Monday, April 30, 2007

American Soldier Returns Home To A Hero's Welcome

Nearly two years after losing part of his leg in Iraq, a Minnesota National Guard soldier is back home. Tony Larson, 25, arrived in Saint Cloud to hundreds of people cheering him on. In October 2005, he was struck down by an improvised explosive device. Last fall, Larson met Nicole Kline, while he recovered from having part of his right leg amputated at Washington D.C.'s Walter Reed Army Medical Center.They've become inseparable, and she organized Larson's homecoming at the airport. Anderson Trucking, a local company, provided the free plane ride home. Larson's grandmother, Martha Larson, was able to come. All five of her sons served in the the U.S. military. As for Larson, he is just grateful for all the hometown attention. Amputated leg or not, he will be learn to become a massage therapist, he says.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

St. Paul Mayor Rear-Ended By Drunk Law Student

No one was hurt when a St. Paul woman rear-ended Mayor Chris Coleman's car about 9 p.m.. Police said the mayor's unmarked Ford Crown Victoria town car was stopped at a red light on Summit Avenue when it was rear-ended by a Honda sedan. Authorities said Abbie Raymond, 22, of St. Paul was driving a Honda had a blood-alcohol content of 0.26 percent, far higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Abbie Raymond
Two hours after the accident, Raymond was still having trouble understanding what happened. "She still doesn't know who she hit yet. We've been telling her and telling her," said Sgt. Tom Radke, speaking from the police station. Raymond was booked into the Ramsey County jail. Mayor Coleman and his police driver were alone inside the city vehicle. Both vehicles had only minor damage.

Friday, April 27, 2007

U.S. Missile Test Intercepts 2 Targets

The U.S. military destroyed a cruise missile and a short-range ballistic missile during a test Thursday over the Pacific, the first time two test targets were intercepted simultaneously, the Missile Defense Agency said. The military fired the short-range missile from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. A Navy plane fired the cruise missile target used in the test. Sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie fired back. "The test demonstrated the USS Lake Erie's ability to engage a ballistic missile threat and defend itself from attack at the same time," the agency said in a statement.
USS Lake Erie (CG-70)
A similar attempt failed in December when the first interceptor missile, designed to collide with the ballistic missile target, failed to launch. The military later determined the ballistic missile defense system had been incorrectly programmed. "Every test we do we take a different approach to further stress the ship and the system," said Rear Adm. Alan B. Hicks, commander and program director of Aegis ballistic missile defense, by telephone from Kauai. This is to "give us confidence if we have to do this in the real world that we can do it," the admiral said.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Taliban Commander Among 16 Killed In Afghanistan

A Taliban commander was among 16 people killed in Afghanistan, while Afghan and Nato forces surrounded around 200 Taliban fighters in southern Uruzgan province, officials said yesterday. Eleven Taliban were killed when Afghan and Nato forces attacked their hideout in the Seuri district of southern Zabul province on Monday night, General Rahmatullah Raoufi, army commander for regional south, said. He said joint forces acting on a tip-off surrounded the Taliban compound and asked them to surrender, adding that the joint forces opened fire after being fired on by the insurgents from inside the compound. The ensuing battle left 11 Taliban dead. None of the Afghan or Nato troops was wounded. In western Farah province, Afghan and US-led coalition forces killed two suspected Taliban and wounded another two during an operation in the Bakwa district, Sayed Agha Saqib, provincial police chief, said. He said two Afghan policemen were wounded and seven suspected Taliban were captured for questioning. In another incident, Afghan and Nato forces surrounded around 200 Taliban fighters, including some senior militant commanders, in a village in southern Uruzgan province, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said.Bashary said the militants came under siege when they gathered for a meeting in the Chora district of the province and were warned to surrender or face attack. He said the surrounded militants included some top Taliban commanders, but did not name any. However, Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Hadi Khalid told the security commission of the upper house of parliament on Monday that it was possible that Mullah Dadullah, the top rebel commander for the southern region, could be among the fighters under siege. Dadullah is believed to have been responsible for the recent beheading of an Afghan journalist and his driver. US forces killed a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Akhtar Mohamed Osmani, in southern Helmand province in December last. The Taliban rejected the claim that their fighters, including Mullah Dadullah, are surrounded by Afghan forces, saying there was no need for such a large number of their fighters to gather in one place. “These are contradictory claims and are baseless propagandas which are not true,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousif Ahmadi was quoted as saying in an Internet statement. Khalid said that if the militants did not surrender the joint forces would capture them. A known Taliban commander was arrested in Uruzgan province yesterday, an interior ministry statement said. Three vehicles, one of them packed with explosives, were also seized. Meanwhile, Gul Haqparast, a rebel leader with extensive ties to Hekmatyar Gulbuddin - the former mujah1deen government’s prime minister and currently leader of a rebel group - was killed during a US airstrike in Laghman province on Friday, the US military said yesterday. “Coalition sources described Haqparast as a significant regional Taliban leader involved in assassinations, improvised explosive device attacks and assaults on Afghan and Coalition facilities in Laghman and Kapisa provinces,” the US statement said.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Canadian Vote Defeats Proposal For Leaving Afghanistan

Canada’s Parliament on Tuesday narrowly defeated a proposal by opposition lawmakers that the Conservative government withdraw Canadian troops from Afghanistan at the end of its current commitment in February 2009. The 150-to-134 vote rejecting the nonbinding motion lacked the unanimous support from opposition parties needed to outnumber Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government. But it further illustrates the growing demand in Canada for a debate over the country’s role in the United States-led mission in Afghanistan and for talk of an exit strategy in the face of rising casualty figures and increased military spending. Mr. Harper has thus far rejected those demands, saying he does not want to put a fixed date on the end of Canada’s role in the mission. The deaths two weeks ago of eight Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan marked the deadliest week for the country’s military since the Korean War and renewed calls for Canada to inform NATO that it is time to begin negotiating for another member to assume responsibilities in the volatile southern Kandahar Province.Canada’s 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan have suffered heavier casualties since they took control of the southern region a year ago. Also, Mr. Harper’s recent announcement of the purchase of 120 tanks fueled discussions of the balance between military spending and foreign aid. “There is this squeamishness in the Canadian soul,” said the Carleton University historian Norman Hillmer. “We’re not a particularly military people, and yet over the last while we have put defense issues at the center, spent a lot of money on defense and elected a prime minister who talks tough on military issues.” Tensions surrounding the vote on Tuesday were heightened by allegations surfacing this week in The Globe and Mail that Afghans detained by Canadian troops were mistreated after being transferred to Afghan custody. The newspaper reported that interviews with Afghans revealed instances of abuse, like being whipped with electrical cables. All three opposition parties reacted to the reports by demanding an investigation into how Canada monitors the conditions of detainees transferred to the Afghan police. Currently, the government relies on the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for monitoring. But the commission’s chief investigator in Kandahar expressed doubt that the organization had the resources or access to adequately monitor detainees. “We have an agreement with the Canadians, but we can’t monitor these people,” the investigator, Amir Mohammed Ansari, told The Globe and Mail.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Philippine Defense Secretary Downplays Travel Advisories By U.S.A & Australia

Philippine Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. Monday downplayed the recent travel advisories issued by the United States and Australia on their citizens, saying that it was actually "better" for foreign countries to issue travel advisories to their nationalin the Philippines. The defense department is not affected by the travel advisories not to travel in certain areas in Mindanao, unless the two countries tell their citizens not to go to the Philippines, Ebdanetold reporters in Camp Aguinaldo. Ebdane said the advisories were "normal" since even the Philippine government could warn against travel to the southernmost island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, where troops are running after Al Qaeda-linked militants.The defense chief said it was actually "better" for foreign countries to issue travel advisories to their nationals in the Philippines. "If there is no advise and something happens, they (victims) have somebody to blame. Now, if there is an advise and you still go there and get victimized, it's because of your own fault," he said. In an advisory issued late Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said it has received information that terror suspects could bomb Central Mindanao "over the next several days." The U.S. embassy advised American nationals to stay away from public gatherings, especially the Palarong Pambansa (National Games), held in Koronadal City from April 22 to 28. Citing "credible information" that terror suspects were in the "advanced stage of attack planning," Australia warned its citizens against traveling to Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Japan Wants The Fighters US Refused To Sell Canberra

The Japanese Government wants Washington to overturn an export ban on the F-22A Raptor so the most advanced stealth fighter aircraft in service can be considered for Tokyo's next-generation military aircraft procurement. The US refused to consider selling the F-22 to Australia, its other closest Pacific ally, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to raise the matter when he meets President George W.Bush in the White House on Friday. Japan's Defence Minister, Fumio Kyuma, will ask his opposite number, Robert Gates, for access to F-22 performance data, transfer of which is also forbidden by US law, when they meet next weekend. Japanese acquisition of F22As, which came into service in December as the first so-called fifth-generation fighter, could have major implications for the strategic balance in northeast Asia, affecting issues such as Taiwan and North Korea, which vitally concern China. For that reason, according to The Washington Times, those officials within the Bush administration who favour China engagement are struggling to head off anti-China staffers pushing Japan's case for buying the aircraft. The newspaper, a favoured outlet for neo-conservative China-containers, quoted one US official saying: "One hundred F-22s in hands of Japan could change the Taiwan balance of power for two decades."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President George W. Bush
The Chinese are believed to be working on their own fifth-generation fighters, which could be in service about 2009, when Japan wants to have completed the replacement of its aged F-4Phantom fleet. At this stage, Tokyo is looking at acquiring only seven aircraft and though defence planners are studying other types, they have made it clear to thePentagon they really want the F-22. A Raptor squadron is on a three-month deployment at the US air force's Kadena airbase, on Japan's southern territory of Okinawa, the first F-22s to operate abroad. Raptor manufacturer Lockheed Martin and its congressional supporters hope that permitting sales to designated US allies -- Israel is also seeking to buy F-22s -- would prevent further attempts to restrict or curtail the enormously expensive and over-budget Raptor program. The House of Representatives voted last year to overturn the 1998 law prohibiting foreign sales, which was principally aimed at preventing advanced weapons technology leaking to China, but the bill has yet to be considered by a Senate committee. Given its refusal to consider Australian sales, the Bush White House is likely to prefer that Japan joins the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program with Australia and eight other countries. The F-35, also a stealth fighter, has been characterised as a more affordable "kid brother" to the Raptor. It is not yet in production and its price estimate is $40million to $60million per aircraft, compared with $135 million for the F-22.
F-22A Raptor
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson claimed Canberra would not have opted for the F-22 anyway, because it lacked the operational flexibility of the F-35. However, the Japanese are attracted by the Raptor's missile-fighting capabilities, including the capability to track and kill small cruise missiles in flight. While Japan is building a ballistic missile defence system with the Americans, it has no independent capability to ward off cruise missiles, of which the Chinese and North Koreans have thousands. The Japanese also argue their constitutional and legislative restrictions on arms exports and defence co-operation prevents them from engaging in a joint weapons development program such as the JSF project. However, the Abe Government has various problems to overcome in Washington before it could buy Raptors. The 1998 law was introduced by congressional Democrats, who won control of both houses in November, and there is more anxiety about Japan in that party than among Republicans. Japan's case has another potential weak spot -- military internal security. US officials here were astonished recently to learn that classified details of the Aegis destroyer-borne anti-missile radar system had been found on the home computer of a Marine Self Defence Force junior officer who is married to a Chinese national. The MSDF is introducing Aegis destroyers to operate alongside US navy vessels as part of the western Pacific BMD shield. The same material, apparently accidentally downloaded with pornography, was found on the computers of two other sailors, also without clearances to handle Aegis information. The Japanese Defence Ministry has refused to comment on the case while it is under investigation. There have also been cases of sensitive military information becoming available on the internet because JSDF personnel were using Winny, a notoriously insecure file-sharing network developed in Japan.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mitt Romney Blasts Reid

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he was shocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments the U.S. has lost the war in Iraq. Romney told those at a state Republican Party dinner that the United States had successfully deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq and was now involved in supporting the country's new leaders in a rebuilding effort. "It's not worked anywhere near as well as we had hoped it would, and there have been setbacks and there are huge challenges," Romney said. "That's a very different thing than saying we've lost the war in Iraq." Reid said Thursday he had told President Bush he thought the war could not be won through military force, although he said the U.S. could still pursue political, economic and diplomatic means to bring peace to Iraq. "I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and - you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows - (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," Reid, D-Nev., said.Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said Reid's comments encouraged "violent jihadist to parade to their believers around the world that they beat America, and that's not what happened." About 700 people attended the Indiana GOP's annual spring dinner in the northern suburb of Indianapolis. The event was expected to raise about $150,000, party spokesman Robert Vane said. State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker released a statement Friday criticizing Romney for changing his stances on issues such as tax increases, abortion, gun rights and gay marriage to appease conservative voters. "Cable news would do America a great service putting a ticker at the bottom of the television screen to indicate which Romney is doing the smooth talking," Parker said. "It could be Gov. Romney. It could be campaign Romney. It could be something in between."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Al-Qaeda Seeks To Expand Its Operations

Al-Qaeda is reaching out from its base in Pakistan to turn militant Islamist groups in the Middle East and Africa into franchises charged with intensifying attacks on western targets, according to European officials and terrorism specialists. The development could see radical groups use al-Qaeda expertise to switch their attention from local targets to western interests in their countries and abroad. “For al-Qaeda, this is a force multiplier,” said a British official who follows terrorism. One of the first signs of the development was an announcement on September 11 last year by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two, of a “merger” between al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and Algeria’s Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by its French initials, GSPC. Western officials expect to see a similar merger be­tween al-Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a mainly exiled organisation devoted until now to the overthrow of Muammer Gadaffi, the Libyan leader. They say there are signs that similar moves are under way in Lebanon, Syria and East Africa and that there is an effort to unite militant groups across north Africa.The Algerian “merger” was followed by a series of attacks, culminating in two suicide bombings last week that killed 33 and wounded 220. It is too early to say whether last week’s attacks were influenced by al-Qaeda central, officials said. The targeting – including of the prime minister’s residence – was ambitious but traditional for the GSPC, analysts said. However, before these latest attacks, Algeria had suffered only one suicide bomb. The effort by al-Qaeda to reach out to radical Islamist groups, which is still at an early stage, follows the rebuilding of al-Qaeda’s core in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, near the Afghan border. Al-Qaeda was severely disrupted by US-led military action after its 2001 attacks on the US. But the central organisation appears to have reconstituted around about 20 senior figures in farms and compounds that also act as training camps, western officials say. “AQ Central” has sophisticated target planners and expertise in poisons and explosives probably unavailable to local groups, officials say. The Algerian group operates small training camps in northern Mali, attracting fighters from Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Nigeria. UK officials say there is concern about the prospect of trained Nigerian jihadis entering the country among thousands of Nigerians who travel weekly to and from the UK. According to Andrew Black, of the US Jamestown Institute, the training would equip jihadis for Iraq, from which they would return to the Maghreb with operational experience.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Israeli Military Expects Missile War

Israel's military expects the next war to include intense rocket and missile attacks on the Jewish state. Officials said the military assessed that the next war would be marked by missile and rocket attacks from Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority. They said this could mean that thousands of rockets would rain on Israel, exceeding that in the war against Hizbullah in mid-2006."We experienced thousands of rockets in the second Lebanon war," Brig. Gen. Daniel Milo, commander of air defense forces, said. "We will experience more in the next war. This is clear to us." In the 34-day war that ended in August 2006, Hizbullah fired an estimated 4,500 short- and medium-range rockets into Israel. The Israeli military failed to stop the rocket salvos, which intensified during the last days of the conflict.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Supreme Court Upholds Partial Birth Abortion Ban

A nationwide ban on the controversial "partial birth" abortion has been upheld by the Supreme Court. It's seen as a long-awaited victory for abortion opponents from a more conservative bench. The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which became law in 2003, does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote opponents "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases." President Bush's two appointees voted with the majority. Abortion rights groups have said such a ruling could threaten most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, though supporters said there are procedures that are still legal. The outcome is likely to spur state efforts to place more restrictions on abortions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Minnesota's Muslim Cab Drivers Face Crackdown

Muslim cab drivers at Minnesota's biggest airport will face new penalties including a two-year revocation of their taxi permits if they refuse to give rides to travelers carrying liquor or accompanied by dogs, the board overseeing operations ruled. The Metropolitan Airports Commission, responding to complaints about the liquor issue, voted unanimously to impose the new penalties beginning in May. A large number of taxi drivers in the area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Muslim Somali immigrants. Many say they feel the faith's ban on alcohol consumption includes transporting anyone carrying it. Some also have refused to transport dogs, both pets and guide dogs, saying they are unclean.The new rules cover any driver who refuses a ride for unwarranted reasons, including those who refuse to take short-haul passengers in favor of more lucrative longer trips. They can still refuse fares for certain reasons, including threats to their safety. Under the new regulations a first offense would result in a 30-day cab license suspension and a second in a two-year taxi license revocation. The current penalty only requires that cab drivers who refuse a fare to go back to the end of the taxi queue, costing them time and money. Since January 2002, the commission said in announcing the new rules, there have been about 4,800 instances where cab drivers refused to pick up people with alcohol in their possession. Travelers arriving from international destinations often bring back duty-free alcoholic beverages many in easily identifiable packages.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Abortion Rebellion, Doctors Refuse To Carry Out Terminations!

Rising numbers of doctors are refusing to carry out abortions, leading to a crisis in NHS provision. The stance by staff, taken on ethical grounds, has led to a doubling of abortions carried out by private clinics, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The swell of medical staff joining the unprecedented moral revolt means that there may soon not be enough doctors to carry out sufficient terminations to meet the public demand. Katherine Guthrie, a spokesman on family planning for the RCOG, said: "You get no thanks for performing abortions. You get spat on. Who admits to friends at a dinner party that they are an abortionist? "There is an increasing number of young doctors who are not participating in training. The Department of Health is really worried." The numbers of terminations carried out in Britain currently stands at a record 190,000 a year. But refusals by its doctors mean that the NHS is having to pay private hospitals to carry out the procedures. The percentage of abortions carried out in private hospitals has doubled from 20 per cent in 1997 to almost 40 per cent today. Abortion is legal in Britain up to nine months if doctors believe the baby has a severe disability or the mother's life is at risk.But termination for 'social' reasons - the effect of the pregnancy on the mental health and well-being of the mother - is legal up to 24 weeks. However, campaigners argue that the current Abortion Act is outdated because of medical advances that mean more premature babies than ever now survive. James Gerrard, a GP in Leeds, said: "Out of the six doctors in our practice, three of us object to abortion. I had made up my mind on abortion before entering the medical profession. I feel the foetus is a person and killing that foetus is wrong." A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "This is an issue we will be discussing with the RCOG." A Roman Catholic hospital popular with celebrity mothers-to-be is to ban all its staff from providing contraceptives or abortion referrals. Staff at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in North London is introducing a code of ethics for its resident GPs and other staff. Anyone working there will not be able to offer any service which conflicts with Catholic teaching on the value of human life or sexual ethics. The hospital in St John's Wood is described as 'the poshest place to push' on account of the maternity unit's A-list clientele, including Cate Blanchett and Kate Moss. The code is expected to be ratified at a board meeting next month.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Philippine Rebels Declare Holy War On Manila

A leader of the Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines has declared a holy war against the government in Manila, following a series of clashes between the rebel group and security forces in recent days. MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik says he made the declaration of jihad after three rebel camps in Sulu province were bombarded by government troops. Military officials say the bombardments were in retaliation for mortar attacks on Friday which killed a child and two soldiers. Malik is a renegade member of the MNLF who is believed to have sheltered two suspected masterminds of the 2002 Bali bombings.He is also suspected of aiding the Abu Sayyaf, the country's fiercest Muslim rebel group, and members of the listed terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiah. "Malik is now isolated and on his own. Other MNLF commanders are not in favour of the actions taken by Malik and expressed that they will not support Malik," Lieutenant-Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, a military spokesman, said. In February Malik embarrassed Manila by holding a general, a senior government official and their aides hostage for two days before releasing them in return for cash and food. Manila signed a peace deal with the MNLF in 1996, in a bid to end a conflict that has left more than 120,000 people dead and displaced tens of thousands more. But the agreement was not properly implemented and sporadic fighting between government forces and members of the MNLF continues. Peace advocates have called on officials, as well as the Organization of Islamic Conference which mediated the original peace process, to intervene and end the latest clashes.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chilean Government "Does Not Share" Chávez' Comments

The Chilean government said that it "does not share" Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez' remarks on an agreement reached at the Chilean Senate. Last Wednesday, the Chilean Senate agreed to request President Michelle Bachelet to speak up at the Organization of American States (OAS) against the Venezuelan government refusal to renew a broadcasting license for private TV channel Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV).
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet
"In Chile, we have democratic institutions and the Chilean Senate is one of them. The opinion voiced by the senators should be respected, whatever they are," Spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber told reporters. However, he clarified that the Chilean government is willing to keep "normal relations" with Venezuela, Efe reported. Afterwards, on Thursday, President Chávez attributed the move to the Chilean "fascist rightwing."

Don Ho Passes Away

A day of mourning in Hawaii and across the world. Legendary entertainer Don Ho died Saturday morning in Honolulu. Ho died of heart failure. Few other details have been released. The 76-year-old recently battled health problems. In 2005, he traveled to Thailand for an experimental procedure to inject stem cells into his heart to strengthen it. Mayor Mufi Hannemann said, "I knew Don since I was kid growing up in Kalihi. He helped my brother Nephi get started in show business. ... "He showed that Hawaiians, Polynesians, could rise from humble local roots to succeed and excel on a national and global level. As a living symbol of Hawaii at the peak of his career, he helped spark our visitor industry boom of the '60s and '70s."U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka wrote in a statement, "Don was a big star wherever he went. He even played Washington DC when I was in the House. And I can tell you, it was a big show. He had tremendous charisma and talent and because of that he touched many people. Hawaii has lost a beloved son.and he will be sorely missed." Don Ho was born in Kakaako, August 13, 1930. He was raised in Kaneohe and attended Kamehameha Schools. Out of school, Ho joined the Air Force because he was fascinated by the planes he saw over the islands during the World War. He left the Air Force in 1959, and returned home. He got his start in music, by singing at his mom's nightspot "Honey's" in Kaneohe. Soon he moved to the old Duke Kahanamoku's in the International Marketplace in Waikiki, where the group Don Ho and the Alii's gained fame. He is survived by wife Haumea, and 10 children.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Indian Missile Test Forced Indonesian Passenger Jet To Turn Back

An Indonesian jet carrying hundreds of passengers was forced to turn around over Indian airspace after a nuclear-capable ballistic missile streaked across the sky, the Foreign Ministry said Friday. Indonesia has demanded an explanation from New Delhi, which insisted that aviation authorities were informed about Thursday's test launch well in advance. The Garuda Indonesia Boeing 747 was en route from Jakarta to Saudi Arabia when the Indian control tower told pilots the missile had been launched, said Ari Sapari, the national carrier's director. "We were not given any advance warning about this missile test," he said. "This was obviously confusing and worrying. It also caused us to disrupt an international flight schedule -- a great financial expense."Government officials did not say how far the plane was from the missile. The plane carrying 413 people immediately returned to Jakarta and took off again for Jeddah seven hours later, he said. Another Garuda plane bound for Riyadh also had to delay its departure Thursday because of the test. Indonesia -- which is struggling to defend its transportation safety record after a series of deadly air, train and ferry accidents -- said it would summon a diplomat from India to seek clarification. "We have to make sure this does not happen in the future," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo told reporters Friday. India said Indonesia and other air traffic controllers across the region had been properly informed about its plans to test-fire its longest-range missile, the Agni III. "A notice was sent a week before the test," said government spokesman Navtej Sarna. Aviation officials were told "about the launch window date, danger time, zone and height," he said, and had been advised to "issue notice to aviators and mariners." The Agni III missile, which is designed to reach 1,900 miles, was launched from Wheeler Island off the eastern state of Orissa and is said to be capable of carrying up to a 300-kiloton nuclear warhead.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ohio Man Indicted On Terrorism Charges

An Ohio man has been indicted on charges of joining al-Qaida to attack U-S targets. Christopher Paul of Columbus also is accused of conspiring to bomb European tourist resorts and U-S government facilities and military bases overseas. The indictment says Paul trained with al-Qaida in the early 1990s. It says Paul traveled to Germany sometime around April of 1999 to train co-conspirators to use explosives.
Christopher Paul
The plan allegedly was to attack European and U-S targets, including government buildings and vacation spots frequented by American tourists. Paul is the third Columbus man to be charged as part of a federal terrorism investigation. One man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a plot to topple the Brooklyn Bridge. The other man is awaiting trial.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Israeli Warplanes Intercept 'Non-Communicative' US Passenger Plane

Israeli warplanes intercepted a Tel Aviv-bound U.S. passenger plane after it lost communication with air traffic controllers. Israeli officials say four warplanes scrambled to escort the Continental Airlines plane after it failed to identify itself as it entered Israeli airspace.Israeli air force officials said they went on high alert during the incident on fears the jet had been hijacked. The pilot of the plane later contacted air controllers and landed the aircraft without incident at Ben Gurion airport.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Australia To Up Afghan Presence

Australia will nearly double its military deployment in Afghanistan to about 1,000 soldiers by the middle of next year, Prime Minister John Howard announced. Howard, a staunch US ally, would not rule out sending even more than 1,000 troops if the need arose. He also said Afghanistan was becoming more dangerous and that Australians should prepare for casualties. Only one Australian soldier has been killed in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001. "I should make it clear that all of the intelligence advice suggests that there is a heightened security risk," Howard said. "There is the distinct possibility of casualties, and that should be understood and prepared for by the Australian public."The Australian Defense Force will add 400 troops drawn from the Special Air Service Regiment and other elite units to its contingent of 550 currently in Afghanistan by the middle of this year. It will add another 50 by the middle of 2008, taking the deployment to about 1,000, Howard told reporters. The troops will be sent to Oruzgan province, where a 200-member special forces task group operated for a year until last September. "Their role will be to enhance provincial security by disrupting Taleban command and control supply routes and they will directly support the Australian reconstruction task force," Howard said.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sheik Al-Hilali Told To Quit Or Leave

The Howard Government has intensified its pressure on Australia's most senior Islamic spiritual leader, Taj al-Din al-Hilali, demanding he consider leaving the country and stepping down from his position as mufti. Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday expressed outrage at Sheik Hilali's weekend visit to Tehran, during which he called on the Islamic world to unite behind the radical Iranian regime. Muslim leaders from around Australia attacked the Egyptian-born cleric for becoming an "ongoing problem". And Australian Federal Police are examining whether to involve state-based counter-terrorism agencies in their investigation of allegations that Sheik Hilali diverted Australian-raised charity funds to terrorism supporters in Lebanon last year. The Australian revealed yesterday that Sheik Hilali had been quoted in the Iranian media as calling on Muslims worldwide to serve in Iran's "trenches" and not "kneel" to its enemies. It was the latest in a series of controversies that have dogged the mufti. "The Australian community has lost patience with the sheik," Mr Andrews said. "The sheik needs to say if he wishes to continue as a citizen of Australia or reside in an alternate country."Mr Downer said Sheik Hilali had "become a completely discredited figure" in Australia and was causing embarrassment to this country. "Sheik Hilali is damaging the standing of the Muslim community in Australia and beyond," he said. "And the sooner they find a more credible spokesman for the Islamic community than Sheik Hilali, the better. "They need a good and a moderate and a decent leader, and there are plenty of them who can do the job." Mr Downer questioned whether Sheik Hilali's support for Iran meant he also supported their backing of terrorist attacks by organisations such as Hezbollah in the Middle East. "When he's calling for people to support Iran, what is he calling for?" Mr Downer said. "Is he calling for people to support Iran's nuclear program? Is he calling for Iran tobecome a nuclear weapons state?" Australia's top female Muslim leader, Aziza Abdel-Halim, blamed the "hopeless" Australian National Imams Council for its decision two weeks ago to allow Sheik Hilali to stay in his position as mufti for another three months. She said his reported comments in Iran were "tactless" and threatened to further divide Muslim Australia from mainstream society. "Why should he involve the Muslims of Australia in politics that are very far from us here, and at the same time put us in a situation we don't really care to be in," Sister Abdel-Halim said. "I don't know what he's hoping to gain from what he's doing." Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said Sheik Hilali's comments in Iran were "unacceptable in the extreme". "These statements by Sheik Hilali deserve complete condemnation and provide a further reason why he should be removed as the Mufti of Australia," he said. It was revealed last week that Sheik Hilali had handed out $US38,000 ($46,000) of Australian-raised charity funds in Lebanon last year, of which he gave $US10,000 to a political leader with links to al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. The money, raised by the Sydney-based Lebanese Muslim Association and other Islamic bodies, is the subject of an AFP investigation. Senior Muslim leader Ameer Ali said Sheik Hilali was becoming an "ongoing problem" for the community and would best serve his people by leaving his spiritual post as mufti. In October, Sheik Hilali came under criticism internationally after a sermon in which he compared immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ex-Kiss Guitarist Dies of Brain Hemorrhage

Mark St. John, guitarist for Kiss for the mid-80's album 'Animalize' died this week at the age of 51 from a brain hemorrhage. St. John was only with Kiss for one album. He became Kiss' third guitarist after replacing Vinnie Vincent, who had replaced Ace Frehley. While 'Animalize' has never been recognized as one of Kiss' finest moments, the album did grab a reputation for crystallizing the band as a fully fledged live act. It is Kiss' biggest selling album from their non-make-up years.St. John was a professional, technical player and gave the band a new edge, at least for that one moment. Mark St. John was born Mark Norton in Anaheim, California on February 7, 1956 The one and only Kiss video you will see him in was 'Heaven's On Fire'.His Kiss career was short-lived following. St. John discovered he had arthritis in his hands and was forced to leave the band. After Kiss, he formed the less than successful White Tiger. He also played with Kiss drummer Peter Criss for a short time. St. John stayed busy appearing at Kiss Conventions and managed to release a solo album 'Mark St. John Project' in 1999.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Actor Names Bon Scott As Dad

Australian actor Alex O'Loughlin has revealed he's the son of late AC/DC frontman Bon Scott.
Alex O'Loughlin
The rocker is believed to have fathered a number of love children during the height of his fame in the mid 1970s, and O'Loughlin, who is set for his big break on US TV drama 'The Shield' has come forward as one of them.

Friday, April 06, 2007

St. Paul Ttrying To Purge Pigeons

Officials in St. Paul really want to make a good impression when the Republican National Convention comes to town next year. Their latest plan -- stealing pigeon eggs. Pigeons have long plagued downtown St. Paul, sullying skyways and sidewalks with their droppings.City officials say they've learned from past failures that they can't control the number of pigeons just by killing them. They just keep reproducing -- like rats. So St. Paul will be offering pigeons their own rooftop condos. Just when the birds relax and lay their eggs, workers will reach through trap doors and snatch the next generation before it hatches. The pigeon purge even has the blessing of the St. Paul Audubon Society.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wisc. Governor Really After Vice Presidency?

Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson announced his candidacy for president this week, but some political experts speculate that Thompson is really after the number two spot on the republican ticket. Political insiders said getting into the race for the White House this late makes it tough to raise enough money to compete. They believe Thompson is competing with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for the vice-president nomination. "I think Tim Pawlenty would like to be on a national ticket, I think Tommy Thompson would like to be on a national ticket, I think they're competing for that one position," political expert Steven Schier said. Governor Pawlenty raised his national profile by campaigning with Presidential hopeful John McCain in Iowa.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Veterans Home To Face Daily Fines

The Minneapolis Veterans Home will probably face daily fines for failing to correct two rule violations found earlier when the home was reinspected, the Minnesota Health Department said. The fines were likely to begin Wednesday, said Darcy Miner, who heads inspections for the Health Department. "We found a lot of progress out there since November," when inspectors found 26 violations at the state-owned nursing home, Miner said Monday. "Many areas have improved dramatically." Her office's report, which could be delivered to the home Wednesday, "very probably" will include daily penalties for not correcting two violations: a problem with improper care of residents who fell frequently and another with improper labeling on residents' medication containers. Each violation could cost $50 to $500 a day until they are corrected, Miner said. The Minneapolis Veterans Home did address seven other violations, including six that had resulted in $37,000 in fines. Meanwhile, Miner said a power failure at the home over the weekend did not threaten resident care."At this point, it's unlikely that we will cite any additional (violations), but we're still going through our notes," Miner said. Chip Cox, interim executive director of the governing Minnesota Veterans Homes Board, said officials have made progress in addressing the violations "but that's clearly not enough." The home is being scrutinized because of its slow pace in fixing care and safety violations found during separate state and federal inspections in November. The state later found two more violations while investigating the death of three residents. In addition, the U.S. Veterans Administration is threatening to suspend daily payments of about $20,000 for veterans' care if violations aren't addressed. A 14-hour power failure at the home over the weekend did not threaten the safety of about 310 residents in the nursing home and about 55 in the adjacent boarding care home, Miner said.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Humans 'Not To Blame' For Climate Change

A group of scientists is fighting a rearguard action to challenge mainstream evidence that humans are to blame for climate change. They point to natural shifts in the sun's heat, a cooling of the planet in the mid-20th century and an apparent slowdown of temperature rises in the past decade. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in February that it was "very likely" - more than 90 per cent - that human activities, namely fossil fuel burning, explained most of an "unequivocal" warming in the past 50 years. The panel said temperatures will likely rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 Celsius this century. The IPCC, made up of about 2,500 scientists, is endorsed by governments. "There is always a bit of room for's in the nature of science," said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN climate panel. "But I cannot think of any tangible reasons for doubt." The "sceptics" who doubt some IPCC claims include meteorology professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Professor Paul Reiter from the medical entomology department at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and author Michael Crichton.Many scientists also say US President George W Bush has exaggerated the uncertainties about scientific findings to appease powerful business and oil lobbies. Here are some of the arguments of those who cast doubt on mankind's responsibility for climate change, and beneath each a response by the Hadley Centre of Britain's Meteorological Office, its official centre for climate change research.

1. Temperatures dropped for several decades after 1945, despite rising carbon dioxide emissions

*** Along with carbon dioxide, fossil fuels also release particles called aerosols, which cool the climate by reflecting sunlight. Aerosols dominated the warming effect of CO2 prior to clean-air acts of the 1960s and 1970s.

2. Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere lag temperature rises in an ice core record dating back 600,000 years.

*** Over the past several hundred thousand years, changes in the earth's orbit around the sun led to temperature changes, which in turn affected CO2 levels.

Concentrations of C02 are higher than they had been during the past 600,000 years. The counter-effect is that human-induced increases of C02, such as factory emissions, have enhanced the greenhouse effect and led to warming.

3. Changes in solar activity also produce good correlations with temperature change.

*** There are many factors which may contribute to climate change. Satellite measurements showed no big change in solar heating in the last three decades of the 20th century. CO2 has been shown to have caused most warming in the past 50 years.

4. Rising temperatures in the second half of the last century have plateaued in the past 10 years.

*** 1998 was extremely warm due to a warning of the weather anomaly El Nino warming in the Pacific Ocean, and subsequent years were colder. Ten years is too short a period to see long-term trends. While the World Meteorological Organisation says 1998 was the warmest year since records began 150 years ago, NASA says 2005 was warmer.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Israel Prime Minister Hints At Military Action

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert played down the chances of expanded Israeli military action for now in the Gaza Strip to counter Hamas's military build-up but said the army would be prepared to act if other options failed. Israeli and US security officials say Hamas's forces are expanding faster and receiving more sophisticated weapons and training than those under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's control. Israeli security sources estimate that Hamas now has about 10,000 militants, and say that the Islamic militant group's armed wing has been busy digging tunnels and upgrading its rocket arsenal for a possible confrontation. "We won't be deterred from using military activity if we come to the conclusion, after an intense, level-headed examination, that there is no better way... But that is not the situation (currently)," Olmert told Israel's Channel 2 television in an interview. Israel and the United States said Hamas was receiving money and equipment from Iran. Washington plans to provide $US59 million ($82 million) to bolster Abbas's presidential guard.
Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
"The question is: Does it have to be military activity? If it has to be military activity by us, does it have to be right now?" Olmert said when asked about warnings by top security advisers about Hamas's build-up. Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, said the Islamic militant group would be ready for any conflict with Israel. "Raiding Gaza will not be that easy and they will be surprised of the tactics we will use," Abu Ubaida said at one of Hamas's training camps as militants practised firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. In an interview with Time magazine, Olmert called Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas a "terrorist" and accused him of recently transferring more than $US1 million ($1.4 million) to militants to carry out attacks against Israel. "This is a medal of honour to the prime minister," Abu Ubaida said of Olmert's accusations. "The Prime Minister was born from the womb of resistance and therefore, he should stand beside the resistance and he should resist these pressures."