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July 4 - In commuting I. Lewis Libby Jr's 30-month prison sentence on Monday, President Bush drew on the same array of arguments about the federal sentencing system often made by defense lawyers — and routinely and strenuously opposed by his own Justice Department...Perhaps inadvertently, Mr. Bush's decision to grant a commutation rather than an outright pardon has started a national conversation about sentencing generally.
"By saying that the sentence was excessive, I wonder if he understood the ramifications of saying that," said Ellen S. Podgor, who teaches criminal law at Stetson University in St. Petersburg, Fla. "This is opening up a can of worms about federal sentencing."
The Libby clemency will be the basis for many legal arguments, said Susan James, an Alabama lawyer representing Don E. Siegelman, the state's former governor, who is appealing a sentence he received last week of 88 months for obstruction of justice and other offenses...Mr. Bush's decision may have given birth to a new sort of legal document.
"I anticipate that we’re going to get a new motion called 'the Libby motion,' " Professor Podgor said. "It will basically say, 'My client should have got what Libby got, and here's why.' "
Nor is there a reason to think that the Justice Department has changed its position about the sentencing system generally. Indeed, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said last month that the department would push for legislation making federal sentences tougher and less flexible. [Full story>>nytimes.com]
07.04.07 US military says kills 25 gunmen in Iraq
BAGHDAD (Reuters) July 4 - US forces backed by aircraft killed an estimated 25 gunmen during a clash north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the military said on Wednesday. It said in a statement that the fighting took place during a three-day operation that ended on Monday near the town of Mukhisa in Diyala province, where 10,000 American and Iraqi troops are engaged in a major offensive against Al Qaeda.
Gunmen attacked a US patrol along the Diyala river, it said. Other guerrillas armed with rocket-propelled grenades joined the fight, prompting US ground forces to call in air support, it added, without specifying the day of the clash. It said an estimated 25 gunmen were killed. It was unclear if there were any American casualties. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
07.04.07 Six NATO soldiers, Afghan killed in bomb blast
KABUL (AFP) July 4 - Six soldiers with the NATO-led force and their Afghan interpreter were killed Wednesday when their vehicle struck a bomb in southern Afghanistan, the force said. The 37-nation International Security Assistance Force did not release the nationalities of the foreign troops, leaving such announcements to their home nations. [More>>turkishpress.com]
07.04.07 Johnston says kidnap ordeal 'was like being buried alive'
July 4 - The BBC reporter Alan Johnston emerged blinking into the sunlight of Gaza City today after spending almost four months as the prisoner of the extremist Army of Islam, an ordeal he said was "like being buried alive." The reporter was freed at around 3.30am after 114 days in captivity, as Hamas fighters closed in around the compound of the extremist group that had held him. After a final ride through Gaza City - during which he said he was roughed up for the first time - Johnston was taken to the house of Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian Prime Minister, where he walked down the street surrounded by a protective cordon of 50 to 60 Hamas gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
07.04.07 Two men, one trail of terror
July 4 - Two Iraqi doctors arrested as they tried to attack Glasgow airport are now believed to have been responsible for leaving two vehicles packed with explosives in London two days before. Bilal Abdulla and Khalid Ahmed, allegedly part of a secret cell of medics involved in terrorism, are said to have driven two Mercedes saloon "bomb cars" from Glasgow to London and positioned them to be blown up in the city centre. The two men, employed by the National Health Service at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, then travelled back to Glasgow, separately, by public transport and rammed another "bomb car," a Jeep, as the police and security service closed in on them.
Details of the plans of attack, one of the most devastating threatened on the British mainland, were revealed as the police and the security service stated that they had arrested all the key players involved in the plot.
Shiraz Maher, a friend of Bilal Abdulla and a former member of controversial Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahir, told Newsnight: "He supported the insurgency in Iraq. He actively cheered the deaths of British and American troops in Iraq. One of his best friends had been killed by a Shia militia tank while he was at medical school. He was clearly very angry about what was happening. But to say it was just all about Iraq or foreign policy is mistaken. It feeds off a much wider ideological infrastructure."
Yesterday a British cleric in Iraq said that he had received a warning from an al-Qaeda leader in Syria of a plan to target Britain. In an apparent reference to the doctors involved in the attacks, Canon Andrew White said the man told him that "the people who cure you will kill you." In a day of fast-moving developments, yet another doctor, 27-year-old Muhammad Haneef, became the eighth person to be arrested in connection with the British attacks and the first one to be arrested abroad when he was held in Australia. Another man described as one of his friends, Mohammed Asif Ali, with links to Cheshire, also a doctor, was questioned by Australian police but not formally arrested. [More>>independent.co.uk]
07.04.07 New bird flu cases confirmed in Germany, suspected in France, Austria
BRUSSELS, July 4 - Germany has confirmed bird flu cased in wild birds in Thuringia while French and Austrian authorities have reported new suspected cases in wild birds in their territories, said the European Commission on Wednesday. In Germany, the national reference laboratory has confirmed highly pathogenic bird flu virus in a black-necked grebe in Thuringia, close to the border with Saxony, where the deadly H5N1 virus had been confirmed.
07.03.07 More arrests as gas canister cache probed
July 3 - A cache of gas canisters is being guarded in Blackburn this evening after police made two further arrests under the Terrorism Act. The raid on an industrial estate in Blackburn came as police close the net on an international ring suspected of planning the failed attacks in Glasgow and London. Gas canisters, nails and petrol were discovered in the vehicles involved in the attempted car bombings. Locals tipped off officers about two deliveries of canisters made to a warehouse in Blackburn, but Lancashire police say it is too soon to say whether the arrests are linked to the wider anti-terror investigation.
Links began to emerge today between doctors from around the world who are suspected of planning the car bombings, attempted in the UK last week. Last night an Indian doctor in Australia became the eighth person, and apparently the sixth medic, to be held in connection with the failed car bombings in London and Glasgow on Friday and Saturday. He formerly worked at a hospital which has also been linked to one of the suspects arrested by British police.
The doctor has been named by the Queensland Medical Board as Dr. Mohamed Haneef, 27, an Indian who had been working in the emergency department at the Gold Coast Hospital in Queensland. Dr. Haneef worked as a locum at Halton Hospital in Runcorn, Cheshire, until 2005, where he may have met the 26-year-old man who was still employed at the same hospital when he was arrested by anti-terror police in Liverpool on Sunday. Four of the other suspects have been linked in unconfirmed reports to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley. [More>>timesonline.co.uk ; See also bbc.co.uk, July 3, " Terror suspects all linked to NHS."]
07.03.07 Impeachment according to founding fathers - in light of commuting scooter
July 3 (Article by David Swanson) - George Mason (1725-1792), the father of the Bill of Rights (1791-2002), argued at the Constitutional Convention in favor of providing the House of Representatives the power of impeachment by pointing out that the President might use his pardoning power to "pardon crimes which were advised by himself" or, before indictment or conviction, "to stop inquiry and prevent detection."
James Madison (1751-1836), the father of the US Constitution (1788-2007), added that "if the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty."
Of course, Bush has long been connected in a suspicious manner to Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and others. Madison would probably have called for Bush's impeachment when Bush first refused to investigate or hold anyone accountable for leaking Valerie Plame's identity, or rather when Bush lied us into the war in the first place, or when he confessed to illegal spying, or when he detained people without charge and tortured them, or when he overturned laws with signing statements or refused to comply with subpoenas, and so on and so forth. Madison wouldn't have wanted to see his Constitution tossed aside until the moment Bush commuted Libby's sentence. But he certainly would have acted now if not before.
The trial of Scooter Libby produced overwhelming evidence that Vice President Cheney personally led the campaign to attack Joe Wilson through the media. This "get Wilson" campaign included telling numerous reporters that Wilson was sent to Niger by his wife Valerie Plame, a CIA operative. Cheney was told by the CIA that Plame worked as a covert agent in the CIA's Nonproliferation Division, which is the critical division of the CIA responsible for stopping the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Cheney's efforts to expose Plame actually exposed her entire covert network, at tremendous cost to the CIA's secret war against terrorism. If Plame's work had been exposed by a double-agent in our government like Aldrich Ames or Robert Hanssen, that person would face prosecution for espionage and treason. The evidence of Cheney's role is more than enough to start an impeachment investigation. And, of course, a hand-written note from Cheney, introduced as evidence in the trial, implicated the President.
The Libby trial also exposed the lead role of Vice President Cheney's office in manipulating pre-war intelligence to defraud Congress into authorizing the invasion of Iraq. Sworn testimony revealed that Cheney's office managed the evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, all of which proved to be lies. Cheney personally visited the CIA several times before the invasion to pressure the CIA to distort pre-war intelligence. And Cheney exerted "constant" pressure on the Republican former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to stall an investigation into the Bush administration's use of flawed intelligence on Iraq, according to the new chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller.
07.03.07 Iraq cabinet approves oil law draft
BAGHDAD (AP) July 3 - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet approved a draft oil law sought by the US to boost reconciliation between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites and the Iraqi parliament planned to debate the measure Wednesday. For months, Washington has pressed its ally al-Maliki to quickly pass the oil law and other pieces of legislation, considered vital to President Bush's attempts to end Iraq's turmoil -- alongside a security crackdown by an increased US military force.
But the law, which is to define the distribution of Iraq's oil wealth, has been tied up in bickering among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties in al-Maliki's deeply divided ruling coalition, frustrating US officials as American support for the war wanes. [More>>nytimes.com]
07.03.07 Death of 9 people confirmed in Lal mosque gun battle
ISLAMABAD, July 3 - The medical authorities have confirmed the death of 9 people including a Rangers man, a reporter, a photojournalist; a businessman and over 150 people injured as a result of Lal mosque gun battle, the media reports said. The death toll is still feared to rise as several people out of the injured were reportedly in critical condition.
07.03.07 Ql-Qaeda blamed for Yemen attack
July 3 - Yemeni officials have blamed al-Qaeda for a suicide bombing at an archaeological site in the eastern province of Marib which killed seven Spanish tourists and two Yemenis. Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, said on Tuesday that security services had been warned last week of an impending attack but did not know where or when it take place. He also offered a $75,500 reward for information leading to the capture of anyone linked to the attack at the site of an ancient temple. [More>>aljazeera.net]
07.03.07 More than '30 Taliban killed' in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, July 3 - Afghan and Western forces killed dozens of rebel fighters in the Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan officials said Tuesday, striking back after they came under attack.
07.03.07 France suspecds bird flu in swans
PARIS, July 4 - Three swans found dead in eastern France may have been killed by the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, the French Agriculture Ministry said. "The first results show a suspicion of bird flu," the ministry said. "These tests are in the process of being confirmed at the reference laboratory of the French food safety agency AFSSA to determine whether it was the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain." It had already put protection measures in place in the surrounding area and the results of the tests were expected tomorrow, it said.
France, Europe's biggest poultry producer, had increased its precautions against bird flu in June, saying the risk of the disease hitting the country had gone up after it was found in a number of wild birds in Germany. The disease was also found in the Czech Republic last month. Last year, some 13 European Union member states had confirmed cases of bird flu - Germany, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Britain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, France and Hungary.
In France the virus was found in more than 60 wild birds and at a farm with 11,000 turkeys. It had not been detected in the country since April 2006. More than 30 countries have reported outbreaks in the past year, in most cases involving wild birds such as swans. Globally, the H5N1 virus has killed nearly 200 people out of over 300 known cases, according to the World Health Organization. None of the victims were from Europe. [>theaustralian.news.com ; See also liberation.fr, July 3, "Suspicion de grippe aviaire sur trois cygnes en Moselle."]
07.03.07 China punishes cities for polluting rivers
BEIJING (Reuters) July 3 - China's top environmental watchdog has punished several cities and over 30 factories for chronic river pollution, accusing growth-obsessed local governments of worsening degradation to an ‘unbearable’ extent. Six cities, two counties and five industrial parks were named and shamed by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) this week for their role in polluting four major rivers, including China's longest two, the Yangtze and the Yellow River.
SEPA would not approve any projects proposed by the accused polluters for three months other than treatment plants and ‘recycling’ facilities, the agency said in a statement on its Web site (www.sepa.gov.cn). The ban will not be lifted until the sources of untreated waste water are shut down, treatment facilities are installed and regulations that protect violators are overturned, it said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
07.03.07 Iran heaps scorn on US claim of Hezbollah in Iraq
July 3 - An Iranian official slammed what he called "ridiculous and false claims" from US officials about the "arrest of a foreign citizen in Iraq and his relation with Iran." CNN reported in an exclusive on Sunday that a top special operations officer from Lebanon's Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah had been captured in Iraq. The US military later publicly confirmed the report and provided details about the arrest.
Remarks from Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini were reported Tuesday by the Islamic Republic News Agency and the Iranian Student News Agency. "Unfortunately, US statesmen are in the habit of repeating false and ridiculous claims without presenting any documents," said Hosseini. He did not specify precisely whom or what he meant. His comments were made after CNN and other media asked him for a reaction to the arrest of Ali Mussa Daqduq.
US officials identified the Hezbollah operative as an explosives expert who played a key role in the January 20 attack that killed five American troops in Karbala, a southern Iraqi city that is one of the most revered to Shiites. Daqduq was captured in March in the southern city of Basra, where he allegedly was helping train and lead Shiite militias fighting coalition troops. [More>>cnn.com]
July 3 - President Bush today refused to rule out a pardon for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, one day after he spared the former White House aide prison time by commuting the 30-month sentence imposed after Libby's perjury conviction in the CIA leak case. "As to the future, I rule nothing in and nothing out," the president told reporters after visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A full pardon would wipe clean Libby's criminal record. The commuted prison sentence leaves Libby's conviction in place, along with a $250,000 fine and two years probation. [More>>washingtonpost.com]
07.01.07 More arrests as bomb hunt goes nationwide
July 1 - Police carried out a controlled explosion this afternoon on a car outside a Paisley hospital which is treating a man who is still critically ill after yesterday's terror attack on nearby Glasgow airport. A police spokesman confirmed that the car was believed to be linked to yesterday's airport attack, in which a Jeep Cherokee was rammed into the airport terminal - but he did not say what that link was. A man believed to be the driver of the Jeep was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley suffering from severe burns after yesterday's incident.
A fifth arrest was made today in the investigation into two failed car bombs in London's West End and the Glasgow airport attack. The latest arrest came in Liverpool, while Scottish police were searching a house in Glasgow as part of a nationwide operation.
Police are also holding a 27-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man after forcing their car onto the hard shoulder of the M6 in the early hours. In what is rapidly becoming a nationwide operation, it emerged this evening that officers were searching a number of buildings in nearby Newcastle-under-Lyme. The links between the car bombs in London and attack in Glasgow were strengthened today when gas canisters similar to those found in the cars in London were seen being carried out of the burnt-out Jeep. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
07.01.07 Companies in US increase testing of Chinese goods
July 1 - General Mills, Kellogg, Toys “R” Us and other big American companies are increasing their scrutiny of thousands of everyday products they receive from Chinese suppliers, as widening recalls of items like toys and toothpaste force them to focus on potential hazards that were overlooked in the past.
These corporations are stepping up their analysis of imported goods that they sell, making more unannounced visits to Chinese factories for inspections and, in one case, pulling merchandise from American shelves at the first hint of a problem.
General Mills, which makes food products like Pillsbury dough and Chex cereals, is testing for potential contaminants that it did not look for previously, although it would not name the substances. Kellogg has increased its use of outside services that scrutinize Chinese suppliers and has identified alternative suppliers if vital ingredients become unavailable. And Toys “R” Us recently hired two senior executives in new positions to oversee procurement and product safety, mainly for goods made in China. [More>>nytimes.com]
07.01.07 Civilians die in US-NATO air assault in Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, July 1 - Just a week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai chastised international forces for being "careless," some Afghan officials reported Saturday that possibly 100 or more civilians had been killed in a NATO and US-led assault. The battle in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, which was prompted by a Taliban ambush, began Friday night and continued into Saturday morning, Afghan officials said. It ended with international forces bombing several compounds in the remote village of Hyderabad.
"More than 100 people have been killed. But they weren't Taliban. The Taliban were far away from there," said Wali Khan, a member of parliament who represents the area. "The people are already unhappy with the government. But these kinds of killings of civilians will cause people to revolt against the government." Another parliament member from Helmand, Mahmood Anwar, said that the death toll was close to 100 and that the dead included women and children. Two other Afghan officials, however, said Sunday an investigation into the airstrikes found that 45 civilians and 62 insurgents were killed, the Associated Press reported. [More>>washingtonpost.com]
07.01.07 Iran in crisis after cleric's murder
July 2 - The assassination of a prominent cleric in an oil-rich Iranian province, coinciding with violent protests in Tehran over the rationing of petrol, has plunged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into his biggest crisis since he was elected two years ago. The murder on June 24 of Hesham Saymary in Ahvaz, the centre of Iran's oil-producing province in the south, was a blow to a regime that is already under pressure because of international condemnation of its nuclear program and the prospect of economic meltdown.
The assassination, the third of a senior cleric this year, bore the hallmarks of a well-planned murder. According to witnesses, the gunmen waited outside Saymary's house for him to arrive home about 10pm. They called out to the cleric as he was about to open his door and shot him three times. He died instantly. There have been other assassinations in Iran, notably in the Kurdish area, in the west near the Iraq border, but the Government is far more concerned about Saymary's death because stability in the province is crucial for its oil revenues. [More>>theaustralian.news.com.au]
07.01.07 Viking longship sails after 1,000 years
COPPENHAGEN (AFP) July 1 - An 11th-century Viking longship reconstructed to its original condition in Denmark set sail on Sunday for a seven-week voyage across the North Sea to its home port of Dublin, powered only by sails and oars. The Havhingsten fra Glendalough (The Sea Stallion from Glendalough) is the largest Viking warship ever rebuilt. The crew rowed the vessel out of the Danish port of Roskilde under sunny skies as thousands of onlookers cheered from the docks, Mette Busch of Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum told AFP.
After a 44-day and 900-nauticAl mile crossing using only its huge square sail, the longship and its 65 crew will reach Ireland, where it was originally built in 1040 in the Glendalough forest...The ship is 30 meters (98 feet) long, 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) wide and has a draught of 0.9 meters (2.95 feet). It weighs 25 tones, and has 120 square meters (1,291 square feet) of sail on its 14.5-meter (48-foot) mast. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]
06.29.07 London car bomb sparks terror alerts
June 29 - London escaped what could have been its worst terrorist attack this morning when a car bomb packed with nails, gas canisters and containers of petrol apparently failed to detonate outside a popular West End nightclub hosting a 'ladies' night.' The discovery of the bomb, which was manually defused by officers, left the city on a heightened state of alert. This afternoon an area stretching from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner was closed off and nearby buildings including the Dorchester Hotel evacuated while police examined another suspicious car.
Police were called to the Tiger Tiger nightclub on Haymarket near Piccadilly Circus shortly before 2am when smoke was seen coming from the inside of a Mercedes parked outside. Unconfirmed reports said that a man had been seen running away from the vehicle.
Inside, officers discovered "significant quantities" of petrol, believed to be 60 litres, plus nails and gas cylinders. They used a remote-controlled device to check the vehicle, which was parked in Haymarket, before bomb squad officers made it safe. If the device had exploded, police said that the shrapnel would have killed or injured anyone within a wide area. The bomb could have caused a fireball as big as a house followed by a large shock wave. [More>>timesonline.co.uk ; See also haaretz.com, June 29, "bomb found in London said similar to those used in Iraq."]
06.29.07 'Five US soldiers killed in Iraq attack
BAGHDAD, June 29 - Five American soldiers were killed and seven more wounded when their patrol in a southern neighborhood of Baghdad was hit by a roadside bomb, the American military said today. Separately today, a planned march of devout Shiites through Sunni areas to the remnants of a revered shrine that was destroyed was delayed following a spate of grisly attacks against Shiites over the past several days. The attacks were believed to have been carried out by Sunni Arab militants and have killed dozens of Shiites around Baghdad. [More>>nytimes.com]
06.29.07 'Suicide squads hole up in Islamabad mosque'
Islamabad (Reuters) June 29 - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said on Friday suicide bombers from an al-Qaeda-linked militant group are holed up in a mosque in the centre of the capital, Islamabad. Authorities have been locked in a tense standoff for months with clerics and students associated with Lal Masjid, the Red Mosque, who are pushing for imposition of Taliban-style social values in Islamabad.
Clerics at the mosque had threatened suicide attacks if the government used force against them. Musharraf said militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad, an al-Qaeda-linked group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region, were hiding in the mosque. "They are indoctrinated people," he told a workshop on journalism. "There are also people associated to Jaish-e-Mohammad. They have explosives. Many of them are ready to carry out suicide attacks," he added.
Musharraf, who survived two al-Qaeda-inspired assassination attempts, said the government had tried to resolve the standoff through negotiations to avoid bloodshed in the sprawling mosque complex, which also houses a religious seminary or madrasa. [More>>expressindia.com ; See also independent.co.uk, June 29, "Troops of burqa-clad women launch 'morality' crackdown from Red Mosque."]
06.29.07 AU summit to map out United States of Africa
ACCRA (AFP) June 29 - The future of the African Union will come under scrutiny only five years after its creation at a summit this weekend where some heads of state will launch a push for a closer federation across the continent. The three-day meeting will take place in Accra, the capital of Ghana whose founding president Kwame Nkrumah was the first African leader to argue the continent could only exercise real clout by clubbing together.
Now after the African Union's failure to bring peace to the continent’s major trouble spots Darfur and Somalia, leaders such as host President John Kufuor and Libya’s Moamer Gaddafi will again hammer home the message that only a so-called United States of Africa can deliver results. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See related story, aljazeera.net, June 29, "Somalia calls for UN peacekeepers."]
06.29.07 Two suicide attacks in Afghanistan, four dead
KABUL (AFP) June 29 - Two suicide car bombs ripped into security vehicles in Afghanistan Thursday, killing two foreigners and two Afghans, officials said, also reporting that the Taliban had beheaded three policemen. The deadliest suicide attack was in the capital Kabul, the third such blast to hit the capital this month.
The bomber exploded his car near the vehicle of a private security company involved in mentoring the Afghan police, Afghan security officials said. "Two foreigners, Americans, are dead," the city's criminal investigation chief, Alishah Paktiawal, told AFP from the scene. "Five civilians are wounded." [More>>turkishpress.com ; See related story, metimes.com, June 29, "Afghan interpreter beheaded, 8 rebels said killed."]
06.29.07 Bush may be out of chances for a lasting domestic victory
NEWPORT, R.I., June 29 - He looked uncharacteristically dejected as he approached the lectern, fiddling with papers as he talked and avoiding the sort of winking eye contact he often makes with reporters. And then President Bush did something he almost never does: He admitted defeat.
"A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find a common ground," he said an hour after his immigration plan died on Capitol Hill. "It didn't work." It was, in the end, simply a statement of reality after the Senate buried his proposal to overhaul immigration laws. But for a president who makes a point of never giving in, even when he loses, it was a striking moment, underscoring the depth of his political travails. It took almost two years before Bush acknowledged, just months ago, that his effort to reshape Social Security had failed. Now he has surrendered in what was probably his last chance of securing a legacy-making second-term domestic victory. [More>>washingtonpost.com]
June 28 - Fred Aprim, author of several books on the Assyrian plight in Iraq, provided Maravot News with the following information concerning the plight of the indigenous peoples of Iraq: the Assyrians. The Assyrians are the remnants of the people of ancient Mesopotamia, succeeding the ancient Assyrians as one continuous civilization. The Assyrians are indigenous to Mesopotamia (the land between the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates). Geographically, ancient Assyria today falls mainly in the region of northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, northwestern Iran and southeastern Turkey. The heartland of Assyria is the region of its ancient four capitals: Ashur, Dur Sharukin (Biblical Kalah), Nimrod (Khorsabad), and finally Nineveh situated on the east side of the Tigris River, across from Mosul, in northern Iraq. Assyrians are predominantly Christians; they adopted Christianity at the hands of the Apostles themselves
Concerning the Iraqi new constitution, the Islamists and extremists are determined to make Islam the official religion of Iraq and the Shari'aa (Islamic Law) as THE source and not A source for legislation and civil law. This means that non-Moslems will be considered as second-class citizens. Women who make 55 to 58% of the Iraqi population would lose hope for equality and other legal matters related to inheritance, right for divorce, custody, etc.
With the arrival of the Western Armies to Iraq, religious persecution of Assyrian Christians of Iraq has ignited. It is estimated that some 200,000 Assyrian Christians have fled Iraq to neighboring Syria and Jordan because Islamists see the Christians of Iraq as collaborators with the "American infidels," as they call them.
Christian female students are warned to wear Islamic veils upon entering university campuses. Many students have stopped attending classes altogether. Assyrian liquor stores and hair salons are targets of bombings and vandalisms. Christian children are kidnapped for large ransoms. Christian women are kidnapped and killed if they do not wear the traditional Islamic veil.
In north of Baghdad, a young 14 year old Assyrian was literally slaughtered, his head and limbs were cut off. Another 14 year old boy was crucified in Basra. Assyrian Christians living in Mosul and other Assyrian neighborhoods in Baghdad are threatened to either leave or be killed.
The Iraqi Constitution instituted the creation of an Assyrian self-administrative and protected region, similar to that enjoyed by the Kurds in northern Iraq. This article in the constitution must be implemented in order to stop the slaughter of the Assyrian Christians, the indigenous people of Iraq.
06.28.07 Baghdad bus stop bomb kills 21
BAGHDAD (AFP) June 28 - A rush-hour car bomb attack at a Baghdad bus stop killed 21 people and wounded dozens Thursday, hours after the British military lost three soldiers in a pre-dawn roadside bombing in southern Iraq. A parked car exploded next to commuters waiting at a bus stop in the capital's southern Bayaa neighborhood, killing 21 people and wounding 42, hospital and security officials said. Iraqi security officials said that the explosion occurred at around 8.15 am (0415 GMT) and expected the death toll to rise. A medic in the city's Yarmuk hospital confirmed receiving the bodies of 21 people killed in the blast. [More>>metimes.com; See also washingtonpost.com, June 28, "Car bomb kills at least 22 in Iraq, 20 found beheaded" and related story, timesonline.co.uk, June 28, "Three British soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Iraq."]
06.28.07 Arabs scornful of 'biased' Blair in Mideast role
GAZA CITY (AFP) June 28 - The Arab world poured scorn on Tony Blair as new Middle East envoy on Thursday, dismissing him as a biased lackey of US President George W. Bush, incapable of easing Palestinian hardship or bringing peace to the troubled region. Just hours after standing down as British premier, Blair was named international envoy for the Middle East Quartet which sponsors the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in the doldrums for years.
"When Blair was prime minister and one of the closest friends of George W. Bush he did nothing for the Palestinian cause. So what can he do now as the Quartet's envoy?" said Middle East political expert Oreib Al Rintawi.
06.28.07 Lebanese army kills 6 Islamic militants in North Lebanon
June 28 - Lebanese troops killed at least six Islamic militants during a gun battle in a northern Lebanon town on Thursday, a military official said. The clash occurred in the wilderness near the village of Qalamoun, some 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of the northern port city of Tripoli, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Hospital officials in Qalamoun said six militants were killed in the clash - three Saudis, two Lebanese and a sixth man whose nationality was not immediately known. [More>>haaretz.com]
06.28.07 EU bans all Indonesian airlines from its airspace
BRUSSELS (Reuters) June 28 - All Indonesian airlines including national carrier Garuda will be banned from flying to the European Union within a week, the European Commission said on Thursday, updating a "blacklist" of carriers deemed unsafe. Indonesian carriers do not currently fly to Europe so the ban is also a warning to the 27-nation EU's consumers and travel agencies not to use the country's airlines, an EU official said. "European citizens should avoid flying with these carriers," the official said. "They are really unsafe."
Angola's TAAG Angolan Airlines and Volare Aviation Enterprise of Ukraine would also be banned, the EU executive said. Ten Russian airlines, six from EU member Bulgaria and eight from Moldova will cease operations within the bloc. "The EU blacklist will prove to be an essential tool not only to prevent unsafe airlines from flying to Europe ... but also to make sure that airlines and civil aviation authorities take appropriate actions to improve safety," Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a ban on most aircraft operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), in force since March, will be lifted for specific Boeing 747 and Airbus 310 planes, it said. The carrier's fleet of Boeing 777s remains authorised. The Indonesian carrier ban applies to all 51 airlines certified in that country. The decision, following advice from an EU air safety committee, is expected to be formalized within a week. The Commission advised EU countries to start preparing for the ban immediately. [More>>thestar.com.my]
06.28.07 Bulgaria and Romania 'plaged by corruption'
June 28 - Romania and Bulgaria are fighting alarming levels of lawlessness with contract killings, criminal mafias and corruption still plaguing the eastern European members of the European Union. That was the verdict yesterday of a six-month progress report from the European Commission, raising doubts about how qualified the two newest EU members are to belong to the continental club.
The EU singled out Bulgaria for its worryingly high number of hit-man assassinations. "Contract killings continue to be of great concern, and in particular most recent killings of local politicians since January. To date no prosecution and conviction had taken place," the report said.
Romania and Bulgaria escaped sanctions from Brussels. But they were both criticised for failing to tackle high-level corruption and enact promised judicial reforms since they joined the Union in January. "High-level corruption is still one point of weakness and both the governments are aware of this," said Franco Frattini, the European Commission's vice-president. "Too few results are shown concerning practical results ... too many indictments still need to be translated into a final decision of a court, that's why we say, very frankly, progress made in this field is still insufficient." [More>>independent.co.uk]
06.28.07 White House invokes executive privilege on files
WASHINGTON (AP) June 28 - President Bush, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors. Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents for former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. Congressional panels want the documents for their investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department, including complaints of undue political influence. The Democratic chairmen of the two committees seeking the documents accused Bush of stonewalling and disdain for the law, and said they would press forward with enforcing the subpoenas. [More>>nytimes.com]
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