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Faces of the Fallen – Iraq

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kilometer: 0.6214 mile
meter: 39.37 inches
centimetre: 0.3937 inch
millimetre: 0.03937 inch
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Chart showing National Debt & Annual Deficits with Presidents. Democrat administrations are blue, Republican in Red. Green reflects projected Bush debt. Click chart for larger image.

2006 update (2.25.06)

The Chart Showing the National Debt above is still valid: "The debt to the penny," publicdebt.treas.gov.
The debt projection for 2009 is now $10.3 Trillion. Deficit for 2006 is $435 Billion.
OMB Budget FY2007
Interest on Debt 2006
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August 1996

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Historical map of Israel. Figure 2 shows the area allocated to
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Israel's Security Fence. Click on image for larger view or here for interactive link.

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Click on image for org. to impeach Bush & Cheney.

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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

06.27.07 China shuts 180 food factories for using formaldehyde, illegal dyes

BEIJING (AP) June 27 - China has closed 180 food factories after inspectors found industrial chemicals being used in products from candy to seafood, state media said Wednesday. The closures came amid a nationwide crackdown on shoddy and dangerous products launched in December that also uncovered use of recycled or expired food, the China Daily said. Formaldehyde, illegal dyes, and industrial wax were found being used to make candy, pickles, crackers and seafood, it said, citing Han Yi, an official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which is responsible for food safety. 

"These are not isolated cases," Han, director of the administration's quality control and inspection department, was quoted as saying. Han's admission was significant because the administration has said in the past that safety violations were the work of a few rogue operators, a claim which is likely part of a strategy to protect China's billions of dollars (euros) of food exports. International concerns over China's food safety problems ballooned this year after high levels of toxins and industrial chemicals were found in exported products. 

Chinese-made toothpaste has been rejected by several countries in North and South America and Asia, while Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine was blamed for dog and cat deaths in North America. Other products turned away by US inspectors include toxic monkfish, frozen eel and juice made with unsafe color additives. [More>>thestar.com.my]

06.27.07 Amending Environmental laws to benefit Business - Cheney leaving no tracks

June 27 - ...In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.

Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in...Because of Cheney's intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

06.27.07 Blair resigns as MP and heads for Mideast role

June 27 - Within hours of his resignation today as Prime Minister, Tony Blair stood down as an MP as he was confirmed as an international envoy to the Middle East. Successor Gordon Brown's last act as Chancellor was to appoint Mr. Blair "Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern", the Treasury said. That is one of the formal devices allowing an MP to quit the Commons and will force a by-election in the Sedgefield seat he had held since 1983.

The international diplomatic Quartet of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia announced Mr. Blair's appointment as its representative in the search for peace in the region. Mr. Blair, who follows in the footsteps of former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, who quit the post in April last year, is expected to concentrate, initially at least, on encouraging reforms in the governance of the Palestinian territories. [More>>independent.co.uk]

06.27.07 Fuel stations attacked as Iran imposes rationing

(AP) June 27 - Angry Iranians attacked several fuel stations in protest after the government suddenly began long-threatened fuel rationing, while many others rushed to fill their tanks. The Oil Ministry announced the start of rationing yesterday only three hours before it was due to begin at midnight. The sudden announcement sparked long lines at stations as Iranians tried to get one last fill-up before the limitations kicked in.

Several stations were attacked "by vandals," state radio reported early today. It did not say how many stations were damaged or give details. The Iranian government had been planning for weeks to implement rationing, which was supposed to begin on May 21, but was repeatedly put off. In May, the government reduced subsidies for petrol, causing a 25 percent jump in the price. The issue is hugely sensitive in this oil-rich nation, where people are used to having cheap and plentiful fuel. Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 election based largely on his promises to improve the faltering economy. But his failure to do so has sparked widespread criticism. [More>>independent.co.uk]

06.27.07 Bird flu spreads to northern Bangladesh

DHAKA, June 27 - Bird flu has spread to another district in Bangladesh forcing health and veterinary workers to cull 5,000 chickens, officials said on Wednesday. The latest case was reported from a village in Thakurgaon district, 500 km (310 miles) northwest of the capital, Dhaka, said a senior officer of the fisheries and livestock ministry. The H5N1 strain of bird flu was first detected near the capital Dhaka, in central Bangladesh, in March and has since spread to northern districts. Sixteen out of Bangladesh's 64 districts have been affected by the virus, but there have been no reported cases of human infection. About four million Bangladeshis are directly or indirectly associated with poultry farming. [>thenews.com.pk ; See related story, khaleejtimes.com, June 27, "Despite progress, bird flu will contine to spread."]

06.26.07 C.I.A. releases files on misdeeds from the past

WASHINGTON (AP), June 26 - The CIA released hundreds of pages of internal reports Tuesday on agency misconduct that triggered a scandal in the mid-1970s over domestic spying. The documents detail assassination plots against foreign leaders like Fidel Castro, the testing of mind- and behavior-altering drugs like LSD on unwitting citizens, wiretapping of U.S. journalists, spying on civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protesters, opening mail between the United States and the Soviet Union and China, break-ins at the homes of ex-CIA employees and others.

The 693 pages, mostly drawn from the memories of active CIA officers in 1973, were turned over at that time to three different investigative panels -- President Ford's Rockefeller Commission, the Senate's Church committee and the House's Pike committee. The panels spent years investigating and amplifying on these documents. And their public reports in the mid-1970s filled tens of thousands of pages. The scandal sullied the reputation of the intelligence community and led to new rules for the CIA, FBI and other spy agencies and new permanent committees in Congress to oversee them. [More>>nytimes.com ; read report at http://www.foia.cia.gov]

06.25.07 Pushing the envelope on presidential power

June 25 - Introductory note from democrats.com: According to today's Washington Post, Dick Cheney and his staff knowingly authorized torture in outright defiance of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act of 1996. Even after the scandals broke, they successfully fought to allow the CIA to continue torture.

washingtonpost.com, June 25, "Pushing the envelope on presidential power"
By Barton Gellman and Jo Becker:

Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the US naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney's lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby.

The meeting marked "the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up" among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. "The CIA guys said, 'We're going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'" if interrogators confined themselves to treatment allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive's will to resist. The vice president's office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion of prisoners in US custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials. Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

06.25.07 California wildfire burns 220 homes

Meyers, Calif. (AP) June 25 - A growing army of firefighters launched an aggressive attack Monday to corral a forest fire that had destroyed at least 220 homes in less than a day and forced about 1,000 people to flee neighborhoods near the southern edge of Lake Tahoe. The fire, believed to be caused by human activity, had charred nearly 2,500 acres nearly 4 square miles since it started Sunday afternoon. No injuries were reported.

It was less than 10 percent contained Monday morning, said Lt. Kevin House of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department. "This is far and above the biggest disaster that has happened in this community, I don't know, probably in forever," House told reporters in an early morning briefing. Flames came within a quarter mile of the 1,500-student South Tahoe High School during the night, and dozens of firefighters surrounded the school. A layer of black ash floating on the lake lapped at boat docks along the shore. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

06.25.07 Iraq bombers kill 40, sheikhs among hotel dead

BAGHDAD (Reuters) June 25 - A suicide bomber killed 12 people in the lobby of a busy Baghdad hotel on Monday, and the US military said six tribal leaders opposed to al Qaeda were among the dead. It was one of four separate bombings across Iraq in which 40 people were killed. Police said a bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives blew himself up after walking into the lobby of the Mansour Hotel, where Sunni Arab tribal leaders from western Anbar province had gathered for a meeting. 

"According to initial reports, six sheikhs are among the dead," Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Bleichwehl, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, told Reuters. Iraqiya state television said prominent tribal leader Fassal al-Igoud, a former Anbar governor and onetime deputy minister of agriculture, was among the dead. Iraqiya said one of its journalists was also killed. Some Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar have joined forces to form US-backed provincial police units to fight against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, prompting a bloody power struggle in the vast desert region. [More>>thestar.com.my]

06.25.07 Troops find Qaeda "execution" den in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) June 25 - US and Iraqi forces fighting their way through the restive Iraqi town of Baquba discovered what appeared to be an Al Qaeda-run "execution house," the US military said on Monday. US and Iraqi forces "discovered the execution house using information from local citizens, who said it had been used by Al Qaeda," the statement said.

"Soldiers searching the house found five bodies buried in the yard behind the building and bloody clothes in several rooms inside it." A nearby house "had been converted into an illegal prison with several numbered rooms and bars covering the building's windows. Several blindfolds were found inside," the statement added. The announcement comes on the sixth day of a major air and ground assault on the city of Baquba northeast of Baghdad, which US commanders say has long been a stronghold for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The operation has seen US and Iraqi forces making their way through a dense urban labyrinth of booby traps and buried bombs, with entire houses rigged with explosives by insurgents who melted away at the beginning of the assault. US and Iraqi forces have defused 52 roadside bombs and destroyed 17 "booby-trapped structures," the statement said.

"The fact that we continue to find these booby-trapped houses filled with explosives and torture chambers only reaffirms that Al Qaeda has no regard for the safety and welfare of the people of Baquba," said Colonel Gary Patton. "They only want to see death and destruction," he added. Since the operation, dubbed Arrowhead Ripper, began last week US and Iraqi forces have killed at least 58 suspected Al Qaeda militants, detained another 60, the US military said.

But on Friday the number two US commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, admitted that as with past assaults most of the senior Al Qaeda leadership fled the city ahead of the invasion "I think that they knew an operation was coming in Baquba," Odierno said, adding that around 80 percent of senior leaders had fled. [>khaleejtimes.com]

06.25.07 Hamas releases audio message from Gilad Shalit

June 25 - Hamas released an audio message purportedly from kidnapped Israel Defense Forces corporal Gilad Shalit on Monday, in what is the first concrete sign of life from Shalit since his abduction exactly one year ago. In a recording posted on a Hamas Web site, the voice identified as Shalit said he was disappointed over the Israeli government's lack of interest in his fate. Shalit added that his health was deteriorating, and that he would need to be hospitalized for a long period of time. [More>>haaretz.com]

06.25.07 Lebanon on alert after deadly UN attack

KHIAM, Lebanon (AFP) June 25 - Security was boosted in south Lebanon on Monday after a bomb attack killed six UN peacekeepers, further rattling security in the country where the army has been battling Islamist militants for weeks. Spanish Defence Minister Jose Antonio Alonso was in southern Lebanon visiting his country's troops after Sunday's blast, which killed three Spaniards and three Colombian nationals.

It was the first fatal attack on peacekeepers since the UN Interim Force in Lebanon's mandate was expanded last year in the wake of a devastating 34-day war between Israeli troops and the Hezbollah Shiite militia. Security in the deeply divided country has already been shaken by a deadly standoff between the army and Al-Qaeda inspired Fatah al-Islam militants in northern Lebanon, and a string of bomb attacks in and around Beirut.[More>>turkishpress.com]

06.25.07 Al Qaeda's Zawahiri voices support for Hamas

DUBAI (AFP) June 25 - Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man Ayman Al Zawahiri voiced backing for Hamas in an Internet tape Monday and warned against any offensive to wrest control of Gaza from the Islamist movement. In the audio message, Al Qaeda's number two charged that Egypt and Saudi Arabia were planning to join an "offensive" against Hamas, which seized Gaza 10 days ago from the secular Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas. And in a dramatic change of tone, Zawahiri urged Muslim fighters to back Hamas with funds and weapons, saying that it was a "religious duty." [More>>metimes.com]

06.22.07 Bomb kills 20 police, forces kill 17 militants

BAGHDAD, June 22 - At least 20 policemen were reportedly killed and 10 wounded in an attack targeting a police station in Boghdadi in the Sunni Anbar province Friday while US military killed 17 insurgents in a helicopter attack in Khalis. A suicide bomber driving a car bomb targeted a police station in the city of Boghdadi in the Sunni Anbar province of Iraq Friday, killing 20 policemen and wounding 10, Voices of Iraq news agency reported, citing local residents. The bomber managed to cross the first checkpoint leading to the police station then blew himself up at the second one, a witness told Voices of Iraq. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

06.22.07 Gaza defeat breeds hatred and revenge

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AFP) June 22 - "The other day, my son was playing with a wooden sword and said 'Mummy I'll kill Hamas when I grow up,'" sobs Amel Barbakh, a widow at 25 after the Islamists shot dead her husband. The southern Gaza Strip, where she lives, fell to Hamas 48 hours into a week of decisive fighting between Hamas Islamists and the loyalists of the secular Fatah party headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Well-trained and well-disciplined, Hamas stormed and rapidly overwhelmed the headquarters of all mainstream security forces in the town of Khan Younis, and Rafah further south on the Egyptian border. Fleeing to Egypt, fearing for their lives, or disarmed after Hamas' armed takeover of the Gaza Strip, security officers and loyalists of the Western-backed Abbas are burning with hatred and lust for revenge. Abu Seif, a commando in the nebulous Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militia loosely affiliated to Fatah, mediated in the humiliating surrender of weapons from the defeated forces to their victorious nemesis.

"Those who didn't want problems with Hamas handed their weapons over immediately," he sighs. "Those who had blood on their hands, the Mohammed Dahlan cronies, were killed or fled," he said, furious with Fatah's longtime Gaza strongman. "Dahlan is a criminal, America's puppet. It's his fault the situation got out of hand."

..."They're Shiites," she shouted, using a common insult among staunchly Sunni Palestinian Muslims akin to calling someone an Iranian agent. "They accuse us of being godless but it's they who are far from God."
[Full story>>metimes.com]

06.22.07 NATO air strike kills 25 Afghan civilians

KANDAHAR, June 22 - A NATO air strike in southern Afghanistan early Friday killed 25 civilians, including nine women and three young children, police said amid rising concern about civilian casualties. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed its troops called in air support after being attacked in Helmand province, and said it was investigating reports of a "small number" of civilian casualties.

Provincial police chief Colonel Mohammad Hassan told AFP the bombing came after Taliban fighters attacked an ISAF convoy from among houses and gardens in a village. About 20 Taliban were also reported killed in the strike after midnight, he said. "The NATO forces' air strike on the area mistakenly targeted two to three civilian houses, killing 25 civilians," Hassan said. [More>>turkishpress.com]

06.22.07 Senate adopts an energy bill raising mileage for cars

WASHINGTON, June 22 - The Senate passed a broad energy bill late Thursday that would, among other things, require the first big increase in fuel mileage requirements for passenger cars in more than two decades. The vote, 65 to 27, was a major defeat for car manufacturers, which had fought for a much smaller increase in fuel economy standards and is expected to keep fighting as the House takes up the issue.

But Senate Democrats also fell short of their own goals. In a victory for the oil industry, Republican lawmakers successfully blocked a crucial component of the Democratic plan that would have raised taxes on oil companies by about $32 billion and used the money on tax breaks for wind power, solar power, ethanol and other renewable fuels. [More>>nytimes.com]

06.22.07 Cheney defiant on classified material

June 22 - Vice President Cheney's office has refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years and recently tried to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules, according to documents released by a congressional committee yesterday. Since 2003, the vice president's staff has not cooperated with an office at the National Archives and Records Administration charged with making sure the executive branch protects classified information. Cheney aides have not filed reports on their possession of classified data and at one point blocked an inspection of their office. After the Archives office pressed the matter, the documents say, Cheney's staff this year proposed eliminating it. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

06.21.07 Bin Laden may have arranged family's US exit: FBI docs

WASHINGTON (AFP) June 20 - Osama bin Laden may have chartered a plane that carried his family members and Saudi nationals out of the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said FBI documents released Wednesday. The papers, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, were made public by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based group that investigates government corruption.

One FBI document referred to a Ryan Air 727 airplane that departed Los Angeles International Airport on September 19, 2001, and was said to have carried Saudi nationals out of the United States. "The plane was chartered either by the Saudi Arabian royal family or Osama bin Laden," according to the document, which was among 224 pages posted online.

The flight made stops in Orlando, Florida; Washington, DC; and Boston, Massachusetts and eventually left its passengers in Paris the following day. In all, the documents detail six flights between September 14 and September 24 that evacuated Saudi nationals and bin Laden family members, Judicial Watch said in a statement.

"Incredibly, not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value," Judicial Watch said. "These documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI's investigation of the Saudi flights..." [More>>turkishpress.com]

06.21.07 Suicide truck bomber kills 18 in Northern Iraq attack

BAGHDAD (Reuters) June 21 - A suicide bomber killed at least 18 people when he rammed a truck into a government building in northern Iraq on Thursday, partially knocking it down and demolishing nearby homes, police said. Mechanical diggers were being used to unearth victims, including women and children, from the rubble after the blast in Sulaiman Bek, a town about 90 km south of the city of Kirkuk. Around Baghdad, thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers pushed on with simultaneous offensives under a new strategy, called Operation Phantom Thunder, aimed at rooting out al Qaeda fighters in one of the biggest operations since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. [More>>thestar.com.my ; See related story, washingtonpost.com, June 21, "At least 14 US soldiers die in attacks in Iraq."]

06.20.07 Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs among 30 killed in Pakistan-Afghan border attack

MIRAH SHAH, Pakistan (AP) June 20 - More than a dozen Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs were among about 30 militants killed in a missile attack on a suspected al-Qaeda hide-out in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, officials said Wednesday. Several more militants were wounded Tuesday when three missiles allegedly fired from Afghanistan destroyed an Islamic seminary in the border village of Mami Rogha, 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, two intelligence officials told The Associated Press. 

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said Tuesday the explosions were caused when bombs the militants were making at an isolated compound exploded accidentally. He said between 20 and 25 militants died in the blasts. [More>>thestar.com.my ; See other details, expressindia.com, June 20, "Blast in Pakistan madrassa, 32 al-Qaeda killed."]

06.20.07 Three killed in Afghan mosque shooting

KABUL, June 20 - Gunmen opened fire on people praying in a mosque in eastern Afghanistan, killing three and wounding four others, officials said Wednesday, while Taliban militants overran another southern district. The mosque attack occurred in Ismail Kheil, a village in neighboring Khost province on Tuesday evening. Two unidentified men entered the building and fatally shot three people while wounding an additional four, said Wazir Pacha, a provincial police spokesman. The unidentified assailants fled from the area and the motive for the shooting remained unknown, Pacha said. [>thenews.com.pk]

06.20.07 Australia's spy chief says al-Qaeda appears to be rebuilding

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) June 20 - al-Qaeda appears to be strengthening its forces in the remote border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan despite offensives by US and Pakistani troops, and is extending its global influence, Australia's spy chief said Wednesday.

Paul O'Sullivan, the head of the Australia Security Intelligence Organization, said the rise in terrorist attacks and disrupted plots since Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrated the extremist network has been able to carry on its activities.

"Despite successful disruption activities, al-Qaeda appears to be rebuilding both its organizational structures and operational capabilities from bases in the tribal regions bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, and networks in the Middle East, North Africa and Western Europe," O'Sullivan said during a rare public speech to a security forum in Sydney. "However ill-founded and overwrought its world view, it is a learning and a teaching organization, pushing the horizon for violent extremism,," he added. "What makes al-Qaeda such a dangerous creature is its ability to marry ideological intensity with organizational resilience and adaptability." [More>>thejakartapost.com ; See related story, theaustralian.news.com.au, June 20 (Reuters) "23 suspected al-Qaeda operatives arrested."]

06.20.07 Fierce battles near Baghdad in push against insurgents

June 20 - American and Iraqi troops engaged in fierce gun battles with insurgents today as they continued their push into Diyala province north of Baghdad. But the insurgents continued to inflict damage of their own, launching deadly attacks on police in the area. American and Iraqi military officials said 30 insurgents were killed in the fighting. Coalition soldiers evacuated the bodies of the 30 dead insurgents, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, which said that the dead were Al Qaeda fighters. By late Tuesday, the military had reported one American death, a soldier killed by an explosion near his vehicle, according to The Associated Press.

Another 13 people said to be insurgents were detained by coalition forces, who blew up three car bombs and three weapons warehouses, American and Iraqi military officials said. Soldiers found four roadside bombs in homes and defused them; another 10 that had been already been placed and buried were also located and defused, they said. American military officials said the weapons caches that were found included assault weapons, grenades, rocket launchers and large and small-caliber ammunition and explosives.

An air strike destroyed an Al Qaeda weapons cache in a safe house, sparking a large secondary explosion, according to the American military. Soldiers also engaged in a gun battle with two people who were planting roadside bombs, killing them both, American military officials said. [More>>nytimes.com ; See related story, xinhuanet.com, June 19, "Violence roars in Baghdad, US launches major offensive."]

06.20.07 Iraqi president courts oil cooperation in China

BEIJING, June 20 - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for talks with Chinese leaders on oil cooperation and other bilateral issues, state media said. Talabani will meet his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on Thursday, the Chinese foreign ministry said, amid reports that the two sides will try to revive a frozen oil exploration deal signed by Baghdad’s former regime. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

06.20.07 Scenes of horror in Iraq orphanage

BAGHDAD, June 20 - UPDATED: The images are shocking even by Iraqi standards: two-dozen skeletal children, some tied to beds, others writhing in their own waste, and some appearing, at first glance, to be dead. Such was the nightmare that greeted US and Iraqi forces last week when they stumbled upon the Hanan orphanage for children with special needs in northwest Baghdad, according to a CBS News report broadcast this week.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has vowed to investigate and punish those responsible, while the US military said that its forces helped to evacuate the orphanage and provide medical care to the children. "They saw multiple bodies laying on the floor of the facility," Staff Sergeant Mitchell Gibson of the 82nd Airborne Division told CBS News. "They thought they were all dead."

06.20.07 French government bans BlackBerry handhelds

PARIS (AP) June 20 - They've been called addictive, wonderful, invasive, tiresome - but are BlackBerry handhelds also a threat to French state secrets? That is the fear of French government security experts, who have reportedly banned - with mixed success - the use of BlackBerries in ministries and in the presidential palace, for fear that they are vulnerable to snooping by US intelligence.

The risks of interception are real. "It is economic war," daily Le Monde quoted Alain Juillet, in charge of economic intelligence for the government, as saying. "With BlackBerries, there is a problem with the protection of information." Juillet's office confirmed that he spoke to Le Monde but said he would not speak to other reporters. Spokespeople at the presidential Elysee Palace and the prime minister's office were not immediately available for comment.

Le Monde said information sent from BlackBerries goes through servers in the United States and Britain, and that France fears that the US National Security Agency can snoop. France's General Secretariat for National Defence issued a first circular on BlackBerries 18 months ago and later renewed it, the newspaper said. [>khaleejtimes.com] 

06.20.07 Climate change blamed as Superior shrinks

WASHINGTON, June 20 - Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes and the world's largest freshwater reservoir, has fallen to its lowest level in 81 years, further evidence of the effect that climate change is having on the North American continent. The lake is a foot and a half below its long-term average. The last time it was this low was in 1926. Falling water levels mean that once-floating boat docks are high and dry, cargo vessels are severely restricted, hydroelectric power is curtailed and lakeshore ecology is changing fast.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have measured an average temperature rise of 4.5F since 1979. The warmer water is evaporating faster and holding less ice in winter. For the first time in living memory, the ice and snow that usually covers the lake by early December arrived late, allowing water to evaporate. "It's been a long time since we've been this low, but it has happened," said Tim Calappi of the US Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for all large dams and public engineering projects in the US. "We still think this is within range of what's normal, but we have to wait and see."

Others are certain the cause is global warming and in the absence of an official explanation conspiracy theories abound. The effects are dramatic and obvious, however. Boats with keels can no longer operate in many areas, beaches have been left far from the water and large areas of wetlands where wild rice grew have dried out. [More>>independent.co.uk]

06.17.07 Worst attack since Taliban toppled kills 35

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) June 17 - In the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was toppled six years ago, a suicide bomber has killed 35 people and wounded dozens in Kabul. Most of the dead were instructors going to work at the city's police academy. Bystanders and five foreigners were also killed, according to police. President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and said the country would continue to work towards reconstruction despite attacks from the "enemies of Afghanistan."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which reduced a police bus to a skeleton of black metal. Body parts and human flesh were flung across a wide area. "We have got 35 people martyred and 52 wounded," Kabul province police chief Esmatullah Dauladzai told news agency AFP. "Those killed include mostly officers and civilians." [More>>theaustralian.news.com.au]

06.17.07 Chinese authoritiies rescue another 80 slave laborers from brick kilns, small mines

BEIJING (AP) Juine 17 - Authorities have freed another 80 slave laborers who were starved, beaten and forced to work 14 hours or more per day at brick kilns and small mines in central China, state media said Saturday.

Police in Henan and Shanxi provinces have staged a day long series of raids on kilns and small coal and iron mines, acting with a rare speed and thoroughness indicating high-level government concern. The newly freed workers bring the total of slave laborers rescued in the past month to 548, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Shanxi province has mobilized more than 14,000 police officers to raid some 2,500 kilns and mines, Xinhua said, citing Du Yulin, director of the provincial public security bureau. Authorities have been given 10 days to investigate every facility and interview each worker, Du said. Dozens have been detained or arrested, Xinhua has said. Media reports have said workers as young as 8 were recruited from bus and train stations with false promises or abducted off the street, then sold to kilns for 500 yuan (US$65; euro49) each. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

6.17.07 Bush suffers court setbacks in war on terrorism

WASHINGTON (Reuters) June 17 - President George W. Bush's broad assertions of power in his war on terrorism are under assault by U.S. judges who have rejected his indefinite imprisonment of enemy combatants and the domestic spying program. A pair of recent rulings, one from military judges and the other from a US appeals court, delivered new legal setbacks for Bush's tactics in dealing with terrorism suspects held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or in the United States. 

"n case after case, this nation's judicial branch has told the administration that it may not trample on fundamental rights in the name of national security," said Hina Shamsi of the New York-based group Human Rights First. A federal appeals court panel in Virginia ruled 2-1 on Monday that Bush could not declare civilians in this country to be enemy combatants and have the military hold them indefinitely. [More>>thestar.com.my]

6.17.07 US forces kill 10 militants in Iraq

BAGHDAD, June 17 - US forces killed 10 militants and detained nearly a dozen more in a series of operations targeting Al-Qaeda networks in Iraq on Sunday, the military said. Six militants were killed in the region of Karmah in the western province of Anbar when US forces raided a safe house allegedly used by a Libyan foreign fighter involved in suicide bombings in Iraq, it said. Three suspects were detained, including one who was wounded in the exchange of fire with the troops, it said.

Another four militants were killed in a raid near Zaydon, also in Anbar, the military said, adding two suspects were arrested. Troops also found a truck rigged with wires and other car bomb making equipment. In the northern city of Mosul, a suspected smuggler and four others were captured after reports that the group was involved in bomb attacks. The military said the alleged smuggler transported "terrorist operatives, weapons, funds and letters between Iraq and Syria. He is also suspected of involvement in the murder of a female worker at Badush prison in January." A large amount of weapons and explosives were found in these raids, which were destroyed, the military said.

6.17.07 PA Chairman Abbas issues decree outlawing Hamas armed militias

June 17 - Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday issued a decree outlawing the armed groups of Hamas and said members would be punished. The ban applies to the Hamas militia, known as the Executive Force, and to Hamas' other armed groups, including the military wing, Izz A Din al-Qassam, according to the decree, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Abbas wrote that he decided to consider the Executive Unit and the militias of the Hamas movement illegal, due to their military coup against the Palestinian legitimacy and its institutions. "Anyone who is involved in any of these two groups is going to be punished, according to the law and the orders of the state of emergency," the decree said.
[More>>haaretz.com ;See related story, metimes.com, June 17, "Israeli troops move into Gaza."]

6.17.07 Ex-Serbian Gen. Djordjevic arrested over Kosovo war crimes

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) June 17 - A fugitive former Serbian general, Vlastimir Djordjevic, has been arrested in Montenegro on charges of committing war crimes against Kosovo Albanians in 1998-99, a court official said Sunday. Car del Ponto, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said earlier this week that Djordjevic was hiding in Russia but the Russian Foreign Ministry denied the information.

Djordjevic, 58, is one of the six people wanted by the Hague Tribunal. He is accused of war crimes in Kosovo committed in 1999, when he headed the Serbian Interior Ministry's Public Security Service, and also served as a deputy minister. He remained in his post after the fall of the Milosevic regime October 5, 2000, and disappeared immediately after the discovery of mass graves where Serbian police had buried slain Kosovo Albanian civilians. Djordjevic is thought to have played a key role in hiding the bodies.

In August 2005, another war crimes suspect, Dragan Zelenovic, was arrested in Russia's West Siberia where he had been living for several years under an assumed name. In June 2006, he was extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina and later taken to The Hague for trial. In January, he pleaded guilty of crimes against humanity, including torture and rape. [>rian.ru]

6.17.07 Toxic algae pose new health scare in China

BEIJING (AFP) June 17 - Two of China's biggest lakes are under renewed attack from toxic algae that destroy plant and fish life and threaten humans in the country's latest pollution scare, state media reported on Sunday. New satellite pictures of eastern China show the blue-green foul-smelling algae spreading in Taihu and Chaohu lakes, the Workers Daily newspaper said.

The toxic algae scare in Lake Taihu has already triggered government panic and forced residents of nearby Wuxi city in Jiangsu province to turn off contaminated tapwater supplies. Scientists said that algae was still infecting Lake Taihu and had spread to Chaohu Lake in neighboring Anhui province, where 40 square kilometres (15 square miles) of its surface were covered by the green slime, the newspaper said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

6.17.07 Scrap metal thieves target churches in Britain

June 17 - Thieves are stripping churches of valuable metals at the rate of more than one church a day to cash in on scrap prices kept high by heavy demand from China. Ecclesiastical Insurance has received 500 claims in the past 14 months, totalling £750,000. Many are for repeated thefts from the same churches. Since 2005, thefts of lead have trebled and copper thefts have multiplied by 10, Ecclesiastical said.

Criminals have stripped entire church roofs, stolen bells, and ripped lightning conductors from spires by tying them to trucks and driving away, wrecking historic masonry. Recycling firms pay about £900 a tonne for lead and £2,700 a tonne for copper. Small-time criminals have been stealing lead from church roofs for years, but recent highs in scrap metal prices has caused an explosion in thefts, said Chris Pitt, of Ecclesiastical.

"We've seen a marked worsening in the situation in the past year. These aren't opportunists doing this - we had a three-tonne bell taken from outside a church. "If they've stolen £2,000-worth of lead, that can have caused £50,000-worth of damage to the church," Mr. Pitt said. [More>>independent.co.uk]

Editorial note: Thieves have been stealing bronze vases and plaques from cemeteries across the US and Canada. See reports: channel3000.com, Madison, Wis., citynews.ca (Canadian city not identified on the channel); yorkpress.co.uk, York, UK; wsbt.com, South Bend, Ind.; cbs5.com, Richmond, Ca..

Thieves are also robbing churches around the world, based on a google search. See examples at newsnet5.com, Cleveland, Oh.; findar.tides.com, (from Philadelphia Enquirer) and bbc.co.uk, "Thieves steal church statue."]

6.17.07 Erasing tattoos, out of regretor for a new canvas

BEVERLY HILLS, CA , June 17 - Kelly Brannigan was suffering from a case of tattoo remorse. Just a year ago, Ms. Brannigan, 24, who holds up Case No. 24 as one of the models on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” had been full of hope when she and her fiancé had each other's names tattooed across their inner wrists. But now, when she looks at the letters — P-A-T-R-I-C-K — she is reminded of the failed relationship. For help, she turned to Dr. Tattoff, a chain of tattoo removal stores where nurses use lasers in a series of treatments to break down tattoo pigments. Dr. Tattoff is part of a growing industry catering to people who may not have thought about the implications of "forever" the first time around...

Most of Dr. Tattoff's clients are women ages 25 to 35, said James Morel, the chief executive of the company, which has given more than 13,000 tattoo laser treatments since opening here in 2004. "Maybe women are getting more tattoos than they used to" Mr. Morel said, "or maybe they just have a higher level of tattoo regret than men." On the horizon is a development that could change the very nature of tattooing: a type of ink encapsulated in beads and designed to break up after one treatment with a special laser. The technology for the ink, called Freedom-2, was developed by scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brown and Duke Universities. It is to go on sale this fall. [Full story, nytimes.com]

6.17.07 Soldiers haunted by war struggle to get care

June 17 - Army Spec. Jeans Cruz helped capture Saddam Hussein. When he came home to the Bronx, important people called him a war hero and promised to help him start a new life. The mayor of New York, officials of his parents' home town in Puerto Rico, the borough president and other local dignitaries honored him with plaques and silk parade sashes. They handed him their business cards and urged him to phone. But a "black shadow" had followed Cruz home from Iraq, he confided to an Army counselor. He was hounded by recurring images of how war really was for him: not the triumphant scene of Hussein in handcuffs, but visions of dead Iraqi children.

In public, the former Army scout stood tall for the cameras and marched in the parades. In private, he slashed his forearms to provoke the pain and adrenaline of combat. He heard voices and smelled stale blood. Soon the offers of help evaporated and he found himself estranged and alone, struggling with financial collapse and a darkening depression. At a low point, he went to the local Department of Veterans Affairs medical center for help. One VA psychologist diagnosed Cruz with post-traumatic stress disorder. His condition was labeled "severe and chronic." In a letter supporting his request for PTSD-related disability pay, the psychologist wrote that Cruz was "in need of major help" and that he had provided "more than enough evidence" to back up his PTSD claim. His combat experiences, the letter said, "have been well documented."

None of that seemed to matter when his case reached VA disability evaluators. They turned him down flat, ruling that he deserved no compensation because his psychological problems existed before he joined the Army. They also said that Cruz had not proved he was ever in combat. "The available evidence is insufficient to confirm that you actually engaged in combat," his rejection letter stated. [More.>washingtonpost.com]


09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
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