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December 28, 2003

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It's just another day of chaos and insanity on the Big Blue Marble.

The population of Bam, Iran, is still digging itself out after the earthquake. Estimates are as high as 40,000 dead and 30,000 wounded.

Bush, "wants to be a sunbeam for Jesus," says Gore Vidal in a radio interview. At the very least, his handlers want him to give that appearance. What does that mean for us? Listen to the interview if you can. We have excerpted a few important quotes from the transcript. He announces the decision has already been made in Washington - The US is going to war with Syria.

In The Joys of Yiddish (1968), Leo Rosten defines the person endowed with chutzpah -- the "chuzpanik" -- as "the man who shouts for help while beating you up." That could apply both to Alan Dershowitz, the American jurist who has called for the legalization of torture, as well as the state of Israel, which will continue to torture its prisoners regardless of international law. This is, in fact, what Dershowitz counsels.

Israel is in an uproar over the shooting of an Israeli youth who sided with the Palestinians in protesting against the West Bank wall.

It appears that officials from Saddam's regime are being systematically assassinated - but the identity of the assassins depends on whom you talk to. In a bizarre twist, Saddam somehow manages to threaten to reveal US support of his old government even though he is in US custody. American forces in Iraq continue to gun down or terrorize demonstrators.

Paul Bremer finds himself at odds with Tony Blair after a journalist quotes some comments from Blair to Bremer without naming the source. Bremer finds himself having to backtrack after learning the truth. Further up the old Silk Route in Afghanistan, the talks towards a new constitution are not going well. The Dutch police were forced to isolate the US Embassy in The Hague on Thursday because of, you guessed it, a phone call they "had to take seriously." The office of Berlusconi, however, is backpedalling on the reported remarks by the Italian PM that the Vatican was under threat of attack.

The US is now blaming Canada for the outbreak of Mad Cow disease. What's new! They also blamed Canada for the power outage in August, later found to be due to a problematic tree in Ohio, for allowing "terrorists" in the US because of its lack of security on the borders, later found to be false (they were learning their trade at a CIA front in Florida), as well as for remarks by one of the Prime Minister's aides that the US president is a moron, fully substantiated by a look at the man's record.

The President of the EU gets a mail bomb.

Congress passed legislation to reduce junk e-mail, and then added a little perk to legalize spam sent by a member of Congress to a constituent during the traditional 90-day blackout period prior to an election.

In Alaska, a little-known law will automatically register Alaskan males with the federal Selective Service.

Search for Iran quake victims to end

Sunday 28 December 2003, 13:17 Makka Time, 10:17 GMT

The stench of death hangs over Iran's earthquake-devastated city of Bam as the United Nations announces the search for survivors is coming to an end.

The world body said search efforts would end on Sunday, after a meeting in Bam with local authorities, adding that international rescue teams were no longer needed.

40,000 DEAD IN IRAN EARTHQUAKE

THE WORST FIVE QUAKES

FIVE earthquakes have caused a terrible toll of carnage around the world in modern times.

1. 500,000 people were killed in Chinese city of Tangshan in July 1976

2. 143,000 died in Tokyo and Yokohama when a quake rocked Japan in September 1923.

3. 50,000 killed in Gilan province, north-west Iran in June 1990.

4. 30,000 died in Gujarat state, India, in January 2001.

5. 25,000 killed in northwest Armenia, December 1988.

Strong Quake Strikes off Coast of New Caledonia

The Associated Press
Published: Dec 27, 2003

HONG KONG (AP) - A strong earthquake struck off the east coast of the French island of New Caledonia on Sunday, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties on the Pacific Ocean island, located 1,240 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia.

The 7.0-magnitude quake was centered about 200 miles east of the capital city of Noumea. It struck at 3:12 a.m. local time, said a statement from the Hong Kong Observatory, which monitors seismic activity in the region.

Two other strong quakes hit the same sea area off New Caledonia's coast on Friday and Saturday without causing any damage.

ABC (Australia) Radio Interviews Gore Vidal

GORE VIDAL: We have never had an administration that set out deliberately to rid us of the Bill of Rights. With USA Patriot Act Number One, which passed 45 days after 9/11, and now there's a current sequel to it, which has not yet been given to Congress, but it's been leaked, you can be arrested without a charge, put before a military tribunal without recourse to due process of law to a lawyer, you can be deprived of your citizenship and you can be deported, this is a born American, and there's some lovely language in it, you can be deported to a region or a country that has no government.
I mean it is a dictatorship. [...]

Then comes 9/11, and a few weeks afterwards there's a 342-page USA Patriot Act, which is enormous detail. Well, it certainly wasn't thought up in 30 days since 9/11, as a response to a terrorist attack. It had been prepared and it was sent to Congress. Congress was then so overwhelmed by the media and the horror that had befallen us by wicked Arabs or whoever it was who did it, they passed it without reading it. 

Now we're stuck with the damn thing. Congress, at last, are sitting down and realising what they wrought, and they're reviewing some of the aspects of it, which are violently anti-democratic, if one can use that phrase. [...]

GORE VIDAL: Well, I'm sure he says that, but what he will do is a different thing. I think he's got himself in pretty deep and I don't think he's worked out enough of an exit to get out of it because they are going to go into Syria.

MONICA ATTARD: You believe that?

GORE VIDAL: I know that, and also Iran has been marked too. I hope it isn't going to happen, I hope that the American people will wake up and stop the junta.

MONICA ATTARD: How do you know that they're going to go into Syria or Iran? Why do you say you know that?

GORE VIDAL: I have connections in Washington and I know that this is a decision that has been made. [...]

Israeli police arrest an Israeli demonstrator, who tried to block a government building, in a protest against the weekend shooting of American and Israeli peace protesters by an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv.

Israeli Army Shooting of Israeli Stirs Hot Debate

By Jeffrey Heller
December 28, 2003

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israelis hotly debated on Sunday just who crossed a red line: a young Israeli who joined Palestinians and foreign sympathizers in a protest against a West Bank barrier, or soldiers who shot him.

Gil Naamati, a 21-year-old kibbutz member who recently completed his compulsory military service, was hit in his knee and hip with live ammunition on Friday as he tried to cut through the razor-wire topped fence. An American woman was also wounded.

Unlike hundreds of incidents in which soldiers have killed or wounded Palestinians since an uprising began in September 2000, the army's first use of live gunfire against an Israeli was a shot heard across the Jewish state.

"Today they shot my son, tomorrow they'll shoot yours," Naamati's father, Uri, told Israel Radio. [...]

Earthquakes, Destructions And Wars

Abdulwahab Badrakhan Al-Hayat 2003/12/27

An earthquake like the one Iran suffered yesterday, the flying catastrophe like the one that killed tens of Lebanese people, a pestilence like AIDS which killed, and still is killing, millions of human beings, and even the Mad Cow that threatens with future disasters prove the absurdity of the great international policies and its carelessness regarding human life when it spends billions of dollars to fabricate wars or to maintain existing ones or on the simple search for wars as a preferable way to prove leadership. Undoubtedly, there are underdeveloped countries, ruling systems and societies.

However, the developed world is not void of backwardness, especially in the way it looks and deals with the underdeveloped countries. The greatest proof here is that the globalization of the communication media is still unable of dealing quickly with any natural disaster to minimize its victims and threats. Perhaps, all what was spent on the war on AIDS, since its discovery, is not likely to reach what was spent on the war on Iraq, so far. Similarly, what was spent for the sake of peace in the Middle East does not represent more than a symbolic number with respect to what was spent and is spent for the sake of Israel's "security" and armament, knowing that it uses its security to protect an occupation.

Feelings of invasion hang in the air

Paul-Marie de La Gorce
| Special to Gulf News | 28-12-2003

From Dubai to Tunis, and throughout most of the Muslim-Arab world, one finds that, under the shock of the recent war against Iraq and its dramatic consequences, a debate about the future of the region is taking place in the shape of conferences, seminars and meetings amongst intellectuals, journalists, lawyers and politicians.

For those who have actually been there and taken part in these interactions, there can be no doubt that in all the countries a groundswell of public opinion is emerging.

[...] There is no doubt that this year the war has brought to a head the vehemence of comments and the violence of people's feelings.

Many things helped to bring this about: the absence of any legal justification for the US-led war against Iraq; the blatant lies about the non-existent links between Iraq and the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, attacks; the threat presented by the Iraqi army which was obviously too weakened for this to be credible; the existence of weapons of mass destruction, which nobody has been able to prove, either before or after the war.

At the end of the hostilities, other things also conspired to bring this about: the destruction of the Iraqi administrative institutions, universities, hospitals and, partially, the museums, which the US authorities could have easily prevented.

Comment: The Iraq-Libya-Iran WMD triangle

By Joseph A. Kéchichian, Special to Gulf News | 28-12-2003

Naturally, putative weap-ons in Arab and Muslim hands are newsworthy, even if proven Israeli implements of mass warfare are not. Many will point out to the 200+ known Israeli nuclear warheads developed at Dimona - first revealed in 1986 by Physicist Mordechai Vanunu who is now serving a jail sentence - and the substantive biological arsenals perfected at Nes Ziona (a research centre in Israel).

Only twisted logic will stress that nonexistent Arab weapons pose imminent threat while confirmed arms are conveniently ignored.

Towards a safer world

Libya's decision to abandon WMDs should focus attention on the Israeli nuclear arsenal, writes Ibrahim Nafie

Following events in Iraq, Iran and Libya, the stage is set to free the Middle East of all WMDs. This has been a dream long cherished by Egypt. On 8 April, 1990 President Mubarak launched his initiative to "ban all weapons of mass destruction without exception, whether nuclear, biological or chemical, from the Middle East". Since then, Egypt has been working ceaselessly to put this initiative into effect, and with every appeal for a radical and comprehensive solution to this problem Egyptian diplomacy has won new supporters. A recent victory is embodied in the statement in April by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin who, expressing the opinion of the EU, stated, "President Mubarak's project to transform the Middle East into a region free of weapons of mass destruction, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 687, forms a solid foundation for realising this aspiration."

Unfortunately, there remains but one obstacle: Israel. Israel is now the only nuclear power in the region, and it possesses as well a full compliment of other WMDs. As long as this situation persists the dream of freeing the region of WMDs will remain out of reach because the threat posed by Israel will inspire other countries to seek a nuclear capacity. That this threat is real is evident in such statements as that issued by Israeli Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz following Tehran's signing of the NPT additional protocol in which he reiterated Israel's threat to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.

It is thus imperative that Israel should no longer remain the sole exception in this region to the provisions of international law. Indeed, it is because of Israel's persistent flouting of international law, with the full support of the US, that European opinion polls have rated Israel as the leading threat to world peace. Israel must be made to realise that ridding the Middle East of WMDs is in the interests of all peoples in the region, especially as it will allow us then to focus on the urgent need for regional development and cooperative arrangements. The peril of WMDs is such that we cannot brook selectivity on the basis of some arbitrary division between "rogue" and "non-rogue" states. Or, if we are to apply the criterion, then in its continued determination to snub regional and international efforts to make the world a safer and more secure place, Israel must be designated as the region's only remaining rogue state.

Chutzpah: an avoidance strategy

Azmi Bishara

When a liberal Harvard University law professor defended Orenthal James Simpson, commonly known as "OJ", on the grounds of "reasonable doubt," it must have reminded many of the line from Shakespeare's Henry VI (Part 2, IV, ii): "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

This liberal law professor built his reputation on defending citizens against all forms of discrimination, for upholding the freedoms of the individual, for safeguarding a defendant's right to "reasonable doubt" when on trial for murder. He is the intellectual who strives to be unpredictable by going against the consensus of his social milieu, which condemns the simultaneously celebrated and hated wealthy star, the professor who defends the person who people like to hate, as sometimes happens with celebrities. He is the lawyer who likes to play the enfant terrible, bent on provoking his peers in a battle that appears to revolve around the defendant who is innocent until proven guilty and whom he proves cannot be found guilty even if he cannot prove his innocence, thereby infuriating his peers even more while at the same time increasing their admiration of his courtroom finesse. And, from the real blood of the victim with a well-known name, family and friends who became the authors of memoirs and talk show guests, and from the human flesh beneath the victim's fingernails, liberals and conservatives -- whether they loved or hated the defendant -- squeezed a cheap melodrama on the antics of the rich, on their ethics of betrayal and the bloodiness of their ethics, and on a culture the values of which are as volatile as deodorant spray.

In this soap opera the Harvard professor played the high- priced legal eagle who had honed his skill at treading the rough and treacherous paths of the law -- and around the law -- in civil rights cases and who heeds neither rumour nor prevailing opinion as he forges ahead in his advocacy of the rights of the accused however unpopular his mission. From the civil rights dictum, "he is innocent until proven guilty even if black", the lawyer deftly segues to the "he is innocent even if he's rich and famous". Thus he turns the arguments, rhetoric and morals of civil rights to the promotion of amorality, and places the rejection of prejudice, the scorn for hearsay and strict adherence to the codes of civil rights advocacy at the service of the manufacture of prejudice, stereotypes, clichés, spectacle, and wealth buying innocence by purchasing "reasonable doubt".

It would have been nice to forget this rather ordinary chapter in the history of American entertainment, and to forget those whom its sensationalism casts into the limelight, because oblivion is a blessing and memory a curse. Unfortunately, however, the illustrious professor doesn't give up. As a "public intellectual" he keeps on producing one book after another, one called Chutzpah on the extraordinary relationship between Israel and American Jews, another on the Simpson trial and another on the secret of the success of terrorism. Then the newspapers slap us to attention with a report of a lecture of his in Herzliya -- the same Herzliya in which Sharon, Netanyahu and the chief of Mossad strutted and swaggered. What a coincidence, which is always so much more thrilling than a thousand appointments, as we say. And what a pleasure it was to read, several years after that courtroom farce, the star lawyer's advice to Israel on how to circumvent international law and its weakness for human rights.

So he too got to the Herzliya conference, as though Israel needs someone to advise it on how to flout international law with impunity. Naturally, his presence there occasioned a look back at his activity, which has taken a provocative course since 11 September. In interviews with CNN on 3 May, 2002 and with CBS on 20 September, 2002 he told television audiences how it was possible to justify the use of torture in the war against terrorism. But, as only befits a liberal university professor, he made it clear that the use of torture must be carefully monitored and controlled, used in very isolated cases and approved at the highest possible level of authority, and then only if there is sufficient cause to believe that the prisoner has knowledge of a terrorist operation and that torturing him would bring to light the information necessary to save human lives. In short, he thinks torture should be legalised. The question has been dealt with before in Israeli judicial and legal rights literature beneath the heading: permitting the use of "a reasonable amount of physical pressure" in the event of looming danger of terrorist attack, a danger the literature likens to a "ticking bomb."

Whereas human rights organisations were fearful that an attempt to legalise torture would constitute a dangerous precedent, the Harvard law professor argued in interviews that legitimising and monitoring the use of torture was preferable to practicing torture in secret. Here, apparently, we have chutzpah as integrity, as opposed to hypocrisy and beating around the bush.

Not only was he at the Herzliya conference, but he also attended a meeting of the law and constitution committee in the Knesset, where he proposed that Israel should deal with international law "creatively" (Haaretz 19 December 2003) by holding the "terrorist" responsible for forcing Israel to abuse civilians. Evidently, "terrorists" are meant to set up camp in Gaza like an ordinary army so they can be picked off by Israeli forces, for otherwise woe to the civilians among whom the terrorists choose to live. Here we have the logic of the new American liberal. He knows perfectly well that the people he calls terrorists are, in fact, civilians, ordinary people who live in their own homes under the occupation just like other people, and that the so-called terrorist infrastructure that Sharon prattles on about as though there were organised training camps is pure propaganda, because in the occupied areas overlooked by Israeli control towers no camps of any sort can exist. He is perfectly aware that the infrastructure of terrorism is the occupation itself. However, the professor has a position to stick to and that position is Israel's. He is a chauvinist of nationalist stripe, no more and no less, so he must take sides and to hell with liberal values.

Between Harvard and O.J. the American liberal is fanatic about the American way of life and about his Jewish identity, at the heart of which resides Israel in the new definition of this identity in the US, so no one can dare accuse him of being a Jewish nationalist. He is not being naïve when he theorizes about life under occupation. Not that life under occupation concerns him. What matters to him is how Israel handles itself and how it appears "among nations".

In his lecture in Herzliya Alan Dershowitz said: "The root cause of terrorism is its success and its support. It is a case of advantaged people using disadvantaged people as cannon fodder. As we all know, Palestinian terror has been supported by the UN, by the Vatican and several other institutions."

The liberal professor has summarily ruled out occupation and degradation as a cause, a motive and a background. But then to know what life under occupation is like one does not have to live in Gaza or to have experienced first hand how a densely populated land was transformed into a camp surrounded by control towers; how childhood, growing up and life have lost their meaning; how people have lost their humanity and not just their human rights; how the environment, and not just the quality of the environment, has been denuded of all aesthetic values so that colours are now a uniform gray and a sense of suffocation the norm. No, one does not have to live there to realise what its like; all you need is a bit of chutzpah.

Dershowitz resumes: "We have international sanctions on nations such as Cuba and Iraq. Everybody in a nation should take responsibility for the actions of its leaders. To be part of a group is to be accountable.... Pre-emption is the other primary method of reducing the scourge of terrorism. Preemption, although Israel has praciticed it, generally falls outside the rule of law. Terrorists put democracies in a tragic dilemma by hiding among civilians."

Barely pausing for breath in this amazing lecture, Dershowitz continues: "We have a joint project between Israel and the US, which lawyers must lead. Our project is to propose new rules of international law. Israelis are obliged to follow the rules of law in the democracy called Israel, as I am within the US. Your moral obligation to comply with international law is voluntary. You are not represented in the making or implementing of those laws. International law lives or dies by its credibility, not by the democracy by which it has been constructed. I am suggesting the change of the rule of law. Democracy should not have to justify its actions and show how the rule of human rights has become a weapon in promoting human wrongs... You are the lab for that process. You are contributing greatly. Do not allow the world to bully you into believing that you are the human rights violators..."

Israelis listened to this in rapture. They knew all these things already and they put them into practice. But they were ecstatic to hear it for the first time from a distinguished university professor, for now they can act on the conviction that their ideas and practices graduated from the University of Harvard. Israelis are fond of opening their self-justifying arguments with such assertions as "even in the US they have administrative detention", or "even in a great democracy like the US they use torture". It is as though all Israel needed to encourage it in its flouting of international law and the international will was a Harvard professor, courtroom king and champion verbal gladiator to tell it to become the laboratory for new international laws which will free the democracies' hands in the war against terrorism. Now Israel's codes of behaviour can become international law. Have you ever seen anyone more modest? It is as though his pride and ardour are fired by the thought that US and Israeli forces are waiting for his go ahead before committing their crimes, as though army and security officers carry his collected lectures around with them like an instruction pamphlet they open in order to put their finger on the necessary provision of international law to trample underfoot. The tragedy is that they are already committing the crimes and all our distinguished professor is doing is lending them moral justification and appeasing consciences with the liberal logic of an ex-civil libertarian.

Naturally, the law professor realises that the legal gymnastics of rendering international law something to abide by voluntarily by democratic countries must inevitably apply to non-democratic countries as well, as long as international law is not universally sovereign. But, in the case of those countries that do not please the venerable professor force can always be used to deter or punish them, not for having broken the law but for being "against us". Clearly, selectivity is the operative word in the business of abiding by, or making others abide by, international law. It all depends on who has the power to be selective when, in the final analysis, the rule of international law has been replaced by the law of the jungle.

Occupation, want, misery, destitution, degradation -- none of these justify the violence that goes by the name of terrorism in this case. Let us grant this, for the sake of argument, just to see where Dershowitz's logic leads us. Democracy in the US might mean that an athletic star and wealthy socialite who everyone, including his lawyer, knows is guilty of murder can get acquitted, not on the basis of lack of evidence or proof of innocence, but on the grounds of "reasonable doubt". Outside the US, however, bombing the poor under occupation is permissible, even if they are innocent, because they have a "guilty" man in their midst. Under this scheme of things, occupation as terrorism, as the daily repression of a civilian populace, is not only skirted over, it virtually becomes a right, as though occupation is a reaction against terrorism and not the reverse. Also, as long as the colonial power is democratic it has the right to make international law and, more, to define international law by its own behaviour.

In 1991 Dershowitz published a book called Chutzpah. The term, which in Hebrew means audacity, has in Yiddish acquired an almost endearing quality. A person who has chutzpah is confident, daring, able to lie and look you in the eye. In The joys of Yiddish (1968), Leo Rosten defines the person endowed with chutzpah -- the "chuzpanik" -- as "the man who shouts for help while beating you up." Zionism defines itself as the refutation of the exile, a state which includes refuting the manners and mores of the son of the ghetto, or the Jew of the Diaspora, whom Zionist theoreticians considered weak and too eager to please "others". Morally, Zionism stands for self-affirmation, self-reliance and the display of strength, and for freeing oneself from the minority complex with its attendant trait of excessive courteousness. And the opposite of the aversion to politeness is pride in being rude. There was a time when Jewish American liberals were an integral part of the American civil rights movement. However, a large segment of liberal Jews have "Zionized" in the sense that they have negated their exile through the move from minority status to establishment, and because of their irrational emotional attachment to Israel, which they support right or wrong, they now find themselves in league with neoconservative forces in the US. The result is that they are liberal in personal status issues and conservative in foreign affairs, including those affecting war and peace. Hence the shift from "reasonable doubt" to the law of the jungle in the areas within the influence of the empire, which the cream of these liberals has the necessary audacity to defend.

Saudi arrests 4,000 near Yemen border

Saturday December 27, 03:49 PM

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has arrested more than 4,000 people and seized large quantities of weapons and drugs in the south of the country, along the border with Yemen, the official Saudi Press Agency says.

The agency did not say over what time the arrests and the seizures were made in the Najran province. Both Yemen and Saudi Arabia are combating Islamic militants believed to be linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. [...]

Report: Saudi Police Foil Airliner Attack

By Peter Graff
Saturday, December 27, 2003; 6:52 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi security forces have seized light planes packed with explosives near Riyadh's King Khalid airport, foiling a plot by suicide pilots to blow up a Western airliner on the runway, a British newspaper said on Sunday.

Two pilots apparently intended to crash their light planes into a Western jet as it taxied slowly on the tarmac, the Mail on Sunday quoted Patrick Mercer, homeland security policy chief for Britain's opposition Conservative Party as saying. [...]

Hooded Men Executing Saddam Officials

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
The Indepedent
28 December 2003

General Charles de Gaulle gave the French resistance 48 hours to régler les comptes - settle accounts - after the liberation of France. But after the "liberation" of Iraq, the Baath party's enemies have declared it open season to hunt down and murder hundreds of the former regime's officials - with not the slightest attempt by the Anglo-American armies or their newly installed police force to end the bloodshed.

In the Shia city of Najaf, 42 ex-members of the Baath have been murdered and not a single arrest has followed. In Basra, controlled by British troops, almost 50 Baathists have been found with their hands bound behind their backs and a single bullet hole in the neck. Again, there have been no arrests. Hussam Thafer, a doctor at the Baghdad city mortuary, says that every day he receives "five or six" bodies of people who worked for the old regime.

Some of the killings may be personal revenge. The Independent on Sunday has learned of one young Shia who hunted down his former torturer in Baghdad, calmly told the man's family that he intended to execute him, refused financial retribution for his suffering and went on to murder the man.

But many of the killings are being carried out systematically - and with the same cruelty Saddam's own henchmen once used against the regime's opponents.

Major-General Khalaf al-Alousi, a former director of the secret police in Baghdad, was assassinated on a Sunday afternoon this month when he visited a home he was renovating in Yarmouk. His wife, Um Ali, described how two men in black hoods were waiting for them in the yard and another in the house, and how she knew they were going to kill her husband . "I shouted and begged them not to do it, for the sake of his daughters," she said. The ex-general tried to talk to his killers. "I never saw such calm before," Um Ali said later. The gunmen fired 17 bullets into their victim.

The guard on the house, Wisam Eidan, had earlier found the men in the yard. "One of them showed me an ID written in English with his picture, and he told me, 'don't argue with the CIA and keep your mouth shut'." In fact, al-Alousi's family suspect Iranian agents were responsible. He was, they said, in contact with the American-created Governing Council. Was he just a marked man? Or did he know too much - about Saddam's enemies, about the Iranian secret police, or about the American intelligence services which, after all, co-operated with al-Alousi and his comrades between 1978 and 1990? [...]

Saddam Threatens to Expose US

P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News Staff

JEDDAH, 27 December 2003 — Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, now being grilled by American investigators, has reportedly warned US authorities that he will expose Washington’s "political games" and its behind-the-scene role in the occupation of Kuwait.

"Saddam threatened that if they continue to pressure him he will reveal startling facts — about America’s political games with his country — that would shock the whole world," Al-Watan Arabic daily quoted a high-level European source as saying. [...]

Rumsfeld Threatens Saddam's Family

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sounded intrigued when asked how to get  Saddam Hussein  talking to his interrogators.

"Does he have any interest in his family? ... I don't know," Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday, ruminating about the possible pressures that could be applied to the former dictator. [...]

Bremer 'rejects' Blair WMD claims

The US official running Iraq appears to have contradicted Tony Blair's claim Saddam Hussein had laboratories for developing weapons of mass destruction.

The prime minister said in a Christmas message to UK troops that the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) had unearthed "massive evidence" of clandestine labs.

The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority said it was not true.

Paul Bremer said it sounded like a "red herring" made up by someone to upset the rebuilding effort.

But Mr Bremer seems to have been unaware that the quotes had come from Mr Blair when they were put to him in an interview on ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme.

"I don't know where those words come from but that is not what (ISG chief) David Kay has said," he said.

"I have read his reports so I don't know who said that.

"It sounds like a bit of a red herring to me. It sounds like someone who doesn't agree with the policy sets up a red herring then knocks it down."

However when it was pointed out the remarks had come from the leader of the US's closest ally, Mr Bremer seemed to pull back from his original remarks.

"There is actually a lot of evidence that had been made public," he said

Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has also cast doubt on Mr Blair's assertion.

Dr Blix said it was "innuendo" to suggest laboratories were used for WMD.

Reality check for US in Iraq

Sunday 28 December 2003, 10:43 Makka Time, 7:43 GMT

The US is taking a long hard look at its position in Iraq as its experiences in the country fail to meet the expectations of the Bush administration, a leading US newspaper reports.

Attacks on the US-led occupation and an accelerated timetable for Iraq's return to sovereignty have prompted the United States to scale down its ambitious agenda for remaking that country, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The daily said US officials have in the past few months dropped plans to privatise state-owned businesses and backed off efforts to disarm militias under the control of ethnic and political factions.

"The Americans are coming to understand that they cannot change everything they want to change in Iraq," Adel Abd el-Mehdi, a senior leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite Muslim political party cooperating with the US-led occupation, told the daily.

"They need to let the Iraqi people decide the big issues."

US Military using Brutality, Fear, Intimidation in Al-Adamiyah

Dahr Jamail

12/27/03: (ICH) Baghdad: On September 24th, there was a huge demonstration in the Al-Adamiyah sector of Baghdad in support of Saddam Hussein, but even more, the demonstration was in opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.

Photos were taken of the demonstrators by the Americans, and that night there were home raids and over 100 people detained, from teenagers to old men. Even some women were detained.

The next time there was to be a demonstration here, the US military showed up in force, literally filling the streets with tanks, Humvees, and soldiers as Apaches circled like vultures overhead. Needless to say, there was no demonstration.

The US is obviously attempting to keep a tight grip on the residents of this area.

More recently on December 14th, on the eve of the announcement of the capture of Saddam Hussein, there was a passionate demonstration by the people of Al-Adamiyah. [...]

When there was no compliance, they began shooting the demonstrators. In the end, a total of 13 were killed, the number comprised not only of demonstrators but people shopping and walking on the sidewalks. [...]

Comment: "Our military is full of the finest people on the face of the Earth. I'm proud to be your commander in chief." -George W. Bush

Afghanistan constitution talks sour

Sunday 28 December 2003, 8:59 Makka Time, 5:59 GMT

Debate over Afghanistan's new constitution has soured, as government allies say conservatives are trying to Islamise the charter, while one critic alleges US meddling.

Two-week-old talks among the 502 delegates to the Loya Jirga, or grand council, are snagged on a dispute over the power of the future presidency under the charter, which is supposed to lead to elections in mid-2004.

President Hamid Karzai and US officials are hoping a government-presented draft, awarding sweeping powers to the country's chief executive in a so-called liberal Islamic state, will be accepted.

But they face deepening opposition from powerful leaders of the armed factions who fought the Soviet occupation in the 1980s under the banner of Islam and still hold sway in the provinces.

Hotly contested

Council spokeswoman Safia Saddiqi said on Saturday eight of the draft's 160 articles were hotly contested in a secretive committee drawing up possible amendments.

Ashmat Ghani, a member of the so-called reconciliation committee and brother of the country's finance minister, said there was a solid majority for a presidential system.

But he said Abd al-Rasul Sayyaf, a deeply conservative Islamist, was "trying to put the word Islam into every article."

Karzai may concede control of the supreme court to conservatives in order to win their backing, opening the door to restrictions on the rights of women and religious minorities.

Comment: The Bushists will be watching (and interfering) closely in this. It is a sort of lab for the future constitutional talks in Iraq.

Dutch forces briefly seal off American embassy

AP[ FRIDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2003 11:49:27 AM ]

THE HAGUE : Dutch anti-terror forces briefly sealed off the US embassy in The Hague in response to a phone call authorities said they "had to take seriously."

The downtown building was closed to all traffic for three hours on Thursday evening while security forces searched the area as a helicopter circled overhead.

EU prostitute corridor may let in terror bomb

AP[ SUNDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2003 11:07:46 AM ]

ROTTERDAM : Efforts to tighten security for sea-borne containers won't lessen the risk that terrorists could team up with criminal gangs to sneak a nuclear weapon into Europe by land, through the poorly policed Balkans, some security experts warn.

Al-Qaeda or some other terrorist group could send a Soviet-built tactical warhead along the same, well-traveled routes that traffickers use to smuggle prostitutes and drugs into western Europe, said Tom Sanderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington .

Terror attempt on British jet foiled: report

December 28, 2003

Saudi Arabia has arrested two Islamic suicide pilots who were preparing to fly two light aircraft into a packed British Airways (BA) jet, a British Sunday newspaper said, quoting a senior opposition politician.

The suspected suicide pilots were arrested in the last few weeks after they were found red-handed with aircraft loaded with explosives near Saudi Arabia's main airport in the capital Riyadh, The Mail on Sunday said. [...]

Suspected ebola case in Zimbabwe

Sunday 28 December 2003, 12:57 Makka Time, 9:57 GMT

A suspected case of deadly ebola fever has been reported in Zimbabwe's prime resort of Victoria Falls, state media said on Sunday.

The Sunday Mail quoted the health minister and a senior medical official confirming that a trader from Angola had died at the main hospital in the northwestern town on Christmas day from a suspected ebola infection.

Feeling A Draft: New law ties PFD to draft registry

By SEAN COCKERHAM
Anchorage Daily News
December 27, 2003

JUNEAU -- Alaska men between 18 and 25, stand at attention: Selective Service registration will now be a requirement to get a Permanent Fund check.

Starting Jan. 1, state law will demand that Alaskans be listed with federal Selective Service to get the dividend. The state plans to forward information from the dividend applications to the federal government, which will automatically register the eligible Alaska males who haven't already signed up. [...]

Word of the new requirement doesn't seem to have spread. Rob Hartley, a guidance counselor at Dimond High School in Anchorage, said he hadn't heard about it and doesn't think word has filtered down to the students either.

"No, I would seriously doubt that they know about that," Hartley said. [...]

"When they looked at Alaska, they felt the most efficient way to reach the greatest number of people would be through tying compliance with Selective Service to the Permanent Fund dividend," she said.

Nearly every Alaskan applies for the annual dividend check. The state sent out $1,107 checks to about 600,000 Alaskans this fall. That's about 94 percent of the population. [...]

Bush Screws Our War Heroes

GOP blocking abolishment of Disabled Veterans Tax

By Joseph L. Galloway
SFTT.org

WASHINGTON - Its formal title is The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2003. Veterans say it is a long overdue measure to end what they have nicknamed The Disabled Veterans Tax. By either name it is a hot-button issue for 670,000 disabled American military veterans.

What the bill would do is redress a century-old injustice - a law that says anyone who retires after a full career of military service and draws retirement pay will have that pay reduced, dollar for dollar, for any payment received from the Veterans Administration for permanent service-connected disability.

In other words, if a military retiree is judged 100 percent disabled as a consequence of old war wounds or Agent Orange or bone damage from jumping out of airplanes, he would draw a maximum disability payment of $2,300 per month. His retired pay would disappear entirely, under the law.

Curiously, if a former soldier served only a two or four-year tour and was later judged disabled he would draw full disability payments with no reduction for any other payments he might receive from Social Security or a government or private retirement plan. [...]

We Hate Spam, Congress Says (Except When It's Sent by Us)

By JENNIFER LEE
The New York Times


WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 — Even as Congress was unanimously approving a law aimed at reducing the flow of junk e-mail, members were sending out hundreds of thousands of unsolicited messages to constituents.

The spasm of activity is aimed at attracting voluntary subscribers to the lawmakers' e-mail lists, which would not be subject to House rules that normally impose a 90-day blackout before an election for taxpayer-supported Congressional mass communications.

In September, the House Administration Committee voted, 5 to 3, along party lines to allow e-mail messages to the subscribers to be sent in the blackout period, but maintained the ban on free postal mail from House members to voters. The policy change affected only House rules and was not part of the junk e-mail legislation. [...]

Leonard Peltier: Justice and the President

Windsor Star
Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Nothing seems to change for native activist Leonard Peltier. Despite 27 years of imprisonment, Peltier continues to steadfastly maintain he's innocent of a double murder involving FBI agents at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

And despite the compelling evidence indicating that both the U.S. and Canadian governments are culpable in this controversial case, neither country will acknowledge that Peltier was likely railroaded.

All of this adds up to a seemingly hopeless scenario for Peltier, who is serving concurrent life sentences in Leavenworth Prison. Now 59 and in poor health, Peltier is destined to die in jail.

Peltier can't even get a proper parole hearing to tell his side of the story. Astonishingly, he has been repeatedly denied this basic right, routinely given to individuals who have served the mandatory 200 months for a murder charge.

The latest blow to "early release" came a few months ago when Denver's 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant Peltier a parole hearing, even though the court acknowledged that the "government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed." [...]

Mass grave of Vietnamese soldiers found

HANOI (AFP) DEC 28, 2003

A mass grave containing the bodies of 127 communist soldiers killed during the Vietnam war have been found in the central province of Kon Tum, state media said Sunday. [...]

"All the martyrs were buried in a bomb crater at a military base of the US army prior to 1972," VNA said. [...]

87 die from cold in north India

NEW DELHI (AFP) DEC 28, 2003

At least 87 people have died this winter as a cold front swept across northern India, a report said Sunday.

The United News of India agency, in a toll based on local authorities' figures, said 40 of the deaths occurred in the large state of Uttar Pradesh and 22 in Bihar to its east. [...]

Touch Screen Voting IS A SAUDI FRAUD!

[...] Accenture is a provider of Touch Screen Voting Software for American voting systems. It is owned by a group of Saudi (Princes) investors, but was originally developed by a another Saudi company HQ'd in Yemen, the home town where Osama bin Laden was born. Accenture was a lobbyist (at Bush's request) to convince Congress that the (HAVA) Help America Vote Act of 2003 should rely exclusively on touch screen voting machines. After a well known computer software professor in Michigan outed the Diebold (aka-Global Election Systems) Software as hopelessly "unreliable", Diebold brought in SAIC for a "second" opinion. We should all mention that SAIC is the Saudi's communication "encryption" contractors for their Air Force and Navy. [...]

The Elections Systems Task Force was the major lobbyist for the Help America Vote Act 2003 (HAVA), which mandates all states replace antiquated voting machines with touch-screen voting machines for the 2004 presidential election. The ESTF's main purpose was to get Congress to foot the $3.9 billion bill for E-voting machines and move the country away from an auditable system.

The Elections task force was comprised of Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Electronic Data Systems Corporation and Accenture Ltd., of recent scandals. All of these companies have major government contracts, most with the Defense Department. [...]

Accenture’s Election.com is a global election software and services company providing “complete election management solutions — voter registration and database management, poll site and remote electronic voting,” according to the company Web site.

Its stockholders consist of a group of Saudi businessmen. Accenture bought Election.com from Osan, Ltd — a private Saudi firm out of Yemen — described as a cash-starved company that has never made money, yet two different companies stepped in to rescue it: First the Saudis, then Accenture, affiliate lobbyists for HAVA.

According to information provided by the Yemen Ministry of Trade, Osan, Ltd. is located in the city of Sana'a, inside Yemen.

Yemen is the family home of Osama bin Laden and currently regarded by intelligence officials as a haven for members of the al-Qaeda terrorist group. The State Department continues to warn US citizens to defer travel to Yemen. [...]

Voters call for ID card

By Linda Simalis
December 28, 2003

A CLEAR majority of Australians want a national identity card introduced to help combat terrorism.

This is one of the key findings of a Newspoll conducted exclusively for The Sunday Telegraph .[...]

Polls conducted before the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, indicated most people did not want to be constrained by a national identity card. But in this survey, 60 per cent supported the idea.

The greatest support came from respondents aged over 50, with 71 per cent saying they would back such a plan.

Comment: Uhh, so which is it? Do they want it or not? This poll sounds suspicious. Notice that these polls never show exactly what questions were asked.

Smoking In Pueblo, Colorado Brings Tickets Due To New Ordinance

Lawyer: No Smoking Ordinance Unconstitutional

First US cow with mad cow disease was imported from Canada: USDA

Sat DEC 27, 3:43 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The first US cow infected with mad cow disease was imported from Canada, the US Department of Agriculture's chief veterinary officer said.

The cow was part of a lot of animals brought into Washington state from Canada in 2001, Ron DeHaven told reporters, citing "very preliminary information" he received late Friday night. [...]

A case of mad cow disease was reported in Alberta, Canada, last spring.

Rob Scarlett, president of Canada's Wild Rose Agricultural Producers, said the announcement is "the worst thing we could have heard in Alberta, and perhaps in Canada, for the beef industry."

If confirmed, he told Canada's Newsworld television network, it will have "severe ramifications for our industry." [...]

Comment: There's nothing like shooting yourself in the foot while simultaneously taking your "friends" down with you.

Canada cautions US on cow 'link'

Canada has said it is too soon to say the US' first mad cow case began in an animal from one of its herds.

US agriculture officials reported that the diseased cow came from Alberta in August 2001.

But Ottawa's chief veterinarian Dr Brian Evans said any conclusion on the cow's origin was "premature".

Two US cattle herds are now in quarantine after the BSE discovery, which could cost the American beef industry billions of dollars.

[...] Dr DeHaven said it was not yet known where the other 73 animals imported from Canada were, adding that they may or may not be infected.

But his Canadian counterpart, Dr Evans, said the details on the cow's records in the US do not match those kept in Canada.

"As yet, there is no definitive evidence that confirms that the BSE-infected cow originated in Canada," Dr Evans said.

European Union's Romano Prodi opens letter bomb but is unhurt

06:33 AM EST Dec 28
TOM RACHMAN

ROME (AP) - European Union Commission President Romano Prodi opened a letter bomb at his home in Bologna on Saturday but was unhurt. The package, containing a book packed with explosive powder, flared up but didn't explode.

Prodi emerged from his home late Saturday to assure the public he was fine, saying only furniture was damaged.

Last week, two small bombs exploded near Prodi's home, also without harming anyone. A previously unknown anarchist group claimed responsibility for those attacks, saying it had targeted Prodi as a representative of a repressive "new European order."

Beagle hopes hang on mothership

The British team behind the Beagle 2 mission to Mars has failed to contact the lander after several attempts.

There has been no signal since the probe's planned touchdown on the Red Planet early on Christmas Day.

Team leader Professor Colin Pillinger says they are now pinning their hopes on the mothership, Mars Express.

He told reporters: "Mars Express is our primary route of communication. It's the one we spent most of our time over the last four years testing.

"Really and truly now we're waiting until 4 January for a really big attempt with Mars Express."

Piranha increase 'due to dams'

By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff

Recent outbreaks of piranha attacks on bathers in south-east Brazil may have been caused by the damming of rivers.

The link may help to explain other unusual examples of piranha attacks in the country's rivers.

How many Americans are satisfied with their lives?

USA Today Snapshot: Fifty-seven percent of Americans are very satisfied with their lives. Americans are happier than Europeans, where just 21% are very satisfied with the state of their lives.



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