Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iran Building Missiles With North Korea That Reach U.S.

Iran and North Korea are cooperating in the development of long-range missiles that could reach the U.S., according to a Pentagon official. Army Brig. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said in a speech on Monday that the Iranians are working on a space launcher that would help them develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the U.S.. "Not only North Korea, but Iran has shown some significant developments in their missile systems,” Gen. O’Reilly said in the speech, delivered to the George C. Marshall Institute. "They are working in concert with the North Koreans. They have made a claim that they are working toward developing a space launch capability, which also would give them an ICBM capability.” Missile Defense Agency briefing materials said Iran "could have an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. before 2015.”North Korea has already tested a missile said to have a range of more than 6,000 miles, and Iranians were on hand during Pyongyang’s unsuccessful test launch of a missile last July. Gen. O’Reilly said the U.S. missile defense system is designed to counter missiles from "rogue states” targeted at the U.S., according to reporters. His speech marked the first time the Pentagon has publicly commented on the missile cooperation between Iran and North Korea. But last week a British publication quoted a European source who claimed that North Korea was helping Iran prepare for an underground nuclear test, possibly before the end of this year. North Korea denied the claim, calling it a "sheer lie” and "fabrication.” However, North Korea has acknowledged that an Iranian delegation recently met with senior North Korean officials and signed a three-year agreement on scientific exchanges. Pyongyang did not specify those exchanges.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Israel Tells Iran: Stop It. Or Else!

Israel's prime minister made his strongest warning yet to Iran - saying Israel would meet a nuke threat with "all the means at our disposal." Ehud Olmert's hint at the possible use of nuclear weapons against Israel's archenemy came as he suggested that "much more severe steps should be taken" if U.S.-led diplomatic efforts fail to halt Tehran's drive toward atomic power. The hard line was echoed by Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who wants Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried in an international court for calling for genocide against Israel and Jews.
Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Olmert delivered his veiled threat at Israel's annual national security conference. "We can stand up against nuclear threats and prevent them," he said. "Anyone who threatens us . . . must know we have the determination and capability to respond with force, discretion and all the means at our disposal." Meanwhile, a pre-emptive military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities was a key topic yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "If there is military action, it will have catastrophic results not only in the region but the whole world," Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz predicted.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Lieberman Might Back Republican In 2008

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 2000 who won re-election as an independent last year, says he is open to supporting any party's White House nominee in 2008. "I'm going to do what most independents and a lot of Democrats and Republicans in America do, which is to take a look at all the candidates and then in the end, regardless of party, decide who I think will be best for the future of our country," Lieberman said. "So I'm open to supporting a Democrat, Republican or even an Independent, if there's a strong one. Stay tuned," said the three-term lawmaker who caucuses with Senate Democrats.
Senator Joe Lieberman
Lieberman is an ally of GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a 2008 hopeful, and supports President Bush's new Iraq strategy. Lieberman won re-election as an independent last fall when Democrats backed an anti-war candidate who won the party primary. Speaking of which politician he may support in 2008, Lieberman said, "Obviously, the positions that some candidates have taken in Iraq troubles me. Obviously, I will be looking at what positions they take in the larger war against Islamist terrorism." He added, "I am genuinely an independent. I agree more often than not with Democrats on domestic policy. I agree more often than not with Republicans on foreign and defense policy." The senator said he wanted to select someone "I believe is best for the future of our country. ... Party is important, but more important is the national interest. And that's the basis that I will decide whom to support for president."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

World War III Has Already Begun

A third World War is already underway between Islamic militancy and the West but most people do not realize it, the former head of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad said in an interview published in Portugal. ‘We are in the midst of a third World War,’ former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy told reporters. ‘The world does not understand. A person walks through the streets of Tel Aviv, Barcelona or Buenos Aires and doesn’t get the sense that there is a war going on,’ said Hakevey who headed Mossad between 1998 and 2003. ‘During World War I and II the entire world felt there was a war. Today no one is conscious of it. From time to time there is a terrorist attack in Madrid, London and New York and then everything stays the same.’
אפרים הלוי
Violence by Islamic militants has already disrupted international travel and trade just as in the previous two world conflicts, he said. Halevy, who was raised in war-time London, predicted it would take at least 25 years before the battle against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is won and during this time a nuclear strike by Islamic militants was likely. ‘It doesn’t have to be something very sophisticated, It doesn’t have to be the latest nuclear technology, it can be something simple like a dirty bomb which instead of killing millions only kills tens of thousands,’ he said. Halevy served as an envoy for former Isreali prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and is a former Israeli ambassador to the European Union.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Plot Against Kim Jong-Il Doubtful

South Korean officials denied a report that the North Korean military might have turned on the communist state's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il or that he could be ill. Japan's Jiji Press quoted a South Korean source familiar with North Korean affairs as saying that there was information that something unusual had taken place relating to Kim Jong-il.The source said there was fierce in-fighting among groups close to Kim and that he might be ill, had been put under house arrest by the secretive state's powerful military and was not in the capital Pyongyang. "We know of nothing to back it up," a Unification Ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "There are no unusual circumstances." A South Korean intelligence source also dismissed the report. Diplomatic officials in Pyongyang, contacted by telephone, said there were no signs of unusual activity on the streets of the impoverished country's capital.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Montreal School Boards Exempt Muslim Students From Music Class

A handful of school boards in Montreal are allowing Muslim students to opt out of mandatory music classes because some parents believe it contravenes the Qur'an. School boards are making the exception in an attempt to accommodate devout Muslim families who don't want their children to learn how to play instruments or sing. The director general of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), Tony Lacroce, told reporters that schools are increasingly willing to take steps to respect their students' cultural and religious backgrounds. "You have some parents who insist on it, and when the parents insist, then obviously we accommodate." The option of opting out creates some logistical concerns for music teachers, but Lacroce said students who don't participate in class can take part in other types of music education, such as studying composers.The efforts at accommodation are laudable but point to a need for greater discussion among Muslims and educators, according to Omar Koné, a Montreal imam who has worked as a consultant with school boards on the issue of religious accommodation. Only a small minority of Muslims believe music disrespects the Qu'ran's teachings. "This is beyond the requests of traditional Islam, and it might be also beyond reasonable accommodation," said Koné. Montreal's largest francophone school board, the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys, also allows Muslim students to opt out of music classes.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad Says Israel & U.S. Soon Will Die

Israel and the United States will soon be destroyed, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with Syria's foreign minister, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) website said in a report. Iran's official FARS news agency also reported the comments. "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad… assured that the United States and the Zionist regime of Israel will soon come to the end of their lives," the Iranian president was quoted as saying. "Sparking discord among Muslims, especially between the Shiites and Sunnis, is a plot hatched by the Zionists and the US for dominating regional nations and looting their resources," Ahmadinejad added, according to the report. The Iranian president also directly tied events in Lebanon to a wider plan aimed at Israel's destruction.He called on "regional countries" to "support the Islamic resistance of the Lebanese people and strive to enhance solidarity and unity among the different Palestinian groups in a bid to pave the ground for the undermining of the Zionist regime whose demise is, of course, imminent." Ahmadinejad has threatened the State of Israel with annihilation several times in recent months, and has recently added the US and Britain to the list of countries he says will be destroyed. Syria's Foreign Minister, Wailed Mualem, accused the US of attempting to carry out a "massacre of Muslims" and of sowing "discord among Islamic faiths in the region." Mualem called on "regional states to pave the ground for the establishment of peace and tranquillity… while preventing further genocide of the Muslims," the IRIB website said.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Al-Qaeda Threats Won't Stop Australian Paper

Death threats will not deter a Sydney Arabic newspaper editor from continuing to work and publish in western Sydney. A man claiming to represent al-Qaeda in Australia threatened to blow up the Sydney and Melbourne offices of al-Furat, an Arabic Australian newspaper, and kill its editor-in-chief, Hussein Khoshnow. ASIO and the NSW Police are investigating the message which was left at Mr Khoshnow's Fairfield office in western Sydney. Mr Khoshnow said he and his staff would continue to publish the newspaper and would not be intimidated by the threats. "We never thought that ... a man would be carrying threats on behalf of al-Qaeda in Australia," Mr Khoshnow told reporters. "That's why we're concentrating more on our family's safety issues, more than ourselves. "It's my family's safety and my staff's safety and it will not stop us doing whatever we are doing."The threats were apparently read out in Arabic from a script and left on a telephone answering machine ten days ago. Al-Furat is a secular national Arabic newspaper with a readership of about 20,000. Mr Khoshnow said the newspaper had published articles in support of Saddam Hussein's death sentence. "He (the caller) is supporting Saddam Hussein and his brother and speaking on behalf of al-Qaeda in Australia," Mr Khoshnow said. "It's a bit mixed and really confusing, but that's what he's saying." Mr Khoshnow, who came to Australia from Iraq in 1995, said the young male caller's accent was either from Yemen or Syria. "He's probably Australian-born with a Yemeni or Syrian background." He said he received a threatening email about a year ago from a purported al-Qaeda member in Libya and he suspected the two men were linked. "I think probably these people have a link together, that's why they haven't targeted any other newspapers in Australia, why are they only targeting us," he said.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Canada Making Enemies With Hamas

A top Hamas official claims Canada isn't acting in its national interests by boycotting Hamas. Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar warns Canada risks making itself an enemy of the Palestinian people and of the broader Islamist movement. Canada has deemed Hamas a terrorist organization.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay
Zahar is upset Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay didn't meet with him during his Middle Eastern visit. He claims the sanctions imposed by Canada have primarily hurt ordinary Palestinians while leaving the Hamas government standing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Chavez tells United States Gringos To Go To Hell!

Venezuelan lunatic Hugo Chavez has told the US government to "go to hell" after it questioned his plan to seek special powers to legislate by decree. Chavez, who was re-elected by a landslide in December, has launched a campaign to consolidate power by nationalising key industries, seeking expanded executive powers and pushing for unlimited presidential re-election. A US State Department spokesman called Chavez's proposal to allow presidents to rule by decree as "a bit odd" in a democracy. The Venezuelan president retaliated: "That is a sacrosanct legal authority of Venezuela. Go to hell, gringos! Go home! Go home! We're free here, and every day we'll be more free."He also took on US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has described him as a "negative force" in the region. Chavez - who called President Bush 'the devil' during a UN speech - said: "Hi Condoleezza, how are you? You've forgotten about me, my little girl." Venezuela's legislature this week is expected to give its final approval to the Enabling Law that would grant Chavez 18 months to decree legislation. The former soldier has said he would use the expanded powers to end the autonomy of the nation's central bank, create a national police force and boost state control over the nation's oil industry, which provides around 11 per cent of US oil imports.

One Soldier Killed As Philippines Raises Alert

Suspected supporters of Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf killed one Philippine soldier and wounded seven others in an ambush shortly before their leader was declared dead, the military said. The Philippines raised its alert level on Saturday in anticipation of possible retaliation from Abu Sayyaf followers after the group's leader, Khaddafy Janjalani, was confirmed dead following U.S. forensic tests. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said on Sunday the death of Janjalani in a gun battle in September was a "mortal turning point" for the Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines' deadliest Muslim rebel group. Confirmation that the country's most wanted man was dead crowned a recent run of success against the Abu Sayyaf, which has lost a clutch of senior commanders in gun battles with the military on the remote, southern island of Jolo.The military has said that the Abu Sayyaf is suffering from a leadership vacuum, but they cautioned that the group, with a core membership of around 250 or so, could still retaliate. "If they can make a statement through waging of terror activities, particularly in the urban areas, of course, this will have a big impact on us, but we would like to assure that we are on alert," Lieutenant-Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said. Early on Saturday afternoon, suspected Abu Sayyaf supporters shot dead a soldier on Jolo. Six were arrested. Arroyo has vowed to crush the rebels and around 7,000 soldiers, backed by U.S. equipment and advisers, have been hunting Abu Sayyaf leaders and a handful of Indonesian allies on Jolo since August. Analysts said the military's ground offensive prevents the militants from launching major attacks but small bombings could be set off in the south. The Philippines is also battling a communist insurgency and the military said that seven members of the Maoist New People's Army (NPA) and one soldier were killed in a gun battle in rural Quezon province, in northern Philippines. Unlike Muslim militants, who are largely concentrated in the south, the NPA is active across the entire Philippines and the military views its decades-old insurgency as the biggest security threat facing the archipelago.

Al-Qaida 'Wants To Follow Us Home'

Sen. John McCain, a probable GOP presidential candidate, says he would like more, but 20,000 additional U.S. troops in Iraq may be enough to turn the tide. The Arizona Republican who supports the surge also said he is leaning against supporting Gen. George Casey, former Iraq commander, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He added he has not yet decided whether to run for president, but his staff is "making all the preparations to move forward." Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., appeared along with McCain on "Meet the Press".
Senator John McCain
McCain said the U.S. public, which strongly opposes a troop increase in polls, should be made "more aware of the consequences of failure" in Iraq. "If we leave Iraq, I am convinced that al-Qaida and terrorist organizations will want to follow us home." Kennedy said Democrats support gradual withdrawal from Iraq, and did not rule out leaving some U.S. troops in the country.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Security Scare In The Air

A scare in the skies, crew members find a security breach in the bathroom of a plane Saturday, while it was still in the air. The plane originated from the ST. Paul / Minneapolis. Sun Country's Flight 245 took off from the Twin Cities to New York's JFK Airport, where police greeted passengers with rifles. The flight departed around 6:40 a.m. The flight was calm until it landed around 10:00 a.m. EST. The plane then came to an abrupt stop on the tarmac. "There were no announcements over the intercom whatsoever and the longer that we sat there and the more activity that you could see out the plane's window, the more nervous everybody was getting," said Andy Lawyer, a passenger on the plane. "There were sharp shooters all around and everything." It turns out, the commotion was all over a broken security seal on the smoke detector in the airplane's bathroom."There's a piece of tape that goes on the smoke detector after it's inspected and if that seal is broken, it means someone tried to tamper with the smoke detector, and that's a security breach," said Shaun Nugent, CEO of Sun Country Airlines. Nugent confirmed that a crew member noticed the problem and contacted federal authorities. Federal authorities deplaned, screened and placed the passengers on a bus while investigators focused on one man. The man was held by security for an extended period of time, and was then released. No further action was taken. Sun Country officials say they have not been able to determine when the security tape on the smoke detector was broken. Nothing else on the plane was found out of place. The plane has been placed back in service. No arrests were made.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Muslims Piss Off Australians

Australia’s Muslims gathered on Friday for prayers at mosques around the country under a suspicious spotlight yet again after another radical cleric inflamed tensions with his extremist views. The widening gulf between Australia’s small, mainly Sunni, Muslim community of some 280,000 people, and the rest of the country is leaving many Muslims feeling their appropriate consequence and young Muslims trapped between two cultures - Islam and Australia. Newspaper headlines read “Jihad sheik” and “Crazy sheik’s DVD of hate” after news that Sheik Feiz Mohammed, head of the Global Islamic Youth Center in Sydney, had called for child martyrs for Islam in a series of DVDs called the Death Series”. Muslims arriving on foot under a blazing hot sun at Sydney’s Lakemba mosque look nervously at a television crew, scared by previous encounters with local media they believe expose Islam and Muslims as evil. “I’m Australian, I was born here, this is the only country I know. We will defend this country against anyone,” one angry Muslim says in publicly declaring his patriotism for Australia.
Sheik Feiz Mohammed
Suspicion, uncertainty and mistrust lie at the heart of the widening gulf between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians. “There is still an element of fear out there,” says Keysar Trad, spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, and one of the faces of Islam in Australia. “I have had people put the head of a pig on my car and pigs’ trotters (feet) in the letterbox. I have had hate mail,” says Trad, who came to Australia with his family from Lebanon in 1976. Trad says that when he arrived as a boy, Australia was a very conservative and Christian nation, and he was forced to hide his Islamic faith. Religious prejudice then was based on ethics, unlike today when Muslims live under the shadow of terrorism. “A lot of people do not view Islam as modern or civilized,” he explains. “Today, Australia is less Christian, but less tolerant of Islam. Buddhism is more readily accepted because people see it as a force for peace and spirituality.” Like many migrants in Sydney, Muslims have grouped together for support, living in a handful of southwestern suburbs. One is nicknamed “Little Lebanon” due to the proliferation of Arabic signs and Muslim women shoppers in hijabs and scarfs. But this limited interaction between a small community and the rest of Australia has seen them categorized simply as Muslims, no matter where they were born.

Canada Investigating Terrorist Threat

Canadian authorities said they were investigating terrorist threats against Montreal's English-speaking community by a group claiming links to militant Quebec separatists who kidnapped and murdered a provincial minister in the 1970s. In a statement dated Jan. 15, a group claiming to be a cell of the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ) warns that attacks between Feb. 15 and March 15 would use booby-trapped parcels and remote-control devices with the intention of causing "maximum impact." "It's possible there will be injuries and deaths," warns the document obtained by reporters. The group said it would target shopping malls, bridges, rail lines, airport facilities, water supplies, municipal buildings and service stations.
Front de libération du Québec
"Is it a hoax, is it someone who wants to pass as an FLQ cell? This remains to be determined, but we are taking this very seriously," said Luc Bessette, spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The same group issued a warning of attack last November, referring to the same date. In 1970, the shadowy FLQ demanded "total independence" from Canada. Its members kidnapped and killed Quebec's labor minister and later abducted, then freed, a British diplomat. The subsequent "October Crisis" was considered one of the darkest periods in modern Canadian history. Canadian troops patrolled the streets of Quebec and jailed alleged FLQ sympathizers, most of whom were later found innocent of having any ties to the militant group. Since then, the separatist Parti Quebecois has gained seats in the provincial assembly, but twice failed to win referendums calling for independence of the French-speaking province. The political party has never advocated violence in its struggle for sovereignty. While the Quebec separatist movement has not displayed the militancy of the 1970s in recent years, polls indicate the movement is far from dead, with support for Quebec's independence hovering between 40 to 45 percent.

Friday, January 19, 2007

President Considers Pardon for Border Patrolmen

President Bush said a pardon was possible for two Border Patrol agents serving prison sentences for shooting a Mexican drug dealer as he fled and then covering up the crime. "There's a process for pardons," Bush said, adding the case has to work its way through the system. In an interview with reporters in El Paso, Bush urged people to "take a sober look at the case." "People need to take a tough look at the facts, the evidence a jury looked at, as well as the judge. And I will do the same thing," he said. Several lawmakers have urged the president to pardon former Border Patrol agents Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos for the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who retreated to Mexico after he was shot and later admitted he was transporting marijuana while in the country illegally.The agents began serving their federal prison sentences Wednesday — 11 years and one day for Ramos and 12 years for Compean. Both were fired after their convictions on several charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, obstruction of justice and a civil rights violation. Rancor over the convictions and sentencing of the agents has been simmering for months, and the two have become a cause celebre among conservatives and on talk shows. Their supporters have said they were defending themselves and have called them heroes. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced a bill Thursday calling for a congressional pardon of the agents. Congress has never issued pardons to anyone convicted of a crime, said Joe Kasper, Hunter's spokesman. But Kasper said Hunter believes there's enough ambiguity in the law on pardons to give it a try.

The Road To Nowhere

The two-lane road meanders for about a mile through open land primed for development. In the distance, houses with fresh paint and new sod peek out from behind transplanted trees. The road was built so residents in bustling New Tampa could get from Hillsborough to Pasco County without having to take traffic-clogged Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. But at the end of the road, named Kinnan Street, sit barricades and weeds. Sixty feet away, across the county line, is another road, which was supposed to connect and complete the path to Pasco. But the two roads might never meet, leaving the street a worthless $2.2-million road to nowhere. Hillsborough officials say Pasco had promised to connect the two roads. But Pasco now says it doesn't want the extra traffic from New Tampa on already battered streets.Because of crossed signals between the two counties, the road may never be used to its full potential. "We did our job," said Bob Campbell, Hillsborough's director of transportation and land development review. "(Pasco) indicated to us they'd make it connect at the appropriate time." Pasco County officials now say there might never be a right time. "We cannot consider (joining the roads)," said Bipin Parikh, assistant Pasco County administrator. He said he needs to look out for the residents and streets of Meadow Pointe, to the north of the road with traffic problems of its own. Parikh said if the connection is made between Kinnan Street and Meadow Pointe's Mansfield Boulevard, motorists from New Tampa would then head west on County Line Road. That is essentially the only convenient way in and out for Meadow Pointe's roughly 7,000 families and already is so well-used it needs resurfacing, he said. "Everyone is familiar with Cross Creek Boulevard and the traffic nightmare on that road," he said. "I do not want County Line Road to become a Cross Creek." But some New Tampa residents aren't happy, saying traffic flows both ways. "We all live together and work together," said Joyce Clayton, of Cross Creek. "Everyone has traffic issues, no matter which county we live in." There's nothing Hillsborough can do about Pasco's position, Campbell said, and even if there was, he's not sure the county would take any action. Instead, he points to Hillsborough's efforts to make traffic flow better for motorists from both counties. "We are getting ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to widen Bruce B. Downs to eight lanes, and a good portion of traffic on that road is coming in and out of Pasco County," Campbell said.

Walking To Support The Military

On Nov. 9, aware of the United States' war effort, Craig Breiner got an idea — walk 50 miles, carrying an American flag, in support of the military and veterans. Two days later, on Veterans Day, Breiner stepped off the Belmar boardwalk, with the Atlantic Ocean behind him and the Delaware River and Trenton ahead of him. "I had no preparation," said Breiner, 30, who lives in a Windmill Club townhouse in Howell."It was a spur of the moment, last second thing." "I was about ready to have a baby, any day," said his wife, Brooke, 28. "I didn't want him to go. He went anyway." A baby boy, Christian, arrived three days later, Nov. 14. Breiner also has a daughter, Emily, 6. As for Breiner, he did not arrive — instead petering out along the Manalapan-Millstone Township boundary, or about 38 miles and 9 1/2 hours into the walk. "I was moving 'til the last two miles," Breiner said. "Then, my knee . . ." "I have a bad knee," Breiner added, explaining he injured his right knee in a Marine Corps training accident. "I wear a knee brace." Breiner served as a Marine from 1999 to 2003. He was recalled to duty in 2004 to 2005, including about seven months in Iraq. He is now considered an inactive reservist.The Marine is going to try again, Saturday — starting in Belmar at 16th Avenue and the boardwalk at 6 a.m., aiming to end at the Statehouse in Trenton around 7 p.m. The November walk was his longest ever, with 32-mile hike while a Marine in second place. Breiner's November walk was prompted in part by a comment a few days earlier by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Kerry said: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." Some viewed the comment as suggesting military members were uneducated or not smart, while Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, had said his remark was a "botched joke" referring to President Bush's smarts. "I don't care how he said it, he still said it," Breiner said. Also, according to Breiner, much talk of the Iraq War is negative, forgetting the good being done by American troops, such as creating democracy there. "Something's got to be done," Breiner said. "I pondered what to do. (It) just popped into my head to do a walk." While in Iraq, Breiner met two boys, one about 9 years old without a hand and another, about 13, missing an ear, he said. Breiner said the boys, reportedly, were dismembered because family members worked as translators for American troops. "The 9-year-old said, one day, he's going to be president of a free Iraq," Breiner said.In November, Breiner sought no publicity. He walked by himself, with his family a cellular telephone call away. Along the way, people noticed the man presenting the 3 1/2-foot by 6-foot flag on a 6-foot staff and shouldering a backpack. Attached to the backpack was a sign, "Walking from Belmar to Trenton in support of our troops." Vets saluted him and people with family stationed in Iraq photographed him, both inspiring him to walk again. On Saturday, he will have family members driving along as a support crew. This time, there has been some publicity. John Giunco, 78, an Army veteran of the Korean War and a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4374 in Freehold Township, said publicity gained from the walk is "probably good (and) can't do any harm." "I've been getting a lot of phone calls, e-mails, that people are going to join me (walking)," Breiner said. "I would love them to join me." In Trenton, a candlelight nondenominational prayer service on the steps of the Statehouse is planned, along with a moment of silence for all American troops killed in action, no matter what war, Breiner said."Support our troops?" said Tony Modzelewski, 66, past commandant of the Corporal Philip A. Reynolds Detachment of the Marine Corps League, based in the Freehold area. "I think he's doing a great job, then. We can always use awareness of what's going on." "Frankly, I couldn't walk 10 miles, but I think I've got a few years on him," said Giunco, 78. Time will tell if Breiner completes the walk. There is the distance, walking with an unnatural gait while displaying the flag, the flag caught in a breeze, and plans to work on Friday at his full-time day job — at Air Cruisers, a Wall aircraft equipment company, where he is a technician — and to 10 p.m at his part-time job — as a security guard at Freehold Raceway Mall in Freehold Township. But Breiner, who has worked as a special police officer during summers in Belmar since 1997, acted determined. "Rain, shine, snow," Breiner said, explaining troops have to deal with all kinds of weather. "Weather's not going to play a factor. "This time, I think I'm going to try to set a steady pace and stick with it," Breiner said.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Judges Unfit To Rule On Terror Policy

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rapped federal judges for ruling on cases that affect national security policy. Judges, he contended, are unqualified to decide terrorism issues that he said are best settled by Congress or the president. In a sharply worded speech directed at the third, and equal, branch of the government, Gonzales outlined some of the qualities the Bush administration looks for when selecting candidates for the federal bench. He condemned what he termed activist judges with lifetime appointments who "undermine the right of the people to govern themselves." In nominating a judge, "we want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected judiciary inferior to Congress or the president in making policy judgments," Gonzales said in the 20-minute speech to American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Gonzales did not cite any specific activist jurists or give examples of national security cases. Pressed later for examples, he noted that Congress approved the Military Commissions Act, which authorizes military trials for terrorism suspects, four months after the Supreme Court ruled the trials would violate U.S. and international law. "I don't think the judiciary is equipped at all to make decisions about what's in the national security interests of our country," Gonzales said. "How would they go about doing that? They don't have embassies around the world to give them that information. They don't have intelligence agencies gathering up intelligence information. ... It was never intended that they would have that role." Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said it is inevitable that courts would decide some of the most contentious questions involving national security. "Some of the most difficult issues are about national security, how to balance national security and civil liberties — especially in the context of domestic surveillance and enemy combatants," Tobias said. "Those are critically important issues that the courts are being asked to resolve." Gonzales, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, also characterized efforts to retaliate against unpopular rulings as misguided. He mentioned a failed South Dakota proposal to sue or jail judges for making unpopular court decisions. He also urged Congress to consider increasing the number of federal judges to handle heavy workloads and to offer them higher salaries to lure and keep the best ones on the bench.

Philippines President Vows Pressure On Islamic Militants

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo pledged to keep up the pressure on Islamic militants with links to Al-Qaeda, one day after the military said it had slain the group's main leader. "The relentless pressure we have applied in the field is taking its toll and we will keep it up until all the terrorists and their clandestine cells are accounted for," Arroyo said in a statement. She commended troops for the reported killing of Abu Solaiman, described by the military as the most important leader of the Abu Sayyaf group. Arroyo said her government would work more closely with the United States to tighten the "dragnet and stop the movement of terrorists" and funds used by such groups across Southeast Asia. The Philippines military said Solaiman, also known as Jainal Antel Sali, was killed Monday in a clash with Filipino special forces on Jolo island, where over 5,000 troops had mounted a months-long manhunt.
President Gloria Arroyo
The US government had earlier offered up to five million dollars for the capture of Solaiman, who allegedly masterminded a string of deadly bombings including a 2004 attack on a ferry that killed over 100 people on Manila Bay. He is also accused of having planned the kidnapping of American Christian missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Peru-born Californian Guillermo Sobero. The two men were killed in captivity but Gracia Burnham was later rescued. The military earlier claimed it had recovered the decomposing body of a man they believed was top Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani, who was supposedly killed in a clash in September. US forensics experts are helping Filipino authorities confirm the identity of the corpse described as that of Janjalani. Philippines officials said Solaiman's presumed corpse would also undergo DNA testing. With the presumed deaths of the two Abu Sayyaf leaders, security forces said the group has now broken up into smaller groups operating in Jolo's dense jungles.
Western Mindanao military chief Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo (2R) inspect different kind of ammunitions and electronic materials used by the Abu Sayyaf in manufacturing crude bombs in Jolo island in Southern Philippines.
Two Indonesian militants from the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network blamed for the October 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali are also believed to be hiding out there. "This government is determined to finish the job with a hand of steel against evil, and to usher in a durable peace through economic development, interfaith dialogue and international cooperation," Arroyo said. The Abu Sayyaf and JI are on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organizations with links to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

Castro Declines Colostomy After He Received Incompetent Care From Cuba's Free Public Health Care System

Cuban leader Fidel Castro chose to avoid a colostomy and opted for riskier intestinal surgery that led to serious complications, the Spanish newspaper El Pais said. The shortcut involved sewing the colon to the rectum but did not heal properly and broke apart, releasing gastric fluid with faeces that caused serious infection. The newspaper reported a day earlier that Castro's prognosis was "very serious" and that he is being fed intravenously after three failed operations for diverticulitis, or pouch-like bulges in the large intestine that get infected. El Pais cited medical sources at the same Madrid hospital where a surgeon who examined Castro in late December works.A colostomy, the usual procedure for diverticulitis after removing part of the intestine, is an opening in the abdomen to release waste into an external bag. A second operation is required to rejoin the intestine. "Castro and his entourage, according to medical sources close to the case, rejected this approach because they considered it uncomfortable and did not want him to undergo a second operation," El Pais said. The advantage of the shorter procedure was that Castro could have been back on his feet within days if it had worked. Instead, he suffered a second peritonitis, or infection, requiring two further operations, it added. United States doctors said the report suggested Castro had received questionable or even botched care from Cuba's doctors and the free public health care system that Castro has long prided himself on!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Philippine Troops Overrun Muslim Militant Camp On Southern Island

Troops battled al-Qaida-linked Muslim extremists on a southern Philippine island, capturing a rebel camp and killing one militant, officials said. Army soldiers fought 60 Abu Sayyaf members in mountainous Talipao town on Jolo island, military spokesman Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said. Talipao is 950 kilometers (590 miles) south of Manila. The clash with the group of Abu Solaiman, a senior Abu Sayyaf leader on a U.S. list of terrorists, also left two soldiers wounded. "We believe that Abu Solaiman was wounded," Bacarro added without elaborating. The U.S. government is offering a U.S.$5 million (€3.86 million) reward for Solaiman's capture. Bacarro said troops overran the militant's jungle camp, where soldiers found 17 bunkers and bomb-making tools.Last week, troops killed senior Abu Sayyaf militant Binang Sali in a gunfight in Jolo's Patikul town. Officials said Sali led an urban terror unit of the Muslim extremist group. Earlier this month, soldiers clashed with militants aboard a motorboat off nearby Tawi Tawi province, 1,050 kilometers (656 miles) southwest of Manila, killing Gufran, an Indonesian terrorist suspect who goes by one name, and five Abu Sayyaf members. Gufran was a key aide of Dulmatin, a top Indonesian terror suspect who has been hunted by troops in a monthslong U.S.-backed offensive on southern Jolo island, officials said. Gufran's reported death bolsters military reports that Indonesian militants have taken refuge in the southern Philippines — scene of a decades-old Islamic separatist insurgency.

Bomb plot uncovered at Finnish base in Afghanistan

An attempted bomb attack was uncovered against a military base in Afghanistan housing Finnish peacekeepers. According to the peacekeeping force the bomb was discovered in time and diffused.The incident occurred at the Maimana base in northern Afghanistan one day before Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian foreign minister, was scheduled to visit the base. Mr Store's visit is to go ahead as planned. A total of around 200 Finnish, Latvian and Norwegian troops, all part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), are housed at the base in Maimana.

Indian Police Probe Kidney Sales By Tsunami Victims

Police in southern India say they have uncovered evidence of illegal trade in kidneys sold by poor fishermen and their families whose livelihoods were destroyed by the Indian Ocean tsunami two years ago. Community leaders in Eranavoor village, just north of Chennai, admitted that about 100 people, mostly women, have sold their kidneys for 40,000-60,000 rupees ($900-$1,350) since the December 26, 2004, disaster. "We have launched a comprehensive investigation," Letika Saran, police chief of Chennai, told reporters. This appears to be a big racket and we are collecting the details of donors and the hospitals involved," said another police officer, who declined to be identified. Some of the 1,800 families near the city of Chennai say fishing became impossible after their seaside village was washed away and they were moved about 12 km (7 miles) inland to Eranavoor."There were hardly two or three cases of a kidney sale in a year in our colony before the tsunami," Maria Selvam, president of the local fishermen's association, said. More than 7,000 people were killed when giant waves smashed into the coast of Tamil Nadu, the southeastern state of which Chennai is the capital. While India was initially praised for its response to the disaster, non-government groups have since criticized the government for not providing adequate housing to the tens of thousands of people who survived but lost homes and livelihoods. Among those who lost her house was Thilakavathy Agatheesh, 30, who said she sold a kidney in May 2005 for 40,000 rupees ($1=44.33 Indian Rupee) in the hope of setting up a small restaurant -- only to see her alcoholic former fisherman husband waste the money. "I used to earn some money selling fish but now the post-surgery stomach cramps prevent me from going to work," she said.

Only Registered Voters May Receive Communion

A Catholic diocese in Nigeria has instructed parishioners to show they have registered to vote in April elections or forsake the right to take communion. The diocese of Nsukka in the southeastern state of Enugu circulated a bulletin in Catholic churches on Sunday telling the faithful that they had to make their vote count in this year's elections despite Nigeria's long history of poll rigging. "Whoever has not collected the voter's card after February 7 has automatically alienated himself or herself from the community, the Church, the nation and will not be allowed to receive the holy communion," the bulletin said.Church leaders often comment on political issues in Nigeria, a fervently religious country about evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Nigerians are due to elect their president, state governors and lawmakers in polls that should mark the first handover from one democratic government to another in Africa's most populous nation and biggest oil producer. "You might have often heard ... that the election has been concluded, that your votes will not count and that you will definitely be wasting your precious time if you go out to vote," the bulletin from the Nsukka diocese was quoted as saying. "The Catholic Secretariat of Nsukka wishes to inform you that (this is) calculated political propaganda aimed at creating despondency in you so that they will steal away an unmerited victory."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Castro In Grave Condition

Cuban leader Fidel Castro is in serious condition after a series of three failed operations on his large intestine for diverticulitis complicated by infection, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported. Castro, 80, suffered a serious infection that worsened to peritonitis according to two medical sources at the Madrid hospital where a surgeon who visited Castro in December works. Castro's prognosis is "very serious" and he is being fed intravenously, the paper said. A first operation to extract part of his large intestine and connect the colon to the rectum was a failure and the link broke, releasing faeces into the abdomen that caused another peritonitis, the newspaper reported.A second operation to clean and drain the infected area and perform a colostomy also failed, the paper said. A third operation implanted a prosthesis, it said. When Spanish surgeon Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido visited Castro in late December, Cuban doctors were considering another operation, the paper said. "The patient required drainage for more than half a litre of fluids a day, which is causing him a severe loss of nutrients," the paper reported. Castro, who took power in Cuba in 1959, has not been seen in public since July 26. He handed over power to his brother five days later, fuelling speculation he is so ill he may never return to power on the communist-run Caribbean island. In a New Year's message issued on December 30, Castro told Cubans that he was recovering slowly from surgery and said his recovery was "far from being a lost battle." Garcia Sabrido, the Spanish surgeon, said after his visit in December that Castro did not have cancer and could return to govern Cuba if he recovered fully from his surgery.

Saudis May Ban The Letter ‘X’

A group of Islamic clergy in Saudi Arabia has condemned the letter "X because of its similarity to a hated banned symbolthe cross. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which has the ultimate say in all legal, civil and governance matters in the kingdom, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against the "X.” It came in response to a Ministry of Trade query about whether a Saudi businessman could be granted trademark protection for a new service with the English name "Explorer.” The request from the businessman, Amru Mohammad Faisal, was turned down."Experts who examined the English word ‘explorer’ were struck by how suspicious that ‘X’ appeared,”. "In a kingdom where preachers routinely refer to Christians as pigs and infidel crusaders, even a twisted cross ranks as an abomination.” In response to the turndown, Faisal wrote an article that appeared on several Arabian Web sites, sarcastically suggesting that the authorities might consider banning the "plus” sign in mathematics because of its similarity to the cross. Among the commission’s earlier edicts is the 1974 fatwa declaring that the Earth is flat.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Saddam’s Half Brother And Cohort Hanged

Saddam Hussein’s half brother and the former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court were both Hanged before dawn Monday, Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon said, two weeks and two days after the former Iraqi dictator was executed in a chaotic scene that has drawn worldwide criticism. Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, had been found guilty along with Saddam in the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims after a 1982 assassination attempt on the former leader in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad. “They (the government) called us before dawn and told us to send someone. I sent a judge to witness the execution and it happened,” al-Faroon said.The executions reportedly occurred in the same Saddam-era military intelligence headquarters building in north Baghdad where the former leader was hanged two days before the end of 2006, according to an Iraqi general, who would not allow use of his name because he was not authorized to release the information. The building is located in the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah. The two men were to have been hanged along with Saddam on Dec. 30, but Iraqi authorities decided to execute Saddam alone on what National Security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie called a “special day.” Last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani urged the government to delay the executions.

Sinn Fein Talks Aimed At Backing Police

The executive of Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland's main Roman Catholic party, voted for the second time overnight to press ahead with a landmark conference on its attitude to policing - the main obstacle to restoring power-sharing in Belfast. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams recalled the Ard Chomhairle (national executive) in Dublin to reconsider last month's decision to hold a conference on whether to back a reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The step was taken after Adams accused the Democratic Unionists (DUP) - Northern Ireland's biggest Protestant party - of reneging on a alleged deal that would have seen them welcoming a republican plan for a policing ballot. After the six-hour meeting, a spokesman said that, on the urging of Adams, the executive passed a motion for the conference to go ahead on January 28 by more than two-thirds.The refusal of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), to back the PSNI has been a major stumbling block to restoring a power-sharing government in Belfast. The party has historically opposed recognising the force and its predecessor the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) due to a perceived Protestant bias. The British and Irish governments said a decision on policing and power sharing was needed before the end of January if an election is to be called. The governments have set a March 26 deadline for the restoration of power-sharing between majority Protestants, who mostly favour retaining links with Britain, and Catholics, who largely favour union with the Republic of Ireland. Self-rule was among the main planks of the landmark 1998 Good Friday agreement which ended three decades of "the Troubles", in which over 3,500 people died, many at the hands of the IRA. But devolved government was suspended in 2002 after allegations of an IRA spy ring at Stormont, the Belfast seat of administration, and Northern Ireland has been under direct rule from London since.

White House Defends Arrest Of Iranians In Iraq

The White House defended its decision to arrest five Iranians in two raids in northern Iraq and said the U.S. has the authority to arrest them as they were a risk to the US forces in Iraq. The White House also added that Iran is aiding insurgency in Iraq. We are going to need to deal with what Iran is doing inside Iraq, said National Security adviser Stephen Hadley, in an interview. He added that if Iranians in Iraq "are doing things that are putting are people at risk, of course we have the authority to go after them and protect our people." We know also that Iran is supplying elements in Iraq that are attacking Iraqis and attacking our forces," Hadley said."What the president made very clear is these are activities that are going on in Iraq that are unacceptable. They put our people at risk. He said very clearly that we will take action against those. We will interdict their operations, we will disrupt their supply lines, we will disrupt these attacks." US troops had arrested Iranians in two raids in the Kurdish-controlled city of Irbil in northern Iraq last week, just hours before President Bush vowed in a nationally televised speech to clamp down on support that Iran and Syria allegedly are providing to militants in Iraq. The US military said that the five Iranians arrested in northern Iraq last week were connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents in Iraq. However, Iran's government denied allegations and said that the five arrested men should be released.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Saddam Hussein Morgue Video

'Red Crystal' Debuts To Protect Medics

The Red Crystal will make its debut tomorrow as an additional emblem that can be used to protect relief workers in combat in cases where they don't wish to use either the Red Cross or Red Crescent. But it is unlikely to be widely displayed in the near future. The emblem was designed as part of complicated, long-running negotiations to include Israel in the Red Cross movement without giving the red shield used by Magen David Adom society -- similar to the star on the Israeli flag -- the same status as the cross and crescent, which have been used by medics on the battlefield for more than a century. Some countries feared adding the Israeli society's symbol to the list of protective emblems would open the door to proliferation of such symbols, potentially reducing the recognition and protection of any of them.But Red Cross officials conceded yesterday it will take time before the crystal -- a red square frame standing on one corner -- will be widely enough known that medics will be able to work under it on the battlefield without fear of being targeted by one side or the other. "We have no indication at the moment anybody is going to start using it" immediately, said Antonella Notari, chief spokesperson of the international committee of the Red Cross. "It's legally now a protective emblem, but there's a lot of work to be done for it to be in reality and concretely a protective emblem because it needs to be known in the field and respected," she told reporters. The treaty authorizing the new symbol is entering into force six months after Switzerland and Norway became the first two countries to ratify the accord aimed at including Israel's Magen David Adom society in the Red Cross movement. So far 84 countries have signed the treaty, and nine have ratified it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Japan Considering Iraq Options

Japan is considering its options regarding Air Self-Defense Force personnel deployment and financial assistance to Iraq following U.S. President George W. Bush's announcement of a new strategy Wednesday, according to sources. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said at a press conference that Japan is considering a plan to continue providing assistance. "We'll actively work with the international community to help overcome the current difficulties in Iraq and bring about a stable state through the deployment of the ASDF in air transportation missions, the provision of yen loans and other support," Shiozaki said.The government is expected to closely observe any changes in the security situation and consider how long ASDF personnel should continue to operate in Iraq. Three C-130 transport planes and about 210 ASDF personnel are currently engaged in air transportation missions under the special law on Japan's support for Iraq reconstruction. The government plans to extend the law, which expires at the end of July, and continue to deploy personnel. A high-ranking official at the newly upgraded Defense Ministry said the timing of the final withdrawal of ASDF personnel from Iraq would depend on the effectiveness of the new U.S. plan."If the reinforcement of U.S. troops brings stability and a full-scale withdrawal of multinational forces begins, the demand for the ASDF's services will lessen," the official said. "It's crucial we form a clear view of when the security situation will stabilize." The need for additional financial assistance may also need to be examined. "We'll also have to consider (further financial aid) if the United States calls upon us for assistance," said a top Foreign Ministry official in regard to the more than $1.1 billion in additional funds allocated by the United States as part of its new strategy.

Saudi Arabia's First Woman Pilot

Keeping in line with the reforms sweeping Saudi Arabia, the kingdom will soon see its first woman pilot taking over the skies. Capt. Hanadi Zakariya Hindi will begin her flying stint with one of the jets belonging to Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, founder and chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, later this year as soon as she completes her advance pilot proficiency training programme.
Capt. Hanadi Zakariya Hindi
Though this is a path-breaking achievement for the 26-year-old first accredited female Saudi pilot, she will still need to be driven by a male chauffeur to the airport, the Arab News said. Women are still not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia."I am busy building my flying hours and will be attending a short-term course to equip myself with more intimate knowledge of the jet owned by Prince Alwaleed," Hindi said. Being proud to be the first Saudi woman to fly professionally she claimed the aviation industry is no longer a male bastion."I recently met Aisha Al-Hamli, the first Emirati woman pilot, in Dubai," Hindi remarked.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Spie Transmitters In Canadian Coins

The Pentagon is warning its American contractors of a new spy threat. A government report said Canadian coins with tiny radio transmitters hidden inside were found planted on contractors with classified security clearances on at least three occasions. The incidents occurred between October 2005 and January of last year after the contractors traveled through Canada.The report doesn't suggest who might be tracking the defense contractors or why. Other unanswered questions include how the Pentagon discovered the ruse, how the transmitters might function and what type of coin contained them. The Defense Security Service said the report has been "sanitized" and further details are secret. Canadian intelligence said it knows nothing about the coins.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Al Qaeda Deepens Presence Around Israel

Al Qaeda is increasing its presence in 3 of the 4 states neighboring IsraelLebanon, Syria and Egypt, according to Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, Head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence ('Aman'). "Dozens, perhaps hundreds of Al Qaeda men have reached Lebanon," said Yadlin. "The men are trained and possess terrorist knowledge," said Yadlin, adding that the assumption was that Aiman Al-Zwahiri, Al Qaeda's no. 2 person, had given the order for the terror organization's men to spread out in the three Arab countries.Yadlin said the Al Qaeda terrorists in Lebanon posed a threat mostly to UNIFIL and western interests in Lebanon. He added that a small number of Al Qaeda men had reached Gaza, and that the IDF had arrested several Al Qaeda terrorists in the Shechem area in Samaria. He was speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.

Kids Kicked Off School Bus For Speaking English

Imagine sending your kids off to school, but when they get to the bus they are told they can't get on because they speak English. That's right, English. It happened to a few children in St. Paul and now the school district is apologizing. Rachel Armstrong sent her kids to pick up the bus as usual Monday, but after the driver let the kids on, he told them he would not pick them up again. He even said he wouldn't take them home that afternoon. Armstrong left work early Tuesday, forced to pick up her kids from Phalen Lake Elementary School. Her twin girls, 10, and her son, 8, were kicked off their regular school bus. They were told by the bus driver the route is for non-English speaking students only."I was furious. I was at work and I was just mad." Armstrong said. "I felt like we were being discriminated because we speak English. Just because they speak English, they can't ride the school bus. I mean, this is America, right?" Administrators at St. Paul Public Schools admit the district made a mistake when it stranded the kids at school Monday. However, the district points out, that particular bus route serves one of three language academies. The one at Phalen Lake is for Hmong students learning English. The academies all have separate bus routes to keep its students together. The district decided to enforce the separate routes beginning Monday, but it did not tell the Armstrong family. "It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of these kids and we made a mistake. The kids should have gotten home that day," Dayna Kennedy, public relations representative. The district also discovered the Armstrongs no longer live in the Phalen Lake School boundary because they moved last year. So even thought the district apologized, if they want to still go to Phalen, they are going to have to get their own ride.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Flying Vikings Prepare For Deployment

Members of Minnesota's only Air Force Reserve unit are getting ready to head overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. About three-dozen members of the 934th Airlift Wing will deploy today to Southwest Asia. The group is part of about 150 members of the "Flying Vikings" who are being deployed during January and February.Governor Pawlenty plans to visit today with the reservists and their families. The 934th is a combat-ready Air Force Reserve Command flying unit based at Twin Cities International Airport. The unit flies C-130H cargo planes and also evacuates injured troops.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Japan Set To Create First Post-War Defense Ministry

Japan is to create a full-fledged defense ministry for the first time since its World War II defeat, when the United States stripped the country of its right to a military. The government is to upgrade the existing Defense Agency into the Defense Ministry. The agency had a lower standing than full-fledged ministries as Japan's 1947 constitution declared the country to be pacifist. The creation of the ministry was a top priority for Prime Minster Shinzo Abe. The Diet, or parliament, passed the required legislation, with support from both the ruling coalition and main opposition, late December. The move is based on "a change in the security environment surrounding our country," Defense Agency Chief Fumio Kyuma said during a military exercise in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo, at the weekend.
Japan's Defense Agency Director General Fumio Kyuma
"It is important to make our Self-Defense Force more powerful," said Kyuma, who is to become the nation's first defense minister since the end of the war. Japanese troops will still be called the "Self-Defense Force" despite the creation of the ministry. The country has one of the world's biggest military budgets at 4.81 trillion yen (41.6 billion dollars) a year. Previous attempts to create a defense ministry stalled over political sensitivities in light of Japan's past aggression and fears of upsetting neighboring countries. In a groundbreaking move, Japan sent troops on a reconstruction mission to Iraq, the first time since 1945 that it had deployed to a country where fighting was underway. The troops suffered no casualties and never fired their weapons, relying on Australian, British and Dutch forces to protect them. Japan also sent close to 1,000 troops to Indonesia to assist with relief after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Besides symbolism, the law will also give the defense ministry more power in internal wrangling by letting it submit its own budget requests. The law changes the status of troops, listing overseas activities as one of their missions. Until now, deployments abroad were considered "extraordinary", leading the government to seek parliamentary approval. The bill also scraps the Defense Agency body that manages facilities after employees were arrested for alleged bid-rigging. The government of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi cited the scandal to delay the creation of the defense ministry.

Monday, January 08, 2007

US Pizza Chain Will Accept Mexican Pesos

People can now spend their hard-earned pesos -- yes, pesos -- at an American restaurant. A Dallas-based restaurant chain has started accepting Mexican currency, pesos, as payment, according to reporters. The Pizza Patrón chain caters heavily to Hispanics.The paper reported that restaurant experts and economists believe this is the first food chain with locations so far from the Mexican border that offers the service. "We're trying to reach out to our core customer," Antonio Swad, president of Pizza Patrón Inc., told reporters.He said that people return from Mexico with leftover pesos, and the chain wants to be a convenient place for them to spend the pesos. Restaurants around the United States have done more marketing to Hispanic customers, but usually that is in advertising and menu updates. "I think it's a very interesting idea," said Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based restaurant market research firm. "They are catering to that audience." Pizza Patrón's director of brand development, Andrew Gamm, said the company successfully tested the idea in a Mesquite, Texas, store recently. He told the paper that customers spent "a couple hundred pesos," without any advertisement of the service. Starting in February, the chain's 59 stores will take peso bills only, not coins. Cashiers will use cards listing conversion calculations, enter the figure in U.S. dollars into the cash register and give the customers change in U.S. currency. According to the paper, about 60 percent of Pizza Patrón customers and 45 percent of the franchisees are Hispanic.