Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Civil Rights Icon To Defend Wal-Mart

Civil rights leader and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young will become the public face of a Wal-Mart-backed group whose aim is to combat criticism of the world's largest retailer, the group said. Young, who was an aide to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights protests of the 1960s and served as ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter, will serve as chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart's national steering committee, the group said in a statement.
Civil rights leader Andrew Young
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was among the financial backers of Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group of people "who understand and appreciate Wal-Mart's positive impact on the working families of America," according to its Web site. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer has stepped up efforts to counter criticism from unions and other groups who say the company pays poverty-level wages, discriminates against women and drives competitors out of business. Image has become increasingly important for Wal-Mart as it reaches out to wealthier shoppers and grapples with growing opposition to its expansion, particularly into urban areas. "The critics have it wrong," Young said in a statement. "For those who care about the poor it is time to step up, speak out and join this national discussion." Wake Up Wal-Mart, a union-backed group critical of Wal-Mart, called on Young to use his position to push for changes at the retailer. "Ambassador Young is now in a unique position to reach out to Wal-Mart and CEO Lee Scott and urge them to change," Paul Blank, campaign director for Wake Up Wal-Mart, said in a statement.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Iran's Nuclear Facilitys Could Be Bombed In One Night

Many commentators argue that a preemptive air attack against Iran's nuclear installations is unfeasible. It would not be swift or surgical, they say, because it would require thousands of strike and defense-suppression sorties. And it is likely to fail even then because some facilities might be too well hidden or too strongly protected. There may well be other, perfectly valid reasons to oppose an attack on Iran's nuclear sites. But let's not pretend that such an attack has no chance of success. In fact, the odds are rather good.
The skeptics begin sensibly enough by rejecting any direct comparison with Israel's 1981 air attack that incapacitated the Osirak reactor, stopping Saddam Hussein's first try at producing plutonium bombs. Iran is evidently following a different and much larger-scale path to nuclear weapons, by the centrifuge "enrichment" of uranium hexafluoride gas to increase the proportion of fissile uranium 235. It requires a number of different plants operating in series to go from natural uranium to highly enriched uranium formed in the specific shapes needed to obtain an explosive chain reaction. Some of these plants, notably the Natanz centrifuge plant, are both very large and built below ground with thick overhead protection. It is at this point that the argument breaks down. Yes, Iraq's weapon program of 1981 was stopped by a single air strike carried out by less than a squadron of fighter-bombers because it was centered in a single large reactor building. Once it was destroyed, the mission was accomplished. To do the same to Iran's 100-odd facilities would require almost a hundred times as many sorties as the Israelis flew in 1981, which would strain even the U.S. Air Force. Some would even add many more sorties to carry out a preliminary suppression campaign against Iran's air defenses (a collection of inoperable anti-aircraft weapons and obsolete fighters with outdated missiles). But the claim that to stop Iran's program all of its nuclear sites must be destroyed is simply wrong. An air attack is not a Las Vegas demolitions contract, where nothing must be left but well-flattened ground for the new casino to be built.
Iran might need 100 buildings in good working order to make its bomb, but it is enough to demolish a few critical installations to delay its program for years - and perhaps longer because it would become harder or impossible for Iran to buy the materials it bought when its efforts were still secret. Some of these installations may be thickly protected against air attack, but it seems that their architecture has not kept up with the performance of the latest penetration bombs. Nor could destroyed items be easily replaced by domestic production. In spite of all the claims of technological self-sufficiency by its engineer-president, not even metal parts of any complexity can be successfully machined in Iran. More than 35 percent of Iran's gasoline must now be imported because the capacity of its foreign-built refineries cannot be expanded without components currently under U.S. embargo, and which the locals cannot copy. Aircraft regularly fall out of the sky because Iranians are unable to reverse-engineer spare parts. The bombing of Iran's nuclear installations may still be a bad idea for other reasons, but not because it would require a huge air offensive. On the contrary, it could all be done in a single night. One may hope that Iran's rulers will therefore accept a diplomatic solution rather than gamble all on wildly exaggerated calculations.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don Knotts Dies At Age 81

Actor Don Knotts, who kept generations of television audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show," has died. Knotts was 81. A spokesman for the cable network TV Land says Knotts died last night of pulmonary and respiratory complications at a Los Angeles area hospital.
The West Virginia-born actor's half-century career included seven TV series and more than 25 films, but it was the Griffith show that brought him TV immortality and five Emmy Awards.

Iran Says 'Israel Created To Complete Holocaust'

Hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said the Nazi attempt to eradicate Jews in the Holocaust was "myth," has now charged that European countries sought to complete the genocide by establishing Israel, a Jewish state in the midst of Muslim countries.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants Israel 'wiped off the map.'
"Don't you think that continuation of genocide by expelling Jews from Europe was one of their (the Europeans') aims in creating a regime of occupiers of Al-Quds (Jerusalem)?" the official Islamic Republic News agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "Isn't that an important question?" Ahmadinejad said Europeans had decided to create a "Jewish camp" as the best means for ridding the continent of Jews and said the camp, Israel, now enjoyed support from the United States and Europe in what he termed the slaughter of Muslims.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad initiates brokeback Iran

Saturday, February 25, 2006

New Visas Allow Minnesota Family To Return

A Twin Cities family ordered back to their native Czech Republic returned to Minnesota Friday evening. Fifteen years ago, the Danacek family received a special visa to allow them to bring their son to the United States so doctors could treat his leukemia.
the Danacek family return to the twin cities
This past July, the family was told their visas were no longer valid because their son had recovered from his illness. The Danaceks then were told they had to return the Czech Republic, or be deported. Just last week, the U.S. Embassy in Prague grated them new visas. They were reunited with friends eager to welcome them back to Minnesota.

Company Fined For Selling Affordable Gas

The Minnesota Department of Commerce plans to fine a gas station chain for repeatedly selling gas below the state's legal minimum price. The agency says it's fining Midwest Oil $140,000 for breaking a state formula based on wholesale prices, fees and taxes to determine a daily floor for gas prices. Minnesota's price law was intended to prevent large oil companies from driving smaller competitors out of business -- but some critics argue it fails to protect consumers. The Commerce Department says Midwest-owned stations in Anoka, Oakdale and Albert Lea sold gas below the minimum price on 293 days in 2005. Midwest officials couldn't be reached for comment.

Sex Pistols Tell The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame To Piss Off

The Sex Pistols have opted out on appearing at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The groundbreaking English punk rock group officially declined the honor to be handed out March 13 at a dinner and performance at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in a crudely scrawled, mispunctuated handwritten message posted on the band's Web site Friday.
"Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain," the statement read. "Your museum. Urine in wine. Were (sic) not coming. Were (sic) not your monkey and so what?" The statement slammed Hall of Fame voters as "music industry people," and excoriated the high price of attending the exclusive event -- $25,000 for a table, "or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery." It concluded, "Your (sic) not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL." Other 2006 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame include Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd and industry executives Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. Susan Evans, executive director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said of the band's announcement, "They're being the outrageous punksters that they are, and that's rock 'n' roll."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Beauty Queen Instigates Holocaust Outrage

A former Australian beauty queen has called for the bodies of Holocaust victims to be dug up to see if they really were gassed. Lady Michele Renouf, who was Miss Newcastle 1968 and briefly married to financier Sir Frank Renouf, questioned whether Nazi extermination camps killed six million Jews during World War II. The socialite divorcee was speaking outside a Vienna court where British historian David Irving was jailed for three years yesterday for denying the Holocaust. Irving, 67, pleaded guilty after admitting he'd been wrong to doubt the Nazi extermination of millions of Jews. The charges relate to a lecture he gave 17 years ago in Austria, which was once run by the Nazis. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Austria, the country where Adolf Hitler was born.
Socialite Michele Renouf wants Jews exhumed to find out how they died.
Irving was arrested when he returned to Vienna in November. Outside court, Lady Renouf, 59, ran the risk of being charged herself when she called for the bodies of "so-called Holocaust victims to be exhumed to see whether they died from typhoid or gas". Dressed in a pinstripe suit with a Union Jack lapel pin, she praised Irving for "standing up to the Zionists". "I am here to free David Irving and free Austria from this totalitarian law," she said. Formerly Michele Mainwaring, she acquired her title after a brief 1991 marriage to Sir Frank, who described the union as a "nasty accident". Sir Frank terminated the marriage after he found out that far from being the "Countess Griaznoff" she claimed, his wife was in fact the daughter of a Central Coast truck driver. Since then she has become a fixture on the London society circuit and been an outspoken anti-Semite who was kicked out of an exclusive club for her views. She once reportedly called herself the world's "most unsuccessful bimbo". Jeremy Jones, from the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council, described her comments yesterday as "mindbogglingly stupidity even for a supporter of David Irving". Irving has been banned from Australia, where he has a Queensland-based daughter, Beatrice. He will appeal against the jail sentence. with agencies

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Police Raid Homeless Shelter / Crack House

Minneapolis police arrested 20 people at Sharing and Caring Hands on Tuesday in a narcotics raid. They also seized drugs and cash from the suspected dealers. Officers from the Minneapolis Police Department, Metro Transit and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office made the arrests after a three month investigation that involved surveillance and undercover work.
Mary Jo Copeland, Drug Addict Enabler and Founder & Director of Sharing and Caring Hands
The arrests were for both felony and misdemeanor possession. Officers say more arrests may still be coming as police continue their investigation. Staff members from the Minneapolis First Precinct will work with staff members and administrators at Sharing and Caring Hands to prevent future drug activity at the homeless shelter and on the grounds of building.

Trust, But Verify

The list continues to grow of U.S. lawmakers who want to block a deal that would give a United Arab Emirates-based company management of six major U.S. seaports. The $6.8 billion friendly takeover by Dubai Ports World of the British-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O), which currently directs commercial operations at the six U.S. ports, is to be completed in a few weeks. The deal -- which would affect the ports of New York and New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Miami, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana -- has triggered security concerns among American lawmakers and the public. But there is less concern in 18 other countries where P&O has about 100 operations. The UK government says merely it is one company taking over another and observers detect political point scoring and racism as much as genuine security concerns.
While sorry to see a venerable British company bought by an overseas competitor, the attitude is: that's business. That lack of concern comes as no surprise to some security experts who say the Dubai port has one of the best safety records. "This is an efficient port ... well run. Security has been 100 percent," says Middle East expert Robert Springborg. "They have had no incidents there. They trade with everyone. They've traded with the Islamic republic in Iran since 1979 when it was created. They trade with the Saudis of course. So they trade with everybody and do it extremely efficiently," Springborg added. The U.S. ports in question are and will continue to be owned by state or local authorities and others rent space from them.
It is a different situation in the UK where ports were privatized years ago. P&O owns none of them but is a joint operator of Southampton port. Still, only 4 percent of its business is in Britain and just 6 percent in the U.S. Most of its business is now in fast-growing Asia, which is the main reason P&O was a takeover target for Dubai Ports World. The security criticism is a red herring anyway, according to analysts, who say that for the most part P&O only handles the logistics in ports. "When you listen to the way some of the lawmakers have talked about it, they've been talking about it as if this company is going to control the whole port of New York and New Jersey," says Robert Wright of the Financial Times. "That's very far from the case." Each country has its own port security systems in place but most of the containers that go in and out are unchecked. Security has more to do with theft. Analysts are puzzled by the outcry in the U.S. because port security there is run by federal agencies along with the states and this will continue to be the case.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

North Korean Envoy Threatened Japan With Missile Launches Over Sanctions

North Korea's top envoy for normalization talks with Japan said in bilateral discussions earlier this month his country would use a "strong physical response" to economic sanctions by Tokyo, sources said. Song Il Ho gave the warning to his Japanese counterpart, Koichi Haraguchi, during informal contacts in the course of the February meetings in Beijing, the sources said. A Japanese delegation source described Song's remarks as an "outright threat that it would lift its freeze on launching ballistic missiles." North Korea has in the past issued statements saying it would consider the imposition of economic sanctions a declaration of war and would respond immediately, but Japan is reportedly concerned because the remarks this time came during high-level governmental talks.
Tokyo plans to study North Korea's intentions carefully as the comments could be in violation of the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration, in which the North expressed its intention to "maintain the moratorium on missile launching in and after 2003." Calls are mounting in Japan to impose economic sanctions to pressure Pyongyang into meeting demands over the abductions of Japanese nationals by the North. During the Beijing talks, Japan demanded that North Korea return any abductees still in the country, provide concrete evidence about the fates of missing abductees and hand over the agents responsible for the abductions. Haraguchi also explained Japan's basic position on the abduction issue, saying the calls for economic sanctions will become stronger if there are no concrete developments, the sources said. Song made the "physical response" remarks after Haraguchi listed the three demands, the sources said. North Korean negotiators also suggested during bilateral security talks focusing on the country's nuclear and missile programs that it might lift the moratorium on missile launches, they said. North Korea has developed and test-fired Rodong ballistic missiles, which can reach most of Japan, and the even longer range Taepodong missile. The Beijing talks, held for the first time under a new three-track format, covered the abduction issue, the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations, and Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bla, Bla, Bin Laden

According to an audiotape purportedly made by Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader promises never to be captured alive and accuses the United States of using the same "repressive" tactics used by Saddam Hussein. The eleven-minute tape was posted on a militant Web site and appears to be a complete version of one that was first broadcast last month on Al-Jazeera. That tape was authenticated by the C-I-A. In the latest tape, bin Laden says he's "sworn to only live free" and that he doesn't want to die "humiliated or deceived." The initial excerpts had been the first tape from the al-Qaida leader in more than a year -- the longest period without a message since Nine-Eleven.

Text Messages From Filipinos Buried Alive By Landslide

forwarded text message from the dead: ‘Ma’am, we are still under the school. Please help us, ma’am. This is Edilio Coquilla. Please ma’am.’
Rescuers in the central Philippines are battling against time to try to unearth an elementary school where 206 children and 40 teachers are buried alive by a landslide. President Gloria Arroyo told an emergency briefing that children and teachers have been sending text messages calling for help from their tomb.
The school is a focus of the rescue effort in a poor farming village in Leyte island, which was flattened when the side of a mountain crashed on it after days of heavy rain. Officials say at least 1,400 people and possibly up to 3,000 are missing. Miners with specialist equipment are among emergency crews and supplies rushing to the disaster scene. Rescue workers are trying to dig through at least 30 metres of mud and rocks, but they are threatened by fresh landslides and heavy equipment can't cope with the mud, so everything must be done by hand.

Joint US / Israeli Short Range Missile Defense Tende

Boeing and The Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. announced that they would make joint bid for the Ministry of Defense tender for short range ballistic missile defense (SRMBD) systems. Also bidding for the tender will be consortium comprising the US company Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) and the Israeli Armament Development Authority . Sources in Israel value the multi year tender at $50-100 million. The issue behind the current tender was the urgent need to find a solution to the Kassam rockets, which have now begun to emerge as a key threat due to the ability of Palestinian terror groups to threaten strategic infrastructure targets in Ashkelon with improved models of the rocket. These could, if smuggled into, or manufactured by groups based in the West Bank, threaten key installations in the heart of Israel.
According to Israeli sources, the fact that two leading US companies have joined forces with local Israeli industries in an effort to find a solution to the Kassam rocket, is indicative of the common efforts of the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv and the Department of Defense in Washington, to counteract the threat posed by the rockets. ”It is inconceivable that companies such as Boeing or Raytheon that have such strong links with the Pentagon would sign comprehensive joint venture agreements with Israeli companies, without first obtaining the green light from the secretary of defense,” said a expert source on defense relations between the two countries. Of the $133 million allocated by the US Congress to the Arrow anti ballistic Missile project for the coming fiscal year, $10 million will be earmarked for technological R&D activities focusing on counteracting the short range missile threat. Most of the funding will be used to assess the competing offers made by the two consortiums. The Ministry of Defense is to conduct a ‘feasibility’ study on each of the proposals, with a view to determining which of the two is a viable proposition. The IAI/Boeing bid is based on the longstanding cooperation between the two companies on the development and manufacturing of the Arrow missile project. Sources believe that engineers from both companies will try to incorporate two capabilities in their design: early detection of Kassams following launch and high altitude interception. Development of the first capability will be based on the existing “Green Pine” radar system, which is used with the Arrow. It is also believed that the Rafael/Raytheon proposal will reportedly use technologies currently fitted in Rafael’s air-to-air missile technology. Israeli sources predicted that should one of the two current offers win the tender, part of the manufacturing process will be undertaken at the US partner’s plants, as is the arrangement for the Arrow Missile manufacturing procedures. Last year IAI outsourced component manufacturing operations worth $70 million to Boeing, with the completed kits shipped to the IAI facility at Sde Yaacov for assembly. Such an arrangement enables Israel to use US military aid to finance the manufacturing of the Arrow and will also fund future development and manufacturing of missile defense systems.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

German Companies Probed Over Ties To Iran Nuclear Program

Several German companies are under investigation for alleged involvement in Iran's disputed nuclear program, a German magazine reported. Police searched the premises of eight firms as well as private homes as part of the investigation, the Spiegel weekly said in an article released ahead of its publication on Monday.
Horst Salzmann, a spokesman for federal prosecutors, declined to comment on the report. According to Spiegel, one firm from Cologne was involved in a planned delivery to Iran of equipment to detect radiation contamination on clothes and human skin.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

North Korean Cheerleaders Sent To Prison Camp

Some North Korean cheerleaders who took part in athletic events in the South have been jailed at a prison camp after returning home, a survivor of another camp said yesterday, quoting recent defectors from the communist state. Twenty-one young women were accused of revealing their experience in the South against a code of silence to which they swore, said Kang Chol-hwan, who himself escaped the North in 1992, quoting North Korean defectors now in China. Kang is the author of the book “The Aquariums of Pyongyang” about his own experience of torture and forced labour in a North Korean prison camp.
He had a personal audience with US President George W Bush last year during which they discussed human rights abuses in the North. “I heard that the women violated the oath not to disclose what they saw and heard in the South,” Kang quoted one of the defectors who had served in the camp as saying in an article he wrote for the major daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo. Authorities could not verify the report. The group of cheerleaders grabbed attention in South Korea last year at an Asian athletics event near Seoul with their precision choreography and endless smiles. The camp in Taehung had been known to hold financial criminals but more recently began taking political prisoners, Kang later said by telephone. The camp is located in rugged mountains in the northeastern part of North Korea. Kang quoted another North Korean defector as saying the cheerleaders were picked from elite college graduates and propaganda troops. North Korea is one of the world’s most reclusive states where, human rights groups say, violations are rampant.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Weir Causes Sstir With Soviet Jacket

American Johnny Weir has been catching a few glances at the Winter Olympics. The Delaware resident was wearing a red warm-up jacket with “C-C-C-P” on it during a practice session today.
Johnny Weir
Those are the Cyrillic initials for the former Soviet Union. The three-time U-S men’s figure skating champion says he got it from Russian pairs skater Tatiana Totmianina as a birthday present. He says it’s just for fun, the same as if someone was wearing a Madonna T-shirt. "It's not that I'm anti-American or anything like that ... I just admire Russian culture and Russian skaters for their strength and their perseverance through everything they go through"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Batman Takes Aim At Al-Qaida

The Caped Crusader is set to take on his biggest fight yet - against Osama bin Laden's less than cartoonish al Qaeda. Graphic book writer Frank Miller has told a comic book convention in San Francisco he wants Batman to ''kick al Qaada's ass.'' Miller, best known for his darker version of Batman and for Sin City, said it was silly to have his hero chase made-up baddies like the Riddler when there were real-life villains to deal with.
''It is a reminder to people who seem to have forgotten who we're up against," he said. The story is based on DC Comics' famed superhero defending his hometown of Gotham City against a terrorist attack. It is not the first time real people has appeared in the world of superheroes, he added. "Superman punched out Hitler.
So did Captain America. That's one of the things they're there for," Miller said.
The graphic novel, half of which has been finished by Miller, is expected to appear next year.

Hamas Verbally Attacks U.S. & Israel For Considering Palestinian Regime Change

Hamas protested ``interference'' by the United States and Israel following reports the nations were exploring ways to topple the militants' incoming government unless they renounced their violent ideology and recognized Israel's right to exist. In Washington, the White House and the Israeli ambassador to the United States denied there was such a plot. The State Department said it was reviewing U.S. aid to the Palestinians and would make a decision within two weeks. Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in Sudan that his group had no plans to recognize Israel. ``There will be no recognition of Israel and there will be no security for the occupation and colonization forces,'' Mashaal told a rally in Khartoum. ``Resistance will remain our strategic option.''
Reporters, citing U.S. and Israeli officials it did not identify, reported that the United States and Israel were considering a campaign to starve the Palestinian Authority of cash so Palestinians would grow disillusioned and bring down a Hamas government. Israeli security officials said they were looking at ways to force Hamas from power and were focusing on an economic squeeze that would prompt Palestinians to clamor for the return of President Mahmoud Abbas' ousted Fatah Party. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. A Hamas official protested the reports, saying attempts to bring down a future Hamas government were hypocritical. ``This is ... a rejection of the democratic process, which the Americans are calling for day and night,'' incoming legislator Mushir al Masri said. ``It's an interference and a collective punishment of our people because they practiced the democratic process in a transparent and honest way.''

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Al Gore Event Funded By Bin Laden's Family

The Saudi Arabia seminar that was addressed by former Vice President Al Gore over the weekend in a speech that criticized the U.S. for being too tough on Arabs was sponsored, in part, by Osama bin Laden's family. On Saturday, the state-run Saudi news outlet Arab News reported that the Jeddah Economic Forum, where Gore spoke, was funded by "Saudi Arabian Airlines, the Saudi Binladin Group, Gulf One Investment Bank, Saudi Basic Industries Corp." and an array of other big companies with ties to the Middle East.
Al Gore
The Saudi BinLadin Group - which is Saudi Arabia's largest construction company - is run by Osama bin Laden's brothers and cousins. Jeddah, the site of the forum attended by Gore, is Osama bin Laden's hometown. Although family members claim they've disowned bin Laden, his mother told reporters after the 9/11 attacks that she received advanced warning from him that something big was about to happen. A wealthy bin Laden niece also reportedly abandoned her lower Manhattan apartment three weeks before the 9/11 attacks. The BinLadin Group's longtime involvement in the Jeddah forum has been widely reported in the Mideast and European press. In January 2002, ex-President Clinton addressed the JEF, which paid him $267,000 for his speech. According to London's Financial Times: "The conference was dominated by the Saudis' desire to overcome the pressures of September 11 and strengthen U.S.-Saudi ties . . . The BinLadin Group, one of the forum's backers, has been battered by its association with Osama." Other JEF speakers that year included President Bush's younger brother, Neil. It's not known how much Mr. Gore was paid for his speech.

Dont Sneak Up On Vice President Dick Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a hunting companion in the face and torso while hunting quail in Texas. According to news reports, Harry Whittington had left the group to retrieve a downed quail when Cheney struck his friend with a shotgun blast while firing at a covey of birds.

Monday, February 13, 2006

USA Plans Devastating Bombing Of Iran's Nuclear Sites

The United States is drawing up plans for bombing raids backed by Submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a ‘‘last resort’’ to block Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, a media report said. Central Command and Strategic Command Planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation. The war strategists are reporting to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as the US is updating plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions, the report said.
‘‘This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment,’’ a senior Pentagon adviser told a reporter. ‘‘This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.’’ The prospect of military action could put Washington at odds with Britain which fears that an attack would spark violence across the Middle East, reprisals in the West and may not cripple Tehran’s nuclear programme. However, the steady flow of disclosures about Iran’s secret nuclear operations and the virulent anti-Israeli threats of President. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has prompted the fresh assessment of military options by Washington. The most likely strategy would involve aerial bombardment by long-distance B2 bombers, each armed with up to 40,000lb of precision weapons, including the latest bunker-busting devices. They would fly from bases in Missouri with mid-air refueling. The Bush administration has recently announced plans to add conventional ballistic missiles to the armoury of its nuclear trident submarines within the next two years. If ready in time, they will also form part of the plan of attack, the report said. Tehran has dispersed its underground nuclear plants and has recently increased its air defences.

Twelve Jailed Over 'Gay Wedding'

A UNITED Arab Emirates (UAE) court has jailed 12 men who were arrested after being discovered preparing for a gay wedding, but has acquitted another 14 defendants, an official said today. "Eleven men have confessed to practising homosexuality. They were sentenced to five years in prison (for homosexuality) and one year for obscenity," the official said. "Another man was sentenced to one year in prison for obscenity, but was acquitted of homosexuality charges...
while 14 others have been released after being found not guilty," he said. The 26 defendants, including UAE citizens, an Indian and three nationals of neighbouring Arab countries, were arrested in November when police raided a hotel in a desert resort town. Local newspaper Emirates Today had reported that the Abu Dhabi court had sentenced all 26 men to five years in jail. It said the men were busted in a hotel "dressed in women's clothes and make-up in preparation of gay wedding". The official said the verdict was not final and could be appealed. The US State Department had condemned the arrests and called on its close Gulf ally to stop reported plans for a forced hormone treatment on the suspects, which an interior ministry official then denied.
Homosexuality is a serious offence in the Muslim UAE and neighbouring conservative Gulf countries,(Even though they all practice homosexuality) where offenders could face flogging along with imprisonment, while foreigners could also face expulsion. Last April, a court in neighbouring Saudi Arabia sentenced two Saudis, one Yemeni and a Jordanian to two years in jail and 2000 lashes after a police raid on an alleged gay party. Across the Gulf in non-Arab Iran, repeated sodomy carries the death penalty

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Man Held Over Bomb Joke At Manila Airport

Philippine police detained a 71-year-old Japanese man at Manila Airport after he said he was carrying two bombs. "He is being held for a bad joke," said Rolando Estabillo, a spokesman for Philippine Airlines. "I am not sure whether police will set him free or file charges against him for some security violations." Signs at Manila's international and domestic airports warn passengers not to make jokes about carrying explosives. Airline and security officials said Yasou Ishii was being frisked by guards when he was overheard saying he had two bombs. His luggage was searched but police found no explosives. Estabillo said the Philippine Airlines flight left on time for Tokyo's Narita Airport without the man. "We don't tolerate any jokes," said airport police officer Fely Parariza.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Failing To Print These Images Mean The Terrorists Have Won

To see the latest creation from conservative t-shirt maker MetroSpy some would think the Muslim world had every right to be upset. MetroSpy's new t-shirts depict an unflattering caricature of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head. The controversial cartoon, which first ran in European newspapers, has outraged Muslims around the world because Islamic tradition forbids a graphic depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.
Many in the U.S however, are angered by the violence being displayed by extreme Islamic protesters -- torching buildings, desecrating flags and in some cases even killing people. Annoyed by the violent images broadcast from the Middle East, MetroSpy decided to sell t shirts with the controversial caricature emblazoned across the front. “We can't let the terrorists win. We can not encourage this uncivilized behavior by caving in to their wishes,” said Nate Thomas, product manager for MetroSpy. On their website (http://www.shopmetrospy.com/), MetroSpy denounces the tactics of Islamic extremists and encourages its customers to stand up against terrorism. "Failing to print these images mean the terrorists have won", the site says. “We wanted a simple way to exercise our freedom of speech and to stand up to the terrorists. This design was perfect,” said Thomas. So far, the Mohammed t-shirt has become their best selling item of the year -- more than 120 orders the first day it became available. Critics of the Mohammed t-shirts say this is a perfect example of why Americans are hated around the world. Finding humor in the desecration of another's religious symbol, even if you disagree, is just plain wrong. Despite the critics, MetroSpy intends to keep selling the Mohammed cartoon t-shirts.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Iran's Missile Technology Suppliers Named

Two German businessmen, a former Russian military officer and North Korea are among those helping Iran develop missiles that the West fears could one day carry nuclear warheads, diplomats and intelligence officials say. Last month German federal prosecutors formally charged two German citizens with espionage for helping a foreign intelligence agency acquire dual-use "delivery system" technology. The prosecutors announced the charge of espionage last week but did not name the country involved. The two German men have been accused of "having sold a vibration testing facility in 2001 and 2002 on behalf of a foreign military intelligence procurement entity," the prosecutor's office said in a statement posted on its Web site.
Iran's Shahab-3 missile
A German official familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the investigation, said the country involved was Iran. "These missile technology dealers ... appear to have been acting alone and were not part of any organized gang," he said. The state prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe, Germany did not name the men or the German company they worked for. The involvement of German citizens in what U.S. and European officials believe is Iran's covert nuclear weapons program will be embarrassing for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has vowed to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons. "You really can't separate Iran's nuclear activities from its missile program. The missiles are the delivery system," an EU diplomat familiar with the case said. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and publicly doubted that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two. Recent U.S. intelligence recovered from a stolen laptop computer suggests that Iranian missile experts are trying to develop a missile re-entry vehicle capable of carrying a relatively small nuclear warhead, EU and U.S. officials say. Last week the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, voted to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, due to fears it is developing atomic weapons. Iran says it does not want weapons, only nuclear energy. With the exception of Russia, China and North Korea, few countries sell Iran weapons or dual-use technology that could be used to make atomic, chemical or biological weapons. To the annoyance of the United States and European Union, Russia has made it clear that it is willing to sell small-scale defensive missiles to Iran. Late last year, Moscow agreed to sell Iran tactical surface-to-air missiles that could be used to shoot down low-flying aircraft or guided missiles. However, even Russia says it will not sell medium- and long-range missile technology to the Islamic republic. But a European and a non-European intelligence official told Reuters that Russian middlemen were helping Iran get missile technology from North Korea that could bring central Europe within the range of Iranian missiles. An EU diplomat, citing his country's intelligence, said Iran had purchased 18 disassembled BM-25 mobile missiles with a range of around 2,500 km from North Korea. He was confirming a German newspaper report from December that cited Germany's BND foreign intelligence service. One of the intelligence officials said a former Russian military officer with the first name Viktor had helped Iran get Soviet-made SSN6 missile technology from Russia and North Korea, which Iran could use to improve the accuracy of its newly-bought BM-25s and increase their range to as much as 3,500 km. "The Russian authorities either don't know about him or don't care," the official said, adding that there was no evidence that Moscow approved of Viktor's activities. Iranian and Russian officials declined to comment. Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a range of some 2,000 km. With a range of 3,500 km, the missiles could reach central Europe. In December, the United States imposed sanctions on six Chinese, two Indian and one Austrian firm for selling missile or chemical weapons-related supplies to Iran.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Shopkeeper Stocks Up On Danish Flags For Burning

When entrepreneur Ahmed Abu Dayya first heard that Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were being reprinted across Europe, he knew exactly what his customers in Gaza would want: flags to burn. Abu Dayya ordered 100 hard-to-find Danish and Norwegian flags for his Gaza City shop and has been doing a swift trade. "I do not take political stands. It is all business," he said in an interview. "But this time I was offended by the assault on the Prophet Mohammad." A wave of anger has swept the Muslim world over the publication of the cartoons, one of which shows the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. First printed in Denmark, the cartoons have appeared in newspapers across Europe, as well as in the United States.While normally hard to come by in isolated Gaza, Danish and Norwegian flags are now popping up at daily protests, increasingly replacing Israel's Star of David. It's not clear how many merchants apart from Abu Dayya are offering the flags, but they appear to be readily available. Angry Muslims set the flags ablaze or tear them to pieces. At a protest on Monday outside European Union offices in Gaza, dozens of Palestinian students chanted: "Down with Denmark. Down with Norway. With our blood and with our souls, we will sacrifice for our Prophet." In Beirut and Damascus, mobs set Danish and Norwegian embassies on fire. "I knew there would be a demand for the flags because of the angry reaction of people over the offence to Prophet Mohammad," said Abu Dayya, whose PLO Flag Shop also sells souvenirs and presents. He sells his Danish and Norwegian flags for $11 a piece -- a price he acknowledged might be dampening sales. Many protesters prefer to save money and make the flags themselves from scraps of fabric, he said.Abu Dayya sources some of his flags from suppliers in Taiwan, but he buys Israeli flags from a merchant in Israel, even though he sells them to be burnt at anti-Israeli rallies. Flag-making has been a growth business for Abu Dayya for years, thanks to orders by Palestinian militant groups for national flags and banners bearing the symbols of armed factions. Last year, he said the Palestinian Authority ordered 60,000 flags ahead of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Workers at one factory stitched some 3,000 pennants a day. While the flag merchant said the Danish cartoons upset him, he urged fellow Gazans not to punish Danish citizens collectively, citing their humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Jetstar Airlines Censors Mothers Art

For five years, Peta Bull's tattoo of a naked man and woman embracing hardly raised an eyebrow - not at work, not in public, not even at her daughter's school, where she helps out from time to time. Then she flew Jetstar. Soon after boarding a flight to Brisbane last month, the 36-year-old said she was asked to cover the tattoo on her shoulder blade - even though singlet straps already hid the most potentially offensive bit - or get off the plane. The crew said there were children on board and some passengers might be offended. In front of other passengers, they gave her a jacket and told her to wear it until she reached the terminal.
Peta Bull … told to cover up.
Ms Bull said she was too shocked to argue. "It was humiliating. I couldn't see the problem. [Because of the straps] nobody could have worked out what the picture was. I was very embarrassed." She said another passenger with a four-letter word on his T-shirt was not asked to cover up. "I felt like I had been singled out. I have never experienced anything like that before." The tattoo shows a man sitting behind a woman, who is lying back and propped up on her elbows. He holds one arm across her breasts and another over her crotch. "It's not sexual," Ms Bull said. Cameron Murphy, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said it was a censorship issue. He said staff should be encouraging people to fly rather than policing body art. "I think the operators of Jetstar should be more sensible," he said. "It's really an issue of freedom of expression. There's no particular reason why something like that could cause any problem for people." Ms Bull, a cleaner and mother of two from Mackay in central Queensland, tried to call the airline to complain after the January 26 flight but was told to write a letter. She sent the letter as registered mail on Friday. A Jetstar spokesman, Simon Westaway, said the company would look into the issue when it received the letter. The conditions of flight stated crew members were entitled to address matters that might upset other passengers. "Our cabin crew aren't the social police," Mr Westaway said. "[But] at the end of the day the comfort of all the passengers needs to be taken into consideration. Our cabin crew clearly felt that they needed to ask her to cover up a little bit."

Monday, February 06, 2006

US Has To Be Ready For Military Strike Against Iran

The United States has to be ready for a military strike against Iran if diplomacy and economic sanctions are not able to pull Tehran out of its nuclear weapons ambitions, a senior US lawmaker has said. "We need to use diplomatic sanctions. If that doesn't work, economic sanctions, and if that doesn't work, the potential for military use has to be on the table," Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told reporters in Missouri, adding "We cannot allow Iran to become a nuclear nation." Asked whether Congress had the political will to use military force against Iran if necessary, First said: "The answer is yes, absolutely." Senior lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, have voiced serious apprehensions on Iran going unchecked by the international community in its determined quest for nuclear weapons.
Bill Frist
The contention of Teheran that it is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes has hardly any takers on Capitol Hill and some of this has to do with the statements of Iran's leaders like its President who have called for the destruction of the state of Israel and hat the Holocaust was a myth. Soon after vote in Vienna by International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran to UN Security Council, a leading Republican Senator John McCain stressed yesterday that all options would have to remain on the table and that the military option would have to be the last one. McCain, who is a Presidential hopeful for 2008, brushed aside the notion that Washington did not have credibility on Iran on account of its unilateral moves over Iraq in 2003. The Arizona Republican referred to the vote in the IAEA as meaning that this time it was the international community including Russia and China wanting a meaningful resolution of this crisis.

Troops Find Huge Arms Stockpile In Iraq

The U.S. military in Iraq said Saturday that U.S. soldiers and Marines found a large weapons cache west of Fallujah, the 11th such discovery by the same troops in 13 days.
The latest cache consisted of more than 800 mortar rounds, 43 57-mm rockets, 75 tubes of C3 explosives, 125 hand grenades, seven 50-kilogram bags of TNT along and eight land mines, along with an assortment of ammunition for weapons from anti-aircraft systems to machine guns, the military said.

Lebanese Interior Minister Quits Over Riots

Lebanon's Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa resigned after the riots that torched the Danish consulate and damaged property in a Christian area of Beirut.
Sabaa told reporters he had submitted his resignation during an emergency government meeting. A senior political source told Reuters Sport and Youth Minister Ahmad Fattfat was expected to be named acting interior minister.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

North Korea Looking For New Money Launderer

North Korea may be looking for banks to help it launder money and the United States is ready to take action if this happens, a senior U.S. Treasury Department official said. The Treasury accused Macao-based Banco Delta Asia SARL last fall of having laundered money for North Korea. In reaction, Pyongyang has refused to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear ambitions until Washington removes the financial sanctions.
"Just being logical about it, if Banco Delta Asia is not available, they are certainly likely to be looking for other financial institutions that they can either abuse unwillingly...or look for other partners that might engage with them willingly," Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes Stuart Levey said in an interview with Kyodo News. "So we're watching very carefully, and if something were to occur we would take appropriate steps to counteract it," he said. Levey said there were two problems involving the Macao case -- the bank's awareness of its involvement and the lax controls of Macao authorities. "This bank...was being willingly used by North Korea to facilitate a wide range of illicit activity, from money laundering of drug proceeds, counterfeit cigarettes, even putting into circulation counterfeit U.S. currency," Levey said. "We also expressed concern about the relatively vulnerable system of anti-money-laundering controls that exist in Macao," he said. "The combination of having a financial institution that was in a relationship facilitating illicit activity for the government of North Korea and having that financial institution exist in a jurisdiction of lax controls posed a very substantial risk to the integrity of the financial system as a whole, and to the U.S. financial system in particular," Levey said. "So we felt it was appropriate to take this action." Noting that he has visited Macao and other parts of Asia over the issue, Levey said he had a "good" dialogue with Macao authorities. "They reacted positively in terms of indicating that they knew they needed to take action to strengthen this system, and so we hope that that is the direction they'll go," he said.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Al Lewis 'Grandpa Munster' Dies at 95

Actor Al Lewis, the cigar-chomping patriarch of "The Munsters" whose work as a basketball scout, restaurateur and political candidate never eclipsed his role as Grandpa from the television sitcom, died after several years of failing health. He was 95. Lewis, with his wife at his bedside, passed away Friday night, said Bernard White, program director at WBAI-FM, where the actor hosted a weekly radio program for years. White made the announcement on the air during the Saturday slot where Lewis usually appeared.
Al Lewis
"To say that we will miss his generous, cantankerous, engaging spirit is a profound understatement," White said.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Putin’s Comments On Hamas Spark Row Between Russia, Israel

Russia and Israel are on the verge of a diplomatic row after President Putin stated at a personal press-conference that Russia never viewed Hamas as a terrorist organization. According to Moscow Kommersant daily, Israeli officials were shocked by Putin openly supporting Palestinian terrorists. Commenting on Hamas recent victory at the Palestinian legislative elections at a press conference, Putin said Russia never declared Hamas a terrorist organization, although it never supported its actions. The West should not cut financial aid because of the Hamas’s victory in the elections, he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
“Hamas must refrain from radical statements, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and establish contacts with the international community,” Putin said. “We’re calling upon Hamas to consistently work in that direction.” However recognizing Israel was just one of the three issues that the international community demands from Hamas in an agreement that Putin has also signed. Hamas has to be committed to three issues — to stop violence, to follow all the agreements signed with Israel and to recognize the existence of Israel. Israeli authorities cannot accept a position that assesses terrorism in different countries differently. “Hamas terror actions have killed more than 550 Israelis, many of them of Russian origin. We cannot see the difference between a bus explosion in Jerusalem and a terrorist attack in Moscow or Beslan,” unnamed Israely diplomat was quoted by Kommersant as saying.