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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

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"Terrorising" Arabs

SOTT Editorial
29/06/2004

By now, the much touted idea that "they (Arab "terrorists") hate us because of our freedom and democracy" is imprinted on the minds of the majority of US citizens. Perhaps not since Truman and Eisenhower and "commie" paranoia has an administration done more to convince the American people that their very lives and livelihoods were threatened by an enemy they could neither see nor understand.

The term "Arab terrorist" is ostensibly used to describe a very small group of people from various ethnic backgrounds and countries who share a common religion - Islam. Yet human nature (and the American education system) being what it is, this is not the way that the average western citizen understands the phrase.

Traditionally, "Arab" refers to mainly semitic people who inhabit the Arabian peninsula, which includes Saudi Arabia and a few neighbouring countries now expanded to include other countries in the wider Middle East and Africa. So are we supposed to believe that all "terrorists" emanate from the ordinary peoples of these countries alone? What of the IRA in Ireland, or ETA in Spain? Clearly there is something amiss with the effort to associate "terrorist" exclusively with Arabs.

The phrase "Arab terrorist" clearly associates Arabs with terrorism, not just a small group of people with a personal grudge, but by implication all Arab peoples. We do not believe that the US government is unaware of this, and we might expect responsible, moral elected officials to make efforts to clarify that they do not mean to subtly imply that all Arabs are terrorists, and thereby ensure that no negative stereotyping resulted. Unfortunately, it appears that there are no responsible, moral elected officials, at least not in the US. We can only conclude then that the term "Arab terrorist" is used deliberately by the US (and western) governments so as to associate ALL Arab people with "terrorists" and "terrorism" in the minds of the American populace. In doing so, they characterise all Arabs as little more than animals to be wiped out, and ensure that when news of torture, killing and abuses of "Arabs" leaks out, as in the case of Iraq or Palestine, there is little if any real indignation or outcry from the western public.

But even if some of the more astute members of the "free west" were to dismiss the idea that all Arabs are terrorists, and understand that we are dealing with a small group of fanatics, they are faced with yet another problem.

The official government line is that this small group of "terrorists" is dedicated to killing westerners, and Americans in particular. We are further informed by our governments and their media, that the reason these Arab terrorists want to kill us is simply because of who we are, i.e. "free and democratic" citizens. No expense is spared in conveying the message that these people really "hate freedom" - they can't stand to see it anywhere, and anywhere they do see it, they seek to stamp it out. America, as the world's foremost and preeminent "free" society, is literally irresistible to these people, and they are no more capable of resisting the urge to stamp it out than a Texas governor is capable of resisting a bottle of Jack Daniels, or a line of cocaine.

In this scenario, the first question that should pop into the mind of any rational human being is: is it really reasonable to assume that such a small group of clearly disturbed people would go to such extremes as to carry out the various terrorist attacks attributed to them in the belief that they can successfully stamp out an entire concept such as "freedom"?

Reason would suggest that it is not, which then suggests that there might be another more plausible reason for the actions of this group of "Arab terrorists".

One explanation as to why "Arabs" or any other foreign grouping might accuse the US government of being "the great Satan" can be had by simply researching the actions of successive US governments in several Arab, Middle Eastern, or Asian countries.

The reality is that the White House has sought to convince Americans that they are hated because of who they are ("free" people), not because of what they do, or what their leaders do in their names (suppress others). Of course, most Americans are only too happy to believe the official fairytale about themselves and their country because the idea that Americans might be in some way responsible for provoking the ire of the the citizens of another nation would lead to the type of self reflection and humility that is anathema to the "American way".

While it may be useful for American citizens to educate themselves about the common foreign policies of their successive governments over the years, we do not suggest that this would furnish them with a full understanding of the real reason behind the "war on terror", but it would be a good starting point. Once such a history lesson had been completed, the next step would be to investigate the origins of organisation like al-Qaeda, and to realise that many of these groups were established and funded by the CIA and intelligence agencies of other countries - Israel for example.

Only now we realise that we have been too lax in our analysis of the real meaning of the verb "to terrorise" It appears that, as well as meaning " to use terrorism against" it can also mean " to make a terrorist of", and it is this definition, it seems, that the US government has been using all along.

As Michel Chossudovsky states:

"The US intelligence apparatus has created it own terrorist organizations. And at the same time, it creates its own terrorist warnings concerning the terrorist organizations which it has itself created. In turn, it has developed a cohesive multibillion dollar counterterrorism program "to go after" these terrorist organizations.

Counterterrorism and war propaganda are intertwined. The propaganda apparatus feeds disinformation into the news chain. The terror warnings must appear to be "genuine". The objective is to present the terror groups as "enemies of America."

The underlying objective is to galvanize public opinion in support of America's war agenda.

The "war on terrorism" requires a humanitarian mandate. The war on terrorism is presented as a "Just War", which is to be fought on moral grounds "to redress a wrong suffered."

The Just War theory defines "good" and "evil." It concretely portrays and personifies the terrorist leaders as "evil individuals".

Several prominent American intellectuals and antiwar activists, who stand firmly opposed to the Bush administration, are nonetheless supporters of the Just War theory: "We are against war in all its forms but we support the campaign against international terrorism."

To reach its foreign policy objectives, the images of terrorism must remain vivid in the minds of the citizens, who are constantly reminded of the terrorist threat.

The propaganda campaign presents the portraits of the leaders behind the terror network. In other words, at the level of what constitutes an "advertising" campaign, "it gives a face to terror." The "war on terrorism" rests on the creation of one or more evil bogeymen, the terror leaders, Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, et al, whose names and photos are presented ad nauseam in daily news reports. "

Regarding the negative stereotyping of Arabs and its effect on the America people, the following gives pause for thought.

Flashback: Forget reds under the bed, there's Arabs in the attic

by Hamid Dabashi
The Times Higher Education Supplement
October 17, 2003

Fear of terrorism is fuelling a campaign of hate in the US, writes Hamid Dabashi.

Late in June 2002, I came back to New York from a fortnight's trip to Japan to find my voicemail flooded with racist, obscene and threatening messages.

"Hey, Mr Dabashi," bellowed an angry voice, "I read about you in today's New York Post. You stinking, terrorist Muslim pig. I hope the CIA is studying you so we can kick you out of this country back to some filthy Arab country where you belong. You terrorist bastard."

I subsequently discovered that on June 25, a certain Daniel Pipes had written an article in a New York tabloid attacking me and a number of other academics, identifying us as anti-American, anti-Israeli and pro-terrorist.

Among the charges that Pipes had brought against me was that I had cancelled one of my classes to attend a rally on behalf of the Palestinians. The rally was in connection with the April 2002 incursion into Jenin by Israeli forces. An Amnesty International expert had told the BBC that there was evidence pointing to a massacre.

Since the 2001 al-Qaida attacks, such reports do not find their way onto the major US networks. It is only through the miracle of the internet that ordinary people in the US have a chance to transcend the rampant tribalism of the major networks, challenge the monolingualism of their culture and search for a different angle on world events. Those who manage to do so then seek a more community-based venue to share what they have learnt. It is in this context that I and a number of colleagues chose to speak at the rally.

As soon as I came back from the rally I received an email from Rabbi Charles Sheer, who directs the Hillel Jewish Center at Columbia University, demanding that I submit to him the text of my speech. I answered that my speech was from scattered notes, and that I had published my views on the matter extensively elsewhere.

I subsequently learnt that the rabbi had gone on a rampage, calling chairs and deans of my junior colleagues demanding an explanation as to why the faculty had attended such a rally.

I wrote an article about Sheer for the students' newspaper The Spectator and a flood of messages from students and alumnae promptly clogged the emails and voicemail of Columbia administration demanding that I apologise to him. I did not.

Instigated by the rabbi, some of my students went to the offices of the dean and the university ombudsman registering complaints against me. They were told I had done nothing wrong.

I spent the following May and the early part of June 2002 lecturing widely in the US on Afghanistan and the terror of the US empire. The rest of the summer was relatively calm, but the threatening voicemails flared up whenever something happened in Palestine. When on July 31 a bomb in the student cafeteria at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem killed seven people, the following message, dated August 1 2002, was a typical example of voicemails I received: "I hope you are proud of your Palestinian heroes now, you ****ing animal. Killing college students, OK. How do you like it, if someone ripped your ****ing class, you pig!" [...]

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Senior intel officer: Al Qaeda will attack US to ensure Bush win

His new book, others, also highlight intelligence, administration failures in war on terror.

Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
June 21 2004

In the past few months several books have been published that attack the US intelligence community, and the White House, for their alleged mistakes and misstatements about Iraq and the war on terror. Most of these books, the Guardian reports, have been written by "embittered" former officials.

But now, the newspaper reports, a senior US intelligence official is "about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the West is losing the war against Al Qaeda and that an 'avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked' war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands." This senior intelligence official, who writes as "Anonymous," also says that "Osama bin Laden may attack the US before the November election to ensure the re-election of President George Bush."

Anonymous, who published an analysis of Al Qaeda last year, called Through Our Enemies' Eyes, thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place. "I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now," he said. "One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."

"Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror" will be released in July. The Guardian notes that the fact that this author has been allowed to publish this work, and yet still remain a senior member of the US intelligence community, may "reflect the increasing frustration of senior intelligence officials at the course the administration has taken."

"Anonymous" is not the only writer to put the intelligence community and the administration under a microsope. The New York Times reports that James Bamford, the author of two respected books on American intelligence (The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets, both about the National Security Agency), has written a new book called "Pretext for War." (The San Jose Mercury News calls him "one of the most talented but unsung investigative reporters of the past 25 years.")

His book is a "damning portrait" of the intelligence community (which he alleges was not ready to deal with the end of the cold war), as well as a "scathing picture" of neoconservatives in the Bush administration, according to the Times. Mr. Bamford also has harsh words for both President Bill Clinton and President Bush. He alleges that neither man did a very good job at dealing with terrorism before 9/11.

In addition Bamford suggests that the CIA caved to pressure from administration hard-liners. He quotes a CIA case officer who says that in January of 2003, one of the agency's higher-ups called a meeting and said, "You know what – if Bush wants to go to war, it's your job to give him a reason to do so."

Last week, in an oped article for the New York Times, Bamford wrote about the practice of "rent-a-spy," which costs the American taxpayers millions of dollars.

Desperate to fill their contracts, the [private] companies frequently offer to double a federal employee's salary. Because the recruiters have security clearances, they often make their recruiting pitches at the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. And many of those who do sign on end up going right back to their old office – only now working for a private company. Thus, after spending millions of dollars training people to be clandestine officers, taxpayers are having to pay them twice as much to return as rent-a-spies.

But Bamford's most controversial charges in his new book, according to a review in The Houston Chronicle, involve certain individuals in the US administration, and an idea they once pitched to the government of Israel.

According to Bamford, the basic blueprint for the administration's Middle East policy had been drawn up in the mid-1990s by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, three neoconservatives who would be named to influential positions in the Bush administration. Described as a kind of "American privy council" to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the three proposed what they called a "Clean Break" plan, which involved getting the United States to pull out of the peace negotiations in order to let "Israel take care of the Palestinians as it saw fit." Under the "Clean Break" plan, Israel would launch preemptive attacks against its major Arab enemies and replace Saddam Hussein with a puppet leader friendly to Israel. Bamford records that Netanyahu wisely rejected the plan but that the Perle group found a more receptive audience for their recommendations inside the Bush administration. The fact that several of the key players most aggressively pushing the Iraqi war had originally outlined it for the benefit of another country raises "the most troubling conflict of interest questions," he writes.

Bamford, however, has also come in for criticism about his decision to divulge the "secret location" used by Vice President Dick Cheney in his new book.

The Los Angeles Times reported last Thursday on more alleged intelligence failures. The paper cites current and former US intelligence officials as saying that two British-recruited Iraqi spies who had tales-to-tell about Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction (their reports were rushed to the White House just before the war) were "never interviewed by the CIA and are now viewed as unreliable."

The Times also says that US intelligence erred in its analysis of high-altitude satellite photos before the war, often mistaking chicken coops for Scud missle silos. The UN team then in Iraq grew so tired of running down these false reports, according to one former UN inspector, that they started to wear T-shirts that read "Ballistic Chicken Farm Inspection Team."

The 9/11 commission is preparing to release a report that many experts say will be a severe indictment of the US intelligence community and the way it operated under the Clinton and Bush administrations before 9/11. The New York Times reports that John F. Lehman, a Republican commission member, said the intelligence community was "dysfunctional" and that the commission would make recommendations for improvements. "They could not distinguish between a bicycle crash and a train wreck," he said.

Comment: Why would Osama want to carry out an attack to ensure that Bush gets re-elected? Unless of course he is still an asset of the CIA...or the Mossad.

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The Logic of Torture

By Tom Malinowski
The Washington Post

"I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?"

So reads a note scrawled by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on a memo released by the Pentagon this week, in which he approved for Guantanamo interrogations techniques such as forcing them to stand, stripping detainees nude and threatening them with dogs.

With his characteristic cut-through-the-bull bluntness, Rumsfeld raised a valid question. If interrogators can use methods designed to inflict pain on prisoners, why should they be made to stop before the pain becomes difficult to bear? After all, forcing a prisoner to stand, so long as it's only for a short time, is a bit like allowing the use of hot irons, so long as they're only slightly above room temperature. The contradiction Rumsfeld noticed may help us understand how decisions made by senior officials and military commanders led to the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

The policymakers apparently tried to have it both ways, approving highly coercive interrogation techniques, but with limits designed to assuage their consciences and satisfy their lawyers. They authorized or proposed painful "stress positions," but said that no one position could be used for more than 45 minutes. They allowed forced standing, but only for four hours; sleep deprivation, but only for 72 hours; exposure to heat and cold, but with medical monitoring; hooding, but not in a way that limits breathing; and nudity, but not the stacking of nude bodies.

Once these methods were applied in the field on prisoners considered to be hardened terrorists, however, interrogators did not respect the lawyers' boundaries. Indeed, they could not have respected them while still achieving their aim of forcing information from detainees. For by definition, these methods, euphemistically known as "stress and duress," can work only when applied beyond the limits of a prisoner's tolerance. Torture works only (if ever) when it truly feels like torture.

Perhaps one reason these stress and duress techniques were approved at all is that they sound innocuous. But as anyone who has worked with torture victims knows, they are the stock in trade of brutal regimes around the world. For example, the Washington Times recently reported that "[s]ome of the most feared forms of torture cited" by survivors of the North Korean gulag "were surprisingly mundane: Guards would force inmates to stand perfectly still for hours at a time, or make them perform exhausting repetitive exercises such as standing up and sitting down until they collapsed from fatigue." [...]

Rumsfeld eventually rescinded his approval of these cruel methods for Guantanamo. But they still ended up being authorized by commanders and used on prisoners throughout Afghanistan and Iraq. Former detainees report being forced to stand, sit or crouch for many hours, often in contorted positions, deprived of sleep for nights on end, held nude, doused with cold water and exposed to extreme heat.

It's not likely anyone was holding a stopwatch during this treatment or making sure that only "mild" pain and suffering resulted. Why would they have? For the limits that might have made the treatment more humane would also have rendered it ineffective in the eyes of interrogators.

Stress and duress interrogation techniques were invented in the dungeons of the world's most brutal regimes for only one purpose -- to cause pain, distress and humiliation, without physical scars. When Bush administration officials and military commanders told soldiers to use methods designed for that purpose, while still treating detainees "humanely," they were being naive at best and dishonest at worst. They should have known that once the purpose of inflicting pain is legitimized, those charged with the care and interrogation of prisoners will take it to its logical conclusion.

Comment: It seems the author would like us to believe that the Bush administration is innocent regarding the torture of "terrorist" prisoners. He writes that those charged with actually carrying out the torture process will naturally take it to its logical conclusion - i.e. they will not limit the pain they cause the unfortunate prisoner. But wait, how did the article start again?

"I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?"

So reads a note scrawled by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on a memo released by the Pentagon this week, in which he approved for Guantanamo interrogations techniques such as forcing them to stand, stripping detainees nude and threatening them with dogs.

Rumsfeld pushed for torture. Rumsfeld wanted torture. He saw nothing wrong with inflicting excruciating pain and humiliation on a prisoner. After all, they're subhuman - right, Rummy? As commander-in-chief, it is hard to believe that Bush had no idea that torture was occurring on his watch. If he didn't know, he is incompetent. If he did know, he is guilty of war crimes. Come to think of it, Bush is guilty of war crimes anyway. He's the commander-in-chief, and he decided to wage an imperial crusade against the evildoers without the approval of Congress. He did, however, have the approval of the people. Therefore, if America decides to impeach anyone in the Bush administration, most Americans should also arrest themselves for complicity in crimes against humanity.

Let's read the beginning of the last paragraph again:

Stress and duress interrogation techniques were invented in the dungeons of the world's most brutal regimes for only one purpose -- to cause pain, distress and humiliation, without physical scars.

Doesn't it bother anyone in the US that their country is now not just associated with brutal regimes, but America actually IS one of the world's most brutal regimes??

Does it not also bother anyone in the US that a psychopath like Rumsfeld is representing and making decisions for them? This is a man who is clearly incapable of differentiating between his own job, which involves him to be on his feet for 8-10 hours a day, and stripping a blindfolded detainee naked and forcing him to stand for many hours while being threatened intermittently with dogs.

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U.S. Readies for Draft

Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com
Friday, June 25, 2004

Despite denials that the U.S. plans to re-institute the draft, the Pentagon has stepped up preparations for a new Selective Service System that could allow for a full-blown draft by next year.

Every few months Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gets peppered with the nettlesome question about whether the administration, straining to keep boots on the ground around the globe, is considering reviving the compulsory military service draft – moribund since 1973. The answer is always an unqualified "No." [...]

But savvy draft-watchers, including author, radio personality and attorney Col. Ron Ray, USMCR (Ret.), dispute the "is not getting ready" phrase, suggesting that there is, indeed, evidence indicating a new, heightened urgency within the agency, which these days is independent and no longer falls under the aegis of the Department of Defense. Ray himself had served as a Pentagon official during the Reagan administration.

For sure, "The Selective Service System's Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2004," is a document that leaves the careful reader with anything but the impression of a sleepy agency drilling for a fire it knows will never flare.

  • By early next year, the government will be test firing a mobilization infrastructure of 56 state headquarters, 442 area offices, and 1,980 local boards.
  • Funding is in the coffers to kick off a rigorous "Area Office Prototype Exercise," which will "test the activation process from SSS Lottery input to the issuance of First Armed Forces Examination Orders."
  • Ramping up is the "Selective Service System's High School Registrar Program," a plan to put volunteer registrars in at least 85 percent of the nation's high schools – an increase from 65 percent in 1998.
  • At the head of the busy-work list – a no-nonsense commitment to report to the president by March 31st, 2005 that the system is ready to roll full steam within 75 days, which would clear the decks for a first lottery by June 15th, 2005.

Meanwhile, helping the agency to reach its goals and objectives is a little known provision of the No Child Left Behind Act that requires schools to provide contact information for every student – upon pain of losing federal aid dollars. [...]

Comment: Perhaps some of the first draftees will join or replace the 5600 Individual Ready Reserve troops being called up for duty in Iraq. See yesterday's Signs page for more on the U.S. draft that appears to scheduled for early next year...

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Army Plans Involuntary Call-Up of Thousands

By Will Dunham
Jun 28, 11:15 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army is planning an involuntary mobilization of thousands of reserve troops to maintain adequate force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials said on Monday.

The move -- involving the seldom-tapped Individual Ready Reserve -- represents the latest evidence of the strain being placed on the U.S. military, particularly the Army, by operations in those two countries.

Roughly 5,600 soldiers from the ready reserve will be notified of possible deployment this year, including some soldiers who will be notified within a month, said an Army official speaking on condition of anonymity.

A senior defense official said, "These individuals are being called back to fill specific shortages for specific jobs."

The official said the last time the Individual Ready Reserve, mainly made up of soldiers who have completed their active duty obligations, was mobilized in any significant numbers was during the 1991 Gulf War. [...]

The official said military police and civil affairs personnel were among the specialties involved. [...]

The Pentagon had originally planned to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq to approximately 110,000 by now, but continuing security problems compelled officials to maintain a level of about 138,000 troops. Officials have said they planned to maintain that number through the end of 2005. [...]

Comment: This call-up means that even though Iraq is being run by an "Iraqi government", the situation in the country is not expected to improve for almost another year and a half.

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Israel strikes into Gaza

By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Tuesday June 29, 09:32 AM

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza (Reuters) - Israeli tanks firing machineguns have thrust into Gaza, killing one Palestinian militant in a retaliatory raid for the first deadly cross-border rocket strike from the strip that Israel plans to abandon.

Troops besieged Beit Hanoun, barely two km (one mile) from the Israeli town of Sderot, where makeshift missiles fired by Hamas Islamic militants killed a three-year-old-boy outside a kindergarten and a 49-year-old man on Monday.

Comment: No doubt we are supposed to believe that these "Islamic militants" are barbarians - and yet how many young children, women, and men have been slaughtered by Israeli troops in the ongoing conflict? The fact remains that almost three times as many Palestinians than Israelis have been killed.

Similar rockets wounded two people inside Israel on Tuesday, intensifying a surge of violence that has complicated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull Jewish settlers out of the occupied Gaza Strip next year.

The casualties have fuelled anxiety in the Jewish state that leaving Gaza would not stop it being used as a base for attacks -- one of the main arguments of the pullout plan's opponents.

Comment: This anxiety is probably by design. Guess Israel will just have to wipe out the Palestinians...

Israeli troops and tanks opened fire as they cut off roads into the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, a regular launching ground for rockets. They shot dead a top Hamas commander.

Comment: It seems that Israel is rather frequently killing "top Hamas commanders". One has to wonder if there really are that many commanders, or if "top Hamas commander" really means some poor little old lady who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Gunfire crackled nearby as thousands of mourners chanted "we will sacrifice our souls for you" at Rasem Odwan's funeral.

Israeli political sources said it could be a prolonged raid into Beit Hanoun, where the rubble of demolished homes and ground scraped clear by bulldozers mark previous attempts by Israel to stop rocket launches.

Residents prepared for a long siege.

"We have a full sack of flour at home. What else could we do. May God protect us all," said Wajeeh Basiouni, 57.

SURGE OF BLOODSHED

Both sides are determined to bloody each other ahead of a Gaza pullout. Militants want to claim victory, while the army aims to puncture Palestinian boasts and prevent Gaza being used to stage attacks into Israel.

Sharon has emphasised that he will not be stopped in his plan, popular with most Israelis and backed by Washington, to remove 7,500 Jewish settlers who live among more than 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza.

But violence could complicate the process, opposed by some right-wingers who argue that it would embolden militants and give them a base to strike into Israel.

Sharon had ordered a heavy response after the rocket strike on Sderot and the blowing up of an army post on Sunday, killing one soldier, political sources said.

"Sharon was willing to overlook Sunday's attack... But a fatal rocket attack on an Israeli city is a different matter, especially during the sensitive period prior to implementation of his disengagement plan," said Aluf Benn of the Haaretz daily.

Comment: So Sharon is made to look like the good guy: he has such a big heart that he was ready and willing to overlook the bombing of an army outpost, but he'll be damned if he'll tolerate a rocket attack on poor Israeli civilians... What about the likely possibility that the attack on the army base was committed by the Zionists to further Sharon's plan? It certainly wouldn't be the first time this sort of thing has happened - remember the Reichstag fire and 9/11?

Helicopters attacked Gaza overnight, hitting a pro-Hamas journal described as a "terrorist communication centre" by the army. Another airstrike destroyed a metal foundry, which the army said was used to make weapons.

But Hamas, sworn to destroy Israel and behind dozens of suicide bombings during nearly four years of conflict, said it fired three more Qassam rockets into Israel on Thursday.

Two Israelis were wounded, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

In the West Bank, an Israeli man was found shot dead and the army suspected he had been killed by a Palestinian, military sources said. Israeli media said he was a businessman who had ignored army warnings not to travel to the area.

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Rockets Fall in Israeli Communities

Tue Jun 29, 2:54 AM ET

JERUSALEM - Rockets fell in three Israeli communities located near the Gaza Strip early Tuesday and injuries were reported, rescue officials said.

One rocket fell in the community of Shaar Hanegev, moderately injuring one person, said Yeruham Mandola, a spokesman for Israeli rescue services.

Another rocket fell in the vegetable market of the town of Sderot, where a rocket attack Monday killed two Israelis, Mandola said. A third rocket fell in a field in a nearby communal farm but no damage or injuries were reported, Army Radio reported.

Israeli forces were operating in the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday in an effort to prevent the rocket attacks.

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U.S. denies reports al-Zarqawi captured

Mon, 28 Jun 2004 7:37:19

BAGHDAD - There are conflicting reports that one of Washington's most wanted men has been captured in Iraq.

Al-Arabiya television reported Monday that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is in custody, but the head of the U.S. military in Iraq denied the reports.

Al-Zarqawi, who is considered an ally of Osama bin Laden, is thought to be in Iraq and operating his own militant network.

He is believed to be behind more than a dozen high-profile attacks in Iraq, including beheading American civilian Nick Berg last month.

The United States is offering a $10-million reward for information leading to his capture or death.

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Bomb Detonates Near U.S. Convoy in Iraq

AP
June 29, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A roadside bomb detonated near a U.S. military convoy in a residential neighborhood in southeast Baghdad on Tuesday and killed three U.S. service members, an Iraqi national guardsman said.

Sgt. Ali Muhsin said at least one American was also wounded in the roadside bomb explosion that occurred at about 10 a.m. It was the first major attack against American forces in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition transferred sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government on Monday.

Army Maj. Phil Smith of the 1st Cavalry Division confirmed the explosion but provided no further details. He said he believed the victims may have included U.S. Marines. He had no further information.

A U.S. soldier at the scene said several U.S. troops were wounded or killed in the attack when a roadside bomb hit the lead vehicle.

Footage from Associated Press Television News showed blood inside a slightly damaged Humvee and a flak vest laying in the road.

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Iraqis to take custody of Saddam

Iraq's prime minister says former President Saddam Hussein will be handed to Iraqi legal custody on Wednesday and charged the following day.

The announcement comes a day after the US-led coalition handed power to Iyad Allawi's interim government.

The ex-leader will remain in a US-run jail until Iraqi detention services are ready to take physical custody.

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Iraq handover catches Japan off-guard

By NAO SHIMOYACHI
Staff writer

Monday's sudden transfer of sovereignty in Iraq to an interim government came as a surprise to the Japanese government.

Japan hastily made necessary legal changes to fill an unintended legal vacuum for the Ground Self-Defense Force troops deployed in Samawah, southern Iraq.

In the evening, the government also gave diplomatic recognition to the new Iraqi government.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said an ambassador would be dispatched to Iraq as soon as possible.

The government had anticipated that the transfer would occur Wednesday as scheduled, and made all preparations accordingly. All documents regarding the deployment of the GSDF troops after the handover of power bore the date of June 30.

If no measures were taken, the 550-strong GSDF troops would have been stationed on foreign soil without a domestic legal basis during the two intervening days, even though they effectively became a member of the U.S-led multinational force with the transfer of power Monday.

To avoid a legal vacuum, the government convened an urgent Cabinet meeting in the evening, via telephone, and agreed to rewrite the basic plan for deployment of SDF troops to Iraq and a related government decree, moving up by two days the date when the troops were to assume their new status as part of the multinational force.

Government sources said the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad was notified by the new interim government and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. caretaker administration, on Monday afternoon, a few hours before the United States transferred sovereignty to the Iraqis.

The government was unable to hide its confusion.

During an evening news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda had said there would be no legal problem with the deployment of the GSDF troops to Iraq and there were no plans to change the status of the SDF on Monday.

"With the two-day early transfer, a slightly ambiguous situation has emerged," he said. "But we do not consider that would bring about any special legal problems. "Our current plan is that we will change (the status of the SDF) on June 30 as scheduled."

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Schröder to Reiterate No Troop Pledge at NATO Iraq Summit

NATO leaders are in Istanbul for a summit aimed at repairing relations torn by the Iraq war. They will also discuss training of security forces in Iraq. But Germany has made it clear its non-engagement pledge remains.

On Sunday, the 26 NATO heads of state and government attended a formal dinner in an Ottoman-era palace on the banks of the Bosporus to thrash out an agreement on a NATO role in training military and police forces for the future sovereign Iraqi government.

Differences however remained over when, and especially where, the training is to take place. The dispute has given German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder another opportunity to stress that no German soldier will set a foot on Iraqi soil. [...]

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Iraq Gov't Must Abide by U.S.-Made Laws

By JIM KRANE
Sunday June 27, 2004 8:31 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The U.S. led-coalition, facing a Wednesday deadline to hand back power, has put in place major legal revisions that would force Iraqis to get drivers' licenses, obey traffic laws, ban certain people from holding office and place American contractors above the law.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish politician and member of the disbanded U.S.-picked Governing Council, said he thinks the Americans began pushing the flurry of laws once it became clear the occupation would be cut short. Washington's earlier plans, he said, called for a longer occupation that would have allowed Iraq's constitution to be written under U.S. watch.

Proponents say the sheaf of edicts signed by occupation chief L. Paul Bremer are the best way to ensure one of the top U.S. goals in invading Iraq: to leave behind a functioning democracy with a base of liberal institutions such as an independent judiciary, civil society and free market economy.

But critics say the Coalition Provisional Authority's flurry of laws amounts to meddling in Iraq's basic institutions, something that international law places out of bounds for an occupying power.

Especially irksome for Iraqi leaders is the fact that the occupier's edicts remain in force after the occupation ends - including laws that curtail the powers of the incoming government.

"We would prefer that Iraqis decide on their own laws," Othman said. "This isn't the way to run a country that isn't your country."

As Iraq's highest authority, Bremer has issued more than 100 orders and regulations, many of them Western-style laws governing everything from bankruptcy and traffic, to restrictions on child labor and copying movies.

Some are likely to be ignored. One law requires at least a month in jail for people caught driving without a license - something many Iraqis do not have. Another demands that drivers stay in a single lane, a rule widely ignored in Iraq's chaotic streets.

Others are more controversial. On Saturday, Bremer signed an edict that gives U.S. and other Western civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq. The idea outrages many Iraqis, including Othman, who said the law allows foreigners to act with impunity even after the occupation.

"If they know they have full immunity, they will do anything they want because they know no one can do anything about it," Othman said. The law states that contractors can still be prosecuted under the laws of their home country.

A Bremer elections law restricts certain candidates from running for office, banning parties with links to militias, for instance.

The CPA's laws remain in effect after the occupation ends unless rescinded or revised by the interim government, a task that another Bremer-signed law allows, but only after a difficult process.

"What we are doing is really unprecedented," Scott Castle, an Army Reserve brigadier general who heads the CPA's legal team, said in an article published this month on the legal Web site of Law.com. "We perform our duties not as a traditional occupier but as an occupier that is also a nation-builder."

The CPA and its legal advisers did not respond to requests for interviews.

Bremer's orders are needed because the interim government has virtually no authority to pass legislation of its own, other than a national budget, said Yahia Said, an Iraqi expert in democratic transition at the London School of Economics. He said the new laws will act as guidelines to get the country through an uncertain seven months before January's elections.

The elected Iraqi government that takes office next year will be freer to rewrite - or throw out - the Bremer laws. But U.S. officials say they believe their legal handiwork will live on, if only because Iraqi legislators find it easier to keep them.

"More often than not, what has been set up as a temporary solution evolves into the natural state, once they get full sovereignty," a senior U.S. official said at a recent legal briefing. [...]

Comment: Bremer's orders are needed only because the US gave him sole authority to pass legislation. Obviously, if the interim Iraqi government was actually composed of elected Iraqi officials, they would no doubt pass laws of their own. Instead of favoring the American occupiers, perhaps the law would actually help the Iraqi people.

Once again, we see that the media would like us all to believe that Iraqis are incapable of governing themselves. They're just backward heathens who don't know any better - heck, they haven't even found Jesus yet!

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France Blocks U.S. on Elite Force for Afghanistan

By John Chalmers
Jun 29, 8:27 AM (ET)

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - France has blocked a U.S. bid to deploy NATO's new strike force to safeguard Afghanistan's elections, stoking tension between the two allies that fell out over the Iraq war, diplomats said Tuesday.

"France, and to a lesser extent others such as Spain, are suspicious about using the NATO Response Force (NRF)," said one envoy at the alliance summit in Istanbul.

"It says the force is not ready for this kind of environment and should not be used simply as a sticking plaster for troop shortages on routine operations."

France's opposition to a proposal that could help resolve NATO's problems finding troops to make the September polls safe exasperated Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who pushed the idea hard at a meeting of allied defense ministers. [...]

Chirac told a news conference that the NRF -- set up last year with a heavy French contingent but not due to become fully operational until October 2006 -- should only be used when there is a serious security crisis, not for Afghan-style missions.

"The NRF is not designed for this. It shouldn't be used just for any old matter," he said. He has added that an overt NATO presence in Afghanistan could in itself exacerbate security problems during the elections. [...]

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Bush Defies Chirac, Says Turkey Merits EU Place

Jun 29, 6:50 AM (ET)

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - President Bush said on Tuesday that Turkey belongs in the European Union and that Europe is "not the exclusive club of a single religion" in what amounted to a rejection of French President Jacques Chirac.

In remarks prepared for delivery at a Istanbul university, Bush refused to back down in the face of Chirac's criticism on Monday that Bush had no business urging the EU to set a date for Turkey to start entry talks into the union.

"America believes that as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union," Bush said.

Bush is to use the speech to try to mend relations between Muslims and Americans left tattered relations by the Iraq war.

"We must strengthen the ties and trust and good will between ourselves and the peoples of the Middle East," he said. [...]

Chirac said on Monday that Bush should not comment on Turkey's EU entry hopes as EU affairs were none of his business.

"If President Bush really said that the way I read it, well, not only did he go too far but he went into a domain which is not his own," Chirac told reporters at the summit.

"It is like me trying to tell the United States how it should manage its relations with Mexico," he added. [...]

Comment: Although the American media would like to portray Chirac as being difficult just for the sake of it, the French president certainly made a good point. Furthermore, given that Bush's track record of "strengthening ties and trust and good will" with the peoples of the Middle East basically amounts to bombing and invading their countries, he is certainly in no position to advise or criticize the leader of any other nation on such matters.

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Iowa to test trucks for radioactive cargo

06-28-2004 3:26 PM

(Des Moines-AP) -- Iowa officials say that drive-through radiation detection equipment will be installed at five interstate highway weigh stations to look for radioactive cargo in heavy trucks.

The Des Moines Register reports today it's part of a state effort to stop terrorists from smuggling bomb-making materials or stolen nuclear weapons.

Law enforcement officers who work at the weigh stations will be given hand-held devices that can check for explosives. The state is purchasing the equipment with federal homeland security money.

The checkpoints will be at I-80 weigh stations in Dallas, Jasper and Cedar counties, and along I-35 in Worth and Clarke counties.

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High Court Slams Bush on Terror Suspects

By ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jun 28, 7:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the war on terrorism does not give the government a "blank check" to hold a U.S. citizen and foreign-born terror suspects in legal limbo, a forceful denunciation of Bush administration tactics since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ruling in two cases, the high court refused to endorse a central claim of the White House: that the government has authority to seize and detain terrorism suspects and indefinitely deny access to courts or lawyers while interrogating them.

A state of war "is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in the most significant case of the day, a ruling that gives American-born detainee Yaser Esam Hamdi the right to fight his detention in a federal court.

Separately, the court said that nearly 600 men from 42 countries held at a Navy prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can use American courts to contest their treatment. The Bush administration had argued that U.S. courts had no business second-guessing detentions of foreigners held on foreign soil.

The administration's detention policies have rankled allies overseas and outraged civil liberties and human rights groups at home.

Deborah Pearlstein, director of the U.S. Law and Security Program at Human Rights First, called Monday's rulings a broad repudiation of the administration's approach.

"The court said any citizen has a right to due process and that the administration's position that it has inherent executive authority ... to detain people is just wrong under the law."

Several defense lawyers said the ruling will trigger a series of legal challenges on behalf of individual detainees.

"We will be filing hundreds of cases before the courts," said Qatari lawyer Najeeb al-Nauimi, who belongs to a committee of defense lawyers claiming to represent more than 300 detainees. "The Supreme Court reinstated our trust in the American judicial system." [...]

Comment: Perhaps the early transfer of "power" in Iraq and this ruling pertaining to enemy combatants are designed to show the people that Bush is still an okay guy - that liberty is alive and well, and the American system of justice works. And yet, the Patriot Act is still in force, Patriot Act II is waiting in the wings, and General Tommy Franks indicated that another terrorists attack on US soil - say, an "October Surprise" - would probably result in martial law. That would pretty much take care of the Supreme Court and any remaining civil liberties, now wouldn't it?

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Justices Outlaw Interrogation Tactic

By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jun 28,11:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Police cannot extract information from suspects and only then inform them of their right to remain silent, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in outlawing an interrogation tactic often used by investigators.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court determined the two-step interrogation process "effectively threatens to thwart" protections against coerced confessions afforded by the familiar Miranda warning, which begins, "You have the right to remain silent." [...]

The Supreme Court ruling on two-step interrogation methods arose in the case of murder suspect Patrice Seibert.

Seibert was convicted of plotting to set a 1997 fire that killed a teenager who had been staying at the family home in Rolla, Mo., a rural town in the Ozark Mountains. Police said she arranged to have her home burned to cover up the death of her 12-year-old son, who had cerebral palsy. Seibert had been worried she would be charged with neglect in her son's death.

According to the ruling, Seibert was questioned for about 40 minutes at 3 a.m. a few days after the fire without first being given her Miranda warning. At the end of the interrogation, she admitted the fire was set to cover up the death.

After a 20-minute break, police read the Miranda warning, then turned on a tape recorder and confronted her about the statements she had just made.

Seibert was convicted of second-degree murder, but she successfully appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court to have the statements suppressed in court. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

"The message for officers is you have to read rights first, before questioning," said Amy Bartholow, Seibert's public defender. "Criminal defendants will have more rights in the interrogation room."

Such two-stage questioning often works because suspects may be more willing to talk before they're told they have a right to remain silent. The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice David H. Souter for himself and three other liberal justices, noted a growing and worrisome trend toward the technique in many national police training manuals and classes.

Still, the court left the door open for police to use some confessions obtained after double interviews. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the determining fifth justice, wrote that police could use pre-Miranda confessions only by proving the interrogation was not done "in a calculated way to undermine the Miranda warning."

In a dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said that would make it difficult for lower courts to determine if officers had gone too far. She was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. [...]

Comment: To summarize, nothing has changed.

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The 'evil empire' is next door, youth say

Poll finds teens view some U.S. actions as global threat

Misty Harris
The Ottawa Citizen
Sunday, June 27, 2004

Evil is a word usually reserved for serial killers, Austin Powers villains, and kids who tear the legs off baby spiders.

But, a new poll shows a significant number of young Canadians would use "evil" to describe their U.S. neighbours.

In a telephone poll of 500 teens aged 14 to 18, more than 40 per cent of respondents saw the U.S. as an evil global force. Among French-Canadians, that number jumped to 64 per cent. [...]

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FBI Probing Anti-Bush Teddy Bear

Plush toy was delivered to home of Detroit federal judge

JUNE 22--The FBI has subpoenaed records related to the online sales of a teddy bear carrying the message "Bush Kills Arabs Dead," apparently as part of a probe into who delivered one of the plush toys to the Michigan home of a federal magistrate, The Smoking Gun has learned.

But, TSG has discovered, the Detroit U.S. Attorney's grand jury investigation will find that the teddy bear, pictured at right, wasn't some sort of a terror threat, but rather a gag gift purchased by a friend of Mona Majzoub, the federal magistrate. Last July, a court panel selected Majzoub, a 55-year-old Arab American lawyer from Detroit, to fill an open magistrate's slot.

The teddy tale began in late January, when two Michigan men spotted the stuffed bear for sale in an online store connected to georgewbush.org, a parody site critical of the president and his administration. One of the men, Michael J. Brady, is a 59-year-old lawyer who chairs the Michigan bar's criminal law committee. The other web surfer, George Gish, is a retired court administrator and friend of Majzoub's. In a TSG interview, Brady said that Gish, 64, thought the bear would make a perfect gift for his friend Mazjoub, who Gish wanted to needle for her support of Bush and the Iraq war.

Brady, who ordered the bear and had the item sent to Gish's Southfield home, said he believed his friend "took it to her house and left it on her porch." Brady noted that he did not know whether Gish told Majzoub he was responsible for the gift, adding that his friend believed Majzoub would immediately realize who was responsible for the prank.

That may have been a miscalculation on the part of Gish, pictured left, who could not be reached for comment.

Because on May 24, a federal grand jury subpoena was issued to the California company that maintained the online store offering the 11-inch teddy bear. The subpoena sought a list of customers (and their addresses) who purchased the $15.99 item, known as product #8632701. In a June 7 response sent to FBI agent Angela Ryan, the company, CafePress.com, reported selling only one of the teddy bears during the period specified in the subpoena (October 2003 to February 2004). A CafePress invoice provided to the FBI records the sale of the item to Brady and the delivery of the teddy bear to Gish.

The firm provides print on demand services to thousands of web sites and small companies that want to offer personalized merchandise, but do not want to deal with the hassle of storage and order fulfillment, according to Maneesh Jain, CafePress's co-founder. Jain told TSG that FBI agents did not describe the nature of the bureau probe, just that they were looking into a "teddy bear transaction."

Citing grand jury secrecy rules, prosecutor Sheldon Light, whose name appears on the subpoena and who heads the U.S. attorney's general crimes unit, declined comment on a "pending investigation." Ryan did not return a phone message left at the Detroit FBI office.

While advertised as a "great companion for those cold winter mornings," the "Bush Kills Arabs Dead" teddy bear was delivered to Majzoub at a time when such items--and their pointed messages--could easily be misconstrued by investigators monitoring threats of all kinds.

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Martin wins minority government

Mon, 28 Jun 2004 22:24:34

TORONTO - Paul Martin's Liberals have survived a near-death experience to win a minority government – Canada's first in 25 years.

The CBC decision desk predicted a Liberal minority victory at 10:22 p.m. EDT.

A Liberal minority government means nothing about the country's immediate political future is certain except the prospect of more uncertainty. [...]

A question of leadership

Whatever happens in the months to come, Martin will have to face a leadership review of some kind. To be fair, the 65-year-old leader was bogged down with Chrétien's baggage leading into this election - the sponsorship scandal, the out-of-control costs of the gun registry, continued social division over same-sex marriage, and the perceived arrogance of the Chrétien team.

Still, there's no denying that he and his advisers share a great deal of the blame for the Liberal party almost being locked out of 24 Sussex Drive.

For one thing, the timing of the election call was lousy, with the Liberals still slipping in the polls over fallout from the sponsorship scandal and the Conservatives' new leader, Stephen Harper, enjoying a honeymoon with the media.

The Liberal campaign was fractured and sloppy. The people who had spent years fighting to get Chrétien out so that Martin could take over as prime minister seemed unaware of how to mend fences and put the Big Red Machine back together again.

As a result, star players like Allan Rock, John Manley and Sheila Copps either walked away or were pushed out the door, Martin's appointment of a handful of parachute candidates across the country drove away longtime organizers, and many provincial Liberals chose to sit on their hands rather than pitch in.

What could save Martin in a leadership review is that no party wants to be caught in a full-blown leadership race when a confidence vote could bring down its fragile government at any time.

Of course, Stephen Harper has to face his own leadership questions, given the strength of the Liberal lead, when Harper was openly talking about a Conservative majority in the wake of the June 14 and 15 televised debates. Many will be wondering if he has what it takes to beat the Liberals, if he couldn't do it in a year when voters were furious with the Liberals and pining for a change.

Tough choices ahead

Looking ahead to another election within the next year – or two at the most – Martin has some tough choices to make, choices that will call on all the management skills he learned in the business world.

Will he purge his team of advisers, or merely add new blood to dilute the old mixture that almost proved disastrous? How can he reach out to the angry members of the party? What is the secret to rebuilding Liberal support in Quebec, where the party recorded its worst showing since the first Mulroney victory in 1984?

Above all, how will he govern Canada so that voters forgive the Liberals and feel like giving him a majority mandate the next time they go to the polls?

Whatever happens, the new minority government is unlikely to fall very quickly for several reasons:

  • This campaign has strapped the resources of all the parties, and they would need time to fundraise to refill their coffers.
  • Polls in this campaign consistently showed that Canadians would like to see a minority government in power for a while.
  • Weary voters would not have an appetite for another five weeks of political immersion before next winter at least, and thus could punish any party that pulls the plug too quickly.
  • This is the best chance the NDP and Bloc will have to make an impact on government policy, given the current configuration in Parliament. They will want to keep the minority situation alive as long as it works to their advantage – and the Bloc in particular could hardly hope for more seats than the 51 seats it this time out, down only slightly from the party's 1993 record of 54 seats.

Comment: Perhaps a minority government is the best thing for Canada, as none of the parties have enough power to do any more damage to the country. The one important difference between the Liberal and Conservative parties is their stance towards the US-led war in Iraq. The Conservatives side with the Americans, while the Liberals prefer to go the more global UN route. This minority government should insure that Canadian politicians will spend more time arguing and less time war-mongering. As expected, the division of power is more or less spread along regional lines, with the Liberals in the east and the Conservatives in the west. It seems many people, even though fed up with Liberal scandals, voted against Conservative leader Stephan Harper mainly because of his pro-American war stance and highly conservative personal views.

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Tories: Ontario's door remains closed

By OLIVER MOORE
Globe and Mail Update

Early tallies show that the Conservative Party has again failed to break through in Ontario, leading in only one-fifth of the seats in the vote-rich province that has eluded the right since the days of Brian Mulroney.

Polls show that the party has little chance of winning any seats in Quebec and had do well in Ontario to have any hope of forming the next government. But the province has voted overwhelmingly Liberal in the last three elections, damning rightist chances no matter which permutation they put their party through.

Re-branded as the Canadian Alliance and led by telegenic new leader Stockwell Day, the party had its high hopes dashed in 2000. Now, having merged with the old Progressive Conservative Party and changed its name and leader again, the party hoped to capitalize on perceived discontent with both the federal and provincial Liberals.

Emerging results from Ontario indicate that the Tories will do better in Ontario than they have in more than a decade, but will fall far short of the blue tide they were shooting for.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, secure in his party's dominance of the prairie provinces and Alberta and aware of the need to win the battle for Ontario, spent the bulk of the campaign in the province. Polls show that he found receptive ground early in the race but slid in the latter half as the Liberals stepped up efforts to portray him as a far-right-winger who would wreak havoc on Canada.

It seems to have worked. [...]

Mr. Harper worked hard to portray the Tories as a moderate rightist alternative to the Liberals, who worked equally hard to paint the Tories as too extreme on social issues.

Comment: While the illusion of democracy is as prevalent in Canada as in many western countries, a few far-thinking people have come up with more creative ways to spoil their vote...

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Voters Urged Not to Eat Their Ballots

Mon Jun 28,12:03 PM ET

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadians went to the polls in a federal election on Monday with a firm warning from election officials: Please do not eat your ballots.

"Eating a ballot, not returning it or otherwise destroying or defacing it constitutes a serious breach of the Canada Elections Act," Elections Canada warns on its Internet site.

The issue was of sufficient concern to warrant inclusion in the site's "Frequency Asked Questions" section, above answers to such inquiries as "Why should I vote?" and "Am I registered?"

Three Alberta men were charged with eating their paper ballots during Canada's last federal election, in 2000. The members of the Edible Ballot Society were protesting against what they said was a lack of real choice among candidates.

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Interpol makes Seattle deal

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Seattle police and representatives from the international police organization, Interpol, today will announce an agreement to share information. Seattle becomes the first city in the Pacific Northwest to develop a communication agreement with Interpol through its U.S. National Central Bureau.

Officials said the benefits to the city will be timely communication regarding crimes that cross state and country borders, such as Internet crimes against children and money laundering. The agreement will also enable city officials to get information from Interpol about threats of terrorism.

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Czech leader facing PM crisis

Sunday, June 27, 2004

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Czech President Vaclav Klaus cut short a foreign trip Sunday, returning home to handle a political crisis following the prime minister's announcement of resignation plans, an official said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla stepped down Saturday as party chief and said he would resign as prime minister in coming days.

Spidla said he had lost the trust of the party following its poor showing in the European Parliament elections even though he barely survived a no-confidence vote by his party's leadership, also held Saturday.

The Czech constitution says the president -- Klaus -- should appoint the new prime minister to form the new government.

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Pakistan prime minister resigns under pressure

By Salman Masood and Amy Waldman
The New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, said Saturday that he had resigned and dissolved his Cabinet. He will be replaced for now by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the president of President Pervez Musharraf's political party.

Hussain said the current finance minister, Shaukat Aziz, would become prime minister once he wins a seat in the National Assembly. Aziz is now a senator.

Rumors had circulated for weeks that Jamali, who had been elected by his party in 2002 with the support of Musharraf, had lost that support. All indications are that he did not go willingly: On Friday, Jamali told Pakistani newspapers that he was not preparing to resign, and that the rumors about his departure were false.

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Putin’s NATO Absence Shows Discontent

MosNews

Russian President Vladimir Putin is shunning next week’s NATO summit in a very public display of displeasure with the newly-expanded alliance. The Reuters news agency quotes Russian analysts as saying that the president’s dispatch of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Istanbul registers discontent both with NATO’s embrace of the ex-Soviet Baltic states as new members and with the largely moribund NATO-Russia Council set up two years ago.

But the Kremlin leader has no intention of altering policy planks, including an anti-terror alliance with the United States, as shown by statements supporting President George W. Bush in the heat of the U.S. election campaign.

And he will want to keep lines open, particularly as the leaders of ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia have eagerly taken up invitations to the gathering to underscore new links with NATO.

“For the moment Russia can only conclude that it is getting very little benefit from its cooperation with NATO,” said Sergei Miseyev of the Institute of Political Technologies. “I’m not sure relations with NATO will worsen as a result of Putin staying away or that they would have improved had he gone. From his standpoint it is purely and simply a waste of time.”

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Magnitude 6.1 earthquake off the Coast of Costa Rica

Comment: With this earthquake off Costa Rica, together with two pervious large magnitude quakes in Illinois and Alaska just a couple of days ago, we wonder if there is perhaps something that we should be Seeing here?...

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Two Die in Rock Slides in Alaska, Maine

By MATT VOLZ, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jun 28, 9:10 PM ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A rock slide that unleashed boulders "the size of trucks" killed a climber and injured two other hikers as they descended Mount McKinley, authorities said.

It was one of two deadly rock slides in the United States over the weekend.

On Saturday, a rock slide on a popular trial on Mount Katahdin in Maine killed a hiker who became trapped under a boulder. The victim was identified as Roger Cooper, 52, of Bangor, Maine.

In Alaska, four climbers were attached by rope at 13,000 feet when giant boulders began raining down on them Sunday. Two men suffered non-life-threatening injuries, while a fourth, a guide, was not injured.

Clint West, 47, died of multiple injuries shortly after the rock slide. West was an experienced climber who, though an American, lived in Oxfordshire, England, with his wife and three daughters, said Colby Coombs, co-director of the Alaska Mountaineering School, which led the expedition.

National Park Service officials said the rock slide had falling boulders from 2 feet to 10 feet in diameter. National Park Service officials called it highly unusual for a rock slide of that size to occur on that part of the mountain. They were not sure what caused it. [...]

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Fires force RCMP to close Alaska Highway

Vancouver — Nineteen people were forced to flee their homes late Sunday night as a forest fire raced towards two tiny communities on the Yukon-B.C. border.

Everyone who was asked to leave did, said Cynthia Mann, a provincial fire information officer.

Yukon fire crews fighting the Cole River fire placed sprinklers on all threatened structures, but by Monday afternoon, Ms. Mann said it wasn't clear on whether anything had been damaged.

“The wind is blowing the ash ahead of the fire and its creating new fires ahead of it and that's usually associated with extreme fire behaviour,” Ms. Mann said, adding the fire is about 100 square kilometres in size. [...]

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Températures records en Espagne pour un 28 juin

Comment: Sections of Spain experienced record heat on Monday, with temperatures passing 40 degrees C (104 F) in the south. Madrid reached 39.3 degrees, breaking a previous record of 38.1 on June 28, 1931. The heat wave is expected to last until Thursday.

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Strong winds buffet Saga Prefecture

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) - Strong winds blew through Saga Prefecture on Sunday morning, causing blackouts, damage and minor injuries to 13 people, according to local fire and police officials.

The gusts, which occurred at around 7:20 a.m., knocked down five power poles, causing up to 6,300 houses in the Saga area to lose electricity, Kyushu Electric Power Co. officials said. Traffic lights also stopped working.

About 260 houses were damaged and some cars were blown on to their sides. The roof of an elementary school and gates at a high school pool were damaged.

The Saga Local Meteorological Observatory said the gusts may have resulted from a tornado traveling at a speed of 180 kph to 248 kph.

The observatory said the atmospheric pressure dropped sharply due to a seasonal rain front in the prefecture.

The gusts recorded a wind velocity of 65.16 kph at 7:22 a.m.

"Due to rain clouds that developed around Saga, a situation was created under which tornadoes and gusts could easily occur," an observatory official said.

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Bird flu is becoming more lethal

By Richard Black
BBC World Service science correspondent

A new study suggests that bird flu is becoming more dangerous each year.

Scientists in China and the US injected mice with samples of avian flu virus which emerged in different years.

They found that the newer forms of the virus kill more rapidly than their predecessors. The fear is that this will increase the risks to humans too.

[...] As well as becoming more lethal, H5N1 is also now able to reproduce in more parts of the body than before.

The trend towards more dangerous forms of the virus is one which the researchers believe will continue.

Sudden change

The concern is that the virus will eventually accumulate enough genetic changes to become good at passing between humans.

Even more of a concern would be the sudden change that could be caused should the flu combine with a human flu in someone's body.

The two viruses could swap genes and create a potent hybrid as deadly as the bird strain and as contagious as a regular human strain.

Comment: See our Signs Flu Supplement for more on the "bird flu".

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The Oldest Americans May Prove Even Older

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
June 29, 2004

BARNWELL, S.C., June 24 - On a hillside by the Savannah River, under tall oaks bearded with Spanish moss, an archaeologist and a graduate student crouched in the humid depths of a trench. They had reason to think they were in the presence of a breathtaking discovery.

Or at the least, they were on to something more than 20,000 years old that would throw American archaeology into further turmoil over its most contentious issue: when did people first reach America, and who were they?

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Big cat warning in Monaghan (Ireland)

Gardaí in Co. Monaghan are warning parents not to allow children outside without supervision, because of the threat of a large cat believed to be roaming the area.

The most recent sighting of the animal has been reported near a housing estate on the outskirts of Monaghan town.

The animal, believed to be a puma, has already mauled a calf and Gardai are concerned that a child could be next.

A large search for the puma is underway and an army marksman was drafted in yesterday in the hope that he could kill the animal.

Comment: The above sighting of a "big cat" is in the same county in Ireland as the reported sighting a few days ago of a triangular shaped UFO...

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