Connecticut court ruling backs tribal sovereignty

English (US)  May 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

By Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

HARTFORD, Conn. - The state Supreme Court has issued a ruling upholding a federally recognized tribe's sovereign immunity that shields it from being sued in state court without its consent.

[More:]

The unanimous ruling upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Bradley Beecher, a former commander of the state police casino and licensing unit, who began working for the Mohegan Tribe as an investigator in 1997 after retiring.

''An Indian tribe is subject to suit only when Congress has authorized the suit or the tribe has waived its immunity,'' Senior Associate Justice David Borden wrote.

Beecher and his wife, Katherine, said they would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

''We never really thought we would win because Connecticut gets too much money from Indian gambling. The U.S. Supreme Court has been the plan all along,'' she told Indian Country Today.

The case began in October 2004 when the Mohegans brought an action against Bradley Beecher, claiming that he had tried to extort money from the tribe by threatening to disclose confidential information he had acquired while working for the tribe.

Beecher said he had in effect been fired after five years on the job because he had criticized the tribe's regulatory practices.

The tribe's lawsuit ended in December 2004 with an agreed-upon permanent injunction that allowed Beecher to talk publicly about his employment with Mohegan, but prohibited him from disclosing any confidential information about the tribe.

The Beechers have documenting their battle and claims against Mohegan and state officials on an e-mail listserv and a Web site.

In May 2005, Beecher sued the Mohegan Tribe in state Superior Court, alleging that the tribe's October 2004 lawsuit was a type of vexatious litigation known as a SLAPP suit - a ''strategic lawsuit against public participation.'' Specifically, Beecher complained that the tribe was trying to gag him from making adverse comments about Mohegan to state officials while the tribe was negotiating the purchase of the Pocono Downs racetrack in Pennsylvania.

Mohegan responded with a motion to dismiss Beecher's claim, claiming that without tribal or congressional consent, the tribe's sovereign immunity protects it from actions in state court.

The lower court agreed and dismissed the case.

Beecher's appeal alleged that the lower court improperly concluded that the tribe did not waive its immunity. He claimed specifically that the tribe had waived its immunity by filing its original claim in state court.

In upholding the lower court's dismissal, Borden quoted case law that says a waiver of immunity ''may not be implied, but must be expressed unequivocally. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to find a waiver of tribal immunity based on policy concerns, perceived inequities arising from the assertion of immunity, or the unique context of a case.''

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has led the opposition to the federal recognition of the state's remaining unrecognized tribes, said the state Supreme Court ruling ''breaks no new ground and therefore has no broader ramifications. It will have little or no impact beyond this case.''

The ruling drew admiration from attorney Douglas Luckerman, who represents tribal nations in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.

''I saw this case and wondered why the rest of New England can't have judges like that. They seem to get that tribal sovereignty is not something judges can play with easily,'' Luckerman said.

In a statement on tribal sovereignty, Katherine Beecher said, in part, that it ''allows tribes and their non-tribal management to violate the law. If tribes want to be considered separate countries then the same laws should apply to them as actual other countries. Any foreign government or their representatives must obey all American state and federal laws and can be held accountable in American courts.''

The Beechers are ''working closely with CERA, One Nation United and many other groups to see that the public is educated and that the unfair policies are changed,'' she said.

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    Israel minister resigns over report

    English (US)  May 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


    Eitan Cabel is the first member of Ehud Olmert's cabinet to resign over the 2006 war

    Eitan Cabel, an Israeli cabinet minister, has tendered his resignation after a commission lambasted the government over last year's war in Lebanon.

    [More:]


    Cabel, a minister without portfolio, said on Tuesday: "Ehud Olmert [Israel's prime minister] must resign. He must bear responsibility.

    "I can no longer sit in a government led by Ehud Olmert."

    Cabel is the first member of Olmert's government to resign over an interim report on the war's handling which was published on Monday.

    Following the minister's announcement at a news conference, the prime minister's office immediately said that Olmert would not be leaving office.

    A few hours later however, Israel's Channel 2 reported that a majority of parliamentarians from Olmert's Kadima party now believed that he should step down as leader.

    The channel also said that Kadima's MPs would press Olmert to step down as party leader at a meeting expected to be held on Thursday, when parliament meets to debate Eliyah Winograd's interim report on the war.

    Separately, Channel 10 reported that Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, had told her aides that Olmert "must go." Lizni is a favourite to succeed Olmert as the leader of Kadima.

    Eitan Cabel, an entrepreneur and businessman, played little role in the 2006 war and has for several months hinted that he was considering leaving politics, Israeli media has reported.

    'Domino effect'

    Cabel's resignation follows increasing speculation in Israeli media that Olmert and Amir Peretz, the country's defence minister, would soon resign in response to popular discontent over their handling of the war in Lebanon in summer 2006.

    A poll on Tuesday conducted by public radio found that 69 per cent of the Israeli public think the prime minister should resign and 74 per cent believe Peretz, who is also the chairman of the Labor party, should also step down.

    The government commission, appointed by Olmert seven months ago, accused him of "serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence" during last year's war against Hezbollah.

    The report was equally withering about Peretz and Dan Halutz, the then chief of staff, concluding that they had failed in fulfilling their functions.

    Agencies

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      Arianna Huffington: Why Didn't George Tenet Just Resign?

      English (US)  April 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

      By Arianna Huffington

      Does this sound familiar? A senior Bush
      administration official plays a key role in selling the Iraq war debacle to the American public, resigns a few years later, and then tries to distance himself from Bush and the war by writing a book or talking to Bob Woodward, portraying himself as a poor, hapless victim who knew the truth at the time and really, really wanted to tell it, but, somehow, just had no choice but to go along. What else could he do?

      [More:]

      Each version of this contemptible tale shares the same fatal flaw. It requires that the remedy that was readily available -- resignation -- did not exist.

      The latest to trod this pathetic path is George Tenet.

      Poor George Tenet. Flogging his book, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, on 60 Minutes, Tenet tells Scott Pelley about how his phrase "slam dunk" was misused by the Bush administration. Tenet, you see, didn't mean it was a "slam dunk" that Hussein actually had WMD, he only meant it was a "slam dunk" that a public case could be made that Hussein had WMD.

      I can't really see that the distinction matters, but Tenet apparently does. "I became campaign talk," Tenet tells Pelley, "I was a talking point. 'Look at what the idiot told us, and we decided to go to war.' Well, let's not be so disingenuous. Let's stand up. This is why we did it. This is why, this is how we did it. And let's tell, let's everybody tell the truth."

      Great -- except he's about four years too late. Tenet seems to believe there's a major distinction between lying and standing by silently while others lie, and then proudly receiving a Medal of Freedom from the liars.

      He could have simply resigned and freed himself to "tell the truth." Tenet acts as if resignation were not an option. But it was. And the passion and anger he displays now in the service of book sales could have been used then in the service of his country.

      "It's the most despicable thing I've ever heard in my life," Tenet tells Pelley. "You don't do this... You're gonna throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection? Is that honorable? It's not honorable to me."

      The problem is, the honorable train left the station a long time ago, and Tenet wasn't on board.

      But others were. Like John Brady Kiesling, a career U.S. diplomat, who resigned from the State Department. As he wrote in his resignation letter to
      Colin Powell:

      "I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share."

      That, Mr. Tenet, is how it's done.

      It's way too late for George Tenet to do the right thing. But can someone please remind Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales, as they are pathetically fighting tooth and nail to cling to their jobs, that there is another option.

      And how long do you think it's going to be after the end of the Bush administration before we are treated to General Petraeus' memoir explaining how the surge would have worked "if only he had been given the troops he needed to implement it properly."

      So here is a plea to all Bush administration officials: Now is the time. If, like John Brady Kiesling, you're finding it hard to reconcile what you see going on around you with what you know to be the truth, do the right thing and resign. While it matters.

      As Tenet says on 60 Minutes: "At the end of the day, the only thing you have is trust and honor in this world. It's all you have. All you have is your reputation built on trust and your personal honor. And when you don't have that anymore, well, there you go."

      George Tenet and I are both Greek and there is a great word for it: filotimo.

      There are still lives to be saved if a few administration officials have the guts to do what they know is right now -- instead of five years from now while flogging their books.

      Any takers?

      huffingtonpost.com

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        Video: Should Paul Wolfowitz stay or should he go? Parts 1 & 2

        English (US)  April 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

        8 words posted in Politics, BusinessLeave a comment

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          Wolfowitz refuses to resign

          English (US)  April 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

          In what can only be described as an act of supreme chutzpah, Paul Wolfowitz refuses to resign from his Bush-appointed job as head of the World Bank and now accuses those asking for his resignation of mounting a "smear campaign" against him for putting his girlfriend in a plush job and getting her a huge pay raise.


          Wolfowitz said he believed resigning would
          be harmful to the World Bank

          Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, has repeated his refusal to step down, while the US president has spoken out to back him.

          [More:]

          "Wolfowitz must resign because ... his act of favouritism for personal interest was wrong" Ibby, Mumbai, India


          Wolfowitz, a former deputy defence secretary, said the charges over his handling of a pay rise for his girlfriend was a "smear campaign". He said he would not resign over "unfair charges".

          The scandal over Shaha Riza's salary, higher than that of Condoleezza Rice, the present US secretary of state, has risked the reputation of the bank, which was set up to assist developing nations.

          Wolfowitz made his statement on Monday to a panel investigating whether he broke bank rules when securing Riza's rise. She is expected to appear later in the day.

          Wolfowitz said the issue had become "circus like".

          "I, for one, would not give in to such tactics. And, I will not resign in the face of a plainly bogus charge of conflict of interest."

          "I do not believe that doing so would serve the interests of the world's poor who are supposed to be the first concern of us all."

          Wolfowitz has been criticised by Europe since he took the job in 2005.

          "Only when the cloud of these unfair and untrue charges is removed, will it truly be possible to determine objectively whether I can be an effective leader of the World Bank," he said.

          US support

          Almost simultaneously at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, George Bush, the US president, reiterated his support for Wolfowitz, but said the issue had not been discussed while meeting Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and EU president.

          Bush said: "I think he ought to stay. He ought to be given a fair hearing."

          The bank's 24-member board is expected to make a decision in the case this week, which has also raise expressions of concern that the bank's mission of helping the poor would be damaged.

          Wolfowitz said he regretted the "tumult" the controversy had caused the bank, but said: "To criticise me when I did nothing other than attempt in good faith to follow the guidance of the ethics committee would be unwarranted and grossly unfair."

          "Moreover, it would be harmful to the institution," he said.

          Source: Agencies

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            Lebanon war report slams Israeli PM Olmert

            English (US)  April 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


            The commission said responsibility for the war's failures lay with Olmert, Peretz and Halutz

            A commission probing Israel's war in Lebanon last summer has accused the country's wartime leaders of "very severe failures" in their handling of the conflict in an interim report.

            "The problem is not the leaders of Israel but instead it is the Israeli society, it is the Israelis who vote and elect those leaders..."
            Politics, Cambridge, United Kingdom

            [More:]

            Timeline: Lebanon war
            - July 12, 2006: Hezbollah fighters crossed into Israel, killing eight soldiers and capturing two others.
            Ehud Olmert called the action an act of war and blamed the Beirut government.

            - July 13: Israel launched airstrikes on Beirut's International Airport, the first of many attacks on Lebanon's civilian infrastructure.
            Hezbollah started a series of rocket attacks, hitting Haifa in northern Israel.

            - July 14: Israeli planes bombed the Beirut offices of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
            The next day airstrikes were extended to other cities starting with Tripoli.

            - July 30: An Israeli raid on a building housing refugees in Qana in southern Lebanon killed at least 28.

            - August 14: With Israeli troops still in position in southern Lebanon, a UN-brokered ceasefire came into force.
            By then more than a thousand Lebanese civilians had been killed as well as 39 Israeli civilians and 119 soldiers.

            Although Olmert's popularity has plunged to single digits as a result of the war and a series of scandals plaguing his government, Israel Maimon, the cabinet secretary, said the prime minister "is not considering resignation".

            The Winograd commission, appointed by Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, found he did not have a "well-processed plan" when he launched the campaign against Hezbollah.

            The commission on Monday criticised what it called Olmert's "severe failure in judgment, responsibility and caution" in going to war last July.

            The report capped a six-month investigation into the conflict, which has been widely perceived as a failure by the Israeli public.

            Upon receiving the report, Olmert said "failures will be remedied".

            'Overly ambitious'

            Eliyahu Winograd, chairman of the inquiry commission, said the prime minister's declared aims in going to war - to free captured Israeli soldiers and crush Hezbollah - were "overly ambitious and impossible to achieve".

            The report also sharply criticised Amir Peretz, the defence minister, and Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, the wartime military chief, but did not call for Olmert or Peretz to resign.

            Israel went to war after Hezbollah fighters killed three soldiers and captured two others in a cross-border raid. In 34 days of fighting, Israel failed to return the captured soldiers, destroy Hezbollah or prevent the group from firing thousands of rockets into Israel.

            Monday's report criticised Peretz for his inexperience and lack of familiarity with the army, and said Halutz "acted impulsively" and misrepresented the army's readiness.

            Winograd said: "We establish that these decisions and the way they were taken suffered from the most severe failures. We put the responsibility for these failures on the prime minister, the defence minister and the former chief of staff.

            "If any one of them had acted in a different, better way, the decisions and the way they were made in the period in question, as well as the results of the campaign, would have been different and better."

            Sinking support

            Aides said before the interim findings were released that Olmert would fight for his political survival.

            The full report is to be released in a couple of months.

            It covers the first six days of the war, when Israel battered Lebanon with massive air strikes as Hezbollah pounded Israel with rockets. The report also looks at developments in the six years leading up to the conflict, beginning with Israel's pullout from southern Lebanon in 2000 and tracing Hezbollah's build-up along the border.

            A rally calling for Olmert and his government to quit was planned for Thursday in Tel Aviv. The demonstration was being organised by a former general, military reservists who fought in the war and parents of soldiers killed in the conflict.

            Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland in Jerusalem said the report is likely to damage Olmert's standing further.

            "One newspaper said his standing was somewhere between critical and terminal," she said.

            The report's harshest criticism is reserved for Halutz, who has already resigned, Rowland said.

            At least 1,200 Lebanese, including an estimated 270 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the summer war, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians.
            Source: Al Jazeera and agencies


            Jazeera and agencies

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              Hamas chief issues intifada warning

              English (US)  April 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

              Meshaal gave warning to the "Zionist entity" of another uprising [Reuters]

              Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, has told Israel that it could face another Palestinian uprising unless conditions in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank improve.

              [More:]


              Meshaal said that the continuation of an international economic embargo of the Palestinian government and military actions by Israel would present a catalyst for such actions.

              He said that current conditions would "give notice to a huge explosion that would not only affect the Palestinians but also the entire region, especially the Zionist entity".

              Meshaal made the comments to al-Ayyam, a Palestinian daily newspaper, in an interview published on Monday.

              'Red lines'

              Meshaal said: "I warn and say that I see that the current situation is heading in the direction of the conditions that prevailed in the late 1990s ... that paved the way for the al-Aqsa intifada. I warn, and under 'warn' I put many red lines."

              The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement, broke a five-month-old Gaza ceasefire last week by firing rockets into Israel in response to the killing of nine Palestinians by Israeli forces.

              Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said on Sunday that Israel would take measures to stop Palestinian fighters firing rockets from the Gaza Strip or attempting to infiltrate the Jewish state.

              Meshaal defended the firing of rockets, saying it was a response to Israeli killing of Palestinians, but said he hoped that a ceasefire could be expanded from Gaza to the occupied West Bank.

              Hamas formed a unity government last month with the Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinan president, in an effort to end internal fighting and ease the year-old economic embargo.

              But tensions between Hamas and Fatah remain high, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

              The Hamas leader, who held talks with Abbas in Cairo on Friday, has criticised Arab countries for being slow to live up to financial commitments made to the Palestinians.

              Agencies

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                Israeli PM Olmert faces calls to resign

                English (US)  April 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                Israeli politicians have called for the resignation of Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, a day before the release of a report that is expected to criticise his role in last year's war in Lebanon.

                [More:]

                Israeli media have said the Winograd Commission report will blast Olmert for "misguided and rash judgment" in launching military strikes on Lebanon.

                The commission's report focuses on the first five days of Israeli military action following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters in June last year.

                Ofir Pines, a former Labour cabinet minister, said both Olmert and Amir Peretz, the defence minister, should stand down.

                "I expect the prime minister and the defence minister to stand up and take responsibility and resign," he told Army Radio.

                Gideon Saar, a senior member of the main opposition party, Likud, said: "He has to accept responsibility. The people deserve better."

                Staying put

                Another Labour politician, Danny Yatom, said the entire cabinet should resign, since they unanimously approved the decision to go to war.

                "The whole cabinet is party to these matters," he told Israel Radio.

                "They are all partners ... by virtue of their vote, and by the fact that they didn't stand up and say a word even if they had something to say."

                Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz has already resigned in the face of public criticism of his handling of the conflict.

                Olmert was quoted by the YNet news website as telling members of his cabinet at their weekly meeting: "We cannot talk about what has been leaked. We will wait for the report, read it, study it and then we'll respond."

                Olmert's aides have said he has no intention of resigning.

                The prime minister has argued that Israel made strategic gains in the war in a ceasefire deal that left Hezbollah not in control of some of its territory under a strengthened UN peacekeeping force.

                Popularity drop

                Hezbollah fired about 4,000 rockets into Israel during the war, sending a million people into shelters in attacks the Israeli military failed to stop.

                Olmert's approval rating has since plunged to single digits in opinion polls.

                Suzanne Peretz, a spokeswoman for Kiryat Shmona, a northern Israeli town hit by Hezbollah fire, said: "There was no prime minister. There was no government. We were screaming for help."

                Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland in Jerusalem says the report is likely to damage Olmert's standing further.

                "One newspaper said his standing was somewhere between critical and terminal."

                The report's harshest criticism is reserved for Halutz, who has already resigned, Rowland said.

                At least 1,200 Lebanese, including an estimated 270 Hezbollah fighters, and 117 Israeli soldiers and 41 civilians were killed in the conflict.

                Aljazeera and agencies

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                  Israeli Occupation Forces kill four Palestinians in Gaza

                  English (US)  April 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                  The injured activist was transferred to Dar al-Shifaa hospital in Gaza

                  Israeli soldiers have shot dead three Palestinian activists and critically wounded another near the border, east of Gaza city.

                  In a separate incident in southern Gaza, a Palestinian civilian was killed on Friday night by what local medics and residents said was an Israeli tank shell. The Israeli army said it was not involved.

                  [More:]


                  Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, accused Israel of violating a ceasefire in Gaza and said it has the right to respond by "all means available".

                  An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed Saturday's shooting and said the three men were killed while trying to place explosive devices.

                  Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas, confirmed that the three killed Palestinian activists and the injured fourth belong to the group.

                  End of ceasefire

                  Qassam Brigades resumed firing rockets into Israel on Tuesday after the killing of nine Palestinians in raids last week, which it cited as ending the five-month ceasefire.

                  Other Palestinian factions, including the National Resistance Committees, al-Nasir Salah al-Din Brigades and Palestine's Mujahidin Brigades, have issued statements claiming responsibility for firing a number of rockets at Israeli targets north and east of Gaza Strip, Hiba Akila, Al Jazeera correspondent, said.

                  The factions have vowed to continue firing rockets at Israeli targets in response to aggressive Israeli practices in the Gaza Strip and continuing military operations and arrest campaigns in the West Bank, Akila said.

                  However, Palestinian leaders said the future of the cease-fire depended on Israeli actions.

                  Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, decided in talks with security chiefs on Wednesday to step up "targeted attacks" against Palestinian rocket-launching crews.

                  Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, said his government would reassess its strategy in one to two months if international sanctions against the Palestinian were not lifted.

                  Haniya leads a unity government with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.


                  Al Jazeera and agencies

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                    Israel's lab in Palestine

                    English (US)  April 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                    Disturbing reports allege that Israel is using Gaza as a field to experiment its new lethal weapons, reports Mel Frykberg

                    Doctors in Gaza have been reporting strange wounds on the bodies of innocent bystanders and those targeted by drones. These wounds consist of many small holes, often invisible to X-rays, and burns caused by heat so intense that many cases have required amputation because of the extensive burning.

                    [More:]

                    Habas Al-Wahid, head of the emergency centre at the Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza city told the journalists that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies "as if a saw was used to cut through the bone." But there was no evidence of ordinary metal shrapnel in or near the wounds.

                    At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Juma Saka said that on examination of the wounds, the doctors had found a powder on the victim's bodies and in their internal organs. Afterwards they removed the microscopic particles which turned out to be carbon and tungsten.

                    "The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and this is likely what caused the injuries," Saka said. Complicating the issue was the death of many patients several days afterwards, although they appeared to recover initially. Accusations that Israel is using Gaza and its inhabitants as a laboratory to test new military weapons, have been made from several quarters.

                    "We don't know what it means -- new weapons or something added to a previous weapon," said Saied Joudda, deputy director at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

                    To back up their personal experiences, a group of doctors compiled extensive documentary evidence of the extent of the wounds, which occurred specifically in the legs. In other parts of the body, metallic fragments, bigger than the size of the small wounds, were found.

                    "In our opinion, Israel has also used chemical weapons, such as numerous cases demonstrate, documented cases, with persons having extremely serious burns to their internal organs in the absence of external wounds," said Mouawia, a cardio-vascular surgeon and director-general of emergency services in Gaza.

                    An investigating team of Italian journalists produced a documentary on Italian state television's satellite channel, RAI News 24, alleging that Israel used dense inert metal explosives (DIME) against Palestinian targets in July and August of last year. This followed journalists taking samples of the microscopic explosives from Gaza and having them tested in a laboratory in Italy.

                    Carmela Vaccaio, a doctor at the University of Parma, examined samples sent by the Italian reporters from the Gaza Strip and found a high concentration of carbon, as well as copper, aluminium and tungsten, which she considered to be unusual materials. In her report she concluded, "these findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question is DIME. The same investigating team also exposed the US military's use of white phosphorus against civilians during attacks on Falluja in Iraq.

                    Similar accusations were made against Israel during the Lebanon war, when the Jewish state originally denied using phosphorous against Lebanese civilians. But several days later, following the explosive allegations of the Italian journalists and with overwhelming evidence, Israeli cabinet minister, Jacob Edery confirmed that the Israeli military had in fact made use of phosphorous shells.

                    Israel is accused of dropping more than a million cluster bombs in the south of Lebanon just a few days before the ceasefire. Since then there have been several Lebanese deaths on a daily basis after people accidentally trod on unexploded shells.

                    According to military experts, DIME is a carbon-encased missile that shatters on impact into minuscule splinters, at the same time setting off an explosive that shoots blades of energy-charged, heavy metal tungsten alloy (HMTA) powder, such as cobalt and nickel or iron, with a carbon fibre casing. It turns to dust on impact, as it loses inertia very quickly due to air resistance, burning and destroying through a very precise angulation everything within a four-metre range, as opposed to the shrapnel which results from the fragmentation of a metal casing. The designation of the metal as "inert" is due to the metal's non-involvement in the blast, rather than the metal being chemically or biologically inert.

                    This technology is one of a new range of "low collateral damage" or LCD weapons designed to minimise the damage to nearby property, by confining its increased lethal effects to a restricted space. So it is "ideal for densely populated areas" and "helping the warfighter to prevent the loss of public support," according to its enthusiastic proponents.

                    Israeli military spokesmen have refused to acknowledge or deny the use of DIME in Gaza, but simply stated that Israel only uses weapons that are legal under international law. The catch is that as DIME is a new weapon, the jury is still out as it still has to be assessed.

                    However, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a major-general in the Israel Air Force, and former head of the army's weapons- development programme didn't deny that the Israelis had used DIME in Gaza but went on to explain its credentials.

                    "The idea behind DIME is to allow the accurate pin- pointing of targets without causing collateral damage to innocent bystanders. This is a technology that allows the striking of very small targets."

                    This would conveniently fit in with Israel's policy of targeted assassinations, however as the Gaza Strip is so densely populated with nearly 1.5 million people crammed into an area 10 by six miles, the chances of innocent bystanders being hit is very high.

                    In addition to being seriously maimed, injured and killed, due to the carcinogenic effects of DIME, the number of Palestinians becoming afflicted with cancer will multiply in the long term, in addition to their environment being extensively damaged should the Israelis continue to use this new weapon with impunity.

                    Al Ahram

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                      Pelosi, Biden and Cluster Bombs: Failing to Hold Israel Accountable for War Crimes in Lebanon

                      English (US)  April 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                      By Michael F. Brown

                      In late January the State Department delivered a potentially explosive report to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The classified report asserts that Israel may have violated the Arms Export Control Act with its use of American-made cluster munitions this past summer in Lebanon.

                      [More:]

                      Multiple contacts to both offices indicate neither Biden nor Pelosi has any intention of pursuing the matter. In contrast, a congressional investigation 25 years ago helped persuade President Ronald Reagan to suspend cluster munitions to Israel for six years. This Congress, however, will not call Israel to account for its actions.

                      Cluster munitions are a ghastly creation on two levels. First, these bombs blow apart into hundreds of smaller bomblets, thus spreading death over a wide radius. Second, a terrifying percentage of them fail to explode at least initially. These "duds" then sit on the ground like mines until the curious child or plowing farmer stumbles across them - often with devastating results.

                      As recently as July, the US House of Representatives voted 410-8 for a resolution including recognition of "Israel's longstanding commitment to minimizing civilian loss" and welcoming "Israel's continued efforts to prevent civilian casualties" in Lebanon and elsewhere. The language was an open insult to the hundreds of Lebanese civilians already killed and injured in the previous few days by the Israeli military.

                      Many at the State Department appear uncomfortable addressing Israel's seeming culpability. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, normally quite articulate, provided journalists with this circumlocution: "There may likely could have been some violations."

                      Indeed there were. And a bloody mess it is. Amnesty International asserted in late January that in the previous six months, "Thirty people, eight of them de-mining personnel, have been killed, and more than 180 people have been injured, including 20 mine clearers." Amnesty has called on Israel to turn over maps of where these munitions were used as a means to prevent future loss of civilian life. Israel has yet to provide sufficient information.

                      Israeli officials have defended the use of cluster bombs and other attacks by contending that they warned civilians to leave southern Lebanon, as though such warnings gave them carte-blanche to do as they pleased. But what if Hezbollah gave similar blanket warnings to Israelis in the north of Israel? Surely it is madness to suggest that a warning provides the liberty to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel or to litter Lebanese villages and farmland with hundreds of thousands of deadly bomblets. Do the infirm and impoverished with no way out have no rights?

                      De-mining groups estimate that some 2.6 to 4 million submunitions were fired into Lebanon during the five-week war. Israeli Member of Knesset Ran Cohen stated, "The massive use by the IDF of cluster bombs during the war suggests an absolute loss of control and hysteria." It's a loss of control with munitions mostly produced in the United States.

                      We already know from the Israeli press that the Israeli military did not use the cluster munitions in keeping with the orders of then-Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. "I don't know if this is surprising," said Halutz, "it is more disappointing."

                      In fact, it is more than disappointing. It is criminal and a violation of US law.

                      Yet there is a real danger nothing will come of the State Department's report. Pelosi and Biden may not push hard because they dare not aggravate AIPAC. Silence, however, will harm American standing in the region, damage American commitment to human rights principles, and undercut (once again) American national security interests. Congress ought to grapple seriously with this issue rather than suppress the unpleasant facts about Israel's war crimes in Lebanon.

                      The failure to hold Israel accountable for its actions against Palestinian civilians (and, for that matter, American civilians) in the occupied Palestinian territories undoubtedly contributed to a climate in which many Israeli military leaders thought they could pummel Lebanese civilians with American-made weapons with no repercussions. So far American officials are proving them right.

                      Sen. Dianne Feinstein, while not addressing the possible AECA violation by Israel, introduced legislation earlier this year to "limit the use, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions." She cited heart-rending examples from around the world of the harm these weapons cause to civilians, including to "Hassan Hammade, a 13 year old Lebanese boy, [who] lost four fingers and sustained injuries to his stomach and shoulder after he picked up an unexploded cluster bomb in front of an orange tree."

                      Her legislation would do much to limit future harm to children such as Hassan in Lebanon and other innocent civilians in war-ravaged nations. She and co-sponsors Patrick Leahy, Barbara Mikulski, and Bernard Sanders ought to be commended for this legislative initiative. So, too, should Representatives James McGovern, Darrell Issa, and Betty McCollum for their accompanying legislation in the House.

                      Pelosi and Biden have shrunk from holding Israel accountable for its actions in Lebanon, but could exhibit some overdue leadership by signaling their support for the new cluster bomb legislation.

                      Michael F. Brown is a fellow at the Palestine Center. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Center.

                      Counterpunch

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                        Israel's Trump Card for the Treatment of Palestinians: The Holocaust as Political Asset

                        English (US)  April 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                        By Amira Hass

                        The cynicism inherent in the attitude of the institutions of the Jewish state to Holocaust survivors is not a revelation to those born and living among them. We grew up with the yawning gap between the presentation of the State of Israel as the place of the Jewish people's rebirth and the void that exists for every Holocaust survivor and his family. The personal "rehabilitation" was dependent on the circumstances of each person: the stronger ones versus the others, who did not find support from the institutions of the state. During the 1950s and 1960s we saw the demeaning view of our parents as having gone "like sheep to the slaughter," the shame of the new Jews, the Sabras, over their misfortunate, Diaspora relatives.

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                        It can be argued that during the first two decades, much of this attitude could be attributed to the lack of information and the very human lack of an ability to grasp the full meaning of the industrialized genocide perpetrated by Germany. But the awareness of the material aspects of the Holocaust started very early, with Jewish and Zionist institutions starting in the early 1940s to discuss the possibility of demanding reparations. In 1952, the reparations agreement with Germany was signed, by which that country agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel to cover the absorption costs of the survivors and pay for their rehabilitation. The agreement obligated Germany to compensate survivors individually as well, but the German law differentiated between those who belonged to the "circle of German culture" and others. Those who were able to prove a connection to the superior circle received higher sums, even if they emigrated in time from Germany. Concentration camp survivors from outside the "circle" received the ridiculous sum of 5 marks per day. The Israeli representatives swallowed this distortion.

                        This is part of the roots of financial cynicism that the media is being exposed to today, due to several reasons: the advanced age and declining health of survivors, the intentional weakening of the welfare state, the presence of survivors from the former Soviet Union who are not included in the reparations agreement, the media activism of nongovernmental welfare organizations and the welcome enlistment of social affairs journalists.

                        They are shocked by the gap between the official appropriation of the Holocaust, which is perceived in Israel as understood and justified, and the abandonment of survivors.

                        Turning the Holocaust into a political asset serves Israel primarily in its fight against the Palestinians. When the Holocaust is on one side of the scale, along with the guilty (and rightly so) conscience of the West, the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland in 1948 is minimized and blurred.

                        The phrase "security for the Jews" has been consecrated as an exclusive synonym for "the lessons of the Holocaust." It is what allows Israel to systematically discriminate against its Arab citizens. For 40 years, "security" has been justifying control of the West Bank and Gaza and of subjects who have been dispossessed of their rights living alongside Jewish residents, Israeli citizens laden with privileges.

                        Security serves the creation of a regime of separation and discrimination on an ethnic basis, Israeli style, under the auspices of "peace talks" that go on forever. Turning the Holocaust into an asset allows Israel to present all the methods of the Palestinian struggle (even the unarmed ones) as another link in the anti-Semitic chain whose culmination is Auschwitz. Israel provides itself with the license to come up with more kinds of fences, walls and military guard towers around Palestinian enclaves.

                        Separating the genocide of the Jewish people from the historical context of Nazism and from its aims of murder and subjugation, and its separation from the series of genocides perpetrated by the white man outside of Europe, has created a hierarchy of victims, at whose head we stand. Holocaust and anti-Semitism researchers fumble for words when in Hebron the state carries out ethnic cleansing via its emissaries, the settlers, and ignore the enclaves and regime of separation it is setting up. Whoever criticizes Israel's policies toward the Palestinians is denounced as an anti-Semite, if not a Holocaust denier. Absurdly, the delegitimization of any criticism of Israel only makes it harder to refute the futile equations that are being made between the Nazi murder machine and the Israeli regime of discrimination and occupation.

                        The institutional abandonment of the survivors is rightly denounced across the board. The transformation of the Holocaust into a political asset for use in the struggle against the Palestinians feed on those same stores of official cynicism, but it is part of the consensus.

                        Amira Hass writes for Ha'aretz. She is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza.

                        Counterpunch

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                          For Jews Only? Israeli Democracy

                          English (US)  April 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                          By Sonja Karkar

                          The time will have to come for Israel to declare its hand: is it "a state of the Jewish people throughout the world" as it defines itself, or a state of all its citizens, both Jewish and non-Jewish? So far Israel has managed to convince the Western world that it is the only democracy in the region, but neglects to add that this democracy works only for its Jewish citizens. This is the conundrum: Israel has been unable to reconcile what it says it is, with want it wants to be ­ democratic and exclusively Jewish.

                          [More:]

                          All of Israel's one million plus Palestinian residents ­ the survivors and descendants of the 1948 Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine - have long felt discriminated against, despite Israel paying lip-service to their democratic rights. They also felt on the sidelines of what was being played out in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, that is until Azmi Bishara, the outspoken political leader of the National Democratic Assembly (NDA) or Balad in Israel and a Knesset member, began campaigning for the collective rights of Palestinians. His vision is not just for change inside Israel, but involves an all-inclusive civil rights struggle against political Zionism - the racist and colonialist policies that have dispossessed, marginalised and oppressed all Palestinians for almost 60 years. This is what Israel is at pains to put down by any means. It cannot afford to have someone like Azmi Bishara rallying people to his way of thinking. Now, after many attempts to muzzle him, Israel has finally succeeded in getting him to resign from the Knesset and to stay out of the country.

                          A list of unpublished charges were drawn up against Bishara whilst he was abroad - charges so serious that they would likely have landed him in jail on his return. While the charges themselves are not known, it is not difficult to guess at what they involve. Bishara has been previously charged with undermining the "Jewish nature of the state", but the charges have always been dropped. This time it seems that Israel's state security services may have formulated charges that not only label Bishara a national security threat, but accuse him of treason and espionage. The media is not allowed to discuss any of it and even Bishara himself is reticent on the matter, no doubt to protect himself from being further arraigned because he is adamant that he will eventually return to Israel.

                          Effectively, Bishara and the NDA skated on thin ice legally whenever they called for full and complete equality between Jews and Palestinians in a state for all its citizens. Israel's Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment No 9 of 1985) stops people from participating in elections if any party platform implies the "denial of the existence of the state of Israel as the state of Jewish people". Only recently, Israel's Shin Bet (secret police) let it be known that it would "disrupt the activities of any groups that seek to change the Jewish or democratic character of Israel, even if they use legal means." However, Bishara's intention was not to create a fifth column inside Israel. He was in favour of exercising his and his movement's democratic civil rights to demand that Israel treat all its citizens equally and recognise its Palestinian citizens as a national minority in their own homeland. The latter demand, of course, is enormously contentious because that would require Israel to acknowledge the falsity of its own historical narrative of exclusive rights to a land it claimed was without people. From that would follow that the indigenous Palestinians were, and still are being, systematically uprooted to make way for an exclusively Jewish democratic state in all of the land.

                          The discourse has been taken up in the Palestinian public arena and now Israel is beginning to feel the same stirrings that finally exposed Apartheid South Africa for the racist state it was. It knows that sooner or later it will be forced to commit to being a "Jewish state only" or recognise the Palestinians as equal citizens and a national minority in their own land. Already Palestinian intellectuals have drafted a document called The Democratic Constitution which envisages Israel as a multicultural democracy for the people living and born there. Whatever Azmi Bishara does now in exile, the seed has burst: he has inspired a subjugated people to seek again their liberation. What is surprising is that Israel has taken so long to understand the lessons of history - that no one person or state no matter how powerful can oppress a people forever. However, Israel still has the option to switch course and institute democracy for all, and if genuinely undertaken, this may well be the solution worth working towards for both peoples.

                          Sonja Karkar is the founder and President of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. See www.womenforpalestine

                          Countrpunch

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                            Hanan Ashrawi: "Palestine & Peace: The Challenges Ahead"

                            English (US)  April 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                            Edited Transcript of Remarks by Hanan Ashrawi

                            “For the Record” No. 278 (27 April 2007)

                            At a 24 April 2007 Palestine Center lecture, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi argued that Palestine's pursuit of peace is challenged by unilateralism, selectivity, polarization and violence on three fronts: domestically, regionally and internationally. Ashrawi stressed that for peace to be realized both sides must work through a binding timeframe and monitoring and verification mechanisms. In addition, international assurances and guarantees and a massive reconstruction and development plan must be put in place.

                            Hanan Ashrawi:

                            Thank you very much. Thank you for coming, today. It's great to be back at the Jerusalem Fund again. I'm a frequent visitor here. I'm sure you know, we go back a long, long way and I'm glad to see that you are still thriving. Let me begin by thanking the wonderful staff that you have here with the two Samars, Jessica, Nadeem and Zeina, of course. I'm happy to be here with you and, of course, all the old friends who are members of the Board now. Let me say that it is indeed a pleasure to see all of you, and there are so many old friends here in the audience that once again I feel like it's a reunion.

                            [More:]

                            I did choose to emphasize the theme of peace in the topic because it seems to have fallen by the wayside. Everybody has been talking about crisis management and damage control and will the Palestinian realities hold up or not and who's doing what and so on without really getting back into the real issue of whether there is an opportunity for peace or not. Yes, we all agree that these are very difficult times indeed, and we all know that the terrible Ds or the dreadful Ds have come up again. We see in Palestine a process of de-development, deconstruction. We see devastation, deprivation and, of course, leading to the attitudes or the moods of despondency and despair. All these are not conducive to peace. But out of all these terrible Ds or dreadful Ds, is there an opportunity for peace? Is there a promise despite the difficulties, despite the problems? Now, that requires a confluence of several factors to come together, and they have to be crowned by the political will to intervene positively and to do something to change realities on the ground. So, I will try this afternoon to talk about what works and what doesn't work if we really are to pursue peace and place it in a different context: the Palestinian, the regional and the international or global.

                            Now, what doesn't work. Of course, we all know from experience that what doesn't work is disengagement or non-engagement. Like nature, any conflict resents, dislikes and abhors a vacuum. When there is a vacuum in any conflict, particularly a political vacuum, violence takes over and fills that vacuum. Extremism fills that vacuum. And this is exactly what happened given the fact that since the year 2000, there has been no peace process, the U.S. has kept its distance [and] there was no genuine intervention in order to re-legitimize peace. So, keeping one's distance is certainly quite counterproductive if not destructive. In cases of conflict, you do need the political will to intervene effectively.

                            What doesn't work also is selectivity. I will try to speak quickly to save some time for questions or discussion. Selectivity and exclusion or exclusiveness do not work. In Palestine, of course, the fact that the people decided that Hamas is not an acceptable interlocutor or not an acceptable result of the democratic process has led to serious ramifications, not least of which is the undermining of democracy in Palestine because there was a certain degree of hypocrisy-you can have elections provided you elect the people we like or you guarantee the outcome. We were, in Palestine, electing under severe conditions. We were under occupation, and of course a people traumatized and in pain and constantly subject to violence and escalation and ideology, they elected in kind-those who will respond in kind to this trauma and the pain. And I assure you that if we were in a peaceful, sovereign state, I'm sure you will find a very functioning, multi-party, pluralistic, enlightened system in Palestine. But anyway, regardless, we do have the results of these elections. Not only were they boycotted, the Palestinians were under sanctions-which is ironic again because for the first time in history you have a people under occupation and under sanctions at the same time-while for decades Israel has been violating international law, flouting the will of the international community and with no sanctions, sometimes with even full immunity. But because the Palestinians happen to elect the wrong people, now they are under sanctions. And now after the Mecca initiative and the forming of what is called the national unity government-sometimes I call it a coalition government-there is selectivity in the individuals: whom to talk to and whom not to talk to, who is worthy of dialogue and personal attention and who's not or who's Kosher and who's not. It doesn't matter. But certainly that has had, again, effects on the economy, on peace, on moderation in Palestine.

                            Throughout the region, it's the same thing. You cannot select a people to talk to whom you approve of and exclude others. You cannot say well Syria and Iran are outside the verbal realm, but everybody else is fit company. If you want to deal with the whole region, you deal with it in an integrated way, and we'll talk about it soon. The Baker-Hamilton study, of course, gave us several handles on how to move ahead. It may not be perfect, but at least it is much more insightful than other attitudes and studies. Syria has been saying, "Let's make a deal. We want to make peace. Talk to us. Let's negotiate." And Israel reacted with the utmost of horror, with awe. How dare Syria propose to negotiate? So in a sense, there are options, but are there takers? That's the real question.

                            Of course, conversely, what works is a comprehensive, integrated approach both to the region and to all the players [and] to the peace process itself, including all the major players in the region regardless of whether you like them or not. Unlike friends, interlocutors and negotiating partners are not people you have to love. And you don't have to choose them or marry them or whatever. So, you need to be able to talk to everybody. Again, the peace process has to be inclusive in terms of all the topics it addresses. You cannot deal with parts of Arab land. You have to deal with all of them. And when it comes to the Palestinians, you have to talk to all Palestinian interlocutors-those who were chosen by the Palestinian people. And fortunately right now, we all know that the PLO is the party in power to negotiate, and the presidency has the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people. There is no reason not to engage. To use the pretext that Israel has used for the last six to seven years-there is no partnership for peace-is entirely useless because there is a clear partnership and a properly mandated address for negotiations.

                            There is, of course, the Arab initiative that is ready. Again, it may not be perfect, but it is there. It's a comprehensive approach. It represents an opportunity for Israel and the rest of the world to have a comprehensive peace with all the Arab countries on board, and this is something they should pick up and run with instead of view with weariness and suspicion.

                            What doesn't work also is de-contextualization. This is particularly true when we address the issue of Iraq and Lebanon-the Iraqi quagmire and the Lebanese debacle, of course-and the lessons from those two experiences. The region is not a set of discrete, isolated entities or units. It is made up of a set of relationships and with an interactive public opinion that is quite open and easily influenced by events and highly politicized and highly critical. I'm sure you all know that. I don't believe there is any public opinion that is as political, as critical and as intrusive as the Palestinian and Arab public opinion. And, of course, they are easily affected by what's happening. The rise of violence and extremism is due to the failure of voices of moderation and a failure of will at producing a just peace that will work. Again, the lessons learned from Iraq and Lebanon should tell us that military power has its limits, particularly in the region when you are fighting against either irregular forces or a captive civilian population. No matter how strong your army is there is no way in which you can defeat the will of the people or defeat irregular forces. You may bomb, shell, destroy, kill thousands, but at the same time [if] there's a people bent on being free, they will be free ultimately unless you eradicate all of them. And if there are irregular forces, you cannot defeat them using a strong army, and that experience in Lebanon and Palestine has proven that.

                            The dangers of unilateralism whether in the withdrawal from south Lebanon or the withdrawal from Gaza-if you insist on negating the partnership for peace, if you insist on negating the other and claiming there is no partner to talk to and acting unilaterally. We all know how unilateralism is a recipe or a euphemism for power politics. It's the dictation of the will of the strong on the weak because only the strong can afford to be unilateral, and we've seen that in Iraq, particularly when unilateralism is translated as the strategic doctrine of preemptive strike which is negative military intervention. And returning to UN resolutions, for the first time, Israel and the U.S. had to go to the UN and ask for a UN resolution and at the same time, they asked for international troops on the ground. All these are precedents, and these have to be understood in context again. They can be in many ways not a blueprint but influences or indicators for how to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

                            Another thing that doesn't work is polarization and dualism in the region. Of course, those who insist on dividing the region into devils and angels or axis of extremists versus a quartet of moderates or the Sunni/Shi'a divide do not understand the very complex realities and the nuanced reality of the region. And, of course, that makes it all that more difficult to engage in a genuine way and to try to find solutions. The fact is labels may be very convenient and may give you instant sound bytes but they do not give you handles on reality. And we do not want to be, as Palestinians, frankly a part of any axis or any alliance. We want to be free to engage with everybody and to deal with the region in such a way also as one way of losing your grips or your handles on reality in the region.

                            Within Palestine, again, we see this dualism and polarization. The latest elections prove that Palestinian society is extremely polarized. And I am saying this as [Palestinian Finance Minister] Salam [Fayyad] and I are in the Third Way, as you know. Salam was here last week. But the polarization was very clear between Fateh and Hamas, between people who had militias, people who had extreme ideologies and so on. The third alternative, including the old traditional left, did not make it numerically significant. We may be qualitatively significant but quantitatively certainly not that decisive. However, this kind of polarization reflects a certain malfunction. I don't want to say dysfunction. Dysfunction is for the Israeli political system. We have a malfunction in the political system, and it did happen at the expense of the pluralistic multi-party political system. We have again polarization between the government and the presidency, which we had hoped to overcome with the new government.

                            Again, we have the extremes between Gaza and the West Bank. They're dealing with Gaza as though it's a different reality, not just a geographic entity, but as though this is the Palestinian state while the West Bank is open up for grabs, open for dispute. And this so-called national unity government instead of genuine power-sharing became, let's say, a coalition government or a divvying up of these points and benefits and privileges, and that again is detrimental to political development.

                            Also, what doesn't work is procrastination and further transitions as usual. The whole concept of a state with transitional borders or what was called a transitional state is a very bizarre concept. I don't think it's ever been applied anywhere. There's no such thing as a state with transitional borders, and I hope that this is now dropped from the lexicon of politics and the region. We cannot have a state with transitional borders and we cannot have further transitions, which would be buying time for Israel to create facts in order to continue with the settlement expansion, with the building of the wall, with the annexation and transformation and captivity of Jerusalem. All these things cannot continue because they are the foundations of peace. When Israel is given a free hand unilaterally to predetermine their fate and their outcome then you're destroying the very foundations of peace.

                            And, of course, we talked about the U.S. dual approach. Now, the dual approach of the U.S. is the one plus one. Get [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas to talk one on one, Palestinians and Israelis, on issues of security and conditions of freedom of movement and conditions of life and so on. Now we've tried that before. When you talk about conditionality, when you talk about conditions of life, when you talk about Israel determining whether its security conditions have been met by the Israelis, this is a recipe not just for paralysis but for regression. So far, these meetings have not produced anything. Remember how many meetings they had before, and issues like release of prisoners and so on were supposed to be resolved and have not been. So, you raise expectations, you do not meet them, the let down can be extremely dangerous. So, one plus one does not work. We talk about bilateralism as being, again, the will of the powerful over the week.

                            Now, there is a four plus two. Israel asked for the four plus two, which is what they call the Arab Quartet plus Israel and Palestine. This is another term for normalization. Israel then wants to be recognized, wants to be accepted in the Arab world-let's talk, let's adopt the Arab initiative as a basis and then change it because we have reservations about the right of return, about Jerusalem and about settlements but we'd love to meet Saudi Arabia, for example. So, the four plus two is another formula for normalization.

                            Then there is also the four plus four plus two, which is the regular Quartet with the Arab Quartet with Palestine and Israel. So, what's different from the international conference? In that sense, why not go straight to the international conference? Let's put together a coalition of the willing for peace this time and see whether we can make a difference. So what works? Rapid, bold, decisive steps straight into permanent status issues that we all know; we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We do not have much time.

                            Now in Palestine, everybody is asking, how long will this government last? The average lifespan of any Palestinian government has been about eleven months to a year, so far, since 1994. So, I think this government will be coming to its end very soon by the end of the year, probably if it is within the average. Now how would this government end? How long will it last? How would it end? It depends on other factors, but if there is agreement, this government could be in preparation for elections. Elections cannot take place without consensus, without the agreement of all parties involved, particularly Hamas and Fateh. So maybe between now and the end of the year, there can be elections if all parties are convinced that early elections can work or it can be a preparation for a new type of government which we had advocated earlier: a government of professional, independent nationalists and not a factional government because factionalism has been detrimental to the development of a national program.

                            So, let's have a government of professionals, of independents who do not put factional interest above national interest and who are capable of building a system of meritocracy. We don't want them to be, you know, brilliant politicians. We want them to start providing services to people. That's what we need, and we need institutions to be built. Now that's another option. The third option, of course, is a horrible option of a breakdown and violence, particularly given the fact that there are people who are stockpiling weapons- it's no secret. We should be very careful about that and notice it.

                            Now what doesn't work, of course, is violating the rule of law. In the peace process, you cannot violate international law and international humanitarian law. You cannot accommodate settlements and allow for settlement expansions and allow for the building of the wall and the annexation of Jerusalem. You cannot begin by negating [UN Resolution] 194 and the Palestinian refugees' rights and then say, "Well now that we've done all these things, let's start negotiating," because that would deprive this peace process of its legality, of its very foundations in international law. And again, the same thing in Palestine, we also need the rule of law. And the rule of law requires primarily security reform. We do not need to reinvent the wheel, again, but it has to be implemented.

                            The security forces cannot be political forces, they must be depoliticized and they must not be engaged in anything financial. They must be reformed in terms also of their numbers. The militias have to be disbanded, including the executive force. I do not see the executive force as a legitimate security service. It is a militia and it was given the title of a security force. All illegal weapons must be collected. The use of weapons must be regulated, particularly in Gaza. The security services must become law enforcement agencies rather than power centers for warlords and tribes. We must get rid of tribalism.

                            If you do not have rule of law, if people do not have recourse to justice, then what you will end up with is revenge because so many things have happened, particularly in Gaza. There are many families that have their own militias and as a result, again, of economic deprivation, militias have become a way of making a living for some of the young men. So if you do not have due process, if people do not have recourse to the law, then of course they will take the law into their own hands and revenge, within a tribal traditional system, will continue to be the main motivation.

                            The National Security Council has to be a credible and effective council and not, again, a combination of power basis and leaders. Lawlessness and kidnappings have to end. We cannot continue to say that we want to build a state and at the same time act outside the law and kidnap journalists and others. Now with Israel, of course, there has to be an upholding and an extension of the period of quiet to include also the West Bank. All these incursions in the last couple of days have killed nine Palestinians. The incursions are ongoing in the West Bank-the destruction, the abductions, this has to stop. And with Israel, we need to carry out an exchange of prisoners, and Israel has to stop the taking of hostages as well because the PLC [Palestinian Legislative Council] members and the cabinet members have been abducted as hostages. So, we do need a prisoner exchange that is rapid and decisive. Now again, what doesn't work is the logic of violence. We all know that, whether with assassinations; incursions; infighting in Palestinians or in the region; the Iraqi war and the so-called war on terrorism.

                            What works is the logic of national building and reconstruction and peace. We need economic revitalization in Palestine if we are to engage in a genuine peace process. The international community is called upon to first lift the sanctions and the siege [and] two, return the funds, the Palestinian funds that Israel is withholding. The U.S. also has to lift the banking restrictions and the E.U. must end TIM. I don't know if you are aware of TIM-Temporary International Mechanisms. The E.U. adopted TIM as a way of sort of circumventing dealing with the government. So, TIM is a mechanism in which you give money directly either to the presidency or to the poor or whatever and you bypass the government. Now this has, again, wreaked havoc in the Palestinian national economic system because this way there is no transparency no accountability, and you have destroyed the Ministry of Finance and all the procedures of transparency and accountability. We need to go back to the developmental agenda, national building agenda rather than the agenda of relief and charity and welfare and emergency assistance and so on. The Palestinians have to return to a unified treasury account, restore transparency and accountability, meet the wage bill [and] end the paralysis in the public institutions.

                            They have just declared today another strike in the civil service. We need to provide the essential services. The health and educational services are really regressing in very drastic ways. We need to carry out serious reform measures, reduce the numbers both in the civil service and in the security. Reform requires a blue ribbon commission that is properly mandated, that is formed in accordance with the law and is properly empowered to carry out the reform. The last thing you need is a reform that is, again, a dividing of the spoils where Hamas will agree that it will have so many in the civil service, so many in the security, so many ambassadors, so many governors, and Fateh will have so many. This is not reform. That's why we call for a properly mandated, empowered blue ribbon commission for reform that has no vested interest [and] that will not have a conflict of interest.

                            Of course, we need internal empowerment and good governance. We cannot separate nation building from peace making, again. The international community must not think that exacting political concessions from Hamas is the only achievement; that this is one way they can get legitimacy for Hamas and get the peace process going, which is exactly what's been happening. The Hamas political agenda has really undergone some serious transformations. I don't know if you're aware of it, but they have accepted the two-state solution. They've accepted the long term period of quiet and ceasefire. They have accepted all these things. They recognized signed agreements, Arab legitimacy international legitimacy and so on. All the things we were asking them to do, they have done. But that is not the real issue. To me, the real question is what is the nature of Palestinian society? This is something that people ignore. What kind of society are we going to build? Are we going to build an open, pluralistic, tolerant society or are we going to go back into a closed ideological system? This is what we want to know. Is there a deal being made between Hamas and Fateh at the expense of the people? Now, I must say in all candor that Palestinians have always been quite protective and possessive of our fundamental rights and basic freedoms. And we will not condone-and I will say this again-we will not condone the destruction of books or folk tales. And we will not condone the banning of the dabkeh or music as being immoral. And we will not condone the blowing up of internet cafes or beating up of young women because of the dress code in Gaza or burning of schools. They just burned the American school in Gaza.

                            So what we need to do, which is what civil society is doing, is stand up to any attempts at capturing Palestinian society and transforming it by force into a closed regressive unenlightened ideological system. That's why we are calling, as another mechanism, the national council for culture, education and the arts. These are the legacies of the future generations. We cannot leave them at the mercy of one party or the other or the narrow concerns or petty ideologies of one party or the other. That council will be in charge of the curriculum rather than each party manipulating the curriculum to suit its ends. And for social justice, we need a women's commission and the information council.

                            Barely what works now is the two-state solution. What we need to do for the peace process, a rapid decisive and comprehensive peace process, is define the objectives and move rapidly within a binding timeframe with monitoring and verification mechanisms, with international assurances and guarantees and with a massive reconstruction and development plan. Without all these things together, using the Arab initiative as the focus, we will not get anywhere. The political horizon must not be what everybody talks about a receding line in the distance. Ultimately, it has to be a genuine landscape for peace.

                            Thank you very much.

                            Dr. Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and founder and chair of the executive committee at The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, MIFTAH. She is a former Minister of Higher Education and Research as well as a Palestinian spokesperson.

                            The Palestine Center
                            Washington, DC
                            24 April 2007

                            www.thejerusalemfund.org

                            4348 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                              US army to continue Baghdad wall; claims Maliki now told army to continue

                              English (US)  April 26th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                              What blackmail or threat did the Bush administration use to coerce Maliki to change his mind? If, in fact, he did change his mind.


                              Colonel Don Farris said the Iraqi government
                              has told the US army to continue building

                              The US military has said that it will continue building a concrete wall around Adhimiya, a mainly-Sunni district of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

                              Colonel Don Farris, of the US army, said that after briefly halting construction of the barrier, the Iraqi government had now ordered the building of the wall to continue.

                              "It's not a wall - if you will - the intent is that there's no limitation of pedestrian traffic," Ferris said.

                              [More:]


                              "We were asked to stop placing the barriers," Farris said on Thursday.

                              "Since then, it has been communicated to me through the chain of command that the prime minister and Iraqi security officials have authorised work to continue."

                              Residents had protested against the wall.

                              Farris said that construction of the barrier would continue in the near future - although he did not specify an exact date.

                              "We will begin placing the barriers shortly, assisting the Iraqi security forces in placing the barrier along the Adhimiya," he said.

                              Sunni district affected

                              The US army and the Iraqi security services said in mid-April they had begun constructing the wall around Adhimiya to stop Sunni car-bombers leaving the area and to stop Shia death squads from getting in.

                              Col Farris said on Thursday that the intention of the wall was still to stop vehicle movement into and out of the area, rather than to prevent the passage of people on foot.


                              The Iraqi government plans to build walls around several Baghdad districts


                              "It's not a wall - if you will - the intent is that there's no limitation of pedestrian traffic," he said.

                              After the Iraqi government began building the wall, heavy criticism forced Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to order a stop to the construction - an order which he has now apparently reversed.

                              The barrier - composed of upright concrete blocks several metres high - is part of a wider effort by the Iraqi government to halt violence in the capital.

                              Source: Agencies

                              357 words posted in American Empire1 comment

                              1 response(s) to US army to continue Baghdad wall; claims Maliki now told army to continue

                              1. hello [Visitor] Email says:

                                I think that the wall will be ok if you allow the iraq's to have control over it's design.

                              This post has 1312 feedbacks awaiting moderation...

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                              Beit Hanoun fears Israeli raid

                              English (US)  April 26th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                              Israeli raids have reduced many buildings to rubble
                              in the town of Beit Hanoun

                              By Nour Odeh in Gaza

                              There has been a recent spike in Israeli military raids across the Palestinian territories.

                              Nine Palestinians have died in Israeli raids since last weekend despite a ceasefire between Israel and armed Palestinian factions agreed last November.

                              [More:]

                              Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has appealed for Israeli restraint while calling for Palestinians' commitment to the ceasefire.

                              However, ordinary Palestinians remain fearful that rising tensions could threaten their community.

                              Home threatened

                              Residents in the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip are among those fearing such an escalation.

                              "Often, I try to sleep and my eyes are looking up towards the ceiling. I look at my children, I think of what has happened to us" -- Um Ayman Abu Odeh, resident of damaged house in Beit Hanoun

                              After losing her husband, a daughter and two sons, Um Ayman Abu Odeh is living in what's left of her badly damaged home in Beit Hanoun.

                              Though she has little material possessions, she says she would rather die than leave the home she has known for 27 years.

                              From her home at the eastern edge of the town, Um Ayman can see the Israeli military base at the other side of the fence.

                              She says Israeli tanks pass her home regularly and special forces often take over what is left of her top floor while everybody is asleep.

                              "Often, I try to sleep and my eyes are looking up towards the ceiling. I look at my children, I think of what has happened to us.

                              "Sometimes I sit up, sometimes I cry or just toss and turn. What else can I do?"

                              Destruction

                              Azhar was shot six times by Israeli soldiers along with her sister, father and brother.

                              She bled for five hours before an ambulance arrived, but survived. The others were not so lucky.

                              Her brother Hatem showed Al Jazeera what was once his parents' wing in the house.

                              "The tank shell fell over our heads. The room was burned and the bathroom was blown up. You can see the destruction," he said.

                              The family were hosting guests for lunch when the shell landed on their home.

                              "The men were sitting in the guestroom and the girls were here when suddenly the tank shell went through the roof and everybody ran out," Hatem said.


                              Azhar told Al Jazeera of being shot six times by Israeli soldiers

                              Since that day a year ago, Hatem moved out with his wife and children.

                              Piles of rubble

                              Beit Hanoun is a town that hasn't recovered from previous Israeli incursions. Piles of rubble remain from tens of houses that once stood there.

                              Now the residents anticipate another Israeli military attack.

                              Throughout Beit Hanoun, signs of utter devastation remain fresh. Repair work is still underway, almost six months after the last Israeli raid on the town.

                              The last time Israeli tanks went in to Beit Hanoun, they left it in ruins.

                              Local authorities say over 60 Palestinians were killed and properties worth tens of millions of dollars were lost as a result of what Israel called a "limited operation".

                              Now, Israel is threatening to carry out another "limited attack".

                              Needless to say, everyone in Beit Hanoun is preparing for the worst.

                              Source: Al Jazeera

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                                US Iraqi prison commander detained, for "aiding the enemy"

                                English (US)  April 26th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                Saddam Hussein received medical treatment at the jail commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Steele

                                The commander of the US military prison in Iraq which occasionally held Saddam Hussein, Iraq's former president, is under investigation after being held by military police.

                                Lieutenant Colonel William Steele will face a panel hearing before a ruling on whether he should face a court martial over charges which include "aiding the enemy".

                                [More:]

                                "He has been detained and is now in Kuwait. His current status is that he is in confinement and waiting for his Article 32 hearing," Lieutenant Colonel Josslyn Aberle said on Thursday.

                                Charges

                                Steele stands accused of "aiding the enemy" by providing detainees with unmonitored mobile phones between October 2005 and October 2006, said a US military statement released on Thursday.

                                Other charges include having an improper relationship with a translator and with the daughter of a detainee and violating an order against keeping pornographic videos.

                                The offences were alleged to have occurred between October 2005 and February 2007.

                                "These charges are merely an accusation of wrongdoing. Lieutenant-Colonel Steele is presumed innocent unless and until he is proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any alleged offence," the military statement said.

                                Steel was the commander of Camp Cropper, a US detention facility outside Baghdad which holds "high value detainees".

                                Saddam, who was executed on December 30 after being convicted of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court, received medical treatment at the prison but was not a permanent inmate.


                                Source: Agencies

                                241 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                  Wide-scale Gaza offensive still likely, Israeli media warns

                                  English (US)  April 25th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                  Jerusalem - Ma'an - The office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a statement on Wednesday saying Israel would not carry out a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. However, other Israeli officials and analysts still described a Gaza invasion as "likely".

                                  [More:]

                                  According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Olmert's statement assured that the Israeli army is still authorized to carry out limited operations in Gaza "in order to foil kidnapping attempts and terror attacks in the future."

                                  The statement included a threat that "Israel will not hesitate to take harsh measures against those who try to harm its sovereignty by firing rockets into our territory, attempting attacks on soldiers, and (by) other means."

                                  Prime Minister Olmert held an emergency meeting on Wednesday with senior security officials following a barrage of projectiles fired into Israel on Tuesday. Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam brigades, claimed to have fired over 80 projectiles at Israeli targets on Tuesday morning.

                                  Abu Ubeida, the head of Hamas' military wing, announced on Tuesday evening that the ceasefire had been broken long ago, by Israel through its continuous violations and aggressions.

                                  'Kick Haniyeh out'

                                  Despite Olmert's conciliatory message, the Israeli minister of infrastructure, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, warned Hamas on Wednesday that the Israeli army will not hesitate to invade the Gaza Strip and "kick Ismail Haniyeh out of his own home" if they think of kidnapping another Israeli soldier.

                                  Talking to Israeli Radio on the occasion of the anniversary of the establishment of Israel, he added that Israel has tried to demonstrate the highest level of self-restraint towards the Palestinian launching of homemade Qassam projectiles. He added that he hoped that Hamas realizes that Israel possesses "several other means of response", but the decision on when and how to respond was left to the army.

                                  Israeli media: Gaza offensive, sooner the better

                                  Israeli newspapers also generally considered that a wide-scale Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip was likely.

                                  The newspapers stated on Wednesday that the Israeli army had been preparing for the possibility of conducting such an operation over the past months; however the operation had been delayed due to the Passover feast and Israel's Independence Day.

                                  The newspapers also revealed that several Israeli army leaders, specifically in the southern command, are in favor of a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, because they believe that Hamas has been taking advantage of every day to prepare for a future confrontation, in an attempt to imitate Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Consequently, these pro-confrontation leaders believe that the sooner the operation takes place, the better the results Israel may have.

                                  In their analyses, various Israeli writers and analysts discussed the military and security escalation on the borders with the Gaza Strip, especially following the barrage of Palestinian projectiles launched at Israeli targets on Tuesday. That shelling, they said, demonstrated Hamas' intention to resume military actions.

                                  Maan News

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                                    UN Criticises Iraq for Concealing Casualty Figures

                                    English (US)  April 25th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                    By Agence France Presse staff

                                    UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq criticised Baghdad on Wednesday for concealing the casualty figures from its sectarian war and charged that many detainees have “disappeared”.While placing the blame for the majority of violent civilian deaths on the insurgents and illegal militias fighting in Iraq, UNAMI expressed concern about the human rights record of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government.

                                    [More:]

                                    0425 07In its quarterly report on the human rights situation, the UN mission said the Iraqi government had stopped providing casualty figures and denied that its previous reports had exaggerated the death toll in the conflict.

                                    In a report on January 16, UNAMI said more than 34,400 people had died in the daily acts of violence across the country in 2006.

                                    “The prime minister’s office told UNAMI that the mortality figures contained in the report were exaggerated, although they were in fact figures compiled and provided by a government ministry,” UNAMI said on Wednesday.

                                    “It was a matter of regret that the Iraqi government did not provide UNAMI with access to the ministry of health’s overall mortality figures for the reporting period.

                                    “UNAMI emphasises again the utmost need for the Iraqi government to operate in a transparent manner and does not accept the government’s suggestion that UNAMI used the mortality figures in an inappropriate fashion.”

                                    At a news conference in Baghdad’s fortified administrative compound to launch the latest report, UN human rights officer Ivana Vuco insisted: “These figures are probably the most carefully screened.

                                    “Unofficially in follow-up meetings we were told that the government was concerned that people would misconstrue the figures to portray a grim situation,” she said.

                                    Maliki’s office hit back at the UN mission and complained that its latest report lacked credibility.

                                    “Despite the Iraqi government’s full cooperation and transparency in dealing with the UN delegation in Iraq, much of the information contained in the report was not taken from credible sources,” it said.

                                    “Considering the conditions which Iraq is currently enduring, this report calls into question the credibility of the United Nations office in Iraq, aggravating the humanitarian situation instead of resolving it.”

                                    While being unable to provide statistics because of the government’s decision, the new report for the first quarter of 2007 said violence remained a serious problem in Iraq, despite a US and Iraqi security operation.

                                    “In February and March, sectarian violence claimed the lives of large numbers of civilians, including women and children, in both Shiite and Sunni neighbourhoods,” the report said.

                                    “While government officials claimed an initial drop in the number of killings in the latter half of February following the launch of the Baghdad Security Plan, the number of reported casualties rose again in March.”

                                    Iraqi and US officials insist the civilian death toll from Iraq’s sectarian war has declined since the plan began on February 14, but refuse to release detailed figures to back up the assertion.

                                    UNAMI said that “violent deaths were a regular feature of several other cities in the governorates of Nineveh, Salaheddin, Diyala and Babel” and not just Baghdad, the centre of the bloodshed.

                                    The Baghdad Security Plan seeks to quell the violence but Vuco said it also had increased the potential for the abuse of detainees’ human rights.

                                    “The disappearance of detainees still continues,” she said. “We have serious concerns that not all detainees are being registered. We found people looking for detained family members who they were unable to locate.”

                                    Most of these detainees are held for “prolonged periods of time without charge in overcrowded conditions,” she said.

                                    At least 37,641 people were being held in detention centres across Iraq as of end of March, UNAMI said, adding of these about 3,000 were detained since the Baghdad crackdown began.

                                    The US-led coalition continued to hold 17,898 people, while the rest were in the custody of Iraqi authorities.

                                    UNAMI said that at least 736,422 Iraqis had fled their homes since the sectarian unrest flared up in February last year, on top of 1.2 million who had been displaced previously.

                                    Common Dreams

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                                      Congressional Panels Ramp Up Bush Probes: Subpoena for Rice, Immunity for Gonzales Aide

                                      English (US)  April 25th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                      By Laurie Kellman

                                      WASHINGTON (April 25) - In rapid succession, congressional committees Wednesday ramped up their investigations of the Bush administration by approving a subpoena for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and granting immunity to a former key aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

                                      [More:]

                                      By 21-10, the House oversight committee voted to issue a subpoena to Rice to compel her story on the Bush administration's claim, now discredited, that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

                                      Moments earlier in the committee chamber next door, the House Judiciary Committee voted 32-6 to grant immunity to Monica Goodling, Gonzales' White House liaison, for her testimony on why the administration fired eight federal prosecutors. The panel also unanimously approved -- but did not issue -- a subpoena to compel her to appear.

                                      Simultaneously across Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved - but did not issue - a subpoena on the prosecutors' matter to Sara Taylor, deputy to presidential adviser Karl Rove .

                                      The House oversight committee also issued subpoenas for the Republican National Committee for testimony and documents about White House e-mails on RNC accounts that have apparently gone missing.

                                      In case Gonzales thought the worst had passed with his punishing testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the chairman and top Republican issued a new demand: Refresh the memory that Gonzales claimed had failed him 71 times during the seven-hour session.

                                      "Provide the answers to the questions you could not recall last Thursday," Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, wrote to Gonzales on Wednesday.

                                      Specter's letter underscored that Congress ' march against the administration isn't driven solely by Democrats. Only six members of the House Judiciary Committee voted against immunity for Goodling - all Republicans. Several Republican lawmakers have lobbed harsh criticism at Gonzales in the two days since Bush issued a fresh statement of support for him.

                                      "I'll be as vigilant as ever in overseeing the Justice Department and working with other senators both Republicans and Democrats for accountability from the attorney general and the department he leads," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

                                      Democrats say they want to force into the open the story of why the eight U.S. attorneys were fired and whether they were singled out to influence corruption cases. Republicans point out that Gonzales survived a brutal Senate hearing last week with President Bush 's support and no evidence of wrongdoing in the prosecutors firings.

                                      For his part, Gonzales tried Wednesday to mend fences on Capitol Hill. He met with a key critic, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who has complained that Gonzales was not truthful with him over the dismissal of Bud Cummins, the former U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark.

                                      But his outreach apparently didn't take.

                                      "I reiterated with the attorney general, face-to-face, that I think he should resign," Pryor told reporters in a conference call after meeting with Gonzales in Washington. "I think it's the best thing for the Department of Justice and it's probably the best thing for him personally and the administration."

                                      On the uranium issue, Rice's allies maintained that she has for years answered Congress' questions under oath, as well as media inquiries, about her knowledge of the veracity of Bush's claim about uranium.

                                      Still, Democrat -led committees pressed ahead. Waxman said Rice was "giving us no choice but to proceed with a subpoena."

                                      "If we are stonewalled then we can't hesitate to call on the powers available to us," Waxman said.

                                      Even as he pressed ahead on Rice, Waxman postponed a vote on issuing a subpoena to former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card on the same issue, saying White House Counsel Fred Fielding had made a compromise proposal worth pursuing. Under it, the committee would first talk to the White House office of administration about Card's knowledge of the uranium claim.

                                      On the prosecutor firings, the House Judiciary Committee approved two measures that would compel Goodling's testimony and grant her immunity from prosecution.

                                      "I do not propose this step lightly," Conyers told the panel. "If we learn something new in the course of our investigation ... we can always stop the process s before the court issues an order."

                                      Some Republicans cautioned that immunity has tied the hands of prosecutors in the past, notably during the Iran -Contra scandal. Admiral John Poindexter and Lt. Col. Oliver North were granted immunity and later had their convictions reversed when a judge ruled that they were based too much on immunized testimony.

                                      "Think of the consequences to the integrity and reputation of this committee and this institution should we grant immunity and it's impossible to prosecute someone," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a former chairman of the panel.

                                      But Sensenbrenner was one of only six lawmakers, all Republicans, to vote against the immunity grant. The others were Reps. Chris Cannon of Utah, Randy Forbes of Virginia, Steve King of Iowa, Trent Franks of Arizona and Louis Gohmert of Texas.

                                      At the Justice Department, spokesman Dean Boyd declined comment on the House panel's vote to give Goodling immunity. He said he would not speculate on whether giving her immunity could tie prosecutors' hands should evidence of criminal activity surface.

                                      Associated Press

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                                        430 Haitians Get By on Ms. Riza's Annual Salary: Paul Wolfowitz and Haiti

                                        English (US)  April 25th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                        By Brian Concannon

                                        The controversy over World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and the payraise (to $193,590/year) to his Bank colleague and domestic partner, Shaha Riza, has focussed on the propriety of Mr. Wolfowitz' involvement in the promotion and raise, and the apparent hypocrisy of Mr. Wolfowitz lecturing against corruption in World Bank borrower countries while engaging in questionable practices at the Bank (see a good article in the Washington Post by William Easterly). But there has been very little discussion about the propriety of an institution whose mission is to fight poverty to be paying anyone that much money, and the hypocrisy of the Bank in general telling poor countries to cut salaries for nurses and teachers while it paid such high staff salaries.

                                        [More:]

                                        The absence of these issues from the debates may be explained by the absence of the voices of the Bank's supposed constituents- the poor of Haiti and countries like it. The debates have been exclusively framed by relatively wealthy journalists, officials and policy makers living in relatively wealthy countries, with no input from the poor the Bank is supposed to be helping.

                                        The World Bank compares the relative wealth of countries with a figure called per capita GNI (or Gross National Income), which is roughly a country's annual wealth produced divided by the number of people living there. According to the Bank's website, Haiti's per capita GNI is $450, so on average 430 Haitians get by on Ms. Riza's annual salary.

                                        The World Bank does not release its general salary information, and although Ms. Riza's salary is probably at the high end of the scale, it is a high scale to begin with. The Bank defends its salaries by saying that its employees live in expensive cities with high rents, and that it needs high salaries to attract the employees it wants- people with excellent resumes and world-class financial and management skills- who are also coveted by the private sector.

                                        Although financial and management skills are vital to the successful operation of any financial institution, the World Bank is not just any bank- its success is supposed to be measured not by profits but by reducing poverty. The Bank has financial policies, but it also has political, moral and social policies: it tells poor governments how much they can spend on healthcare (and implicitly, how many citizens will die of preventable diseases), on education, clean water, roads, etc.

                                        Solid analysis of the financial data is essential for making good economic, moral, political and social policy decisions, but the decisions require other skills as well, including an understanding of the implications of those policies beyond the spreadsheets. Someone making $193,000 year would have only a limited understanding of what healthcare cuts mean to the 430 Haitians struggling to getting by on their share of that amount, a share that leaves no room for health insurance.

                                        I have no reason to doubt that the Bank's employees do a good job of financial analysis, but there are plenty of reasons to doubt that the institution is effectively fulfilling its poverty-fighting missions. Many of its borrowers are poorer now than they were when the Bank started to help them. Global inequality, as well as death by preventable disease, increases every year. In recent years, countries that have had the opportunity to escape the Bank's "help" have been willing to pay billions of dollars to do so.

                                        This scandal might be a good opportunity for the Bank to reflect on what kind of an institution it is, and what kind of people it wants to attract. It may find that by emphasizing its mission over salary, that it can find people with the technical skills who are willing to accept as part of their compensation the knowledge that they are working to fight poverty.

                                        Brian Concannon Jr. is a human rights lawyer and directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, www.ijdh.org</em>

                                        Counterpunch

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                                          European MPs demand Wolfowitz quit

                                          English (US)  April 25th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                          Calls for the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz from the presidency of the World Bank are intensifying with the European Parliament adding its voice to calls for him to stand down over allegations that he arranged a promotion and pay package for his girlfriend.

                                          [More:]


                                          The demand from the European Union's legislature comes as a special panel at the bank is investigating whether Wolfowitz violated any bank rules in his handling of the promotion Shaha Riza to a high-paying job at the State Department in 2005.

                                          The World Bank's 24-member board will ultimately decide what action, if any, to take.

                                          "If he won't jump himself, he must be pushed" -- Caroline Lucas, Member of European parliament

                                          The controversy has prompted calls for Wolfowitz, a former member of the Bush administration, to step down from many of the bank's staff, former World Bank executives, aid groups and some Democrat politicians.

                                          They fear the matter has tarnished the reputation of the institution, which is responsible for fighting global poverty, and could hobble efforts to raise billions of dollars to bankroll a World Bank programme to help poor countries.

                                          The EU assembly said it wanted to "signal to ... Wolfowitz that his withdrawal would be a welcome step toward preventing the bank's anticorruption policy from being undermined."

                                          They voted 333-251 with 31 abstentions to include a paragraph in a resolution on transatlantic relations calling on Germany, holder of the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency, and the United States to ask Wolfowitz to stand down.

                                          'Disrepute'

                                          "By digging in his heels and refusing to resign as president of the World Bank, Wolfowitz is dragging the whole organisation into disrepute and further undermining the credibility of its anti-corruption policy," said Caroline Lucas, a British member of the Greens.

                                          "If he won't jump himself, he must be pushed."

                                          Wolfowitz has acknowledged making a mistake and has apologised but has said he will not resign.

                                          At the White House on Wednesday George Bush, the US president, took care to offer a positive mention of Wolfowitz at an event to mark Malaria Awareness Day.

                                          "I appreciate very much the fact that the World Bank is taking the lead in eradicating poverty in places like Africa, and Paul Wolfowitz, thank you for your leadership of the World Bank,'' Bush said.

                                          'Changes'

                                          Wolfowitz was deputy defence secretary in the first Bush administration and helped plan the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

                                          The United States - the bank's largest shareholder - has expressed confidence in Wolfowitz, but representatives of European governments want to see him go.

                                          Hoping to repair relations with staff and boost morale, Wolfowitz said on Tuesday he would make "major changes" in the way his office and the senior management team work in order to deal with the concerns.

                                          Source: Agencies

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                                            Azmi Bishara: I have been targeted

                                            English (US)  April 25th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                            Bishara says Israel is looking for a scapegoat for what he terms its defeat in the 2006 war in Lebanon

                                            Israeli police say Azmi Bishara, who resigned from Israel's parliament on Sunday, aided enemies of the country during last year's war against Hezbollah.

                                            Bishara, who heads the anti-Zionist party Balad, has denied any wrongdoing, telling Al Jazeera he did not have direct contact with the Lebanese fighters.

                                            [More:]

                                            A police document, released after a court partially lifted a gag order on Wednesday, said Bishara, 50, is suspected of aiding the enemy in wartime through information he conveyed, violating money-laundering laws and committing other security-related crimes.

                                            'Racist' climate

                                            The document did not specifically mention Hezbollah nor elaborate on the allegations. No charges have been brought in the case.

                                            Bishara resigned from the Knesset on Sunday at the Israeli embassy in Cairo and said he would stay abroad for a time because of a "racist" climate back home.

                                            A police source said Bishara could be arrested immediately if he returned to Israel. He lost his immunity to criminal prosecution when he quit the legislature.

                                            Bashira has called for a fair and impartial state for all Israeli citizens, describing it as unrealistic and prejudiced for Israel to be both Jewish and democratic.

                                            This has led to accusations that he is trying to destroy the Jewish character of Israel.

                                            Here is a full transcript of his interview with Jane Dutton in Qatar on Talk to Al Jazeera.

                                            Al Jazeera: You are being investigated by Israeli police for unpublished charges. You have been in this situation before. Do you think that, being an Arab member of the Knesset, you are being targeted?

                                            Bishara: Well, yes, I have been targeted. It is a reality now because, in the last few years, I was two times brought to court and this is the third investigation.

                                            The first two times had to do with my political opinions. Once because I was not recognising the Jewish character of the state and calling for a state of its citizens.

                                            The second time was for visiting an enemy country. They consider Syria and Lebanon as enemy countries. I was charged with that.

                                            Actually we do not accept that the enemies of Israel are our enemies as Arabs and Palestinians. We think we are part of the Arab world too and not only citizens of the state of Israel.

                                            This is the third time. We can see the first two charges were once probably constitutional charges or normal felonies and I was stripped of my immunity, but I was not guilty because the court did not accept the Israeli charges.

                                            It seems for me it has to succeed in Israel because the charge is about security. Something has to do with our connections to journalists and friends in the Arab world, as if passing the information to the enemy at a time of war, which is a very serious charge but had to do with what we think as normal for our relations with the Arab world.

                                            Israel wants to use this as a tool in order to get rid of this position in Israel which calls for Israel to be the state of its citizens and accepting the national character of the Arabs in the country.

                                            How do you balance your interests? You say that Syria and Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah, are not your enemy, but they are enemies of the Israeli state?

                                            The Israeli state was established in 1948 on the ruins of the Palestinian people. Now if you want, in the language which will be known probably in Australia or America or even in South Africa, we are indigenous people, the natives of the place.

                                            And Israel was built on our ruins. We did not immigrate to Israel in order to become Israelis like many French people would like the Algerians to integrate into France or to accept as equal citizens.

                                            But these people immigrated to France and they chose to be French. We did not choose to be Israelis. Israel came to Palestine, destroyed Palestine and emerged from the ruins of Palestine.

                                            We are Arab Palestinians. Israeli identity does not exist even according to Israel, they insist their identity is Jewish. There is no such thing as Israeli identity.

                                            Our Israeli citizenship was forced upon us. Now we use it as a framework for work to demand for equality. But this does not amount to identification with the goals of the country in the region, which we do not accept. We are not Zionists and we do not consider Syria and Lebanon our enemies, on the contrary.

                                            So you are advocating the destruction of Israel?

                                            Of course not. We do not identify with everything that other organisations demand.

                                            We live in the state of Israel and in the framework of such a regime and we think that Israel should be accepted if it accepts a just peace, which means a just settlement with the Palestinians to co-exist in justice and equality.

                                            But we do not accept a kind of apartheid reality with the West Bank and Gaza and third- or fourth-class citizenship for the Arabs in Israel. We also do not accept Israel to be the policeman of the region. In that sense, yes we do identify, for example, with the victims of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as victims of the occupation, Lebanon as a victim of Israeli aggression and we do not conceal this.

                                            We think that Israel turned the border incident into a full-scale war. It was an aggression against Lebanon which destroyed about a third of the country. And we also say that war crimes were committed. We said that as Palestinians, and actually we can say that as parliamentarians.

                                            It is our duty to speak out against Israeli aggression. In addition to this, I think what is cultural and what is historical and what people do not understand is the fact that historically we cannot identify with the Zionist project. It is a Zionist project which is built on our ruins.

                                            How do you find your working with other Israelis on the Knesset?

                                            The Knesset is not the worst political culture in Israel. The street could be even more racist than the parliament. But in the parliament, I think Israel is democratic within the limits of being a Jewish state.

                                            I would call it trivial democracy. It is a democracy for Jews, and Arabs are granted rights because they are a minority and because they can be endured.

                                            What is amazing or what would be amazing for Westerners who think that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, is the media. It is totalitarian actually. There is one orchestrated incitement calling for ousting us etc, while in the Arab media there are different opinions.

                                            What options are open to the Arabs there? What do Arab Israelis want?

                                            Normal people, of course, are not professional politicians and they don't think of ideologies etc. Most Arabs, even people who do not support us politically, think that Arabs should be acknowledged to run their own affairs as a national minority like other national minorities. And that the state should be the state of all its citizens, Because as long as it is a Zionist stae, it cannot grant equality for its citizens.

                                            The majority of the Arabs, I think, do believe that. But of course there are different interests, like any other minority. Some of the Arabs are connected to the state apparatus, some work in the state and are afraid to say their opinions. Some have even connections with Zionist parties.

                                            So we have different opinions, but I think that the majority of the people agree to this platform and I think this is driving a lot of people in Israel crazy. What we started is now actually becoming commonplace.

                                            You said that the Arabs are persecuted in Israel. Give us a sense if you will of the conditions in which they live?

                                            First of all, not all Arabs are persecuted. If you are a loyal Arab or a good Arab as many Zionists would say, you are not persecuted of course. It depends on what the definition of a good Arab.

                                            What makes a good Arab?

                                            Accepting to be marginalised, accepting to be a second-class citizen and being pleased and thankful because you live better than in Gaza. You have to be grateful.

                                            Anyway, many times when we talk like this, they would say you should be pleased that we allow you to talk, in Syria you cannot talk. We would say, well, you took the whole country and you give us the freedom of speech.

                                            Give us back the country and you take your freedom of speech if you want. And at the end Syria will be democratic, Egypt will be democratic. I know that democracy will win in the Arab world in the end. But these are their countries which you took.

                                            How do the bad Arabs live then?

                                            Well, the bad Arabs have to do with not accepting to be just tolerated. They have the pride of the indigenous people that this is their country and actually you are not doing them a favour that you are in the Knesset. Probably if you look at it from my side, I am doing them a favour that I am in the Knesset because this gives them legitimacy. And many Arabs blame us for being in the Knesset.

                                            So, people like us, who come with this approach that our rights are derived from being natives, not from Zionism, or not a favour done for us that we have to be grateful for, then, you know, you start being a bad Arab.

                                            You want us to recognize your national character, we also have a national character and we want to run our cultural affairs autonomously etc. Then you are provoking the limits of the tolerance of the state.

                                            So then you become a bad Arab and then they try to persecute you. One charge after another, and if they fail, they seem they are ready to carry on and charge you with treason because you do not identify with the state or because you have connections with the Arab world, which is the principal issue for us because we are Arabs.

                                            Do you think that Israeli state is in a state of flux at the moment? Do you think what is happening in the Middle East at the moment will determine Israel's future?

                                            It could be. If Israel does not grab now and does not jump on the opportunity of the current Arab peace initiative, I think, they are going into catastrophe. Because at the end what will impose itself is the fact that this is an apartheid country. And the two state solution will fail because people will live in inequality and in the end people will not accept to be second-class citizens.

                                            Most Arabs in Israel live in discrimination in all walks of life.

                                            They cannot go back to their villages, I am not speaking about refugees who are outside Israel. I am not also speaking about the right of return.

                                            Many internal refugees, Arabs in Israel who live five kilometres from their villages, were driven away and cannot go back to their properties.

                                            There is no demographic question here, if they go back to their villages the number of Arabs won't be bigger. They are already citizens.

                                            Sometimes things are happening to Arabs in Israel because the state ignores them. There is a phenomenon called unrecognised villages. Villages that should not be there, although they were there before the state of Israel emerged. So it is a severe case of discrimination. That's why, I think, Israel is making a huge mistake if it is not taking the peace initiative which is suggested by the Arab world.

                                            What do you think of the significance of the timing in this investigation?

                                            I think media interest has one timing and the interest of the security apparatus has a totally different timing. The media interest in blowing it all at once probably has to do with the failure of the war against Lebanon. They are looking for a scapegoat. I think this is a mechanism that we know in cases of, let me call it, problematic minorities at times of war.

                                            Jews were like this once in Europe and were treated like that sometimes. In our case, we are speaking about minority Arabs in a country at war with Arabs.

                                            So it is very easy to speak about a scapegoat to blame at times of war, especially when they fail in war and they failed in the war.

                                            It also has to do with the distribution of our ideas in Israeli society, especially at the time of the discussions of the Israeli constitution.

                                            A lot of papers were recently published by Arab institutions which adopted our ideas. They say that the source of the problem is the fact that a group, or Azmi Bishara, or someone else, published their ideas freely and speak about the state of the citizens etc althought they are in the parliament.


                                            Al Jazeera

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                                              A coverup of UK torture, racism and complicity in Iraq war crimes

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


                                              The evidence of British abuse and killing of Iraqi civilians is part of an iceberg of disgrace which demands a public inquiry

                                              By Phil Shiner
                                              The Guardian

                                              Images of the battered, bloodied, bruised face of Baha Mousa, tortured to death while in detention with British troops under the Iraq occupation, should have shocked the nation when they appeared last week. Instead, most media outlets chose to ignore them. By comparison, when Canadian troops meted out similar treatment to a prisoner in Somalia in the 1990s, the result was a five-year public inquiry and spring-clean of the military justice system. What is going on?

                                              [More:]

                                              To answer that question is to dig into what was described as a cover-up by the judge advocate at the conclusion of the court martial into the incident. What follows arises from publicly available material, most of it in the House of Lords case, which finishes tomorrow, into whether the Human Rights Act applied to protect Mousa and others. There are four clusters of issues we have to face.

                                              First, the incident led to more than just a single death. Photographs and medical evidence show our troops nearly killed another civilian, and badly injured five others. The judge found that a group of soldiers had engaged in systematic torture and humiliation, but none had been charged because of an "obvious closing of ranks". Who were the torturers?

                                              Second, the torture included the use of four techniques banned by the government in 1972: hooding, stressing and sleep and food deprivation. And it was not just one rogue battalion, 1st Queen's Lancashire Regiment (QLR), but others. Further, we are asked to believe that only a single battalion relied on senior brigade legal advice, which said it would not be breaching international humanitarian law to hood and stress civilian detainees. Is this credible?

                                              Third, the facility where Mousa and others were tortured was small. The soldiers' shouting and detainees' screaming were audible to anyone on the site. So, who are those in command who knew, or ought to have known, what was going on in the critical 36 hours before Mousa's death? Even more potentially damning to the chain of command responsibility, who knew, or ought to have known, of the complete breakdown in the system of training troops? There was a failure to train troops to observe the law and also, it seems, to teach them the basic principles to enable them to fulfil their role.

                                              The evidence on the training of tactical questioners is striking. They have an important balance to strike. They need to obtain evidence from detainees that may, for example, save the lives of our troops. And they must do so without using torture or ill-treatment. This is about prisoner handling. The evidence shows the tactical questioners in the Mousa incident had precisely 1.25 hours training on this. Further, those responsible did not ensure that rules of engagement appropriate to an occupation, not a war, were promulgated to reflect the change for 10 weeks. There is a risk that during this period our troops were following the wrong rules.

                                              The final cluster of issues is where it starts to get really ugly. What are we supposed to make of material that shows it was standard to refer to Iraqis as "Ali Babas"? Or of military operations that had similar racist connotations from an earlier era? Or material that indicates a remorseless disregard of Iraqis' human rights, which dehumanised them in the eyes of the troops who were supposed to protect them? When our troops were supposed to be exercising policing functions, we appear to have shot first and asked questions later.

                                              Uncomfortable questions about our complicity in war crimes with the US also lurk beneath the surface. The evidence from prosecution witnesses in the court martial shows that the US was putting pressure on us to adopt its interrogation techniques.

                                              Consider that the facility involved in the Mousa incident was in the middle of an urban area and the abuse occurred in broad daylight. By comparison, our theatre internment facility, Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, was in the middle of nowhere. But the government claims the US ran Camp Bucca. The evidence in the court martial is clear. We had two compounds for UK detainees, they had six. We had jurisdiction over UK detainees who were subject to questioning by our tactical questioners. So why the blatant denial of responsibility where it is obvious the UK did have jurisdiction? The MoD admitted in 2004 that six other Iraqis had died while in detention with British troops, and we know all British detainees were taken to Camp Bucca until Christmas 2003. We also know that US forces killed Iraqis during "riots" at the facility and that three US soldiers were discharged in 2004 after being found guilty of abusing prisoners. If Mousa died in our custody where he did, what was happening in the British section of Camp Bucca?

                                              Most of this iceberg of disgrace will remain hidden unless there is an independent and public inquiry. What is our government's response to Mousa's death and its implications? Sadly, it knows no shame. Despite the shocking facts and images, it argues in the Lords that the Human Rights Act does not apply outside the territory of the UK. If it succeeds in this argument, we can all give up hope of there being any proper domestic accountability for any human rights abuses by UK personnel outside the country. I can almost hear the howl of anguish from Baha Mousa's grave.

                                              · Phil Shiner is a solicitor and acts for the family of Baha Mousa and in 40 other cases of torture, beatings and killings by UK forces in Iraq

                                              phil_shiner@publicinterestlawyers.co.uk

                                              http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2063360,00.html

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                                                UK mulls human rights for robots

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

                                                Japan has embraced robots but it may be a while before one is allowed to play for Man Utd

                                                British scientists are seeking to open a public debate to raise awareness of robotics and find out to what extent people want such machines integrated into everyday life.

                                                [More:]

                                                The discussion is being convened after a government report last year said that, in the future, calls could be made to grant machines human rights.

                                                The report, issued by the office of science and innovation, said: "If artificial intelligence is achieved and widely deployed, calls may be made for human rights to be extended to robots."

                                                The report was based on a collection of papers from futurist researchers looking at trends in health, science and technology and whose topics included human rights for intelligent machines.

                                                Premature suggestion

                                                Some experts in robotics, such as Owen Holland from the University of Essex, say such statements are premature and do not address the real issues of how robots should be integrated into modern life.

                                                "We are not there yet," says Holland, a professor of computer science.

                                                "We have no time scale for what can be done in robotics."

                                                Noel Sharkey, a fellow professor of computer science at the University of Sheffield, said: "The idea of machine consciousness is a bit of a fairy tale. Discussing robot rights now is very premature."

                                                Like all technologies, Sharkey says, the problem with robotics lies in its applications.

                                                "We can imagine lots of frightening scenarios," he said, adding that it is up to the public to decide how robots should be employed.

                                                "If they are used properly, robots will ultimately benefit mankind."

                                                Robots are already a part of everyday life, from vacuum cleaners that clean rooms on their own to autopilots that fly aeroplanes.

                                                Robot wars

                                                While British scientists seek to define more clearly how such technology is used, other countries have used robots more readily.

                                                Japan has embraced robots and developed some capable of taking care of the elderly.

                                                Researchers have created a 1.52m tall robot that can see, hear, smell and carry up to 70kg in weight.

                                                The US congress declared six years ago that it wanted one-third of its military robots to be autonomous by 2015.

                                                Robots are currently used by the army to navigate independently in desert terrain, and researchers are now investigating whether they could also do so in urban areas.

                                                Last year in South Korea, scientists produced an armed robot guard with the capacity to kill.

                                                Some Korean officials even proposed that robots equipped with guns could one day patrol the border with North Korea.

                                                Jazeera

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                                                  Cheney: Iraq pullout would hurt Israel

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

                                                  A U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq would be damaging to Israel, Dick Cheney said.

                                                  "We must consider, as well, just what a precipitous withdrawal would mean to our other efforts in the war on terror, to our interests in the broader Middle East, and to Israel," the U.S. vice president said over the weekend to a Republican Jewish Coalition leadership gathering in Latana, Fla.

                                                  [More:]

                                                  "Commentators enjoy pointing out mistakes through 20/20 hindsight. But the biggest mistake of all can be seen in advance: A sudden withdrawal of our coalition would dissipate much of the effort that has gone into fighting the global war on terror, and result in chaos and mounting danger. And for the sake of our own security, we will not stand by and let it happen," Cheney said. He has a similar message earlier this month to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy forum.

                                                  Jewsihs News

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                                                    Gallup on global warming : Just what are Americans willing to do to stop global warming?

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

                                                    Gallup looks at Americans' opinions on global warming and their willingness to support specific policy to curb its effects.

                                                    To view the video click here

                                                    25 words posted in ScienceLeave a comment

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                                                      Global warming causing thirstier trees

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

                                                      OAK RIDGE, Tenn., April 24 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have determined increased levels of ozone associated with the release of greenhouse gases are causing vegetation to use more water.

                                                      [More:]

                                                      The research conducted by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory found increased levels of greenhouse gases might intensify the effects of global warming on ecological systems.

                                                      Researchers Sandy McLaughlin of the University of Tennessee and Stan Wullschleger of ORNl studied of trees in the mountains of East Tennessee. They found current levels of ozone amplified the effects of climate stresses on large tree growth, transfer of water from soil to the atmosphere and rates of stream flow from forested watersheds.

                                                      The mechanism for those effects, implicated by several studies, is plants' reduced capacity to regulate water loss through stomata -- the breathing pores in leaves.

                                                      Researchers cautioned, however, further tests are necessary involving additional forest types and climatic systems.

                                                      The study is reported in the journal New Phytologist.

                                                      Science Daily

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                                                        Germany 'wants Wolfowitz to go'

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


                                                        Many people have urged Wolfowitz to resign ahead of a World Bank board decision on his future

                                                        Germany believes Paul Wolfowitz's position as head of the World Bank has become unsustainable, a German minister has told the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) newspaper.

                                                        [More:]


                                                        World Bank staff have called for Wolfowitz to quit following his admission that he approved promotion and high salaries for his girlfriend.

                                                        "The situation ... is no longer acceptable," Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, a development minister, told the FTD in an article to run on Monday.

                                                        "My conclusion is that Wolfowitz should do the bank a service and take the consequences himself. The sooner, the better."

                                                        Architect of Iraq war

                                                        Wolfowitz, whose appointment to the World Bank presidency in mid-2005 was controversial because of his role as an architect of the Iraq war while at the Pentagon, has refused to step down.

                                                        The US government has urged leading European countries to withhold judgment until the World Bank's 24-nation board decides on his future.

                                                        The World Bank's board delayed a final decision on Wolfowitz's future on Friday and called for further investigation.

                                                        The board said in a statement: "The executive directors agreed on a process to deal with the situation urgently, effectively and in an orderly manner."

                                                        The World Bank chief has apologised for his role in the promotion for his girlfriend and said he would accept any decision the board makes.

                                                        "I made a mistake for which I am sorry", he said.

                                                        "I'm not going to pre-empt their deliberations, I will accept any remedies they propose."


                                                        Agencies

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                                                          Bishara resigns from Knesset

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


                                                          Bishara is a staunch opponent of Israel's policies towards Palestinians and other Arab states [AFP]

                                                          Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab MP and leader of the National Democratic Assembly, has submitted his resignation from the Knesset at the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

                                                          [More:]


                                                          Bishara handed over his resignation on Sunday following a meeting with Shalom Cohen, the Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

                                                          Bishara is subject of an Israeli police investigation into unspecified criminal charges.

                                                          "Exile is not an option. Return is definite but the matter will take some time and arrangements. I want to set the rules of the game," Bishara told Al Jazeera.

                                                          "I have commitments now with other countries which I cannot make if I were there. This is why I decided to end my responsibilities with my former post," he added.

                                                          He said that if he stayed in Israel the legal proceedings against him could drag on for years.

                                                          "There's no point now to clinging to parliamentary status and immunity in this right-wing, fascist, racist orchestra," he added.

                                                          An Israeli court last week partially lifted a gag order on the inquiry into Bishara, allowing police to announce that its international crimes unit is investigating him.

                                                          The 50-year-old entered the Israeli parliament in 1996 and three years later became the first Arab Israeli to run for prime minister.

                                                          He later joined the National Democratic Assembly, or Balad, which was formed following the Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

                                                          Bishara has previously made solidarity visits to countries such as Syria and Lebanon, which Israel designates as its enemies.

                                                          Al Jazeera and agencies>

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                                                            'INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICES'

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

                                                            Letter to New York Review of Books

                                                            By Ann Jungman, Dr. Anthony Isaacs, Ellen Dahrendorf, Gillian Slovo, Henry Stewart, Lisa Appignanesi, Prof. Donald Sassoon, Prof. Jacqueline Rose, Prof. Lynne Segal, Prof. Susie Orbach, Rabbi Dr. David J. Goldberg, Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Uri Fruchtmann

                                                            In response to On Israel, America and AIPAC (April 12, 2007)

                                                            To the Editors:

                                                            George Soros deserves congratulations for his frank, sensible, and comprehensive analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the failure of American policy in the region, the questionable influence of AIPAC, and the difficulties that have so often arisen when Jews themselves speak out in criticism of Israel ["On Israel, America, and AIPAC," NYR, April 12]. Soros's long support for an ideal of an open society, in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, makes him particularly attuned to the pitch of societies that are censoriously closing down.

                                                            [More:]

                                                            The need for America and Europe to recognize the unity government in Palestine and end the economic boycott is clear. The March initiative from Riyadh must be taken seriously: it substantially offers what has been Israel's dream since its conception — full normalization of relations with Arab countries once a viable Palestinian state has been put in place. It will not be easy. But negotiation on such difficult matters as the recognition of Israel by Hamas, and on refugees and prisoners, is the only way. As for Jerusalem, political gossip in the city is rife about the desk drawers full of plans for its division, some of these making use of constructive ambiguity. Surely all must recognize that what is now required is a degree of good will and strong leadership. The current opening has come about as a result of the vested interests of moderate Arab states in the wake of the war in Iraq. If this chance is missed, it may well disappear forever.

                                                            But it is the second matter raised by George Soros, the question of representation and political pressure by Jewish lobbies such as AIPAC, which moves us to write. This is an issue that has recently come to the fore in Britain as well. Partially as a result of the war in Lebanon, there has been growing concern that the institutions which claim the authority to represent British Jews en masse have tended to offer unquestioning support for Israeli government policies. Criticism of the Israeli position is often denounced as an expression of "self-hatred" or anti-Semitism, "endangering the very existence of the Jewish state," as Soros notes. In order to legitimate and expand the space for debate within the Jewish community, a group of us — Jews from diverse backgrounds, occupations, and affiliations — have come together to form a network of "Independent Jewish Voices" (IJV).

                                                            Our declaration stresses the universality of human rights — therefore both for Palestinians and Israelis. It insists on the need to observe international law, rejects all forms of racism, and urges a negotiated peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. We also stress "that individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty."

                                                            IJV has attracted an astonishing amount of support in Britain, as well as from groups and individuals around the world. Clearly, Jews in many countries feel the need to speak out as Jews and deplore the fact that critical openness has incurred attempts to silence it either by the withdrawal of funds for research groups or by accusations of anti-Semitism. Because of its political and economic clout, America above all needs just the openness Soros has called for. We sincerely hope that at last this is beginning to take place. Contrary to the views of the pro-Israel lobby, uncritical support of current Israeli policy is NOT a service to Israel.

                                                            Dr. Lisa Appignanesi, Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Lady Ellen Dahrendorf, Uri Fruchtmann, Rabbi Dr. David J. Goldberg, Dr. Anthony Isaacs, Ann Jungman, Prof. Susie Orbach, Prof. Jacqueline Rose, Prof. Donald Sassoon, Prof. Lynne Segal, Gillian Slovo, Henry Stewart, members of the Independent Jewish Voices initiating group

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                                                              Israel escalates attacks in Occupied Palestinian Territories, kills 8, including a child

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

                                                              Eight Palestinians including one child killed in 24 hours. As the late Palestinian journalist Amer Abdelhadi (may he rest in peace) said, "The world watches, yet nothing is being done."

                                                              Report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights

                                                              In the past 24 hours, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have escalated attacks in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). They have killed 8 Palestinians, including a child. Four of the victims were extra-judicially executed. PCHR strongly condemns this latest escalation and the reactivation of the policy of extra-judicial executions, which increases tension in the region and threatens the life of Palestinian civilians.

                                                              [More:]

                                                              According to investigations conducted by PCHR:
                                                              At approximately 05:00 on Saturday, 21 April 2007, IOF moved into Kufor Dan village, west of Jenin. They besieged and opened fire at a house belonging to the family of Mahmoud Nasfat Naddaf, 20, in the west of the village. They also raided a number of neighboring houses and transformed them into military sites, from which they fired at whatever moved in the area.

                                                              In the meantime, Mohammed Sa’id Talal ‘Aabed, 23, stepped up to the roof of his house to check what was going on. Immediately, an IOF soldier positioned in a neighboring house belonging to Mohammed Saleh ‘Aabed shot him dead with two gunshots to the jaw and the chest. The victim was a member of the Palestinian police, but he was not on duty and was wearing civilian clothes.

                                                              At approximately 17:00 on the same day, an IOF undercover unit moved into Jenin, traveling in two civilian vehicles with Palestinian registration plates. The two vehicles stopped near a girls secondary school in Abu Duhair Mount area, which overlooks Jenin refugee camp. IOF soldiers then intercepted and opened fire at a Palestinian civilian car that was traveling in the area. Three Palestinians who were traveling in the car were instantly killed:

                                                              1)Mohammed Ghaleb al-Dumaj, 22, a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (an armed wing of Fatah movement);

                                                              2) Ahmed Mohammed al-‘Eissa, 24, also member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades; and

                                                              3)Mahmoud ‘Abdul Latif Ghlail, 23, a member of the al-Quds Brigades (the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad).

                                                              At approximately 20:35 also on Saturday, an IOF aircraft fired a missile at a civilian car (a red Fiat 127) belonging to Kamal Kazem Mohammed ‘Anan, 43, from Gaza City, which stopped at Sha’sha’a intersection to the east of Jabalya town. The missile directly hit the car burning it. ‘Anan was seriously wounded by shrapnel throughout the body, as he was standing near it. He was evacuated to the hospital, but he died half an hour later. The reasons of the attack are not apparent. It is not clear whether IOF launched this attack in the context of the policy of extra-judicial executions. According to information available to PCHR, ‘Anan was not involved in any resistance activities. He used to work at the Municipality of Gaza and he was on duty when the attack took place.

                                                              Nearly half an hour prior to this attack, an IOF aircraft fired a missile at a civilian vehicle, in which a number of members of the al-Quds Brigades (the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad) were traveling, after they had launched home-made rockets at Israeli towns. The missile went astray.

                                                              At approximately 22:00 on the same day, IOF moved into Jenin town and refugee camp. They besieged and opened fire at a house belonging to Naji Wahesh Bargheesh near Dr. Khalil Suleiman Hospital. Bargheesh’s daughter, 17-year-old Bushra, was killed by a gunshot to the head, when she was in her bedroom. IOF continued to besiege and fire at the house to arrest the victim’s brother, 22-year-old ‘Abdul Rahman. They then called through megaphones on residents of the house to get out and they did. However, IOF resumed firing at the house. At approximately 23:30, IOF withdrew from the area, without finding the targeted person.

                                                              At approximately 00:15 on Sunday, 22 April 2007, an IOF undercover unit moved into Nablus, traveling in a civilian vehicle with a Palestinian registration plate. The vehicle stopped neat a house belonging to Nabeel al-Zorba in the old town. Soon after, IOF military jeeps arrived at the area to support the undercover unit. IOF soldiers broke into two neighboring houses belonging to the families of Abu al-Hayat and al-Shilla. They then ordered residents of the al-Zorba’s house to get out. Al-Zurba, his wife and their two children immediately got out. Soon after, IOF fired 8 shells at the house and many gunshots at the house. Two members of the Palestinian resistance exchanged fire with IOF. The exchange of fire continued until 04:45, and as a result of it, the two resistance activists were killed. They were identified as:

                                                              1) Ameen Mahmoud Libbada, 20, hit by a gunshot to the neck; and

                                                              2) Fadel Mohammed Nour, 25, hit by 3 gunshots to the neck.

                                                              PCHR strongly condemns this latest escalation by IOF, and:

                                                              1)Reiterates its condemnation for extra-judicial executions and the excessive use of force by IOF against Palestinian civilians, and emphasizes that such practices serve to increase tension in the region and threaten the lives of Palestinian civilians.

                                                              2)Calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop such crimes, and reiterates its call for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under the Convention and ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT.

                                                              Public Document
                                                              For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 - 2825893

                                                              PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail: pchr@pchrgaza.org, Webpage http://www.pchrgaza.org

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                                                                US builds Baghdad wall to keep Sunnis and Shias apart

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

                                                                Another bad idea the U.S. military picked up from training with the Israeli Occupation Forces


                                                                An Iraqi contractor attaches chains to a huge concrete barrier for a "gated community" in Baghdad. Photograph: Sgt Mike Pryor/US army

                                                                By Mark Tran

                                                                US soldiers are building a three-mile wall to separate one of Baghdad's Sunni enclaves from surrounding Shia neighbourhoods, it emerged today.

                                                                The move is part of a contentious security plan that has fuelled fears of the Iraqi capital's Balkanisation.

                                                                [More:]

                                                                When the barrier is finished, the minority Sunni community of Adamiya, on the eastern side of the River Tigris, will be completely gated. Traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will provide the only access, the US military said.

                                                                "Shias are coming in and hitting Sunnis, and Sunnis are retaliating across the street," Captain Scott McLearn, of the US 407th brigade support battalion, told the Associated Press.

                                                                The project, which began on April 10, is being worked on almost nightly, with cranes swinging enormous concrete barriers into place.

                                                                Although Baghdad is rife with barriers around marketplaces and areas such as the heavily fortified Green Zone, this is the first in the city to be set up on sectarian lines.

                                                                The concrete wall, which will be up to 12ft high, "is one of the centrepieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence," US officials said.

                                                                The officials said the barrier would allow authorities to screen people entering and leaving Adamiya "while keeping death squads and militia groups out".

                                                                The construction - which has been nicknamed the "great wall of Adamiya" - is not the first time US military planners have attempted to isolate hostile regions.

                                                                In 2005, attempts were made to surround the Sunni-dominated city of Samarra with raised earth barriers to prevent insurgents from entering and leaving. A similar strategy was also deployed in both Tal Afar and Falluja.

                                                                General David Petraeus, the new US commander in Iraq, said he believed the tactics in Tal Afar, close to the Syrian border, were successful - but the area has since fallen back under insurgent control.

                                                                Critics of the scheme said it had been tried in past counter-insurgency campaigns in Vietnam and Algeria, but found wanting.

                                                                Some Sunnis living in Adamiya have welcomed the attempt to improve security but warned that it was another sign of the deep hostility between Sunnis and Shias.

                                                                Others were sceptical about the latest initiative to staunch the bloodshed in Baghdad, which reached new heights when a series of suicide bombings killed more than 200 people in a single day this week.

                                                                "I don't think this wall will solve the city's serious security problems," Ahmed Abdul-Sattar, a 35-year-old government worker, told the Associated Press. "It will only increase the separation between our people, which has been made so much worse by the war."

                                                                Meanwhile, the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, will today arrive in Iraq, where he is expected to meet sectarian leaders and government officials in Baghdad.

                                                                In his third trip to the country in four months, he is expected to put pressure on the Shia prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to move faster on reconciliation with the Sunnis, who have been elbowed aside since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

                                                                "The clock is ticking," Mr Gates told reporters yesterday. "I know it's difficult ... but I think that it's very important that they bend every effort to getting this legislation done as quickly as possible."

                                                                In an ominous sign for the US, an insurgent coalition yesterday announced an "Islamic cabinet" in an attempt to provide an alternative to the country's US-backed administration.

                                                                The Islamic State of Iraq group named the head of al-Qaida in Iraq as its "minister of war". The alliance of eight insurgent groups first emerged in October, claiming to hold territory in Sunni-dominated areas of western and central Iraq.

                                                                www.guardian.co.uk

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                                                                  Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner

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


                                                                  Nancy Pelosi (Christine Stuart photo)

                                                                  By Christine Stuart

                                                                  Once Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, arrived at the Connecticut Convention Center Friday, she thanked Democrats for helping shift the balance of power in Congress by electing Congressmen Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy to the House of Representatives.

                                                                  [More:]

                                                                  CT News Junkie

                                                                  51 words posted in General NewsLeave a comment

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                                                                    Defining the enemy: The motives behind Israel's media campaign against Azmi Bishara

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

                                                                    Arab-Palestinian Knesset member Azmi Bishara explains to Amira Howeidy the motives behind the Israeli media's campaign against him and how it affects the Arab community

                                                                    Israel, it seems, is at war with one man. The Israeli media and politicians from across the political spectrum are up in arms against him, the Shabak (intelligence) is said to be preparing a file on him and his fate could have an impact on 1.3 million Arabs living in Israel.

                                                                    [More:]

                                                                    This might be the kind of attention someone as high-profile as Azmi Bishara expects when faced with accusations of treason. Then again, it might not. Bishara is, after all, not just an outspoken Arab-Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament the Knesset but an embodiment of Israel's paradoxes and its complex relationship with itself and its Arab-Palestinian community.

                                                                    Over the past 11 years this Christian Arab- Palestinian politician, intellectual, novelist, philosopher and citizen of Israel has struggled to redefine the status and identity of the Palestinians whose lands, towns and villages were occupied by the Jewish state between 1948 and 1949 and who later became Israeli citizens. While Israel sought to assimilate them and "Israelise" their collective identity, Bishara and his National Arab Alliance party begged to differ.

                                                                    Their vision, which has gained momentum within the Arab community (known as the 1948 Arabs) insists that Israel should be a state for all its citizens and not -- as it now perceives itself -- a Jewish state. A Jewish state, they argue, defies the logics of democracy because it does not equate between its Jewish and non-Jewish populations. Even more alarming for Israeli nationalists is the fact that such a position could represent the nucleus of a bi-national secular state.

                                                                    Three weeks ago Bishara left Israel for an Arab tour. Given recent developments it is now unclear when, or if, he will be returning. A week after his departure, the Israeli press began a campaign of incitement against him, the opening shot being the publication of news reports that he will resign from the Knesset while in Qatar. This was followed by leaks to the media concerning a criminal investigation against him. But with a court-imposed gag on the nature of the investigation it is not clear what is actually being investigated though the Israeli press has hinted at charges involving "contact with the enemy during wartime".

                                                                    Although Bishara is no stranger to prosecution based on similar allegations -- in the past he has always been found innocent - he now believes that "the rules of the game have changed" and that the target is not just him but the entire Palestinian-Arab community living in Israel.

                                                                    "There is a decision to end our political stream and the unprecedented challenge it represents for them," he told Al-Ahram Weekly in a telephone interview from Doha. "The message is: Palestinian-Arabs who support us will be regarded as people working against Israel. And to do that they are targeting the head of the movement. They cannot tolerate an Arab Knesset member who refutes their claims of democratic practice and argues that Zionism defeats the notion of democracy."

                                                                    By presenting Bishara's case as one with security dimensions, "Israel will have more tools to fight us with," he said, "and it is evident that they've been preparing a huge file for over a year now which involved monitoring all my moves and recording all my telephone conversations without a court order. It makes me wonder what parliamentary immunity means in practice."

                                                                    It is rumoured that the secret police have records of phone conversations Bishara conducted with "hostile" Arab figures, including Hizbullah members, during Israel's war against Lebanon last summer.

                                                                    Such "security fabrications", in Bishara's words, could affect international solidarity with him since the suggestion being propagated "translates into providing the enemy with information which ultimately transforms me from a political, cultural and intellectual figure to an agent for a hostile state or terrorist organisation as they call it".

                                                                    "This changes the logic of things because I have my political views, I publish articles, I give interviews and I talk on the phone but I do not enjoy a security position or have access to security information in the first place in order to deliver it. In fact, it is clear that these hostile states or organisations like Hizbullah and Hamas are more informed about Israel's security than we are. We are men of thought, culture and literature."

                                                                    Bishara denies all the rumoured charges against him and says they "disgust" him. And because he realises the rules of the game have changed he has yet to decide if he will play by the new rules.

                                                                    "It is out of the question that someone like myself should sit with prosecutors and answer their questions about my phone calls, what I say to my friends, what did I mean by this word or in this article with all the humiliation it involves."

                                                                    The active involvement of the Israeli left alongside the extreme right in teaming up against Bishara in the current media campaign against him comes as no surprise. "The Israeli left and right stood together during the first weeks of the war on Lebanon last summer and the same scenario is repeating itself with me. They're all united against the path that we chose which rejects Zionism and the Zionist nature [of Israel], our emphasis on Arab identity, extending our cultural and civilisational roots to the Arab world and our emphasis on the fact that there are two nations and that we are not merely a minority."

                                                                    A leading Palestinian intellectual, Bishara's popularity extends across the Arab world. Not only did his movement contribute to breaking many of the political taboos imposed on the 1948 Palestinian community, his eloquence and staunch pan-Arab stands helped redefine the term "Israeli-Arab" which for decades was treated with suspicion across the Arab world.

                                                                    This might be good news for the Arabs, but why would Israel tolerate a vocal Arab- Palestinian who supports resistance?

                                                                    "Israel has a problem of course," says Bishara, "and [its leaders] are not trying to redefine the borders and prevent us from expressing such views. But we do not ask anything of Israel in this regard. We are against the Israeli aggression on Lebanon and we support people's right in resisting occupation. We do not support a specific form of resistance and we oppose the targeting of civilians in this context. But in the context of citizenship and activism within a political framework we have to distinguish between people like us, Palestinians and Arabs, whose lands were occupied, and our right to express ourselves about resisting occupation and actually being directly involved in resistance. There is a difference between our liaisons as democratic Palestinians and Arabs with the rest of the Arab world and making our position known and being part of the resistance... Of course Israel cannot tolerate resistance but then freedom [fighters] do not want Israel's tolerance in the first place."

                                                                    Israel, says Bishara, suffers from an identity crisis. "But then I have one too," he admits. "I have a problem tolerating them just as they have a problem tolerating me. In the past five years I feel I have grown 50 years older as a result of the conflicts and having to go to the Knesset every day and actually sit with people I regard as war criminals. I did it out of responsibility for my people even though it exhausted and drained me. But I'm not talking about predicaments here, I'm talking about equilibrium. They now want to change that equilibrium so that we no longer take the stands that we do."

                                                                    When Bishara took what he considered a democratic stand following Israel's war on Lebanon last year by visiting Beirut's southern suburb Al-Dahia -- Hizbullah's stronghold, Israelis went berserk. "It's ABC political work for a Palestinian democrat like myself who exists as part of the political entity that launched the aggression to show solidarity with the victims of this aggression... [The Israelis] in turn decided this is participating in resistance. I reject that completely."

                                                                    During a war, he said, people talk to each other on the phone and they talk about the war. "But if we talk about the war this could be contact with the enemy. Turning every triviality between human beings who are Arabs -- and are naturally connected -- into transferring information to the enemy is simply an attempt to quash us. There is a big cultural misunderstanding here, a huge gap in understanding who we are."

                                                                    Israel, says Bishara, perceives its Arabs as a minority who immigrated to Israel, requested an Israeli card and became Israelis. "And therefore when we communicate with other Arabs we are in contact with the enemy. We have a different perception. We are Arabs and our brothers and sisters in the Arab world are Arab, and we were Arab long before Israel was created [in 1948] and imposed its identity on us. Now it wants to impose its enemies as our enemies. They're not."

                                                                    According to Bishara, his decision to resign from the Knesset was taken a year ago but his party wanted him to postpone it for a while. But now he has to decide whether or not he will resign and have his immunity lifted, "or if I should throw this immunity at them anyway". He will "eventually" return to Israel and the occupied territories, he says, but only after he has decided how to handle the campaign against him and the 1948 Arab-Palestinian community.

                                                                    Al Ahram

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                                                                      Shattered illusions

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

                                                                      If the fall of Baghdad exposed the dangers of identifying the state solely in its leader, Iraq's past four years show the folly of those -- especially Arabs -- who thought democracy could be imposed by foreign force, writes Azmi Bishara

                                                                      No amount of overstatement does justice to the significance of the fall of Baghdad. Yet stunned gasps at how easily the regime was toppled have little bearing on the subject. When you consider that the invasion was preceded by 10 years of war followed by 15 years of sanctions, the fall wasn't "easy" by any count. The importance of studying the fall of Baghdad resides in the insight it gives into how a regime that rested on a personality cult grew hollow. It sheds light on a type of regime that disengaged itself from the concerns, rights and interests of the people, that lumped its citizens into an amorphous body called "the masses", and that believed that slogans were enough to make this body move, as though it had a single head to process the information it was fed.

                                                                      [More:]

                                                                      If the public can be spontaneously stirred to action by powerful emotions such as jubilation, pent up resentment or outrage, then the government's task would seem to be to create the agenda and institutions for channelling these energies. The kind of regime at hand, however, does not deal well with spontaneity. In fact, spontaneity is one of its greatest fears and it is very good at containing it and sapping it of its force. Such a regime cannot suddenly mobilise "the masses" behind a strategy for resistance, especially when those so-called masses realise that resistance is synonymous with defending the regime.

                                                                      The people of the Soviet Union fought the Nazi occupation at a time when the Soviet order was at its most robust, in spite of Stalin's dictatorship. But even then, popular resistance alone could not have prevented the fall of Stalingrad and Leningrad. Those battles required the full and concerted strength of the entire army and the state. Contrary to the common impression, democracy doesn't come into it. Many dictatorships have emerged victorious from their wars, just as many democracies have lost theirs. What does come into it is an organised government, the loyalty of the army, current balances of power and the horizons of opportunity this offers. In the case of Iraq, the government and the army were in a disastrous condition.

                                                                      Of course that regime appealed to the Arab people, who had spontaneously demonstrated their outrage at the invasion. However, as there was no alternative project to steer these energies towards the realisation of a political agenda, they quickly dissipated. In some instances, other regimes succeeded in co-opting these energies in the interest of reaping a quantity of popular kudos. In other cases, governments simply loosened the leash a bit to let their public vent itself in a direction that was not aimed at them.

                                                                      In Iraq, the eruption of popular energies came after the collapse of the regime that had kept such a tight cap on them. The explosion took two trajectories: one directed inwards, as previously repressed conflicts between diverse social forces erupted; the other directed outwards, in the form of resistance against the occupation. Both trajectories influence and feed off each other, of course. Resistance under conditions of an intense and bloody domestic power struggle quickly descends to a conflict over the reading of the past and, hence, the definition of the future. This conflict, in turn, contributes to the deconstruction of existing identities and the reconstruction of new identities shaped by the current political struggle and by attendant images of the self as victim and the other as interloper or proxy of the interloper, all reinforced by the spiralling cycle of violence, vengeance and retribution. These volatile forces may inflict great moral and material damage on the occupation, as they are doing in Iraq, but they do not offer a viable national alternative to a united Iraq.

                                                                      In like manner, today's sectarian conflict in Iraq has assumed the guise of a conflict between those with and those opposed to the occupation. Tomorrow, it may assume the shape of a race to oust the occupation and claim the laurels for liberating Iraq -- or for achieving the partition of Iraq, which appears to be the way the current dynamics are heading.

                                                                      Perhaps the foregoing underscores why it is important to home in on the role and condition of the government and the army when studying the fall of Baghdad. After all, current social circumstances and the resistance have put paid to all studies and theories that preceded the war and that foresaw a victorious entrance of American troops, the clouds of dictatorship dispelled by the purifying forces of aerial and naval bombardment, and the rise of democracy from the devastation, like a phoenix from the ashes.

                                                                      Democracy is not borne from chaos or from the destruction of a nation, that's for sure. Democracy in Germany and Japan did not emerge from the destruction of those countries, contrary to the ridiculous myth. Democracy is an expression of the sovereignty of a nation and a form of exercising this sovereignty -- the most ideal form of exercising sovereignty, according to advocates of democracy, because it reflects the will of the people. Democracy cannot come into effect by manacling the sovereignty of a nation and dismantling a country as is currently taking place in Iraq and as some mad theorists had envisioned.

                                                                      It wasn't just Baghdad that fell, not even at first glance. What also came crashing to the ground was the fairytale that one could build democracy just by pointing some mighty barrels at a dictatorship. The commonly held impression is that society without government is civil society. The notion has become something of a fad. But it is an illusion and a dangerous one at that. Society without government is a society at war, a society in which everyone is at the throats of everyone else. With the collapse of the state in Iraq the fires from "society's hell" flared out of control. The dual collapse of the dictatorship of Baghdad and the myth of building democracy on the ruins gave rise to the current Iraqi nightmare.

                                                                      The current situation in Iraq marks a historic juncture in the Arab world; a juncture that raises a big question mark over the future of the Arab nation state as it currently stands. Iraq has driven home as never before that if this collection of nation states does not develop a higher level of cooperation on the basis of their common Arab identity it will disintegrate into a morass of warring sectarian and tribal groupings and revert to the pre-state era. Globalisation, as opposed to Americanisation and marginalisation, is a process that the Arabs must not allow themselves or their common identity to abandon in its wake. The Arabic language and culture are inherent media of communication and Arab satellite networks, television stations, newspapers, books, coffeehouses and all other public venues offer easily accessible channels for drawing the Arabs together and unifying their agendas. Unless they take advantage of these instruments to develop closer political, economic, social and supranational bonds, globalisation will bring nothing but the fragmentation of each nation state into sectarian and tribal pawns in the political and economic agendas of others.

                                                                      Iraq's isolation from the rest of the Arab world stemmed, firstly, from the nature of the decision- making process in Iraq, itself; secondly, from the ability of an American-led coalition to corner the country, subject it to a prolonged blockade and then to pound it militarily on pretexts that would not legitimise a war even if they were true; and, thirdly, from the mechanisms that elevated sectarian and tribal groupings into political blocs that recruit allegiance either to or against the occupation on the basis of their various organic affiliations. Building a nation ultimately rests on the creation of a sense of the overriding bonds of citizenship. Yet, prior to this, in both the pre- and post-independence phases, there must exist a sense of common cause -- generally referred to as the right of self-determination -- for it is this that affirms that overriding bond as the primary cornerstone for building the nation. The Arabs, however, have produced neither the type of national entities that can serve as a basis for generating a sense of identification with a common cause or a foundation of citizenship that may be smaller than the Arab world combined but larger than the Arabs within a single sub-regional national entity. What is left and what is now forcefully advancing itself as the intermediary between the individual and tyranny is political unity based on ethnic, religious and tribal affiliations.

                                                                      Even in the non-civil national entities we have, these same organic bonds form the primary units of affiliation within the state and army, in view of the absence of democratic institutions and the government's distrust of the loyalty of the individual to it. For the individual, meanwhile, these same units serve as the shield between him and the state. The irony is that what protects the individual from the despotism of the state forms one of the primary underpinnings of that despotism. The despotic regime justifies its existence on the grounds that it preserves the unity of the state, but in fact it sustains itself through its perpetration of and juggling with a vast diversity of centrifugal forces. But when the state and its army are defeated, these disparate disintegrative forces pounce upon the inheritance, in the course of which they exercise their own brand of tyranny as they fight it out with one another. Perhaps for this reason, some yearn for just plain tyranny.

                                                                      Clearly, then, the Arabs' task is to find the ways to forestall the emergence of a situation that opens the way to such phenomena as the blockade of Iraq and the military intervention in that country. Surely this is the lesson to be derived from that tragic experience. One hopes, therefore, to hear again the voices of those who had appealed for outside intervention in the name of slogans that quickly proved themselves hollow, if not extremist -- slogans, for example, that espoused bringing democracy on the back of American tanks. One might expect to hear some honest self-criticism instead of the pieties spouted by those who have shown themselves to have no real interest in democracy.

                                                                      There are a good many neo-liberals who parade beneath the banner of democracy, in spite of their general disregard for democratic methods and civil liberties, and who trumpet the need to prevent dictatorship only to retroactively justify a war that was waged on patently false pretences. If we add this behaviour to the actual crime of the dismantlement of the Iraqi state, we know that there was nothing unwitting in their complicity. The innocent ones blanched, admitted their mistakes and, at the very least, recognised the folly of American policies. The others never say what they mean and never mean what they say, and may well resort to the same theoretical hocus-pocus somewhere else in the future. No Arab state, at present, is immune to the spectre of fragmentation if it is subjected to the type of pounding visited upon Iraq.

                                                                      Proponents of privatisation are not necessarily economic neo-liberals. The system of patronage, sectarianism and tribalism, and the corruption that pervades it, does not form the foundation for neo- liberal capitalism. Nor are economic neo-liberals necessarily politically liberal. Under the shadow of American interventionism in the region there have emerged forces that have called for change, but in fact are thirsty for power and numb to the cause of civil rights and liberties. The current Arab condition breeds the type of people who propel themselves to the fore on liberal platforms and then quickly reveal themselves liberal only in the amount of economic and political influence they seek to lavish on themselves.

                                                                      Baghdad has fallen, but so to have all the illusions that had been pinned upon its fall. Here precisely is where an intensive reassessment must begin.

                                                                      Al Ahram

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                                                                        Face to face

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

                                                                        THE LONG-STANDING dispute between Cairo and Berlin over the iconic bust of Nefertiti, currently housed in Berlin's Altes Museum, reached new heights this week when German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann rejected a request to loan the bust to Egypt for three months, reports Nevine El-Aref.

                                                                        The decision came a year after the Supreme Council of Antiquities' (SCA) Secretary-General Zahi Hawass requested the loan in a speech delivered before presidents Hosni Mubarak and Horst Khöler at the inauguration of the Egypt's Sunken Treasures exhibition in Berlin last May. Hawass asked for the loan of the bust so it could go on show at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to coincide with the centenary celebrations of the German Archaeological Institute in Egypt. In return, Hawass pledged during his speech, that the SCA would offer another statue to the Egyptian Museum in Berlin for the three months that Nefertiti was in Egypt.

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        "Experts have reservations about taking Nefertiti on a long trip, which we have to take seriously," said Neumann.

                                                                        This response triggered anger among local Egyptologists who claim that the bust, discovered in 1912 by German excavator Ludwig Borchardt in an artist's atelier in Tel Al-Amarna, was taken illegally from Egypt. Anxious to take the bust to Germany, Borchardt took advantage of the practice, common at the time, of splitting any new discovery between the Egyptian Antiquities Authority and the foreign mission concerned. Borchardt himself reported that he did not clean the bust but left it covered in mud when he took it to the Egyptian Museum for the usual division of spoils. The museum took two limestone statues of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and gave the head of Queen Nefertiti to the expedition because it was made of gypsum -- or so they thought.

                                                                        Rumours over what actually went on that day have persisted, one common claim being that Borchardt disguised the head, covering it with a layer of gypsum to ensure that the committee would note that it was actually made of painted limestone.

                                                                        Culture Minister Farouk Hosni described the German decision as "unjustified, especially given that Egypt has never withheld permission for archeological exhibitions held in Germany".

                                                                        Last Thursday Hawass announced that he will resubmit the request to borrow the bust.

                                                                        Al Ahram

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                                                                          Gay Marriage: From the Capital to the Classroom

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

                                                                          By Christine Stuart

                                                                          The Judiciary Committee Co-Chairmen joined three University of Connecticut Law professors and a same-sex marriage advocate for a panel discussion on marriage equality Wednesday.

                                                                          The panelists seemed to conclude the easiest route to equality is public policy rather than the courts and the proponents of marriage equality believe confusion is their best ally.

                                                                          Full story at:
                                                                          CT News Junkie

                                                                          62 words posted in LawLeave a comment

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                                                                            Building Economic Independence in Palestine

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

                                                                            Note: The following is a talk given at the Second Annual Conference on Non-Violent Popular Resistance in the Palestinian village of Bil’in. Bil'in is a village where Palestinian, Israeli and international solidarity activists have non-violently protested the construction of the Apartheid Wall of Hatred regularly for the past two years. You can read more about it at stopthewall.org

                                                                            By Sam Bahour
                                                                            April 19, 2007

                                                                            First, allow me to salute the people of Bil’in. Your steadfastness is being registered in the annals of history with every meter of Wall being built and every olive tree ripped from it roots by this deplorable occupation.

                                                                            I’ve been asked to speak briefly on Building Economic Independence. A complicated topic but let me start by posting a question.

                                                                            How do we integrate a future Palestinian economy into a U.S.-dominated globalized world today, while yet still under foreign military occupation -- an occupation operating in the full view of the international community? Yes, I speak of those 3rd parties that are signatories to the 4th Geneva Convention that, for the last year, and the majority through today, have opted to apply economic and political boycotts and sanctions against the occupied people, driving us to a nation of poverty, crime and lawlessness. How do we do all of this while our very own leadership drinks tea on a bimonthly basis with that very same occupier that is removing, by daily actions on the ground, the option of a meaningful Palestinian independence?

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            For 40 years, Israel linked the occupied Palestinian territory economy to its own. By design, an economic umbilical cord was weaved into every one of our sectors. To fast forward for the sake of time, it is worthy to note that the Oslo Peace Accords kept that umbilical cord fully attached, while at the same time laying on the Palestinian side the colossal burden of meeting the challenges of economic development without having the access to the full toolbox of economic resources.

                                                                            State donors entered the picture. Instead of rising to the obligations placed upon them in the 4th Geneva Convention to ensure no harm be done to the occupied people, the ‘protected people’ as we are classified under international law, these 3rd party states began feeding us fish instead of assisting us to learn how to fish for ourselves. In short, donors have become accomplices to the economic repression and sustaining of the status quo that is simmering us to death as we stand and struggle here today.

                                                                            Donors are not the only players in the equation. Sustainable development cannot be based on the agenda and political moods of foreign donors. Palestinian business and Palestinian consumers are, or should I say should, be the foundations in which we build our economy upon. It would be unfair to say the Palestinian business community has failed, it has not. Many businesses have remained steadfast in the face of unimaginable odds. Many others have been exceedingly successful. However, the success criteria of many of the movers and shakers in our business community needs scrutinized. Is success a single firm extracting an annual $100 million profit from the occupied people for a basic service? Is success considering building of industrial zones between this Apartheid Wall and the Green Line? Is success the monopolization of the various sectors and blocking new investments and new jobs from being created? As I noted, thousands of business are doing amazing things to keep their doors open, but a few movers and shakers have no intention of moving or shaking the occupation out of our lives and it is these elements of our own society we must hold accountable.

                                                                            Accountability cannot come from an expired Authority, pre-occupied with factional politics, despite our love of those trying to make it an operational body. The Palestinian citizen, the Palestinian consumer, and those in solidarity with Palestinians must carry the burden.

                                                                            I cannot comprehend how we can peacefully co-exist with Israeli settlement products on our shelves.

                                                                            I cannot comprehend how we can allow Israeli firms to dump their products and services into our market with no repercussions whatsoever.

                                                                            I cannot comprehend how 3rd party states refuse to take on their obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention when they see the economic roadblocks, checkpoints and Walls that Israel has constructed.

                                                                            Our land is being grabbed by the hour. Through what our good friend, Jeff Halper, coined a “matrix of control” Israel is making sure land is not sufficient for daily life, let alone economic independence. The hand of occupation controls the lands we can cultivate and the destiny of the trees that we plant.

                                                                            We are forced to buy our water from the Israeli water company, paying more than Israelis buying from the same source but using less per capita. The hand of occupation controls our water facets.

                                                                            All of the West Bank electricity is bought from the Israeli Electric Company and resold to us. The hand of occupation controls our light switches.

                                                                            Every telephone call all you make abroad is forced to go through an Israeli operator. The hand of occupation controls our conversations.

                                                                            Every laborer wanting to work in Israel, or on their land west of the wall for that matter, must be issued an Israeli permit. The hand of occupation controls the sweat of our workers.

                                                                            For the first time ever in our history, over a 1/3 of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem desire to voluntarily emigrate. Over a 1/3! I should note that International Humanitarian Law is clear about war crimes. The bloody events of 1948 and 1967 and 2002 were all war crimes no doubt – a military occupation, drunk on power – still drink on power – bent on destroying the fabric of Palestinian society with results well known to you all. But it is an equal war crime under the laws of occupation for the “occupying power,” that’s Israel if we have forgotten, to create the conditions for the occupied people to voluntary to be left with no option but to leave their homes in search of security and a livelihood. I add to this the new Israeli policy of outright denying entry to those of us that are prevented by Israel of ascertaining residency. This denied entry policy is separating families and contributing to faster pace of our brain drain. I tend to call all of this a sterile ethnic cleansing, one that happens one family at a time, far from any media and bloodless.

                                                                            This is our reality. A reality many try to brush aside or under the carpet while pretending to be building or contributing to a viable state. Such a reality is incompatible with viability. Such a reality is not conducive to building economic independence.

                                                                            So what do we do? Fold up? Hide under a rock and hope for the best? Accept and acquiesce the foreign military occupation that has kept its boot on our necks for the last 40 years and which has separated us from our people for 60 years?

                                                                            NO. NOT THIS PEOPLE! We may not yet know how to win and end this nightmare, but I can assure you we definitely know how not to lose.

                                                                            As we, as a community, make our structural adjustment to our internal politics, new leadership is bound to emerge.

                                                                            As we learn and master the tools of our oppressors, our just case will be articulated online, offline, around the wall, and over the wall.

                                                                            As we focus on what matters in life: people, family, community and our inalienable rights, more focus will be placed on our ability to create Global Development Partnerships, our own kind of GDP, rather than chase the World Bank’s traditional measure of GDP. Our GDP includes all of those laborious hours mothers spend up keeping their children’s sanity and maintaining family life. Our GDP includes the efforts that all our political prisoners spend remaining steadfast in Israeli prisons. Our GDP is Global in scope, Developmental in substance, and in Partnership with peace and justice loving people wherever they reside.

                                                                            I’m sorry if I disappointed you by not talking about the many economic accomplishments over the last decade, several which I had the honor of contributing to. It is not that I’m not proud that, under odds most communities would have buckled under, we have built productive companies, a stock market, a banking industry, an ICT industry, an olive oil industry, a furniture industry, and a pharmaceutical industry, among others.

                                                                            These are all important but they are all trappings of a status quo that is taking us to a level of despair, unknown to our struggle. In a normal environment, as a private sector player, I would yearn for return on investments. In Palestine, I challenge my peers to translate that return to:

                                                                            The return to international law;

                                                                            The return to recognized borders; The return of our political prisoners to their families;

                                                                            The return of our refugees; and

                                                                            The return to community building.

                                                                            These returns are the only returns that will put us on the path toward economic independence.

                                                                            In closing, I want to note a quote passed to me by an Israeli friend of mine in Jerusalem. One of the Jewish sages, someone famous in Judaism, from the 17th Century; Rabbi Nachman from Bratzlav once said, "There is nothing that is more whole than a broken heart".

                                                                            My friend said that "this is not so easy to see from within." I agree.

                                                                            Thank you for your attention.

                                                                            Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant and activist based in Ramallah/Al-Bireh and may be reached at sbahour@palnet.com.

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                                                                              Human Shield

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

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                                                                                Violence and Racism

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

                                                                                Opinion

                                                                                By Mazin Qumsiyeh

                                                                                Two issues jumped at me in the media coverage of violent events recently: the terminology and lack of context on violence.

                                                                                Imagine if a student who happens to be a Muslim and/or Arab carried out the attack at Virginia Tech.
                                                                                Imagine the media frenzy that would have ensued to serve Zionist interests.

                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                The religion of the killer in this case was not mentioned. While it was mentioned that he is Asian/Korean no one used terms like Korean Terrorist or Asian Terrorist, let alone Christian Fascist or Christian Terrorist. But such language as Islamofascist or Arab Terrorist is now so common and no talk show (let alone government official) is censored or fired for using them.

                                                                                Does anyone doubt that the interview with the gun dealer would have been very different had the killer been an Arab or even Middle Eastern looking?

                                                                                This is part and parcel of the same mentality that holds that elevates certain victims while dehumanizing others.* The hypocrisy is astounding.
                                                                                While few mumbled things about gun control, few dared to challenge the culture of violence that is promoted at the highest levels of this government, in the media, in Hollywood, and in just about every segment of public discourse in America. To the detriment of our economic and physical well being as taxpayers and citizens, the racism that begets violence is increasing thanks to the influence of those who unabashedly work to make
                                                                                America into the image of racist Zionist Israel.

                                                                                The largest single donor to the Democratic Party is an Israeli by the name of Haim Saban who became a billionaire peddling violent video games (e.g.
                                                                                Mighty Morphin Power Rangers**) and promoting violence in his ever-growing media empire. I think people will begin to see that this horrific violence
                                                                                at Virginia Tech cannot be separated from the violent and racist lifestyles that many lead without even knowing it (games they play, videos they watch,
                                                                                talk show they listen to, movies they attend). It is this normalization of violence and racism that allows people to ignore the role of our government
                                                                                in the violence that resulted in the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestine (70%) of Palestinians are now refugees or displaced people) and the violence unleashed on Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the same ideology of racial superiority that informed US and Israeli collaboration for decades with Apartheid South Africa and the US war on Vietnam. Why is there little in our media about the hundreds killed at Universities in Iraq** or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed thanks to a war of choice built on lies and deception?

                                                                                Most US discretionary spending goes to the military (not even counting supplementals to pay for current wars on Iraq and Afghanistan). The US makes 70% of all the weapons in the world and is by far the largest weapon exporter. The criminal justice system imprisons the largest number and percentage of any industrialized nation (nearly 7 million on
                                                                                parole/jail/probation) and employs 2% of the US workforce. Yet crime rates in America are higher than most countries. The toll this past week for
                                                                                these failed policies: 32 innocent lives lost in VA, hundreds of Americans murdered in inner cities, more young soldiers killed in Iraq, and hundreds of Iraqi civilians massacred. When do we say enough is enough: that racism promotes violence and that, as MLK said "injustice anywhere is a threat to
                                                                                justice everywhere"?

                                                                                *The Holocaust as political asset by Amira Hass, Haaretz
                                                                                http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/849669.html
                                                                                ** http://www.mediamonitors.net/mazin32.html
                                                                                *** http://www.iraqslogger.com

                                                                                Source: Qumsiyeh

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                                                                                  Middletown Alaska Native wins semi-pro football team franchise

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


                                                                                  Photo courtesy Jeff Hurlburt -- Jeff Hurlburt, an Alaska Native residing in Middletown, Conn., was awarded the franchise for the newest team in the New England Football League, which plays semi-pro football. He has named the team the Middletown Spartans.

                                                                                  By Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

                                                                                  MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - Jeff Hurlburt is a busy guy. The 27-year-old Alaska Native is married with four children. He's a full-time graduate student studying physical education at Central Connecticut State University. He also works full-time for the state as a mental health worker at Connecticut Valley Hospital: and now he's kicking off the first season of the newly created Middletown Spartans, a semi-pro football team in the New England Football League.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  Hurlburt, a Dena'ina Athabascan whose family is from the village of Tyonek, Alaska, was recently awarded ownership of the NEFL expansion team by the league's board of directors.

                                                                                  The NEFL is the largest semi-pro football league in the country, with 38 teams in all six New England states and three different skill levels.

                                                                                  The award was the result of a competitive application process that involved showing financial support and recruiting a roster of around 60 players and a coaching staff - all dedicated volunteers with a competitive edge and love of the game.

                                                                                  But not only is Hurlburt the owner of the new team, he's also the general manager and a player.

                                                                                  ''I always thought about doing this,'' Hurlburt told Indian Country Today.

                                                                                  Hurlburt, who was born and raised in Middletown, played football at Middletown High School and during his undergraduate years at Southern Connecticut State University, where he got a degree in business.

                                                                                  Recently, he has played football for another NEFL team - the Connecticut Thunder.

                                                                                  ''It was good, but it was a 45-minute drive both ways for practice and games. I wanted to form a team with people from my own area, people I grew up with, people I went to school with,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  A blitz of fliers at local colleges and gyms and a story in the Middletown Press helped recruit all the players he needs.

                                                                                  As excited as Hurlburt is about his new football venture, he is looking toward a future plan to move his family to Alaska and teach Native children.

                                                                                  ''I think it'll be a really good experience for me working with Native children, many of whom are the same tribe, the same clan and being Alaska or Native American,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  In 1997, Hurlburt's mother moved back to Tyonek. He has visited her several times and on one of the visits he decided to become a Native educator there.

                                                                                  ''Our village is in the Alaska bush. The only way you can get there is by plane or boat. They still pretty much live a subsistence lifestyle. They still eat bear and moose and salmon. We plan on moving up there, I'm thinking in three years. This football team has been one of my dreams for many years, but I got into this physical education degree and my other dream is to work in the Anchorage school system as a Native teacher,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  Like so many others living in two worlds, Hurlburt has an acute sense of ''home.''

                                                                                  ''It's different, but of course Alaska feels like home to me. When I go to Alaska I meet people who are Athabascan, who are from Tyonek. I meet tribal members and it's like, this is my cousin, this is my uncle. The only time I see Indians in Connecticut is at the pow wows. I've been going to those my entire life. My mom would bring me to the pow wows from a very young age,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  Hurlburt said he hopes he'll be a role model for young Alaskan Natives and American Indians.

                                                                                  ''I'm taking a big risk [by taking on the football team]. But this was a dream of mine for years and I think my business degree gave me a bit of confidence so maybe it shows that anybody with hard work and discipline can achieve their goals. For the last couple of years my dream has been to move to Alaska and work with Alaskan and Native children. I've spent my entire life in Connecticut. I might go up there and get homesick, but it's something I need to do,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  Right now Hurlburt is focusing on making a successful football team. ''Successful'' in this context doesn't mean ''money-making.''

                                                                                  ''This is all about the love of the game. It's really organized and very competitive, but we're not playing for money; we're playing for fun, for pride, for where you live,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  Nevertheless, it costs money to operate. No one, including Hurlburt, will be paid this season. Hurlburt estimated it will cost around $5,000 for the season's field rentals for practice, games and other expenses.

                                                                                  The players kick in $100 each to play on the team and will pay for their own equipment and health insurance.

                                                                                  There will be four home games and four games away, possibly a few scrimmages and, hopefully, the team will be in the playoffs and bring home the championship, Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  ''I took out a $1,500 loan just to help with any expenses that come up. I'm just hoping for some local sponsorship and maybe some help from the Native American community,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  The team is poised and ready to begin the season in July.

                                                                                  ''My head coach and coaching staff are taking on a lot of the responsibility with my schedule being what it is. They know this is something I wanted to do for many years, and I picked a busy time to do it; but with the staff, the players who really want to play, and if some sponsors step up, this can really happen,'' Hurlburt said.

                                                                                  For more information about the team or to become a sponsor, e-mail Hurlburt at hurlburtjet@students.ccsu.edu or call (860) 347-3795 (home) or (860) 301-6915 (cell).

                                                                                  Indian Country Today

                                                                                  981 words posted in General News2 comments

                                                                                  2 response(s) to Middletown Alaska Native wins semi-pro football team franchise

                                                                                  1. julie johnnie [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                    I am so proud of you son. I cried when i read this.At work so I gotta run. Kick their butts!!
                                                                                    love you indian'
                                                                                    MOM

                                                                                  2. Michael Smith [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                    Best Wishes for a great season! I'm a former
                                                                                    resident of Middletown, place of some of the
                                                                                    best memories of my life and now a huge Spartan
                                                                                    fan way out here in California. Go Spartans!!!

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                                                                                  Two on trial over Al Jazeera memo

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

                                                                                  A government official and a former political researcher have stood trial for allegedly leaking a classified memo in which the US president reportedly referred to bombing Al Jazeera's TV station in Qatar.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  David Keogh and Leo O'Connor are accused of violating secrets laws by disclosing a document relating to 2004 talks between George Bush and Tony Blair, the British prime minister.

                                                                                  Keogh is alleged to have passed the memo to O'Connor in May 2004, who in turn placed it in a file he handed to his boss, Tony Clarke, then a legislator who had voted against Britain's decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

                                                                                  Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper previously had reported that the memo noted that Blair had argued against Bush's suggestion of bombing Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

                                                                                  The Daily Mirror said its sources disagreed on whether Bush's suggestion was serious.

                                                                                  'Outlandish and inconceivable'

                                                                                  Blair has said he had no information about any proposed US action against Al Jazeera, and the White House called the claims "outlandish and inconceivable".

                                                                                  David Perry, the prosecutor, did not mention the claim in court on Wednesday, but said jurors would see the document during parts of the hearing, closed to the public, because of the sensitivity of the contents.

                                                                                  The document - marked "Secret-Personal" - was intended to be restricted to senior officials and was written by a Blair adviser, he said.

                                                                                  Blair's staff circulated the memo to a range of military and political officials in London, Washington, the United Nations and Iraq - including Britain's MI6 intelligence agency.

                                                                                  Keogh and O'Connor had put the lives of troops in Iraq at risk because the memo contained defence data, Perry said.

                                                                                  Bush and Blair met in Washington on April 16, 2004, while the Coalition Provisional Authority was acting as administrator in post-war Iraq and "against the background of the insurgency."

                                                                                  "We live in a democratic society, not the Wild West," Perry told the court.

                                                                                  "It is not for people to decide they are going to be the sheriff in town."

                                                                                  Sensitive documents

                                                                                  Keogh worked at a government communications bunker handling sensitive documents and intelligence, Perry said.

                                                                                  The unit relayed information to diplomats overseas via encrypted or secure methods.

                                                                                  Perry said Keogh received a faxed copy of the memo to send on to official, but duplicated it unlawfully before doing so and later passed the document to O'Connor.

                                                                                  Clarke, who is no longer a lawmaker, alerted authorities when he discovered the memo among paperwork from O'Connor.

                                                                                  Britain's foreign office said Keogh is currently suspended pending the outcome of the case.

                                                                                  Both defendants deny offences under the Official Secrets Act.

                                                                                  Keogh denies two charges of making a damaging disclosure of part of a government document. O'Connor denies two similar charges.

                                                                                  Source: Agencies

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                                                                                    US ban on abortion procedure upheld

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

                                                                                    A closely divided US Supreme Court has upheld the first nationwide ban on a specific abortion procedure.

                                                                                    [More:]


                                                                                    The ruling restricting abortion rights is one of the most divisive and politically charged issues facing the country.

                                                                                    The ruling is a major victory for conservative forces in the United States, which have battled for decades to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade law establishing a woman's legal right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

                                                                                    The five-to-four decision in a case challenging the constitutionality of a ban on what critics call "partial birth abortion" is a reflection of the impact of the recent addition to the US high court of two conservative justices appointed by George Bush, the US president.

                                                                                    Abortion opponents condemn the procedure as infanticide, because the head and torso of the foetus is delivered intact while alive, but the foetus does not die until doctors extract its brain.

                                                                                    'Culture of life'

                                                                                    Bush hailed the decision, which he said affirms the "culture of life" espoused by many Americans.

                                                                                    "The partial-birth abortion ban, which an overwhelming bipartisan majority in congress passed and I signed into law, represents a commitment to building a culture of life in America."

                                                                                    Bush also said that years-long efforts to outlaw the "abhorrent procedure" reflect "the compassion and humanity of America."

                                                                                    "The Supreme Court's decision is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life," he said.

                                                                                    "We will continue to work for the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law."

                                                                                    Outright ban

                                                                                    Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the high court majority, wrote that the ban does not impose an "undue burden" since there were other options, such as making sure the foetus was not intact when it had to be extracted.

                                                                                    US anti-abortion activists hailed the watershed ruling, and expressed hope that the decision eventually will pave the way to an outright ban on all abortions across the country.

                                                                                    "The time is now right to launch aggressive legal challenges across America to abortion on demand," said Troy Newmann, of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

                                                                                    Unease

                                                                                    For their part, "pro-choice" interests said they were fearful about the future of access to abortion, although they couched their unease in the narrow terms of Wednesday's decision.

                                                                                    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a sharply worded dissent, called Wednesday's decision "alarming."

                                                                                    "It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases," she said.

                                                                                    "For the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health," Ginsburg wrote.

                                                                                    US Senator Barbara Boxer, a pro-choice advocate, echoed that alarm.

                                                                                    "As a result of today's ruling, the health of women who have dangerous pregnancies is now in deep jeopardy," the California politician said.

                                                                                    "Women who are in need of this banned procedure will be denied it, even if they risk losing their fertility, becoming paralysed or sustaining organ damage" while having a less safe procedure, Boxer said.

                                                                                    According to estimates, around 10 per cent of the roughly 1.2 million annual voluntary abortions take place after the third month of pregnancy; the method in question affects a few thousand of those.

                                                                                    Source: Agencies

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                                                                                      Baghdad hit by string of attacks

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


                                                                                      Carnage continues despite a US-led security crackdown in Baghdad

                                                                                      The Iraqi capital Baghdad has been struck by five car bombings killing at least 127 people on Wednesday.

                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                      The attacks came only hours after Nuri al-Maliki, the country’s prime minister, said his forces would take over security in Iraq from US-led forces by the end of the year.

                                                                                      A defence ministry official said the deadliest explosion near a market in the mixed Kurdish and Shia Sadriya area of the city killed at least 82 people and wounded a further 94.

                                                                                      Another security official put the death toll at 75 with 105 wounded, although a medical official at the capital's Al-Kindi hospital said doctors there had received only 69 bodies so far.

                                                                                      Al Jazeera sources said the death toll could be as high as 90.

                                                                                      Multiple bombings

                                                                                      An earlier explosion killed least 30 people in the predominately Shia area of Sadr City in Baghdad.

                                                                                      45 people were also wounded when the suicide bomber hit a traffic jam of civilian cars queuing at a checkpoint in the large suburb that is home to around 2.5 million people.

                                                                                      Police said five Iraqi security officials were among the dead.

                                                                                      At least eight vehicles were incinerated and huge plume of black smoke could be seen rising from the scene.

                                                                                      Earlier another car bomb killed 10 people and wounded 15 in the predominantly Shia district of Karrada. The blast damaged the Abdul-Majid hospital and other nearby buildings.

                                                                                      A bomb inside a minibus killed two people and wounded five near al-Shurja in central Baghdad, police said.

                                                                                      The fourth explosion was from a bomb left on a minibus in the northwestern Risafi area, killing four people and wounding six others.

                                                                                      US officials have said there has been a slight decrease in sectarian killings in Baghdad since a joint security plan was launched on February 14.

                                                                                      But the past week has seen several large attacks on the capital, including a suicide bombing inside the parliament building and a powerful attack that caused a bridge across the Tigris river to collapse.

                                                                                      "We've seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges," William Caldwell, a spokesman for the US military, told reporters on Wednesday in Baghdad.

                                                                                      "We've always said securing Baghdad would not be easy."

                                                                                      Nationwide violence

                                                                                      Elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday, US troops killed five suspected fighters and captured 30 others in a raid in the western Anbar province, a day after police uncovered 17 decomposing corpses beneath two school yards in the provincial capital.

                                                                                      In other violence, two brothers were killed and a policeman was hurt in a gun battle in Baqouba, 60 km northeast of Baghdad, police said.

                                                                                      The dead were believed to be civilians, caught in the crossfire as police fought unidentified gunmen.

                                                                                      In the northern city of Kirkuk gunmen wounded a judge, his wife and son in a drive-by shooting.

                                                                                      The violence across the country continued as the prime minister declared that his forces were aiming to take over security matters in Iraq from US-led forces by the end of the year.

                                                                                      Handover

                                                                                      In a speech delivered on his behalf at a ceremony marking the handover of southern Maysan province from British to Iraqi control, al-Maliki said three provinces in the autonomous Kurdistan region would be next, followed by Kerbala and Wasit provinces.

                                                                                      "Then it will be province by province until we achieve (this transfer) before the end of the year," al-Maliki said in the speech delivered by Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the national security adviser.

                                                                                      Al-Rubaie said this could happen even sooner.

                                                                                      "We are working very hard to get all provinces to have control and transfer security responsibilities ... well before Christmas," he told reporters in English after the ceremony.

                                                                                      Jazeera

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                                                                                        Monks rally for a Buddhist Thailand

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


                                                                                        The call has raised fears that tensions in
                                                                                        the Muslim south could be inflamed

                                                                                        Hundreds of Buddhist monks have rallied in the Thai capital calling for Buddhism to be enshrined in the constitution as Thailand's national religion.

                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                        The protest outside parliament in Bangkok comes as the country's military appointed government plans

                                                                                        to unveil a new national constitution this month.

                                                                                        The monks' call revives a debate that dates back to 1997 when a campaign to make Buddhism the national religion was dropped amid concerns that it would divide the country.

                                                                                        The proposal has split Thais, with some worried that it could inflame tensions in the Muslim south of the country, where three years of violence have left more than 2,000 people dead.

                                                                                        Previous Thai constitutions have never declared a state religion, although about 90 per cent of Thais consider themselves Buddhists.

                                                                                        Supporters of the move want to see an existing clause in the constitution which states that the king must be a Buddhist and upholder of all religions, to include an addition making Buddhism the national religion.

                                                                                        The government installed by a military coup last September has said the new constitution will help guide the kingdom back to democracy.

                                                                                        It says a draft of the charter, due to be released on April 26, will be put to a national referendum in September before elections expected in December.

                                                                                        However, critics have said they fear the new constitution will be used as a tool by coup leaders to cement the power of the military, long a powerful force in Thai politics.

                                                                                        Source: Agencies

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                                                                                          Capuano and Kucinich Come Clean About the Lobby: Why is the Peace Movement Silent About AIPAC?

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

                                                                                          By John Walsh

                                                                                          "AIPAC!" was the forceful one-word answer of Congressman Michael Capuano when we asked him, "Why was the Iran clause forbidding war on Iran without Congressional approval taken out of the recent supplemental for the Iraq war funding?" I nearly fell out of my chair at his reply - not because this was news but because of who had just said it. Capuano is a close ally of Nancy Pelosi, her fixer and enforcer. That was last Friday morning when a small delegation from Cambridge and Somerville, MA, were visiting the Congressman, known for his bluntness, as part of the nationwide UFPJ (United For Peace and Justice) home lobbying effort during the Congressional recess.

                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                          Later that day, Dennis Kucinich made an appearance at Harvard, where he was asked the same question, the reason for removing the Iran provision. "AIPAC," I volunteered out loud. Kucinich looked my way and said, "Exactly." Again my chair almost failed to contain me.

                                                                                          A few weeks earlier we had gone to the offices of Senators Kennedy and then Kerry to discuss the war. (My intention was to call their attention to www.FilibusterForPeace.org to which the Kennedy aide was sympathetic and the Kerry aide predictably hostile.) I raised the question of AIPAC directly with Kerry's aide, inquiring about its hawkish influence on Kerry and other Senators. Suddenly the aide was quite engaged. Leaning forward, he said: "That will never be discussed publicly. That will never be discussed publicly." Clearly even Kerry's office is unhappy with the pressure that comes from AIPAC.

                                                                                          It is widely acknowledged that the reps and senators are ticked at AIPAC, and their hostility seems to be growing these days. With upwards of 60% of their campaign contributions coming directly or indirectly from the Israel Lobby, the Democratic congressmen are not free to respond to their antiwar base. This opens them to an antiwar electoral challenge on the Left or Right from forces not subservient to AIPAC. And that could cost them their next election, a little thing which has them very worked up. Capuano's cry of "AIPAC" was no simple outburst of candor but a cri de coeur for his career.

                                                                                          So here we have even Congressmen and Senator's aides complaining publicly about AIPAC. AIPAC is being outed all over the mainstream media, largely thanks to the door opening work of Mearsheimer and Walt. AIPAC is skewered routinely by Justin Raimondo on Antiwar.com and by Alex Cockburn and many others here on CounterPunch. But there remains no anti-AIPAC campaign within the mainstream antiwar organizations, like UFPJ or Peace Action. (Even one supposed Congressional ally of the peace movement was announced as a celebrity guest at the recent colossal AIPAC meeting in Washington, where half the Congress shows up and Dick Cheney is a regular speaker. What gives?)

                                                                                          I have been told by leaders of the peace movement that AIPAC is a distraction from the main thrust of the antiwar movement. And so we should not engage it; AIPAC is to be immune. But with all due respect to the sentiments of that leadership, immunity for AIPAC is a prescription for disaster. To use a military analogy, which I do not especially like, suppose that we were trying to take a hill in Germany in 1944. And suppose we said that we would not attack one pillbox, which kept devastating our forces. Leave just that one pillbox alone! The result would be devastating; we would be cut down with every succeeding attempt at advance. So it is with AIPAC which campaigns relentlessly for war on Iraq, war on Iran, war on Syria, war on Lebanon and the slow genocide of the Palestinian people. AIPAC constantly puts the peace movement on the defensive while it is free to be on the offensive all the time.

                                                                                          AIPAC is not just an issue for Jewish Americans or the Jewish wing of the peace movement like Jewish Voice for Peace; it is a major force, although not the only one, driving the U.S. to wars in the Middle East. AIPAC is no less a force for war than is the Republican National Committee. In fact it is worse, because it sinks its teeth into the foreign policy establishment of both parties, perhaps the Dems more so than the Republicans. If the peace movement is to be worth its salt, then it must take action against AIPAC. (It is marathon season here in Boston and my friend, Israeli expatriate Joshua Ashenberg, tells me that the foregoing thought harbors a logical error. As he says: "A 'movement' that does not work against AIPAC is NOT a peace movement by definition. It will not help if I call myself a marathon runner, while I never ran a marathon.")

                                                                                          In the Boston area, AIPAC appears to be especially powerful, and so we have a special responsibility to take it on. At the recent AIPAC conference in Washington, the delegates from Boston/New England were the most hawkish toward Iran. Just before the last election a notorious ad in the Boston Globe, cheering on the Israeli bombing of Lebanon, was engineered by the Jewish Community Relations Council, an arm of AIPAC here. Every major political figure in MA signed the ad, including our "liberal" governor, Deval Patrick, and supposed peacenik Congressman Jim McGovern. Only Conressmen Capuano and Delahunt withheld their signatures. In addition AIPAC appears to raise a lot of money in our neck of the woods.

                                                                                          So I have a modest suggestion. On Sunday, April 29, beginning at 6 pm, AIPAC has its annual fundraising dinner at the Westin Hotel in Copley Square in Boston. (Last year a good table for 10 went for a modest $10,000.) Show up at 5 pm to protest the machinations of AIPAC. Which peace organizations in our area will be there? Which ones will promote the rally? And which will maintain their silence?

                                                                                          * American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

                                                                                          John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com.

                                                                                          He urges one and all to sign and circulate the petition at www.FilibusterForPeace.org. The Senate Dems have the power to stop the war with 41 votes; tell them to use it.

                                                                                          Counterpunch

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                                                                                            Israel's Strategic Threat

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

                                                                                            By Neve Gordon

                                                                                            In early April the rumors about Dr. Azmi Bishara, the most famous Arab Knesset member, began circulating on the Internet: Bishara is afraid to return to Israel; Bishara intends to resign from the Knesset; the Israeli Security Agency has decided to accuse Bishara of treason and espionage. The gag order preventing the publication of any information about Bishara's actions made the rumors all the more intriguing. What did Bishara, in fact, do?

                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                            Bishara, a Christian Palestinian citizen of Israel from Nazareth, established the National Democratic Assembly known as Balad in 1995 and became a Knesset member in 1996. Since then he has been interrogated several times by the Israeli Security Agency, and has been charged and found not guilty twice: once for organizing visits to Syria for Israeli Arabs who wished to visit family members and a second time for speeches he gave in Syria and Israel praising Hezbollah's resistance in southern Lebanon and Palestinian opposition in the occupied territories. His visit to Beirut following last year's Lebanon war, alongside his claim that Israel was committing war crimes in Lebanon and carrying out genocide against Shiite Muslims, was, for many Israelis, yet another indication that Bishara has been using his parliamentary immunity to harm Israel. Many Jewish members of the Knesset have argued for years that Bishara is a fifth column and that Israeli democracy has a right and indeed an obligation to defend itself against the Bishara threat.

                                                                                            But what, one might ask, are Bishara's new offenses? It is, after all, highly unlikely that he is a spy on the payroll of a foreign entity. And while one may not like his uncompromising opposition to Israeli and American regional policies and his admiration for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's militancy and strategic intelligence, expressing such views does not in and of itself jeopardize Israel's existence. Bishara, it seems, is a threat not because of any particular action or statement but because he has become a symbol of a new kind of opposition within Israel.

                                                                                            During the past few months, political activists and members of the Palestinian intellectual elite within Israel, all of whom are Israeli citizens, have drafted four documents that articulate how they conceive the state's future. The underlying assumption of all of these documents is that as long as Israel is defined as a Jewish state, its laws will always fall short of basic democratic principles and, more particularly, the right of all its citizens to full equality.

                                                                                            The authors of the document called "The Democratic Constitution" maintain that the Arab citizens of Israel should be considered a "homeland minority" with national rights. The idea is to transform Israel into a bilingual and multicultural democracy for all its citizens, rather than a Jewish democracy, which they argue is an oxymoron. Such transformation would inevitably mean changing the laws of citizenship and immigration so that citizenship would no longer be granted automatically to any Jew wishing to immigrate but rather to anyone born within Israel's territory or whose parent or spouse is a citizen, or to people persecuted due to their political beliefs.

                                                                                            Not long after the documents' publication, Israel's second-largest newspaper, Ma'ariv, reported a meeting between the head of the security agency, Yuval Diskin, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. During the meeting Diskin warned Olmert that the radicalization of Israel's Arab citizens constitutes a "strategic threat to the state's existence."

                                                                                            Diskin added that "the proliferation of the visionary documents published by the different Arab elites in Israel is particularly worrisome, [since] the documents are united by their conception of Israel as a state for all its citizens and not a Jewish state." The head of the security services concluded that "the separatist and subversive patterns represented by the elites might engender a new direction and mobilize the masses."

                                                                                            Balad sent a letter protesting Diskin's assertions, arguing that legitimate political activity whose aim is to change the state's character should not be considered subversive or dangerous. According to Ha'aretz, the Israeli Security Agency replied that it "would foil the activity of anyone seeking to harm Israel's Jewish or democratic character, even if that activity was carried out by legal means."

                                                                                            Diskin's words are telling. He admits not only that anyone who strives to alter the Jewish character of the state is considered an enemy and will be treated as such but that the secret service has no respect for democratic practices and procedures. It is precisely within the context of the four historic documents that one should understand the recent accusations against Bishara. More than anything else, Bishara constitutes a symbolic threat, since he personifies the recent demand of the Palestinian elite to transform Israel from a Jewish democracy to a democracy for all its citizens.

                                                                                            The Nation

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                                                                                              US-Israel ties bad for peace: Soros

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


                                                                                              George Soros is Jewish but not often engaged
                                                                                              in Israeli affairs

                                                                                              George Soros, the billionaire investor, has added his voice to the debate over the role of Israel's lobby in shaping US foreign policy.

                                                                                              [More:]


                                                                                              In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Soros takes issue with "the pervasive influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC]" in Washington and says the Bush administration's close ties with Israel are obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

                                                                                              Soros, who is Jewish but not often engaged in Israeli affairs, echoed arguments that have fuelled debate in academia, foreign policy think tanks and parts of the US Jewish community.

                                                                                              "The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism," wrote Soros. Politicians challenge it at their peril and dissenters risk personal vilification, he said.

                                                                                              AIPAC has consistently declined comment on such charges, but many of its supporters have been vocal in dismissing them.

                                                                                              Historian Michael Oren, speaking at AIPAC's 2007 conference in March, said the group was not merely a lobby for Israel. "It is the embodiment of a conviction as old as this (American) nation itself that belief in the Jewish state is tantamount to belief in these United States," he said in a keynote speech.

                                                                                              The long-simmering debate bubbled to the surface a year ago, when two prominent academics, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, published a 12,500-word essay entitled "The Israel Lobby" and featuring the fiercest criticism of AIPAC since it was founded in 1953.

                                                                                              AIPAC now has more than 100,000 members and is rated one of the most influential special interest groups in the United States, its political clout comparable with such lobbies as the National Rifle Association.

                                                                                              The AIPAC members are all US citizens and the group receives no funding from the Israeli government.

                                                                                              Its annual conference in Washington attracts a Who's Who of American politics, both Republicans and Democrats.

                                                                                              Unwavering support

                                                                                              Mearsheimer and Walt said the lobby had persuaded successive administrations to align themselves too closely with Israel.

                                                                                              "The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism" George Soros, the billionaire investor
                                                                                              "The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but much of the rest of the world," they wrote.

                                                                                              No other lobby group has managed to divert US foreign policy so far from the US national interest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of Israel are essentially identical, they wrote.

                                                                                              The two academics said that pressure from Israel and its lobby in Washington played an important role in President George Bush's decision to attack Iraq, an arch-enemy of Israel, in 2003.

                                                                                              Mearsheimer and Walt found no takers for their essay in the US publishing world. When it was eventually published in the London Review of Books, they noted it would be hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing such a piece.

                                                                                              It has been drawing criticism that ranged from shoddy scholarship to anti-Semitism, chiefly from conservative fellow academics and political supporters of the present relationship between Washington and Israel.

                                                                                              In his contribution to the debate, Soros said: "A much-needed self-examination of American policy in the Middle East has started in this country; but it can't make much headway as long as AIPAC retains powerful influence in both the Democratic and Republican parties."

                                                                                              That influence is reflected by the fact that Israel is the largest recipient of US aid in the world.

                                                                                              Going mainstream


                                                                                              Carter's book provoked angry reactions more
                                                                                              in the US than in Israel

                                                                                              Mearsheimer and Walt are now working on expanding their article into a book - to be published in September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The company has not commented on online reports that it paid the two authors a $750,000 advance and plans to print one million copies.

                                                                                              Another mainstream publisher, Simon and Schuster, already discovered that not only is it possible to publish criticism of Israel but it can also be good for the bottom line.

                                                                                              Former president Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" shot up the bestseller lists after its publication last November; stayed there for more than three months and is still selling well.

                                                                                              It had an initial print run of 300,000 copies and there are now 485,000 copies in print, said Victoria Meyer, a spokeswoman for Simon and Schuster.

                                                                                              Carter's book and its reference to apartheid provoked angry reactions - more in the United States than in Israel, where leftists opposed to the occupation of the West Bank have been accusing the government of apartheid practices for years and where the word has lost its shock value.

                                                                                              In response to charges of bias and anti-Semitism, Carter said he wanted to provoke a discussion of issues debated routinely and freely in Israel but rarely in the United States.

                                                                                              "This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices," he wrote in the Los Angeles Times during a tour to promote his book. "It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine."

                                                                                              According to Oren, the pro-AIPAC historian, the Carter book and the Mearsheimer-Walt paper had the same "insidious thesis" and suffered from the same flaw - ignoring oil as a driving element in US policies on the Middle East.


                                                                                              Agencies

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                                                                                                Malaysia issues fatwa on ghosts

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


                                                                                                Genies are also a target of the decree

                                                                                                A Malaysian museum has closed an exhibition on supernatural beings after Islamic religious authorities issued a fatwa, or decree, against it, state media have reported.

                                                                                                [More:]


                                                                                                The National Fatwa Council had ruled on Thursday that exhibitions on ghosts, ghouls and supernatural beings were forbidden, as they could undermine the faith of Muslims.

                                                                                                Abdul Shukor Husin, the council's chair, was quoted as saying that "supernatural beings are beyond the comprehension of the human mind."

                                                                                                "We don't want to expose Muslims to supernatural and superstitious beliefs," the Berita Harian newspaper quoted him as saying.

                                                                                                Mythical attractions

                                                                                                Thousands of visitors had attended musuem in the western state of Negri Sembilan since it launched the ghost and genie exhibition on March 10, due to run until May 31.

                                                                                                Its curator had previously resisted calls from Malaysia's arts minister and a religious leader for it to be shut down amid criticism that encouraging a belief in ghosts was un-Islamic.

                                                                                                But Kamaruddin Siaraf, Negeri Sembilan's state secretary and chair of the state museum board, said the exhibition was terminated after the National Fatwa Council ruled against such events.

                                                                                                He said the decision was made out of respect for the council's views, the state Bernama news agency reported.

                                                                                                Malaysian government officials have already called for a ban another exhibition in a state museum that has put on display decaying objects described as the carcasses of a genie and a mythical phoenix bird.

                                                                                                Last year more than 200,000 people attended an exhibition of about 100 coffins, ghosts and genies that organisers claimed included relics of mermaids and vampires.

                                                                                                Agencies

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                                                                                                  Mammoth skeleton sold at auction

                                                                                                  English (US)  April 16th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                  The "mammuthus primigenius" dated back to the Quaternary, or later Pleistocene period

                                                                                                  The skeleton of a Siberian mammoth around 15,000 years old went under the hammer for $352,000 at a rare paleontology sale by Christie's auction house in Paris, the French capital.

                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                  The name of the buyer who bought the 3.8 metres high and 4.8 metres in length skeleton, was not made public.

                                                                                                  The "mammuthus primigenius" dating back to the Quaternary period, or later Pleistocene, was put up for sale by an unnamed "private European collector".

                                                                                                  Also sold on Monday was the 10,000 year old skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros that went for $135,000, well above its estimated price.

                                                                                                  Rare species

                                                                                                  Christie's auctioned 87 rare objects, including the three skeletons - the third that of a cave bear - owned by a private collector, as well as a collection of trilobites, or fossils of arthropods, dating from 400 million years ago.

                                                                                                  Among them was the fossil of an angel fish dating back 50 million years, one of only five known examples of the species in the world.

                                                                                                  A rare bezoar, a pearl that forms in the stomach of certain herbivores, also went under the hammer.

                                                                                                  Scientists expressed concern about fossils being put up for auction.

                                                                                                  Philippe Janvier, a paleontologist from France's Natural Science Museum, said: "while many fossils are of little interest ... major pieces which could help science progress can always turn up in such sales".


                                                                                                  Agencies

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                                                                                                    UK abandons 'war on terror' phrase

                                                                                                    English (US)  April 16th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                    The British government has stopped using the phrase "war on terror", a Cabinet minister announced in a speech delivered in New York.

                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                    Hilary Benn, Britain's international development secretary, said on Monday that the expression strengthens terrorists resolve by making them feel part of a larger struggle.

                                                                                                    "We do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone... this isn't us against one organised enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives," Benn told an audience at New York University's Centre of International Co-operation.

                                                                                                    The phrase "war on terror" was popularised by George Bush, the US president, after the September 11 attacks.

                                                                                                    'Shared identity'

                                                                                                    Benn said a variety of disparate minority radical groups have gained exposure by sharing a "distorted view of the world" with similar organisations.

                                                                                                    "What these groups want is to force their individual and narrow values on others without dialogue, without debate, through violence.

                                                                                                    "And by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength."

                                                                                                    An official spokesman for Tony Blair, Britain's prime minister, said he was unsure when Blair had last used the phrase.

                                                                                                    "We all use our own phraseology, and we talk about terrorism, we talk about the fight against terrorism, but we also talk about trying to find political solutions to political problems," he said on condition of anonymity.

                                                                                                    'Soft' power appeal

                                                                                                    Benn called on the US to use the "soft power" of values and ideas as well as the "hard power" of military strength to defeat extremist groups.

                                                                                                    He also highlighted Britain's support for the International Criminal Court (ICC), which the US has refused to join to protect US soldiers and officials from prosecution, and appealed for the closure of the US' Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

                                                                                                    Benn's speech was partly an appeal to Labour party members, who are largely opposed to the war in Iraq and Blair's close relationship with Bush.

                                                                                                    Benn is widely expected to become Labour's deputy leader in a party election after Blair steps down as prime minister later this year.

                                                                                                    Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                      "Olive Branch From Hamas"

                                                                                                      English (US)  April 16th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                      By Robert Novak

                                                                                                      On April 7, ending a seven-day visit to Israel, I finally got an interview I had sought for a year. I sat down in a Palestinian Authority office in Ramallah with a leader of Hamas, the extremist organization that won last year's elections. This leader pushed a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and deplored suicide bombers. But officials in Washington seem not to want to hear Hamas calling for peace.

                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                      No fringe character, this was Naser al-Shaer: education minister and deputy prime minister in the new coalition government. Shaer signaled that the regime recognizes Israel's right to exist and forgoes violence -- conditions essential for talks about a viable Palestinian state adjoining Israel -- even if Hamas does not. "We hope that it is going to be a matter of time," Shaer told me. "But there is a big chance now."

                                                                                                      When I returned to Washington last week, I sought the reaction of Bush administration officials (who refuse to have any contact with Hamas). I asked to talk to Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser who is most influential in policy on Israel. Abrams was once a fellow Cold Warrior and friend whom I have defended, but an aide let me know on Thursday that Abrams would not talk to me about Hamas. A senior State Department official also showed no interest in what Shaer said.

                                                                                                      U.S. policy is not just adherence to the economic boycott that has devastated the Palestinian Authority since Hamas won elections in January 2006. U.S. government officials and contract workers in the Israeli-occupied territories must leave when someone from Hamas enters a room. Because the State Department lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, Americans not employed by the government fear that contacting a Hamas member of the Palestinian government would violate the USA Patriot Act.

                                                                                                      Accordingly, a year ago, sources who put me in touch with other Palestinians refused to help with Hamas. The best contact I could make then was a brief telephone conversation with a Hamas underling.

                                                                                                      I was back in Jerusalem on April 3, two weeks after Hamas brought the more moderate opposition Fatah party into the new national unity government. The Los Angeles Times had just run a remarkable op-ed by the new government's finance minister, Salam Fayyad, a political independent who lived in Washington for 20 years, served as a World Bank official and is well respected in the West. Fayyad wrote that the Palestine Liberation Organization's 1993 acceptance of Israel and disavowal of violence is "a crystal-clear and binding agreement" that "no Palestinian government has the authority to revoke." He added that the unity government's platform "explicitly" pledges to honor all PLO commitments.

                                                                                                      Over dinner in a Ramallah restaurant on April 4, Fayyad told me that he offered his column simultaneously to several major American newspapers to get this story out quickly. But do his Hamas colleagues accept his reasoning? Fayyad made clear that he was not flying solo.

                                                                                                      Just before my trip ended, the Palestinian Authority put me in touch with Shaer. On Aug. 19, when he was deputy prime minister in the all-Hamas regime, Shaer was seized in an Israeli raid of his Ramallah home and held for a month without charges or evidence.

                                                                                                      In his ministry office a few days later, Shaer, who holds a doctorate from England's University of Manchester, looked nothing like the shirt-sleeved, tie-less man photographed when he was released in September. He was dressed in a stylish suit, but more telling than his appearance was what he said.

                                                                                                      When I asked whether Hamas agreed with Fayyad's formulation, Shaer said it did not matter: "We are talking about the government, not groups." He said Hamas was no more relevant to Palestinian policy than the views of extremist anti-Palestinian cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman are to Israeli policy. Unexpectedly, Shaer expressed dismay that "previous attempts at peace were ruined by suicide bombers. Now, we look forward to a sustained peace."

                                                                                                      While avoiding Israel-bashing, Shaer conjectured: "I don't think the Israeli government wants a two-state solution. Without pressure from the president of the United States, nothing is going to happen." That sounded like a plea for help from George W. Bush. But will he hear it if Elliott Abrams does not listen?
                                                                                                      Robert Novak is a political columnist at the Washington Post.

                                                                                                      Washington Post

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                                                                                                        Chavez defies US with energy summit

                                                                                                        English (US)  April 16th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                        Chavez: Ethanol will increase world hunger

                                                                                                        Venezuela will seek to use oil wealth to consolidate regional support for anti-US politics as it hosts an energy summit of South American leaders.

                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                        The meeting on the Caribbean island of Margarita on Monday comes as a rift over ethanol fuel has emerged - with Brazil working with the US to promote its use.

                                                                                                        Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, wants the 12-nation conference to focus on regional integration as a counterweight to the US.

                                                                                                        "Gradually, the US empire will end up a paper tiger and we, the peoples of Latin America, will become true tigers of steel," Chavez said on the eve of the summit.

                                                                                                        At the two-day meeting, Chavez will promote a project to build a 8,000km natural gas pipeline linking the Opec nation's gas reserves to countries such as Brazil and Argentina.

                                                                                                        Chavez still wants to show unity with Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, taking him on a tour early on Monday of a petrochemical plant and then holding discussions on ethanol, which Chavez says will increase world hunger.

                                                                                                        Aides to Lula say it is his "obsession" despite being labeled "genocidal" by Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader and Chavez's political mentor.

                                                                                                        Consumption problems

                                                                                                        "This planet is in danger, the human race is in danger" -- Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president

                                                                                                        Venezuela, the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the US, has urged Latin America to pass over ethanol and rely on its oil reserves and co-operate in developing ways to reduce energy consumption.

                                                                                                        Power outages have traditionally blighted Margarita island, and particularly its main city Porlamar.

                                                                                                        But with Cuban help, the government has installed millions of power-saving light bulbs in recent months that Chavez - who often speaks in apocalyptic terms about the environment - said can serve as an inspiration at the summit.

                                                                                                        "This planet is in danger, the human race is in danger," he said after railing about high US energy demand. "Let's do what we have to do to save mankind."


                                                                                                        Agencies

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                                                                                                          Wolfowitz refuses to step down

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

                                                                                                          Paul Wolfowitz has refused to resign as World Bank president despite member states voicing "great concern" over his handling of his girlfriend's promotion.

                                                                                                          [More:]


                                                                                                          Development ministers said on Sunday: "We have to ensure that the bank can effectively carry out its mandate and maintain its credibility and reputation as well as motivation of the staff."

                                                                                                          The ministers from World Bank member states issued the statement after an IMF-World Bank Development Committee meeting, saying "the current situation is of great concern to all of us".

                                                                                                          But Wolfowitz responded that he believed he could still effectively lead the global lending institution.

                                                                                                          In a news conference shortly after the committee's statement was released, Wolfowitz said: "This is important work and I intend to continue it."

                                                                                                          Reputation concern

                                                                                                          Senior European officials were among those who expressed worry in closed-door sessions on Sunday that Wolfowitz had tarnished the bank's reputation by helping to secure a high-paying promotion for Shaha Riza, his girlfriend and a World bank employee.

                                                                                                          At the start of speeches to the development committee, ministers from Britain and Germany said the bank's reputation had been dented, sources said.

                                                                                                          Other sources monitoring the meeting said several other European countries also briefly addressed the issue, although they did not call outright for Wolfowitz to step down.

                                                                                                          Staff and development activists accuse Wolfowitz of breaking bank rules in helping to arrange Riza's promotion before she was assigned to outside work at the US Department of State.

                                                                                                          They argue the institution's moral authority has been left in tatters, especially its authority to make countries who receive aid accountable for the money.

                                                                                                          The controversy has become a deep embarrassment for Wolfowitz, who has ruffled feathers at the bank by campaigning against corruption.

                                                                                                          US backing

                                                                                                          The former deputy US secretary of defence has apologised for his handling of Riza's promotion and has said he was advised by a World Bank ethics panel to assign her to a job outside the bank to avoid a conflict of interest.

                                                                                                          George Bush, the US president, has stood behind Wolfowitz, and African ministers have expressed confidence in him. Many member countries have cautioned against judging him until an examination by the bank's board wraps up.

                                                                                                          But large shareholders such as Britain, Germany and France question whether he still has the credibility to lead the bank, which spends about $25bn a year on projects to fight poverty in developing countries.

                                                                                                          The board has said it will move quickly, but the scandal has already stirred up lingering antagonism over Wolfowitz's appointment to the bank in mid-2005 by the Bush administration and bitterness over his role in the US invasion of Iraq.

                                                                                                          Withholding funds

                                                                                                          In notes of a speech prepared for delivery to the development committee on Sunday, Wolfowitz appealed to rich nations to deliver on aid promises and to keep the bank's own coffers stocked so it can keep lending to needy countries.

                                                                                                          Wolfowitz, outlining priority areas for the bank, said: "We stand half way to the 2010 goal post for doubling aid to Africa compared with 2004."

                                                                                                          But some insiders worry donors may withhold funding to the bank's International Development Association if the scandal continues.

                                                                                                          Agencies

                                                                                                          519 words posted in Education, BusinessLeave a comment

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                                                                                                            Houston councilman makes offensive anti-Indian remarks on radio

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

                                                                                                            By Mead Gruver -- Associated Press

                                                                                                            CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Houston resident Cheryl Melendez, Cree, had just dropped her kids off at school and was listening to one of her city councilmen on her car radio when she heard something that floored her.

                                                                                                            Councilman Michael Berry was saying American Indians don't deserve the federal assistance that they're getting because they ''were whipped in a war.''

                                                                                                            ''We conquered them,'' he said. ''That's history. Hello?''

                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                            The March 27 remarks on the Michael Berry Show - archived online and available for anyone to hear - have sent shock waves through Indian country. They've been a hot topic on Indianz.com and on another Houston radio show, one about Indian culture.

                                                                                                            What Berry said was especially galling for Melendez and her husband, Steve, who have dedicated themselves to teaching the real story about being ''whipped.'' They're the co-founders of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston.

                                                                                                            ''My only question was, 'was Sand Creek and Wounded Knee a war?''' Cheryl Melendez said April 4, referring to the slaughter of more than 163 Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek, Colo., in 1864 and of some 300 Sioux at Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1890.

                                                                                                            ''You want to believe that things are changing. You want to believe the best in people. And then, wham, something like this happens,'' Melendez said. ''I guess it kind of just takes your breath away and leaves you disappointed.''

                                                                                                            Besides being an at-large councilman, Berry is Houston's mayor pro tem, meaning that he fills in for certain duties when Mayor Bill White isn't available. Berry did not return messages left April 4 by The Associated Press.

                                                                                                            The Michael Berry Show airs weekdays on KPRC 950-AM in Houston. A message left for station officials seeking comment also wasn't returned April 4.

                                                                                                            Berry made the remark while speaking out against a proposal in the Texas Legislature for the state to apologize for slavery.

                                                                                                            ''If we're not going to apologize for slavery, then we need to stop the continuous apology for what was done to the American Indians,'' he said.

                                                                                                            Berry said the federal government in effect apologizes to American Indians every day by expending ''incredible resources from our treasury.''

                                                                                                            ''We continue to give land,'' he said, without elaborating.

                                                                                                            He said the government had given tribes the right to print money.

                                                                                                            ''Which is also known as a casino,'' he said. ''Why are we still doing that?''

                                                                                                            And he said he was qualified to say such things because he has Indian blood.

                                                                                                            ''If you're against apologizing for slavery, then you've got to be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war. And let's just call it what it is. They lost a war,'' he said.

                                                                                                            ''Why don't we go hand the Germans a few million dollars, and the Italians, and the Japanese? OK, so we did rebuild their country. We don't continue to give them aid because they sit around whining about a war from 200 years ago. Are you kidding me? Seriously.''

                                                                                                            Steve Melendez said that the second elected president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, declared an ''extermination war'' against Indians.

                                                                                                            ''Here in Texas, the war that was taking place 200 years ago was a war of genocide,'' he said.

                                                                                                            He said newspapers of the day advertised Indian scalps selling for $200. To this day, he said, there aren't many Indians to be found in Texas compared to other states.

                                                                                                            ''That was one of the strange things that happened to me when I came from Nevada to Houston. There were no Indians,'' said Melendez, who identified himself as Paiute.

                                                                                                            Jacquelyn Battise, host of the weekly Houston community radio show People of Earth, which focuses on Indian culture, said she read some of Berry's remarks on the air.

                                                                                                            She got a lot of calls and e-mails in response.

                                                                                                            ''It's ignorant, some of the remarks that he made about casinos,'' she said. ''It just shows, I guess, a real disconnection.''

                                                                                                            She said there was talk about circulating a petition to counter some of the remarks.

                                                                                                            H. Mathew Barkhausen III, a media specialist for the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center and a freelance writer based in Denver, got word of the radio show through a chain of e-mails.

                                                                                                            ''It's really frustrating to me, for example the casino issue, when people make sweeping moral judgments about something they obviously know nothing about,'' Barkhausen said.

                                                                                                            He said Berry ''obviously doesn't know anything about the Indian gaming act.''

                                                                                                            ''For some reason, there's a ridiculous assumption that the 500-some-odd recognized tribes in the United States have become wealthy through casino money, and that's not the case,'' he said.

                                                                                                            Part Tuscarora and part Cherokee, Barkhausen also questioned the notion that American Indians had been ''whipped.''

                                                                                                            ''The Indian wars never ended, they just changed format,'' he said. ''They're battles that are fought in the courtroom.''

                                                                                                            2 response(s) to Houston councilman makes offensive anti-Indian remarks on radio

                                                                                                            1. darrin [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                              ijust found out that have alot of indians in my family,i want to know if ican info happenings in the indian community around the usa?thanks

                                                                                                            2. admin [Member] Email says:

                                                                                                              Go to www.indiancountry.com for news and calendars of events, also www.indianz.com for daily news updates from both Native and non Native press.
                                                                                                              -- Editor

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                                                                                                            Lobbyist that fought Schaghticoke Tribal Nation loses clients

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

                                                                                                            Barbour, Griffith, Rogers struggling after Democratic win

                                                                                                            By Stephanie Kirchgaessner

                                                                                                            Barbour Griffith & Rogers, a high-powered Washington lobby group with close ties to the US administration, has lost its biggest client, the government of Taiwan.

                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                            The early termination of a three-year, $4.5m contract that was sealed with the secretary-general of Taiwan's National Security Council in 2005, comes on the heels of a number of other defections from the lobby group, whose chairman, Ed Rogers, previously served as chief of staff during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

                                                                                                            Lobbying records show 17 clients left BGR at the end of 2006, raising questions about the effectiveness of the all-Republican firm following last year's congressional election in which Democrats won both chambers of Congress. BGR on Friday said that, despite the uncertain political environment last year, the firm generated record revenues and won 19 new clients since December, including AT&T, the telecommunications giant.

                                                                                                            People familiar with the matter said the termination reflected internal political tensions among Taiwanese officials. The departure nevertheless comes at a difficult time for BGR, which is embroiled in separate litigation involving allegations that the firm, along with Diligence LLC, an investigative agency that has Mr Rogers on its board, engaged in corporate espionage on behalf of one of BGR's biggest clients, Alfa Group. Both Diligence and BGR have denied wrongdoing.

                                                                                                            A federal judge also recently directed BGR to release documents about its contacts with Congress and the Department of the Interior in connection with a separate legal matter to which it is not a party, involving revocation of federal recognition of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

                                                                                                            The issue involves allegations by the tribe that a group in Connecticut known as Task, which was a client of BGR, had unlawful political influence in a decision by the Bush administration to revoke recognition of the tribe.

                                                                                                            BGR said it respected the judge's ruling and denied allegations of improper conduct.

                                                                                                            Despite the firm's troubles, BGR has held on to a num­ber of other high-paying clients, including Alan Kilkenny, a British public relations consultant who has paid the Washington firm $1.34m since 2005 to lobby the US Justice Department and lawmakers on "judicial procedure and policy".

                                                                                                            Mr Kilkenny counts among his London clients Stanley and Beatrice Tollman, who were branded fugitives in the US after they left the country following their indictment on fraud and tax evasion charges. The couple are in the process of being extradited to the US.

                                                                                                            It is unusual for a firm such as BGR, which does not have any expertise in criminal justice matters, to lobby prosecutors or other officials on a criminal matter.

                                                                                                            Benjamin Brafman, a New York defence attorney representing the couple, said he did not have any involvement with BGR and was the only attorney dealing with the prosecutor's office. Mr Kilkenny directed questions about BGR's work for him to the Washington firm.
                                                                                                            © The Financial Times Ltd 2007. "FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times.Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.

                                                                                                            MSNBC

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                                                                                                              Latest Casualty Is Symbol of City’s Heyday and Unity

                                                                                                              English (US)  April 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                              The loss of life in Iraq is so massive and constant, it's easy to ignore other important losses, such as the destrution of this bridge that was a symbol of unity and, perhaps, hope for the future.

                                                                                                              By Alissa J. Rubin

                                                                                                              BAGHDAD, April 12 — There is not much left in Baghdad that all its residents, Sunnis and Shiites, laborers and professors, consider their own. But the Sarafiya bridge, flung across the Tigris, tied the city together, literally and metaphorically.

                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                              When the bridge was destroyed early Thursday morning by a truck bomb that collapsed a large section into the river, Baghdad mourned. People who had crossed the bridge every day to go to their jobs on the opposite side gathered on the riverbanks and stood weeping as if they had lost someone they loved.

                                                                                                              More people have died in many other bombings, but the destruction of the bridge struck at the city’s soul, at its lingering romance with an all but vanished image of Baghdad as a Paris of the Middle East.

                                                                                                              The steel bridge, which spans a stretch of river about 500 yards wide, was built by a British company at a time when foreigners from all over the world came to the city to study and work. Construction started in 1946, and it was completed in 1951, while the British-installed monarchy was in place. Built to accommodate train tracks as well as a roadway for cars, the bridge linked Baghdad’s two main rail stations and was one of the city’s main transit points across the Tigris.

                                                                                                              Most of the city is divided now, with the west bank of the Tigris predominantly Sunni and the east side predominantly Shiite. But so far the neighborhoods on either side of the Sarafiya bridge have been spared the worst of the violence, and both are still mixed as so much of the city once was.

                                                                                                              Every Baghdadi seemed to have a memory of the bridge on Thursday.

                                                                                                              An engineer for the General Committee for Trains and Bridges remembered coming to the city from the country as a child and standing in awe before the marvelous bridge. “I used to walk nearby the bridge along with my cousins dazzled to see the train moving on the track, puffing out the smoke backward,” he said.

                                                                                                              An Iraqi reporter described crossing it to go to art school every day. “Sometimes alone or with a girlfriend,” he said. “Sometimes I used to spend hours looking at the river from above.”

                                                                                                              Riyadh Yosif, a day laborer who walked across the bridge to look for work in the industrial area on the other side of the river each morning, described feeling utter shock when he rushed out after he heard the bomb. “We went out to see what happened, and the bridge, which I loved so much, I found was destroyed.”

                                                                                                              He began to cry. “I wish they had killed one of my children rather than destroying the bridge, which I consider part of my heart.

                                                                                                              “This bridge is so important to us. We cross it every day to look for work. What shall we do now? They have destroyed us as well.”

                                                                                                              Ahmad Fadam and Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting.

                                                                                                              NYT

                                                                                                              531 words posted in Iraq war, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                Political Bytes -- a global discussion linking east and west

                                                                                                                English (US)  April 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                Political Bytes

                                                                                                                Mark Seddon, Al Jazeera's diplomatic
                                                                                                                correspondent, hosts this global discussion
                                                                                                                Political Bytes is something new: an online discussion - the first of its type - which will attempt to link East with West.

                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                Hosted by Mark Seddon, Al Jazeera's diplomatic correspondent, Political Bytes will bring together different voices from across the world, linking people from different backgrounds and perspectives via the internet and creating an online global conversation.

                                                                                                                Political Bytes is exclusively available on aljazeera.net and the Al Jazeera English channel on YouTube, where viewers can carry on the conversation and add video contributions.

                                                                                                                In this episode of Political Byn this first edition of Political Bytes Mark Seddon is joined by Nadine, an independent film-maker, in Amman, Jordan, Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera's Middle East analyst, who is in Amman with Nadine, and Mark Boxer from the Education for Employment Foundation, which promotes education opportunities among young Arabs, who joins the discussion from Washington.

                                                                                                                Each reveals their own hopes for the Political Bytes project and stresses the need to create a platform for dialogue that will allow the voices on the street - those that are not heard in the more formal media - to be heard and which will connect people across regions, allowing them to hear from 'the other side' and to engage in a progressive conversation on issues that really matter.

                                                                                                                Mark Boxer in Washington

                                                                                                                Nadine, Clayton and Mark discuss the issues of importance to them and the conversation takes in topics such as how young people in the Middle East view the issues that engage the media, attitudes on the Arab street toward the policies made in Washington and US troop presence in Iraq.

                                                                                                                Political Bytes discusses the concerns of young people in the Middle East and the US and how the two groups view each other and whether the negative images Americans see of the Middle East are really a reflection of a region where there is, in fact, a sense of optimism.

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                                                                                                                  Zionist head of World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, faces call to resign

                                                                                                                  English (US)  April 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                  Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, gave Shaha Riza, his mistress, a $200,000 package

                                                                                                                  Paul Wolfowitz, an ardent Zionist and uber-neo-conservative hawk, was the main architect of George Bush's war against Iraq and the center of the so-called "Wolfowitz Cabal" within the Bush administration whose goal was, and still is, total war against the Arab and Islamic world. What better place to position Wolfowitz than the head of the World Bank where all of his actions were conducted through the screen of maintaining Israel's "security" ? For more information on the Wolfowitz Cabal, click here Information Clearing House

                                                                                                                  Staff at the World Bank have demanded the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz, the bank's president, after he admitted authorising large pay rises for his Libyan-born partner that took her salary to $200,000.

                                                                                                                  [More:]


                                                                                                                  He faces a fight for his political life after the bank's directors denied his claims the pay rises had been cleared by its ethics committee.

                                                                                                                  The World Bank's staff association said on Friday that Wolfowitz, the ex-US deputy defence secretary, had "destroyed" the trust of employees and should quit.

                                                                                                                  "He must act honourably and resign," the de facto union said in a letter to the World Bank's 10,000 staff.

                                                                                                                  The bank's 24 executive directors said the ethics committee had not been involved in the decision to award Shaha Riza rises that gave her a salary greater than that of Condoleeza Rice, the secretary of state.

                                                                                                                  They adjourned a meeting on Wolfowitz's future, saying they would move quickly to reach a decision.

                                                                                                                  'An object of scorn'

                                                                                                                  The Financial Times newspaper also called for Wolfowitz to go in an editorial on Friday.

                                                                                                                  "If the president stays (the World Bank) risks becoming an object not of respect, but of scorn, and its campaign in favor of good governance not a believable struggle, but blatant hypocrisy," it said.

                                                                                                                  The controversy has become a deep embarrassment for Wolfowitz as he battles to overcome skepticism about a campaign that he is waging against corruption in the 185-member World Bank's multi-billion-dollar lending.

                                                                                                                  He is also under fire from long for his management style, following a series of clashes with the board and hostility towards his appointment of US Republican party allies to jobs in his inner circle.

                                                                                                                  The nomination two years ago of Wolfowitz, a "neoconservative" hawk, by George Bush, the US president, was widely seen as controversial given his position as a main architect of the Iraq war.

                                                                                                                  Pay rises 'a mistake'

                                                                                                                  Wolfowitz apologised on Thursday for the authorising the rises for Riza, describing the move as a "mistake."

                                                                                                                  "I made a mistake for which I am sorry", he told a press conference in Washington.

                                                                                                                  Wolfowitz refused to say if he might have to resign as the World Bank's board of governors discuss the row.

                                                                                                                  Wolfowitz personally ordered the hefty pay rises for Riza, according to a Financial Times report published on Thursday.

                                                                                                                  It cited two people who had seen a memo from Wolfowitz to the head of human resources spelling out the terms of the package.

                                                                                                                  'Real regret'

                                                                                                                  Wolfowitz said: "This was not in any way to protect personal interests. My real regret was that I didn't more forcefully keep myself out it.

                                                                                                                  "I take full responsibility for the details of the agreement," he said, after saying that he had followed advice given by the bank's ethics committee on the employment of Riza.

                                                                                                                  Colin Bradford, research professor in economics and international relations at the Brookings Institution, told Al Jazeera: "The fact is that there's evidence that he directly intervened in the matter and made some decision or recommendations that amount to decisions on his case on how to handle it.

                                                                                                                  "It takes absolutely no brains whatsoever that it is utterly and totally inconsistent with the message of anti-corruption and good governance, which the Bank is trying to promote."

                                                                                                                  'Personal dilemma'

                                                                                                                  Riza was transferred from the World Bank's communications office to the US state department in line with bank regulations to avoid a conflict of interest after Wolfowitz's appointment in mid-2005.

                                                                                                                  While still on the World Bank payroll, she was rapidly promoted and given large salary increases.

                                                                                                                  Wolfowitz acknowledged that the situation surrounding Riza "had the potential to harm this institution" and said that given his romantic involvement with her, he faced a "painful personal dilemma when I was new to the institution".

                                                                                                                  Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                    Hamas questions US motives behind $60m aid pledge to presidential security

                                                                                                                    English (US)  April 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                    Fayyad calls for $1.3 billion in PA aid

                                                                                                                    Bethlehem - Ma'an - The Hamas movement has criticized the United States Congress' decision to give financial aid to the Palestinian presidential security forces and cover expenses for other security purposes.

                                                                                                                    A spokesman of the movement issued a statement in which he said, "The US administration does not work for the good of the Palestinian people."

                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                    "It is always biased towards the Israelis and their colonialist plans, and that is why such aid to the presidential security bodies must have bad intentions."

                                                                                                                    The statement added, "US policy in the Arab region always seeks to divide the Arabs and is against national interests".

                                                                                                                    "This policy divides the area into moderates and extremists and the recent aid fits the same trend and is seeking to create a rift between Palestinians," the statement continued.

                                                                                                                    $60m for Abbas' security staff

                                                                                                                    The US Congress authorized on Monday $60m in funds to improve the state of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's security staff, Reuters news agency reported.

                                                                                                                    The funds are expected to be spent on Abbas' presidential guard, security at border crossings and equipment.

                                                                                                                    "This has also been done with Israeli agreement and understanding," the US State Department official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
                                                                                                                    The sum reportedly includes $14.5m for "basic and advanced training," $23m for non-lethal equipment, $2.9m for upgrade facilities and $3m to provide "capacity building and technical assistance" for the office of Abbas' national security advisor.

                                                                                                                    Suspicious

                                                                                                                    The Hamas spokesman added in his statement, "The presidency should explain its position in terms of this latest aid, which is a suspicious aid." He also said, "It aims to contain the resistance and service the Israeli army".

                                                                                                                    The statement confirmed, "If the US administration cares about the Palestinian people, they would have ended the siege, released the Palestinian money in the banks".

                                                                                                                    The spokesman also said that "the ministry of finance is the address that the money should be transferred to; sending the money to anywhere else is suspicious and raises a lot of questions."

                                                                                                                    Fayyad: PA needs $1.3 billion in international aid in 2007

                                                                                                                    In other news, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad told the European Union on Wednesday that the Palestinian national unity government needs more than $1.3 billion in international aid this year to avert a "devastating" humanitarian crisis.

                                                                                                                    According to Reuters, he won a cautious endorsement from EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who promised technical assistance to enable his ministry to receive aid once the Palestinian Authority met crucial political conditions.

                                                                                                                    "We are looking for external support to bridge a gap of nearly 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) for 2007," Fayyad told a joint news conference in Brussels, stressing his government's commitment to respect all peace accords with Israel.

                                                                                                                    Asked what would happen if aid was not forthcoming, he said, "The consequences are far too grave, quite frankly."

                                                                                                                    EU caution

                                                                                                                    According to Reuters, Ferrero-Waldner praised Fayyad's personal commitment to peace but made clear the EU's engagement would be selective, gradual and dependent on the government's words and actions.

                                                                                                                    "I've made very clear that possible financial engagement would not mean resuming direct financial assistance overnight," she said. She also pledged that the Temporary International Mechanism, an aid system created to bypass the former Hamas-led government, would remain for as long as necessary.

                                                                                                                    Despite this, Fayyad expressed his hope and belief that the Palestinian economy will develop and become self-dependent after Israel lifts the restrictions on transportation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

                                                                                                                    Earlier, Fayyad told Reuters that the Palestinian Authority is running on a quarter of the funds it needs to operate effectively.

                                                                                                                    "Minimally, I estimate expenditures of the Palestinian Authority at $160 million a month at present. What we have is no more than $40 million a month," Fayyad told Reuters. Fayyad is currently touring Europe.

                                                                                                                    Fayyad told Reuters that his talks in Europe would "focus on mobilising financial support to help us deal with the magnitude of the crisis we face and to discuss ways and means necessary to re-establish normal relations between the Palestinian Authority and the international community."

                                                                                                                    Fayyad is expected to travel to Norway after his Brussels visit.

                                                                                                                    Maan News Agency

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                                                                                                                      US soldiers to stay longer in Iraq

                                                                                                                      English (US)  April 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                      The Pentagon has said that US soldiers will serve up to 15 months in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of one year, showing more signs of the strain the wars have taken on the military.

                                                                                                                      [More:]


                                                                                                                      "Our forces are stretched, there's no question about that," Robert Gates, the defence secretary, said on Wednesday.

                                                                                                                      He said the move would allow the military to sustain for a year the increased troop level in Iraq ordered by the president in January.

                                                                                                                      Critics say the decision was a blow to the military, the troops and their families.

                                                                                                                      Ike Skelton, a Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee in the House of Representatives, said: "This new policy will be an additional burden to an already overstretched army.

                                                                                                                      Negative impact

                                                                                                                      "I think this will have a chilling effect on recruiting, retention and readiness. We also must not underestimate the enormous negative impact this will have on army families."

                                                                                                                      Gates admitted that "this decision will ask a lot of our army troops and their families".

                                                                                                                      The policy is effective immediately and also applies to units already in the region, he said.

                                                                                                                      There are about 145,000 US troops in Iraq and 25,000 in Afghanistan.

                                                                                                                      As part of George Bush's plan, the military is the midst of boosting its Iraq force by 28,000 combat and support troops.

                                                                                                                      The Pentagon's goal for active duty army troops is that they spend two years at home for every year deployed, but it has not been able to meet that target in recent years.

                                                                                                                      At the moment, army units average about a year at home for every year deployed, Pentagon officials say.

                                                                                                                      In an effort to tackle the strains on the military, Gates has ordered an increase in the size of both the army and the Marine Corps.

                                                                                                                      Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                        Iraq situation 'ever worsening'

                                                                                                                        English (US)  April 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                        Kraehenbuehl: It is often too dangerous for Red Cross workers to move around Baghdad

                                                                                                                        The situation for civilians in Iraq is "ever worsening", the International Committee of the Red Cross says.

                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                        Although it is difficult to determine the numbers of people killed in shootings, bombings and military operations, it is clear that the overall situation in the country has been steadily deteriorating, an official said on Wednesday.

                                                                                                                        Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the operations director at the International Committee of the Red Cross, (ICRC) said: "Numbers of refugees are swelling, medical staff fleeing and other problems are growing.

                                                                                                                        The central region remains greatly affected, despite US-led efforts to secure the capital."

                                                                                                                        Humanitarian crisis

                                                                                                                        Kraehenbuehl was speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, to mark the release of a new ICRC report titled Civilians Without Protection: The ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

                                                                                                                        He said: "Whatever operation that is today under way, and that may be taken tomorrow and in the weeks after, to improve the security of civilians on the ground may have an effect in the medium term.

                                                                                                                        "We're certainly not seeing an immediate effect in terms of stabilisation for civilians currently. That is not our reading."

                                                                                                                        He said it was dangerous for Red Cross workers to move around in Baghdad, but admitted that "we don't have on a day-to-day basis a full picture of absolutely every situation".

                                                                                                                        Living in fear

                                                                                                                        Kraehenbuehl said the worsening security situation was causing "overlapping effects" of hardship for the civilian population, with medical care deteriorating as doctors flee the country.

                                                                                                                        The Iraqi health ministry estimates that half of the country's doctors have left, he said.

                                                                                                                        In addition, he said, many injured people do not even seek out medical treatment as they do not wish to leave their families for fear of either being kidnapped en route or in hospital, or leaving their relatives in a vulnerable situation.

                                                                                                                        Kraehenbuehl said: "The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable.

                                                                                                                        "Their lives and dignity are continuously under threat."

                                                                                                                        "Much more has to be done" by all parties, including US and other foreign troops, to improve the situation and ensure that civilians' rights are respected, he said.


                                                                                                                        Agencies

                                                                                                                        361 words posted in Iraq war, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                          The achievements after four years of the liberation

                                                                                                                          English (US)  April 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          By Laith

                                                                                                                          I know I should write this blog yesterday but I just wanted the full four years to pass over. Yesterday Iraqis and the whole world kept talking about the memories of the war and some of the most important political developments in Iraq. Some Arabic reports concentrated on other sides especially the economical ones reflecting the reality in their own way. As an Iraqi, I feel I cant be more accurate than any channel because I lived the four years in Iraq. So lets see some of the most important achievements done by the great Iraqi and American administrations.

                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                          * Iraqis became more courageous and fearless because they used to the daily killing by all the types of the gunmen including Iraqi army, US army, insurgents, thieves and the security companies
                                                                                                                          * Some Iraqis became cleverer and they started to invent new ways in killing each other, stealing each other, hiding weapons, kidnapping and cheating.
                                                                                                                          * We have more ministers than any other country on this crazy earth. We have even useless ministries which were invented to please some political parties. We have as far as I know 36 ministries while the USA has only 15 ministries. So we have more than double. I couldn’t know almost 30 of them because they don’t show on TV and we have no idea about their work or whether they do some work or not. In fact and as far as I knew, most of them have no idea about the work of the ministries they run.
                                                                                                                          * Iraqis never feel afraid of the electric shocks because we have electricity power for only two hours a day or three hours as a maximum. The rest of the day we have to use small Chinese generator that cost something like 100 $ which are not really powerful enough to kill people.
                                                                                                                          * Iraqis found new ways to save almost everything and the most important thing is the fuel which costs Iraqis fortune. Because the ministry of oil increased the prices of the fuel many times, Iraqis started to invent ways of saving the fuel like mixing one type of fuel with another one which is cheaper to save some dollars or using the cars and the electricity generator for limited times like using the car only to go to work and using the generator only at night. To be honest, until now, I don’t know why we suffer of fuel shortage although our officials and specially our minister of oil who knows nothing about oil always boast that we are one of the richest oil country and we have the best oil qualities and the cheapest extracting costs.
                                                                                                                          * We have the largest number of blast walls which I believe that can form three matches of China great walls. Each ministry blocks the roads that lead to its building with tens of these walls. I think that the cement used in these blast walls is enough to build 1000 skyscrapers.
                                                                                                                          * We have the biggest number of the bodyguards in the world. Each minister has not less than 15 4 wheel cars carrying at least 5 bodyguards. Each of the 275 members of the Iraqi parliament has the same number of the bodyguards and some of them (the heads of the political blocs) has even more than that. By the way, I didn’t count the bodyguards of the presidential committee members, the prime minister and his two deputies and the parliament president and his two deputies because they have foreign bodyguards.

                                                                                                                          I have to stop counting the achievements of our great governments and the greatest American administration headed by the inspired president Bush because I would never finish counting the great achievements. You can read the few ones I mentioned and you can judge by yourself

                                                                                                                          Bye until the next blog

                                                                                                                          McClatchy Inside Iraq

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                                                                                                                            Olmert questioned over fraud case

                                                                                                                            English (US)  April 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                            Olmert said he felt that he and his associates were being hounded by a "platoon of investigators"

                                                                                                                            Israeli police have questioned Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, for four hours as a witness in a bribery investigation against a personal aide.

                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                            Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said on Tuesday that Olmert was questioned by a unit in charge of bribery investigations. He said Olmert was not a suspect in the case against Shula Zaken.

                                                                                                                            Police suspect that Zaken, Olmert's personal assistant, arranged jobs in the Israeli tax authority in return for tax breaks for her brother.

                                                                                                                            The case is part of a wider investigation against senior tax officials who are suspected of granting tax breaks to businessmen in exchange for bribes.

                                                                                                                            Zaken has been suspended from her job for six months while police conduct their investigation.

                                                                                                                            Never charged

                                                                                                                            "The prime minister gave testimony today to police concerning his period of minister of finance," an official in Olmert's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

                                                                                                                            Olmert served as finance minister before becoming prime minister in January last year.

                                                                                                                            During his long political career, Olmert has been dogged by allegations of corruption, but never charged.

                                                                                                                            Currently, police are investigating his property dealings and his role in the government's sale of a majority interest in a bank while he was finance minister in 2005.

                                                                                                                            Olmert's finance minister has been accused of embezzlement and his justice minister resigned and was convicted of sexual misconduct for forcibly kissing a young female soldier.

                                                                                                                            During a recent interview, Olmert complained that he felt that he and his associates were being hounded by a "platoon of investigators".


                                                                                                                            Agencies


                                                                                                                            Related:
                                                                                                                            Olmert ally sentenced in sex case
                                                                                                                            Olmert concedes he is 'unpopular'

                                                                                                                            Olmert aide suspended

                                                                                                                            Olmert to face corruption probe

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                                                                                                                              The Fading of a Fateful Opportunity: Israel Does Not Want Peace

                                                                                                                              English (US)  April 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                              By Gideon Levy

                                                                                                                              The moment of truth has arrived, and it has to be said: Israel does not want peace. The arsenal of excuses has run out, and the chorus of Israeli rejection already rings hollow. Until recently, it was still possible to accept the Israeli refrain that "there is no partner" for peace and that "the time isn't right" to deal with our enemies. Today, the new reality before our eyes leaves no room for doubt and the tired refrain that "Israel supports peace" has been left shattered.

                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                              It's hard to determine when the breaking point occurred. Was it the absolute dismissal of the Saudi initiative? The refusal to acknowledge the Syrian initiative? Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's annual Passover interviews? The revulsion at the statements made by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in Damascus, alleging that Israel was ready to renew peace talks with Syria?

                                                                                                                              Who would have believed it? A high-ranking U.S. official says Israel wants peace talks to resume and instantly her president "severely" denies the veracity of her words. Is Israel even hearing these voices? Are we digesting the significance of these voices for peace? Seven million apathetic Israeli citizens prove that we are not.

                                                                                                                              Entire generations grew up here weaned on self-deception and doubt about the likelihood of achieving peace with our neighbors. In our younger days, David Ben-Gurion told us that if he were only able to meet with Arab leaders, he would have brought us peace in his time. Israel has demanded direct negotiations as a matter of principle and Israelis have derived great pride from the fact that their daily focus on "peace" has concealed their state's lofty ambitions. We were told that there was no partner for peace and that the ultimate ambition of the Arabs is to bring about our destruction. We burned the portraits of "the Egyptian tyrant" at our bonfires on Lag Ba'omer, and were convinced that all blame for the lack of peace lied with our enemies.

                                                                                                                              After that came the occupation, followed by terror, Yassir Arafat, the failed second Camp David Summit and the rise of Hamas to power, and we were sure, always sure, that it was all their fault. In our wildest dreams, we wouldn't have believed that the day would come when the entire Arab world would extend its hand in peace and Israel would brush away the gesture. It would have been even crazier to imagine that this Israeli refusal would have been blamed on not wanting to enrage domestic public opinion.

                                                                                                                              The world has been turned upside down and it is Israel that stands at the forefront of refusal. The policy of refusal of a select few, a vanguard of the extreme, has now become the official policy of Jerusalem. In his Passover interviews, Olmert will tell us that, "The Palestinians stand at the crossroads of a historic decision," but people stopped taking him seriously a long time ago. The historic decision is ours, and we are fleeing from this crossroads and from these initiatives as if from death itself.

                                                                                                                              Terror, used as the ultimate excuse for Israeli refusal, only helps Olmert keep reciting, ad nauseum, "If they [the Palestinians] don't change, don't fight terror and don't adhere to any of their obligations, then they will never extract themselves from their unending chaos." As though the Palestinians haven't taken measures against terrorism, as though Israel is the one to determine what their obligations are, as though Israel isn't to blame for the unending chaos Palestinians suffer under the occupation.

                                                                                                                              Israel makes a point of setting prerequisites and believes it has an exclusive right to do so. But, time and time again, Israel avoids the most basic prerequisite for any just peace - an end to the occupation. Of all the questions asked during his Passover interviews, no one bothered to ask Olmert why he didn't react with excitement to the recent Arab initiatives, without preconditions? The answer: real estate. The real estate of the settlements.

                                                                                                                              It's not only Olmert who is dragging his feet. A leading figure in the Labor party said last week that "it will take five to 10 years to recover from the trauma." Peace is now no more than a threatening wound, with no one still talking about the massive social benefits it would bring in development, security, freedom of movement in the region and by establishing a more just society.

                                                                                                                              Like a little Switzerland, we are focusing more these days on the dollar exchange rate and on the allegations of embezzlement leveled against the Finance Ministry than on the fateful opportunities fading away before our very eyes.

                                                                                                                              Not every day and not even in every generation do we encounter an opportunity like this. Although it's not for sure if the initiatives are completely solid and believable, or if they are based on trickery, no one has stepped up to challenge or acknowledge them. When Olmert is an elderly grandfather, what will he tell his grandchildren? That he turned over every stone in the name of peace? That there was no other choice? What will his grandchildren say?

                                                                                                                              Gideon Levy writes for Ha'aretz, where this essay originally appeared.

                                                                                                                              Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                                "My Name Used to Be #200343"

                                                                                                                                English (US)  April 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                An American former Navy soldier and private contractor imprisoned and tortured in Iraq by the U.S. military and falsely accused of "aiding terrorists" warns that our worst fears about Iraq have come true.

                                                                                                                                By David Phinney

                                                                                                                                A year ago, Donald Vance learned what its like to be falsely accused by the U.S. military of aiding terrorists. He was held without charge for more than three months in a high-security prison in Iraq, and interrogated daily after sleepless nights without legal counsel or even a phone call to his family.

                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                On Wednesday, the former private security contractor was honored for his ordeal in Washington and for speaking out against the incident. At a luncheon at the National Press Club, Vance received the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, an award named in memory of Army helicopter gunner Ron Ridenhour who struggled to bring the horrific mass murders at My Lai to the attention of Congress and the Pentagon during the Vietnam War.

                                                                                                                                Vance was joined by former president Jimmy Carter, who won a lifetime achievement award, and journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post who was recognised for his recent book, "Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone".

                                                                                                                                As hundreds at the luncheon finished their lobster salad, Vance, a two-time George W. Bush voter and Navy veteran, recounted the events of his imprisonment and the grief of his fiancé and family. They did not know if he was alive or dead, he said. They were already making inquiries to the U.S. State Department on how to ship his body home.

                                                                                                                                He then drew a wider circle around his ordeal to include the countless others who have been held falsely without charge and denied normal legal constitutional protections under law. "My name used to be 200343," Vance said recalling his prisoner ID. "If they can do this to a former Navy man and an American, what is happening to people in facilities all over the world run by the American government?"

                                                                                                                                Vance's nightmare began last year on Apr. 15 when he and co-worker Nathan Ertel barricaded themselves in a Baghdad office after their employer, an Iraqi private security firm, took away their ID tags. They feared for their lives because they suspected the company was involved in selling unauthorised guns on the black market and other nefarious activity. A U.S. military squad freed them from the red zone in Baghdad after a friend at the U.S. embassy advised him to call for help.

                                                                                                                                Once they reached the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, government officials took them inside the embassy, listened to their individual accounts and then sent them to a trailer outside for sleep. Two or three hours later, before the crack of dawn, U.S. military personnel woke them. This time, however, Vance and Ertel, Shield Security's contract manager, were under arrest. Soldiers bound their wrists with zip ties and covered their eyes with goggles blacked out with duct tape.

                                                                                                                                The two were then escorted to a humvee and driven first to possibly Camp Prosperity and then to Camp Cropper, a high-security prison near the Baghdad airport where Saddam Hussein was once kept. Vance says he was denied the usual body armour and helmet while traveling through the perilous Baghdad streets outside the safety of the Green Zone or a U.S. military installation.

                                                                                                                                It was not the way the tall 29-year-old with an easy charm and keen mind had expected to be treated. Vance claims that during the months leading up to his arrest, he worked as an unpaid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sometimes twice a day, he would share information with an agent in Chicago about the Iraqi-owned Shield Group Security, whose principals and managers appeared to be involved in weapons deals and violence against Iraqi civilians. One company employee regularly bartered alcohol with U.S. military personnel in exchange for ammunition they delivered, Vance said.

                                                                                                                                "He called it the bullets for beer programme," Vance claimed while relating the incident during an interview this week at a cigar bar just walking distance from the White House.

                                                                                                                                But his interrogators at Camp Cropper weren't impressed. Instead, his jailers insisted that Vance and Ertel had been detained and imprisoned because the two worked for Shield Group Security where large caches of weapons have been found -- weapons that may have been intended for possible distribution to insurgents and terrorist groups, Vance said.

                                                                                                                                In a lawsuit now pending against former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and "other unidentified agents," Vance and Ertel accuse their U.S. government captors of subjecting them to psychological torture day and night. Lights were kept on in their cell around the clock. They endured solitary confinement. They had only thin plastic mattresses on concrete for sleeping. Meals were of powdered milk and bread or rice and chicken, but interrupted by selective deprivation of food and water. Ceaseless heavy metal and country music screamed in their ears for hours on end, their legal complaint alleges.

                                                                                                                                They lived through "conditions of confinement and interrogation tantamount to torture", says the lawsuit filed in northern Illinois U.S. District Court. "Their interrogators utilised the types of physically and mentally coercive tactics that are supposedly reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants."

                                                                                                                                Rumsfeld is singled out as the key defendant because he played a critical role in establishing a policy of "unlawful detention and torment" that Vance, Ertel and countless others in the "war on terror" have endured, the lawsuit asserts, noting that the former defence secretary and other high-level military commanders acting at his direction developed and authorised a policy that allows government officials unilateral discretion to designate possible enemies of the United States.

                                                                                                                                Because the incident and allegations are now in litigation, the Pentagon has no comment, spokesman Army Lieut. Col. Mark Ballesteros said. He referred all inquires to the U.S. Justice Department, which also had no comment for similar reasons.

                                                                                                                                But darker allegations are included in the complaint over false imprisonment. Because he worked with the FBI, Vance contends, U.S. government officials in Iraq decided to retaliate against him and Ertel. He believes these officials conspired to jail the two not because they worked for a security company suspected of selling weapons to insurgents, but because they were sharing information with law enforcement agents outside the control of U.S. officials in Baghdad.

                                                                                                                                "In other words," claims the lawsuit, "United States officials in Iraq were concerned and wanted to find out about what intelligence agents in the United States knew about their territory and their operations. The unconstitutional policies that Rumsfeld and other unidentified agents had implemented for 'enemies' provided ample cover to detain plaintiffs and interrogate them toward that end."

                                                                                                                                It may take some time to sort out the allegations as the legal process grinds forward, but, in the meantime, Vance is raising new questions about his detention. He still wonders why his jailers didn't just call the FBI and have him cleared. They had access to his computer and cell phone to determine if his claims were true.

                                                                                                                                "When I told them to do that, they just got angry and told me to stop answering questions I wasn't being asked," Vance said. "I think they were butting heads with the State Department. I just snitched on the wrong people. I took the bull by the horns and got the horn."

                                                                                                                                And why weren't managers with the Shield Group held and interrogated?

                                                                                                                                Interrogators were certainly interested in these other individuals, according to the lawsuit. They wanted to know about the company's structure, its political contacts, and its owners -- most of whom are related to a long-established Iraqi family who fled Iraq during the years the country was ruled by Saddam Hussein, Vance said.

                                                                                                                                More startling even now is that the company has reformed. At the time they left, Shield Security held U.S.-funded contracts with the Iraqi government, Iraqi companies, NGOs and U.S. contractors. As far as Vance knows, the company still does -- but under a different name: National Shield Security.

                                                                                                                                "I built their web site," he said. "And they are still being awarded millions of dollars in contracts."

                                                                                                                                David Phinney is a journalist and broadcaster based in Washington, DC, whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and on ABC and PBS. He can be contacted at: phinneydavid@yahoo.com
                                                                                                                                Alternet

                                                                                                                                1393 words posted in American Empire, Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                  US accused of using neutron bombs

                                                                                                                                  English (US)  April 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                  Al-Rawi, right, is still on the run

                                                                                                                                  The former commander of Iraq's Republican Guard has accused the US of using non-conventional weapons in its war against the Middle East country.

                                                                                                                                  Saifeddin Fulayh Hassan Taha al-Rawi told Al Jazeera that US forces used neutron and phosphorus bombs during their assault on Baghdad airport before the April 9 capture of the Iraqi capital.

                                                                                                                                  [More:]



                                                                                                                                  Al-Rawi is among the 55 most wanted Iraqis
                                                                                                                                  sought by US-led forces[AFP]

                                                                                                                                  Al-Rawi is one of the most wanted associates of Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader, still on the run.

                                                                                                                                  "The enemy used neutron and phosphorus weapons against Baghdad airport... there were bodies burnt to their bones," he said.

                                                                                                                                  The bombs annihilated soldiers but left the buildings and infrastructure at the airport intact, he added.

                                                                                                                                  A neutron bomb is a thermonuclear weapon that produces minimal blast and heat but releases large amounts of lethal radiation that can penetrate armour and is especially destructive to human tissue.

                                                                                                                                  About 2,000 elite Republican Guard troops "fought until they were martyred", according to al-Rawi.

                                                                                                                                  He said the Iraqi military command was surprised by the speed of the US land offensive, expecting air bombardment to last much longer.

                                                                                                                                  "We had not expected the enemy to launch its land offensive from the very first or second day.

                                                                                                                                  We expected the air raids to last at least a month," he said.

                                                                                                                                  "The land offensive came at the same time as the air offensive. That was a situation we did not expect," he told Al Jazeera.

                                                                                                                                  Al-Rawi, who carries a $1m US bounty on his head, was also the jack of clubs on the deck of cards of 55 most wanted Iraqis distributed by the Pentagon before the invasion in 2003.

                                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera

                                                                                                                                  283 words posted in Iraq war, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                    The real face of Iran

                                                                                                                                    English (US)  April 8th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                    Iran is in the news for all the wrong reasons, but what's it like to go on holiday there? Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler gets a different perspective

                                                                                                                                    By Tony Wheeler

                                                                                                                                    The car swerved into the side of the road and a portly man levered himself out from the driver's seat and steamed across the pavement towards me, like the Titanic on a pressing engagement with an iceberg. I was in Iran and I was about to be kidnapped.

                                                                                                                                    'I am a guide, I speak English,' announced Ahmad Pourseyedi as he grabbed my arm, 'come, we will go to the Fin Gardens.'

                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                    There was no arguing. The fact that I had arrived in Kashan half an hour earlier and was on my way out to dinner only allowed me to put off the inevitable for 12 hours. The next morning I belonged to Ahmad. In fact I had become part of Ahmad's family. At each of the beautiful traditional homes for which Kashan will, one day, be justifiably famous, the ticket seller was expected, no commanded, to offer me the family discount.

                                                                                                                                    It was a typically Iranian encounter. I cannot remember the last country I visited where there was such an overwhelming urge to make you feel welcome, to roll out the Persian carpet, to include you in the family gathering. That night, in the Khan-e Tabatabei, a fine old house where the central courtyard became a restaurant for the evening, the family at the next table introduced themselves. 'You are by yourself, why don't you join us?'

                                                                                                                                    When I told another chatty group that I lived in Melbourne, I was reminded that the best thing Australia ever did to foster better relations with the Islamic Republic was not to win a football match. In late 1997 Iran drew with Australia in a World Cup preliminary in Melbourne, thus ensuring a place for Iran in the 1998 World Cup. Repeatedly the mere mention of the word 'Melbourne' brings a smile to an Iranian face.

                                                                                                                                    This is what life is like on the Axis of Evil.

                                                                                                                                    I arrive in a shiny Emirates Airbus from Dubai, sipping a glass of wine which I assume, wrongly, will be the last alcohol I'll see for a couple of weeks. I grab my bag off the carousel, my passport is stamped, I clear customs and I'm in Iran. I have made absolutely no plans, not even booked a hotel for tonight. I'm just going to cruise into the city and see what happens. The three young women at Tehran Airport's tourist desk have their hair discreetly covered, but otherwise we could have been at Heathrow or JFK. Clearly tourists don't turn up every day, certainly not ones without a hotel booking. They joke about not doing this too often, comment that they don't know the hotel I've pulled out of my guidebook, phone through to book me a room and finally wish me a pleasant stay in Iran. It's the first of many contacts I'll have with the opposite sex in Iran and a firm reminder that this is not the Arab world. The very idea that you might be asking a woman to book a hotel in Saudi Arabia is inconceivable.

                                                                                                                                    Read the full article……

                                                                                                                                    I sling my bag in the back of a taxi and head out into Tehran's terrible traffic. It's not just the volume, it's also the crazily exuberant driving style and the often-battered vehicles challenging for their space in the jam. It seemed bad on my first visit to Tehran, way back in 1972, but it's far worse now.

                                                                                                                                    I've got a special affection for Iran's national car, the Paykan or 'Arrow'. Thirty five years ago, I was a young engineer with the Rootes Group car manufacturers in Coventry. I worked on the old Hillman Hunter, a project known in-house as Arrow. Rootes, which was taken over by Chrysler just before I joined them and bankrupted not long after I left, managed to sell not just the car but a whole car manufacturing plant to the Iranians during the Shah's era and in a remarkably short time the sturdy Paykan flooded the Iranian market.

                                                                                                                                    In Britain, production of the old Hillmans and their assorted clones ground to a halt decades ago, but in Iran they just kept rolling off the assembly line. By the 1990s, the old Paykan was years out of date - a clunky, polluting, unsafe menace compared to modern vehicles. Every year the government announced that Paykan production was about to end and a year later they were still there. Now it finally looks like the Paykan era is about to finish, but there are so many out there they will remain the most popular car for many years.

                                                                                                                                    The next morning I stroll a couple of blocks east from my hotel to the 'Den of US Espionage'. The former US embassy was seized by the revolutionary Iranians in 1979, held for 444 days and contributed substantially to Jimmy Carter's re-election defeat. Today it's occupied by a hardline militia group and the wall around the compound is decorated with anti-American slogans and murals including a painting of a skull-faced Statue of Liberty. I've got a contact at the British embassy, let's call him Graham, and after checking my emails at an internet cafe across the road, I zigzag through the concrete barriers and enter the fortified embassy compound.

                                                                                                                                    'We're the American Embassy proxy,' Graham explains. 'If there was an American Embassy they'd be stoning them and chanting "death to America" outside their walls. Unfortunately we stand in for them. Of course the protests are well organised. The police could easily stop them completely and as it is they always move in before things get too heavy. Although we did have 80 windows broken last week.' Despite all of which, there is a long visa applications queue.

                                                                                                                                    Before I arrived in Tehran I'd made an Iranian contact through a university course in Australia and I've got an invite to a party this evening. It's in a classy area of Tehran and dress wise, once we're indoors and the doors are closed, things are very different. The men look the same, but the women suddenly ditch the scarves and appear in jeans, T-shirts. Hair and bare arms, never seen on the street, suddenly appear. This could easily be a party in the West. There's even a bar ... and booze. 'Where does the beer come from?' I ask Mansoor. 'One of the religious militia groups,' he explains. 'This one has the monopoly on beer imports from Turkey. They'll bring in a container of 'arms' which is actually Efes beer,' he continues, handing me another cold can.

                                                                                                                                    I'm being so charmed in so many different directions by the people I've met in Tehran it brings me up short when an Irish woman explains in colourful detail what a hassle the men can be and how she has put a great deal of effort into learning Farsi insults to hurl back at men who come on to her. 'Telling them "I'd rather sleep with your sister", works pretty well,' she explains. This doesn't sound like particularly good advice. Perhaps like me she's had a few too many cans of Efes tonight. It's 2am by the time the taxi drops me off at my hotel and I have trouble walking an absolutely straight line up the stairs to my room.

                                                                                                                                    Water features everywhere in Iran, flowing along street edges in the open drains known as jubes, cascading down channels in gardens and parks, sprinkling in fountains and in pools in the open courtyards of traditional old houses. It's also dispensed with remarkable civic generosity. In museums, parks, mosques - even along every length of street - there's usually a public refrigerated water dispenser, an Iranian version of a drinking fountain. In the big cities piped water is safe to drink and a happy consequence of this ready availability of cold drinking water is that Iran is not afflicted with the litter of empty plastic mineral water bottles which plagues so many developing countries.

                                                                                                                                    In Yazd, 450 miles south of Tehran, the water channels may be hidden from view, but examples of its other traditional architectural feature are very evident. Any worthwhile old home is topped by what looks like a cross between a stylish chimney and a lookout tower. They're badgirs, wind towers cunningly designed to catch a passing breeze and funnel it down over a pool of water in the house to provide a surprisingly effective form of natural air-conditioning. Restoring and reopening traditional old badgir-equipped houses as hotels and restaurants has become a local craze. I stay at the handsome Malek-o Tojjar, a fine example of one of these old houses. That afternoon, sipping tea in the courtyard cafe and reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi's novel about a reading group dipping into forbidden western literature, I'm invited over to join a real reading group. The four Yazd university students, three of them female, are keen to practise their English and talk about the English language books they're studying.

                                                                                                                                    Young couples openly hold hands, women shake hands with you, talk to you and smile at you. In Saudi Arabia not only is there virtually no opportunity to talk to a Saudi woman, even if you did you'd see no more than her eyes, and possibly not even those.

                                                                                                                                    Despite (or because of?) their modest attire, Iranian women are always eyeing you up. It's all shy smiles and seductive glances. Photographing the passing traffic in front of a mosque that evening a woman, passengering behind her boyfriend on a motorcycle, tosses me a wink and a wave; later that evening three old ladies chorus 'hello' from their watermelon feast in an old city back alley.

                                                                                                                                    Dinner tonight is at the Silk Road, another photogenic hotel in a renovated old house. Once again the courtyard centres around a pool, the architecture is beautiful, the evening light glows, the badgir rises up as a backdrop. Some of the guests and diners sit at tables, some of the tables at knee height, others at a normal level. Others, like me, lounge back on wide, carpeted, sofa-like affairs, sitting cross-legged and sideways, leaning back against the armrest. When your meal is served it's arrayed in front of you, in the centre of the 'sofa'. If there are two of you then you face each other. The sofa is wide enough to accommodate four. I'm served some tea and sweets, but no food emerges from the kitchen until well after 9pm. The Iranians clearly rival the Spanish when it comes to eating late. It's no problem because simply watching what's going on is a delight. There's a buzz of happy activity, families, individuals, a handful of tourists, but mostly Iranians. Occasionally people climb upstairs for the view and we can see them silhouetted on the flat-topped roof. Lots of people smile over at me, stop to exchange a few words, enquire about my impressions of Iran or offer a 'welcome' if nothing more.

                                                                                                                                    Next stop is Esfahan. This single city alone could justify a trip to Iran, but it's hard to decide whether the prime attraction is the magnificent sweep of the Imam Square, with its perimeter of shopping arcades and its breathtaking blue-tiled mosques, or the gentle curve of the Zayandeh River with its multi-arched bridges.

                                                                                                                                    One of my favourite photographs from the trip my wife Maureen and I made across Asia in 1972 is of Maureen sitting on the river edge with the Khaju Bridge in the background. She is in an outfit, quite respectable, but which would have got her arrested by the Morality Police in 21st-century Iran. I wander down one side of the river, past couples strolling along holding hands. Later, a family asks me to pose with them in their photograph, standing on a teahouse balcony with the square as a backdrop. As the sun drops lower and the temperature cools, the square is full of evening activity. Once again that Persian passion for spreading out a rug on any patch of grass and having a picnic comes into play.

                                                                                                                                    The next day I start with the square, walking past the shops, dropping in to the Sheikh Lotfollah and Imam mosques and exploring the Ali Qapu Palace. The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is a jewel box, so intricate and detailed it's hard to believe it's a building, not something you can pick up and carry away. There's the trademark Persian blue and turquoise tilework, but it's also tiled in green-white-gold. In contrast, the Imam Mosque is the whole damn Tiffany's, big and slightly odd, the entrance forming the end of the square, facing straight down the plaza.

                                                                                                                                    On the balcony of the Ali Qapu Palace, I meet a young Iranian-American couple. Hassan and Sanaz live in Los Angeles, a city with probably the biggest Iranian populations in the US. He left Iran when he was a child, before the revolution, and has never been back before. She left 18 years ago, after the revolution.

                                                                                                                                    'I was expecting it to be much worse,' Sanaz admits. 'I think it's actually improved since I left but everybody complains,' Hassan continues. 'Of course people always want change. Last Thursday we went to Jaam-e Jam. It's a shopping centre in North Tehran, very popular with young people and on Thursday afternoon they come out to show off.'

                                                                                                                                    'Young guys with rings in their eyebrows and girls clearly pushing it as far as they can, scarves falling off to show their hair, lots of makeup. I'd like to have taken some photographs, but they'd probably not want their sins recorded.'

                                                                                                                                    On the way from Esfahan to Kashan there's a brief encounter with that other Iran, the one that features in the press and TV much more often than beautiful hotels and friendly people. 'It's a nuclear research centre,' my driver explains as we pass anti-aircraft gun emplacements and half-buried buildings.

                                                                                                                                    Back in Tehran, I emerge from the bus station, check my guidebook and start to cross the road. Half way across the highway I'm hit, not by a car, bus or motorcycle, but once again by the realisation that Iran can be a surprisingly sophisticated country, well aware of the outside world and how they connect to it.

                                                                                                                                    'Hey, Lonely Planet,' yells the cop directing the traffic and simultaneously pointing at my open guidebook. 'Which way you going, man?'

                                                                                                                                    http://travel.guardian.co.uk/article/2007/apr/08/escape.iran.culturaltrips

                                                                                                                                    2409 words posted in IranLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                      Why is Hezbollah on the Terrorism List? And Who Isn't But Should Be?

                                                                                                                                      English (US)  April 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                      By Franklin Lamb

                                                                                                                                      It was a sign of the times last week (March 27) when House Armed Services Committee Staff Director Erin Conaton declared in a memo to committee staffers that the powerful committee was scrapping the Bush Administration shop worn phrase, Global War of Terrorism. Conaton's boss, Rep. Ike Skelton,( D-Mo) the new Chairman of the Committee commented that "the overused label had become an embarrassment and had lost its meaning".

                                                                                                                                      Recent research in Lebanon has turned up information previously unavailable which sheds light of the misapplication of the Terrorism label by the Bush administration.

                                                                                                                                      As of April 2007, a plurality (39%) of the organizations on the US Terrorism list represent Muslim groups recommended for inclusion by, among others, AIPAC and their friends in Congress. According to former AIPAC Director of Congressional Relations, Steve Rosen, soon to start his trial for passing classified information to Israel, "AIPAC owns the 'T' list!"

                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                      The" T word" is often misapplied as former National Security Advisor Brzezinski reminds us as he tours the country promoting his new book, Second Chance and focusing on the "catastrophic leadership" crisis caused by the Bush administration's foreign policy.

                                                                                                                                      Another area that would benefit from discarding the "terrorist label" is the Bush administration's ongoing campaign against Hezbollah. There is considerable doubt among international lawyers whether Hezbollah should ever have been classified as a terrorist organization.

                                                                                                                                      At the urging of U.S. and Israel, Canada classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which limits the group's ability to raise funds and travel internationally. A Canadian peace coalition called Tadamon Montreal is working to remove Hezbollah from the Terrorism list in Canada.

                                                                                                                                      Australia and the UK distinguish between Hezbollah's security and political wings, and other countries like China, Russia, and member states of the European Union and the United Nations have refused US/Israel demands to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization at all.

                                                                                                                                      The process for putting an organization on the "Terrorism list" is as follows: The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the U.S. State Department (S/CT) monitors the activities of groups active around the world considered potentially terrorist to identify potential targets for designation. When reviewing potential targets, S/CT looks not only at the actual terrorist attacks that a group has carried out, but also at "whether the group may be inclined toward future acts of terrorism or retains the capability to carry out such acts".

                                                                                                                                      As of April 2007, a plurality (39%) of the organizations on the US Terrorism list represent Muslim groups recommended for inclusion by, among others, AIPAC and their friends in Congress. According to former AIPAC Director of Congressional Relations, Steve Rosen, soon to start his trial for passing classified information to Israel, "AIPAC owns the 'T' list!"

                                                                                                                                      The US State Department definition of terror is a broad one: "the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends

                                                                                                                                      Suspected terrorist groups are thereby defined as such by the means they use to pursue their objectives. To describe an organization as terrorist is not a comment on its political goal or ends, which may be laudable ones such as national liberation or resistance to occupation.

                                                                                                                                      The common saying that 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' is rejected by this student of the subject because it is simplistic and even nonsensical. To whit, a terrorist can also be a freedom fighter struggling for justice and a freedom fighter can fight for freedom by using terrorist means.

                                                                                                                                      Placed on the "T" list in 1999, Hezbollah was taken off the list a couple of years later following Hezbollah's strong condemnation of the 9/11 attack on America. Hezbollah was returned to the list when Dick Cheney opined that a "presumed Hezbollah operative" probably met with an Al Qaeda representative in South America in 2001. Similar to Cheney's Saadam Hussein-Al Qaeda 'contacts' claim.

                                                                                                                                      Lebanese officials including Lebanese President Emil Lahoud contemptuously dismissed reports of such a meeting as Israeli-sponsored propaganda. According to Lahoud: "The media campaign, which is conducted by Israeli circles, seeks to exploit the September 11 attacks to slander the Lebanese resistance by stigmatizing it with the image of terrorism". Lebanon continues to reject US/Israeli demands that they freeze Hezbollah's back accounts and force it stop providing social services.

                                                                                                                                      A study undertaken at the American University of Beirut in January- February 2007, benefiting from research and surveys from a variety of international and Israeli human rights organizations, tabulated no fewer than 6,672 acts of Israeli state terrorism directed against Lebanon and Palestine between the years 1967-2007. Not only is Israel absent from the US State Department Terrorism list, Israel appears to determines who is on it.

                                                                                                                                      The case against Hezbollah presented in a draft by AIPAC for the State Department is virtually identical to the one finally issued by the State Department. It claims that Hezbollah bombed Americans at the US Embassy, the Marine barracks in 1983 and held a number of Americans hostages during the 1980's. Or as Hezbollah's rap sheet currently appears on US and Israeli government computers:

                                                                                                                                      "Hezbollah (as of April 3, 2007): Suicide bombings, hijacked 1985 TWA Flight 847; rocket attacks against Israel in 2006."

                                                                                                                                      (The latter item re the "rocket attacks against Israel in 2006", is examined in the just released volume, The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel's Use of American Weapons against Lebanon.)

                                                                                                                                      Hezbollah is accused by Israel and the Bush administration of a type of Islamist Terrorism similar to Al Qaeda but used in the context of National Liberation, just like Hamas. Both of which have fought Israel in the Lebanese and Palestinian contexts, respectively.

                                                                                                                                      However, unlike al Qaeda, their enemy, Hezbollah and Hamas are complex social and political movements. They use different types of force, including guerrilla tactics which are legitimate under international law. They are also different from al Qaeda in that their alleged terrorist activity aims to liberate Palestine and Lebanon, as opposed to being part of a 'global struggle' against the United States with undefined objectives.

                                                                                                                                      Was Hezbollah involved in the attacks against Americans a quarter century ago? Hezbollah has consistently denied these charges ever since it published its "open letter" announcing its foundation in 1985, years after the first attacks.

                                                                                                                                      The results of an investigation conducted entirely in Lebanon including interviews with some who claim to have been personally involved with the "rap sheet" events do not credit Bush administration claims.

                                                                                                                                      What the record to date shows, pending the Bush administration release of claimed evidence to the contrary, is the following:

                                                                                                                                      1) When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and quickly routed much of the PLO resistance, more than 30 local resistance groups formed. Some were no doubt inspired by the success of the Iranian Revolution three years earlier and took advantage of available political and physical training. Arms were available from the soon to depart PLO, and other sources, sometimes as gifts and sometimes for cash.

                                                                                                                                      For example, in late August 1982, as Fateh was preparing to depart Beirut for Greece and goodbyes were being said, two American researchers in Beirut were given ('for safe keeping') 250 brand new Chinese made Ak-47's wrapped in thick grease and heavy plastic. Not knowing exactly what to do with the gifts in the 'wild west' atmosphere of the time, the Americans, doing what came naturally, hastily buried them at night. The weapons were never found by the advancing Israelis but were discovered 15 years later when the Commodore Hotel in Hamra was enlarged and workers dug up that vacant lot to its south! Who has them now is anybody's guess!

                                                                                                                                      The goal of these new groups in the 1980's was to drive Israel and its foreign sponsors from Lebanon. The local and regional political situation of the early 1980's was very tolerant of militant modes of actions and many groups adapted and acted because no single force, power or obstacle stood in their way.

                                                                                                                                      'Operations' were sometimes carried out by part of a group without the knowledge, participation or liability or the particular organizations command.

                                                                                                                                      Teams of foreign assassins were active those days including one traced to Israel which tried to assassinate one of America's most competent Ambassadors to Lebanon, John Guenther Dean on August 27, 1980. The weapons used in the failed attempt were traced to a shipment made from the US to Israel. Dean's crime was getting too chummy with Yassir Arafat and his deputy Abu Jihad, who were helping Dean to get the American Embassy hostages released from Iran.

                                                                                                                                      Another "operation" during this period was the CIA funded attempt of March 8, 1985 to assassinate Sheik Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. The car bomb killed eighty, mostly women and children and wounded 256. As Bob Woodward points out in his book, Veil, the CIA's William Casey mistakenly thought Fadlallah was the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. To this day Fadlallah is quite independent of Hezbollah although he is probably Lebanon's most revered cleric due in no small measure to his scholarship, his three decades of social service work as well as his passionate defense of human rights.

                                                                                                                                      2) An exhaustive review, by American researchers, of the nearly 80 Western kidnapping cases, organized by a staggering variety of groups in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990 concluded that more than 100 Western detainees were taken, released, killed or exchanged. As for the Lebanese themselves, thousands were kidnapped; many by Israel and their allies and hundreds are still unaccounted for.

                                                                                                                                      According to some who claim to have participated in one way or another, in some of these kidnappings, active groups sometimes declared responsibility and sometimes were silent. Among the groups admitting their actions at various times were: The Organization of Socialist Revolutionary Work, the Armed Revolutionary Factions in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad, the Organization of the Oppressed in the World, the Revolutionary Justice Organization, Holy Warriors for Freedom, the Khaibar Brigade, the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine, the Blessed Resistance, the Islamic Liberation Organization, the Organization of the Mujhahideen for Freedom, the Revolutionary Cells, The Organization of the Islamic Dawn, The Organization of Militant Revolutionary Cells.

                                                                                                                                      These were some of the 'main stream' groups, there were others, some for whom kidnapping was a cottage industry. Some functioned much like the current US and the UK hired mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some cases contracts were drawn up with individuals willing to "hire out" for certain specific abduction projects. Given the available labor pool there was sometimes intense competition for a contract. For some groups, westerners were snatched for no other reason than the ransom money was good. Often those involved would use the ransom money to start a legitimate business, pay for family needs such as medical care or their children's tuition fees. Sometimes Western companies paid for the release of their employees and in other cases governments would pay.

                                                                                                                                      The largest payment for hostages during this period was the Arms for Hostages deal worked out by the Reagan administration when it provided missiles and spare parts to Iran to use against Saadam Hussein's army after the same administration had supplied the Iraqi regime with chemical weapons to use against Iraqi Kurd, Shiites and Iranians.

                                                                                                                                      Lebanese Islamist groups, and others, who in the 1980's were resisting Israel's attacks did not feel that their acts were nearly as reprehensible as the US responsibility for what Israel was doing to their people and country.

                                                                                                                                      For example, once it became clear to them that the US Marines had abandoned their initially claimed neutrality as 'peace keepers' and instead began the shelling of Lebanon with 2,700-lb shells from the USS New Jersey most of these groups felt it their duty to repulse the US attacks.

                                                                                                                                      Interviews with some of these now middle aged resistance fighters in Lebanon who were active in this period make plain that these groups, felt that their military actions against the foreign forces constituted legitimate self defense, protecting Lebanon's population from attacks by foreign forces.

                                                                                                                                      While the military legitimacy of fighting the American and French forces was clear to the Lebanese during the early 1980's what about bombing the American Embassy? International law has protected Embassies since the 1815 Congress of Vienna extend protection to foreign plenipotentiaries.

                                                                                                                                      Safe passage for diplomats is not always honored and as recently as February 2007 the United States government has been accused by Iraq and Iran of unlawfully kidnapping Iranian diplomats

                                                                                                                                      The evidence from the 1980's suggests that Hezbollah stayed out of the kidnapping game and concentrated on building its organization which they formally announced in an 'open letter' on Feb. 14, 1985.

                                                                                                                                      Would the founders of Hezbollah have heard of something on the street, village or family level of who may have been responsible for some of the high profile western kidnapping cases? One assumes so. Did neighborhood gossip attach an obligation to get involved on behalf of their viewed oppressors, including the US, and rescue their hostages? In order to avoid some future 'terrorism' list?

                                                                                                                                      The evidence suggests that Hezbollah is on a "political list" called the "terrorism list" because Israel wants it there not because there is proof that it engaged in terrorism against Americans 25 years ago.

                                                                                                                                      Using the scare tactic of 'kidnapping Americans' and 'terrorism' without proof, adds to the international ridicule of Bush's policies.

                                                                                                                                      In the nearly empty Lebanese Parliament building these days the gossip is that the Bush administration wants to bargain with Hezbollah to remove it from the 'T' list if Hezbollah gives up its objective of liberating Palestine and cancels its opposition to the Bush/Olmert backed Siniora government

                                                                                                                                      Given this kind of Bush administration offer, many view Hezbollah's spot on the 'T list' as a badge of honor . Yet, respect for international law would suggest that the Bush Administration ought to show their 'evidence' or remove Hezbollah from the list.

                                                                                                                                      When pressed in early April, 2007 by a former House Judiciary Committee staffer, one lawyer in the State Department Office of the General Counsel commented, "Its not that Hezbollah is terrorist per say, actually we know they are pretty clean-they are ok- but you must realize that they do associate with shady characters to their East, if you know what I mean."

                                                                                                                                      Hezbollah's view of the April 17, 1983 Embassy bombing is different from some militia operating during this period. Hezbollah has consistently opposed attacks on foreign civilians. It was one of the first to condemn the 9/11 operation as well as the 1997 attack at the Temple of Hatshepsut at Luxor, Egypt which killed 58 civilians as "bloody and terrible, calling them crimes against Islam. Hezbollah also condemned the Cairo attacks on the Greek tourists, and the Algerian killing of 7 trappist monks in Algerian by claimed Islamists.

                                                                                                                                      Despite Hezbollah's view, which is based on the Koran's prohibitions against harming innocent civilians, was the 1983 US Embassy attack terrorism against an internationally protected structure or had the Embassy become a legitimate military target? In the assertion of one individual, a former member of Islamic Jihad, interviewed by American researchers during the spring of 2007 his group had nothing to do with Hezbollah during the Embassy operation or at any other time. He claims his associates knew in advance (soviet intelligence passed to Lebanon via Syria) that the eight CIA operatives assigned to Lebanon were holding meetings in the Embassy and using its diplomatic protection for cover for plotting assassinations and attacks on Lebanon. The entire CIA contingent was indeed meeting on the 6th floor of the Embassy at the time of the attack. The same source claims that the Embassy was also being used for feeding targeting information to the USS New Jersey, visible offshore from the upper floors of the Chancery.

                                                                                                                                      The view that the American Embassy was a legitimate target on April 17, 1983 cannot be summarily dismissed without careful review because principles of International law tend to support it. Once an Embassy's is used for aggressive military purposes its protection collapses and it becomes what Donald Rumsfeld calls a "legitimate target of opportunity".

                                                                                                                                      Where is the proof that has been demanded for more than two decades? Is the only reason Hezbollah is on the 'terrorism list' is because Israel wants it there and a desire by some in the Bush administration to settle old scores without proof of who was responsible?

                                                                                                                                      Organizations such as Islamic Jihad, Organization of the Oppressed on Earth and the Revolutionary Justice Organization are considered by the Bush administration and Israel to be synonymous with Hezbollah. That grouping appears to be a clumsy and inaccurate conclusion designed to support political objectives. No proof has ever been offered to establish that these groups were part of Hezbollah during this period rather than adversaries or competitors.

                                                                                                                                      As one Hezbollah supporter commented:

                                                                                                                                      "In America as you built a resistance to the British invaders and occupiers were all the groups neatly organized? Were some 'terrorists'? Did the ones who did operations such as the Boston Tea Party' give their names and address to the occupiers? Or did some hide their identity and even dress like natives? Did George Washington and his staff know everything that was going on or did some groups just form and decided it was better to work on their own liberation project? That is what it was like here in Lebanon during this period. We should leave that period and concentrate on working together to solve today's problems in Lebanon and the Middle East. All parties talking and meeting"

                                                                                                                                      In denying Hezbollah involvement in operations targeting American civilians, their leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has stated:

                                                                                                                                      "The truth of the matter is that there was something other than Hezbollah, called the Islamic Jihad, who kidnapped the hostages. There exist videocassettes, communiqués that bear the signature of the Islamic Jihad. It is independent form the party. It is absolutely incorrect that the Islamic Jihad is a cover name for Hezbollah.

                                                                                                                                      Hezbollah remains on the US and Israel 'terrorism' list for purely political reasons and to punish the organization for its resistance to Israeli aggressions against Lebanon and Bush administration plans for the region."

                                                                                                                                      It is time for the Bush administration to present its case and prove what terrorism Hezbollah has actually used against the American people in the 1980's in light of US government admissions that since 1999 there is no evidence that Hezbollah has engaged in 'Terrorism'.

                                                                                                                                      It's time for the poker players to reveal their cards, or as they say down in Crawford.. ' y'all show 'em er fold 'em!

                                                                                                                                      Franklin Lamb has been in Lebanon researching a book for the past nine months. Hezbollah: a brief Guide for Beginners in expected in early summer, 2007. He can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com
                                                                                                                                      Counterpunch

                                                                                                                                      3063 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                        Olmert's theatrics

                                                                                                                                        English (US)  April 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                        Israel's prime minister is engaged in a public relations exercise. Meanwhile, it is business as usual, as his army plans a wide ranging assault against Gaza, reports Khaled Amayreh from East Jerusalem

                                                                                                                                        Instead of giving the Arab peace initiative serious consideration, the Israeli prime minister has been indulging in a public relations exercise in an attempt to downplay the Arab world's attempt to reach out its hand to the Jewish state. He hopes to distract international attention away from Israeli intransigence.

                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                        Despite the Arab world presenting Israel with an olive branch that includes peace and the normalisation of relations in exchange for ending the occupation, Israel's response has been outright rejection.

                                                                                                                                        In an attempt to dilute his obvious contempt towards this peace gesture Ehud Olmert has engaged in a game of subterfuge, claiming Israel is interested in peace but only via direct talks with Arab leaders. The claim comes when the Israeli government continues to refuse to engage in talks with the democratically elected Palestinian government.

                                                                                                                                        In an interview in Time Olmert said that should the King of Saudi Arabia agree to meet him he would be surprised by Israel's magnanimity and desire for peace.

                                                                                                                                        "I can tell you that if I had an opportunity to meet King Abdullah -- which I have not -- he would be very surprised to hear what I have to say."

                                                                                                                                        Olmert described the Riyadh summit as "evidence of change", saying he would be willing to participate in a regional summit, the suggestion being the region's problems have nothing to do with Israel's 40-year-old occupation of Palestine but are caused solely by the non- recognition of Israel.

                                                                                                                                        Olmert's words are nothing more than double speak. The Israeli premier knows that without giving up the spoils of the 1967 War and allowing for the repatriation of the refugee, the chances of a durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and also with the Arab- Muslim world at large, are next to nil. Yet Olmert thinks that spin can replace true statesmanship. He is unwilling to pay the price for peace but instead indulges in diversionary tactics, extolling the need to hold direct discussions with Arab leaders.

                                                                                                                                        Israel has been engaging in peace talks with the Palestinians for 15 years and with the Arabs for decades to no avail. What point can there be in holding further discussions beyond trying to cajole or bully the Arab side into accepting the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land by Ashkenazi supremists?

                                                                                                                                        Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been talking since 1993 yet instead of ending the occupation and recognising the Palestinian people's right to freedom, independence and basic dignity, the Israeli state has been busy building more Jewish colonies on stolen land, erecting more apartheid roadblocks and checkpoints and transforming Palestinian population centres into concentration camps.

                                                                                                                                        Olmert doesn't stop at refusing Arab and non-Arab peace overtures. He also wants to ignite a civil war among Palestinians and would like to see Arab states augment Israel's callous blockade of Gaza.

                                                                                                                                        Recent opinion polls show Olmert's approval ratings at an unprecedented low of two per cent. When 98 per cent of Israelis do not trust their leader, how can anyone else be expected to do so?

                                                                                                                                        His call for direct talks with the Arab world should be viewed as yet another evasive tactic, a use aimed at buying time and diluting the overall Arab discourse vis-à- vis the Palestinian cause. Olmert is also very weak politically with a majority of Israeli pundits predicting that his hobbled together government is unlikely to survive to the end of the year. That weakness could hold many problems for the Palestinians as Olmert is tempted to pursue further military adventures and engage in political posturing in a doomed attempt to secure public support. Indeed this week the Israeli chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, said that Israel was planning to launch a far- reaching incursion into the Gaza Strip to "prevent Hamas from growing stronger".

                                                                                                                                        The real goal, however, is more likely to be to destroy the Palestinian government, murder Palestinian officials, particularly those affiliated with Hamas, and destabilise the Palestinian arena which has been enjoying a modicum of stability and normality following the signing of the Mecca Accord on 8 February and the formation of the new Palestinian national unity government.

                                                                                                                                        Another key but undeclared goal of a fresh Israeli invasion into the largest open-air prison in the world is to try to locate and liberate the Israeli soldier captured nine months ago. A successful mission of this kind would be a great morale booster for Olmert and his government.

                                                                                                                                        Olmert is likely to continue to recite his calls for peace and repeatedly express his sincere and heart-felt desire to hold talks with Arab leaders. Meanwhile his government and army continue to rape the Palestinian people and steal chunk after chunk of their homeland. It is a strategy that will continue for as long as world leaders are willing to remain silent in the face of Israeli recalcitrance.

                                                                                                                                        This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made another pilgrimage to Israel to ask for further atonement for the Holocaust. Merkel, who only met non-Hamas members of the Palestinian government, blamed the Palestinians for everything from the stalled peace process to crippling Western sanctions on them. One Palestinian official described Merkel's behaviour as "brazen and shameful".

                                                                                                                                        "This woman, like all German leaders since [Konrad] Adenauer, feels enslaved by the Jews. I believe that even if Israel carried out a fully-fledged holocaust against the Palestinians, German leaders wouldn't even protest... German political whoredom seems to know no limits."

                                                                                                                                        Al Ahram

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                                                                                                                                          Iran: US 'supporting terrorists'

                                                                                                                                          English (US)  April 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                          The United States is supporting anti-Iranian groups operating out of Pakistan's remote border regions, the speaker of Iran's parliament has said.

                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                          Gholamali Haddadadel accused the US of trying to put pressure on the government in Tehran, but said Pakistan was not involved in the operations.

                                                                                                                                          "There is no doubt in our minds that the United States spares no effort to put pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

                                                                                                                                          The US television station ABC News reported on Tuesday that the US had been secretly advising and encouraging a Pakistani group that had carried out raids in Iran.

                                                                                                                                          "The best indication of United States' support to a particular terrorist group is that one of the leaders of this terrorist group was given the opportunity to speak on VoA [Voice of America radio station] after committing the crime," Haddadadel said.

                                                                                                                                          "There is no news, no evidence, and we don't have any reason to believe that the military establishment in Pakistan is also supporting such militant groups."

                                                                                                                                          ABC News, citing US and Pakistani intelligence sources, said the raids had resulted in the deaths and capture of Iranian soldiers and officials.

                                                                                                                                          The group, called Jundullah and made up of members of the Baluchi ethnic group, who live in Pakistan and Iran, operated from the Baluchistan province, the report said.

                                                                                                                                          The group said it carried out an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on a bus in the Iranian city of Zehedan.

                                                                                                                                          ABC reported Pakistani government sources as saying the secret campaign against Iran was on the agenda when Dick Cheney, the US vice president, met Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, in February.

                                                                                                                                          The Pakistani foreign ministry dismissed the ABC report as "tendentious". It said the suggestion that Pakistan was involved in a secret war against Iran was "an absurd and sinister insinuation".

                                                                                                                                          Haddadadel said on Thursday that Iran had to step up co-operation with Pakistan on the border.

                                                                                                                                          "Some of the militants, the rebel forces are active in our border areas and we should work with Pakistan in order to increase security co-operation," he said.


                                                                                                                                          Agencies

                                                                                                                                          350 words posted in American Empire, IranLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                            Haniya says US pressuring banks

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  April 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                            Haniya says banks are refusing "to deal with us ...
                                                                                                                                            because of America's gang-like actions" [EPA]

                                                                                                                                            Ismail Haniya, the Hamas Palestinian prime minister, has accused the US of fuelling tensions in Palestine by refusing to lift economic sanctions that prevent banks from transferring funds directly to the government.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]


                                                                                                                                            He said on Friday: "The banks refused to deal with us, and they are still refusing, because of American gang-like actions.

                                                                                                                                            "We want the American administration to remove its hand off the banks ... . If that happens, it would encourage Arab countries and encourage European countries" to restore direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.

                                                                                                                                            Hamas came to power in March 2006, leading to an aid embargo by several countries.

                                                                                                                                            Banking sanctions have prevented the Palestinian Authority from bringing in enough money from Iran and other donors to pay its workforce in full.

                                                                                                                                            Israel is also withholding Palestinian tax revenues.

                                                                                                                                            Under US law any foreign bank that refuses to co-operate with America in cutting off funding to Hamas could have its US assets frozen and lose its access to the coutry's financial markets.

                                                                                                                                            Israeli to be 'freed'

                                                                                                                                            Also on Friday, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said that a captured Israeli soldier held by fighters in Gaza will be released soon.

                                                                                                                                            Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal, was seized last June in a cross-border raid from Gaza into southern Israel.

                                                                                                                                            Abbas told France 24 television: "We are undertaking efforts to free Shalit and these efforts will soon come to fruition. We are optimistic. He will be freed soon."

                                                                                                                                            However, he gave no specifics and previous comments by him about Shalit have not resulted in the soldier's release.

                                                                                                                                            Abbas said there were also 9,500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel who should be released too, although he said the two issues were not related.

                                                                                                                                            The president also said efforts were under way to improve the security situation in Palestine and to free a BBC journalist abducted in Gaza on March 12.

                                                                                                                                            Gaza violence

                                                                                                                                            Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Fatah fighters have clashed again.

                                                                                                                                            Friday's gun battle in the town of Khan Younis left at least one member of each faction injured.

                                                                                                                                            A hand grenade thrown during the fighting slightly injured a young boy, and the house of a Hamas member was torched.

                                                                                                                                            Both sides said the fighting started when a Hamas member posted an Islamist pamphlet near a mosque loyal to Fatah.

                                                                                                                                            Tensions are running high in Gaza despite the formation of a unity government on March 17 between the two factions.

                                                                                                                                            Fatah leader ambushed

                                                                                                                                            Haniya his cabinet would hold a special meeting on Saturday to discuss a new security plan aimed at stemming factional fighting and growing lawlessness within 100 days.

                                                                                                                                            But Palestinian fighters ambushed a top union leader as he drove in the Gaza Strip on Friday, moderately wounding the man before fleeing in his vehicle, officials and relatives said.

                                                                                                                                            There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting of Ghassem Bayrie, head of the 45,000-member national Palestinian labour union.

                                                                                                                                            Bayrie is a prominent Fatah loyalist in the Gaza Strip and has been an outspoken critic of Hamas.

                                                                                                                                            He is also close to Mohammed Dahlan, the powerful Fatah leader in Gaza and new interior minister.

                                                                                                                                            Shot in the leg Palestinian police said Bayrie, 50, was driving in a union minivan with his family when they were ambushed. He was shot in the leg, and the entire family was forced out of the vehicle before the assailants sped away.

                                                                                                                                            Rezek Bayrie, brother of the leader and a union spokesman, said the shooting was part of the "lawlessness and ongoing anarchy" in Gaza.
                                                                                                                                            Agencies >

                                                                                                                                            590 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                              UN climate report approved

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  April 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                              Damage to Earth's weather systems from greenhouse gases will change rainfall patterns.[GALLO GETTY]

                                                                                                                                              Top climate experts have warned that global warming will cause faster and wider damage than previously forecasted, ranging from hunger in Africa and Asia and rising ocean levels.

                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                              Around 100 nations in the UN climate panel agreed on a final text after all-night disputes, with scientists accusing governments of watering down their findings.

                                                                                                                                              "We have an approved report," Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said on Friday after the talks in Brussels.

                                                                                                                                              The report by the IPCC, the top world authority on climate change grouping 2,500 scientists, will guide policy in coming years on issues such as extending the UN's Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.

                                                                                                                                              "Approximately 20 to 30 per cent of plant and animal species are at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius " IPCC Report

                                                                                                                                              Gary Yohe, one of the report's lead authors, said China, Russia and Saudi Arabia had raised most objections during the night to a 21-page summary which makes clear that the poor will suffer most. Other participants also said the United States had toned down some passages.

                                                                                                                                              Some scientists objected after China tried to eliminate a note saying that there was "very high confidence" that climate change was already affecting "many natural systems, on all continents and in some oceans".

                                                                                                                                              China, the second largest source of greenhouse gases after the United States and ahead of Russia, wanted no mention of the level of confidence.

                                                                                                                                              Bleakest report yet

                                                                                                                                              Despite US and Chinese objections, delegates still managed to add a warning that some African nations might have to spend 5 to 10 per cent of gross domestic product on adapting to climate change.

                                                                                                                                              Overall, the report is the bleakest UN assessment yet of the threat of climate change, predicting water shortages that could affect billions of people, extinctions of species and a rise in ocean levels that could go on for centuries.

                                                                                                                                              "By 2080, it is likely that 1.1 to 3.2bn people will be experiencing water scarcity" IPCC draft report

                                                                                                                                              It says human greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels, are very likely to be the main cause of warming. It also says climate change could cause a sharp fall in crop yields in Africa, a thaw of Himalayan glaciers and more heat-waves for Europe and North America.

                                                                                                                                              In one section, the IPCC toned down risks of extinctions, delegates said.

                                                                                                                                              "Approximately 20 to 30 per cent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 to 4.5 Fahrenheit]," the text said.

                                                                                                                                              A previous draft had said 20 to 30 per cent of all species would be at "high risk" of extinction with those temperature rises.

                                                                                                                                              Objections

                                                                                                                                              The objections sparked a protest that politicians were meddling in the scientific assessment about climate change, the delegates said.

                                                                                                                                              "This is the first time that the science is being questioned by politicians," one angry delegate was quoted as saying.

                                                                                                                                              "The Europeans want to send a strong signal. The US does not want as much quantification" IPCC delegate

                                                                                                                                              The United States, China and Saudi Arabia lodged objections to sections of text and graphics that gave high-level warnings about some of these effects.

                                                                                                                                              Data on the "highway to extinction" charts showed the deteriorating conditions in much of the world, particularly in poorer countries, with every degree of warming.

                                                                                                                                              One delegate told the AFP news agency that while European members of the panel sought to include stronger language and hard statistics about the dangers of global warming, the US preferred general statements instead.

                                                                                                                                              "The Europeans want to send a strong signal. The US does not want as much quantification," he said.

                                                                                                                                              Agencies

                                                                                                                                              620 words posted in Science1 comment

                                                                                                                                              1 response(s) to UN climate report approved

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                                                                                                                                                b. Is there enough Money to Feed Herself, during
                                                                                                                                                Pregnancy, and After She has the Innocent Baby?


                                                                                                                                                We have to educate Men and Women, that if they can not Support an Innocent Child, is BETTER Not to Bring Any BABY To Suffer to This Cruel World.

                                                                                                                                                It makes me Very Sad to See Babies Crying, with Hunger, and Being Raised by a Single Parent.


                                                                                                                                                And it Makes me Angry for That Stupidity and Ignorance of those Women and Men that Chose to Have A Baby when They Do Not Even Have Food or Money to Support Themselves.


                                                                                                                                                Babies Never Ask to Come to This World!


                                                                                                                                                I Highly Recommend:
                                                                                                                                                Abortion and Sterilization
                                                                                                                                                if Condoms are Not Available.


                                                                                                                                                ALLAH Is Great!

                                                                                                                                                worldlatino50 @ yahoo.com

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                                                                                                                                              Wolfowitz Accused of Nepotism at World Bank

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  April 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                              By Emad Mekay

                                                                                                                                              WASHINGTON - A controversial raise for a World Bank employee who has been romantically involved with the Bank's President Paul Wolfowitz was not the work of the Bank's Ethics Committee, as originally alleged by Wolfowitz's office, according to the watchdog group that leaked the information.

                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                              Members of the Ethics Committee of the Board, the relevant body that would have approved the raise, which has triggered allegations of nepotism at the Bank's highest levels, say that they knew nothing of the salary hike, according to the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection organisation.

                                                                                                                                              The new revelation appears to be at odds with the line maintained by officials in Wolfowitz's office, who have in interviews with the Washington Post and the Financial Times, two newspapers that reported on the issue, claimed that the raise was approved by the board.

                                                                                                                                              "Inside sources from the Bank have stated unequivocally that this was not the case, that board members only learned of the raise from news reports, and that the members are furious," said GAP.

                                                                                                                                              "There's a question of fact here," Beatrice Edwards of GAP told IPS. "It was a personnel action that was taken without a consultation with the board."

                                                                                                                                              So far, the Bank's management has been unable to clarify who proposed and approved the irregular promotion and subsequent raise for Shaha Riza, a Bank employee in the external relations department, and Wolfowitz's long-time girlfriend.

                                                                                                                                              Wolfowitz's office referred IPS queries to the Bank's media department, which did not return phone calls for comment on Thursday.

                                                                                                                                              The controversy has sent ripples through the institution's Washington headquarters, where some staff have long been discontented with how Wolfowitz, a former U.S. deputy secretary of defence and a central advocate of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, has managed the Bank since he came to office in July 2005.

                                                                                                                                              News of the pay raise was first broken last year by Ward Harkavy, who blogs for the Village Voice newspaper in New York, but the story only gained traction last week after the Washington Post used information from GAP to report on the raise.

                                                                                                                                              Payroll data obtained from the World Bank and made public Thursday by GAP show that Riza, a communications officer in the Bank's Middle East Office, who is currently working in an external assignment at the U.S. State Department, received a 47,300 dollar, or 35.5 percent, raise to 180,000 dollars after Wolfowitz arrived.

                                                                                                                                              This raise was followed last year by another 13,590 dollar raise, or about 7.5 percent, to a total salary of 193,590 dollars.

                                                                                                                                              "If World Bank staff rules had been respected, she was not to receive percentage increases greater than 12 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. Her current salary of 193,590 dollars is about seven thousand dollars more than what [U.S.] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earns," GAP said in the statement Thursday.

                                                                                                                                              An email obtained by GAP and seen by IPS indicates that the Bank's staff is not pleased with the news.

                                                                                                                                              "This case sends the message to staff that the rules apply to everyone except those associated with the most senior levels of management," said the email, sent from the Staff Association to all employees on Tuesday. It went on to appeal to senior management and the Board to probe the controversy and "clarify what appear to be violations of staff rules in favour of a staff member closely associated with the president."

                                                                                                                                              The Staff Association says it has not been able to determine who drew up and approved the terms of the external assignment but has established that "they are grossly out of line with the staff rules."

                                                                                                                                              "We call upon senior management and the Board to address this issue: explain how/why the staff rules were bent in this case, take steps to ensure compliance with the staff rules with regard to Ms. Riza and set in place a system that will ensure (and allow verification) that staff rules are consistently applied," it said.

                                                                                                                                              The episode is particularly embarrassing because Wolfowitz has championed the cause of fighting corruption at the Bank and within its projects.

                                                                                                                                              "It's ironic that Mr. Wolfowitz lectures developing countries about good governance and fighting corruption, while winking at an irregular promotion and overly generous pay increases to a partner," said Edwards, who is GAP's international director.

                                                                                                                                              A source at the Bank says that many staff members are also doubly upset by how Wolfowitz has reacted to the situation.

                                                                                                                                              "Wolfowitz is much, much more concerned about who leaked the information than about how to rectify the situation. He's just furious," said the source inside the Bank who wished to remain unidentified.

                                                                                                                                              Inter Press Service

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                                                                                                                                                Bushies Remember They Can’t Recall

                                                                                                                                                English (US)  April 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                By Marianne Means

                                                                                                                                                Washington — The oldest legal dodge in the political witness testimony game is to simply say, “I can’t remember.” The Bush administration did not invent this hoary old practice, but his chosen few have certainly elevated the claim of bad memory to new extremes. This transparent verbal duck has become so blatant that it is a major factor in the Bush presidency’s collapse of credibility.What the president and his minions say seldom seems relevant to what really is going on. It’s the political equivalent of “Upstairs, Downstairs.” Pleading memory loss, of course, avoids the alternate pitfalls of perjury under oath, which carries severe legal consequences, or telling embarrassing truths, which is not illegal but may be punishable by social ostracism and loss of employment.

                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                One of the sharpest impressions from the Watergate crimes in the 1970s was President Nixon’s private advice to key aides, preserved on tape, that “You can always say you can’t recall.” (He became an unindicted co-conspirator and they went to jail anyway.) Bush officials, unaccustomed to tough questions from lawmakers and the voters about shadowy dealings in the six years Republicans controlled Capitol Hill, have suddenly been exposed to the sunlight of public scrutiny. For three months, GOP biggies have hid behind astonishing gaps of memory to weasel out of accountability for their actions. This would be silly were it not so serious. Public policy is, after all, at stake. At its annual banquet the Gridiron Club — that venerable, elite Washington journalist’s organization — ridiculed the whole fibbing culture with singers representing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a political version of “I Remember it Well.”

                                                                                                                                                Rumsfeld sings, “Was there a war? Do you recall?” Rice replies, “I’m pretty sure.” Rumsfeld continues, “We planned it all.” Rice: “Ah yes, I remember it well.” Rumsfeld: “They welcomed us, with open arms.” Rice: “They opened fire! They set off bombs!” Rumsfeld concedes, “Oh, right. I remember it well.” The song brought down the house. Even Republican-inclined guests laughed heartily.

                                                                                                                                                The White House is trying to protect its key advisers from the spectacle that sank Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby with a guilty verdict for perjury and obstruction of justice. The jury didn’t believe his claim that he didn’t remember anything well — or much of anything at all.

                                                                                                                                                That’s why the president is demanding that key advisers will not testify before Congress under oath or provide recorded transcripts. It’s virtually an admission that there is much to hide.

                                                                                                                                                Attorney General Alberto Gonzales apparently can barely remember what day it is and what room he’s in. Asked to describe under oath his role in the arbitrary mid-term firings of eight U.S. attorneys, he testified that he was not in the loop on any discussions about what was going on. “I don’t recall being involved.”

                                                                                                                                                Justice Department e-mails, however, contradict that innocent pose. Gonzales’ former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, recalled events differently, claiming that Gonzales had been clued in all along. Despite an effort to assume some blame, Sampson too had trouble with his memory. He used the phrase “I don’t remember” 122 times, by media count. In particular, he claimed “I don’t remember” when asked about the scope of White House aide Karl Rove’s participation.

                                                                                                                                                One way out of this witness pickle is to take the Fifth Amendment, exercising the constitutional right to remain silent under questioning. Everyone is free to do that, but it is not something that the innocent usually do. It’s what Justice Department counsel Monica Goodling did — and guess what? Surprise, surprise! She was not fired.

                                                                                                                                                Then there is the case of General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan, called to Congress to explain a no-bid contract to a business associate, a dispute with a technology company — and, most important, a videoconference with top GOP political appointees in which attendees said she urged them to find ways to target Democrats and help Republicans in 2008.

                                                                                                                                                The chief presenter of a 28-page partisan pitch at this meeting was J. Scott Jennings, Rove’s deputy. Yet Doan insisted, “I honestly don’t have a recollection of the presentation at all.” Nor did she remember “actually saying” that participants should help “our candidates.” Doan may have developed her bad memory when exposed as facing a probable violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by government employees and carries penalties.

                                                                                                                                                Memory lapses are not confined to Republicans, of course. They just happen to be the ones who have the most mistakes to explain these days. Democrats have been denied power in Washington so long they haven’t had time to get into big trouble yet. After 2008, perhaps their turn will come.

                                                                                                                                                Marianne Means is a Washington, D.C., columnist with Hearst Newspapers. She can be reached at 202-263-6400 or means@hearstdc.com.

                                                                                                                                                Seattle Post Intelligence

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                                                                                                                                                  Questions Linger About Bushes and BCCI

                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  April 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                  Analysis
                                                                                                                                                  By Lucy Komisar

                                                                                                                                                  NEW YORK, N.Y. - Now that the U.S. Congress is investigating the truth of President George W. Bush's statements about the Iraq war, they might look into one of his most startling assertions: that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                  Critics dismissed that as an invention. They were wrong. There was a link, but not the one Bush was selling. The link between Hussein and Bin Laden was their banker, BCCI. But the link went beyond the dictator and the jihadist -- it passed through Saudi Arabia and stretched all the way to George W. Bush and his father.

                                                                                                                                                  BCCI was the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a dirty offshore bank that then-president Ronald Reagan's Central Intelligence Agency used to run guns to Hussein, finance Osama bin Laden, move money in the illegal Iran-Contra operation and carry out other "agency" black ops. The Bushes also benefited privately; one of the bank's largest Saudi investors helped bail out George W. Bush's troubled oil investments.

                                                                                                                                                  BCCI was founded in 1972 by a Pakistani banker, Agha Hasan Abedi, with the support of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and head of the United Arab Emirates. Its corporate strategy was money laundering. It became the banker for drug and arms traffickers, corrupt officials, financial fraudsters, dictators and terrorists.

                                                                                                                                                  The CIA used BCCI Islamabad and other branches in Pakistan to funnel some of the two billion dollars that Washington sent to Osama bin Laden's Mujahadeen to help fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. It moved the cash the Pakistani military and government officials skimmed from U.S. aid to the Mujahadeen. It also moved money as required by the Saudi intelligence services.

                                                                                                                                                  The BCCI operation gave Osama bin Laden an education in offshore black finance that he would put to use when he organised the jihad against the United States. He would move money through the Al-Taqwa Bank, operating in offshore Nassau and Switzerland with two Osama siblings as shareholders.

                                                                                                                                                  At the same time, BCCI helped Saddam Hussein, funneling millions of dollars to the Atlanta branch of the Italian government-owned Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), Baghdad's U.S. banker, so that from 1985 to 1989 it could make four billion dollars in secret loans to Iraq to help it buy arms.

                                                                                                                                                  U.S. Congressman Henry Gonzalez held a hearing on BNL in 1992 during which he quoted from a confidential CIA document that said the agency had long been aware that the bank's headquarters was involved in the U.S. branch's Iraqi loans.

                                                                                                                                                  Kickbacks from 15 percent commissions on BNL-sponsored loans were channeled into bank accounts held for Iraqi leaders via BCCI offices in the Caymans as well as in offshore Luxembourg and Switzerland. BNL was a client of Kissinger Associates, and Henry Kissinger was on the bank's international advisory board, along with Brent Scowcroft, who would become George Bush Sr.'s national security advisor. That connection makes the Bush administration's surprise and indignation at "oil for food" payoffs in Iraq seem disingenuous.

                                                                                                                                                  Important Saudis were influential in the bank. Sheik Kamal Adham, brother-in-law of the late Saudi King Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence from 1963 to 1979, and the CIA's liaison in the area, became one of BCCI's largest shareholders. George Bush Sr. knew Adham from his time running the CIA in 1975.

                                                                                                                                                  Another investor was Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, who succeeded Adham as Saudi intelligence chief. The family of Khalid Salem bin Mahfouz, owner of the National Commercial Bank, the largest bank in Saudi Arabia, banker to King Fahd and other members of the ruling family, bought 20 to 30 percent of the stock for nearly one billion dollars. Bin Mahfouz was put on the board of directors.

                                                                                                                                                  The Arabs' interest in the bank was more than financial. A classified CIA memo on BCCI in the mid-1980s said that "its principal shareholders are among the power elite of the Middle East, including the rulers of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, and several influential Saudi Arabians. They are less interested in profitability than in promoting the Muslim cause."

                                                                                                                                                  The Bushes' private links to the bank passed to Bin Mahfouz through Texas businessman James R. Bath, who invested money in the United States on behalf of the Saudi regime. In 1976, when Bush was the head of the CIA, the agency sold some of the planes of Air America, a secret "proprietary" airline it used during the Vietnam War, to Skyway, a company owned by Bath and Bin Mahfouz. Bath then helped finance George W. Bush's oil company, Arbusto Energy Inc., in 1979 and 1980.

                                                                                                                                                  When Harken Energy Corp., which had absorbed Arbusto (by then merged with Spectrum 7 Energy), got into financial trouble in 1987, Jackson Stephens of the powerful, politically-connected Arkansas investment firm helped it secure 25 million dollars in financing from the Union Bank of Switzerland. As part of that deal, a place on the board was given to Harken shareholder Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh, whose chief banker was BCCI shareholder Bin Mahfouz.

                                                                                                                                                  Then, in 1988, George Bush Sr. was elected president. Harken benefited by getting some new investors, including Salem bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's half-brother, and Khalid bin Mahfouz. Osama bin Laden himself was busy elsewhere at the time -- organising al Qaeda.

                                                                                                                                                  The money BCCI stole before it was shut down in 1991 -- somewhere between 9.5 billion and 15 billion dollars -- made its 20-year heist the biggest bank fraud in history. Most of it was never recovered. International banks' complicity in the offshore secrecy system effectively covered up the money trail.

                                                                                                                                                  But in the years after the collapse of BCCI, Khalid bin Mahfouz was still flush with cash. In 1992, he established the Muwafaq ("blessed relief") Foundation in the offshore Channel Islands. The U.S. Treasury Department called it "an al Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen."

                                                                                                                                                  When the BCCI scandal began to break in the late 1980s, the Sr. Bush administration did what it could to sit on it. The Justice Department went after the culprits -- was virtually forced to -- only after New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau did. But evidence about BCCI's broader links exist in numerous U.S. and international investigations. Now could be a good time to take another look at the BCCI-Osama-Saddam-Saudi-Bush connection.

                                                                                                                                                  *Investigative journalist Lucy Komisar's chapter, "The BCCI Game: Banking on America, Banking on Jihad," appears in the new book "A Game as Old as Empire", just published by Berrett-Koehler (San Francisco). (END/2007)

                                                                                                                                                  Inter Press Service

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                                                                                                                                                    Gonzales's Intense Effort To Save Himself: Days Of Mock Testimony, Endless Calls To Lawmakers

                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  April 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                    Why does Gonzales have to spend all this time "practicing testimony" if he intends to tell the truth?

                                                                                                                                                    Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has retreated from public view this week in an intensive effort to save his job, spending hours practicing testimony and phoning lawmakers for support in preparation for pivotal appearances in the Senate this month, according to administration officials.

                                                                                                                                                    After struggling for weeks to explain the extent of his involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, Gonzales and his aides are viewing the Senate testimony on April 12 and April 17 as seriously as if it were a confirmation proceeding for a Supreme Court or a Cabinet appointment, officials said.

                                                                                                                                                    Huffington Post

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                                                                                                                                                      Behind the Denials: A De Facto Hostage Exchange

                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  April 5th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                      By Patrick Cockburn

                                                                                                                                                      The stand-off over the 15 British sailors and marines captured by Iran ended with a de facto prisoner exchange, despite denials by Britain and Iran that a swap was intended.

                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                      The first sign of a breakthrough the day before yesterday was the release of Jalal Sharafi, an Iranian diplomat abducted from the streets of Baghdad two months ago, whom Iran claimed had been seized by Iraqi commandos controlled by the US. At the same time, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official said the Iraqi government was "intensively" seeking the release of five Iranian officials captured in a US helicopter raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the Kurdish capital of Arbil in January.

                                                                                                                                                      The seizure of the sailors and marines was the latest episode in a series of tit-for-tat confrontations between the US and Iran which began when the US tried to seize senior Iranian intelligence officials on an official visit to Arbil on January 11. The raid failed and only succeeded in detaining five Iranian officials at the liaison office, which has now been officially recognized as a consular office.

                                                                                                                                                      Senior Kurdish officials told me that the real US targets were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Supreme National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They had visited President Jalal Talabani of Iraq at Dokan near Sulaimaniyah and then gone on to Arbil where they saw Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan regional government, at his headquarters outside the city.

                                                                                                                                                      The Arbil raid came a few hours after an aggressive address to the nation by President George Bush, in which he denounced Iran as America's great enemy in Iraq. It has been followed by a series of tit-for-tat incidents such as the attempted abduction of five US soldiers in a highly sophisticated attack near the holy city of Kerbala, south of Baghdad, in which the assailants first tried to take prisoner the US soldiers but later killed them. The US blamed the episode on Iraqi Shias acting as proxies for Iran.

                                                                                                                                                      The release of Mr Sharafi turned out to be thed trigger for release of the British hostages. He was seized in mysterious circumstances on February 4 by uniformed men. Iran and some Shia politicians in Baghdad said they were from the 36th Commando Unit of the Iraqi Army that was, in practice, controlled by the US. Mr Sharafi has now returned to Tehran. The US denies any role in his disappearance. At the same time, immediately after the Arbil raid, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, revealed that President Bush had approved a policy of raiding Iranian targets on Iraqi soil.

                                                                                                                                                      Neither Mr Sharafi, a second secretary at the embassy, nor the five Iranian officials seized in Arbil seem to have been important figures. Mr Sharafi was involved in plans to open a branch of the Iranian national bank in Baghdad. One of the captives from Arbil was described by the US as a senior officer of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

                                                                                                                                                      American and British claims that there was no connection between the capture of Iranian officials on January 11 and the seizure of the British sailors and marines was undermined on April 3 when the Iraqi Foreign Ministry official said his government was also working "intensively" for the release of those five other Iranians to "help in the release of the British sailors and marines".

                                                                                                                                                      In Washington, President Bush signalled the same: "I also strongly support the Prime Minister's declaration that there should be no quid pro quos when it comes to the hostages," he said.

                                                                                                                                                      Patrick Cockburn is the author of 'The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq', a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

                                                                                                                                                      Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                                                        Supreme Court Stands Up for the Polar Bears

                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  April 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )



                                                                                                                                                        By William Greider

                                                                                                                                                        The Supremes have spoken. George, we put you in the White House back in 2000, but we can't go along with your "junk science" on global warming. We order you and your weak-spined EPA to obey the law. Do something real about the climate-change carbon emissions from automobiles that are killing the polar bears. Or, if you decide not to do so, then give us an explanation based on science, not on the latest press release from your pals at Exxon Mobil.

                                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                                        How radical is that? Of course, the four Corporate Justices – Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito--choked and sputtered and pounded the bench. In the majesty of the Constitution, they insisted, this issue should never have come before the court. Leave it to the Congress. In the wisdom of democratic process, the lawmakers can decide whether to side with Al Gore and a zillion anxious scientists or the good folks from autos, oil and electric utilities who pass out the checks to deserving legislators.

                                                                                                                                                        After the court delivered its 5-4 decision, a political hack who fronts for the car makers, solemnly announced they "look forward to working constructively with both Congress and the administration." That's a hoot. Detroit has resisted every small step forward for forty years, starting with Ralph Nader's observation that many fewer people would be killed if the companies designed more for safety, less for testosterone.

                                                                                                                                                        The political muscle of the Big Three (now two and a half) has fought every measure for better fuel usage and cleaner tailpipe emissions. And, sad to say, the United Auto Workers, once one of the most progressive unions, marched side by side with the companies' reactionary strategy. The US industry, one can say, planned its own demise--building bigger and bigger gas wagons because they deliver more profit per pound--while those crafty Japanese engineers at Toyota were designing better cars--better mileage, less damage to nature.

                                                                                                                                                        The Supreme Court's other environmental case--a slam-dunk 9-0 decision against Duke Energy--provides a cautionary tale about the prospects for achieving real progress on global warming. I don't doubt that Congress will act, at least once there is a new president. But reformers should be very wary about joining the corporates in a cooperative mode.

                                                                                                                                                        Some leading corporations are sincerely committed to solutions, but the trade groups and industry lobbyists really want a hand in drafting the legislation so they can build in loopholes and escape hatches--legal gimmicks they can exploit later to stall on compliance.

                                                                                                                                                        That's what the case against Duke Energy was about. In 1970, when the Clean Air Act was first enacted, the electric utilities industry screamed and begged for dispensation. Repairing older power plants to reduce emissions would be hugely expensive and a waste of capital. Give us a "grandfather clause" that allows us to keep operating those old plants until they become obsolete--then we will build new plants with the latest pollution-control technologies.

                                                                                                                                                        Congress gave them that deal, partly to round up votes from coal-producing states. The industry has proceeded to ignore the terms ever since. Over many years, EPA and the Justice Department tried to get compliance. They tightened law, they sued the companies. Duke Energy and others filed appeals, stalled and dissembled and managed political fixes at the White House or Congress.

                                                                                                                                                        So here we are 37 years later--still waiting for these companies to obey the law. Even the Corporate Justices have had enough. The 9-0 ruling essentially said, for god's sake, obey the damn law.

                                                                                                                                                        If Congress enacts carbon legislation with the same friendly approach to the well-being of the polluters, the polar bears are not saved. They will be long gone before the titans of industry have changed their behavior.

                                                                                                                                                        The Nation

                                                                                                                                                        620 words posted in ScienceLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                          The Jewish People are not my People. My People are Hashem and his Family from Bil`in.

                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  April 4th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                          This is a staggering article written by an Israeli and published in the Hebrew edition of Ha'aretz right on time for the Passover holiday
                                                                                                                                                          It was posted on this website which I recommend.
                                                                                                                                                          http://www.kibush.co.il/index.asp -- Stan Heller
                                                                                                                                                          Thanks, Stan.

                                                                                                                                                          By Beni Tziper

                                                                                                                                                          There is nothing festive in this posting. Passover, shmassover, I hate the holidays because while we celebrate, while us Jews babble slogans about freedom, and fantasize that we are a miserable enslaved nation, we are in fact busy enslaving the Palestinian people. It`s become banal and boring to repeat this a thousand times, but in my eyes, the hypocrisy cries out to the heavens. [The Passover prayer] `Oh bread of poverty` is no longer the bread of poverty of Jews but of numerous Palestinian families in the Occupied Territories, who live off thirty or forty shekels the head of the household manages to scrounge together doing temporary jobs once every few days.

                                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                                          I got to know one such family this past Friday. I joined my daughter, Talila, at a demonstration against the Wall in Bil`in. The protocol involves gathering at Tel-Aviv`s Northern railway station and from there somehow organizing ourselves into Arab minibuses and private cars, and driving to those Palestinian villages whose income has been affected by the Wall. That is, the Wall separates between the villagers and their fields. My daughter is well-accustomed to these demonstrations. For me, this was the fist time. This is how I met Dr. Ilan Shalif, the living spirit of the the demonstrations and organizer of rides.

                                                                                                                                                          Shalif is a psychologist and an anarchist, who surely has better things to do with his time than to busy himself organizing taxis. This is what it means to be an idealist: to do things for altruistic reasons. He comes equipped with special large glasses to protect against the sting of tear gas the border police will throw at him. What encouraged me was that not all the demonstrators were youngsters, some were more-or-less my age, like Yisrael and Dvorah (Dvorah Ferdel-Zilberstein) who in the end volunteered to drive us in her red Vauxhall to Bil`in.

                                                                                                                                                          We agree on a cover story in case we get stopped at the checkpoint after the turnoff from Road 443. We were to say that we were on our way to a circumcision ceremony at one of the settlements. But as it turned out no one stopped us at the checkpoint, nor did they stop the cars behind us. And so we climbed hills and descended into valleys between quiet and beautiful villages, between olive groves and fields of flowers, until we arrived at Bil`in.

                                                                                                                                                          In the interest of calm and sanity, it is best not to look at the new settlements that are popping up on the way to Bil`in. All sort of ugly piles of cement that destroys the beautiful vistas of this land in the name of some fake `love of Israel`. When I stare at this colossal ugliness, designed to house all sort of orthodox parasites from abroad whose only job is to hate the non-Jew, I understand that what is called the `Jewish nation` is not my nation at all, and that I feel far more sympathetic and empathetic towards Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories like the family from
                                                                                                                                                          Bil`in who accommodated myself and my daughter after I was (lightly) injured during the demonstration by an exploding stun grenade.

                                                                                                                                                          The father of the family is called Hashem. His wife is named Zahara. They have two married daughters living nearby, and they have lovely little children. I felt at home immediately. Hashem brought me herbs from the garden, which were supposed to help alleviate the effects of the gas thrown at me by the soldiers. Zahara hurried to bring us a tray filled with fresh vegetables, pita bread, olive oil and za`atar. Their house was small, pleasant and brightly lit. Hashem works occasionally as a gardener in the houses of rich people in Ramallah. Luckily, his brother owns the only supermarket in the village and sells him goods on credit. This is how they manage to survive.

                                                                                                                                                          As I was walking with the demonstrators - some villagers, some from Ramallah, and some Israeli and international activists - towards the gate in the Wall that is protected by armed border policemen, my daughter told me that one border police unit occupied Hashem`s roof and fired at the house next door, where stones were supposedly thrown from. My daughter shouted at the soldiers that the house they were firing at had elderly and disabled residents in it, but they ignored her.

                                                                                                                                                          In the mean time, I stood facing the soldiers guarding the gate in the Wall and watched them. They put on tough-looking faces, but to me they appeared to be just a group of cute kids. I thought to myself that any one of them could have been my son. The only ones who looked agitated were those who stood behind them, with the badge of the army spokesperson`s office on their shoulders, filming the events.

                                                                                                                                                          The main attraction of the demonstration was a elderly Palestinian, who had Parkinson`s, who came in a black suit and a Palestinian keffiyeh and threw himself on the soldiers` shields. They pushed him back, though they did try to be gentle, not because they are gentle by nature, but rather because they knew foreign television crews were filming them from the adjacent hilltop.

                                                                                                                                                          Once in a while the commander of the unit, who seemed slick and devious to me, one of those who will declare at a party a few years down the line that he`s really a leftist, instructed with a nod of his head the use of a water cannon to disperse us. Then the stun grenades began flying. What a disgusting man! How could I say that I belong to the same nation as this commander, who orders stun grenades to be thrown at me, while seemingly unable to wipe a vile smile from his lips. It`s clear to him that I am non-violent, and I will not lift a finger to his soldiers, nor I nor the elderly people I was with, much less the villagers who were even less violent than I was. All they wanted was to demonstrate a symbolic presence near the Wall. One day I will bump into this commander when he is back to civilian life and I will spit in his face(symbolically, of course, not really, because I am not violent like he is).

                                                                                                                                                          This is how the Occupation functions. On the front line are good, innocent youth, who could have been my children, about whom I could never say that they are oppressive occupiers. Behind them stands a commander who looks like a marketing executive who cannot harm a fly. And behind him stand all sort of slick-looking youths from the army spokesperson`s office who look like future cinema directors and authors. And even further back behind them stands a water cannon for dispersal of demonstrations. And what`s the big deal about a water cannon - water doesn`t kill. Nor do stun grenades. The whole thing looks like child`s play, and despite all this there is an Occupation, despite all this Hashem lives in a cage, much worse-off than black slaves in the US in their time. All the people of Bil`in can do is go to Ramallah, where the world they can travel freely in stops. All this misery is created by people who look like dorky marketing managers.

                                                                                                                                                          So on the night of the Seder, while listening to the dull text of the Hagadah, I will think about Hashem and his family from Bil`in, who fed me a sparse meal, and yet I, even if I wanted to fulfill the commandment telling me to share my food and my home with the needy will not be able to, because of those fences and walls of Occupation separating between us, disguising themselves as elements in an `enlightened` Occupation. And I will think that they are truly my people, not the disgusting officers who look like marketing executives, who destroy my beautiful land with fortified cement.

                                                                                                                                                          Upon them will I pour my scorn, as is commanded to do upon non-Jews in the hagadah.


                                                                                                                                                          Hebrew original: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/845020.html
                                                                                                                                                          Translated by Rann Bar-On

                                                                                                                                                          http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=19170

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                                                                                                                                                            Call that humiliation?

                                                                                                                                                            English (US)  April 3rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                            ~Opinion~

                                                                                                                                                            No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch

                                                                                                                                                            By Terry Jones

                                                                                                                                                            I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

                                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                                            It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. Of course they'd probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn't be humiliated.

                                                                                                                                                            And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.

                                                                                                                                                            The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn't rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it's just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

                                                                                                                                                            What's more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

                                                                                                                                                            And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is "unhappy and stressed".

                                                                                                                                                            What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her "unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

                                                                                                                                                            As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer - whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                                            · Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python
                                                                                                                                                            www.terry-jones.net

                                                                                                                                                            http://politics.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2047110,00.html

                                                                                                                                                            710 words posted in IranLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                              Fire destroys Neturei Karta synagogue, rabbi's residence in NY

                                                                                                                                                              English (US)  April 3rd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                              A fire deemed suspicious destroyed a New York suburban synagogue of an anti-Zionist Jewish group heavily criticized for attending a conference last year where participants debated whether the Holocaust occurred.

                                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                                              No one was injured in Sunday night's fire in the town of Monsey. A senior Neturei Karta rabbi and his family, who lived on the top floor of the three-story structure, were not home.

                                                                                                                                                              "It may in the future be found to be accidental, but at this time we're treating it as a suspicious fire and we're investigating it as such," said Sgt. Daniel Hyman of the Ramapo Police Department, which provides services to Monsey, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) north of New York City.

                                                                                                                                                              The Neturei Karta has been the target of threats in the recent past because of their involvement in the anti-Zionism movement. The group has been widely criticized by other Jewish groups.

                                                                                                                                                              "Anybody who would like to reveal to the world their opposition to this political, national movement of Zionism is attacked," said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta.

                                                                                                                                                              "A call of a fire in the kitchen area of the three-story structure came in to authorities at about 8:12 P.M. Sunday," Monsey Fire Chief Douglas Perry said.

                                                                                                                                                              He said that when firefighters arrived, one side of the house was engulfed in flames and power lines had come down. "It was too dangerous for any entry," he said, and the fire had to be fought from the outside.

                                                                                                                                                              "It's totaled," Perry said. "I would deem it dangerous to even go inside."

                                                                                                                                                              Weiss said that the group suspects arson because of previous threats.

                                                                                                                                                              "There's no question that the issue is to stifle the opposition to Zionism," he said.

                                                                                                                                                              In December, about five members of the group traveled to Tehran for a two-day conference convened to debate whether the Holocaust occurred. Some were photographed meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the Holocaust a myth and has criticized the existence of Israel. Other Jewish groups were outraged.

                                                                                                                                                              Following the group's return from Iran, a large protest made up mostly of other Jews opposing their anti-Zionist views was held outside the Monsey synagogue. Neturei Karta refuses to recognize the existence or authority of Israel on the grounds that a sovereign Jewish state is contrary to Jewish law.

                                                                                                                                                              "The group does not dispute that the Holocaust occurred," Weiss said.

                                                                                                                                                              Haaetz

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                                                                                                                                                                Rand Corporation's new recipe to handle the Muslim World

                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  April 2nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                In an act of staggering hubris, the Rand Reports about Islam appear to be part of a grand strategy to “change the face of Islam”

                                                                                                                                                                By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

                                                                                                                                                                The semi-official U.S. think tank, Rand Corporation, suggests creation of networks of the so-called moderate Muslims to promote US policy objectives in the Muslim World.

                                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                In its latest report, titled “Building Moderate Muslim Networks” the Rand Corp advocates that the building of moderate Muslim networks needs to become an explicit goal of the U.S. government policy, with an international database of partners and a well-designed plan.

                                                                                                                                                                Just as it fought the spread of Communism during the Cold War, the United States must do more to develop and support networks of moderate Muslims who are too often silenced by violent radical Islamists, according to the Rand Corporation report issued on March 26, 2007. Lead writer of the report Angel Rabasa says that the United States has a critical role to play in aiding moderate Muslims, and can learn much from the way it addressed the spread of Communism during the Cold War. “The efforts of the United States and its allies to build free and democratic networks and institutions provided an organizational and ideological counter force to Communist groups seeking to come to power through political groups, labor unions, youth and student organizations and other groups.”

                                                                                                                                                                The report defines a moderate as a Muslim who supports democracy, gender equality, freedom of worship and opposition to terrorism. This looks an amplification on its two previous reports - “Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies” (March 2004) and “US strategy in the Muslim World after 9/11” (December 2004) - which also suggested supporting moderate Muslims and exploitation of inter-Muslim religious differences. Interestingly, a novelist turned research scholar, Cheryl Benard is the author of “Civil Democratic Islam” and co-author of Dec. 2004 and March 2007 reports.

                                                                                                                                                                In the December 2004 study Rabasa had suggested to exploit Sunni, Shiite and Arab, non-Arab divides to promote the US policy objectives in the Muslim world. Echoing this theme, the latest report recommends reaching out to Muslim activists, leaders and intellectuals in non-Arab countries such as Turkey as well as in Southeast Asia and Europe. The report recommends targeting five groups as potential building blocks for networks: liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals; young moderate religious scholars; community activists; women’s groups engaged in gender equality campaigns; and moderate journalists and scholars.

                                                                                                                                                                The report warned that moderate groups can lose credibility – and therefore, effectiveness – if U.S. support is too obvious. Effective tactics that worked during the Cold War include having the groups led by credible individuals and having the United States maintain some distance from the organizations it supports. “This was done by not micro-managing the groups, but by giving them enough autonomy,” Rabasa said. “As long as certain guidelines were met, they were free to pursue their own activities.”

                                                                                                                                                                To help start this initiative, the report recommends working toward an international conference modeled in the Cold War-era Congress of Cultural Freedom, and then developing a standing organization to combat what it called radical Islamism.

                                                                                                                                                                The recent summit of "Secular Islam Conference" in St. Petersburg, Florida, almost coincided with the release of the latest Rand Report. A small group of self-proclaimed secular Muslims from North America and elsewhere gathered in St. Petersburg for what they billed as a new global movement to correct the assumed wrongs of Islam and call for an “Islamic Reformation.”

                                                                                                                                                                The St. Petersburg conference, held on the sideline of the Intelligence Summit, was carried live on (Islamophobe) Glenn Beck's CNN show. Some of the organizers and speakers at the convention were well known thanks to the media spotlight: Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble With Islam," and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch parliamentarian and author of "Infidel," were but a few there claiming to have suffered personally at the hands of "radical" Islam. One participant, Wafa Sultan, declared on Glenn Beck's show that she doesn't "see any difference between radical Islam and regular Islam." Other participants were the now public ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq and self-proclaimed ex-terrorist Tawfiq Hamid.

                                                                                                                                                                Surely, the “moderate” Muslim agenda is promoted because these ideas reflect a Western vision for the future of Islam. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, everyone from high-ranking officials in the Bush administration to anti-Islam authors have prescribed a preferred remedy for Islam: Reform the faith.

                                                                                                                                                                The Rand Reports about Islam appear to be part of a grand strategy to “change the face of Islam” as revealed by the US News and World Report on April 15, 2005. The report entitled - Hearts, Minds, and Dollars: In an Unseen Front in the War on Terrorism, America is Spending Millions...To Change the Very Face of Islam - reads: “From military psychological-operations teams and CIA covert operatives to openly funded media and think tanks, Washington is plowing tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to influence not only Muslim societies but Islam itself.”

                                                                                                                                                                According to the well planned leaks to the US News and World Report, this strategy for the first time stated that the United States has a national security interest in influencing what happens within Islam. The report also confirmed that it is, in fact, the US which has been funding an American version of Islam, called “Moderate Islam.”

                                                                                                                                                                The Rand reports try to create a fictitious vision of Muslims and of Islam, where it is antihuman, uncreative, authoritarian, and intrinsically against Western societies. It is an ethnocentric view of Islam that dominates current representations of Islam that are reductive, predominantly negative, and encouraging a culture of Islamophobia.

                                                                                                                                                                The complexities of the so-called fundamentalism and extremism in the past 100 years or so, whether it be Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim, need to be understood in the context of modernization, the process of secularization, the changing nature of religious institutions, the post-colonial experience in developing countries, globalization, the divide between wealthy and poor, contesting political power, and the impact of totalitarian regimes on civil society.

                                                                                                                                                                What is not mentioned in the RAND reports is that the reason for the alienation of Muslims from the West, is the issue of "double standards" the West so brazenly practices when dealing with Muslim nations. America already has a very tarnished image in the Islamic world. It has already alienated a great majority of Muslims throughout the world through its misguided foreign policy. Who in the right mind will believe that this asinine assault on Islam and Muslims will win America friends in the Islamic world?

                                                                                                                                                                Now a word about the Washington-based semi-official think tank – the RAND Corporation. Among other government departments, the Rand Corp conducts studies for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Commands, the defense agencies, the Department of the Navy and the U.S. intelligence community. Obviously, writers of the three under discussion reports on Islam may be considered as neo-Orientalists with clear intention to belittle Islam.

                                                                                                                                                                When the European nations began their long campaign to colonize and conquer the rest of the world for their own benefit, they brought their academic and missionary resources to help them with their task. Orientalists and missionaries, whose ranks often overlapped, were the servants of an imperialist government who was using their services as a way to subdue or weaken an enemy. The academic study of the Oriental East by the Occidental West was often motivated and often co-operated hand-in-hand with the imperialistic aims of the European colonial powers. The foundations of Orientalism were in the maxim "Know thy enemy". This equally applies to the modern day Orientalists of such semi-official think tanks as the Rand Corporation.

                                                                                                                                                                Al Jazeerah.info



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                                                                                                                                                                  Bush, AIPAC and Palestine: The Political Economy of a Disaster

                                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  April 2nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                  By James Petras

                                                                                                                                                                  On Monday, March 26, 2007 in Northern Gaza a river of raw sewage and debris overflowed from a collapsed earth embankment into a refugee camp driving 3,000 Palestinians from their homes. Five residents drowned, 25 were injured and scores of houses were destroyed.

                                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                  The New York Times, Washington Post and the television media blamed shoddy infrastructure. The Daily Alert (the house organ of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations) blamed the Palestinians who they claimed were removing sand to sell to construction contractors thus undermining the earth embankment. The disaster at Umm Naser (the village in question) is emblematic of everything that is wrong with US-Israeli politics in the Middle East. The disaster in this isolated village has its roots first and foremost in Washington where AIPAC and its political allies have successfully secured US backing for Israel's financial and economic boycott of the Palestinian government subsequent to the democratic electoral victory of Hamas.

                                                                                                                                                                  AIPAC's victory in Washington reverberated throughout Europe and beyond ñ as the European Union also applied sanctions shutting off financing of all new infrastructure projects and the maintenance of existing facilities. At the AIPAC conventions of 2005 through 2007, the leaders of both major American parties, congressional leaders and the White House pledged to re-enforce AIPAC's boycott and sanctions strategy. AIPAC celebrated its victory for Israeli policy and claimed authorship of the legislation. In addition to malnutrition, the policy undermined all public maintenance projects.

                                                                                                                                                                  Equally central to the disaster, Israel's massive sustained bombing attack on Gaza in the summer of 2006, demolished roads, bridges, sewage treatment facilities, water purification and electrical power plants. Northern Gaza was one of its many targets, putting severe strain on already precarious infrastructure and government budgets ñ including the maintenance of sewage treatment plants and cesspools.

                                                                                                                                                                  The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza increased unemployment, poverty and hunger to unprecedented levels. Out of work Gazans reached over 60% of the population ñ large families with young children were reduced to one meal a day. Family heads desperately looked for any way to earn funds to buy a pound of chickpeas, oil, rice and flour for bread. It is possible that forced by the AIPAC- induced US-EU boycott and Israeli bombing and blockade, that some desperate workers removed some sand around the cesspool. The pretext cited by the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO) for blaming the Palestinian victims for their own suffering, and exonerating the Israelis, AIPAC and their congressional clients.

                                                                                                                                                                  The PMAJO has justified thirty-nine years of Israeli occupation and criminal neglect of Gaza's basic sewage treatment facilities. Israel spends less than 2% on a per capita basis for basic services in the Occupied Territories that it is obligated under international law to provide responsibly than it spends in Israel. The United Nations and Israeli human rights groups have documented Israel's callous lack of responsibility toward the Palestinian civilians under its brutal occupation. It is not surprising that the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations can think of nothing better than to blame the destitute Palestinians for the collapse of a primitive earth embankment and the horrific
                                                                                                                                                                  deaths.

                                                                                                                                                                  To the extent that any Palestinian leader can be held responsible, the finger points to the US and Israeli-backed PLO and its titular head Abbas who receives whatever ëhumanitarian' aid flows into Palestine. The tens of millions of dollars of Palestinian import taxes held by Israeli banks were handed over to Mahmoud Abbas , to arm the anti-Hamas vigilantes. Over the past two decades the US-backed ëmoderate' PLO leaders and crony ëcapitalists' have diverted tens of millions of dollars and euros to their private overseas bank accounts, with the acquiescence of their European, US and Israeli patrons. What is a bit of Palestinian corruption if it means propping up an incompetent group of
                                                                                                                                                                  pliant ëleaders'?

                                                                                                                                                                  The plight of the Umm Naser villagers deluged by their own sewage was neither an act of fate nor a result of local negligence or theft: It was a direct consequence of all that is wrong in US-Middle East politics, the taking sides with a brutal colonial power and its powerful voices and organizations in Washington. Umm Naser is written large throughout Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon: Millions of Arab villagers suffer the consequences of pre-emptive wars to secure Greater Israel as both President Bush and Vice President have publicly stated in justifying their aggression.

                                                                                                                                                                  James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu

                                                                                                                                                                  Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                                                                    "British Gunboats in an Area Out of Iraqi Control": A Bogus Hostage Crisis

                                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  April 2nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                    By Gary Leupp

                                                                                                                                                                    On March 31 the President of the United States made a statement pertaining to the 15 British sailors and marines unfortunately detailed in Iran: "The Iranians must give back the hostages. They're innocent. The Iranians took these people out of Iraqi waters. It's inexcusable behavior."

                                                                                                                                                                    But since the American people don't trust George W. Bush, let's seek a second opinion. A credible authoritative one.

                                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                    Let's ask the top Iraqi military officer in charge of guarding the Shatt al-Iraq waterway where the Brits were actually apprehended. This man is working for the U.S.-backed regime and probably not inclined to make up stuff to embarrass the U.S. president, who gives him his paycheck. So his opinion should be relevant here. Let's ask Brigadier General Hakim Jassim.

                                                                                                                                                                    The good general told Associated Press the day after the March 23 incident: "We were informed [about the British troops' arrests] by Iraqi fishermen, after they had returned from sea that there were British gunboats in an area that is out of Iraqi control. We don't know why they were there.'"

                                                                                                                                                                    Gen. Jassim---again, working for the Anglo-American occupiers of his nation---does not sound outraged by the Iranian action. And notice how the Iraqi client-state apparatus, which for some time has been telling Washington, "Don't drag us into your anti-Iranian projects" is not calling the detained Britons "hostages." It has indeed (with much of the world) protested the illegal U.S. detention of Iranian diplomats in Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

                                                                                                                                                                    (That particular instance of "inexcusable behavior" hasn't gotten much press in this country. Nor has the subdued Iranian response to the provocation.)

                                                                                                                                                                    Gen. Jassim would agree that the Shatt al-Arab river where the Brits were seized has no clearly marked boundary and has been the focus of past quarrels between Iraq and Iran. (Commodore Peter Lockwood of the Royal Australian Navy, commanding the Coalition task force in the waterway last October, said as much: "No maritime border has been agreed upon by the countries.") Craig Murray, once head of the British Foreign Office's maritime section, writes that Prime Minister Blair "is being fatuous" in stating that he is "utterly certain" the British ship was seized within Iraqi territorial limits. Murray, best known as the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan (who exposed British complicity in torture in that country) writes as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                    "There is no agreed boundary in the Northern Gulf, either between Iran and Iraq or between Iraq and Kuwait. The Iran-Iraq border has been agreed inside the Shatt al-Arab waterway, because there it is also the land border. But that agreement does not extend beyond the low tide line of the coast.
                                                                                                                                                                    "Even that very limited agreement is arguably no longer in force. Since it was reached in 1975, a war has been fought over it, and ten-year reviews--- necessary because waters and sandbanks in this region move about dramatically---have never been carried out."

                                                                                                                                                                    Gen. Jassim might privately agree that this border issue in any case is the business of Iraqis and Iranians---rather than British and American imperialists popping up in the region at no one's invitation, on false pretexts, slaughtering people and expecting as they do so that the conquered locals will say "Thanks, boss!"

                                                                                                                                                                    Bush is trying to depict the March 23 incident as a "hostage crisis," stoking memories of the 1979-81 Iran Embassy episode. (Younger readers may need some reminding. After the overthrow of the U.S.-backed and universally despised Shah of Iran, in the most genuine mass-based revolutionary upheaval in the history of the modern Islamic world, the Carter administration allowed the Shah refuge in the U.S. and refused to extradite him to Iran to stand trial. This prompted Iranian students to seize the U.S. embassy and detain its personnel. Those seized were released as Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as Carter's successor in January 1981. The incident unleashed much bigotry, hatred and war fever in this country, to the delight of those wishing to shock the U.S. public out of the "Vietnam Syndrome.")

                                                                                                                                                                    Just as the seizure of the Americans in 1979 needs to be understood in perspective, the detention of these Britons has to be understood in the context of the crime of the Iraq War itself. Whatever the actual coordinates of the vessel boarded and seized by the Iranians, why are the British policing the Shatt al-Arab waterway at all?

                                                                                                                                                                    They're there fighting an imperialist war. That war is going badly. The neocons still in charge in Washington (and building bridges to the resurgent Democrats led by opportunists competing to convey deference to AIPAC and embrace a hard line against Iran) wish to expand it to include the Islamic Republic. They work overtime organizing that project. That much should be obvious to anybody paying attention.

                                                                                                                                                                    "How about spinning this as a hostage crisis?" some fine neocon might have said the other day, around the water cooler in the hallway outside the Pentagon's Iran Directorate offices.

                                                                                                                                                                    "That could mobilize public opinion. Victims in custody on TV, making 'forced propaganda statements' in violation of the Geneva Conventions and stuff like that."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Yeah that could help. We have the moral high ground and all that. Good concept."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Good to have Brits seized. If it were Americans, there'll be all these charges that it was contrived, to justify war, yadayada"

                                                                                                                                                                    "Right, seems nastier if it's them, not so connected with Bush, because he'sy'know"

                                                                                                                                                                    "I know. People won't link this to him, or to us. They'll think, 'There they go again, taking British hostages this time.'"

                                                                                                                                                                    "Nice white people just there doing their job, trying to help us out, not trying to provoke anybody."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Mm hm. So our approach will be: Iran's killing our troops with the IEDs"

                                                                                                                                                                    "Building nuclear weapons"

                                                                                                                                                                    "in order to exterminate the Jews"

                                                                                                                                                                    "Yes, Holocaust. Works very well. And Islamist Iran's collaborating with Islamist al-Qaeda---"

                                                                                                                                                                    "..facilitating Taliban escape through Iran, or something like that."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Might work. But I'd say, for talking points: IEDs---Iran killing our boys; nukes; holocaust plans; support for terrorism---Hamas and Hizbollah; and this British hostages thing."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Hostages. Nice to have their faces there on screen. So obviously in the enemy's control."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Makes you angry. Nice English people in the custody of evil. This is beautiful."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Yeah. Brits making statements, under obvious duress."

                                                                                                                                                                    "That lady having to wear a headscarf and being told she'd be freed, and then she wasn't."

                                                                                                                                                                    "It's torture."

                                                                                                                                                                    "Torture. Yes. We can use the torture thing I mean, that's perfect. Tortured young hostage mother, in Iran, under a Muslim head scarf"

                                                                                                                                                                    "Islamist headscarf, forced on her by the terrorists. Good concept, good plan. Let's see what the VP thinks!"

                                                                                                                                                                    "Yup, he's the man."

                                                                                                                                                                    * * *

                                                                                                                                                                    This conversation is of course imaginary, But I do believe this is how the warmongers reason. The key issue on their minds is: "How can we cause the American people to agree (or at least not disagree to the extent that they might impede our agenda) to an aggressive campaign to topple the Iranian government?" And "How can we get this heroic deed done before our boy is out of power or this administration crippled by political scandal?"

                                                                                                                                                                    Russian intelligence predicting a U.S. strike against Iran April 6. This is a nation that has not attacked a neighbor in modern times, has sought improved relations with Europe and the U.S. and enjoys good relations with Russia, China and Japan.

                                                                                                                                                                    Iran did not provoke the present situation. It did not ask to be surrounded by U.S. forces in occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, or in the Persian Gulf. It did not ask to be included in Bush's bizarre "Axis of Evil" concept, a statement of hostility as categorical as diplomatic discourse allows. But Bush wants regime change in Iran. He wants revenge for the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979. One should see the British "hostage" situation, and interpret Bush's rhetoric about guilt and innocence in that light.

                                                                                                                                                                    * * *

                                                                                                                                                                    April 6, by the way, is Good Friday, the day Christians believe Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. Muslims disagree. Jesus (Isa), according to the Qur'an (4:157) was not killed. Rather, the Jews crucified somebody else, with his "likeness," in his place and then lied about it while God raised Jesus up directly into Heaven. Two different versions of the tale of Jesus' unusual departure from this world, equally implausible from my point of view but embraced by half of humankind. Beautiful harmless comforting myths perhaps. But among their believers a minority believes with absolute conviction, and these can be dangerous, especially if they wield political and military power and think that the God who sent Jesus wants them to smite his enemies.

                                                                                                                                                                    Especially if they think that a great war centering around Jerusalem (foretold in the Book of Revelation) must precede the Second Coming of Christ.

                                                                                                                                                                    Especially if they believe that, as that New Testament book indicates, "kings of the East" (Revelation 16:12) will attack the Euphrates region (modern Iraq) before the apocalyptic battles take place in Armageddon and Jerusalem.

                                                                                                                                                                    Iran borders Iraq to the east. Military leaders predict that any U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran will produce Iranian action against the U.S. in Iraq's Shiite south.

                                                                                                                                                                    There are religious fundamentalists in Iran to be sure, fanatics who can be dangerous. But again: Iran has not attacked another country in its modern history. Meanwhile there are religious nuts at the highest levels of power in Washington, capital of a country which, as the (devout Christian) Rev. Martin Luther King once put it, is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

                                                                                                                                                                    I will not prophesy that the evil, dangerous persons (including fundamentalist Christians and secular Jewish neocons) responsible for the war on Iraq will purvey a Good Friday assault on Iran. But I won't be surprised if it happens, with apocalyptic ramifications. Perhaps only in the aftermath will redeeming regime change come here.

                                                                                                                                                                    Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

                                                                                                                                                                    He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

                                                                                                                                                                    Counterpunch

                                                                                                                                                                    1725 words posted in American Empire, Iraq war, , IranLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                      Olmert suggests meeting with Arab 'moderates' and says he will present his 'ideas'

                                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  April 2nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                      Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for Arab leaders to gather for a discussion into the Middle East crisis in order to find a solution.

                                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                      Olmert's invitation came as a response to the Arab initiative, which was revived and renewed in the Arab summit held in Riyadh last week.

                                                                                                                                                                      American radio station 'Sawa' said that the Israeli invitation was launched in a press conference with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

                                                                                                                                                                      The Palestinian side responded to Olmert by saying that Israel should accept the initiative first and then a peace conference can be held. But Israel has refused the main points of the initiative, including the right of return of Palestinian refugees and an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders.

                                                                                                                                                                      Meeting 'moderates'

                                                                                                                                                                      During the conference Olmert said that if he receives an invitation from the Saudi King to attend a conference, with the participation of Arab 'moderate' countries, in addition to the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, he will accept and will present his ideas and thoughts.

                                                                                                                                                                      Israeli sources said that Olmert informed the new United States congress speaker, Nancy Pelosi, that his government will not deal with the Palestinian government or Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, whom Olmert described as a "terrorist".

                                                                                                                                                                      Evading responsibility

                                                                                                                                                                      Palestinian minister of information, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, said that the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues his attempts to evade his responsibilities through presenting steps of normalization with the Arab countries, but without solving the Palestinian issues or giving Palestinians their rights.

                                                                                                                                                                      Olmert refuses to discuss ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return of refugees.

                                                                                                                                                                      Barghouthi stated that Olmert seeks to exchange the idea of an international conference for a regional conference and the comprehensive solution for transitional solutions.

                                                                                                                                                                      Barghouthi confirmed that Olmert's government continues the building of the apartheid wall, the settlements, seizing Palestinian tax money and obstructing the building of a Palestinian state.

                                                                                                                                                                      Zajel

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                                                                                                                                                                        'World's most powerful woman' visits PA and leaves Palestinians 'disappointed' ; Merkel "impolite, biased"

                                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  April 2nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                        Palestinian high-ranking sources expressed disappointment with the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who Forbes Magazine considers to be the world's most powerful woman.

                                                                                                                                                                        Impolite

                                                                                                                                                                        The sources told Ma'an that "Merkel lacked all elements of common decency and respect; she was not polite as a high-ranking official like her should be and failed to observe basic codes of conduct."

                                                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                        They said that she did "everything possible to provoke the Palestinian people and underestimated the suffering of these people, but was the opposite on the Israeli side that is occupying the land and oppressing the Palestinians."

                                                                                                                                                                        The sources said that the German chancellor was "interested only in the case of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit but she did not say a word about 12,000 Palestinian prisoners including women, children, old people and sick people, in Israeli jails."

                                                                                                                                                                        Bias

                                                                                                                                                                        They also said that although she visited the families of the three captured Israeli soldiers in Lebanon and Gaza she refused to meet any of the families of the Palestinian prisoners.

                                                                                                                                                                        The sources stated that the discrimination was obvious in her visit from the very beginning. "She refused to meet Abbas in Bethlehem to see the separation wall, which causes endless suffering to Palestinians, claiming that she might be reminded of the Berlin wall, which she observed daily when working in East Berlin."

                                                                                                                                                                        The sources also said that Merkel refused to meet the representatives of the Christian Church in the Bethlehem. "She refused, even during Easter to witness the Israeli measures of restriction on Christians, banning them from entering the holy city of Bethlehem, which is surrounded by the separation wall."

                                                                                                                                                                        The sources added that she also cancelled a meeting with the representatives of the Palestinians Non-Government Organisation's, such meetings have become convention the foreign diplomats and officials visiting the PA territories. Merkel did not give any reason for the cancellation.

                                                                                                                                                                        With regard to her meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, the sources said that she "concentrated only on the issue of Shalit and did not pay much attention to the issue of peace process or the Israeli measures on the ground, which make the lives of Palestinians unbearable."

                                                                                                                                                                        "She refused to meet any of the ministers despite the decisions of the Europeans to meet with some of the ministers, thus contradicting the trend of the EU."

                                                                                                                                                                        The sources expressed deep disappointment because she received a doctorate degree from the Hebrew university in Jerusalem but refused to visit the city. "She refused to meet with its citizens and to see the kind of lives they are living and the way the Israelis are transforming the city and destroying its Arabian landmarks in violation of international legitimacy and resolutions."

                                                                                                                                                                        Holocaust hangover

                                                                                                                                                                        The result of the visit of Merkel, according to the sources, "raises the question about the impact of a biased Germany policy, how can such a policy play a role in reviving the peace process and how can Merkel be a fair party?"

                                                                                                                                                                        Finally, the sources asked whether "the Palestinian people have to pay the price for the suffering of the Jews and the crimes committed against them?"

                                                                                                                                                                        Zajel

                                                                                                                                                                        515 words posted in Human Rights, PoliticsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                          Palestinian cabinet urges EU to end its discrimination between Palestinian government ministers

                                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  April 2nd, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                          GAZA - RAMALLAH, PalestiNE _ The Palestinian cafbinet urged the European Union on Monday to withdraw its policy of selectivity towards dealing with Palestinian ministers. They criticized the EU's discrimination between different Palestinian ministers on the basis of political affiliation.

                                                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                          Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said during the third cabinet session that "the Palestinian unity government functions as one team." The cabinet rejected the EU's double-standard policy, depicting it as "an unprecedented assault on the choice of the Palestinian people."

                                                                                                                                                                          In its session, the Palestinian cabinet discussed several issues, and ratified numerous decisions, specifically with respect to the Um An-Nasser sewage disaster. Three committees are to be appointed to examine the disaster, one to investigate and recommend a piece of land for the afflicted residents, one to examine the technical causes of the disaster, and a third to follow up and estimate the losses and the necessary compensations.

                                                                                                                                                                          Among the other issues which the cabinet discussed were the teachers' allowances and the reimbursements for transportation costs.

                                                                                                                                                                          The cabinet also decided to appoint a ministerial committee to study the aggressions by some ministries on 'Waqf' lands and to submit a report to the cabinet, who will take appropriate steps.

                                                                                                                                                                          Regarding the Arab summit in Riyadh, Prime Minister Haniyeh applauded the Arab adherence to the Palestinians' unchangeable principles, and their decision to break the siege and support the Palestinian unity government. As for the Israeli negative reaction towards the Arab summit, Haniyeh said that it represents Israel's frequent rejection of any just peace agreement that could end the suffering of the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                                                                          The Palestinian cabinet also condemned the Israeli threats to take military actions against the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                                          With regards to the abducted BBC reporter, the cabinet confirmed that they are seriously endeavoring to release him and bring the perpetrators to justice. The same thing applies to the Israeli captive, Corporal Gilad Shalit, as the Palestinian cabinet affirmed that they are contacting all concerned parties in order to arrange an appropriate prisoners' swap and bring that issue to a close.

                                                                                                                                                                          Maasn News

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                                                                                                                                                                            Great Pyramid built 'inside out'

                                                                                                                                                                            English (US)  April 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                                            Khufu's tomb is the last surviving example of the seven great wonders of antiquity

                                                                                                                                                                            A French architect says he has cracked a 4,500-year-old mystery surrounding Egypt's Great Pyramid, saying it was built from the inside out.

                                                                                                                                                                            3D Unveils the Mystery of the Great Pyramid

                                                                                                                                                                            [More:]


                                                                                                                                                                            Previous theories have suggested the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu was built using either a vast frontal ramp or a ramp in a corkscrew shape around the exterior to haul up the stonework.

                                                                                                                                                                            But flouting previous wisdom, Jean-Pierre Houdin said advanced 3D technology had shown the main ramp which was used to haul the massive stones to the apex was contained 10-15 metres beneath the outer skin, tracing a pyramid within a pyramid.

                                                                                                                                                                            After unveiling his hypothesis in a lavish ceremony using 3D computer simulation, Houdin told Reuters: "This is better than the other theories, because it is the only theory that works."

                                                                                                                                                                            To prove his case, Houdin teamed up with a French company that builds 3D models for auto and airplane design, Dassault Systemes, which put 14 engineers for 2 years on the project.

                                                                                                                                                                            Now, an international team is being assembled to probe the pyramid using radars and heat detecting cameras supplied by a French defence firm, as long as Egyptian authorities agree.

                                                                                                                                                                            Bob Brier, a senior research fellow from Long Island University attending the unveiling, said: "This goes against both main existing theories. I've been teaching them myself for 20 years but deep down I know they're wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                            "Houdin's vision is credible, but right now this is just a theory. Everybody thinks it has got to be taken seriously."

                                                                                                                                                                            'Durable development'

                                                                                                                                                                            Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities was not immediately available for comment. Dassault said Brier and other Egyptologists attending the ceremony were supporters of Houdin's theory but had no financial links to him or the firm.

                                                                                                                                                                            Houdin began working full-time on the riddle eight years ago after a flash of intuition passed to him by his father, an engineer, and five years before actually visiting the site.

                                                                                                                                                                            He found that a frontal, mile-long ramp would have used up as much stone as the pyramid, while being too steep near the top. He believes an external ramp was used only to supply the base.

                                                                                                                                                                            An external corkscrew ramp would have blocked the sight lines needed to build an accurate pyramid and been difficult to fix to the surface, while leaving little room to work.

                                                                                                                                                                            Houdin said: "What characterised the Egyptians was their sense of perfection and economy.

                                                                                                                                                                            "We talk of durable development now, but it was the Egyptians who invented it. They didn't waste a single stone. They relied purely on intelligence."

                                                                                                                                                                            Houdin also claimed to have shed light on a second enigma surrounding the purpose of a Grand Gallery inside the pyramid.

                                                                                                                                                                            The Frenchman believes its tall, narrow shape suggests it accommodated a giant counter-weight to help haul five 60-tonne granite beams to their position above the King's Chamber.

                                                                                                                                                                            He thinks that no more than 4,000 people could have built the pyramid using these techniques rather than the 100,000 or so assigned by past historians to the task of burying the pharaoh.

                                                                                                                                                                            Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                                                                              Israeli PM denies Iran attack plans

                                                                                                                                                                              English (US)  April 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                              Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has dismissed suggestions that Israel is working with the US in drawing up contingency plans for conflict with Iran.

                                                                                                                                                                              [More:]


                                                                                                                                                                              His comments followed an assessment given to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday on the possible outcomes of a confrontation between Tehran and Washington.

                                                                                                                                                                              "Declarations that there is an American plan to strike Iran that is being co-ordinated with Israel which would at the same time attack Syria and Lebanon is not familiar to me, and is a baseless rumour," Olmert told a Jerusalem news conference on Sunday.

                                                                                                                                                                              Standing alongside Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor who was on a visit to Jerusalem, Olmert insisted Israel had no desire to see a fresh conflict in the region.

                                                                                                                                                                              "Israel is not planning an attack and does not wish for war, as it did not want one in the past," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                              Intensifying confrontation

                                                                                                                                                                              Olmert's comments followed a briefing given to the Israeli cabinet earlier on Sunday by Amos Yadlin, the military intelligence chief, in which he set out his assessment of the likely reactions of Iran's main regional allies, Syria and Hezbollah, to an intensifying confrontation between Tehran and Washington.

                                                                                                                                                                              "They fear a war initiated by the Americans because they understand that there might be an attack against Iran over the summer, but not by Israel," a senior government official quoted Yadlin as telling cabinet ministers.

                                                                                                                                                                              Although Yadlin insisted that Israel had no intention of becoming embroiled in such a conflict, he warned that any moves by the Jewish state could be wrongly interpreted by its neighbours as a sign of hostile intent.

                                                                                                                                                                              "If the Americans launch an offensive in Iran, Hezbollah and Syria will think the move had been co-ordinated with Israel and would expect Israel to strike them too," another government official at the meeting told AFP.

                                                                                                                                                                              'New conflict'

                                                                                                                                                                              Yadlin said he was concerned that the region might inadvertently stumble into a new conflict.

                                                                                                                                                                              "We might again find ourselves in a war no one wanted," he told ministers. "Israel must be prepared and make sure its steps will not lead to any miscalculation on the other side.

                                                                                                                                                                              "Israel is closely following developments on this front out of a concern that the three players might misinterpret certain steps taken by Israel."

                                                                                                                                                                              Yadlin said Hezbollah was abiding by a UN-brokered ceasefire in south Lebanon, but charged that the Shia fighters were busy rearming north of the Litani river - out of the jurisdiction of UN peacekeepers.

                                                                                                                                                                              Civilian deaths

                                                                                                                                                                              Israel fought a 34-day war against Hezbollah last summer after two soldiers were captured in a cross-border raid.

                                                                                                                                                                              Around 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died in the conflict.

                                                                                                                                                                              "Hezbollah has no intention of getting into a second round of conflict," Yadlin was quoted as saying.

                                                                                                                                                                              "But it is busy rebuilding its forces and has accelerated those efforts for fear of a summer attack."

                                                                                                                                                                              On Saturday, Iran's joint chief of staff warned Arab states neighbouring Israel against what he called a "Zionist suicide attack" this year.

                                                                                                                                                                              "The Zionists plan to carry out a suicide plot in the summer," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted major general Hassan Firouzabadi as saying.

                                                                                                                                                                              He predicted that an Israeli attack would start from Lebanon and Syria and proceed to Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

                                                                                                                                                                              Related: War-mongering Zionists urging world toward war on Iran

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

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                                                                                                                                                                                "Progress": Old mosque faces bulldozers to widen road

                                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  April 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                                By Our Special Correspondent

                                                                                                                                                                                NEW DELHI, India _ A tiny mosque from 1514, recognised by historians as "one of the most exquisite buildings in the world" and protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), will soon be destroyed by the bulldozers of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation under instructions from the Narendra Modi government to widen the roads.

                                                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                                Activists, who have been running from pillar to post to stop "Modi’s bulldozers", have not been able to get a positive response from the Gujarat government, which is determined to go ahead with its municipal plans.

                                                                                                                                                                                The Rani Sipri mosque, built by the queen of Mahmud Shah Begda, and the Patharwali masjid, both are now under threat of demolition. ASI officials are concerned but unable to do anything except cite the rules from their voluminous manual. Architects in Ahmedabad held a major protest meeting on Friday, but again the only response of state government officials has been the dire warning: "Our bulldozers cannot be stopped." Sources in Ahmedabad said that activists had telephoned and met Congress leaders in the state, but here too "the response has been complete silence".

                                                                                                                                                                                The small mosque, that is in itself a synthesis of what experts term as "Hindu art in a Muslim monument", is also known as the "Masjid-e-Nigara (jewel of a mosque)". It finds detailed mention in the ASI records and is also part of Gujarat’s tourist guide. The queen of Mahmud Shah Begda is buried in the premises of the mosque, which is said to have been constructed by her after her husband Sultan Mahmud Begada executed their son for a minor misdemeanour. The ASI report by director-general V. Soundara Rajan recognises the mosque as a protected monument and goes into a detailed description of its history and physical features.

                                                                                                                                                                                The activists told this newspaper that they were seriously worried that the city municipal corporation was going to demolish both mosques and further vitiate the atmosphere in the city. In Vadodara in May 2006, the authorities had destroyed the 200-year-old dargah of Hazrat Rashiuddin Chishti on the Fatehpura-Champaner road side. The dargah was listed in the Baroda state records but had not been included by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation in its records as a protected monument. At that time, too, civil rights groups had warned of the impending demolition but did not get any support from the state government or the Congress party.

                                                                                                                                                                                Asian Age>

                                                                                                                                                                                400 words posted in WorldLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Inequality blights Israel's Arabs

                                                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  March 31st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                                  By Mike Hanna in Baqa, Israel

                                                                                                                                                                                  One fifth of Israel's population is Arab. Eighty per cent of the Arabs living in Israel are Muslim.

                                                                                                                                                                                  However, Arabs in the town of Baqa, an Arab enclave within the Jewish state of Israel, insist that their social reality is that of second-class citizens.

                                                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                                  One half of Arab families in Israel lives under the poverty line - three times as many as Jewish families.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Of the 40 towns in Israel with the highest unemployment rate, 36 are Arab and Arab schools receive half the budget per capita of Jewish schools.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Samyah Kaadan, a mother of four young children, and her husband, a truck driver, bring in an income of less than a thousand dollars a month.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Samya Kaadan: "Everyone is facing a very bad situation in this town.

                                                                                                                                                                                  "Everything is so expensive and the salaries are not enough to pay electricity, water, phones and taxes."

                                                                                                                                                                                  When asked about their opinion of Jewish Israelis nearby, Kaadan said: "According to what we see in Israeli towns, their situation is much better than ours."

                                                                                                                                                                                  Isolated

                                                                                                                                                                                  Baqa is situated between Israel's "Route Six" highway linking the south to the north of the country and the barrier wall cutting off vast swathes of the West Bank of the occupied Palestinian territories.

                                                                                                                                                                                  The wall prevents tens of thousands of Palestinians from shopping in the town and motorists drive past it using the highway. As a result, Baqa is in economic meltdown.

                                                                                                                                                                                  In addition to the economic disparity evident in Baqa, the Israeli government appointed a Jewish mayor without consulting the local Arab council.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Sameh Abu Mokh from the National Council says: "It is nothing more than another example of discrimination."

                                                                                                                                                                                  Citizenship

                                                                                                                                                                                  Israel is about to appoint Ghaleb Majadele as the first Arab to hold a senior position in the Israeli cabinet, as minister of sports culture and science.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Avigdor Lieberman, minister for strategic affairs, called the move "a lethal blow to Zionism", and one which damages "Israel's character as a Jewish state" in Janurary.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Majadele was born and grew up in Baqa and despite his standing within Israeli society he strongly believes that all Arabs are victims of discrimination.

                                                                                                                                                                                  "It cannot be fathomed that a democratic country that hopes to be part of the enlightened world can have 20 per cent of its population as second-class citizens.

                                                                                                                                                                                  "It's not good for the country and it's not good for the democratic Jewish Israeli citizens."

                                                                                                                                                                                  The shop signs in Baqa are written in Hebrew as well as Arabic.

                                                                                                                                                                                  But it is unlikely that Israeli Arabs will ever feel themselves to be full citizens of an Israeli state without a considerable improvement in their economic and political conditions.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Jazeera

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Fallujah Fears a US 'Genocidal Strategy'

                                                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  March 31st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                                    By Ali al-Fadhily*

                                                                                                                                                                                    FALLUJAH - Iraqis in the volatile al-Anbar province west of Baghdad are reporting regular killings carried out by U.S. forces that many believe are part of a 'genocidal' strategy.

                                                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                                    Since the mysterious explosion at the Shia al-Askari shrine in Samara in February last year, more than 100 Iraqis have been killed daily on average, without any forceful action by the Iraqi government and the U.S. military to stop the killings.

                                                                                                                                                                                    U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces working with them are also executing people seized during home raids and other operations, residents say.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Seventeen young men were found executed after they were arrested by U.S. troops and Fallujah police," 40-year-old Yassen of Fallujah told IPS. "My two sons have been detained by police, and I am terrified that they will have the same fate. They are only 17 and 18 years old."

                                                                                                                                                                                    Residents of Fallujah say the local police detention centre holds hundreds of men, who have had no legal representation.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Others are killed by random fire that has long become routine for U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. Sa'ad, a 25-year-old from the al-Thubbat area of western Fallujah was killed in such firing.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "The poor guy kept running home every time he saw U.S. soldiers," a man from his neighbourhood, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "He used to say: Go inside or the Americans will kill you." Sa'ad is said by neighbours to have developed a mental disability.

                                                                                                                                                                                    He was recently shot and killed by U.S. soldiers when they opened fire after their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Last week, U.S. military fire severely damaged the highest minaret in Fallujah after three soldiers were killed in an attack. What was seen as reprisal fire on the minaret has angered residents.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "They hate us because we are Muslims, and no one can argue with that any more," 65- year-old Abu Fayssal who witnessed the event told IPS. "They say they are fighting al- Qeada but they are only capable of killing our sons with their genocidal campaign and destroying our mosques."

                                                                                                                                                                                    Others believe occupation forces have another sinister strategy.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "It is our people killing each other now as planned by the Americans," Abdul Sattar, a 45- year-old lawyer and human rights activist in Fallujah told IPS. "They recruited Saddam's security men to control the situation by well-known methods like hanging people by their legs and electrifying them in order to get information. Now they are executing them without trial."

                                                                                                                                                                                    IPS has obtained photographs of an elderly man who residents say was executed last month by U.S. soldiers.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Last month was full of horrifying events," a retired police officer from Fallujah told IPS. "Three men were executed by American soldiers in the al-Bu Issa tribal area just outside Fallujah. One of them was 70 years old and known as a very good man, and the others were his relatives. They were asleep when the raid was conducted."

                                                                                                                                                                                    Another three men from the same tribe were executed similarly in ar-Rutba town near the Jordanian border. Their tribe did not carry out the usual burial ceremony for fear that more people would be killed. Instead, a cousin performed a religious ceremony in Amman in Jordan.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Seven people were executed in al-Qa'im recently, at the Syrian border," Khalid Haleem told IPS on telephone from al-Qa'im. "They were gathering at a friend's place for dinner when Americans surrounded the house, with armoured vehicles with helicopters covering them from the air. Those killed were good men and we believe the Americans were misinformed."

                                                                                                                                                                                    Adding to the violence are U.S.-backed Shia militias which regularly raid Sunni areas under the eyes of the U.S. and Iraqi army. Residents of Fallujah, Ramadi, and especially Baghdad have regularly reported to IPS over the last two years that Shia militiamen are allowed through U.S. military cordons into Sunni neighbourhoods to conduct raids.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Last month, residents report, more than 100 men aged 20 to 40 were executed by Shia militias in Iskandariya 40 km south of Baghdad and Tal Afar 350 km northwest of the capital. Another 50 were detained by the Iraqi Army's fifth division, that many believe is the biggest death squad in the country.

                                                                                                                                                                                    A U.S. military spokesperson in Baghdad told IPS that their troops "use caution and care when conducting home raids" and "in no way support Shi'ite death squads and militias."

                                                                                                                                                                                    In the face of the U.S.-backed violence, most Iraqis now openly support attacks against occupation forces.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "The genocidal Americans are paying for all that," a young man from Fallujah told IPS. "They seem to be in need of another lesson by the lions of Fallujah and Anbar." He was referring to the intensive resistance attacks in and around Fallujah that have killed dozens of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers this month.

                                                                                                                                                                                    According to the U.S. military, at least 1,194 U.S. soldiers have died in al-Anbar province since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The number is far higher than in any other province in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                                                                    (*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region) (END/2007)

                                                                                                                                                                                    Inter Press Service

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                                                                                                                                                                                      US Rice Industry Opposes Plan to Grow Genetically Modified Rice in US

                                                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  March 31st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                                      By Sam Hananel

                                                                                                                                                                                      WASHINGTON - The U.S. rice industry wants the federal government to reject a plan to grow genetically modified rice in the Midwestern state of Kansas, saying the country’s growers would suffer “financial devastation” if modified crops contaminate the commercial supply.

                                                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                                      Agriculture Department officials are considering a request by California-based Ventria Bioscience to grow rice engineered to contain human proteins on hundreds of acres of farmland near Junction City, Kansas.

                                                                                                                                                                                      The proteins can be turned into medicines to combat diarrhea, dehydration and other illnesses that kill millions of children in developing countries each year.

                                                                                                                                                                                      But in comments submitted this week to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the USA Rice Federation says rice producers cannot risk the loss of foreign markets that are spooked by the possibility that genetically modified rice could be mixed with edible rice.

                                                                                                                                                                                      “If Ventria’s pharmaceutical rice were to escape into the commercial rice supply, the financial devastation to the U.S. rice industry would likely be absolute,” the group said. “There is no tolerance, either regulatory or in public perception, for a human gene-based pharmaceutical to end up in the world’s food supply.”

                                                                                                                                                                                      The USDA granted preliminary approval for the Kansas project last month after concluding it poses virtually no risk. The rice will be grown hundreds of miles (kilometers) from other rice farms and will use dedicated equipment, storage and processing facilities to prevent seeds from mixing with other crops.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Still, the rice growers point to recent instances that call into question how effective safety precautions can be.

                                                                                                                                                                                      The rice industry is still reeling from the discovery last year of an unapproved strain of genetically modified rice, Liberty Link Rice 601, found in grain elevators. In another incident earlier this month, traces of unapproved genetic material were found in yet another type of rice seed.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Federation spokesman David Coia said both incidents disrupted foreign rice sales and have forced the industry to insist on stricter regulation. The rice growers want government regulators to determine potential health effects if pharmaceutical rice is eventually found in commercial rice.

                                                                                                                                                                                      “The cavalier ‘trust us’ approach should be considered the relic of a bygone era,” Coia said Friday.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Ventria president and CEO Scott Deeter called comparisons to the Liberty Link incident unfair because pharmaceutical rice is subject to much more stringent regulations.

                                                                                                                                                                                      “We have a totally dedicated supply system,” Deeter said. “We don’t sell seed and it’s a closed system of production. We use dedicated equipment all throughout.”

                                                                                                                                                                                      Deeter points to support from the American Farm Bureau and several Kansas farm groups that say they are satisfied with safety precautions.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Kansas officials have welcomed Ventria as part of an effort to grow the state’s bioscience industry. No commercial rice is grown in Kansas, but environmental and food safety groups contend weather or human error could eventually contaminate rice in other states.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Deeter said he hopes final permit approval will come in the next few weeks so rice planting can begin in April.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Associated Press Writer John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, contributed to this report.

                                                                                                                                                                                      On the Net:

                                                                                                                                                                                      Ventria Bioscience: http://www.ventria.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                      USA Rice Federation: http://www.usarice.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                      Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/

                                                                                                                                                                                      Commondreams

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Detainee Says He Confessed to Stop US Torture

                                                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  March 31st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                                        The terrorism suspect contends he was forced to admit to a role in the Cole bombing. A military law expert isn’t surprised.

                                                                                                                                                                                        By Josh Meyer

                                                                                                                                                                                        WASHINGTON - A detainee accused of being Al Qaeda’s Persian Gulf operations chief said in court that his U.S. captors tortured him for years and forced him to falsely confess to the bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole and to many other terrorist plots, according to a Pentagon transcript released Friday.Abd al Rahim al Nashiri , a Saudi of Yemeni descent, told a military board at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that he had nothing to do with the bombing of the warship in Yemen in 2000 - or with any other terrorist activity.

                                                                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                                        0331 01Speaking under oath, he said he made up a long list of Al Qaeda plots and attacks so his captors would stop torturing him, even telling interrogators that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had a nuclear bomb.

                                                                                                                                                                                        “I just said those things to make the people happy. But when they freed me, I told them all, ‘I only told you these things to make you happy,’ ” Nashiri said at a March 14 hearing held by military officials to determine if he should be designated as an enemy combatant and tried before a military commission.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Nashiri, 42, said his U.S. captors began torturing him as soon as he was arrested in November 2002 in the United Arab Emirates; the torture stopped, he said, when he was transferred from secret CIA custody to Guantanamo last September along with 13 other “high value” detainees. Among them was confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

                                                                                                                                                                                        In an unclassified summary of the evidence against him, military officials said Nashiri was an experienced terrorist operative with significant military and explosives training. They said he played an important role in the Cole bombing, which killed 17 U.S. sailors as the ship refueled in the port of Aden.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The evidence summary also linked Nashiri to the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 that killed at least 224 people, and said he is suspected of masterminding the October 2002 attack on the French oil tanker Limburg.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Nashiri’s hearing was the first time that an accused Al Qaeda detainee in U.S. custody has made such detailed allegations that have become public. Legal experts said they raise new and serious questions about how torture claims will affect the judicial process now beginning for captives in the Bush administration’s 5-year-old global counterterrorism campaign.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Eugene R. Fidell, a military law expert and critic of administration detainee policies, said Nashiri’s claims - true or not - are not surprising because there have been allegations of CIA torture of Al Qaeda detainees for years.

                                                                                                                                                                                        But Nashiri’s assertions were made during an official U.S. military justice proceeding, Fidell said. Unless the Bush administration, Congress, Pentagon and CIA address the allegations in some formal way, they could undermine the legitimacy of upcoming military commission proceedings for Nashiri and other Al Qaeda leaders, he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                        “People knew that this was going to be an issue, and here’s the proof,” said Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “Someone has got to get to the bottom of these allegations. If there is nothing there, fine. If there is something there, they are going to need to address it.”

                                                                                                                                                                                        During his hearing, Nashiri said through a translator that his captors tortured him while questioning him. “One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way,” he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Mohammed, during a similar hearing this month, claimed responsibility for terrorist plots that included the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the 2002 bombings of nightclubs in Indonesia and the so-called shoe-bomber plot to down U.S. airliners. At his hearing, he hinted that he had been tortured. But the bulk of his allegations were heard during the classified portion of his proceeding and have not been made public.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Without commenting on Nashiri’s specific claims, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said Friday: “The United States does not conduct or condone torture, and the agency’s terrorist interrogation program has been implemented lawfully, with great care and close review. It has produced vital information that has helped disrupt plots and save lives.”

                                                                                                                                                                                        The military officials who presided over Nashiri’s hearing, whose names were redacted from the transcript, said they would investigate his claims of torture. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment on the allegations but said they would be “fully investigated” by the Department of Defense.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Curt Goering, Amnesty International USA’s senior deputy executive director, said that a thorough and credible investigation of Nashiri’s allegations must be done before any Al Qaeda operatives are tried.

                                                                                                                                                                                        “One of the most elementary precepts of the rule of law is the absolute inadmissibility in any legitimate legal proceeding of any shred of evidence obtained by torture,” Goering said. “Although the Pentagon has said they will investigate, given the Bush administration record so far on these matters, it strains credulity that any such investigation would be anything other than substandard, or [that] those responsible would be held accountable.”

                                                                                                                                                                                        Specific details of Nashiri’s alleged torture were not included in the 36-page transcript of his hearing before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal; there was also a classified hearing for which a transcript has not been released. Some of his claims appeared to be redacted by U.S. government censors, who had delayed the release of the transcript for a week, saying they were still reviewing it.

                                                                                                                                                                                        At a briefing Friday with reporters, Pentagon spokesman Whitman said any redactions of information in the transcript were made in the interest of national security.

                                                                                                                                                                                        At least four U.S. military officers participated in the hearing, but they spent virtually all of their time asking Nashiri about details of the alleged plots and not about his claims of torture.

                                                                                                                                                                                        There is little doubt that U.S. officials will designate Nashiri as an enemy combatant. At the very least, one U.S. counterterrorism official said Friday, “There is extremely strong information from multiple sources that this individual was key to the Cole bombing and other maritime plots.”

                                                                                                                                                                                        Nashiri denied those accusations during his hearing and said he made up the claim that Bin Laden had a nuclear bomb. He also said he made up Al Qaeda plans to bomb American ships in the Gulf and a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into a ship.

                                                                                                                                                                                        But in several often-rambling comments and answers, he made many incriminating statements.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Nashiri said he knew virtually all of the players known to be involved in the Cole bombing and other Al Qaeda plots. He said he visited Bin Laden often, and that the Al Qaeda leader gave him as much as $500,000 over the years for personal expenses and business deals.

                                                                                                                                                                                        In turn, Nashiri said, he gave much of that to other known militants who probably used the funds to carry out Al Qaeda attacks.

                                                                                                                                                                                        “But I’m not responsible if they take the money and they go and fight or do something else” related to terrorism, Nashiri told the military hearing officers.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Asked if he had ever trained in an Al Qaeda camp or swore allegiance to Bin Laden, Nashiri said he had not.

                                                                                                                                                                                        But he admitted meeting many Al Qaeda operatives while visiting “the battlefields” in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                        From Los Angeles Times posted at Common Dreams

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Production under way on ambitious PBS series

                                                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  March 31st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                                          By Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

                                                                                                                                                                                          BOSTON - As hordes of settlers pushed west, occupying and expropriating the vast aboriginal territories that had been home to the continent's indigenous peoples since time immemorial, the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh made a statement in 1811 to President James Madison's messenger about the tribes' steadfast relationship to their lands.

                                                                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''These lands are ours,'' Tecumseh said. ''No one has a right to remove us, because we were the first owners. The Great Spirit above has appointed this place for us on which to light our fires, and here we shall remain. As to boundaries, the Great Spirit knows no boundaries, nor will his red children acknowledge any.''

                                                                                                                                                                                          Producers of the award-winning PBS history series ''American Experience'' have taken Tecumseh's words - ''We Shall Remain'' - as the overarching theme of what is being called the most ambitious prime time television series and media project on American Indian history ever produced.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''We Shall Remain: A Native History of America'' is a five-part television series whose historical sweep will range more than 350 years from the Wampanoags' first contact with Europeans to the American Indian Movement's occupation of Wounded Knee. For the first time, the stories will be told from the perspective of the continent's indigenous peoples.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Promotional material on the program's Web site - www.pbs.org/weshallremain - describes the project as ''a multifaceted story of Native ingenuity and perseverance.'' The series will be broadcast in 2009.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''It's huge and it's very exciting,'' said Executive Producer Sharon Grimberg. ''It took a while to get off the ground because of fund-raising and wanting to make sure we get the right people to get the stories right. It's a big ship that we're steering, and right now really great things are happening.''

                                                                                                                                                                                          The project was conceived almost three years ago when ''American Experience'' staff were looking toward the future with the goal of producing a really big project, Grimberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''We realized that although we've done stories about Native American history, we've never done anything comprehensive. We just felt it was time to do something more expansive,'' Grimberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          American Indian history has been virtually erased by the dominant culture's distortions and misrepresentations in its education systems and in popular culture.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Grimberg said the ''American Experience'' filmmakers want ''We Shall Remain'' to have the same impact as their award-winning series ''Eyes on the Prize,'' which educated audiences about the role blacks have played in shaping the United States.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''Native American history hasn't been recognized. It's been forgotten. We wanted to show that it's such an important part of what this country is today. In order to understand that, you really need to understand the basic history,'' Grimberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          After considering various formats, the filmmakers decided that storytelling was the appropriate approach both creatively and symbolically.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''We just realized what really grabs people and what works is telling stories, and we hope that by telling stories we would embed themes that expand the larger Indian experience,'' Grimberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          The fundamental - and ongoing - theme of the Indian experience is resistance against dispossession and the loss of cultural identity. The series' five 90-minute broadcasts will focus on the stories of King Philip's War, Tecumseh, the Trail of Tears, Geronimo and AIM.

                                                                                                                                                                                          The producers have recruited both established and emerging Native filmmakers to work with and be trained by PBS personnel, Grimberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''We work in a kind of very niche kind of field - historical documentaries are really a particular skill - so what we've been trying to do is work with Native production people and then recruit emerging filmmakers and train and mentor them in the kind of film we make. And our hope is these young, emerging filmmakers will then be mentored and come back and work with the PBS production world on other projects,'' Grimberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Chris Eyre, Cheyenne/Arapaho, is the director of the King Philip's War and Tecumseh episodes. Eyre's first feature film, ''Smoke Signals,'' won the Audience Award and Eyre received the Filmmaker's Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. Eyre received a Directors Guild award for his film, ''Edge of America,'' which also won a 2005 Peabody Award.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Others working on these episodes include Jennifer Edwards Weston, Hunkpapa Lakota, production assistant; Christian King, Seminole/Creek/Sac/Fox, line producer; and Whitney Taylor, Choctaw/Cherokee, production assistant.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Josh Seftel will produce and direct the episode on ''The Trail of Tears.'' Seftel's first film, ''Lost and Found,'' received an Emmy nomination. His documentary, ''Taking on the Kennedys'' - part of PBS's POV series - was selected by Time magazine as one of the 10 best television programs of 1996. Raquel Chapa, Lipan Apache/Yaqui/Cherokee, will be the associate producer.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''Geronimo'' will be produced and directed by Dustinn Craig, White Mountain Apache/Navajo, and Sarah Colt.

                                                                                                                                                                                          The final episode on AIM will be produced and directed by Stanley Nelson, a recipient of a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship, a Sundance Special Jury Prize, Peabody Award, Primetime Emmy, an IDA Award and a DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton and Freedom of Expression award. Also working on the project are Julianna Brannum, Comanche, associate producer; and Darwyn Roanhorse, Navajo, production assistant.

                                                                                                                                                                                          In addition to the historical documentary, each episode will include a 10-minute contemporary narrative that will connect the past to the present.

                                                                                                                                                                                          For the Geronimo episode, for example, Craig made a short film about a journey he took when he was around 8 years old with his great-grandfather, who had been separated from his family and sent to boarding school a few years after Geronimo was forced to capitulate to the U.S. government.

                                                                                                                                                                                          ''So when the grandfather is a very old man, he takes his grandson back to visit Geronimo's grave and it's a really important journey for him. It shows how the repercussions of history have lived on for generations and generations. It really does have a universal appeal. A lot of people connect with it in many different ways. It's a very strong, simple and eloquent piece,'' Grimberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          The project also has a vast outreach program that includes a content-rich Web site with an array of interactive learning resources, streaming video and podcasts; a ''Citizens Storytellers Project'' to train more than 200 American Indians to produce their own two-minute documentaries, which will be distributed via mobile network and on the Web; and a community outreach campaign engaging more than 300 public television stations and libraries, colleges, tribal organizations, museums and film centers that will develop programs and outreach activities to help deepen public understanding of Native history and contemporary experiences.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Indian Country Today

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