Saturday, March 31, 2007

IOF filmed beating Palestinian youth and attacked by dogs

from sabbah's blog ... This video is one week old ...

IOF filmed beating Palestinian youth and attacked by dogs

This is a sample of the IOF harassment to Palestinians. ‘Brave’ soldiers filmed beating and abusing a 17-year-old Palestinian at the West Bank village of Hawara, near Nablus. The teen was on his way home from school. The incident was documented by one of the local residents. Local residents say life in village has become nightmare due to Israeli Occupation Forces violence. [more from ISM]

But if you think you’ve seen it all, think again.

Here is what other Israeli terrorist soldier are using their TRAINED dog to do:

But I’m not surprised, and you know why? Because the Israeli terrorists are the most coward people. This is how a Palestinian youth can frighten them:

source: Sabbah’s Blog


Iranian prisoner treatment VS Brit and US prisoners

A peculiar outrage
The treatment of Faye Turney is wrong - but not in the same league as British and US abuses

Ronan Bennett March 30, 2007 The Guardian

It's right that the government and media should be concerned about the treatment the 15 captured marines and sailors are receiving in Iran. Faye Turney's letters bear the marks of coercion, while parading the prisoners in front of TV cameras was demeaning. But the outrage expressed by ministers and leader writers is curious given the recent record of the "coalition of the willing" on the way it deals with prisoners.

Turney may have been "forced to wear the hijab", as the Daily Mail noted with fury, but so far as we know she has not been forced into an orange jumpsuit. Her comrades have not been shackled, blindfolded, forced into excruciating physical contortions for long periods, or denied liquids and food. As far as we know they have not had the Bible spat on, torn up or urinated on in front of their faces. They have not had electrodes attached to their genitals or been set on by attack dogs.

Article continues
They have not been hung from a forklift truck and photographed for the amusement of their captors. They have not been pictured naked and smeared in their own excrement. They have not been bundled into a CIA-chartered plane and secretly "rendered" to a basement prison in a country where torturers are experienced and free to do their worst.

As far as we know, Turney and her comrades are not being "worked hard", the euphemism coined by one senior British army officer for the abuse of prisoners at Camp Bread Basket. And as far as we know all 15 are alive and well, which is more than can be said for Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist who, in 2003, was unfortunate enough to have been taken into custody by British troops in Basra. There has of course been a court martial and it exonerated the soldiers of Mousa's murder. So we can only assume that his death - by beating - was self-inflicted; yet another instance of "asymmetrical warfare", the description given by US authorities to the deaths of the Guantánamo detainees who hanged themselves last year.

And while the families of the captured marines and sailors must be in agonies of uncertainty, they have the comfort of knowing that the very highest in the land are doing everything they can to end their "unjustified detention". They can count themselves especially lucky, for the very same highest of the land have rather different views on what justifies detention where foreign-born Muslims in Britain are concerned. In the case, for example, of the Belmarsh detainees, suspicion justified arrest; statements extracted under torture from third parties justified accusation; and secret hearings justified imprisonment.

With disregard for the rights of prisoners now entrenched at the very top of government, it comes as no surprise that abuses committed by rank and file soldiers go virtually unremarked. No one in politics or the media dares censure the military, surely today the only institution still immune from any sort of criticism, even when soldiers are brutal and murderous towards captives. Instead of frankly facing up to the wrongs soldiers have perpetrated, officers and ministers speak of difficult work done in testing conditions, deliberate provocations, and propaganda by the enemy.

We all know in our bones that soldiers and civilians in revolt don't mix. Ask any historian. Ask them about what British soldiers did in Kenya, French soldiers did in Algeria, and Americans in Vietnam. While you're at it, ask them what the RAF did in Iraq under British rule in the 1920s (gassed Kurds, in case you've forgotten).

We must all hope that Faye Turney and her comrades are returned to their families safely and soon. Then perhaps we can compare their accounts of their treatment with what Moazzam Begg and the Tipton Three have to say about Guantánamo, what Prisoner B has to say about Belmarsh, and what the men arrested with Baha Mousa can tell us of his screams on the night he died.


Unreal! army: radical natives, can be viewed as insurgencies

Army manual lumps radical natives with Hezbollah
Mar. 31 2007 News Staff

Radical natives are included on the same list as the Tamil Tigers and Hezbollah in a new counterinsurgency manual being prepared for the Canadian army.

The manual is in the final stages of preparation, but an early draft outlines tactics, including ambush, deception and killing, which the military could use abroad against military opponents -- and at home.

"The rise of radical Native American organizations, such as the Mohawk Warrior Society, can be viewed as insurgencies with specific and limited aims," the manual states.

"Although they do not seek complete control of the federal government, they do seek particular political concessions in their relationship with national governments and control (either overt or covert) of political affairs at a local/reserve ('First Nation') level, through the threat of, or use of, violence."

The 135-page document was put together in September 2005. A cover letter states that although the manual is a draft version, but it should be circulated for immediate use as a training manual until the final version is completed.

"I think it's appalling for all First Nations people to be looked at from any Canadian agency or any international agency, putting us in the same boat as national terrorists," Michael Delisle, a Montreal area Mohawk Chief, told CTV News.

The Defence Department has denied linking aboriginal groups with terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, and said the document was never approved by senior management. Officials also said the final version would not include any mention of present aboriginal groups.

But Ed Bianchi, an aboriginal rights activist, said the draft document hurts the cause of native Canadians.

"It demonstrates that the federal government still has the attitude towards native groups that they are the enemy that needs to be suppressed," Bianchi told CTV News.

The draft refers to the Mohawk Warrior Society, which played a role in Quebec's Oka crisis of 1990 that led to a 78-day standoff with police and left an officer dead.

Another controversy for native affairs

While the draft is stirring controversy for Native activists and supporter, some believe the document, and the tactics outlined in it, is necessary.

"The people who do these things should be treated like anyone else, and that may mean surveillance and military operations where necessary," said David Harris of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies.

The draft manual surfaces at a time when many feel the recent federal budget ignored many of the issues faced by natives, and as a months-old dispute between natives occupying a housing development near Caledonia, Ont. and residents, drags on.

"It does a great disservice to aboriginal Canadians who are just trying to help Canadians understand the underlying issues to their social problems, and this isn't going to help," said Bianchi.

"It's just going to put forward the idea again that native peoples are violent and we need to be afraid of them."

Many natives are at odds with the federal government over the $5 billion Kelowna Accord, a document negotiated by former Prime Minister Paul Martin to address native issues but never tabled by the Conservatives, and the plight of the residents of Kashechewan.

The reserve in northern Ontario has faced water contamination, sickness and flooding, but Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice says the government can't afford the $474 million price tag estimated to move the embattled Kashechewan reserve, as requested by the residents.

According to the manual, an insurgency is "the actions of a minority group within a state who are intent on forcing political change by means of a mixture of subversion, propaganda and military pressure, aiming to persuade or intimidate the broad mass of people to accept such a change."

The response to that, the manual states, can go beyond military response to include psychological tactics to defeat the enemy.

The manual seems to focus on the Canadian military serving in places where governments have lost control and factions are fighting for power.

The Canadian Forces has not yet commented on the manual and it is not clear whether native groups have been previously listed as a potential opponent.

With a report from CTV's Roger Smith


did Dion have anything to do with this?

Kovach Ouster Has Her Seeking Legal Advice
Doug Hallett, Guelph Tribune (Mar 30, 2007)

Coun. Gloria Kovach says she plans to seek legal advice related to her ouster as president of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, which she charges was caused by Liberal leader StÈphane Dion.

"I'd like an apology for what has happened," said Kovach, who was stripped of the FCM presidency after losing the local Conservative Party nomination to Brent Barr last week.

Kovach, who has been FCM president since December 2005 and whose term was supposed to end this May, announced Feb. 1 that she was seeking the Conservative nomination to run in the next federal election.

She said the trouble began soon afterwards when she met with Dion for prebudget discussions. With her at that meeting, her first with the new Liberal leader, was FCM first vice-president Gord Steeves of Winnipeg.

Dion "was not very engaging. He did not have a lot to say to us," Kovach said.

Soon afterwards, FCM staff told her that Dion had contacted FCM and the Big City Mayors Caucus "to say he would not deal with FCM with me as president," she said in an interview Wednesday.

"From there it started a spiral: What do we do? Dion's not happy," she said.

She said she agreed to take a short-term leave of absence, with the situation to be re-examined after the Conservative nomination meeting here on March 20.

"It was just the most bizarre turn of events . . . they just removed me as president," Kovach said about a March 21 conference call in which she was replaced by Steeves as FCM president.

She said she can't divulge the details of that in camera conference call and isn't even sure about the identity of everyone involved in the call.

Dion's office is denying Kovach's allegations.

"The reality is . . . Mr. Dion did not have any conversations with FCM related to her running to become a nominated candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada," spokesperson Elizabeth Whiting said Wednesday from Ottawa in response to a Trib enquiry.

"In fact, they had a pleasant conversation, a pleasant meeting face to face in Ottawa at the beginning of Feb-ruary," Whiting said.

FCM communications officer Joanne Mac-Donald wouldn't comment Thursday on Kovach's allegations related to Dion.

However, "the board's decision was in no way motivated by political or partisan considerations," she said in a phone interview from Ottawa.

That FCM board decision on March 21 "was a vote taken at an in camera meeting for the removal of a director, and it was done in accordance with FCM bylaws which required 75 per cent of the votes cast at the meeting for that purpose," she said.

"That is all we are willing to talk about at this point," MacDonald said.

Kovach said other FCM presidents, including current NDP leader Jack Layton, have had clear political affiliations while involved in running FCM.

FCM "is a nonpartisan organization, but we are all politicians," she said.

Michael Coleman, the man she replaced as president late in 2005 after he failed to win re-election as mayor of Duncan, B.C., had previously run federally as a Liberal, she said.

Asked why she thought Dion would have so much influence on FCM, she replied, "I have no idea."

She went on to say that she'd have thought a new Opposition leader would have better things to do "than trying to discredit a committed community leader. I didn't do anything untoward towards him."

She said she took an unpaid leave of absence from her nursing job to take on the FCM presidency, which has no salary.

"A lot of my colleagues across the country are devastated" by her ouster and have been sending her e-mails and even flowers, she said.

Kovach said she worked with all the party leaders as FCM president. "I couldn't imagine" Prime Minister Stephen Harper "trying to flex his muscles in this way," as Dion did, she said.


Liberal Party Activists Censoring YouTube Videos Critical of Stephane Dion

Liberal Party Activists Censoring YouTube Videos Critical of Stephane Dion
March 31, 2007

This entry was written by Greg Farries and posted on Fri Mar 30, 2007
It appears that YouTube user “liberalvideo” has been filing Copyright Infringement Notifications against videos that are critical of Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion. Two popular YouTube videos, one critical of Dion’s refusal to renounce his French citizenship, and the other, critical of the Liberals misuse of confidential materials, have been yanked from YouTube’s database.

If you attempt to look for these videos you’re met with the following:

This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by liberalvideo

It is unclear whether this is an isolated incident or whether this is a new tactic being employed to quell any unfavorable coverage of the Liberal party leader and or the Liberal Party.

Update: Stephen Taylor has got a copy of the video on his site. Go watch the video and see if you can see any copyright infringement.

Update 2: The “misuse of confidential materials” video has been uploaded to YouTube again, lets see how long it stays up…


Nunavut new language legislation, Inuktitut in public places

Nunavut looks to Quebec as language-law example
BOB WEBER Canadian Press March 31, 2007

In a move reminiscent of laws that changed Quebec forever, the government of Nunavut has introduced language legislation that would enforce the use of Inuktitut in public places from restaurants to schools to offices.

"What we'd like to do here is protect the Inuit language for the future," said Louis Tapardjuk, Minister of Culture, Language, Education and Youth.

"It will have an impact on all our children, families, communities, businesses, schools and governments."

Mr. Tapardjuk has introduced two language bills into the territorial legislature.

The Official Languages Act declares French, English and Inuktitut to be Nunavut's official languages. The Inuit Language Protection Bill is intended to ensure the three languages remain on an equal footing by mandating the use of Inuktitut for signs and services.

The proposed law says organizations providing "essential services" would have to use Inuktitut signage "at least equally prominent with any other signage used."

However, essential services would include emergency services, health care, restaurants, hotels, utilities, telecommunications and other services deemed to be "essential as a result of their nature or consequences."

Mr. Tapardjuk acknowledges that covers almost everything.

"When we talk in terms of essential services it pretty well covers any hospitality industry as well as the retail sector. Any public or private institution will have to provide service to the public in Inuktitut as well as English or French."

The bill also maintains Inuit children have a right to be educated in Inuktitut, despite the shortage of curriculum materials in that language. It also provides for an office to determine official usages and coinages of new words.

Quebec's Bill 101, designed to govern the use of French in that province, was one of the inspirations for Nunavut's bill, Mr. Tapardjuk said.

"That was the direction Nunavut wanted to take," he said.

As with French in Quebec, Inuktitut in Nunavut is in danger of being swamped by English.

"If you go to a restaurant, you don't see a menu in Inuktitut. Everything's in English," Mr. Tapardjuk said.

"In the regional stores the majority of the customers are Inuk, but the majority of the signs are English. It makes you wonder who they're really serving."

If it becomes law, the act will be enforced by an arm's-length language commissioner reporting to the legislature. The act would be enforced on a complaints basis.

Mr. Tapardjuk said penalties for breaking the law haven't yet been set.

A Statistics Canada study released last week found that Inuktitut is one of the healthiest aboriginal languages in the country.

More than half of Canada's 30,000 Inuit still consider it their mother tongue and it's the language spoken most often at home for 43 per cent of them. Still, those figures are declining and the young are least likely to be fluent.

Mr. Tapardjuk expects to hear concerns from the private sector.

"There are cost factors the private sector is quite concerned about."

However, he said, the Inuit Language Protection Bill is the result of two years of work and consultations, and more are scheduled.

Public meetings on the bill are to be held over the next weeks in five regions across Nunavut, but Mr. Tapardjuk expects the final measure to return to the legislature before the end of the current session.

Although the Northwest Territories recognizes 11 different aboriginal languages, nothing like Nunavut's proposed protections exist there. Mr. Tapardjuk said Nunavut's proposals may be unique.

"We're not aware of any legislation like the Language Protection Act," he said. "The closest one we were able to see is Bill 101."


Friday, March 30, 2007

limp chorus of "Dion, Dion, Dion."

'So not ready' Ivison: Despite Dion's bluster, election prospects bleak for reeling Liberals
John Ivison, National Post March 29, 2007

"We're ready ... we're ready ... we're ready," shouted Stéphane Dion at a Liberal pep rally yesterday, as members of his caucus gave a limp chorus of "Dion, Dion, Dion."

This was curious, since a senior Liberal had just confided: "We’re so not ready."

Mr. Dion's concluding call to arms — "We don't want an election, but if there is an election, we're going to win" — produced guffaws of disbelief, and even expressions of sympathy, from journalists who have formed a consensus that the Liberal leader is doomed.

The prospects would certainly be bleak if the Liberals were forced to fight a spring election. The latest polls put them as much as 17 points behind the Tories. They have nominated only 56 of 308 candidates, with a similar number pending in the next few weeks. This still leaves nearly 200 seats without candidates on the eve of a possible election, though the party claims it will have candidates in place when it needs them.

The platform is being written on the hoof and diluted to appease the various factions in the party. They are being outgunned on the fundraising front by at least 2:1. And, worst of all, they have a leader whose accent reminds English Canadians of the French soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who told his adversaries to "go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person."

Mr. Dion is not yet taken seriously in many parts of Canada — largely because parts of his platform, such as the environmental plan, are also Pythonesque.

But his speech yesterday gave hints why the current state of affairs might not always be so — and why the Prime Minister might be wise to call an election before Mr. Dion joins the pantheon of politicians such as Jean Chrétien, Mike Harris, Mario Dumont and even one Stephen Joseph Harper who confounded the collective wisdom after being written off by the media.

The speech gave a flavour of what we can expect in a general election campaign: A Dion government would build a "richer, fairer, greener" Canada that would see more cash spent on education and broad-based tax cuts.

It also took Mr. Harper to task for reducing the role of the federal government. "He must explain which powers and which responsibilities he wants to take away from federal government and justify them in terms of public interest and not in terms of electoral manipulation," he said in
clear English.

As Mr. Harper is confronted with the Charest-Dumont tag team in Quebec — neither of whom is likely to agree with Jim Flaherty's view that his budget is "the end of the bickering" — these are questions that some Conservatives will also be asking themselves.

Mr. Dion's speech will be reassuring for those Trudeau Liberals who want to see the party occupy traditional territory: left of centre on social issues; right of centre on taxation and the economy; all the while advocating a strong federal government.

"I thought it was a barn-burner. Dion surprised because he exceeded the media's expectations," said Senator Jerry Grafstein, who was a senior advisor to Pierre Trudeau. "He dissected the budget, had some one-line zingers and positioned the party where it should be."

Mr. Dion understands that Canadians don't need to love him, they just have to like him better than the other guy. To this end he is building a narrative that paints Mr. Harper as a churlish, short-sighted ideologue who will only look out for his fellow travellers.

"I will fight this election whenever it comes and I will fight hard. Canadians will know who I am and what I stand for and they will know what Mr. Harper's regime will do to this country — the smallness of ideology, the meanness of spirit, the inability to understand the enormity of Canada's
future," he said.

For all the optimistic talk of election readiness, a much more telling indicator of preparedness was a news release from Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale calling on the Conservatives to give royal assent to their own bill on fixed election dates — thus reducing the likelihood of the Prime Minister
engineering his own demise. The release quoted Mr. Harper as saying that fixed dates "prevent governments from calling snap elections for short-term political advantage."

If Mr. Harper really wants a majority, he will ignore any such qualms and force an election as soon as the polls stabilize around the 40% mark. The Liberal party has the regenerative powers of a flatworm. A year from now and it's entirely possible that Mr. Dion will have been able to transform
himself from zero to hero. Doubters should look to the recent reinvention of Mario Dumont.


new tory attack ads ...

New Tory attack ads will target Dion, sources say

The federal Tories are preparing a new series of ads attacking Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion as senior Conservative members continue debating the merits of a spring election campaign.

Sources have told The Globe and Mail that the advertisements, which have already been filmed, criticize Mr. Dion's stand on last week's budget. The Liberals voted against the deal and have been criticized by the Conservatives for doing so.

The budget, which polls say was widely popular, included tax relief for families, seniors, and parents saving for their children's postsecondary education.

The sources said the party hopes to run the advertisements during the two weeks of Parliament's Easter break, which begins next week. Sources said the party is also considering an advertisement targeting the Bloc Québécois.

Tories see BQ seats as vulnerable after the party's separatist partner, the Parti Québécois, ended up in third place after this week's election.

A source said party officials were still editing the ads, but confirmed they had been filmed. The source said the ads were being prepared both in French and English.

A previous series of commercials, criticized by some as being negative, was widely believed to have been effective in reducing Mr. Dion's popularity after he became Liberal leader.

The ads criticized Mr. Dion's record as Canada's environment minister, an effort to take down his reputation as strong on the environment.

Meanwhile, party members continued to be split yesterday over whether the government should try to provoke its own defeat and prompt an election. One official said Quebec cabinet ministers like Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, believes the time is ripe in his province to pull the plug.

But another senior Tory said the government is still mulling over the party's prospects in provinces such as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. All three provinces have expressed deep concern over the federal budget, in particular Canada's rejigged equalization program.

Those same Tories are also concerned that provoking an election would look too opportunistic and lead to accusations that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to prompt a vote for no other reason than to win a majority.

Party spokesman Ryan Sparrow wouldn't comment on the issue until the party makes an official announcement. One senior Tory said the party is ready to go and it has enough money to continue keeping campaign infrastructure, such as buses and aircraft, on standby.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Conservative campaign chief John Reynolds raised eyebrows when he said the federal government could fall within the next two weeks if the Liberals were to vote against bills that aim to get tough on crime.

"If they pass it, I say it's fine," Mr. Reynolds said on CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live.

"If they were to defeat it, I think you might see the Prime Minister say it's time to go to the people."


Canada risks isolation in the Arab world

Palestinians warn Canada of necessity for dialogue
Policy that bans meetings with officials risks isolation in Arab world, minister says
By CAROLYNNE WHEELER AND GLORIA GALLOWAY The Globe and Mail March 30, 2007 – Page A15

JERUSALEM AND OTTAWA -- Canada risks isolation in the Arab world if it does not rescind its ban on meeting with members of the new coalition Palestinian government as the United States, United Nations and much of Europe have done, Palestinian Authority leaders caution.

The warning comes after Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Prime Minister Stephen Harper both snubbed Mustafa Barghouti, the moderate new Palestinian Information Minister, who was in Ottawa this week.

Canadian officials yesterday confirmed they would not meet any member of the new government, taking a harder line than the White House. "It's our policy to have no contact with members of the government or deputy ministers -- that's what we're suggesting," said Daniel Dugas, Mr. MacKay's director of communications. "The minister has met [Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud] Abbas and speaks with him regularly."

The statement comes after Mr. MacKay told the House of Commons this week that Canada supports Mr. Abbas's efforts toward peace.

"Until such time as we see progress in the area of the Quartet principles, which call for the recognition of Israel, which call for the cessation of violence, which call for the road map to be adhered to, we are not going to deal directly with a terrorist organization, namely Hamas," he said.

Mr. Barghouti, a one-time presidential candidate seen as a moderate, with no links to the Islamist Hamas party, met with new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Swedish Foreign Minister just days before his arrival in Canada, where he was told the Canadian government was still formulating its policy on dealing with the new coalition.

"We think the Canadian position is either too slow or too much influenced by the Israelis," he said in a telephone interview from Ottawa yesterday, where he met with MPs from the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois parties, and attended a committee meeting involving a Conservative MP.

Most Western countries began enforcing sanctions against the Palestinian Authority government when Hamas was elected just over a year ago after it refused to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by most Western countries, including Canada, and Canada was the first of many countries to cut off financial aid.

But months of negotiation between Palestinian factions culminated in a power-sharing agreement signed last month in Mecca, which aimed to lift the blockade at least partly by agreeing to respect past accords that recognize Israel.

Although aid has not been restored, U.S. diplomats met recently with new Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad, also a moderate. Representatives from several European nations have either travelled to the West Bank for meetings or invited Palestinian leaders for official visits. Mr. Barghouti himself heads today to Italy to meet with Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema before returning home.

Israel, however, has argued for a continuation of the suspension of aid and contact, saying the new government has not explicitly recognized its right to exist. "This is exactly what we were asking for, because we see this as a government with an extremist platform, and it's important for the world to recognize it," an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said last night.

Mr. Barghouti warned that Canada's move could leave it standing alone with Israel, losing its traditional position as a neutral party in the Arab world.

"My message is for the Canadian government to look at our platform with your own Canadian eyes and not with Israeli glasses on," Mr. Barghouti said. "I think it's the [Canadian] government that should feel isolated in its position."

A medical doctor who also holds a degree in management from Stanford University, Mr. Barghouti has met with Canadian officials in the past, including the Prime Minister's special envoy to the Middle East, Wajid Khan. As a representative of the Independent Palestine party and former presidential candidate, Mr. Barghouti is seen as a moderate, liberal politician critical of government corruption and violence.

This trip, he said, was planned before the unity government was formed, but he decided to proceed as a "golden opportunity" to boost relations with Canada.

Instead, the chilly greeting has left Palestinian officials fuming.

"[Barghouti] is the same person who's gone back and forth to Canada and had contact with Canadian officials before," said Abdullah Abdullah, a Fatah parliamentarian who chairs the legislative council's political committee, and who was a Palestine Liberation Organization representative to Canada from 1972 to 1990. "It isn't going to help Canada's image and standing as a fair, neutral country with a tradition of peacemaking."


Liberals plummet, dion holds lowest numbers says new poll

Liberals plummet to 22% nationally, and 11% in Quebec

Greens reach double digits, overtake Bloc

PM’s approval at 40%, with huge boost in Quebec (49%)

Dion at 18%, best showing in Atlantic Canada (25%)

Harper still preferred PM (41% -- 17%), Canada on the right track for 36%



Thursday, March 29, 2007

hillier, lies or truth?

Afghan experts contradict Hillier’s optimistic claims
Andrew Mayeda, CanWest News Service March 29, 2007

Two leading experts on Afghanistan painted a sobering picture of the conditions there Thursday, arguing support among Afghans for NATO forces is plummeting, the U.S.-driven policy of poppy eradication is wrongheaded, and the war might not be winnable in its present form.

U.S. scholar Barnett Rubin and Gordon Smith, Canada's former ambassador to NATO, delivered their withering comments to a parliamentary committee only days after Canada's top military commander, Gen. Rick Hillier, touted the progress being made in Afghanistan.

Hillier, the chief of defence staff, this week predicted Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan should soon see a rise in attacks from the Taliban. But he insisted on using the term "surge" rather than "offensive."

He also noted many Afghans are moving back into their homes in districts west of Kandahar following a Canadian-led NATO offensive last fall.

But Rubin, who has been to Afghanistan 29 times and followed it for more than two decades, said Thursday that many Afghans are growing frustrated with the pace of Western efforts to stabilize the country.

"They're not at all happy. Support for both the international presence and the government has plummeted in the past year or so," he told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.

He said Afghans aren't seeing the results of promises by the United States and NATO, which took over the mission in 2003, to increase security, establish democracy and improve the economy.

"The main complaint that I hear from Afghans is not that we're imposing something on them that we don't want, but that we haven't delivered what they think we promised."

Rubin recently published an article in Foreign Affairs magazine warning Afghanistan "is at risk of collapsing into chaos." In the article, he blasts the U.S. government for underestimating the influence of Pakistan, which he accuses of providing "safe haven" to the Taliban.

"There certainly [is] in Pakistan very obvious infrastructure of support for the insurgency," including madrassa religious schools and insurgent training camps, Rubin said Thursday.

He also noted reports that the Taliban are receiving support from the Pakistani intelligence agency, known as ISI, although he cautioned such reports are difficult to verify.

Smith, meanwhile, threw cold water on Hillier's suggestion that Canadian troops are facing a weakened enemy.

There is evidence that al-Qaeda-affiliated militants, who often fight alongside the Taliban, are actually gaining strength, said Smith, now executive director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria.

"The al-Qaeda problem has not gone away," he told the committee. "It's important that we not forget the original motivation for going to Afghanistan, and that was to deal with al-Qaeda."

Smith recently released a critical report of his own, entitled "Canada in Afghanistan: Is it Working?" He questions whether NATO can achieve its stated goals, even within a period of 10 years. Canada has committed to maintain its military presence until 2009.

"If we're serious, and we've got to be serious, we'll be there for a long time," he said.

Smith argues NATO needs to increase its troop commitment, while deploying development aid more effectively and opening political negotiations with the Taliban.

He is also harshly critical of the policy, favoured by the United States, of eradicating poppy crops to curb the drug trade.

He said NATO needs to create a market so Afghan farmers can sell their opium for legal use in medical products, such as morphine, or establish financial incentives so that farmers can become less dependent on the heroin market.


which story is true?

NATO troops earn resentment of frustrated Afghans
ISAF refutes Reuters’ claim of 60 civilians killed in Kandahar Province in January

NATO troops earn resentment of frustrated Afghans
Mar 27, 2007 David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Foreign troops deployed in Afghanistan are beginning to draw the resentment of Afghans fed up with growing civilian casualties and the lack of material progress in their lives, experts say.

Resentment has posed special problems in the south, where villagers who have suffered from Western military firepower have responded to the Taliban's call to arms against foreign troops and the government of President Hamid Karzai, the experts said.

"There is growing resentment because of the kinds of military operations that have been carried out, not because of the international troop presence," Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director for International Crisis Group think tank, said this week in an interview.

Ahmed, who is based in Pakistan and travels frequently to Afghanistan, cited bombing raids based on faulty intelligence that have killed innocent villagers and shootings of innocent civilians by panicky troops as especially damaging to Afghan support for Western forces.

"What has also led to greater resentment is the fact that Kabul is not delivering," she added, referring to the Afghan government's difficulty in providing services to the people.

The United States provides about 27,000 of the 45,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, some in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the rest under a separate U.S.-led coalition.

Pentagon and NATO officials cited opinion polls, however, that show a large majority of Afghans favoring foreign troops and only a small fraction of support for the Taliban

"There is no doubt that the population supports the presence of international troops," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

Added Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Vician: "Support for the Taliban has not increased. I think the majority see the Taliban for what they are or what they bring to Afghanistan, which is brutality."


But polling data has also shown Afghan support for international troops slipping in 2006 as the populace has grown less optimistic about the country's direction.

Violence in Afghanistan last year was the worst since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001. About one-quarter of the 4,000 people killed in 2006 were civilians.

NATO, U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders have said the Taliban insurgency cannot be defeated unless reconstruction brings the new jobs and economic progress that were widely anticipated after the former Taliban rulers were ousted.

But David Edwards, a U.S. anthropologist regarded as an expert on the origins of the Taliban, said reconstruction has been overshadowed by rampant corruption, meager international donations and poverty in a country where the unemployment rate is about 40 percent.

"It's important to understand that Americans have come to be seen as an occupying power," Edwards, an author who has traveled widely in Afghanistan, said at a Monday forum sponsored by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington

"It's a way in which the Taliban has come to gain supporters," added Edwards, who said there is evidence that the Taliban pays its members better than Afghanistan's national army pays its soldiers.

The warnings about eroding support came as NATO commanders conducted a spring offensive code-named Operation Achilles against Taliban strongholds in a bid to pre-empt an expected warmer weather seasonal campaign by Islamist militants.

With fighting expected to be heavy again in 2007, Afghans have complained more loudly about the effects of combat as NATO has poured more troops into the effort to thwart the Taliban.

Scores of civilians have died during NATO operations this year. About 60 people, including women and children, were killed by NATO planes during fighting in the southern province of Kandahar in January during an important Muslim holiday.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray in Washington, Mark John in Brussels and Terry Friel in Kabul)

ISAF refutes Reuters’ claim of 60 civilians killed in Kandahar Province in January
Release # 2007-249 29 March 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan –
In a story, headlined “NATO Troops earn resentment of frustrated Afghans,” dated 27 March 2007, Reuters reported that “About 60 people including innocent women and children, were killed by NATO planes during fighting in the southern province of Kandahar in January during an important Muslim holiday.” The Reuters story also claims, according to a source, that “panicky” ISAF soldiers have killed innocent people.

A thorough review of both battle damage assessments and claims put forward for January 2007 does not corroborate the numbers reported in the Reuters story. As a result, ISAF refutes the claim made by Reuters.

As for the specific allegation that NATO planes killed 60 innocent Afghans in Kandahar Province in January, it is important to note that ISAF did not launch any major air strike offensives during that month in Kandahar Province. The majority of air strikes in the province of Kandahar occurred in the initial stages of Operation Baaz Tsuka, specifically on 13 and 19 December 2006. During these strikes, our battle damage assessments did not reveal any innocent Afghans killed. Our records do show, however, that ISAF operations may have injured some civilians in December 2006 and these claims, which were filed in January 2007, are still being processed.

ISAF takes extraordinary measures to prevent any type of collateral damage and operates on the principal of avoiding any and all civilian casualties during operations. This has been a long standing practise and ISAF continues to apply this principle rigorously.

It is equally important to note that in addition to conducting battle damage assessments, ISAF works closely with the Government of Afghanistan through a detailed process by which evidence and claims can be put forward by Afghans in cases where innocent people are killed or collateral damage was caused.

“Every Afghan killed in this conflict is one Afghan too many,” stated Major General Ton van Loon, Commander of Regional Command South. “Local

Afghans in areas where we are currently conducting operations have clearly told us that they are essentially held hostage by Taliban extremists. Our operations are therefore planned as such and we take every possible precaution to prevent the accidental killing or injuring of local Afghans. If this means cancelling or delaying operations, then this is what I will continue to do,” he added.

Regarding claims by Reuters that the “panicking” actions of ISAF troops have killed innocent people during battles, ISAF stands firmly behind its troops who, to the contrary, have not only demonstrated courage in the performance of their duty but have repeatedly demonstrated restraint during battles with extremists. ISAF troops demonstrated restraint in occasions such as on 7 February in the Kajaki area where extremists used children to cover their retreat, causing ISAF forces to stop engaging the enemy. Similarly, they showed control in the Garmsir area on 7 March when extremists sought refuge in a Mosque, temporarily causing ISAF forces to cease fighting until extremists started engaging from the Mosque. During the same operation, ISAF troops ceased fire on the enemy who took refuge where innocent Afghans were believed to be residing.

In contrast to the restraint of ISAF forces, suicide attacks targeting Afghan National Security Forces or ISAF troops often kill innocent civilian bystanders. For 2007 alone, these indiscriminate attacks, often launched by extremists in crowded areas, have killed 25 local Afghan civilians and wounded more than 60 others. For the month of March alone, 18 innocent Afghans have been killed and more than 12 innocent Afghans have been wounded as the direct result of enemy improvised explosive device attacks.

ISAF Public Information Office


SaudiKing: US occupation ILLEGAL, settle difference before US dominates the region!

U.S. Iraq Role Is Called Illegal by Saudi King King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during an Arab League meeting in Riyadh.
March 29, 2007 By HASSAN M. FATTAH TheNewYorkTimes

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 28 — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.

The king’s speech, at the opening of the Arab League meeting here, underscored growing differences between Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration as the Saudis take on a greater leadership role in the Middle East, partly at American urging.

The Saudis seem to be emphasizing that they will not be beholden to the policies of their longtime ally.

They brokered a deal between the two main Palestinian factions last month, but one that Israel and the United States found deeply problematic because it added to the power of the radical group Hamas rather than the more moderate Fatah. On Wednesday King Abdullah called for an end to the international boycott of the new Palestinian government. The United States and Israel want the boycott continued.

In addition, Abdullah invited President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to Riyadh earlier this month, while the Americans want him shunned. And in trying to settle the tensions in Lebanon, the Saudis have been willing to negotiate with Iran and Hezbollah.

Last week the Saudi king canceled his appearance next month at a White House dinner in his honor, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The official reason given was a scheduling conflict, the paper said.

Mustapha Hamarneh, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, said the Saudis were sending Washington a message. “They are telling the U.S. they need to listen to their allies rather than imposing decisions on them and always taking Israel’s side,” Mr. Hamarneh said.

In his speech, the king said, “In the beloved Iraq, the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism.”

He added: “The blame should fall on us, the leaders of the Arab nation, with our ongoing differences, our refusal to walk the path of unity. All that has made the nation lose its confidence in us.”

King Abdullah has not publicly spoken so harshly about the American-led military intervention in Iraq before, and his remarks suggest that his alliance with Washington may be less harmonious than administration officials have been hoping.

Since last summer the administration has asserted that a realignment is occurring in the Middle East, one that groups Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon along with Israel against Iran, Syria and the militant groups that they back: Hezbollah and Hamas.

Washington has urged Saudi Arabia to take a leading role in such a realignment but is finding itself disappointed by the results.

Some here said the king’s speech was a response to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s call on Monday for Arab governments to “begin reaching out to Israel.”

Many read Ms. Rice’s comments as suggesting that Washington was backing away from its support for an Arab initiative aimed at solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel wants the Arabs to make changes in the terms, most notably the call for a right of return for Palestinian refugees to what is today Israel. The Arab League is endorsing the initiative, first introduced by Saudi Arabia in 2002, without changes.

The plan calls on Israel to withdraw from all land it won in the 1967 war in exchange for full diplomatic relations with the Arab world. It also calls for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Regarding the Palestinians, the king said Wednesday, “It has become necessary to end the unjust blockade imposed on the Palestinian people as soon as possible so that the peace process can move in an atmosphere far from oppression and force.”

With regard to Iraq, the Saudis seem to be paying some attention to internal American politics. The Senate on Tuesday signaled support for legislation calling for a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq in exchange for further funding for the war.

Last November, officials here realized that a Democratic upset could spell major changes for the Middle East: a possible pullout from Iraq, fueling further instability and, more important, allowing Iran to extend its influence in the region.

“I don’t think that the Saudi government has decided to distance itself from Bush just yet,” said Adel alToraifi, a columnist here with close ties to the Saudi government. “But I also think that the Saudis have seen that the ball is moving into the court of the Democrats, and they want to extend their hand to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.”

Turki al-Rasheed, who runs an organization promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia, said the king was “saying we may be moving on the same track, but our ends are different.”

“Bush wants to make it look like he is solving the problem,” Mr. Rasheed said. “The king wants to actually solve the problems.”

King Abdullah said the loss of confidence in Arab leaders had allowed American and other forces to hold significant sway in the region. “If confidence is restored it will be accompanied by credibility,” he said, “and if credibility is restored then the winds of hope will blow, and then we will never allow outside forces to define our future nor allow banners to be raised in Arab lands other than those of Arabism, brothers.”

The Saudis sought to enforce discipline on the two-day meeting, reminding Arab leaders and dignitaries to stay on message and leave here with some solution in hand.

“The weight of the Saudis has ensured that this will be a problem-free summit,” said Ayman Safadi, editor in chief of the Jordanian daily Al Ghad. “Nobody is going to veer from the message and go against the Saudis. But that doesn’t mean the problems themselves will be solved.”

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations gave a stark assessment in an address to the meeting, saying the region was “more complex, more fragile and more dangerous than it has been for a very long time.”

There is a shocking daily loss of life in Iraq, he said, and Somalia is in the grip of “banditry, violence and clan rivalries.”

Iran, which on Saturday had new sanctions imposed against it by the Security Council, is “forging ahead with its nuclear program heedless of regional and international concerns,” Mr. Ban added.

Having spent Monday and Tuesday in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Mr. Ban urged the new Palestinian government to demonstrate a “true commitment to peace.”

In return, he said, Israel must cease its settlement activity and stop building a separation barrier.

He concluded, “Instability in the Arab League states is of profound significance to international peace and security.”

Nada Bakri contributed reporting from Beirut, Rasheed Abou-Alsamh from Jidda and Warren Hoge from Riyadh.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

American-Jewish lobby; best and worst of times ...

Taming Leviathan
Mar 15th 2007
From The Economist print edition

These are both the best of times and the worst of times for the American-Jewish lobby

THIS week saw yet another reminder of the awesome power of “the lobby”. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) brought more than 6,000 activists to Washington for its annual policy conference. And they proceeded to live up to their critics' darkest fears.

They heard from the four most powerful people on Capitol Hill—Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner from the House, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell from the Senate—as well as the vice-president (who called his talk “The United States and Israel: United We Stand”) and sundry other power-brokers. Several first-division presidential candidates held receptions.

The display of muscle was almost equalled by the display of unnerving efficiency. There were booths for “congressional check-in”, booths for “delegate banquet troubleshooting”, and booths full of helpful young people. The only discordant note was sounded by a group of a dozen protesters—Orthodox Jews in beards, side-curls and heavy black coats—holding up signs saying “Stop AIPAC”, “Torah forbids Jews dictating foreign policy”, and “Judaism rejects the state of Israel”.

The lobbyists had every reason to feel proud of their work. Congress has more Jewish members than ever before: 30 in the House and a remarkable 13 in the Senate. (There are now more Jews in Congress than Episcopalians.) Both parties are competing with each other to be the “soundest” on Israel. About two-thirds of Americans hold a favourable view of the place.

Yet they have reason to feel a bit nervous, too. The Iraq debacle has produced a fierce backlash against pro-war hawks, of which AIPAC was certainly one. It has also encouraged serious people to ask awkward questions about America's alliance with Israel. And a growing number of people want to push against AIPAC. One pressure group, the Council for the National Interest—run by two retired congressmen, Paul Findley, a Republican, and James Abourezk, a Democrat—even bills itself as the anti-AIPAC. The Leviathan may be mightier than ever, but there are more and more Captain Ahabs trying to get their harpoons in.

Some of the most determined are Arab-Americans, who have been growing in numbers and influence for years—there are probably about 3.5m of them—and who have been in the eye of a political storm since September 11th 2001. They are a growing political force in northern Ohio and Michigan, and their institutions, such as the Arab American Institute and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have plenty of access to Middle Eastern money.

But so far their performance has been unimpressive. James Zogby has been promising a breakthrough for his Arab American Institute for 20 years. CAIR remains marginal. Arab-Americans are badly split between Christians (63%) and Muslims (24%). They have also been late in taking to politics. Between 1990 and 2004 Arab-Americans donated $788,968 to candidates and parties, compared with $56.8m from pro-Israeli groups.

AIPAC's ace in the hole is the idea that it represents Jewish interests in a country that is generally philo-Semitic. But liberal Jewish groups retort that it represents only a sliver of Jewish opinion. A number of more liberal groups have started to use their political muscle—groups such as the Religious Action Centre of Reform Judaism, Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum. These groups scored a significant victory over AIPAC by persuading Congress to water down a particularly uncompromising bit of legislation, the Palestinian Anti-terrorism Act, which would have prevented any American contact with the Palestinian leadership. This accomplishment led to a flurry of speculation that George Soros might try to institutionalise this successful alliance by creating a liberal version of AIPAC.

It has yet to materialise. And it is doubtful whether Mr Soros, a left-wing Democrat who has little sympathy with Israel, would be the best patron for such an organisation. But the growing activism of liberal Jewish groups underlines a worrying fact for AIPAC: most Jews are fairly left-wing. Fully 77% of them think that the Iraq war was a mistake compared with 52% of all Americans. Eighty-seven per cent of Jews voted for the Democrats in 2006, and all but four of the Jews in Congress are Democrats.

Dissenting voices

An even bigger threat to AIPAC comes from the general climate of opinion. It is suddenly becoming possible for serious people—politicians and policymakers as well as academics—to ask hard questions about America's relationship with Israel. Is America pursuing its own interests in the Middle East, or Israel's? Should America tie itself so closely to the Israeli government's policies or should it forge other alliances?

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser, worries that America is seen in the Middle East as “acting increasingly on behalf of Israel”. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, has compared the situation in Palestine to segregation, and argued that there could “be no greater legacy for America than to help bring into being a Palestinian state”. Philip Zelikow, her former counsellor, argues, in diplomatic language, that the only way to create a viable coalition against terrorists that includes Europeans, moderate Arabs and Israelis, is a “sense that Arab-Israeli issues are being addressed”.

The biggest challenge facing AIPAC is how to deal with this changing climate. Its members have been admirably honest about their mission in life. They boast about passing more than a hundred bits of pro-Israel legislation a year. But they are too willing to close down the debate with explosive charges of anti-Israel bias when people ask whether this is a good thing. America needs an open debate about its role in the Middle East—and AIPAC needs to take a positive role in that debate if it is to remain such a mighty force in American politics.


Blogs turn 10--who's the father?

Blogs turn 10--who's the father?
Blogging has been around for about a decade now--depending on how you define it and whom you ask."Blogs turn 10--who's the father?
Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache CNET March 20, 2007

Someone, somewhere created the very first Web log. It's just not quite clear who.

It may not be one of the Internet's grandest accomplishments, but with the number of active bloggers hovering somewhere around 100 million, according to one estimate, there are some serious bragging rights to be claimed by the first person who provably laid fingers to keyboard in the traditional bloggy way.

Was the first blogger the irascible Dave Winer? The iconoclastic Jorn Barger? Or was the first blogger really Justin Hall, a Web diarist and online gaming expert whom The New York Times Magazine once called the "founding father of personal blogging"?

Or did all three merely make incremental improvements on earlier proto-blogs? The answer is most likely "yes" to all of the above. In truth, awarding the title "first blogger" is more than a little tricky because the definitions of blog and blogger are slippery. Any definition should probably include posts sorted by date, with the newest posts at the top and the rest archived for future use (criteria that would eliminate the Drudge Report, for instance).

Winer is a pioneer of Web syndication techniques and editor of Scripting News, which launched on April 1, 1997.

He boasts on his site that Scripting News "bootstrapped the blogging revolution" and that it is the "longest currently running Web log on the Internet." A decade ago, however, Winer wasn't actually using the term "Web log," nor does he claim to have invented the term. Winer did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CNET until after this article appeared. He replied in a post claiming "the first blogs were inspired" by Scripting News.

Barger, a programmer, futurist and James Joyce scholar, is not afraid to say, indeed, he's the guy who invented the term "Web log." In December 1997, he created to feature entirely bloggy collections of links to articles about politics, culture, books and technology that he found interesting.

"Since I made up the word, I assume I get to define it," Barger said in an e-mail message to CNET on Monday. "And by my strictest definition Winer wasn't quite a blog--he mixed up the reverse-chronological ordering too much. So--unsurprisingly--the first 100 percent Weblog would be mine."

Barger said his site amounted to something of a day-to-day log of his reading and intellectual pursuits--and because it was online, he called it a "WebLog." And thus a new term, which would soon be abbreviated and de-capitalized to "blog" by Peter Merholz of, was born.

"Winer called them 'news pages,' but I didn't plan to do mainly news, but rather anything I found that I thought was worth reading or visiting," Barger said in an e-mail. "So at the last minute I needed to come up with a title, and I used AltaVista to see whether various possibilities were already taken (with 'log' being the critical descriptive term). 'Weblog' was being used as a synonym for 'server log' or 'html log' by site administrators, but since they had the other options I grabbed the more general one."

Building on the .plan
But as any Internet graybeard will tell you, early Net denizens were just as active in sharing details of their personal lives and commenting on politics (though, perhaps, not the antics of their pet cats) as the latest generation of bloggers. They did it on mailing lists and through a now virtually forgotten technique called a ".plan" file that was invented in the early 1970s.

A .plan file was a publicly visible text file of any length that could be attached to each individual account on a Unix system and often used reverse-chronological blog-like ordering with newer items at the top. Internet users could edit their own .plan files to include details of their personal life, work projects or musings on the nature of reality.

Many did. One of the most famous .plan files was created by John Carmack, who co-founded Id Software and was the lead programmer on blockbuster video games including Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. (Carmack's .plan file has since been converted to a blog.)

Some of Carmack's frequent updates described programming accomplishments, such as "made qport more random" and "fixed map reconnecting." Others were conversational: "Quake has bugs. I freely acknowledge it, and I regret them. However, Quake 1 is no longer being actively developed, and any remaining bugs are unlikely to be fixed. We would still like to be aware of all the problems, so we can try to avoid them in Quake 2."

The humble .plan file even played a role in the early history of the Linux kernel. In July 1991, as part of his first public post about the kernel, Linux developer Linus Torvalds asked for help with operating system standards. As an aside, he also mentioned a tweak to his .plan file to make it change automatically, and that was what generated far more attention.

Torvalds' Usenet post was eventually seen by Ari Lemmke, who gave Linux its name (Torvalds had proposed "Freax") and who provided an online home for what would become one of the world's most popular operating systems, according to Torvalds' own history.

Putting a 'finger' on blogging's birth
Dot-plan files were read through the "finger" command, which is so antique it actually dates back to the pre-Internet days of the ARPAnet.

It was created in the early 1970s by Les Earnest, who had already invented the first spell-checker and the first successful cursive writing recognizer. Earnest is currently a senior research scientist emeritus at Stanford University's computer science department, an enthusiastic bicyclist and a cycling association official. (Read the rest of an interview with Earnest).

"It was used in much the same way as blogs are now--that is, the .plan file was intended to be just a way to tell people where you were going to be," Earnest said in a telephone interview. "If you were going off on vacation or a trip or something, or were just going to sleep for a while, you could post that in your .plan file. But then people noticed that it could be used as a statement of personal views on things and they started doing that...(For) expressing your personal views on things, it was very much like a blog, a personal blog."

Earnest's creation of the "finger" command and .plan file became an official standard (RFC 742) in December 1977 and was updated in 1991. (Along the way, of course, it also led to innumerable jokes about how to "finger me" among oversexed computer science undergraduates.)

Plan files, or at least instructions on how to read them, found their way onto business cards and into the Geek Code, a mid-1990s method of describing how geeky someone is.

Students used them to keep journals, post schedules, or talk about tae kwon do practice. In 1994, one undergraduate student at Carnegie Mellon University created a rambling online diary in his .plan file that was hundreds of pages long. Some still exist today.

Because they were merely text files, however, even the most sophisticated .plan files could not include features we take for granted in blogs today: RSS, CSS, trackbacks, formatted text, hyperlinks, and of course, comments.

Those were gradually added after the Web was created, and Justin Hall was one of the first Web-based diarists to experiment with this then-novel medium. He was profiled by the Times for his very personal diaries at, which began when he was a student at Swarthmore College. Hall is now working on a research area that he calls passively multiplayer online games.

In an interview on Monday, Hall said he started in January 1994. "I was inspired by every home page I saw online--a picture of some scientist and his dog, his collection of old English riddles, whatever--it was so simple and trivial, I thought, it can't be hard to post a page here," he said. "It wasn't hard at all! Once I found a way to post my pages up, I could create more and more interlinked text."

Hall doesn't claim to be the first blogger; rather, he said he prefers thinking of spontaneous appearances of similar sites. "Where was the first printing press with movable type?" he asked. "Good luck tracking that down."

Blogs: The evolution

Sometime in 1971
Stanford's Les Earnest creates the "finger" protocol.

December 1977
The finger protocol becomes an official standard.

January 1994
Swarthmore student Justin Hall begins compiling lists of links at his site,, and continues adding to the site for 11 years.

January 1995
Early online diarist Carolyn Burke publishes her first entry for Carolyn's Diary.

April 1997
Dave Winer launches Scripting News, which he calls the longest-running Web log currently on the Internet.

September 1997
Slashdot begins publishing "News for Nerds."

December 1997
Jorn Barger's site apparently becomes the first to call itself a Web log.

Sometime in 1999
Brad Fitzpatrick launches Livejournal, which he calls his "accidental success."
• Peter Merholz of declares he has decided "to pronounce the word 'weblog' as 'wee-blog.' Or 'blog' for short."
• The word "blog" first appears in print, according to dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster.

August 1999
Three friends who founded a San Francisco start-up called Pyra Labs create a tool called Blogger "more or less on a whim."

January 2001
First crop of blogs nominated for the "Bloggies" award.

October 2001
First version of Movable Type content management software becomes available.

February 2003
Google acquires Pyra and its Blogger software.

May 2003
First official version of WordPress open-source blogging software released for download.

October 2003
Six Apart releases first version of its Typepad blogging service.

January 2004
Boston-based Steve Garfield launches his video blog, considered one of the first such "vlogs."

October 2005
VeriSign buys Dave Winer's Around the same time, AOL snaps up blog publisher Weblogs Inc.

February 2006
Veteran blogger Jason Kottke abandons his yearlong attempt to live off of micropayments through his blog.

January 2007
Members of the Media Bloggers Association are among the first bloggers to receive press credentials from a federal court.

February 2007
Freelance video blogger Josh Wolf becomes the longest-serving journalist behind bars in U.S. history, on contempt charges.


President Cherniak video page; and where is support / another poll ...

Liblogs, the unofficial list of Liberal bloggers, launches a video page
... All media inquiries should be directed to:Jason Cherniak President - Liblogs

.... and Far and Wide: Dion's "Leadership" Gap


Afghanistan: Tightening Grip on Media

Afghanistan: Tightening Grip on Media
ALISA TANG Associated Press Writer March 27, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan —
Political talk show host Razaq Mamoon never held back with the cameras rolling. He railed at former warlords now in government and accused Afghanistan's Parliament of being a den of war criminals and drug smugglers.

Not surprisingly, he caught the attention of government leaders.

"I started receiving messages from them: 'We don't know who you're with or who you're against. You attack everybody,'" Mamoon said.

His employer, Tolo TV, came under intense pressure from government ministers, and soon Mamoon was fired, he said. His popular round-table news program "Gaftmon" _ or "Hardtalk" _ was yanked from the air.

Hailed as a major success of five years of democracy-building, media freedom in Afghanistan is under increasing pressures, including a proposed law that would cripple media rights, and threats and physical abuse of journalists by government and military officials.

"Effectively we've moved from an open media environment to a state-controlled media environment, which is a considerable turnaround from the direction media was heading in Afghanistan up until 2005-06," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

The Afghan media has changed radically since Taliban times, when there were no television stations and only a handful of newspapers that were completely state-controlled. There was just one Taliban radio station _ broadcasting news and religious poetry but no music.

Now there are more than 40 private radio stations, seven TV networks, and more than 350 newspapers and magazines registered with the information ministry. Afghan TV broadcasts everything from breaking news to cooking shows and the local version of "American Idol."

But critics say the new legislation, expected to be debated in Parliament within weeks, is an ominous sign that Afghanistan's experiment with open media is on borrowed time.

Fazil Sangcharaki, chief of the Afghan Journalists' Association and former deputy information minister, said the proposed law is being pushed by former warlords-turned-politicians who would rather have past deeds be forgotten, and by Islamists worried the media is corrupting the Afghan people.

If passed, it would give the Ministry of Information and Culture direct control of state-owned Radio and Television Afghanistan (RTA) and increased power over private media. It would even make it possible to jail journalists like Mamoon for reporting news deemed "humiliating and offensive."

Many journalists see it as a reaction to reporting on corruption and war crimes, and an attempt by President Hamid Karzai's elected government _ that succeeded the fundamentalist Taliban regime that fell in late 2001 _ to reel in the free press.

"The government was not happy with my investigative work," Mamoon said at the office of Emroz, the new media company where he now works. "The government is facing criticism, which is new for them. It is embarrassed."

The proposed law would turn RTA into a "state propaganda tool," Edwards said. The information minister would be granted the power to appoint and pay commissioners who regulate the media.

"You don't want to have a minister of information who can literally haul in journalists or influence private media through salaries of commissioners ... That would be worrying in any country," Edwards said.

Several vaguely worded prohibitions in the law could be used to black out almost any news story.

It would prohibit the "propagation of religions other than the holy religion of Islam"; stories that "affect the stability, national security and territorial integrity of the country," and "articles and topics that harm the physical, spiritual and moral well-being of people, especially children and adolescents."

UNAMA officials and others lobbying for press freedom have met with President Karzai and Information Minister Abdul Karim Khurram, but the outcome for the media is not clear.

Halim Tanweer, Khurram's media advisor, said the information ministry believes "100 percent" in free speech and a free press.

"We broadcast any news in the national interest of the Afghan people," Tanweer said. "We are trying to be impartial. (State TV) does not work for the government."

However, evidence of efforts to muffle the media is rapidly piling up.

_ On Feb. 22 in the western city of Herat, Afghan police beat and confiscated the camera of an Ariana Television cameraman Eshaq Quraishi, who was filming a victim wounded by police gunfire at a protest, according to Afghan press rights organization Nai. A report by Nai quoted Herat police chief Ahmad Shafiq Fazli as saying that Quraishi "was not beaten up by the police ... and their camera was stolen by protesters."

_ And in a sign it's not just Afghan authorities constraining the press, U.S. troops deleted the photos and video of Afghan journalists _ including a freelance photographer and a cameraman of The Associated Press _ covering the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack March 4 in eastern Afghanistan.

_ In Kabul, RTA television reporter Besoodi Forgh was dealt two black eyes by a team of seven men from the information ministry, he said. The men showed up in his newsroom late last month and accused him of spying for Iran. Two men held his hands behind his back, and one man punched him four times in the face and three times on back of the head.

"I'm not a spy. I've never even been to Iran," he said.

He was fired.

But in a sign that Afghan journalists won't bow down quietly, he's gone public about his ordeal. Mamoon also said he would stand up for his professional rights, "even if it costs me my life," although he remains pessimistic about the future.

"The government has lost the trust of the Afghan media. The media is wondering who will defend us now? We have nobody," Mamoon said. "This is very dangerous for Afghanistan's democracy. There is no difference between Taliban times and now."


Associated Press writers Amir Shah and Jason Straziuso contributed to this report.


employment opportunity for tories ...

Only Tories need apply
Looking for a government job? New commission says lean to your right

The Conservatives have no plan to cleanse partisanship from government appointments and will use the promised Public Appointments Commission to ensure their qualified friends get the jobs, says an Ottawa Conservative MP.

Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to Treasury Board President Vic Toews, said the government won't appoint people who don't agree with its agenda.

"We will be appointing people who will further that agenda. That is nothing new. In fact, it's worth saying twice: We are going to appoint people who agree with the agenda we intend to implement," said Poilievre, during a Commons government operations committee meeting. "And this commission is designed to ensure that those appointees are qualified."

Poilievre said the Liberals appointed their friends with no regard for qualifications.

The government has been accused by the opposition of tilting the courts and other quasi-judicial panels to the right. It has also faced criticism for rejigging appointment panels for judges and the Immigration and Refugee Board.

What's on your wish list?

The committee met to hear testimony from a senior civil servant who spent the past year and over $500,000 laying the groundwork for the eventual creation of the commission, which needs a cabinet order to become reality.

Peter Harrison, former executive director of the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat, said the commission is mandated to ensure the appointment process favours the qualified.

The government is close to appointing a new executive director for the secretariat, which will lose its last employee on Monday, said Harrison. The government is also on the verge of naming new commissioners, he said.


equal opportunity, help wanted

"Many Liberal MPs believe that Mr. Harper still wants to trigger an election, while Mr. Dion is still new in his job -- and some express concerns that the team around him has not jelled into a fighting force."

Liberal riding associations feeling pressure to fill slates

Hurried nomination meetings are being arranged across the country, including Quebec, where dozens of spots are vacant
CAMPBELL CLARK March 28 Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are scrambling to nominate the lion's share of their candidates by mid-April to prepare for what many in the party view as an increased likelihood of a spring election.

Several party officials in Quebec believe the results of Monday's provincial election will only heighten Prime Minister Stephen Harper's desire to trigger an election.

The federal Liberals still have not selected candidates in more than 60 of Quebec's 75 ridings, and plans to accelerate nomination meetings in ridings across the province are to be worked on this Friday at a meeting of the Quebec wing's electoral commission.

Party officials say they want most of the nominations completed within "weeks."

"I think we have to expect a federal election soon. We in Quebec are on red alert," said Robert Fragasso, president of the federal Liberals' Quebec wing.

Mr. Harper and the Conservatives are probably optimistic after the provincial election results, although there are lessons about the unpredictability of voters, Mr. Fragasso said.

"I think the results [of the Quebec election] might incite Mr. Harper to find a reason to go into an election. He might think that the ADQ's clientele resembles the Conservatives' clientele," Mr. Fragasso said. "But we have a leader that can surprise."

Action Démocratique Leader Mario Dumont won ground in the eastern half of Quebec and the suburbs around Montreal with an appeal to middle-class families -- an electoral strategy that Mr. Harper hopes to duplicate.

The election also put pressure on Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair to step down.

Across the country, the Liberals are on track to have nearly all of their candidates nominated by mid-April, party officials say -- although so far less than half have been chosen.

In February, the party gave provincial wings approval to schedule nomination meetings, aiming to have candidates in place for a potential spring election, but about half of the country's 308 ridings remain to be filled over the next four weeks.

However, party officials are generally trying to play down the crush to pick candidates to avoid contributing to the sense that momentum is building toward a spring election, which the Liberals want to avoid.

The party held an election-preparation meeting on Sunday, with party and campaign officials flown in from across the country, where participants were told that the "core" of the new Liberal platform is ready, although party insiders said some items are still being debated.

"The platform is particularly important with a leader who is so policy-oriented as Stéphane Dion," said Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, the Liberal platform co-chair.

"We will be able to communicate, clearly and simply, good public policy."

Many Liberal MPs believe that Mr. Harper still wants to trigger an election, while Mr. Dion is still new in his job -- and some express concerns that the team around him has not jelled into a fighting force.


peace plan or face war, Israel told

Accept peace plan or face war, Israel told
By David Blair, in Riyadh 28/03/2007 TelegraphUK

# Audio: Audio: David Blair on the Saudi warning

The "lords of war" will decide Israel's future if it rejects a blueprint for peace crafted by the entire Arab world, Saudi Arabia's veteran foreign minister warned yesterday.

As leaders began gathering in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for today's summit of the Arab League, Prince Saud al-Faisal told The Daily Telegraph that the Middle East risks perpetual conflict if the peace plan fails.

Saudi foreign minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal, right, and Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, accept the peace plan or face war, Saudis tell Israel
Saudi foreign minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal, right, and Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League

Under this Saudi-drafted proposal, every Arab country would formally recognise Israel in return for a withdrawal from all the land captured in the war of 1967.

This would entail a Palestinian state embracing the entire West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. Every Arab country will almost certainly endorse this blueprint when the Riyadh summit concludes tomorrow. Prince Saud said Israel should accept or reject this final offer.

"What we have the power to do in the Arab world, we think we have done," he said. "So now it is up to the other side because if you want peace, it is not enough for one side only to want it. Both sides must want it equally."

Speaking inside his whitewashed palace, surrounded by luxuriant lawns and manicured flower beds resembling a green oasis in the drabness of Riyadh, Prince Saud delivered an unequivocal warning to Israel.

"If Israel refuses, that means it doesn't want peace and it places everything back into the hands of fate. They will be putting their future not in the hands of the peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war," he said.

Prince Saud dismissed any further diplomatic overtures towards Israel. "It has never been proven that reaching out to Israel achieves anything," he said.

"Other Arab countries have recognised Israel and what has that achieved?

"The largest Arab country, Egypt, recognised Israel and what was the result? Not one iota of change happened in the attitude of Israel towards peace."

Israel has numerous reservations about the Arab peace plan - which was previously proposed at a summit in 2002. Israel fears any hint that Palestinian refugees would have the right to return to their homes in the event of a peace settlement.

Prince Saud is the 66-year-old son of the late King Faisal. Relieved of the need to seek re-election, he has held office for 32 years.

Flush with oil money, Saudi Arabia is playing a more assertive role in Middle Eastern diplomacy. As well as securing the Arab peace plan, the Kingdom brokered the agreement between Hamas and Fatah - the two Palestinian factions - to form a unity government.

But western diplomats in Riyadh believe this resurgence in Saudi diplomacy stems from more than the kingdom's oil boom.

The menacing spectre of Iran, the rising Shia power with nuclear-tipped ambitions for regional dominance, looms large across the waters of the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia is quietly moving to contain its bellicose neighbour. Prince Saud offered conciliatory words to Iran, laced with coded criticism. "We have no inhibitions about the role of Iran," he said. "It is a large country. It wants to play a leading role in the region, and it has every right to do so. It is an historic country. But if you want to reach for leadership, you have to make sure that those you are leading are having their interests taken care of and not damaged."

Saudi Arabia has privately urged Iran to stop enriching uranium, in compliance with United Nations resolutions and lay to rest any suggestion that it is seeking nuclear weapons. Prince Saud called for a "Middle East free of nuclear weapons" with "no exceptions for anybody, be it Israel or Iran".

Asked whether the kingdom would consider seeking nuclear weapons of its own if Iran managed to acquire a bomb, Prince Saud replied: "We have made it very clear that we are not going down that road under any circumstances."

He paused for a moment, before adding, "under any foreseeable circumstances".