebellions or do anything else he wished during "any phase" of the crisis, with the insistence that they were dutybound to obey his concocted "command."

That word - "dictator" - had been in the air for weeks, endorsed vaguely as a remedy for the Depression by establishment figures ranging from the owners of the New York Daily News, the nation's largest circulation newspaper, to Walter Lippmann, the eminent columnist who spoke for the American political elite. "The situation is critical, Franklin. You may have no alternative but to assume dictatorial powers," Lippmann had told FDR during a visit to Warm Springs on February 1, before the crisis had escalated. Alfred E. Smith, the Democratic nominee for president in 1928, recalled with some exaggeration that "during the World War we wrapped the Constitution in paper, put it on the shelf and left it there until the war was over." The Depression, Smith concluded, was a similar "state of war." Even Eleanor Roosevelt, more liberal than her husband, privately suggested that a "benevolent dictator" might be what the country needed. The vague idea was not a police state but deference to a strong leader unfettered by Congress or the other inconveniences of democracy. Amid the crisis, the specifics didn't go beyond more faith in government by fiat.

Within a few years, "dictator" would carry sinister tones, but - hard as it is to believe now - the word had a reassuring ring that season. So did "storm troopers," used by one admiring author to describe foot soldiers of the early New Deal, and "concentration camps," a generic term routinely applied to the work camps of the Civilian Conservation Corps that would be established by summer across the country. After all, the Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini, in power for a decade, had ginned up the Italian economy and was popular with everyone from Winston Churchill to Will Rogers to Lowell Thomas, America's most influential broadcaster. "If ever this country needed a Mussolini, it needs one now," said Senator David Reed of Pennsylvania, outgoing President Hoover's closest friend on Capitol Hill. The speech draft prepared for FDR brought to mind Mussolini addressing his black-shirt followers, many of whom were demobilized veterans who joined Il Duce's private army. (Ibid., pp. 4-6)

The propaganda machine, owned by the elite, was ready to be put into action in the defense of the property of the rich:

The most powerful American publisher, William Randolph Hearst, seemed to favor dictatorship. The Hearst empire extended to Hollywood, where Hearst that winter had personally supervised the filming of an upcoming hit movie called Gabriel Over the White House that was meant to instruct FDR and prepare the public for a dictatorship. The movie's hero is a president played by Walter Huston who dissolves Congress, creates an army of the unemployed, and lines up his enemies before a firing squad. FDR not only saw an advance screening of the film, he offered ideas for script rewrites and wrote Hearst from the White House that he thought it would help the country. (Ibid., p. 6)

Now what would happen if the same economic conditions were faced by Bush and Cheney? In 1933, at least, the United States was lucky:

But on March 5, 1933, as astonishing thing happened - or more precisely, did not happen. The draft of that American Legion radio address was destined not for the ears of millions of veterans and other Americans, but for nothing more than the speech files of the Roosevelt Library, where it lay unexamined for more than seventy years. The five-minute speech that FDR delivered that night built on the military tone of the Inaugural. He argued for the 'sacrifice and devotion' of wartime and noted that it was 'a mistake to assume that the virtues of war differ essentially from the virtues of peace.' But there was no hint of the need for a private army.

No one knows who wrote the unused draft or why FDR discarded the suggested additions, but something inside the man kept him from moving in an extraconstitutional direction. Some combination of personal and democratic conviction set him on a different course, at once more traditional and bold. This most pragmatic of modern American presidents sensed the unworkable nature of untrammeled power, even in the hands of the only person he completely trusted - himself.

In the days ahead, FDR moved in the opposite direction, passing the word on Capitol Hill that he did not believe in a constitutional dictatorship and asking his friend Felix Frankfurter to tell Lippmann to stop hawking dictatorship and disrespect of Congress in his columns. (Ibid., p. 7)

Bush, of course, is chomping at the bit for his chance.

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: A Republic or an Empire?

By Paul Craig Roberts
Information Clearing House

Gentle reader, did you know that in April President Bush went to Stanford University to speak to the Hoover Institution fellows at the invitation of former Secretary of State George Shultz but was not allowed on campus? The Stanford students got wind of it and blocked Bush's access to the campus. The Hoover fellows had to go to Shultz's home to hear Bush's pitch for war and more war.

A person might think that it would be national news that Stanford University students would not allow the President of the US on campus. It happened to be a day that hundreds of prospective freshmen were on campus with their parents, many of whom joined the demonstration against Bush. I did not hear or read a word about it.

Did you? I learned of it from faculty friends in June when I attended Stanford's graduation to witness a relative receive her degree. The June 16 edition of The Stanford Daily reprints its April 24 report of the episode.

At the graduation, I was struck by the preponderance of Asians, Africans, and Hispanics in the the student body. Stanford is truly an international university, a noted difference from the days when I was a member of the university. Looking at the list of graduates in human biology, which I understand to be a pre-med degree, I count 24 white and Jewish males out of a graduation class of 206. That means 88.35 percent of the graduating class in human biology was Asian, African, Hispanic, and female. If white males were a "preferred minority" protected by quotas, they could certainly bring a discrimination suit against Stanford.

My count could be off a bit as a result of the modern practice of giving girls boys' names and giving boys girls' names, but on the whole I was able to resolve the gender issue by consulting middle names. One thing is clear. At Stanford the days of white male hegemony are over.

To my readers I want to thank you for your emails and occasional old fashioned letters delivered by US mail. I have learned that I am loved by some and hated by others. I continually hear interesting things from readers. Recently I heard from a Russian that Bush's slogan, "you are with us or against us" comes from a communist song dating from 1950, "The one who is not with us is against us." The slogan was part of the propaganda used to suppress dissent.

Now for the main subject of the column. Martin Sieff is one of the few remaining American reporters who actually report facts instead of covering up for Bush. Sieff is elated at the US Supreme Court ruling blocking the use of military tribunals to punish alleged "terrorists." Sieff says the ruling means that "the United States is still a republic, not an empire."

I hope Martin Sieff is right. But why will Bush pay any more attention to a Supreme Court ruling than he does to the US Constitution, US law, Congress, and public opinion? Bush and his criminal government have decided that they can use 9/11 and the fear and mindlessness it has brought to the American people to elevate the executive branch into its own world of unaccountable power. As Congress, the Democratic Party, and the media have all collapsed in the face of Bush's power grab, why will Bush pay any attention to a court ruling?

The Supreme Court, like the Pope, hasn't any divisions or a police force with which to arrest Bush. Moreover, as one reader pointed out, the majority decision against Bush was written by an 86-year old man. His decision shredded the incompetent and utterly ignorant ruling of the lower court written by John Roberts, the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

An 86-year old man hasn't a lot of time left to protect our rights from executive power grabs. All Bush has to do is to appoint one more Federalist Society tyrant to the Court, and he will have a second rubber stamp of his dictatorial ways. He already has Congress which has made it clear that it is perfectly comfortable with Bush's high-handed behavior. Democrats are too intimidated by 9/11 and the phony "war on terror" to offer any opposition.

With the electronic voting machines supplied by Republican firms and programmed by Republican operatives, Bush can control election results. Don't bet very heavily that Americans will regain the constitutional protections and democratic accountability that they enjoyed in the 20th century.

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

[ Original ]
Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Democracy, Mexican Style

By Stephen Lendman
Information Clearing House

What do these presidential elections all have in common: Mexico, 1988, US, 2000, US, 2004, Colombia and Peru, 2006 and the just concluded Mexican election on July 2? In each case, the outcome was "arranged" and known in advance before voters went to the polls. They're what economist and media and social critic Edward Herman calls "Demonstration Elections" - the characterization and title he gave his 1980s book analyzing and documenting sham elections in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Vietnam. Professor Herman is an expert, and although his book was written over 20 years ago, it's clear little has changed except for the added sophistication gained since then in the ability of officials to make elections turn out the way they wish. The same fraud occurs in many countries, and Professor Herman might have included many others besides the ones he chose but had he done so he'd have had to have written a book with no end.

Elections that only appear democratic happen throughout the developing world wherever the US has a strategic interest, which these days means everywhere. But they also happen in at least some developed countries, most notably the last two US presidential elections. We know it thanks to the superb investigative work of UK based journalist Greg Palast who analyzed those elections and documented how each was stolen in his important new book Armed Madhouse. Palast went on to state his belief that based on information he's uncovered the plans are now in place to steal the 2008 US presidential election, and he explains how it'll be done. It's in his new book, reviewed in detail and can be read at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

With this sort of "democracy" in America, what could we expect south of the border where longtime Mexico observer and writer John Ross says the fine art of election theft was perfected. It certainly was in evidence on July 2 as that election just completed with final results announced on July 6 looked just like the one held there in 1988 when Cuauhtemoc Cardinas (son of the country's last leftist president from 1932 - 38) ran against the US choice Carlos Salinas of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that dominated Mexican politics as a virtual dictatorship for over 70 years until it lost the 2000 presidential election to current President Vincente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). Both these parties represent wealth and power so it's of little consequence to the US which of them runs the Mexican political system.

In 1988, Salinas was declared the winner with 51% of the vote in an election Cardenas clearly won. To achieve victory, the PRI never counted the votes from thousands of voting stations, stole and burned the contents of selected ballot boxes, falsified voter tally sheets and falsely claimed computers tabulating votes had crashed and couldn't be restored for 10 days following the election by which time Salinas was declared the winner. Following the announcement, few people believed it, and hundreds of Cardenas' supporters were killed in political violence opposing it in street protests over the next few years.

At this time, there's no way to know what will happen next following the just-announced final vote count. After the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) reported the final count on July 6 showing ruling PAN candidate Felipe Calderon with a small but insurmountable lead, opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) rejected the official count as "flawed." He called on his supporters to take to the streets in a mass show of strength on July 8 in both Mexico City's historic central square as well as around the country to protest the announced result and demand a ballot-by-ballot recount. At present, with 99.91% of votes counted, Calderon was said to have 35.87% of the votes to Obrador's 35.32%. But with the ruling authority in charge of the vote count, a miss, as they say, is as good as a mile, and that one-half percent difference is more than enough to likely assure another election theft.

Why? In claiming he won the Sunday election, Lopez Obrador cited many clear irregularities including manipulating preliminary vote totals, initially never counting 3 millions votes and then in hindsight only counting 2.5 million of them, ignoring 900,000 supposed void, blank and annulled ballots declared null, discarded and never included in the official totals, also never counting over 700,000 additional votes from missing precincts, denying the right to vote to many voters in strong Obrador precincts, and much more. As a result, Obrador announced "We have decided to challenge the election process and to ask the Electoral Court of the judicial branch of the federation for a recount of the votes because we cannot accept the results" officially announced by the IFE. Obrador said he will ask that the ballot boxes be opened and all votes be recounted. Campaign advisor Federico Arreola added "Building a democracy has cost a lot in this country and we are not going to give it up easily. There is no reason for Lopez Obrador to back out or defend a system that he doesn't belong to." He might have also added there's no reason to accept an election result contrary to the voice of the Mexican people that no doubt will show they spoke for Mr. Obrador as their president and not Felipe Calderon if an honest tabulation of votes is made.

The procedure going forward now is that the Federal Electoral Institute will submit the final vote count to the Electoral Tribunal for approval on Sunday, July 9. Lopez Obrador then has four days to present his case for a recount. The Tribunal, known as Trife, then has until September 6 to issue a ruling. The new president takes office on December 1 so it's possible the electoral challenge could change the result as now known. Trife has in the past reversed some local elections, but it's very unlikely it will reverse this one given the overwhelming pressure on it which in Mexico may include real and intimidating physical threats officials take seriously based on past history. Also, according to Mexico expert George Grayson of the US College of William & Mary, Virginia, the rules for the Tribunal's decision are vague - "It's going to be somewhat like the US election in 2000, where you have the Supreme Court justices voting without clear guidelines." If Grayson is right, look for lots of commotion and probable violence ahead but in the end the people of Mexico will again be denied their democratic right to elect the president of their choice - just the way it now is in the US. So much for democracy. In Mexico it's democracy, Mexican style which is the same way it works for their dominant northern neighbor - none at all.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

[ Original ]
Comment on this Editorial


US govt seen in breach of law for concealing intelligence

by Maxim Kniazkov
July 9, 2006

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration concealed at least one "major" intelligence operation from Congress in possible violation of the law and briefed lawmakers only after they had learned about it from independent sources, a ranking congressman said.

The charge by Republican Representative Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, calls into question repeated assurances by President George W. Bush and his top aides that they strictly comply with disclosure requirements.

They also follow allegations the administration may have acted illegally by authorizing wiretaps on American citizens in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks without requisite court warrants.
Hoekstra, who appeared on the "Fox News Sunday" television program, made clear the operation in question was different from the wiretapping controversy or the covert monitoring of international financial transactions that the administration has been defending in recent weeks.

"There are lots of programs going on in the intelligence community," the committee chairman said. "But in this case, there was at least one major, what I consider significant, activity that we had not been briefed on."

US law requires that the intelligence panels of both the Senate and the House of Representatives be informed of the government's intelligence activities.

According to Hoekstra, he and other members of his committee learned about this and other undisclosed operations from whistleblowers, or concerned government employees who alerted Congress to what they saw as breaches of the law.

The disclosure prompted him last May to fire off an angry letter to Bush to remind his of his legal responsibility to "fully and currently" inform Congress of intelligence operations.

"If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies," Hoekstra wrote.

He said Sunday the administration had since complied with his demand, but added he was taking the situation "very, very seriously."

"I want to set the standard there that it is not optional for this president or any president or people in the executive community not to keep the intelligence committees fully informed of what they are doing," Hoekstra told Fox.

Remarkably, Hoekstra has been a fervent supporter Bush in both the warrantless wiretap and financial monitoring controversies.

The monitoring that came to light last month involved millions of records held by the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), an international cooperative that serves as a clearing house for the transactions. Its database, officials say, has provided valuable information about ties between suspected terrorists and groups financing them.

But while key members of Congress agreed the financial monitoring may have been legal, they are far from certain in the case of warrantless wiretaps that has been making headlines since last December.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 mandates that such surveillance be authorized by a special secret court.

The White House sought to play down the news controversy, with spokesman Alex Conant telling the AFP the administration continued "to work closely" with Chairman Hoekstra "and other congressional leaders on foreign and national security issues."

Comment on this Article

Plans found on NYC plot suspect's computer

Associated Press
July 9, 2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanese authorities found maps and bombing plans on the personal computer of an al-Qaida suspect accused of plotting to attack New York train tunnels, a senior Lebanese official said.

Acting Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat described the information found on Assem Hammoud's computer as "very important."
"It contained maps and bombing plans that were being prepared," Fatfat said in a local television interview.

Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press that they obtained "important information" from Hammoud's computer and CDs seized from his office at the Lebanese International University, where he taught economics.

"This information helped the investigators make Hammoud confess to his role in plotting a terror act in America," one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The FBI announced Friday that it had uncovered a plot to attack Hudson River tunnels that which carry more than 215,000 passengers each weekday between New York and New Jersey. U.S. officials said the plot involved at least eight people, including Hammoud. At least two besides Hammoud have been arrested, Lebanese officials said.

U.S. officials said the suspects hoped to pull off an attack involving "martyrdom and explosives" in October or November, but federal investigators working with six other countries intervened before the suspects could travel to the United States.

"We received information from the FBI in April about an attempt to plot a terror act in New York City through Internet communications in Lebanon," Fatfat said in the interview Saturday. "Based on this information, security forces acted and arrested Mr. Assem Hammoud."

Officials said Hammoud, 31, confessed to the plot, and to swearing allegiance to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

"During the investigation, Assem Hammoud admitted that he was planning to go to Pakistan for four months for training on the implementation of this operation in New York and that the implementation date was the end of 2006," Fatfat said.

Bin Laden and his closest aides are believed to be hiding in the mountains along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported that a Syrian suspect had been lured to Libya and arrested there, along with a third suspect whose nationality was unknown.

Other suspects still at large include a Saudi, a Yemeni, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, an Iranian Kurd and a sixth whose nationality was unknown, As-Safir said.

The suspect's family denied that he had any al-Qaida links. His mother, Nabila Qotob, said Hammoud was an outdoorsy person who drank alcohol, had girlfriends and bore none of the hallmarks of an Islamic extremist.

The Canadian Press, citing a source familiar with the case, reported that Hammoud attended Montreal's Concordia University in the mid-1990s.

Comment on this Article

Sources say no serious plot for NYC, just hate chatter

Raw Story
July 7, 2006

One former intelligence field officer says, and two other CIA officials confirm, that the alleged plot by Muslim extremists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in New York City was nothing more than chatter by unaffiliated individuals with no financing or training in an open forum already monitored extensively by the United States Government.

"The so-called New York tunnel plot was a result of discussions held on an open Jihadi web site," said Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer and contributor to American Conservative magazine, in a late Friday afternoon conversation. Although Giraldi acknowledges that the persons involved - "three of whom have already been arrested in Lebanon and elsewhere - are indeed extremists," their online chatter is considerably overblown by allegations of an actual plot.

"They are not professionally trained terrorists, however, and had no resources with which to carry out the operation they discussed," Giraldi added. "Despite press reports that they had asked Abu Musab Zarqawi for assistance, there is no information to confirm that. It is known that the members discussed the possibility of approaching Zarqawi but none of them knew him or had any access to him."
Two other intelligence officials with experience in the field on extremist operations concurred--and expressed concern that what could have been an operation to eventually track known extremists (should they eventually make actual contact with funds and training,) seems to have been exposed for political gain.

Some see this latest "ploy" as a direct challenge to a New York Times report this week of the disbandment of Alec Station, the CIA unit responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden since before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Moreover, the article contends that officials say the unit was "disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center."

Some members of Congress have said that they were not informed of the unit's closure and expressed concern.

In response to reports that the unit was disbanded, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who ran against President Bush in the 2004 election, responded earlier this week with a demand for the immediate reinstatement of the unit.

"I fully support efforts to adapt our response to the evolving nature of the threat," wrote Kerry in a letter to John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence Office of the Director of National, "but this is not a compelling rationale for curtailing efforts to bring this mass murderer to justice."

The alleged bomb plot, sources suggest, may have been to alleviate Bush administration concerns that the Alec Station story would make them appear to be "weak on terror." It is not clear this early on, however, how much of a real and immediate threat the bomb plot may have been.

Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertof seemed unconcerned earlier today, when the news first broke. Chertoff told the Associated Press earlier today that, "It was never a concern that this would actually be executed... We were, as I say, all over this."

The FBI, however, contends that the threat was very much real. "This is a plot that involved martyrdom and explosives," targeting the "tubes that connect Jersey and lower Manhattan," Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon told the Associated Press today.

Special Agent Rich Kolko, a spokesperson for the FBI, told RAW STORY in a late Friday phone call that, "Mr. Mershon clearly stated the position of the FBI in this case."

Giraldi, however, says, "Despite press reports that they had asked Abu Musab Zarqawi for assistance, there is no information to confirm that. It is known that the members discussed the possibility of approaching Zarqawi, but none of them knew him or had any access to him."

Additionally, Giraldi stated that, "In sum, the plot, if that is what we would call it, was not well conceived, and there was no possibility of flooding Wall Street. There was no connection to a cell in the US. Finally, professional terrorists generally do not discuss targeting on open channels. As it was being monitored from the beginning of the open discussion, there was little chance anything concrete would have developed."

Comment: Despite the innocuous nature of this particular group of "muslim terrorists", the case was promoted by the Bush government and the mainstream media as "evidence" that "muslim terrorists" are a real threat to American citizens. Can you say M-A-N-I-P-U-L-A-T-I-O-N?

Comment on this Article

California Man Revealed as al Qaeda Leader

Brian Ross Reports
ABC News The Blotter
July 07, 2006

For the first time, a former Orange County, Calif. teenage rock music fan has revealed his role as a top al Qaeda leader.

Adam Gadahn, who disappeared from California seven years ago, appeared unmasked on an al Qaeda tape made public on the internet today.

As previously reported by ABC News, the FBI had concluded that the masked man was Gadahn based on voice analysis of previous al Qaeda tapes. On today's tape, Gadahn is bearded, wearing a turban.

He denounces U.S. soldiers in Iraq and their alleged murder and rapes of Iraqi citizens.

"Who are the real terrorists?" Gadahn asks.
When referring to the alleged atrocities committed by U.S. Marines in Iraq, Gadahn also says, "It's hard to imagine that any compassionate person could see pictures...and not want to go on a shooting spree at the Marines' housing facilities at Camp Pendleton."

Camp Pendleton is located just south of where Gadahn grew up in California.

There was no immediate response from Gadahn's family, which still lives in California. They had previously denied he was the masked figure on al Qaeda tapes.

Comment: Now when anyone looks at what is happening in Iraq or the US and asks, "Who are the real terrorists?", they will be automatically associated with Gadahn's comments about wanting to go on a shooting spree. Isn't that convenient?

We'd also like to point out that a truly compassionate person wouldn't want to go on a shooting spree at all.

Comment on this Article

FBI plans new Net-tapping push

By Declan McCullagh
CNET News.com
July 7, 2006

The FBI has drafted sweeping legislation that would require Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and force makers of networking gear to build in backdoors for eavesdropping, CNET News.com has learned.

FBI Agent Barry Smith distributed the proposal at a private meeting last Friday with industry representatives and indicated it would be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

The draft bill would place the FBI's Net-surveillance push on solid legal footing. At the moment, it's ensnared in a legal challenge from universities and some technology companies that claim the Federal Communications Commission's broadband surveillance directives exceed what Congress has authorized.
The FBI claims that expanding the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act is necessary to thwart criminals and terrorists who have turned to technologies like voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

"The complexity and variety of communications technologies have dramatically increased in recent years, and the lawful intercept capabilities of the federal, state and local law enforcement community have been under continual stress, and in many cases have decreased or become impossible," according to a summary accompanying the draft bill.

Complicating the political outlook for the legislation is an ongoing debate over allegedly illegal surveillance by the National Security Administration--punctuated by several lawsuits challenging it on constitutional grounds and an unrelated proposal to force Internet service providers to record what Americans are doing online. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of last Friday's meeting, said the FBI viewed its CALEA expansion as a top congressional priority for 2007.

Breaking the legislation down The 27-page proposed CALEA amendments seen by CNET News.com would:

- Require any manufacturer of "routing" and "addressing" hardware to offer upgrades or other "modifications" that are needed to support Internet wiretapping. Current law does require that of telephone switch manufacturers--but not makers of routers and network address translation hardware like Cisco Systems and 2Wire.

- Authorize the expansion of wiretapping requirements to "commercial" Internet services including instant messaging if the FCC deems it to be in the "public interest." That would likely sweep in services such as in-game chats offered by Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming system as well.

- Force Internet service providers to sift through their customers' communications to identify, for instance, only VoIP calls. (The language requires companies to adhere to "processing or filtering methods or procedures applied by a law enforcement agency.") That means police could simply ask broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast or Verizon for wiretap info--instead of having to figure out what VoIP service was being used.

- Eliminate the current legal requirement saying the Justice Department must publish a public "notice of the actual number of communications interceptions" every year. That notice currently also must disclose the "maximum capacity" required to accommodate all of the legally authorized taps that government agencies will "conduct and use simultaneously."

Jim Harper, a policy analyst at the free-market Cato Institute and member of a Homeland Security advisory board, said the proposal would "have a negative impact on Internet users' privacy."

"People expect their information to be private unless the government meets certain legal standards," Harper said. "Right now the Department of Justice is pushing the wrong way on all this."

Neither the FBI nor DeWine's office responded to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

DeWine has relatively low approval ratings--47 percent, according to SurveyUSA.com--and is enmeshed in a fierce battle with a Democratic challenger to retain his Senate seat in the November elections. DeWine is a member of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee charged with overseeing electronic privacy and antiterrorism enforcement and is a former prosecutor in Ohio.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., decided 2-1 last month to uphold the FCC's extension of CALEA to broadband providers, and it's not clear what will happen next with the lawsuit. Judge Harry Edwards wrote in his dissent that the majority's logic gave the FCC "unlimited authority to regulate every telecommunications service that might conceivably be used to assist law enforcement."

The organizations behind the lawsuit say Congress never intended CALEA to force broadband providers--and networks at corporations and universities--to build in central surveillance hubs for the police. The list of organizations includes Sun Microsystems, Pulver.com, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of American Universities and the American Library Association.

If the FBI's legislation becomes law, it would derail the lawsuit because there would no longer be any question that Congress intended CALEA to apply to the Internet.

Comment: The FBI's solution to illegal wiretapping of average Americans is to just make it legal! Obviously, the intention all along was to spy on anyone and everyone, and they are showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Comment on this Article

Neo-Nazis infiltrating the US military: civil rights group

July 07, 2006

Neo-Nazi and white supremacist hate groups are taking advantage of relaxed recruiting standards to infiltrate the US military to get combat training, a civil rights group reported.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks domestic extremists groups, called on US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward white supremacist groups in the military.

"Neo-Nazi groups and other extremists are joining the military in large numbers so they can get the best training in the world on weapons, combat tactics and explosives," said Mark Potok, director of the center's Intelligence Project.
"We should consider this a major security threat, because these people are motivated by an ideology that calls for race war and revolution. Any one of them could turn out to be the next Timothy McVeigh," he said.

McVeigh was the decorated Gulf War veteran and white supremacist who detonated a truck bomb outside a federal office building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in April 1995, killing 168 people.

After the Oklahoma City bombing and incidents involving active duty troops, the Pentagon took steps to keep racist extremists from the ranks.

But the center said standards have been relaxed because of wartime recruiting pressures, allowing large numbers of people with links to neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups to join the military.

It cited neo-Nazi and white supremacist publications that encourage their followers to join the military to get combat training.

The report quoted a Defense Department gang investigator, Scott Barfield, as saying neo-Nazis "stretch across all branches of service, they are linking up across the branches once they're inside, and they are hard-core."

"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," he was quoted as saying. "That's a problem."

"Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members," Barfield said.

A Pentagon spokesman acknowledged there have been incidents involving gang-related graffiti, but said dealing with it was the responsibility of military commanders.

"Good order and discipline is the responsbility of commanders and to the extent there are any activities that are inconsistent with good order and discipline it is incumbent upon the commanders to address those," said spokesman Bryan Whitman.

Comment: The next Timothy McVeigh? How about the next Hitler??

Comment on this Article

Reform bill stalled in Congress

By Andy Sullivan
Sun Jul 9, 2006

WASHINGTON - A free Rolls-Royce, expensive trips to a storied Scottish golf resort, even a freezer stuffed with $90,000 in cash have so far failed to move the U.S. Congress to clean up Capitol Hill.

Efforts to tighten lobbying rules have stalled in the months since a series of corruption scandals, creating potential trouble for Republicans who vowed to institute tough ethics reform.

With the August recess approaching, and then the campaign season when many lawmakers pay scant attention to policy matters, negotiators have little time to resolve differences between bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and come up with legislation President George W. Bush can sign.
That might not be a bad thing, say some reform advocates who view the proposals as much too weak.

"I'd much rather see Congress fall on its face and not pass anything this year," said Craig Holman, a campaign-finance lobbyist for the nonpartisan group Public Citizen. "What they're considering is really nothing but a PR gimmick to placate the American voters."

Inaction could hurt Republicans if the U.S. Justice Department brings charges in any one of several ongoing corruption probes, others say.

"I don't think it's dead, only because I think the public's attention is going to return to this when members of Congress begin to get indicted," said Mike Surrusco, director of ethics campaigns for Common Cause, another nonpartisan reform group that has pushed for tighter regulations.

No lawmakers have been charged since former California Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes last year, including a Rolls-Royce.


But the Justice Department is apparently continuing to investigate Cunningham's former colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee.

A separate influence-peddling scandal centered on disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- who flew powerful Republicans to Scotland for rounds of golf on the fabled course at St. Andrews -- has so far yielded three guilty pleas from former House Republican aides.

Federal prosecutors said they found a $90,000 payoff in the freezer of Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, in a Justice Department probe of his relationship to telecommunications deals in Africa and elsewhere.

Since Republican leaders said in January that ethics reform would be a top priority this year, the Senate passed a bill that would require lobbyists to disclose more about their activities and ban gifts from them to members of Congress and their staff. It would also extend to two years the "cooling off" period a retired lawmaker must wait before lobbying his former colleagues.

The bill passed by the House also requires greater disclosure by lobbyists, though it does not change the current $50 limit on gifts and "cooling off" period of one year.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, had hoped to resolve their differences before July 4.

A spokesman for Hastert said passage of a final bill was still possible.

"This is a complex bill and it takes time to accomplish, but the fact that both the House and the Senate passed their own versions shows the seriousness with which Congress is addressing this issue," said spokesman Ron Bonjean.

Comment on this Article

Rudy for president?

By Robert D. Novak
Saturday, July 8, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Well-connected public figures report that they have been told recently by Rudolph Giuliani that, as of now, he intends to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

The former mayor of New York was on top of last month's national Gallup poll measuring presidential preferences by registered Republicans, with 29 percent. Sen. John McCain's 24 percent was second, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich third at 8 percent. National polls all year have shown Giuliani running either first or second to McCain, with the rest of the presidential possibilities far behind.
Republican insiders respond to these numbers by saying rank-and-file GOP voters will abandon Giuliani once they realize his position on abortion, gay rights and gun control. Party strategists calculate that if he actually runs, he must change on at least one of these issues.


Supporters of Sen. Joseph Lieberman promise he will continue as a member of the Senate Democratic caucus even if he loses the Democratic primary in Connecticut Aug. 8 and is elected as an independent.

Lieberman's decision announced last week to seek petitions to give him an independent ballot position probably helped businessman Ned Lamont's antiwar Democratic primary campaign. Although Lieberman's support of President Bush on the Iraq war is not popular in Connecticut, he would be heavily favored in a three-way race against Lamont and Republican former state Rep. Alan Schlesinger.

Lieberman's Republican Senate colleagues privately despair of the GOP picking up the Connecticut seat. But they hope Lieberman, if elected as an independent, would be more inclined to vote with Republicans than he is now, even if he still caucuses with the Democrats.


Presidential adviser Karl Rove and Sen. Sam Brownback, two conservative Republicans who favor a guest-worker program for immigrants, will address the left-wing Hispanic advocacy group La Raza in Los Angeles this week.

La Raza was active in increasing participation in nationwide work stoppages and demonstrations April 10 after the House passed a tough border enforcement bill. La Raza in Spanish means "The Race."

Former President Bill Clinton heads the list of speakers for the annual meeting of La Raza's national council. The Rev. Jesse Jackson will appear on a panel.


Although it attracted no news media attention, a subcommittee hearing of the normally bipartisan House Financial Services Committee erupted in partisan furor June 28 when Republican Rep. Richard Baker of Louisiana proposed controls on lawyers engaged in securities litigation.

Baker's subcommittee focused on the recent federal indictment of the Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman law firm in connection with class-action lawsuits. The firm in recent years has contributed $2.78 million to Democratic candidates and $22,000 to Republicans.

The Financial Services Committee's top two Democrats -- Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania -- vigorously objected to a federal judge testifying about current defendants in a federal prosecution. Vaughn R. Walker, chief district judge for Northern California, gave the subcommittee his views on the indictments and Baker's legislation.


Independent, pro-labor candidate Bill Scheurer remained on the ballot after last Monday's deadline without challenge in the Chicago suburban congressional district where freshman Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean is a priority Republican target for 2006.

It had been widely expected that state House Speaker Mike Madigan, the Illinois Democratic chairman, would challenge Scheurer collection of the necessary 14,000 petition signatures for ballot access. Scheurer had filed a lawsuit alleging dirty tricks by Madigan and other Democratic leaders.

Bean was the most spectacular Democratic winner in the 2004 elections with a victory over Phil Crane, the senior Republican member of the House. She had considerable labor support in that campaign, but she lost Teamsters and state AFL-CIO backing after reneging on her campaign commitment to oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Labor votes switching over to Scheurer would benefit the Republican candidate, investment banker David McSweeney.

Comment on this Article

US diplomat 'misspoke' in saying Rumsfeld in Afghanistan: State Department

Sun Jul 9, 2006

WASHINGTON - The US State Department has said that a senior diplomat spoke in error when he said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in Afghanistan on a surprise visit.

Nicholas Burns, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, "misspoke" when he told NBC television that Rumsfeld was in Afghanistan on Sunday, a State Department spokeswoman said.

"He was incorrect," said spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus.

She could not discuss whether Rumsfeld would soon pay a visit to Afghanistan "for security reasons."

Comment on this Article

"Accidents" Will Happen

Russian plane crashes in Siberia with 143 on board

Wednesday July 4, 2001
The Guardian

A Russian airliner carrying 143 people crashed and burst into flames near the Siberian city of Irkutsk last night, Russian officials said.

The Tu-154 of Vladivostokavia airline's plan disappeared from radar screens about 9.10pm Moscow time, news reports said, adding that all the 133 passengers and 10 crew on board had apparently died.

The plane was en route from Yekaterinburg to Vladivostok, the main Russian port on the Pacific coast.

Comment on this Article

Flashback: Russian passenger jet crashes after explosion

UK Guardian
Thursday October 4, 2001

A passenger jet flying from Israel to Siberia exploded in midair today before crashing into the Black sea coast off Russia, killing at least 76 people on board, officials said.

Senior US military sources in Washington said the crash may have been caused by a surface-to-air missile that was fired during a military training exercise in Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.

However, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said: "It is possible that it is the result of a terrorist act".

Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, of the Russian defence ministry, said he had heard reports about a stray missile hitting the plane. "We are checking this information," he said.

White House officials quickly contacted their counterparts in Moscow in an attempt to determine whether there was a connection between the explosion and the September 11 terrorist attacks or US plans to retaliate.

A spokesman for the airline, Sibir Airlines, said there had been 64 passengers and 12 crew members on board. All the passengers were Israelis, said Sergei Moslayov, a duty officer at Russia's emergency situations ministry.

Comment on this Article

At least 137 dead in Siberia plane crash

by Leonid Alkov
Sun Jul 9, 2006

Summary: At least 137 people died when a Russian Airbus plane veered off a runway, slammed into a concrete wall and burst into flames while landing in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

"Sixty-three people survived the crash... There were 200 people on board," a spokesman for the Irkutsk section of the emergency situations ministry told AFP. [...]

Among those on board the plane was the head of the FSB security service for the Irkutsk region, General Sergei Koryakov, officials said.

IRKUTSK, Russia - At least 137 people died when a Russian Airbus plane veered off a runway, slammed into a concrete wall and burst into flames while landing in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

"Sixty-three people survived the crash... There were 200 people on board," a spokesman for the Irkutsk section of the emergency situations ministry told AFP.

Eleven people walked away from the crash site Sunday and 52 others were hospitalised, he said, adding that 120 bodies have been recovered from the fuselage so far.

The incident occurred when the Airbus A310 careered off the tarmac in slippery conditions, hit the concrete wall and ploughed into a complex of garages used by local residents, officials said.

"I lost consciousness. Then I ran to find the emergency exit and jumped out," said Margarita Svetlova, a young survivor interviewed on the Rossiya television channel.

Fourteen children, including a group on their way to a holiday in the scenic Lake Baikal region, and 11 foreign nationals were on board the Sibir airline plane, Interfax quoted the company as saying.

The foreigners were three Chinese, two Germans, two Moldovans, two Poles and two South Koreans.

It was the second recent crash of an Airbus plane in Russia, after an Armenian Airbus A320 crashed into the Black Sea near Sochi in May killing all 113 on board.

Sunday's incident occurred at 8:00 am (2300 GMT Saturday) as the flight from Moscow's Domodedovo airport was landing in the city in central Siberia, five time zones east of Moscow.

Russia's Vesti 24-hour news channel broadcast images recorded on a mobile phone that showed flames and thick black smoke billowing from the fuselage of the plane.

In the images, rescuers cut away pieces of the fuselage and the report said survivors were evacuated from the rear of the plane, while the fire raged for three hours before it was extinguished.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed "his deep condolences to relatives and friends of those who died in the plane crash in Irkutsk," the Kremlin press service said.

Putin has declared Monday a national day of mourning and called for cultural institutions and television stations to cancel entertainment programmes, the Kremlin said in a written statement.

The Russian president ordered a government enquiry to be set up, Transport Minister Igor Levitin was quoted by Interfax as saying as he left Moscow to join the investigation.

No definite reason for the crash has yet been put forward, but officials said that the black box flight recorders have been found and sent to Moscow for examination.

Airbus said a team of specialists had been dispatched to Russia and the company said in a written statement it would provide "full technical assistance to the authorities."

The spokesman for the emergency situations ministry said investigators were looking into "many" possible versions for the crash.

"The landing gear may have caught fire while landing, igniting the rest of the plane. Or there was a short circuit while the plane was still in the air, which disabled the brakes," the spokesman told AFP.

Prosecutors announced they had opened a criminal enquiry into the crash.

Among those on board the plane was the head of the FSB security service for the Irkutsk region, General Sergei Koryakov, officials said.

The landing at Irkutsk airport is believed to be one of the most difficult in Russia because the runway is unusually short due to surrounding mountains.

In a previous major accident at Irkutsk airport in 2001, all 145 people aboard a Tu-154 jet were killed as the plane was coming in for landing.

Comment on this Article

Russia's Chechen leader Basayev killed on eve of G8

By Richard Balmforth
July 10, 2006

MOSCOW - Russia's most wanted man, Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, was killed during an overnight operation by special forces, the state security chief told President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

FSB security agency chief Nikolai Patrushev said Basayev, who had claimed responsibility for the bloody 2004 Beslan school attack, had been planning an attack in southern Russia to disrupt the Group of Eight summit of world leaders Putin is hosting this weekend in St Petersburg.
Putin, whose already huge popularity will be boosted by the news just as he prepares to mark a high point of his six years in power by hosting the G8 summit, said Basayev's death was "deserved retribution" for his campaign of killing.

More than 331 people, half of them children, were killed in Beslan in September 2004 after Russian forces tried to end a siege of the school which had been seized by Islamist militants linked to Chechnya's fight for independence.

"This is deserved retribution against the bandits for our children in Beslan, in Budennovsk, for all these acts of terror they committed in Moscow and other Russian regions, including Ingushetia and Chechnya," the Kremlin leader said in televised comments.

Budennovsk was a reference to an attack on a hospital in June 1995 -- long before Putin came to power. Rebels seized hundreds of hostages in the southern town and more than 100 people died during the rebel assault and a botched Russian commando raid.

FSB chief Patrushev said Basayev, together with other Chechen fighters, was killed in Ingushetia, a region neighboring Chechnya.

Patrushev said it was in Ingushetia that Basayev and his men had been planning to carry out a terrorist act to coincide with the G8 summit.

"They intended to use this terrorist act to put pressure on Russia's leadership at a time when the G8 summit was being held," Patrushev said.

Pictures on state television showed the wreckage of a truck that had been packed with explosive and apparently blew up, killing Basayev and several other rebels.

There was no information that the truck had been under fire from security forces when the blast happened.

A statement on website www.kavkazcenter.com said the Chechen rebel leadership was not making any comment for the time being.

The heavily-bearded Basayev, who was born in 1965, professed to be a devout Muslim. His left foot was blown off by a mine in 2000 and he wears a prosthesis.

Basayev, in a television interview aired last year, justified the attack on Beslan by saying Russian civilians -- including children -- were legitimate targets in his homeland's bloody fight for independence from Moscow.

"We are at war. Russians ... pay their taxes for this war, send their soldiers to this war, their priests sprinkle holy water on the soldiers," Basayev said in his soft lilt.

"How can they be innocent? Russians are accomplices in this war. It is just they don't all have weapons in their hands," he said in the interview with Britain's Channel 4.

Comment on this Article

Plane crashes in Pakistan; all 45 killed

Associated Press
July 10, 2006

MULTAN, Pakistan - A passenger plane slammed into a wheat field and burst into flames minutes after takeoff Monday in eastern Pakistan. All 45 people on board were killed, officials said.

The Fokker F-27 twin-engine aircraft went down on the outskirts of the city of Multan minutes after taking off for Lahore, spiraling in the air before it hit the ground and bursting into flames, witnesses said.
"All 41 passengers and four crew members on board the plane have died," said Iftikhar Babar, the district coordination officer for Multan, which lies about 400 miles southwest of the capital, Islamabad.

Malik Bashir, Pakistan International Airlines' station manager at Multan airport, said the cause of the crash was not yet known, but ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack on the state carrier's plane.

A PIA emergency department official who identified himself by a single name, Bashir, said the dead passengers were all Pakistani. They included two army brigadiers, two judges of the High Court in Lahore and the head of a state-run university in Multan.

A female flight attendant who was pulled alive from the plane's wreckage died later at a hospital, airline security official Mohammed Iqbal said.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf expressed grief over the crash and ordered an investigation to determine the cause, state-run Pakistan Television reported.

Grieving relatives waiting at the hospital wept in anguish and beat their chests.

Bashir said the flight took off normally for the flight to Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province. "Whatever happened to it was after takeoff," he said.

Mohammed Nadeem, who lives near the crash site, said the plane was rotating sideways in the air before it hit the ground and went up in flames.

Another witness said the plane hit the ground with a huge thud and its wreckage caught fire.

"The plane begin to come down abruptly. Then it hit the ground. Then there were flames and dust," Arshad Gujjar said.

In August 1989, another PIA Fokker, with 54 people onboard, went down in northern Pakistan on a domestic flight. The plane's wreckage was never found.

In September 1992, a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a mountain in Nepal, killing all 167 people on board. Investigators found the plane was flying 1,500 feet lower than it reported as it approached the Katmandu airport.

Comment on this Article

3 feared dead in Georgia plane crash

Sun Jul 9, 2006

SUCHES, Ga. - A small aircraft crashed into a house and burst into flames in north Georgia on Saturday and authorities believed three people were killed. Two were critically injured.

The single-engine Piper 32 crashed around 12:50 p.m., said Union County Sheriff's Lt. Matt Hromalik. The victims were aboard the plane and no one on the ground was injured.
The aircraft was coming from Hilton Head Island, S.C., and overshot the runway while trying to land at High Valley Airport in Suches, said Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the
Federal Aviation Administration.

No one was in the house at the time of the crash, Hromalik said.

Hromalik said he believed three were killed. Two others were in critical condition. One passenger was airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., while the other was sent to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

The identities and ages of the victims were not immediately available.

The plane was registered to MASI LLC, a company in Hilton Head, according to the FAA Web site. Phone calls to the company went unanswered.

A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said the agency will investigate.

Comment on this Article

Questions remain 10 years after Flight 800

Associated Press
Sat Jul 8, 2006

SHIRLEY, N.Y. - A little past 8:30 p.m., as the blistering July sun melted in the west, a jumbo jet carrying students, honeymooners, businessmen and others to Paris exploded in a fireball, raining carnage into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island.

It had been only a dozen minutes since TWA Flight 800 took off from Kennedy Airport.

Initially, investigators were not sure whether the calamity that killed all 230 people aboard the flight on July 17, 1996, was caused by a bomb, a missile or mechanical failure. Just two days before the start of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, it was difficult not to suspect foul play.

People still question the official conclusion, reached in 2000, that TWA 800 was destroyed by an explosion in the Boeing 747's center fuel tank, likely caused by a spark from a wiring short-circuit.
"I think it could have been somebody shooting at the plane, or it could have been a terrorist attack," said Mona Morfis of Long Island, on a recent visit with her grandchildren to the seaside memorial garden that pays tribute to the victims and their rescuers.

The man who spent years leading the federal investigation into the crash has no such doubts.

Robert Francis, the former vice chairman of the
National Transportation Safety Board, still gets missives urging him to come clean about terrorism theories or witness accounts of a streak of light heading toward the plane.

Now retired and living in McLean, Va., Francis said he never responds to "very insulting e-mails, asking me when am I going to tell the truth and asking why am I lying."

Because Flight 800 disintegrated over the ocean, Francis said, there was ample time for conspiracy theories to flourish.

"There was no ability to make a determination quickly," he said. "We were picking up the wreckage in 130 feet of water."

Investigators eventually recovered 98 percent of the wreckage from the ocean floor and painstakingly rebuilt a large part of the airliner.

"We studied if it had been a missile, what would it have done to the fuselage? We had scientists in the desert shooting rockets into old fuselages," he said in a recent telephone interview. "We didn't find a single piece of wreckage that would have pointed to that kind of explosion. So I say to the missile theorists: 'Show me something.' "

Another theory was that a missile from a Navy ship 200 miles away took down the plane, but Francis questioned why no one on the cruiser ever came forward. "You mean to tell me everybody kept their mouths shut?"

Comment: Ever heard of the Manhattan Project? Keeping important secrets is nowhere near as difficult as many people believe, especially when those secrets involve the military accidentally killing a couple hundred civilians.

He said investigators also searched for evidence that a terrorist had launched a shoulder-fired missile from the nearby shore. "We never found any of that," he said. "They searched every marina, every wharf."

But why did so many people have doubts?

"It's more acceptable to the public if somebody did this, rather than blame it on maintenance or design," said Pete Field, a retired Marine Corps pilot who now works as an aviation crash consultant.

He said witnesses who claimed to have seen streaks of light heading toward the plane actually saw pieces of flaming wreckage falling, the official theory offered by the NTSB.

"You see trails (of light) and it's easy to get your mind confused," he said. "I do accident investigations all the time and I find that the mind traps an image, even if it's not there. Even some aviation experts will tell you they saw something that just could not have happened."

Eileen Best, who tends the garden at the TWA 800 Memorial at Smith Point County Park, said many visitors have shared their misgivings about the official conclusion.

"Many people on Long Island still have doubts," she said as she prepared the garden for a 10-year commemoration on July 17.

In addition to the 230 people from 14 countries who perished, the memorial honors the hundreds of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers and boaters who raced to the scene.

A bench at the memorial is dedicated to the Rev. Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who was on duty on July 17, 1996, and acted as a counselor to the mourners for years afterward. Six weeks before he became the first official victim of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Judge joined relatives at a ceremony for the fifth anniversary of the TWA 800 crash.

"Every year that you come here, you make this spot more blessed and more sacred, if that's possible," Judge said.

Comment on this Article

NYC building collapses after blast, fire

Associated Press
July 10, 2006

NEW YORK - A three-story building housing doctors' offices collapsed and burned Monday after what witnesses said was a thunderous explosion that rocked the neighborhood just off Madison Avenue.

Firefighters dug one person from the rubble about an hour after the blast, and two other people and a firefighter were taken to hospitals, Fire Department spokesman Jim Long said.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, though White House press secretary Tony Snow said there was no indication of terrorism.
"They think it was the gas line," Snow said. Power company Con Edison confirmed its crews had been responding to complaints from a gas customer at an adjacent building when the blast occurred.

Heavy black smoke rose high above the building, wedged between taller structures on 62nd Street between Park and Madison Avenues just a few blocks from Central Park. Damage, including shattered windows, could be seen at one of the adjoining buildings.

Yaakov Kermaier, 36, a resident in a building next door, said he was outside when he heard "a deafening boom. I saw the whole building explode in front of me."

"Everybody started running, nobody knew what was coming next," he said. His nanny and newborn escaped from their next-door apartment unharmed.

Thad Milonas, 57, was operating a coffee cart across from the building when he said the ground shook and the building came down, said he helped two bleeding women from the scene.

TV host Larry King, who had been in a hotel room nearby, described the explosion to CNN as sounding like a bomb and feeling like an earthquake.

"I've never heard a sound like that," King said.

Streets around the area were closed off to traffic as ambulances and rescue units responded just before 9 a.m. Dozens of onlookers stood behind police tape watching the smoke as it engulfed the Manhattan sky.

Lt. Eugene Whyte said the building included two doctors' offices. One of the doctors has been accounted for, he said.

Comment on this Article

Nukuler News

The secret arsenal of the Jewish state


Israel Nukes

Despite Israel's refusal to acknowledge its nuclear weapons status, its secret arsenal is an open secret that Israeli policy makers don't go out of their way to deny. From its beginnings in the mid-1960s, Israel's program has developed into one that rivals those of larger powers like France and Britain. Here, based on interviews with U.S. intelligence officials and nuclear experts, is a portrait of Israel's strategic weapons programs.

Click here to see the interactive map.

Comment on this Article

Tehran bans senior U.N. inspector from Iran: diplomat

By Louis Charbonneau
Sun Jul 9, 2006

BERLIN - Iran has banned a senior U.N. nuclear inspector who has criticized the Tehran government from visiting the country, a Western diplomat said on Sunday.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition on anonymity, was confirming a report in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, in which International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Iran section head, Chris Charlier of Belgium, was reported as saying that he had not been allowed into Iran for several months.
"I haven't been allowed to travel to Iran since April," he was quoted as saying. "Since April, I have had no more contact with the Iranian nuclear file."

But a senior diplomat at the Vienna-based IAEA said Charlier was still the chief of the agency's Iran section.

The IAEA has been inspecting Iran's nuclear program since 2003. Although it has found no hard evidence that Iran is working on atomic weapons, it has uncovered many previously concealed activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process of purifying fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons.

Tehran denies pursuing atomic weapons but refuses to temporarily halt its enrichment program as demanded by Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Charlier was also quoted as saying he believed Iran was probably still hiding things from the IAEA.

"It is very probable that Tehran is doing things in the nuclear field that to this day we have no clue about," he said.

It was not immediately clear why Charlier was banned from Iran. But last year he was interviewed for a BBC documentary on Iran's nuclear program and complained about the lack of freedom U.N. inspectors face in the country.

"Whatever we say, whatever we do, they're always behind us with a video camera, with a microphone trying to record all our movement and all things that we're saying," Charlier said, according to a transcript of the program published on the Internet.

Comment on this Article

West mounts 'secret war' to keep nuclear North Korea in check

By Michael Sheridan, Far East Correspondent
The Sunday Times

A PROGRAMME of covert action against nuclear and missile traffic to North Korea and Iran is to be intensified after last week's missile tests by the North Korean regime.

Intelligence agencies, navies and air forces from at least 13 nations are quietly co-operating in a "secret war" against Pyongyang and Tehran.

It has so far involved interceptions of North Korean ships at sea, US agents prowling the waterfronts in Taiwan, multinational naval and air surveillance missions out of Singapore, investigators poring over the books of dubious banks in the former Portuguese colony of Macau and a fleet of planes and ships eavesdropping on the "hermit kingdom" in the waters north of Japan.

Few details filter out from western officials about the programme, which has operated since 2003, or about the American financial sanctions that accompany it.
But together they have tightened a noose around Kim Jong-il's bankrupt, hungry nation.

"Diplomacy alone has not worked, military action is not on the table and so you'll see a persistent increase in this kind of pressure," said a senior western official.

In a telling example of the programme's success, two Bush administration officials indicated last year that it had blocked North Korea from obtaining equipment used to make missile propellant.

The Americans also persuaded China to stop the sale of chemicals for North Korea's nuclear weapons scientists. And a shipload of "precursor chemicals" for weapons was seized in Taiwan before it could reach a North Korean port.

According to John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations and the man who originally devised the programme, it has made a serious dent in North Korea's revenues from ballistic missile sales.

But the success of Bolton's brainchild, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), whose stated aim is to stop the traffic in weapons of mass destruction, might also push North Korea into extreme reactions.

Britain is a core member of the initiative, which was announced by President George W Bush in Krakow, Poland, on May 31, 2003. British officials have since joined meetings of "operational experts" in Australia, Europe and the US, while the Royal Navy has contributed ships to PSI exercises. The participants include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Spain and Singapore, among others.

There has been almost no public debate in the countries committed to military involvement. A report for the US Congress said it had "no international secretariat, no offices in federal agencies established to support it, no database or reports of successes and failures and no established funding".

To Bolton and senior British officials, those vague qualities make it politically attractive.

In the past 10 months, since the collapse of six-nation talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear weapons, the US and its allies have also tightened the screws on Kim's clandestine fundraising, which generated some $500m a year for the regime.

Robert Joseph, the US undersecretary for arms control, has disclosed that 11 North Korean "entities" - trading companies or banks - plus six from Iran and one from Syria were singled out for action under an executive order numbered 13382 and signed by Bush.

For the first time, the US Secret Service and the FBI released details of North Korean involvement in forging $100 notes and in selling counterfeit Viagra, cigarettes and amphetamines in collaboration with Chinese gangsters.

The investigators homed in on a North Korean trading company and two banks in Macau. The firm, which had offices next to a casino and a "sauna", was run by North Koreans with diplomatic passports, who promptly vanished.

The two banks, Seng Heng bank and Banco Delta Asia, denied any wrongdoing. But the Macau authorities stepped in after a run on Banco Delta Asia and froze some $20m in North Korean accounts.

Last week the North Koreans demanded the money as a precondition for talks but the Americans brushed off their protest.

Kim told Hu Jintao, the Chinese president in January that his government was being strangled, diplomats in the Chinese capital said. "He has warned the Chinese leaders his regime could collapse and he knows that is the last thing we want," said a Chinese source close to the foreign ministry.

The risk being assessed between Washington and Tokyo this weekend is how far Kim can be pushed against the wall before he undertakes something more lethal than last week's display of force.

The "Dear Leader" has turned North Korea into a military-dominated state to preserve his own inherited role at the apex of a Stalinist personality cult. Although he appears erratic, and North Korea's rhetoric is extreme, most diplomats who have met him think Kim is highly calculating.

"He is a very tough Korean nationalist and he knows exactly how to play the power game - very hard," said Professor Shi Yinhong, an expert in Beijing.

But the costly failure of Kim's intercontinental missile, the Taepodong 2, after just 42 seconds of flight last Wednesday, was a blow to his prestige and to the force of his deterrent. Six other short and medium-range missiles splashed into the Sea of Japan without making any serious military point.

The United States and its allies are now preoccupied by what Kim might do with the trump card in his arsenal - his stockpile of plutonium for nuclear bombs.

"The real danger is that the North Koreans could sell their plutonium to another rogue state - read Iran - or to terrorists," said a western diplomat who has served in Pyongyang. American officials fear Iran is negotiating to buy plutonium from North Korea in a move that would confound the international effort to stop Tehran's nuclear weapons programme.

The prospect of such a sale is "the next big thing", said a western diplomat involved with the issue. The White House commissioned an intelligence study on the risk last December but drew no firm conclusions.

Plutonium was the element used in the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945. It would give Iran a rapid route to the bomb as an alternative to the conspicuous process of enriching uranium which is the focus of international concern.

American nuclear scientists estimate North Korea is "highly likely" to have about 43kg and perhaps as much as 53kg of the material. Between 7kg and 9kg are needed for a weapon.

Siegfried Hecker, former head of the US Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory, has warned that North Korea's plutonium would fit into a few suitcases and would be impossible to detect if it were sold.

For the first time since the crisis over its nuclear ambitions began in 1994, North Korea has made enough plutonium to sell a quantity to its ally while keeping sufficient for its own use.

North Korea is known to have sold 1.7 tons of uranium to Libya. It has sold ballistic missiles to Iran since the 1980s. American officials have said Iran is already exchanging missile test data for nuclear technology from Pyongyang. The exchanges probably involve flight monitoring for Scud-type rockets and techniques of uranium centrifuge operation.

Relations deepened between the two surviving regimes in Bush's "axis of evil" after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's military and scientific links with North Korea have grown rapidly.

Last November western intelligence sources told the German magazine Der Spiegel that a high-ranking Iranian official had travelled to Pyongyang to offer oil and natural gas in exchange for more co-operation on nuclear technology and ballistic missiles. Iran's foreign ministry denied the report but diplomats in Beijing and Pyongyang believe it was accurate. At the same time evidence emerged through Iranian dissidents in exile that North Korean experts were helping Iran build nuclear-capable missiles in a vast tunnel complex under the Khojir and Bar Jamali mountains near Tehran.

So while one nation, North Korea, boasts of its nuclear weapons and the other, Iran, denies wanting them at all, the world is on edge. If the stakes are high in the nuclear terror game, they are equally high for the balance of power in Asia and thus for global prosperity.

North Korea's aggressive behaviour and a record of kidnapping Japanese citizens have created new willpower among politicians in Tokyo to strengthen their military forces. To China, Japan's wartime adversary, that signals a worrying change in the strategic equation. Nationalism in both countries is on the rise. Relations between the two are at their worst for decades.

One scenario is that Japan abandons its pacifist doctrine and becomes a nuclear weapons power. "The Japanese people are very angry and very worried and, right now, they will accept any government plan for the military," said Tetsuo Maeda, professor of defence studies at Tokyo International University.

The mood favours the ascent of Shinzo Abe, Japan's hawkish chief cabinet secretary, the man most likely to take over from Junichiro Koizumi, the prime minister, who steps down in September. "He will be far more hardline on Pyongyang and I'm firmly of the opinion that he intends to make Japan into a nuclear power," Maeda said.

The government is already committed to installing defensive Pac-3 Patriot missiles in co-operation with the Americans. But radical opinion in Japan has been fortified by Kim's adventures.

"The vast majority of Japanese agree that we need to be able to carry out first strikes," said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University.

"I spoke to Mr Abe earlier this week and he shares my opinion that for Japan, the most important step would be for Japan to have an offensive missile capability."

Such talk causes severe concern to Washington, which has sheltered Japan under the umbrella of its nuclear arsenal since forging a security alliance after the second world war.

Divisions within the Bush administration - which even sympathisers concede have paralysed its nuclear diplomacy towards the North - also served to undermine Japanese confidence in America, as have the well-documented failings of American intelligence.

Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute, a think tank with ties to the Pentagon, says: "There's no human intelligence in North Korea. Zero. Zippo. It's like looking at your neighbour's house with a pair of binoculars - and they've got their blinds shut."

Last week Bush was working the phones to the leaders of China and Russia. But British officials think it unlikely that either will support a Japanese proposal for UN sanctions on the North Koreans.

That leaves the Bush administration with the same unpalatable choices that existed a week, a month or a year ago. The military option, to all practical purposes, does not exist. "An attack is highly unlikely to destroy any existing North Korean nuclear weapons capability," wrote Phillip Saunders of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, in a paper analysing its risks.

"The biggest problem with military options is preventing North Korean retaliation," Saunders said. He believes half a million artillery shells an hour would be rained on Seoul in the first day of any conflict from North Korean artillery hidden in caves. The North Koreans could fire 200 mobile rocket launchers and launch up to 600 Scud missiles. American and South Korean casualties, excluding civilians, are projected at between 300,000 and 500,000 in the first 90 days of war.

Like former president Bill Clinton's team, the Bush administration has therefore realised that a diplomatic answer is the only one available.

But years of inattention, division and mixed messages robbed the US of diplomatic influence. One observer tells of watching the US envoy Christopher Hill sit mutely in an important negotiation because policy arguments in Washington had tied his hands.

Yesterday Hill compromised by offering the North Koreans a private meeting if they came back to nuclear talks hosted by China. But American faith in China's powers of persuasion may have been misplaced.

"China is the source of the problem, not the source of the solution," argued Edward Timperlake, a defence official in the Reagan administration and author of Showdown, a new book on the prospect of war with China.

Kim ignored Chinese demands to call off the missile tests and some American officials now think Beijing is simply playing off its client against its superpower rival.

The clearest statement of all came from the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (DPRK) itself. The state news agency said America had used "threats and blackmail" to destroy an agreement to end the dispute. "But for the DPRK's tremendous deterrent for self-defence, the US would have attacked the DPRK more than once as it had listed it as part of an 'axis of evil'."

The lesson of Iraq, the North Koreans said, was now known to everyone.

Additional reporting: Sarah Baxter, Washington; Julian Ryall, Tokyo

Thoughts of Kim

I know I'm an object of criticism in the world, but if I am being talked about, I must be doing the right thing.

The leader's greatness is in reality the greatness of our nation.

We oppose the reactionary policies of the US government but we do not oppose the American people. We want to have many good friends in the United States.

Comment on this Article

US to dangle nuclear deal in exchange for Russia's help on Iran

by Maxim Kniazkov
Sun Jul 9, 2006

WASHINGTON - The United States said it is beginning negotiations with Russia on a potentially lucrative nuclear energy accord, but made clear any deal would be conditional on Moscow's full cooperation in US attempts to block Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Russia and China have been a key impediment to efforts by the United States to rally members of the UN Security Council behind its plan to slap international sanctions on Tehran in order to force it to halt uranium enrichment.
The issue is expected to be front and center in negotiations between President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at a Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg next weekend.

Although details of the proposed deal have not been released, it is seen as an attempt by the Bush administration to soften Russia's recalcitrance ahead of the Bush-Putin talks and bring Moscow firmly into the US camp.

"We are initiating negotiations on a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia," White House spokesman Peter Watkins told AFP on Saturday. "Such an agreement would benefit both the United States and Russia and indeed the world by enabling advances in greater use of nuclear energy."

He did not say when the talks would formally begin, but another official speaking on condition of anonymity said a formal announcement could be expected at the G8 summit.

The White House official, however, was adamant in linking the deal to Russia's approach to Iran and its readiness to cooperate with the Bush administration in halting what it sees as Iran's secret nuclear weapons program.

"We have made clear to Russia that for an agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation with the United States to go forward, we will need Russia's active cooperation in blocking Iran's attempts to obtain nuclear weapons," Watkins said.

"Our policy on assistance to Iran's nuclear program has not changed," he added.

Under the proposed deal, Russia could become a key international repository of spent nuclear fuel, including from countries that use US-supplied nuclear reactors, a lucrative arrangement that may also pave the way for it becoming a leading supplier of nuclear technology and fuel around the world, US media reports said.

The US government had opposed such cooperation up to now in part because of Russia's assistance to Iran in building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, a project opposed by the United States.

A change in procedures for handling nuclear waste coming from US-built reactors operating overseas will require congressional approval, and there were indications Saturday it may not come easy.

Democratic Representative Edward Markey, who co-chairs the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, was quoted by The New York Times as saying turning Russia into a nuclear waste dump would create "one-stop shopping for nuclear terrorists and would-be proliferators."

Nevertheless, Watkins indicated the deal would be in line with Bush vision for expanded reliance on peaceful nuclear power around the world, provided all the safeguards required by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty were strictly observed.

"The president has said that states that comply with their obligations under the NPT have a right to peacefully use their nuclear energy," he said.

The proposed deal, experts said, was also aimed at allaying concerns in Russia that economic sanctions against Iran, a major trading partner, would boomerang against it.

Bush hinted at his willingness to address the issue Friday when he told reporters in Chicago that he was determined to bring doubters to America's side.

"Some nations are more comfortable with sanctions than other nations, and part of the issue we face in some of these countries is that they've got economic interests," he said. "And part of our objective is to make sure that national security interests, security of the world interests trump economic interests."

Comment on this Article

India tests nuclear-capable missile

Sun Jul 9, 2006

BHUBANESHWAR, India - India test-fired its longest-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile for the first time, but it failed to hit its target, defence officials and sources said.

The Agni-III missile, which defence sources say has a range of 4,000 kilometres (2,480 miles), was launched from Wheeler Island in the eastern state of Orissa, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
They said the missile developed problems after a successful take-off.

"The missile after lift-off went vertically to a distance of 12 kilometers when the second booster failed to fire, resulting in non-separation of that stage," one defence official said, asking not to be named.

"The missile crashed into the sea without hitting the target."

The Indian defence ministry, however, refused to comment on whether the missile had failed its first test.

"All I can say is that the take-off was successful. It would take us 48 hours to analyse all the data," defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar told AFP.

In May Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said the Agni-III, India's longest-range ballistic missile, was ready but that the country was observing "self-imposed restraint" before testing.

Opposition parties criticised the announcement, saying testing was being delayed because of pressure from the United States. New Delhi and Washington reached a landmark deal in March that will see sanctions lifted on India's access to civilian nuclear technology.

Sunday's test launch comes just four days after North Korea sparked an international outcry by test-firing seven missiles.

A highly-placed Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) source earlier Sunday said the Indian test was "successful".

He said scientists had detected a snag in the booster rocket system of the Agni-III two weeks ago and had delayed its test. "Now we have papered over the problem and hence the launch window was chosen as Sunday," he said.

The Agni (Fire) is one of five missiles being developed by the DRDO under its Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme launched in 1983. The others are the Prithvi, the surface-to-air Trishul (Trident), multi-purpose Akash (Sky), and the anti-tank Nag (Cobra).

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947, routinely notify each other of missile tests.

"We were informed about it," said Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam in Islamabad.

"It is a ballistic missile test and we have agreement on pre-notification of ballistic missile tests," she said. "We have no other reaction."

The two countries came to the brink of a fourth war in the summer of 2002 following a December 2001 attack on India's parliament by suspected Pakistan-backed militants. Islamabad denied any role in the attack.

But in January 2004 they began a peace process that has led to a ceasefire in the divided Himalayan state of
Kashmir, the cause of two of the wars.

In May 1998 India conducted five nuclear tests, citing China as a security threat. The tests were matched two weeks later by Pakistan which India says has received Chinese assistance for its nuclear programme, a claim denied by Beijing.

But tensions between China and India have lessened in the past two years. There have been direct military talks and the reopening last week of a famed Silk Road pass in the Himalayas, the first direct border trade between the Asian giants since a frontier war 44 years ago.

C. Uday Bhaskar, deputy head of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, said India's nuclear and missile programmes should not be seen as country-specific.

"Countries acquire strategic capabilities that are generic in nature. Our programme is not predicated on a single point threat. It is always in relation to the international strategic environment," Bhaskar said.

Comment on this Article

Nuclear waste looms as challenge in Asia

AP Environmental Writer
Sat Jul 8, 2006

GYEONGJU, South Korea - With royal tombs and a history dating back 1,000 years to the Shilla Kingdom, Gyeongju is a cradle of Korean civilization. But it's about to get a tomb of a different type.

A hillside bunker overlooking the Sea of Japan is to become one of Asia's first permanent nuclear dump sites, ending
South Korea's 19-year quest to deal with low- and medium-level waste such as contaminated clothing and old parts from its 20 nuclear power plants.

It's costing the government nearly $320 million in subsidies to the town of 300,000 for voting to accept the dump, and it doesn't even begin to address the country's real problem - 6,500 tons of spent nuclear fuel with hundreds of thousands of years to live and nowhere to go.
As Asia goes nuclear in a big way to feed its appetite for energy, environmentalists are warning that the growing stockpiles could either be stolen by terrorists and used to make a bomb, or end up polluting the environment.

The nuclear industry says a permanent solution will eventually be found and that the waste issue will not slow the growth of nuclear power in Asia. Temporary sites, they said, are safe.

But only the United States and Finland have come up with permanent sites, and the one at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is years behind schedule and mired in legal disputes.

One solution is to recycle spent fuel by extracting its plutonium and combining it with uranium. But the plutonium is weapons-grade and could fall into terrorist hands, warns the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

Waste-dumping has rallied anti-nuclear forces in Asian democracies that allow them to function freely.

Taiwan, which has three nuclear plants and is building a fourth, has been thwarted three times in its search for a waste dump. "The failure to find a solution to nuclear waste could slow the development of nuclear power in democratic countries," said Michael Yang, a National Taiwan University professor who follows the storage issue. "You already had so many demonstrations over the issue in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan."

Australia, has no nuclear plants but has struggled for 15 years to find a permanent site for low-level nuclear waste from its medical, industrial and research facilities.

It settled in 2004 on three potential sites in the Northern Territory, which is home to Aborigine communities as well as world-famous Ayers Rock, or Uluru. Authorities expect to choose a final site by 2007 and open it in 2011.

"People are outraged," said Michaela Stubbs of Friends of the Earth Australia.

Comment on this Article

Zionism in Action

British Jews: Israel 'terrorizing' entire Palestinian nation


Some 300 prominent British Jews Friday condemned Israel for its brutal invasion of Gaza and urged the UK government to achieve an immediate ceasefire.

The Zionist regime is "using its enormously superior military might to terrorize an entire people," they said in a full-page petition published in the Times newspaper.

"Bombing power stations and cutting off fuel supplies deprives people of electricity, refrigeration, pumped drinking water and sewage disposal services. It holds hostage hospital patients on life support systems, or undergoing dialysis," the petition said.

The well-known British figures, describing themselves as Jews for Justice for Palestinians (Jfjfp), included playwright Harold Pinter, film director Mike Leigh, historian Professor Eric Hobsbawn, and actor Miriam Margoyles as well as a large number of academics.
They said that Israel was trying to present an isolated incident regarding the capture of a soldier, while ignoring their "regular snatching of Palestinians from their home." There were "thousands" of Palestinians held without trial, including women and children.

Jfjfp spokesman Dan Judelson said the prominent Jews "simply do not see how Israel can defend attacking civilian targets such as water works and power supply." "There are those in the community who say that Jews should not criticize Israel. But Israel is damaging itself through this kind of action," Judelson said.

He told the BBC that many people believed the attacks on Palestinian infrastructure "were less about liberating Cpl Shalit and more about seeking a pretext to over-throw Hamas." Their petition criticized the response by the US and its allies in calling for restraint as "desperately inadequate." It was a situation that requires "determined action by the international community," it warned.

"We watch with horror the collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Everything reasonable must be done to secure Corporal Gilad Shalit's safe release but nothing Israel is doing contributes to that aim," it warned.

The Jewish leaders called on the British public to write to their MPs to demand that the UK government breaks its silence and acts "to achieve an immediate ceasefire." Their community leaders were also urged to write to the Israeli Embassy to "make them understand their actions are wrong, their explanations unconvincing."

Comment on this Article

Olmert rejects EU criticism of Israel's Gaza raids

Mon 10 Jul 2006

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday rejected European Union criticism of Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying the EU should focus instead on Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.

"When was the last time that the European Union condemned this shooting and suggested effective measures to stop it?" Olmert said in remarks to the foreign press.

"At some point, Israel had no point but to take some measures in order to stop this thing."

The European Union accused Israel on Friday of a disproportionate use of force against Palestinians in Gaza and of making a humanitarian crisis there worse.

Comment: And that is the point, a massively disproportionate use of force AND the fact that Israel's continued flaunting of international law means that, in the final analysis, it is ISRAEL that is the SOURCE of the conflict.

Comment on this Article

Israeli army turns on Olmert


Meanwhile, Olmert's refusal to budge on the issue of negotiating with Hamas was starting to raise questions among senior military ranks. Military sources said it was Israeli Defence Force (IDF) policy "to do anything to rescue a soldier" but efforts to pursue negotiations were being hamstrung by a prime minister's office determined to take a hard line.

AFTER a week of fierce fighting against Palestinian militants in Gaza, the Israeli government was last night facing growing unease within its own military over the refusal to negotiate with Hamas for the release of kidnapped soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit.

But there was little sign of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert changing his stance yesterday when he rejected a Hamas call for a ceasefire after a bloody week in which more than 30 Palestinians, mainly militants, and one Israeli soldier were killed following Shalit's kidnapping.
Click to learn more...

The United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan appealed to Israel and the Palestinians to "pull back from the brink for the sake of all civilians in the region".

He called on Israel to halt what he said was the disproportionate use of force, demanded Shalit's release, and reminded both sides of their humanitarian obligation to spare civilians from violence.

Israeli forces yesterday withdrew from most of the northern Gaza Strip, where the fierce fighting has been centred, but clashes erupted near Gaza City, leaving at least five Palestinians dead, including a six-year old girl after an airstrike hit a house.

The move was not expected to be a complete end to the violence. "We are acting at our own discretion and we do not rule out a return to these areas," an army spokesman said. "The operation is not over."

Meanwhile, Olmert's refusal to budge on the issue of negotiating with Hamas was starting to raise questions among senior military ranks. Military sources said it was Israeli Defence Force (IDF) policy "to do anything to rescue a soldier" but efforts to pursue negotiations were being hamstrung by a prime minister's office determined to take a hard line.

Since the 1970s, the policy has been to pursue a military response but also be open to negotiating - either if there is seen to be no military alternative or as a parallel strategy. "The prime minister's hardline stance could lead to unnecessary loss of life on both sides," said one official. "All parties - Olmert, [Palestinian president] Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt and Hamas - know what the package is. The time has come for all of them, especially Israel, to come to the table and start talking."

Hamas officials have also blamed Olmert's office for stalled negotiations, saying Israel was refusing to respond to Hamas's "legitimate demand for the release of prisoners in exchange for Shalit's release".

For the first time since the crisis began, Israeli public security minister Avi Dichter suggested on Friday that Israel might release Palestinian prisoners as part of an Egyptian proposal to free kidnapped 19-year-old Shalit. Dichter said that once Shalit was released and militants stopped rocket attacks from Gaza, "then, in a goodwill gesture, Israel, as it has in the past, knows how to free prisoners".

But other Israeli ministers denied there would be negotiations. "We have no comment, except to say that Israel is prepared to take whatever steps necessary to bring the soldier home but will not give in to blackmail," said David Baker, a spokesman for the prime minister's office.

Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas issued a five-point ceasefire proposal, calling on Israel to halt its offensive and release prisoners but saying little about what Hamas was prepared to do in return.

The Israelis brushed aside the truce offer. "We will not negotiate with hostage-takers," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

Dr Boaz Ganor, a leading Israeli expert on counter-terrorism strategy from the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre, said the Israeli government and Hamas were now restricted by harsh statements made at the outset of the crisis.

"Such hardline comments from both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have defined public opinion, so the window of opportunity to resolve this crisis is in danger of disappearing," Ganor said. "In Olmert's case, it depends if his tough stance is either a tactical manoeuvre or strategic. If it is strategic, it is a mistake."

Ganor argued the key issue was for both parties to use a negotiating opportunity "to bring a bigger cake to the table". "For Israel, it would be the chance to insist that Palestinians end all rocket attacks and cease all other terrorist activities against Israeli citizens, and for the Palestinians to demand Israel stops targeted assassinations and ends all military activity in Gaza," he said.

Fierce fighting broke out yesterday morning as Israeli tanks approached the outskirts of Gaza City. But at the same time, Israeli troops withdrew from northern Gaza "since the immediate goals of the operation in that area had been achieved", said a spokesman for the IDF.

Palestinian witnesses said two Palestinians, including a policeman, were killed during clashes that also saw Israeli aircraft firing missiles at gunmen on the edge of the densely packed neighbourhood of Shijaia - a stronghold of the governing Hamas movement.

Israeli officials said the latest offensive was prompted by the discovery of another tunnel they said was to be used by Hamas militants to smuggle weapons and carry out another raid in Israeli territory.

In the Israeli city of Ashkelon, north of the Gaza border, residents were coming to terms with now living on "Israel's new frontline" after rockets hit city locations, including a schoolyard.

Nobody was injured, but with one of the country's largest power plants in its southern districts, along with Israel's only desalination plant, there is now fear among its 120,000 citizens that the next attack will result in sizeable fatalities.

While the southern edge of Ashkelon had been hit before, its centre was still considered out of range until last Tuesday, when a rocket launched by Hamas militants hit the heart of the city.

"Today, Ashkelon; tomorrow, Tel Aviv," said Roni Mehatzri, the mayor of Ashkelon, pointing out that his city was only an hour's drive south from Tel Aviv. "If Ashkelon is under attack, then the whole of Israel is under attack," he said.

Outside the mayor's office, Yamit Elimaliach was buying ice-cream for her two children. The 30-year-old mother said she and her husband had just bought a flat in Ashkelon.

"Yes, it's scary, and while we're determined to stay, I'll be honest that if these attacks had happened just before we bought our home, we would have changed our minds."

Comment on this Article

Minister says Israel ready to swap prisoners for abducted soldier

Conal Urquhart in Gaza City
Saturday July 8, 2006
The Guardian

An Israeli minister said Israel was prepared to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the freedom of an Israeli soldier held captive for almost two weeks. It was the first public admission that Israel was willing to contemplate a prisoner exchange to free Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured during a raid on Israeli positions near Gaza on June 25.

Avi Dichter, the minister of public security, told a conference yesterday: "The release of the soldier Gilad Shalit is a must ... Israel will need to, after some time, release prisoners as a reciprocal gesture. Israel knows how to do this. Israel has done this more than once in the past."
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told reporters that Israel had agreed to withdraw from Gaza and free some prisoners in return for Cpl Shalit's freedom.

The minister said the release of Palestinian prisoners would be conditional on the cessation of Palestinian attacks on Israel. Mr Dichter's comments suggest an acceptance of the proposals of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to resolve the crisis.

Israel has killed about 40 Palestinians in Gaza to secure the release of Cpl Shalit and halt the firing of rockets at Israel. But despite the attacks, the main efforts in freeing the soldier have been made by foreign diplomats outside Israel and Gaza.

Earlier this week Mr Mubarak travelled to Saudi Arabia to request the help of King Abdullah to ask Syria to bring pressure to bear on Khaled Meshal, a Hamas leader in Damascus. Palestinian diplomats say the captors of Cpl Shalit have become more reasonable and accepted a prisoner exchange would not be simultaneous.

Violence continued in northern Gaza as Israeli tanks took up new positions in Beit Lahiya. Palestinians fired rockets at Israel and the army fired hundreds of shells at northern Gaza. Four Palestinians were killed in air strikes yesterday after a day of fighting which saw the death of 24 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier.

Comment on this Article

Israel says Gaza offensive has no timetable

By Corinne Heller
Sun Jul 9, 2006

JERUSALEM - Israel vowed on Sunday to pursue air and ground assaults in the Gaza Strip indefinitely, rebuffing a proposed truce and keeping pressure on militants to free an abducted soldier and halt cross-border rocket attacks.

"This is a war that cannot be on a timetable," a senior government official quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as telling his cabinet, a day after Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas raised the prospect of a ceasefire.

"There is no intention to reoccupy Gaza in order to stay there, but if certain operations are needed they will be carried out. We will operate, enter and pull out as needed," Olmert was quoted to have said.
Israeli forces launched their offensive, the first such push into Gaza since troops and settlers withdrew from the territory last year, after Palestinian gunmen abducted Corporal Gilad Shalit in a raid into Israel on June 25.

Olmert rejected calls by the three militant factions that grabbed the tank gunner, including the governing Hamas group's armed wing, to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for information about him, the official said.

The official quoted Olmert as saying such a move would strengthen Hamas at the expense of "moderate elements" in the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat urged international aid organizations to help avert "human catastrophe" in Gaza.

Israeli forces have destroyed a main power station there and killed about 50 people, including 20 civilians, residents said.


The offensive has been criticized by the European Union and United Nations, but those organizations wield far less influence on Israel than its main ally, the United States, which has led an international aid boycott of the Hamas-led government.

"Let's remember who started this," UnderSecretary of State Nicholas Burns told CNN. "It was the outrageous actions of Hamas in violating Israel's sovereignty, in taking the soldier hostage."

The EU said it was gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and urged Israel to help in allowing aid to be delivered there.

"The presidency of the European Union expresses its grave concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip," said a statement from Finland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

In the latest violence, an Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a car carrying two militants near the southern Gaza town of Rafah, killing a bystander and wounding a gunman and four civilians, Palestinian security officials said.

A second air strike in northern Gaza blew up a van filled with explosives belonging to Hamas militants, destroying it, but the gunmen fled before the blast and five bystanders were hurt, witnesses and medics said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the attack.

Earlier Israel bombed a key bridge in northern Gaza.

The army said the goal was to prevent militants from transporting Qassam rockets to launch sites.

But a rocket slammed into a street in the Israeli town of Sderot, wounding one person, the army said. A second Qassam damaged a house in the border town, while a third fired after dark damaged a hothouse.

Israeli tanks left much of northern Gaza on Saturday but soldiers remained in the southern part of the territory and have deployed close to the outskirts of Gaza City.

Haniyeh said Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and a halt to military actions could "make it easy for us to end the crisis" over Shalit.

Israeli cabinet minister Meir Shetreet countered: "Let them return the soldier home safely, stop the Qassams, then no problem -- we leave Gaza."

Underscoring how far the sides were from a deal on the soldier was an opinion poll published by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center that showed 77 percent of Palestinians backed Shalit's capture.

Yet 47 percent thought the crisis was doing the Palestinians more harm than good, the survey found, illustrating the strong emotions generated by the continuing conflict.

Comment on this Article


American filmmaker detained for 55 days in Iraq sues Rumsfeld, Casey

Sat Jul 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES - A California-based filmmaker has filed a lawsuit here against top military officials over his detention by US forces in Iraq in 2005, court documents filed here show.

Cyrus Kar, 45, filed his case in US federal court in Los Angeles on Friday, arguing that his rights and the treatment of prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention were violated when US forces detained him for 55 days between May and July 2005.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the US military commander in Iraq, General George Casey, are named as defendants in the case.
Kar was in Iraq working on a documentary on Persian emperor Cyrus the Great (576-529 BCE) when US soldiers arrested him and his Iranian cameraman at checkpoint northeast of Baghdad on May 17.

Soldiers said they found washing machine timers -- often used as key parts for roadside bombs in Iraq -- inside the taxi the two were traveling in.

Kar, a US navy veteran of Iranian ancestry, was set free only after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued for his release.

Kar became a US citizen in 1966 after immigrating to the United States with his family from

According to the lawsuit, Kar was hooded and handcuffed when he was transported to a detention center, where he was aggressively interrogated and was exposed to hours in the sun in extremely hot temperatures.

A soldier at the notorious
Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad even slammed his head into a concrete wall at one point, according to the suit.

"For almost two months, Mr. Kar sat alone for 23 hours each day in a cramped jail cell, not knowing why he was there or whether he would ever be released," reads the lawsuit, filed on Kar's behalf by the ACLU.

Even though FBI agents cleared him of suspicion, he did not have access to an attorney and was able to make only a few short phone calls to his family. And the US military did nothing to send him home even after a military panel recommended his immediate release, according to the court papers.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Comment: A Navy veteran was hooded, handcuffed, tortured, and held without charge. Do you think they'd have second thoughts about doing the same to you?

Comment on this Article

5 more charged in Iraq rape-slayings case

Associated Press
July 9, 2006

TIKRIT, Iraq - Four more U.S. soldiers have been charged with rape and murder and a fifth with dereliction of duty in the alleged rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman and the killings of her relatives in Mahmoudiya, the military said Sunday.

The five were accused Saturday following an investigation into allegations that American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division raped the teenager and killed her and three relatives at her home south of Baghdad.
Ex-soldier Steven D. Green was arrested last week in North Carolina and has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder. He was ordered held without bond on the charges, which carry a possible death penalty.

The U.S. statement said the five soldiers still on active duty will face an Article 32 investigation, similar to a grand jury hearing in civilian law. The Article 32 proceeding will determine whether there is enough evidence to place them on trial.

One of the soldiers was charged with failing to report the attack but is not believed to have participated in it directly, the statement said. The four facing murder charges could face the death penalty if convicted.

The names of the five were not released, but a U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said Sunday that the soldiers recently charged are two sergeants, two privates first-class and one specialist.

The March 12 attack on the family was among the worst in a series of cases of U.S. troops accused of killing and abusing Iraqi civilians.

U.S. officials are concerned the alleged rape-slaying will strain relations with the new U.S.-backed government and increase calls for changes in an agreement that exempts American soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded an independent investigation into the case, which followed a series of claims that U.S. troops killed and mistreated Iraqi civilians.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in Green's case, he and at least two others targeted the teenager and her family for a week before the attack, which was not revealed until witnesses came forward in late June.

The soldiers drank alcohol, abandoned their checkpoint, changed clothes to avoid detection and headed to the victims' house, about 200 yards from a U.S. military checkpoint in the so-called "Triangle of Death," a Sunni Arab area south of Baghdad known for its violence, the affidavit said.

The affidavit estimated the rape victim was about 25. But a doctor at the Mahmoudiya hospital gave her age as 14. He refused to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Green is accused of raping the woman and killing her and three relatives - an adult male and female and a girl estimated to be 5 years old. An official familiar with the investigation said he set fire to the rape victim's body in an apparent cover-up attempt.

Iraqi authorities identified the rape victim as Abeer Qassim Hamza. The other victims were her father, Qassim Hamza; her mother, Fikhriya Taha; and her sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza.

Comment on this Article

Baghdad massacre, mosque bombings kill at least 61

by Sam Dagher
Sun Jul 9, 2006

BAGHDAD - Bands of masked gunmen went on a rampage in a predominantly Sunni Baghdad neighborhood, killing at least 42 Sunni Arabs in a gruesome sectarian attack despite a massive security crackdown, witnesses said.

The apparent response to the attacks was swift, with at least 19 people killed and 59 wounded in two powerful car bombs next to a Shiite mosque in a mixed neighbourhood of the predominantly Sunni district of Adhamiyah on the capital's north side, an interior ministry official said.
The Sunni killings began in the western neighborhood of Jihad when gunmen set up checkpoints and started shooting people based on their ID cards, witnesses said.

"They also went into certain Sunni houses and killed everyone inside," a witness who declined to be named told AFP.

"Outside the mosque I saw the bodies of 10 men, all shot in the head, and they showed severe signs of torture," said Sheikh Abdel Samad al-Obeidi, imam of the Sunni Fakhri Shanshal mosque in the neighborhood, which was bombed on Friday killing two.

"I blame the Mehdi Army militiamen for this killing -- it is all in the open now," he added, referring to the armed group linked to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

He also accused police commandos, who have checkpoints in the area, of being "complicit in the crime for turning a blind eye".

In the runup to Sunday's rampage, Sunni and Shiite holy places were increasingly targeted in ongoing civil strife in Baghdad, with the Shiite Fatima Zahra mosque being bombed on Saturday killing seven and wounding 17.

In the past months there have been more and more sectarian-linked attacks in the capital's neighborhoods.

Sheikh Mahmud al-Sudani, the imam of the Shiite mosque attacked Saturday, told AFP the operation was carried out by relatives of Shiites who had been killed or driven out of the predominantly Sunni neighborhood in recent months.

"For the past five months Shiites have been killed and evicted from the neighborhood. Those Shiites killed come from tribes from the south that wanted to take revenge," said Sudani, a follower of Sadr.

"The hair that broke the camel's back was the attack on the mosque yesterday (Saturday)," he said.

Fakhria Hussein, a Shiite resident of the Sunni neighborhood targeted on Sunday but who works outside it, received a call from her son telling her not to come home because it was too dangerous.

"He told me that masked men stormed into our neighbors' home, a Sunni, and he heard shots and screams," she said.

Firas Shimmari, a security guard, received a similar call from his brother who reported that the gunmen were checking people's IDs and attacking them if they indicated the person was Sunni.

"They looked at his ID and asked him where he was from and he said (the Shiite holy city of) Karbala, so they told him 'you are fine'," said Shimmari, adding that his brother had seen corpses by the side of the checkpoint.

The massacre ended only when US and Iraqi forces surrounded the area and imposed a curfew.

"Our beloved Iraq is going through a very difficult period and the security situation is getting worse despite the presence of an allegedly sovereign government," said radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr whose partisans were accused of the Sunni Arab killings.

"To stop the flow of Iraqi blood, I call on all political and religious leaders to meet together to block the Western plot of starting a civilian and sectarian war."

Sadr also called on parliament to hold an emergency session.

"People are looking up to you to save them from the sea of blood, maybe it's time to hold an emergency meeting for the sake of your people," he said in a mocking tone from his home in the southern shrine city of Najaf.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called for calm.

"Today we face a very a deep and dangerous slope, which is killing based on identity," Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, said in a statement.

"I call on the the Iraqi people to control themselves and avoid knee-jerk reactions which can only lead to regret and pain."

For his part Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, said the government must take immediate steps to protect civilians by purging the country's security forces of the influence of Shiite militiamen.

"This is a plea from the vice president to the prime minister to do the right thing and protect the lives of innocent people who have become targets for the militias amid the silence and non-intervention of some security forces," he told state television Al-Iraqiya.

Sunday's rampage came despite an ongoing security operation in the capital since mid-June involving tens of thousands of troops patrolling the streets.

Elsewhere nine people were killed including two Sunni clerics from the powerful Muslim Scholars Association, a Sunni religious body.

The US military said it had charged five more soldiers in connection with the rape and murder of an Iraqi woman and the killing of three of her family members on March 12 south of Baghdad.

Four of the five soldiers indicted Sunday were charged with rape and murder and the fifth with dereliction of duty for failing to report the offences.

An army veteran of the Iraq war, Steven Green, 21, was charged by the US civilian authorities last week in the same case.

Comment on this Article

"Packing It In"

By Dahr Jamail

Surprise, surprise. In an interview with John King from CNN last Thursday, Dick Cheney said that withdrawing US forces from Iraq would be the "worst possible thing we could do."

Doing his best to stoke the always simmering fears of so many US residents (let us be careful how we use the word "citizen"), Cheney said of the terrorist groups in Iraq, "If we pull out, they'll follow us."

Because according to Cheney, "This is a global conflict. We've seen them attack in London and Madrid and Casablanca and Istanbul and Mombasa and East Africa. They've been, on a global basis, involved in this conflict. And it will continue - whether we complete the job or not in Iraq - only it'll get worse. Iraq will become a safe haven for terrorists. They'll use it in order to launch attacks against our friends and allies in that part of the world."
Lovely to watch how people like Cheney, and the minions who support his ilk, conveniently forget that there was no terrorism in Iraq prior to the US invasion/occupation. And one must love his "logic." For according to Cheney, "whether we complete the job or not in Iraq" his beloved "terrorism" will "continue" ... "only it'll get worse."

Then why stay in Iraq, Dick?

Because when Dick said, "only it'll get worse," if he'd been referring to the situation on the ground in Iraq, he'd have been 100% accurate.

For starters, things for the US military continue to disintegrate. With raping and pillaging being carried out by soldiers who have long since surrendered the war for "hearts and minds," other lesser reported developments underscore the trajectory of the military in Iraq.

According to the Arabic al-Sharqiyah Television channel, on July 6th : "Gunmen shot down two US Apaches in al-Zur village, north of al-Miqdadiyah in Diyala Governorate, northeast of Baghdad. Security sources and local residents said that both gunships were seen crashing in one of the village's farms, and reported that a US APC carrying 15 US soldiers was destroyed in clashes that raged in the cities and villages located north of al-Miqdadiyah. The US Army is yet to comment on the incident, which comes at a time when US and Iraqi forces are besieging areas north of al-Miqdadiyah, including al-Zur village."

This comes at a time when the US military are once again aggressively attacking the forces of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - an action which threatens to spread violence deeper into southern Iraq as well as unifying Shia and Sunni against the occupation forces. Think March and April, 2004 - a time when Shia and Sunni were, at times, literally fighting side by side against US soldiers in places like Najaf and Fallujah.

While the military futilely spins its giant wheels in the bloody sands of Iraq, it continues to be the Iraqi people who are suffering the most.

Here is a recent email from an Iraqi friend:

Dear Dahr,

How are you doing? I hope you are fine. I'm sorry for not keeping in touch with you, but as you know the situation is bad here and it gets so much worse and worse that words cannot describe it.

I really want you to remember someone named Abdul Razak who you met one day here. He was responsible for the corpses' freezer at one of the hospitals where you visited. This was the man who helped you as you nearly fainted when you tried to enter the freezer. This man, unfortunately, was found killed and his body thrown away on a street on the 4th of April of this year. I met his wife and his five children. The oldest child is a girl who is 20 years old and the youngest is 6 years old. They live in a rented house. The father's salary was the only source of money for the whole family. Now, as he is dead, they have no source of money. I tried to help them by getting some donations for them from the staff working in the hospital where he used to work, but it seems that it is not enough. Of course for a big family like his, this makes it more difficult. But I hope we can ease their pain and help them manage their life by finding someone who can donate some money. I am wondering if you can get some donations for this family to start a new life and construct a small project to help them manage their life. Thank you in advance ...

I get these regularly, and several of my colleagues who have also worked in Iraq are telling me that they too are receiving requests for help nowadays.

Here is another email I received the day before the aforementioned, from another friend in Baghdad:

Dear friend,

Maybe this is the last message I am going to send ... really I don't have anyone here. I am like a foreigner in my own country. I am really feeling very afraid. I am living next to Al Sadr City and the Al Sadr militia is killing anyone who is Sunni, especially when any explosion attacks the Shia. They come to our zone and take Sunni people from their houses and kill them. They killed one of my relatives. They killed my neighbor, who was only 26 years old. My friend, the situation now in Baghdad is very bad. Do you know that there is no work and no safety, even in my own house? I'm very sad to tell you that I am very tired from changing my house. My family and I leave the house every month for three weeks and we run away like some one who did a crime. What is our crime?

We are in a very bad situation. It is so bad now. Please help, is all that I ask as we need help now. We are living, just waiting for our turn to die ... Please help us if you can ... I don't have any one to ask but you.

So while Iraqis are being killed or fearing death as they suffer through the daily hell that is the US occupation, Cheney, the real force behind this "administration," tells CNN, "No matter how you carve it - you can call it anything you want - but basically, it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight."

Guess what, Dick - moral and sane Americans "don't have the stomach for this fight" because this fight should have never taken place. And anyone with a soul, let alone a conscience, should be more than happy to see US troops in Iraq "packing it in."

Comment on this Article

Iran says "terrorists" should not be let into Iraq

By Edmund Blair
Sat Jul 8, 2006

TEHRAN - Iran, accused by the United States of stirring up an Iraqi insurgency, said on Saturday "terrorist" groups should be stopped from entering Iraq because they created an excuse for foreign troops to stay.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said in a speech to a meeting of ministers from Baghdad's neighbors that surrounding states were committed to ensuring stability in Iraq.
"It is necessary to stop the crossing of terrorist groups into Iraq who aim at creating insecurity, hatred and differences, and pave the way for the presence of foreign forces in Iraq," Ahmadinejad told the foreign ministers in Tehran.

He did not say from where or how the groups were entering.

Washington accuses Tehran of backing anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies saying the U.S. occupation is to blame for the instability.

"We are all committed to try to restore stability, security and progress in Iraq," Ahmadinejad told the gathering.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for a timetable to be drawn up for foreign forces to leave and said Iraq's neighbors should not be blamed for the country's problems.

"It is impossible to bestow freedom and democracy by resorting to violence and to cover up the failures in Iraq by accusing and conspiring against its neighbors," he said in a speech to the closed session, a copy of which was handed out.

Syria has also been accused by Washington of not doing enough to stop militants crossing into Iraq. Asked what more Damascus could do to secure its border, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said: "We are doing our best."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said Iraq wanted neighboring states to help improve security and to support the new government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and its national reconciliation plan.

"We asked them to use their influence over all the groups to participate, to embrace this national reconciliation initiative," Zebari told reporters without naming the groups.

Iraqi officials have said some Iraqi insurgents have asked Arab states to act as mediators following the offer of dialogue.

Most Arab states are ruled by Sunni Arabs, the majority sect within Islam, and some of these view with suspicion Iraq's Shi'ite majority. Non-Arab Iran is also mainly Shi'ite.

Ministers and officials from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Turkey were among those attending the meeting that ends on Sunday, as well as Egypt, which does not share a border with Iraq. Arab League chief Amr Moussa also attended.

Comment on this Article

Mother Nature

Drought Conditions Worsen in Parts of U.S.

Sat Jul 8, 2006

Expansion of drought conditions across the upper Midwest caused NOAA's Climate Prediction Center to issue an unscheduled update Friday to its U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook.

Drought conditions that have worsened recently, affecting parts of the northern Plains and the Upper Mississippi Valley, should continue and may expand across eastern Montana, Minnesota, the Dakotas and parts of Iowa, forecasters said in a statement. [Map]
Drought is expected to persist over much of the central and southern Plains and in parts of the Southwest.

Meanwhile, recent heavy rains due to the onset of the U.S. monsoon season should ease drought conditions and reduce wildfires in Colorado and parts of the Southwest, although long-term drought is likely to continue.

Higher-than-normal temperatures, which have exacerbated drought conditions in part of the West and contributed to a busy wildfire season, are expected to persist this summer, NOAA officials said last month.

Comment on this Article

Flash Floods Wreak Havoc in Southwest

July 09, 2006

ALBUEQUERQUE, N.M. - Flash flooding carried a teenager on a 5-mile ride down a drainage channel before he was rescued, as the waters blocked roads, inundated homes and forced evacuations in parts of the Southwest.

More thunderstorms and heavy rain were likely Sunday in New Mexico, the National Weather Service said. More rain also was possible to the north in Colorado, where storms had already flooded homes and washed out roads.
A 15-year-old boy fell into a flooded diversion channel in Albuquerque on Saturday evening, and the turbulent current carried him miles, said Albuquerque fire inspector Gabe Serna. The boy had dropped his keys and slipped into the arroyo when he tried to retrieve them.

It took three attempts before rescue crews could pull him from the swift current, Serna said. He was treated for hypothermia and abrasions at a hospital.

"I don't know how many times we tell people, 'Do not play in the arroyo.' We always manage to get one that falls in," Serna said.

Thunderstorms dropped an estimated 3 inches of rain in an hour Saturday over Truth or Consequences and the surrounding area, south of Albuquerque, the weather service said.

Flooding washed out roads in Rio Rancho, just north of Albuquerque, and 4 feet of water covered an Interstate 25 exit in Socorro.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens issued a disaster emergency order Saturday for Douglas County, southwest of Denver, where rain had washed out roads and flooded homes in areas stripped of vegetation by a 138,000- acre wildfire in 2002.

Residents of about a dozen Douglas County homes between Deckers and Westcreek were isolated by flooding Saturday. Several campgrounds were evacuated Friday, and occupants of 86 homes in the Westcreek area were urged to evacuate, local officials said.

Comment on this Article

Heavy rains, tornado hit SW U.S.

www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-10 16:55:01

BEIJING, July 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Heavy rains and a tornado hit southeast Colorado in the United States on Sunday, after the storm caused flash flooding that blocked roadways and sent a teenager on a ride through a drainage channel the day before.

Downpours in the northern part of Pueblo County closed an eight-mile section of Interstate 25 on Sunday. The waters also inundated homes and forced evacuations in parts of the Southwest U.S.
The National Weather Service issued flash-flood warnings. Meteorologists said there were reports of 3 to 4 inches of rain across northern Pueblo County, where a tornado touched down, and 4 to 6 inches of rain in southeast Cheyenne County.

In New Mexico, a 15-year-old boy fell into a flooded diversion channel in Albuquerque on Saturday night, and was carried by the raging current for five miles before he was rescued, said Albuquerque fire inspector Gabe Serna.

It took three attempts before rescue crews could pull him from the swift current, Serna said. The boy was later transported to a hospital and treated for hypothermia and abrasions.

"I don't know how many times we tell people, 'Do not play in the arroyo.' We always manage to get one that falls in," he said.

Thunderstorms dropped an estimated 3 inches of rain in an hour Saturday over Truth or Consequences and the surrounding area, south of Albuquerque, the weather service said.

Flooding washed out roads in Rio Rancho, just north of Albuquerque, and 4 feet of water covered an Interstate 25 exit in Socorro.

Colorado Governor Bill Owens issued a disaster emergency order Saturday for Douglas County, southwest of Denver, where rain had washed out roads and flooded homes in areas stripped of vegetation by a 138,000-acre wildfire in 2002.

Comment on this Article

Brokaw Joins Fight Against Global Warming

July 9, 2006

NEW YORK - Tom Brokaw is giving Al Gore some company in the effort to raise awareness of global warming. The former NBC anchorman is host of "Global Warming: What You Need to Know," which doubles as an explainer and call to action for average Americans. It premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.

Brokaw said he has seen and was impressed by "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore's documentary on the subject.

"It's the same science that we are drawing upon and it's irrefutable," he said. "I thought there was too much of Gore, but that's not my call. I thought it was very effectively done. To give credit to him, he's been on this issue for a long period of time."
Discovery, which has a partnership with NBC News, asked Brokaw last year if there were any projects he would like to work on. He said he was interested in the environment, and Discovery mentioned its global-warming project, which it was making in partnership with the BBC.

Brokaw's wife, Meredith, is vice president of the environmental organization Conservation International. They've traveled to some of the places featured in the Discovery documentary, like Patagonia and Mongolia, and have seen firsthand the effects of global warming.

He's tried to alter some habits to save fossil fuels: changing light fixtures in his homes, for example. He owns a hybrid car, and so do both of his daughters.

"It's not affecting our lifestyle at all, not one whit," he said.

On the Discovery documentary, producers travel great distances to make the case that man has contributed to a rapid warming of the planet's atmosphere that has already had noticeable effects and will potentially have much more.

A scientist in the Arctic explains how the increased melting of summertime sea ice is slowly starving the polar bear population. Rising sea water seeping through the ground threatens to eventually swallow entirely the South Pacific island of Tuvalu. Drought threatens the giant Amazon rain forest. Explorers bring cameras beneath ice sheets in Patagonia to show the melting.

More frightening are the scenarios that scientists can see for the future: increased sea levels swallowing cities like New York, more vicious hurricanes like Katrina, more land turning to desert. One expert even envisions half of the planet's species disappearing by the end of this century.

"By the year 2100, in the lifetime of our children and grandchildren, our world will be a drastically different place," Brokaw says in the documentary.

In helping put together the film, Brokaw said he was surprised at the speed with which everything is happening and the growing agreement among scientists about what was once a controversial notion.

Producers speak to no one, at least on film, who believes the current warmth is part of the Earth's natural cycle and who minimizes the importance of what is happening.

"You go around the world and it is the overwhelming number of people in the science of climatology who say this is happening," Brokaw said.

Discovery does intend to alter one part of the film that, in a preview tape, talks about the United States' refusal to participate in the Kyoto international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases, he said. During the discussion, a picture is flashed of a demonstrator holding a picture of President Bush emblazoned with "toxic Texan." Brokaw said that political blame should be distributed more broadly.

The same scientists who warn of dire consequences also say that there are things that can be done to greatly slow the rate of global warming.

In the film, Brokaw presents examples big and small - from New York City promoting more energy-efficient mass transportation and environmentally friendly building construction to families that can save a remarkable amount of energy by simply unplugging television sets when they aren't being used.

Brokaw, 66, spoke by telephone from Colorado, where he's working on a documentary about illegal immigration. Another NBC documentary, about the black underclass, is set to run later this month.

How's this retirement thing working out anyway?

"Good question," he said. "I flunked."

He said he's trying to find a better balance between work, relaxation and travel. Even when he's working on projects, he said it feels freeing not to have to be in the studio at 6:30 every night for NBC's "Nightly News."

With all the changes at the top ranks of network anchors - former NBC star Katie Couric about to take over at the "CBS Evening News," Charles Gibson in charge at ABC News - Brokaw is loyal to successor Brian Williams.

"I'm sure a year from now (Couric) will have a secure lock on second place," he said.

Comment on this Article

Expert predicts powerful quake in East Java

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Malang

A massive earthquake in East Java is likely in the next 14 years following the devastating quake that hit Yogyakarta and Central Java on May 27, the head of the East Java Disaster Mitigation Agency says.

Adi Susilo, a geophysics expert from the Malang-based Brawijaya University, predicted a powerful earthquake would hit East Java some time between 2010 and 2020. Adi made the forecast after studying records on earthquake cycles measuring over six points on the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale.

"Based on the records I have, a quake of that nature will recur any time in cycles of between 10 and 20 years. They usually have a devastating impact. Residents should prepare themselves," Adi told The Jakarta Post.

Most "large" earthquakes in East Java from the 1930s to 2000 measured from six to nine on the MMI scale, he said.

In East Java, quake-prone areas were located in the southern part of the province, such as Pacitan, South Malang, South Blitar, Jember, Banyuwangi and Situbondo, he said.

In these areas, numerous local and regional tectonic plate fractures have been detected by agency's research team.

Adi said one local fault line, which ran along the Brantas River, was interesting because it resembled another in Yogyakarta, the fault at the center of May's earthquake.

"It is almost identical to the earthquake that happened in Yogyakarta recently, because the local fracture in the area runs parallel with the Opak River flow," he explained.

Fault lines in South Malang could also cause landslides, Adi said.

Earthquakes could also be triggered by the string of active volcanoes along the central part of East Java. The three most active volcanoes are Mount Semeru, Bromo and Kelud, while those that erupt less frequently are Arjuno, Welirang and Penanggungan.

"But more attention must be paid to volcanoes that have long been inactive, such as Mount Kawi, since it could erupt with the same intensity as Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines," he said.

Comment on this Article

Money Matters

Critics see G-8 summit as cold-war relic

Sat Jul 8, 2006

WASHINGTON - The G-8 summit that President Bush and seven other world leaders are attending next weekend in Russia is often billed as a gathering of the world's leading economic powers.

It is not.

Consider: China, now the world's fourth-largest economy and the nation with the most influence over renegade North Korea, is not a member.
Neither is India, the world's largest democracy and one of its fastest-growing economies. Nor is South Korea, Brazil, Mexico or Spain, each with a larger economy than G-8 member Russia's. In fact, Spain recently inched past member Canada as the world's No. 8 economy, according to a World Bank tabulation.

Often officials from developing nations are invited as observers to the summit but have no formal roles. Among those invited to this year's gathering is Chinese President
Hu Jintao.

Critics view the annual economic summit as a Cold War relic that needs to be reconstituted. It was formed in the 1970s, but economic dynamics are far different three decades later. The astonishing growth of some Asian nations and parts of Latin America have altered the math.

Yet expanding or changing the membership is not on this year's agenda, nor is it likely to be on next year's. Few officials from member nations seem eager to talk about the subject.

White House aides insist the president is more focused on substantive issues.

Igor Shuvalov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's top summit adviser, acknowledges that Russia lags behind the other seven members in terms of current economic output. But stay tuned, he says.

"We believe the importance of Russia in our global world will change. We have very talented people and well-educated labor. We have oil and gas," said Shuvalov in a telephone interview with U.S. reporters. "We will develop very quickly as one of the major G-8 countries."

Even now, Russia is economically "stronger than some G-8 members," Shuvalov asserted without offering backup data. "I don't want to name those countries," he said.

What is now known as the G-8 was formed in 1975 as the Group of Major Industrialized Democracies. At the time, it consisted of the United States, Japan, Britain, France and Germany - undisputedly the world's five biggest economic powers at the time. Italy was added in 1976, Canada in 1977 and Russia in 1998.

The group holds annual summits. Economic themes are supposed to prevail, but often are overshadowed by events of the day and global politics.

Last year's summit in Scotland was jolted by multiple terrorist bomb blasts on London's transit system. This year's session probably will dwell on North Korea's recent barrage of missile tests and the nuclear aspirations it shares with Iran.

Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International and an expert on economic summitry, advocates expanding the G-8 to include other modern economic powers, especially China.

"When this group was formed in the 1970s, the members were the main influences on the globe. Now you've got a lot of other countries that have a lot more influence than they did 30 years ago and who are not in the process," said Hormats, who helped Presidents Carter, Ford and Reagan prepare for economic summits.

China's membership could help the G-8 this year deal with North Korea, Hormats said. He noted that last year, the summit partners called on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to produce more oil, yet neither Saudi Arabia nor any other OPEC member are participants.

This year's summit is in Putin's hometown, St. Petersburg. It is Russia's first time to hold the rotating G-8 presidency, a controversy itself given Putin's moves to restrict political and economic freedoms.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have said Russia should be excluded. A London-based think tank, the Foreign Policy Center, issued a report saying Putin's record makes a mockery of G-8's commitment to free markets and open societies.

But others want Russia to stay and for other nations to join, including nondemocracies that are big economies.

Johannes Linn and Colin Bradford, both former World Bank officials now with the Brookings Institution, have proposed expanding the group to 19 to 20 members.

They would add Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. They also would add the country of the rotating presidency of the European Union if it was not already a member.

"The problem in a sense for the G-8 is that it has set itself up as a quasi-steering group for the world, but it cannot effectively and cannot legitimately deal with many of the key issues," Linn said.

And it will only get worse. "Five years from now, I cannot possibly see how a G-8 would still be relevant," he said.

Gee whiz.

But will the G-8 transform itself anytime soon? "Probably not," he said.

Comment on this Article

Oil and gas pipeline deals hot

By Caroline Humer
Sat Jul 8, 2006

NEW YORK - A spate of oil and gas pipeline deals has boosted mergers and acquisitions for the industry by nearly 30 percent this year, but soaring prices are turning off many potential buyers.

Demand has driven up valuations for the limited supply of properties for sale, and many pipelines have become too expensive for the tax-free master limited partnerships that now dominate the field, bankers say.

Recent deals -- such as Plains All American Pipeline LLP's plan to buy Pacific Energy Partners LP, for about $2.6 billion in a deal combining two MLPs -- are an exception rather then a harbinger of more deals to come, they say.
Five years ago, most growth came through acquisitions, but now MLPS are more interested in building than buying, said Rob Pierce, a managing director at Lehman Brothers.

"Several MLPs have gotten larger and are better able to finance more organic development without sacrificing their ability to maintain and increase their distributions over time," Pierce said.

Master limited partnerships pay no corporate taxes and distribute nearly all of their profits to shareholders, including the corporations they were spun out from.

They have become more popular in recent years as energy companies have been moving their cash-rich pipelines into publicly traded MLPs.

For instance, Kinder Morgan Inc., whose managers are now trying to take the corporate entity private in a $13 billion deal, moved its pipeline assets to Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP years ago.

More recently, Duke Energy and ConocoPhillips moved many natural gas liquid and natural gas assets into a joint venture DCP Midstream Partners LP that went public in December. Duke is also considering moving its natural gas pipeline assets into a separate MLP, it said last week.

Pipelines are sought after by MLPs because they have low operating costs and throw off large amounts of cash. And while they have benefited from an increase in demand for energy products, they have little of the risk associated with commodity price swings.

Global oil and gas deals, which includes pipeline-related acquisitions, rose nearly 30 percent to $111 billion during the first half of the year.


But pipelines with for-sale signs on them are scarce because many are owned by companies that already have plans to sell whatever assets they have to their own MLPs, or by the major oil producers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. that believe the assets are strategic.

And those pipelines that have come onto the market are going through auction processes that push prices up.

"Whenever quality assets are out there for sale, you see almost all of the MLPs in this space looking at them," said Bill Finnegan, a partner at Vinsons & Elkins, a law firm in Houston.

Given the stiff competition, companies are building new pipelines, often with their rivals. For instance, last month Oneok Partners -- an MLP previously called Northern Border Partners -- said it would work with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners and Energy Transfer on a pipeline that connects Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi. And Kinder Morgan is one of three companies building a more than $4 billion pipeline across the Rockies.

"In MLPs, the companies that have control of their own destinies by building their own pipeline extensions ... are the ones that are being valued higher and given higher valuations," said Paul Murdock, a director in the global utility and chemical banking group at Deutsche Bank.

Many of the MLP deals that have occurred involved financial sponsors who are trying to build up their investments in this area, and are willing to pay price-to-cash flow ratios as high as 14 times earnings before interest tax and depreciation, compared with eight times a couple of years ago.

Stand-alone MLPs that do not have a link to a corporation that can move more assets into it or that are in a business that is not growing quickly enough, have been willing to pay the higher prices.

For instance, MLP Crosstex Energy LP bought privately held Chief Holdings LLC, which included natural gas gathering systems, for about $480 million in a deal that closed last week. That comes on the back of Crosstex's purchase of midstream assets last year from El Paso Corp. for about $500 million.

Among other top 10 pipeline deals this year, MLP Northern Border Partners bought Oneok's pipeline, storage and processing assets for $3 billion and has since changed its name to Oneok Partners.

Comment on this Article

Iraq's troubled pipeline shut for repairs

Sun Jul 9, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's sabotage-prone northern pipeline has been shut down for maintenance, halting crude oil exports from Kirkuk oil fields to Turkey's Ceyhan port, the oil minister said Sunday.

Hussein al-Shahristani said the flow is expected to resume in two to three days at an average of 400,000 barrels per day.

The pipeline was shut down Friday morning because there was not enough crude at Kirkuk reservoir, an oil official told Dow Jones Newswires on Saturday.

Regular insurgent bombings of the crucial northern export pipeline have idled it for all but a few brief periods since the war began.
Iraq resumed crude oil exports from the Turkish Mediterranean port last week after a suspension of almost a year. Since then, Baghdad has sold 8.6 million barrels of crude in its first three tenders, boosting overall exports for June to around 1.66 million barrels a day.

Iraq's May exports stood at around 1.5 million barrels per day.

Iraqi oil officials are upbeat about July exports, expecting them to reach 1.8 million barrels per day, the highest level since Baghdad resumed exports under U.S. occupation in 2003.

Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization, SOMO, issued a fourth tender for 6 million barrels of Kirkuk crude on Friday. Bids are expected by July 13.

Iraq, a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, sits atop the world's third-highest proven reserves. Its estimated 115 billion barrels are exceeded in OPEC only by Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Comment on this Article

Limo driver gets big tip: a kidney

Sun Jul 9, 2006

CHICAGO - As tips go, Chicago limousine driver Abdul Faraj got a priceless one this week when one of his regular customers offered up a kidney, media reports said.

Faraj and Minnesota businessman Dave Baker underwent transplant surgeries at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
"He gave me part of his body. He saved my life," Faraj, a diabetes sufferer whose kidneys were failing despite a three-times-a-week dialysis regime, told area television stations.

Baker has used Faraj, a native of Lebanon, as his driver on trips to Chicago for several years. Making small talk months ago, Baker learned of Faraj's poor health and struggle to find a kidney donor with a matching blood type.

"At that time, he tells me, 'What's your blood type?' I tell him O-positive," Faraj said. "He said, 'I'm 0-positive. I'll give you one.'"

Baker is out of the hospital and expected to fully recover within weeks.

"This was an opportunity to stop, slow down, take a look around and try to help someone," Baker told local television.

Comment on this Article

Around the World

Election in Mexico: Stealing it in front of your eyes

SF Bay View
Matt Pascarella in Mexico City
Greg Palast in London

Gore v. Bush. Kerry v. Bush. Obrador v. Calderon.

As in Florida in 2000, as in Ohio in 2004, the exit polls show the voters voted for the progressive candidate, but the race is "officially" too close to call.

But they will call it - after they steal it. Reuters News agency reports that, as of 8 p.m. Eastern time, as voting concluded in Mexico, exit polls show Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the "left-wing" Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) leading in exit polls over Felipe Calderon of the ruling conservative National Action Party (PAN).
We've told you again and again: Exit polls tell us how voters say they voted, but the voters can't tell pollsters if their vote will be counted. In Mexico, counting the vote is an art, not a science - and Calderon's ruling crew is very artful indeed. The PAN-controlled official electoral commission, not surprisingly, has announced that the presidential tally is too close to call.

Calderon's election is openly supported by the Bush administration.

On the ground in Mexico City, our news team reports accusations from inside the Obrador campaign that operatives of the PAN had access to voter files which are supposed to be the sole property of the nation's electoral commission.

We are not surprised.

This past Friday, we reported that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation had obtained Mexico's voter files under a secret "counterterrorism" contract with database company ChoicePoint of Alpharetta, Georgia. (See "Bush team helps ruling party 'Floridize' Mexican presidential election.")

The FBI's contractor states that, following the arrest of ChoicePoint agents by the Mexican government, the company returned or destroyed its files. The firm claims not to have known collecting this information violated Mexican law. Such files can be useful in challenging a voter's right to cast a ballot or in preventing that vote from counting.

It is, of course, impossible to know if the FBI destroyed its own copy of the files of Mexico's voter rolls obtained by Choicepoint or if these were then used to illegally assist the Calderon candidacy.

But we can see the results: As in the U.S., first in Florida then in Ohio, the exit polls are at odds with "official" polls.

In November 2004, U.S. Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, in Kiev, cited the divergence of exit polls and official polls as solid evidence of "blatant fraud" in the vote count in Ukraine. As a result, the Bush administration refused to recognize the Ukraine government's official vote tally ... which proves once again that Republicans are incapable of irony.

The foreign mainstream press has already announced, despite the polling discrepancies, that Mexico's elections were fair and clean - which would be a first for that country, where Obrador's party has seen its candidates defeated by "blatant fraud" before. The change this time is that the fraud is simply less blatant.

Watch for our video reports from Mexico City at www.GregPalast.com to be carried on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman this Wednesday, July 5. Rick Rowley, in Mexico City, contributed to this report.

Comment on this Article

Polish leader's twin tapped to become PM

Associated Press
Sat Jul 8, 2006

WARSAW, Poland - Poland's governing party accepted the resignation Saturday of Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and recommended party chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski - the president's identical twin - to replace him.

The Law and Justice "party leadership put forward a proposal, and I accepted it," Kaczynski said, annoucing the moves at news conference. He called it "a natural situation for the head of the governing party to be prime minister."
He acknowledged that the party had weighed the possible difficulties in having twin brothers as president and prime minister.

"For various reasons, we came to the conclusion that, at this time, putting forward a different candidate - of which we have many good ones - would be a worse way out than recommending me."

Marcinkiewicz would become the Law and Justice candidate for Warsaw mayor in fall elections.

While Kaczynski called the mayoral vote "extremely important," it was still not immediately clear why Law and Justice was removing a popular prime minister whose approval rating has reached nearly 70 percent in some polls.

"Politics is a team game, and demands teamwork," Marcinkiewicz said. "Only in this way can we implement our program, and only this way can we change Poland."

Marcinkiewicz said he would formally submit his resignation Monday to President Lech Kaczynski, who would then find himself in the unusual position of asking his brother to form a new government.

The new government would face a confidence vote in parliament, and if successful would then be sworn in by the president.

Comment on this Article

US destroyer arrives in Japan

Sat Jul 8, 2006

TOKYO - A U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer with the navy's most advanced combat weapon system arrived in Japan on Saturday as tensions surrounding North Korea's missile tests remained high.

The USS Mustin, equipped with missile tracking and engaging systems and with a crew of 300, will be permanently deployed at the navy's Yokosuka base in Tokyo Bay, U.S. Navy spokeswoman Hanako Tomizuka said.

The U.S. Navy now has eight vessels equipped with its Aegis weapon system at Yokosuka, home of its Seventh Fleet. They are scheduled to be joined next month by the Aegis cruiser Shiloh, which last month took part in an exercise off Hawaii that involved successfully intercepting a missile in flight.
Separately, Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force conducted a missile firing drill off the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Friday as part of a multinational exercise, Kyodo news agency said on Saturday. Three destroyers each successfully fired a missile at an unmanned target aircraft, it said.

A salvo of missile tests by North Korea on Wednesday, including the launch of a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, unsettled the region and led to calls for the
United Nations Security Council to impose international sanctions on Pyongyang.

North Korea has insisted it has the right to test the missiles, and has said it would consider sanctions against it a declaration of war. Much of its anger has been aimed at Japan for pushing for sanctions.

Japan also banned a North Korean ferry, the only regular direct link between the two countries, from entering its ports for six months as part of a package of initial sanctions.

A poll published on Saturday found that four-fifths of Japanese think their country should step up economic sanctions against North Korea in response to the missile launches.

A total of 80.7 percent favored stronger sanctions such as blocking money remittances to North Korea or curbing trade with Pyongyang, according to a survey of 1,011 people conducted on Friday and Saturday by Kyodo.

On North Korea's missile firings, 87 percent expressed anxiety, with 45.2 percent saying they "feel very anxious" and 41.8 percent saying they "feel somewhat anxious," it said.

Comment on this Article

North Korea's Kim says no concessions to US: report

Sun Jul 9, 2006

SEOUL - North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il said his country would not budge in negotiations with the United States, adding the reclusive state was ready to meet any attack with a strong blow of its own, Yonhap reported on Sunday.

"Kim declared that even a small concession wouldn't be made to the sworn-enemy U.S. imperialistic aggressors," the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) said in an editorial monitored in Seoul, the South Korean news agency said.
After Pyongyang defied world opinion and test-fired seven missiles last week, Japan formally introduced a U.N. resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, Britain and France, to impose sanctions against its missile program.

"Kim announced a heroic DPRK (North Korean) position, in which it promised to answer to an enemy's retaliation with retaliation and to an all-out war with an all-out war. That is not empty words," the broadcast said.

Kim did not refer to the missile tests and the North Korean broadcaster did not say when he made the comments, Yonhap said.

In previous official media reports, North Korea promised to use force against any country that tries to pressure it into a halt of its missile launches.

Comment on this Article

At least 16 dead in Haiti violence: UN

Fri Jul 7, 2006

PORT-AU-PRINCE - At least 16 people were killed and three injured in a night of fighting between armed groups in the south of Haiti's capital, a United Nations official said.

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) sent a battalion to the southern Port-au-Prince quarter of Martissant to help calm the situation, and the Haitian national police force also reported sending in its teams.
"While we are not excluding the possibility of other casualties, the military forces found the bodies of 16 victims, and three people wounded, on the spot," MINUSTAH said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear whether the casualties included civilians or members of the rival gangs.

The battle began Thursday evening and stretched into Friday, said Haitian police force spokesman Mario Andresol.

"The police force is aware of the developments and taking measures to control the situation," Andresol said. He had initially put the toll at 15 dead.

It was not clear if the fighting had stopped, and the US State Department issued a travel warning for Haiti, urging US citizens to "carefully consider the risks" while travelling to the Caribbean nation.

The US embassy continued meanwhile to prohibit its staff from entering downtown Port-au-Prince after dark.

Established in 2004 and under Brazilian command, MINUSTAH includes about 7,500 military troops and 2,000 international police.

In February the UN Security Council renewed the mission's mandate in the impoverished Caribbean island nation for at least another six months.

Impoverished Haiti has been plagued by violence and kidnappings in recent years, although MINUSTAH recently announced a drop in abductions.

However, on June 20 police chief Michael Lucius said at least 10 police officers had been gunned down, and two of them decapitated, in the previous two weeks.

Lucius said 47 people had been kidnapped in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region between late April and early June.

MINUSTAH was deployed in 2004 to stabilize the Caribbean nation following the ouster of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide fled a popular uprising.

In May a new government was sworn in promising to reduce the chronic violence.

Comment on this Article


Two Fresno college athletes arrested in rape of 11-year-old girl

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Fresno, Calif. (AP) -- The rape of an 11-year-old girl may have involved as many as 10 men, most of whom are football players at local community colleges, police said Sunday.

Police arrested two men in connection with the rape Saturday night, and officials said they identified eight others as persons of interest in the case. Most or all are students at either Fresno City College or Reedley College, police said.

The victim, a runaway from a group home, went to the Villa Hermosa apartments in southwest Fresno on Saturday night to visit an acquaintance who lived there, said police spokesman Jeff Cardinale. While she was inside one of the units, she allegedly was sexually assaulted multiple times by several men, he said.
The girl then fled the apartment and sought the help of a couple walking on the street. They called police around 9 p.m., Cardinale said.

The victim, who suffered no serious physical injuries, was taken to University Medical Center for an examination.

Mackey Davis, 20, and Eddie Scott, 19, were arrested on one count each of child molestation with a victim under 14 and oral copulation with a victim under 18. Both were being held Sunday at Fresno County Jail on $100,000 bail.

The rape allegedly took place in housing arranged by the Fresno City College football team. Davis and Scott were students at Reedley and may have been in the process of transferring to Fresno City, Cardinale said.

Calls and e-mails to the Fresno City athletic department were not immediately returned. Calls to Reedley went unanswered.

KFSN-TV reported that officials from both schools had planned to meet Sunday evening to discuss what course of action to take.

Comment on this Article

Colin Powell taken ill at Clinton dinner

Friday, July 7, 2006

ASPEN, Colorado -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was briefly hospitalized early Friday after he fell ill at a restaurant where he was dining with former President Clinton and others, police said.

Aspen police Sgt. Bill Linn said the four-star general told him it appeared to be a combination of altitude sickness and something he ate.
"He is conscious and in very good spirits," Linn said shortly before Powell was released from Aspen Valley Hospital at 1:45 a.m. Linn said Powell asked him to speak with reporters.

Powell's Alexandria, Virginia-based secretary, Peggy Cifrino, did not immediately return a phone call left at her office.

A nursing supervisor at the hospital, where former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was rushed to and pronounced dead early Wednesday, refused to comment.

Powell, 69, was in Colorado for the Aspen Ideas Festival, a conference in its second year that invites some of the world's leading thinkers.

The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief strategist of the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq served as President Bush's secretary of state from 2001 until January 2005, when he was replaced by Condoleezza Rice.

Comment on this Article

Ancient Thracian city uncovered

www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-10 08:20:30

SOFIA, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Thracian town in Karlovo Municipality in Central Bulgaria, local media reported on Sunday.

Initial estimates dated it to the 5th century B.C., and remnants of the town's fortress wall have been unearthed.
The archaeologist will be looking for the residence of the ruler, supposed to have been a powerful Thracian king, reports said.

Greek vessels, most probably used to keep wine, have also been found.

Reports said that the ancient Thracian town may prove to be one of the most important sites in the history of Bulgarian archaeology and to provide valuable information about the life of Thracians in the region.

Comment on this Article

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!
Send your article suggestions to: sott(at)signs-of-the-times.org