Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Iraq Refuses To Take Its Freedom Seariously

Iraq's parliament adjourned for its summer recess on Monday, taking a break until September despite having failed to enact a series of laws demanded by Washington. Parliamentary speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani said in a statement issued after Monday's session that he had dismissed lawmakers until Sept. 4. "Parliament has decided to break until early September," Hussein Falluji of the mainly Sunni Accordance Front bloc in parliament told Reuters. "We have already cut the holiday by one month. It is our constitutional right to take it."The recess means parliament will resume just before U.S. military commander General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due to report back to Congress on the success of this year's "surge" in U.S. troops to Iraq. A preliminary White House assessment earlier this month faulted Iraqi leaders for failing to enact laws aimed at curbing violence, including measures to distribute oil revenue, hold provincial elections and loosen restrictions on members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party returning to public life.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Cuban Athletes Leave Games Early

Cuban athletes have made a hurried departure from the Pan-American games in Brazil, apparently amid fears of possible mass defections. The delegation was rushed at short notice to Rio de Janeiro's airport, leaving the men's volleyball team no time to collect their bronze medals. The athletes were said to have been ordered to leave the games before the finishing ceremony on Sunday. It follows the defection of four Cuban athletes earlier in the tournament. The Pan-American Games, which take place every four years, are one of the biggest sporting events in the Americas, and Cuba has once again been among the main contenders. As the competition draws to a close in Rio de Janeiro, the country is in second place behind the United States in the league table of medals.Among Cuba's latest achievements was a bronze medal in the men's volleyball competition, but its athletes were conspicuously absent from the awards ceremony on Saturday. Instead, the team could be seen making an almost frantic departure at Rio's international airport, after apparently being ordered to return home at short notice. It is not clear why there has been such a rapid departure in advance of the final ceremony, but four Cuban athletes have already defected during the competition. Such was the speed of the departure that some athletes were said to have had difficulty finding their luggage. Cuba's President, Fidel Castro, has already made clear his irritation over earlier defections, accusing athletes of betraying their country for money. "Betrayal for money is one of the favourite weapons of the United States to destroy Cuba's resistance," he said. At the 1999 Pan-American Games in Canada up to 13 athletes defected, and it seems Cuba was keen to avoid something on the same scale happening in Rio.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Last Jew In Afghanistan Has No Plans To Leave

In the war-torn country of 30 million Muslims, Zebulon Simentov stands alone. Thirteen centuries after the first Jews arrived in Afghanistan, Simentov is the last Jew left in the nation. "It makes no difference," says the 47-year-old, who wears a yarmulke along with his shalwar kameez. "I'm like a lion -- strong and courageous." While there were more than 40,000 Jews in Afghanistan at the turn of the 19th century, the community emptied -- first in 1948, when the state of Israel was established, and then in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. For some time, Simentov was one of two Jews in Kabul. He was finally left alone when his neighbour and archrival Ishaq Levin died in January 2005.There was no love lost between the two men, who lived together at the synagogue through the Soviet invasion, the civil war, and the Taliban regime. Simentov and Levin vied for control of the synagogue, and famously grew to despise each other, holding loud yelling matches that neighbours could hear down the street. When Levin died of natural causes at 80, Simentov did not seem to grieve the loss. "He was a very bad man who tried to get me killed," he told the Associated Press news agency at the time, "and now I am the Jew here, I am the boss." Before he died, Levin said Simentov had accused him of converting to Islam, so that Simentov could take over the synagogue. Meanwhile Simentov blamed Levin when a valuable copy of the Jewish holy book, the Torah, went missing. Simentov, who said it was confiscated under the Taliban regime, was acquitted in court.Now Simentov is the only one left and in control of the dusty rundown synagogue they shared and fought over. Described as coarse and demanding, he still fights with his neighbours. But they seem to live side by side in mutual tolerance and respect. "I have no problems," he says, "Except for the Taliban years when a few crazy people came around." There's not much left in Kabul of Jewish history. Yet there's a place in the suburbs where Simentov often comes to pray. It used to be a Jewish cemetery, and his grandparents are buried here. Now it's looked after by an Afghan Muslim family. "Many Muslims tried to convert me," he says. "But I never listened." His ex-wife and children moved to Israel long ago. But Simentov refuses to follow. Too many problems, he says, and too many responsibilities in Afghanistan.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

US Increases Funding For Israel's Missile Defense

The US House of Representatives appropriations committee nearly doubled American funding for Israel's Arrow and short-range missile defense programs this week, bringing the 2008 total to $150 million. The amount is not only more than last year's $135 million, but comes earlier in the budget process, holding out the expectation that the allocation will be increased considerably more by the Senate before the final bill is voted on in the fall. Israeli officials see Wednesday's funding boost as a sign of growing awareness of the risks that Israel faces from the likes of Hizbullah and Iran, as well as appreciation for the success of the Arrow program. 'Arrow can fully protect against Iran' (May 30) "We welcome this important decision by the House Appropriations Committee," Israel's Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor told The Jerusalem Post. "This would support Israel's efforts to defend itself against the growing missile threats in the Middle East." In previous years only the Senate has added to the Arrow funding request made by the administration - $70 million for each of the past two years."The Arrow program is one of the most advanced missile defense systems around and has been proven to work in tests," said Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey,) a member of the appropriations committee who played a key role in pushing through the funds. "It provides essential protection against ballistic missiles for Israel's civilian population, as well as US troops in the Middle East. In light of Iran's open hostility toward the US and Israel, I consider increasing the effectiveness of the Arrow system to be essential to our defense." The $70 million added by the House includes $25 million for co-production of the Arrow in the United States and $26 million to explore ways to upgrade the Arrow's capabilities. Israel wants to improve the Arrow's ability to intercept nuclear warheads at higher ranges. The last $19 million is directed at the short-range "David's Sling" program, which is currently being developed to guard against missiles traveling distances upward of 40 kilometers. Before the House addition, the administration had slated only $7 million for the program. The House is due to vote on the defense budget bill next week, with the Senate expected to take it up in September. Despite widespread support for the measure, it could fall victim to a presidential veto if the funding gets tied to Iraq war restrictions unpalatable to the White House. Also in Congress a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was set to take up the United Nations's Human Rights Council's performance. The committee last month approved legislation proposed by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota) to end US funding of the council. Coleman has said that the watchdog group's focus on Israel and failure to investigate other countries made it a "disaster" and that the council "has essentially one issue on its agenda - Israel. You've got countries like North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe, where you have state-sponsored brutality, and what we have is deafening silence."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fairness Doctrine Not Needed!

The Federal Communications Commission has no intention of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine imposing a requirement of balanced coverage of issues on public airwaves, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said. Martin, in a letter written this week to Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and made public Thursday, said the agency found no compelling reason to revisit its 1987 decision that enforcing the federal rule was not in the public interest. Several Democratic lawmakers suggested that Congress take another look at the doctrine after conservative radio talk show hosts aggressively attacked an immigration reform bill when it was on the Senate floor, contributing to its defeat. Pence and other Republicans in both the House and Senate countered by introducing legislation to bar the FCC from reinstating the rule.Under the doctrine, first instituted in the late 1940s, broadcasters could lose their licenses if they failed to give free airtime to opposing sides on controversial issues. Martin, in his letter, said government regulation was not needed to ensure public access to a wide range of opinion. "Indeed, with the continued proliferation of additional sources of information and programming, including satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the need for the Fairness Doctrine has lessened even further since 1987," he wrote. Pence, in a joint statement with Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., welcomed Martin's position but said Congress should still pass his legislation so that no future administration or FCC chairman could revive the doctrine without an act of Congress.

C-SPAN Knows What Party Osama Bin Laden Is In

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fidel Castro Bows Out Of Another Cuban Event

Convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro has bowed out of Thursday's Revolution Day festivities, with his stand-in and brother, Raul Castro, to speak in his place, the government said. "Raul will speak tomorrow" blared a red banner headline of the Communist party newspaper Granma. The news was hardly a surprise to most Cubans and foreign observers as Fidel Castro has repeatedly failed to appear in public since undergoing the first of a series of intestinal operations a year ago. "We'll be waiting for him. If Fidel can't make it, who better than Raul to be here," said Norma Iglesias, a teacher in the central town of Camaguey where this year's festivities marking the launch of Castro's revolution are taking place. Castro has traditionally delivered a state of the union style speech on July 26 in the province deemed to have been the most socially and economically successful each year. The date marks a 1953 assault on a military barracks that failed but nevertheless led to the formation of Castro's revolutionary movement, which toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.Castro, who turns 81 next month, has not made a public appearance since his illness, although he has written a series of editorial columns in the state-run media. Recent videos broadcast on television of him being interviewed and meeting foreign allies have shown him looking stronger. Castro's last public appearance was on July 26 last year in eastern Holguin province. Five days later, he temporarily ceded power to Raul Castro, who remains at the head of the government. The younger Castro, 76, has seemingly managed his first year in office with little difficulty, though expectations he would reform one of the most centralized state-dominated economies in the world have so far proved unfounded. Fidel Castro's exact condition and whereabouts remain state secrets and the balance of power between the brothers is also shrouded in secrecy. "Raul Castro's style is different -- no long speeches, no middle-of-the-night meetings, open criticism of economic performance and demands for results," said Phil Peters, a Cuba expert at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute policy group. "But he is respecting his interim role. As a result, his policy preferences won't be known until Fidel leaves the scene." That also appeared to be the perspective of some of the Castro brothers' contemporaries in Camaguey. "In the end, Raul will bring Fidel's message to Camagueyans and that's how we will receive him," retiree Roberto Garcia said in a telephone interview.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ward Churchill Finally Gets Fired

The University of Colorado fired a fraudulent professor whose essay likening some Sept. 11, 2001, victims to a Nazi leader provoked national outrage and led to an investigation of research misconduct. Ward Churchill, who had vowed to sue if the Board of Regents took action against him, said immediately after the 8-1 vote was announced: “New game, new game.” Three faculty committees had accused Churchill of plagiarism, falsification and other misconduct. “The decision was really pretty basic,” said university President Hank Brown, adding that the school had little choice but to fire Churchill to protect the integrity of its research. “The individual did not express regret, did not apologize, did not indicate a willingness to refrain from this type of falsification in the future,” Brown said.
American Hater, Ward Churchill
Churchill’s essay mentioning Sept. 11, 2001, victims and Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann prompted demands for his firing, but university officials concluded that it was protected speech under the First Amendment. The essay and a follow-up book argued that the terrorist attacks were a response to a long history of U.S. abuses. Churchill said that those killed in the World Trade Center were “a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire” and called them “little Eichmanns.” Brown had recommended in May that the regents fire Churchill after faculty committees accused him of misconduct in some of his academic writing. The allegations included misrepresenting the effects of federal laws on American Indians, fabricating evidence that the Army deliberately spread smallpox to Mandan Indians in 1837, and claiming the work of a Canadian environmental group as his own.

Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Parents Who Paddled Teenage Son

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that unidentified parents who spanked their 13-year-old son - who weighed 195 pounds - with a wooden paddle weren't physically abusive. The decision overturned a Hennepin County District Court order requiring protective services for the boy and his younger brother, after the boy told authorities his father paddled him 36 times for sneaking out of the house. Court papers identified the family members only by their initials. The ruling said the parents resorted to physical punishment after withdrawing privileges and grounding their son, G.F., didn't stop his unauthorized excursions. In the incident that prompted the case, the ruling said the father used "moderate force" after previously warning the son that he would face physical punishment if his behavior didn't change.Midway through the spanking, the son grabbed a kitchen knife and threatened to kill himself, the ruling said. The father took the knife away and spanked him some more. The Appeals Court noted that state law allows parents to use "reasonable force" to restrain or correct their children. The ruling also mentioned the boy's weight while concluding that the discipline wasn't "cruel" or "excessive." "Appellants' chosen form of discipline for G.F.'s knife wielding and suicide threat may not have been the best approach under the circumstances, but parents, who are in the best position to make those judgments, have a wide degree of latitude regarding the discipline of their children," said the opinion written by Judge Christopher Dietzen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Newt Gingrich May Still Enter Race

Dismissing the GOP presidential field as a "pathetic" bunch of "pygmies," Newt Gingrich hinted he might step in to beat Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. "If, in mid-October, it's quite clear that one or more of the current candidates is strong enough to be a serious alternative to a Clinton-Obama ticket, you don't need me to run," the former House Speaker said at a breakfast sponsored by the American Spectator. "If it becomes patently obvious, as the morning paper points out, that the Democrats have raised a hundred million more than the Republicans, and at some point people decide we are going to get Hillary unless there's a radical change, then there's space for a candidate," he added. "So you'll know by mid-October one of those two futures is real." Asked by reporters if he was prepared to commit to a run, Gingrich said, "I'm perfectly happy to do what I do," he said. "Whether that leads to the presidency is the country's problem, not mine." Gingrich mocked Republican presidential candidates for subjecting themselves to a May debate hosted by Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball."You're watching an utterly irrelevant, shallow television celebrity dominate everybody who claimed they want to lead the most powerful nation in the world," he said. Gingrich ridiculed "the idea of 10 or 11 people standing passively at microphones," and said he refused to "shrink to the level of 40-second answers, standing like a trained seal, waiting for someone to throw me a fish." He added: "These are not debates, these are auditions. By definition, the psychology of an audition reduces the person auditioning and raises the status, for example, of Chris Matthews." Pressed by The Examiner about whether his political baggage renders him unelectable, Gingrich compared himself to a famous French statesman. "This is like going to De Gaulle when he was at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic and saying, 'Don't you want to rush in and join the pygmies?'" he said. "I have no interest in the current political process. I have no interest in trying to figure out how I can go out and raise money under John McCain's insane censorship rules so I can show up to do seven minutes and twenty seconds at some debate." Still, he said he might enter the race before the deadlines to "start filing petitions.

Monday, July 23, 2007

US Won’t Rule Out Military Incursion Into Pakistan

Homeland Security Secretary Fran Townsend refused to rule out a US military incursion into Pakistan’s remote border with Afghanistan to eradicate a resurgent Al Qaeda militant network. “The president has made perfectly clear that job number one is protecting the American people. There are no tools off the table, and we use all our instruments of national power to be effective,” she told CNN television, when asked whether Washington would resort to military action to disable the network’s Pakistan outpost. There is “no question that we will use any instrument at our disposal to deal with the problem of Osama bin Laden and (Ayman Al )Zawahiri and Al Qaeda,” Townsend said, naming the leaders and second-in-command of the network that carried out the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Fran Townsend
Her comments came after a major US intelligence report, the National Intelligence Estimate, concluded in findings released last week that Al Qaeda has regenerated, and is redoubling its efforts to get operatives inside the United States. US President George W. Bush on Saturday linked the US global campaign against Al Qaeda to Pakistan’s efforts to quell Islamist violence, including the storming of a pro-Taleban mosque last week. In his weekly radio address Saturday, US President George W. Bush expressed full US support for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s efforts “to rid all of Pakistan of extremism” including an Al Qaeda “safe haven” in tribal areas. But the US leader called the establishment of such enclaves ”troubling.”

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cheney To Take Presidency For Few Hours

US President George W. Bush will undergo a "routine colonoscopy" at the Camp David retreat on Saturday, temporarily ceding his powers to Vice President Dick Cheney, the White House said.Cheney will serve as acting President until such time as President Bush, who will be under anesthesia, says he is ready to resume his duties, Presidential spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. "The President has had no symptoms" of cancer, said Snow, who noted that President Bush had been scheduled for such an examination since undergoing a colonoscopy in June 2002.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pentagon Rebukes Clinton On Iraq

The Pentagon told Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton that her questions about how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq boosts enemy propaganda. In a stinging rebuke to a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman responded to questions Clinton raised in May in which she urged the Pentagon to start planning now for the withdrawal of American forces. A copy of Edelman's response, dated July 16, was obtained by reporters. "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," Edelman wrote. He added that "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks." Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines called Edelman's answer "at once outrageous and dangerous," and said the senator would respond to his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Clinton has privately and publicly pushed Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace two months ago to begin drafting the plans for what she said will be a complicated withdrawal of troops, trucks and equipment."If we're not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way," she said then. The strong wording of the response is unusual, particularly for a missive to a member of the Senate committee with oversight of the Defense Department and its budget. Clinton aides said the letter ignored important military matters and focuses instead on political payback. "Redeploying out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence with which the Bush administration deployed our young men and women into Iraq is completely unacceptable, and our troops deserve far better," said Reines, who said military leaders should offer a withdrawal plan rather than "a political plan to attack those who question them." As she runs for president, the New York senator has ratcheted up her criticism of the Bush administration's war effort, answering critics of her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq invasion by saying she would end the war if elected president. If she wins, Clinton may find herself overseeing such a withdrawal policy, but she is hardly alone in raising the issue. Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana warned at a hearing that if U.S. military leaders and Congress "are not prepared for these contingencies, they may be executed poorly, especially in an atmosphere in which public demands for troop withdrawals could compel action on a political timetable." Edelman's letter does offer a passing indication the Pentagon might, in fact, be planning how to withdraw, saying: "We are always evaluating and planning for possible contingencies. As you know, it is long-standing departmental policy that operational plans, including contingency plans, are not released outside of the department." Edelman is the Undersecretary of defense for policy. He is also a former U.S. ambassador and one-time aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. During the 2004 campaign, Cheney told Iowa voters that electing the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards would risk another terrorist attack. Kerry jumped to Clinton's defense, deriding what he called smear tactics by the administration. "They will say anything, do anything, and twist any truth to avoid accountability," said the Massachusetts senator.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Top Al-Qaida In Iraq Figure Captured

The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter. Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman. "Al-Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq network," Bergner said. He said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq.Bergner said al-Mashhadani served as an intermediary between al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri. "In fact, communication between the senior al-Qaida leadership and al-Masri frequently went through al-Mashhadani," Bergner said. "Along with al-Masri, al-Mashhadani co-founded a virtual organization in cyberspace called the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006," Bergner said. "The Islamic State of Iraq is the latest efforts by al-Qaida to market itself and its goal of imposing a Taliban-like state on the Iraqi people."

Al Gore Serves Endangered Fish At Daughter's Wedding

After Live Earth produced the carbon emissions of a small country in order to discourage carbon emissions, Gore has moved onto eating endangered species to encourage their preservation, I guess. Don't ask questions. He's a visionary.Gore and his guests at the weekend ceremony dined on Chilean sea bass - arguably one of the world's most threatened fish species. Also known as Patagonian toothfish, the species is under pressure from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities in the Southern Ocean, jeopardising the sustainability of remaining stocks.The species is currently managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources, the body which introduced a catch and trade documentation scheme as an attempt to tackle illegal poaching of this species.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spy Squirrel Menace Strikes Iran

In further news of the horrifying threat that squirrels pose to humanity, Iran has claimed 14 squirrels found near the nation's borders were spies. The state-sponsored news agency IRNA said: 'In recent weeks, intelligence operatives have arrested 14 squirrels within Iran's borders.' 'The squirrels were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services.'Iranian police commander Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqadam said: 'I heard of this, but I have no specific knowledge on the subject.' It is not known if the spy-squirrels are linked to claims that British troops in Basra, near the border with Iran, have released giant man-eating badgers into the city. This is not the first time that animals have been accused of being spies. Notably, the residents of Hartlepool are commonly believed to have hung a monkey because they thought it was a French spy.

Iraqis Being Smuggled Across The Rio Grande

The FBI is investigating an alleged human smuggling operation based in Chaparral, N.M., that agents say is bringing "Iraqis and other Middle Eastern" individuals across the Rio Grande from Mexico. An FBI intelligence report distributed by the Washington, D.C. Joint Terrorism Task Force says the illegal ring has been bringing Iraqis across the border illegally for more than a year. Border Patrol officials in the area said they were unaware of the specifics of the FBI's report, and federal prosecutors in New Mexico told reporters they had no current cases involving the illegal smuggling of Iraqis. The FBI report, issued last week, says the smuggling organization "used to smuggle Mexicans, but decided to smuggle Iraqi or other Middle Eastern individuals because it was more lucrative." Each individual would be charged a fee of $20,000 to $25,000, according to the report.The people to be smuggled would "gather at a house on the Mexican side of the border" and then cross the Rio Grande into the U.S., the report says. "Unidentified individuals would then transport them to train stations in El Paso, Texas or Belen, New Mexico," according to the FBI document. A spokesman in Albuquerque said the FBI had "no viable information" that could lead to a case. Until recently, the United States has kept its doors all but shut to the estimated two million refugees fleeing the violence in Iraq. Until this year, the country had taken in fewer than 800 Iraqi refugees, according to the State Department. This May, the Bush administration pledged to resettle 7,000 Iraqi refugees here by the end of the year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Manila Military Warns Of ‘All-Out War’ On Militants

The Philippine military warned it could launch an “all-out war” against Islamic militants if they did not surrender those behind an ambush last week in which 14 marines were killed, and 10 later beheaded. Military chief General Hermogenes Esperon said troops on the ground had been told to exercise restraint, but “an all-out war” to flush out the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members behind last week’s ambush remained an option. “They have admitted that the ambush was perpetrated by them so they must now bring out the offenders. I mean, those who beheaded our Marines,” Esperon told reporters as he visited the wake for the slain troops. “Otherwise, all options are open,” Esperon said, alluding to a massive crackdown on MILF forces on Basilan island, where the Marines were killed last week as they searched for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi. “All-out war is one of the alternatives, but it could be the last resort,” he said. Esperon said troops had pinpointed the general area where Bossi, 57, was being held and were close to rescuing him. He declined to give further details so as not to jeopardise the operations. Bossi was seized by heavily armed men near his church in the Zamboanga peninsula on June 10. The MILF has denied it was involved in the abduction, but the military said Bossi was spotted in an area controlled by the group in Basilan.Philippines President Gloria Arroyo last week ordered troops to hunt down the attackers, and said that if the MILF were involved they must surrender their men. However, she said peace negotiations with the 12,000-strong MILF would continue despite the debacle. The MILF had accused the troops of instigating last week’s violence, saying that the Marines entered their area without prior notice as called for under a ceasefire agreement forcing them to attack. The MILF has also called on international human rights groups to investigate the firefight that left the 14 marines dead. An official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) denied that their forces were behind the beheading and mutilation of 10 of the 14 marines slain on July 10 in Tipo-Tipo town in Basilan province, 900m south of Manila. Mohamed Ameen, head of the MILF secretariat, said one of their comrades, Imam Alkanul, who was seized by the soldiers a few hours before the fighting broke out, was also found dead with slashed throat and hack wounds on his back. “The extent of barbarity to the dead marines and to Imam Alkanul must be investigated by an international body so that whoever were responsible must answer to their crimes,” he said. “We (MILF) are willing to face any investigation especially by international human rights groups,” said Musawwarin Abubakar, leader of the MILF forces in Basilan. “Only Hitler’s manic personality would do such a dastardly act and we condemn this beheadings in the strongest terms possible,” he added. The military and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have condemned the beheading and mutilation of the 10 slain marines, and have urged the MILF to turn over members who might be involved in the gruesome killing. Arroyo has also asked the MILF to stand down and allow the military to hunt down the perpetrators of the killing. The military has already dispatched additional troops to Basilan in preparation for more offensives. Armed forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon said the military was conducting its own probe on the incident. “They (MILF) admitted that the ambush was perpetrated by them so they must now bring out the offenders, those who beheaded our marines,” he said. The military was also conducting a separate investigation into the misfiring and non-firing of mortars used by the marines during the Tipo-Tipo fighting. A television cameraman, who was with the marines during the firefight, was able to shoot video footages of the fighting that showed some marines attempting to fire their 81mm mortars, but to no avail. Esperon has already ordered the recall of all 81mm mortars acquired from the US military. Each mortar costs between $134 and 150.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Canadian, Afghan Forces Find Taliban Weapons Cache

A bloody trail led Canadian troops to a cache of weapons in a village in southern Afghanistan yesterday morning after an intense firefight left 15 to 20 Taliban fighters dead. The find came after Canadian and Afghan soldiers battled the Taliban for more than an hour as day broke in the Zhari region, about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City. After soldiers were engaged by Taliban fire in Haji Ebrahim village around 5 a.m., firefights continued sporadically, with insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Eight 225-kilogram bombs were dropped on the insurgents, said Maj. Dave Quick, the officer leading the operation. Insurgent firing continued from huts and behind walled compounds. "It was another disruptive operation to limit Taliban influence on an Afghan army checkpoint on Highway 1," Quick told Reuters, referring to the main road that loops around southern Afghanistan.Troops captured an anti-tank weapon capable of piercing their armoured vehicles. They also found assault rifles, grenades and armour-piercing shells in and around a compound. The soldiers made the discovery when they followed a bloody trail through the village to the weapons, a military spokesperson reported. Neither the Canadian nor Afghan troops suffered any injuries and there were no civilian casualties. Afghan officials have bemoaned the increased reliance by coalition troops on air strikes, saying they are responsible for a growing number of civilian casualties. The last three Canadian-Afghan operations have drawn on air support with no civilian casualties.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Iraq Prime Minister Says Iraq Can Manage Without US

Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said yesterday that the Iraqi army and police are capable of keeping security in the country when American troops leave “any time they want,” though he acknowledged the forces need further weapons and training. The embattled prime minister sought to show confidence at a time when Congressional pressure is growing for a withdrawal and the Bush administration reported little progress had been made on the most vital of a series of political benchmarks it wants Al Maliki to carry out. Al Maliki said difficulty in enacting the measures was “natural” given Iraq's turmoil. But one of his top aides, Hassan Al Suneid, rankled at the assessment, saying the US was treating Iraq like “an experiment in an American laboratory.”
Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri Al Maliki
He criticised the US military, saying it was committing human rights violations, embarassing the Iraqi government with its tactics and cooperating with “gangs of killers” in its campaign against Al Qaeda in Iraq. In new violence in Baghdad , a car bomb leveled a two-storey apartment building, and a suicide bomber plowed his explosives-packed vehicle into a line of cars at a gas station. The two attacks killed at least eight people, police officials said. Al Maliki told reporters yesterday, “We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want.”

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Australia Charges Doctor With Aiding Terrorist Group

The authorities in Australia have charged an Indian doctor there in connection with the recent failed bombings in London and Glasgow, according to his lawyer. The doctor, Mohammed Haneef, has been charged with “intentionally providing resources” to a terrorist organization, which the authorities define as including two brothers, Dr. Sabeel Ahmed and Kafeel Ahmed, according to Mr. Haneef’s lawyer, Peter Russo, who spoke in a telephone interview from Brisbane. “Resources” refers to a SIM card, according to the charge sheet. Mr. Ahmed was in the Jeep that was driven into the airport in Glasgow on June 30, and burst into flames. He is in critical condition in the hospital in Glasgow. Dr. Ahmed was arrested in Liverpool on June 30, but has not been charged. Dr. Haneef was detained by the Australian police after his SIM card was found in the possession of Sabeel Ahmed, according to an Australian police affidavit, which was provided to reporters.
Mohammed Haneef
After being detained, Dr. Haneef voluntarily submitted to a six-hour taped interview. He said that he had given his SIM card to Dr. Ahmed one year ago, in July 2006, when he was leaving Britain, where he had been studying. The charge does not name any terrorist organization, and does not say that Dr. Haneef knew he was giving his SIM card to any organization. He is charged with “being reckless as to whether the organization was a terrorist organization,” Mr. Russo said. “It’s pretty distressing,” he added. Dr. Haneef had been held without charges for 10 days. The Australian police told the court they were going to seek an extension of the time that he could be held and questioned without charges. But they withdrew the request, and Dr. Haneef had been expected to be released within 24 hours. Dr. Haneef’s wife gave birth to a baby girl in late June, and Dr. Haneef was on his way home to Bangalore to see her when he was arrested at the Brisbane airport, his family said at the time. He is due to appear in court on Saturday morning to answer the charge.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pakistan To Defeat Extremism And Terrorism

The extremism and terrorism will be defeated in every corner of Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf said in a national address. The operation against the Lal Masjid, or the Red Mosque, will not eliminate extremism and terrorism from the society but the government's resolve is unwavering in defeating the menace in every province and corner of the country, Musharraf said when addressing the nation on radio and television.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf
The government will not allow any other mosque to be misused like Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa in the country, the president said. Government troops started a full-fledged operation against defiant armed personnel of Lal Masjid in the wee hours of Tuesday after a talk negotiated through religious scholars failed to convince the armed personnel to surrender. The military confirmed Wednesday night that 73 bodies had been recovered from the mosque.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Canadians Can Mention Bombs At Airports

Air travellers in Canada who make comments about bombs and guns will from now on only be arrested if it is clear they are making a serious threat, officials have said. The Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority, trying to clamp down on screeners who alert police every time they hear alarming words, has issued a bulletin urging staff to show more discretion. A person who announces "You better look through my suitcase carefully, because there's a bomb in there", "I am going to set fire to this airplane with this blowtorch" or "The man in seat 32F has a machine gun" will still be arrested.But someone who remarks "Your hockey team is going to get bombed (badly beaten) tonight", "Hi Jack!" or "You don't need to frisk me, I'm not carrying a weapon" will first be warned about their behaviour. Brigitte Caron, a spokeswoman for the authority, compared the new system to handing out yellow warning cards in soccer. A player can receive one yellow card and still stay in the game. "Sometimes it's just a joke and the person will say 'I'm sorry, I was upset'," she said. In recent years more than 100 passengers have been arrested for making threatening remarks in Canadian airports, she added.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Time Running Out For Iran Strike

Predicting that sanctions will ultimately fail to stop Teheran's nuclear program, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, told reporters that time to launch an effective military strike against Iran's nuclear installations was running out. According to Kuperwasser, who stepped down from his post last year, Iran is "very close" to the point that it will cross the technological threshold and have the capability to enrich uranium at an industrial level. Once they master the technology, the Iranians will have the ability to manufacture a nuclear device within two to three years, he added. "The program's vulnerability to a military operation is diminishing as time passes," Kuperwasser said, "and they are very close to the point that they will be able to enrich uranium at an industrial level." In an article entitled "Halting Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program: Iranian Vulnerabilities and Western Policy Options" published this week by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - run by former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dr. Dore Gold - Kuperwasser spells out what he believes is the only course of action that will stop Iran's race to nuclear power.
The Natanz uranium enrichment facility buildings, some 200 miles south of Teheran, Iran.
Thanks to technological sophistication, advances in producing raw materials as well as intermediate products and the improvement in protection of the program's components, the Western world is beginning to find it difficult to plan an effective strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, he said. The Washington Post revealed new satellite photos of Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz which showed the digging of a tunnel that analysts said could be used to hide and protect key nuclear components. Iran, Kuperwasser said, was working on two parallel tracks - one at Natanz to enrich uranium and the plutogenic track being worked on at the Arak heavy water facility. As long as Russia was not aligned with the United States, Kuperwasser said sanctions would not work on their own to stop Iran. "For significant sanctions to be effective the world needs to at the same time threaten the use of military force," he said. "Iran needs to be made to understand that if the sanctions won't work, the world is prepared to use military force to stop the nuclear program." He said Iran was preparing for the possibility of war, but that deep down the Islamic leadership did not believe that either the United States or Israel were in a position of strength that would enable them to launch such a complicated military operation. Iran, he said, was purchasing Russian air defense systems and was fortifying its nuclear facilities and moving key elements to underground bunkers in preparation for the possibility that its assessments were wrong and it would in the end be attacked. "The Iranians are working around the clock on improving military capabilities and they are also moving centrifuges to underground facilities," he said. Kuperwasser said that a real threat of military action - backed up by credible threats by world leaders as well as the deployment of a large military force to the region - could have the right effect in deterring Iranian leaders from continuing with their nuclear program. A credible military threat combined with economic leverage had a chance at preventing the need for a future clash with a nuclear Iran and perhaps could also make it unnecessary to deal today with an Iran that is close to nuclearization, he said.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Religious Book Seller Struck By Lightning

A man making a trip from Puerto Rico to South Florida to raise money for his religious education remains hospitalized after he was struck down by a bolt of lightning which flew from clear blue sky. He was selling religious materials when he was hit. Hailu Kidane Marian was working with members of his religious group, selling religious materials door-to-door in a Northwest Miami-Dade neighborhood, when the bolt from the blue struck him down. "I heard a boom, and I looked and the guy jumped back, and he just laid there, stiff," said witness Maria Martinez. Paramedics say Marian was not breathing and his heart was not beating when they arrived, but they were able to revive him and rushed him to Jackson Memorial hospital, where he was in critical condition. Members of his religious group waited outside the hospital throughout the night for word of his condition."He's unconscious, he's in a coma," said Francisco Perez, leader of the Puerto Rico-based group. "It's difficult what happened, you know, but what can we do? Things happen in life, but we still believe in God." This is the second incident in as many months of someone being struck down by lightning from a clear sky in South Florida. Last month David Canales, a gardener who worked in the Pinecrest area, was killed when lightning apparently struck him from a rainless sky. Two co-workers standing nearby were unhurt. Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli said 'dry lightning', which can strike even when the sky is clear, can be very dangerous because victims are not expecting it and don't prepare as they might with a storm threatening. Measurement of lightning strikes in the area Sunday showed only a few bolts compared to the last few days, making Marian especially unlucky to be struck by one of them. Nobody else was injured when the bolt flew from the sky.

Monday, July 09, 2007

U.K. Terror Chief Warns Of Long Fight

Britain's new security chief warned that the battle against domestic militancy could take up to 15 years, and said Britons must start sharing information about neighbors they suspect of involvement in terrorism. Adm. Sir Alan West, the former navy chief who was recently named Prime Minister Gordon Brown's security minister, said the level of the threat Britain faced was unprecedented and a new approach was critical. One of those approaches included challenges to the British psyche, he said. "Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "I'm afraid, in this situation, anyone who's got any information should say something because the people we are talking about are trying to destroy our entire way of life." He said preventing the radicalization of young British Muslims was his top priority. "This is not a quick thing," he said. "I believe it will take 10 to 15 years. But I think it can be done as long as we as a nation apply ourselves to it and it's done across the board." Meanwhile, authorities acknowledged no armed police were on duty at Glasgow airport June 30 when two men crashed a Jeep Cherokee laden with gas cylinders and gasoline into the main terminal.
Adm. Sir Alan West
"Armed officers are only deployed to the airport when the national threat level requires it," a Strathclyde police spokesman said on condition of anonymity because department policy barred him from speaking for attribution. Britain's terrorism threat level was "severe" at the time of the attack—the second-highest level, which means an attack is highly likely. It remains at that level. It is up to individual police forces to decide how to deal with the threat level, a Home Office spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. Most police throughout Britain do not carry firearms out of the philosophy that arming police makes criminals feel justified in carrying weapons. However, all forces have specially trained firearms teams ready for rapid deployment. The two men arrested following the Glasgow attack were overpowered by an unarmed officer, an off-duty policeman and members of the public. Armed police have been on duty at the airport since the attack. Eight people are in custody in connection with the attacks—seven in Britain and one in Australia. Most of the suspects worked for Britain's health service and come from countries in the Middle East and India. One has been charged: Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor born in Britain and raised in Iraq. Two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered June 29 in the busy heart of London's West End—one outside a crowded nightclub, the other near Trafalgar Square. The next day, a Jeep Cherokee smashed in flames into the security barriers at Glasgow airport.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Indian Medic Staff Face CautionaryTreatment

Patients at an Australian hospital have refused to be treated by several of the Indian-trained medical staff after two Indian doctors employed there were questioned in connection with the UK failed terror plots. Gold Coast Hospital staff including medical registrars and residents released a statement in support of one of the two doctors, Mohammed Asif Ali, who was released by police without charge after questioning. The second doctor, Mohamed Haneef, is in police custody since Monday night. Speaking on condition of anonymity, doctors at the hospital said patients had refused to be treated by several of the Indian-trained medical staff, accusing them of having some connection to terrorism, the ‘Australian’ daily reported.Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said only a few of the hospital’s staff had been subject to the cautionary treatment, which he condemned. “They’re pretty bruised,” Robertson said. “There is a sensitivity among some of those overseas-trained doctors that they may be subject to racism. I’m hoping that won’t be the case. It’s not the Australian way.” While Robertson defended Ali, he refused to pass comment on Haneef, saying his case was a matter for the Australian Federal Police. Ali drove terror suspect Mohamed Haneef to Brisbane airport where the latter was arrested, and had his colleague’s laptop.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

2 UK Terror Suspects Looked Into US Jobs

Two suspects in the failed car bombings in Britain made inquiries about working in the United States, the FBI said Friday, and British prosecutors said an Iraqi arrested after the attack on Glasgow airport should face terrorism charges. An FBI spokeswoman said Mohammed Asha and another suspect had contacted the Philadelphia-based Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, as first reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Asha, a Jordanian physician of Palestinian heritage, contacted the agency within the last year, but apparently did not take the test for foreign medical school graduates, said the spokeswoman, Nancy O'Dowd."He was applying, (but) we don't believe he took the test," she said. She could not confirm the name of the second suspect to make inquiries. Later, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said police should charge 27-year-old Bilal Abdulla, an Iraqi-born physician arrested at Glasgow's airport after a Jeep Cherokee he was allegedly traveling in rammed into a terminal building. "I have now made the decision that there is sufficient evidence and authorized the charging of Bilal Abdullah with conspiracy to cause explosions following incidents in London and Glasgow," said Susan Hemming, an anti-terrorism prosecutor. On June 29, authorities defused two car bombs that had been set to explode near packed nightclubs and pubs in central London. The following day, two people rammed a car loaded with gasoline canisters into the main terminal at Glasgow's airport. The car crashed and caught fire, seriously burning one of the suspects. Both men were arrested. All eight suspects were foreigners working for Britain's National Health Service, six from countries in the Middle East and two from India.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Attacked Woman Says St. Paul Bar Wouldn't Call 911

A woman said she was outside a St. Paul bar when a man attacked her. Margaret Dean said she was at the 'The Trend' on University Ave. when she went outside to have a cigarette. Dean said she a man threw her, and broke her arm in two places. Dean went back into the bar and asked for help. "I said, 'call 911,' and nobody did anything-- they just stood there and looked at me," she said.Local news talked to a 'Trend' employee who said the bar will never call 911 in those type of situations. According to authorities, bars don't want to call police because it can lead to issues with their liquor license. "If you call 911 from a bar in St. Paul too many times, you loose your liquor license and no bars will call 911 for you," Tom Walsh of St. Paul Police said. Police said 'The Trend,' doesn't have a critically high list of calls. Dean said doctors inserted seven screws and gave her 30 stitches for her injuries, but understands why the bar wouldn't call authorities.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hint At New Bin Laden Tape

An Internet site deemed close to al-Qaida's leadership announced that "good news" will be coming soon. The flashing red banner was interpreted by several other Islamist Web sites as a sign that Osama bin Laden would issue a new taped message soon.Such announcements have usually been followed by an al-Qaida tape release within two or three days.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

How Do Fireworks Work?

Fireworks are thought to have originated in China some 2,000 years ago. These days, they are synonymous with our most American holiday. Americans lit off an estimated 255 million pounds of fireworks last year. "People are used to having a lot of razzle dazzle going on," said Kent Orwoll, who works for RES Specialty Pyrotechnics near Belle Plaine, Minn. His company creates the big fireworks shows like the one that helped open the new Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. The stuff the professionals use is much more sophisticated than what we buy at the fireworks stand. "It's mostly done electrically from quite a far distance away," Orwoll said. The professionals set up racks of mortars in which they drop each firework shell. The shell is wired to a box hooked up to a remote control. They can launch each firework with the push of a button. But how do they make those patterns in the sky like hearts, stars, and smiley faces?"They are done in a ball shell," said Orwoll. "A pattern would be put in there so if you're making a star you would have a little thing that actually looks like a star in here. The pressures are equal so when it breaks it breaks out and looks like a star or a smiley face." Different chemical compositions inside the shell create the different colors we see. So how were fireworks invented? Legend has it that fireworks were discovered or invented by accident by a Chinese cook working in a field kitchen who happened to mix charcoal, sulphur and salt-peter, all commonly found in the kitchen in those days. The mixture burned and when compressed in a bamboo tube, it exploded. Fireworks are first thought to have been used in American on July 4, 1777. Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks. The custom eventually spread to other towns both large and small.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gaddafi Dreams Of Leading United States Of Africa

Colonel Gaddafi called for the creation of a "United States of Africa", and appeared to be positioning himself to be its first leader. The Libyan leader's outburst came as the continent's 53 heads of state gathered for an African Union (AU) summit in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Flanked by his usual coterie of female bodyguards and wearing a shirt covered in images of African presidents, he said: "My vision is to wake up the African leaders to unify our continent. Long live the United States of Africa. Long live African unity." But critics, angered at Mr Gaddafi's grandstanding, said that the gathering should focus on Zimbabwe, Darfur and Somalia, and upon the continent's chronic corruption and poverty.
Muammar Gaddafi
Privately, officials from Africa's leading economies, including Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, were said to be distancing themselves from Mr Gaddafi's statements. The AU is currently the only continent-wide body. But despite promises made at its last summit in January, only Uganda has sent troops to a peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which is still looking for 6,500 troops. Meanwhile, the AU mission in Darfur is so chronically underfunded it is seen as all but useless. Reports show that only seven of the AU's members are up to date with their annual payments to the organisation. In addition, a study by Ernst and Young, the accountants, claimed that more than £1.5 million had gone missing following an AU conference for African academics last year.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Pakistan Busts Suicide Bomber Gang

Pakistani intelligence officers have busted a gang of Islamic militants supplying suicide bombers and explosive devices to Taliban fighters in neighbouring Afghanistan, police said. The eight-member gang led by former fighters of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group was based in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, a senior police official said. They used to collect materials and volunteers from the central province of Punjab, the official said, requesting anonymity. The suspects were arrested in Punjab over the past few days. "During the interrogation they confessed to having carried out a series of suicide bombings and bomb blasts against foreign forces in Afghanistan over the past several years,'' he said. He identified the gang leaders as Mufti Saghir Ahmed, a veteran of the 1980s war against invading Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and wanted militant Mohammad Safeer.Both are members of the Jaish group, he said. Safeer was wanted over an attack on a church in the Pakistani town of Taxila in 2003. "The suspects were preparing remote-controlled devices for the Taliban in Afghanistan,'' the official said. "It's a major breakthrough in the fight against terrorism and reflects Pakistan's strong commitment to fight militancy,'' a senior security official said. The network was supplementing Taliban fighters based in southern Afghanistan, he said. They had "links'' with former mujahedin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and his pro-Taliban son Siraj Haqqani, he added.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ahmadinejad Says Iran Is Nuclear, Cannot Be Turned Back

Israel Radio reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has released a statement saying Iran has become a nuclear nation and no one can cause the country to backtrack. "Our enemies cannot harm us, not because they don't wish to, but because they cannot do so due to their difficult situation," Israel Radio quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. Ahmadinejad and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday defended a controversial fuel rationing plan in Iran, state-television IRIB reported. According to Isral Radio, Ahmadinejad said the rationing of fuel has made Iran better able to withstand pressure from the international community. He was referring to sanctions placed on the country following its refusal to halt uranium enrichment as part of its nuclear program. He said the enemies of Iran have acknowledged the fact that the rationing of fuel has made his country "undefeatable," the radio reported. Khamenei said in a meeting with government officials that the surplus from the rationing plan and non-import of oil could be used for other development plans in the country.Although Iran is a leading OPEC member and the world's fourth biggest oil producer with a daily oil production of 4.2 million barrels, the Islamic state must import more than 40 per cent of the country's oil needs and spend 5 - 8 billion dollars annually on imports due to a lack of refineries and a preference for oil exports. Riots broke out in protest against the decision, and several gas stations were set on fire. Ahmadinejad defended the plan as a complex decision that required national will to help the country gain invulnerability to international threats. Iranian officials had earlier said the plan should also be regarded as a precautionary move in case of United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear projects. Ahmadinejad further called for a switch from oil to natural gas in order to further decrease the necessity of oil imports. The harsh protests confirmed the government's fears that the move would dent Ahmadinejad's popularity before parliamentary elections in March next year and even negatively affect his chances for re-election in 2009.