Thursday, December 30, 2004

Pentagon ousts official who revealed that Russia helped Iraq hide WMD's

Pentagon ousts official who tied Russia, Iraq arms - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - December 30, 2004

A Pentagon official who publicly disclosed information showing Russian involvement in moving Iraqi weapons out of that country has been dismissed.
John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security and formerly an aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was forced to leave his position Dec. 10 as the result of a "reorganization" that eliminated his job, defense officials said.
Mr. Shaw said he had been asked to resign for "exceeding his authority" in disclosing the information, a charge he called "specious."
In October, Mr. Shaw told The Washington Times that he had received foreign intelligence data showing that Russian special forces units were involved in an effort to remove Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003.
In a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Shaw said that information about the covert Russian role in moving Iraqi arms to Syria, Lebanon and possibly Iran was discussed during a meeting that included retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; the head of Britain's MI6 intelligence service; and the head of a foreign intelligence service that he did not name.
The Pentagon office was conducting "research focused on analyzing Russian documents to determine the pattern of acquisition and dispersal of weaponry in the pre-war period," Mr. Shaw said in the Dec. 3 letter. A copy was obtained by The Washington Times.
The Defense Intelligence Agency has been fully briefed on the Russian covert arms removal, and Mr. Shaw expected additional information from foreign sources to produce more details, he wrote to Mr. Rumsfeld.
Reports of the Russian role in dispersing Iraqi arms made news during the final days of the presidential election campaign, at a time when the Bush administration was being criticized for failing to secure tons of Iraqi high explosives that could be used in developing nuclear arms.
Mr. Shaw went public to counter a political "October surprise" campaign designed to "crucify the president" over the missing explosives, he wrote to Mr. Rumsfeld.
"The Kerry media-driven October surprise attack on us and the president stopped within hours," Mr. Shaw wrote. "If I had not had the openly hostile environment in [Pentagon public affairs], I would have moved the story differently. Getting the truth out instantly was more important than process."
After Mr. Shaw's disclosures, the Pentagon released spy satellite photographs of Iraqi weapons facilities that showed truck convoys at the plants, apparently in preparation to move materials. Further corroborating Mr. Shaw's account, a Russian newspaper reported that two retired Russian generals had received awards from Saddam's government 10 days before the coalition assault on Iraq began.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Command Post - Global War On Terror - Dan Darling: Report on al-Qaeda

The Command Post - Global War On Terror - Dan Darling: Report on al-Qaeda:

"As some of you already know, last weekend I was at a counter-terrorism conference in New York City at the behest of my patrons, who were nice enough to fly me out there and for the purposes of me posting on the Internet would prefer to remain anonymous, if for nothing else than so they can plausibly deny everything they say ;) I've also been finishing finals and watching the extended edition of The Return of the King, so I apologize in advance for the number of Tolkien references that are likely to be used here.

The conference's attendees included a wide variety of law enforcement, intelligence, military or former military, and think tank types from pretty much across the ideological spectrum and I learned a great deal both from the presentations and in conversation. None of the information that was shared at the conference was classified or anything like that, and I have my own doubts (and in some cases extreme disagreement) about some of what was said. Still, I figure that this may all be valuable to you, perhaps because it runs against some of what I have argued.

* Al-Qaeda Command & Control
* Al-Qaeda Training Facilities & Infrastructure
* Al-Qaeda in General
* Iraq and al-Qaeda
* Iran & al-Qaeda"

long, detailed, and interesting

Monday, December 27, 2004

Strategy Page - a great analysis of where we're at in the Iraq War

military news about Iraq

With the defeat of Saddam, al Zarqawi suddenly found Iraqi Sunni Arabs were eager to join al Qaeda. The Baath Party, which had run the country for four decades, was now willing to do more than offer sanctuary for al Qaeda members. Baath had money and manpower they made available. Al Qaeda and Baath had one thing in common; they wanted the foreigners out of Iraq. Beyond that, they had quite different goals.

Al Qaeda wanted the world converted to Islam, and ruled as an Islamic state, according to al Qaedas strict interpretation of Islamic law. Al Qaeda and the Taliban came close to this in Afghanistan. There was another Islamic Republic in Iran, but that was run by Shia Moslems. Shia are considered heretics by the conservative Sunni Moslems that lead al Qaeda. This had not prevented Iran from offering sanctuary to for a small group of Kurdish Islamic radicals, Ansar al Islam. This group operated on the border of northern Iraq and Iran until dispersed by Kurdish troops and American Special Forces in 2003. Survivors of Ansar fled to Iran, then snuck back into Iraq this year and set up shop in mixed Arab-Kurd areas like Mosul. The Baath Party and al Qaeda leaders have put aside the issue of who will rule Iraq once the Americans are driven out. And well they should, because taking control of Iraq appears to be an impossible goal. But al Qaeda has provided a force of young men who are fanatical, and undaunted by American firepower and the Iraqi populations desire for democracy.

Baath was impressed by the ability of al Qaeda to get young men to fight for free, and to carry out suicide attacks. Baath's Iraqi manpower was either former secret police and Republican Guard members, who were out of a job and fearful of retribution from the kin of their victims. If Baath provided some of that lost salary, these fellows were willing to carry on as before. Other Iraqis were willing to carry out tasks like planting roadside bombs and collecting information, for a fee. But the Baath Party plan for taking back power depended on uniting the Sunni Arab population behind them, and then somehow regaining control of the Kurdish and Shia Arab population. Baath quickly discovered that many Sunni Arabs wanted no part of the Baath Party, and were joining the new government police force and army. But Baath knew how to deal with this. Over decades, Baath, and especially their former leader, Saddam Hussein developed terror tactics that were very effective in controlling the population of Iraq. The Baath was largely a Sunni Arab party, and using these hard core members, threats were made to Sunni Arabs who were working for the new government. If threats didn't work, kidnapping and murder were used. Kidnap one member of a family, and you get the cooperation of the entire family, and often a ransom as well. Despite these efforts, the Sunni Arab police and army units continued to form. Many of these Sunni Arab police and troops fled when confronted by Baath and al Qaeda gunmen. The al Qaeda suicide bombing attacks on police stations and army bases were particularly terrifying. But still Sunni Arabs continued to resist backing Baath.

The government responded by bringing in Kurdish and Shia Arab police, as well as having police and army units operate more closely with American troops. When the soldiers and police could be assured that their families were safe from the Baath and al Qaeda terrorists, they would fight, and not just pick up a paycheck. Providing that safety meant driving out the Baath party thugs town by town, and neighborhood by neighborhood. This had been done in Kurdish areas ten years ago. There was no Baath party terror in Kurdish areas, although occasionally an al Qaeda suicide bomber got in. This didn't terrorize as much as increase Kurdish resolve to crush Baath and al Qaeda. In Shia Arab areas, nearly all the Baath party members fled in early 2003. Those that were slow to leave, were killed by vengeful Shias.

But many areas in central Iraq have mixed Shia/Sunni and Kurdish/Sunni populations. Here the Baath Party enforcers can establish bases among the Sunni population, and carry out terror operations against the Kurds and Shia Arabs. This has not been working. The media reports the attacks, but not the reaction of the Kurdish and Shia Arab population. More Kurds and Shia Arabs are joining the police and army in order to get at the terrorists.

The government understands that they will prevail, but are uncertain about how many more people will die from terrorist attacks before Baath and al Qaeda are crushed. The terrorists have allies in the foreign media, who label the terrorists as nationalistic insurgents. The media portrays the terrorists as having some kind of chance of taking over. But with 80 percent of the population (the Kurds and Shia Arabs) dead set against Baath and al Qaeda (for many reasons), and the Sunni Arabs resisting the terror as well, it's difficult to see how anyone with a sense of history, or a knowledge of basic math, can fall for that.

The U.S, military planners, from the beginning, saw the situation as a classic counter-terrorist operation. The American military has been winning these kinds of wars for over a century, and the methods used then still work. The U.S. Marines, who did a lot of this in the early part of the 20th century, wrote a book about it in 1940; "The Small Wars Manual." This is still be used successfully. Vietnam was one of the few times American counter-terrorism tactics failed. Or did they? Actually, they didn't. By the early 1970s, the communist rebels in South Vietnam were crushed. What people forget was that South Vietnam fell to a conventional invasion from the north in 1975. The Baath Party and al Qaeda have no neighbor with an army ready to come in and rescue them.

This time around, American troops have better tools to collect information, identify the terrorists and quickly carry out raids. The terrorists had big advantages, in that they were Iraqi and the Iraqi population knew very well what the Baath thugs were capable of.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Released French hostage talks of Planet bin Laden

The Australian: Hostage talks of Planet bin Laden [December 24, 2004]:

ONE of two French journalists freed after a four-month hostage ordeal in Iraq has described their captivity as being 'immersed in Planet (Osama) bin Laden'.
Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot had spent their first day back in France recounting details of their ordeal to the foreign intelligence agency, DGSE.

'One of the lessons we drew from our captivity was that we were immersed in Planet Bin Laden, especially when we were in a cell of the Islamic Army in the north' of Iraq, Mr Malbrunot told France 2 public television.

'We really understood that these kidnappers were driven not by an Iraqi agenda, but by an agenda of Islamic holy war.'"

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sex scandal in Congo threatens to engulf UN's peacekeepers

Times Online - World

They should be rebuilding the country, but foreign workers face serious accusations

HOME-MADE pornographic videos shot by a United Nations logistics expert in the Democratic Republic of Congo have sparked a sex scandal that threatens to become the UN’s Abu Ghraib.

The expert was a Frenchman who worked at Goma airport as part of the UN’s $700 million-a-year effort to rebuild the war-shattered country. When police raided his home they discovered that he had turned his bedroom into a studio for videotaping and photographing sex sessions with young girls.

The bed was surrounded by large mirrors on three sides, according to a senior Congolese police officer. On the fourth side was a camera that he could operate from the bed with a remote control.

When the police arrived the man was allegedly about to rape a 12-year-old girl sent to him in a sting operation. Three home-made porn videos and more than 50 photographs were found.

The case has highlighted the apparently rampant sexual exploitation of Congolese girls and women by the UN’s 11,000 peacekeepers and 1,000 civilians at a time when the UN is facing many problems, including the Iraqi “oil-for-food” scandal and accusations of sexual harassment by senior UN staff in Geneva and New York.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Farmers Making Use of Global Positioning

ABC News: Farmers Making Use of Global Positioning

The tractor weaves to ride the field's dips and rises while perfectly hugging the row previously cut by its black-clawed tiller, creating a seamless pattern of turned soil. But the person in the cab has nothing to do with this precision. Aided by a computer and a Global Positioning System a constellation of Earth-orbiting satellites the vehicle is driving itself.

All the farmer has to do is turn the tractor around when it reaches the end of the field.

The use of technology has increased in the past few years as farmers try to cut costs to compensate for relatively stagnant crop prices. Infrared sensors control how much fertilizer is applied. Retinal imaging tracks cattle. On the horizon, perhaps, are tomato-picking robots.

Experts estimate that up to 15 percent of farmers now have GPS precision-controlled tractors or combines, which first began hitting the fields in the late 1990s.

"It's the difference between making money and not making money," said Dave Mowitz, machinery and technology editor for Successful Farming, a national farm publication based in Des Moines, Iowa.

Farmers are going High-Tech also!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Aljazeera.Net - Saddam calls for Iraqi unity

Aljazeera.Net - Saddam calls for Iraqi unity
A trial date for the ex-Iraqi president has yet to be finalised

Saddam Hussein has urged the Iraqi people from his prison cell to be united and cautioned them to be wary of elections slated for 30 January.

His Jordan-based legal team said he made 'recommendations' during his first meeting with one of his Iraqi lawyers, Khalil al-Dulaimi, last Thursday.

'The president asked about the Iraqi people ... and stressed the need for their unity,' spokesman Ziad Khassawnih said on Sunday.

'Our representative in Iraq told us that the president warned the people of Iraq and the Arabs to beware of the American scheme aimed at splitting Iraq into sectarian and religious divisions and weakening the (Arab) nation,' said Bushra Khalil, a Lebanese member of the defence team.

'The president sent recommendations to the Iraqi people to remain united and not fall in the trap of America's slogans,' she said. 'He said Kurds, Arabs, Shia, Sunnis and Christians are all Iraqis who all have to stand united against the American plot.'

'The president sent recommendations to the Iraqi people to remain united and not fall in the trap of America's slogans. He said Kurds, Arabs, Shia, Sunnis and Christians are all Iraqis who all have to stand united against the American plot'

Another lawyer, Adnan Dannawi, said that during the meeting Saddam asked to be briefed on developments in Iraq and was told by Dulaimi that the country is preparing to hold elections.

'At that point, the president said to Dulaimi the Iraqi people should 'be wary of this issue',' Dannnawi said.

'The president is held in a three (metre) by five room that does not befit a president ... and he is completely cut off from the world,' Khassawnih said, adding however that Saddam was in good health and high spirits."

Who gives a damn what Saddam says? He was never elected and thus has no claim over the leadership of Iraq. He is a tyrant and all tyrants deserve death. I love the part where he cautions Iraqis to be wary of elections. What crap. He never had free elections, and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men women and children. How dare he address the Kurds, whom he attacked with poison gas!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Gamer buys $26,500 virtual land

BBC NEWS | Technology | Gamer buys $26,500 virtual land

A 22-year-old gamer has spent $26,500 (£13,700) on an island that exists only in a computer role-playing game (RPG).

The Australian gamer, known only by his gaming moniker Deathifier, bought the island in an online auction.

The land exists within the game Project Entropia, an RPG which allows thousands of players to interact with each other.

Entropia allows gamers to buy and sell virtual items using real cash, while fans of other titles often use auction site eBay to sell their virtual wares.

Earlier this year economists calculated that these massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) have a gross economic impact equivalent to the GDP of the African nation of Namibia.

Investment prospects

"This is a historic moment in gaming history, and this sale only goes to prove that massive multi-player online gaming has reached a new plateau," said Marco Behrmann, director of community relations at Mindark, the game's developer.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Australian: Taliban security chief held

The Australian: Taliban security chief held [December 14, 2004]

Afghan security forces have captured Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s personal security chief as he travelled in a van to the southern city of Kandahar, provincial officials said today.

The capture of Toor Mullah Naqibullah Khan, who headed Mullah Omar’s household security during his time in power, could help US and Afghan forces track down his boss, one of the most wanted fugitives in the US-led war on terror.

Osama bin Laden, who ran his al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban, is also believed to be at large in the area.

“We have arrested top Taliban figures Toor Mullah Naqibullah Khan and Mullah Qayoom Angar on the way between Arghandab and Kandahar,” a senior Kandahar security official who requested anonymity said.

“They were carrying a satellite telephone and some important documents.

“We are hopeful we will arrest more Taliban figures and we hope that we can arrest their leader, Mullah Omar.”
With the latest capture, security forces have picked up 19 militants since Saturday night, including the brother of a former Taliban governor of Kandahar.
They were picked up following a tip-off from a Taliban insider, a security official said.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database

The New York Times > Technology > Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database:

"oogle, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search service, plans to announce an agreement today with some of the nation's leading research libraries and Oxford University to begin converting their holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the Web.

It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an ambitious Internet effort by various parties. The goal is to expand the Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and special collections.
Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have long vowed to make all of the world's information accessible to anyone with a Web browser. The agreements to be announced today will put them a few steps closer to that goal - at least in terms of the English-language portion of the world's information. Mr. Page said yesterday that the project traced to the roots of Google, which he and Mr. Brin founded in 1998 after taking a leave from a graduate computer science program at Stanford where they worked on a 'digital libraries' project. 'What we first discussed at Stanford is now becoming practical,' Mr. Page said.

At Stanford, Google hopes to be able to scan 50,000 pages a day within the month, eventually doubling that rate, according to a person involved in the project.

The Google plan calls for making the library materials available as part of Google's regular Web service, which currently has an estimated eight billion Web pages in its database and tens of millions of users a day. As with the other information on its service, Google will sell advertising to generate revenue from its library material. (In it existing Google Print program, the company shares advertising revenue with the participating book publishers.)

Each library, meanwhile, will receive its own copy of the digital database created from that institution's holdings, which the library can make available through its own Web site if it chooses.

Harvard officials said they would be happy to use the Internet to share their collections widely. 'We have always thought of our libraries at Harvard as being a global resource,' said Lawrence H. Summers, president of Harvard.

At least initially, Google's digitizing task will be labor intensive, with people placing the books and documents on sophisticated scanners whose high-resolution cameras capture an image of each page and convert it to a digital file.

Google, whose corporate campus in Mountain View, Calif., is just a few miles from Stanford, plans to transport books to a copying center it has established at its headquarters. There the books will be scanned and then returned to the Stanford libraries. Google plans to set up remote scanning operations at both Michigan and Harvard.

The company refused to comment on the technology that it was using to digitize books, except to say that it was nondestructive. But according to a person who has been briefed on the project, Google's technology is more labor-intensive than systems that are already commercially available.

Two small start-up companies, 4DigitalBooks of St. Aubin, Switzerland, and Kirtas Technologies of Victor, N.Y., are selling systems that automatically turn pages to capture images."

Iran is building an air force of UAV's

In its Issue 181, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reported:

Officers and engineers of the Revolutionary Guard’s “flying objects” program built Mirsad 1 and decided when to launch it, causing some fallout between two of Israel’s enemies, Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, and Iran. The quarrel was sharp but not serious. The two countries have a commonality of interests and share a place on the US state department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

In its complaint to Teheran, Syria made several key arguments that Iran will have to take into consideration.

Facing possible international sanctions over its military presence in Iraq, Syria told Iran that its “act of provocation” could only hurt Syrian interests. Akhtari tried to play down Syria’s concerns, saying the world was fully preoccupied with the US battle for Fallujah and Yasser Arafat’s demise. But still, Syria demanded a detailed explanation from Iran and a promise to abide by the existing understandings between the two countries and refrain from similar action in the future.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly ’s military sources, Iran has invested heavily over the past decade in its UAV program. Under international sanctions, including a weapons embargo, the Islamic republic has been forced to carry out all of its UAV research and development alone and buy parts and technology on the black market.

In the early 1990s, the Iranians procured advanced remote-controlled model airplanes for the study of UAV technology. It was not an auspicious start: all of the tests conducted in the first three years of the program failed. But last year, Iran bought lightweight engines made in Japan, Germany and even the United States for its UAVS. It has built three types of drones and most were tested successfully, although the Mirsad-1 was the only one tried in field conditions.

The al-Mirsad-2 was built for naval photography. It has been tested twice, both times taking photographs of US warships in the Persian Gulf. The Americans shot at a slow-flying Iranian UAV- but missed. Iran’s third drone, whose name is unknown in the West, is to be used for long-range reconnaissance flights. It is not yet operational.

Iran is busy further upgrading its UAVs. DEBKA-Net-Weekly has learned that Iranian agents operating in the United States recently tried to recruit engineers of Iranian origin working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The CIA is aware of these contacts and the scientists were warned against going to parties or accepting invitations to events where the guests include people with known or covert connections to the Iranian regime.

An American Prophet Takes on the Prophet Mohammed’s Fighters in Iraq

DEBKAfile Exclusive Military Report

On November 19, Lt. Col. Steve Iwicki, director of the Actionable Intelligence Department of the Army G2, announced that the 3rd Infantry Division’s “units of action” due for shipment to Iraq will be equipped with the first unmanned vehicles of the Prophet collection system. He disclosed that in the next few years, 9,000 of these new military intelligence positions will be deployed with US forces world wide, 5,000 with brigade-sized units, 3,000 at the division level, and 1,000 with corps.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that these new infantry units for beefing up election security in Iraq will arrive complete with 40 Prophet systems. Their deployment is the most important military development in the Iraq war since the high-mobility, eight-wheeled Strykers were introduced last January to take over urban combat in Iraq’s narrow streets from the heavy Abrams M1 tanks. Although many commanders had complained that the tanks were too slow and unwieldy to fight guerillas, they soon found the Stryker offered no substitute for the tanks’ protective armor and fire power; its flexibility did not make the Stryker less vulnerable than tanks to attack in street combat. The Stryker was finally relegated to the outer fringes of the towns where open spaces provide this vehicle with greater range than city streets.

The Abrams was restored as a theater system for the Najef campaign last August. It played a critical role in the capture of the Shiite shrine city and its purge of Sadrist rebel forces. The Abrams starred again in this month’s Fallujah offensive. But the Stryker brigade came into its own last week in the pursuit of Baathist rebel fugitives in Mosul’s Sunni districts which are situated amid broad sweeps of empty land.

The Prophet system is named for “The Prophets” Delta Company, 104th Military Intelligence Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. Nothing could represent a greater antithesis to the Prophet Mohammed and his Koran than the unit’s emblem of a star-spangled, white-bearded wizard grasping a magical cosmic ball with electronically charged hands. It will therefore be interesting to see the outcome of the first confrontation between American troops armed with their electronic Prophet and the Prophet Muhammad’s followers – a contest which will not be just military. The Americans will field the most advanced electronic intelligence and command wizardry ever devised, orchestrated from satellites and the military Internet and embodying lessons painfully learned in battling guerrillas and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian war. Facing them will be insurgent guerrillas and Islamic terrorists armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifles, car bombs and explosives.

It is now the American Prophet’s turn to enter the ring.

This symbolically-named tool may be fairly termed the most sophisticated piece of electronic intelligence gadgetry ever made available to ground commanders - from the division level down to brigade, battalion and platoon levels. It will serve them by collecting the graphic and other data present in a battle environment, point up the dangers lying in wait for US forces, expose and nail every enemy combat element, including hostile intelligence, and electronically attack their signals to prevent them from communicating critical data. The effect will be to silence enemy communications, as well as jamming its command, computer and electronical warfare systems.

A ground commander equipped with a Prophet will receive on his laptop a comprehensive picture of electronic emitters within a battle arena of any size up to 150km wide and 120 kilometers deep. He will have a full view of his own forces in relation to the enemy and be guided in mid-combat to openings that will give his troops the advantage.

In the course of battle, he will be able to pinpoint, collect and electronically attack emitters, however large or small, beyond the reach of conventional reconnaissance – whether small, hidden knots of Iraqi guerrillas using any kind of communications or signaling gear, including a mobile phone, gadgets for remote-control of explosive devices or bomb cars, or even an Iraqi guerilla command center operating deep inside Iran or Syria. US commanders often know where an enemy position across the Iraqi border is located. The Prophet extends their reach and arms them with the option of long-distance electronic attack.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Many Iraqis Confused Ahead of January Election

My Way News:

"Yet asked what Iraqis would vote for on Jan. 30, Maithem Modher, a 24-year-old computer company employee, was unclear.

'We will vote to choose a president,' he said. 'If any person gets a majority, he will win the presidency.'

Others were not sure when the election would take place.

'On Jan. 15 we will elect a number of members and they will elect a constitution and a president,' said Mortadha Hussein, 34, a shopkeeper.

'I don't know how many members will be elected ... I only know that there are more then 200 political parties,' he said. 'I would be lying if I said I knew the parties or candidates.'

While 230 parties have registered for the election, most of them are grouping into coalitions that will put forward a list of candidates. The number of votes for each list will determine the number of candidates on the list that get seats.

Others seem confused about the nature of a free vote.

Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, has issued an edict saying all Shi'ites, who make up 60 percent of the population, must vote, but hasn't said for which party.

Others believe the outcome's already decided.

'Iraq will be one constituency and the parliament seats will be allocated according to the ethnic and sectarian majority,' said Amir Ghazi, 23, a university science student, who believed Shi'ites were already destined to get 120 seats."

Afghan President: Bin Laden Is Nearby

My Way News

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that Osama bin Laden is 'definitely' in the region and eventually will be caught, even though American and Pakistani generals admit the trail is cold.

Speculation on bin Laden's whereabouts has long focused on the mountains along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the al-Qaida leader slipped away from Afghan and U.S. forces three years ago.

'It's very difficult to say where he is hiding. He cannot be away from this region. He's definitely in this region,' Karzai told CNN's 'Late Edition.''We will get him sooner or later, trust me on that.'"

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Madrassas hit by sex abuse claims

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Madrassas hit by sex abuse claims

A Pakistani minister has revealed hundreds of cases of alleged child sex abuse at Islamic schools, or madrassas.

There were 500 complaints this year of abuse allegedly committed by clerics, Aamer Liaquat Hussain, a minister in the religious affairs department, said. That compares with 2,000 last year, but as yet there have been no successful prosecutions, Mr Hussain told the BBC.

The minister’s revelations have sparked death threats and infuriated some religious political leaders. Mr Hussain said he had received death threats from clerics, but that he had done his job and his conscience was clear.

The time had come for his country to face the bitter truth - the sickness of child abuse, he said.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

ABC News: 'BitTorrent' Gives Hollywood a Headache

ABC News: 'BitTorrent' Gives Hollywood a Headache - Movies swapped online using 'BitTorrent' give Hollywood a blockbuster headache:

"Bram Cohen didn't set out to upset Hollywood movie studios. But his innovative online file-sharing software, BitTorrent, has grown into a piracy problem the film industry is struggling to handle.

As its name suggests, the software lets computer users share large chunks of data. But unlike other popular file-sharing programs, the more people swap data on BitTorrent, the quicker it flows and that includes such large files as feature films and computer games.

Because of its speed and effectiveness, BitTorrent steadily gained in popularity after the recording industry began cracking down last year on users of Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster and other established file-sharing software.

The program now accounts for as much as half of all online file-sharing activity, says Andrew Parker, chief technology officer of Britain-based CacheLogic, which monitors such traffic."

Muslim radical planned attack on Dutch red light district

Pizza courier 'targeted' Amsterdam sex zone

AMSTERDAM — Justice authorities arrested a Moroccan man last month after receiving a tip-off that Islamic extremists were allegedly planning an attack on the Red Light District in Amsterdam, it was reported on Friday.

The pizza-delivery courier allegedly conducted reconnaissance of the capital's prostitution zone while riding through the area during work hours on his scooter. He was arrested on 5 November. Newspaper De Telegraaf described him as a "radical Moroccan pizza courier".

Doctor: Yushchenko Poisoned With Dioxin

My Way News:

"VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Dioxin poisoning caused the mysterious illness of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, a doctor said Saturday, adding that the poison could have been put in his soup.

Yushchenko is now in satisfactory condition and dioxin levels in his liver have returned to normal, Dr. Michael Zimpfer, director of Vienna's private Rudolfinerhaus clinic, said at a news conference.

A series of tests run over the past 24 hours provided conclusive evidence of the poisoning, Zimpfer said.

'There is no doubt about the fact that Mr. Yushchenko's disease - especially following the results of the blood work - has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin,' Zimpfer said."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Famous Atheist Now Believes in God

ABC News: Famous Atheist Now Believes in God:

"A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"
Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic Web page. Carrier assured atheists that Flew accepts only a 'minimal God' and believes in no afterlife.

Flew's 'name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up,' Carrier said. Still, when it comes to Flew's reversal, 'apart from curiosity, I don't think it's like a big deal.'

Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American 'intelligent design' theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

A Methodist minister's son, Flew became an atheist at 15.

Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything at all.

Another landmark was his 1984 'The Presumption of Atheism,' playing off the presumption of innocence in criminal law. Flew said the debate over God must begin by presuming atheism, putting the burden of proof on those arguing that God exists."

Geneticists debate combining human and animals genes

MSNBC - Of mice, men and in-between

Such "humanized" animals could have countless uses. They would almost certainly provide better ways to test a new drug's efficacy and toxicity, for example, than the ordinary mice typically used today.

But few scientists are eager to do that experiment. The risk, they say, is that some human cells will find their way to the developing testes or ovaries, where they might grow into human sperm and eggs. If two such chimeras — say, mice — were to mate, a human embryo might form, trapped in a mouse.

Not everyone agrees that this would be a terrible result.

"What would be so dreadful?" asked Ann McLaren, a renowned developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge in England. After all, she said, no human embryo could develop successfully in a mouse womb. It would simply die, she told the academy. No harm done.

But others disagree — if for no other reason than nothing else out of fear of a public backlash.

"Certainly you'd get a negative response from people to have a human embryo trying to grow in the wrong place," said Cynthia B. Cohen, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics and a member of Canada's Stem Cell Oversight Committee, which supported a ban on such experiments there.

How human?
But what about experiments in which scientists add human stem cells not to an animal embryo but to an animal fetus, which has already made its eggs and sperm? Then the only question is how human a creature one dares to make.

In one ongoing set of experiments, Jeffrey L. Platt at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has created human-pig chimeras by adding human-blood-forming stem cells to pig fetuses. The resulting pigs have both pig and human blood in their vessels. And it's not just pig blood cells being swept along with human blood cells; some of the cells themselves have merged, creating hybrids.

It is important to have learned that human and pig cells can fuse, Platt said, because he and others have been considering transplanting modified pig organs into people and have been wondering if that might pose a risk of pig viruses getting into patient's cells. Now scientists know the risk is real, he said, because the viruses may gain access when the two cells fuse.

In other experiments led by Esmail Zanjani, chairman of animal biotechnology at the University of Nevada at Reno, scientists have been adding human stem cells to sheep fetuses. The team now has sheep whose livers are up to 80 percent human — and make all the compounds human livers make.

Zanjani's goal is to make the humanized livers available to people who need transplants. The sheep portions will be rejected by the immune system, he predicted, while the human part will take root.

"I don't see why anyone would raise objections to our work," Zanjani said in an interview.

Mice and men
Perhaps the most ambitious efforts to make use of chimeras come from Irving Weissman, director of Stanford University's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine. Weissman helped make the first mouse with a nearly complete human immune system — an animal that has proved invaluable for tests of new drugs against the AIDS virus, which does not infect conventional mice.

More recently his team injected human neural stem cells into mouse fetuses, creating mice whose brains are about 1 percent human. By dissecting the mice at various stages, the researchers were able to see how the added brain cells moved about as they multiplied and made connections with mouse cells.

Already, he said, they have learned things they "never would have learned had there been a bioethical ban."

Now he wants to add human brain stem cells that have the defects that cause Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and other brain ailments — and study how those cells make connections.

Scientists suspect that these diseases, though they manifest themselves in adulthood, begin when something goes wrong early in development. If those errors can be found, researchers would have a much better chance of designing useful drugs, Weissman said. And those drugs could be tested in the chimeras in ways not possible in patients.

Now Weissman says he is thinking about making chimeric mice whose brains are 100 percent human. He proposes keeping tabs on the mice as they develop. If the brains look as if they are taking on a distinctly human architecture — a development that could hint at a glimmer of humanness — they could be killed, he said. If they look as if they are organizing themselves in a mouse brain architecture, they could be used for research.

So far this is just a "thought experiment," Weissman said, but he asked the university's ethics group for an opinion anyway.

"Everyone said the mice would be useful," he said. "But no one was sure if it should be done."

French Judge: ATMs Help Finance Militants: French Judge: ATMs Help Finance Militants:

"In recent years, the powerful magistrate has rounded up hundreds of suspected militants in France and earned a global reputation as having a key role in the fight against al-Qaida.

He said the focus now ought to be on the Caucasus region including Chechnya, as well as Iraq and southeast Asia.

'The Caucasus is a training zone that has partially replaced Afghanistan,' he said, adding that the situation was true even before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

With the Afghan territory out of Islamists' control following the U.S.-led ousting of the Taliban in late 2001, Bruguiere said, Chechnya -- which he called 'a jihad land' -- as well as other parts of the Caucasus region -- including Ossetia and Ingushetia -- 'have taken on an enormous importance.'

'Today, the Caucasian problem ... is not unique to Russia. It is a true international problem because the majority of the Chechen cause has been hijacked by al-Qaida. It is not a political matter, it is a reality that must be controlled,' he said.

Tracking militants and their networks is difficult because they do not usually have a centralized command system and they are 'scattered over the world in many, many small cells and networks, not connected really with each other,' he said.

Bruguiere estimated there are 40 Islamic militant suspects in French jails, with 30 -- some of whom are not yet charged -- arrested this year alone. "

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Sharpton Got $86,715 to Aid Kerry Campaign

Yahoo! News - Sharpton Got $86,715 to Aid Kerry Campaign

WASHINGTON - All of John Kerry’s one-time rivals in the Democratic presidential primary eventually lined up to support him as the nominee, but only one got paid for it — Al Sharpton.

The Democratic National Committee paid Sharpton $86,715 in travel and consulting fees to compensate for his campaigning for Kerry and other Democratic candidates, according to reports to the Federal Election Commission.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Sharpton said he was paid for travel and he didn’t know how much he had been reimbursed.

“They asked me to travel to 20 or 30 cities to campaign, and I did that,” Sharpton said. “What am I supposed to do, donate the cost of air fare?”

But records show that while most of the money was to reimburse travel expenses, Sharpton was paid $35,000 as a “political consulting fee” 15 days after the election. The consulting fee was first reported in this week’s edition of the Village Voice.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Jano Cabrera said the party paid Sharpton at the request of the Kerry campaign.

“After meeting with Kerry’s staff, we did agree to pay for Reverend Sharpton’s travel and consulting expenses,” Cabrera said. “He traveled very extensively to help the nominee and Democrats across the board, encouraging them to get out and vote on November 2.”

Sharpton frequently appeared at Kerry’s side in the final weeks before the election as Kerry was trying to connect with black voters. Sharpton was with Kerry in largely black churches and when he spoke to other black audiences.

Rebels Aided By Sources in Syria, U.S. Says

Rebels Aided By Sources in Syria, U.S. Says (
Baathists Reportedly Relay Money, Support

U.S. military intelligence officials have concluded that the Iraqi insurgency is being directed to a greater degree than previously recognized from Syria, where they said former Saddam Hussein loyalists have found sanctuary and are channeling money and other support to those fighting the established government.

Based on information gathered during the recent fighting in Fallujah, Baghdad and elsewhere in the Sunni Triangle, the officials said that a handful of senior Iraqi Baathists operating in Syria are collecting money from private sources in Saudi Arabia and Europe and turning it over to the insurgency.

In some cases, evidence suggests that these Baathists are managing operations in Iraq from a distance, the officials said. A U.S. military summary of operations in Fallujah noted recently that troops discovered a global positioning signal receiver in a bomb factory in the western part of the city that "contained waypoints originating in western Syria."

Concerns about Syria's role in Iraq were also expressed in interviews The Washington Post conducted yesterday with Jordan's King Abdullah and Iraqi President Ghazi Yawar. "There are people in Syria who are bad guys, who are fugitives of the law and who are Saddam remnants who are trying to bring the vicious dictatorship of Saddam back," Yawar said. "They are not minding their business or living a private life. They are . . . disturbing or undermining our political process."

Genital Mutilation 'On the Increase in Europe

Genital Mutilation 'On the Increase in Europe'

Young girls born in Europe to immigrant families from Africa are being subjected to ritual genital mutilation, and authorities are doing little to discourage it, a leading women’s rights activist warned.

Somalia-born supermodel and best-selling author Waris Dirie, who has campaigned to end the disfiguring practice she suffered at age five in her homeland, said yesterday that she estimates one in every three African families living in Europe is secretly carrying out the ritual on their daughters. No official figures exist.

The procedure – illegal in most European countries – is especially prevalent in Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in Austria, where an estimated 8,000 girls born into immigrant families have been affected, Dirie said.

No change in Iraqi election date: Bush

My Way News: "The Bush administration has said it plans to stick to the election date despite the violence and a call for postponement by several leading Sunni Muslim groups.

Some foreign leaders have expressed doubts.

With Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi looking on, Putin expressed some of the most pointed and outspoken concerns Tuesday.

'Honestly speaking, I cannot imagine how it is possible to organize elections under the conditions of occupation by foreign forces,' the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying at the meeting in Moscow. 'At the same time, I don't understand how you alone can remedy the situation in the country and prevent its disintegration,' Putin said, addressing Allawi.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli played down any differences with Russia, saying, 'There are, as in any relationship, issues where we see things differently.'

He called the election 'an important milestone event in the democratic development of Iraq. It's something that, I think, responds to the desires of the people, the policy of the government, the consensus of the international community. So let's go forward.'

There was no reported response from Allawi. Putin also said he expected the interests of Russian companies to be considered in Iraqi reconstruction, given that Russia was willing to join in writing off 80 percent of Iraq's debts to the Paris Club of creditor nations.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa warned Tuesday that a boycott of the election by Sunni Muslims would harm the political process."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Iran race against time is getting down to the wire. Will the Extremists conducting maneuvers in the desert and seeking nuclear missiles, or the reformers demanding freedom achieve their goals first?

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Students heckle Iranian president: "Students heckle Iranian president
Iranian President Khatami adjusts his glasses as students shout slogans during his speech
Khatami: Accused of failing to stand up to conservatives
Iranian students have interrupted a speech by President Mohammad Khatami to mark Student Day at Tehran university.

Students chanted 'Shame on you' and 'Where are your promised freedoms?' to express their frustration with the failure of Iran's reform movement.

A visibly-shaken Khatami defended his record and criticised the powerful hardliners who have closed newspapers and jailed dissidents.

He asked students to stop heckling and accused his critics of intolerance.

Students were once some of President Khatami's strongest supporters.

"Students are very disappointed because they paid a heavy price for supporting Khatami, but in return they got nothing"
-Abdollah Momeni,
Student leader

But they now accuse him of failing to stand up to the conservatives who won parliamentary elections in February.

Correspondents say Mr Khatami is concluding his second and final term in office as a virtual lame duck - having once been seen a force for great change in the Islamic republic."
Iran flexes its muscles. I have a feeling their military isn't as impressive as they think it is. They won't last long. Iran conducts largest exercise ever

Iran has launched what officials termed its largest military exercise ever.

Officials said the Iran Army began the exercise on Dec. 3 in western Iran near the border with Iraq. They said the aim of the exercise was to demonstrate ground force capabilities and weaponry in an effort to deter any attack from the United States.

U.S. officials said the administration wants to increase defense and security cooperation with Saudi Arabia which is regarded as the key to the U.S.-led war against Al Qaida and the containment of Iran in the region, according to the current edition of

The exercise tested a range of indigenous missiles, rockets, armored personnel carriers, main battle tanks and unmanned aerial vehicles developed over the last decade. Officials said many of these weapons and platforms were introduced into service over the last two years, Middle East Newsline reported

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Muslim "loophole" allows prostitution. Just get married, and then divorce right after sex!

The Telegraph - Calcutta : Nation ‘Marriage’ veil for sex workers

Karachi, Dec. 4: More and more sex workers in Pakistan are practising “mutah” — a short marriage contract — to gain a sense of legitimacy and beat the law of the land.

In most red light districts of Lahore, Karachi, Multan, Hyderabad and other cities, every time there’s a police raid, sex workers and their patrons seek cover by owing allegiance to any sect that allows mutah.

According to a tradition among some sects representing Islam, mutah takes place if both partners agree to enter into a marriage for a short duration, even for a few hours, based on verbal consent. There is no need for any documentation or testimony, apart from a confirmation from the man and the woman. A majority of the clergy in Pakistan is unimpressed by the opportunistic use of the provision.

Mutah is a controversial provision in Islam. According to the majority Sunni sect, mutah has no relevance in the modern world as it was granted during the time of the crusades when “warriors of faith” had to spend months and years away from home. Moreover, sex for money and soliciting are all “haram (prohibited)” under Islamic law.
WorldNetDaily: Bin Laden hideout like Disney World?: "SEARCH FOR OSAMA
Bin Laden hideout
like Disney World?
Afghan authorities look to make
Tora Bora hot tourist destination

If Orlando, Las Vegas or the Caribbean aren't exciting enough for your next vacation, how about considering the hideout of Osama bin Laden?

Osama bin Laden

The idea is not a joke and is being pushed by Afghan authorities looking to revive the local tourism industry by promoting the terror mastermind's mountain lair at Tora Bora.

'We have plans to make a tourist site at the Tora Bora caves. Many Americans wish to go there,' Dr. Hassamuddin Hamrah, the man in charge of the concept, told the London Telegraph.

'Our main problem is lack of budget so we are approaching the private sector. We request that anybody, any company, who is interested should contact us.'

Hamrah thinks the name recognition of the site, along with the remains of Russian tanks and crashed helicopter gunships from the 1980s, will prove to be a hit with potential visitors.

But he also complained that scrap merchants from nearby Pakistan were undermining the idea by absconding with some of the military hardware.

'We wished to keep the artillery, tanks, aircraft and also the military posts and front lines. But the Pakistanis have frustrated our plans,' Hamrah told the paper. 'They were coming and buying the metal scraps so a lot of people took these things to Pakistan. The things we thought existed have been taken away.'

Three Japanese tour-company executives have already scoped out the site, located high in the White Mountains near Jalalabad.

Tora Bora's complex of caves and bunkers were created as a mountain fortress by the Mujahadeen in the 1980s, and was expanded in the '90s at bin Laden's expense. In addition to barracks and extravagant living quarters, it's reported to have tunnel systems able to conceal armored vehicles.

The U.S. pounded the site with Daisy-Cutter fuel bombs in October 2001 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom to flush out bin Laden and his comrades.

Osama escaped and remains on the loose, possibly near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border."

Buddhists beg Muslims not to kill them. Wonder if it will work? Top Worldwide: "Thailand Drops Millions of Paper Doves on Muslim Provinces

Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Thai military and civilian aircraft rained 120 million paper doves down on Muslim southern provinces in a goodwill gesture, as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra tries to ease violence that has killed 400 people.

The birds, folded according to the Japanese art of origami, were dropped on Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, the three Muslim- dominated provinces in the mainly Buddhist nation. Violence has escalated after 78 protesters crammed into military trucks died of suffocation on Oct. 25."
Musharraf says Pakistan can't find Bin Laden, and calls for the rebuilding of Aghanistan's army to fight no-good-niks
Musharraf: Bin Laden's Location Is Unknown / Pakistani Presses U.S. on Rebuilding Afghan Army(

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said yesterday that the search for Osama bin Laden has gone completely cold, with no recent intelligence indicating where he and his top lieutenants are hiding.

More than three years after al Qaeda's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed almost 3,000 people, Musharraf insisted that Pakistani forces are still aggressively pursuing the world's most notorious terrorist. But he acknowledged that recent security force operations and interrogations have been able to determine only one fact -- that bin Laden is still alive.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, center, confers with journalists at Mayflower Hotel here after he met with President Bush at the White House. Bush said he was "very pleased" with Pakistan's efforts against al Qaeda. (Shaun Heasley -- Reuters)

"He is alive, but more than that, where he is, no, it'll be just a guess and it won't have much basis," Musharraf said in an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters. Pressed on whether the trail had gone cold, he said, "Yes, if you mean we don't know, from that point of view, we don't know where he is."

The United States shares major responsibility, Musharraf suggested, because the U.S.-led coalition does not have enough troops in Afghanistan, which has left "voids." The United States and its allies need to expedite the training and expansion of the new Afghan army as the only viable alternative, he said.

Challenges in Afghanistan would be better dealt with "if the Afghan national army is raised faster, in more strength, so that they can reach out to fill these voids that I am talking about, where U.S. forces or coalition forces are not there," he said.
Retina scans and DNA swabs for returning Fallujans! Hard hitting strategy to ensure terrorists don't return to Falluja to set up bases again. Marines have given up on "hearts and minds" strategy for Falluja, want fear and respect now. / News / World / Returning Fallujans will face clampdown:

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The US military is drawing up plans to keep insurgents from regaining control of this battle-scarred city, but returning residents may find that the measures make Fallujah look more like a police state than the democracy they have been promised.

Under the plans, troops would funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans. Residents would receive badges displaying their home addresses that they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of suicide bombers, would be banned.

Marine commanders working in unheated, war-damaged downtown buildings are hammering out the details of their paradoxical task: Bring back the 300,000 residents in

time for January elections without letting in insurgents, even though many Fallujans were among the fighters who ruled the city until the US assault drove them out in November, and many others cooperated with fighters out of conviction or fear.

One idea that has stirred debate among Marine officers would require all men to work, for pay, in military-style battalions. Depending on their skills, they would be assigned jobs in construction, waterworks, or rubble-clearing platoons.

'You have to say, 'Here are the rules,' and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability,' said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during the US assault and expects to be based downtown for some time."
A model cityUS commanders and Iraqi leaders have declared their intention to make Fallujah a "model city," where they can maintain the security that has eluded them elsewhere. They also want to avoid a repeat -- on a smaller scale -- of what happened after the invasion of Iraq, when a quick US victory gave way to a disorganized reconstruction program thwarted by insurgent violence and intimidation.

To accomplish those goals, they think they will have to use coercive measures allowed under martial law imposed last month by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

"It's the Iraqi interim government that's coming up with all these ideas," Major General Richard Natonski, who commanded the Fallujah assault and oversees its reconstruction, said of the plans for identity badges and work brigades.
While one senior Marine said he fantasized last month that Allawi would ride a bulldozer into Fallujah, the prime minister has come no closer than the US military base outside the city.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has not delivered the 1,200 police officers it had promised, although the Defense Ministry has provided troops on schedule, US officials said. Iraqi ministry officials have visited the city, but delegations have often failed to show up. US officials say that is partly out of fear of ongoing fighting that sends tank and machine-gun fire echoing through the streets.
The Marines say several hundred civilians are hunkered down in houses or at a few mosques being used as humanitarian centers. In the western half of the city, civilians have not been allowed to move about unescorted. In the eastern half, controlled by another regiment, they were allowed out a few hours a day until men waving a white flag shot and killed two Marines.

"The clock is ticking. Civilians are coming soon," Lieutenant Colonel Leonard DiFrancisci told his men one recent evening as they warmed themselves by a kerosene heater in the ramshackle building they commandeered as a headquarters. "It's going to get a lot more difficult. We've had a little honeymoon period."
When they heard of the proposal to require men to work, some Marines were skeptical that an angry public would work effectively if coerced. Others said the plan was based on US tactics that worked in postwar Germany. DiFrancisci said he would wait for more details. "There's something to be said for a firm hand," he said.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Europe finally realizing that multiculturalism has allowed dangerous Islamic terrorists to thrive in their countries.

Times Online - World
Stoned to death... why Europe is starting to lose its faith in Islam
By Charles Bremner
Islamic fundamentalism is causing a 'clash of civilisations' between liberal democracies and Muslims

DAYS before she was due to be married, Ghofrane Haddaoui, 23, refused the advances of a teenage boy and paid with her life. Lured to waste ground near her home in Marseilles, the Tunisian-born Frenchwoman was stoned to death, her skull smashed by rocks hurled by at least two young men, according to police.

Although the circumstances of the murder are not clear, the horrific “lapidation” of the young Muslim stoked a French belief that the country can no longer tolerate the excesses of an alien culture in its midst.

A few days ago, pop celebrities joined 2,000 people in a march through Marseilles denouncing violence against women, particularly in the immigrant-dominated housing estates. The protest against Islamic “obscurantism” and the “fundamentalism that imprisons women” was led by a group of Muslim women who call themselves Ni Putes ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Submissive).

The movement, which emerged three years ago to defend Muslim women, is spawning similar groups across Europe, supported by a mainstream opinion that has recently abandoned political correctness and wants to halt the inroads of Islam.

From Norway to Sicily, governments, politicians and the media are laying aside their doctrines of diversity and insisting that “Islamism”, as the French call the fundamentalist form that pervades the housing estates, is incompatible with Europe’s liberal values.

The shift is not just a reaction to exceptional violence such as the Madrid train bombings, or the murder of Theo van Gogh, the anti-Islamic Dutch film-maker, by a Dutch-Moroccan. It stems from a belief that more muscular methods are needed to integrate Europe’s 13-million strong Muslim community and to combat creeds that breed extremists and ultimately, terrorism. With mixed results, governments are trying to quell the scourge by co- opting Muslim leaders to promote a moderate European Islam.

In Germany, with its three million — mainly Turkish — Muslims, and France, with its five million of mainly North African descent, television viewers were shocked when local young Muslims approved of Van Gogh’s murder. “If you insult Islam, you have to pay,” was a typical response.

“The notion of multiculturalism has fallen apart,” said Angela Merkel, leader of Germany’s Christian Democrat opposition. “Anyone coming here must respect our constitution and tolerate our Western and Christian roots.” Italy’s traditional tolerance towards immigrants has been eroded by fear of Islamism. An Ipsos poll in September showed that 48 per cent of Italians believed that a “clash of civilisations” between Islam and the West was under way and that Islam was “a religion more fanatical than any other”.

Similar views can be heard across traditionally tolerant Scandinavia — and no longer just from the populist rightwing party’s such as Pia Kjaersgaard’s People’s Party in Denmark. The centre-right Government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has equipped Denmark with Europe’s toughest curbs on immigration, largely aimed at people from Muslim countries. In Sweden, where anti-Muslim feeling is running high and mosques have been burnt, schools have been authorised to ban pupils who wear full Islamic head-cover, although the measure comes nowhere near France’s new ban on the hijab in all state schools.

In Spain, with a rapidly rising population of nearly a million Muslims, the backlash has been less visible despite the bombings, but thousands demonstrated in Seville this week against plans to build a mosque in the city centre. The Government has also won approval by sending 500 extra police to monitor preachers and Muslim associations.

Police across the EU are closely watching prayer meetings in makeshift mosques in cities and housing estates, and media accounts of the jihadist, anti-Western and anti-semitic doctrines of the imams are fuelling public anger. In Germany, pressure is growing for sermons to be preached in German rather than Turkish or Arabic. Hidden TV cameras recently broadcast an imam in a Berlin mosque telling worshippers that “Germans can only expect to rot in the fires of hell because they are nonbelievers”.

The debate over the limits to free speech is loudest in France, which now acknowledges the failure of its “republican” approach to integration whereby immigrants were supposed to blend harmoniously into society and not exist in separate communities.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Marijuana and psychosis?

Marijuana may increase risk of psychosis
Drug makes some users more vulnerable to mental problems

Teenagers and young adults who frequently use cannabis are increasing their risk of suffering from psychotic symptoms such as bizarre behavior and delusions later in life, Dutch scientists said on Wednesday.

Young people with a family history, or pre-existing susceptibility to mental instability, are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of the drug.

“Cannabis does not act in the same fashion on psychosis risk for everybody. There is a group that is particularly susceptible,” Professor Jim van Os, of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, told a news conference.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

VOA.GOV ---Khomeini’s grandson criticizes theocratic rule

Seyyed Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, told the Voice of America’s new Persian language TV news program that the clerical rulers of his native Iran have left Iranians yearning for democracy. "Iran is not free," Khomeini told VOA in an exclusive interview. "Islamic clerical rule is not, and cannot be, democratic."

Khomeini, who, like his grandfather, is a Shi’ite Islamic cleric, made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with VOA News and Views anchor Hossein Kangarloo. Segments of the interview are being broadcast from Sept. 27 through Oct. 1 on News and Views via satellite to Iran. Khomeini, who now lives in Iraq, said he moved there to experience the freedom made possible by the United States. Khomeini said that despite Iraq’s problems, he feels not only a sense of hope in Iraq, but a will to establish democratic government and a disavowal of terrorism. He said that the Islamic rulers of Iran are anti-Western and supporters of terrorism, but, he asserted, "The Iranian people do not support this terrorism and are strongly opposed to it."

Although the Islamic revolution brought about by Khomeini’s grandfather in 1979 ushered in an era in which females could not be seen in public without a veil, the younger Khomeini has a more tolerant view of women’s rights. He told VOA: "It is a woman’s right to choose to veil or not." During his visit to VOA’s Washington headquarters, Khomeini gave interviews to VOA’s television and radio programs, as well as to Radio Farda, a joint operation by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Khomeini told his VOA hosts that programs like VOA’s are the most effective way for him to communicate with the people of Iran.
International Relations and Security Network ISN - Security Watch

Sectarian divisions after Falluja

Beyond the innumerable expressions of defiance at the loss to the insurgents of Falluja, some expressions of pessimism have crept into jihadist forums - always a useful barometer of mujahideen morale. The fall of the city is of great significance "since it was considered the citadel of the Sunnis who were counting on its persistence as a military force to support their political policy and guarantee them against marginalization", as one thoughtful contributor to the forum put it. However, he went on to note what he felt was the more ominous development, "the beginning of the empowerment of the Shi’ites".

The search for scapegoats has received a boost, and it is taking the form of exacerbated sectarian tension. The leader of the Salafi Movement in Iraq, Sheikh Mahdi As-Sumaidai, in a November 11 interview to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, (, openly accused Shiite forces of "seeking and inciting the option of war against Falluja and other Sunni areas", and called upon the Shi’ite ulema (scholars) and hawza (Central authority) to issue a fatwa banning the participation of Shi’ite soldiers in the fighting. The fact that there were Shi’ite Iraqis at all in the ranks of the National Guard fighting in collaboration with the coalition forces has been a point of considerable tension. On 19 November, Mufakkirat al-Islam ( reported with outrage the sight of the black flags of the Shi'ite Hawza in Falluja, and the presence of National Guard bearing "an image of what the Shiites call ‘Imam Ali' and ‘Imam al-Husayn' (the two major religious figures in Shi’ite Islam). Some of the pictures bear the inscription, "With the blessings of our Master Ali we are entering Falluja!" There followed reports of "massacres of unarmed civilians … the mutilation of corpses" and the conclusion that the Shiite soldiers were "motivated by sectarian hatred fed by declarations and fatwas from the religious figures of the Shi'ite Hawza at Najaf".

The reported ‘silence' of the supreme Shiite authority, Ayatollah Ali as-Sistani, on events in Falluja have fed Sunni convictions of a conspiracy against the community, a sentiment shared by nationalist authors outside the country. On 22 November, Osama Saraya commented in the Cairo daily al-Ahram ( "The suspicious silence and double standards of the [Iraqi Shiite] religious marja'iyyahs … have raised many doubts" which led him to deduce that "the US occupation is now trying to plant the seeds of sedition between the Arabs and the Iranians who have immigrated to Iraq under Shi’ite pretenses"
The extremist author then openly declared the Shi’ites "more worthy of death than the Crusaders" and quoted, as justification, a Hadith by which the Prophet Muhammad is to have said: "There shall come a people called ‘al-Rafida' [deserters; often used as a derogatory term for Shiites]; if you meet them, kill them for they are polytheists". The most graphic manifestation of this position is what Iraqis term the "Muthallath al-Mawt" the "Triangle of Death", an area lying between Baghdad and the Shi'ite centers to the south, and bounded by the cities of Yusufiyyah to the northwest, Iskandariyya to the south and Mahmudiyya to the east. Here, alongside Americans and members of the Iraqi security services, Shiites as such, especially since the end of Ramadan, are finding themselves targeted for killing. The site ran a feature outlining the dangers of the zone, noting the inscription on walls at the entrance to the most perilous town in the Triangle, Latifiyyah: "Be a Sunni and then you won't have to fear the Opels" (referring to the make of cars used in the bombings). Across the city, the report continues, notices have appeared saying that the rebels are offering bounties of between one to two thousand dollars for the killing of police and members of the National Guard. Other accounts speak of one thousand dollars for the death of Shi’ites, pure and simple.
The Brigades of Anger

The hatred appears to have become visceral. Ad hoc checkpoints weed out Shiite travelers, "some forced to utter blasphemies against [Shi’ite patriarch] Imam Ali, on pain of death", under threat from those obeying an extremist doctrine that, "If you kill a Shi’ite you will go to heaven". According to the UN-funded ReliefWeb organization, about 500 Shi’ite families have fled the Latifiyyah area. A Shi’ite response is also taking shape. Originally intended as a protection force for visitors to the holy city of Najaf, a unit called Kata'ib al-Ghadb (‘Brigades of Anger') now vows to defend Shi’ites from any group they consider to constitute a threat. The spokesman for the Brigades, Dheya al-Mahdi, has openly demanded that prominent Sunni clerics, both in Iraq and in Saudi Arabia, issue an edict calling off the Sunni extremists. Otherwise, he warned, the Brigades are to start hunting down Sunni insurgent fighters. Although the motivation and authorship of the targeting has not been fully established, the killings on 22-23 November of two leading Sunni clerics - both members of the Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars which has taken the lead in inciting resistance to the elections - appear to encapsulate the next stage of the struggle for Iraq.
Animal rights group steals woman's corpse!

Times Online - Britain
Village demands exclusion zone to keep animal rights protesters at bay

AN ENTIRE community has applied for an unprecedented injunction against animal rights extremists after a vicious campaign of intimidation that has included the theft of an elderly woman’s corpse.

The move comes days after an arson attack on another company listed on an animal rights group’s website. The premises of International Product Supplies, in Wellingham, Norfolk, were firebombed on Friday night.

Activists have relentlessly targeted Newchurch guinea-pig farm in Yoxall, East Staffordshire, which is run by Chris Hall and his family. In the most recent attack, the remains of Mr Hall’s mother-in-law, Gladys Hammond, 82, were stolen from her grave.

The family is following the lead of Oxford University and Huntingdon Life Sciences by applying for a protest-free exclusion zone around their property. Their case will be heard tomorrow at the High Court. But for the first time, the community has rallied behind a company seeking a court order of this kind by adding an application for its own injunction to protect the parishes surrounding the farm.
“The residents need a spokesperson. Enough is enough. The police have given me support and said there could be ramifications, but I’m prepared for that. I’m not a soft touch and won’t be intimidated by anyone, and I’m not going to tolerate this sort of behaviour.

“I’m sick and tired of people being threatened. Over the past five years, residents have had explosions in fields and paint thrown over roads. Normal people going about their everyday business are frightened and intimidated.”

No one has been prosecuted for the desecration of Mrs Hammond’s grave, although two men were arrested and released without charge.