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Saturday, February 07, 2009

By Melissa RossiI am truly alarmed at the idea that Israel is indeed our 51st state -- falling, apparently between Indiana and Kansas -- but this idea is fairly entrenched in US foreign policy. After all, unbeknownst to most Americans, Israel -- an affluent country -- receives more US foreign aid than ANY other country in the world -- and the bulk of it goes for arms, a result of the 1979 Camp David Agreement that brought Israeli-Egyptian peace, as I note in this entry. Continue

By Andrew Sullivan
In order to prevent any details of its torture record being publicly disseminated, the Bush administration threatened the British government with withdrawal of intelligence sharing if they allowed a court to publish the redacted evidence. Foreign secretary David Miliband denied this on Wednesday, but the letters from the US have been released by Channel 4 News. And their message is unmistakable. Continue

Britain: Foreign Office colludes with US to cover-up torture of Binyam Mohamed

By Robert Stevens

A High Court ruling by two British judges regarding the torture of a Guantánamo detainee has unleashed a major political crisis. The judges have stated that they have been pressured by the United States into concealing evidence that should be made available in any country governed by the rule of law. This took the form of threats to withdraw security cooperation, instigated under the Bush administration and continued under Barak Obama's presidency. Continue

By Jacob G. Hornberger
After the WMDs failed to materialize, American Christians had an option: They could have called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops. Instead, they did the exact opposite. They supported the continued occupation of Iraq, with full knowledge that U.S. troops would have to continue killing Iraqis in order to solidify the occupation.
"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people"
- John Adams -
-Second President -
1797 - 1801

Friday, February 06, 2009

They still believe that they are above the law!!!!!!!!!

Rove: I won't comply with House subpoenas
Lawyer signals Rove cooperating with Justice Dept.Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove "won't comply" with congressional subpoenas, according to a newspaper report of an event held in Los Angeles earlier this week.
Rove spoke Tuesday evening at Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit institution in Los Angeles, as part of the school's "First Amendment Week."
"One man loudly denounced Rove as a 'traitor' before he was escorted out," the Loyola Daily Breeze noted. "A woman held up a pair of handcuffs and said she would like to see Rove wearing them."
Rove mounted a "sprited defense" of Bush policies: warrantless wiretapping, Guantanamo Bay and so-called harsh interrogations. But among the questions bearing relevance on Rove's current predicament -- one answer stood out.
One questioner asked Rove whether he would comply with Congressionalsubpoenas. Rove was subpoenaed last month to testify to the House Judiciary Committee about his knowledge surrounding the firings of US Attorneys and the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.
Rove "said he would not, and cited Janet Reno, President Clinton's attorney general, as his authority in resisting Congressional infringements on executive privilege."
His answer seems to contrast the sentiment of his Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, who told an investigative reporter earlier this week that Rove was cooperating with two Justice Department probes into the US Attorney firings and the Siegelman case.
"I can say that he would cooperate with the [Justice Department] investigation if asked," Luskin said. He made no such specific commitment to an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, or the Senate Judiciary Committee, both of which have subpoenaed him to testify on the cases.

3 minutes ago
Charges against USS Cole bombing suspect removed 'without prejudice.'

Thursday, February 05, 2009



WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will not conduct the kind of "extraordinary rendition" that the Bush administration allowed, CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta assured senators on Thursday.
Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Barack Obama forbids what Panetta called "that kind of extraordinary rendition _ when we send someone for the purpose of torture or actions by another country that violate our human values."
CIA Director Michael Hayden has said that the Bush administration moved secret prisoners between countries for interrogations and imprisonment, separate from the judicial system, fewer than 100 times.
Rendition has been used by U.S. presidents for several decades, and Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said the Clinton administration used it 80 times. However, Panetta said the difference is whether the prisoner is transferred to another government for prosecution in its judicial system or for secret interrogations that may cross the line into torture.
"I think renditions where we return individuals to another country where they prosecute them under their laws, I think that is an appropriate use of rendition, Panetta said.


AP Accuses Obama Artist Shepard Fairey Of Copyright Infringement

NEW YORK — On buttons, posters and Web sites, the image was everywhere during last year's presidential campaign: a pensive Barack Obama looking upward, as if to the future, splashed in a Warholesque red, white and blue and underlined with the caption HOPE.
Designed by Shepard Fairey, a Los-Angeles based street artist, the image has led to sales of hundreds of thousands of posters and stickers, and has become so much in demand that copies signed by Fairey have been purchased for thousands of dollars on eBay.
The image, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club in Washington.
The AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees.
"The Associated Press has determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission," the AP's director of media relations, Paul Colford, said in a statement. "AP safeguards its assets and looks at these events on a case-by-case basis. We have reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution."
"We believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here," says Fairey's lawyer, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University and a lecturer at the Stanford Law School. "It wouldn't be appropriate to comment beyond that at this time because we are in discussions about this with the AP."

AMEN: The Republicans have zero cred.

Political Author, Blogger, and New Media Producer
Regardless of the differing ideas about the details of the recovery bill, there's one thing that most of us can agree about: the Republicans can't be trusted on the economy and they can't be trusted to meddle with the recovery bill. I mean, they met with Joe the Plumber on the Hill this week to discuss the economy. They should be summarily shut out of this process -- whether or not the president wants them out. The Republicans have zero cred.
On Wednesday night former Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card told "Inside Edition" that he's not pleased with President Obama's lax Oval Office appearance. (Obama has instituted an even more relaxed weekend dress code.)
WRITEDOWNS on Dow Jones and other assets drive News Corp to post $US5.9bn loss.

NSW to be hottest place on the planet with temperatures to top 47 degrees

NSW hottest place on the planet
IT'S going to be hotter than the deserts of Africa on Sunday.
NOT even the plains of Africa or the deserts of the Middle East will be as hot as New South Wales on Sunday. The state will become the hottest place on the planet, with the current heatwave sending temperatures soaring to 47C. Worst hit will be residents in the western NSW towns of Ivanhoe, Tibooburra and Broken Hill.
Sydney will not be spared either, with the mercury set to reach 44C in the western suburb of Penrith on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph reports.
While the hot, dry and windy conditions are expected to pose an extreme fire danger, parents across the state have also been warned their children's sports matches may not go ahead if coaches deem it too hot to play. The initiative has been applauded by medical authorities, who said the unusually warm conditions were particularly dangerous for the young and the elderly.

Michael Phelps, Hypocrisy, and American Drug...

Will poor Americans, overwhelmingly minority in ethnicity, continue to be arrested by local police for the possession of small amounts of pot?

A study released [in April, 2008] reported that between 1998 and 2007 [in New York City], the police arrested 374,900 people whose most serious crime was the lowest-level misdemeanor marijuana offense. That is more than eight times the number of arrests on those same charges between 1988 and 1997, when 45,300 people were picked up for having a small amount of pot...
...Nearly everyone involved in this wave of marijuana arrests is male: 90 percent were men, although national studies show that men and women use pot in roughly equal rates. And 83 percent of those charged in these cases were black or Latino, according to the study. Blacks accounted for 52 percent of the arrests, twice their share of the city's population. Whites, who are about 35 percent of the population, were only 15 percent of those charged -- even though federal surveys show that whites are more likely than blacks or Latinos to use pot.
Among the pretty large population of white people who have used pot and not been arrested for it is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Asked during the 2001 campaign by New York magazine if he had ever smoked it, Mr. Bloomberg replied: "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it." After he was elected and his remarks were used in advertisements by marijuana legalization advocates, Mr. Bloomberg said his administration would vigorously enforce the laws.While marijuana laws have changed over time, and while past administrations have attempted to show that the situation isn't as dire as it appears to be, drug policy in the United States is immensely hypocritical and destructive. Today, public figures justify past drug use as "youthful indiscretions" and the matter is dropped. But huge numbers of ordinary Americans are introduced to the jail system because of minor drug offenses, and as the records show, the overwhelmingly disproportionate nature of drug arrests creates a justified perception of injustice and both economic and racial bias.
Will Michael Phelps have to go to court for his actions? No. (Nor should he have to.) Will any law enforcement jurisdiction in America conduct a systematic raid of a college dorm at a prominent university with the goal of arresting everyone in possession of marijuana? Of course not. If such an action was taken on a broad scale, the arrests would likely be in the thousands. At the same time, will poor Americans, overwhelmingly minority in ethnicity, continue to be arrested by local police for the possession of small amounts of pot? Absolutely.
Before he was president, Obama indicated that he was well aware that marijuana laws needed to be reformed and that the mythology of the "war on drugs" was nothing more than a fairy tale:

Photo of Phelps smoking bong unites pot smokers
The photo circulating around the Internet of world-famous Olympian Michael Phelps smoking a bong seems to be getting a positive response from the outspoken internet community of marijuana users. The photo first appeared in 'News of the World,' and made its way to the celebrity magazines.
CNN's Jeanne Moos reports that the PR fiasco that has surrounded this picture has come mostly in the form of You-tube parodies and clever blog-spots. Eddie Izzard responded with a 'Stoned Olympics' routine. A Facebook group titled 'I don't care that Michael Phelps smoked a bong' sprung up and attracted hundreds of members overnight. Given that Michael Phelps was the most popular person on Facebook this summer, topping even Barack Obama, it seems natural -- even organic -- that the Internet community could forgive him for smoking pot.
The Richland County sheriff alleges that Phelps may face charges, if the date of the photo was recorded. "I just don't think...you can publicize and say I'm sorry, and we'll just forget about it. He's not above the law.
"However, after Jeanne Moos' report, CNN's American Morning anchor John Roberts questioned the sheriff's assertion. "I don't think smoking it is a crime," he said.
Somali pirates are paid record $3.5 million ransom for MV Faina
Somali pirates holding a ship laden with Russian tanks were believed to be preparing to release the vessel last night after being paid up to $3.5 million (£2.3 million), the biggest ransom on record. The MV Faina was hijacked more than four months ago.
US warships and helicopters have kept a watch amid fears that her 33 T72 tanks and other weaponry could fall into the hands of Islamists who are waging a bloody insurgency on land.
Last night Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers Association, said that talks to free the Ukrainian-operated vessel and her 20-strong crew had concluded. “We hear they are counting the money but I don’t want to say any more until the crew is on dry land,” he added. “The ship could be released in the middle of the night or at daybreak.”
A businessman in the town of Galkayo said: “The crew will be free anytime from now.”
Up to 50 pirates may have been involved. The ship’s Russian captain died soon after the hijacking from a stroke, according to the first mate.
Small dinghies brought food and water from the mainland to the 150m long vessel to feed the crew of Ukrainians, Russians and a Latvian. The pirates made sure they could celebrate the end of Ramadan by bringing aboard a consignment of goats to barbecue on deck.
The record Faina ransom follows a lucrative few months for Somalia’s modern-day brigands. They snatched 42 ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in 2008 in a series of increasingly bold attacks. Their success provoked an unprecedented international response. Europe, Nato, Russia, India and China all sent warships to police shipping lanes

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Arab Bloggers Hail Turkey's PM "Leader Of The World" After Israel Slam

I thought good for you, when I was watching it, He was absolutely right to walk out.

Egypt: Erdoğan, Leader of the World

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip has new fans across the Arab world, notably in Egypt where one blogger went on to describe him as the “leader of the world.” Another sees fault in Arab leaders who are not standing up for the Palestinian cause.
By storming out of a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and after the moderator refused to give him extra time to rebut Israeli President Shimon Peres' explanation of what happened during the Israel-Gaza conflict, Erdoğan is getting the thumbs up from bloggers.
Maher Mahmoud wrote in his blog Kelmety:

Obama Seeks Narrower Focus in Afghan War

Situation Is Much Worse Than New Administration Realized and Will Take Time to Address
As President Obama prepares to formally authorize the April deployment of two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, perhaps as early as this week, no issue other than the U.S. economy appears as bleak to his administration as the seven-year Afghan war and the regional challenges that surround it.
A flurry of post-inauguration activity -- presidential meetings with top diplomatic and military officials, the appointment of a high-level Afghanistan-Pakistan envoy and the start of a White House-led strategic review -- was designed to show forward motion and resolve, senior administration officials said.
But newly installed officials describe a situation on the ground that is far more precarious than they had anticipated, along with U.S. government departments that are poorly organized to implement the strategic outline that Obama presented last week to his National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
With a 60-day deadline, tied to an April 3 NATO summit, Obama has called for a more regional outlook and a more narrowly focused Afghanistan policy that sets priorities among counterinsurgency and development goals. "The president . . . wants to hear from the uniformed leadership and civilian advisers as to what the situation is and their thoughts as to the way forward," a senior administration official said. "But he has also given pretty direct guidance."
The problem confronting the administration is how to fill in Obama's broad strokes while fighting a war that, by all accounts, is going badly. "It could take quite a long time to look at all the various aspects of this," the senior official said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates predicted last week that the war will be "a long slog" with an uncertain outcome. Richard C. Holbrooke, the new Afghanistan-Pakistan envoy, who left yesterday for his first visit to the region, expects to spend weeks gathering information before he has much advice to give.
Meanwhile, the senior official acknowledged, "the world moves, obviously."
Secret report recommends military shift in Afghanistan
The Pentagon is prepared to announce the deployment of 17,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan as early as this week even as President Barack Obama is searching for his own strategy for the war. According to military officials during last week's meeting with Defense Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon's "tank," the president specifically asked, "What is the end game?" in the U.S. military's strategy for Afghanistan. When asked what the answer was, one military official told NBC News, "Frankly, we don't have one." But they're working on it.
Senior military officials confirm to NBC News that a secret report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Obama recommends a shift in the military mission in Afghanistan to concentrate solely on combatting the Taliban and al-Qaida and leave the "hearts and minds" aspect of the war to other U.S. agencies and NATO.
The officials stress this strategy would NOT abandon the so-called "soft-side" of the war, to establish good governance, law enforcement, economics, education, etc., but instead hand those responsbilitities over to the State Justice, Agriculture departments and others. "This is a classic counnterinsurgency strategy, but the military can not do it alone."
According to the officials, the Taliban "has definitely gained the upper hand" in some areas of Afghanistan, particularly the South, because there's just too much territory and too few American forces to "clear and hold" an area. "The Taliban is no match" for U.S. forces, but once the Americans drive the Taliban from a region, then leave, the Taliban immediately filter back in and regain control. "In many remote areas, the Taliban have established 'shadow governments' and in some cases gained the confidence and support of the locals.
"We need a strategy that will convince the Afghan people (in the remote areas) that the Taliban's extemism is no longer attractive as a government or a career." To do that, the strategy must first make the Afghans feel secure, then establish good governance, local security, jobs and education. "But that is not the miltiary's job." according to one official. "We can build the schools, we can build the courthouses, but we (the military) can not help them establish the good goverernance, justice and educations sytems" that are needed. In a speech earlier this week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen empasized that ultimately to win the war, "the center of gravity (in Afghanistan) is the Afghan people."

Australia's Deadly Heat Wave Overwhelms Morgue

Morgue packed as city swelters
ADELAIDE has run out of space at the morgue as the city's killer heatwave drags on, forcing authorities to store corpses in a refrigerated freight container.
The central morgue is usually less than a third full, holding an average of 25 bodies, but only one of its 72 refrigerated compartments was unused yesterday, forcing temporary space for another 12 bodies to be set up in a 6m storage container.
Adelaide has recorded more than 75 sudden deaths since last Thursday, when temperatures climbed into the mid-40s, but the Health Department will not say how many were related to the most prolonged heatwave in the city in 70 years.
The scale of the emergency was highlighted yesterday when Health Minister John Hill told state parliament 600 patients had been treated in hospital for heat-related illnesses.

109 Journalists Killed In 2008: International Federation Of Journalists

How Many On Georgies Watch?
BRUSSELS — At least 109 reporters and media workers were killed last year while on assignment and Iraq remains the deadliest place for a journalist to work, the International Federation of Journalists said Wednesday.
In its annual report on press freedom, the group said covering stories in hot spots remained a "perilous" task for journalists, camera operators, producers and photographers. It also urged governments to "step up" efforts to stop the killing of journalists.
"The welcome relief brought about by the decline in the killings of journalists in 2008 has been short-lived," said Aidan White, general secretary of the IFJ. "Ten colleagues died in January (2009) alone."
The IFJ had reported 175 deaths of media workers in 2007, both deliberate and accidental. The group counts all people employed by media organizations who died performing their duties, including not only journalists but also interpreters and drivers.
Another group defending journalists' rights, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, estimated in January that 86 journalists were killed worldwide in 2008.
White said Iraq remains the "deadliest" place to work despite a sharp drop in the murder rate of media staff. Sixteen journalists were killed in Iraq in 2008, compared with 65 in 2007. The decline was due to lessening sectarian violence in Iraq, the group said.
The risks remain high in Iraq, however, and the IFJ says 284 media staff are estimated to have died there since the U.S. -led military operation started in 2003. Most of those killed were Iraqi nationals.

Wall Street whines about Obama pay cap

Horror: Recruiter Had Iraqi Women Raped To Turn Them Into Suicide Bombers

BAGHDAD — A woman accused of helping recruit dozens of female suicide bombers looked into the camera and described the process: trolling society for likely candidates and then patiently converting the women from troubled souls into deadly attackers.
The accounts, in a video released Tuesday by Iraq police, offer a rare glimpse into the networks used to find and train the women bombers who have become one of the insurgents' most effective weapons as they struggle under increasing crackdowns.
In a separate prison interview with The Associated Press, with interrogators nearby, the woman said she was part of a plot in which young women were raped and then sent to her for matronly advice. She said she would try to persuade the victims to become suicide bombers as their only escape from the shame and to reclaim their honor.
The AP was allowed access on condition the information would not be released until the formal announcement of the arrest.

Obama Signs SCHIP: "This Is A Down Payment On My Promise To Cover Every American"

President Obama signed an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program Wednesday afternoon. "This is a down payment on my promise to cover every American," he said.
The bill went to the White House fresh from passage in the Democratic-controlled House, on a vote of 290-135. Forty Republicans joined in approval.

Health Benefits For Unemployed Stripped From Stimulus, HuffPost Readers Find

Reading even a single page of a Senate bill is often no simple task, with legislative-ese obscuring the purpose behind the language. Reading 736 pages of the stuff is like mountain climbing in a wheelchair.
So we outsourced the work to Huffington Post readers: 367 people responded to the call and signed up to read portions of the Senate stimulus bill, compare it to the House bill passed earlier, and look for anything else interesting or newsworthy in it. Hundreds more posted their finds in the comments section below the full text of the bill. Responses that came in earlier are featured here.
The readers who signed up brought varying degrees of expertise to the project. One reader, who wanted to stay anonymous, is a consultant who works with the Department of Defense doing facilities and infrastructure assessments to determine the need for just the kinds of projects included in the section of the bill he read. Another, Tim Dickinson, is a politics reporter for Rolling Stone. Dickinson quickly found that the Senate had increased funding for STD prevention to $400 million. (Senate Republicans found that appalling and have succeeded in stripping it from the bill.)
Citizen journalism is still in its infancy and there will be many more opportunities around budget time to dig through congressional and presidential products. If you were one of the hundreds of people who contributed -- or signed up to, but didn't end up having time -- let us know where the kinks are. How could it have been smoother?
To join the team for the next round of research, sign up here.

Solis Gets Committee Vote Tomorrow

By Elana Schor - February 4, 2009, 5:34PM
President Obama's Labor Secretary nominee, former Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), will get her long-awaited confirmation vote in the Senate labor committee tomorrow, a aide to that panel just told me.
Solis' nomination had been slowed down by Republicans seeking to twist her arm on the Employee Free Choice Act, a longtime priority of the labor movement and a stated goal of the Obama administration. (Here's more from Matt on the internal politics of that debate.)
The committee has the votes to approve Solis even if every GOPer dissents. The question then is if, and how quickly, a Republican senator subsequently places an anonymous hold on her nomination. We'll be watching.

Chris Wallace: My Grandson Is "Completely Obsessed" With Obama

Fox News' Chris Wallace spoke to Politico about his interview with President Obama Tuesday. Wallace, who Obama said on-air has "always been gracious" towards him, told Politico that he instructed the President to have more "energy" in their interview, not "emotion" as reported by one media blog.
Wallace also told Obama that his three-year-old grandson, William, is a huge fan of the President's — so much so that he won't go to sleep unless he's told Obama is asleep:
Meanwhile, before air, Wallace also told Obama a story of his 3-year-old grandson, William and of course whipped out a photo for the President. His grandson apparently, is a huge Obama supporter. "He's been watching with his mom and has become completely obsessed," Wallace tells us, "so much so he refuses to go to bed. And the only way that his mother could get him to sleep is, he'll say 'Is Obama asleep?' And his mother will say 'yes' and he'll respond with "OK then I'll go to sleep.'" This is at 8:15p.m., by the way. Obama loved this story and 20 minutes later, after the interview ended he said "Be sure to say to William for me.'"
Wallace also had high praise for thew new President.
"The thing that struck me the most was how easily and how comfortably he wears the mantle of the Presidency," he said. "He seems completely at ease with the job and the trappings and the responsibilities and seemed completely serene - and it was a tough day yesterday."

: Bush SEC Holdovers Stonewall Congress On Madoff Scandal

Following the scorching Congressional testimony from whistleblower Harry Markopolos, who spent eight fruitless years trying to bring the Madoff scandal to light, Securities and Exchange officials today declined to answer many of Financial Services Committee's most basic questions.
A particularly contentious exchange took place between Rep. Gary Ackerman and the SEC's acting general counsel, Andy Vollmer.
In response to Mr. Vollmer's refusal to answer questions, Mr. Ackerman asks three times whether the Bush holdover citing executive branch immunity.
"Yes, it is, in part," he finally answered.
SEC Official Claims Executive Privilege In Refusing to Answer Madoff Questions

Israel says troops were fired on before shelling home where Gaza doctor's girls died

Source: Chicago Tribune/Associated Press
Israel says troops were fired on before shelling home where Gaza doctor's girls died
By Associated Press
1:29 PM CST, February 4, 2009
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Palestinian doctor became a symbol of the Gaza offensive after he captivated Israeli TV viewers with a sobbing live report on the death of his three daughters in Israeli shelling. On Wednesday, Israel's military said its troops were fired on from nearby and called the mistaken identification of people in his house as combatants "reasonable."
The 55-year-old gynecologist is a rarity among Palestinians, a Hebrew speaker who trained in Israeli hospitals.
Throughout the war, he brought accounts of war's tragedy to Israeli living rooms through TV interviews, making him for many the voice of Palestinian suffering. He often spoke of his fears for his eight children.
But on Jan. 16, he answered his cell phone, crying, and told Channel 10 that his house in the northern Gaza strip town of Jebalia had been hit by Israeli shells and his daughters, ages 22, 15 and 14, were killed.
Abu al-Aish is a known peace activist and an academic who studied the affects of war on Gazan and Israeli children.

Kyrgyzstan closing US base key to Afghan conflict

Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW (AP) -- Kyrgyzstan's president said Tuesday his country is ending U.S. use of an air base key to military operations in Afghanistan- a decision with potentially grave consequences for U.S. efforts to put down surging Taliban and al-Qaida violence.
A U.S. military official in Afghanistan called President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's statement "political positioning" and denied the U.S. presence at the Manas air base would end anytime soon.
The United States is preparing to deploy an additional 15,000 troops in Afghanistan and Manas is an important stopover for U.S. materiel and personnel.
Ending U.S. access would be a significant victory for Moscow in its efforts to squeeze the United States out of Central Asia, home to substantial oil and gas reserves and seen by Russia as part of its strategic sphere of influence.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev spoke on a visit to Moscow minutes after Russia announced it was providing the poor Central Asian nation with billions of dollars in aid.


As if President Obama didn't have enough to worry about with the economy in turmoil and his cabinet nominees under fire.
Now the British government is alleging that the United States threatened to withhold shared intelligence if evidence of the torture of a British citizen at Guantanamo Bay is released.
The allegation was made by British foreign secretary David Milliband, who told the United Kingdom's High Court that if evidence was disclosed, the US would stop sharing intelligence with the UK, an action that would directly threaten British national security.
The UK resident, Binyam Mohamed, launched a challenge in British court to force the public release of documents detailing his treatment. Mohamed is presently in a hunger strike at the US detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at last report was in an emaciated state. He says confessions he made regarding his involvement with terrorism resulted from torture.
The statement by Milliband led to scathing criticism from two High Court judges who were nevertheless compelled to rule that the documents must remain secret because of the US threat. "In the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States," the judges said, "it was in our view difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported, as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.
"Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials," they continued, "relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.
"We had no reason," said the judges, "to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports."
The ruling sparked the ire of Conservative MP David Davis, who said in Parliament that UK ministers must answer to charges that Britain was complicit in torture and demanded a statement by Milliband to the House of Commons explaining "what the devil is going on."
The US threat had been originally issued by the Bush administration, Davis charged, adding that Milliband must explain "whether the new Obama administration supported its predecessor's stance on the issue."
For its part, the office of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, "We have not engaged with the [Obama] administration on the detail of this case" and that the UK government "would 'unreservedly condemn' the use of torture and any allegations of mistreatment would be taken 'very seriously.'"
The Obama administration has yet to officially comment on the situation.
Author, journalist and Raw Story contributor Andy Worthington, who has closely monitored the ongoing Guantanamo Bay detentions, says "the bitter truth ... is that Guantanamo is still being run as if the Bush administration remains in control."

'Bush loyalists' may undermine, then 'sabotage' Obama

When the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that President Obama had preserved the use of renditions -- the secret capture, transportation and detention of suspected terrorists to foreign prisons in countries that cooperate with the U.S. -- for the CIA's anti-terror toolbox, many liberals were outraged.Some charged that the paper was "punked" by former CIA officials, or that the writer just plain got things wrong. On Monday night, MSNBC's Rachael Maddow wondered aloud if "Bush loyalists" who remain in government are trying to "undermine" President Obama. Maddow's guest, a contributing editor with Harper's magazine, agreed with her line of questioning, and even went so far as to say, "I think we may see sabotage as well."


Rush Limbaugh Loses a Popularity Contest

by Max Blumenthal
Congressional Republicans have turned to Rush Limbaugh to lead the battle against Obama. One problem: A poll says he's less popular than Jeremiah Wright.
Republicans who have turned to Rush Limbaugh to lead the fight against President Obama may have backed the wrong horse. According to one recent poll, Limbaugh turns out to be one of the most unpopular political figures in the country.
An October 24, 2008, poll conducted by the Democratic research firm Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner has Rush Limbaugh enjoying a public approval rating of just 21 percent among likely voters, while 58 percent have “cold” feelings towards the right-wing radio talk show host. Limbaugh was the least popular of the all the political figures the firm polled. He polls seven points lower than Rev. Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright and eight points below former Weather Underground domestic terrorist William Ayers.
Rush polls seven points lower than Rev. Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright and eight points below former Weather Underground domestic terrorist William Ayers.
Limbaugh is so unpopular only 44 percent of Republican voters reported “warm” feelings towards him, ten points less than those who felt the same way about Limbaugh’s top competitor, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and a full 20 points lower than Fox News itself. Yet in spite of rock-bottom favorable numbers, Limbaugh confidently declared one week after Obama’s inauguration that his power far exceeded that of the Republican Party’s top two leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives. Obama, Limbaugh roared, is “obviously more frightened of me than he is Mitch McConnell. He's more frightened of me, than he is of, say, John Boehner, which doesn't say much about our party.”
Obama seems unfazed by El Rushbo. The President recently implored Republican leaders, “You can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”

Dem Aide: McCain, Lieberman And Kyl To Skip Stimulus Vote

That Wanker Lieberman should have been tossed out on his ass immediately Obama was inaugurated President
The Senate is prepared for one of its most important votes in decades this weekend, whether to approve President Obama's economic stimulus package. Republicans are pushing back against Obama and Democrats are one vote short of the number needed to cut off debate and pass the stimulus.
Yet not all of the senators plan to show up. Three crucial lawmakers intend to be elsewhere.
John McCain, Jon Kyl and Joseph Lieberman are scheduled to travel to Munich, Germany for a conference on foreign affairs over the weekend. Democrats have so far been unable to persuade them to stay home for the vote, a senior Senate aide familiar with their travel plans said.
McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has said that he opposes the current stimulus bill. Kyl, also an Arizona Republican, is the Senate's minority whip in charge of corralling GOP votes and opposes the current bill. Lieberman campaigned on behalf of McCain during the presidential campaign and subsequently battled to remain a member of the Democratic caucus.
The two Republicans and one independent plan to attend the 45th Annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, the aide said. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend the conference, as is General James Jones, National Security Adviser to President Obama.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

European Activists Call For Bush To Be Tried For Torture

BERLIN, Feb 2 (IPS) - Now that former U.S. president George W. Bush is an ordinary citizen again, many legal and human rights activists in Europe are demanding that he and high-ranking members of his government be brought before justice for crimes against humanity committed in the so-called war on terror.
"Judicial clarification of the crimes against international law the former U.S. government committed is one of the most delicate issues that the new U.S. president Barack Obama will have to deal with," Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the European Centre for Human and Constitutional Rights told IPS.
U.S. justice will have to "deal with the turpitudes committed by the Bush government," says Kaleck, who has already tried unsuccessfully to sue the former U.S. authorities in European courts. "And, furthermore, the U.S. government will have to pay compensation to the innocent people who were victims of these crimes."
Kaleck and other legal experts consider Bush and his highest-ranking officials responsible for crimes against humanity, such as torture.
Many agree that the evidence against the U.S. government is overwhelming. U.S. officials have admitted some crimes such as waterboarding, where a victim is tied up and water is poured into the air passages. Also, human rights activists have gathered testimonies by innocent victims of torture, especially some prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
In an interview with the German public television network ZDF, Austrian human rights lawyer Manfred Nowak, UN special rapporteur on torture, said that numerous cases of torture ordered by U.S. officials and perpetrated by U.S. authorities are well documented.
"We possess all the evidence which proves that the torture methods used in interrogation by the U.S. government were explicitly ordered by former U.S. defence minister Donald Rumsfeld," Nowak told ZDF. "Obviously, these orders were given with the highest U.S. authorities' knowledge."
HILLARY Clinton's first trip as Secretary of State could include Australia under a plan being considered by the United States.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Lesson In Propaganda, Distortion and Deception
Israeli President Shimon Peres says many countries silently support the offensive in Gaza.
By Uri Avnery
A Spanish judge has instituted a judicial inquiry against seven Israeli political and military personalities on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case: the 2002 dropping of a one-ton bomb on the home of Hamas leader Salah Shehade. Apart from the intended victim, 14 people, most of them children, were killed.

Source: Liberal Groups Raking In Money Off GOP Opposition To Stimulus

Whatever you think of the politics of it, the House GOP’s decision to oppose President Obama’s stimulus package en masse has been awfully good for the left’s fundraising.
According to a source close to the Campaign for Jobs and Recovery, which is the group coordinating efforts by labor unions and other outside liberal groups to push Obama’s stim package and target its GOP opponents, the group raised nearly a half a million dollars in the 48 hours following the House vote.
Money continues to “roll in at a steady clip,” the source says.
Indeed, WaPo’s Chris Cillizza reports that the group is uncorking a new slate of TV ads targeting Republican Senators that will cost in the neighborhood of $600,000. So the House GOP’s actions, in effect, are funding ads against their Senate counterparts.

Iraq's Shocking Human Toll: About 1 Million Killed, 4.5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Widows, 5 Million Orphans

John Tirman, The Nation.
...The United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. The availability of healthcare, clean water, functioning schools, jobs and so forth remains elusive. According to Unicef, many provinces report that less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water. More than 40 percent of children in Basra, and more than 70 percent in Baghdad, cannot attend school....

U.S. Sold Phosphorus Shells Used in Gaza to Israel

Associated PressThe United States sold phosphorus artillery shells made at the Pine Bluff Arsenal to Israel — the same kind of rounds allegedly used against civilians during the recent fighting in Gaza. A State Department official told The Associated Press that the rounds — typically used to light up darkened battlefields or provide smoke cover for combat troops — were most recently shipped to Israel in 2007. International human rights groups accuse the Israeli military of firing the chemical rounds into civilian homes, causing severe burns to those inside and killing at least one woman...
continua / continued

Gaza War Crimes Go Unpunished:

So that's that then, is it? Gaza is done and dusted? Very satisfying, I'm sure, for the Israeli leadership and their devoted allies at the BBC. But not so fast. For the one and a half million traumatised and wounded souls in that small strip, unendurable agony goes on. The very earth they stand on burns and cracks. And I am not here indulging a writer's tendency to hyperbole or neat metaphor.
Up to 60 per cent of the best farmland in Gaza has been systematically destroyed, livestock too. Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, a director at the World Food Programme, says this deliberately blighted land "may not be exploitable again". The lemon trees and noisy chickens must have been hiding Hamas rockets. Israel is also keeping some of the remaining arable land beyond the reach of the Palestinians who own it by making it into a buffer zone. Almost all the infrastructure has been flattened too. The resulting perpetual humiliation and dependency, one assumes, is part of Israel's strategic plan.
President Obama has sent forth George Mitchell, a skilled and respected negotiator, to start dialogues that could eventually lead to a durable settlement. We must hope he can achieve the impossible. But even if he does, that alone cannot ensure the kind of peace that all the people in that region sorely need and surely deserve.
Continue reading from the Independent.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Low turnout in Iraq's election reflects a disillusioned nation

Source: McClatchy Newspapers
Voter turnout in Iraq's provincial elections Saturday was the lowest in the nation's short history as a democracy, despite a relative calm across the nation. Only about 7.5 million of more than 14 million registered voters went to the polls.
Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the fall of a brutal dictator, Iraqis witnessed unprecedented violence in their nation and what they believe is humiliation under a foreign occupation. Even on Saturday, U.S. tanks could be spotted across Baghdad on largely empty roads.
Following elections in 2005 Iraq spiraled into a sectarian war. People cowered in their homes while others literally killed each other in the streets. Many here feel the people they elected were party to or at least complicit in the violence. The security forces, too, were feared as sectarian death squads; Iraqis believed that American raids or passing U.S. tanks sometimes resulted in innocent civilian deaths.

Obama Talks Football, Troop Withdrawal, Malia And Sasha's School, And Jessica Simpson


Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets

Source: Guardian UK
Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets
Ian Traynor, Europe editor
The Guardian, Saturday 31 January 2009
Article history
France paralysed by a wave of strike action, the boulevards of Paris resembling a debris-strewn battlefield. The Hungarian currency sinks to its lowest level ever against the euro, as the unemployment figure rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria in protest at low prices for their produce. New figures from the biggest bank in the Baltic show that the three post-Soviet states there face the biggest recessions in Europe.
It's a snapshot of a single day – yesterday – in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of central and eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.
Exactly 20 years ago, in serial revolutionary rejoicing, they ditched communism to put their faith in a capitalism now in crisis and by which they feel betrayed. The result has been the biggest protests across the former communist bloc since the days of people power.
Europe's time of troubles is gathering depth and scale. Governments are trembling. Revolt is in the air.
Source: CNN
More than half a million Kentuckians remain without power three days after a devastating ice storm hit the state, and it was unclear when power would be fully restored throughout the state, the governor said.
About 545,000 people were without electricity, down from earlier figures of 700,000, Gov. Steve Beshear said.
"It's going to take some time to dig our way out of this," Beshear told CNN.
About 200,000 people were without working water systems, Beshear said, and the state was delivering water to them.

State Department To Blackwater: You're Fired, Leave Iraq by May

Source: ABC News
$1.2 Billion Contract Won't Be Renewed Following Iraqi Refusal to License U.S. Firm
Blackwater has been fired by the State Department from its job protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.
Executives of the controversial U.S. security company were notified today by the State Department that its five-year, $1.2 billion contract for services in Iraq will not be renewed in May, U.S. officials tell ABC News. The contract was signed last May and provided yearly options for cancellations.
In a statement, company spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, "The company has always said that the security services we provide in Iraq would be temporary."
The move by the State Department follows the refusal of Iraqi officials to license Blackwater to operate in the country. Officials cited "lingering outrage" over the Sept. 2007 shooting by Blackwater guards that left 17 civilians dead.
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