Saturday, May 31, 2008

Libya to resolve claims with US

The US and Libya have agreed to work together to resolve compensation claims from the Lockerbie bombing and other 1980s attacks blamed on Libyan agents.

Libya has already paid out $8m (£4m) to each Lockerbie victim's family but has not made final payments of $2m amid a dispute over America's obligations.

A US court ruling that Libya should pay billions of dollars to Americans killed by another bomb incensed the Libyans.

They are hoping for an all-in-one deal to cover that and the other attacks.

They are also said to be wary of a new US law allowing victims of terrorism to seize US-held assets of states held responsible.

Nuclear bomb blueprints for sale on world black market, experts fear

Nuclear bomb blueprints and manuals on how to manufacture weapons-grade uranium for warheads are feared to be circulating on the international black market, according to investigators tracking the world's most infamous nuclear smuggling racket.

Alarm about the sale of nuclear know-how follows the disclosure that the Swiss government, allegedly acting under US pressure, secretly destroyed tens of thousands of documents from a massive nuclear smuggling investigation.

U.S. issues thinly veiled warnings to China

Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a set of thinly veiled warnings to China on Saturday, cautioning that it could risk its share of further gains in Asia's economic prosperity if it bullied its neighbors over natural resources in contested areas like the South China Sea. . . .

In the speech, he recalled disputes in the mid-1990s between China and its neighbors over competing boundary and resource claims in the South China Sea, tensions that have resurfaced among China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Food report criticizes biofuel policies

“The energy security, environmental and economic benefits of biofuels production based on agricultural commodity feed stocks are at best modest, and sometimes even negative,” says the report, prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Alternative approaches may be considered that offer potentially greater benefits with less of the unintended market impact.”

NATO general sees long fight in Afghanistan

The outgoing American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said the insurgency there will last for years unless Pakistan shuts down safe havens where militants train and recruit.

Gen. Dan McNeill also blamed new peace agreements in Pakistan's tribal areas for a spike in violence in eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. forces operate along the volatile border.

'US bribing Iraqi MPs to sign deal'

The US has offered bribes to Iraqi MPs to lure them into endorsing a security deal that critics believe would make Iraq a US colony.

Sources in Iraq's parliament told Press TV on Thursday that Washington has offered three-million dollars in bribe to the lawmakers who sign the "framework accord."

Under the agreement, the US would be allowed to set up at least 13 permanent military bases in Iraq and US citizens would be granted immunity from legal prosecution.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Iraq's Sadrists protest against US military deal

Thousands of supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq after Friday prayers to denounce a government deal with Washington on US troop levels. . . .

Sadr said the proposed Status of Forces Agreement aimed to give a legal basis to US troops after the December 31 expiry of a UN mandate defining their current status, and was "against Iraqi national interests."

US terror drive stalled in political quagmire

Anti-American sentiment in the South Asian "war on terror" theater is on the rise, leaving Washington in a dilemma over how to intervene and preserve its interests.

A speech by former premier Nawaz Sharif on Youm-e-Takbeer (the 10th anniversary of Pakistan's testing of a nuclear device on May 28, 1998) illustrates how anti-Americanism has become a tool of politicians to mobilize the masses.

Meet South America's new secessionists

Having failed to halt the tide of South America’s Pink Tide, Washington is seeking to cultivate relationships with secessionist leaders in order to facilitate the breakup of countries which share left leaning governments. In Bolivia, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has explicitly supported demands of the political opposition for greater regional autonomy in the eastern section of the country and has funneled millions of dollars to the right.

It’s an inflammatory move which has incited a diplomatic firestorm throughout the region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, an important ally of the Morales government in La Paz, has said that his country will not stand for secession in Bolivia’s eastern lowland states.

BOOK: 'The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America'

US changes terror policy in dealing with Nepal's Maoists

Years after being a top supplier of weapons against Nepal's Maoist rebels, the United States acknowledged it has made a turnaround to talk to the guerrillas set to assume government control after sweeping elections. . . .

But the United States is not prepared yet to remove the Maoist group from US terrorist blacklists, under which party officials are barred from visiting the United States and their assets are frozen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Evan Feigenbaum told reporters.

Monbiot fails to 'arrest' Bolton

Campaigner George Monbiot said he would continue his attempt to serve arrest paper on politicians involved in the decision to go to war in Iraq.

He was unable to make a citizen's arrest of former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton at the Hay Festival.

Mr Monbiot was dragged away by security as he tried to approach Mr Bolton, who was at the festival for a talk.

Officials: Iran, al Qaeda in secret talks

According to U.S. officials familiar with highly sensitive intelligence on this issue, the contacts are on the status of high-level al Qaeda operatives, including two of Osama Bin Laden's sons, who have been under house arrest in Iran since 2003. The officials don't believe Iran will allow these operatives to go free, but said they don't know Iran's motivation for initiating the talks. . . .

In the past, the Iranians have also resisted efforts by al Qaeda to get the militants released. But recently there has been a renewed effort by al Qaeda to negotiate for their release and signs that the Iranians are willing to at least talk about that.

Iran says its atomic work not a UN council issue

U.S. withdraws Fulbright grants to Gaza

The American State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at American institutions this fall because Israel has not granted them permission to leave.

Low-caste tribe riots in Delhi for right to be 'untouchable'

Europe fuel protests spread wider

Fuel protests triggered by rising oil prices have spread to more countries across Europe, with thousands of fishermen on strike.

In Spain, Europe's largest fish producer, the action is expected to bring the industry to a halt, as thousands demonstrate in Madrid.

French fishermen have been protesting for weeks, and Portuguese, Belgian and Italian colleagues are also involved.

UK and Dutch lorry drivers held similar protests earlier this week.

Father of Pakistan's bomb disowns smuggling confession

For four years Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, has lived in the shadows, confined to his Islamabad home since a tearful televised confession in which he admitted selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. But yesterday the 76-year-old scientist returned to the spotlight with a bold new twist: that he had not meant a word of his earlier admission.

In his first western media interview since 2004, Khan said the confession had been forced upon him by President Pervez Musharraf. "It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand," he told the Guardian.

US banks likely to fail as bad loans soar

US banks set aside a record $37.1bn to cover losses on real estate loans and other credits during the first quarter in a sign of the growing economic pain being caused by the global credit crisis, regulators said on Thursday.

Was press a war ‘enabler’? 2 offer a nod from inside

In his new memoir, “What Happened,” Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, said the national news media neglected their watchdog role in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, calling reporters “complicit enablers” of the Bush administration’s push for war.

Surprisingly, some prominent journalists have agreed.

Katie Couric, the anchor of “CBS Evening News,” said on Wednesday that she had felt pressure from government officials and corporate executives to cast the war in a positive light.

. . . Jessica Yellin, who worked for MSNBC in 2003 and now reports for CNN, said on Wednesday that journalists had been “under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation.”

Global cluster-bomb ban draws moral line in the sand

The pact, to be signed in Oslo in December, requires a signatory to "never under any circumstances ... use cluster munitions," though loopholes don't prohibit possible future designs with self-destruct mechanisms and other restrictions.

Absent from the 10 days of talks in Dublin were some of the top producers and users of cluster bombs: the US, Israel, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. But experts who worked with diplomats to draft the text say that is less important than codifying the ban in international law.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blair 'to devote life to faith'

Former prime minister Tony Blair has promised to "spend the rest of my life" uniting the world's religions

He said faith could be a "civilising force in globalisation", bringing people together to solve problems such as malaria and extreme poverty.

Mr Blair, who is now a peace envoy to the Middle East, told Time magazine that religious belief had given him "strength" while in power.

He is launching a "faith foundation" in New York on Friday.

Frida Berrigan, the Pentagon takes over

The Pentagon's massive bulk-up these last seven years will not be easily unbuilt, no matter who dons the presidential mantle on January 19, 2009. "The Pentagon" is now so much more than a five-sided building across the Potomac from Washington or even the seat of the Department of Defense. In many ways, it defies description or labeling.

Who, today, even remembers the debate at the end of the Cold War about what role U.S. military power should play in a "unipolar" world? Was U.S. supremacy so well established, pundits were then asking, that Washington could rely on softer economic and cultural power, with military power no more than a backup (and a domestic "peace dividend" thrown into the bargain)? Or was the U.S. to strap on the six-guns of a global sheriff and police the world as the fountainhead of "humanitarian interventions"? Or was it the moment to boldly declare ourselves the world's sole superpower and wield a high-tech military comparable to none, actively discouraging any other power or power bloc from even considering future rivalry?

The attacks of September 11, 2001 decisively ended that debate.

Now it's a blockade against Iran

1968, 40 years later: Tariq Ali looks back on a pivotal year in the global struggle for social justice

Back in the 1960s, with the Vietnam war at its height, Tariq Ali earned a national reputation through debates with figures like Henry Kissinger and then-British Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart. He protested against the Vietnam War, led the now-infamous march on the American Embassy in London in 1968, and edited the revolutionary paper Black Dwarf, where he became friends with numerous influential figures such as Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Forty years later, Tariq Ali continues his lifelong struggle against US foreign policy across the globe.

Islam's holiest city set for 130-skyscraper redevelopment

The holiest city in Islam is to get a £6bn facelift, it was announced yesterday, with homes and hills being flattened to make way for hotels, apartments, shopping malls and transport facilities for pilgrims. Six development projects ordered by the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, will transform Mecca, which struggles to accommodate the millions of Muslims who pour into the city every year to perform hajj.

The biggest change will be to the courtyards of the Grand Mosque, which can hold at least 100,000 worshippers during prayer times.

The most famous journalist in the world

The world's most famous journalist isn't Peter Arnett or Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein or Dan Rather. His name is Sami al-Hajj. Chances are you've never heard of him. That should worry you.

After '05 Uzbek uprising, issues linger for West

As the gateway to Afghanistan and Iran, and an area where both China and Russia vie for influence, the five Muslim countries of Central Asia - the other four are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan - have a strategic importance to the United States well out of proportion to their size. Uzbekistan is the region's heart, with its most religious population, and also, at 28 million, its largest.

After '05 Uzbek Uprising, Issues Linger for West

Rival to Iran’s president is elected speaker

The new speaker, Ali Larijani, who resigned as the country’s nuclear negotiator in October over differences with Mr. Ahmadinejad, is a conservative and an ardent advocate of Iran’s nuclear program, but is seen as more pragmatic in his approach and perhaps willing to engage in diplomacy with the West.

The post of speaker is normally a powerful one in Iranian politics, and Mr. Larijani’s elevation also suggests that the new Parliament will be much more likely than the last one to challenge Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is up for re-election in June 2009.

Iraqi PM calls for debt waiver at global conference

Iraq is for instance still paying Kuwait damages following Hussein's 1990 invasion of the country amounting to tens of billions of dollars. Baghdad is required to place five percent of its oil revenues in a United Nations fund for paying the war reparations.

According to the Iraqi government, Iraq's total debt, excluding interest, is some 140 billion dollars, including 10 billion dollars owed to Saudi Arabia and a little less to Kuwait.

Iraq war advocates overstate the difficulties of withdrawal

Iraqis claim Marines are pushing Christianity in Fallujah

At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.

Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.

He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When it comes to Islam, good fences make good neighbors

Al Qaeda supporters' tape to call for use of WMDs

Intelligence and law enforcement sources tell ABC News they are expecting al Qaeda supporters will post a new video on the Internet in the next 24 hours, calling for what one source said is "jihadists to use biological, chemical and nuclear weapons to attack the West." . . .

Ben Venzke, the CEO of IntelCenter, a group that monitors terrorist communications on the Web, said the video, entitled "Nuclear Jihad, The Ultimate Terror," is a jihadi supporter video compilation and not from an official group.

"Supporter videos are made by fans or supporters who may not have ever had any contact with a real terrorist," Venzke said. "These videos almost always are comprised of old video footage that is edited together to make a new video."

Al Qaeda warrior uses Internet to rally women

On the street, Malika El Aroud is anonymous in an Islamic black veil covering all but her eyes.

In her living room, Ms. El Aroud, a 48-year-old Belgian, wears the ordinary look of middle age: a plain black T-shirt and pants and curly brown hair. The only adornment is a pair of powder-blue slippers monogrammed in gold with the letters SEXY.

But it is on the Internet where Ms. El Aroud has distinguished herself. Writing in French under the name “Oum Obeyda,” she has transformed herself into one of the most prominent Internet jihadists in Europe.

New town springing up in quake-hit province

With as many as 14 million earthquake survivors in urgent need of housing, China is beginning to rebuild from scratch.

It is doing so in places like this mountain plain in Sichuan province, where workers are erecting a new town of blue-roofed homes for 20,000 people. Construction got underway here late last week, less than three miles from Beichuan, a town wiped out in the 7.9-magnitude quake.

Historic China-Taiwan summit held

The head of Taiwan's ruling party has met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in the highest-level encounter since the two sides split in 1949.

Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung is in China for a six-day landmark visit to discuss cross-strait transport links.

The trip is being seen as another sign of warming ties between the two sides.

Taiwan's new president, Ma Ying-jeou, has called for a new "chapter of peace" to be opened.

US businessman says he gave Olmert $150,000 in cash-stuffed envelopes

A US businessman at the centre of a high-profile corruption investigation told an Israeli court yesterday he gave thousands of dollars to Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in envelopes stuffed with cash, some of which he claims was spent on expensive hotels, holidays and cigars.

China rebukes west’s lack of regulation

Western governments must strengthen their oversight of financial markets and improve cross-border regulatory co-operation if they are to avoid future global financial crises, a senior Chinese banking regulator told the Financial Times on Tuesday.

“I feel the western consensus on the relation between the market and the government should be reviewed,” said Liao Min, director-general and acting head of the general office of the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

“In practice, they tend to overestimate the power of the market and overlook the regulatory role of the government and this warped conception is at the root of the subprime crisis.”

Indonesia to pull out of OPEC: minister

Indonesia will withdraw from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries after years of declining exports, the energy minister said Wednesday even as other producers cash in on soaring oil prices.

The only Southeast Asian member of the cartel has become a net oil importer and will not bother to renew its OPEC membership at the end of this year, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said.

Nepal poised for rebirth as a republic

Nepal, the world’s last Hindu kingdom, was poised to be reborn as a republic Wednesday, as a newly elected assembly led by former Maoist guerillas prepared to meet to fulfill the leftists’ principal campaign promise.

Exactly when and how the monarch, King Gyanendra, would leave Narayanhity, the main palace in the capital, Katmandu, was not clear.

The 16 prisoners charged in Gitmo's military commissions

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

McClellan whacks Bush, White House

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence. . . .

“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. . . . In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

Who's afraid of Finkelstein?

On Friday morning, the State of Israel refused to allow Prof. Norman Finkelstein, an American Jewish political scientist, to enter the country. Finkelstein was arrested at the airport and questioned by the Shin Bet security service for several hours. A day later, it became known that he had been banned from entering Israel for 10 years, for security reasons. Finkelstein managed to meet with a lawyer, who told him his chances of changing the decision were slim. When the Shin Bet decides that someone constitutes a security risk, the courts do not intervene.

Barack Obama supporter accuses Jewish lobby members of McCarthyism

A foreign policy expert consulted by Senator Barack Obama, the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, has accused members of the American Jewish establishment of "McCarthyism" in its attitude towards critics of Israel.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser, said that the pro-Israel lobby in the US was too powerful, while the slur of anti-Semitism was too readily used whenever its power was called into question.

Time to do something about oil

It is quite certain that the interest rate weapon, if used with sufficient vigor, would quell oil prices, but it's not entirely clear whether a single rise to 5.25% would do it. However, draconian rate rises beyond 5.25% to quell oil price rises would be deeply unpopular and would cause further catastrophe in the US housing market. Since invasion is presumably off the table, the political classes may thus attempt to impose other remedies for high oil prices, all of which would be either counterproductive, disastrous or both.

Bush 'plans Iran air strike by August'

The George W Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months, an informed source tells Asia Times Online, echoing other reports that have surfaced in the media in the United States recently.

Two key US senators briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.

Outpouring of help shifts mood in China

An unprecedented and politically significant flood of foreign aid has been pledged to China since the devastating Sichuan earthquake, ranging from a $50 million Saudi Arabian check to crates of cellphones from Nokia.

The outpouring of goodwill has been interpreted by many Chinese as a welcome demonstration of their new status as a major power with friends around the world. But to a large degree, it has also dissipated a sour, nationalistic mood that had swollen up in response to foreign criticism of a harsh Chinese security crackdown after Tibetan riots in March.

YouTube law fight 'threatens net'

A one billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube threatens internet freedom, according to its owner Google.

Google's claim follows Viacom's move to sue the video sharing service for its inability to keep copyrighted material off its site. . . .

The search giant's legal team also maintained that YouTube had been faithful to the requirements of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act and that they responded properly to claims of infringement.

Australia Muslim school rejected

Afghan prison nightmare may be coming to an end for Pervez

The 24-year-old student, sentenced to death for downloading internet reports on women's rights, is allowing himself to be hopeful for the first time since he was condemned.

. . . the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has privately assured Mr Kambaksh's campaign team that he will be freed.

UN watchdog accuses Iran of refusing to reveal nuclear aims

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA claimed yesterday that the report vindicated Tehran's position.

"Once more it has been explicitly underlined that there has been absolutely no evidence regarding the diversion of Iran's nuclear activities or materials toward military purposes." . . .

The IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei agreed an action plan with the Iranian government last year, by which Iran would answer a string of questions the agency inspectors had failed to resolve. However, the new report makes clear many of those issues remain outstanding.

US millionaire admits giving cash to Olmert

A US millionaire testifying in a corruption probe that could end Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's career said on Tuesday he gave him envelopes stuffed with cash to fund his political ambitions and perhaps his taste for high living.

Morris Talansky was giving evidence to a Jerusalem district court as part of a criminal investigation into claims that Olmert received tens of thousands of dollars in illegal funds in the years before he became prime minister in 2006.

Mideast governments increasingly ignore U.S. views

Reported airstrikes cause explosions in southern Somalia

Airstrikes caused explosions in a remote area in southern Somalia, officials said Monday. There was no immediate information on casualties or on where the planes had come from.

. . . The Somali government does not have an air force, and Ethiopian troops based in Somalia have not been reported to conduct airstrikes.

Only U.S. aircraft have launched such strikes in Somalia in recent months.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Carter urges 'supine' Europe to break with US over Gaza blockade

Referring to the possibility of Europe breaking with the US in an interview with the Guardian, he said: "Why not? They're not our vassals. They occupy an equal position with the US."

The blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza, imposed by the US, EU, UN and Russia - the so-called Quartet - after the organisation's election victory in 2006, was "one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth," since it meant the "imprisonment of 1.6 million people, 1 million of whom are refugees". "Most families in Gaza are eating only one meal per day. To see Europeans going along with this is embarrassing," Carter said.

Egypt widens state of emergency

Egypt on Monday extended a controversial decades-old state of emergency by two years despite pledges it would be replaced by new legislation, in a move slammed by rights groups and the opposition. . . .

The state of emergency was imposed in 1981 after the assassination by Islamists of president Anwar Sadat, and had been repeatedly renewed since then despite protests from rights groups and regime opponents.

Feeling safer, Iraqis come home — but only a few

Just over a year after they were driven out of their Baghdad neighborhood by militants who kidnapped their son, the parents and children are back in their home. . . .

But 15 months after the U.S. military poured reinforcements into Iraq's worst battlefields to regain control over them, families like the Murads are a tiny minority. Of some 5.1 million Iraqis uprooted from their homes, some 78,180 - fewer than 1 percent - had returned by March 31, according to the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental humanitarian group based in Switzerland.

US scientist gives Israeli prize to Palestinians

A Brown University professor said Monday that he is donating his share of a prestigious Israeli mathematics prize to advance the education of Palestinian students.

David Mumford said he would donate his $33,333 portion of the Wolf Prize to a Palestinian university and an Israeli group that tries to ease Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian students. He said he believes freedom of movement is crucial to intellectual development.

Fighting in Sudan oil town kills 21 soldiers-army

The army accused the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), from semi-autonomous South Sudan, of attacking its positions in the town on Tuesday -- while a southern minister accused a northern officer of sparking the conflict.

The assault, which followed a week of skirmishes sparked by a local dispute, has raised fears for a 2005 north-south peace deal that ended two decades of civil war. . . .

At stake is control of energy revenues and pipelines from oil fields around Abyei.

An international analyst, who asked not to be named, said the nearby Heglig oil fields, run by Chinese-led consortium Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, produced about 250,000 barrels a day, roughly half of Sudan's entire output.

Jimmy Carter says Israel had 150 nuclear weapons

Israel has 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, former President Jimmy Carter said yesterday, while arguing that the US should talk directly to Iran to persuade it to drop its nuclear ambitions.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Islamophobia: Italy demolishes Verona mosque

Italy's far-right, anti-immigrant Northern League party has started its mission in the new government with bringing down a mosque in the northern city of Verona. . . .

"I never felt at ease with this mosque," Elisonder Antonneli, the head of Verona city council, said.

"This place will be turned into a park and a car parking space and will be named after (Italian writer) Oriana Fallaci."

Fallaci, who died in 2006, was notorious for anti-Islam stances.

Dreams of a wireless Web worldwide

Lebanon MPs to vote on president

The parliament in Lebanon is expected to elect a new president and end a deadlock which has left the country without a head of state since November.

All sides have agreed to vote for army commander General Michel Suleiman as part of a deal announced on Wednesday.

In the weeks before the deal in Qatar, Lebanon saw some of the worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

Dozens killed in caste riots in northwest India

Government officials invited leaders of one of India's lowest castes for talks as the death toll rose to 37 on Sunday from three days of bloody demonstrations over caste classification.

The police repeatedly opened fire on violent protests by Gujjars on Friday and Saturday in half a dozen villages and towns in the western state of Rajasthan.

The Gujjars want to reclassify their caste to a lower level, which would allow them to qualify for government jobs and university places reserved for such groups. The government has refused.

Why Darfur intervention is a mistake

Analysts say that Darfur is Rwanda in slow motion, that we should send troops to protect African civilians from their Arab killers and disarm the infamous Janjaweed.

In the Rwandan genocide, a million people were slaughtered in a hundred days. It was Africa's holocaust. Few would have opposed a short sharp episode of colonial-style armed intervention to stop it. . . .

Darfur is a war - a horrible war, but first and foremost, it is a war.

Ninety per cent of the deaths occurred four to five years ago and the government and its militia proxies were the main culprits. . . .

The rebels started the recent offensives - notably the attack on the capital, Khartoum - some Arabs have switched sides, and Chadians have plunged in on both sides. . . .

Relief is now so proficient that death rates among Darfur's children have been brought down to pre-war levels. We should keep that aid effort going.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

House aims at Pentagon 'propaganda' on Iraq war

The House of Representatives moved Thursday to crack down on a Pentagon program that Democrats say planted false and overly optimistic news stories about the Iraq war, using military analysts who appeared regularly on television.

Acting on a 2009 defense policy bill, lawmakers forbade the Defense Department from engaging in "a concerted effort to propagandize" the American people over the war.

The amendment by Rep. Paul W. Hodes (D-N.H.), which passed by voice vote, also would force an investigation by the General Accounting Office of efforts to plant positive news stories about the war. The overall bill passed 384-23.

Controversial contractor’s Iraq work is split up

For the first time since the war began, the largest single Pentagon contract in Iraq is being divided among three companies, ending the monopoly held by KBR, the Houston-based corporation that has been accused of wasteful spending and mismanagement and of exploiting its political ties to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Yet even as the Pentagon begins to pull apart the enormous KBR contract, critics warn that the new three-company deal could actually result in higher costs for American taxpayers and weak oversight by the military. In fact, under the new deal, KBR and the two other companies could actually make more than three times as much as KBR has been paid each year since the war began.

Last month the Pentagon awarded the companies pieces of a new contract to provide food, shelter and basic services for American soldiers, a 10-year, $150 billion deal that stretches far beyond the final days of the Bush administration. KBR will still get a sizable chunk of the business, but now it will have to share the work with Fluor Corporation and DynCorp International.

Mideast negotiations now bypassing Washington

In a week of dramatic developments in the Middle East, the most dramatic development of all may have been the fact that the United States, long considered the region's indispensable player, was missing in action.

As its closest allies cut deals with their adversaries this week over the Bush administration's opposition, Washington was largely reduced to watching.

More painfully for President Bush, friends he's cultivated — and spent heavily on — in Lebanon and Iraq asked the United States to remain in the background, underlining how politically toxic an association with the U.S. can be for Arab leaders.

Iran mosque blast plotters admit Israeli, US links: report

Iran's chief prosecutor said bombers who caused a deadly blast at a mosque in Shiraz had confessed of links to Israel and the United States, the ISNA student news agency reported on Friday.

Increased U.S. airstrikes in Iraq killing more civilians

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where are those Iranian arms in Iraq?

The United States military command in Iraq continues to talk about an alleged pipeline of Iranian weapons to Iraqi Shi'ites opposing the US occupation, implying that they have become dependent on Iran for indirect-fire weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

But US officials have failed thus far to provide evidence that would support that claim, and a long-delayed US military report on Iranian arms is unlikely to offer any data on what proportion of the weapons in the hands of Shi'ite fighters are from Iran and what proportion comes from purchases on the open market.

How the US dream foundered in Iraq

The Mosul riddle

"Operation Peace" in Sadr City in Baghdad is and will continue to be spun by the Nuri al-Maliki government - and by America corporate media - as a resounding "success" in controlling Iraqi militias, in this case the Mahdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Meanwhile, under the global radar, an invisible war in Mosul drags on, officially against al-Qaeda in Iraq jihadis but in fact a barely disguised anti-Sunni mini-pogrom conducted by - what else? - government-embedded militias.

War abroad, poverty at home

Before Bush began his wars of aggression, oil was $25 a barrel. Today it is $130 a barrel. Some of this rise may result from run-away speculation in the futures market. However, the main cause is the eroding value of the dollar. Oil is real, and unlike paper dollars is limited in supply. With US massive trade and budget deficits, the outpouring of dollar obligations mounts, thus driving down the value of the dollar.

Each time the dollar price of oil rises, the US trade deficit rises, requiring more foreign financing of US energy use. Bush has managed to drive the US oil import bill up from $106 billion in 2006 to approximately $500 billion 18 months later--every dollar of which has to be financed by foreigners.

Without foreign money, the US “superpower” cannot finance its imports or its government’s operation.

McCain pastor: Islam is a 'conspiracy of spiritual evil'

Despite his call for the U.S. to win the "hearts and minds of the Islamic world," Sen. John McCain recruited the support of an evangelical minister who describes Islam as "anti-Christ" and Mohammed as "the mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil."

McCain sought the support of Pastor Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, Ohio at a critical time in his campaign in February, when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was continuing to draw substantial support from the Christian right.

At a campaign appearance in Cincinnati, McCain introduced Parsley as "one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide."

Iraq spending ignored rules, Pentagon says

A Pentagon audit of $8.2 billion in American taxpayer money spent by the United States Army on contractors in Iraq has found that almost none of the payments followed federal rules and that in some cases, contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for despite little or no record of what, if anything, was received.

The audit also found a sometimes stunning lack of accountability in the way the United States military spent some $1.8 billion in seized or frozen Iraqi assets, which in the early phases of the conflict were often doled out in stacks or pallets of cash.

Israel contemplates giving up Golan Heights to Syria

Israel and Syria are making their first attempt for more than seven years to reach a comprehensive peace which, if successful, would mean Israel giving up the Golan Heights, seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Both governments confirmed in closely similar terms yesterday that they were taking part in "indirect" negotiations brokered by Turkey. The office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said: "The two sides have declared their intent to conduct these... talks without prejudice and with openness."

Obama promises 'unshakable commitment' to Israel if elected

Iraq's top Shiite cleric quietly hints at harder views against US forces

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible — a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad.

The edicts, or fatwas, by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggest he seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Obama’s secret war profiteering tax

Our mission is liberation, says Somali Islamist leader

The senior leader of Somalia's Islamist opposition vowed yesterday to expel US-backed Ethiopian troops by force and create an Islamic republic in the war-torn country on the Horn of Africa. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who led Somalia's Islamic Courts movement and who the Bush administration claims is a terrorist linked to al-Qaida, said Mogadishu's western-backed Transitional Federal Government was run by "traitors".

UN-sponsored peace talks that opened in Djibouti last week were doomed to fail unless Ethiopia first withdrew all its forces, . . .

Bush's endless hypocrisy on terror

Is a government guilty of terrorism if it harbors known terrorists? What should one say about a country that permits open fund-raising on behalf of a terrorist implicated in the mass killing of civilians?

What about a government that secretly arms a guerrilla army that wantonly kills and abuses civilians while seeking to overthrow an elected government?

If your answer to those questions is to recite George W. Bush’s dictum that a government that harbors or helps terrorists should be punished just like the terrorists, then you must turn your wrath on the U.S. government and the Bush family -- guilty on all the above points.

Has life in Iraq improved?

Trash pickup in most of Baghdad ended with the rule of Saddam Hussein. Now the garbage chokes the capital's streets and clogs the sewage pipes and canals, which overflow and burst. The sewage that leaks out of broken pipes seeps through the dirt of roads that were once paved, but now have mostly turned to dirt because the tracks of American tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles have destroyed the asphalt over five years of war.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Latino prisoner translates 'The Truth About Islam'

Sex for bread in new Afghanistan

When Fatima returned home after years of living as a refugee, the teenage was aspiring to a promised better life in post-Taliban Afghanistan. She has since turned to selling her body to make a living.

"I had no other way but prostitution," the 19-year-old told Reuters on Monday, May 19. . . .

Fatima is not alone.

According to RAWA, an independent organization of Afghan women, prostitution has become widespread in conservative Afghanistan since the 2001 US ouster of Taliban.

Analysis: Should YouTube censor al-Qaida?

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., called Monday for YouTube to take down al-Qaida videos that users had posted, but the site said most of the videos his office had flagged did not contain material that violated their guidelines and rejected his request that they act to remove all material from U.S. designated terror groups.

Global Peace Index: Israel hits rock bottom

Iceland is the world's most peaceful nation while Israel ranked 136th out of 140 nations, according to the "Global Peace Index," compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The study ranked the United States 97th out of 140 countries according to how peaceful they were domestically and how they interacted with the outside world.

The United States slipped from 96th last year, but was still ahead of foe Iran which ranked 105th. It, however, lagged Belarus, Cuba, South Korea, Chile, Libya and others which were listed as more peaceful.

Olmert: Peace talks with Syria are a 'national obligation'

Hours after Israel and Syria announced that they had agreed to hold indirect peace talks, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday evening that he was "fulfilling a national duty" by pursuing the negotiations with Syria.

In simultaneous announcements shortly before noon, Damascus and Jerusalem announced they were engaging in indirect negotiations brokered by Turkey. Ankara made a similar statement at the same time.

At the heart of the negotiations is the return by Israel to Syria of the Golan Heights . . .

Genocide in Iraq?

Whether or not the administrations of Bush Senior, Clinton, and Bush Junior intended to commit genocide in Iraq is irrelevant because the consequences of the bombings and sanctions could have been predicted by any reasonable person. The actions of these administrations clearly resulted in mass killing, serious bodily and mental harm, and the infliction of conditions calculated to bring about Iraq’s physical destruction in whole or in part. Iraq is a clear-cut case of genocide.

The carnage resulting from this genocide clearly exposes the disparity between the professed principles of American foreign policy and its manifest practice.

YouTube won't take down all Islamist video

Google has refused a request from U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., to remove videos produced by terrorist groups from its video-sharing site YouTube.

In a statement posted on the YouTube blog, the company said that it had taken down some of the videos identified by Lieberman's staff because they contained hate speech, gratuitous violence or in other ways violated community standards.

House passes bill to sue OPEC over oil prices

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, but the White House threatened to veto the measure.

The bill would subject OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to the same antitrust laws that U.S. companies must follow.

Bush team criticizes new report about Iran

The White House released a statement disputing a report in The Jerusalem Post that a senior administration official had told Israelis during the president’s visit last week that Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney supported military action against Iran.

The statement, following an even angrier attack on NBC the day before, appeared to reflect a heightened sensitivity to what Mr. Bush’s aides view as mischaracterizations of his intentions in confronting Iran over its pursuit of nuclear enrichment, its involvement in Iraq and its support of the militant Islamic groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian areas.

Design revamp for '$100 laptop'

The wraps have been taken off the new version of the XO laptop designed for schoolchildren in developing countries.

The revamped machine created by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project looks like an e-book and has had its price slashed to $75 per device.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte gave a glimpse of the "book like" device at an unveiling event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The first XO2 machines should be ready to deliver to children in 2010.

Agreement in Lebanon to end political crisis

The deal was also expected to lead to the formation of a cabinet in which Hezbollah, supported by Iran and Syria, along with its allies will enjoy the veto power it had sought in the negotiations .

Under the terms of the agreement, the government will also debate anew electoral law designed to provide better representation in the country’s sectarian system of power-sharing.

FBI kept 'war crimes file' at Guantanamo

Many of the abuses the report describes have previously been disclosed, but it was not known that F.B.I. agents had gone so far as to document accusations of abuse in a “war crimes file” at Guantánamo. The report does not say how many incidents were included in the file after it was started in 2002, but the “war crimes” label showed just how seriously F.B.I. agents took the accusations. Sometime in 2003, however, an F.B.I. official ordered the file closed because “investigating detainee allegations of abuse was not the F.B.I.’s mission,” the report said.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rumsfeld: 'Why not another 9/11'

In a newly-released tape of a 2006 neocon luncheon meeting featuring former War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, attended by ex-military "message force multiplier" propaganda shills Lt. General Michael DeLong, David L. Grange, Donald W. Sheppard, James Marks, Rick Francona, Wayne Downing, Robert H. Scales and others, Rumsfeld declared that the American people lack "the maturity to recognize the seriousness of the 'threats'" -- and need another 9/11.

When DeLong complained about a "lack of sympathetic ears" in Congress, and a lack of interest among the general American public, Rumsfeld responded, "What's to be done? The correction for that, I suppose, is another attack."

'Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term'

US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran in the upcoming months, before the end of his term, Army Radio quoted a senior official in Jerusalem as saying Tuesday.

The official claimed that a senior member of the president's entourage, which concluded a trip to Israel last week, said during a closed meeting that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action was called for.

Iraqi troops push deep into Sadr City

Iraqi troops pushed deep into Sadr City Tuesday as the Iraqi government sought to establish control over the densely populated Shia enclave in the Iraqi capital.

By midday, Iraqi forces had driven to a key thoroughfare that bisects Sadr City and taken up positions near hospitals, police stations and the political headquarters of Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel cleric. There was no significant resistance and no American ground forces were involved in the operation.

Demolished by the Pakistan army: the frontier village punished for harbouring the Taliban

An estimated 200,000 villagers have been displaced since the Pakistani army attacked the mountain redoubt of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban and a suspect in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto four months ago.

The operation was called zalzala - Urdu for earthquake. One of the first villages they hit was Spinkai, nestled under a line of jagged hills at the gateway to the Mehsud stronghold in South Waziristan.

The army swept through with helicopter gunships, artillery and tanks that crunched across a parched riverbed. After four days of heavy fighting - 25 militants and six soldiers died, the army said - the militants retreated up the valley.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Delay sought in Guantanamo 9/11 case

Army Maj. Jon Jackson said the defense team does not have enough access to the detainee and to secure facilities where classified material must be reviewed for the first U.S. war-crimes trials since World War II. He asked a military judge to postpone the June 5 arraignment for Mustafa Al-Hawsawi.

The defendant is accused of helping the Sept. 11 hijackers obtain money, clothing, traveler's checks and credit cards.

How to rule the world after Bush

Many business leaders have fond memories of the "free trade" years of the Bill Clinton administration, when chief executive officer salaries soared and the global influence of multinational corporations surged.

Rejecting neo-conservative unilateralism, they want to see a renewed focus on American "soft power" and its instruments of economic control, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO) - the multilateral institutions that formed what was known in international policy circles as "the Washington Consensus". These corporate globalists are making a bid to control the direction of economic policy under a new Democratic administration.

Obama's swept away by sea of supporters 2 days before Oregon vote

The Democratic presidential hopeful spoke to the biggest crowd of his campaign - an estimated 65,000 people packed into a riverside park for an afternoon rally at a sun-splashed scene on the banks of the Willamette River in Portland, Ore.

Another 15,000 were left outside, fire officials estimated.

Myanmar says ASEAN can lead cyclone aid effort

Myanmar agreed Monday to an international relief effort led by its regional allies to help more than two million cyclone victims still critically short of life-saving food, shelter and medicines.

As the junta declared three days of national mourning, the UN's top aid official John Holmes got a first-hand look at the scale of a disaster that has left at least 133,000 people dead or missing,

AP IMPACT: Thousands killed by US's Korean ally

Grave by mass grave, South Korea is unearthing the skeletons and buried truths of a cold-blooded slaughter from early in the Korean War, when this nation's U.S.-backed regime killed untold thousands of leftists and hapless peasants in a summer of terror in 1950.

With U.S. military officers sometimes present, and as North Korean invaders pushed down the peninsula, the southern army and police emptied South Korean prisons, lined up detainees and shot them in the head, dumping the bodies into hastily dug trenches. Others were thrown into abandoned mines or into the sea. Women and children were among those killed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

U.S. General apologizes for desecration of Koran

A day after the American military confirmed a soldier had used a Koran for target practice at a shooting range, the commander of United States troops in Baghdad apologized to local leaders and tribal sheiks, saying he was asking for their forgiveness.

Fledgling rebellion on Facebook is struck down by force in Egypt

Pakistan army takes issue over U.S. missile attack

The Pakistan army has taken issue with coalition forces in Afghanistan over a missile attack launched by a U.S. drone aircraft that killed 14 people, an army spokesman told Reuters on Saturday. Two missiles hit a house on Wednesday in the village of Damadola in Bajaur, a Pakistani tribal region where al Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist militant groups are active, a security official said.

Iraqi court rulings stop at US detention sites

In the eyes of Iraqi justice, Yahya Ali Humadi is a free man.

To the U.S. military, he's another of the detainees in yellow jumpsuits held at the sprawling Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.

Humadi — ordered released nine months ago after an Iraqi judge dropped all charges — now spends his days in a legal limbo. It's one that has confronted and confounded thousands of other Iraqis since 2003 who have been freed by their nation's courts but remained in U.S. custody.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

MOVIE: 'Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden'

Treaty for cluster bombs expected during upcoming conference

Delegates from more than a hundred countries will open a conference in Dublin on Monday that will try to hammer out a treaty banning the production, use, stockpiling or transfer of cluster munitions - bombs or artillery shells packed with up to several hundred bomblets or submunitions that are sprayed over wide areas of territory.

Major producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions, the United States, Russia and China, will be absent and are opposed to a treaty, but disarmament experts liken the cluster treaty to the Ottawa Treaty of 1997 banning land mines, which was shunned by the major powers but has proved influential in shaping the policies of countries outside the convention.

Israel's secret fears

Israel marks its 60th birthday in a climate of increasing racism, intolerance, corruption and militarism. A nation that has long seen itself as one of the most misunderstood is now almost unable to understand the world beyond its borders. Fear and anxiety provide the mood music of the celebrations.

What do a billion Muslims really think?

Since the momentous events of Sept. 11, 2001, countless news stories, TV commentaries, and books have speculated on the causes of terrorism, the attitudes of Muslims, and a purported clash of civilizations between Islamic societies and the West.

What has not been available is any reliable measure of the viewpoints of ordinary Muslims, who constitute 20 percent of the global population.

That is no longer the case. Through an ambitious six-year project that involved hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents in nearly 40 nations, Gallup has plumbed the perspectives of Muslim men and women – urban and rural, educated and illiterate, young and old.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Arrogance of a superpower

What Ike Skelton is really proposing is that the Iraqi people pay for the cost of rebuilding what has been destroyed by the United States. We're not meant to flinch when politicians talk of making Iraqis pay for their own enslavement. On the contrary, we're supposed to get indignant over the fact that the Iraqis aren't cooperating.

The response of Abdul Basit, the head of Iraq's independent auditing organization, was entirely appropriate. "America has hardly even begun to repay its debt to Iraq," Basit said. "This is an immoral request because we didn't ask them to come to Iraq, and before they came in 2003, we didn't have all these needs."

The US-Iran sound bite showdown

We are back to the situation of Ahmadinejad's 2005 alleged threat to "wipe Israel off the map". What he actually said then, quoting his personal icon, the leader of the Islamic revolution in 1979, ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was that the "regime occupying Jerusalem should vanish from the pages of time". Yes, this means regime change - as much as the Bush administration always wanted regime change in Tehran. It does not mean a call for a nuclear holocaust.

Globalization's victors hunt for the next low-wage country

What can Western companies do when China's factory workers start demanding better wages and conditions? Easy — just transfer production to a cheaper country. China's loss is Vietnam's gain.

Little-known militant group claims responsibility for bombings in India

Hamas condemns the Holocaust

Neither Hamas nor the Palestinian government in Gaza denies the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust was not only a crime against humanity but one of the most abhorrent crimes in modern history. We condemn it as we condemn every abuse of humanity and all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender or nationality.

And at the same time as we unreservedly condemn the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews of Europe, we categorically reject the exploitation of the Holocaust by the Zionists to justify their crimes and harness international acceptance of the campaign of ethnic cleansing and subjection they have been waging against us - to the point where in February the Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai threatened the people of Gaza with a "holocaust".

Lebanon's pro-western cabinet rescinds decisions against Hezbollah that triggered violence

The U.S.-backed Cabinet on Wednesday reversed measures against the militant Hezbollah movement that set off Lebanon's worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war. . . .

Clashes between government supporters and opponents broke out last week after the Cabinet challenged Hezbollah with decisions to sack the airport security chief for alleged ties to the group and to declare the militants' private telephone network illegal.

Maliki stalls US plan to frame Iran

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to endorse US charges of Iranian involvement in arms smuggling to the Mahdi Army, and a plan to show off a huge collection of Iranian arms captured in and around Karbala had to be called off after it was discovered that none of the arms were of Iranian origin.

The news media's failure to report that the arms captured from Shiite militiamen in Karbala did not include a single Iranian weapon shielded the US military from a much bigger blow to its anti-Iran strategy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rethinking Israel after sixty years

Israeli Independence Day 2008, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the rise of the Jewish State on the ruins of Palestinian society, should be cause more for sober reflection and reevaluation than for celebration. True, Israeli Jews have much to celebrate. Only a few weeks ago the shekel joined the fifteen strongest currencies in the world, and with an economy fueled by diamonds, arms, high-tech, security services, and tourism, Israel's economy is booming. . . . What's not to celebrate?

A lot, it turns out, though most of it exists beyond the bubble that insulates the Israeli public from its wider reality, and so does not dampen public celebrations. After sixty years, however, several fundamental developments have materialized which were not anticipated by the Zionist movement nor Israel's founding, but which must be squarely acknowledged and addressed.

Frank talk about Obama and Islam

Jaipur curfew imposed as bombings toll passes 80

The death toll from the serial bomb blasts in Jaipur rose to more than 80 people today, as police imposed a day-long curfew across the heritage city.

The seven explosions saw busy markets, a jewellery bazaar and a Hindu temple covered in blood and left more than 200 people were seriously injured. Jaipur is the capital of the western desert state of Rajasthan and is one of India's premier tourist spots, known for its pink sandstone palaces. . . .

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosions. Although the attacks hit Muslim businesses, suspicion has fallen on the banned Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islamia (HuJI), a Islamist group said to be operating from Bangladesh.

Over 50,000 dead, missing or buried in China quake

More than 50,000 people are dead, missing or buried under rubble after China's devastating earthquake, officials said Wednesday as the full horror of the disaster began to emerge.

Rescue teams who punched into the quake's stricken epicentre reported whole towns all but wiped off the map, spurring frantic efforts to bring emergency relief to the survivors.

Domestic spying far outpaces terrorism prosecutions

The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court — one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing — has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously.

US President Bush offers to help Lebanese army

Washington is ready to help the Lebanese Army respond more effectively to Hezbollah's armed supporters, US President George W Bush said in an interview with BBC Arabic television rebroadcast Tuesday.

Bush said Hezbollah was acting against its own people and accused the Shiite group of destabilizing Lebanon with the backing of Iran.

US confession: Weapons were not made in Iran after all

In a sharp reversal of its longstanding accusations against Iran arming militants in Iraq , the US military has made an unprecedented albeit quiet confession: the weapons they had recently found in Iraq were not made in Iran at all.

According to a report by the LA Times correspondent Tina Susman in Baghdad: “A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin. When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.”

Finding Obama guilty of insufficient devotion to Israel

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg conducted what he's calling an "interview" with Barack Obama regarding Israel, but it sounded much more like an inquisition.

Bomb blasts kill 60, injure more than 100

SIXTY people have been killed in a series of bomb attacks in India's western city of Jaipur, police said.

At least six bombs, which exploded in markets and near a Hindu temple in Jaipur's crowded walled city overnight, also wounded up to 150 people, officials said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How empires fall

Buchanan shows how the Bush Regime has broken from the sound policy of President Reagan and is replicating the British folly of self-destruction. "There is hardly a blunder of the British Empire we have not replicated," laments Buchanan.

The distinct American hubris that we are "the indispensable nation" and the braggadocio that we are an "omnipower" has us overcommitted in alliances that we cannot fulfill. Despite 25 percent of the Iraqi population killed, injured or displaced, the "world's only superpower" cannot even control Baghdad.

Deafening silence on McCain, Hagee and Parsley

There has been little talk in the mainstream media about Rev. Hagee's remarks that New Orleans got what it deserved through Hurricane Katrina because of gays or "its level of sins" in general. John McCain actively sought the endorsement of Rev. Hagee.

But Brave New Films has now made available the video of Pastor Rod Parsley, another pastor admired by John McCain whose firebrand and incendiary comments insult Islam. One may wonder what makes John McCain's association with Rev. Parsley, and calling him, among other things, one of the "truly great leaders in America," "moral compass" and "spiritual guide" relevant. Pastor Parsley has called Islam "an anti-Christ religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world," declared that "America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion [Islam] destroyed" and expressed the view that "I believe our nation can't truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historic conflict with Islam."

Islam's refuseniks

The tendency to lump together Muslim females in exile who have rather unsavoury views about Islam makes the voices of moderate females difficult to hear. From a position of relative ignorance when it comes to Islam in general, the west post-9/11 has had to familiarise itself with a religion, culture and ideology which so alarmingly appear to despise all that is western.

The post-9/11 crisis also created an audience which was eager to hear about the depravity and barbarity of the Muslim world but also not keen on subtlety. A quick, convenient, stereotypical picture was needed, and the "sisters" certainly paint that.

Forget the two-state solution

All that matters are the facts on the ground, of which the most important is that—after four decades of intensive Jewish settlement in the Palestinian territories it occupied during the 1967 war—Israel has irreversibly cemented its grip on the land on which a Palestinian state might have been created.

Sixty years after Israel was created and Palestine was destroyed, then, we are back to where we started: Two populations inhabiting one piece of land. And if the land cannot be divided, it must be shared. Equally.

Cherie Blair reveals how Tony used miscarriage for Iraq spin

In the latest extracts from her memoirs, Mrs Blair says she spoke to Alistair Campbell, the Prime Minister's media chief, within hours of the miscarriage in 2002.

Mr Blair and Mr Campbell told her that they would be announcing news of the loss to avert false speculation about an early invasion of Iraq.

Why the presidential candidates won't talk about Israel

Since its birth, Israel has received at least $114 billion from the US in direct foreign economic and military aid, says Shirl McArthur, a retired US diplomat who periodically updates his Israel cost estimates for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WREMA), a magazine often critical of US policy toward Israel.

That estimate, Mr. McArthur notes, is conservative.

Egypt blocks leading opposition website

Israel, the Holocaust and the Nakba

Sixty years ago half of Palestine's population was expelled when the state of Israel was created. Acclaimed anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe looks at the legacy of the Nazi persecution of Jews, and the complicity of world leaders, past and present, in maintaining the occupation in Palestine.

Belief in God 'childish,' Jews not chosen people: Einstein letter

Albert Einstein described belief in God as "childish superstition" and said Jews were not the chosen people, in a letter to be sold in London this week, an auctioneer said Tuesday.

The father of relativity, whose previously known views on religion have been more ambivalent and fuelled much discussion, made the comments in response to a philosopher in 1954.

As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they "have no different quality for me than all other people".

"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

'Ghost city' Mosul braces for assault on last bastion of al-Qa'ida in Iraq

Mosul looks like a city of the dead. American and Iraqi troops have launched an attack aimed at crushing the last bastion of al- Qa'ida in Iraq and in doing so have turned the country's northern capital into a ghost town.

Soldiers shoot at any civilian vehicle on the streets in defiance of a strict curfew.

Israel is 60, zionism is dead, what now?

Israel at 60 is an intractable historical fact. It has one of the world’s strongest armies, without peer in the Middle East, and its 200 or so nuclear warheads give it the last word in any military showdown with any of its neighbors. Don’t believe the hype about an Iranian threat – Israel certainly fears Iran attaining strategic nuclear capability, but not because it expects Iran to launch a suicidal nuclear exchange. That’s the sort of scare-story that gets trotted out for public consumption in Israel and the U.S. Behind closed doors, Israeli leaders admit that even a nuclear-armed Iran does not threaten Israel’s existence.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Taking a stand against war

Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, together with seven of his 49 colleagues (Toni Preckwinkle, Sandi Jackson, Eugene Schulter, Robert Fioretti, Freddrenna Lyle, Ricardo Munoz and Mary Ann Smith), has prepared a resolution for the Chicago City Council opposing war on Iran. By itself, this resolution most probably will not serve to alter the policies currently being pursued by the Bush administration. But when a great American city such as Chicago takes the lead in expressing its rejection of irresponsible national policy, other cities should, and will, take notice.

Ron Paul's forces quietly plot GOP convention revolt against McCain

What's been largely overlooked is Paul's candidacy as a reflection of a powerful lingering dissatisfaction with the Arizona senator among the party's most conservative conservatives. As anticipated a month ago in The Ticket, that situation could be exacerbated by today's expected announcement from former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia for the Libertarian Party's presidential nod, a slot held by Paul in 1988.

W Virginia keeps distance from Obama

Like most people in Mingo County, West Virginia, Leonard Simpson is a lifelong Democrat. But given a choice between Barack Obama and John McCain in November, the 67-year-old retired coalminer would vote Republican.

“I heard that Obama is a Muslim and his wife’s an atheist,” said Mr Simpson, drawing on a cigarette outside the fire station in Williamson, a coalmining town of 3,400 people surrounded by lush wooded hillsides.

Spread of nuclear capability is feared

At least 40 developing countries from the Persian Gulf region to Latin America have recently approached U.N. officials here to signal interest in starting nuclear power programs, a trend that concerned proliferation experts say could provide the building blocks of nuclear arsenals in some of those nations.

At least half a dozen countries have also said in the past four years that they are specifically planning to conduct enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear fuel, a prospect that could dramatically expand the global supply of plutonium and enriched uranium, according to U.S. and international nuclear officials and arms-control experts.

Burma's towns face refugee crisis alone as aid piles up

A week after Nargis struck, killing at least 60,000 people and leaving about 1.5 million in desperate need of aid, the towns and cities of the delta are starting to become flooded with refugees.

Civil war fear as Lebanon clashes escalate

After a quixotic attack in Sudan, a question lingers: Why?

“What was JEM trying to do?” asked David Mozersky, a Sudan analyst for International Crisis Group, a research institute that follows conflict zones throughout the world. “It’s hard to imagine they thought they could capture the capital with 50 to 100 cars.”

John Prendergast, a founder of the Enough Project, which campaigns against genocide, said he thinks the attack was a ploy to gain leverage. The rebels wanted “to slap” the governing National Congress Party, he said, “then cut a power sharing deal with the ruling party, without the other Darfur factions.”

“We’re seeing in part a continuation of the internal battle between Islamist factions,” he said, referring to the fact that both the Darfurian rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement and Sudanese government officials, though sworn enemies, share an Islamist agenda.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Israel's alternative independence day

Mothers with prams mixed with old men leaning on sticks, and groups of teenagers sang boisterously alongside those walking in silence. All along the stony path, the sun's rays shone through the tree tops to illuminate the flags and placards. Not every afternoon woodland stroll is labelled a "subversive challenge" to the state, but the Palestinian citizens of Israel were well aware of the significance of their alternative 'Independence Day' event, as they gathered on the ruins of Safuriyya, one of the hundreds of villages destroyed by Israel in 1948.

On a day when across the country, hundreds of thousands attended official military shows, firework displays and communal barbeques, this was the biggest event held by Palestinians inside Israel. Participating in the procession were the very top level Arab leaders, including Knesset members, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

‘Western leaders are war criminals’

The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, has echoed calls for Western leaders to be charged with war crimes over the invasion of Iraq.

Speaking at Imperial College in London Mahathir, who was in office from 1981 to 2003, singled out US President George Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australia’s former prime minister John Howard as he wants to see them tried “in absence for war crimes committed in Iraq”.

Iraq: will we ever get out?

Lebanon does not want another war. Does it?

The war in West Beirut is not about religion. It is about the political legitimacy of the Lebanese government and its "pro-American" support (the latter an essential adjective to any US news agency report), which Iran understandably challenges.

The global superclass

We didn't elect them. We can't throw them out. And they're getting more powerful every day.

At the moment, Americans are fixated on the political campaign. In the meantime, many are missing a reality of the global era that may matter much more than their presidential choice: On an ever-growing list of issues, the big decisions are being made or profoundly influenced by a little-understood international network of business, financial, government, cultural and military leaders who are beyond the reach of American voters.

In addition to top officials, these people include corporate executives, leading investors, top bankers, media moguls, heads of state, generals, religious leaders, heads of terrorist and criminal organizations and a handful of important cultural and scientific figures. Each of these roughly 6,000 individuals is set apart by their power and ability to regularly influence millions of lives across international borders.

Burma death toll 'could reach 1.5 million'

Oxfam warned yesterday that 1.5 million people could die needlessly in Burma as the first outbreaks of disease were reported in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, and many of the worst-hit areas went an eighth day without aid.

International agencies called on the country's secretive military junta to allow immediate access to those stranded without food, clean water and medicines. Cholera, typhoid and malaria could take hold within days as lack of food and shelter weakened the resistance of survivors.

Forget the naysayers — America remains an inspiration to us all

In one respect, it is hardly surprising. Iraq, Afghanistan and the rise of China. The credit crunch. The $124 a barrel oil price. The unbelievable unfairness of Bush's tax cuts. The racism and violence that still pockmark American life. Yet the pessimism is overdone. The more I visit the US the more I think the pundits predicting the US's imminent economic and political decline hugely overstate their case. Rather, the next 50 years will be as dominated by the US as the last 50. The US will widen its technological and scientific dominance, sustain its military hegemony, launch a period of reindustrialisation and continue to define modernity both in culture and industry.

Fighting in Lebanon spreads beyond Beirut

The heaviest clashes took place in the northern city of Tripoli, where pro-government supporters in the Tebaneh neighborhood exchanged rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire with opposition followers in Jabal Muhsin, the officials said.

Sudan cuts ties with Chad after rebel attack

Sudan cut diplomatic relations with Chad on Sunday after an attack on the Sudanese capital by Darfur rebels which it said was supported by Chadian President Idriss Deby.

The rebels fought Sudanese troops in a suburb of Khartoum on Saturday in a bid to seize power but officials said the attack was defeated.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hezbollah fighters in Beirut melt away

Hezbollah gunmen melted off the streets of Beirut Saturday, heeding an army call to pull the fighters out after the Shiite militants demonstrated their military might in a power struggle with the U.S.-backed government.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora . . . made a key concession to the Hezbollah-led opposition that would effectively shelve the two government decisions that sparked the fighting.

The terror that begot Israel

Practising Muslims 'will outnumber Christians by 2035'

By 2035, there will be about 1.96 million active Muslims in Britain, compared with 1.63 million church-going Christians, according to calculations by Christian Research, a think- tank.

The figures are published in the latest in a series of reports entitled Religious Trends.

Academics 'trying to revive Israel boycott'

Academics are today accused of attempting to revive the academic boycott of Israel by calling for lecturers to consider their links with Israeli institutions and lobby contacts over the Israeli occupation.

The University and College Union (UCU) annual conference this month will debate a motion which falls short of a full-blown boycott but asks members to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions" in the light of the "humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel".

The loathsome smearing of Israel's critics

In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence - and to a large degree, it works. There is nobody these self-appointed spokesmen for Israel will not attack as anti-Jewish: liberal Jews, rabbis, even Holocaust survivors.

Ahmadinejad: Israel is a 'stinking corpse' doomed to disappear

Pastor who McCain praised said America's historic mission was to 'destroy' Islam

Mother Jones' David Corn has discovered a 2005 sermon in which a fundamentalist pastor Sen. John McCain has praised and campaigned with called Islam "the greatest religious enemy of our civilization and the world," and that the mission of America was to see "this false religion destroyed."

"In this taped sermon currently sold by his megachurch, the Reverend Rod Parsley reiterates and amplifies harsh and derogatory comments about Islam he made in his book, Silent No More, published the same year he delivered these remarks. Meanwhile, McCain has stuck to his stance of not criticizing Parsley, an important political ally in a crucial swing state," Corn writes.

Strange death of Palestinian activist in Austin, Texas

Police on Thursday identified a man who was found bound with duct tape in Lady Bird Lake in East Austin. Austin Police Department said Hamad had likely bound himself to make his suicide look like a murder.

Iraq contractor in shooting case makes comeback

Last fall, Blackwater Worldwide was in deep peril.

Guards for the security company were involved in a shooting in September that left at least 17 Iraqis dead at a Baghdad intersection. Outrage over the killings prompted the Iraqi government to demand Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and led to a criminal investigation by the F.B.I., a series of internal investigations by the State Department and the Pentagon, and high-profile Congressional hearings.

But after an intense public and private lobbying campaign, Blackwater appears to be back to business as usual.

Iraqi army launch Mosul offensive

The Iraqi Army has launched a major operation in the northern city of Mosul against al-Qaeda and its allies.

Around 10,000 Sunni tribesmen from Mosul who are loyal to the government are taking part in the operation with an armoured brigade of Iraqi troops.

Oil politics in the Niger

The Bush administration has been pushing to establish AFRICOM forces in Africa. The Gulf of Guinea is the water that’s right off the coast of Nigeria, where there is, by some estimates, more than ten times the untapped oil that’s in Saudi Arabia, and the AFRICOM base is proposed for Nigeria.

Hizbollah rules west Beirut in Iran's proxy war with US

Another American humiliation. The Shia gunmen who drove past my apartment in west Beirut yesterday afternoon were hooting their horns, making V-signs, leaning out of the windows of SUVs with their rifles in the air, proving to the Muslims of the capital that the elected government of Lebanon has lost. . . .

When Hamas became part of the Palestinian government, the West rejected it. So Hamas took over Gaza. When the Hizbollah became part of the Lebanese government, the
Americans rejected it. Now Hizbollah has taken over west Beirut.

Iraq govt, Sadr bloc agree truce - officials

Iraq's government on Saturday agreed a truce with the movement of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to end weeks of fighting in an eastern Baghdad slum between Shi'ite militia and security forces, officials said. . . .

Sadr backed Maliki's rise to power in 2006 but split with the prime minister a year ago when he refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

War with Iran might be closer than you think

There is considerable speculation and buzz in Washington today suggesting that the National Security Council has agreed in principle to proceed with plans to attack an Iranian al-Qods-run camp that is believed to be training Iraqi militants. The camp that will be targeted is one of several located near Tehran.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hezbollah imposes control on Beirut

Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group took control of the Muslim half of Beirut on Friday, tightening its grip on the city in a major blow to the U.S.-backed government.

The fighting, the worst internal strife since the 1975-90 civil war, was triggered this week after the government took decisions targeting Hezbollah's military communications network. The group said the government had declared war.

'John McCain didn’t vote for Bush in 2000'

Blogger, author and nationally syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, revealed Monday that Senator John McCain had told her at a dinner party eight years ago that he did not vote for Bush in the 2000 election. Today, however, the Arizona Senator and Presidential hopeful has almost wholly embraced the Bush doctrine. Huffington writes: “The John McCain the media fell in love with in 2000 isn’t on the ballot in 2008. But the mainstream media doesn’t seem to have noticed a change and have barely taken him to task.”

An oil-addicted ex-superpower

Nineteen years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall effectively eliminated the Soviet Union as the world's other superpower. Yes, the USSR as a political entity stumbled on for another two years, but it was clearly an ex-superpower from the moment it lost control over its satellites in Eastern Europe.

Less than a month ago, the United States similarly lost its claim to superpower status when a barrel of crude oil roared past US$110 on the international market, gasoline prices crossed the $3.50 threshold at American pumps, and diesel fuel topped $4. As was true of the USSR following the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the US will no doubt continue to stumble on like the superpower it once was; but as the nation's economy continues to be eviscerated to pay for its daily oil fix, it, too, will be seen by increasing numbers of savvy observers as an ex-superpower-in-the-making.

US tightens its grip on Pakistan

It is extraordinary that a seasoned diplomat like Negroponte has chosen the NED forum to make such a major speech on Pakistan. But then, "promoting democracy" — the motto of NED — also happens to be a stated objective of US policy towards Pakistan. Over the past quarter century, the US government-funded NED has specialized as a handmaiden of American regional policies.

The NED is well known for covertly funding and supporting politicians in Latin American countries with strong support to the military. Its activities in many countries are known to run parallel to those of the Central Intelligence Agency. Its sensational role in conceptualizing and orchestrating the "color revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia was a high-water mark in the organization's history since its inception in 1983, mitigating to an extent its dismal failures in Iran, Venezuela and Cuba.

Burma death toll worse than tsunami

THE death toll in cyclone-ravaged Burma could hit 500,000 – more than TWICE the total killed by the Boxing Day Tsunami.

Last night’s warning came as it emerged that 17 Britons, including ex-pats and backpackers, were still missing.

Sources said 200,000 people were already dead or dying.

But the figure could rise to HALF A MILLION through disease and hunger if the nation’s hardline army rulers continue to block aid for the devastated lowlands of the Irrawaddy Delta.

Iran accuses U.S., Britain In fatal blast

Iran's Intelligence Ministry has accused the United States and Britain of involvement in an April 12 bomb attack at a religious center in the city of Shiraz that killed at least 12 people and wounded 202.

Pakistan opposes US military aide

Pakistan says it has asked the United States not to appoint the former head of the US prison at Guantanamo as military envoy in Islamabad.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his government had "genuine reservations" over the appointment of Maj-Gen Jay Hood.

IMF warns on global inflation

John Lipsky, IMF deputy managing director, said “inflation concerns have resurfaced after years of quiescence” due to soaring energy and food prices. Mr Lipsky said global growth was slowing but headline inflation was “accelerating”.

The IMF warning came as crude oil prices hit a record of almost $124 a barrel, up 99 per cent in the past 12 months, and customers scrambled to take out insurance against prices rising above $200 a barrel.

Hezbollah fighters overrun West Beirut and media HQ

Hezbollah fighters seized control of rival pro-Government strongholds in Beirut today as gunbattles rocked the Lebanese capital for a third day, edging the nation dangerously close to all-out civil war.

The Shia Muslim group, the most powerful armed movement in Lebanon, forced the shutdown of all media belonging to the family of Saad Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader. A rocket hit the outer perimeter of his Beirut residence.

U.S. deploys more than 43,000 unfit for combat

More than 43,000 U.S. troops listed as medically unfit for combat in the weeks before their scheduled deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 were sent anyway, Pentagon records show.

This reliance on troops found medically "non-deployable" is another sign of stress placed on a military that has sent 1.6 million servicemembers to the war zones, soldier advocacy groups say.

Residents says Iraqi soldiers warn them to leave Sadr City

Iraqi soldiers, using loudspeakers, told residents in some virtually abandoned areas of southeastern Sadr City to go to nearby soccer stadiums, residents said. UNICEF says about 6,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Sadr City, most of them from the southeastern section.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jimmy Carter: A human rights crime

The world is witnessing a terrible human rights crime in Gaza, where a million and a half human beings are being imprisoned with almost no access to the outside world. An entire population is being brutally punished.

This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers.

Olympic torch hurts Uighur Muslims

"The Chinese authorities have been heavily cracking down on the Uighurs in order to bring the torch through East Turkestan," Rebiya Kadeer, head of the Uighur American Association, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Monday, May 5, using the Uighur name of the region.

"We have learned that many Uighurs are being detained and arrested by the Chinese authorities to prevent their peaceful protests in relation to the torch."

Secretary General of the Munich-based World Uighur Congress Dolkun Isa echoed similar concerns earlier this week.

Iranian Jewish community will not mark Israel's 60th Independence Day

The Iranian Jewish community will not mark Israel's 60th Independence Day, incoming Iranian Jewish parliamentarian Siamak Morsadegh said Wednesday.

Speaking to Reuters, Morsadegh said this was in protest of Israel's responsibility for the "murder of totally innocent Palestinian civilians."

"We are in complete disagreement with Israel's conduct," he said. "We are Iranians. We have no relations with Israel."

Clinton might be negotiating spot on '08 ticket, George says

Navy releases McCain's military record

Malaysia woman scores rare legal win to quit Islam

A Malaysian religious court granted a woman's wish to formally renounce Islam on Thursday, a decision described by her lawyer as a landmark case that could enable many others to leave the faith.

Islamic courts in the mainly Muslim nation rarely allow Muslims to convert to other religions. Often, they prescribe counseling or sometimes even fine them for apostasy.

Iranian exiles aren’t terrorist group, British court says

After a seven-year legal battle, Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday that the British government was wrong to include an Iranian resistance group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, on its list of banned terrorist groups.

Born at the dawn of a new state

Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, and Gurel and his family have spent the years since trying to build the Jewish state into a military and economic powerhouse. Gurel's father, an engineer, helped design the barracks, training grounds and ammunition depots of Israel's defense. The son, also an engineer, has constructed shopping centers and high-rises that have become emblems of affluence.

Zaharan, meanwhile, has spent his life dreaming of a place he lost but never knew, and wishing for a Palestinian state that may never be. He prays for his family's safety amid nightly Israeli army incursions, and hopes his children will find work despite a crippling siege.

Israel marks its 60th anniversary

Celebrations are taking place across Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state.

Fireworks, concerts and an aerial display were among the events laid on, while Israeli families prepared picnics and barbecues for the national holiday.

Israel declared itself an independent state on 14 May 1948, three years after the end of World War II and the death of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

But Palestinians know the foundation day as al-Nakba, or "the Catastrophe".

They were holding solemn marches in the West Bank, meant to symbolise the hope of Palestinian refugees to return to villages in what is now Israel.

Lebanon descends into chaos as rival leaders order general strike

Lebanon seems to feed on crisis, need crisis, breathe crisis, like a wounded man needs blood. The man who should be the president is head of the army and the man who believes he leads the resistance – Sayed Hassan Nasrallah of the Hizbollah – accuses Mr Jumblatt of doing Israel's work while Mr Jumblatt claims the head of Beirut airport security, Colonel Wafic Chucair, works for the Hizbollah and should be fired.

Olmert under pressure to quit over link to millionaire in bribery probe

Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is coming under pressure to resign after an American millionaire was reported to be embroiled in a high-level bribery investigation involving Olmert.

Speculation about the Israeli leader's future is rife after a report - on the eve of the country's 60th birthday celebrations today - that a Long Island financier, Morris Talansky, is set to testify to Israel's state prosecutor's office.

Putin becomes PM in leadership 'tandem'

Vladimir Putin will retain a "key role" in Russia for years as prime minister, new President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday, as the two men opened an unprecedented era of dual rule.

Putin was confirmed as prime minister by 392 of the 448 deputies at an extraordinary session of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, one day after Medvedev was inaugurated at a lavish Kremlin ceremony.

"I think no one has any doubt that our tandem, our cooperation, will only continue to strengthen," Medvedev said ahead of the vote.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Green Zone dreams of wealth to come

Forget the rocket attacks, concrete blast walls and lack of a sewer system—try to imagine luxury hotels, a shopping center and even condos in the heart of Baghdad. . . .

The $5 billion plan has the backing of the Pentagon and apparently the interest of some deep pockets in the world of international hotels and development, the lead military liaison for the project told The Associated Press.

For Washington, the driving motivation is to create a "zone of influence" around the new $700 million U.S. Embassy. The zone would serve as a kind of high-end buffer for the compound, whose price tag will reach about $1 billion after all the workers and offices are moved over the next year. . . .

Karnowski said a deal has been completed for Marriott International Inc. to build a hotel in the Green Zone. He also said a possible $1 billion investment could come from MBI International, a conglomerate that focuses on hotels and resorts and is led by Saudi Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber.

After 60 years, Arabs in Israel are outsiders

As Israel toasts its 60th anniversary in the coming weeks, rejoicing in Jewish national rebirth and democratic values, the Arabs who make up 20 percent of its citizens will not be celebrating. Better off and better integrated than ever in their history, freer than a vast majority of other Arabs, Israel’s 1.3 million Arab citizens are still far less well off than Israeli Jews and feel increasingly unwanted.

On Thursday, which is Independence Day, thousands will gather in their former villages to protest what they have come to call the “nakba,” or catastrophe, meaning Israel’s birth.

U.S., Russia sign pact on nuclear cooperation

The framework agreement could open the way for Russia to import, store and reprocess thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel that had been supplied by the United States for reactors around the world, a business potentially worth billions of dollars.

Oil price 'may hit $200 a barrel'

The price of crude oil could soar to $200 a barrel in as little as six months, as supply continues to struggle to meet demand, a report has warned.

With benchmark US light crude passing the $122 mark for the first time on Tuesday, the warning comes from Goldman Sachs energy strategist Argun Murti.

Surging demand was increasingly likely to create a "super-spike" past $200 in six months to two years' time, he said.

Call for inquiry into US role in Somalia

Amnesty International has called for the role of the United States in Somalia to be investigated, following publication of a report accusing its allies of committing war crimes.

China's Hu hails diplomatic thaw on Japan visit

East Asia's biggest rivals yesterday welcomed a "warm spring" to replace the winter chill that has long cut through their relationship, as Hu Jintao arrived in Tokyo on the first visit to Japan by a Chinese president for a decade.

Though his arrival was greeted by an unlikely alliance of pro-Tibetan activists and members of the Japanese far-right, the visit is billed as a turning point in Sino-Japanese ties after years of hostility.

Burma death toll 'likely to hit 80,000'

An aid official in Burma says the death toll from Cyclone Nargis may be 80,000 or more.

Kyi Minn is health adviser for World Vision in Burma and he says that on top of the 22,000 the military regime has admitted have died, there are another 60,000 missing—presumed dead.

Military makes mincemeat of church-state separation

Amnesty Intl: Ethiopian troops commit atrocities in Somalia

A leading human rights group on Tuesday accused Ethiopian troops in Somalia of killing civilians and committing atrocities, including slitting people's throats, gouging out eyes and gang-raping women.

In a new report, Amnesty International detailed chilling witness accounts of indiscriminate killings in the Horn of Africa country and called on the international community to stop the bloodshed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

FILM: 'War Made Easy'

The documentary film "War Made Easy," based on the book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," shows the pervasive and long-running partnership between key news outlets and high-ranking warmakers in Washington. This video excerpt from the movie puts the "Pentagon Pundits" story in a broad and chilling context.

Intensifying conflict in Sadr City underscores US and Iraqi government’s fear of Muqtada al-Sadr

By weakening the Sadrists, the Maliki-Hakim alliance hopes to avert a setback at the ballot-box in October, when voters are scheduled to go to the polls to elect provincial councils. The Sadrists are expected to make significant gains in the upcoming local elections, which would undermine the control of the Maliki-Hakim alliance over most provincial councils in south-central and central Iraq.

US intensifies its control over Pakistan’s new civilian government

Washington has demanded direct access to Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), the body that controls the country’s nuclear weapons. To show that it will not take “no” for an answer, Washington has posted an officer at its embassy in Islamabad to liaise with the NCA. Other demands include allowing US personnel to enter Pakistan on the basis of national identity (such as a driver’s licence), foregoing visas and passports; accepting US licences, including arms licences, in Pakistan; US personnel being allowed to bear arms and wear their uniform in Pakistan; and exemption of American personnel from Pakistani law if they commit a crime. There are close parallels between these demands and those that were imposed on Iran during the Shah’s rule, which led ultimately to the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1978-79).

An invention called 'the Jewish people'

If the majority of the Jews were not exiled, how is it that so many of them reached almost every country on earth? Zand says they emigrated of their own volition or, if they were among those exiled to Babylon, remained there because they chose to. Contrary to conventional belief, the Jewish religion tried to induce members of other faiths to become Jews, which explains how there came to be millions of Jews in the world. As the Book of Esther, for example, notes, "And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them."

Yes, the Pentagon did want to hit Iran

Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith's recently published account of the Iraq war decisions.

Feith's account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country's top military leaders.

Aid workers fear Burma cyclone deaths will top 50,000

Foreign aid workers in Burma have concluded that as many as 50,000 people died in Saturday’s cyclone, and two to three million are homeless, in a disaster whose scale invites comparison with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The official death count after Cyclone Nargis is 15,000, and the Thai Foreign Minister says he has been told that 30,000 people are missing. But due to the incompleteness of the information from the stricken Irrawaddy delta, UN and charity workers in the city of Rangoon privately believe that the number will eventually be several times higher.

Tens of thousands riot in Mogadishu in eruption of anger over food prices

Troops have fired into tens of thousands of rioting Somalis, killing two people in the latest eruption of anger over high food prices in Africa, witnesses said.

In the capital Mogadishu, protesters marched against the refusal of traders to accept old 1,000-shilling notes, blaming them and a growing number of counterfeiters for rising food costs.

Post-war suicides may exceed combat deaths, U.S. says

Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have post- traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S. troops have fought in the two wars since October 2001, the report said. About 4,560 soldiers had died in the conflicts as of today, the Defense Department reported on its Web site.

Iran rejects nuclear inspections unless Israel allows them

An Iranian envoy said Monday his government will not submit to extensive nuclear inspections while Israel stays outside the global treaty to curb the spread of atomic weapons.

"The existing double standard shall not be tolerated anymore by non-nuclear-weapon states," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told a meeting of the 190 countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Iraq war morphs into the Iranian war

It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

The US Air Force can't wait 'to show what it can do.'

Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

Relief effort begins as Burmese cyclone death toll reaches 10,000

Aid workers believe at least 1 million people have been left homeless by Cyclone Nargis, which barrelled across south-west and central Burma on Saturday, unleashing 120mph (190kmph) winds, torrential rains and flooding that caused a catastrophic trail of destruction.

Tibet group in India has Qaida links: China

Beijing came out with a fresh assessment of the Tibet situation on Monday, one in which it accused the Tibetan Young Congress (TYC) of links with the al-Qaida and terrorist organisations involved in the East Turkmenistan movement in west China's Xinjiang province. The analysis, released by the official Xinhua news agency, said that Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in India consists of several TYC leaders and cadre.

Iraqi official says Iran arms evidence not conclusive

A top Iraqi official said Sunday there was no conclusive evidence that Shiite extremists have been directly supplied with some Iranian arms as alleged by the United States.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq does not want trouble with any country, "especially Iran."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The all-white elephant in the room

BORED by those endless replays of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright? If so, go directly to YouTube, search for “John Hagee Roman Church Hitler,” and be recharged by a fresh jolt of clerical jive.

What you’ll find is a white televangelist, the Rev. John Hagee, lecturing in front of an enormous diorama. Wielding a pointer, he pokes at the image of a woman with Pamela Anderson-sized breasts, her hand raising a golden chalice. The woman is “the Great Whore,” Mr. Hagee explains, and she is drinking “the blood of the Jewish people.” That’s because the Great Whore represents “the Roman Church,” which, in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.

Mr. Hagee is not a fringe kook but the pastor of a Texas megachurch. On Feb. 27, he stood with John McCain and endorsed him over the religious conservatives’ favorite, Mike Huckabee, who was then still in the race. . . .

Mr. Hagee’s videos have never had the same circulation on television as Mr. Wright’s. A sonorous white preacher spouting venom just doesn’t have the telegenic zing of a theatrical black man.

We deserve the full truth about 9/11

Time magazine reported in September 2006 that 36 percent of Americans believe the government was complicit in 9/11. A Zogby poll reported that 51 percent of Americans want Congress to investigate 9/11 further.

Even the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission are upset with the commission report. They have accused the CIA and the military of "obstructing" the investigation. Former Commissioner Max Cleland resigned, stating that the Commission was "compromised." Former FBI Director Louis Freeh has criticized the report for its inaccuracies and unanswered questions.

Buffett says risk of financial meltdown has declined

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett said Saturday that the risk of a major financial meltdown has declined recently but cautioned not to expect big gains from the stock market in future years.

Mystery of a killer elite fuels unrest in Turkey

Arrest of 47 people over alleged coup plot sparks fears of hidden ultra-right network.

Lieberman's tough questions

While you're anxiously awaiting a determination by the neo-crazies as to whether the Bush-Cheney White House must launch yet another war of aggression in the Middle East to remove a "threat" to our Major Non-NATO Ally, Israel, or whether launching that war can be safely left to the Whoever-Lieberman White House, you might reflect upon the Senate hearings Lieberman chaired last month, featuring charts purporting to show the "horrific effects of a small nuclear device detonating near the White House." . . .

Don't forget that it was the Clinton-Gore White House that in 1998 defied the UN Security Council – ignored the definitive reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Saddam Hussein's illicit uranium-enrichment program had been utterly destroyed in 1991 and that subsequent exhaustive go-anywhere see-anything interview-anyone IAEA inspections had resulted in "no indication" that any attempts had been made to revive it – and launched Operation Desert Fox, a thinly disguised attempt to effect "regime change" in Iraq from 20,000 feet.