Friday, September 29, 2006

Baghdad, Iraq Under Curfew

Iraq's government shut down the capital with a one-day curfew on Saturday, ordering all cars and pedestrians off the streets, but giving no reason for the measure. The curfew would remain in place until 6:00 a.m. (0200) on Sunday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said in a one- line statement. The U.S. military did not comment. The announcement came after a week of clashes and bombings heralded the start of the holy month of Ramadan. U.S. commanders say the past week saw a record number of suicide bombings and the last two weeks have seen a surge in violence. Although no explanation was given for the curfew, residents of the Adamiya neighborhood in the north of the capital said they heard gunfire and explosions near dusk on Friday.U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a seven-week-old security crackdown in the capital, targeting scattered neighborhoods for sweeps. But Sunni and Shi'ite sectarian militia have clashed in several parts of the city over recent days. The Ramadan holy month began a week ago with a massive bomb in a Shi'ite neighborhood that killed at least 34 people. A Sunni militant group claimed responsibility for that attack and said it was revenge for killings by Shi'ite death squads. The curfew comes a day after gunmen killed the brother-in- law of the chief judge in former leader Saddam Hussein's genocide trial and badly wounded his sister and nephew. It was at least the fourth killing closely connected to the U.S.-sponsored court, following those of three defense lawyers, and will raise new questions about its ability to conduct fair trials in a nation on the verge of sectarian civil war. "This was purposely and intentionally from groups which are connected to Saddam," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters, adding that he expected judge Mohammed al-Ureybi nonetheless to continue presiding over the trial which he took over last week.The government sacked his predecessor for saying Saddam was "not a dictator." Police said two officers were killed on Friday in clashes in Baghdad's violent southern Dora district. A Sunni tribal leader was killed by gunmen in the same area. Some tribal sheikhs have become targets for militants, especially following a deal this week by tribes in western Anbar province to take on al Qaeda alongside government forces. The tribes captured five militants in the Anbar province capital Ramadi on Friday, including three foreign fighters from Yemen, police and tribal leaders said. The U.S. commander in Ramadi, Colonel Sean MacFarland, hailed the tribes' action. He said his troops' mission was not to defeat the insurgency but to reduce violence to a manageable level, allowing Iraqi security forces to take over. Attacks on U.S. and Iraqi government forces in Ramadi had fallen to 15 a day from 20 a few months ago, he told reporters in the Pentagon by video link, adding much more had to be done.

U.S. Relocates X-Band Radar In Aomori To Watch North Korea

The U.S. military has activated a high-powered radar outpost in northern Japan capable of tracking ballistic missiles, a key part of a joint missile defense project, amid concerns about North Korea and its nuclear ambitions. U.S. Brig. Gen. John E. Seward hosted a ceremony Tuesday at Camp Shariki in Aomori Prefecture to activate the unit operating the X-band radar, U.S. Army Japan press officer Maj. Martha Brooks said. The high-resolution radar can identify flying objects the size of a baseball from thousands of kilometers away and can differentiate between decoys and real warheads. Japan and the United States began working on the project after North Korea fired a long-range missile over Japan in 1998.It is part of a sweeping, multibillion dollar defense shield that includes joint production of new missiles capable of intercepting and destroying incoming missiles and the deployment of advanced Patriot interceptor missiles around Japan. Japan is well within range of North Korean missiles and has been deeply disturbed by Pyongyang's claim to possessing nuclear weapons and its test-firing of seven missiles in July, including a long-range missile believed capable of reaching North America. The radar installation was relocated to its present site from Misawa Air Base, also in Aomori Prefecture. Brooks declined to say if the X-band radar was redeployed to keep a better eye on North Korea, but said, "we're here in defense of Japan, and they put it in a location where they could best track the ballistic missiles." The U.S. military in Japan released a statement saying the installation is "a defensive system with no offensive capability." Japan and the United States say North Korea's Taepodong-2 missiles have an estimated range of 15,000 km, potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Its Time For Citgo To Go

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking at the U.N. about President George W. Bush: "Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today." Tough words from Venezuela's totalitarian ruler Hugo Chavez at the U.N. In recent years, Chavez has called America a terrorist state and the Count Dracula of the world. He's appeared on Al-Jazeera TV pleading for allies to bring down American society. He's pledged solidarity with Iran and he supports Iran's nuclear program.Chavez has hinted he would back Iran in a confrontation with the U.S. military. So picture the irony. Our servicemen and women who fill up their cars at Navy bases across America are buying Citgo gas. Citgo is owned by the Venezuelan government. The Navy operates 53 Citgo gas stations nationwide including this one in Annapolis, Maryland. Citgo has annual contracts worth $60 million. The longest is set to expire in the year 2010. Navy officials point out the original contract was awarded in 1989. That was three years before Chavez launched a coup attempt and ten years before he became President. That aside, now is time for Navy lawyers to find a way to cancel this contract for good.

Philippines Wants To Blacklist Islamic Group

The Philippine government wants the US and the United Nations to blacklist a small group of Islamic converts, considered the country's most dangerous militants because of their financial backing and familiarity with Manila and other key cities, an anti-terror official said. The Philippines doesn't yet have a list of outlawed terror groups, but if it did the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement would definitely appear on it, said Ric Blancaflor, director of the government's Anti-Terrorism Task Force, adding that Manila will cooperate with any governments that plan to ban the group.The movement, believed to have about 30 members, has been linked to a number of terrorist attacks in the Philippines, including a February 2004 bombing that gutted a ferry, killing 116 people. It has been hurt by the arrests of its leader and other members but could still plot attacks, Blancaflor said. The group has collaborated with the more well-known Abu Sayyaf, based on southern Jolo island, and Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional network allied with al-Qaida, in staging attacks and organizing terrorist training in the southern Mindanao region. It also has links with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a large group fighting for self-rule in the south, Blancaflor said.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

7-Eleven Dumps Venezuela Owned Citgo Gasoline

7-Eleven is dropping Venezuela-backed Citgo as its gasoline supplier at more than 2,100 locations and switching to its own brand of fuel. The convenience store operator says it will buy fuel from several distributors, including Tower Energy Group, Sinclair Oil and Frontier Oil, all of which are based in the US. The chain says its 20-year contract with Citgo ends next week. About 2,100 of the chain's 53-hundred US stores sell gasoline.Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, which became a public-relations issue for 7-Eleven because of comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about President Bush. Chavez has called Mr. Bush the devil and an alcoholic. The US government has warned that Chavez is a destabilizing force in Latin America. "Certainly Chavez's position and statements over the past year or so didn't tempt us to stay with Citgo,” a company spokesman said. A Citgo spokesman declined to comment on whether Chavez's comments had a bearing on 7-Eleven's change in suppliers, calling the break "a mutual agreement of the two companies."

Muslims Riot In Belgium To Celebrate Islamic Holy Month

It looks as if immigrants youths want to turn nightly rioting during the Islamic holy month of ramadan into an annual tradition. Around 8:30pm last night violence erupted again in Brussels, the capital of Europe. The riots centered on the Brussels Marollen quarter and the area near the Midi Train Station, where the international trains from London and Paris arrive. Youths threw stones at passing people and cars, windows of parked cars were smashed, bus shelters were demolished, cars were set ablaze, a youth club was arsoned and a shop was looted. Two molotov cocktails were thrown into St.Peter’s hospital, one of the main hospitals of central Brussels. The fire brigade was able to extinguish the fires at the hospital, but youths managed to steal the keys of the fire engine.During the month of ramadan Muslims are required to fast during the day and are only allowed to eat after sunset. As Esther pointed out “What should be noticed about the riots is that they start after sunset. Besides the fact that they start after dark, it also gives the rioters enough time to break their fast and enjoy the traditional family meal. Sunset is around 7:30pm.” Tuesday’s and Monday’s riots began around 8:30pm. Last night the police arrested 45 rioters. One of them will be prosecuted for assaulting the owner of a shop. Philippe Close, the chef de cabinet of the Mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, said that the authorities would continue their efforts to defuse the situation in a peaceful manner, but he announced that the police will be less complacent in future, “since we cannot tolerate that this [Marollen] neighbourhood falls victim to a problem from outside the neighbourhood.” The immigrant youths claim that they are upset by the death of Fayçal Chaaban, a 25-year old criminal, in a Brussels prison last Sunday. Yesterday morning the authorities announced they would hold a meeting with the youths to hear their grievances about security in prison, but the meeting, which was due last night, could not take place because of the riots.The authorities are especially nervous since the Belgian municipal elections are being held on Sunday October 8th. It is likely that the elections will be won by anti-immigrant, “islamophobic” parties. Since ramadan will not be over on October 8th and many immigrants might perceive a victory of the indigenous right (as opposed to their own far-right) as an insult, Muslim indignation over the election results in major cities may spark serious disturbances. According to a poll published today the Vlaams Belang party is set to win 38.6% of the vote in Antwerp (compared to 33,0% in the previous municipal elections six years ago).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

U.S. Anticipates Close Ties With Abe Government

The U.S. government hopes to continue to cooperate closely with Japan over terrorism and other issues after the inauguration of the new Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. After Abe took office, a senior White House official said, "The close relation with Japan will continue," adding, "Japan's role in the global war on terror is increasing." The official also said that Abe will be a "good force" for the Asian region, indicating hopes that the new government will quickly mend Japan's strained ties with other Asian countries such as China and South Korea due to Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine.The shrine, which honors the war dead, including executed war criminals, is regarded by Japan's Asian neighbors as a symbol of the country's past militarism. Christopher Hill, assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, expressed his high expectations of collaborating with the Abe government in dealing with North Korea. "We have been working closely with Mr. Abe and we look forward to working with the new government," he said. Hill is the top U.S. representative in six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear development that involve the United States, Japan, North and South Korea, China and Russia.Abe retained Taro Aso, who was foreign minister under the government of Junichiro Koizumi, Abe's predecessor, in the same post in his own cabinet. Hill said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is "delighted "to hear the reappointment of Aso. Meanwhile, U.S. media voiced concern that Japan's ties with other Asian countries will remain touchy because of what they see as a hawkish stance of Abe on issues related to the wartime Japan. "Mr Abe has gone further than Mr Koizumi in glossing over the past," the Washington Post said.

Bush, Karzai Meet At White House

With US President George W. Bush standing beside him, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai repeated his call to Pakistan to shut down terrorist schools to give his country a chance to rebuild after losing almost two generations to terrorists. 'There will not be an end to terrorism without action against madressas preaching hatred,' Karzai told the media at the White House after a meeting with Bush. The US is helping both Afghanistan and Pakistan and they needed to work with more dedication to get rid of terrorism, he said when asked to comment on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's reported remark that 'he should first learn more about his own country'.Bush has invited both Karzai and Musharraf - who have of late traded charges against each other - for dinner Wednesday for what he hopes will be an 'interesting discussion among three allies' on how they can work together to defeat terrorism. 'It's in the interest of President Karzai and it's in the interest of President Musharraf to bring Osama bin Laden to justice,' Bush said, adding: 'By working together we can achieve this objective.' It would be interesting to watch the body language of his two guests, quipped Bush but hastened to add that, jokes aside, what the media perceived as tension between the two neighbours did in no way affect their determination to fight terror. Asked to comment on Pakistan's deal with tribal leaders in North Waziristan, Karzai said they had initially thought it was a deal with the Taliban but Musharraf had explained that it was with the tribal leaders. A key element of the deal, he was told, was that terrorists will not be allowed to cross into Afghanistan. 'So we will have to wait and see. But generally, we back any move to deny terrorists any sanctuary in North Waziristan or Northwest Pakistan,' Karzai said.
Pakistani Pervez Musharraf And Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Musharraf, who had a separate meeting with Bush last week, has said extremist schools account for only about five percent of the schools in Pakistan but acknowledged that 'we are moving slowly' against them. Bush disagreed with a questioner that it was a mistake to go into Iraq or that the international support for the global war on terrorism had receded. The best way to defeat terrorism was to go on the offence, he said. Karzai agreed with a call to go after them rather than wait for them to attack again.

Germans Are Afraid Muslims

A leading German opera house unleashed a furious debate over free speech by pulling a production over fears it posed a security risk because of a scene featuring the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad.The Deutsche Oper said it had decided "with great regret" to cancel a planned production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" after Berlin security officials warned of an "incalculable risk" because of scenes dealing with Islam. "If I were to ignore this and say, 'We are going to stage this nevertheless, or because of this,' and something were to happen, then everyone would say, and would be right to say, she ignored the warning of security officials," Kirsten Harms, director of the Deutsche Oper, told reporters.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Liberal MP Refers To Border Guards As 'Wimps'

A Liberal MP is under fire for referring to some border guards as "wimps." Derek Lee made the comment in the House of Commons today in regard to 60 B.C. Customs officers who walked off the job on the weekend over concerns that an armed murder suspect may have been heading their way. The work stoppage snarled traffic south of Vancouver and in the Fraser Valley.
Derek Lee, Member of Parliament for Scarborough - Rouge River Ontario, Canada
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and NDP Leader Jack Layton called on Lee to apologize, but he refused. Outside the House, Lee said the guards had better "get a grip on reality" because Canadians expect them to be on the job. The Canada Border Services Agency says the officers exercised their right to refuse dangerous work. Managers took over their duties but only a limited number of lanes were open, creating delays of up to six hours.

Monday, September 25, 2006

60 More Taleban Killed In Afghanistan Push

Security forces in Afghanistan said they had killed more than 60 Taleban in new clashes, as a British minister played down suggestions the nation’s troops deployed here are over-stretched. The rebels were killed in separate incidents in southern Helmand province, where the bulk of a British deployment of about 4,500 troops is based and has come under fierce attack to mounting concern at home. On Saturday, NATO-led and Afghan security forces backed by war planes killed 40 of the rebels in the province’s Greshk district, the Afghan defence ministry said. A rebel stronghold was also “totally” destroyed in the raid in which Afghan and foreign troops sustained no casualties, it added.Security forces meanwhile captured 21 suspected Taleban combatants across insurgency-hit southern and eastern Afghanistan, the ministry said in a separate statement. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) announced that it had killed 15 insurgents in the province’s Now Zad district on Friday after the troops called in air support when they came under fire from about 20 men. Eight more insurgents were killed on Thursday in neighbouring Sangin district after they attacked a helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades as the aircraft was lifting off, another ISAF statement said. Helmand, Afghanistan’s top drug-producing province, has seen an escalation of violence this year as ISAF troops have moved into remote areas and confronted rebels and drug lords who have operated for years outside the law. British commanders have called for more troops and equipment to deal with the stronger-than-expected resistance. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Sunday the troops were “stretched but not over-stretched”. Her comments came after an army major criticised the Royal Air Force as “utterly, utterly useless” in Afghanistan and called for more equipment in leaked e-mails.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Residents Beat Man For Showing Porn To Kids

About a dozen residents of a Dallas neighborhood beat a man after reports that he had been showing pornographic pictures to children on a playground, police said. Brandon Scott Burke, 20, showed up at an Oak Cliff apartment complex and was alleged to have shown a magazine with pictures of naked women to some of the children playing there, police said.When one of the mothers saw him and asked Burke what he was doing, he tried to run and the woman started screaming, said Elizabeth Williams, the mother of another child. According to a police report, Burke said about 15 men "jumped him and hit him repeatedly on the face with their fists." He suffered minor injuries, police said. At least four children saw the nude pictures, police said. Burke was arrested on suspicion of harmful display to a minor.

US Threatens To Send Fighter Jets Out Of South Korea

The United States has threatened to move its jet fighters out of the Korean peninsula unless Seoul offers a new, exclusive firing range for US airmen within a month, reports said. The warning from Lieutenant General Garry Trexler, deputy head of US troops here, was construed as an ultimatum to South Korea ahead of high-level security talks in Washington next month. South Korean newspapers quoted Trexler as saying in a forum Friday that US pilots in South Korea have gone abroad to conduct firing exercises since their firing range closed in August last year. "I think we are very close in coming to closure on this issue but if it's not done within the next 30 days, we'll be forced to send aircraft which are critical to the deterrence of this peninsula off this peninsula," he was quoted as saying.South Korea promised to build an electronic weapons scoring system for US bombing exercises on Jikdo, 70 kilometers (42 miles) off the southwestern port of Kunsan, but construction has been delayed due to protests over the move. Under a mutual defense pact, South Korea has provided training facilities for some 29,500 US soldiers stationed here to help South Korean troops face up to North Korea's 1.2 million-strong army. "If a nation has a military, that nation has a sacred obligation to ensure that they provide adequate training areas for that military training. That is true for the Republic of Korea military," the US air force commander said.South Korea is in talks with the United States to regain wartime operational control over South Korean troops by 2012, a major change in their alliance which dates back to the 1950-1953 Korean War. South Korea would currently put its troops under the US-led Combined Forces Command if war broke out on the peninsula. The issue has split society between supporters of Roh, who say the transfer is a matter of national pride, and conservative opponents who fear it will weaken defences against North Korea, a self-proclaimed nuclear-armed state.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Unconfirmed Report Says Bin Laden Is Dead

A newspaper in France said today that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan, but there is no confirmation of the report. Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding, said it had no information about his death. The regional newspaper, L'Est Republicain, quoted French secret service reports saying that Saudi Arabia is convinced that bin Laden died a month ago. The report said he died of a very serious case of typhoid causing partial paralysis of his internal organs. French defence ministry officials said the report could not be confirmed, but said the ministry would launch an inquiry into the leak of secret documents."The information published this morning in the L'Est Republicain newspaper relating to the supposed death of Osama bin Laden cannot be confirmed," the defence ministry said. "The Defence Minister (Michele Alliot-Marie) has asked that an inquiry be carried out to determine the origin of the leak that can be punished by criminal charges." The newspaper printed what it said was a copy of the report dated September 21 and said it was shown to President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and France's interior and defence ministers on the same day. "The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of al Qaeda was a victim while he was in Pakistan on August 23, 2006 of a very serious case of typhoid which led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs."

North Korea Has Built Underground Tunnel, Possible Sign For Nuclear Test

North Korea has built an underground tunnel for possible use in a nuclear test, a South Korean newspaper reported, amid concerns that the communist nation may be planning such a move.A 700-meter-deep (2,300-foot-deep) shaft has been built with a horizontal tunnel running nearby at Mount Mantap in North Hamkyong province on the North's northeast coast, the English-language JoongAng Daily reported, citing Chung Hyung-keun, a lawmaker from the opposition Grand National Party. Chung obtained the information from the National Intelligence Service, the South's spy agency, according to the report.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Black Republican Group's Ad Implicates Democrats With The KKK

A national black Republican group is running a radio advertisement denouncing Democrats for starting the Ku Klux Klan and saying the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. The association‘s president, Frances Rice, did not return calls for comment. The group, founded a year ago, promotes the GOP to black voters. The spot begins with one woman telling another, "Dr. King was a real man. You know he was a Republican."In the ad, the woman goes on to say, "Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan." Her companion replies, "The Klan? White hoods and sheets?" The first woman also says, "Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks." About the GOP, the ad says: "Republicans freed us from slavery and put our right to vote in the Constitution." Race is a prominent theme in the Maryland race for the seat held by retiring Democrat Paul Sarbanes. Steele, the first black candidate elected statewide in Maryland, faces a white Democrat in a heavily Democratic state with the highest percentage of black residents — 29 percent — of any state outside the South.

Target Vows To Combat Prescription Prices

Twin Cities-based Target Corporation says it will match Wal-Mart's lower prices for generic prescription drugs in Florida's Tampa Bay area immediately. Target is the country's Number two discounter behind Wal-Mart, which plans to begin selling nearly 300 generic prescription drugs to employees and consumers for four dollars a prescription -- covering up to a month's supply.Wal-Mart's test effort begins tomorrow in the Tampa Bay area, with hopes to take the program national over time. Target hasn't said if it will continue to match Wal-Mart prices as Wal-Mart expands the program to other areas. But Target said in a news release that it's long-standing practice is to be price-competitive with Wal-Mart.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Terrorist Group Targeted In Philippines

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that troops were on the verge of wiping out the country's most violent Muslim rebel group as one soldier was killed and 24 wounded in fresh clashes. More than 6,000 soldiers, backed by US intelligence and equipment, are fighting on the island of Jolo in the south to flush out about 200 Abu Sayyaf militants holed up in the interior. The Abu Sayyaf, linked to the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah, has been blamed for the worst militant attack in the Philippines, a 2004 bombing of a ferry near Manila that killed over 100 people.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Four Jemaah Islamiah militants, including two suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings, are also believed in hiding with the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo. "We must stand fast and take the fight with them to their lairs and sanctuaries," Arroyo said in a discussion with Cabinet officials aired live on national television and radio. "Terrorist leaders and their cohorts are falling one by one. We are on the verge of wiping out the notorious Abu Sayyaf group permanently." The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnap and ransom, has long been based on the islands of the Sulu Sea, which lies between the southern Philippines and eastern Malaysia. Several operations launched by the military, especially on the larger islands of Jolo and Basilan, have failed to curb the group as the rebels easily find sanctuary in interior villages.On Jolo, a Marine lieutenant was killed and 24 soldiers were wounded when security forces clashed with about 100 Abu Sayyaf in mountains near Maimbung and Patikul towns on Monday, a military spokesman said. Since August 1, about 20 soldiers and police officers have been killed and 80 wounded in the offensive on Jolo. An estimated 50 rebels have also been killed but less than a dozen bodies have been recovered. On Monday, troops seized about half a tonne of ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly used in making bombs, from a ferry plying between Jolo and the major southern port of Zamboanga. Arroyo asked the public to remain vigilant to thwart attempts by militants to stage diversionary attacks elsewhere in the Philippines, encouraging people to report suspicious persons or cargo in bus stations, airports and seaports.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Senator Coleman Presses For United Nations Reform

Sen. Norm Coleman pressed United Nations officials on reform and Darfur as he participated as a congressional delegate to the world body. "I want to see us get rid of unnecessary U.N. mandates and see money spent on helping the poor," Coleman, R-Minn., said in a telephone interview from New York. "I see my role as a voice for reform." The White House named Coleman and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., as congressional delegates to the U.N. Coleman is one of the U.N.'s harshest critics, and has urged Secretary General Kofi Annan to resign because of abuses in the U.N. oil-for-food program. Coleman said he offered to meet with Annan but a meeting couldn't be arranged. "He's on his way out," Coleman said. "I'm looking forward to meeting with the next one." Annan's second five-year term ends on Dec. 31.Coleman did meet with the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa. In that meeting, Coleman said, he pressed for reform and for more aggressive action on Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million people have been displaced. "We've got to push hard," Coleman said, referring to the situation in Darfur. Last month, the Security Council passed a resolution that would give the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan's south control over a peacekeeping operation in Darfur now run by the African Union. But Sudan has so far refused to give its consent. On the reform issue, Coleman said, he's pushing for greater transparency and better access to documents. "The U.N. has not cleaned up its act, and that seriously undermines its credibility," he said. Later Coleman met with U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. Coleman is returning to Washington on Wednesday for Senate votes, then coming back to the U.N. the same day, when he hopes to meet with French and Chinese officials. Coleman has introduced legislation with Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to require the president to submit an annual report on U.N. reform to Congress. The bill would allow the president to withhold 50 percent of U.S. contributions to the U.N. if sufficient reforms have not been made.

Pentagon Defends AP Photographer's Detention

The Pentagon said it has detained a news photographer in Iraq for five months without charges because of "indications" he had strong ties with known insurgents. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman refused to disclose the evidence against Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen. "All indications that I have received about Hussein's detainment indicates that he has strong ties with known insurgents and that he was doing things, involved in activities that were well outside the scope of what you would expect a journalist to be doing in that country," Whitman said.
Bilal Hussein with his family
The US-led military command in Iraq believes there is "sufficient evidence in place that justifies his continued detention," he said. The Associated Press said its review of Hussein's work found nothing to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and demanded that he either be charged or released. Whitman said Hussein's case has been reviewed by the coalition's detention review authority, the Multi-National Forces-Iraq magistrate and the Iraq-US Combined Review and Release Board. Each determined separately that Hussein was a security threat and recommended his continued detention, he said.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mexico Backs Guatemala, Not Venezuela

The Mexican Government vowed Monday to "back and further" Guatemala's nomination for a seat at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, contended currently against Venezuela."For strategic reasons and due to the partnership with Central American countries, Mexico will not only support, but foster Guatemala's nomination," said in a press conference Rubén Aguilar, the spokesman of Mexican President Vicente Fox. A new temporary member at the UN Security Council will be elected next October. Both Guatemala and Venezuela expect to fill the Latin American post that will be fell vacant by Argentina.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Al Qaeda Warns Muslims To Immediately Leave The United States

Indicating that a WMD may have been smuggled across the US-Mexico border, al-Qaeda is said to have warned Muslims living in the United States to immediately leave the country; specifically Washington and New York. The warning is said to have been issued by the new al-Qaeda field commander in Afghanistan.
Adnan el-Shukrijumah
Adnan el-Shukrijumah is coordinating the attack and that he issued the following statement: "Our brothers are ready to attack inside America. We will breach their security again. There is no timeframe for our attack inside America; we can do it any time."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More Australian Troops Arrive In Afghanistan

A contingent of 400 Australian soldiers has landed in Afghanistan to operate in the country's southern Uruzgan province under the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). A statement said the Australian troops would be part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).The statement said around 100 Australian troops had spent the past two weeks integrating with Dutch soldiers and undergoing further military training on the ground and had also been building their camp. Quoting commander of the Reconstruction Task Force LT Colonel Mick Ryan, the statement said it was a good mission. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is made up of approximately 400 personnel and a number of IMV Bushmaster Vehicles, in addition to several Australian Light Armoured Vehicles said the commander. Another batch of about 100 Australian soldiers is expected to arrive in Afghanistan in the next week, said the statement.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ventura Back Into The Political Fray

After years in self-imposed political exile, Jesse Ventura is back in the fray - partly by choice and partly by chance. Ventura, who didn't run for a second term as governor four years ago, has kept his distance from Minnesota politics since leaving office in 2003. Now, he's starring in some out-of-the-ordinary radio ads promoting Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson. Meanwhile, GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty reached back to an old Ventura budget plan to attack his Democratic rival, Mike Hatch, as a threat to raise taxes. On Friday, Ventura's voice rumbled over the radio in two Hutchinson ads. In one, an announcer talks about a mock incumbent who "permanently balanced the budget, made taxes and fees go away, caused Democrats and Republicans to fall madly in love. Under his leadership, crime was eliminated, pollution disappeared and every motorist was given their own lane."Then a gruff Ventura cuts in: "Minnesota ... can you hear me? Come in. I interrupt this broadcast to remind you that career politicians will say anything to get re-elected. In '98 you chose an independent. It's time to do it again. Let's stop the B.S. and move Minnesota forward with honesty and common sense."The ad is airing on FM stations in the Twin Cities and the St. Cloud area, covering a fast-growing suburban corridor where Ventura did well in his 1998 upset win. Hutchinson's campaign didn't say how much it was spending to run them for two weeks, but an official said the campaign's entire ad budget will be less than $500,000 between now and November. Hutchinson said he hopes the ads remind people how they felt when they spurned the Republican and DFL candidates then. "It encourages them to think again about claiming their independence," he said. Pawlenty's ad makes no specific mention of Ventura. But it keys off a proposal Ventura put forward in 2002 to erase a projected budget shortfall. The plan included some spending cuts but also called for, among other things, a higher gas tax, new sales taxes on auto repairs and legal services and a 29-cent bump in the cigarette tax. The tax hikes never went through. Three weeks ago, Hatch spoke favorably about Ventura's approach while responding to a reporter's question about how he would have handled an ensuing deficit of $4.5 billion.Pawlenty seized on those remarks to back up a new television commercial, airing around the state for a week. "Mike Hatch says he would have done it differently - with 13 new tax increases," says an announcer's voiceover in the ad, where Pawlenty claims credit for keeping a lid on state taxes and proposes a cap on local property taxes. Hatch argued his comments were taken out of context. By putting off a budget fix, Hatch said, the problem grew exponentially worse and led to higher state fees, college tuition, local property taxes and per-pack cigarette costs. "He's trying to make it out into something I'm proposing or had proposed at that time," Hatch said. "He's desperate. The guy is down and he's desperate. This just shows the guy will lie about anything he can."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hugo Chavez Pledges Support For Iran Against Any Attackers

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged that Venezuela will support Iran if it is invaded as a result of the Middle Eastern country's high-stakes nuclear standoff with the United Nations Security Council. "Iran is under threat; there are plans to invade Iran, hopefully it won't happen, but we are with you," Chavez told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a meeting of the Group of 15 developing countries.The UN has demanded that Iran suspend uranium enrichment amid concerns by some countries that it could be used for nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its enrichment efforts are peaceful, aimed solely at producing electrical energy. Chavez said Venezuela stands with Iran in this time of crisis, just as it has with Cuba, where Fidel Castro handed over power to Raul while recovering from intestinal surgery. If they don't defend each other, no one else will, Chavez said. "Under any scenario we are with you just like we are with Cuba," Chavez said. "If the United States invades Cuba, blood will run . . . We will not have our arms crossed while bombs are falling in Havana or they carry Raul off in a plane."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

House Republicans Keep Spotlight On Border Enforcement

U-S House Republicans seeking to get tough on illegal immigration plan a new vote tomorrow on a -border fence- proposal. The bill calls for building more than 700 miles of double-layered fencing along the nearly two-thousand-mile border with Mexico. The House approved the same amount of fencing when it passed its -enforcement-focused- immigration overhaul bill last December.An aide to House Majority Leader John Boehner says House leaders see fence construction as a border security issue that needs -- immediate attention. Democratic Congressman Silvestre Reyes of El Paso calls the proposal redundant. Reyes says it's another piecemeal border security measure that is full of empty rhetoric -- rather than sound policy. The Senate in May approved a broader immigration bill. The two chambers have yet to negotiate a comprehensive measure.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

6,000 Philippine Troops Hunting 3 Most-Wanted Terrorists

At least 6,000 government troops are now involved in the ongoing offensive against three most- wanted terrorists in Sulu, Philippine military chief Hermogenes Esperon said. Esperon told reporters that "chances are good" that the group of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjani and his two Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) cohorts would be neutralized in the ongoing operations. Before the offensive "Operation Plan Ultimatum" began on Aug. 1, there were only three Marine and two Army battalions in Sulu province, one of the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf followers, Esperon said. When the operations started, Esperon said the military injected to Sulu six Scout Ranger companies, one Special Forces battalion, two Marine battalions and a Force Reconnaissance Company, an elite unit under the Marines."That would translate to about 6,000 troops now," said Esperon when asked exactly how many troops are involved in the operations. About two weeks ago, reports said that Janjlani has fled from the military besiege to nearby Basilan island. But Esperon did not comment on the reports. The military said earlier that at least 30 to 80 terrorists killed or died from wounds so far in the clash, but not a single body of them had been recovered. The Abu Sayyaf is the local extremist group responsible for a few high-profile terror attacks in the Philippines, while the JI are identified as the mastermind of 2002 Bali bombing in Indonesia that left at least 200 people dead.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Many Reasons To Vote, Including To Foil The Felon

'Foil the Felon — Opt for Obi' has been a recurring theme of our coverage of today's statewide primary election. It is but one of many good reasons for Minnesotans to vote today. There is an opportunity to influence the selection of a new U.S. representative in Minneapolis; to decide among three Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidates for attorney general, and to select a DFL candidate for governor. There are many local primaries and runoffs for judgeships, county offices, school boards and legislative seats where your favored candidate may need your help to stay alive for the Nov. 7 general election. Two of our larger school districts, Roseville and South Washington County, have school-funding issues on the ballot today.
Obi Sium, a Republican candidate in the 4th Congressional District, fears that Jack Shepard's name might give him a leg up in the upcoming primary election.
Our attention has been focused on the 4th Congressional District, which is centered in St. Paul and includes most nearby suburbs, including Oakdale to the east, Roseville, Shoreview and White Bear Lake to the north and Mendota Heights, West St. Paul and South St. Paul to the south. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat, is the incumbent and will be heavily favored to retain her seat in November. But today, Obi Sium needs the help of 4th District Republicans to win the party's primary and get to the general election. He is the Republican Party's endorsed candidate. He is a retired state engineer from Oakdale who was born in Eritrea and has lived in the U.S. for more than three decades. He speaks about the ballot box and democratic elections with reverence.
Jack Shepard is running his campaign from distant Italy over the Internet.
His opponent, Jack Shepard, lives in Italy. He pleaded guilty to two felonies in Minnesota around 1980 — sexual assault and drug possession. He is wanted in Hennepin County on a separate arson charge. He does not live in the 4th District and would face arrest were he ever to return. His presence on the ballot is an affront to the democracy Obi Sium holds dear. We fear that voters will choose an "American''-sounding name in this race. That would achieve the opposite result, because it is the "foreign''-sounding Obi Sium who is the true American in this race. That's why we say to 4th District Republicans: Foil the Felon — Opt for Obi.
Thanks to Wells for the heads up on this story

Japan Launches New Spy Satellite

Japan launched its third intelligence-gathering satellite enhancing its ability to monitor neighboring North Korea two months after Pyongyang shocked the region with a barrage of missile tests. Japan's space agency, JAXA, launched the optical satellite from the southern island of Tanegashima, adding to a pair of satellites that were fired into orbit in March 2003. Two other satellites were lost when a rocket failed in November that year. A further radar satellite is set to be launched later this year, completing the set of four.The optical satellite will be able to differentiate objects a meter (yard) or more in diameter, although this level of resolution is far outclassed by U.S. military satellites. A ban on defense use of space dating from the 1960s has hampered Japan's ability to develop high-tech hardware. With two similar satellites in orbit, the Japanese government will be able to monitor any point on Earth once a day, an official at Japan's Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center said. Japan planned its spy satellite program following North Korea's 1998 launch of a ballistic missile that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean. On July 5, Pyongyang launched another volley of missiles, sparking unease across the region. North Korea reacted angrily to South Korea's July launch of the Arirang-2 surveillance satellite capable of monitoring military movements.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Minnesota Woman Learns Dad Was 9/11 Hero

A Minnesota woman searching for her birth parents has found something more: a hero of United Flight 93. Mariah Mills' biological father is the late Tom Burnett, who helped lead the group that fought back on the hijacked plane before it crashed in western Pennsylvania on September Eleventh, 2001.The 21-year-old Mills believes Burnett made at least two brave decisions starting with the choice to give her up for adoption when he and his then-girlfriend were in college. Mills, a college senior who learned her birth father's identity two years ago, has since gotten to know his widow and her children. She says she has her birth mother's eyes but otherwise looks like a Burnett. Today marks the fifth anniversary of the September Eleventh terrorist attacks.

'Sagging' Pants Trip Up Suspect's Escape

Police say a fleet footed suspect's escape attempt was foiled when the man's baggy pants fell to his ankles and tripped him up. The California Highway Patrol says 37-year-old Johnny Camel tried to run from police after a traffic stop in Salinas early yesterday. But police say Camel was wearing jeans that were about four sizes too big.Police say Camel also wasn't wearing underwear under the loose jeans. The CHP says an increasing number of pursuits are ending quickly because suspects can't run and hold their pants up at the same time. Police say Camel is on parole after a recent release from prison. A conviction of resisting arrest could send him back to jail.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Saint Paul Native Prepares To Walk In Space

Three and a half years since America's space program crashed to earth with Columbia, a rejuvenated shuttle program is returning to orbit. "This is a very challenging and complex assembly mission, with a very aggressive timeline," said shuttle commander, Brent Jett. Veteran astronaut Jett, who is making his fourth trip into space, will lead a crew of 6 aboard the shuttle Atlantis. His crew will include Saint Paul native Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper. "I feel like I'm on a trip with 5 brothers," is what Stefanyshyn-Piper told reporters on a recent visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The 43-year-old mechanical engineer and former Navy salvage diver is making her first trip to space 10 years after entering astronaut training at JSC. She and her five crewmates were just three-and-a-half months from launch when the Columbia crashed during re-entry in February 2003. The long delay has given them more time for training while NASA engineers worked to improve the shuttle's safety systems and protocols.
Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper
"But just knowing I'm getting a flight and two walks. I think that, in itself, is pretty rewarding," said Stefanyshyn-Piper. This mission for Heide and her crew is scheduled to last 11 or 12 days. It will resume construction of the International Space Station. She will take two space walks to help deploy one of the largest sections to date. Atlantis will deliver and install what's known as the P3/P4 truss, one of the heaviest loads a shuttle's ever carried. Its giant framework will eventually support two more of the station's massive solar collectors. "And on the sixth day we get to deploy the solar arrays. And that will be special moment to look at the cameras and say 'Wow!' as the giant arrays fold out," Stefanyshyn-Piper told us as she reviewed her scheduled walks. The new solar arrays will give the Space Station 20 kilowatts of badly needed electricity, about the equivalent usage of 6 homes. Chris Ferguson, who is piloting Atlantis, added, "this is the beginning of the culmination of the space station and we're all proud to be part of it."

Minnesota Governor And Challenger Pull Political Ads On Sept. 11

The fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is prompting Minnesota's two leading gubernatorial candidates to pull their television ads for a day. Officials with both campaigns said Friday that they have asked stations not to air their political commercials on Monday. Other candidates in other races don't plan to shift course. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's campaign asked the 12 stations airing his education ad not to air it for a day. Campaign spokesman Brian McClung said all but one, a station that serves the Fargo-Moorhead area, complied.
Minnesota Governor
Tim Pawlenty
"We felt that especially on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 we should all take that day to remember the heroes and victims of 9/11 and set aside political campaigns and ads for a day," McClung said. Leslie Sandberg, a spokeswoman for Democrat Mike Hatch, said the campaign also felt it was important to go dark on the anniversary. "We can all afford to take a break on a day that is as important as 9/11 and remember we are all Americans," Sandberg said. Pawlenty and Hatch are the favorites to advance in their Tuesday primary. Pawlenty faces Minneapolis bar owner Sue Jeffers; Hatch has two challengers, state Sen. Becky Lourey and artist Ole Savior. In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Mark Kennedy and Democrat Amy Klobuchar were both pulling their ads, according to their spokeswomen. Three candidates in Minnesota's hottest primary race -- a contest for the 5th Congressional District Democratic nomination -- will stay on the air.
Mike Hatch
Spokesmen for Ember Reichgott Junge, Paul Ostrow and Mike Erlandson said they weren't planning to pull their ads on the eve of the primary. Keith Ellison doesn't have any TV ads planned for Sept. 11, according to campaign spokesman Dave Colling. The four are in a hard-fought primary race for the seat long held by Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo, who is retiring. "We are going to keep our ads running because our ads are all very positive and we think it's appropriate," said John Wodele, a strategist with the Reichgott Junge campaign. Peter Brickwedde, spokesman for Erlandson, said with "due respect to the day and the magnitude of that day," the campaign wouldn't pull its ads on the eve of a competitive primary.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Venezuela's Opposition Leader Attacked By Chavez Supporters

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's main rival in an upcoming election was attacked with firearms and stones, Venezuelan television reported. Manuel Rosales and his team were ambushed in a poor area of Caracas by alleged Chavez supporters who threw stones and bottles at them, the private television channel Globovision reported. Later unknown attackers further up the hill exchanged shots with Rosales' guards in the area known as Boqueron in western Caracas, the report said. Preliminary reports said no one was seriously injured in the attacks. Elections are set for December 3. Globovision showed footage in which a group clearly identified as Chavez supporters attacked Rosales' group and journalists present.The attackers apparently tried to prevent him from entering an allegedly pro-Chavez area. Opposition official Carlos Melo confirmed Globovision's report, and said Rosales managed to finish his scheduled tour of the Magallanes Hospital in the area. Rosales later left the area amid further attacks from people who wore clothes and other symbols that linked them to Chavez. Melo told Union Radio that the attackers fired about 15 shots on Rosales' entourage, and that a "clearly pro-government" group threw stones when Rosales was visiting the hospital. The local police used gas to disperse the demonstration, he said. Rosales blamed an ambush earlier this week also on the current Venezuelan president. "I want to tell Venezuela that if anything happens to me, if I am killed in those ambushes that I am being the object of, it is on Chavez orders, and I hold Chavez responsible. And the people will know what to do if anything happens to me, if I am murdered," the candidate said. Rosales said he is not afraid and added if he is killed Venezuelans "will go out on the streets and bring down the government".

Friday, September 08, 2006

Kim Jong-il's Health Failing

A South Korean lawmaker says North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is not well. The Grand National Party’s Chung Hyung-keun, the ex-official of the National Intelligence Service’s precursor the Agency of National Security Planning, told his fellow party members that the North's leader is suffering from failing heart and kidneys and needs to rest after walking every 20 to 30 m. But he says the NIS is denying his claims. The opposition lawmaker added Kim Jong-il's youngest son Jong-un is most likely to succeed his father as the leader of the communist country.