Thursday, May 31, 2007

NASA's Top Official Questions Global Warming Problem

NASA administrator Michael Griffin is drawing the ire of his agency's preeminent climate scientists after apparently downplaying the need to combat global warming. In a pretaped interview to be broadcast this morning on National Public Radio's ":Morning Edition" program, Griffin is asked by NPR's Steve Inskeep whether he is concerned about global warming. "I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists," Griffin told Inskeep. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with." "To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change," Griffin said. "I guess I would ask which human beings -- where and when -- are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take." Griffin's comments -- released in transcript form by NPR -- immediately drew stunned reaction from James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York."It's an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement," Hansen told ABC News. "It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change." Hansen believes Griffin's comments fly in the face of well-established scientific knowledge that hundreds of NASA scientists have contributed to. "It's unbelievable," said Hansen. "I thought he had been misquoted. It's so unbelievable." News media inquiries to NASA headquarters about Griffin's comments prompted the space agency to make the unusual move of issuing a news release late Wednesday night. "NASA is the world's preeminent organization in the study of Earth and the conditions that contribute to climate change and global warming," Griffin said in a statement. "The agency is responsible for collecting data that is used by the science community and policy makers as part of an ongoing discussion regarding our planet's evolving systems. It is NASA's responsibility to collect, analyze and release information. It is not NASA's mission to make policy regarding possible climate change mitigation strategies. As I stated in the NPR interview, we are proud of our role and I believe we do it well." Hansen, featured prominently in Al Gore's global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," has been warning of the potential dangers of climate change since the 1980s. In late 2005, he accused NASA of trying to improperly censor him after he warned that Earth's climate might be approaching a dangerous "tipping point." The agency later fired a public affairs employee, a political appointee of the Bush administration, over the incident. Last year, many NASA scientists were upset when reports surfaced that the agency had quietly deleted the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" from the NASA mission statement. The scientists believe research on issues like climate change will suffer as NASA shifts priorities toward exploration missions to the moon and Mars. "Earth has always been central to NASA's science," Hansen said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Venezuela To Sue CNN

Venezuela says it will file charges against US cable network CNN for linking President Hugo Chavez to Al Qaeda. It says it will also sue a Venezuelan TV network for encouraging Mr Chavez's assassination. The move comes a day after popular Venezuelan TV network RCTV went off the air after the Chavez Government cancelled its broadcast licence. Information Minister William Lara has presented what he says is CNN footage displaying pictures of Mr Chavez juxtaposed with those of an Al Qaeda leader. Mr Lara says CNN also aired a story about the Venezuelan protests but used images taken in Mexico of an unrelated story. "CNN broadcast a lie which linked President Chavez to violence and murder," he said. CNN has issued a statement strongly denying being "engaged in a campaign to discredit or attack Venezuela".The news network has acknowledged a video mix-up and "aired a detailed correction and expressed regret for the involuntary error". Regarding the Al Qaeda leader, the network says "unrelated news stories can be juxtaposed in a given program segment just as a newspaper page or a news website may have unconnected stories adjacent to each other". The Venezuelan Government has also filed charges against local network Globovision for what it says was indirectly encouraging Mr Chavez's murder by airing footage of the 1981 assassination attempt on late pope John Paul II. "In my view, this television network, in this specific part of its programming, committed the offence of incitement to assassination against the Venezuelan head of state," Mr Lara said. The charges come amid protests against Mr Chavez's shutdown of RCTV, a privately-owned broadcaster of popular comedy and drama shows that was boldly critical of the Venezuelan President. After 54 years on the air, RCTV went black at midnight on Sunday after the Government refused to renew its licence. It was promptly replaced by TVes, a state-backed socialist station that began broadcasting cultural shows. On Monday, several people were injured as Caracas police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to put down a demonstration against the RCTV shutdown.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gay Bar Wins Right To Ban Heterosexuals

A Melbourne gay bar has been granted an Exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act in a landmark ruling which will allow security to refuse entry to heterosexuals. The owners of Collingwood's Peel Hotel, which came under fire in April for promoting a gay Anzac Day party, successfully argued to the state planning tribunal that banning heterosexuals from the club would prevent "sexually based insults and violence". The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal granted the controversial powers to the club last week. VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie claimed that allowing straight men and women into the club would defeat the purpose of the venue."This would undermine or destroy the atmosphere which the company wishes to create," McKenzie said."Sometimes heterosexual groups and lesbian groups insult and deride and are even physically violent towards the gay male patrons."McKenzie said some straight women came to the club because they found the gay patrons entertaining."To regard the gay male patrons of the venue as providing an entertainment or spectacle to be stared at, as one would at an animal at a zoo, devalues and dehumanises them," she said."(This exemption) seeks to give gay men a space in which they may, without inhibition, meet, socialise and express physical attraction to each other in a non-threatening atmosphere."A spokeswoman for the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Lobby Group told the Herald Sun that gay men at the Peel had been made to feel like "zoo animals"."This exemption was not sought to exclude members of the community but to try to maintain a safe space for men to meet," the spokeswoman said."It's sad that members of our community would have to go to the VCAT to preserve their rights."This is one of the only free venues with live music in the area, so certainly some people may feel a bit unhappy about the decision."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Russian Police Arrest Gays

Russian police have arrested gay rights activists including a German member of parliament as they demonstrated outside the Moscow mayor's office and came under assault from ultra-nationalists. Russian gay community leader Nikolai Alexeyev and several others, were detained outside the building in central Moscow at the start of a demonstration by several dozen homosexual rights activists.Also detained was visiting German parliamentarian Volker Beck and veteran British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Dozens of ultra- nationalists converged, some of them punching and kicking the gay demonstrators before riot police moved in to separate the two sides.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dutch To Air Kidney Donor Reality Show

Dutch broadcaster BNN plans to air a television show next week in which a terminally ill woman will decide who out of three young patients will get her kidney. Viewers will be able to advise the 37-year-old woman, known as Lisa, via text messages which of the candidates to pick, the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper said. The show is scheduled for next Friday in a prime time spot. BNN, whose former director died from kidney failure after spending years on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper that the show wanted to highlight the acute shortage of donors in the Netherlands.The show is produced by Endemol, the Dutch entertainment powerhouse that invented the Big Brother television show in 1999. Several transplant patient organisations and politicians have objected to The Big Donor Show. “This is going in the direction of selling organs,” a spokeswoman for the Dutch Transplant Foundation told Algemeen Dagblad. A Christian Democrat Member of Parliament called on the nation's ministers of health care and culture to stop the show. In the Netherlands, organ transplants are bound to strict rules. People are not allowed to choose who their organs will go to after they die. But with kidney transplants - which can be carried out while the donor is still alive - they are allowed to choose, provided there is proof of a relationship between donor and recipient.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

GOP Candidates Blast Clinton, Obama On Iraq Vote

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the “no” votes of Democratic presidential frontrunners Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) on the Iraq war funding bill equal surrendering to al Qaeda. “I was very disappointed to see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton embrace the policy of surrender by voting against funds to support our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” McCain, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, said. “This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it’s the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda.” Clinton and Obama were among the 14 senators who opposed the funding bill, which Congress sent to President Bush late Thursday.With the anti-war lobby likely to play a large role in the Democratic primary process, the vote posed a challenge to the Democratic frontrunners, who had to balance satisfying the base while not appearing to be unsupportive of the troops. Obama said the vote was “a choice between validating the same failed policy in Iraq that has cost us so many lives and demanding a new one.” Clinton stated that she voted against the measure “because it fails to compel the President to give our troops a new strategy in Iraq.” But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another GOP White House hopeful, said the two Democrats failed soldiers in harm’s way with their vote. Romney argued that the vote “singularly defines their lack of leadership and serves as a glaring example of an unrealistic and inexperienced worldview on national security that is regrettably shared by too many of their fellow Capitol Hill Democrats.”

Friday, May 25, 2007

Iran Planning Strike On Europe

Iran is attempting to draw up plans to strike targets in Europe and has reconnoitered European nuclear power stations, a security analyst told a meeting at Britain's parliament. Claude Moniquet, president of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre, a private think-tank in Brussels, said his organisation also had evidence Tehran has increased the number of its intelligence agents across Europe. "We have serious signals that something is under preparation in Europe," Moniquet said. "Iranian intelligence is working extremely hard to prepare its people and to prepare actions." The centre, which he said deals directly with European intelligence agencies, believes Iranian operatives have carried out "reconnaissance of targets in European cities, including nuclear power stations," Moniquet said. He mentioned no other specific targets. Preparations to target Europe's nuclear energy plants could be tied to the diplomatic standoff over Tehran's contested nuclear program, he told a meeting of MPs and analysts in London's House of Commons. Iran appeared to be preparing to target "British citizens on the streets of London," Moniquet said. "Just as they kill British soldiers in the south of Iraq."Conservative parliamentarian Patrick Mercer told the meeting that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, in a debate in December, had acknowledged worries about Tehran backing terrorist activity inside Britain. There were "concerns about the scale and nature of terrorism in this country, and about whether some of that is inspired or funded in any way by forces in and around Iran," Beckett told MPs. Parliament's intelligence and security committee, a panel of MPs which reviews the work of Britain's MI5 and MI6 domestic and foreign spy agencies, also warned last year of an "increased threat to UK interests from Iranian state-sponsored terrorism". A government security official said Iran was active in espionage and likely interested in compiling information on European military and industrial targets. However, the official could not verify Moniquet's claim that Tehran had conducted reconnaissance against power plants or increased numbers of agents in Britain. "There was a lot of anticipation the number of agents would increase when President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad came to power," the official said. "But I'm not sure whether that has actually been the case." Mercer called for tougher sanctions against Tehran from the UN security council, to force Iran to halt its nuclear program and to dissuade the regime from backing militia groups attacking British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opposition Conservative party leader David Cameron also urged Britain and the United States, in an earlier speech, to strengthen measures against Iran and called on Washington to speed up plans for talks with Iranian officials. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency is due to submit a report on Tehran's program to the UN security council and is expected to reveal further Iranian advances in uranium enrichment. In March, Tehran was given a 60 day deadline - which expires this week - to halt enrichment or face further punitive measures. Iran insists it is engaged in a civilian power program. The United States and its allies claim it is a cover for the covert development of nuclear weapons. Current sanctions are "too weak to bring about a change in behaviour" and incentives to halt the program - such as the prospect of better relations with the West - have been damaged by a lack of commitment by the United States, Cameron said. Talks are scheduled in Baghdad between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart on May 28, and will be among only a handful of direct US-Iranian talks since the 1979 hostage crisis.

McDonalds Insulted By Dictionary Definition Of 'McJob'

The fast food chain McDonalds has launched a petition to change the dictionary definition of the word McJob. The Oxford English Dictionary describes a McJob as "an unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects". McDonalds says that is out of date and insulting.British MP Clive Betts agrees. "The description is really derogatory of the employees themselves," he said. "It's indicating that the jobs they do are worthless, that anyone could just walk in off the street and do them, that all the workers are untrained."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Japan, Philippines Agree To Push North Korea Toward Denuclearization

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo affirmed joint efforts to press North Korea to quickly implement the initial denuclearization steps as it agreed at the six-party nuclear talks in February. Arroyo told Abe that the Philippine government supports Japan's stance on North Korea, expressing hope to host a ministerial meeting among six parties on the sidelines of a regional forum in August, according to Abe's spokesman Hiroshige Seko. All six nations involved in the talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear program -- the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US -- will participate in the upcoming the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.
Philippine's President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (L) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In response, Abe said Japan will consider the idea and asked for continued support from the Philippines in pushing Pyongyang toward denuclearization. As for economic cooperation, Abe told Arroyo that Tokyo is planning to resume grant aid to the Philippines to improve security conditions and natural disaster alleviation projects, Seko told reporters. "Japan is expected to extend grants to help the Philippines deal with natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes," Abe was quoted as telling Arroyo. The timing of the grants and the amount are still under consideration. Arroyo arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday on a four-day trip.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Israeli Military Given Green Light To Target Hamas Leaders

The Israeli military on said it had received orders to target "political and military" leaders of the Islamic Palestinian Resistance Movement (HAMAS). The Israeli radio quoted a senior military officer as saying that the orders came from the Israeli Security Cabinet that had discussed the security situations in Gaza on Monday. He added that the Security Cabinet had given the Israeli army a green light to target Hamas leaders, both from the political and the military wings. According to the senior officer, whom the Radio hasn't named, the assassination policy is likely to curb the missile attacks from Gaza on Israel, but it is not a comprehensive solution.Nine Palestinians were killed on Sunday when the Israeli warplanes bombed a house belonging to Khalil Al-Haya, a Hamas leader and a member in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Meanwhile, the radio quoted Israeli security sources hoping that what they called the Palestinian "inner arena" would manage to stop the launch of missiles on Israel. They also expressed hopes that the Egyptian authorities would conclude a new cease-fire agreement and consequently resumption of the truce with the Palestinians.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Iran To Buy Russian Air Defense System Via Syria

Syria has agreed to supply Iran with at least 10 out of 50 air defense systems that Damascus is in the process of buying from Russia, Jane's Defense Weekly reported in this week's edition. The weekly publication quoted a source close to the deal as saying that while most of the Pantsyr-S1E systems were earmarked for Syrian Air Defense Command, "the end user for 10 of the systems is Tehran." The source said Moscow had not been officially notified of the reported Syrian arrangement with Tehran, which flowed from a November 2005 strategic accord between the two countries on military and technological cooperation. Jane's said Iran would take delivery of the systems in late 2008. To reward Syria for its middleman role, Tehran would part-finance Syria's Pantsyrs as well as paying for its own.Iran is locked in confrontation with the United States over its developing nuclear program and delivered its latest warning to Washington last week that it would retaliate severely if attacked. Iran denies U.S. accusations that it is trying to build atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear program. Washington emphasises it wants to resolve the standoff through diplomacy, but has not ruled out military action to destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Jane's said Syria struck a $730 million deal with Russia earlier this year for some 50 Pantsyr-S1E self-propelled short-range gun and missile air defense systems. Russia, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with veto power, is a key player in international diplomacy over Iran's nuclear ambitions. A Security Council resolution in March urged all states to exercise "vigilance and restraint" in the supply, sale or transfer of weaponry to Iran, including missile systems.

'Nigger' Brown Going Down

A southern Queensland grandstand known for its controversial name will be demolished. The Toowoomba Sports Ground Trust says the ES Nigger Brown Stand, built in the 1950s in memory of a local sporting and business identity, will be pulled down because of structural defects. The chairman of the Toowoomba Sports Ground, John McDonald, told reporters another tribute to Edward Stanley Brown will be built, but as yet no decision has been made. "The stand is going, so obviously the name will be going off that stand," he said."We're going to recognise ES 'Nigger' Brown for his feats both as a sports person and a community person, as well as being a member of the trust and whether we went and did a brass plaque like they did for Wally Lewis to the entrance or something like that." Campaigner Stephen Hagan says it is unacceptable to build another tribute with the same name in this era. Mr Hagan has been lobbying the trust to remove the word 'nigger' since 1999 and told PM any other tribute should refer to Mr Brown as Edward Stanley.
E.S. Brown ... he always introduced himself as 'Nigger'
"I've made it very clear that I'm offended by the word nigger in any shape or form," he said. "I can't understand why they just can't recognise this great man Edward Stanley Brown - he was a great football player, he was a great civic leader, a great business man. "I've always acknowledged the contribution this man has made to Toowoomba society, but I just have a problem with them using this nickname."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Iraqi President goes to Mayo Clinic

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is spending nearly three weeks in the United States on a visit that's expected to include a medical checkup. Talabani boarded a plane in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. He laughingly said he was going to the U.S. "to lose weight and have some rest and relaxation."
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
But a senior Kurdish politician has said Talabani would go for a checkup at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, an appointment that had been scheduled for weeks. A spokesman denies the president has health problems. Talabani was admitted to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman in neighboring Jordan last February after he collapsed. Doctors said he suffered from exhaustion and dehydration caused by lung and sinus infections. He returned home 17 days later.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Iran 'Cycling Team' Disappear In Ireland

A team of Iranian cyclists have ditched their bikes and gone on the run. The team is registered in the FBD Insurance Rás but six of its members have not been seen since arriving here on Tuesday and Thursday. It is believed the Iranians are not cyclists at all and race director Dermot Duignam said their entry into the race was an elaborate smokescreen. “As of now I don’t know where the six are and I don’t know if anybody knows where they are. “It appears that this was an elaborate plan to use the race as a means of persons entering the country,” he said. Following contact with people claiming to be the Iranian Cycling Federation he was led to believe that they were staying at the Iranian Embassy in Dublin. “I have discovered that they are not there and apparently were never there,” he said.The five-man team and four officials were not scheduled to arrive until yesterday but four arrived at Dublin Airport on Tuesday. Mr Duignam said he became suspicious when agreed procedures were breached by the Iranians. After the four arrived in Ireland on Tuesday he rang their home federation to ask what the position was with the other five. He was told that they did not have visas and if they did not get them then there would not be an Iranian team in the race. He immediately got on to immigration and was told that all the visas had been left at the Irish Embassy in Teheran. “Following discussions with the Iranian Embassy and Immigration officials we immediately cancelled arrangements for the team’s participation in the FBD Insurance Rás,” Mr Duignam said. Two more members arrived on Thursday and also went missing. The Iranian team was named as Mahdi Fathi, Mohammad Rastad, Amir Shakeri, Mobin Bagherzadega and Mahoud Talei and the manager was Abbas Talei.

Canadian Airlines May Bar 'Dangerous' Passengers: Canada Rule Proposal

Canada's airlines will have greater leeway to bar passengers who appear to be dangerous under a proposed rule change the Ministry of Transportation announced Saturday. The new rule would "strengthen air operators' ability to protect the safety of all passengers and crew by refusing to board those who may represent a threat to that safety," the ministry said in a statement."The proposed regulatory amendment to the Canadian Aviation Regulations would deal with passengers whose words or actions could interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft and create an unintended hazard for the aircraft, its crew and its passengers," the statement said. The rule would create four classes of threats, from inappropriate language to air sabotage. Current rules open airlines to lawsuits and place the burden on airlines to justify the refusal of service.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Japan Mulls Revising Collective Self-Defense Right

A Japanese government panel of experts discussed Friday the need for a reinterpretation of the constitutional law which forbids the country from exercising the right to collective self-defense. At the beginning of the first meeting of its kind, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted Japan's necessity to perform collective self-defense. "It is important that the Japan-U.S. alliance functions more effectively," he said. Abe listed four situations in which Japan might use its missiles to intercept a ballistic missile fired toward the United States and asked the 13-member panel to discuss the cases. The situations were: whether it is appropriate for Japan to use its missile defense system to intercept ballistic missiles targeting the United States; whether Japan's Self-Defense Forces are allowed to fight back when a ship traveling side by side with an SDF ship is attacked in open waters; whether Japan can provide rear-area support for multinational forces; and whether Japan can use weapons to return fire against attacks on other countries' military forces jointly working with Japan in UN peacekeeping operations and other missions. The panel was set up in line with Abe's wish to change Tokyo's interpretation of the pacifist constitution, reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance, and expand the activities of Japan's Self-Defense Forces. Former Japanese Ambassador to the United States Shunji Yanai was selected as panel chairman at the meeting, Kyodo News said. The next meeting is scheduled for June 11, and the panel will meet several times before reaching a conclusion, Kyodo quoted Yanai as saying.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Japan OKs Stronger Trade Sanctions On Iran

Japan said it will freeze some Iranian assets and halt grants to the Middle Eastern country over its nuclear development program. The government froze the assets of 13 groups and 15 individuals involved with Iran's nuclear and missile program. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet today approved the sanctions in line with a United Nations Security Council resolution passed in March, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said today. Shiozaki also said Iran's relationship with North Korea must be closely monitored. The U.S. and South Korea are trying to verify whether North Korea tested a new missile in Iran, South Korea's Yonhap News reported yesterday, citing an unidentified U.S. military official.``It is necessary to respond resolutely to any connection to the North Korean nuclear issue to ensure the nonproliferation system holds,'' Shiozaki told reporters in Tokyo. Japan in December froze the assets of 10 groups and 12 people associated with Iran's nuclear program, imposing travel restrictions on the individuals listed. Japan provided 3.4 billion yen ($28 million) in grants to Iran as of March 2004, as well as 81 billion yen in loans and 17.8 billion yen in technical assistance, according to the foreign ministry's website. Iran is Japan's third largest supplier of oil, behind Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Czech President Calls For Rational Debate On Global Warming, Rejects "Current Hysteria"

Czech President Vaclav Klaus called for a rational debate on global warming, rejecting what he called "hysteria" driven by environmentalists. "Let's bring the debate to whether the 0.6 (degree Celsius warming over the last century) is much or little, how much Man has contributed to the warming and ... if there is anything at all Man can do about it," Klaus said when presenting his book "Blue, Not a Green Planet." He charged that groups other than scientists have now seized on the topic and ambitious environmentalists are fueling a global warming hysteria that has no solid ground in fact and allows manipulation of people. "It is about a key topic of our time, and that is the topic of human freedom and its curtailment," Klaus said.
President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus
"The approach of environmentalists toward nature is similar to the Marxist approach to economic rules, because they also try to replace free spontaneity of the evolution of the world (and of mankind) with ... global planning of the world's development," Klaus writes in his book. "That approach ... is a utopia leading to completely other than wanted results," he says. Klaus, an economist by profession, has repeatedly warned that policy makers are pushed by the widespread fear of global warming to adopt enormously costly programs that eventually may have no positive effect. Klaus served as Czechoslovak finance minister after the 1989 fall of communism and as Czech prime minister after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. As president, he now has mainly ceremonial powers.

Bible Drawn Into Sex Publication Controversy

More than 800 Hong Kong residents have called on authorities to reclassify the Bible as "indecent" due to its sexual and violent content, following an uproar over a sex column in a university student journal. A spokesperson for Hong Kong's Television and Entertainment Licensing authority (TELA) said it had received 838 complaints about the Bible by noon Wednesday. The complaints follow the launch of an anonymous Web site -- www.truthbible.net -- which said the holy book "made one tremble" given its sexual and violent content, including rape and incest. The Web site said the Bible's sexual content "far exceeds" that of a recent sex column published in the Chinese University's "Student Press" magazine, which had asked readers whether they'd ever fantasized about incest or bestiality.That column was later deemed "indecent" by the Obscene Articles Tribunal, sparking a storm of debate about social morality and freedom of speech. Student editors of the journal defended it, saying open sexual debate was a basic right. If the Bible is similarly classified as "indecent" by authorities, only those over 18 could buy the holy book and it would need to be sealed in a wrapper with a statutory warning notice. TELA said it was still undecided on whether the Bible had violated Hong Kong's obscene and indecent articles laws. But a local protestant minister shrugged off this possibility. "If there is rape mentioned in the Bible, it doesn't mean it encourages those activities," said Reverend Wu Chi-wai. "It's just common sense ... I don't think that criticism will have strong support from the public," he added.

GEICO Cavemen Get Sitcom

The cavemen in the GEICO Insurance commercials -- the creation of a local advertising copywriter -- might think they don't get the respect they deserve. But, starting this fall, they'll have their own TV series. "Cavemen," a half-hour comedy inspired by commercials created by The Martin Agency's Joe Lawson, is part of ABC's fall schedule, the network announced yesterday. The commercials, which began in fall 2004, promote GEICO.com as "so easy, a caveman could do it," with the hairy-but-sophisticated prehistoric males reacting to the stereotype in a variety of situations. Lawson, on sabbatical from the Richmond-based ad agency, will serve as the show's writer and co-executive producer. The comedy is being produced by ABC Studios. ABC is describing the social satire as a "unique buddy comedy that offers a clever twist on stereotypes and turns race relations on their head." Three modern-day cavemen, played by Bill English, Nick Kroll and Dash Mihok, will be shown attempting -- and failing -- to assimilate into mainstream society. The sitcom cavemen are being played by different actors from those seen in the commercials. TV series inspired by commercials are rare, but not unheard of.Five years ago, CBS' "Baby Bob" was a short-lived comedy based on commercials featuring a talking baby. In the late'80s, the California Raisins had their own animated children's show. "The cavemen campaign started with a simple premise. Our guys in the creative department got a brief that said, 'GEICO.com is really easy to use. How do we get that across to our customers?'" said Dean Jarrett, spokesman for The Martin Agency, Richmond's premier ad shop. In looking for a group that could be targeted as not smart, the creative department came up with the idea of using cavemen -- but cavemen who were still around and offended by being labeled as stupid. "America has fallen in love with the cavemen, and I'm not sure why," said Jarrett, although he has heard that people like the tension created by a main character who is angry at the company being advertised. "From the beginning, the cavemen were specific characters. There was a story line, there was conflict, there was humor -- all the things that networks want to hear when you go to pitch a sitcom," said Steve Bassett, creative director of the GEICO account, ticking off reasons the cavemen were a sitcom waiting to happen. "There's already a national following. Almost everyone knows the GEICO cavemen." Although the original actors for the ads read for the parts, "they went with actors they felt were better for the show," Bassett said. "I think it's kind of good in a way. We're expanding the community of the cavemen. It's good to get to know other cavemen and their issues." And how does the GEICO gecko feel about a younger generation of commercial spokesmen getting so much attention? "I guess green with envy is too obvious," Jarrett said. Today, it's the GEICO cavemen who are digging their way into pop culture immortality.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Court Throws Out Chai Vang's Challenge

A state appeals court dismissed a challenge from a Minnesota man sentenced to life in prison for gunning down six deer hunters in northern Wisconsin, saying his complaints are meritless. Chai Soua Vang, 38, argued his trial judge should have suppressed his statements to police and a news reporter, and challenged whether the evidence supported a guilty verdict and whether the judge properly exercised his sentencing powers. The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled there were no grounds to challenge his conviction. Vang's own attorneys told the court he had no grounds to appeal, but Vang sent eight handwritten documents from prison taking issue with that conclusion. The appeals court still had to review the case. The appeals court found police read Vang his rights when he was arrested and again before questioning began. The court also found no basis to throw out the incriminating statements Vang made to a reporter. Police intercepted letters between Vang and the reporter and recorded the conversation.
Chai Soua Vang
The appeals court said Vang knew his calls were being recorded and spoke to the reporter over his attorneys' objections. As for the evidence, the appeals court said Vang's own testimony at trial established he shot each of the victims and he meant to shoot all but three, asking one of the hunters "You're not dead yet?" A jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt he did it. His trial judge considered the appropriate factors when sentencing him, the court concluded. The fatal shootings occurred during the deer hunt in November 2004 after a group of hunters in Sawyer County confronted Vang, 38, of St. Paul, Minn., over trespassing in a tree stand. Vang, a Hmong immigrant, testified during his trial that he shot the six white hunters and wounded two more in self-defense, claiming one of them fired a shot in his direction after they shouted racial epithets and cursed at him. The two survivors testified that Vang had begun walking away from the confrontation when he turned and opened fire. Prosecutors convinced a jury that Vang reacted in an angry outburst, feeling disrespected by the hunters, and then tried to kill everyone so there would be no eyewitnesses. Vang was sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus 165 years in prison.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Service Station Gasoline Boycott

There has been some buzz on the Internet and over e-mail about a gasoline boycott slated for Tuesday, May 15. Customers who are upset about high prices plan to refuse to buy gasoline for one day around the country. A gas station owner in Ramsey, Minn. says he will join the protest and not sell gas on Tuesday. "I thought it's a good way to protest, not selling gas for 12 hours and tell the people we are supporting them," said Sunfish Express Service Station owner Frank Yamoutpour. Yamoutpour said all day Tuesday he'll shut off the pumps to send a message. "I thought it was my duty as a citizen to do my part," said Yamoutpour. Ben Harris and his graphic arts company next door volunteered to make a big sign that will sit outside the convenience store to tell people about the protest. Harris thinks Yamoutpur is making a pretty bold statement. "I think that it's something that affects everyone and if we all do something to help it might make a difference," said VA Graphics Art Director Ben Harris. Some might think that gas stations make a lot of money when they charge $3.16 or more per gallon.It turns out when prices are this high Yamoutpour said he actually loses money. He showed his bill for Monday's gas delivery. He paid $3.07 a gallon for unleaded, but said after the fee for credit card transactions and the bills to keep his store open, he makes no profit. Yamoutpour said he makes his money inside the store but when customers spend so much at the pump, his snack sales drop. His customers have mixed feelings about his boycott. "It's a good idea and we support it all the way," said customer Ken Kennedy. "I don't think that's going to save anything. I just think we need to stop using gas," said Christine Gagne of Ramsey. Yamoutpour said he hopes other service stations will join the protest too. However, energy experts say that kind of protest likely won't make a difference because people will just buy gasoline on a different day.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Top Taleban Commander Mullah Dadullah Killed

The Taliban's most prominent military commander, a one-legged fighter who orchestrated an ethnic massacre and a rash of beheadings, was killed in a US-led military operation in southern Afghanistan, officials said. Mullah Dadullah, a top lieutenant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was killed on Saturday in the southern province of Helmand, said Said Ansari, the spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service. A NATO statement confirmed his death, saying it had dealt the insurgency "a serious blow." Dadullah was one of the highest-ranking Taliban leaders killed since the fall of the hard-line regime following the US-led invasion in 2001. His death represents a major victory for the Afghan government and the international coalition that has struggled to contain a Taliban-led insurgency wracking the south and east of the country. "Mullah Dadullah was the backbone of the Taliban," said Asadullah Khalid, governor of the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. "He was a brutal and cruel commander who killed and beheaded Afghan civilians." Khalid showed Dadullah's body to reporters at a news conference in the governor's compound.A reporter said the body, which was lying on a bed and dressed in a traditional Afghan robe, had no left leg and three bullet wounds: one to the back of the head and two to the stomach. The reporter said the body appeared to be Dadullah's based on his appearance in TV interviews and Taliban propaganda videos. But Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, denied that the Taliban commander had been killed. "Mullah Dadullah is alive," Ahmadi said by satellite phone. He did not give further details. NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed the death, saying that after Dadullah left his "sanctuary" in the south, he was killed in a US-led coalition operation supported by NATO and Afghan troops. No official would give an on-the-record account of Dadullah's death, and several speaking only on condition of anonymity because of fear or because they weren't allowed to be quoted gave conflicting reports. Meanwhile, Afghan and international forces killed 55 suspected Taliban in two operations near the border with Pakistan, a spokesman said yesteray. A policeman was also killed in the violence. Separately, in Nangarhar Province, one policeman was killed and two injured when a roadside bomb exploded next to a police vehicle yesterday, said Mohammad Akrem, the chief of Bati Kot district.

Philippines Raises Terror Alert In 2 Southern Regions Threatened By Bomb Attacks

Philippine security officials raised the terror alert to the highest level in two southern regions, including one where authorities foiled a bomb attack on a national athletic event, due to the threat of bombings, police said. The terror alert was raised from "high" to "critical" — the highest in a four-level alert system — for the month of May in the mountainous heartland of southern Mindanao island and a nearby Muslim autonomous region where al-Qaida-linked militants have a presence, police said. Terrorist threats "have breached the critical level" in the two regions, according to a police statement. A critical alert means a terror attack has occurred or has just been foiled and follow-up attacks could be carried out. "Both have happened in those areas," police Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao said. It was not immediately clear why the police made public the terror alert upgrade only now. The U.S. and a few other Western governments have warned their citizens not to travel in Mindanao areas due to the possibility of terror attacks.Police foiled an attempted bombing of the annual national games attended by hundreds of local athletes last month in southern Koronadal city when they found two homemade bombs intended to be exploded by Muslim militants during the closing ceremony, police said. Government forces separately found a mortar bomb and 20 sacks of ammonium nitrate and fertilizer that could be turned into powerful bombs in a suspected Muslim hide-out in Panamao township in southern Jolo island last month, police said. Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf insurgents and Indonesian militants being targeted by a massive U.S.-backed offensive on Jolo have had standing plans to bomb southern areas, police said. A bomb exploded Tuesday in a crowded district of southern Tacurong city, killing three people and wounding about 30 others. Tacurong police chief Superintendent Joel Limson said the bomb was made of TNT with nails used as shrapnel, and was triggered by a mobile phone — a design used in the past by the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah group. Members of the group have a presence in the south, including two top Indonesian terror suspects who fled there to escape a manhunt for their alleged role in the October 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

59 Muslims Arrested After Clashes with Christians In Egypt

Security sources in Egypt say 59 Muslims have been arrested following clashes between Muslims and Christians in a village south of Cairo. The violence erupted in the village of Bamha. Sources say residents fought with sticks and stones and tossed firebombs. Homes and shops were set on fire. The unrest was sparked by Muslim anger over the construction of a church next to a mosque.Coptic Christians make up a small minority in the mainly-Muslim country. Relations between the two religious groups in Egypt are generally peaceful, although there have been clashes and deadly attacks in the past. Christians often complain of discrimination by the Muslim majority.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Canadian Citizen Detained By Afghan Police On Suspicion Of Attending Militant Training Camp

A Canadian citizen has been detained by Afghan police on suspicion of attending a militant training camp in southern Afghanistan. MacKay said Canadian officials have visited the man, who is being held for investigation in Kabul. "He's being given consular services from our embassy there," MacKay said. Authorities did not say when or where in Afghanistan the man was detained and offered no other details.He is a 24-year-old of Pakistani origin who had previously lived in Calgary. He was taken into custody at a Kabul bus station within the past few days. "At this point in time, for privacy reasons, we're not at liberty to say a lot about this case, but it is somewhat unusual," MacKay said. Foreign Affairs officials would not release the man's name, citing the Privacy Act. The man was carrying a Canadian passport at the time of his arrest, officials said. Canadian officials say they expect to have access to the man as long as he remains in custody.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Illegal Immigrants Being Caught And Released

A Twin Cities news investigation reveals a "catch and release" approach to illegal immigrants. Troopers do all they can to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, but immigration officials refuse to take them into custody. The local news team was with a state trooper this week, when a common scenario played out. Two men were pulled over for speeding and admit to the state trooper they are here illegally. The trooper radios federal authorities-- who refuse to take the men into custody. The illegal immigrants pay their fine and are free to go. "It is a frustration level that you try not get too caught up in-- you don't have any control over it," a state trooper said. The reporters spoke with Gov. Pawlenty who says these kinds of immigration stories are just the tip of the iceberg. "I can tell you stories that would make your eyes open twice as wide as they are already," Pawlenty said.Pawlenty says state's can train state and local officers to enforce immigration laws--- essentially stopping the "catch and releases," but he says the legislature won't agree to fund the program. State Troopers said they have to catch at least 10 illegal immigrants at a time to peak the interest of the federal authorities. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement blames a lack of manpower. "Given the choice, the American public would prefer that we focus on those threats as opposed to going to investigate one or two suspected illegal aliens who were stopped in a traffic stop," Claude Arnold of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. State troopers and the governor are both tired of excuses. "People are making a mockery of the immigration laws in our country," Gov. Palwenty said.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vegans Sentenced For Starving Their Baby

A vegan couple were sentenced to life in prison for the death of their malnourished 6-week-old baby boy, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice. Superior Court Judge L.A. McConnell imposed the mandatory sentences on Jade Sanders, 27, and Lamont Thomas, 31. Their son, Crown Shakur, weighed just 3 1/2 pounds when he died of starvation on April 25, 2004. The couple were found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children. A jury deliberated about seven hours before returning the guilty verdicts. Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.But prosecutors said the couple intentionally neglected their child and refused to take him to the doctor even as the baby's body wasted away. "No matter how many times they want to say, 'We're vegans, we're vegetarians,' that's not the issue in this case," said prosecutor Chuck Boring. "The child died because he was not fed. Period." Although the life sentences were automatic, Sanders and Thomas begged for leniency before sentencing. Sanders urged the judge to look past his "perception" of the couple. "I loved my son—and I did not starve him," she said. When the judge told the defendants they could ask for a new trial, Thomas hung his head low. "I'm dying every day in there," he said, "and that could take three years."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Travel Warning For Germany

Australian travellers are being warned to exercise caution if travelling to Germany, which may be at an increased risk of a terrorist attack. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade tonight reviewed its travel advice for Germany, alerting travellers that the German government had warned terrorist attacks might be possible. "German government public statements continue to note the possibility of terrorist attacks in Germany," DFAT said on its website. "The German Interior Ministry has said the threat has become more serious. "On 20 April 2007, the United States Embassy issued a warden message advising that US diplomatic missions and installations are increasing security in response to the heightened terrorist threat.''Travellers to France also have been advised to be careful following the French presidential election which was won by conservative Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy received 53.1 per cent of the presidential vote against 46.9 for Socialist Segolene Royal, winning a mandate for his vision of a hardworking France despite leftist accusations he would prove a divisive, dangerous and abrasive leader. Sporadic violence flared in a number of French cities after his emphatic victory was flashed on television screens, but a conciliatory Mr Sarkozy immediately reached out to his beaten foes, promising to be president of the entire nation. DFAT urged Australians to avoid protests, demonstrations, political rallies and large public celebrations as they may turn violent.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Russia Warns U.S. On Missile Shield

The head of Russia's strategic missile forces has warned that Russia will take "adequate measures" if Washington goes ahead with plans to deploy elements of a missile-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.Nikolai Solovtsov today reiterated Moscow's stance that the U.S. shield poses a threat to Russia. The United States insists that the system is aimed at countering attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran or North Korea.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Woman Fired From Subway And Charged With Theft After Sharing Her FREE Drink

A food worker who poured two cups of Diet Coke at work without paying for them has lost her job and is facing criminal charges. Dunedin worker Jackie Lang was fired from her fulltime job at fast-food franchise Subway after she shared a drink with a friend while consoling her during a break. About two weeks after she was fired, police charged her with the theft of two cups of Coke valued at $4. She will appear in Dunedin District Court this month. Autonomous Workers Union organiser Bill Clark says the dismissal is one of the worst he has seen. He says the Subway handbook allows free soda and water while working. Losing her job and facing criminal charges has upset Lang, who is taking a personal grievance action against Subway. Through an intermediary, she said the company's actions were a shock, embarrassing and had caused her financial hardship. She felt she should have been given a warning rather than been fired and that the response was out of proportion to her actions. "I shared my drink with my friend. I was only trying to comfort her. Isn't it what most people would do? I mean, I wasn't trying to do anything wrong. I did what I thought any person would do in the situation."Security video footage of the incident shows Lang sharing the drink with her friend, then refilling the cup and leaving it on the table when she returned to work. "Most people wouldn't be fired and put in a police cell for two hours for sharing a drink." Clark said Subway called Lang to a meeting on March 19 without telling her it was a disciplinary matter. She was then told her action had been referred to police. Lang was charged with theft 20 days later. Clark is surprised managers at the George St Subway did not deal with the incident internally as Lang had a clean employment history and no criminal record. "It's a human thing to do to offer a drink as comfort. If Subway doesn't like it, they have internal procedures to deal with that." Clark says Lang, who has Asperger's syndrome - a form of autism - has been hit hard by the stress of losing her job and facing charges, including having to explain the situation to her new boss. "She just wants it to go away," he said. Protests were held outside the George St Subway yesterday, drawing attention to Lang's case. Public support for Lang has been strong and local business have made donations to cover potential legal bills. The owners of the George St Subway were unavailable for comment last week. No one could be contacted at Subway's South Island office. The person who could comment from the North Island office was unavailable. In a letter addressed to Lang, the directors said she had given the drink to a friend without payment and that was considered "serious misconduct" and a breach of their "trust and fidelity". National Distribution Union solicitor David Fleming said he had heard of cases where people were dismissed for similar things, but getting the police involved was unusual. "It would be the exception rather than the norm."

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Communist Rebels Abduct Philippine Mayor, Kill 2 Of His Bodyguards

Communist rebels abducted a Philippine mayor campaigning for re-election after killing two of his bodyguards in an ambush, but the official later escaped, police said. Alex Aranas, mayor of Pola township in Mindoro Oriental province south of Manila, had just finished campaigning in a village late Friday when his group was attacked by about 30 New People's Army guerrillas, regional police chief Napoleon Cachuela said. Two of his bodyguards were killed. Aranas and his two other security escorts, both soldiers, sought refuge in a nearby house owned by a friend. The guerrillas threatened to burn it down and kill all occupants if they did not yield. The mayor and his guards then gave themselves up, police said. Cachuela said Aranas and the two soldiers escaped hours later. He did not give details. It was the second time Aranas was seized by the rebels. He was snatched along with about a dozen other people during the 2004 election campaign.The rebels released Aranas and 10 others within hours. Two soldiers in his security detail were later abandoned by the guerrillas during a clash with the military two days later. Aranas said at the time that the rebels demanded a so-called "permit to campaign" fee that would allow politicians to campaign in their areas. It was uncertain whether Aranas paid it then, and if the rebels were again demanding money. The government has condemned the practice as extortion and warned candidates not to comply. The Maoist rebels, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group, have been waging a Marxist rebellion since the late 1960s. The military estimates they have about 7,000 fighters, and the rebels claim to have a presence in nearly 70 of the Philippines' 79 provinces.The attack on Aranas was the latest in a string of election-related violence in the run-up to the May 14 balloting. In the bloodiest attack so far, six relatives of a town mayor now running for a congressional seat were killed in an ambush Friday while returning from a funeral in northern Abra province. Three others were wounded. More than 75 have been killed and at least 82 wounded since January when campaigning for local and congressional elections began, police said. Almost 150 deaths were recorded during the hotly contested 2004 election. Nearly 87,000 candidates are vying for 17,000 national and local positions, including 265 seats in the House of Representatives and half of the 24 Senate seats.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

2007 Kentucky Derby

It's known as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports" or "The Run For The Roses" and on the first Saturday of every May the sports world's attention turns to Churchill Downs in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Horse Racing and features 20 3-year-old thoroughbreds running over one and a quarter miles for a $2 million purse. The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is held on May 19 at Pimlico in Baltimore. While the Belmont Stakes, held in Elmont, New York, rounds out the series on June 9th. There has not been a Triple Crown winner since Steve Gauthin, then 18, guided Affirmed to the fete in 1978. Since there are only 20 available spots in the Derby, the field is based on the top 20 horses on the graded stakes earnings list. This year, two horses that were in the top 20 and eligible to run for the roses, Cobalt Blue and Xchanger, withdrew from the race. That opened up spots for Imawildandcrazyguy and Teuflesberg.Cobalt Blue's owner, Merv Griffin, didn't feel his horse was ready and decided to withdraw him after a recent seventh-place finish in the Illinois Derby. The Derby is an extremely popular spectator sport with attendance usually set around 155,000 fans. In 1974 the Derby set a record of 163,628, one which may never be broken due to the infield being reduced to 40 acres in 1988. This year the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby will feature a little bit of royalty. Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh are planning on attending the race during their six day tour of the United States. The Queen is a horse enthusiast who owns and breeds thoroughbreds in England. There will be a special winner's circle ceremony Saturday to honour last year's winner Barbaro. The 2006 Kentucky Derby winner was euthanized four months ago after trying unsuccessfully to recover from ankle surgery for eight months. Barbaro was injured at the 2006 Preakness Stakes when three bones in his ankle were broken following the start of the race.
Cruel Kev's Kentucky Derby Picks
WIN: Street Sense
PLACE: Scat Daddy
SHOW: Storm In May
Field for Saturday's 133rd Kentucky Derby, with post position, horse's name, jockey's name and odds:
1. Sedgefield Leparoux 50-1
2. Curlin Albarado 7-2
3. Zanjero Bridgmohan 30-1
4. Storm in May Leyva 30-1
5. Imawildandcrazyguy Guidry 50-1
6. Cowtown Cat Jara 20-1
7. Street Sense Borel 4-1
8. Hard Spun Pino 15-1
9. Liquidity Flores 30-1
10. Teuflesberg Elliott 30-1
11. Bwana Bull Castellano 50-1
12. Nobiz Like Shobiz Velasquez 8-1
13. Sam P. Dominguez 20-1
14. Scat Daddy Prado 10-1
15. Tiago Smith 15-1
16. Circular Quay Velazquez 8-1
17. Stormello Desormeaux 30-1
18. Any Given Saturday Gomez 12-1
19. Dominican Bejarano 20-1
20. Great Hunter Nakatani 15-1

Friday, May 04, 2007

Mitt Romney Calls President Bush To Offer Support

On the same day that the House of Representatives failed to override his veto of a bill forcing U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, President Bush got a hang-in-there call from former Gov. Mitt Romney. An adviser to Romney said the presidential hopeful reached out to "commend the president for his veto" and to salute his "principled leadership in the war on terror." Chatting for less than 10 minutes, Bush and Romney also talked about the candidate's appearance tonight on Jay Leno and tomorrow's Politico/MSNBC debate.While Bush's parents are said to be sweet on Romney, the president has been studiously neutral about any preferences he may have. Romney, for his part, has offered mild criticism of the Iraq war, but has largely avoided much talk about Bush on the campaign trail. But the Romney adviser who relayed the conversation made plain that they weren't seeking to distance themselves from a chief executive who still retains support from loyal Republicans. "On the eve of this debate, it says we're not running from this guy at all," said the adviser on the meaning of the call.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Japan Indicates More North Korea Sanctions May Be Needed

Visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated that additional sanctions might be needed against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in case of its failure to meet its promise to shut down its nuclear reactor. Abe made the remarks at a press conference in Cairo where he is paying a one-day visit, noting that Japan and the United States agreed to strengthen cooperation over the DPRK issue when he met U. S. President George W. Bush on Friday at Camp David. He indicated that further action might be considered after the DPRK failed to take initial steps to meet its promise, warning that the country's economic situation would not improve or would even get worse.
Shinzo Abe
On Tuesday, senior officials of the United States and Japan had talks and urged the DPRK to fulfill its promise to shut its major nuclear facility. The DPRK, which failed to shut down its main nuclear reactor by the April 14 deadline as agreed in the six-party talks in February, insisted that its 25 million U.S. dollars frozen at Macao-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) must be returned before closing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor and starting new negotiations. Coming from Doha, Qatar, Abe arrived here on Wednesday morning to wrap up his regional tour, which also took him to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. This is Abe's first visit to the Middle East since he took office in September 2006, which aims to enhance relations with the Mideast and Gulf countries to boost its role in the Middle East, both economically and politically.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Earth's Climate Is Seesawing, According To Climate Researchers

During the last 10,000 years climate has been seesawing between the North and South Atlantic Oceans. As revealed by findings presented by Quaternary scientists at Lund University, Sweden, cold periods in the north have corresponded to warmth in the south and vice verse. These results imply that Europe may face a slightly cooler future than predicted by IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The research group, currently consisting of Svante Björck, Karl Ljung and Dan Hammarlund, has retrieved cores of lake sediments and peat along a north-south transect of Atlantic islands and adjacent land areas: Greenland, Iceland, Faroes, Azores, Tristan da Cunha, Isla de los Estados, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Based on detailed analyses of geochemistry, mineral magnetism and pollen content, hitherto unknown details of Atlantic climate dynamics have been resolved. Extensive radiocarbon dating and rapid sedimentation rates in the terrestrial deposits allow a much higher temporal resolution of the data than provided by marine sediment cores.Our records reflect details of the climatic evolution in the Atlantic region since the end of the last Ice Age to the present day. We would have liked to compare our results to similar data sets from other parts of the South Atlantic, but no other records provide the same degree of resolution, says Professor Björck. After the end of the last Glacial both Hemispheres became warmer as a result of melting ice sheets, but during the last 9000 years we can identify a persistent "seesaw" pattern. When the South Atlantic was warm it was cold in the North Atlantic and vice versa. This is most certainly related to large-scale ocean circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. The main current system - "the Great Ocean Conveyor" - is driven by sinking of dense, relatively cold and salty water in the northern North Atlantic.This results in southward-flowing deep-water that is replaced by warm surface water brought to high northern latitudes from the tropics and ultimately from the South Atlantic, says Svante Björck, and continues: The deep-water formation in the north is dependent on cooling of surface water with a high salt content. If sufficiently large amounts of fresh water are supplied to the North Atlantic, such as from melting ice-sheets or major increases in precipitation, the deep-water formation, and hence the transport of warm surface water from the south, may cease or at least decrease substantially. This is known to have happened repeatedly during the present Interglacial (the warm period since the last Ice Age). Minor disturbances have taken place in recent time, such as the Great Salt Anomaly in the 1970s, which seriously affected the cod population around the Faroe Islands. Our results from Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha island group, between South Africa and Argentina, for the first time give evidence of warming of the South Atlantic associated with cooling in the north. This is a major breakthrough in palaeoclimate research.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nine Muslim Terrorists To Stand Trial In Australia

Nine men accused of stockpiling bomb-making chemicals and vowing to avenge perceived injustices against Muslims have been ordered to stand trial for Australia's largest alleged terrorist conspiracy, a court official said Tuesday. Magistrate Michael Price ruled that the evidence was strong enough to be heard by a Supreme Court jury and referred the case to the higher court on June 1, said an official at Penrith Local Court, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with policy. The nine men each are charged with conspiring between June 2004 and November 2005 to carry out a terrorist act. None of the suspects, who face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted, entered a plea, but their lawyers have said they maintain they are innocent. Prosecutors said at the pretrial hearing that the nine suspects bought unrestricted chemicals that can be used in making explosives, and downloaded instructions from the Internet that included how to mix the cocktail of agents used to make the bombs used in the deadly 2005 London subway attacks.Prosecutors allege the nine were devotees of a radical Muslim cleric sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, and struck a pact to launch a terrorist attack because they felt their religion was under attack. No planned target has been revealed, but police alleged the suspects had Australia's only nuclear reactor, a small facility used to make radioactive medical supplies, under surveillance. They were arrested in a series of 2005 raids in Sydney and the southern city of Melbourne, where cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika and other followers also were detained and now face separate charges of belonging to a terrorist group. Authorities said police found transcripts of bin Laden speeches and other al Qaeda material, as well as videos of people being beheaded, in some of the suspects' homes. The nine suspects are Mohammed Ali Elomar, Mazen Touma, Abdul Rakib Hasan, Khaled Cheikho, Moustafa Cheikho, Khaled Sharrouf, Mirsad Mulahalilovic, Omar Baladjam and Mohammed Jamal.