Sunday, December 31, 2006

South Korea Calls North Korea Serious Threat

South Korea's Defense Ministry has called North Korea a serious threat in a new report, saying it is believed to have about 50 kilograms of plutonium, enough to produce up to seven nuclear weapons. The biennial defense report also said the North is believed to be capable of producing biological weapons, including anthrax weapons, and possesses up to 5,000 tons of toxic agents housed at many facilities.The report described North Korea "as a serious threat, considering the serious nature of its nuclear test and threat of weapons of mass destruction." North Korea stoked tensions in October when it conducted its first nuclear test, drawing United Nations sanctions and global condemnation. During nuclear talks last week, North Korea continued to insist the US lift financial restrictions imposed on the communist regime before it would move ahead on dismantling its nuclear program.The report said North Korea has the capability to launch a surprise attack without repositioning its troops because it deploys about 70 percent of its ground forces south of the capital, Pyongyang. North Korea "is consistently preparing for war for a long period and is likely to keep this military policy in the future," the report said.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

UNEDITED SADDAM HUSSEIN HANGING

his video shows Saddam Hussein being hanged from the vantage of a witness using his or her cellphone. This shows almost everything -- except for the snap of the neck, viewer discretion advised.

HE IS DEAD


Al Arabiya TV Reports Saddam Hussein Has Been Executed

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been executed, according to two Arabic language media outlets. Earlier, an Iraqi judge told reporters Hussein would be hanged before dawn on Saturday in Iraq, (10 p.m. Friday ET). The former president was convicted of crimes against humanity in connection with the killings of 148 people in Dujail.
SCENE OF THE HANGING

Friday, December 29, 2006

Danny Bonaduce Receiving Death Threats For Support Of President Bush

Danny Bonaduce discussed the bizarre feud with 9/11 conspiracy theorists. It started Dec. 7, when he granted a street interview to a video crew that happened on him by chance. The interviewer claimed Washington knew about 9/11 in advance, prompting Bonaduce to defend President Bush and the Iraq war. Once the seemingly pro-war video hit YouTube, Bonaduce says, his family started receiving death threats. When abuse and images of maimed Iraqi children were sent through his 12-year-old daughter's MySpace page, the FBI became involved. "If [the interviewer] had personally offended me or I got death threats and I didn't have children, I would have tracked him down and kicked his skull in, and that would have been the end of that," Bonaduce told us. "But I have children, and you can't behave like that anymore."
The interviewer is a self-described "9/11 Truther" who declined to give his real name. He runs a Christian extremist Web site that accuses Bush of Satanism, among other things. He told us: "I think [Bonaduce's] delusional. And if you're going to quote me, it's a 'drug-damaged mind.' " He denied any involvement in the death threats, but wanted to make sure we included his alias and Web site in the story.

Saddam Likely To Be Hanged Before New Year

The Iraqi government is "anxious to get Saddam's execution done" and that it is likely to be carried out before the New Year — perhaps even within the next 24 hours, a U.S. military official told reporters. This official says American forces are now in the process of finalizing the former Iraqi dictator's transfer to Iraqi custody and to the location where he would be executed. Several U.S. officials say they are not ruling out Saddam being put to death as early as Friday.

U.S. Believes Abducted Contractors Alive

The U.S. Embassy said it believes four American security contractors and an Austrian remain in captivity after their kidnapping in southern Iraq six weeks ago. The men, including former St. Louis Park, Minn., police officer Paul Reuben, went missing Nov. 16 when a large convoy of trucks being escorted by their Crescent Security Group was hijacked on a highway near Safwan, a city on the border with Kuwait. Suspected militiamen dressed in Iraqi police uniforms ambushed the convoy, taking 14 hostages, including the five security guards, and nine truck drivers who were later released.
Missing Minnesota contractor Paul Reuben
"At this time, U.S. officials believe the American citizens are still being held by their captors," said Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. "The State Department continues to be in touch with the families of the U.S. citizens. We strongly condemn the kidnapping and call on the hostage-takers to release these people immediately," Fintor said. A video of the kidnapped Americans reportedly surfaced this week, showing them alive and in good condition. The footage was believed to have been made about a month ago. If authentic, it would be the first proof that all five men survived the ambush.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Baath Parthy Threatens Retaliation When Saddam Is Executed

Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party threatened to retaliate if the ousted Iraqi leader is executed, warning in an internet posting it would target US interests anywhere. The statement appeared on a website known to represent the Baath, which was disbanded after US-led forces overthrew Saddam in 2003. The site is believed to be run from Yemen, where a number of exiled members of the party are based. Iraq’s highest court rejected Saddam’s appeal against a conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 people who were detained after an attempt to assassinate in Dujail, northern Iraq, in 1982.The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days. “Our party warns again of the consequences of executing Mr. President and his comrades,” the statement said. “The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime,” the statement added, referring to Baath fighters as “the resistance”.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

President Gerald Ford Dies At 93

President Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as the 38th and only unelected President in America's history, has died, his wife, Betty, said. He was 93. The statement, by Betty, did not say where President Ford died or list a cause of death. President Ford had battled pneumonia in January 2006 and underwent two heart treatments, including an angioplasty, in August at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He was the longest living President, followed by President Ronald Reagan,who also died at 93.Ford was an accidental President, President Nixon's hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. President Ford took office minutes after President Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal. But he revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting President Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as President. That single act, it was widely believed, cost Ford election to a term of his own in 1976, but it won praise in later years as acourageous act that allowed the nation to move on. The Vietnam War ended during his presidency with the fall of Saigon in April 1975. He was in the White House only 895 days, but changed it more than it changed him.

New Role For Japan's Military

Revolutionary changes are about to give a big boost to the military's role in Japanese government and its foreign policy. Despite being the second largest economy in the world, the Japanese military has always been saddled with pacifist restrictions. Ever since its creation in the wake of World War II, the U.S.-imposed 1947 Japanese Constitution has relegated Japan's Defense Agency to being a second-tier agency with a lower status than all other cabinet ministries and little influence in the government. The 1947 Japanese constitution is widely interpreted as forbidding the possession of a military - in constitutional terms, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are not a military, but a kind of police force, and their "primary duties" are limited to national defense and disaster relief at home, and overseas operations are classified as "supplementary duties." Japan's House of Representatives and House of Councilors passed a bill this month to upgrade the current Defense Agency into a full-fledged defense ministry in January 2007.The newly amended Japanese Defense Agency Establishment Law and Self-Defense Forces Law not only upgrade the status of the Defense Agency to a ministry, but also expand significantly the range of "primary duties" for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. The new SDF Law now puts such activities as international military missions, participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, and support for the U.S. military during emergencies near Japan on par with national-defense and disaster-relief operations at home. The new laws also further cement the bonds between the two close allies - the United States and Japan - through increased integration of their military operations and pave the way for Tokyo's greater involvement in U.S.-led operations not only in Asia but globally. Beyond being a sign of the growing importance Tokyo is now placing on its military, the decision to give the SDF a more prominent voice in Japanese politics also shows Japanese government's growing consideration of factoring military matters into its foreign policy decision-making. With North Korea's apparent nuclear ambitions, China's plan to beef up its military establishment and America's declining role in Asia, Japan's new cabinet, led by the newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Abe, wants to make sure every major foreign-policy decision contains a strategic component.The decision by Prime Minister Abe to upgrade the status of the Japanese military forces and to expand its primary functions is also a symbol of the increasing importance the Japanese government, with the support of the Japanese people, is placing on Japan's role in Asia and the world. As Japan inches toward a full-fledged military power, pressure is also mounting in Japanese politics and society for the nation to have a "go nuclear" option. With the plutonium from its reactors and its capability to manufacture centrifuges and other highly precise instruments that can be used in making nuclear warheads, Japan could become a nuclear-armed nation almost overnight. Given a political go-ahead, Japan could produce a nuclear weapon in weeks - or less, according to Prime Minister Abe. But for more than five decades, the development of nuclear weapons had been too sensitive a subject to be even discussed in Japan. However, that is no longer the case. "Go nuclear," especially after Pyongyang's nuclear test in October, has become the subject of a serious and open discussion in Japan today. Prime Minister Abe, who took office in late September, has been one of the foremost proponents of a Japanese nuclear arsenal and has maintained that Japan has the right to possess nuclear weapons and should develop them.
The upcoming name change of Japanese Defense Agency and burgeoning discussion of "go nuclear" in Japanese society are a precursor for Japan's "return" to a militarily prominent global position. As the world's second-largest economy and Asia's most advanced democracy, however, these developments in Japan should not be interpreted as a hard-line military policy against anyone. Rather, it is above all an indication of how the Japanese are coming to terms with their desire to become a "normal nation" - one that can confidently act on the global stage. Meanwhile, as Japan is going in the direction of becoming a more important military power regionally and globally, it is vital for the Japanese government to give a sincere explanation to its Asian neighbors, especially China and South Korea, to dispel their understandable concerns over Japan's genpuku - the "coming-of-age ceremony."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Japan Executes 4 Prisoners By Hanging

Four Japanese inmates on death row were hanged officials and news reports said, the first executions to take place in Japan since September 2005. A Justice Ministry spokesman speaking on condition of anonymity per ministry policy read a statement confirming that four executions were carried out, but refused to offer any further details. Amnesty International's Japan office issued a statement condemning the executions, noting that they took place with Japan's parliament out of session and without having notified either the inmates or their relatives in advance that the sentences were to be carried out. The statement identified the inmates as Yoshimitsu Akiyama, Yoshio Fujinami, Michio Fukuoka and Hiroaki Hidaka.Akiyama, 77, was the oldest and had been on death row since 1987, according to Kyodo News agency. The death sentences were the first to have been carried out since new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in late September and appointed Jinen Nagase as Justice Minister. Nagase's predecessor, Seiken Sugiura, was an opponent of the death penalty who signed no execution orders during his 11 months in office. Executions are rare in Japan. The government is extremely secretive about its death penalty and tends to carry out hangings when parliament is not in session. The government lifted a four-year moratorium on capital punishment in 1993. But until 1998, it refused to publicly acknowledge executions. With the executions, Japan now has 93 inmates on death row, another Justice Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Monday, December 25, 2006

SPCA Says No Choking The Chicken This Christmas

Don’t choke that chicken That is the message from the SPCA after it discovered a “Choke-A-Chicken” toy on the shelves of local stores. The toy now has the SPCA squawking “foul play!” The cute cuddly toy, released for Christmas, has raised concerns about encouraging cruelty to animals and sending the wrong message to impressionable children. Two versions of the toy in question, Choke-A-Chicken and Choke-A-Duck, issue a song when their wings are touched and squawk when their necks are pulled. Christine Kuch of the NSPCA said: “We have asked Redgwoods (the company that operates toy stores) to remove these toys, as they put out a wrong message to children. “Research shows that in children there is a link between violence to animals and violence to humans. “If a dog barks and irritates a child, will that child try to wring the dog’s neck to get it to keep quiet? “This really isn’t funny; people who sell these kinds of toys have to take responsibility for their products.“The fowl sings and flaps its wings, so people are buying them without realising that you have to choke them to shut them up. “The NSPCA condemns the sale of these toys as a matter of principle and ethics,” she said. Redgwood’s director Issy Zimmerman stressed he had acknowledged the SPCA’s concern, as well as consulting with several other animal-rights groups. “As an animal lover and pet owner, I personally don’t see the connection between heinous acts of cruelty and a battery-operated toy. “Nonetheless, I have terminated all re-orders and replenishments of this toy, at a great cost to the company,” he said. Zimmerman pointed out the toys did not resemble real-life counterparts, and were intended to be novelty and comical items. He stressed there had been no outrage in first-world markets overseas in which the toy was sold. But in response to local reaction there wouldn’t be re-orders .

In A Festivus Mood

"Festivus" may have begun as a comedy protest of the commercialization of Christmas but it's bringing business to one Wisconsin maker of Festivus Poles. The aluminum pole was always a big part of Festivus and the Wagner Companies sells aluminum pipe, and I said, 'Gee, we could certainly make an aluminum Festivus pole,'" Tony Leto told reporters.Festivus, a non-denominational holiday celebrated on Dec. 23 and launched on the Dec. 18, 1997, episode of "Seinfeld" started out as a joke. But it's caught on, if visits to the Wagner Festivus pole Web site are any indication. Last year, in the week before Festivus day, festivuspoles.com had about 100,000 visits, Leto told the newspaper. Wagner sells two Festivus pole models -- a 6-foot floor model for $38 and a 2-foot, 8-inch tabletop model for $30.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Spanish Surgeon Flown To Cuba To Treat Castro

A renowned Spanish surgeon has been rushed to Cuba to treat ailing leader Fidel Castro, a Spanish newspaper reported. Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, an intestinal specialist, travelled to the Caribbean island on Thursday aboard an aircraft chartered by the Cuban government, according to Spain's left-leaning El Periodico de Catalunya newspaper. The plane carried medical equipment not available in Cuba in case the leader needs further surgery due to his progressively failing health, the newspaper reported.Garcia Sabrido will carry out tests on Castro to see if he needs another operation after undergoing emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding in July, the newspaper said. Officials at the Madrid hospital where Garcia Sabrido works declined to comment on the report. Cuban embassy officials were not immediately available for comment. Cuban officials say Castro is not dying and will return to public life. His absence from the public eye has fanned speculation he is too ill to govern the country he has run since toppling dictator Fulgencio Batista in a 1959 revolution.

Palm Beach Says Donald Trump CAN'T Fly His American Flag

Donald Trump is suing Palm Beach for $10 million after being cited for flying an oversized U.S. flag over his Mar-a-Lago Club. Lawyers for the club filed a complaint saying flying the flag is a constitutionally protected expression of free speech — and the large flag is a proper match for the size of the real-estate mogul’s patriotism. “A smaller flag and pole on Mar-A-Lago’s property would be lost given its massive size, look silly instead of make a statement and most importantly would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s and the Club’s members’ patriotism,” the lawsuit said.Town officials said Trump violated zoning codes when the lavish club hoisted a 4.5 by 7.6-metre flag atop an 24-metre pole Oct. 3. The citation was for having a flagpole taller than 13 metres, for not obtaining a building permit and not seeking permission from the landmarks board. In the lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers accuse the town of selectively enforcing its ordinances. Other locations in the town display flags that violate statutes, the lawsuit alleges. All damages awarded to the club would be donated to veterans of the war in Iraq, the lawsuit said. Trump had until Nov. 27 to apply for approvals or else face a Dec. 21 hearing that could have resulted in fines costing $250 a day. It is unclear whether that meeting took place. “The day you need a permit to put up the American flag, that will be a sad day for this country,” Trump said

US Air Strike Kills Taliban Commander In Afghanistan

A top Taliban military commander described as a close associate of Osama bin Laden has been killed in Afghanistan. The United States military says the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani was killed in an airstrike in the southern province of Helmand.
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani. A top Taliban military commander
The military says he was the Taliban's chief military commander in southern Afghanistan and played a "central role in facilitating terrorist operations" including roadside bombs, suicide attacks and kidnappings.

Target Gives Che Guevara The Boot

Target Corp. said it had pulled a compact disc case that had a photo on it of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara after some customers complained. Guevara photos are often seen on T-shirts and posters, but some critics thought Twin Cities-based Target went too far when it put Guevara's photo on a Target-branded item in its stores. Guevara, a central figure in the Cuban revolution, has been frequently criticized by the political right for his violent tactics."What next? Hitler backpacks? Pol Pot cookware? Pinochet pantyhose? Target gives this monster a pass, while using common sense on almost everything else it sells," Investors Business Daily editorialized. Target apologized. "It is never our intent to offend any of our guests through the merchandise we carry," Target said in a prepared statement. "We have made the decision to remove this item from our shelves and we sincerely apologize for any discomfort this situation may have caused our guests."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Australia: Terrorists Planning Christmas Attack

The Australian government has information that possible terrorist attacks are being planned around Christmas in Indonesia, the foreign minister said. "We do have some information about possible specific terrorist attacks," Alexander Downer told reporters. Downer offered no details of any potential attacks but said Australians should heed government warnings to reconsider nonessential travel to the world's most populous Muslim country. His comments mirrored similar warnings issued previously by Australian officials around times when terrorist attacks are considered to be a higher risk than normal, such as Christian religious holidays. Indonesian officials have criticized Australia for being alarmist for issuing such warnings. "Every month they say that kind of thing. If they know anything, just let us know," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters.
Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer
Indonesian authorities said they had no reason to believe terrorists are plotting attacks over the Christmas holidays, but thousands of troops will be deployed to guard Indonesian churches. "The security situation is good, but we remain on alert," intelligence chief Syamsir Siregar said. Downer said churches and other places had been targeted in the past during Christmas time in Indonesia. The Australian government has recently upgraded its warnings to Australians in Indonesia warning "of the possibility of terrorist attacks over the holiday period." Indonesia has been hit by terrorist attacks in recent years blamed on the al-Qaida-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, and with 2006 so far bomb-free many people worry another attack is imminent. Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for the 2002 twin nightclub bombings on Bali island, 2003 blasts at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, 2004 bombings at the Australian Embassy and last year's restaurant bombings on Bali. The attacks together killed more than 240 people, many of them foreign tourists.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Turkmenistan's Authoritarian President Is Dead

The death of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov ends an era and begins a period of great uncertainty in Turkmenistan. Niyazov's death leaves a huge power vacuum in Turkmenistan and -- because of the country's vast wealth of oil and natural gas -- the actions taken to fill the presidency in Turkmenistan will be watched by many. Turkmen State Television reported the death early today and gave details about the funeral. "It has been decided that our great leader will be buried on Sunday, December 24," an announcer said. "Seven days of mourning have been announced [for] our great leader." Later there was an announcement that Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov -- who is 49 years old -- is now acting head of state. But just who selected him interim leader is unclear. There were indications Berdymukhammedov -- who is a dentist by training -- was rapidly moving up the ranks of government when state television made this announcement today.
Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov
"In accordance with Turkmenistan's customs, a state commission has been formed to bury President Niyazov," Turkmen state television reported today. "The leadership of the commission on planning the state funeral selected Deputy Prime Minister [and] Health Minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to head the funeral planning commission." Under Niyazov, Turkmenistan preserved many traditions from the days when it was a Soviet republic. Soviet practice usually saw the person who led the funeral preparations for a deceased leader become the leader himself following the burial. But who will lead Turkmenistan in the longer term remains unclear. The selection of Berdymukhammedov to be the acting head of state contradicts the country's constitution, which states that the speaker of parliament should fill that role for three months and during that period arrange for a presidential election to be held. It is unclear where current speaker of parliament, Ovezgeldy Ataev, currently is, but his name was not mentioned by state television when speaking about Niyazov's death or Niyazov's interim successor. Russian news program "Vesti" has reported that criminal charges have been filed against Ataev, though the charges were not specified.
Turkmenistan Map
The Halk Maslahaty (People's Council) is due to assemble on December 26 to discuss a future president. The nearly 3,000 members of the council will find themselves in unfamiliar territory when they do meet. That is the same body that named Niyazov president for life in 1999 and met once a year to approve Niyazov's decisions. Now someone in the Halk Maslahaty will have to come up with some original ideas, something that was not encouraged under Niyazov. It is nearly impossible to contact anyone via phone in Turkmenistan today. Efforts by RFE/RL's Turkmen Service to speak with correspondents in the country failed. The leaders of some Turkmen opposition groups in exile are vowing to return to Turkmenistan, but there is no indication they will be any more welcome now than they were when Niyazov was alive. Many analysts are predicting great turmoil in Turkmenistan in the coming days. Niyazov regularly rotated officials so there is no one in the country who is an obvious replacement for the man the state media cultivated as semi-divine for 15 years. Truly qualified individuals in government usually found themselves in a courtroom -- then in jail -- or they fled the country to prevent such a fate. Niyazov's policies led to a government filled with sycophants who were often corrupt. Turkmenistan's jailed are filled with former officials, among them the head of the National Security Committee, the former prosecutor-general, and many others. Niyazov's regime saw threats in both the secular and religious opposition, and the country's security agencies worked tirelessly, and effectively, to neutralize these perceived threats. Niyazov's isolationist policy leaves Turkmenistan with no real friends in the international community. Many governments are interested in Turkmenistan's hydrocarbon wealth, but few know anything about the Turkmen people or their needs.

Lawmaker Sees Muslims As A Threat

Responding to constituent e-mails about Representative-elect Keith Ellison's decision to use the Quran at his ceremonial swearing-in, a Virginia congressman warned that "many more Muslims" will be elected demanding to use the Quran unless immigration is tightened. Republican Representative Virgil Goode made the comments in a letter sent to hundreds of constituents about Minnesota's Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Congressman Virgil Goode
Goode said the U-S needs to totally halt illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration. Ellison was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Goode to apologize for the letter. Goode spokesman Linwood Duncan said no apology was forthcoming.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Al-Qaeda Calls For Palestine Jihad

The occupied Palestinian territories will be liberated through jihad, not elections, according to a senior al-Qaeda leader. Ayman al-Zawahiri, regarded as the right-hand man to Osama bin Laden, made his comments in a video shown by Al Jazeera. In the video, al-Zawahiri said: "Any road other than jihad will only lead to loss." He also said: "Those trying to liberate the land of Islam through elections based on secular constitutions or on decisions to surrender Palestine to the Jews will not liberate a grain of sand of Palestine."
Ayman al-Zawahiri, right, is thought of as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man
It was not clear when the videotape was recorded but its release comes as tensions are rising in the Palestinian territories after small-scale clashes and a call by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for early elections. Walid Batrawi, an Al Jazeera correspondent in Ramallah, said: "It's very hard to predict the effects of the message. It comes at a very sensitive time." Al-Zawahiri said: "Accepting the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the national authority, America's man in Palestine, and mandating the PLO which recognises Israel to negotiate with Israel is an abyss which will ultimately lead to eliminating the jihad and recognising Israel." In a previous video, marking the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001, al-Zawahiri said that the Gulf and Israel would be al-Qaeda's next targets. Egyptian-born al-Zawahiri carries a $25m US bounty for information leading to his arrest or death.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Netanyahu On Iran

Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran’s president is a greater danger than Hitler. The former Israeli prime minister told the biennial conference of the Orthodox Union in Jerusalem that unlike Hitler, whose quest for nuclear weapons followed his genocide against the Jewish people, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was pursuing nuclear capacity first. “The future of the Jewish state is as in danger as it has ever been in the last half-century,” Netanyahu said, echoing remarks he made to the North American Jewish federation system’s annual gathering earlier this month.Netanyahu said Israel should support the American-led initiative to contain the Iranian threat, but that Israel should also be prepared if those efforts fail. “We must use the powers that we’ve amassed to make the Jews no longer defenseless and able to shape their destiny and protect their future,” Netanyahu said. “This is the most important thing that we can do today. Everything else is secondary.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Minnesota Governor Wants Stricter Immigration Laws

A federal grand jury indicted 20 people arrested last week in an immigration raid at a Worthington meat packing plant. The grand jury also charged 19 people with knowingly using fake I.D. documents. That news came as immigration advocates protested the raid in St. Paul at Sen. Norm Coleman's office. Governor Tim Pawlenty said he wants tougher immigration laws against undocumented workers in Minnesota, an example of the political reverberations being felt hundreds of miles away from Worthington, Minn.
Governor Tim Pawlenty
"It's a joke," said Pawlenty of the current laws. "I mean, it's a joke." The governor says he'll re-submit a bill requiring immigrants to carry fraud-proof identity documents and allowing local police to ask for proof of citizenship. "We need to know without question, beyond fraud, who is here, who they are, why they are here, how long they are staying and when they are supposed to go," said Pawlenty. But advocates for undocumented immigrants say the Swift Plant raid showed the need for a guest worker program for jobs Minnesotans won't do, calling the governor's get-tough approach "anti-immigrant." "The immigration system right now does not allow people to come in and work with permission," said David Skovholt of the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network. "It encourages people to come in and work in situation like what happened at swift."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gingrich Hints At 2008

Newt Gingrich suggested he might not run for president in 2008 if a rival has all but locked up the Republican nomination by next fall. The former House speaker from Georgia said it would not be too late for him to enter the race after next Labor Day, if he believed no candidate had a clear advantage. He praised Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani as the contenders to watch. "If one of them seals it off by Labor Day, my announcing now wouldn't make any difference anyway," Gingrich said. "If none of the three, having from now 'til Labor Day, can seal it off, the first real vote is in 2008. And there's plenty of time in the age of television and e-mail, between Labor Day and 2008."The nominee will not be picked officially until the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., in early September 2008. Gingrich pointed out that John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan each waited to announce his candidacy until less than a year was left before the election. Kennedy confirmed he was running on Jan. 2, 1960; Reagan did so for the first time on Nov. 20, 1975, when he did not win the nomination, again on Nov. 13, 1979, and Jan. 29, 1984 - when he did capture the White House. "Of course I'm thinking about it," Gingrich said. "I hope between now and September, to help create with every candidate in both parties, a wave of new ideas, a wave of new solutions." Gingrich said that in early January he will write the heads of the state Democratic and Republican parties in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where there are early nominating contests, to recommend they hold bipartisan debates and other forums.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Indians Hunt Down Killer Elephant Named After Osama Bin Laden

(Osama bin) Laden, a rogue wild Asiatic elephant that was wreaking havoc in Assam, was shot dead on state orders. A wildlife official said the 10-feet tall male tusk-less elephant was killed by a hunter at the Behali tea plantation in Sonitpur district, 240 km north of Assam's main city of Guwahati. 'Licensed hunter Dipen Ram Phukan and a team of forest rangers shot dead Laden as the elephant was moving around aimlessly and trying to enter a human settlement area,' wildlife warden Chandan Bora told IANS by telephone. 'Local villagers identified the elephant as Laden and our team verified the identity before shooting,' he added. The elephant, named Laden by locals after global terrorist Osama bin Laden, was proclaimed a rogue in July and authorities ordered that the pachyderm be killed by Dec 31. 'Laden was responsible for killing at least 14 people in and around the area where he was shot dead after a massive hunt,' Bora said. On Wednesday, the elephant had killed a woman near a reserved forest area.'Laden was a terror for the people. Two earlier attempts to kill the elephant had failed as Laden always managed to evade our forest teams,' he added. 'The killing of the rampaging elephant has come as a big relief for the locals.' In Assam, depredation by wild elephants is common. The last time an elephant was declared a rogue and killed by a licensed hunter was in 2004. During the past fortnight, herds of wild elephants have been terrorising several parts of Assam, especially in villages where tribals brew rice beer. Experts say wild elephants have been moving out of the jungles in search of food with more and more people encroaching upon animal corridors, leading to an increasing number of elephant attacks on villages. Elephants have killed 248 people in Assam in the past five years while 268 elephants have died during the same period, many of who were victims of retaliation by angry humans, said a wildlife department report released last month. Villagers often poisoned marauding elephants or drove them away by beating drums or bursting firecrackers. Assam has India's largest population of Asiatic elephants, estimated at 5,300, according to a wildlife census in 2002.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Icehouses Sinking Through Area Lakes

Warm weather is creating big problems for some metro area fishermen and their icehouses. The Minnesota DNR says its up to the owners to get the houses out. But now the ice in most places is too thin to even walk on. It needs to be at least four inches thick. Reporters still found an ice fisherman on less than three inches of ice."I wouldn't recommend anybody come out on tis stuff, only us crazy guys do that. What the heck you only live once, might as well die with a smile on your face," a St. Paul fisherman said. The Minnesota DNR says it will take a string of 20 degree days to thicken up the ice and make it safe to go on.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Warning Of Al - Qaida Attack In India

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has issued an urgent warning of an impending al-Qaida attack in the peaceful Indian region of Goa, a popular destination for Israeli backpackers. The ministry's announcement warned of a ''concrete threat'' of an al-Qaida attack in the area in the next few weeks. This is peak tourist season in Goa, a former Portuguese colony renowned for its palm tree-lined white beaches, resorts and hedonistic parties, and tens of thousands of foreigners, including many Israelis, are expected to be there. B.S. Brar, director general of police in Goa, told India's news service that ''there is no specific intelligence'' of an impending attack.''We have no concrete warning of any type of attack,'' he said. ''Goa is one of the safest places,'' he said, urging tourists not to stay away during the peak tourist season. While India has suffered dozens of terror attacks in recent years, none of them have been linked to al-Qaida. However, security analysts believe that the group may have informal links with Pakistani-based Islamic militants, most notably Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, who are fighting to wrest control of Indian-held Kashmir from India. A dozen-odd groups want have been fighting since 1989 for the independence of the Muslim majority Himalayan region from mainly Hindu India or a union with mostly Muslim Pakistan.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Terrorist Bombing Foiled In Philippines

Philippine security forces said they may have foiled a plot to bomb "soft targets" in Davao, a crowded southern port city, after seizing a pipe bomb during a raid on a suspected hideout of Muslim rebels. Military spokesman Major Augusto dela Pena said soldiers recovered an improvised explosive device near Tagum City, on the southern island of Mindanao. Two suspected members of a rogue faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who were supposed to transport the crude bomb to Davao City, escaped under cover of darkness."They fled hurriedly, leaving behind a pair of rubber slippers and warm food on the table," said an air force officer, who led the raid. The MILF, the largest of four Muslim rebel groups in the Philippines, agreed a truce with the government of the mainly Catholic country in 2003. But long-running talks to end decades of conflict remain stalled since May. During a search at the suspected safe house, bomb-sniffing dogs found the explosive device inside a black bag. "It was ready for shipment to Davao City. The only missing part of the deadly device was a triggering device, probably a mobile phone." Dela Pena said a group of Muslim rebels suspected to have close links to local militant group Abu Sayyaf and regional terror outfit Jemaah Islamiah were thought to be behind the plot. He said the make and type of the device found in Tagum was similar to explosives used by suspected MILF renegades in 2003 attacks on an airport and wharf in Davao City that killed about 30 people.

Palestinians Fire Rocket Into Israel, Violating Cease-Fire

Palestinian militants fired a rocket into Israel at dawn Thursday, the Israeli military said, a violation of a two-and-a-half week cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The rocket landed in Nir Am, a kibbutz near the Gaza border, causing no casualties, the army said. No Palestinian group immediately took responsibility.Since a cease-fire took hold in the chaotic coastal territory on November 26, Palestinian militants have fired more than 20 rockets at Israel, according to the army's count, causing no casualties. The cease-fire has also been marred by a string of incidents in which soldiers have shot Palestinians approaching the heavily guarded Gaza-Israel border. On Wednesday, troops killed a 22-year-old Fatah militant along the border fence. The incidents have not derailed the truce.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Military Meets & Exceeds Recruiting Goals

Though Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the war in Iraq, the Pentagon said it is having success enlisting new troops. The Navy and Air Force met their recruiting goals last month while the Army and Marine Corps exceeded theirs, the Defense Department announced. The Army, which is bearing the brunt of the work in Iraq, did the best. It signed up 6,485 new recruits in November compared with its target of 6,150 - meaning 105 percent of its goal. All the services turned in similar performances in October as well, meaning they so far are meeting their goals for the 2007 budget year that began Oct. 1. "The services are starting off well," said Maj. Stewart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman. The progress in recruiting comes as U.S. pessimism over the Iraq campaign mounts, according to a recent AP-Ipsos poll. Some 63 percent of Americans said they don't expect a stable, democratic government to be established in Iraq, up from 54 percent who felt that way in June.Dissatisfaction with President Bush's handling of Iraq has climbed to an all-time high of 71 percent, according to the AP-Ipsos survey this month. A bipartisan commission last week released its recommendations for a new course and the president held a series of meetings this week to hear from his advisers. According to figures released by the Pentagon, the Navy signed up 2,887 recruits last month, or 100 percent of its goal; Marines signed up 2,095, or 104 percent of its 2,012 target and the Air Force signed up all 1,877 it was seeking. The Army also met its goal in the 2006 budget year after missing its target in fiscal year 2005 for the first time since 1999. It added recruiters and offered recruits bonuses to help attract more to the service. The Army has been recruiting about 80,000 people a year, setting differing monthly goals depending on the time of the year. Though the active services are doing well, recruiting has lagged for the Army Reserve and Navy Reserve, officials said. The Army Reserve last month signed up 1,888, or just 79 percent of its 2,376 goal and the Navy Reserve signed up 687 recruits, or just 91 percent of its 755 goal.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

NATO Destroys Huge Weapon Cache In Afghanistan

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has discovered a huge weapon cache and destroyed it in Afghanistan's eastern Nooristan province, a statement of the multinational force said. A patrol found a weapon cache in the Nurgaram district of Nooristan province and destroyed at an ISAF camp the statement said.The weapons and ammunition seized consists of 63 rockets, 137 mortar rounds, 157 rifle rounds, 92 rocket fuses, 63 mortar fuses, 10 RPG launchers and rockets, 48 pieces of 82mm rounds, six pieces of 75mm rounds and three anti-tank mines, according to the statement. Six more weapon caches have been discovered in Khost province also in east Afghanistan over the past four days, the statement stressed but not disclosed the number and quantity of the ordnances recovered from.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Taliban Target Teachers

The Taliban gunmen who killed two teachers in eastern Afghanistan early Saturday were only following their rules: Teachers receive a warning, then a beating, and, if they continue to teach, must be killed. The new list of 30 rules, decided on during a high Taliban meeting in September or October and since circulated via the Internet, span from the organizational (no jihad equipment may be used for personal means) to the health-conscious (militants are not supposed to smoke). They also contain a grave warning for aid workers and educators. Rule No. 24 forbids anyone to work as a teacher "under the current puppet regime, because this strengthens the system of the infidels." One rule later, No. 25, says teachers who ignore Taliban warnings will be killed.Taliban militants broke into a house in the eastern province of Kunar, killing a family of five, including two sisters who were teachers. The women had been warned in a letter to quit teaching, said Gulam Ullah Wekar, the provincial education director. Their mother, grandmother and a male relative also were slain in the attack. The two sisters brought to 20 the number of teachers killed in Taliban attacks this year, Education Ministry spokesman Zuhur Afghan said. He said 198 schools have been burned down this year, up from about 150 last year. The 30 Taliban rules also spell out opposition to development projects from aid organizations, including clinics, roads and schools. "If a school fails a warning to close, it must be burned. But all religious books must be secured beforehand," rule No. 26 says. An addendum to the rules said they were distributed initially at a meeting of top Taliban leaders during Ramadan this year. The rules were signed by Mullah Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader and "the highest leader of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan," according to the document.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Arab World Waiting To Explode

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has opened the annual summit of Gulf leaders with a warning that the Arab world was like a powder keg waiting to explode, citing the situation in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Lebanon. "Our Arab region is besieged by a number of dangers, as if it was a powder keg waiting for a spark to explode," he told the rulers of the oil-rich monarchies gathered in Riyadh for a two-day meeting. The Palestinians were reeling from "a hostile and ugly occupation" by Israel while the international community watched their "bloody tragedy like a spectator," King Abdullah said. But "most dangerous for the (Palestinian) cause is the conflict among brethren," he said in a reference to the differences between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and the Islamist Hamas movement that have hampered efforts to form a unity government.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
In Iraq "a brother is still killing his brother", King Abdullah said of the mounting sectarian violence pitting Sunnis against Shiites. The King also warned that Lebanon, which was rocked by civil war in 1975-1990, risked sliding into renewed civil strife as a result of the current standoff between pro- and anti-Syrian camps. "In Lebanon, we see dark clouds threatening the unity of the homeland, which risks sliding again into... conflict among the sons of the same country," he said. The heads of state of Gulf Cooperation Council members Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were present alongside the Saudi monarch, the first time in several years that all six rulers have attended the bloc's year-end summit.

Chinese Hostage Standoff

A migrant worker threatens the girlfriend of his employer with an axe as police look on during a standoff at a traffic overpass in Xi'an in north China's Shaanxi province.The man, who took the woman hostage to demand payment of about US$400 from his employer, was subdued by police after a one-hour standoff. The woman was rescued unhurt.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Japan Extends Air Force Deployment In Iraq

Japan says its Air Force will keep transporting supplies to US led troops in Iraq until next July. The country sent about 600 ground troops to southern Iraq in 2004 to provide reconstruction and humanitarian aid, as part of its largest and riskiest overseas mission since World War II.Japanese Soldiers returned home in July but about 200 Air Force personnel based in Kuwait are still transporting supplies to coalition forces in Baghdad and northern Iraq. Japan's Cabinet has decided to extend the authority for the mission to the end of July. The country's constitution limits the role of its military to self defence only. Special laws that were needed to permit the operations in Iraq were due to expire this month but have been extended.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bible Desecrating Muslim Schoolboys Taught Christians Are Evil

Students at the Islamic school from which two boys were expelled for urinating on a Bible were shown videos of a banned cleric calling Australian Christians "evil" and non-Muslim schools "sewers". Teachers at East Preston Islamic College say students have also been seen downloading and copying material from a website that attacks the Bible as promoting "vicious criminal acts". Australian reporters revealed the school in Melbourne's north expelled two boys and suspended a third over the desecration - a Bible was urinated on, spat on and burnt - during a school camp for boys from years 7 to 10 boys last week. A local Australian newspaper has obtained a videotape from the school's library of a lecture given for Australian Muslims by the firebrand British convert Abdur Raheem Green, who was blocked from coming to Australia last year. In the video, believed to have been taped during a visit in 2003, Green describes Australian non-Muslims as "evil people" and says Muslims in this country must openly criticise Christianity and lure people to Islam."If we leave (Muslims) in these (non-Muslim Australian) schools they will be destroyed," he says in the sermon. "You know very well what takes place in these schools ... it is all about evolution, Christmas, Easter, St Valentine's Day - a barrage. And you expect your children to survive? You think you live in a sewer and you come up smelling of roses? "Merely living in the company of evil people will inevitably begin to rub off on us and we will begin to acquire their characteristics." A teacher, who asked not to be named, confirmed that the tape, marked East Preston Islamic College, has been shown to students at the school. It is not known if the tape was seen by the three boys who desecrated the Bible. Another teacher said yesterday he had seen students at the school downloading and copying pages from the website Evilbible.com. "For far too long priests and preachers have completely ignored the vicious criminal acts that the Bible promotes," the website says. "The so called God of the Bible makes Osama bin Laden look like a boy scout." Principal Shaheem Doutie has apologised for the desecration by "ignorant" and "illiterate" children and insists his school promotes religious tolerance. Mr Doutie, who has been at the school since April, said he was unaware of any radical material in the library. He had previously instructed library staff not to accept any radical material and said he would take steps to remove anything still there. The desecration was yesterday condemned by Muslim and non-Muslim leaders who called on the community not to overreact. The Catholic Archbishop in Melbourne, Denis Hart, said there was a good relationship between the Muslim and Christian communities in Melbourne. He said all holy books should be respected. Yasser Solimon, a former head of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said his community was shocked by the desecration, which should be seen as "the actions of stupid boys rather than any reflection on the school or the wider community". "I think this needs to be seen in the context of five years of certain types of reporting on global events like the war on terror, what is happening in Iraq, attacks on the Koran by some soldiers in Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal," he said. "It is sad to see the hatreds of one generation being passed on - we need leadership here to stand up collectively to this."

Mayor Chris Coleman Attempting To Ruin Saint Paul

The City of St. Paul is giving a break to ex-cons in hopes that they'll stay ex-cons. Mayor Chris Coleman issued an order this week saying the city will stop requiring job applicants to disclose whether they've ever been convicted of a crime. While the immediate goal is to ensure the city doesn't discriminate against applicants with criminal records, backers say they hope it gives people with minor rap sheets a chance to turn their lives around. ``After 9/11, with the increasing number of background checks employers are doing, this has become a problem for people that have made a mistake in their lives,'' said Guy Gambill, advocacy coordinator for the Minneapolis-based Council on Crime and Justice. Gambill said St. Paul's decision makes it a national leader in the effort. Only Boston has gone as far, he said.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman
In a letter ordering the change, Coleman also said he would work with the private sector to ``encourage adoption of a similar policy.'' But the city's move runs counter to what's happening in the private sector. More employers are looking deeper into whether applicants have criminal histories and increasing the scope and depth of background checks, said Joe Schmitt, a labor and employment attorney. No one keeps full statistics on how many Minnesotans have criminal records, but the number is increasing. More than 130,000 Minnesotans were on probation in 2005, up about 30 percent from a decade earlier. The state's prison population has almost doubled during that time to nearly 9,000 inmates. But those figures don't include people who have served their time and-or completed their probation. The two biggest contributors to rehabilitating convicts are family visits during incarceration and finding a well-paying job after being released, Gambill said. Having a criminal history makes it harder to get a job even if the conviction had nothing to do with the work being sought, Gambill said. Why, he asked, should someone busted for pot at age 18 be prevented from getting a job 15 years later?State law prohibits people from being denied government jobs or state licenses needed to get a job in the private sector because of their criminal histories. There are exceptions for jobs that relate directly to the crime committed, and the law doesn't apply to police officers and firefighters. In the private sector, the trend of more vigilantly ferreting out applicants with criminal histories has been driven by the rise of legal claims against companies for negligent hiring and the desire to distinguish between applicants as soon as possible. The increasing availability of national databases and computerized records have made background checks on applicants easier and more common. ``As the ability of employers to do background checks increases, one measure of a negligent hiring claim is you didn't do as much as you could have,'' Schmitt said. ``As the bar raises in terms of what you can do, then the bar raises in terms of what you should do.'' St. Paul's human resources director, Angie Nalezny, said there's no risk of a sex offender being assigned to work with children. She said the city will continue to do background checks if the applicant would work with children or have access to money or sensitive information, so it will find out if an applicant has a criminal record. ``Anybody that works in a rec center, absolutely we're going to do a background check on them,'' she said.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cpl. Shalit May Be Freed Soon

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said negotiations for the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants are in their final stage, according to a newspaper report. Militants linked to the Islamic militant group Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, crossed the Gaza border into Israel and captured Cpl. Gilad Shalit in June.
Cpl. Gilad Shalit
"Negotiations on releasing him are in their final stage and waiting for Hamas' approval," the semi-official Al Gomhouria quoted Mubarak as telling newspaper editors accompanying him on a trip to Europe. Egypt has made considerable efforts to resolve the crisis, Mubarak said. "But it seems that there other parties who are intervening against the interest of the Palestinian people," he said. Mubarak did not say what other parties he was referring to but it appeared to be a reference to Syria, where Hamas' top leader Khaled Mashaal lives. He did not give additional details about the negotiations.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hardliners Turn On Ahmadinejad For Watching Women Dancers

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who flaunts his ideological fervour, has been accused of undermining Iran's Islamic revolution after television footage appeared to show him watching a female song and dance show. The famously austere Mr Ahmadinejad has been criticised by his own allies after attending the lavish opening ceremony of the Asian games in Qatar, a sporting competition involving 13,000 athletes from 39 countries. The ceremony featured Indian and Egyptian dancers and female vocalists. Many were not wearing veils. Women are forbidden to sing and dance before a male audience under Iran's Islamic legal code. Officials are expected to excuse themselves from such engagements when abroad but TV pictures showed Mr Ahmadinejad sitting with President Bashar Assad of Syria and Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, during last Friday's ceremony in Doha.Religious fundamentalists, usually Mr Ahmadinejad's keenest supporters, are asking why he attended a ceremony that violated his own government's strict interpretation of Shia Islam. The Baztab website, considered close to Mohsen Rezaee, a former revolutionary guard commander with links to powerful sections of Iran's political hierarchy, said Mr Ahmadinejad's presence had offended Shias in Iran and elsewhere. "The failure of Ahmadinejad to object and his constant presence has damaged the image of Iran's Islamic revolution and its commitment to Islamic rules in contrast with the Arab countries in the Gulf," it said.The president's aides insist he was not present during the singing and dancing. His press secretary, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, claimed Mr Ahmadinejad had left for Doha airport before the performance. However, Baztab posted footage which purported to show Mr Ahmadinejad in his seat after the show. Jalal Yahyazadeh, a rightwing MP, said: "We have heard from some sources that Ahmadinejad was in the stadium at the time. Those who created the conditions for his presence should be investigated as quickly as possible."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

‘80 Taliban’ Killed In Afghanistan

Nato troops killed 70-80 Taleban in a fierce battle in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said. A reconnaissance patrol hunting Taleban engaged a large group of fighters about 15 km (9 miles) from the village of Musa Qala in Helmand, a stronghold of the Islamist guerrillas and the main opium-growing province in the world's major supplier.In a four-hour battle backed by attack helicopters and close air support, the ground commander estimated 70-80 guerrillas were killed, a Nato spokesman said. There were no Nato casualties, but three soldiers from Nato's International Security Assistance Force were wounded during another clash earlier in the day.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hizbullah Preparing For Third Lebanon War

Hizbullah has successfully transported long-range missiles and sophisticated anti-tank rockets from Iran and Syria, according to an exclusive Jerusalem Post report. The transports were carried out primarily at night.The report states that military intelligence officials believe Hizbullah may opt to take advantage of the growing political instability in Lebanon to launch another war against Israel by firing anti-aircraft rockets at Israeli aircraft involved in intelligence gathering missions of Lebanese skies.