Saturday, December 31, 2005

murray prints torture claims

[read documents here: ]
The British Foreign Office is now seeking to block publication of Craig Murray's forthcoming book, which documents his time as Ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Foreign Office has demanded that Craig Murray remove all references to two especially damning British government documents, indicating that our government was knowingly receiving information extracted by the Uzbeks through torture, and return every copy that he has in his possession.

Ex-diplomat prints torture claims
Saturday, 31 December 2005, 12:18 GMT

Mr Murray was outspoken during his two years in UzbekistanAn ex-British ambassador to Uzbekistan has published secret memos on his website that he says proves Britain has taken intelligence obtained by torture.

Craig Murray was recalled as ambassador in 2004 after voicing concerns about torture by the Uzbek authorities.

In a memo, he says a Foreign Office adviser said it was not illegal to use information obtained by torture but it could not be used in court.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the UK "unreservedly condemns" torture.

'Smoking gun'

It has denied ever using torture to obtain information or inciting others to do so.

Mr Murray said he published the memos on his website in defiance of a Foreign Office ban on them being included in his forthcoming memoirs.

He told BBC News: "The UK government does accept intelligence got from torture abroad and the government is denying that.

"These documents are proof that I am telling the truth and they are not. I think it is a smoking gun."

The Foreign Office has not said what action it will take against Mr Murray over the publications.

Mr Murray began speaking out about torture within months of his appointment to Tashkent in 2002.

He was removed from his post in October last year after extracts from one of his memo appeared in the press.

He later resigned from the FCO in order to run against Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in his Blackburn constituency in the general election.


new years noise

Noisemaking and fireworks on New Year's eve is believed to have originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck. The Chinese are credited with inventing fireworks and use them to spectacular effect in their New Year's celebrations.


auld lang syne

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.


us death toll will increase

US military death toll for 2005 nears last year’s level
31 December 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two more US soldiers were killed in Iraq as the year wound down, putting the American military death toll at 841 so far - just five short of 2004’s lost lives despite political progress and dogged efforts to quash the insurgency. ...

Their deaths brought the number of US military members killed so far in 2005 to 841, of whom 64 died in December. A total of 846 troops died in 2004 and 485 in 2003. The worst month in 2005 was January with 106 fatalities, followed by November with 96 and August with 85. ...


Friday, December 30, 2005

nato to cleanup us mess

Canadians to take leading role in Afghanistan
Updated Fri. Dec. 30 2005 7:27 PM ET
Associated Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A U.S. commander expressed confidence Friday that Canadian and other NATO-led troops will aggressively keep up the fight against insurgents when they take over control of southern Afghanistan from his troops in the spring.

NATO foreign ministers approved plans earlier this month to send up to 6,000 mostly European and Canadian soldiers into volatile southern Afghanistan, while about 10,000 NATO troops continue to watch over the north and west.

The plans give the NATO troops a stronger self-defence mandate, guarantee support from U.S. combat troops if they face a serious attack and set rules for handling detainees -- all issues concerned some European allies mulling participation in the expanded force.

Canadian Col. S.J. Bowes said his force, which will assume responsibility for Kandahar, is prepared to extend the offensive nature of the operation.

"It's clear that this is not a peacekeeping mission,'' he said, although he stressed he couldn't speak for the British army, which will command the NATO mission in the south.

The British Foreign Office had no comment on the remarks by U.S. Maj.-Gen. Jason Kamiya and Bowes. However, the British Ministry of Defence said several tasks need to be carried out around the country and the British government recognizes Taliban remnants are active in southern Afghanistan.

Kamiya, the U.S.-led coalition's operational commander said NATO troops will be aggressive in the fight against insurgents.

"I feel very, very confident ... that each nation understands what the conditions are here,'' Kamiya said during a visit by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, who is making a six-country tour to rally his troops during the holidays.

This year has been the deadliest in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led offensive ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001 for harbouring accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida training camps. More than 1,500 people have been killed as militants loyal to the Taliban, al-Qaida and other groups have stepped up attacks.

Two suspected Taliban suicide bombers died Thursday when explosives they were strapping to their bodies exploded prematurely in the south, officials said.

The blast followed a string of suicide attacks and came days after a top rebel commander said more than 200 insurgents are willing to kill themselves in assaults on U.S. troops and their allies.

Kamiya dismissed the claim by Mullah Dadullah as propaganda but acknowledged such attacks have been rising.

"Suicide bombers were almost non-existent when we came here in March. What we did notice though is that the rise in suicide bombings began in June,'' he said.

"The enemy began to realize that every time he came at us directly he would always lose great numbers of fighters and insurgents. So, this caused him to adapt his tactics.''

Unlike in Iraq, suicide attacks were relatively rare in Afghanistan until September, fuelling fears rebels could be adopting tactics used in the Middle East.

There have been about a dozen such attacks the last few months, including twin assaults in the Afghan capital Kabul on Nov. 14 that targeted NATO-led troops and killed a German soldier and eight Afghans.

A suicide bomber also set off explosives near a U.S. and Afghan military convoy in Kandahar on Dec. 11, killing himself and wounding three civilians. A week earlier, a suicide bomber killed a civilian and wounded a Canadian soldier.

U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld announced earlier this month the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be cut from 19,000 to about 16,500 by spring but he cautioned removing forces too quickly could impede the long-term hunt for terrorists.


canadian dollar upward we go

Canada's Dollar Posts a Fourth Straight Annual Advance on Rate Increases
Canada's dollar gained for a fourth straight year against the U.S. dollar, the longest streak since the 1980s, as prospects of further central bank interest-rate increases raised the appeal of the currency.


sharon as evil as bush

Sharon is back to his old tricks
Israel still thinks others should do as it says, not as it does.
Friday, December 30, 2005

It seems there is to be no cessation of hostilities by Israelis towards Palestinians. The latest aggression comes, once again, from Israel, which has decided to enforce a self-declared "no-go area" or buffer zone between Israel and Gaza. To emphasise and enforce its decision, Israel has been bombarding the area with shells, stating that anyone who ventures into the area will be killed. Presumably there is a caveat that the "anyone" must be Arab. Since the area is unoccupied, the implementation of this latest escalation in belligerence can be of no benefit to anyone, other than to intimidate Palestinians by yet another demonstration of power over a subjugated people.

What hopes can there be for peace between the two nations if such an attitude persists? Time and again Palestinians have endeavoured to reach an accord with the Israelis. On its part, Israelis have made much of the small concessions it has given mainly in handing back land which was not theirs anyway thereby hoodwinking Western powers into believing that it is they who are the aggrieved party, rather than the other way round.

Palestinians have a justifiable cause for complaint. The trouble is, few will now listen to what they say.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

harper you take the bus

Harper promises public transit tax break
Last Updated Thu, 29 Dec 2005 13:09:14 EST
CBC News

Canadians who use public transit will be eligible for a tax credit under a Conservative government, party leader Stephen Harper said Thursday.

People who buy monthly public transit passes will be given a tax credit of 16 per cent, saving the average user about $150 per year, Harper said in Vancouver while campaigning for the Jan. 23 federal election.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaking at a news conference in Vancouver, BC.

"The question is not whether to support public transit, but how we can encourage ridership."
Harper said he used transit frequently when he was a "working man" in a number of Canadian cities. He said his tax credit incentive could increase ridership by 25 to 50 per cent.

The tax credit would also reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, said the Conservative leader.
Harper said the announcement doesn't replace funding of public transit infrastructure, and that he would address that in an future policy announcement.

At the same campaign event, Harper attacked Liberal support for the Kyoto Protocol, which permits buying emissions credits from other countries to meet Canada's greenhouse gas reduction targets.

"Buying pollution credits is folly; it doesn't help the environment," said Harper. "Instead of using tax dollars to buy credits overseas, we'll use them at home."



The Story of Maher Arar: Unfolding US-Canada Police State :
Maher's Story in Brief

Maher Arar is a 34-year-old wireless technology consultant. Arar was born in Syria and at the age of 17, came to Canada with his family. He became a Canadian citizen in 1991 and in 1997 moved to Ottawa.In September 2002, Arar was in Tunisia, vacationing with his wife Monia Mazigh and their two small children. On Sept. 26 while in transit in New York’s JFK airport, he was detained by US officials and interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled and flown to Jordan aboard a private plane and from there transferred to a Syrian prison. In Syria, he was held in a tiny “grave-like” cell for ten months and ten days before he was moved to a better cell in a different prison. He was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession. During his imprisonment, Monia campaigned relentlessly on his behalf. After many representations from Canadian Human Rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, the Government of Canada, on Jan. 28, 2004, announced a
Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

leap second

with the eve of the leap second soon to arrive; will that extra second allow me to conjure up a new years resolution? or shall i just continue to start a new year with my old habits? seeing how i enjoy my old habits, some as bad as they are, i’ll probably stick to those i know best. that way i have save myself from the pain and anguish of trying to keep those best of intentions, or rid myself of any guilt trips from breaking them.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

stop the guns

Party leaders speak out on Toronto shootings
Last Updated Tue, 27 Dec 2005 19:37:34 EST
CBC News

Prime Minister Paul Martin, who has made the issue of gun violence part of his campaign platform, said the Boxing Day shootings in downtown Toronto are the "consequences of exclusion" of young people.

Martin said the shootings, which left a 15-year-old girl dead and six others injured, are a "painful reminder" that Canadians cannot take their "peace or understanding for granted."

"I think more than anything else they demonstrate what in fact are the consequences of exclusion," Martin said at a menorah-lighting ceremony in celebration of Hanukkah in Montreal.

He said when he last visited Toronto – shortly after a fatal shooting at a funeral for another gunfire victim – he met with young people who talked about the void in their lives and the hopelessness it can bring.

Earlier Tuesday, Martin said he was "horrified" by the latest shootings in Toronto, which, he said, has too often been the scene of senseless gun violence. The slaying was the 52nd gun-related deaths this year in the city, out of 78 slayings.

"What we saw yesterday [Monday] is a stark reminder of the challenge that governments, police forces and communities face to ensure that Canadian cities do not descend into the kind of rampant gun violence we have seen elsewhere," he said in a statement.

Martin said earlier this month that his government, if re-elected in the Jan. 23 federal election, would immediately introduce a handgun ban.

It would offer narrowly defined exemptions for target shooters and give collectors time to sell or dispose of their weapons.

The Liberals have also promised to double jail sentences for gun-related crimes, stem the trade of illegal guns with a 75-officer team to beef up border security, and increase police numbers, including a special RCMP task force to deal with guns and gangs.

Enforce current gun laws instead of making new ones, Harper urges

But Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Martin's call for a ban on handguns is not the answer, arguing that the government should be enforcing laws already on the books.

"We've basically banned handguns in this country," Harper said.

"The problem is this is the first government in our history that seems unable to enforce our gun laws, and I think obviously this is just the consequence of 12 years of lax criminal justice in law enforcement."

In a statement Tuesday, Harper said the Conservatives would also battle gun violence by boosting support for front-line policing, introducing mandatory prison sentences for gun-related offences, tightening border controls to stem the flow of illegal weapons and supporting community programs for at-risk youth.

Layton calls for tougher border controls and sentencing

NDP Leader Jack Layton condemned the "senseless shootings" and the "reckless criminals who perpetrated them."

But Layton also took a jab at Martin's handgun-ban policy.

"Since it would appear that these crimes were committed with handguns, it is almost certainly true that all of the weapons involved are already illegal – already banned," Layton said.

"So it is important for Canadians not to be diverted by election rhetoric."

Layton said the government must focus on getting illegal handguns off the streets by bringing in tougher border controls, tougher sentencing for weapons offences, and tougher anti-gang policing, prosecutions and sentencing.


bush controls the us media

Bush Presses Editors on Security
Bush summoning editors to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging
- by Howard Kurtz - 2005-12-27
Washington Post

Monday, December 26, 2005; C01

President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security.

The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration's anti-terror tactics.

Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, would not confirm the meeting with Bush before publishing reporter Dana Priest's Nov. 2 article disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe used to interrogate terror suspects. Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, would not confirm that he, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman had an Oval Office sit-down with the president on Dec. 5, 11 days before reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed that Bush had authorized eavesdropping on Americans and others within the United States without court orders.

But the meetings were confirmed by sources who have been briefed on them but are not authorized to comment because both sides had agreed to keep the sessions off the record. The White House had no comment.

"When senior administration officials raised national security questions about details in Dana's story during her reporting, at their request we met with them on more than one occasion," Downie says. "The meetings were off the record for the purpose of discussing national security issues in her story." At least one of the meetings involved John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, and CIA Director Porter Goss, the sources said.

"This was a matter of concern for intelligence officials, and they sought to address their concerns," an intelligence official said. Some liberals criticized The Post for withholding the location of the prisons at the administration's request.

After Bush's meeting with the Times executives, first reported by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, the president assailed the paper's piece on domestic spying, calling the leak of classified information "shameful." Some liberals, meanwhile, attacked the paper for holding the story for more than a year after earlier meetings with administration officials.

"The decision to hold the story last year was mine," Keller says. "The decision to run the story last week was mine. I'm comfortable with both decisions. Beyond that, there's just no way to have a full discussion of the internal procedural twists that media writers find so fascinating without talking about what we knew, when, and how -- and that I can't do."

Some Times staffers say the story was revived in part because of concerns that Risen is publishing a book on the CIA next month that will include the disclosures. But Keller told the Los Angeles Times: "The publication was not timed to the Iraqi election, the Patriot Act debate, Jim's forthcoming book or any other event."

Bought Off?

The admission by two columnists that they accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff may be the tip of a large and rather dirty iceberg.

Copley News Service last week dropped Doug Bandow -- who also resigned as a Cato Institute scholar -- after he acknowledged taking as much as $2,000 a pop from Abramoff for up to two dozen columns favorable to the lobbyist's clients. "I am fully responsible and I won't play victim," Bandow said in a statement after Business Week broke the story. "Obviously, I regret stupidly calling to question my record of activism and writing that extends over 20 years. . . . For that I deeply apologize."

Peter Ferrara of the Institute for Policy Innovation has acknowledged taking payments years ago from a half-dozen lobbyists, including Abramoff. Two of his papers, the Washington Times and Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, have now dropped him. But Ferrara is unapologetic, saying: "There is nothing unethical about taking money from someone and writing an article."

Readers might disagree on grounds that they have no way of knowing about such undisclosed payments, which seem to be an increasingly common tactic for companies trying to influence public debate through ostensibly neutral third parties. When he was a Washington lawyer several years ago, says law professor Glenn Reynolds, a telecommunications carrier offered him a fat paycheck -- up to $20,000, he believes -- to write an opinion piece favorable to its position. He declined.

In the case of Bandow's columns, says Reynolds, who now writes the InstaPundit blog, "one argument is, it's probably something he thought anyway, but it doesn't pass the smell test to me. I wouldn't necessarily call it criminal, but it seems wrong. People want to craft a rule, but what you really need is a sense of shame."

Jonathan Adler, an associate law professor and National Review contributor, wrote that when he worked at a think tank, "I was offered cash payments to write op-eds on particular topics by PR firms, lobbyists or corporations several times. They offered $1,000 or more for an op-ed," offers that Adler rejected. Blogger Rand Simberg writes that "I've also declined offers of money to write specific pieces, even though I agreed with the sentiment."

Two years ago, former Michigan senator Don Riegle wrote an op-ed attacking Visa and MasterCard without disclosing that his PR firm was representing Wal-Mart -- which was suing the two credit card companies.

Porn, Privacy and Participation

Kurt Eichenwald says he knew he would take heat for his decision to urge a teenager involved in child pornography to give up the business and cooperate with federal investigators.
"We are sitting there facing a horrible reality," the New York Times reporter says. "Every day I'm sitting there working on the story, there are children being molested and exploited, and we have a source who knows who and where they are."

The lengthy Times report last week on Justin Berry, now 19, whose cooperation with the Justice Department has led to several arrests, was remarkable, not least because it was Eichenwald who persuaded the young man to give up drugs and stop performing sexual acts for paying customers in front of a webcam -- and even referred him to a lawyer. The reporter clearly crossed the line from observer to participant.

"I knew our profession would look at this and say this was a troubling result," Eichenwald says. "But every result was troubling. I'm interviewing a kid and he suddenly starts naming children and telling me where they are and what's happening to them. He knew which kid was under the control of which pedophile."

Slate media critic Jack Shafer is among those who have raised questions, writing: "Would a Times reporter extend similar assistance to an 18-year-old female prostitute? An 18-year-old fence? A seller of illegal guns? No way. . . . Will online pornographers and other allied criminals now regard reporters as agents of the state?"

At a July meeting with top editors and company lawyers, Eichenwald says, Executive Editor Bill Keller said that " 'we've got to do the right thing.' . . . It would have been easier to come up with all sorts of explanations of why we should walk away."

Eichenwald says he had to persuade Berry, an abused child who was lured into performing for the webcam when he was 13, to get out of the porn business and give up drugs for him to be useful as a source for the paper. The reporter says he personally provided information to the FBI about a 15-year-old boy being lured to a Las Vegas hotel by Berry's 38-year-old business partner, who was arrested before the planned rendezvous.

"I knew we'd be criticized for getting a source to become a federal witness," Eichenwald says. But he says he's had nightmares and, as a father, feels "an enormous amount of guilt" about other children in the porn ring that he did not try to help.

If all this sounds like a movie, Eichenwald got calls from Hollywood within hours.

Plunging Reputations

"The image consultant said, 'You've got to stop wearing those turtlenecks. I think you've got to start showing some cleavage.' I told her I didn't think America was ready for that." -- ABC's Judy Muller, quoted by Amy Tenowich


money where your mouth is

the first anniversary of the tsunami that saw major loss of life and the destruction of entire communities from Indonesia to Thailand ... so many countries pledged financial aid. this disaster like others, countries who pledge, often never live up to their promises. one would think, if there is money to engage in illegal wars, there could be money to help these people rebuild their lives, instead of destroying other lives.


another great us achievement

War's legacy: less power to the people
US$4b campaign to restore Iraq's supply to pre-invasion level has been a dismal failure, writes Christian Miller
Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A US$4b campaign to restore Iraq's supply to pre-invasion level has been a dismal failure, writes Christian Miller

When the United States fires up the last generator at the remote power plant in Khor Zubair, Iraq, this week, it will mark the conclusion of one of the most frustrating episodes in the effort to rebuild the country's infrastructure.

A pile of gray metal swarming with construction workers in the deserts of southern Iraq, the generating station is the final power plant being built under Washington's ill-fated US$4 billion (HK$31.2 billion) attempt to restore Iraq's electrical supply to its prewar level.

The massive US effort will leave behind this legacy: Iraqis will have, on average, fewer hours per day of electricity in their homes than they did before the US-led invasion in March 2003.

"The money was not effective," Iraqi Electricity Minister Muhsin Shalash said. "The contracting was wrong. The whole planning was wrong."

US officials have blamed insurgent attacks, unchecked demand and the poor conditions of Iraq's power plants for hobbling the attempt to restore electricity. But interviews with dozens of US and Iraqi officials reveal that poor decisions by the United States also played a significant role.

Perhaps most serious was the decision to expand a program begun under Saddam Hussein to install dozens of natural-gas-fired electrical generators, US and Iraqi officials said. Iraq has such gas in abundance, but it uses only a fraction of it. The rest is burned off during oil production.

The United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase and install natural-gas-fired generators in electricity plants throughout Iraq. But pipelines needed to transport the gas weren't built because Iraq's Oil Ministry, with US encouragement, concentrated instead on boosting oil production to bring in hard currency for the nation's cash-starved economy.

In at least one case, the United States paid San Francisco-based Bechtel US$69 million for a natural-gas-fired plant that never was built, according to US State Department documents and US officials.

All told, of 26 natural gas turbines installed at seven plants in Iraq - ranging in cost from a few million dollars to more than US$40 million - only seven are burning natural gas, reconstruction officials said.

Faced with widespread power shortages, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department decided to reconfigure many of the generators to burn a different fuel - an expensive process that decreased generation capacity and increased maintenance.

"You've got the wrong technology for the fuel we're burning, the wrong technology being gas turbines," said Bill Thompson, generation manager for the Project and Contracting Office, a US Defense Department reconstruction agency. "But we're here and this is what we've got."

In many cases, the fuel in question has been heavy fuel oil - a tarry, gloppy byproduct of Iraq's primitive refineries that has wreaked havoc on the natural-gas-fired generators. One turbine installed by the United States at a cost of US$40 million at the Baiji power complex in north-central Iraq already needs replacement.

"My concept as a layman is that we basically wrecked the unit [that needs replacing]," said Dennis Karns, the Army Corps official heading the power sector.

The United States simply canceled other plants. It scrapped the Bechtel project, a planned power station near the Mansuriya fields in northeastern Iraq, because it feared it would take too long to build and cost too much, said officials with the US Agency for International Development.

Although the plant was never built, Bechtel was paid US$69 million for drawing up plans, setting up a construction camp and buying two generators that were later installed elsewhere, USAID officials said. Bechtel also received US$160 million to cover security and other unexpected costs in connection with other reconstruction projects.

"Starting about late 2004, we were finding out that security constrained our ability to build all the things we wanted to," said Heather Layman, a USAID spokeswoman.

A Bechtel official said the money was well spent because it paid for the gas-fired generators in use elsewhere and provided the Iraqis with plant designs.

The decision to rely so heavily on natural-gas-fired generators is the source of great frustration in the current Iraqi government. Shalash, the electricity minister, said the United States and the interim Iraqi government shared blame for not better understanding Iraq's power infrastructure.

"It was a combination of lack of knowledge and ... people who were from the outside who did not have experience," Shalash said. "All they were doing is signing contracts, buying turbines and not bringing electricity to people."

Another serious problem was the failure to charge private consumers for electricity, which a US adviser called one of the worst mistakes of the US-led occupation, according to a recent report by the US Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded think-tank.

The virtually free power encouraged wealthy and middle-class Iraqis to go on a spending spree after the invasion, buying refrigerators, heaters and other goods.

As a result, demand for electricity surged far past supply. When the building program is finished, Iraq will be able to produce about 5,500 megawatts on a sustained basis, about 1,000 more than the country produced under Saddam. But demand has soared to 9,000 megawatts during Iraq's sweltering summers and chilly winters.

While the United States technically will have reached its goal of restoring Iraq's power output to prewar levels, the average Iraqi will now have about 10 to 12 hours of power a day, fewer than under Saddam. Those living in urban centers such as Baghdad, Basra and Mosul are especially affected.

Karns, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said it would be "multiple decades" before Iraqi homes had power 24 hours a day.

Unexpectedly high costs for security and maintenance and operational problems also have plagued the reconstruction effort.

By last fall, the Army Corps had run out of cash for several projects being funded with Iraqi oil revenue - money spent in addition to the US$4 billion in US funding. The corps handed the unfinished plants to the Iraqis in the hope they would finish the work.

Instead, the Iraqis did nothing, their own budget hampered by the insurgency, inefficient state spending, oil production shortfalls and persistent corruption, US officials said.

In January, corps officials decided to renew work on dozens of generators that had been abandoned, this time with US money, in a plan called Project Phoenix. The United States eventually paid Fluor-AMEC, a US-British joint venture, US$93 million to complete the work and add 700 megawatts of power to Iraq's grid.

The delays, however, resulted in millions of angry Iraqis having to sweat through the summer.

Most of the power projects that were completed, US officials said, have been operated poorly by the Iraqis who, before the invasion, relied heavily on foreign contractors to run the plants. By one US estimate, Iraq would have an additional 1,000 megawatts of power if all of its 19 plants, with 142 generators, were run efficiently. To help remedy the problem, USAID sent scores of Iraqi engineers abroad for training as part of a multimillion-dollar effort to create "tiger teams" that would return and train other Iraqis.

Instead, the engineers were dispersed to different plants when they returned and provided very little training, reconstruction officials said.

There have been some successes. The larger problems of the power sector don't seem to have trickled down to Khor Zubair, a plant outside Basra that will be the last to go online.

Chris Frabott, an Army Corps official, has devoted the last several months to installing two mammoth generators. If all goes as planned, they will use natural gas piped in from a nearby oil field.

The plant was abuzz with work one day last summer. More than 400 Iraqis were employed at the site, which sits alone in the middle of flat, barren desert.

When the plant goes online, it will deliver 500 megawatts of power to Iraq - about 10 percent of current capacity. Frabott looked up at one of the generators and patted its side.

"It's a lot of work," he said. "A lot of money."


more us double standards

Washington's outrage over Nour's sentence rings hollow
By Linda S. Heard, Special to Gulf News
12/27/2005 12:00 AM (UAE)

Leader of Egypt's Al Ghad Party Ayman Nour was sentenced to five years for forgery last Saturday, which the Bush administration apparently finds "deeply troubling".

"The conviction of Mr Nour, the runner-up in Egypt's 2005 presidential elections, calls into question Egypt's commitment to democracy, freedom and the rule law," reads a White House statement.

These fine sentiments, echoed by human rights groups, are to be commended, and if they emanated, say, from Sweden, the tone of this column would be congratulatory, as it generally believed that Nour's trial was nothing little than a piece of political theatre.

However, in light of recent revelations concerning the US government's human rights abuses, the statement smacks of the pot calling the kettle black.

Moreover, within Egypt, suspicions are already aroused concerning Nour's US affiliations after the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled a planned visit to the country to protest the politician's earlier incarceration on the same charge.

Thus, it could be said that the White House doth protest too much, which does little to add to Nour's political credibility in a country where US interference is generally considered unwelcome and where Nour has already been criticised for his regular cozy tête-à -têtes with the US ambassador.

Double standards

The American message is yet another example of its blatant double standards at a time when the democratic process in Iraq, which it oversees, is coming under heavy criticism.

Although the December 15 Iraqi ballot was touted by the US President as being a watershed moment in the country's political life, it has turned out to be nothing of the sort.

Amid claims of massive vote rigging, Sunni and secular Shiite/Sunni coalition parties are threatening to boycott parliament and hinting at an imminent all out civil war unless there is a re-run.

But when it comes to this crucial issue, the only message coming out of the White House is the sound of silence.

So while the US is going out of its way not to poke its nose into Iraq's democratic process superficially and publicly that is it has no such compunction when it comes to Egypt's elections and judicial decisions.

Perhaps the US believes the $2 billion it doles out to Egypt each year in aid buys it the right to comment on its internal affairs, in which case Egypt would be better off seeking aid elsewhere.

"We are also disturbed by reports that Mr Nour's health has seriously declined due to the hunger strike on which he has embarked in protest of the conditions of his trial and detention", continues the White House statement.

Here, one can only wonder at America's sheer chutzpah at a time when it has kept one of its own Jose Padilla in a naval brig for years without charge, is being accused of rendering detainees to countries known to practice torture and particularly when it refers to the mass hunger strike underway at Guantanamo as "a voluntary fast".

Yes, that's right. Ayman Nour is on "hunger strike" but inmates of America's gulag are on a "voluntary fast".

The problem is these voluntary fasters are being force fed via a tube through their noses without anaesthetic.

Many of the Guantanamo "fasters" have refrained from eating for over a month, while Nour's "hunger strike" has lasted little more than 10 days, yet the White House is "disturbed" concerning the Egyptian politician's human rights but seemingly cares not a jot about those in its own care.

Emaciated and bruised

Another example of US double speak is its refusal to hand over Iraqi prisons to the Iraqi government's supervision, ostensibly because Iraqis cannot be trusted to refrain from abusing prisoners after several hundred were found emaciated and bruised within the Ministry of Interior.

Such care and concern on the part of the US would be admirable if we weren't already aware of its military's documented physical and sexual abuses of detainees in Afghanistan's Bagram prison and Iraq's Abu Ghraib, as well as the American vice-president's recent attempts, albeit failed, to legitimise cruel and inhumane treatment.

Returning to Ayman Nour, the US should mind its own business. Egypt has its own way of doing things and the likelihood is that Nour's sentencing will be overthrown by an appellant court.

The trial's detractors are already highlighting the fact that the sentencing judge Abdul Salaam Goma'a was the same individual who earlier came down hard on the political activist Sa'ad Al Din Ebrahim for smearing Egypt's reputation abroad, while the Egyptian Bar Association has vehemently decried the ruling.

At the end of the day, Goma'a's harsh sentencing hasn't done the Egyptian government any favours.

The US has referred to Nour as an electoral "runner up". This is true on paper but the fact is the banned Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are forced to run as independents, are far more of a threat to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) than Nour's Al Ghad could ever claim to be.

Nour is a far less popular figure in Egypt than the US would like to believe, managing to garner a mere seven per cent of the popular vote.

Chances are that if he had been allowed to stroll out of the court on Saturday and into the sunset, he would have eventually faded from view.

On the other hand, Nour's five-year sentence only serves to raise his profile as a martyr for the democratic cause and is destined to attract future sympathy votes.

Hosni Mubarak still has the opportunity to show magnanimity in victory great PR for his party - and shut the door on US intervention by offering Nour a pardon.

This is a perfect opportunity for Egypt to show the so-called civilised world how it should be done. Let's hope it takes it.


puppet blair accountable

Cross-party support for war probe

Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 02:44 GMT

More than 100 MPs from across the Commons have backed a call for an inquiry by senior MPs into the handling of the Iraq war and its aftermath.

SNP leader Alex Salmond says 107 have signed a Commons motion calling for a special committee of seven senior MPs to review the decision-making process.

The MPs include 49 Lib Dems, 26 Conservatives and 20 from Labour.

Ex-Tory Chancellor Ken Clarke and Lib Dem deputy leader Sir Menzies Campbell are among those who have signed.

The motion was tabled by former Tory Foreign Office Minister Douglas Hogg.

There have been four separate inquiries into different aspects of the Iraq war, including the Butler report into intelligence failings and the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.

But there has yet to be an inquiry focusing on the way the government's decision to join a US-led invasion was made.

The MPs' motion calls for the setting-up of a special select committee to carry out this task.

The seven strong committee would be members of the Privy Council and therefore able to look at sensitive intelligence material.

Mr Salmond said it would be able to make a detailed inquiry into the prime minister's decisions, "not a sham like we have had to endure with the Butler and Hutton inquiries".

'Misled Parliament'

Support for the motion "shows just how angry people are over Blair's decision to go to war and the way in which it was made", he added.

"Members believe he misled Parliament and the people he was elected to represent."

The motion is headed: "Conduct of Government policy in relation to the war against Iraq."

It reads: "This House believes there should be a select committee of seven Members, being Members of Her Majesty's Privy Council, to review the way in which the responsibilities of government were discharged in relation to Iraq and all matters relevant thereto in the period leading up to military action in that country in March, 2003 and in its aftermath."


Monday, December 26, 2005

us threat to world peace

Nobel Peace Winner Sends Letter to Bush
Havana, Dec 26 (Prensa Latina)

The letter from Buenos Aires by Nobel Peace Prizewinner Adolfo Perez Esquivel to US President George W. Bush, denouncing his administration´s threats to world peace, was published in its entirety by Granma daily Monday.

"You are dragging your country and the world into extreme situations and becoming a threat to humankind in this effort to identify all who oppose your desires as terrorists, when it is your policy that applies State terrorism," the letter says.

Using the same mechanisms as those of the South American dictatorships, said Esquivel, "including Operation Condor and aberrant methods such as kidnapping and disappearance of people."

The Nobel Peace prizewinner notes that many European countries are demanding explanations from the US State Department for having used their territories and runways for clandestine transfer of CIA-abductions leading to torture.

Esquivel also decries the excesses committed by US-led troops in Iraq.

The renowned intellectual refers as well to Washington´s violations of UN resolutions, including lifting the more than 40-year US blockade against Cuba.

"With only four votes against and 182 in favor, UN members voted for the lifting of the blockade. However, with deliberate deafness and arrogance, the US violates the General Assembly resolution and continues blockading Cuba and establishing military bases worldwide…," the letter adds.

In the text, Perez Esquivel urges President Bush to stop assaulting and violating the peoples´ human rights.

"It is necessary to release the five Cuban prisoners unjustly accused of terrorism and respect the right of their families to visit them," he says, recalling that the US Court of Appeals found serious irregularities in their trial.

The letter also urges Bush to stop attacking Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez.

"You must change your policy of wanting to impose conditions on other countries," he declares.

Perez Esquivel also warns Bush not to forget that there are new social, cultural and political changes taking place in the continent and the world.

That"s why, he says, "you must turn your aggression into cooperation, and your violence and arms race into development projects for life, rather than for death."

There is still hope. Change is possible. A New Year means renovation and the possibility to break new ground, the letter concludes.


boxing day

they say the origin of the boxing day holiday is unknown, but was probably first observed in the middle ages. the Canadian Heritage online site, defines boxing day as: ‘The day after Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is better known as Boxing Day. The term may come from the opening of church poor boxes that day; maybe from the earthenware boxes with which boy apprentices collected money at the doors of their masters' clients.’

however, has gone from charity, to reduced sales at stores to rid them of excess inventory. too now, where many stores are having the week long sales in the name of boxing day, only to extend the commercialism of it all. for me, i’ve done my part to boost the economy and have had my fill of shopping. i’ll still observe the holiday, but instead of shopping, i’ll be feasting some more. and then promising myself, next week will be the time to reduce my intake of festive treats.

christmas day was good. despite having an almost green christmas, thanks to the pineapple express! the only snow that was left, was the odd partial node remains of shoveled walkways. tho, one child felt almost as if he had been cheated, not to have a white christmas.

exhange of gifts was a delight. always is. the symbolic gesture, of what comes from within the heart. still amazes me, that they always know what to package up. yet, a little disappointed that they never give in to allowing me to unwrap even the odd gift the night before. always next year. i'll have to bribe them with something.

instead of encountering extended family and all the nonsense that can come with it, we opted to stay at home and enjoy a quiet day. we decided after having a pre-christmas dinner with some visiting family, we had our fill of turkey. so, this was our first christmas without turkey. needless to say, i would do it again. no pressure of being organized to prepare a turkey, and not being held hostage in the kitchen.

and, no, our non-traditional dinner did not consist of takeout, order in, or something from the frozen food department. yet, the fine dinner was more than special; and consist of all of the food groups; excluding the eggnog. ah, cheer, the ramblings for another time ... but as one woman said, very amusing to see one take a large sip. the look on their face as it turned almost green; priceless. ... should have stirred it first, instead of watching the tilted glass of liqour floating on top ... . crewl, unwarranted punishment, but as she said, should curb that kid of any later desire to drink rum!


Sunday, December 25, 2005

paraguay doesn't want them

Possibility of US military presence raises fears in Paraguay
Visit by Rumsfeld stirs speculation on military base
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times December 25, 2005
ASUNCION, Paraguay -- Are the Americans coming?

That question continues to reverberate in this sleepy capital four months after a ''courtesy call" visit by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld unleashed a torrent of speculation about Washington's reputed ''secret agenda."

US officials have categorically denied having plans for a military base here, describing the episode as a misunderstanding over ongoing US-Paraguayan military exercises.

Despite the denials, talk of detachments of Marines taking up residence in this nation in the heart of South America has entered the continent's political discourse.

''No Yanqui Troops in Paraguay!" read banners hoisted by protesters at last month's Summit of the Americas in Argentina.

For Paraguayans who lived through a 35-year dictatorship that was long backed by the United States, the daily images from Iraq have stirred memories of American interventions in Latin America, one of the battlegrounds of the Cold War.

''We don't need armies, especially foreign armies," Adolfo Perez Esquivel, the Argentine Nobel Peace prize laureate and leftist icon, declared during a recent visit here. ''It's important to remember that once the troops of the United States enter a country, they never leave."

To many, the lingering controversy also illustrates the political and social frailties of a long-isolated, landlocked nation still in the formative stages of democracy 16 years after the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner ended.

''Paraguay remains a country in gestation," said Oscar Torres, a legal scholar here. ''We still haven't reached national maturation. We are in our adolescence, and, consequently, full of fears and ghosts."

The current president, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, is generally viewed as a centrist, free-market advocate who has become aggressively pro-Washington. The former journalist became the first Paraguayan head of state received at the Oval Office, and his vice president, Luis Castiglioni, also visited Washington -- trips that raised eyebrows here. No one disputes that Washington has interests here and maintains a substantial presence at its well-fortified embassy.

Paraguay is known as a smuggling and drug-trafficking corridor and is suspected as a conduit for terrorist financing from the so-called triple border region of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, an area that has a substantial Arab population. US officials have publicly declared their concern about illicit drugs and terrorist funding allegedly flowing from Paraguay.

US authorities call the military exercises standard and largely humanitarian in nature, involving no more than two dozen or so US troops at a time in this California-sized nation. Paraguayan officials approved 13 joint exercises last spring, lasting through the end of next year, but it wasn't until Rumsfeld's visit in August that the maneuvers ignited a firestorm, especially in neighboring Brazil.

Not all have condemned the notion of a tilt toward the United States. Some here have applauded the idea of enhanced political, commercial, and even military ties to the United States, complaining that Brazil -- an economic colossus here -- has had an unhealthy stranglehold on this nation of 6 million, which suffers from high unemployment and has little industry. Stolen cars, contraband cigarettes, and high-quality marijuana are among Paraguay's best-known products.

''Why shouldn't Paraguay have cooperative agreements with the United States, which is one of the world's principal markets?" said Senator Eusebio Ramon Ayala of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party, who favors expanded relations. ''Paraguay is not a new Iraq, and Asuncion is not a new Baghdad. . . . The Cold War is over, the economy is ever more globalized. . . . Why should we rely so much on Brazil?"

On the newly resurgent left, critics charge that Washington is keen to use Paraguay as a springboard to grab water, gas, petroleum, hydroelectric power and other regional resources, while keeping an eye on troubling political movements.

''The bases, the water, the power, the oil -- it's all connected," declared Ignacio Gonzalez, a 28-year-old sociologist and leftist activist, who spoke in front of a busy McDonald's, frequently displaying printouts from the Internet to bolster his points. ''It's all part of a much bigger, perfect strategy to protect and expand American interests."

President Duarte and his aides, while open to the idea of expanded commerce, have repeatedly denied any plans to allow a US base here or turn the country into a strategic asset for Washington. But public perception has trumped the president's assertions.

''Let's face it: Donald Rumsfeld doesn't come to Asuncion to observe how much it rains," said Benjamin Fernandez, a radio commentator here, who spoke in his office as yet another deluge drenched this steamy capital. ''It makes sense for the United States to try and define friends and enemies in the Southern Cone with respect to matters on its agenda."

Many here also see an over-arching political motivation: to send a message of American might to the continent's leftist governments, especially Venezuela's anti-US president, Hugo Chavez.

According to this theory, the US moves here are particularly aimed at neighboring Bolivia, where Evo Morales, a populist and admirer of Chavez, is the apparent leader in the Dec. 18 presidential election.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

season's best

May the season be cherished
with joy and love
of those who are
close to our hearts!

And may there be
Peace on Earth.


good on milan courts

Italy court issues arrest warrant for CIA team
Saturday, December 24, 2005. 1:22am (AEDT)

A Milan court has issued a European arrest warrant for 22 CIA agents suspected of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Italy's financial capital in 2003, Prosecutor Armando Spataro said on Friday.

Milan magistrates suspect a CIA team grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and flew him for interrogation to Egypt, where he said he was tortured.

Prosecutors asked the Italian Justice Ministry last month to seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States, but Justice Minister Roberto Castelli has not yet decided whether to act on the request.

A European Union warrant is automatically valid across the 25-nation bloc and does not require approval of any government.

The warrant was agreed by the European Union in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and was hailed as a key part of the bloc's fight against terrorism.

Mr Spataro told Reuters he had also asked Interpol to try to detain the suspects anywhere in the world.

Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he did not believe CIA agents had kidnapped Nasr, but added that governments were not going to defeat terrorism by playing by the rules.

Justice officials believe Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, is still in custody in Egypt.

Italian investigators have accused him of ties to Al Qaeda and recruiting combatants for Iraq, and a Milan judge has issued a warrant for his arrest.

There has been a series of investigations into whether US intelligence officials used Europe as a hub to illegally transfer militant suspects to third countries for interrogation.

The US embassy in Rome was not immediately available for comment.



Friday, December 23, 2005

go castro go

Castro slams 'mad' US change plan
Friday, 23 December 2005, 23:09 GMT

Cuban President Fidel Castro has called the US secretary of state "mad", following American moves to promote democratic change on the island.

On Monday, Condoleezza Rice said a government commission on Cuba had been reconvened and would report by next May on more measures to promote change.

She said the time had come to end 46 years of "cruel dictatorship".

But Mr Castro described the venture as "befuddled" and said the Cuban revolution was stronger than ever.


President George W Bush appointed the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in late 2003 under the leadership of Ms Rice's predecessor, Colin Powell.

It received its first recommendations in May 2004.

The proposals are designed to hasten the fall of Mr Castro and prevent his younger brother, Raul, from succeeding him.

Mr Castro asked the National Assembly if there could be "anything more befuddled than having this crazy woman speak of transition [in Cuba]?"

"They are stark raving mad. It's pitiful," he said, quoted by Efe news agency.

Mr Castro also described his revolution as "the sanctuary of universal ethics."

Since the fall of the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Cuba has been a one-party state led by 79-year-old Mr Castro.

The US has maintained a strict economic embargo in response to Cuba's communist policies.


bush and his god

Gospel Truth
Chris Floyd
Published: December 23, 2005

Countless words of condemnation have been heaped upon President George W. Bush and his hard-right regime -- a crescendo growing louder by the day, with voices from across the political spectrum. But the most devastating repudiation of the regime's foul ethos was actually delivered almost 2,000 years ago by the man whose birth is celebrated at this season of the year.

We speak, of course, of Jesus of Nazareth, whose Sermon on the Mount called for a revolutionary transformation of human nature -- a complete overthrow of our natural instincts for greed, aggression and self-aggrandizement. This radical vision -- erupting in the turbulent backwater of a brutal world empire -- is the true miracle of Jesus' life, not the primitive fables about virgin births, magic tricks and corpses rising from the dead. The vision's living force sears through dogma, casts down the pomp of church and state, and gives the lie to every hypocrite who evokes Jesus' name in pursuit of earthly power.

Bush professes to believe that Jesus is the son of God, whose words are literally divine commands. Yet anyone who compares what Jesus really said to Bush's actions in power -- the abandonment of the poor, the exaltation of the rich; the dirty insider deals, the culture of corruption, the politics of smear and slander; the perversion of law to countenance murder, torture and predatory war -- can readily see that this profession of faith is a monstrous deceit. Bush, along with his politicized, pseudo-religious "base," may well believe that some divine being approves of their unbridled greed, aggression and self-aggrandizement; but this mythical godling in their heads has nothing to do with the man from Nazareth who, as Matthew and Luke tell it, went up into a mountain one day and began to preach:

"Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now; for ye shall laugh."

"But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep."

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you: Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. Thus you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even publicans so?"

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

"No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you: Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?"

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

"Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets."

And what would happen today if a swarthy Middle Eastern man without wealth or political connections suddenly appeared in front of the White House proclaiming such a radical doctrine of mercy, forgiveness, charity, self-denial and love -- love even for the "evildoers" who "want to destroy our way of life"? Would he be targeted by the lawless spy gangs that Bush has personally loosed upon the nation, as The New York Times revealed last week? Would he be condemned as a terrorist sympathizer and expelled from the country? Would he be seized and "rendered" to some secret CIA prison or Bush-friendly foreign torture chamber for "special interrogation"?

Or perhaps Woody Guthrie spoke the truth years ago, as he sat in a cold boarding house in New York City, transfiguring an old folk song about an outlaw into a gospel for modern times: "If Jesus was to preach here like he preached in Galilee, they would lay Jesus Christ in his grave."


even they do it ...

Asia celebrates Christmas with a twist
December 23, 2005

Few Asians are Christian but people across the vast continent are embracing the holiday as a great excuse for shopping, partying and even romance.

Come December, Christmas lights brighten shopping streets in cities from Beijing to Colombo, while images of Santa Claus and Rudolph adorn office buildings, shops and restaurants.
Shopping malls in Indonesia, the country with the largest number of Muslims, play carols like "Silent Night" and "Jingle Bells" through speakers during the year-end holiday season.

"Most workers here are Muslim but we also celebrate Christmas just like we celebrate Eid al-Fitr. We are complementing each other with these costumes and ornaments," said Jakarta restaurant receptionist Lina Novianti, wearing a red Santa Claus hat. The Moslem celebration Eid al-Fitr marks the end of fasting during Ramadan.

Every year the Indonesian president and top officials attend national Christmas celebrations with church groups.

In China, Christmas Eve has become one of the biggest party nights of the year for young professionals.

"Bars, karaoke halls, restaurants, they all get completely packed on Christmas Eve," said Zu Min, who sells Christmas trees and wreaths, "More and more Chinese people are buying Christmas trees now."

Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, which already enjoys at least one public holiday each month to celebrate the Buddha's teachings, has also adopted Christmas, Easter, Ramadan and the Hindu festival of lights Deepvali, making it a world leader in days off.

Tinsel has even been put up inside commercial aircraft that fly from mainly Buddhist Colombo to predominantly Hindu Jaffna.

"I'm a Buddhist, but we celebrate Christmas because my kids insist on it. We decorate the house and have a Christmas tree so my kids will be happy," said a mother-of-two, laden with gifts.

In Japan, Christmas Eve has taken on a meaning similar to Valentine's Day, being the time for romance among young couples.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

in memory of my bro

The First Law Of Thermodynamics:

Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Since matter and energy are interchangeable, this means that every creature, living or dead was present at the creation of the universe and will continue to be part of its fabric forever.

However, our atoms rearrange themselves, the people we have loved and lost are always around us, recycled and fed back into this extraordinary fabric. Each of us comes into being, structured with borrowed atoms, unique as a snow crystal, but just as ephemeral.

When we have lived our season, however long or short, we pass these on to someone or something else. In a very real sense, we are all here, there and every where .... now then and forever.

Author Unknown


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

either makes christmas

God wants your soul for all eternity. All Santa requires is cookies and milk...


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

bad girls

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.


Monday, December 19, 2005

too funny


Sunday, December 18, 2005

what planet is bush from


The "terrorists" who are fighting the U.S. in Iraq know they're losing, President George W. Bush says in the text of a speech to be delivered Sunday night.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

christmas carolers

Christmas carolers sing about peace on earth, but they don’t tell us where.


harper's, incompetence

Martin says Harper has 'no business' becoming PM
Sat, 17 Dec 2005 19:55:53 EST

Liberal Leader Paul Martin returned to the campaign trail on Saturday claiming victory in Friday night's debate over Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
Canada Votes 2006

At a rally with Liberal candidates from the Lower Mainland, Martin portrayed Harper as lacking what it takes to be prime minister. "Stephen Harper last night said this was a phoney war of words, well let me tell you something, I don't think there's anything phoney about defending jobs in Canada."

Martin made no mention of NDP Leader Jack Layton. He devoted his entire speech to contrasting the Liberals with the Conservatives - on national unity, child care, handguns and the importance of protecting minority rights.

"In my view if you won't protect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms then you have no business trying to become the prime minister of Canada," said Martin.

Liberal strategists insist that highlighting these distinctions will win over undecided voters. They also believe Martin's performance in the debates, along with the passion he shows for the country and being prime minister, matter to voters.

At a news conference Martin said his Conservative rival is simply not up to the job. "Mr. Harper's problem is that on the one hand he does not appear to be prepared to defend Canada's interests, and on the other he's playing catch up on how one does support communities and Canadians."


war in Iraq a crime

War in Iraq a crime, say legal experts
December 17, 2005
The Star (Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR: Leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia are criminals who have committed crimes against humanity and should be hauled up and tried for war crimes, according to two law professors.

Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Teknologi Mara Malaysia said George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and their accomplices had blatantly disregarded the laws of war.

He said the international community must file reports against them for genocide and crimes against humanity with the International Criminal Court for violating the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

“Terrorism is a crime against humanity and must be combated by concerted international action that examines causes as well as cures."

Prof Francis A. Boyle of Illinois University said Bush’s attempt to assassinate the president of Iraq was an international crime in its own right.

“His administration’s war of aggression against Iraq also constituted a crime against peace as defined by the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgement and the Nuremberg Principles as well as by paragraph 498 of US Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956),” he added.

According to him, the US government’s installation of the Interim Government of Iraq was nothing more than a “puppet government” under the laws of war.

“As the belligerent occupant of Iraq, the US government is free to establish a puppet government if it so desires. But under the laws of war, it remains fully accountable for the behaviour of its puppet government."

Prof Dr Shad said unlawful use of force by the US in Iraq threatened to “return us to a world in which the law of the jungle prevails over the rule of law.”

This, he said, had potentially disastrous consequences for human rights not only for Iraqis but for the whole world. He suggested the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution to end the US occupation of Iraq and leave within a declared time frame.

“Iraqi government should have authority over its economy and oil revenues. It should have the right to set terms for the operation of foreign troops on its soil,” he said.


Friday, December 16, 2005

xmas card verse

even tho, i’m not a religious person, i enjoyed this, was in an xmas card one year ...

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village.
He worked in a carpenter shop
until he was thirty.
He then became an itinerant preacher.
He never held office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn't go to college.
He had no credentials but himself . . .

Nineteen centuries have come and gone,
and today he is the central figure of the human race.
All the armies that never ever sailed,
all the parliaments than ever sat,
and all the kings that ever reigned
have not affected the life of man on this earth
as much as that ...
One solitary life

Authur Unknown


crimes of u.s. democracy

The Crimes of U.S. ‘Democracy’
by Ghali Hassan
December 16, 2005

“How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say; 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We’ve lost about 2,140 of our own troops” – George W. Bush, 12 December 2005.

As the Occupation of Iraq is approaching three years, the mass murder of Iraqi civilians is not questioned, but normalised in Western conscience. President Bush reached the stage where he is able to make his own figure of Iraqi deaths, with no remorse or sadness. The war was not the result of “wrong intelligence”; the war was an illegal act of aggression, and a premeditated mass murder. ‘Democracy’ is used as a tool to manipulate the public and justify war crimes.

The most conservative estimate of Iraqi deaths was reported in October 2004 by a group of medical scientists from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Columbia University and Al-Mustansiriyah School of Medicine in Baghdad. The conservative estimate of more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths was published in the reputed and peer-reviewed British medical journal the Lancet. If one includes the atrocities in Fallujah, Ramadi, al-Qaim, Tel Afar, Hillah, Baghdad and the daily mayhem instigated by U.S. forces and their collaborators, the number of Iraqis killed since March 2003 would be in the 200,000 mark or even more. It also estimated that 85 per cent of all violent deaths are by “coalition forces” and that many of these are due to U.S. aerial bombardments. The majority of the victims were innocent women and children.

According to Robert Fisk of the Independent; “The Ministry of Health figures in July alone, was 1,100 Iraqi deaths in Baghdad alone. If you spread that across, Mosul, Kirkuk, maybe Irbil [in the north], all way down to Basra [in the south], through the months, and you must be talking of 3,000 to 4,000 a month. That's 36,000 to 48,000 a year”. This makes the “100,000 figure of [the Lancet study] rightly as being quite conservative”, added Fisk. This
figure has been recently substantiated.

However, the Lancet study was deliberately ignored or dismissed by the U.S.-British corporate mass media. In fact the study is now censored by mainstream media because it shows a mass murder. The media and Western elites roles have always been to selectively describe crimes allegedly – never proven – committed by the regime of Saddam Hussein as “mass murder”, while dismissing crimes committed by Western powers.

Since October 2004, the violence of the Occupation is increasing, and the daily bloodshed is mounting. The indiscriminate and savage aerial and ground bombardments – with chemical bombs, fire bombs (fuel-air bombs), napalm and other non-conventional weapons (WMD) – of population centres continue the destruction of the country and the killing innocent of Iraqis en mass. In addition, the U.S. and British governments are secretly sponsoring the killings of prominent Iraqi politicians, intellectuals, academics, religious leaders and trade union leaders, including leaders of the Oil Workers Union using U.S.-British trained death squads and criminals. The aim is to incite civil strife and destroy the unity of Iraq to serve U.S. imperialist strategy. The US invaded Iraq to destroy its unity and conquest its oil resources at the expense of the Iraqi people.

The real motives for the war remain conspicuously hidden from the public: the colonisation of Iraq to enhance U.S. imperial dominance, the destruction of Arab nationalism, and most importantly support for Israel's Zionist expansion and criminal policies against the Palestinians. Moreover, the most relevant was that public consent in the West has been manufactured and the U.S. had its way to commit a ‘Supreme International Crime’ against defenceless people, disguised as ‘spreading democracy’. Iraq under U.S.-British Occupation is far more dictatorial and miserable place to live in than under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Occupation is just another clone of Fascism.

The view from Iraq is that since the invasion; “Iraqis have been living in fear, poverty, oppression and a lack of freedom … The occupation troops have resorted to excessive force, indiscriminate killing and collective punishment of the population. They have besieged entire towns, storming into them, instilling fear and horror among residents and destroying their homes. Iraqis have been humiliated and stripped of their basic human rights; they have been subjected to brutal and ghastly forms of torture, as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison case and the British troops' abuse of detainees in Basra have shown”. (The Guardian, 15 December 2005).

A recent UNICEF rapid assessment survey reveals that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children had almost doubled since before the war, jumping from 4 per cent to almost 8 per cent. The survey adds that; “Acute malnutrition sets in very fast and is strong indicator of the overall health of children”. The general health of Iraqi children, the elderly and pregnant women in particular has declined because of continue deteriorating of the living conditions. Since the invasion three years ago, Iraq still lack of access to potable water, food, adequate electricity supply, hospital care, and a sharp decline in Iraqis purchasing power due to the 70 per cent unemployment.

As the war continues and the bloodshed mounting, the U.S. and British powers are orchestrating elections that will legitimise their imperial interests at the expense of the Iraqi people. Illegitimate and fraudulent elections are no substitute for free, fare and democratic elections. This is consistent with the West own demand for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon before last March elections. The Bush Administration should apply the same in Iraq. There can be legitimate elections while Iraq is under occupation and its oil wealth is looted by the invaders. It is not democracy; it is criminal.

Like the January 2005 elections, these elections are for propaganda purpose designed to fool the rest of the world and cover-up the U.S. colonial aim in Iraq. Behind the scenes and against the wishes of the Iraqi people, the
looting of Iraq’s oil wealth and the colonisation of Iraq’s economy is a reality. The new production sharing agreements (PSAs) between big U.S. and British oil corporations enforced foreign control of Iraq’s resources. Every day passed, the occupation of Iraq is becoming more deadly and long lasting.

Furthermore, the U.S. and Britain are interfering directly in the elections by planting false articles in the Iraqi press to report favourably on the U.S. Occupation and to promote U.S. candidate. Iyad Allawi is presented by the U.S. and British mass media as the “strong man” and “only hope”, for Iraq. In October, Iraqis were forced to vote on a divisive and sectarian U.S.-crafted Constitution and now they are voting to implement that division. It doesn’t matter how many Iraqis vote in the elections, these elections do not represent the aspiration of the Iraqi people for free, democratic and sovereign Iraq. These elections are imposed from outside and at gun point.

The outcome of these fraudulent elections is a forgone conclusion. The result won’t change the situation on the ground. Imported Iraqi expatriate conmen and religious clerics, with their own militias and death squads are serving as the façade of the Occupation. The current coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which includes conman Ahmed Chalabi, is posed to win most of the votes. The C.I.A stooge, Iyad Allawi may be added to give the new puppet government a ‘secular’ colour with a corruption test. Together with the Kurdish warlords, the UIA will most likely continue to serve the U.S. Occupation, because they depend on its ongoing presence. The Occupation and its associated violence benefit the U.S. and its allies. Iraqis are stuck in the Occupation’s quagmire.

In addition to the U.S. and Britain, the Iranian regime is doing everything to keep its fanatic stooges in power in Iraq. There have been reports of ballots forgery and rigging on massive scale, including the participation of over a million illegal Iranians in the Iraqi elections. A stable Iraq has never been part of Iran policy, and the current environment of ongoing U.S. Occupation of Iraq is in Iran interests.

The vast majority of Iraqis are rejecting the U.S. Occupation. A recent poll conducted by the British Ministry of Defence in August 2005 reveals that over 82 per cent of Iraqis are “strongly opposed” to the presence of the occupying forces in Iraq. Less than 1 per cent of Iraqis think the Occupation forces are responsible for any improvement in security. If one excludes the Kurdish region of Iraq – where the U.S. has some support – from the poll, the anti-Occupation sentiment is even higher. George Bush refusal to set time for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq is also contrary to the “tentative agreement” reached on 21 November 2005 at the Arab League-sponsored Cairo conference, by Iraqi leaders, including the current puppet government.

So, if the elections have any chance of achieving the aim of the Iraqi people, which is the FULL and immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, then Iraqis will look forward to better future in independent Iraq. Only after liberation and national independence, Iraq can have truly free, fare and democratic elections. Westerners, Americans in particular should liberate themselves from the anti-Arab colonial ideology of deep-seated belief in cultural superiority to indigenous Iraqis. Iraqis do not need to prove their capability and place in history. Democracy can not be imposed and achieved by violence; democracy is planted and nurtured by the people.

For three years, the mass media didn’t dare to ask about the number of Iraqi deaths, and have deliberately covered up the mass murder of innocent Iraqis. President Bush wasn’t asked by a reporter, but by someone from the public when he responds to a question. Bush’s lowest estimate of Iraqi deaths is consistent with his style of deception, 30,000 or 200,000 deaths; Bush is admitting to have committed mass murder. What for?

There were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and Iraqis have never posed a threat to the American people. It wasn’t because of faulty intelligence, as the Bush-media spin suggests. The war instigated with clear conscious of the truth. The UN declared the war on Iraq an “illegal” act of aggression in violations of UN Charter. The invasion of Iraq is rightly described by Noble laureate, Harold Pinter, as:”An act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law”.

It is legally argued by attorney Michael Ratner, the former director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, and past president of the National Lawyer's Guild that: “
Article 2131 of the UN Charter requires that international disputes be settled by peaceful means so that international peace, security and justice are not endangered; Article 2141 requires that force shall not by used in any manner that is inconsistent with the purposes of the UN and Article 33 requires that parties to a dispute shall first of all seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies, or other peaceful means”. Force can not be used based on assumption and bogus intelligence.

It follows, that there is an overwhelming prima facia evidence to indict George W. Bush and his accomplices with war crimes and crime against humanity. If the American people justify the death penalty for Americans who committed murderous crimes in America, they should not ignore those who committed mass murder in Iraq.