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The shared fear of nuclear weapons is so great that even when North Korea declares it has such weapons it's likely that its communist leaders simply hope to capitalize on those fears without ever proving they can actually explode an atomic device.

Indeed, for a nation that's relied on conventional terrorist attacks in the past, this launching of fear - by words alone - toward its presumed adversaries comes easily. It may only be a gambit to win economic concessions from the US, Japan, and South Korea. After all, North Korea's increasingly desperate communist leaders have so botched their economy that they recently had to cut food rations below minimum levels for their starving people.

North Korea's Fearmongering |

  The Karl Rove Ascension

Karl Rove is now, officially, in charge of pretty much everything at the White House.

But it's mostly just a title change.

President Bush's long-time chief political strategist is now assistant to the president, deputy chief of staff and senior adviser.

That's a lot of titles. But of course Rove has even more nicknames. He's been called "Bush's guru," "Bush's brain," "the man behind the curtain" and "the wizard of the West Wing." Rove himself cracked that his reputation is "evil Rasputin." And Bush alternately calls Rove "the architect," "boy genius," or "turd blossom" -- the last a reference to a West Texas flower that grows in cow manure.

The Karl Rove Ascension (

In his first public remarks since the United States dubbed Cuba an outpost of tyranny, Fidel Castro called President Bush "deranged" and belittled recent improvements in relations between Cuba and Europe.

In a televised address late Tuesday, Castro maintained his trademark go-it-alone attitude, saying his communist-run island is a paradise that is doing fine without the help of the United States or Europe.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP - Latin America/Caribbean: Cuban leader Castro calls Bush 'deranged'

There are times when one must give the devil his due. The American media is capable of carrying out extraordinary feats, turning lead into gold and an election held under foreign occupation into a victory for democracy.

With near total unanimity, all the resources of this giant propaganda machine�€”the reporters and columnists, television pundits and talk-radio hosts, professional image-makers and spin masters�€”have been mobilized over the past three days to sing the praises of the Iraqi election.

The election, we are told, is a vindication of the Bush administration and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is a defeat for the insurgents within Iraq and a rebuke to those within the US and around the world who oppose the war.

AxisofLogic/ Media Critiques

... In fact, if you look at the recent record, the picture is not at all encouraging. The United States has intervened, in one way or another, in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, and not one of those nations is a functioning democracy yet. Yes, it's going to take some time in places like Afghanistan, which just held elections, and Iraq, which is about to hold them. It's too soon to judge. But the difficulties and complexities of dealing with a different culture and a history that we don't always understand are daunting. You don't have to look any further than today's headlines in Iraq. - Opinion

... although Bush used the words ''free," "freedom" and "liberty" 49 times in the speech, he didn't once use the words "terror" or "war" or "Iraq" -- even though his first term was defined by terror and war, and even though American blood was still being shed in Iraq as he spoke.

Bush Leaves Everyone Guessing (

Just hours before being sworn in for a second term, Vice President Dick Cheney publicly raised the possibility on Thursday that Israel "might well decide to act first" to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

In an interview on the MSNBC program "Imus in the Morning," a highly unusual forum for Mr. Cheney, he appeared to use the danger of Israeli military action as one more reason that the Iranians should reach a diplomatic agreement to disarm, noting dryly that any such strike would leave "a diplomatic mess afterwards" and should be avoided.

The New York Times > Washington > Cheney Says Israel Might 'Act First' on Iran

The rest of the world will be watching with anxiety when President Bush is inaugurated Thursday for a second time, fearing the most powerful man on the planet may do more harm than good.

Many world leaders, alienated by Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy and the U.S.-led war in Iraq, would have preferred him to lose the U.S. election last November. Since his victory, they have been urging him to listen and consult more.

Mistrust also runs deep among ordinary people. Some 58 percent of people surveyed in a British Broadcasting Corporation poll in 21 countries said they believed Bush's re-election made the world a more dangerous place.

Top News Article |

President George W. Bush is drawing heat over a $40 million (21.5 million pound) splurge on inaugural balls, concerts and candlelight dinners while the country is in a sombre mood because of the Iraq war and Asian tsunami.

As Bush prepares for his second-term inauguration on Thursday, his supporters plan to celebrate with fireworks and three days of parties, including a "Black Tie and Boots" ball and nine other balls.

Critics say the lavish celebrations are unseemly when U.S. troops face daily violence in Iraq and Americans are being urged to donate money to alleviate the suffering in Asia, where the December 26 tsunami killed 163,000 people.

Top News Article |

The US has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside the country to identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported on Sunday.

The article was written by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, who exposed the extent of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year.

It said the secret missions have been going on at least since last year with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Mr Hersh quotes one government consultant as saying: 'The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible.'

US 'sending secret missions to Iran' - JAN 18, 2005

  Vietnam II

The 1,700-strong Iraq Survey Group (ISG), responsible for the hunt for weapons of mass destruction whose existence was the justification for the invasion and military occupation of Iraq, wrapped things up and called it quits yesterday. The CIA-affiliated group will now concentrate on extracting information from Iraqis to help the US win the war in Iraq. One felt almost tempted to joke if the Americans had looked up Saddam Hussein's backside for WMD until one realized that the Americans had in fact done that with quite a lot of other Iraqis, as the photos from Abu Ghraib show with disgustingly hirsute detail.

"I felt like we would find weapons of mass destruction . . . like many . . . many here in the United States . . . many around the world," Bush told ABC's Barbara Walters, according to excerpts from an interview airing on Friday in which he failed to be clear whether he meant that many in the world were as misinformed as he was about the existence of WMD in Iraq or that there �€œlike many . . . many "weapons of mass destruction even in the US, not to mention �€œaround the world."


Secret ballots are the cornerstone of any democratic process. But little more than two weeks before Iraq's first free elections on Jan. 30, the country is finding that secrecy is being taken to new heights.

The identities of many of the candidates haven't been publicly disclosed and are likely to remain secret until after election day, an illustration of the difficulty in mounting an election amid war.

"Not having the candidates' names known is far from ideal for an election, but I think we can all understand the fears over their safety,'' says a foreign election adviser. "Security is a very big issue for all candidates."

Instead of voting for individual candidates in the election to fill the transitional national assembly, Iraqis will select from a list of 111 political parties, each with its own lengthy slate of candidates that can include between 12 and 275 names.

Secrecy surrounds Iraq vote |

  Iraq WMD search ended

The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ended last month, but the analysis of documents seized in the hunt continues, U.S. officials have said.

Charles Duelfer, the CIA special adviser who led the investigation, has returned home and is expected next month to issue a final addendum to his September report that concluded pre-war Iraq had no WMD stockpiles, officials said.

Asked if Duelfer's Iraq Survey Group, or ISG, had stopped actively searching for WMD, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "That's my understanding." He added, "A lot of their mission is focused elsewhere now."

The Washington Post newspaper on Wednesday quoted ISG officials saying the violence in Iraq coupled with a lack of new information led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas -- nearly two years after President George W. Bush invaded the country, accusing it of a secret weapons program.

World News Article |

Might there be any point in comparing and contrasting yesterday's Palestinian election with the upcoming Iraqi one? Yes, indeed there might.

The first thing I would want to notice is this. The Palestinian people have a much more justifiable grievance against Israel than even the most alienated Sunni slum-dweller has against the Coalition in Iraq. The Arab citizens of former mandate Palestine live, at best, as second-class citizens in Israel. At worst, they live in vile refugee camps in other states. In the middle, in Jerusalem and Gaza and the West Bank, they experience occupation and colonization and annexation. More than that, they have been told that their very presence is an inconvenience, since the land was awarded by God to the Jews. President Bush in his most devout moments has not claimed Mesopotamia as holy to Americans. It's often said rather glibly that the Palestinians have missed numerous chances for peace (and I couldn't agree more--see my obituary for Arafat), but it should not be forgotten that for years the leading politicians of Israel refused to deal at all with the PLO, and that some of them refused even to recognize the existence of a Palestinian people in the first place.

Two Elections - Why Iraq's vote is not like Palestine's. By Christopher Hitchens

  Scapegoat in Chief

The defense secretary has become the symbol of an accident-prone Iraq policy -- and even more, of the administration's refusal to admit or learn from its mistakes. The man who bears ultimate responsibility for Iraq policy isn't Rumsfeld, of course, but Bush. But the president has just won reelection, and obviously isn't about to fire himself. So Rummy makes a convenient scapegoat in chief.

Scapegoat in Chief (

As Ukraine prepares to vote - again -- for a new president this Sunday, the international online media continues to raise questions of outside interference and the disturbing possibility of violence.

On Monday, the Kyiv Post reported that a Ukrainian security officer and member of parliament has alleged the presidents of Russia and Ukraine are supplying weapons to gangs supporting Kremlin favorite, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Russian involvement has been persistent and well documented. Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Ukraine more than once to campaign openly for Yanukovych.
Is the U.S. Meddling in Ukraine's Election? (

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will now personally sign letters of condolence to families of troops killed in action, after the Pentagon acknowledged signing machines had been used in the past.

In a statement provided to the military newspaper "Stars and Stripes" and printed in its Dec. 19 edition, Rumsfeld said, "I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action."

Top News Article |

Cuba put up two large billboards in front of the U.S. mission in Havana on Friday showing photos of abused Iraqi prisoners �€“ retaliation for a contentious Christmas display set up by the mission's American officials.

The photos show bloodied and hooded prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, along with a swastika and the word "fascists" in red letters.

CBC News: U.S., Cuba trade billboard barbs

Britain's highest court has ruled that suspected foreign terrorists cannot be held indefinitely without trial. The ruling is a major blow to the anti-terrorist strategy of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Commentators say the law lords have dealt Mr. Blair's government what one calls "a crushing defeat," by ruling that foreign terrorist suspects have the same right to legal protection as Britons.

VOA News - British Court Strikes Down Key Part of Anti-Terror Law

Where's Kerik?

This is the question I asked myself as, one by one, the pictures of the latest Presidential Medal of Freedom awardees flashed by on my computer screen. First came George Tenet, the former CIA director and the man who had assured President Bush that it was a "slam-dunk" that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Then came L. Paul Bremer, the former viceroy of Iraq, who disbanded the Iraqi army and ousted Baathists from government jobs, therefore contributing mightily to the current chaos in that country. Finally came retired Gen. Tommy Franks, the architect of the plan whereby the United States sent too few troops to Iraq.

Presidential Medals of Failure (

The first full test in nearly two years of a multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile shield failed Wednesday when one missile launched but a second shut down before leaving the ground, the Pentagon says.

The Missile Defence Agency has tried to do the $85-million US test several times this month, but it's aborted each attempt before launch due to weather or technical glitches.

CBC News: U.S. missile defence test fails

A government watchdog group is investigating allegations made by a Florida programmer that are whipping up a frenzy among bloggers and people who believe Republicans stole the recent election.

Programmer Clint Curtis claims that four years ago Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Florida) asked his then-employer to write software to alter votes on electronic voting machines in Florida.

He said his employer told him the code would be used "to control the vote" in West Palm Beach, Florida. But a fellow employee disputed the programmer's claims and said the meetings he described never took place.

Wired News: More Questions for Florida

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