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2006 update (2.25.06)

The Chart Showing the National Debt above is still valid: "The debt to the penny," publicdebt.treas.gov.
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Relevant Works by Mel

The Romance of Anais, an Arthurian-style tale written 1996 describing how Bush got us in the mess in Iraq with a short commentary on the
Chang-an cheat
Tapestry of One – on the creed of Buddha,
Duty & Profit, Nov. 1994
Against Leviathan, Jan. 1993
Immoral Coercion, Dec. 1994
Philistia Triumph thou
because of me
, Dec. 1993
Quest for Human Dignity, July 1994
What Price Justice? Sept. 1992

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News Headlines & Trends

11.06.06 Muslim Umma should adopt enlightened moderation: Musharraf

ISLAMABAD, November 6 – The Muslim world is facing major challenges of extremism, illiteracy, economic backwardness and social problems breeding terrorism in Muslim countries, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Monday. Musharraf said that to seek a solution of problems the Muslim Umma would have to adopt the path of enlightened moderation.

The Muslim world must correct Western misperceptions created by "semiliterate clerics" about Islam as a religion that fosters militant extremism, Gen.Pervez Musharraf addressing the World Islamic Economic Forum conference here said. "We need to inform the world of the reality of Islam," he told the meeting. "Semiliterate clerics who hold sway over the masses (have contributed) to the rise of extremism in the Muslim world as opposed to moderation," he said. "This is the unfortunate reality because this is the critical malaise which spawns terrorism."

11.06.06 Man 'planned massive explosions'

November 6 – A Muslim convert planned to detonate a dirty bomb and launch an attack on London's Tube, a court has been told. Former Hindu Dhiren Barot, 34, from London, plotted "massive explosions" in a synchronized attack in the US and UK. Barot, who last month admitted conspiracy to murder, wanted to pack limousines with gas cylinders and also use a radioactive "dirty" bomb. Lawyers for Barot have insisted that he had neither funding nor bomb-making materials at the time he was caught.

Barot, from Kingsbury in north-west London, described by prosecutors as "a member or close associate" of al-Qaeda is to be sentenced on Tuesday. "The plan was to carry out massive explosions here and in the USA, the principal object being to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people without warning," prosecutor Edmund Lawson QC told Woolwich Crown Court. "There were plans for the detonation of a radiation dispersal device, more commonly known as a dirty bomb, the use of a petrol tanker to cause an explosion, and an attack on London's rail or Underground network, including the Heathrow Express, of an explosion on a Tube train while in a tunnel under the River Thames."

11.06.06 Gaza: Female suicide bomber detonates near IDF troops

November 6 – A female suicide bomber blew herself up near troops operating in Beit Hanoun on Monday afternoon, the IDF said. One soldier was lightly wounded in the attack, and five other Palestinians were killed in separate incidents in northern Gaza as operation Autumn Clouds entered its sixth day. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Monday IDF forces would remain in the northern Gaza Strip until the mission's objective had been achieved. "The goals of the operations in Gaza are clear. We cannot take action just to please part of the public. We have to do what we do to stop the Kassams from reaching Israel," said Peretz, speaking at a Labor faction meeting.

...The woman was killed in the explosion that shook homes in the area and injured several other Palestinians. A soldier was lightly wounded by shrapnel and was evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva to receive treatment, the army said. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, and relatives identified her as Mervat Masaoud, an 18-year-old student at Gaza's Islamic University.

The incident followed dramatic scenes in Beit Hanoun over the weekend when hundreds of women heeded the calls of the local Hamas radio station and marched into the line of fire to rescues some 60 gunmen besieged in the town's mosque by IDF infantry and armored troops. Most of the gunmen managed to flee the scene in the ensuing chaos, and at least two gunmen could be seen wearing traditional Muslim dress in the crowd of women.
[Full story>>Jerusalem Post]

11.06.06 Iran ready to share missile systems with others

TEHRAN (Reuters) November 6 – Iran is ready to share its missile systems with friends and neighbors, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards said, after he showed off missiles including some he said had cluster warheads. Guards commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi also told Iranıs Arabic-language Al Alam TV late on Sunday the Guards had thousands of troops trained for suicide missions in case Iran was threatened although he said any US attack was unlikely.

The United States has said it wants to resolve a dispute over Iranıs nuclear programme by diplomatic means but has not ruled out the use of force. Washington believes Teheran is seeking to make atomic bombs, despite Iranian denials. "We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighboring countries," Safavi told Al Alam. A text of his comments in Farsi were obtained by Reuters on Monday.
[More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See related story, iranfocus.com, November 5, "Iran ready to supply Lebanon with anti-aircraft arms."]

11.06.06 GM to introduce hybrid car in China

SHANGHAI, November 6 – General Motors Corp. plans to introduce alternative propulsion systems to the Asia-Pacific market, starting with a hybrid car in 2008, the chairman of the world's largest auto giant said yesterday. "While working on powertrain improvements and alternative fuels in the near-term, GM will develop with DaimlerChrysler and BMW the most cost-effective and sophisticated two-mode hybrid system for passenger cars and trucks by the end of next year," Richard Wagoner told reporters. He is in this Chinese city for the GM Tech Tour 2006 which opened in the Shanghai Automobile Exhibition Center. The two-mode hybrid system is a patented fuel-saving technology with one mode for city driving and another for highway driving. [More>>koreaherald.co.kr]

11.05.06 Saddam Hussein sentenced to hang

BAGHDAD (AFP) November 5 – Ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and two of his senior allies were sentenced to death by hanging Sunday after an Iraqi court found them guilty of crimes against humanity. Judge Rauf Rasheed Abdel Rahman ordered bailiffs at the Iraqi High Tribunal to force Saddam to stand before the court as, visibly trembling, the former strongman attempted to shout down the verdict. "Make him stand," barked Rahman, as Saddam begged the guards: "Don't bend my arms. Don't bend my arms."

Nevertheless, a court official held Saddam's hands behind his back as Rahman, shouting to be heard over the defendant's protests, declared: "The highest penalty should be implemented." Saddam was sentenced to death for his role in ordering the deaths of 148 Shiite villagers in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad. As he was led away, his arms still pinioned, he declared: "Long live Iraq. Long live the Iraqi people. God is greater than the occupier."

Saddam's half-brother and intelligence chief Barzan Al Tikriti was also sentenced to death, as was Awad Ahmed Al Bandar, who was convicted as the president of the kangaroo court which ordered the Shiites executed. The former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan received a life sentence, while three Baath party officials from Dujail received 15 years each and a fourth, more junior figure, was cleared.
[More>>metimes.com; See other details, khaleejtimes.com (Reuters)]

11.05.06 Amnesty International deplores death sentences in Saddam Hussein trial

November 5 – Amnesty International deplores the decision of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) to impose the death sentence on Saddam Hussein and two of his seven co-accused after a trial which was deeply flawed and unfair. The former Iraqi dictator was sentenced today in connection with the killing of 148 people from al-Dujail village after an attempt to assassinate him there in 1982. The trial, which began in October 2005 almost two years after Saddam Hussein was captured by US forces, ended last July. The verdict was originally due to be announced on 16 October but was delayed because the court said it needed more time to review testimony.

The case is now expected to go for appeal before the SICT's Cassation Panel following which, if the verdict were to be upheld, those sentenced to death are to be executed within 30 days.

"This trial should have been a major contribution towards establishing justice and the rule of law in Iraq, and in ensuring truth and accountability for the massive human rights violations perpetrated by Saddam Husseinıs rule," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. "In practice, it has been a shabby affair, marred by serious flaws that call into question the capacity of the tribunal, as currently established, to administer justice fairly, in conformity with international standards.

"In particular, political interference undermined the independence and impartiality of the court, causing the first presiding judge to resign and blocking the appointment of another, and the court failed to take adequate measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were assassinated during the course of the trial. Saddam Hussein was also denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest, and complaints by his lawyers throughout the trial relating to the proceedings do not appear to have been adequately answered by the tribunal."
[More>>amnesty.org via thenews.com.pk]

11.05.06 At N. Korea border, an even flow

DANDONG, China, November 5 – Shortly after 9am, the parade of Chinese freight trucks set out across the Yalu River to North Korea. Hauling sealed containers marked "Chinese customs inspection," the trucks chugged over the Friendship Bridge at a rate of one per minute with shipments of apples, used television sets and textiles. The most visible part of China's growing trade with North Korea was on full display in this border town 420 miles northeast of Beijing, apparently unaffected by U.N. sanctions imposed after the Pyongyang government tested a nuclear device Oct. 9. Chinese merchants here said they have experienced only minor tightening since members of the Security Council, including China, voted to block exports to North Korea of nuclear-related material, high-tech weapons and luxury goods. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

11.04.06 November surprise: cheerleaders of Iraq war abandon Bush

WASHINGTON (AFP) November 4 – As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself. And now they have had a change of heart. Only three days before a crucial congressional election in which Republicans are poised to suffer heavy losses, top US neo-conservatives, who had cheered the US invasion of Iraq, admitted that the operation may not have been all that necessary, after all.

In separate interviews with Vanity Fair magazine, former top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, White House speech writer David Frum and Reagan administration arms control negotiator Kenneth Adelman continued to insist that toppling the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein was a noble thing to have done. But they argued that the execution of the plan by President George W. Bush, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials, was nothing short of "incompetent."
[More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See original, vanityfair.com]

11.04.06 US seeks silence on CIA prisons

November 4 – The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk. The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own attorneys -- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage." Terrorists could use the information to train in counter-interrogation techniques and foil government efforts to elicit information about their methods and plots, according to government documents submitted to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Oct. 26. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

11.04.06 France blocks NATO bid to create a global terror force

BRUSSELS, November 4 – Plans to boost NATO's cooperation with countries such as Australia and Japan in an effort to forge a partnership against terrorism have been blocked by France. The moves were to have been at the centre of a summit of the alliance's leaders to be held in Riga this month. NATO officials now accept that only a loosely worded pledge to increase contacts with partners in Asia and Australasia will be included in the communiqué, which will be agreed by President George Bush and other leaders in the Latvian capital.

The French opposition comes as a blow to the US, which spearheaded the proposal and which would like to see regular NATO "forums" with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. But while the idea won support from traditional allies of Washington such as the UK, France has made it clear that it opposes a move it sees as part of a campaign to extend US influence.

11.04.06 Somali Islamists fan anti-US, Ethiopian sentiment

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AFP) November 3 – Thousands of angry Muslims marched through southern Somalia Friday protesting against alleged Ethiopian and US aggression as fears rose of all-out war between powerful Islamists and the weak government. The Islamists rejected as "baseless" a US warning that they had threatened suicide attacks in neighboring mainly Christian Kenya and Ethiopia but lashed out at the United States for supporting "Christians and Jews." Amid soaring tensions following the collapse of peace talks this week in Sudan, at least 3,000 demonstrators rallied for holy war in the town of Jilib, spurred on by vitriolic rhetoric from hardline clerics, witnesses said. [More>>metimes.com]

11.04.06 Somali pirates demand ransom for ship

NAIROBI, Kenya (AFP) November 5 – Pirates who hijacked a cargo ship off the Somali coast this week are demanding a $US1 million ($1.3 million) ransom for the release of the vessel and 14 crew, a maritime official said today. Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Program in the port of Mombasa in neighboring Kenya said negotiations were under way to free the United Arab Emirates-flagged MV Veesham 1 that was seized on Thursday. "Somali gunmen are demanding $US1 million to release the MV Veesham 1 and her crew," he said, adding that the captives including four Indians, four Sri Lankans, two Pakistanis, two Ethiopians and one Eritrean. [More>>theaustralian.news.com]

11.04.06 Editorial sold to military: 'Rumsfeld must go'

November 4 – Just days after President Bush publicly affirmed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's job security through the end of his term, a family of publications catering to the military will publish an editorial calling for the defense secretary's removal. The editorial, released to NBC News on Friday ahead of its Monday publication date, stated, "It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads." [More>>msnbc.msn.com ; See armytimes.com, November 4, "Time for Rumsfeld to go" and related background article, commondreams.org : New York Times article, April 14, 2006, "More retired generals call for Rumsfeld's resignation"]

11.03.06 Congress tells auditor in Iraq to close office

November 3 – Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces. And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowenıs supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

Mr. Bowenıs office, which began operation in January 2004 to examine reconstruction money spent in Iraq, was always envisioned as a temporary organization, permitted to continue its work only as long as Congress saw fit. Some advocates for the office, in fact, have regarded its lack of a permanent bureaucracy as the key to its aggressiveness and independence.

11.03.06 Democrats step up move for impeachment in face of Pelosi "60 Minutes" statement

November 3 – David Swanson, of democrats.com, reports: "Democrats.com is organizing a new campaign for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Why are we moving so quickly on impeachment? GOP scaremongering persuaded Nancy Pelosi to declare impeachment "off the table." She even pledged there would be no impeachment on "60 Minutes." But after Election Day – assuming a Democratic takeover of the House – we are determined to put Impeachment back "on the table" over the objections of the Republican Party, the GOP-controlled corporate media, and cowardly Democrats. Pelosi has a 100-day plan to pass "positive" legislation, but she will get a rude shock when Bush nullifies her bills with unconstitutional signing statements. With 51 percent of Americans supporting impeachment (according to Newsweek) and an election just behind us, the moment seems ideal to create the public pressure needed to allow those Members of Congress who favor impeachment to act." [More>>democrats.com, "Grounds for impeachment."]

Editorial note: Two of the complaints against Bush in the democrats.com petition, "Ten reasons to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney," include: 6) Violating the Constitution by using "signing statements" to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress and 9) Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions...

The closing of the auditor's office in Iraq reported in nytimes.com November 3 is one of many acts by Bush that involves the abuse of Presidential power to obstruct justice.

Mel Copeland

11.03.06 Bodies of 56 torture victims discovered in Baghdad

November 3 – The bodies of 56 men some showing signs of torture and a severed head have been found scattered around Baghdad during the past 24 hours, Iraqi police said. The bodies, of men aged between 20 and 45-years-old, were reportedly victims of sectarian death squads. Their discovery is the highest daily figure since the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Shia militiamen have been blamed for many of Baghdad's sectarian slayings, which have increased in number following the bombing of a Shia shrine in the city of Samarra in February. Since October 1 more than 1,300 Iraqis have been killed in the continuing violence. [More>>timesonline.co.uk ; See related stories, thenews.com.pk, November 3, "Five US troops die as violence flares.' and theaustralian.news.com.au, November 3, "US forces kill 13 'terrorists' in Iraq." and turkishpress.com, November 2, "Violence rips Baghdad social fabric."]

11.03.06 Women help gunmen escape Israeli mosque siege

BEIT HANUN, Gaza Strip (AFP) November 3 – Gunmen escaped a besieged mosque in a daring rescue operation mounted by heavily veiled women Friday as Israel pressed a Gaza offensive that has seen 25 Palestinians killed in 72 hours. In the West Bank, troops also arrested a Palestinian cabinet minister in the internationally boycotted Hamas-led government, shot dead a Palestinian youth, and wounded two Palestinians in a series of military operations.

In the northern Gaza Strip, four protestors, including two women, died and another 25 people wounded by Israeli gunfire ahead of a daring rescue attempt to free around 15 Palestinian fighters holed up in a mosque. Militants from various armed groups, including Hamas, had been holed up in the Nasr mosque since Thursday seeking protection from Operation Autumn Clouds, one of the biggest Israeli operations of the last four months in Gaza.
[More>>metimes.com ; Compare to aljazeera.net story, November 3, "Israel kills women at mosque."]

11.03.06 Moscow accused of using gas prices to bully Georgia

November 3 – Russia was accused yesterday of using its massive energy resources as a political weapon after telling neighboring Georgia that it planned to more than double the price of gas. The price hike was announced in the middle of a bitter political row between the two countries, and was interpreted by the Georgian side as "punishment" for the country's perceived anti-Russian course.

Georgia is already suffering a de facto economic blockade imposed by Russia in September after a spy scandal between the two nations that saw relations sink to a new low. It now faces the prospect of having its gas supply switched off as winter begins to bite, unless it can reach an agreement with the Russian side before the New Year. Gela Bezhuashvili, Georgia's Foreign Minister, claimed Russia was using gas as a weapon to pile pressure on his country to get it to return to Moscow's sphere of influence. "They present it as a commercial deal," he told reporters. "But there is a big portion of politics in it. Why is it that yesterday it was $110 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, and today it is $230? This is the price we pay for our [pro-Western] choice."

11.03.06 Indians top enrollement list in US universities

WASHINGTON (PTI) November 3 – India leads the pack in first time student enrollment for graduate courses at American universities, which has increased for the first time since 9/11, signifying that the stigma the US bore after the attacks is finally wearing off. The rise in student numbers is driven by a 12 per cent increase in first-time enrollment, the Council of Graduate Schools reported in a new study in Washington.

And in the category of first time enrollment increase would be India with 32 per cent, followed by China with 20 per cent. First time enrollments of students from the Middle East rose one per cent. The fields of engineering (22 per cent) and business (10 per cent) showed the biggest increases, the study said. [

11.02.06 Bush urges early start of nuke talks

November 2 – U.S. President George W.Bush said Wednesday he wants to see the six-party talks resume "as soon as possible" as allies gear up for preparatory talks. Bush said two senior State Department officials – Undersecretary Nicholas Burns, who is in charge of political affairs, and Undersecretary Robert Joseph, who handles nonproliferation – will travel to Asia to coordinate strategies. "We want these talks to succeed," Bush said in an interview with western wire agencies. "We have always believed that we can solve the Korean and North Korean nuclear issue peacefully." Scores of bilateral or trilateral talks among the nuclear talk members are expected to take place in the coming weeks following a breakthrough agreement between the chief nuclear negotiators of the United States, China and North Korea on Tuesday. [More>>koreaherald.co.kr ; See related report, thestar.com.my, November 2, "Earlier the better for North Korea talks, says China."]

11.02.06 Paris airport strips 72 Muslim staff of security clearance

November 2 – Seventy-two employees of Paris' main airport have lost their security clearance after an anti-terrorism investigation that they posed a security risk. Trade unions at Charles de Gaulle airport are threatening to go on strike over the issue, which they say amounts to religious discrimination. They claim the workers were targeted because they are Muslims. The employees – mainly aircraft cleaners or baggage handlers – are suspected by France's anti-terrorism coordination unit, Uclat, of having links with radical Islam, or of attending terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to Uclat, one was a friend of Richard Reid, the British "shoe bomber" who tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001 and is serving a life sentence in the United States. Jacques Lebrot, the deputy prefect of the Seine-Saint Denis département in which the airport is located, said all but two of the workers who lost their accreditation were Muslims. Charles de Gaulle airport draws many of its employees from the surrounding, troubled northern suburbs of Paris, where much of the population is of north African origin. [More>>independent.co.uk ; See also lefigaro.fr, November 2, "72 employés privés de badge à Roissy depuis mai 2005]

11.02.06 Jolie, Pitt face al-Qaeda threat

November 2 – Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, shooting for the film A Mighty Heart based on the life of slain Journalist Daniel Pearl at Pune have been provided with Y category security due to threat to their lives from the al-Qaeda, Intelligence Bureau sources said in New Delhi on Thursday. After assessing the inputs on threat perception from various intelligence agencies, India has provided the desired security to the international stars, sources told UNI. The Maharashtra Police was also informed about the threat perception as the film is based on Pearl, who was assassinated by the al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan after being abducted on January 23, 2002 while working on a story on Islamic militancy. [More>>expressindia.com]

11.02.06 Iran "not capable" of creating intercontinental missiles: Russia

MOSCOW, November 2 – Iran does not have the technological means to create intercontinental ballistic missiles, the head of Russian military's general staff Yury Baluyevsky told a local news agency Thursday. Baluyevsky's remarks came shortly after Iran reportedly fired its longer-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile on exercise for the first time. "If we are talking about intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to our information, Iran does not possess the technological capability" to create missiles with a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) range, Baluyevsky said. "In any case, this will be monitored by our intelligence services," Baluyevsky added. Thursday's missile test marked the beginning of 10 days of war games in Iran amid a mounting standoff with the West over its nuclear program. [More>>thenews.com.pk ; See also rian.ru, November 2, "Iran cannot build ICBMs: Russian top general."] and khaleejtimes.com, November 2, "Iran fires missiles in war games."]

11.02.06 Talabani: US must stay for three years

November 2 – US troops should stay for up to three more years in Iraq to allow local authorities to build up their own security forces, the Iraqi president says. At the start of his week-long visit, Jalal Talabani, said his country was not in a civil war and accused the media of focusing only on negative stories. However, he said international terrorists were still concentrating all their efforts on Iraq which meant the country needed outside help to defeat them. Speaking at a conference, Talabani said: "We need time. Not 20 years, but time. I personally can say that two to three years will be enough to build up our forces and say to our American friends 'bye bye with thanks.'" [More>>aljazeera.net]

11.02.06 Four more dead as Israel presses Gaza incursion

BEIT HANUN, Gaza Strip (AFP) November 2 – Israel kept up an incursion in Gaza Thursday, which has killed 12 Palestinians and a soldier in little over a day in one of its largest operations since militants seized a soldier in June. Four Palestinians, including a 70-year-old man and two militants, were killed by Israeli fire in the northern town of Beit Hanun, which has been reoccupied by Israeli forces since they launched Operation Autumn Clouds early Wednesday, medics said. On Thursday, two Israeli helicopters hovered above the town. Smoke rose from several buildings amid sporadic rounds of machine gun fire and explosions. In an Arabic-language radio broadcast, the army urged residents to stay indoors. "The IDF [Israel Defense Force] has entered Beit Hanun and asks all the inhabitants to stay at home until further notice," it said. [More>>metimes.com]

11.02.06 As investors covet ethanol, farmers resist

MALTA BEND, Mo., November 2 – Farmers do not see fast money very often. But with big profits gushing forth from ethanol plants, dozens of Wall Street bankers, in loafers and suits, have been descending on the cornfields of the Midwest promising to make thousands of farmers rich overnight. Most of them, though, are proving surprisingly reluctant to cash in.

In this sleepy town of 250, for example, people have lived on the edge of despair for decades, dreaming of a way to make their corn worth more than $2 a bushel. Seeking a way out, a group of farmers from here and surrounding communities scoured the state three years ago to raise the money for a $60 million plant that would turn some of their corn into ethanol for cars and lift their incomes.

When ethanol prices soared to more than $4 a gallon this summer, the plant became a roaring success. And that is when the big money types came knocking. New offers — some as high as $275 million — have rolled in just about every week from an investment bank or hedge fund seeking to buy the plant. For the farmers, particularly those who borrowed part of their investment, a sale could have meant a profit of as much as 10 times what they put in.

11.02.06 Scandals alone could cost Republicans their House majority

November 2 – Indictments, investigations and allegations of wrongdoing have helped put at least 15 Republican House seats in jeopardy, enough to swing control to the Democrats on Tuesday even before the larger issues of war, economic unease and President Bush are invoked.

With just five days left before Election Day, allegations are springing up like brushfires. Four GOP House seats have been tarred by lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling scandal. Five have been adversely affected by then-Rep. Mark Foley's unseemly contacts with teenage male House pages. The remaining half a dozen or so could turn on controversies including offshore tax dodging, sexual misconduct and shady land deals. Not since the House bank check-kiting scandal of the early 1990s have so many seats been affected by scandals, and not since the Abscam bribery cases of the 1970s have the charges been so serious. But this year's combination of breadth and severity may be unprecedented, suggested Julian E. Zelizer, a congressional historian at Boston University.

11.01.06 Violence kills 27 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) November 2 – At least 27 people were killed in new attacks in Iraq, as police searched for at least 40 Shiites abducted along a notoriously dangerous highway just north of Baghdad by suspected Sunni gunmen. Meanwhile, frustration over poor turnout in Iraq's parliament flared, with the body's speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani having to be physically restrained from attacking a Sunni lawmaker. The abductions yesterday near the town of Tarmiyah were another outbreak of sectarian violence in a region where scores were killed last month in reprisal killings among formerly friendly Shiite and Sunni neighbors in the city of Balad. Unarmed men checked identification cards and seemed to be looking for familiar faces among travellers stopped in heavy traffic, an eyewitness said. [>theaustralian.news.com.au ; See related stories,

khaleejtimes.com, November 1, "US planes destroy 'bomb factory' in Baghdad",

independent.co.uk, November 1, "Baghdad is under siege" : Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the rest of Iraq. The country is being partitioned as militiamen fight bloody battles for control of towns and villages north and south of the capital. As American and British political leaders argue over responsibility for the crisis in Iraq, the country has taken another lurch towards disintegration.

Well-armed Sunni tribes now largely surround Baghdad and are fighting Shia militias to complete the encirclement. The Sunni insurgents seem to be following a plan to control all the approaches to Baghdad. They have long held the highway leading west to the Jordanian border and east into Diyala province. Now they seem to be systematically taking over routes leading north and south. Dusty truck-stop and market towns such as Mahmoudiyah, Balad and Baquba all lie on important roads out of Baghdad. In each case Sunni fighters are driving out the Shia and tightening their grip on the capital. Shias may be in a strong position within Baghdad but they risk their lives when they take to the roads. Some 30 Shias were dragged off a bus yesterday after being stopped at a fake checkpoint south of Balad...

nytimes.com, November 1, "Military charts movement of conflict in Iraq toward chaos" : WASHINGTON, November 1 – A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict. A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an ³Index of Civil Conflict.² It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad. In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemyıs fighting strength and the control of territory...

11.01.06 'Al-Qaeda used madrassas to train bombers'

ISLAMABAD (PTI) November 1 – A religious school destroyed in an army air raid in Bajaur tribal agency was frequented by al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri who used it to train suicide bombers, Pakistani officials have said. The facility, known as Maulvi Liaquat's madrassa, was used for imparting training to new recruits with second and third-tier leadership of al-Qaeda, by al-Zawahiri and his associates Abu Obaida al-Misri and Abu Farrah Libbi, top security officials told a briefing.

They displayed to media stills and videos of the early morning training sessions at the destroyed seminary with participants from Swat, Dir, Bajaur and even Afghanistan. The photos taken through infrared camera showed people aged between 20 to 30 carrying out exercises with no weapons. "No weapon or arms were shown as being used for training, as tactics of terrorists have been changed and they prepare suicide bombers," local daily The News today quoted a Pakistani official as saying.
[More>>expressindia.com ; See related story, metimes.com, November 1, "US, Afghan forces kill three militants in clash."]

11.01.06 Iran to practice ballistic missile launches during maneuvers

TEHRAN (RIA Novosti) November 1 – Iran's army will conduct practice launches of long-range ballistic missiles during large-scale military exercises starting Thursday, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said Wednesday. General Yahya Rahim-Safavi said the exercises will take place November 2-12 in southern Iran, and involve units of ground forces, the air force, the navy, and Basij (militia) forces. In particular, Iran will launch its Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, the commander said.

The Shahab-2 is an advanced version of Russia's Scud-C missile, with a range of up to 700 kilometers (about 430 miles), capable of carrying a 700-kilogram (1,500 lb) warhead. The Shahab-3 is a modernized version of North Korea's No-Dong ballistic missile, and reportedly has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (about 950 miles). It can carry a 1,000- kilogram (2,200 lb) payload.

Iran is believed to possess one of the largest ballistic missile forces in the developing world, and is reportedly running an ambitious missile development program. Many countries also suspect it of developing nuclear weapons, through its uranium enrichment program.
[>rian.ru; See also haaretz.com, November 1, "Iran announces plan to hold 'war games' in Gulf region" : Iran unexpectedly announced on Wednesday that it would be holding military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf region this week, only days after international navies led by the Unites States held exercises in the same waterway. Iranian state television quoted the head of the country's Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, as saying the 10-day operation named "Great Prophet" would take place in the Gulf and the Sea of Oman, beginning Thursday. "The war games are aimed at demonstrating the deterrent power of the guards against possible threats," Safavi said

...Iran regularly holds large maneuvers, often using them to test weapons developed by its arms industry. On Wednesday, Safavi told state TV that "The guard's air force will test fire the Shahab-3 missile, equipped with cluster warhead, in the war game." The Shahab-3 missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has a range of more than 2,000 kilometers (1242.80 miles). It can reach Israel and US forces in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday defended Moscow's deal to supply air defense missiles to Iran, saying they were purely defensive weapons with a limited range...

11.01.06 Bulgaria warns EU about slumping electricity exports

SOFIA, Bulgaria, November 1 – Bulgaria's Economy and Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov said he would inform the European commission on Wednesday of a reduction in the country's electricity exports, state BTA agency reported. This comes two months before Bulgaria's planned entry into the European Union and the agreed closure of two of its four operational nuclear power reactors. "I will inform the European Energy Commissioner that... coal supply problems (for the coal-fired power station in Varna) are forcing us to cut electricity exports earlier than planned," Ovcharov was quoted as saying...Bulgaria is a big exporter of electricity in the Balkans, providing up to 7,600 megawatts per year. But it will probably have to cede its position as top supplier in 2007 after the closure of the two Kozloduy reactors, estimates showed. [Full story>>turkishpress.com]

11.01.06 Flat screen televisions 'will add to global warming'

November 1 – The domestic boom in flatscreen televisions could pump hundreds of thousands of tones of extra carbon into the atmosphere each, hampering Britain's attempts to cut emissions. Research by the Liberal Democrats suggested yesterday that the hi-tech televisions would increase emissions by 700,000 tones a year by 2010 - a 70 per cent increase from Britain's 63 million television sets. The figures come amid widespread calls for changes in consumer behavior in the wake of the Stern report on the dangers of global warming...But research by the Government's Market Transformation Programme (MTP), which tracks future trends, shows that current flat screen televisions larger than 24 inches use more than three times the electricity of their conventional counterparts. [Fiull story>>independent.co.uk]

10.31.06 Philippine troops capture militant suspected of arranging trips of foreign terrorists

MANILA (AP) October 31 – Troops have captured a Muslim militant who allegedly arranged trips by Indonesian and other foreign terrorists to the Philippines for training and attacks, security officials said Tuesday. Uktud Bayro, an alleged member of the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, was captured by military and police intelligence agents in southern Tawi Tawi province several days ago after months of surveillance, two security officials said on condition of anonymity because they're not authorized to talk to the media.

Bayro has provided crucial details to military interrogators about the Abu Sayyaf and its operational links with other Filipino Muslim groups and Indonesian militants, one of the officials told The Associated Press without elaborating. Bayro allegedly helped arrange foreign militants' trips into the southern Philippines through Malaysia, accompanying them on perilous sea voyages to Jolo island, where Abu Sayyaf leaders and Indonesian terror suspects have been evading a month's long US-backed offensive, they said.

10.31.06 North Korea to return to six-party talks

October 31 – North Korea has agreed to return to the six-party talks soon to resolve its nuclear weapons program. The talks may be resumed as early as this month or in December, chief US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill said yesterday. North Korea reaffirmed its pledge to give up the nuclear weapons in return for "concessions," Hill told reporters after a meeting with his Chinese and North Korean counterparts in Beijing.

The chief nuclear delegates of the three countries gathered in Beijing and agreed to resume the talks at a convenient time. The talks have been suspended for nearly one year. "We believe it will be either this coming month, November, (or) possibly December," Hill said. He said the North set no conditions for returning to the talks.

10.31.06 Blair prepares for Iraq inquiry rebellion

October 31 – Tony Blair faces an embarrassing revolt by Labour MPs over Iraq today as the Conservatives prepare to swing behind a demand for a Commons inquiry into his conduct of the war. MPs on all sides were ordered to cancel engagements ahead of a vote this evening on a motion proposing a wide-ranging inquiry into the war and its aftermath, to be carried out by senior MPs.

The debate is technically a half-day opposition debate allocated to Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party, but the two parties heaped pressure on Mr. Blair by tabling a cross-party motion to maximize support.

Its backers included John McDonnell, the left-wing MP who hopes to stand for the Labour leadership, Clare Short, who resigned the party whip and now sits as an independent Labour MP, a Tory MP and the Liberal Democrats. As many as 30 Labour MPs are expected to vote against the Government, posing a grave threat to its majority of 67.

"Iraq is the biggest foreign policy disaster for half a century," Adam Price, of Plaid Cymru, told Sky television today, referring to the Suez crisis. "We really need to know how it is the Government got it so badly wrong in the run up to the war, but also with the catalogue of errors that weıve seen with the occupation."

10.31.06 "Factional warlords could ermerge in North Korea"

October 31 – US expert says Kim Jong-II's alliance with military could destabilize regime in the future. A destabilization of North Korea's regime could lead to the emergence of factional warlords , a US expert on North Korean military said in a report. Ken E. Gause, a researcher at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-II's alliance with the military has been a "key buttress" of his rule for the last decade, but has the possibility of destabilizing the regime in the future.

"As the North Korean economy has deteriorated under Kim Jong-II, many elites have been forced to compete for privileges and access like never before," Gause said in the 68-page report. "If the regime loses its ability to placate the elite through goods and services, there is a real chance for the creation of factions. If the situation persists, this factionalism could transform itself into centers of opposition to the regime."

Gause noted that the North's regime has been maintained under rivalry between the military and the party. Kim Jong-II has successfully manipulated the elite relations between the Korean Peoples' Army and the Korean Workers' Party, but is gradually becoming forced to make a choice under a looming economic crisis between a military-first policy and a viable North Korean economy, he said.

10.31.06 NASA plans mission to repair Hubble

October 31 – A space shuttle mission to repair the orbiting Hubble telescope, canceled after the loss of the shuttle Columbia, will be launched in May 2008, Michael Griffin, the administrator of NASA, announced today. The repair mission by the shuttle Discovery will replace aging batteries, gyroscopes and other equipment and is expected to extend the life of the telescope to 2013. Dr. Griffin said changes made in the shuttle program since the loss of the Columbia in February 2003, particularly the capability to inspect and repair a shuttle in orbit, has made it safe to send astronauts into space to service the telescope. [More>>nytimes.com]

10.31.06 Pakistan airstrike dead were all militants: Musharraf

ISLAMABAD, October 31 – Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said on Tuesday that 80 people killed in a raid on a religious school near the Afghan border were all militants undergoing training. The comments were Musharrafıs first since Mondayıs airstrike in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Angry local tribesmen say the dead were innocent students.

"They were militants doing military training. We were watching them for the last six or seven days – we knew exactly who they are, what they are doing," Musharraf told a security conference in Islamabad. "They were all militants using weapons doing military training within the compound." Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led "war on terror," added: "Anyone who says that these people were innocent Taleban (religious students) is telling lies."
[More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See also thenews.com.pk, October 31, "'Militants killed in Bajaur not innocent people,' says Musharraf.'"]

10.31.06 Afghan battle kills 55 fighters

October 31 – A six-hour battle between NATO troops and fighters in southern Afghanistan has left 55 fighters and one soldier dead. NATO said that 20 Afghan fighters were also wounded in the battle that took place in the Daychopan district of Zabul province on Monday. Major Luke Knittig, a spokesman for NATO's international security assistance force said that troops are moving into areas where fighters are active in order to increase security so that reconstruction and development can take place. "What you are seeing in the southern provinces is our troops moving out with a purpose, which is to where we're seeing insurgent activity," Knittig said. The nationality of the dead NATO soldier has not been released, but there are many American troops operating in Zabul. [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.31.06 Tajik leader, Aga Khan open Afghanistan bridge

ISKASHIM, Tajikistan (AFP) October 31 – Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov and the Aga Khan, the billionaire spiritual leader of the world's Ismaili Shia Muslims, inaugurated a bridge into Afghanistan Tuesday in a show of strength by the Tajik leader ahead of November 6 elections. Thousands of the Aga Khan's followers turned out in traditional robes on both the Afghan and Tajik sides of the River Pyandzh at Ishkashim, located 2,700 meters (8,860 feet) above sea level near Afghanistan's Wakhan corridor.

In a set-piece event attended by Afghan and Tajik officials, Rakhmonov hailed growing bilateral ties that he said would help develop northern Afghanistan and open the region to trade with neighboring powers China, India and Pakistan. "In the near future, we have many plans for building new infrastructure that will have big benefits for our people and the Afghan people," the Tajik president said. "All the tasks we have carried out over the last 15 years and for the Afghan people are aimed a peace."

The Aga Khan said that with the new bridge, "products from China now have a fast road transit route to Afghanistan. The Ishkashim bridge is not only a transit point, it is a meeting place ... Communities on each side of the border will know each other better and be able to help each other grow and prosper," he said.


05.23.06 Architect of New War on the West and Bin Laden via As-Sahab website
02.08.06 Iran misunderstanding – "Holocaust" means "whole burnt offering"
09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
08.13.05 "Using force the George W. Bush way – Bush's crusade"
07.27.05 New security system for Temple Mount: Why the Dome of the Rock is threatened
03.24.05 Temple Mount controversy
02.19.05 'Dog-Deer' clan seen as common Chinese ancestor – relates to European Paleolithic Lion-Deer
02.15.05 Bush & Rice affects upon Iran's liaisons: it's all about oil and gas
12.23.04 US is losing war of ideas
12.21.04 United States attacking itself from behind
Why the Crusade & Jihad?


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