Friday, November 30, 2007

Iran Cracks Down On Rap Music

Iran said it plans to launch a crackdown on rap music, complaining that the words used by rap artists were "obscene", the state IRNA news agency reported. "There is nothing wrong with this type of music in itself," the official for evaluation of music at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, Mohammad Dashtgoli, was quoted as saying. "But due to the use of obscene words by its singers this music has been categorised as illegal," he said. "In coordination with the police, illegal studios producing this type of music will be sealed and the singers in this genre will be confronted," he said. Dashtgoli said a large number of illegal rap singers have been already identified. The Islamic republic's hardline officials have repeatedly complained about a "cultural invasion" by "decadent" western music which they believe diminishes Islamic values.The culture ministry official expressed his frustration that rap artists were finding low-cost ways to publish their music on the Internet. "We should find a solution for this." Rap music has become increasingly popular amongst young urban males in Tehran, with explicit lyrics taking in social, political and sexual themes. Producing albums and holding concerts in Iran requires official permission from the culture ministry and, needless to say, rap music is an underground phenomenon in the Islamic republic. Nevertheless, rap albums are widely available on the black market with artists drawing inspiration from the Persian-language rap of the Iranian diaspora based in Los Angeles. Iran is currently in the midst of its most severe moral crackdown in years, which has seen thousands of women warned for slack dressing, several bootleg music stores shut and "decadent" mixed-sex parties raided. Conservatives have applauded the crackdown as a bold move to promote virtue but some moderates have questioned the value of the drive at a time when Iran's economic problems are hitting the poor hard.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pentagon Issues Protest To China On Access To Hong Kong Harbor

The Pentagon has protested to China about the denial of access to Hong Kong Harbor for three U.S. Navy ships last week, and says China's explanation so far has not been sufficient. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says the protest was contained in a summons to the military attaché at China's embassy in Washington, but Morrell says the attaché may not actually come to a meeting to discuss the issue. The Defense Department is concerned that China refused to allow two minesweeping ships into the harbor during a storm early last week, contrary to centuries of naval tradition. In addition, China turned away the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and its support ships when they arrived at the entrance to Hong Kong Harbor the following day for a scheduled port visit."It is baffling. It is regrettable. And we have not to date received a sufficient explanation as to why it took place," said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell. The only explanation so far came from China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, during a meeting with President Bush on Wednesday, according to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. The president raised the issue about the recent aborted port call by the USS Kitty Hawk," she said. "Foreign Minister Yang assured the president that it was a misunderstanding." There has been no public explanation of the earlier incident involving the minesweepers fleeing a storm. Senior U.S. navy officials have said that incident concerns them more because it involved safety, rather than a routine port call.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huge Waves Inundate Philippines' Western Coast, Thousands Flee

Big waves set off by a storm battered provinces along the Philippines' western coast overnight, sending more than 5,000 people fleeing, some falsely thinking there was a tsunami, officials said Wednesday. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the onslaught of waves that sporadically battered coastal villages from the country's mountainous north to the southern island of Jolo from late Tuesday to early Wednesday. The waves also created flash floods by pushing sea water into low-lying areas. Along the western coast of the main northern Luzon island, which was jolted by a magnitude-6 earthquake about noon Tuesday, more than 5,400 people fled to safety and government emergency shelters after the waves swamped their communities, said Armando Duque, head of the regional Office of Civil Defense.In the coastal town of Bolinao in northern Pangasinan province, many villagers feared that a tsunami struck because of the earthquake, but authorities immediately explained through local radio stations that the waves were generated by stormy weather out at sea, Duque said. Many were puzzled by the waves because Typhoon Mitag, which lashed the northern Philippines on Monday, had weakened into a storm then blew out of the country toward southern Japan, causing weather to improve by Tuesday. "Many thought that there may have been a tsunami so authorities had to tell them that the waves were caused by the weather disturbances,'' Duque told The Associated Press by telephone. The waves and flooding eased early Wednesday, prompting many to return home, he said.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Terror Suspects Disguised As Bride And Groom Caught

Suspicious Iraqi soldiers thwarted terror suspects disguised as a bride and groom trying to pass through a checkpoint along with their "wedding procession" outside Baghdad. They ordered the 'bride' and 'groom' out of their car at a checkpoint on a highway. The procession raised suspicion among the soldiers because most of those celebrating were men. The incident occurred near Taji, about 40km north of Baghdad.Iraqi soldiers set up a checkpoint near Taji and stopped a wedding procession. The soldiers became suspicious because the procession did not follow orders to stop. The occupants of the car were told to step out of the car and were searched. "Four people in the procession were found to be wanted terrorists and arrested," according to the statement.The defence ministry released pictures of the "bridal couple." 'She' was identified as Haider Mu'alla, looking more like an embarrassed bride than a blushing one, dressed in a white but ill-fitting wedding dress. Two other men travelling with the male 'bridal couple' were also found to be wanted militants.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Creature From Hell Promises Salvation

Scientists have discovered a methane-eating bacterium at Hell's Gate in Rotorua which may offer hope for global warming. Researchers at GNS Science hope their discovery of the bacterium could one day be used to cut down methane gas emissions from landfills and geothermal power stations. The bug is part of a group of methane-eating micro-organisms known as methanotrophs, but this one is able to live in hotter and much more acidic conditions. Microbiologist Matthew Stott said it was a particularly exciting find as it had international significance. "We knew methane was being produced geothermally at Hell's Gate and we were puzzled as to why it wasn't reaching the surface," Dr Stott said. "What we have found is an extremely tough methane-consuming organism that is new to science. It grows happily under extremely acidic conditions in the lab." Another GNS microbiologist, Peter Dunfield, who isolated the bacterium, has tentatively named it Methylokorus infernorum, which is a latinised description of its methane food source, the 'hellish' location of its discovery and also a description of a structure within its cell that resembles a koru. Methanotrophs live mostly in soils and are especially common in environments where methane is produced.Globally, acidic environments such as marshes and peat bogs generate significant quantities of methane. Scientists have always suspected that a proportion of this methane was being consumed by bacteria living in these environments. Dr Stott said the bacterium was found about 30cm down from the surface, where manuka and scrub had died through steam incursion at the Tikitere geothermal field, also known as Hell's Gate. It was cultured in the lab, and found to be able to tolerate environments that were at least mildly acidic. "The discovery of this micro-organism is fairly important scientifically - previously microbiologists had only known that methane was consumed by micro-organisms in very mildly acidic environment. "We knew it probably occurred at lower pHs but no one was ever able to grow them or detect them." Initial calculations estimate that a cubic metre of liquid containing the micro-organism is able to consume up to 11kg of methane a year. "We now know that bacteria can grow in these areas so it helps us track down these acidic micro-organisms a little bit better," Dr Stott said. "It's a first step of a large area of research which we hope to start looking into. "Ultimately, it may be possible to implant this organism, or a similar one, in landfills and cut methane emissions into the atmosphere." The discovery has just been published in a paper in the science journal Nature. It stemmed from a collaboration between GNS and the owner of Hell's Gate, the Tikitere Trust.

Methane muncher

* A bacterium that feeds on methane has been found at Hell's Gate near Rotorua.

* Scientists estimate a cubic metre of liquid containing it can consume up to 11kg of methane a year.

* They hope the bacterium can be implanted in landfills to cut emissions of methane gas which increase global warming.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hamas says it is shocked by Arab Backing For Peace Summit, Threatens Deadlier Attacks

Hamas said it was shocked Arab countries have decided to attend next week's U.S.-backed Mideast peace summit and underlined its opposition with a threat to launch deadlier rocket attacks on Israel. Hamas argues the time is not right for talks with Israel because the Palestinians are divided. With the Islamic militant group in control of Gaza, Hamas says moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not have a mandate to negotiate. "The announcement of the Arabs that they would participate in the Annapolis conference was a great shock for the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, said in a statement Saturday. "Participation opens doors for normalization of relations with the Israeli occupiers." Another Hamas official said the group was on the brink of developing a more lethal type of warhead for the rockets it regularly lobs from Gaza into Israel. "They can be developed in a short period to create sufficient terror and fear and make the Israelis live in pain no less than what our people live through because of the repeated incursions into our villages and cities in the West Bank and Gaza," said Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza. Israel, which warmly welcomed the Arab League decision Friday to go to the Mideast conference in Annapolis, Maryland, has repeatedly said it expects Hamas to try and thwart peace efforts."We take these threats very seriously," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in response to Yousef's comments . Gaza militants have fired hundreds of crude, homemade rockets at Israeli border communities in recent years, killing 12 people. In a statement sent to reporters, Yousef said the rockets have had "limited effect because they don't carry lethal warheads," Israel has launched limited incursions into Gaza in recent months to try halt rocket fire. It has also cut back on fuel to Gaza and plans to reduce electricity supplies to the territory starting Dec. 2. Late Friday night, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian men who approached the border fence separating Gaza from Israel, Palestinian medical staff said. Residents said the men often scoured the area for cement and other building materials to sell. An army statement said the two men appeared suspicious and were shot as they moved in darkness toward troops at the border fence, which is in an area off limits to Palestinians. A military spokeswoman said Saturday night, after further examination, that the two men had been carrying weapons and were wearing Hamas uniforms. Militants frequently use the area to fire rockets at Israel. However, other Palestinians enter the danger zone to scavenge for building materials or sneak into Israel to work.Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, seized control of Gaza from Abbas' security forces in the summer. In the Abbas-controlled West Bank, security forces prevented two Hamas officials from holding a news conference Saturday in the town of Ramallah, cordoning off the building where they had planned to speak about Monday's peace conference. Journalists were ordered not to photograph or film the officials, who were led away by police. Hamas members in Gaza said the two men were released after two hours. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the police action was necessary because recent Hamas threats have run contrary to the Abbas administration's efforts to impose law and order. In Gaza, about 200 people gathered outside the seafront parliament building, calling on Abbas not to make any concessions to Israel at the Annapolis conference. "We tell those going to Annapolis, we will not forgive you, and we will not forget if you give up any of our rights," said one of the speakers, 15-year-old Uthman Abdullah. "History will curse you and your people will curse you." In Jerusalem, about 500 Israelis rallied outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's official residence, calling on him to make every effort to make peace with the Palestinians.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

WWII Vet Gets Bronze Star 63 Years Later

Wally Olien has never been embarrassed to express his loyalty to the Land of the Free. He's just not one to acknowledge his role in keeping it so. Growing up "I didn't ever realize he was in WWII," says Dawn Marson, Wally's Granddaughter. The war was just wasn't something Wally discussed. "I put that behind me," says Wally, not wanting to go too deeply into the topic. "Not too pretty." Truth is, as part of the D Day invasion, Wally saw things no man wants to relive. "It was pure hell, that's all there is to it." A month after surviving D-Day, Wally was nearly killed by shrapnel from a mortar that tore into his belly and cost him a finger. Wally doesn't talk much about that either. When asked about the missing finger, Wally's great granddaughter Peyton says, "I think he got it stuck in a car door or something."
Wally Olien
Which makes what happened Friday that much more special. Turns out Wally was entitled to the Medal Of Valor, a Bronze Star he'd earned, but never received. With prodding from his friend Tom Quinlan, who shepherded through the paperwork, 63 years after D-Day, Wally finally accepted his recognition at a ceremony at New Richmond's American Legion Post. "It's part of his life that I've never known about," says Wally's Granddaughter Katie Bolger. "Now it's something he can share with us." Wally Olien never sought the medal given him Friday, nor the hugs and thanks from dozens of family members and friends. But isn't it nice that such an honor found him anyway.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Twin Cities Police Break Up Possible Dog-Fighting Ring

Police believe they have broken up a dog-fighting ring in south Minneapolis. Police told local reporters that when they arrived at a residence near 28th St. E. and 12th Ave. S., A group of people and dogs ran away. One dog was bleeding, according to officials."They bring their dogs down and they try to fight our dogs. My dogs are friendly," said pit pull owner Samuel Tucker. Tucker said the incident was not due to dog fighting. "It did sound like there was an organized pit-bull fighting action going on at that time. This is a huge cruelty to animals," said Minneapolis Police Sgt. Jesse Garcia. Minneapolis Police made no arrests, but did seize one pit bull.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Convicted Sex Offender Ordered To Live In Hotel Near Children

A convicted sex offender was told to live next door to children. It's exactly the kind of place a judge ordered him to stay away from. Local reporters investigated why the state sent him there. Richard Reynolds was convicted of criminal sexual conduct involving a child. He served his time and was released from prison in April. If offenders like Reynolds have no place to go when they are released, the state provides temporary housing. A Pine County motel was where the Department of Corrections put Reynolds. He said there were children staying there. On the television, Reynolds had access to pornography. Reporters asked Reynolds about the formal order of the judge, which said no kids, no pornography. "Yes, it didn't make sense, it was a set up," said Reynolds. Reynolds claimed he never watched the porn, but he told his probation officer it was part of the in-room television service. Reynolds said he also mentioned the children. "That is where the kids were the whole time, right across the hall from me, they would play on the same deck as I had to walk up to get to my room right were the kids were," said Reynolds.Within days, Reynolds was sent back to prison, for violating his parole. The Department of Correction said policy does not allow them to speak about the specifics of the case, but they did say Reynolds is one of a dozen released offenders sent to the Chalet Motel. In fact, the DOC had a contract running two years at the motel for two rooms. The DOC currently has contracts with two other motels, but they told reporters that state law forbids them from saying where they are, or who is staying there. "That is where the kids were the whole time, right across the hall from me, they would play on the same deck as I had to walk up to get to my room right were the kids were," said Reynolds. Reynolds was never accused of trying to approach any of the children at the motel, none of whom he knew. Reynolds will be released from prison in January, nine months after he was arrested for supposedly violating his parole. "It is messed up. It seriously is," Reynolds said. The manager of the motel told reporters that offenders were housed in a separate building where they shouldn't have been able to access pornography. Corrections said Reynolds brought in his own television. The Chalet Motel has since canceled its contract with the Department of Corrections.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Supreme Court to Hear DC Gun Ban Case

Activists on both sides of the gun control debate are weighing in on a decision today by the Supreme Court to review the District of Columbia's 31-year-old handgun ban. A top National Rifle Association official says the Second Amendment prevents lines being drawn between "individuals and their firearms." But the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says the Constitution doesn't prevent communities from having laws to protect public safety.The case may be the most significant gun rights case before the court in some 70 years. A federal appeals court struck down the ban in March. The justices will hear arguments in the case early next year. The decision to hear the case was widely expected, after both the city and the man who challenged the ban asked the court for a review.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pilot Arrested At MSP Airport For Being Drunk, Carrying Weapon

A Midwest Airlines pilot was arrested in the Twin Cities just before his flight to Milwaukee was set to leave, after tests proved he was under the influence of alcohol last week. Captain Scott Acree was supposed to fly flight number 005 from the Twin Cities to Milwaukee. According to sources, Acree showed up at a security checkpoint at the Humphrey Terminal smelling of alcohol. The TSA agent who signed Acree in for the flight notified Airport Police. Police arrested Acree in the cockpit and he was escorted off the plane.The 11-year veteran pilot failed two of three field sobriety tests, according to airport documents. A source confirmed tests showed Acree’s alcohol levels as high as 0.16; twice the legal limit to drive. Sources told reporters that Acree was not only drunk, but armed. Acree was found carrying a government-issued .40 caliber handgun. According to records, Acree had been licensed to carry a gun on board since 2005 as a Federal Flight Deck officer. Police reports indicate charges are pending and Acree has not been formally charged. Midwest Airlines declined to comment. Local reporters made contact with an individual at Acree’s home via phone, but the calls were not returned as promised.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Contractor Nears Completion Of Border Fence

Crews building a 7-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border near the southern Arizona town of Sasabe are nearing completion of the project just three months after breaking ground. But critics say a land swap between federal agencies that paved the way for one section sets a bad precedent. The Department of Homeland Security avoided roadblocks on the final eight-tenths of a mile of the fence by acquiring nearly 6 acres of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge land in a trade."Environmentalists are concerned that Homeland Security is rushing to build fencing without appropriate review of its impacts on wildlife and habitat. About 700 miles of fence is to be built in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico under a law Congress passed last year. A Phoenix contractor is expected to complete the 7-mile section in the next few weeks.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Canada Shuts Doors to US War Deserters

Two US Army deserters who fled to Canada and sought refugee status on grounds of their opposition to the war in Iraq have lost their bids to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear their cases. The court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, who were rejected two years ago by Canada's immigration authorities. The board ruled they would not be at risk of their lives if they returned to the United States, nor were they at risk of "cruel and unusual treatment or punishment." Hinzman and Hughey deserted the US Army in 2004 after learning their units were being deployed to Iraq to fight in a war they have called immoral and illegal. The men argue that serving in Iraq would force them to commit crimes against civilians, and that they would be persecuted if forced to return to the United States. There are currently about 200 US Army deserters in Canada. Among them is Ryan Johnson of Visalia, California. He fled to Canada in 2005, the day his unit deployed to Iraq. "The Canadian government decided not to fight an illegal war," he told reporters. "Canada was going to go into the war in Iraq, but then decided that because the UN did not sanction it, Canada would not participate in the war in Iraq. That's a major reason that I came to Canada. Canada felt the same way I did about the war in Iraq."Canadian immigration officials ruled, however, that "as mere footsoldiers," US war resisters "could not be held responsible for the breach of international law committed by United States in going to Iraq." Immigration authorities also ruled that "ordinary footsoldiers are not expected to make own personal assessments as to the legality of any conflict they may be called upon to fight." They also said there is no internationally recognized right to object to a particular war. "It's disappointing that the Supreme Court of Canada would not even go as far as to hear our case," Johnson said. "It is definitely not something that is pertinent. They've used legality of war in other refugee cases, I don't know why in our case they refused to use the legality of the war in evidence." A spokesperson for Canada's immigration minister put a different spin on the Supreme Court's decision. "Canadians want a refugee system that helps true refugees," spokesperson Mike Fraser told Reuters. "All refugee claimants in Canada have the right to due process and when they have exhausted those legal avenues we expect them to respect our laws and leave the country," he added. During the Vietnam War, between 30,000 and 60,000 draft dodgers sought sanctuary in Canada. Veterans of that fight say the atmosphere in Canada today is very different than it was during the 1960s and 70s."Our government is pretty clear that it is pro-[George W.] Bush and [wants to] reassure Americans that the Canadian border is very secure," said Leigh Zaslofsky, who fled the United States in 1970 and now coordinates Canada's War Resister Support Campaign. "When I deserted I was able to apply for permanent residency and obtain it there if I passed a points assessment so that's what I did," he said, "and I was readily admitted to Canada as a permanent resident and didn't have to worry about being sent back to the United States." Even so, US war resisters in Canada are not facing immediate deportation. After losing their appeal at the Supreme Court, Hinzman and Hughey will now receive a "pre-removal risk assessment," which is designed to judge whether in the United States they would be at risk of torture, death or cruel and unusual punishment or treatment. That's only the beginning of a drawn-out deportation process that could go on for years. "We still have a bit of time before anyone is looking at getting sent back imminently," Ryan Johnson said. War resisters can also apply for permanent residency in Canada on humanitarian or compassionate grounds. Meanwhile, supporters of US soldiers who fled across the northern border are turning their efforts toward the Canadian Parliament, which they hope will pass a law overruling existing policy – despite the opposition of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the National Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois. If they can get the center-left Liberal Party to go along, supporters say, such a bill could become law without Harper's support. "When I signed up for the Army in November 2003, I was thinking there were weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq had ties to 9/11," Johnson said. "Our president, our vice president, [then defense secretary] Donald Rumsfeld lied to us. They betrayed the American people and they're betraying every soldier they send over there to fight a war based on false pretenses and greed." Johnson has not seen his parents since he fled to Canada more than two years ago.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Debut For Reunited Spice Girls

The Spice Girls have performed live for the first time since their reunion, taking to the catwalk at a Victoria's Secret fashion show in Los Angeles. During the event at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood the group performed their new single 'Headlines' and their 1998 hit 'Stop'.After the performance Geri Halliwell said that the show was "a good warm-up" for the Spice Girls' world tour. Speaking to 'GMTV' she said that the concerts would be "full of drama".
Her fellow group member Emma Bunton said that they were having "the best time" since deciding to tour again. The five took to the stage last night wearing military outfits for their performance of 'Stop' and emerged wearing ballgowns for their second song 'Headlines'.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pedophile Allowed To Work In Kindergarten

A convicted pedophile sentenced to do community service in a German kindergarten will return to court next week to face charges of abusing two children there, a regional prosecutor's office said. The man was allowed to work as a janitor at the Evangelical Kindergarten St Petri in Melle, near the northern city of Osnabrueck, because a court worker missed three prior pedophilia convictions on his record, said Alexander Retemeyer, spokesman for the Osnabrueck prosecutor's office. The man, identified only as A.B., had been sentenced to 720 hours of community service earlier this year for working on the sly while collecting welfare payments."The colleague didn't pay attention and didn't see he had a sexual conviction, so she allowed him to serve in a kindergarten," Retemeyer said. "She didn't read the file." The prior convictions date from 1988-1990, when the man was living in the former East Germany, Retemeyer said. Though the convictions are listed in the man's criminal record, the details are unclear because prosecutors cannot access his East German police file. Police arrested the man in April after the head of the kindergarten reported he had fondled himself in front of two children.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dozens Of Taliban Killed In Airstrikes

U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces clashed with militants in southern Afghanistan and called in airstrikes that killed dozens of insurgents, a spokesman said. The NATO-led force, meanwhile, said the number of attacks by militants on remote government facilities have dropped by half this year compared with 2006. Insurgents attacked the joint force with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenades in the Deh Rawood district of Uruzgan province on Tuesday, before fleeing into a civilian home, the coalition said. Dozens of militants were killed during the operation, said Maj. Chris Belcher, a coalition spokesman. There were no reports of casualties among coalition and Afghan forces.More than 5,800 people, mostly militants, have died in insurgency-related violence this year, a record number, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials. The number of militant attacks on remote Afghan government district centers have decreased by half in 2007, said Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco, the spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force. Branco did not provide figures to back up his claim. A number of regional government centers have been overrun by militants in recent weeks, especially in the country's west and center. Militants usually flee the centers as Afghan and foreign troops approach. The militants use these attacks to make it look as though they control the area, Branco said.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Japan House Approves Afghan Mission

Japan’s lower house of parliament Tuesday approved the resumption of the country’s naval mission supporting the US-led “war on terror,” setting up a battle in the opposition-controlled upper house. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda pushed through the legislation days before he holds his first summit with US President George W Bush and amid speculation he will call a snap election if the opposition blocks the deployment. The lower house, where Fukuda’s coalition holds an overwhelming majority, voted 327-128 in favour of a bill to restart the mission, which provided fuel and other logistical aid on the Indian Ocean to vessels and war jets supporting US-led forces in Afghanistan. The naval mission, under way since 2001, ended on November 1 due to a deadlock in talks between the government and the opposition on extending the legislation. Fukuda leaves Thursday for Washington on his first trip abroad as premier as the latest poll showed for the first time that a majority of voters supported the naval deployment.The opposition won control of the upper house of parliament in July elections and has vowed that Japan should not take part in “American wars.” “There has never been a clear and unequivocal constitutional interpretation” to justify the mission, Ichiro Ozawa, head of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), told reporters. “History has shown the danger of sending troops overseas based on rhetoric,” Ozawa said. But the DPJ has been in disarray since its leader Ichiro Ozawa angered his colleagues this month by considering Fukuda’s offer of a grand coalition. Ozawa said he would step down but retracted his offer two days later. Fukuda’s predecessor Shinzo Abe, an outspoken advocate for a more robust foreign policy, resigned in September in part due to the opposition’s refusal to extend the naval mission. Abe returned to parliament Tuesday after prolonged treatment for stress-related illness and said he voted for the bill.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pawlenty Pushes Tax Breaks For Veterans

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants to give veterans a tax break and other help. The Republican governor outlined a package of 35 initiatives for veterans and soldiers on Monday. Many are ideas that would build on existing programs or have been proposed before. A keystone of his plan would eliminate the state income tax for military pay and pensions.The exemption would save veterans, active-duty troops and survivors of military retirees $25 million a year by 2012. The state used to offer a limited tax exemption for military pensions, but repealed that 20 years ago. Pawlenty says he will ask lawmakers to approve his wish list for veterans next year. He put the combined cost at $51 million.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bolton Blasts U.N.

Former U.S./U.N. ambassador John Bolton returned to U.N. headquarters in NYC on Friday to launch his new book "Surrender Is Not An Option" The controversial U.S. diplomat quit his U.N. post in November 2006 when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stalled a vote on his nomination. For the preceding 18 mos. Bolton served as UN ambassador under a temporary Congressional recess appointment that was to expire on January 1, 2007. With a Democratic Congress taking office and a rejected nomination likely, Bolton asked President Bush to withdraw his name rather than face an embarrassing defeat on the Senate floor. Now free from his White House shackles, Bolton pulled no punches as he lectured reporters. When asked about the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (the U.N. atomic watchdog) , Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been actively trying to head off U.S. moves to impose new sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt its atomic "research" program Bolton said: "He is an apologist for Iran. His actions have been contrary to Security Council resolutions. He may not think he is a secular Pope, but he thinks he is a secular cardinal who is over and above the member governments. This is a fundamental perversion of the way the IAEA ought to work. I think he is discrediting the IAEA and harming a very important UN agency."On the potential of U.S. military strike on Iran: "I always used to say when the President said it was unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons that he was a man of his word. When he said unacceptable, I thought what he meant was unacceptable. What that means is that you have to use military force if there is no other option." The veteran political operative who grew famous for leading Republican forces in the 2000 Florida presidential vote recount, spoke to an audience mixed with press, U.N. staffers and a sprinkling of diplomats eager to hear his take on U.N. issues and Washington machinations. He explained that his book was an "effort to describe what happens behind the scenes at the United Nations and the U.S. State Dept. To try and tell the story about how policy is developed on some critical issues," but Bolton insisted that the book is not a "kiss and tell." While the book has drawn mixed reviews inside the U.N., (the U.N. book store refuses to carry it), outside the world body, critiques seem to fall along partisan lines, republicans generally like it, democrats have called it a "waste of time." Bolton confessed that on many issues he really does not have a current pipeline into the White House, but he did not shy away from commenting on several key issues confronting the Bush administration. On turmoil in Pakistan: "I think that the United States has contributed to some of the instability by implying less than robust support of (President) Musharraf, not because we think he is a Jeffersonian democrat, but because of the strategic interest of insuring that the nuclear weapons don't get out of control." On Israel's recent strike on a suspected secret Syrian nuclear facility: "This was some kind of Syrian-North Korean joint venture in the nuclear field....So, it would not surprise me that to avoid inspection at Yongbyon (North Korea) they decided to recreate (a clone) near the Euphrates River (in Syria)....So, I could even see this as a three-way joint venture with Iran, North Korea and Syria." Bolton chastised the White House for maintaining a "gag" order on any comments pertaining to the Israeli strike: " The administration, I think, has made a real mistake in not allowing more facts to come out. Because, I think it is undercutting its own argument about North Korea's commitment to giving up its nuclear weapons program." Neither the office of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, nor the State Department would offer any reaction to the Bolton comments though several officials from the US/UN mission did accompany the former ambassador during his United Nations visit.

Spanish King Tells Chavez To 'Shut Up'

A summit aimed at developing closer ties between Latin America, Spain and Portugal has ended in bitter disagreement, with the King of Spain telling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to 'shut up'. Mr Chavez has a reputation for speaking his mind and during his closing speech at the Ibero American summit in Chile he launched into an angry attack on the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar.
King Juan Carlos
He called him a fascist and said snakes were more human. King Juan Carlos of Spain turned angrily to the Venezuelan leader and said "Why don't you shut up". The summit is supposed to bring the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Europe and Latin America closer together. This latest one in Chile only seems to have driven some of them further apart.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Brazil Discovers Huge New Oil Reserves

Brazil has discovered huge new petroleum reserves in its south that could turn the country into one of the biggest oil producers in the world, the government and its state-controlled oil company announced. If one of the deposits turns out to be as vast as it appears, Brazil will be in the same league "as the Arab countries, Venezuela and others," the senior minister in charge of the cabinet, Dilma Rousseff, said. Petrobras, Brazil's national oil company, said in a statement that exploration of its Tupi field, offshore Sao Paulo state, revealed it could produce up to eight billion barrels of light oil and natural gas. It said that find, along with another potential field still being explored farther south, could propel Brazil "among the countries with the biggest oil and gas reserves in the world." The head of Petrobras, Jose Sergio Gabrielli, told a media conference in Rio de Janeiro that Brazil's total reserves could now place it "between Nigeria and Venezuela." Shares in the company soared on the news, closing 14.57 percent higher at 93.40 reais on the Sao Paulo stockmarket. Petrobras's previous stated reserves, given at the end of 2006, were the equivalent of 11.46 billion barrels of oil. The Tupi find alone could boost that by 50 percent. Petrobras operates the Tupi area, of which it holds 65 percent. British energy group BG holds a 25 percent share in the field and Portugal's Petrogal-Galp Energia holds 10 percent. Petrobras also holds the lion's share of interest in the other field being tested. The Brazilian government said no more parts of the new field would be licensed out until a full evaluation was in. It said this was in "the public interest." The discoveries are a significant fillip for Brazil, coming at a time that the price of oil is sitting at a record high and heading towards 100 dollars per barrel. An analyst at the Brazilian Center for Infrastructure, Adriano Pires, agreed that "this is good news." But he noted that the Tupi field, 250 kilometres (155 miles) offshore, lies in very deep water, which will make extraction "very expensive." At best, he said, production would begin in around four or five years' time "It's only viable if oil prices stay high," he said. The Brazilian state holds a 55.7 percent of the shares with voting rights in Petrobras, giving it effective control of the energy giant, which currently pumps out nearly two million barrels of oil a day.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Weather Channel Founder Calls Global Warming A 'Scam'

When John Coleman founded The Weather Channel in the early 1980's, he probably never could have guessed that TWC would be promoting the theory of global warming in the 2000's. That's because Coleman doesn't believe in global warming, or so-called climate change. In a November 7 blog entry on, Coleman makes it clear that he does not oppose environmentalism, but he says that global warming is a "non-event, a manufactured crisis and a total scam." "I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists.I have studied. I have thought about it. I know I am correct," Coleman wrote. "The impact of humans on climate is not catastrophic. Our planet is not in peril." Coleman believes that in time, the global warming theory will be proven to be a scam when none of the predicted catastrophic events, such as coastal flooding and super storms, actually materialize. Coleman also criticized CNN, CBS, NBC, the Democratic party, and even California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, calling them "well informed, but very gullible." Coleman now works as a broadcast meteorologist at San Diego's KUSI-TV.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

High Five! Borat Is Back

Borat, the fictional Kazakh reporter who caused a diplomatic stir with his movie adventures in the United States, is back -- with a guide book to "the glorious nation of Kazakhstan" and "minor nation of U.S. and A." Borat Sagdiyev, a clueless and offensive journalist created by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, made television and movie audiences laugh and cringe but angered the government of Kazakhstan for portraying the former Soviet country as misogynistic, anti-Semitic and backward. The character continued in the same vein in a question and answer interview with Reuters via e-mail as the book was released in the United States and Canada this week:Q: Which country to do you prefer -- Kazakhstan or the USA?

A: "I very much preferring Kazakhstan - it nicest place in the world! Please, you must look on my guidings book and then come visit. Bring your whole family and stay at Astana Funworld Resort - it have beautiful beaches, almost totally free of landmines and the sea is guarantee to have no jellyfish, shark, or any other marine life."

Q: Which people are smarter?

A: "Kazakh peoples is definite has more powerful brains. Government scientist, Dr. Yamak have prove that our glorious leader, Premier Nazarbamshev have IQ of 412 and a brain that extend into most of his chest - it no surprise that he have never fail in complete any jigsaw puzzle. Since 93 percent of Kazakh people is direct relate to him within 3 generations, rest of population also shares this great intellects."

Q: What advice do you have for people traveling around the United States?

A: "My book contains many useful informations for Kazakh peoples traveling to US and A - for example, best places to photograph ladies without their knowledge, location of Grand Canyons if you need place to dispose of a wife and location of Kazakh Embassy and where to go if you want to shoot a Redindians."

Q: When can people expect to see you in Kazakhstan again?

A: "I already in Kazakhstan, living very happilys with my new wife. This morning, I was awoke by my clock-radio (electronic LED), after which I remove my wife from her cage and she make me delicious breakfast of western cereal 'Frosties', which I have with delicious fresh milk from her chests. I then attach her to her plough and send her into the fields before returning to my bed until she come back at luchtimes to feed me again. Life is very nice for us."

Q: Who do you favor for President in the United States?

A: "I cannot believe that it possible a woman can become Premier of US and A - in Kazakhstan, we say that to give a woman power, is like to give a monkey a gun - very dangerous. We do not give monkeys guns any more in Kazakhstan ever since the Astana Zoo massacre of 2003 when Torkin the orang-utan shoot 17 schoolchildrens. I personal would like the basketball player, Barak Obamas to be Premier."