Monday, November 13, 2006

Not a choice of when, but of which, terrorists

The Bush administration keeps telling us that it's not a matter of whether we will be attacked again by terrorists, but rather a matter of when.

Nostradamnthem is here to suggest that they are wrong. It's not so much a matter of when you'll be attacked, but rather you need to be concerned about WHICH terrorists will get you. As the cartoon character Pogo is famous for saying: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

The description of how Jose Padilla was treated will explain. You can read it here and also here. Even if you believe he's guilty of every accusation ever made about him and never presented in court, you should also know that this treatment is now the law of the land and applies to EVERY CITIZEN of this formerly glorious nation, and you have even less protection if you aren't a citizen. THAT should concern you - deeply.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Site Updates

My apologies for the lack of site updates recently . I am currently out of town and I will not be returning until next weekend (17/18th November)

The other contributors may well pop through and put up an article or two but failing that, this site will not be updated for at least a week. Please take advantage of the quiet here and go take a look at some of our links and friends.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Breaking : Rumsfeld 'resigns'

President George Bush has just announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. A senior administration official confirmed the news and said that Rumsfeld had already written out his resignation.

Senior military officials were briefed on the president's decision to accept Rumsfeld's resignation just fifteen minutes before the press briefing was scheduled to start today.


Progress already...

Election information sources (open thread)

Just a few random sources and video links that are able to keep all the number crunching data from the US elections up to date...

CNN Election special
MSNB LIVE: Decision 2006
New york times election 2006
Daily Kos
Think progress
Real clear politics
America Votes on BBC Radio 4

Feel free to add any interesting election or related links to the comment thread. If your site has a scoop then feel free to link it here. What sites have the best coverage ? let us know...

We are of course also interested in your opinion of the election in general and the results once we have them.

Early CNN Senate Exit Polls

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ad Wars

Mark Fiore is back with his latest animation.

You can watch it here.






People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing : Walter Judd.

Go out and make yourself heard...

Elections Or Electrons

What If Anything Will Count Your Vote

By Dom Stasi




There’s been a lot - not enough, but a lot - of hoopla recently about the fealty of the new electronic voting systems with which we’ve been gifted this election season. It is fitting to see these machines as having spread across our land like the robotic monsters of the 1897 H.G. Wells novel, The War Of The Worlds. The science fiction metaphor collapses, however, when one realizes that these invasive machines bring a lot more fiction to the voting process than they do science.

But let’s face it. The gadgets themselves are but an abuse, a visible target, salt in an already open and festering wound, a wound to the heart of American democracy. The real monsters remain hidden from our view. The real monsters are alive and among us, their dreams of conquest perhaps the closest thing to reality we’ll see manifest this day.

So, as the hours before the midterm elections of 2006 wane, we should look back, not far, just enough to see where we’ve been. It will tell us where we’re going and why the only thing that should surprise us when Wednesday dawns, is truth.

Think of what follows here as you enter the voting booth. I know I will.

Continue reading Here

US-Iraq 1980s

A brief history of US Interventions in Iraq

Here

1984

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam Hussein sentenced to death

Saddam Hussein has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging.




The former Iraqi president was convicted by a Baghdad court for his role in the killing of 148 people in the mainly Shia town of Dujail in 1982. His half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and Iraq's former chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar were also sentenced to death.

Former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan got life in jail and three others received 15 year prison terms. Another co-defendant, Baath party official Mohammed Azawi Ali, was acquitted.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki hailed the conviction in a televised address, saying that the sentence was "not a sentence on one man, but a sentence against all the dark period of his rule".

In the Shia district of Sadr City there was jubilation on the streets, with people driving around in cars, sounding their horns. There were also jubilant scenes in the holy city of Najaf.

Immediately after the sentencing, violence reportedly broke out in the mainly Sunni Azamiya district of Baghdad, with machine guns and mortars being fired. Three nearby provinces, including Salahuddin, which contains Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, are also under curfew.

Thousands of people also defied the curfew in Tikrit - but there it was to voice support for Saddam Hussein and to denounce the verdict. Sunnis in Tikrit marched through the city, chanting "We will avenge you Saddam."

Almost three years since Saddam Hussein was captured, soaring sectarian violence has brought Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Source and further details Here

Neo Culpa

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.

Here

British believe Bush is more dangerous than Kim Jong-il







America is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published today that reveals just how far the country's reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq.

Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.

Read the full article Here

Iraq, Broken - American Shock & Awe

The devastation in Iraq - Warning contains scenes of death and destruction.


Source

How to hack the vote

Professor Avi Rubin demonstrates how electronic vote machines can be compromised.


Source

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Worst Congress Ever

By Matt Taibbi





These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula -- a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.

To be sure, Congress has always been a kind of muddy ideological cemetery, a place where good ideas go to die in a maelstrom of bureaucratic hedging and rank favor-trading. Its whole history is one long love letter to sleaze, idiocy and pigheaded, glacial conservatism. That Congress exists mainly to misspend our money and snore its way through even the direst political crises is something we Americans understand instinctively. "There is no native criminal class except Congress," Mark Twain said -- a joke that still provokes a laugh of recognition a hundred years later.

But the 109th Congress is no mild departure from the norm, no slight deviation in an already-underwhelming history. No, this is nothing less than a historic shift in how our democracy is run. The Republicans who control this Congress are revolutionaries, and they have brought their revolutionary vision for the House and Senate quite unpleasantly to fruition. In the past six years they have castrated the political minority, abdicated their oversight responsibilities mandated by the Constitution, enacted a conscious policy of massive borrowing and unrestrained spending, and installed a host of semipermanent mechanisms for transferring legislative power to commercial interests. They aimed far lower than any other Congress has ever aimed, and they nailed their target.

Read the full article Here

United States National Debt

An Analysis of the Presidents Who Are Responsible For Excessive Spending




A Thought provoking study.
Here

Pause for Peace

By AHMED YOUSEF ( Senior adviser to the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniya.)





HERE in Gaza, few dream of peace. For now, most dare only to dream of a lack of war. It is for this reason that Hamas proposes a long-term truce during which the Israeli and Palestinian peoples can try to negotiate a lasting peace.

A truce is referred to in Arabic as a “hudna.” Typically covering 10 years, a hudna is recognized in Islamic jurisprudence as a legitimate and binding contract. A hudna extends beyond the Western concept of a cease-fire and obliges the parties to use the period to seek a permanent, nonviolent resolution to their differences. The Koran finds great merit in such efforts at promoting understanding among different people. Whereas war dehumanizes the enemy and makes it easier to kill, a hudna affords the opportunity to humanize one’s opponents and understand their position with the goal of resolving the intertribal or international dispute.

Such a concept — a period of nonwar but only partial resolution of a conflict — is foreign to the West and has been greeted with much suspicion. Many Westerners I speak to wonder how one can stop the violence without ending the conflict.

I would argue, however, that this concept is not as foreign as it might seem. After all, the Irish Republican Army agreed to halt its military struggle to free Northern Ireland from British rule without recognizing British sovereignty. Irish Republicans continue to aspire to a united Ireland free of British rule, but rely upon peaceful methods. Had the I.R.A. been forced to renounce its vision of reuniting Ireland before negotiations could occur, peace would never have prevailed. Why should more be demanded of the Palestinians, particularly when the spirit of our people will never permit it?

When Hamas gives its word to an international agreement, it does so in the name of God and will therefore keep its word. Hamas has honored its previous cease-fires, as Israelis grudgingly note with the oft-heard words, “At least with Hamas they mean what they say.”

This offer of hudna is no ruse, as some assert, to strengthen our military machine, to buy time to organize better or to consolidate our hold on the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, faith-based political movements in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Turkey and Yemen have used hudna-like strategies to avoid expanding conflict. Hamas will conduct itself just as wisely and honorably.

We Palestinians are prepared to enter into a hudna to bring about an immediate end to the occupation and to initiate a period of peaceful coexistence during which both sides would refrain from any form of military aggression or provocation. During this period of calm and negotiation we can address the important issues like the right of return and the release of prisoners. If the negotiations fail to achieve a durable settlement, the next generation of Palestinians and Israelis will have to decide whether or not to renew the hudna and the search for a negotiated peace.

There can be no comprehensive solution of the conflict today, this week, this month, or even this year. A conflict that has festered for so long may, however, be resolved through a decade of peaceful coexistence and negotiations. This is the only sensible alternative to the current situation. A hudna will lead to an end to the occupation and create the space and the calm necessary to resolve all outstanding issues.

Few in Gaza dream. For most of the past six months it’s been difficult to even sleep. Yet hope is not dead. And when we dare to hope, this is what we see: a 10-year hudna during which, inshallah (God willing), we will learn again to dream of peace.

Source

US closes 'bomb secrets' website

The US government has closed one of its websites that contained documents found during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Weapons experts had complained that the site contained details on making nuclear bombs, the New York Times said.





US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte had cautioned against posting the documents before the website went public, a former official said.

''John Negroponte warned us that we don't know what's in these documents, so these are being put out at some risk, and that was a warning that he put out right when they first released the documents,'' former White House chief of staff Andrew Card told NBC television.

The website contained a warning that "the US government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents... or factual accuracy of the information contained therein".

Mr Negroponte's spokesman, Chad Kolton, said in a statement there were "strict criteria" governing what was posted on the website.

"The material currently on the website, as well as the procedures used to post new documents, will be carefully reviewed before the site becomes available again," he said.

Source

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Congressional Election


In order to express concern about the November 7th congressional election in the US, I have decided to make a bold statement using some of CNN's election statistics as support: here.

According to CNN, it would take nothing short of a democratic sweep of the toss-up senate races in order for them to win the congress. Thus, I would expect to see a Republican congress after November 7th.

Thoughts about at least 2 more years of unbridled terror?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Death of "Stay the Course"

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006

New countries have moved ahead of some Western democracies in the fifth annual Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index, issued today, while the most repressive countries are still the same ones.





The three worst violators of free expression - North Korea, bottom of the Index at 168th place, Turkmenistan (167th) and Eritrea (166th) - have clamped down further. The torture death of Turkmenistan journalist Ogulsapar Muradova shows that the country’s leader, “President-for-Life” Separmurad Nyazov, is willing to use extreme violence against those who dare to criticise him. Reporters Without Borders is also extremely concerned about a number of Eritrean journalists who have been imprisoned in secret for more than five years. The all-powerful North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, also continues to totally control the media.

Northern European countries once again come top of the Index, with no recorded censorship, threats, intimidation or physical reprisals in Finland, Ireland, Iceland and the Netherlands, which all share first place.

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

You can read the full report and find your own countries position on the list Here

Big Brothers' data bases

Hunting Bin Laden?

By Michael Smerconish







HAVE THE BRAKES been put on the hunt for Osama bin Laden? Just back from the CENTCOM region, that is my hunch.

The effort to find bin Laden was one of the many questions I had about the war on terror as I joined a Pentagon-sponsored military immersion program called the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference...

...I want to be clear here: Nowhere did anyone ever tell me the search for bin Laden is over. But I am worried that the days of aggressively hunting him have ended. I say that based on the lack of response to my repeated questions in the context of other sensitive briefings, the fact that the CIA reportedly closed its bin Laden desk, called the Alec Station, and the agreement reached between Musharaf and tribal leaders in the Northwest part of his nation wherein he has agreed to give them continued free rein.

Read the full article Here

An interesting read that asks the poignant questions regarding the status of the hunt for Bin Laden.

HT to Nostradamnthem

The Rumsfeld Comedy Hour

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Freedom from the press

Mark Fiore is back with his latest animation.






Watch it Here

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

History repeating



I have watched a documentary about the 1956 'Suez Crisis'. The Suez Canal was in British hands when Nasser decided to take it over and nationalise it. As Nasser had recieved arms from the Soviet Union (though he was an anti-communist who had communists arrested and detained), British PM Anthony Eden claimed Nasser was a Soviet ally. For this, he used 'information' from the secret services. Information which was false. At the same time, and somewhat paradoxically, Nasser was accused by Eden of being a fascist. Eden decided to get rid of Nasser, ie. to operate a regime change in Egypt. As the US tried to appease Britain, the latter and France came to a secret agreement with Israel in Sèvres, France, that Israel would stage a fake invasion of the Sinaï, which would gave an excuse to Britain to set an ultimatum to Egypt and Israel to stop hostilities. Israel would obviously withdraw, while Egypt's Nasser could not accept the ultimatum therefore allowing Britain and France to intervene. When war broke out between Egypt, Britain and France, Eden claimed he was 'utterly convinced' of the just nature of his war. After a short and disastrous war, based on lies, Eden resigned. Does any of this sound familiar? In those days, information was far less available to the public than it is today. Today, the lies and manipulation of 'our' leaders come to light much quicker. The question I ask myself is, how much time has to pass before the truth becomes historical fact?

The demographic solution



The following extract is from an article by Meron Benvenisti in Ha'aretz. He was deputy mayor of Jerusalem and also an advocate of a binational state.

No one mentions the fact that the "demographic balance" is fundamentally fictitious. It was created through a manipulation of Jerusalem's borders in 1967, based on the principle of preserving a minimum of Arabs and a maximum of land for Jews. In the name of this principle, more and more exposed or dispensable hilltops have been annexed to the city since 1967 and anointed with the holy oil of the Eternal City.

Coup against Maliki reported in the making

Iraqi army officers are reportedly planning to stage a military coup with U.S. help to oust the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.







Cairo-based Iraqi and Arab sources said Monday several officers visited Washington recently for talks with U.S. officials on plans for replacing Maliki's administration by a "national salvation" government with the mission to re-establish security and stability in Iraq.

One Iraqi source told United Press International that the Iraqi army officers' visit to the United States was aimed at coordinating the military coup in case the efforts of Maliki's government to restore order reached a dead end.

He said among the prominent officers were the deputy chief of staff, a Muslim Shiite, the intelligence chief, a Sunni, and the commander of the air force, a Kurd. It is believed the three would constitute the nucleus of the next government after the army takes over power.

The proposed plan, according to the source, stipulates that the new Iraqi army, with the assistance of U.S. forces, will take control of power, suspend the constitution, dissolve parliament and form a new government. The military will also take direct control of the various provinces and the administration after imposing a state of emergency.

An Arab source also told UPI that certain Arab countries were informed of the plan and requested to offer their help in convincing the former leaders of the deposed Baath Party regime residing in their countries to refrain from obstructing the move and stop violence perpetrated by the party in Iraq. In return, they will be invited to participate in the government at a later stage.

Washington is becoming increasingly impatient with the failure of Maliki's government in quelling sectarian violence threatening to plunge Iraq in an all-out civil war.

Source

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

America Dying in Silence - Military Commission Act 2006

If only there were more like this

Bush: ‘We’ve Never Been Stay The Course’

During an interview today on ABC’s This Week, President Bush tried to distance himself from what has been his core strategy in Iraq for the last three years.






George Stephanopoulos asked about James Baker’s plan to develop a strategy for Iraq that is “between ’stay the course’ and ‘cut and run.’”

Bush responded, ‘We’ve never been stay the course, George!’ Watch it:

Source : Think Progress

Unbelievable

Iraq : The real story

Watch this haunting observational film that explodes the myth around the claims that the Iraqis are preparing to take control of their own country.




Contains some strong language ( Flash presentation 8 min's 10 seconds )

Here

Seven in Ten Americans Favor Congressional Candidates Who Will Pursue a Major Change in Foreign Policy

Going into the November midterm elections, seven in ten Americans say they prefer Congressional candidates who will pursue a new approach to U.S. foreign policy.



A new nationwide survey finds a large and growing majority of Americans is dissatisfied with the position of the United States in the world. Most Americans believe that U.S. policies are increasing the threat of terrorist attack and decreasing goodwill toward the United States.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA)/Knowledge Networks poll also finds that large majorities of Americans feel that the United States puts too much emphasis on military force and unilateral action. Most say they want their member of Congress to work to shift the emphasis of U.S. foreign policy in favor of diplomacy, multilateral cooperation, and homeland security.

They also stress the need for programs to reduce the United States’ dependence on oil. When given the opportunity to reshape the foreign policy budget, respondents redistribute spending from military programs to other methods of pursuing security.

“It is a rare year that foreign policy takes center stage in Congressional elections. Voters are calling for a sea change in U.S. foreign policy. They want less emphasis on military force, and more on soft power,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA and editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org.

On the question of how to deal with the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, a majority of respondents disagrees with the Bush administration’s refusal to seek direct talks. Fifty-five percent say the United States should enter into talks without preconditions.

Continue reading at the Source

The Way the World Ends

With all the hype about North Korea, we're forgetting that the world is still staring down the barrels of thousands of U.S. and Russian ICBMs

by Helen Caldicott





It is difficult to underestimate the problems associated with North Korea's recent nuclear weapons test. Following a small atomic explosion in a mountainous area of North Korea of less than one kiloton -- the Hiroshima bomb was 13 kilotons -- the U.S. administration is encouraging draconian economic sanctions to be enacted against a desperately poor country where millions of people are malnourished and that will further ostracize a paranoid regime, while the rest of the world looks on with horror as the nuclear arms race threatens to spiral out of control.

While lateral proliferation is indeed an incredibly serious problem as ever-more countries prepare to enter the portals of the nuclear club, one consistent outstanding nuclear threat that continues to endanger most planetary species is ignored by the international community.

In fact, the real "rogue" nations that continue to hold the world at nuclear ransom are Russia and the United States. Contrary to popular belief, the threat of a massive nuclear attack -- whether by accident, human fallibility or malfeasance -- has increased.

Of the 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, the United States and Russia possess 96 per cent of them. Of these, Russia aims most of its 8,200 strategic nuclear warheads at U.S. and Canadian targets, while the U.S. aims most of its 7,000 offensive strategic hydrogen bombs on Russian missile silos and command centres. Each of these thermonuclear warheads has roughly 20 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to a report on nuclear weapons by the National Resources Defense Council, a U.S. environmental group.

Of these 7,000 U.S. strategic weapons, 2,500 are deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles that are constantly maintained on hair-trigger alert ready for immediate launching, while the U.S. also maintains some 2,688 hydrogen bombs on missiles in its 14 Trident submarines, most ready for instantaneous launching.

According to the Center for Defense Information, a group that analyzes U.S. defence policy, in the event of a suspected attack, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Command has only three minutes to decide if a nuclear attack warning is valid. He has 10 minutes to locate the president for a 30-second briefing on attack options, and the president then has three minutes to decide to launch the warheads and to consider which pre-set targeting plan to use.

Once launched, the missiles would take 10 to 30 minutes to reach their Russian targets.

An almost identical situation prevails in Russia, except unlike the combined U.S. and Canadian NORAD early-warning equipment, the Russian system is decaying rapidly, its early-warning satellites are almost non-functional and it now relies on a relatively primitive over-the-horizon radar to warn it of an imminent secret first-strike attack from the United States.

The Russian military and political leaders are suitably paranoid about this extraordinary post-Cold-War situation. So much so that in January 1995 president Boris Yeltsin came to within 10 seconds of launching his nuclear armada when the launch of a Norwegian weather satellite was misinterpreted in Moscow as a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear attack.

Most towns and cities with populations over 50,000 on the North American continent are targeted with at least one hydrogen bomb. Only 1,000 bombs exploding on 100 cities could induce nuclear winter and the end of most life on earth. There are fewer than 300 major cities in the Northern hemisphere.

Continue reading at the Source

Saturday, October 21, 2006

World against torture

Nearly a third of people worldwide support the use of torture against terror suspects in some circumstances, a BBC survey suggests.

Over 27,000 people in 25 countries, including Israel , were asked if torture was acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives. Fifty-nine percent were opposed to torture, 29 percent replied it an acceptable means to combat terrorism.


Respondents were asked which position was closer to their own views:

a) Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture.

b) Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.

A majority of Jewish respondents in Israel, 53 percent, agreed that the governments should be allowed to use some degree of torture to obtain information from terror suspects, while 39 percent were completely opposed and wanted clear rules against it. However the Muslim population in Israel polled overwhelmingly against any use of torture.

And what do countries who have suffered terror attacks think? In the United States 58 percent oppose torture, 36 percent are in favor and 6 percent haven't made up their minds yet.

In Britain, where a large scale terror plot was recently thwarted, 72 percent are against retrieving information from terror suspects through torture while 24 percent are in favor. Similar figures were apparent in Spain, where 65 percent oppose terror and only 16 percent condone it.

The poll was also conducted in Muslim countries. In Iraq, which suffers daily terror attacks, 42 percent are in favor of torturing terror suspects, 55 percent are against it. In Egypt the figure drops to 25 percent in favor and 62 percent against. The rest are undecided.

And what do countries who have suffered terror attacks think? In the United States 58 percent oppose torture, 36 percent are in favor and 6 percent haven't made up their minds yet.

In Britain, where a large scale terror plot was recently thwarted, 72 percent are against retrieving information from terror suspects through torture while 24 percent are in favor. Similar figures were apparent in Spain, where 65 percent oppose terror and only 16 percent condone it.

The poll was also conducted in Muslim countries. In Iraq, which suffers daily terror attacks, 42 percent are in favor of torturing terror suspects, 55 percent are against it. In Egypt the figure drops to 25 percent in favor and 62 percent against. The rest are undecided.

In three other countries, besides Israel, less than half the population polled against torturing terror suspects. In China – 49 percent were against and 37 percent were in favor.

In Russia, 43 percent polled against and 37 percent were in favor. In India, which has also suffered from terror attacks the data is intriguing – 23 percent are against torture and 23 percent are in favor of the tactic. The remaining 45 percent have yet to make up their minds.

Source

November Surprise?

The US-backed special tribunal in Baghdad signalled Monday that it will likely delay a verdict in the first trial of Saddam Hussein to November 5. Why hasn't the mainstream media connected the dots between the Saddam's judgment day and the midterm elections?



Here's how the story was reported pretty much everywhere: "An Iraqi court trying Saddam Hussein for the killing of Shi'ite villagers in the 1980s could deliver a verdict on November 5, officials said, a ruling which could send the ousted leader to the gallows…"

A possible death-sentence for Saddam and his top lieutenants on November 5? Now, shouldn't that raise a few eyebrows somewhere? If you happen to have a calendar close at hand, pull it over and take a quick look. That verdict would then come, curiously enough, just two days before the midterm elections.

Continue reading Here

Study of Iraqi Dead Shocking, But Sound Science

The Statistical Assessment Service a non-profit, non-partisan media research organization affiliated with George Mason University and committed to correcting scientific misinformation in the media - finds the study estimating 650,000 excess Iraqi casualties since American forces entered the country to be methodologically sound.



In an analyis released today, STATS Director of Research Dr. Rebecca Goldin defended the research technique of cluster sampling behind the study, writing that "the methods used by this study are the only scientific methods we have for discovering death rates in war torn countries without the infrastructure to report all deaths through central means. Instead of dismissing over half a million dead people as a political ploy ... we ought to embrace science as opening our eyes to a tragedy whose death scale has been vastly underestimated until now."

She goes into great detail about both the strengths of the research, as well as the arguments against it.

- Prior Support from the Scientific Community:

While the Lancet numbers are shocking, the study's methodology is not. The scientific community is in agreement over the statistical methods used to collect the data and the validity of the conclusions drawn by the researchers conducting the study. When the prequel to this study appeared two years ago by the same authors (at that time, 100,000 excess deaths were reported), the Chronicle of Higher Education published a long article explaining the support within the scientific community for the methods used.

- The Methodology of "Cluster Sampling":

Cluster sampling is a well-established in statistics, and is routinely used to estimate casualties in natural disasters or war zones. For the Iraq study the researchers randomly chose people to interview about deaths in their families, interviewed a cluster of households around them, and then extrapolated the results to the whole population. There is nothing controversial in the method itself, though people can certainly question whether the sampling was done correctly.

- Attacks on Study are Ideological, not Scientific:

There has been a wealth of material on the web attacking the Lancet study. Most of it is devoid of science, and ranges from outrage at the numbers (it's impossible to believe it could be so high), to accusations of bias based on the authors' views of U.S. foreign policy. Interested parties such as the Iraqi government responded quickly by calling the numbers "inflated" and "far from the truth", rather than putting forward any real reasons why these numbers are unlikely to have occurred. President Bush, for one, says he does "not consider it a credible report."

You can read Dr. Goldin's analysis in its entirety Here

Source

US adopts tough new space policy

The US has adopted a tough new policy aimed at protecting its interests in space and denying "adversaries" access there for hostile purposes. The document - signed by President Bush - also says "freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power".




The document rejects any proposals to ban space weapons. But the White House has said the policy does not call for the development or deployment of weapons in space. However, some military experts warn that by refusing to enter into negotiations on space weaponry, the US is likely to fuel international suspicions that it will develop such weapons.

The 10-page strategic document states that the US national security "is critically dependent upon space capabilities, and this dependence will grow".

"The United States will preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests," it says.

Source

Full Document

Some light humour

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The worst in Iraq is still to come

By Simon Tisdall





In its external aspects, Iraq remains a live, occasionally explosive issue in the US and Britain, as last week's row over General Sir Richard Dannatt's thoughts on a British withdrawal showed. But the deepening chaos inside the country attracts less and less attention. Like sailors long missing at sea, the fate of ordinary Iraqis three years after the country was driven on to the rocks grows increasingly remote from those who precipitated the disaster.

In the US, Iraq is now primarily an electoral rather than a nation-building, humanitarian or counter-terrorism issue. With the Republicans fighting to retain control of Congress in next month's midterm polls, George Bush's Middle East freedom mission has become a hard-nosed numbers game.

The Lancet's politically damaging report that more than 650,000 Iraqis have died since 2003 was swiftly dismissed by the White House. But the fact that October is proving the cruellest month for American soldiers, with an average 3.5 deaths a day so far, is deadlier domestic ammunition for the Democrats.

On related fronts, both American conservatives and Arab reformers worry that, burned by its Iraq experience, the Bush administration is reverting to old thinking - containment, deterrence, and maintenance of the Middle East status quo. And in Britain as in the US, Iraq is now a handy tool in the nuclear proliferation debate. Tony Blair is derided for seeing weapons in Baghdad when, actually, they were in North Korea all along. So who, his opponents ask, can trust him on Iran?

Such political and strategic games reflect a changed state of mind. Although the troops are still there, much of European and US opinion now seems to feel it has entered the "post-Iraq" period. The world has moved on to other issues, it is argued. Relatively soon, both Mr Bush and Mr Blair will be gone. And media interest has diminished, partly because of the evident dangers to reporters but also because the "story" has grown repetitive.

But inside Iraq, the picture appears very different to those who still care to look. As daily sectarian bloodshed, militia anarchy and political incompetence reach unprecedented levels, it seems likely that the worst is yet to come.

One sign came last week when the Shia parliamentary majority rejected Sunni opposition and passed a law allowing partition into autonomous federal regions. It is but a small step from there to national disintegration.

Another grim omen was the indefinite postponement at the weekend of a long-awaited "national reconciliation conference", an initiative central to the prime minister Nuri al-Maliki's efforts for a new start. Almost simultaneously, Sunni insurgents, including al-Qaida, announced the formation of an Iraqi Islamic state.

Policymakers agree the US approach has to change. The argument is about how, and to what end. The focus of the former secretary of state James Baker's Iraq Study Group, currently examining the issue at Mr Bush's behest, is not how to make Iraq a glowing success but how to prevent it becoming a permanent failure endangering US interests. Options under discussion include asking Iran and Syria for help and containment via a phased withdrawal to friendly neighbouring countries.

"The starting point is to recognise that Iraq is not going to be a democratic, unified country that serves as a model for the region," Dennis Ross, the Clinton administration's Middle East negotiator, told the Washington Post. Whatever happened, the US should set a withdrawal timetable, he said. That sounds very much like Gen Dannatt's "lowered ambitions".

In a report for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Anthony Cordesman takes a more holistic approach reflecting Washington's responsibilities as well as its self-interest. He discusses a wide range of measures, including international military and economic incentives to facilitate Iraqi reconciliation. And he warns that new remedies are urgently required.

"Iraq is already in a state of serious civil war and current efforts at political compromise and improving security at best are buying time," he says. "There is a critical risk that Iraq will drift into a major civil conflict over the coming months ... The US cannot simply 'stay the course' and rely on existing actions and strategy. It needs new options."

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Poll: 16% believe Bush Administration told truth about 9/11

A poll conducted last week by the New York Times and CBS news found that just 16% of Americans believe the Bush Administration is telling the truth about what they knew prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.




Poll participants were asked, "do you think members of the Bush Administration are telling the truth, are mostly telling the truth but hiding something, or are they mostly lying?"

53% of respondents indicated they believe the Bush Administration was hiding something, and another 28% reported that they think the administration is mostly lying "when it comes to what they knew prior to September 11th, 2001, about possible terrorist attacks against the United States."

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British hostages demand inquiry into Kuwait spying claims

British "human shields" taken hostage by Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf war demanded a public inquiry today into allegations that the government put their lives at risk to allow a secret operation to go ahead.



They were among 367 passengers and crew seized by Iraqi troops when British Airways flight 149 landed in Kuwait hours after the invasion of the country on August 2 1990.

Their demand for an inquiry was sparked by new claims published by author Stephen Davis that the flight was being used to transport undercover agents into Kuwait.

At a press conference in the House of Commons today, crew and passengers described how around nine men joined the flight unannounced as it was delayed on the tarmac at Heathrow, then disappeared immediately after its arrival in Kuwait City.

John Major, the Conservative chancellor at the time, has previously denied rumours that the mysterious men may have been special-forces troops, insisting that no military personnel were on board.

But Mr Davis now says that he has obtained documentary evidence, along with interviews with up to six sources - including one of the men on board the plane and one of the operation's organisers - indicating that they were on a secret mission to gain intelligence on the movement of Saddam's troops.

He said that BA was wary of allowing the flight, bound for the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to stop off in Kuwait for refuelling while Iraqi troops were massing on the border, but the airline was assured by a British embassy official that it would be safe to land.

Mr Davis alleged that this official was in fact the station chief for MI6, which was in charge of organising the operation.

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Canada blocks bid by Arab countries for vote Israel's nuclear capabilities

More than a dozen Arab countries were blocked by a Canadian motion in their bid to have a vote on a resolution labelling Israel's nuclear capabilities a threat on the final day of the International Atomic Energy Agency's annual meeting.



The draft resolution, which also called upon Israel to join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, was blocked from going to a vote Friday by the Canadian delegate.

The final session of the UN nuclear watchdog agency's weeklong meeting did adopt a separate, non-binding resolution calling on all Middle Eastern countries to accept IAEA safeguards and take steps toward the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone. Israel and the United States were the only two countries that voted against it. Three countries abstained.

The measure calling Israel's program a threat, which was co-sponsored by Iran, was kept from going to a vote after 45 countries backed a no-action motion by the Canadian delegate, effectively adjourning the debate Friday evening.

Among those supporting the effort to block the vote were the United States, Israel, France, Germany and Britain. Those abstaining included China, Russia and Nigeria, among others.

The 15 Arab countries behind the resolution, which would also have been non-binding, had hoped to send a signal to Israel following its monthlong war with Hezbollah, which killed hundreds of people - most of them civilians - in Lebanon.

"Peace and nuclear weapons are two enemies - there is no cohabitation," said Ramzy Ramzy, head of the Egyptian delegation to the meeting and his country's ambassador to Austria.

In co-sponsoring the resolution, Iran was also seeking to counter criticism of its own nuclear program, which the United States and others insist is aimed at the production of atomic weapons. Iran insists it only wants to generate power.

"Iran...has always called for establishing a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction...It is of profound regret that this issue is trapped in a vicious cycle," said Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA.

Arab countries at the annual conference have regularly threatened to submit such a resolution but in past years have opted instead to voice their concerns about Israel's nuclear program through a statement from the conference president, which carries less weight than a resolution.

The last time such a resolution was submitted at the annual IAEA conference was in 1991. It passed.

Israel neither confirms nor denies its nuclear status but is considered to be the only country in the region with nuclear weapons. Israel does not accept IAEA controls on its nuclear activities.

Israel's ambassador to the IAEA said efforts to bring security to the Middle East should be focused on peace efforts, not necessarily arms control.

"The fundamental goal in the Middle East, as in other regions, is obtaining regional peace, security and stability, not arms control per se," Israel Michaeli said.

The draft resolution was submitted earlier this week by 15 countries: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

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Australia : Mea culpa mate

FORMER Defence chief General Peter Cosgrove has apologised to Federal Police boss Mick Keelty and now admits that the Iraq war has boosted global terrorism.






Just days before the launch of his autobiography My Story, General Cosgrove told The Sunday Telegraph that his comments criticising Mr Keelty's view that the Iraq war had inspired terrorist attacks in Spain, were made just days after the event.

"At that time I just felt that call could not be made," he said.

"Things have moved on. I have got no reason to argue the weighty assessments that I am seeing.

"If people say that there has been an energising of the jihadist movement through the protracted war in Iraq - well that's pretty obvious."

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