Thursday, November 30, 2006

Man Jailed For Trying To Convert Muslims

A Moroccan court jailed a German tourist for six months for attempting to convert Muslims in the southern resort of Agadir, officials said. The court in Agadir, Morocco’s main tourist destination, found the 64-year-old man guilty of trying to “shake the faith of a Muslim”, they added. The court also fined him 500 dirhams ($60) in its verdict.Court officials named the German of Egyptian origin as Sadek Noshi Yassa, who was arrested last week as he was distributing books and CDs about the Christian faith to young Muslim Moroccans in the street, the officials said. Under Moroccan law “anyone who employs incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion” can be jailed for up to six months and fined.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

American & Pakistani Charged With Aiding Taliban

An American man pleaded guilty after he and a Pakistani living illegally in the United States were charged with conspiring to join the Taliban and fight against US forces, federal prosecutors announced. US Attorney Donald J. DeGabrielle Jr. said a four-count indictment charges Kobie Diallo Williams, also known as Abdul Kabir, and Adnan Babar Mirza with conspiracy. Mirza, a 29-year-old Pakistani who overstayed a student visa, also is charged with three counts of violating federal firearms laws.
US Attorney Donald J. DeGabrielle Jr
Williams, 33, a US citizen living in Houston and attending the University of Houston-Downtown, surrendered to members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and pleaded guilty in US. District Court to the conspiracy charge. Mirza was already in custody on immigration violations.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Japanese Admits To Vivisection On POWs

A former medical officer in Japan’s World War II navy admitted to conducting vivisection in the Philippines on some 30 prisoners of war, including women and children. It was the first time such testimony had been given on experiments on human beings by a Japanese officer in the Philippines during World War II. Similar experiments were conducted in northern China by the notorious germ warfare Unit 731, which is blamed for the deaths of up to 10,000 Chinese and Allied prisoners of war, the report added. Akira Makino, 84, a former officer of the medical corps of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s No 33 patrol unit, said the experiments on live prisoners began in December 1944, shortly after he was assigned to Zamboanga air base on the Philippines’ Mindanao Island. Makino was ordered to take two local men captured as US spies to a school which had been turned into a hospital, where they were undressed and tied to an operating table, Kyodo said.Makino was told by his superior to insert a surgical knife into their bodies after the prisoners’ faces were covered with an ether-soaked cloth so that they became unconscious. “I thought ‘What a horrible thing I’m doing to innocent people even though I’m ordered to do it’,” Makino told the news agency, after keeping the information secret for six decades. The experiments, which included amputating arms and legs, suturing blood vessels and abdominal dissections, continued until February 1945, and resulted in the deaths of some 30 people, including women and children, he said. After the experiments, the captives were strangled with a rope to make sure they were dead, he said, adding that their bodies were buried and the deeds kept strictly secret. “I would have been killed if I had disobeyed the order,” Makino said. “That was the case in those days.” US forces landed on the Philippine island in March 1945, sending Japanese soldiers into hiding in the jungle. Little Japanese testimony about what happened in Southeast Asia during the war has emerged. But the new information should throw light on Japan’s malicious wartime acts, Kyodo said, quoting experts. Makino has talked about his war experiences to elementary and junior high school students for the past several years without telling them about the human dissections. He told Kyodo: “I want to tell the truth about war to as many people as possible. If I’m given the opportunity, I’ll continue to testify in atonement.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Man Questioned In Twin Cities Airport Bomb Scare

The FBI found and questioned the man who rented a car in which a suspicious device was found at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, an airport spokesman said Sunday night. Airport spokesman Pat Hogan says the FBI found him somewhere in Oregon. Hogan said he did not know which city. The man was questioned but was not arrested, he said. "He suggests that it was not meant to be a bomb. But the FBI is still investigating and trying to confirm his statements," Hogan said. Sunday was one of the busiest travel days of the year, and the airport is the headquarters hub for Northwest Airlines, but Hogan said flights were not affected. The Bloomington Police Department bomb squad detonated the device without incident Sunday afternoon and found it contained no explosive material. But Hogan said it strongly resembled a bomb."It had wires coming out of it, and shrapnel attached, and it was concealed in the cargo area in a way where you wouldn't see it if you were just casually looking into the trunk," he said. A cleaner with Avis Rent A Car found the device while inspecting the recently returned car around 10:30 a.m. "I've just never seen anything that scared me as much as today did," said Clinton Holder, the Avis manager on duty at the time. On any given Sunday, Holder said, some 400 vehicles are returned to the airport and searched bumper to bumper before they're rented out again. "They're looking for anything and everything," he said. Airport security officers with bomb-sniffing dogs swept the airport terminal and the parking garage where the car was returned, but Hogan said they didn't turn up anything else suspicious.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bin Laden Allies Enter Philippines

Suspected allies of international terrorist leader Osama bin Laden were able to enter the Philippines using fake visas and other forged travel documents, Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said. The information was contained in a confidential report received by the Department of Justice recently, a report by a news network quoted Gonzalez as saying. He said most of the suspected bin Laden men who entered the country are carrying Indian passports.
Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez
Some Pakistanis and Afghans who are suspected emissaries of bin Laden also make use of fake Indian passports in entering the country, Gonzalez said. Gonzalez added that on Aug. 9 a group of 10 Indian nationals using fake Philippine visas arrived at Manila on board a foreign airline. Gonzalez also said Philippine authorities are now strictly monitoring visitors in the country carrying Indian passports.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Russia Selling Missiles To Iran

Russia has begun delivering air defense systems Tor-M1 to Iran within the framework of an earlier signed agreement, Russian news agencies reported. "The deliveries of Tor-M1 to Iran have begun. The first systems have been delivered to Iran," a source in Russia's military and intestinal complex was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying, adding the Iranian soldiers who will operate the systems were trained in Russia.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad & Russian President Vladimir Putin
"Earlier Russian officials stated that Iran is a sovereign state, a member of the UN and League of Arab States, and no international sanctions prohibiting it from receiving defensive arms have been imposed," the arms-exporting company Rosoboronexport said. The Tor-M1 deal, involving conventional weapons, does not violate any international agreements. Russian officials say the missiles are purely defensive weapons with a limited range. According to the Interfax news agency, the Tor-M1 system can identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 6,000 meters.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Afghan & NATO Troops Kill Key Taliban Commander

Afghan soldiers backed by NATO forces killed five Taliban fighters including a key commander in the mountainous Nooristan province of east Afghanistan, a state-run newspaper reported Thursday."The troops killed Mawlawi Abdul Rahman along with four of his men in Kamdish district," daily Anis quoted Afghan intelligence officials as saying. However, it did not mention the incident's date and the commander's exact position, only saying he was an important Taliban figure. It said Rahman was involved in many insurgent activities in Nooristan recently. So far, there has not been any comment from the Taliban side.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Quebec, A Nation Within Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would introduce a motion recognizing that "Quebecers form a nation within a united Canada." "Our position is clear. Do the Quebecois form a nation within Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Quebecois form an independent nation? The answer is no and the answer will always be no," Harper told the House of Commons. Harper's motion was prompted by a Bloc Quebecois motion to be debated Thursday. It calls for Quebec to be recognized as a nation but does not include the words "in Canada."Harper said the issue of Quebec's nationhood should not be decided by the federal government but by the Quebec legislation. However, he said the Bloc has forced the government to take a position. The Bloc motion, which will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday, states simply: "That this House recognizes that Quebecers form a nation." Francophone Quebec has previously held two referendums on separation, in 1980 and 1995, but rejected the idea. The word "nation" is often used in Quebec to describe the province as a distinct cultural entity, even by anti-separatist politicians such as former Premier Jean Charest.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pakistan Police Arrest Dozens Of Taliban

Pakistani police arrested more than two dozen Taliban fighters in a raid on an Islamic school in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said. The Taliban have this year unleashed the worst violence in years against the Afghan government and foreign troops supporting it across the Afghan south and east. Afghanistan, the United States and other NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan have urged Pakistan to crack down on the insurgents in Pakistan and stop launching attacks into Afghanistan from Pakistani sanctuaries. The Taliban were arrested in an early morning raid on a madrasa, or religious school, in Pushtoonabad, a Quetta neighborhood where many Afghan refugees live, police said."We arrested 28 people from there and they are all Taliban fighters," senior Quetta police officer Qazi Abdul Wahid told Reuters. Four other suspects were arrested in another part of the city, he said. Quetta police have conducted several similar raids over recent months, picking up scores of Taliban including some getting treatment for wounds sustained in Afghan fighting. Pakistani authorities handed most of them over to Afghan authorities but they said none appeared to be Taliban. Afghanistan and its allies say while Pakistan has arrested or killed hundreds of al Qaeda militants since Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the September 11 attacks, it has taken little action against Taliban in Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf said at the weekend while the Taliban were essentially an Afghan problem, they were being supported by "elements" on the Pakistani side. He vowed action. "We need to put our house in order, here on our side, and make sure that this support is cut off, but the main battle is in Afghanistan," Musharraf told a news conference with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

6 Middle Eastern Men Removed From Flight To Phoenix In The Twin Cities

Six passengers were removed from a US Airways flight Monday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and taken for questioning by police, an airport spokesman said. The passengers boarded US Airways Flight 300, bound for Phoenix, around 6:30 p.m. when crew members "saw suspicious activity" by the men and called airport police, said the spokesman, Pat Hogan. Police escorted the men off the plane and took them to be questioned, he said.Hogan said the crew described the men as "Middle Eastern" in appearance, though he said he didn't immediately know where they were from. He said more information would likely be released Tuesday. The other passengers on the flight, which was carrying 170 people, were re-screened for boarding. The plane took off about three hours after the men were removed from the flight.

German Police Foil Bomb Plot Against El Al

Investigators have uncovered a plot to bomb a El Al Airlines commercial aircraft in Germany this year using explosives smuggled on board hidden in luggage, the federal prosecutor's office said. "During the summer, several suspects made contact with an individual who had access to the security-restricted zone of the Frankfurt airport," a statement said. The individual agreed to help smuggle explosives concealed in a case or a bag onto a plane in return for payment, it added. But the plot broke down when the as yet unidentified suspects failed to reach agreement with the airport employee on the amount he would be paid to plant the luggage. The prosecutor's office gave no details of which airport was involved. Six suspects were arrested in Germany in connection with the plot, but five were released the following day. A sixth person was kept in custody in connection with a different matter. All six suspects are being investigated for allegedly belonging to a terrorist organisation. Investigators searched nine apartments in the southern region of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse in central Germany looking for evidence, a spokesperson said. A spokesperson for the interior ministry said he had nothing to add to the information given by the prosecutor's office.Germany was shaken this summer after it was discovered that homemade bombs hidden in suitcases failed to explode on two passenger trains, because of faulty detonators. Two Lebanese men have been charged with planting the suitcases on trains heading for the western cities of Hamm, near Dortmund, and Koblenz on July 31.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Syria On The Move In Lebanon & Iraq

Syrian-backed Hizbullah may be poised to stage a revolution in Lebanon as back-room negotiations between the US and Syria may result in Israel being pressured to give up the Golan Heights. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem began a visit to Iraq on Sunday. The visit will include meetings with US officials in Iraq at which Moallem will relay Syria’s demand that Israel retreat from the Golan Heights in return for Syrian cooperation in Iraq. The insurgents that have plagued US troops in Iraq have for the most part entered the country from Syria. According to preliminary reports, former American Secretary of State James Bakar’s soon-to-be delivered recommendations on Iraq policy include engaging Syria and Iran in negotiations in order to enable the US formulate an exit strategy. The London Times, which has in the past proven the veracity of its Syrian sources, quotes Syrian Baath Party official Ayman Abdel Nour saying that Bashar al-Assad’s “top demand” from the US and Britain is that Israel be pressured to withdraw from the Golan."Syria will not do anything unless it has secured guarantees from Washington and London that every action Damascus takes to help them will be reciprocated. It will be a step by step scenario: these actions for those actions,” he said. The Syrian demands also include a staged withdrawal of US troops from the region. Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt warned Sunday that Lebanon is on the verge of a coup de tat staged by Hizbullah and other pro-Syrian elements. "The opposition groups are on the verge of announcing a coup in the country and we should take the brave decision to confront all options," Jumblatt said in a briefing to his ruling parliamentary faction. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah attacked the Lebanese government publicly Saturday, saying it lacked credibility. "The Lebanese government is in a state of weakness and is still feeling a huge defeat as the result of the last Israeli war in Lebanon," Nasrallah said in a taped address aired on Hizbullah’s Al-Manar satellite station. Nasrallah urged Lebanese citizens to be prepared “psychologically” to take to the streets in support of Hizbollah's demand for a national unity government, though he insisted he was not calling for any violence. Analysts think Nasrallah’s statements may serve as instructions for pro-Syrian elements in Lebanon to prepare to take control. Hizbullah’s unity government bid consists of a demand that the group, which answers to Syria and Iran, be given veto power on all major government decisions.

Muslims Mad At Proposed Burqa Ban

Dutch Muslims have hit out at a proposed government ban of face veils, saying it was over the top, ill-conceived and infringed religious rights. The Dutch cabinet said it was proposing a bill banning clothing that covers the face in public, targeting in particular Muslim woman wearing the burqa or niqab. The burqa is an Islamic veil covering the entire face and body and a mesh screen to see through, while the niqab is a veil covering the face but leaving the eye area clear. The garments are worn by a few dozen women in the Netherlands. Rita Verdonk, minister of immigration and integration, said the bill proposed a ban on the basis that covering the face constituted a risk to public order and safety. The ban would be imposed in public and "semi-public" places such as schools, courts, ministries and trains, her spokesman Martin Bruinsma told reporters."In this country, we want to be able to see each other. The ban is a question of security," daily De Telegraaf quoted the minister as saying. But representatives of the country's Muslim population were unimpressed. "They are going to have to find a better argument than security. It is an infringement on the freedom of religion," said Ahmed Markouch, a Moroccan mosques representative. He predicted that the bill would go down badly with the country's sizeable Muslim population, "because it comes from Verdonk, not because they are in favour of the burqa." Green Party lawmaker Mustapha Laboui, who is of Moroccan origin, said that although he believed the wearing of the burqa in Dutch society was "not logical", he was sceptical as to the bill's legality. And Ayhan Tonca from the CMO, a group representing Muslims, said that such a law would be "useless". "The existing laws are sufficient for dealing with the problems. It's over the top, a law for a dozen people!," Tonca told reporters.As in many European countries, the integration of immigrants is a hot topic in the Netherlands, and the bill comes just days before legislative elections. "Iron Rita", as Verdonk has been dubbed, has made a name for herself with hard-hitting immigration policies and measures meant to foster integration into Dutch society. Since March, for example, would-be immigrants have to pass a test showing they have a basic understanding of the Dutch language and society, and the government has also tabled a bill that would force certain immigrants holding a Dutch passport to take courses on integration. For Dutch newspapers, news of the bill came as little surprise and coverage was light. For daily De Telegraaf, "The veil is coming down on the burqa." "In the past, the minister (Verdonk) has already made it known that she saw the burqa as a 'symbol of division and of separate worlds'," Volkskrant said. Newspapers said that the immigration ministry had been working for the past year to make the bill legally watertight. "There are some (legal) tensions, but it is possible to formulate it in such as way as to ensure it is not contentious," a spokesman for the immigration ministry told Volkskrant.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Israel Must Retake Control Of Gaza-Egypt Border

Minister for Strategic Threats Avigdor Lieberman called for Israel to retake control over the Rafah crossing and the Philadelphi Route, on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Speaking to Israel Radio, Lieberman said that Israel need not reoccupy the Strip, which it evacuated in the summer of last year, but must take control over the area from which "the fuel that drives terrorism arrives." Speaking to Israel Radio, Lieberman said he believes the Palestinians are not interested in setting up their own state, but rather in destroying Israel. He said Israel must abandon past interim peace deals, known as the Oslo accords, and the road map. "A continuation of Oslo, of the road map ... will lead us to another round of conflict, a much more bloody round, and in the end to an even deeper deadlock, and it threatens our future," he said. He dismissed Abbas, elected chairman in 2005, as an ineffective leader who should be ignored, and said Israel must get tougher with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups, particularly their leaders.
Avigdor Lieberman
"They ... have to disappear, to go to paradise, all of them, and there can't be any compromise," he said. "His comments are his own. They don't reflect Israeli policy," Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, said of Lieberman. Lieberman told Israel Radio that diplomatic and security initiatives put forward by Vice Premier Shimon Peres and the Defense Ministry are senseless. "There is no point in new peace initiatives, and those who initiate them are irresponsible and unwise," he said. According to Lieberman, the Palestinians do not truly desire a country, but instead "work in the service of international Jihad," and called for Israel to target the upper echelons of Hamas. "There is no point in striking refugee camps and Palestinians who have nothing to lose," Lieberman said. "Instead, we should strike the entire Hamas leadership roaming free in Gaza." He said "Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] should be handled in cooperation with Jordan, and Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] should be ignored as he is not relevant, hated and lacking any authority in the territories."Meretz Party Chairman Yossi Beilin called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to dismiss Lieberman: "If he doesn't do this, Olmert will carry the responsibility for all of Lieberman's crazy statements, and he won't be able to shake himself from them time after time." "Lieberman's statements that Abbas must be ignored, that the Philadelphi Route must be conquered and that Palestinian Knesset Members must be killed become the statements of the entire government as long as Lieberman holds a senior position in it," he added. Lieberman added, by contrast, that among the Palestinians there are some interested in improving their situation, and that these are the people with whom Israel should negotiate. Olmert forged an alliance with the far-right lawmaker, one of Israel's most divisive politicians, last month to shore up his shaky coalition. Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, a top Abbas aide, said Lieberman is stuck in the past and called his ideas "a recipe for the continuation of bloodshed, violence, extremism and hatred between the two sides."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Canadian Conservatives Remain Committed To Afghanistan Mission

Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor said the Conservative government hasn’t done enough to sell the public on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. But despite souring public opinion and mounting opposition from other parties, the Conservatives won’t back down from Canada’s commitment and will make the military an election issue if it has to, O’Connor said at the final day of a NATO conference in Quebec City. “Our government is prepared to defend our commitment in Afghanistan,” O’Connor said. “Whenever the next election comes and I hope it’s a long way off, we are defend from a defence point of view and a foreign affairs point of view, our commitment in Afghanistan.”
Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor speak at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Quebec City.
O’Connor spoke to nearly 350 delegates from 26 countries in Quebec City and emphasized the need for more support from NATO countries in Afghanistan and a committed, dedicated involvement in the military mission. The defence minister faced tough questions from countries such as Estonia and Portugal, who questioned the fact the Conservatives haven’t been able to gain public support for the Afghanistan mission. His stop in Quebec City came after a public relations dash across the country designed to beef up public support for Canada’s role in Afghanistan. He made stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto before heading to the NATO meeting in Quebec. Since 2002, 42 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Police Uncover Bombing Plot In Southern Philippines

Philippine police have uncovered a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) plot to launch bomb attacks in the troubled southern region of Mindanao. Chief Superintendent German Doria, a regional police chief, said the plot was revealed by a JI-trained bomb suspect arrested in Tacurong City, 960 km north of Manila. Doria said the captured bomber, Blah Platon, revealed that among the areas targeted in the terror attacks were the cities of Davao and Cotabato. "Based on the tactical interrogation, the suspect bared the JI was to carry out large-scale bomb attacks," he said. Doria said Platon also revealed that about 50 improvised bombs were to be shipped to the target areas within the year. Security forces have been conducting operations to capture key JI militants, Indonesians Dulmatin and Omar Patek, on Jolo island since August.Dulmatin and Patek were suspected to be key plotters in the 2002 bombings in the Indonesian resort island of Bali, which killed more than 200 people, mostly Australian tourists. Police intelligence officers said Dulmatin and Patek were in the company of six other JI militants - four Indonesians, a Malaysian and a Singaporean - protected by Muslim Abu Sayyaf nrebels in Jolo. Last month, at least six people were killed and more than 30 others were injured in a series of bomb attacks in Mindanao, which were allegedly aimed at diverting military attention from Jolo. The attacks occurred after security forces captured the Indonesian wife of Dulmatin in Patikul town on Jolo island. She was awaiting deportation for illegally entering the country

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Campaign Signs Still Up Around The Twin Cities

After Friday, if they're still posted, it'll actually be a crime in some cities to have campaign signs up. It's been more than a week since the election and in Blaine, Reporters found signs for congressional candidate Patty Wetterling, Anoka County Commission hopeful Dick Swanson and Attorney General Candidate Jeff Johnson. State election law says candidates have 10 days after the election to take down the signs. In Blaine, if they are not taken down, it's a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a $300 per sign fine. "We actually give them a little leeway because the tenth day is this Friday and we will wait until the following Monday. If they're not down by then, we'll actually do a sweep and remove them," said Jane Cross, Blaine City Clerk.The City Clerk said she can not remember the last time someone was prosecuted. City workers just usually throw the left over signs away. Before the election, her office got about 15 complaints about illegal signs, such as those posted on public property. "It really ties up a lot of our time and it's unfortunate because we have a lot of things to do besides chase down people and move their signs," she said. An Amy Klobuchar for U.S. Senate sign still sat in Krista Twesme's yard in Minneapolis Wednesday. Although her husband removed it late Wednesday to add to their decade-old collection. "We're the kind of people who had our Wellstone sign out in the front yard until about March or April," Twesme said. Reporters tried to reach several campaigns. The Jeff Johnson campaign said the volunteers who put up his 5,000 signs are supposed to be the ones who take them down. If you see any political signs out there, you can report them to your city clerk.

Trent Lott Wins Back Leadership Spot

Senate Republicans selected Mississippi's Trent Lott to serve as minority whip, the No. 2 position in the chamber's GOP leadership, when Congress returns next year. In an election by secret ballot, fellow Republican senators chose Lott over Tennessee's Lamar Alexander for the post. Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, currently the deputy to retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, was unopposed in the race for the top GOP leadership post. Fellow Republicans had ousted Lott from his majority leader post and replaced him with Frist in 2002 after Lott made comments that were regarded as racially insensitive.

Australian Prime Minister Mocks 'Peeved Politician's' Global Warming Hysteria

The Prime Minister, John Howard, is proposing his own inconvenient truth after finding the movie of that name not to his liking. An Inconvenient Truth, starring the former US vice-president Al Gore, "showed a degree of the peeved politician [with] the constant jibes at the Bush Administration," Mr Howard said yesterday. He urged Australians who think nuclear power is a "horrific thought" to consider the forthcoming report which is expected to find that nuclear power will become more economical as the cost of reducing greenhouse emissions makes coal-fired electricity more expensive. Mr Howard, who is believed to have seen An Inconvenient Truth only recently, said he did not need to be persuaded of the need to reduce greenhouse gases. But he said "it is not going to overwhelm us tomorrow, we are not going to drown in the sea in a couple of weeks' time … we have to be sensible and measured and calm in our responses…"
The Prime Minister, John Howard
His remarks came as an expert report on uranium found that ill-informed community suspicion of the radioactive mineral has added to the obstacles in development of Australia's uranium industry. "The opposition, however, is mainly due to a significant misalignment between public concern and the objective risk. While risks from uranium are carefully measured and relatively low, the public perception of risk is relatively high," says the Government-commissioned report by the Uranium Industry Framework group, chaired by the Melbourne engineer and industrialist, Dr John White. The report calls for a national "stewardship" plan to ensure Australia's huge uranium deposits - the world's largest - are developed to maximise value and minimise risks to safety, the environment and community. It calls for reforms to remove constraints on the transport of uranium in Australia and internationally, for steps to maximise the benefits for indigenous communities affected by uranium mining, and for more effective community education about uranium. It says that the level of regulation of the Australian uranium industry "may add to the perceived level of risk associated with uranium mining and perhaps hinders the public's understanding of the actual level of risk". Alec Marr, of the Wilderness Society, said the intent of the report was to run a massive campaign for the nuclear industry.

Toys For Tots Does About Face On Jesus

Toys for Tots has decided to accept a toymaker's gift of 4,000 bible-quoting Jesus dolls after all. The program run by the Marine Corps Reserves had initially decided not to take the 12-inch tall religious figures from a California company because they didn't want to take a chance that the dolls would end up going to someone who might be offended by them. Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va., said Toys for Tots doesn't know anything about the religious affiliations of the children who receive its gifts. "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family,"(both of which don't celebrate Christmas) Grein said. "Kids want a gift for the holiday season that is fun." But a spokesman told reporters after they changed their minds and decided to accept the dolls from the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.. Toys for Tots refused further comment.According to the company's Web site, the button-activated, bearded Jesus doll recites Scripture such as "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Marine Sgt. Paul McCawley, who heads Toys for Tots in western Massachusetts, told the Boston Herald his chapter would have "regretfully declined the offer" out of "political correctness" had it occurred here. Each Toys for Tots chapter collects its own gifts. They distributed 18 million stuffed animals, games, toy trucks and other gifts to children based on financial need in 2005.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Democratic Loser Threatens Legal Action Because He Lost The Vote, But Won The Polls

A Florida Democrat says he won't concede defeat in his race to unseat Republican Rep. Tom Feeney "until every vote is actually counted." Clint Curtis said he is considering a legal challenge to the election results: "In this election, the results did not match the Zogby pre-election poll, our internal polling, or our exit polling," Curtis explained. "These anomalies need to be investigated and cleared up, not just in my race but for every district where the count just doesn't add up." Curtis says he has informed the election officials in all four counties in Florida's 24th Congressional District that he is considering a challenge. According to a news release put out by his campaign, Curtis "has worked tirelessly for over five years to correct issues in America's broken election system." And now, as a congressional candidate, Curtis finally "has the legal standing to pursue an investigation into the anomalies."The campaign did not mention any "anomalies" aside from inaccurate polls. Curtis said he plans to examine precinct numbers and personally contact voters, to "tie the voter to the vote." "This will either confirm the official results or indicate discrepancies," he said. His campaign is seeking both money and volunteers to "participate in this historic effort to restore integrity and accuracy" in the electoral process. The campaign said it will ask concerned citizens "to assist in contacting voters." "I can accept that the citizens across the state of Florida were out of step with the rest of the country, as long as we know that this election truly reflects their intent," Curtis said. The Feeney-Curtis race wasn't exactly close: With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Feeney had 58 percent (123,557 votes) to Curtis's 42 percent (89,672).

Vatican Advises Muslims On Obeying Local Laws

The Vatican stepped into the debate about Muslim women wearing veils, with a top cardinal saying immigrants must follow the laws of their host countries, including any bans on such face-covering. Countries "must require that guests who arrive from a different culture must respect the traditions, the symbols, the culture, the religion of the countries they go to," said Renato Martino, the Italian prelate who heads the Vatican's office on issues concerning migrants, itinerant workers and refugees. Martino, responding to a question about veils from a reporter, said respect for local laws would include any bans on such coverings. "This seems to me to be elementary. It is quite right that (local) authorities insist on this," he told a news conference to present Pope Benedict XVI's annual message on migrant issues.
Cardinal Renato Martino
Vatican Radio reiterated the stance, saying "the question of the veil for Islamic women" should be "considered in the context of respect for the laws of the countries which welcome" them. The assertion by Martino, a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations, comes two weeks before Pope Benedict XVI begins his first visit as pontiff to a Muslim nation, Turkey. That officially secular nation has long been wrestling over whether Muslim women there should wear Islamic head scarves in such places as universities and public offices. Flanking the cardinal, another Vatican official who deals with immigration issues, Monsignor Agostino Marchetto, referred to Italy's law requiring people to keep their face visible in public. That law dates to Italy's crackdown on domestic terrorism decades ago. Marchetto said Italy "rightly" has such a law and that obeying it is "part of accepting the law of this country." "Dialogue is needed with our brothers to make them understand the consequences of some of their desires, such as their own cultural and religious traditions, would not be positive in the society they are now in," Marchetto said.
Monsignor Agostino Marchetto
Britain is grappling with how much minority groups should integrate in British society. The debate comes in the context of an increasingly diverse, traditionally Christian Europe concerned about religious extremism. Italy, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, also has been debating how to integrate immigrants from other cultures and religions. In Britain on Monday, a Muslim lawyer who refused to remove her veil while representing a client in court in central England was removed from the case. Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sparked anger last month by revealing that he asks Muslim women to remove full face coverings when they come to his district office in Blackburn, where British Muslims make up about a quarter of the population. Straw has said he feels full veils further divide, rather than unite, communities in Britain, but some Muslim leaders warned that such comments would further heighten tensions. Martino also pushed the Vatican's campaign for Christians' right to worship around the world. He lamented that some countries do not allow immigrants from Christian countries to easily profess their faith. The pope has been lobbying for Christians' right to worship openly in countries such as Saudi Arabia, which forbids Christians from practicing their religion.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fresh Fighting Erupts Between Philippine Military, Muslim Rebels

Fresh fighting erupted between Philippine troops and Muslim separatist rebels in the country's troubled southern region amid efforts by the government to break an impasse in peace talks. Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando, a regional army spokesman, accused the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of triggering the firefight in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila. He said 80 rebels attacked an army detachment in the village of Kuloy twice within three hours. Soldiers fought back, but no casualties were reported on both sides, he said. "They are intentionally doing this harassment, and then they blame us later that we started the skirmishes," Ando said. He said the military was filing a formal complaint against the MILF for violating a three-year-old ceasefire agreement with the government.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the guerrillas started the latest clash, and vowed the rebel group would also file a complaint against the military before international ceasefire monitors. "It was the soldiers and militiamen who attacked our positions," he said. "They even shelled our positions since (Saturday) night and (Sunday) morning. We are observing the truce." The fresh hostilities erupted as government peace negotiators submitted a new proposal to the MILF to resolve a deadlock over the key issue of ancestral land rights or what areas to include in an expanded autonomous Muslim region in the south. The government has so far declined to divulge details of the new proposal. Talks between the government and the 12,000-strong MILF hit a snag in September when rebel negotiators rejected a government proposal to add only 600 villages to the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The MILF wanted to add more than 1,000 villages to the ARMM, which currently covers five predominantly Muslim provinces and the Islamic city of Marawi. The MILF has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao since 1978. In the past, it claimed that the entire Mindanao is the ancestral domain of the country's Muslim minority and should be governed separately from the rest of the Philippines.

Monday, November 13, 2006

India Hijack Alert

US-bound flights from India face high Qaeda risk India renewed a high security alert at its airports yesterday following a warning that the Al Qaeda terror network could try and hijack US-bound passenger flights, officials said. “We sounded an alert after the Federal Bureau of Investigation forwarded an e-mail that spoke of the possibility of an Al Qaeda attempt to hijack US-bound flights from India,” a home ministry official said. The official, who did not wanted to be named, said the e-mail written by an “unknown entity” appeared to have originated from India and was received by the FBI Saturday at its headquarters in the US. “While the ‘target’ was US-bound flights, the nature of threat mentioned in the e-mail was ‘hijacking’”, he added. “All airlines have been asked to request passengers to cooperate with the enhanced security and to reach airports a little ahead of time,” the Press Trust of India quoted an unnamed official as saying.The heightened measures included last-minute special checks before embarkation, increased security around airports and extra baggage screening, it added. India tightened security Thursday at airports in the southern cities of Coimbatore, Madurai, Chennai, Bangalore and Thiruvanthapuram. The move came after the discovery in Chennai airport of a letter written in the local Tamil language warning of car bomb attacks by the Al-Qaeda network. The letter, found by a cleaner, said 10-man Al Qaeda militant squads would attack airports with car bombs. Security was also increased at the busy airports in the Indian capital, New Delhi, and the country’s financial hub, Mumbai. Islamic guerrillas waging a separatist campaign in Kashmir often stage attacks elsewhere in India, but so far none of the groups has claimed any affiliation with Al-Qaeda. India bolstered security at its airports after Islamic rebels in 1999 hijacked a Delhi-bound Indian Airlines plane and forced it to land in the then Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. More than 160 passengers were later swapped for a clutch of Islamic guerrillas held in Indian prisons.

Is Castro's Health Deteriorating

The government believes Fidel Castro's health is deteriorating and that the Cuban dictator is unlikely to live through 2007. That dire view was reinforced last week when Cuba's foreign minister backed away from his prediction the ailing Castro would return to power by early December. "It's a subject on which I don't want to speculate," Felipe Perez Roque told The Associated Press in Havana. U.S. government officials say there is still some mystery about Castro's diagnosis, his treatment and how he is responding. But these officials believe the 80-year-old leader has cancer of the stomach, colon or pancreas. He was seen weakened and thinner in official state photos released late last month, and it is considered unlikely that he will return to power or survive through the end of next year, said the U.S. government and defense officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the politically sensitive topic.With chemotherapy, Castro may live up to 18 months, said the defense official. Without it, expected survival would drop to three months to eight months. American officials will not talk publicly about how they glean clues to Castro's health. But U.S. spy agencies include physicians who study pictures, video, public statements and other information coming out of Cuba. A planned celebration of Castro's 80th birthday next month is expected to draw international attention. The Cuban leader had planned to attend the public event, which already had been postponed once from his Aug. 13 birthday.

Mayoral Candidate Disputes Tally Of Zero Votes, Says He Voted for Himself

The Waldenburg, Arkansas, bar owner figured he'd get at least one vote in his bid to become mayor of the town of 80 people -- even if it was just his own. But he didn't. According to the official tally, nobody voted for Wooten. Along with himself, Wooten says there were "at least eight or nine people" who said they voted for him, so, as he puts it, "something is wrong with this picture."Now, he has to decide whether to file a formal protest. Two other candidates, including the incumbent, received 18 votes. The Poinsett County election commissioner says a court order would have to be obtained to open the electronic voting machine and check the totals. No action has been taken yet. Wooten says, "It's just very hard to understand."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Democrats Already Getting Cocky

Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering is demanding an apology from a powerful New York Democrat. Representative Charles Rangel is in line to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He talked to the New York Times about getting more federal money for his own state.That's when he remarked, quote-- "Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who... wants to live in Mississippi?" Rangel told the Associated Press he did not mean to offend anyone. Pickering says he hopes Rangel's remarks are not the kind of insults Mississippi can expect as Democrats take control of congress.

Zoo To Teach Panda To Mate With Panda Porn

The project manager at a Thai zoo, which has hosted a couple of pandas for four years, says they will play "porn" videos for the male next month to encourage them to breed in captivity. Panda project chief Prasertsak Buntrakoonpoontawee says the pair - living chastely together at the zoo in the northern city of Chiang Mai since arriving from China in 2003 - will be separated in December, but stay close enough for occasional glimpses of each other."They don't know how to mate so we need to show the male how, through videos," Mr Prasertsak told reporters. He says Chuang Chuang, the six-year-old male, will be shown the videos on a large screen when he might be feeling amorous. "We'll play the video at the most comfortable and intimate time for him, perhaps after dinner," Mr Prasertsak said, hoping Chuang Chuang would then use the techniques on Lin Hui, a five-year-old female. The zoo is hosting a four-day international panda conference starting on Monday (local time), drawing 200 wildlife and panda specialists from around the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

President Bush Honors Veterans At Tomb Of Unknowns

On this Veterans Day 2006, President Bush thanked Veterans for their service and sacrifice as he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. President Bush said Americans enjoy freedom because of veterans’ willingness to serve and he urged Americans to express their appreciation to veterans and their families. President Bush spoke at the Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery.The Veterans Day visit to the Virginia cemetery is a presidential tradition, although Vice President Cheney did the honors last year. President Bush, at the time, was in Pennsylvania, where he gave a forceful defense of his Iraq policy and accused critics of undercutting US troops who are on the front lines. His visit to Arlington comes a day after he presided at the dedication of the new Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va. He became emotional as he announced that he will award the Medal of Honor to a Marine corporal who was killed in Iraq when he jumped on a grenade to save the lives of two fellow Marines.

Israeli Military Strike On Iran A Possibility

An Israeli defense official is raising the possibility Israel may try to knock out Iran's nuclear program. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh tells The Jerusalem Post that a pre-emptive military strike would be a "last resort," but he goes on to say, "the last resort is sometimes the only resort."
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh
A government spokeswoman says the defense official's comments do not necessarily reflect the official view, but Israeli leaders have said they regard Iran as their nation's number-one threat. They don't buy Iran's claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Iran's president has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction. Israeli warplanes bombed an unfinished reactor in Iraq 25 years ago. But experts say taking care of Iran would be much more difficult. Its facilities are spread out and some are hardened underground.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Northern Ireland Faces First Deadline For Self-Rule

Britain and Ireland have voiced cautious optimisism on the eve of a deadline for Catholic and Protestant parties to sign up to a crunch accord to restore self-rule in Northern Ireland. But analysts warn the first real test will come later this month, when the Catholic Republican Sinn Fein and Protestant pro-London Democratic Unionists (DUP) must start to implement the deal, four years after a joint-rule assembly was suspended. In closed-door talks last month in the Scottish town of St Andrews, London and Dublin hammered out a deal to restore a self-rule administration in the British-run province, still deeply divided despite the end of decades of violence. But the accord, which set out a timetable aimed at having a power-sharing government in place by March 26 next year, needs first of all to be formally backed by all parties before a November 10 deadline -- Today. British and Irish authorities downplayed any sense of concern.
"We are hoping tomorrow that we can be in a position to move on to the legislative phase and that both parties will have said that they agree with the St Andrews agreement," said Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. Britain's Northern Ireland office agreed. "We certainly would expect all parties to be positive in their response," a spokesman told AFP, although admitting that as of Today no party had formally given its views. The promise of self-rule was a key plank of the landmark 1998 Good Friday agreement, which ended three decades of "Troubles" that killed more than 3,500 people, many at the hands of the Irish Republican Army, Sinn Fein's paramilitary wing. But self-rule was suspended in 2002 after allegations of an IRA spy ring operating at Stormont Castle, the Belfast seat of administration, and the province has been under direct rule from London ever since. In theory the St Andrews accord -- personally brokered by Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- opens the way for a revival of power-sharing in less than six months' time. But a key sticking point in the St Andrews talks was Sinn Fein's refusal to support the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) -- a successor to the British-run and Protestant-dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary. Many Catholics see the PSNI as still inherently biased, while some allege that it still contains officials and officers responsible for abuse during the Troubles."We can't get round the fact that the issue of policing has to be resolved," said Jonathan Caine, a former Northern Ireland Office advisor, who forecast that the parties will all meet Friday's deadline, but with reservations. "If Sinn Fein don't agree, direct rule from Westminster will sadly be maintained," he added. Under the timetable set out in the St Andrews Agreement, if there is accord Friday the British government will immediately begin drawing up legislation to implement the accord. Then on November 24 the Belfast assembly will meet to nominate a first minister and deputy first minister -- widely expected to be firebrand DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness. But observers say that Paisley will refuse to take office with McGuinness if Sinn Fein has not made unconditional commitments to supporting the police. "It's a huge step for Paisley to agree to be first minister with Martin McGuinness as effectively his co-equal," said an official with long experience of the talks. "Lots of people find it unimaginable. But I think he is prepared to do it -- but it has to be under the right circumstances," he said.

Afghanistan Thanks Rumsfeld

Afghanistan said it was grateful for the support of former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld but did not believe his departure from the post would herald a change in US policy to this country. The United States is the main supporter of post-Taliban Afghanistan, having led the offensive to topple the extremist regime in late 2001 months after the September 11 attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda leaders being sheltered here. It has 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and is the main funder of efforts to rebuild the country. Rumsfeld made several trips here during his six years in office to reaffirm support for President Hamid Karzai's government. "We are grateful for what Mr Donald Rumsfeld has done in supporting Afghanistan in the past five years," presidential spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad told reporters."We are also sure that Mr Rumsfeld's departure won't affect US policy on Afghanistan," he said. A top US official visiting Kabul also said earlier he did not believe Rumsfeld's departure or the Democrats' win in US mid-term elections would alter US policy and commitment towards Afghanistan. The stabilization of Afghanistan was in the US national interest and both Democrats and Republicans were committed to the task, the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs told reporters in Kabul. "There is very strong support among both Republicans and Democrats for the mission in Afghanistan for the efforts we are making here, the funding is needed to support Afghanistan...," Richard Boucher said. "So I have every confidence that kind of support is going to continue whatever the make-up of Congress," he said. Boucher said there was commitment for Afghanistan from "all sides of politics" in the United States. "It's a national effort on part of the United States here and something that is very important to our national interest and helping Afghanistan is something we all agree on and we are all very committed to," he said.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Israel Concerned Over Democratic Takeover

Israelis are worried the Democratic power swing in Washington curbing President Bush's power will lead to less decisive action on Iran's nuclear ambitions, which they consider an imminent threat. Still, Israelis said they don't think the U.S. election results giving Democrats control of the House and Senate will diminish American support for Israel. Bush is popular among Israelis for aggressive policies toward Islamic extremism and his steadfast support for Israel, even as much of the world criticizes the Jewish state for its policies toward the Palestinians. Most Israelis also see Bush as a strong ally against Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said repeatedly that Israel should be destroyed. Israel sees itself as the primary target of a nuclear-armed Iran. "Most Israelis understand that the Israeli interests, at this point, rest on future decisive statesmanship and decisive action in relation to the nuclear threat of Iran," said Menahem Blondheim of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem."Without the political support at home and in his party and among the American public, a decisive military or diplomatic move (by Bush) against Iran seems less and less likely," he said. Blondheim said the Democrats may open the door wider for European nations, which many Israelis see as pro-Arab, to engage in Middle East diplomacy. "Some Israelis are worried about the notion that the Democrats tend to be oriented toward multilateral diplomacy. For many Israelis, having European powers and other countries join the Middle Eastern conflict is bad news," he said. Jacob Kay, a Web designer in Jerusalem, said he expected a Democratic majority to be less attuned to Israeli interests. "If the House has gone Democrat, obviously that's worse for Israel because the supporters of Israel and freedom in the Middle East tend to be Republicans," said Kay, who said he was worried about any relaxation in America's policy toward Iran. Still, many Israelis were not overly concerned. "I think support for Israel is quite entrenched, and Israelis should not fear any deterioration in Israeli-American relations," said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. "We have a long history. We shouldn't panic." Rami Bengur, 58, who owns a video store in Jerusalem, agreed. "I believe in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, they're both from a democracy," he said. "This country is very important for them. From my point of view, they will do anything to protect Israel, no matter which party." Others said it was too early to judge the elections' ramifications for Israel. Political Analyst Yossi Alpher said he thinks there will be changes in the president's agenda, but that does not necessarily translate to a dramatic swing in policy over Iran. The first issue on the table, he said, will be the war in Iraq. "I'm not sure that it will change the U.S. policy, it depends on the Cabinet," said Menashe Dan, a 32-year-old baker. "I think there will be a change of the foreign affairs, but I'm not sure what it's going to be... only time will tell."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Review

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mayor May Get Six Months In Jail For Using The Letter "W" On A Greeting Card

The mayor of the largest city in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast risks up to six months in jail for using the letter W in New Year greeting cards, his lawyer Muharrem Erbey said. The lawsuit came after Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir, one of Turkey's leading Kurdish politicians, sent New Year's cards last year to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cabinet ministers and members of parliament, in which he used the Kurdish expression for "Happy New Year." Since the phrase includes the letter W, which exists in the Kurdish alphabet but not the Turkish one, prosecutors accused Baydemir of violating a law that obliges state agencies, civic groups and private institutions to use Turkish letters.The law dates back to 1928 when the Turkish Republic, founded five years earlier on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, adopted a new alphabet based on Latin characters to replace Arabic script. Erbey said Baydemir's trial would start on February 6, 2007. He is also charged in two separate lawsuits of supporting separatist Kurdish rebels. Turkish courts have in the past rejected applications by Kurds to have their names officially registered with Kurdish spellings, including with the letters W, X and Q, which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet. Activists protest that many private institutions in Turkey freely use in their names words in other foreign languages that include those letters. Under European Union pressure to respect human rights, Ankara has in recent years legalized Kurdish-language broadcasts and allowed private courses teaching the Kurdish language.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Citgo Gas Stations See Sales Drop

Citgo gas stations across the country are starting to change their branding. They're asking their supplier to stop delivering gas from oil companies owned by the Venezuelan government. As of January 1990, the National Oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela acquired 100% of Citgo. In some cases, the move away from citgo was already planned. But the plan seemed to accelerate after the comments made by Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who referred to President Bush as "the devil" during a recent speech at the United Nations. Experts say after the speech, sales decreased between 10 and 15%. Many customers did not even know Venezuela had ties with Citgo, and they weren't too impressed to find out.Citgo customer, Cassandra Simco, said, "I had no idea that this was going on, I found out today. I had no idea Venezuela had anything to do with this". Citgo customer, Omar Ostolaza said, "The way it is we are supporting their people, helping them out, building their businesses, they come over here and talk about our president". Many Citgo customers are now boycotting Citgo after the speech made by Venezuelan President Chavez. Customers also think others should know where their gas money is going. Many Citgo stations are now speeding up plans to rebrand it's stores that have sold gas under the Citgo name.

Pakistan, Under Pressure To Keep Militants Out, Offers To Fence Off Afghan Border

Pakistan, under international pressure to stop militants from crossing over its border with Afghanistan, said it was willing to fence off the frontier. Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri made the offer during talks with his Dutch counterpart, Bernard Bot. Bot arrived in the Pakistani capital after visiting Kabul, a ministry statement said. Kasuri also said both Pakistani and Afghan security forces should jointly monitor the border to prevent movement by militants, according to the statement. ``Bot welcomed Pakistan's readiness to seal the border ... and said that he would discuss this with other NATO partners,'' the statement said. Pakistan has repeatedly said it is willing seal its border with Afghanistan. But officials say Afghanistan has rejected proposals to build a fence or mine the frontier.Pakistan's government has come under increasing pressure from Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO to crack down on militants operating along the Pakistan-Afghan frontier where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are thought to roam freely. Osama bin-Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere along the porous border. Afghan officials have repeatedly said remnants of the Taliban militia are hiding in Pakistan, but Islamabad denies the charge. In Afghanistan, where the Netherlands has assumed command over NATO-led troops in the country's troubled south, Bot said that Islamabad needed to be pressured to block Taliban fighters based in Pakistan from crossing into Afghanistan. Pakistan an ally in America's fight against militant Islamic radicals has deployed some 80,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan to hunt down militants.

Japan Holds Nuclear Weapons Debate

Japanese ruling party lawmakers sparred over whether the country should hold a debate on acquiring nuclear weapons in a row triggered by North Korea's test of a nuclear device last month. The head of policy at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said Japan should at least discuss its self-imposed ban on nuclear weapons, an opinion which is controversial in the only country to have experienced nuclear attacks. "We should hold a debate, including on what should be done if a nuclear missile comes flying towards us," Shoichi Nakagawa told a discussion programme broadcast by Fuji TV. Japan watched nervously as North Korea fired off a series of ballistic missiles in July and tested a nuclear device last month. As the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japan is highly sensitive about nuclear issues and even suggestions the country hold a debate about having nuclear weapons has created a controversy.Nakagawa said he was not suggesting Japan acquire nuclear weapons. "I have never said that we should debate this on the premise that we should have nuclear weapons," he said. But his comments drew criticism from Toshihiro Nikai, another senior member of the ruling party who opposed any debate over nuclear weapons. "Of course one has the right to freedom of expression as a member of parliament. But freedom of expression doesn't mean you should just say anything you like," Nikai told reporters. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last month the country would not lift its decades-old ban on nuclear weapons and denied the topic was up for discussion after his foreign and defence ministers clashed over the issue. Foreign Minister Taro Aso called for a discussion on nuclear weapons while Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma said raising the issue at a time of high regional tension would be unwise. Nikai said comments by Aso and Nakagawa could prove embarrassing for Abe. "If they repeatedly issue statements that could be misleading, it may result in calls for the one who appointed them to take responsibility," Nikai told national broadcaster NHK. Japan, with high technological standards and a stockpile of plutonium from its nuclear power industry, is widely thought capable of producing nuclear weapons relatively quickly, but many analysts say it is highly unlikely to do so, given internal opposition and the risk of raising regional tensions.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam Hussein Sentenced To Hang

Hundreds of Iraqi Shi'ites have gathered on the streets of Baghdad's Sadr City district to celebrate the death sentence handed down to deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Residents of the Shi'ite suburb danced, waved flags and set fire to pictures of Saddam. The district is controlled by the Shi'ite Mahdi militia, which largely ignored a strict curfew imposed on the rest of the Iraqi capital. Other parts of the Iraqi capital were largely quiet as the curfew remains in place. It is aimed at preventing outbreaks of sectarian fighting over the Saddam verdict.One of Saddam's chief lawyers condemned the trial as illegal, and says the court was a political body aimed at serving American interests. The lawyer, Bushra al-Khalil, was speaking in Amman, Jordan, where the defense team is based. While most of Baghdad was calm today, Iraqi officials say gunmen fought with police in the northern district of Azamiyah, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims. Several Iraqi Sunni politicians have criticized the death sentence on Saddam, a Sunni, and warned it could spark greater bloodshed between Sunnis and Shi'ites.