Monday, June 30, 2008

Prosecutors charge accused USS Cole mastermind

U.S. military prosecutors have requested the death penalty for the alleged mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole warship that killed 17 U.S. sailors in 2000, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian national of Yemeni descent being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, faces eight charges, including murder and terrorism, for the attack in the Yemeni port of Aden on October 12, 2000, that wounded 47 sailors.

Democrat with military background assails McCain's credentials

The retired general Wesley Clark said McCain had not "held executive responsibility" and had not commanded troops in wartime.

McCain's experience in Vietnam, where he was a prisoner of war for five years, has seemed at times almost to grant him invulnerability to criticism of his security background. But on Sunday he was assailed by a fellow military man, a highly decorated one who was once the NATO supreme commander.

US advised Iraqi ministry on oil deals

A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.

The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.

In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.

Iraq to award oil contracts to foreign companies

Iraq on Monday will award oil contracts to dozens of foreign companies in a bid to boost production that could also give multinationals a foothold in the country's huge but underdeveloped oil fields.

The oil ministry is to hold a press conference to announce the deals which include five technical support agreements with companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and BHP Billiton, ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said.

The ministry also plans to sign contracts with 41 other foreign companies for extracting oil, . . .

Riots rage in Kashmir

Protesters continue to riot on the streets of Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir for the eighth day, burning tyres and vehicles and marching against what they called a government plan to build Hindu settlements in the country's only Muslim-majority state.

Thousands of police patrolling the region have been unsuccessful in quelling the riots, and businesses, shops and schools in the provincial capital remain closed.

A declaration from the state's top elected official on Sunday that his cabinet would formally revoke the plan also failed to subdue the protests.

Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, a prominent separatist leader, said the riots would continue "until we see the revocation in writing".

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.

The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year.

Separation and ethnic cleansing — Israel's encaging of Gaza

In 1895 Theodor Herzl, Zionism’s chief prophet, confided in his diary that he did not favour sharing Palestine with the natives. Better, he wrote, to “try to spirit the penniless [Palestinian] population across the border by denying it any employment in our own country . . . Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”

He was proposing a programme of Palestinian emigration enforced through a policy of strict separation between Jewish immigrants and the indigenous population. In simple terms, he hoped that, once Zionist organisations had bought up large areas of Palestine and owned the main sectors of the economy, Palestinians could be made to leave by denying them rights to work the land or labour in the Jewish-run economy. His vision was one of transfer, or ethnic cleansing, through ethnic separation.

India's moderate Muslims see peril in growth of stricter form of Islam

Mugabe claims 'sweeping victory'

Robert Mugabe has said he is heading for a "sweeping victory" in Zimbabwe's unopposed run-off presidential poll.

Officials have scheduled his inauguration for 1300 GMT on Sunday, even though official results are yet to be published.

He was the only candidate after the opposition boycotted the vote amid reports of violence and intimidation.

Shadow of war looms as Israel flexes its muscle

The meeting at the home of Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not supposed to be public. The man invited into Olmert's official residence in Jerusalem was Aviam Sela, architect of Operation Opera in 1981, when Israel launched a long-range strike against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor. Regarded as a brilliant aviation tactician, in particular in the field of in-flight refuelling, Olmert's office tried to play down the meeting. But the rumours in Israel's defence establishment were already flying.

Sela, according to sources close to the meeting, had been called in so that Olmert could ask his opinion on the likely effectiveness of a similar raid to Opera on the nuclear installations of Iran.

Obama supporters take his middle name as their own

The result is a group of unlikely-sounding Husseins: Jewish and Catholic, Hispanic and Asian and Italian-American, from Jaime Hussein Alvarez of Washington, D.C., to Kelly Hussein Crowley of Norman, Oklahoma, to Sarah Beth Hussein Frumkin of Chicago.

Jeff Strabone of New York now signs credit card receipts with his newly assumed middle name, while Dan O'Maley of Washington, D.C., jiggered his e-mail account so his name would appear as "D. Hussein O'Maley."

New Israel lobby advocates diplomacy over force

J Street gets its name from the fact that there is no "J Street'' in Washington, reflecting the premise that liberal, dovish views are largely absent from discussions of Mideast policy. Billing itself as the political arm of the pro-peace movement, J Street vows to "advocate forcefully'' in support of diplomatic solutions over military ones and dialogue over confrontation. . . .

The organization is careful to avoid attacking AIPAC by name. However, in a full-page ad in the New York Times last week, J Street chastised "established'' pro-Israel organizations for their "deafening silence'' on Israel's new cease-fire with Hamas and the resumption of peace talks with Syria.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Israel gives UN watchdog secret briefing on Iran

Foreign Ministry Director General Aaron Abramovich secretly visited the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna Wednesday and briefed a group of ambassadors from countries involved in the agency's efforts to stop Iran's nuclear project. Abramovich emphasized that the IAEA must act more quickly and efficiently to block Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Rare Iraqi Jewish books 'surface in Israel'

Pakistan bombards suspected Taliban hideouts

The offensive in the Khyber tribal region marked the first major military action Pakistan's newly elected government has taken against the militants operating in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The government had said it preferred to try to defuse tension with the groups through negotiations, but with threats by Islamic militants to the city of Peshawar growing in recent weeks, the military decided to take action.

First meeting of Kosovo assembly

An assembly set up by Kosovo Serbs is due to hold its first session in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica.

Its inaugural meeting takes place on the day Serbs remember their defeat by invading Ottoman forces in 1389.

The 53 seat assembly has been organised in defiance of the Kosovo government and the United Nations.

The assembly has been formed by hard line Serb politicians in Kosovo and was set up to act as a co-ordination body with the Serb authorities in Belgrade.

Iraqi MPs stall deals on Bush benchmarks

Three key US-backed measures on oil, provincial elections and the future of US troops are mired in the Iraqi parliament, raising doubts as to whether they can come into effect before George Bush leaves office.

Once listed as a crucial "benchmark" allowing the US president to claim success in Iraq, the provincial elections look likely to be delayed until next year. The oil law, which nationalist MPs blocked last summer over fears that foreign companies would take over Iraq's major resource, is facing the same problem again.

The pact to permit US troops to remain in Iraq is equally sensitive, and was described by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, this month as being in stalemate.

America is the rogue nation

Fears rise that key Pakistani city will fall to Islamic militants

Heavily armed Islamic militants have massed on the outskirts of Peshawar, the strategic provincial capital in northwest Pakistan, and the Pakistani government has dramatically stepped up security around the city amid fears that it could fall.

Taliban groups and other extremist warlords now threaten Peshawar from three sides. Should they take over Peshawar, the rest of the North West Frontier Province could follow, leaving Islamic extremists in control of a region that borders Afghanistan and sits astride one of the main supply routes to U.S. and coalition troops there.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Gitmo detainee's lawyer 'not allowed to tell him' he's no longer an 'enemy combatant'

Nearly two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that detainees held at Guantánamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus and can thus challenge their detention in civilian courts, a U.S. Court of Appeals dealt another blow to the Bush administration's detention policy.

The appeals court ruled that the Pentagon improperly designated Huzaifa Parhat, an ethnic Uighur Chinese national, an "enemy combatant" after being swept up by the U.S. military in Afghanistan in 2001 and then sent to Guantánamo Bay, where he has been held since.

Kashmir protests turn violent

Clashes between the police and protesters over government plans to transfer land to Hindu pilgrims in the Muslim-majority Indian-administered Kashmir have led to two deaths.

Exclusive: No ice at the North Pole

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer. . . .

If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.

Who's actually winning in Iraq?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Is Pakistan ready for another 9/11?

The Pakistani ambassador in Washington was put on notice early this month that the U.S. would ‘retaliate’ if America suffered such an attack. No less than the U.S. military’s highest ranking officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, came out to drive the point home. Part of the concern is that Washington is exaggerating Al Qaeda’s capabilities and that Pakistan could end up entrapped in a manufactured crisis that serves American strategic objectives that do not match Pakistan’s. The American ‘retaliation’ in this case would definitely mean an invasion of our territories. And the ground is being prepared for this. Karzai’s blunt threat was more than just a case of a roaring mouse. It is no coincidence that Pakistan is facing renewed nuclear blackmail at the hands of U.S. media reports that make serious allegations without naming the U.S. government officials behind them.

Senators question border laptop searches

Two U.S. senators called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to back off its assertion that it can search laptops and other electronic devices owned by U.S. citizens returning to the country without the need for reasonable suspicion of a crime or probable cause. . . .

Two witnesses at a hearing before the subcommittee Wednesday described widespread CBP searches of electronic devices at borders, with data copies and devices sometimes confiscated for weeks. One Muslim executive at a U.S. tech vendor has been subjected to border interrogations at least eight times since early 2007, said Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates.

'Thousands die' in India custody

Nearly 7,500 people have died in official custody in India over the past five years, according to a report by a human rights group.

The report by Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights says many of these people were tortured in custody.

It says the Indian government is in a state of denial about torture.

US removes its nuclear arms from Britain

The US has removed its nuclear weapons from Britain, ending a contentious presence spanning more than half a century, a report will say today. According to the study by the Federation of American Scientists, the last 110 American nuclear weapons on UK soil were withdrawn from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk on the orders of President George Bush.

N Korea move triggers removal from US blacklist

North Korea on Thursday submitted a long-overdue declaration of its plutonium-based nuclear programme, prompting the US to start removing Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

However, taking North Korea off the blacklist will be controversial as Kim Jong-il’s regime will not disclose any information about its suspected uranium enrichment programme, the issue that triggered the current nuclear crisis.

Iran and nuclear consequences

When an Israeli cabinet minister said he thought an attack on Iran's nuclear sites was unavoidable, the price of a barrel of oil rose 9 percent to a new record in June. Nice, fat bonus for oil-producing countries, including Iran.

If rhetoric has that effect, imagine the consequences of an actual strike. The numbers have not been crunched, at least not in public, but a four-month computer simulation and gaming exercise carried out last year by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, gives an idea.

It was based on an Iranian closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for 90 percent of oil exported from Gulf producers, in response to a U.S. attack on nuclear sites, air fields and air defense targets. The simulation showed the price of oil more than doubling, U.S. gross domestic product depressed for 2-1/2 years, private non-farm employment declining by more than one million jobs, and disposable personal income dropping by more than $260 billion.

A blueprint for Iraq withdrawal

The report lays out a comprehensive plan for withdrawal of US forces by internationalizing what is currently the US role as the center of political power and humanitarian aid in Iraq, engaging in regional dialogue to stem outside interference in Iraq and convincing neighboring friends and foes alike to take a constructive role in reconstruction and development, and fomenting Iraqi reconciliation with international and regional support.

The report also calls for a short-term extension of the current UN mandate for the presence of foreign troops as a means to cover US troops from prosecution as they prepare to withdraw. The Bush administration, in contrast, plans to sign a controversial bilateral agreement with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to continue the status quo of US troops as an occupying force.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anglo American reviewing options for Zimbabwe platinum mine

Anglo American> Plc, the company that controls the world's biggest platinum producer, is reviewing its plan to mine the metal in Zimbabwe as the country's political crisis deepens. . . .

Zimbabwe has the world's second-biggest platinum deposits, after South Africa. Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Aquarius Platinum Ltd. already mine in the country.

Bush gets blank check for war

George W. Bush, who has never chosen to take responsibility for addressing the mess he created in Iraq, has now been given permission by the U.S. House to finish his presidency without doing so.

After the House voted 268-to-155 to provide $162 billion in additional "emergency" funding for the Iraq war last week, Bush was effectively assured that he will be able to finish his presidency next Jan. 20 and head back to Texas without taking any steps to conclude a conflict that has killed and permanently disabled tens of thousands of Americans, killed and dislocated millions of Iraqis and destabilized one of the most complex and dangerous regions in the world.

Morality — Trotskyite vs. Christian

Did Hitler's crimes justify the Allies' terror-bombing of Germany? . . .

Late 1940 was a full year before the mass deportations from the Polish ghettos to Treblinka and Sobibor began. Churchill had ordered the indiscriminate bombing of German cities and civilians before the Nazis had begun to execute the Final Solution.

9/11's fading force

Everyone seems to agree that Charlie Black, the McCain campaign advisor who told Fortune magazine that a terrorist attack between now and election day would help his candidate, spoke the truth. An impolitic and impolite truth, perhaps, one that visited some grief upon his candidate, who had to denounce the remark, but the truth all the same.

I say: not necessarily.

The Pentagon's merchants of war

The top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change. In 2002, the massive arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman ranked one, two and three among Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, taking in US$17 billion, $16.6 billion and $8.7 billion.

Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman did it again in 2003 ($21.9 billion, $17.3 billion and $11.1 billion); 2004 ($20.7 billion, $17.1 billion and $11.9 billion); 2005 ($19.4 billion, $18.3 billion and $13.5 billion); 2006 ($26.6 billion, $20.3 billion and $16.6 billion); and, not surprisingly, 2007 as well ($27.8 billion $22.5 billion and $14.6 billion). . . .

With the basic Pentagon budget now clocking in at roughly $541 billion per year - before "supplemental" war funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and President George W Bush's "war on terror", as well as national security spending by other agencies, are factored in - even Lockheed's hefty $28 billion take is a small percentage of the massive total.

Saudi arrests 700 Islamists preparing 'oil attacks': ministry

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has arrested 701 Islamists in recent months who were preparing attacks on oil industry installations, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

Life on the fringes of U.S. suburbia becomes untenable with rising gas costs

Biofuel use 'increasing poverty'

The replacement of traditional fuels with biofuels has dragged more than 30 million people worldwide into poverty, an aid agency report says.

Oxfam says so-called green policies in developed countries are contributing to the world's soaring food prices, which hit the poor hardest.

The group also says biofuels will do nothing to combat climate change.

Its report urges the EU to scrap a target of making 10% of all transport run on renewable resources by 2020.

US considers sending envoys to Iran

The US is considering sending diplomats to Iran for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, in a move that would fall short of establishing diplomatic relations but would markedly increase contacts between the two countries.

Israel prodding U.S. to attack Iran

Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen leaves Tuesday night on an overseas trip that will take him to Israel, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. The trip has been scheduled for some time but U.S. officials say it comes just as the Israelis are mounting a full court press to get the Bush administration to strike Iran's nuclear complex.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Britain admits to using 'brutal' vacuum bomb against Taliban

BRITISH forces in Afghanistan have used one of the world's most deadly and controversial missiles to fight the Taliban.

Apache attack helicopters have fired the thermobaric weapons against fighters in buildings and caves, to create a pressure wave that sucks the air out of victims, shreds their internal organs and crushes their bodies. . . .

Legal experts concerned that use of the weapons broke international law simply renamed them.

Big Oil's slick no-bid contracts will keep us mired in Iraq

Didn't you just know this was coming?

A consortium of Western oil companies —- the very definition of Big Oil —- is on the verge of receiving no-bid contracts in Iraq, giving them access to one of the most sought-after prizes in the petroleum industry, according to The New York Times. Can it be mere coincidence that the leading companies in the deal —- ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total —- are the very same companies that Saddam Hussein threw out when he nationalized the Iraqi oil industry more than three decades ago?

Government study criticizes Bush administration’s measures of progress in Iraq

Beyond the declines in overall violence in Iraq, several crucial measures the Bush administration uses to demonstrate economic, political and security progress are either incorrect or far more mixed than the administration has acknowledged, according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office.

In a first, court says military erred in a Guantanamo case

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned as "invalid" a military tribunal's conclusion that prisoner Huzaifa Parhat is an enemy combatant.

The court directed the Pentagon either to release or transfer Parhat or to hold a new tribunal hearing "consistent with the court's opinion.

EU sanctions illegal, says Iran

Iran has condemned as illegal new EU sanctions against Tehran over its uranium enrichment programme.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the sanctions would make Iran more determined to obtain the technology.

On Monday, the EU imposed an asset freeze on Iran's largest bank and added more names to a list of Iranians who are banned from travelling to the EU.

The US and allies accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its programme is for peaceful purposes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Islam you don't hear about

A trip to Indonesia — home to more than 200 million Muslims — reveals a faith that hardly resembles the one Americans have come to know in the blood-soaked years since 9/11.

The game is over. There won't be a rebound

What we are seeing is the creation of a highly concentrated financial oligarchy — precisely the power that the Glass-Steagall Act was designed to prevent. A combination of deregulation and “moral hazard” bailouts — for the top of the economic pyramid, not the bottom — will polarize the economy all the more. . . .

I think that at some point Obama will have to tell the public the bad news that restoring vitality will take radical measures – probably ones that Congress will try to water down so much that things are going to get worse – much worse – before the needed reforms will be made. He can say this before taking office, blaming the Republicans for their regressive tax policies and at the same time bringing pressure on the new Democratic Congress to back a return to progressive taxation and serious financial restructuring. As president, he will have to do what FDR did, and challenge the financial oligarchy with new government regulatory agencies staffed with real regulators, not deregulators as under the Bush-Clinton-Bush regime.

He should make large depositors and “savers” take the losses on their bad bets. And he should repeal the Clinton repeal of Glass Steagall.

Worst of times for Iran

Despite a surge in oil revenues, Iran's kleptocracy has pushed conditions in the country to the point of Dickensian poverty. The prices of ordinary goods are soaring out of people's reach, property values in Tehran are equal to those of Paris, and prostitutes and profiteers are everywhere. And the disappearance of half the country's oil revenues from the books makes President Mahmud Adhmadinejad's tenure the worst of times for Iran.

Islamic scholar voted world's No 1 thinker

A hitherto largely unknown Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gülen, has been voted the world's top intellectual in a poll to find the leading 100 thinkers.

Gülen, the author of more than 60 books, won a landslide triumph after the survey - which is organised by the British magazine, Prospect, and Foreign Policy, a US publication - attracted more than 500,000 votes.

The top 10 individuals were all Muslim and included two Nobel laureates, the novelist Orhan Pamuk, who is also Turkish, at No 4, and the Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, in 10th.

Democrats legalize Bush's crimes

In the guise of rejecting Bush’s theories of an all-powerful presidency that is above the law, the Democratic leadership cleared the way for the President and his collaborators to evade punishment for defying the law.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The real McCain

But there is another, very different side to John McCain. Away from the headlines and the stirring speeches, a less familiar figure lurks. It is a McCain who plans to fight on in Iraq for years to come and who might launch military action against Iran. This is the McCain whose campaign and career has been riddled with lobbyists and special interests. It is a McCain who has sided with religious and political extremists who believe Islam is evil and gays are immoral. It is a McCain who wants to appoint extreme conservatives to the Supreme Court and see abortion banned. This McCain has a notoriously volatile temper that has scared some senior members of his own party. If McCain becomes the most powerful man in the world it would be wise to know what lies behind his public mask, to look at the dark side of John McCain.

Warlord: My encounter with Taliban mastermind

The former darling of the West's intelligence agencies is now their leading target after Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the Taliban figurehead, Mullah Omar.

Another Tenet sting failure?

Mugabe's rival Tsvangirai pulls out of election

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off election against President Robert Mugabe on Sunday, saying a free and fair poll was impossible in the current climate of violence.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The last thousand days of the British Empire

The war, Mr. Clarke notes, "left India a creditor on a vast scale, with Britain owing it huge sums in the form of the sterling balances." This fact meant that London actually owed New Delhi some £1.3 billion pounds (or $5.2 billion in 1945 dollars). The empire had conferred many benefits on Britain, but by the 1940s its administration and defense were a net drain on London.

And Britain owed a lot to the U.S. as well. . . .

Burdened by its great-power status, which involved the expensive occupation of a large section of northwest Germany with the responsibility to feed Germany's starving population, Britain could not even adequately feed its own people (who faced more draconian rationing in the late 1940s than during the war). Still less could it afford the cost of large troop deployments and the other costs of governing India and Palestine.

US asks to rewrite detainee evidence

The Bush administration wants to rewrite the official evidence against Guantanamo Bay detainees, allowing it to shore up its cases before they come under scrutiny by civilian judges for the first time.

The government has stood behind the evidence for years. Military review boards relied on it to justify holding hundreds of prisoners indefinitely without charge. Justice Department attorneys said it was thoroughly and fairly reviewed.

Now that federal judges are about to review the evidence, however, the government says it needs to make changes.

The decision follows last week's Supreme Court ruling, which held that detainees have the right to challenge their detention in civilian court, . . .

US lawmakers pass wiretaps bill

US lawmakers have passed a bill to shield telephone companies who helped in the White House's controversial warrantless wiretaps programme.

The bill also grants the US government the power to continue with its warrantless surveillance scheme.

Israeli jet exercise is warning to Iran over nuclear facilities, Pentagon says

A totally lawless regime

It is now an incontrovertible fact, known all over the world, that George W. Bush and his regime lied through their teeth in order to launch wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the Bush regime is doing the same thing again in hopes of launching an attack on Iran. . . .

If Americans return a Republican regime, Americans will validate the right of the president to violate with impunity US and international law.

A secret oil gusher inside Citigroup

The company that Congress overlooked should have been an easy suspect. It launched the oil trading career of the infamous fugitive, Marc Rich, pardoned by President Clinton in the final hours of his presidency. It was at one time the largest oil and metals trader in the world. In the late 90s it bought up 129 million ounces of silver for legendary investor Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, in London’s unregulated over-the-counter market.

. . . this company’s activities are so secret that its web site ( is a one page affair and lists only the addresses, phone and fax numbers of its offices in the U.S., London, Geneva, and Singapore.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Russia's Lavrov warns against attack on Iran

Russia's foreign minister on Friday warned against the use of force on Iran, saying there is no proof it is trying to build nuclear weapons. . . .

"I hope the actual actions would be based on international law," Lavrov said. "And international law clearly protects Iran's and anyone else's territorial integrity."

A wide-open battle for power in Darfur

Five years after the Darfur conflict began, the nature of violence across this vast desert region has changed dramatically, from a mostly one-sided government campaign against civilians to a complex free-for-all that is jeopardizing an effective relief mission to more than 2.5 million displaced and vulnerable people.

While the government and militia attacks on straw-hut villages that defined the earlier years of the conflict continue, Darfur is now home to semi-organized crime and warlordism, with marijuana-smoking rebels, disaffected government militias and anyone else with an AK-47 taking part, according to U.N. officials.

The situation is a symptom of how fragmented the conflict has become. There were two rebel groups, but now there are dozens, some of which include Arab militiamen who once sided with the government. The founding father of the rebellion lives in Paris. And the struggle in the desert these days is less about liberating oppressed Darfurians than about acquiring the means to power: money, land, trucks.

Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total set to sign deal with Baghdad

Nearly four decades after the four biggest Western oil companies were expelled from Iraq by Saddam Hussein, they are negotiating their return. By the end of the month, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total will sign agreements with the Baghdad government, Iraq's first with big Western oil firms since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The deals are for repair and technical support in some of the country's largest oilfields, the Oil Ministry in Baghdad said yesterday. The return of "Big Oil" will add to the suspicions of those in the Middle East who claimed that the overthrow of Saddam was secretly driven by the West's desire to gain control of Iraq's oil. It will also be greeted with dismay by many Iraqis who fear losing control of their vast oil reserves.

. . . the new agreements will bring them back to a country where they have a long history. BP, Exxon Mobil, Total and Shell were co-owners of a British, American and French consortium that kept Iraq's oil reserves in foreign control for more than 40

EU scraps sanctions against Cuba

The EU last night scrapped five-year-old sanctions against Cuba despite appeals from the US to maintain a tough line against the new government.

US says exercise by Israel directed at Iran

Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Muslim creationist preaches Islam and awaits Christ

Harun Yahya is one of the most widely distributed authors in the Muslim world. He may also be among the most widely criticized Muslim authors in the Western world.

His glossy books and DVDs on religion and science sell in Islamic bookshops around the globe. He gives away thousands of expensive volumes and lets readers download much of his work from his websites for free.

The Council of Europe accuses him of trying to infiltrate schools with religious extremism and French teachers are told to keep his work from their students.

McCain's terror errors

McCain used to champion a common-sense, values-based approach to terrorism. Now he's criticizing Obama for doing the same thing.

Ralph Nader on Barack Obama: 'It is quite clear he is a corporate candidate from A to Z'

Why are Dutch soldiers being sued for the massacre at Srebrenica?

Relatives of the dead have brought a civil action alleging that the Dutch state is liable for the deaths of 8,000 Muslim civilians who were executed when Bosnian Serb forces overran the town during the Bosnia War in July 1995. It was the worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World War. The case, which has been three years coming to court, is being heard in The Hague this week. Relatives have demanded $1bn compensation.

Iraq launches new offensive against Shiite fighters

Iraqi forces backed by US troops launched a new offensive against Shiite fighters in the south of the country early on Thursday after the expiry of a four-day deadline to surrender weapons.

. . . some analysts say the move is also an attempt by Maliki and his Shiite ally, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, to weaken their main rival, hardline cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, ahead of provincial elections due in October.

Deals with Iraq are set to bring oil giants back

Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

General who probed Abu Ghraib accuses Bush officials of 'war crimes'

The Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison accused the Bush administration Wednesday of committing "war crimes" and called for those responsible to be held to account.

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The elephant in the room

On Monday last week, something important happened in Washington. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic representative from Cleveland, OH, who early in the primary season won some of the biggest applause lines in the Democratic presidential candidate debates, introduced 35 articles calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors.

You'd be excused if you didn't know this happened. There was almost no reporting on the event that day or the next, . . .

A week later, it has still not been reported in the New York Times, the nation’s self-described “newspaper of record,” even though the Times had just days before Rep. Kucinich’s action, editorialized about the enormity of the president’s lies in tricking the country into invading Iraq—one of the crimes leading Rep. Kucinich’s long list.

Bush, Musharraf, Ahmadinejad least trusted leaders

U.S. President George W. Bush is ranked only slightly above the rulers of Pakistan and Iran as one of the least-trusted leaders in the world, a survey released on Monday showed.

The survey, carried out by in 20 countries around the world, found that no national leaders inspired wide confidence outside their own countries. But Bush, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ranked at the bottom, the polling showed.

Tim Russert, Dick Cheney, and 9/11

While we are remembering Tim Russert and his years as moderator of “Meet the Press,” we would do well to recall his interview with Vice President Dick Cheney at Camp David on September 16, 2001, just five days after the 9/11 attacks. . . .

If the story that Cheney told Russert at Camp David, just five days after 9/11, was true, then the story told by the 9/11 Commission in July 2004, almost three years later, was false.

Bank issues global stock and credit crash alert

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks.

"A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.

Such a slide on world bourses would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century. . . .

"Cash is the key safe haven. This is about not losing your money, and not losing your job," said Mr Janjuah, who became a City star after his grim warnings last year about the credit crisis proved all too accurate.

Israel agrees to truce with Hamas

Israel has agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Hamas for the Gaza area starting Thursday, officials here said Wednesday. . . .

Israel is expected as part of the deal to ease the economic blockade of Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic group Hamas. Israeli government officials emphasized that sanctions would be lifted in accordance with the security situation on the ground.

Iraqi official: security pact altered

U.S. and Iraqi officials negotiating long-term security agreements have reworded a proposed White House commitment to defend Iraq against foreign aggression in an effort to avoid submitting the deal for congressional approval, Iraq's foreign minister said yesterday.

The alternative under discussion will pledge U.S. forces to "help Iraqi security forces to defend themselves," rather than a U.S. promise to defend Iraq, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said. Although "it's the other way around," he said, "the meaning is the same, almost."

Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), one of the most outspoken critics of the proposed agreement, called the change "a distinction without a difference."

Anti-Taleban operation launched

Nato and Afghan forces have launched an operation to drive Taleban insurgents from the outskirts of the southern city of Kandahar.

Troops backed by helicopter gunships are patrolling west of the Arghandab river, a Nato statement said.

There have been conflicting reports of casualties - but Nato said there had been "no major incidents so far".

Hundreds of people have fled their homes in Arghandab district fearing fighting between troops and militants.

Succession at House of Saud: The men who would be king

King Abdullah is supposed to be succeeded by his half brother and arch-rival, Crown Prince Sultan, who is also in his 80s. However, since the crown prince returned from medical treatment in Geneva at the beginning of May, there have been rumours that he is dying of cancer. The possibility that he could die before the king has aroused fears that the bitter feud between the two rival wings of the Saud family could be reignited in a power struggle in which dozens of contenders could come forward to claim the throne. The king has 60 siblings.

Baghdad insists on right to veto US operations

Iraq is insisting on the right to veto any US military operations throughout its territory under a "status of forces" agreement currently being negotiated between Baghdad and Washington, according to a senior member of the Iraqi government.

The agreement will last for a maximum of two years and can be terminated by either side with six months' notice, Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's oil minister, told the Guardian yesterday.

Another bad deal for Baghdad

With only perfunctory debate, the Bush administration is pressuring a divided Iraqi government to approve a security agreement that could haunt Washington's relations with Baghdad for years to come.

The "strategic alliance" that President Bush is proposing eerily resembles, in spirit and in letter, a failed 1930 treaty between Britain and Iraq that prompted a nationalist eruption in Baghdad, a pro-Nazi military coup and a pogrom that foreshadowed the elimination of Baghdad's ancient Jewish community.

Iraq deal with US to end immunity for foreign contractors

The US has accepted that foreign contractors in Iraq will no longer have immunity from Iraqi law under a new security agreement now under negotiation, says the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari.

. . . there are an estimated 160,000 foreign contractors, many of them heavily armed security personnel. The contractors, who outnumber the 145,000-strong US Army in the country, have become a vital if much-resented part of the military machine in Iraq.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Israel and Hamas 'agree truce'

Israel and militant group Hamas have agreed to end months of bitter clashes with a truce starting on Thursday, Palestinian officials say.

A Hamas official said he was confident all militant groups in Gaza would abide by the agreement, brokered by Egypt.

Israeli officials said Israel was "looking to see if this is serious".

VIDEO: Former Senator Mike Gravel calls for independent 9/11 investigation and prosecution of President Bush and Vice President Cheney

Many at Guantanamo had low-level or no terrorism ties

The militants crept up behind Mohammed Akhtiar as he squatted at the spigot to wash his hands before evening prayers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

They shouted "Allahu Akbar" — God is great — as one of them hefted a metal mop squeezer into the air, slammed it into Akhtiar's head and sent thick streams of blood running down his face.

American troops dragged Akhtiar out of his home in Gardez, Afghanistan, in May 2003, flew him to Guantanamo in shackles that July and held him there for more than three years. . . .

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens and perhaps hundreds of men whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

Finally, the U.S. mega-bases in Iraq are under debate

Americans have regularly and repeatedly seen what Guantanamo looks like. They have seen something of what Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq looks like. But not the bases. Perhaps one explanation lies in this: On rare occasions when Americans are asked by pollsters whether they want "permanent bases" in Iraq, significant majorities answer in the negative. You can only assume that, as on many other subjects, the Bush administration preferred to fly under the radar screen on this one — and the media generally concurred.

And let's remember one more base, though it's never called that: the massive imperial embassy, perhaps the biggest on the planet, being built, for nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, on a nearly Vatican-sized 104-acre plot of land inside the Green Zone in Baghdad. It will be home to 1,000 "diplomats." It will cost an estimated $1.2 billion a year just to operate. With its own electricity and water systems, its anti-missile defenses, recreation, "retail and shopping" areas, and "blast-resistant" work spaces, it is essentially a fortified citadel, a base inside the fortified American heart of the Iraq capital. Like the mega-bases, it emits an aura of American, not Iraqi, "sovereignty." It, too, is being built "for the ages."

Conflicts fuelled by climate change causing new refugee crisis, warns UN

Statistics published today by the UNHCR show that nearly half the world's refugees are Afghan (about 3 million, mostly scattered in Pakistan and Iran), or Iraqi (2 million, largely in Syria and Jordan). The world's largest population of IDPs is in Colombia, where 3 million people have driven from their homes by years of insurgency and counter-insurgency. There are 2.4 million IDPs thought to be in Iraq, a rise of 600,000 over the past year. Almost all refugees end up in camps in their region, rather than in the west, which admits relatively few.

Afghanistan: Kandahar braces for Taliban attack as thousands flee

More than 4,000 people have fled villages near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan after Taliban forces destroyed bridges and laid mines in a major show of force.

In anticipation of a Taliban attack, the Afghan army today flew four planeloads of soldiers to Kandahar from the capital, Kabul. Canadian forces have also moved in to the region.

Taliban operations on the outskirts of Kandahar marked the latest display of strength by the militants despite a record number of US and Nato troops in the country.

Iran withdraws $75bn from Europe

RAN has withdrawn about $75 billion from Europe to prevent the assets from being blocked under threatened new sanctions over Tehran's disputed nuclear ambitions, an Iranian weekly said.

Bush threatens Iran with military action

George Bush has warned Iran that military action is still "on the table" if it fails to respond to tightening diplomatic pressure to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

The EU is planning to announce the freezing of all overseas assets of the main bank in Iran. Sanctions are also to be tightened on gas and oil exports by Iran.

Monday, June 16, 2008

U.S. Democrats to back down on Iraq war conditions

Democrats in the U.S. Congress, who came to power last year on a call to end the combat in Iraq, will soon give President George W. Bush the last war-funding bill of his presidency without any of the conditions they sought for withdrawing U.S. troops, congressional aides said on Monday.

Lawmakers are arranging to send Bush $165 billion in new money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, enough to last for about a year and well beyond when Bush leaves office on Jan. 20. . . .

With this bill, Congress will have written checks for more than $800 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with most of the money going to Iraq.

US moves against Philippines-based terror group

The action against the Rajah Solaiman Movement, its leader Ahmad Santos and other alleged members means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in this country that belong to them must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with them.

Obama and the fall into tyranny

As articles by John Pilger, Alexander Cockburn, and Uri Avnery make clear, by groveling before the Israel Lobby Obama has dispelled any hope that his presidency would make a difference.

Obama told the Lobby that in order to protect Israel he would use all the powers of the presidency to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. As in the case of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the conclusion whether or not Iran is making a nuclear weapon will be determined by propaganda and not by fact. Therefore, there is no difference between Bush, McCain, Obama, and the Lobby with regard to the Middle East.

As Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons, and a modern air force and missiles supplied by the US, the idea that Israel needs American protection from Iran is a fantasy. All Israel needs to do in order to be safe and to live in peace is to stop stealing the West Bank and to drop its designs on southern Lebanon.

John McCain: War hero or North Vietnam's go-to collaborator?

Class indeed has privileges, and while the government refused to provide my combat-veteran father with medical benefits for his malaria, McCain, who spent ten hours of his life in mortal danger, was decorated with the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

And thus the “war hero” myth was born.

In the fall of 1967, Navy pilot John McCain was routinely bombing Hanoi from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. On October 26, he was trying to level a power plant in a heavily populated area when a surface-to-air missile knocked a wing off his jet. Banged-up John McCain and what was left of plane splashed into Truc Bach Lake.

A compassionate Vietnamese civilian left his air raid shelter and swam out to McCain. McCain’s arm and leg were fractured and he was tangled up in his parachute underwater. He was drowning. The Vietnamese man saved McCain’s sorry ass, and yet McCain has nothing but hatred for “the gooks” who allegedly tortured him. As he told reporters on his campaign bus (The Straight Talk Express) in 2000, “I will hate them as long as I live.”

The first step toward lasting peace?

MADAM SPEAKER, Honorable Knesset,

On behalf of the State of Israel and all its citizens, I address today the sons and daughters of the Palestinian people, wherever they are.

We recognize the fact that we have committed against you a historic injustice, and we humbly ask your forgiveness.

When the Zionist movement decided to establish a national home in this country, which we call Eretz Yisrael and you call Filastin, it had no intention of building our state on the ruins of another people. Indeed, almost no one in the Zionist movement had ever been in the country before the first Zionist Congress in 1897, or even had any idea about the actual situation here. . . .

'Custodians' of the faith shatter delicate harmony

The latest expression of this religious intolerance came from a priest in Sandusky in a letter to the editor in The Blade.

He was outraged that the Franciscan nuns from Sylvania blessed a three-panel painting commemorating the meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malek al-Kamil during the Fifth Crusade in the early 13th century.

The icon was to be installed near the entrance of Queen of Peace Chapel on the campus of the Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania. His anger was directed at the nuns for inviting a Muslim imam to participate in the blessing ceremony.

Obama's Chicago boys

Barack Obama waited just three days after Hillary Clinton pulled out of the race to declare, on CNBC, "Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market."

Demonstrating that this is no mere spring fling, he has appointed 37-year-old Jason Furman to head his economic policy team. Furman is one of Wal-Mart's most prominent defenders, anointing the company a "progressive success story." On the campaign trail, Obama blasted Clinton for sitting on the Wal-Mart board and pledged, "I won't shop there." . . .

Obama's love of markets and his desire for "change" are not inherently incompatible. "The market has gotten out of balance," he says, and it most certainly has. Many trace this profound imbalance back to the ideas of Milton Friedman, who launched a counterrevolution against the New Deal from his perch at the University of Chicago economics department. And here there are more problems, because Obama — who taught law at the University of Chicago for a decade — is thoroughly embedded in the mind-set known as the Chicago School.

Obama is a truly democratic expansionist

In 1941, the editor Edward Dowling wrote: "The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it." What has changed? The terror of the rich is greater than ever, and the poor have passed on their delusion to those who believe that when George W Bush finally steps down next January, his numerous threats to the rest of humanity will diminish.

The nomination of Barack Obama, which, according to one breathless commentator, "marks a truly exciting and historic moment in US history", is a product of the new delusion. Actually, it just seems new. Truly exciting and historic moments have been fabricated around US presidential campaigns for as long as I can recall, . . .

Understanding Obama as a likely president of the United States is not possible without understanding the demands of an essentially unchanged system of power: in effect a great media game.

Iraq takes a turn towards Tehran

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki . . . is torn between appeasing the United States, which brought him to power and kept him there despite all odds, since 2006, and pleasing his patrons and co-religionaries in Tehran.

The Americans tell him to sign a long-term agreement between with the US, maintaining 50 permanent American military bases in Iraq. The Iranians angrily order him not to, claiming this would be a direct security threat to the region as a whole, and Iran in particular. The Americans reportedly are pressing to finalize the deal by July 30, 2008, upset that no progress has been made since talks started in February. Iran has carried out a massive public relations campaign against the deal, calling on all Shi'ites in Iraq to drown it.

Officials fear bomb design went to others

Four years after Abdul Qadeer Khan, the leader of the world’s largest black market in nuclear technology, was put under house arrest and his operation declared shattered, international inspectors and Western officials are confronting a new mystery, this time over who may have received blueprints for a sophisticated and compact nuclear weapon found on his network’s computers.

Honda makes first hydrogen cars

Japanese car manufacturer Honda has begun the first commercial production of a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle.

The four-seater, called FCX Clarity, runs on hydrogen and electricity, emitting only water vapour.

Honda claims the vehicle offers three times better fuel efficiency than a traditional, petrol-powered car.

Honda plans to produce 200 of the cars, which are initially available only to lease, over the next three years.

One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of fuel-cell vehicles is the lack of hydrogen fuelling stations.

Saudi King: 'We will pump more oil'

Saudi Arabia will raise oil production to record levels within weeks in an attempt to avert an escalation of social and political unrest around the world. King Abdullah signalled the commitment to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, at the weekend after the impact of skyrocketing oil prices on food sparked protests and riots from Spain to South Korea.

Tension mounts as Kosovo Constitution takes effect

Kosovo's new Constitution went into force Sunday, an important milestone on its path toward full-fledged statehood. But a simmering dispute over who has authority over this land threatens to destabilize the newborn country and plunge the Balkans into crisis.

The Constitution envisions handing over executive power to the majority ethnic Albanian government from the United Nations, which has administered the province for the past nine years after NATO intervened in 1999 to halt Slobodan Milosevic's repression of ethnic Albanians. It comes four months after Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, the culmination of a long and bloody struggle for national self-determination.

But even as Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu, on Sunday lauded the "historic" launching of the document ahead of what was expected to be a low-key ceremony in Pristina, the introduction of the Constitution threatened to unleash tensions in a territory where the international community is already struggling to maintain a fragile peace between the country's 2-million-strong ethnic Albanian majority and its more than 100,000 minority Serbs.

A line not to be crossed

The U.S. and its allies are edging into open warfare against Pakistan. The western occupation army in Afghanistan is unable to defeat Taliban fighters due to its lack of combat troops. The outgoing supreme commander, U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, recently admitted he would need 400,000 soldiers to pacify Afghanistan.

Unable to win in Afghanistan, the frustrated western powers are turning on Pakistan, a nation of 165 million. Pakistanis are bitterly opposed to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and their nation's subjugation to U.S. policy under dictator Musharraf.

Brown ready to rain on Bush parade with Iraq troop pull-out

Gordon Brown is ready to override the misgivings of George Bush by going ahead with a major announcement on British troop withdrawals from Iraq. The US President will sit down to talks with Mr Brown today after their dinner at Downing Street last night sparked anti-Bush protests in Parliament Square.

. . . David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, signalled that Mr Brown would go ahead with plans to pull out British forces when the training of Iraqi forces was completed. Brushing aside tensions with the President, Mr Brown plans to make the announcement on the remaining 4,100 troops in Basra before the end of next month, when MPs begin their summer recess.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

UN to transfer powers in Kosovo

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has set out plans to start ceding UN functions in Kosovo to the EU, despite stiff opposition from Russia.

The announcement comes only days before the disputed territory adopts a new constitution, following its declaration of independence in February.

Russia has demanded that the UN head in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, be disciplined or sacked over the "scandalous" moves.

Major Guantanamo setback for Bush

Foreign suspects held in Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts, the US Supreme Court has ruled.

In a major legal setback for the Bush administration, the court overturned by five to four a ruling upholding a 2006 law which removed such rights.

It is not clear if the ruling will lead to prompt hearings for the detainees.

Some 270 men are held at the US naval base, on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

US President George W Bush said he would abide by the court's ruling even if he did not agree with it.

'Jewish settler attack' on film

Footage from a video camera handed out by an Israeli human rights group appears to show Jewish settlers beating up Palestinians in the West Bank.

Whatever happened to 'Democracy Now!'

It is with some alarm and dismay that I watched Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” provide platform to right-wing Paksitani journalist Ahmad Rashid, long an apologist for Bush's war-on-terror, to recycle propaganda from British tabloid press and other discredited sources. His tale about al-Qa'ida recruiting white converts for terrorist acts in Europe originated with the British security services as part of their fearmongering campaign to build support for the 42-day detention without charge plan. No shred of evidence was ever offered.

Equally bogus are his claims of organized al-Qa'ida 'training camps', where recruits are offered foreign language training etc.

Supreme Court rules in favor of Gitmo detainees

Terrorism suspects who are being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to contest their detention in federal courts, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The justices, voting 5-4, said a 2006 law unconstitutionally stripped Guantanamo prisoners of the right to file so-called habeas corpus petitions," Bloomberg News reports. "The majority rejected arguments that a system of limited judicial review set up by Congress was adequate to protect inmate rights."

The Associated Press notes in its bulletin that this is the third time that the high court has ruled in favor of the 270 terrorism suspects who are being held without charge at the U.S. military facility.

The fallacy of Islamic 'national suicide'

A new buzzword is arising from the network of Israeli think tanks and security-oriented academic departments bent on instigating a U.S. attack on Iran: "national suicide." The term describes a supposed Arab Muslim tradition of politically motivated suicide at the national, not just individual, level. Arab Muslim regimes have purportedly launched ruinous wars they could not have reasonably hoped to win, condemning their nations to destruction.

The notion of an "irrational" and thus untrustworthy Iranian regime has already been widely discussed in the U.S. It is regularly invoked by Sen. John McCain on the stump. The term "national suicide" advances the notion and gives it a patina of academic respectability.

Israeli jurist and former Knesset member Amnon Rubinstein recently editorialized on "national suicide" in the Jerusalem Post. Citing Israeli army Lt. Col. Ari Bar Yossef, Rubinstein offered Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and the Taliban in Afghanistan as exemplars of this new construct.

McCain comments on 'Today' stir fire

Congressional Democrats yesterday opened fire on comments from Republicans -- including presumptive GOP nominee John McCain -- that equate the U.S. military's future in Iraq to the presence of U.S. bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

The issue erupted after Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show that the timetable for U.S. forces to come home from Iraq is not of great concern as long as U.S. casualties in the Middle East fall to levels comparable to those in allied countries where U.S. forces have been stationed for decades without incident.

Afghan donors wary as Karzai shops for more

President wants another $50bn to help rebuild his country, but the international community is growing increasingly nervous about paying out.

Iraq, perceived hypocrisy fuel record anti-Americanism: report

Strike on Iran nuclear sites under discussion again

Six months ago, after American intelligence agencies declared that Iran had shelved its nuclear-weapons program, the chances of a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran before President Bush left office seemed remote.

Now, thanks to persistent pressure from Israeli hawks and newly stated concerns by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the idea of a targeted strike meant to cripple Iran's nuclear program is getting a new hearing.

As Bush travels across Europe to gain support for possible new sanctions against Iran, Israeli leaders have been working to lay the psychological foundation for a possible military strike if diplomacy falters.

The reality is that Iraqi authority would be nominal

In practice, there is less to the American "concessions" than would first appear. The reaction in Iraq to the US demands for the long-term use of military bases and other rights has been so furious that Washington is now offering limited concessions in the negotiations. For example, the US is lowering the number of bases it wants from 58 to "the low dozens" and says it is willing to compromise on legal immunity for foreign contractors according to information leaked to The Independent.

George Bush is willing to modify some of the demands so the Iraqi government can declare "a significant climbdown" by the American side allowing Baghdad to sign the treaty by 31 July.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

US Congressman moves to impeach Bush

Former Democratic presidential contender, Dennis Kucinich, has called for the impeachment of George W Bush claiming that the president set out to deceive the nation, and violated his oath of office with the Iraq war.

The Ohio representative yesterday introduced 35 articles of impeachment against Bush on the floor of the US House of Representatives.

Kucinich unveiled a list of alleged illegal and improper acts by Bush, including war crimes.

Attacking on the press

Given the history of protection of freedom of the press in India, to charge the editor, reporter and newspaper with sedition casts a pall over the media in India

On 1 June 2008, the Times of India and two of its employees were charged with sedition and criminal conspiracy for a series of investigative articles that questioned the competence of the police chief in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

The charges stemmed from the newspaper’s investigative reports that showed alleged links between Ahmedabad police chief O.P. Mathur and organized crime.

Author looks to the Koran for 99 new superheroes

Iran says west cannot stop nuclear ‘victory’

US-India nuclear deal dead

The historic civil nuclear deal with India that George W. Bush saw as one of his signature foreign policy achievements is almost certainly dead, according to senior US officials.

Asked whether it was now impossible to push the deal through in the dying days of Mr Bush’s term, one administration official told the Financial Times: “That is probably correct.”

The Bush administration, which unveiled the deal at a White House meeting with Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, in 2005, has watched with growing frustration as New Delhi has repeatedly missed deadlines to complete the deal for fear of provoking its leftist coalition allies.

Pakistan slams US after air strike kills 11 soldiers

Pakistan's military condemned a "cowardly" US air strike that killed 11 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border on Wednesday, saying it could jeopardise cooperation in the "war on terror".

The attack on a checkpost in Pakistan's volatile tribal zone was the first of its kind since Islamabad joined Western efforts against the hardline Taliban movement in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Ali Allawi: This raises huge questions over our independence

n 1930 the Anglo-Iraqi treaty was signed as a prelude to Iraq gaining full independence. Britain had occupied Iraq after defeating the Turks in the First World War, and was granted a mandate over the country. The treaty gave Britain military and economic privileges in exchange for Britain's promise to end its mandate. The treaty was ratified by a docile Iraqi parliament, but was bitterly resented by nationalists. Iraq's dependency on Britain poisoned Iraqi politics for the next quarter of a century. Riots, civil disturbances, uprisings and coups were all a feature of Iraq's political landscape, prompted in no small measure by the bitter disputations over the treaty with Britain.

Iraq is now faced with a reprise of that treaty, but this time with the US, rather than Britain, as the dominant foreign partner. The US is pushing for the enactment of a "strategic alliance" with Iraq, partly as a precondition for supporting Iraq's removal from its sanctioned status under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. It is a treaty under any other name. It has been structured as an alliance partly to avoid subjecting its terms to the approval of the US Senate, and partly to obfuscate its significance. Although the draft has not been circulated outside official circles, the leaks raise serious alarm about its long-term significance for Iraq's sovereignty and independence.

'Hotline to Iran' aims to head off war

Members of Congress joined religious and civil society leaders today in an urgent call to stop the "drumbeat of war" with Iran and open up diplomatic talks to resolve growing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

At a previous 'hotline' event. © Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran
"We hear the same people who supported a disastrous war in Iraq now steadily beating the drum for war with Iran," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, adding: "We have been down this road before."

Iraqis condemn American demands

High-level negotiations over the future role of the U.S. military in Iraq have turned into an increasingly acrimonious public debate, with Iraqi politicians denouncing what they say are U.S. demands to maintain nearly 60 bases in their country indefinitely.

Top Iraqi officials are calling for a radical reduction of the U.S. military's role here after the U.N. mandate authorizing its presence expires at the end of this year. Encouraged by recent Iraqi military successes, government officials have said that the United States should agree to confine American troops to military bases unless the Iraqis ask for their assistance, with some saying Iraq might be better off without them.

"The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq," said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician on parliament's foreign relations committee who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "If we can't reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don't need you here anymore.'"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

BOOK: 'Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia'

BOOK: 'Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians'

Rep. Kucinich calls for Bush impeachment

Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich defied his party leadership on Monday by calling for the impeachment of U.S. President George W. Bush for launching the Iraq war — but his move was not expected to go anywhere.

The Ohio representative outlined his intention to propose more than two dozen charges against Bush on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Will it be 'Obama's war'?

In Gitmo's legal otherworld, 9/11 trial defendants cry torture

Clearly baiting the judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, KSM responded to a statement by Col. Kohlmann, who interrupted a session of chanting to remind him that he "was told what he can and can't say," by replying, "I know I can't cross that red line. I know I can't talk about torture," as ABC News described it. At another point in the ten-hour hearing, KSM called the proceedings "an inquisition, not a trial," and added, pointedly, "After five years of torturing … you transfer us to Inquisition Land in Guantánamo." At yet another point, as London's Times described it, he "accused the authorities of extracting his confession by force," saying, "All of this has been taken under torturing. You know that very well."

KSM's nephew, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, who is accused of helping facilitate the attacks by transferring money to the 9/11 hijackers, also spoke about torture, while simultaneously mocking the proceedings. Speaking fluent English, he responded to Col. Kohlmann's assurance of his right to legal assistance by stating, "Everything that has happened here is unfair and unjust." He added, referring specifically to the offer of free legal representation, "Since the first time I was arrested, I might have appreciated that. The government is talking about lawyers free of charge. The government also tortured me free of charge all these years."

Gazprom predicts oil will reach $250

Speaking at a strategy presentation in Deauville, Alexey Miller, Gazprom chief executive, said: “Today we witness a very great change for hydrocarbons, the level is very high and we think it [the price of oil] will reach $250 a barrel.”

A company spokesman specified that Gazprom believed that level would be hit in 2009.

The prediction is substantially higher than those being made by analysts, who see oil prices in 2009 ranging between $100 and $200 a barrel.

The Iran trap

The failure by Barack Obama to chart another course in the Middle East, to defy the Israel lobby and to denounce the Bush administration’s inexorable march toward a conflict with Iran is a failure to challenge the collective insanity that has gripped the political leadership in the United States and Israel.

Obama, in a miscalculation that will have grave consequences, has given his blessing to the widening circle of violence and abuse of the Palestinians by Israel and, most dangerously, to those in the Bush White House and Jerusalem now plotting a war against Iran. He illustrates how the lust for power is morally corrosive. And while he may win the White House, by the time he takes power he will be trapped in George Bush’s alternative reality.

Top Iraqi cleric warns of uprising

A leading Iraqi Shiite cleric said Monday the status of forces agreement between Washington and Baghdad could lead to an uprising in Iraq.

"It is not to the benefit of the U.S. as a major power to lessen the sovereignty of Iraq. This treaty is humiliating to the Iraqi people, and might cause an uprising against it and those who support it," Grand Ayatollah Mohammad al-Modarresi told the Iranian state-run English-language service, Press TV.

Monday, June 9, 2008

New boss is determined to keep the faith at Al-Jazeera

Tony Burman, the new boss of Al-Jazeera English, turns 60 on Friday, but he may choose to keep the champagne on ice for a while. There is little to celebrate at the international offshoot of the controversial Arabic network, which is struggling to match the global influence and political clout of its parent more than a year after it launched.

After a 35-year career at Canadian state broadcaster CBC, Burman, appointed managing director last month, will have to restore morale at the network, whose ambitious aim of beaming an Arabic perspective on the world to American living rooms has been dented by a failure to secure airtime in the US.

The wife U.S. Republican John McCain callously left behind

New 9-11 feature-length movie too truthful to show

On 9-11, filmmaker Paul Cross was doing post-production work in Washington DC when he heard about the "terrorist" attack on the Pentagon. Hours later he visited the Pentagon and saw that the official story was a lie.

"There was no passenger jet wreckage, no lawn scorching, no damage to lamp posts and fences, and no construction materials in the path of the alleged jet," Cross told me. "I immediately realized it was a hoax, and that so-called attack on the World Trade Center was also a hoax."

Cross says he was in mourning for weeks. "Literally in tears for what has become of this country."

He decided to make the feature film Severe Visibility to alert his fellow citizens.

U.S. military's Middle East crusade for Christ

Last August the watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, foiled a Pentagon plan that would have allowed the shipment of "freedom packages" to soldiers and Marines in Iraq. The parcels were put together by the fundamentalist Christian ministry, Straight Up, and contained Bibles, proselytizing tracts in English and Arabic, and the apocalyptic "Left Behind" computer game, in which Christian Tribulation forces convert or kill infidels-nonbelievers, Muslims and Jews.

On May 1 the Senate approved the promotion of Brigadier General Robert L. Caslen Jr. to Major General. Currently the commandant of cadets at West Point, he will become the commander of the 25th Infantry Division. He is also president of the stridently fundamentalist Officer's Christian Fellowship, whose vision is a "spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit."

Iraq: The doctor, the depleted uranium and the dying children

Global military spending soars 45 pct in 10 years

World military spending grew 45 percent in the past decade, with the United States accounting for nearly half of all expenditure, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said Monday. . . .

In 2007, 1,339 billion dollars (851 billion euros) was spent on arms and other military expenditure, corresponding to 2.5 percent of global gross domestic product, or GDP — or 202 dollars for each of the world's 6.6 billion people.

The United States spends by far the most towards military aims, dishing out 547 billion dollars last year, or 45 percent of global expenditure.

Britain, China, France and Japan, the next in line of big spenders, lag far behind, accounting for just four to five percent of world military costs each.

Iran shadow over US-Iraq security pact

Iran, in exchange for closer security and military connections with Iraq, would tolerate more robust Iraq-US security relations with clearly defined specifications on the status of forces.

From the vantage point of Iran's national security, Iraq's security and regional security are closely connected and it is unrealistic for the US (and Israel) to constantly threaten and undermine Iran's national security while expecting steady and uninterrupted improvement in US-controlled Iraq, as if these are two separate issues.

Pentagon blocked Cheney's attack on Iran

Pentagon officials firmly opposed a proposal by Vice President Dick Cheney last summer for airstrikes against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) bases by insisting that the administration would have to make clear decisions about how far the United States would go in escalating the conflict with Iran, according to a former George W Bush administration official. . . .

But Fallon's forced resignation in March and the subsequent promotion of Petraeus to become Centcom chief later this year gives Cheney a possible option to ignore the position of his opponents in Washington once more in the final months of the administration.

With U.S. in slump, dual citizenship in EU countries attracts Americans

Americans can claim citizenship in any of the 27 European countries that are in the EU based on the nationality of their parents, or in some cases, grandparents and great-grandparents. Citizenship in one of those countries allows you to live and work in any EU nation.

Inside gate, India’s good life; outside, the slums

Hamilton Court — complete with a private school within its gates, groomed lawns and security guards — is just one of the exclusive gated communities that have blossomed across India in recent years. At least for the newly moneyed upper middle class, they offer at high prices what the government cannot, at least not to the liking of their residents.

These enclaves have emerged on the outskirts of prospering, overburdened cities, from this frontier town next to the capital to the edges of seam-splitting Bangalore. They allow their residents to buy their way out of the hardships that afflict vast multitudes in this country of more than one billion. And they reflect the desires of India’s small but growing ranks of wealthy professionals, giving them Western amenities along with Indian indulgences: an army of maids and chauffeurs live in a vast shantytown across the street.

Pentagon 'urged notes destroyed'

Guantanamo Bay interrogators were told to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify on detainee treatment, a military lawyer alleges.

Iran's Supreme Leader: U.S. military presence is Iraq's main problem

State TV quoted [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei as saying Monday that "occupiers" who interfere with Iraq's affairs through their "military and security might" is the number one issue facing Iraq.

Iraq: The great divide

There are fewer people dying today because there are fewer left to kill; Sunnis and Shiites now inhabit separate walled enclaves, run by warlords and militias who have consolidated their control after mixed neighbourhoods were cleansed along sectarian lines.

Since April 2007, American forces have erected a series of concrete walls and checkpoints throughout the city to divide warring Sunnis and Shiites. Though these walls helped dampen sectarian violence, they may have bolstered sectarianism, isolating Iraqis from their neighbours and leaving them dependent on militias like the Mahdi Army for food, supplies and protection.

Treaty tensions mount as Iraq tells the US it wants all troops back in barracks

American troops in Iraq would be confined to their bases and private security guards subject to local law if Iraq gets its way in negotiations with the US over the future status of American forces.

According to a senior Iraqi official, the negotiations between the two allies became so fraught recently that President Bush intervened personally to defuse the situation.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

There are gun battles in Beirut — and America thinks things are going fine

So they are it again, the great and the good of American democracy, grovelling and fawning to the Israeli lobbyists of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), repeatedly allying themselves to the cause of another country and one that is continuing to steal Arab land.

Will this ever end? Even Barack Obama – or "Mr Baracka" as an Irish friend of mine innocently and wonderfully described him – found time to tell his Jewish audience that Jerusalem is the one undivided capital of Israel, which is not the view of the rest of the world which continues to regard the annexation of Arab East Jerusalem as illegal. The security of Israel. Say it again a thousand times: the security of Israel – and threaten Iran, for good measure.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. But so do Palestinians. So do Iraqis and Lebanese and the people of the wider Muslim world. Now even Condoleezza Rice admits – and she was also talking to Aipac, of course – that there won't be a Palestinian state by the end of the year. That promise of George Bush – which no-one believed anyway – has gone. In Rice's pathetic words, "The goal itself will endure beyond the current US leadership."

Dan Rather slams corporate news at National Conference for Media Reform

No, I can't!

AFTER MONTHS of a tough and bitter race, a merciless struggle, Barack Obama has defeated his formidable opponent, Hillary Clinton. He has wrought a miracle: for the first time in history a black person has become a credible candidate for the presidency of the most powerful country in the world.

And what was the first thing he did after his astounding victory? He ran to the conference of the Israel lobby, AIPAC, and made a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning.

That is shocking enough. Even more shocking is the fact that nobody was shocked.

IT WAS a triumphalist conference. Even this powerful organization had never seen anything like it. 7000 Jewish functionaries from all over the United States came together to accept the obeisance of the entire Washington elite, which came to kowtow at their feet.

Oil's biggest day yet drags down stocks

Oil prices made their biggest single-day leap ever Friday—clearing $139, dragging the Dow Jones industrials down nearly 400 points and raising the once-unthinkable prospect of $150 oil and even higher gas prices by the Fourth of July.

Russia takes critical tone on economy

In his first major economic speech since becoming president, Dmitri A. Medvedev said Saturday that the world might be in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and that a newly revived Russia could offer solutions to a systemic crisis that has underscored America’s shortcomings.

Iraqi PM assures Iran on security

Iraq will not allow its territory to be used to attack Iran, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has said during a visit to Tehran. . . .

The BBC's John Leyne, in Tehran, says Iran has made no secret of its opposition to the current negotiations going on between Iraq and the US, which are aimed at regulating the presence of US forces in the country after their UN mandate expires at the end of 2008.

The US-Iraqi talks, which are seeking to reach agreement by the end of July, have run into problems over issues related to Iraqi sovereignty.

Obama or McCain? How will America fare under the 44th commander-in-chief?

Report: Abbas informed of Israel's plan to retake Gaza

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decided to call for a 'national and comprehensive dialogue' with Hamas after being informed of Israel's plan to launch a wide-scale military operation in Gaza and recapture the coastal enclave, according to a report published Saturday by the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

Bush's former Iraq ambassador to seek Afghan presidency

In his time, he has been President George Bush's point man in Baghdad, Kabul and the UN, as well as a lobbyist for both the Taliban and international oil companies. Now Zalmay Khalilzad is preparing to run for the presidency of his native Afghanistan.

Representatives of Mr Khalilzad, currently US ambassador to the UN, have discreetly sounded out various factions to ascertain his chances in the election scheduled for 2009. Although the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, is expected to run again, he is increasingly unpopular at home while his Western backers see him as ineffectual against the Taliban.

IAEA slams Mofaz remark that attack on Iran seems 'unavoidable'

In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, the head of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog said "with unilateral military actions, countries are undermining international agreements, and we are at a historic turning point."

The Nobel Peace prize laureate condemned Iran's leadership, saying "the readiness of Iran's side to cooperate leaves a lot to be desired." Tehran's leadership "is sending a message to the entire world: we can build a bomb in relatively short time," ElBaradei added.

Iran demands Security Council action on Israel threat

Iran demanded action from the U.N. Security Council about an Israeli threat to attack its nuclear sites if it continues uranium enrichment, according to a letter released Saturday by Iranian U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee.

Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz was quoted on Friday in an Israeli newspaper saying that an attack on Iran looks "unavoidable" given the apparent failure of sanctions to deny Tehran technology with bomb-making potential.

"Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, . . .

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The financial tsunami has not reached its climax

The next crisis is already beginning in the $62 TRILLION market for Credit Default Swaps.

The global crisis: food, water and fuel

The provision of food, water and fuel is a precondition of civilized society: they are necessary factors for the survival of the human species. In recent years, the prices of these three variables has increased dramatically at the global level, with devastating economic and social consequences.

These three essential goods or commodities, which in a real sense determine the reproduction of economic and social life on planet earth, are under the control of a small number of global corporations and financial institutions.

Both the State as well as the gamut of international organizations — often referred to as the "international community" — serve the unfettered interests of global capitalism.

Candidate McCain: A risky choice

The issues on which Sen. McCain agrees with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are much more numerous and much more important. On most of the important issues, it would be “more of the same” with John McCain. That is why President George W. Bush has said that he is ready to do anything to have Senator John McCain elected president and that he is going to raise funds for him. Bush knows perfectly well that a McCain presidency would be like a third term for his own failed presidency.

Obama capitulates — to the Israel lobby

In his speech to AIPAC, he clearly signed on to the Lobby's latest project, departing from his prepared text to declare:

"I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything."

U.S. repeats Halabja massacre in Baghdad’s Sadr City, Iraqi legislators say

In 1988, former leader Saddam Hussein gassed his own people in the city of Halabja. For the U.S. he was then seen as a ‘good boy’.

Today, the power that helped Saddam build the same chemical weapons he dropped on Halabja is reported to be carrying out a repeat of his crimes.

That is the impression several Iraqi members of parliament had following a fact finding mission of the Sadr City in Baghdad which the U.S. occupation troops have been bombarding and encircling for weeks.

“The aerial bombardment and military operations the U.S. is carrying out in Sadr city are similar to what happened in Halabja,” Iraqi member of parliament Falah Hassan said.

U.S. helicopter gun ships and warplanes have been pounding the city, home to more than 2 million people – their declared aim is to have it flushed of gunmen.

What Bill O'Reilly is really afraid of

Rupert Murdoch has sicced his favorite henchman on the media reform movement, sending a crew from "The O'Reilly Factor" to dig for dirt at this weekend's National Conference for Media Reform.

During his Wednesday night broadcast Bill O'Reilly called Dan Rather's attendance at this week's Minneapolis conference proof positive that the former CBS anchor was farther than far left. "These people are crazy! Crazy that he's hanging with!" O'Reilly said of the more than 3,000 people attending the conference. "He's hanging with real nuts!"

Iraq lawmakers want U.S. forces out as part of deal

A majority of the Iraqi parliament has written to Congress rejecting a long-term security deal with Washington if it is not linked to a requirement that U.S. forces leave, a U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Why were the tapes destroyed? Did they reveal the absence of confessions?

In their book, Kean and Hamilton wrote that they were unable to obtain “access to star witnesses in custody who were the only possible source for inside information about the 9/11 plot.”

The only information the commission was permitted to have about what was learned from interrogations of alleged plot ringleaders, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, came from “thirdhand” sources. The commission was not permitted to question the alleged plotters in custody or even to meet with those who interrogated the alleged plotters. Consequently, write Kean and Hamilton, “We had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information” that was fed to them by third party hands. “How could we tell if someone such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was telling us the truth?”

The fact that video tapes of the interrogations existed was kept secret from the 9/11 Commission.

What it means when the US goes to war

The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13% increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq

American marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The killing project is not described in these terms to a distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract terms of glory, honor and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed within the confines of this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed evil itself will vanish.

As ills persist, Afghan leader is losing luster

Mr. Karzai, the Afghan president, is to arrive in Paris for a donors conference with attendees from 80 countries and organizations. He will ask for $50 billion to finance a five-year development plan intended to revive Afghanistan’s decrepit farming sector, promote economic development and diversify the economy away from its heavy reliance on opium.

But there is a growing concern in Europe, the United Nations and even the Bush administration that Mr. Karzai, while well-spoken, colorful and often larger than life, is not up to addressing Afghanistan’s many troubles.

In Yemen, a mostly concealed sectarian fight endures

The boom of explosions swept across the high-walled compounds and minarets of this ancient Arab capital before dawn one day last week, as Shiite rebels battled for control of a mountain overlooking the city and its airport.

Government warplanes backed by artillery rebuffed the rebels, the latest skirmish in a largely hidden sectarian conflict that has drawn increasing attention from Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, Shiite Iran and Sunni extremists eager for a fight. . . .

The rebellion is being mounted by Yemen's Hashemite Shiites, who ruled the country for more than a 1,000 years until an alliance of Shiite and Sunni military officers deposed them in 1962. Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, belongs to the country's larger Shiite community, known as the Zaidis.

Oil prices take biggest jump in history

Oil prices had their biggest gains ever on Friday, jumping nearly $11 to a new record above $138 a barrel, after a senior Israeli politician raised the specter of an attack on Iran and the dollar fell sharply against the euro.

Friday, June 6, 2008

FBI kept war crimes file on American military personnel

In 2002, as evidence of prisoner mistreatment at Guantánamo Bay began to mount, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at the base created a “war crimes file” to document accusations against American military personnel, but were eventually ordered to close down the file, a Justice Department report revealed Tuesday.

. . . officials at senior levels at the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council were all made aware of the F.B.I. agents’ complaints, but little appears to have been done as a result.

Cheney enrages Iraqis over security deal

Dick Cheney wants the Iraqi government installed by the U.S. occupation to sign a “security pact” with Washington by the end of July. . . .

Few Americans are familiar with the proposed treaty. . . . It:
* grants the U.S. long-term rights to maintain over 50 military bases in their California-sized country
* allows the U.S. to strike any other country from within Iraqi territory without the permission of the Iraqi government
* allows the U.S. to conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting with the local government
* allows U.S. forces to arrest any Iraqi without consulting with Iraqi authorities
* extends to U.S. troops and contracters immunity from Iraqi law
* gives U.S. forces control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft.
* places the Iraqi Defense, Interior and National Security ministries, under American supervision for ten years
* gives the U.S. responsibility for Iraqi armament contracts for ten years

Add the globalization of the oil industry to the security treaty provisions listed above.

Senate finds pre-war Bush claims exaggerated, false

Claims by US President George W. Bush and other top administration officials before the 2003 invasion of Iraq regarding Baghdad's ties to al-Qaeda and its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program were generally not supported by the evidence that the US intelligence community had at the time, according to a major new report by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Thursday.

The long-awaited report, the last in a series published over the past several years by the committee, found that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, in particular, frequently made assertions in the run-up to the war that key intelligence agencies could not substantiate or about which there was substantial disagreement within the intelligence community.

"In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent," the Committee chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said on releasing the 172-page report.

10 airports install body scanners

Body-scanning machines that show images of people underneath their clothing are being installed in 10 of the nation's busiest airports in one of the biggest public uses of security devices that reveal intimate body parts.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently started using body scans on randomly chosen passengers in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Denver, Albuquerque and at New York's Kennedy airport.

Airports in Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas and Miami will be added this month. Reagan National Airport in Washington starts using a body scanner today. A total of 38 machines will be in use within weeks. . . .

The TSA says it protects privacy by blurring passengers' faces and deleting images right after viewing. Yet the images are detailed, clearly showing a person's gender. "You can actually see the sweat on someone's back," Schear said.

9/11 architect tells court he hopes for martyrdom

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, appeared publicly Thursday for the first time since his capture five years ago and calmly told a U.S. military court that he hopes for a death sentence that will allow him to die "a martyr."

'Unavoidable' attack on Iran looms, says Israeli minister

An Israeli minister has said an attack on Iran's nuclear sites will be "unavoidable" if Tehran refuses to halt its alleged weapons programme.

In the most explicit threat yet by a member of Ehud Olmert's government, Shaul Mofaz, a deputy prime minister, said the hardline Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "would disappear before Israel does".

China to build 1m houses in three months

The Chinese government said on Thursday it had mobilised state-owned enterprises to build 1m prefabricated houses in three months for survivors of last month’s devastating earthquake.

The government faces the daunting task of providing food and shelter to at least 5m people made homeless by the disaster, as well as rebuilding flattened towns and cities, some of which will have to be relocated.

US issues threat to Iraq's $50bn foreign reserves in military deal

The US is holding hosTWF/News/Y2008/0605-SecretPlan.htmltage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq's money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent.

US negotiators are using the existence of $20bn in outstanding court judgments against Iraq in the US, to pressure their Iraqi counterparts into accepting the terms of the military deal, . . .

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Iran: Writer says war won't stop nuclear program

The possibility of a United States or Israeli war to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions has been an obsession among foreign policy wonks, diplomats and journalists for some time.

Many Iran experts believe such a war would be a disaster that would fail to halt Iran's nuclear program. Michael Axworthy is one of them.

During the 1970s, the British author and former diplomat traveled to Iran many times while his parents lived and worked there. He joined the British foreign service in 1986, serving as a head of the Iran desk from 1998 to 2000.

German neo-Nazis: We're pro-Israel, condemn anti-Semitism

Nazis against anti-Semitism? As bizarre as that sounds, a group of Germans which calls itself "National Socialists For Israel" launched its Web site in support of Israel. . . .

The organization - whose members have yet to reveal themselves to the public - claims that Israel's right to exist is anchored in the principles of social Darwinism, the same principles which the Nazis adopted prior to the Second World War. . . .

The group claims it held its first meeting of activists in Berlin last month. It said the meeting touched on issues ranging from "solidarity with Israel, anti-Semitism, capitalism, and Islam."

Court annuls Turkish scarf reform

Turkey's highest court has blocked government moves to allow college students to wear Muslim headscarves. . . .

The ruling, by a panel of 11 judges, could foreshadow the outcome of a separate court case in which the ruling AK Party (AKP) could be banned for anti-secular activities.

Nearly 12,000 are arrested in Bangladesh

The army-backed caretaker government in Bangladesh that has netted hundreds of politicians and businesspeople in a yearlong anticorruption drive has now rounded up nearly 12,000 people in what it calls a crusade against crime.

Political parties have denounced the roundup, carried out in recent days, as a ploy to clamp down on political activity as Bangladesh prepares for national elections in December.

'Dream ticket' a nightmare prospect, says Carter

Barack Obama should not pick Hillary Clinton as his vice-presidential nominee, former president Jimmy Carter has told the Guardian.

"I think it would be the worst mistake that could be made," Carter said, adding: "That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates."

The former president, who formally endorsed the Illinois senator late on Tuesday, cited opinion polls showing 50% of US voters with a negative view of Senator Clinton.

In terms that might discomfort the Obama camp, he said: "If you take that 50% who just don't want to vote for Clinton and add it to whatever element there might be who don't think Obama is white enough or old enough or experienced enough or because he's got a middle name that sounds Arab, you could have the worst of both worlds."

‘9/11 mastermind’ faces Guantanamo court

Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks on the US will make his first public appearance since his capture in Pakistan in 2003 when he appears for arraignment at a military-tribunal in Guantanamo Bay on Thursday.

The Pentagon flew 60 journalists to Guantanamo Bay to witness the historic legal proceedings against Mr Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators.

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ronald Reagan: U.S. should not stand in the way of other countries developing nuclear weapons

Ronald Reagan told reporters on the campaign trail that he did not believe the United States should stand in the way of other countries developing nuclear weapons. "I just don't think it's any of our business," the future president said.

U.S. defeat of al-Qaeda just a fantasy

This is typical of the United States' ability to live in a semi-fantasy world. Al-Qaeda is not a formal movement or force that can be "defeated" in a classical military sense. The reality is probably that American policies around the world, especially in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and elsewhere, have spurred as many new terrorists as they may have captured or deterred other ones. The nature of terror movements associated with or copying al-Qaeda has changed in recent years in response to the American-led military moves in the region, causing much dispersal and localization of terror groups. Also, al-Qaeda never existed in Iraq before the U.S. invasion. The U.S. essentially created the circumstances that gave birth to al-Qaeda in Iraq. So it's more accurate to say that the U.S. military has not so much defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan as it has dispersed them, exported them, and cloned them elsewhere in the world.

Knesset advances bill to make Jerusalem capital of all Jews

Who is behind these 'Islamist' websites?

In the Telegraph article, the supposedly top two terrorist websites in the world are named – Al Ekhlass and Al Hesbah, and both are said to be password protected.

Now, I'm not quite sure what Al-Ekhlass means in Arabic, but I found one source in Dubai which claimed that ekhlass means "shutup." Al Hesbah apparently means "the account."

I have to tell you that having the supposed top terrorist website in the world meaning "the Shutup", gives one pause.

After considerable searching I found the website,

A quick whois search revealed that the site is hosted in Amman, Jordan, and get this – the email contact is No doubt Mr. Peterson Hoffman, or Misters. Peterson and Hoffman are Al Qaeda operatives.