Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Denmark Threatened Over Mohammad Cartoons

Denmark warned citizens on Monday not to go to Saudi Arabia and Gaza gunmen said any Scandinavians who came there would face attack, as Muslim fury mounted over newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. Denmark has defended the newspaper Jyllands-Posten's right to publish the satirical drawings that seemed to portray the prophet as a terrorist and which a Norwegian paper has run too.
Some Muslims, who deem images of prophets disrespectful and caricatures blasphemous, have reacted angrily, threatening Danes and demanding an apology. Saudi Arabia has recalled its envoy from Denmark and its religious leaders have called for the boycott of Danish products. Libya has closed its Copenhagen embassy, and thousands of Palestinians marched in protest on Monday. Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen informed on Monday his colleagues in the European Union about the issue and the bloc's executive body, the Commission, said it might complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the Saudi boycott of Danish goods if the government had encouraged it.
The Danish Foreign Ministry warned against non-crucial travel to Saudi Arabia and urged Danes to be cautious in other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Algeria, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories. "In the current situation where the drawings of the Prophet Mohammad have caused strong negative reactions among Muslims, Danes who choose to stay in Saudi Arabia should show extraordinarily high watchfulness," it added on its Web site. The Danish Red Cross said it had pulled two employees out of Gaza and one from Yemen, and Norway's Foreign Ministry said two Norwegian aid workers in Gaza were planning to leave on Monday.
Sweden also warned its citizens against travelling to Gaza and the West Bank and the Swedish consulate in Jerusalem received a fax claiming to be from Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades demanding that all Danes and Swedes leave the area. "All Swedes and Danes that exist on our soil have 48 hours to leave our country or else," according to the fax read to Reuters by a consulate official. Swedish officials said they were taking the threat seriously even if it might be the result of being confused with Denmark.
Dozens of Palestinians armed with rifles and grenade launchers rallied outside the EU headquarters in Gaza City, demanding an apology and warning Danes and Norwegians they would be at risk in Gaza. Some of the gunmen fired in the air, while others burned Danish and Norwegian flags. Hamas, the militant Islamic group which won Palestinian elections last week, urged Islamic countries to take "deterrent steps against idiotic Danish behaviour".
"We call on Muslim nations to boycott all Danish products because the Danish people supported the hateful racism under the pretext of freedom of expression," it said in a statement. A Web site often used by militant groups in Iraq also called for a consumer boycott. Hardest hit by the boycott is Danish-Swedish dairy product maker Arla Foods, with annual sales of 3 billion Danish crowns ($487 million) in the Middle East. The world's biggest maker of insulin, Novo Nordisk , also said it was affected. Denmark's Rasmussen refused on Sunday to apologise, defending the right of free speech and saying he could not influence the media, but he condemned attempts "to demonise people because of religious beliefs".
The world's biggest Muslim body, the Saudi-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), has condemned the cartoons but called on Muslims to stick to peaceful protest. The Danish-Palestinian Friendship Association said the threats were "reprehensible". "They forget that the Nordic countries are among the biggest donors to Palestine and do a lot of social work in the area," a spokesman said. Many ordinary Saudis have started boycotting Danish products and across the Gulf, several supermarkets pulled Scandinavian foods off the shelves after consumers complained. Egypt is also considering recalling its Copenhagen envoy, Danish media quoted Egypt's ambassador for saying. The 12 cartoons were published by Jyllands-Posten in September, but the row only erupted this month. One showed him wearing a turban shaped as a bomb.

Monday, January 30, 2006

North Korea Warns Of Nuclear War

North Korea yesterday warned of nuclear war and vowed to strengthen its deterrent forces, as it demanded that Washington show evidence backing its allegation that the communist regime is counterfeiting US money. "Dark clouds of a nuclear war are hanging low over the Korean Peninsula," the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. "The ever-more frantic moves of the US to ignite a new war against (North Korea) would only compel it ... to bolster its deterrent for self-defence in every way," it said.
The North has repeatedly accused the US of planning to attack. Washington has denied any such intention. The North's comments yesterday follow a South Korea-US agreement this month giving American troops more flexibility in the South. The North said the pact was aimed at preparing for war. Also yesterday, the North dismissed US accusations of counterfeiting and other illicit activities like drug trafficking. "The nature and mission of (North Korea) do not allow such things as bad treatment of the people, counterfeiting and drug trafficking to happen in it," KCNA said. A pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan also urged Washington to prove its allegation that North Korea is counterfeiting US currency. "If there is suspicion and clear evidence as claimed by the United States, (the US) can present it and prove (it)," the Choson Sinbo newspaper said. The United States "continues to leak plausible information but the reality is that there is nothing to confirm the fact objectively," it said.
Kim Jong-il with Madeleine Albright
The newspaper sometimes acts as an unofficial mouthpiece for the reclusive, communist North. North Korea has recently stepped up criticism of the United States for imposing sanctions over its alleged illicit activities. Washington in September slapped restrictions on a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau, saying it had helped the North distribute counterfeit money and engage in other illicit activities. A month later, Washington imposed sanctions on eight North Korean companies it said were fronts for proliferating weapons of mass destruction. The North has refused to return to international talks on its nuclear weapons program until Washington ends the sanctions.
Kim Jong-il with Madeleine Albright Again
The US has dismissed the threat, saying the sanctions are unrelated to the nuclear issue. On Friday, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said there were indications that the six-country negotiations over the North's nuclear programs could resume in February. The last session of the talks, which involve the two Koreas, the US, Japan, China and Russia, was held in November. They have not produced a significant breakthrough since they stalled over the North's anger at the US sanctions.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chinese Year Of The Dog Slaughter

France's Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) appealed to Chinese President
Hu Jintao to put an end to the cruel slaughter of dogs, which it blasted as an affront. "The SPA does not set itself up as a judge of a country and its culture, but is asking for animals to be killed in a dignified way," the SPA said.
Hu Jintao the President of the People's Republic of China
"Millions of dogs (in China) are hanged, beaten with sticks and butchered while they are still alive," it said in a press release. The organisation added that it had tried to get French media to accept an advertisement as part of its campaign against dog butchering, but the picture -- of an animal being cut to pieces in a pool of blood -- was so graphic that it had been rejected by every newspaper.
The Chinese New Year ushers in the Year of the Dog. Up to 10 million dogs are slaughtered every year in China, many killed slowly and cruelly to supposedly enhance the meat's flavour, according to animal rights groups.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New WMD Task Force

The Pentagon's latest strategy review proposes a new military unit that would prevent the transfer of weapons of mass destruction from states such as North Korea and Iran to terrorist groups. The WMD task force would be comprised of several hundred troops, including special operations forces and intelligence personnel, Reporters said. The proposal was included in the Pentagon's 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review, a sweeping assessment of U.S. defense strategy Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will send to the White House and Congress on Feb. 6.
Portions of an unclassified summary of the document were made available to Reporters, the newspaper said. "A section on combating weapons of mass destruction said future U.S. military forces will have the capability to interdict and 'render safe' weapons of mass destruction before terrorists can use them," the newspaper reported. A Pentagon spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the report. Reporters said Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita declined to comment on the strategy review which has not been made public. "We have over the past few years focused on ways of having a standing and rapidly deployable task force," DiRita was quoted as saying. "It's something that can respond quickly to a tough problem." Reporters said the Pentagon review stated that a core element of the new joint task force would be the Army's 20th Support Command, which would become a rapid deployment unit "to command and control WMD elimination missions by 2007." "They will possess an expanded ability to locate, tag and track dangerous individuals and other high value targets globally," the review was quoted as saying. Defense officials this week confirmed the planning document calls for the addition of nearly 8,000 troops to its elite Special Operations Forces next year to bolster the U.S. military's ability to fight terrorists and insurgents worldwide.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Israel Tried To Kill Bin Laden

Israeli intelligence was close to assassinating Osama bin Laden in 1996 with the help of one of his confidantes, but the attack was derailed by a crisis with the Palestinians. The Yediot Ahronot daily said Israeli intelligence was helping investigate an attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia and came across a group of radicals based in Sudan and led by bin Laden. The paper said Israeli intelligence, cooperating with another country, persuaded a confidante of bin Laden to kill him, but the operation was canceled by a crisis between Israel and the Palestinians that disrupted the link between Israeli intelligence and the foreign service. Israeli officials refused to comment on the brief report.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gallup Poll: Only 16% Firm On Hillary For President

Most voters now say there's no way they'd vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for President in 2008 - while just 16 percent are firmly in her camp, a stunning new poll shows.
CNN/GALLUP found that 51 percent say they definitely won't vote for Clinton (D-N.Y.) in 2008, another 32 percent might consider it, and only 16 percent vow to back her. That means committed anti-Hillary voters outnumber pro-Hillary voters by 3-1. The poll suggests she can forget about crossover votes - 90 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives say there's no way they'd back her. Meanwhile, 46% said they would oppose Secretary of State Rice if she ran for President - a step Rice has repeatedly said she won't take.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Philippines Will Lose $8M In Military Aid Once War Games Pact Is Terminated

The Philippines should seek amendments to its visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the United States instead of abrogating it, a Palace official said yesterday. Zosimo Paredes, executive director of the Presidential Commission on the VFA, said the country stands to lose around $8 million in annual military aid once the military pact is terminated. "I disagree with the [decision] of the legislative oversight committee on the VFA... to recommend to the President the abrogation or scrapping of the VFA. We stand to lose if we scrap it," he told reporters.
Last week, the joint oversight committee, which comprises lawmakers from both houses of Congress, voted to terminate the VFA after Washington refused to turn over custody of four American servicemen charged with raping a Filipina. But Mr. Paredes said abolishing the VFA could imperil the Philippine- US Mutual Defense Treaty, which he said is the more important treaty between the two countries. "Even before we tell them that we should renegotiate it, we are scrapping it. It's not the way to negotiate between and among countries that have had a long-standing amity," he pointed out. Foreign Affairs Spokesman Gilberto Asuque said revising the VFA is subject to the approval of the US, adding that the pact does not provide for amendments in the future. "But that does not prevent the two parties from agreeing to an amendment." He said once the US opposes moves to amend the VFA, the Philippines would have the option of terminating the deal. The VFA, which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, is an implementing mechanism of the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty. It paved the way for the resumption of joint military exercises between the two countries. The pact sets the ground rules for exercises and determines which country will have jurisdiction over American soldiers who commit crimes while in the Philippines for training drills. Aside from military training, US servicemen participating in annual war games also provide civic and medical assistance to poor communities in the Philippines. "Our military depends a lot on these joint exercises. Without the VFA, there could be a halt to all these. The VFA is our license to accept foreign military forces to our country," Mr. Paredes said

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Canada Conservatives Win Election

Canada's Liberal Leader Paul Martin conceded early on Tuesday at the campaign headquarters in Montreal that his ruling Liberals have lost the federal election to the Conservatives. Martin also announced that he was stepping down as the party's leader. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper headed toward victory in Canada's national elections on Monday, ending 13 years of Liberal rule.
Stephen Harper
The official results gave the Conservatives a strong lead with most votes counted. But it appeared likely the margin would be too small to rule outright. The Conservatives will be forced to form a minority government. "There will be another chance and there will be another time,"Martin said to a roomful of supporters. Martin said he had called Harper to congratulate him.

Bush Commits America To Defence Of Israel

United States President George Bush on Monday committed the US to the defence of Israel against threats from Iran, saying he would not allow the world to be "blackmailed" by an Iranian nuclear weapon. The president's warning, issued in an exchange with students in Kansas, came at a tense time in relations with Iran, after Tehran vowed to restart nuclear research. The US is leading a diplomatic attempt to persuade other countries to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for failure to cooperate with UN inspectors. Tehran insists it is interested only in a civilian nuclear-energy programme, and has threatened to return to full-scale production of nuclear fuel if it is referred to the UN.
President George W. Bush
"I am deeply concerned about Iran, as should a lot of people be concerned about Iran. I am concerned when the country of Iran's president announces his desire to see that Israel gets destroyed," Bush said, referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threat to "wipe Israel off the map". He added: "Israel is our ally. We're committed to the safety of Israel, and it's a commitment we will keep. "Secondly, I'm concerned about a nontransparent society's desire to develop a nuclear weapon. The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon. I believe it is very important for the Iranian government to hear loud and clear from not only the United States, but also from other nations around the world." The President's appearance in Kansas took the form of a short speech followed by an unscripted question-and-answer session of the kind being tried out by Bush's handlers as a means of showing him at his most relaxed and responsive. He defended his decision to allow wiretaps on telephone calls and e-mails between American residents and foreigners without court warrants, insisting it was legal. "I'm mindful of your civil liberties and so I had all kinds of lawyers review the process," he told his audience of about 9 000 mostly students and soldiers at Kansas State University. The president paid tribute to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after being asked by a British questioner whether he had talked to the prime minister about the common perception of him in Britain as Bush's "yes man". "I'm sorry that his relationship with me causes him political problems at home. You know, sometimes I can be little allergic for people overseas, if you know what I mean," the president said to laughter from a mostly supportive crowd. "I'm aware that that is a criticism of Tony, and I just strongly disagree with that. He's an independent thinker. He and I share this interesting moment in history together, and we also share this deep belief that liberty will transform the world or can transform the world. That's what we believe. In other words, there is a philosophical core of Tony Blair, core beliefs that Tony and I share." The president listed the issues on which he disagree with Blair, including the Kyoto accord on climate change and the international criminal court, both of which are opposed by Bush. But, the president went on, they agree "strategically, and that's what's important". He said they try to talk once a week. "And it's a really interesting way to share, just thoughts and concerns," Bush said. "And the British-US relationship is unique. It's been unique in the past. It is unique today. And I'm convinced it will be unique in the future, for the good of the world."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lech Walesa Tells Cubans To Be Ready For Democracy

Former Polish President Lech Walesa advised Cuban dissidents to be ready for an inevitable democratic transition, telling them Saturday that activists in his country had been unprepared for the collapse of East European communism. The former Solidarity labor leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate took questions from Cubans in a morning Internet teleconference at the home of the top American diplomat in Havana.
Lech Walesa
''When liberty arrives, it's going to be difficult,'' Walesa said from Poland. ''We made a lot of errors. We were not prepared.'' The Cuban government says no such transition will occur on the island and that the current economic and political systems will remain after 79-year-old President Fidel Castro is gone. Castro and other Cuban authorities have criticized a U.S. presidential commission report detailing how American aid can be used to promote a democratic transition, calling it a thinly veiled blueprint for regime change. About 100 people attended the event, including almost a dozen of Cuba's better-known dissidents. The Cuban government, which has grown increasingly critical in the last year of former East European nations that offer moral support to Cuban dissidents, did not comment on the event.
The meeting at the home of U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly came days after U.S. officials hooked up an electronic sign to broadcast human rights messages along the side of the American mission. Poland was an ideological ally of Cuba before the breakup of the former Soviet Union and subsequent collapse of communism across eastern Europe. ''For me, for many Cubans, you are a symbol of liberty, of liberty, of the defense of the rights of man, a courageous leader,'' the independent Cuban journalist Angel Polanco told Walesa.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Israel Preparing For Military Action On Iran

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has hinted Israel is preparing for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program, but says international diplomacy must be the first course of action. Speaking at a high-profile academic conference Saturday, Mofaz has suggested Israel would take military action to thwart Iran's nuclear program.
"Yesterday, the Iranian President outdid himself, and in order to be sure that the terror against Israel will not slow down for a moment, and will even increase, met with the heads of all terror organizations personally." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has met with leaders of the Palestinian group Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Syria on Friday. Israel has long identified Iran as its biggest threat and has accused the Tehran government of pursuing nuclear weapons.

Australians Want A Republic If Charles Is King

Most Australians would support severing their country’s constitutional ties with Britain if Prince Charles becomes King, according to survey results published this weekend. The poll report published in The Weekend Australian said 46 per cent of Australians polled supported their country becoming a republic, while 34 per cent wanted the British monarch to remain Australia’s head of state. But if Prince Charles—the first in line for the throne replaces his mother Queen Elizabeth II, who turns 80 in April, support for a republic would rise to 52 per cent and opposition would slide to 29 per cent, the poll report said.
A proposal to make Australia a republic with a president replacing the British monarch as head of state, an idea opposed by center-right. Prime Minister John Howard, was defeated in a 1999 referendum. The poll, conducted by market research company Newspoll, which is part-owned by the newspaper’s parent company, News Corp., was based on a random nationwide telephone survey of 1,200 adults last weekend. It had a 3 percentage point margin of error. Prince Charles’ popularity has suffered since he divorced the mother of his two sons, Princess Diana, who blamed his current wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, for ruining their marriage. Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Australia is a former British colony which was granted independence in 1901 but retained the British monarch as head of state.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Military Attack against Iran Now Imminent

A7 Radio's "The Tovia Singer Show"
World renowned investigative reporter and terror expert Kenneth R. Timmerman, author of the bestselling book "Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran,"
Kenneth R. Timmerman
And Carl Limbacher, reporter for NewMax.com, reveal that the US and Israel will destroy Iran's nuclear facilities in less than 10 weeks from now.
Carl Limbacher
Listen Now

Friday, January 20, 2006

Osama & Saddam Were In Cahoots

Think Saddam Hussein didn't harbor or abet terrorists, much less work hand-in-glove with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization? Well you'd better think that out again. For background, consider that part of the meritless charge that President George W. Bush "lied us into war" in Iraq stemmed from the allegation that Mr. Bush or his representatives claimed that Saddam actually helped plan or directly assisted the 9/11 terrorists. Of course, they never made such a claim. But they did say that Saddam sponsored terrorism and that he had clear ties to al-Qaida. Those assertions have always been true, and now the evidence is becoming more and more definitive.
Osama bin Laden & Saddam Hussein
Conservative sources such as The Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal editorial page have jumped all over the new evidence. But they aren't the only ones. Newsweek magazine, which could never be accused of conservative leanings, posted on its Web site several weeks ago a series of Pentagon slides summarizing solid intelligence about the nefarious Saddam-terrorism connections. For example, in 1998: "Zawahiri visits Baghdad and meets with Iraqi vice president." Ayman al-Zawahiri is the No. 2 man in al-Qaida -- the guy who frequently is seen on videotape making threats against the United States. He's the guy an American drone aircraft tried to kill with a bomb last week that killed at least 18 people. In 1999: "IIS Iraqi Intelligence Service officials meet OBL bin Laden in Afghanistan; additional contacts through Iraq's embassy in Pakistan." And, after a host of such reports, the official "findings" page lists these conclusions:
"More than a decade of numerous contacts."
"Multiple areas of cooperation."
"Shared anti-U.S. goals and common bellicose rhetoric."
"Shared interest and pursuit of WMD."
"Some indications of Iraqi coordination with al-Qaida specifically related to 9/11."
All of this was from a Pentagon report in 2002. Critics could write that off, mistakenly, as yet another example of bad pre-war intelligence, except that a treasure trove of documents captured in Iraq after the war confirm and amplify those earlier reports. For that matter, the independent 9/11 commission confirmed that Iraq and al-Qaida were in frequent contact. Of some 2 million documents and computer drives recovered from Saddam's regime, only 50,000 have so far been analyzed. The Bush administration, having been burned so badly on pre-war intelligence concerning deadly weapons, does not seem to be in a hurry to re-fight the Iraq-as-terrorist-state public-relations battle. But the administration should work to speed up the analysis of these documents, and disseminate them publicly. The American people deserve to know the evidence of how important it was to topple Saddam's regime.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Israel Likely To Bomb Iran In Spring

Israel could launch a missile attack on Iran in the upcoming spring, Director of the Russian Political Research Institute Sergei Markov was quoted. “Israel is in the state of a bitter cold war with Iran and might become the first victim of a nuclear weapon attack: therefore, I deem it very likely that the Israeli Air Force could launch missile strikes on military, nuclear targets in Iran as early as this spring,” Markov told reporters.
This move, however, would create serious problems for Israel, Markov said. “This would lead to a significant destabilization of the situation in the Middle East, including a dramatic increase in [terrorist] attacks by Islamists on Israel,” he said. At the same time, the international community will be increasing pressure on Iran, Markov said. In particular, Iran might be subjected to economic sanctions, “which would at first be mild but would then grow tougher and tougher, up to an embargo on purchasing Iranian oil,” he said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Explosive Device Closes US-Canadian Border

Four handguns and what Royal Canadian Mounted Police called an improvised explosive device were found Tuesday night in a car that had just entered Canada at the Peace Arch border crossing. The firearms were found in an initial inspection of the car and the explosive device was later found in the engine compartment, the RCMP said in a statement. Interstate 5 in the United States and Highway 99 in Canada were closed at the busiest crossing between the two countries west of Detroit as the Mounties' explosives squad was summoned, said Paula Shore, spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency.
Peace Arch border crossing
Traffic in both directions was diverted less than a mile to the east to the Pacific Highway crossing, said Shore and Mike Milne, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman. The discovery was made after a passenger car occupied only by the driver, a man who was acting erratically, entered Canada about 9:30 p.m. PST, Shore said. "The driver was interviewed by border services officers, who were suspicious," she said. "They did a further search and found one or more than one suspicious package. "We take safety and security very seriously." Shore did not say precisely what about the driver drew the attention of Canadian border agents. "Our border services officers are trained to look for inconsistencies," she added. "It's never just one thing that makes them want to take another look at someone."

Plot To Abduct Prime Minister Tony Blair's Son

A British newspaper and a rights-group founder say police are investigating an alleged plot by disgruntled activists to briefly abduct Prime Minister Tony Blair's son Leo, 5, to highlight their cause. The Sun newspaper claimed the plan was made by a group campaigning for better rights for fathers denied access to their children. The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that police said they knew of suggestions of such a plot but were not convinced that those involved had the ability to carry it out. The BBC said there was no kidnapping attempt and no arrests made.
Prime Minister Tony Blair and son Leo
Blair's Downing Street office said, "we are not going to comment on this story." London's Metropolitan Police said "we are not prepared to discuss matters of security of this type." The Sun, quoting an unnamed source, claimed police officers had uncovered the plot while investigating activities of members of the Fathers 4 Justice movement. That group's founder said the purported plot has "definitely nothing to do with the official group." Matt O'Connor said anti-terrorism police had been investigating some former members of his group. "I was made aware in December that anti-terrorist branch were involved and when I checked, that was correct," he said. "If there are extremists on the fringes who could undermine all the work we have done, we would have to consider our positions and perhaps think about winding the group up." Blair and his wife, Cherie, also have sons Euan, 21, and Nicholas, 20, and daughter Kathryn, 17.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Oldest Inmate Done Aging

Despite appeals by his attorneys and the pleas by anti death penalty activist, Clarence Ray Allen was put to death shortly after midnight, Tuesday. Allen died by lethal injection at California’s San Quentin State Prison.
Clarence Ray Allen
The state's oldest condemned inmate has enjoyed his final meal, just a few hours before his scheduled execution at San Quentin State Prison. Clarence Ray Allen's final meal was white-meat chicken from KFC, a buffalo steak, whole milk, sugar-free pecan pie and some black walnut ice cream. As the 76-year-old Allen dined inside the prison walls, about two dozen people gathered outside the gates tonight to protest the execution. That crowd has now swelled to about 200. Earlier today, the US Supreme Court denied Allen's final appeal

North Korea Says No Point In Nuclear Talks With U.S.

North Korea said it was unthinkable for it to return to nuclear disarmament talks that include the United States because it believes Washington wants to bring down its communist rulers with financial sanctions.
Pyongyang has already threatened to boycott the talks until the sanctions are lifted, but the fresh remark from the official KCNA news agency came as media reports suggested North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was in Beijing for discussions with Chinese leaders about the stalled six-way talks.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Gunmen Attack Oil Platform

Unidentified gunmen clashed with Nigerian soldiers guarding an oil plant operated by the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell in the Niger Delta, said a military commander. The attack on the Benisede flow station came as fears mounted for four foreign oilmen who were kidnapped five days ago by suspected militants after a spate of dynamite attacks on Shell's pipelines in the region.
oil platform operated by Shell in the Niger Delta
"There was an attack on that location about 07:00 today. We don't know who made the attack. We don't know about casualties," said Brigadier-General Elias Zamani. Benisede is a riverside pumping station which gathers crude oil from a network of wells in swampland around the Bomadi Creek, part of the Niger Delta south of the city of Warri and 300km southeast of Lagos. The plant is usually guarded by a platoon of Nigerian soldiers from Zamani's joint taskforce, a combined unit set up to protect the Niger Delta's multibillion-dollar oil industry from attack by pirates and militias. On Wednesday, suspected militants blew up Shell's Trans-Ramos pipeline near Benisede, cutting off 106 000 barrels of daily production, and seized four foreign oil workers from a boat operating off the coast. The oil workers - an American, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran - have been held since Wednesday somewhere in the delta creeks, said officials. A previously unknown Ijaw group has claimed responsibility for the attacks and demanded the release of a detained guerrilla leader and an impeached state governor who was seen as a champion of local autonomy.

Appropriate Placement For The Middle East

U.S. To Give Reward To Filipino Informant who Identified Terrorist

he U.S. government will hand over a US$100,000 reward to a Filipino who helped authorities capture a member of the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group last year, the American Embassy announced. The money will be given to a "courageous individual who stood against terrorism" in ceremonies Monday at the military's Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga city, the embassy said in a statement, without identifying the recipient.
A soldier looks at a gallery of wanted Abu Sayyaf guerrillas
Embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop said the captured Abu Sayyaf member, Toting Hanno, is suspected of taking part in the abduction of three Americans _ missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham, and Guillermo Sobero _ from a Philippine resort in May 2001. Sobero was later killed and a year later while Martin Burnham died in a military rescue while his wife was wounded. Hanno was arrested in May 2002, but escaped from the Basilan provincial jail a year later. He was recaptured in January last year on an island off Zamboanga, about 860 kilometers (538 miles) south of Manila. The U.S. government has already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (euros) in rewards for the capture and killings of Abu Sayyaf members and leaders, including about US$359,600 to three men who helped locate Hamsiraji Sali, a key Abu Sayyaf commander who was killed in a clash with government troops in 2004. U.S. counterterrorism training of Filipino troops has been credited with their battlefield successes against the Abu Sayyaf. The group is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ban Iran From World Cup

The Iranian Soccer team should be banned from this year's World Cup because of Tehran's nuclear programme, a leading British politician has demanded. Tory Foreign Affairs spokesman Michael Ancram said the move would send a "hard signal" to Islamic state that the international community would not accept the move.
Iran has been criticised by the West for resuming research on nuclear technology. Tehran says the programme is for domestic purposes but the West says it is developing a nuclear bomb. Mr Ancram said exclusion from football's biggest tournament "would give a very, very clear signal to Iran that the international community will not accept what they are doing". "It may be unpleasant, but you can give a very hard signal which isn't going to hurt people as such but is going to at least give a chance of registering in the minds of the Iranian people that what their president is doing is unacceptable to the international community." FIFA, soccer's governing body, said last month it would not expel Iran from the June 9-July 9 World Cup finals in Germany despite calls from German politicians for it to be excluded because the Iranian president denies the Holocaust. FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said: "FIFA is a sporting organisation and not a political organisation."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Philippine Army Rejects Talks With Communists

The Philippine Army chief ruled out peace talks with communist rebels, signalling the government was focused on eliminating a long-term security threat and using troops to weed out the roots of insurgency.
Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon
Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon, Commander of the 70,000-member ground forces, said the military was ready to do battle with New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas and was also focusing on development work in poor rural villages to check the expansion of rebel influence. “We’ll fight them and the plans are laid out,” Esperon, wearing camouflage fatigues, said in an interview at an army fortress near Manila’s business district. “The president has decided that we do not go on peace talks with them. They take advantage of the democratic space. They take advantage of the security and immunity guarantees. They roam and propagandise, arouse, organise and mobilise.” The insurgency, which has killed an estimated 40,000 people, is active in 69 of 79 provinces and has stunted rural development by terrorising villages and businesses with violence and “revolutionary war taxes.” “The talks will not give us anything,” said Esperon.

Al Qaeda No. 2, Zawahiri May Be Dead

A US air strike in Pakistan may have killed al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri. At least 17 people died in the attack on a remote tribal areain Pakistan, although US sources said it was unclear whether he had died. Forensic tests will now be carried out to confirm whether Zawahiri or any other senior al Qaeda members were among the dead.
Zawahiri (right) and Bin Laden
Zawahiri is believed to be the chief organiser of al Qaeda and is the closest mentor to the terrorist organisation's leader, Osama bin Laden. The pair first met in the mid-1980s when both were in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar to support mujahideen guerrillas fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Bin Laden and Zawahiri have eluded capture since US-led forces toppled Afghanistan's militant Taliban government in 2001 after the September 11 attacks. Zawahiri is the son of a pharmacology professor and grandson of the grand imam of al Azhar, one of the most important mosques in the Arab world. When the militant Egyptian Islamic Jihad was founded in 1973, he joined. When members posed as soldiers and assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, he was among 301 people arrested. He went on trial but was cleared of involvement in Mr Sadat's death, although he spent three years in jail for possession of an unlicensed pistol.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Air Force Dispatched Additional Warplanes

Coinciding with increased tensions with Iran over the resumption of illicit uranium enrichment, the U.S. Air Force has dispatched additional warplanes to the region in a not-so-subtle sign, military sources say. An entire wing of F-16s, the Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing based in Fort Wayne, Ind., left for a base in southwest Asia. A wing is usually about 72 aircraft and several hundred support personnel. F-16s and support personnel from the 4th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Fighter Wing based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, also deployed recently to Iraq. The squadron has 12 F-16s. Both units' F-16s could be used in any military operation to take out Iranian nuclear facilities. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command Air Forces, which runs air operations in the region, said the F-16 deployment of about 80 jets is part of a rotation and is not related to Iran's uranium reprocessing.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Robertson Penalized For Sharon Comments

Israel said it would accept no involvement by evangelist Pat Robertson in Jesusland, a biblical tourism project after he suggested that prime minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for a Gaza pull-out. Mr Robertson said on his 700 Club television show the day after Mr Sharon, 77, suffered a stroke a week ago that "he was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course".
Avraham Hirschson, the Israeli tourism minister "found his remarks unacceptable", a spokesman, Jonathan Pulik, said.
The minister would deny Mr Robertson involvement in a planned $48 million Christian Heritage Centre on the shore of the biblical Sea of Galilee, Mr Pulik said. The growing importance of Christian tourism led to Israel's proposal to create a 125-acre park beside the Sea of Galilee. Mr Robertson had been one of several evangelical Christians with whom Israel had discussed the project, Mr Pulik said.
crucifix endurance competition

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Russia Disappointed With Iran's Nuclear Decision

Russia today expressed “deep disappointment” over Iran’s decision to resume nuclear activities. A Foreign Ministry statement outlining a telephone conversation yesterday between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said both sides shared “a deep disappointment over Tehran’s decision to leave behind the moratorium on all activities tied with uranium enrichment, resuming research work in this sphere”.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, right, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Iran yesterday broke UN seals on its nuclear enrichment facility, pledging only to conduct research, but the international nuclear watchdog said Tehran also planned small-scale enrichment of uranium. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel in nuclear reactors in electricity generation or for nuclear bombs, depending on the level of processing.