Recent Entries in Politics

One of the best-known U.S. senators says he has been misidentified as someone on a terrorism watch list at airports in recent months.

Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts told the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday that the problem started in March.

He said some airline agents refused to sell him tickets because his name appeared on a "no fly" list. Mr. Kennedy said in each instance, a supervisor eventually recognized him and allowed him to get on the plane.

Every criminal offence in England and Wales from littering to daubing graffiti will become arrestable in theory under proposals published by the government that aim to simplify the law.

The plans, set out in a consultation document, would also extend police powers over searching homes and individuals and allow them to fingerprint suspects on the spot.

The Home Office said the proposals sought to tidy up laws that were often bewildering to officers and the public but they are expected to draw strong opposition from civil liberties' groups who argue the police already have sufficient powers.

JibJab, a small animation site, is running an animation that mocks President Bush and his Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry. The wildly popular cartoon may be goofy, but the legal wrangling about it is becoming a serious and important test of artists' fair-use rights in the digital age.

The free This Land Flash-animated cartoon is set to the melody of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." With the exception of two lines, all of the lyrics have been changed to mock Bush, the "right-wing nut job," and Kerry, the "liberal wiener."

Ludlow Music, which owns Guthrie's copyright to the song, threatened to sue JibJab Media, which created the animation. But attorneys for JibJab struck first, filing a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Northern California that asks a judge to declare that This Land does not violate copyright.

It's a clear example of a legal concept called fair use, say the lawyers for JibJab and advocates of liberal copyright laws. If JibJab wins, the case could embolden artists to fend off copyright holders' aggressive lawyers, who increasingly view digital distribution as a threat.

"This is an important case to set the tone for artists and authors who want to make use of famous works," said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing JibJab.,1412,64469,00.html

North Korea is deploying new land- and sea-based ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads and may have sufficient range to hit the United States, according to the authoritative Jane's Defense Weekly.

In an article due to appear Wednesday, Jane's said the two new systems appeared to be based on a decommissioned Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile, the R-27.

It said communist North Korea had acquired the know-how during the 1990s from Russian missile specialists and by buying 12 former Soviet submarines which had been sold for scrap metal but retained key elements of their missile launch systems.

Jane's, which did not specify its sources, said the sea-based missile was potentially the more threatening of the two new weapons systems.§ion=news

The U.S. general formerly in charge of Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison said on Tuesday abuse of Iraqi captives was hidden from her in a cover-up that may reach all the way to the Pentagon or White House.
Speaking on the same day a U.S. soldier at the center of the prisoner abuse scandal is due to face a military court, Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski said she was deliberately kept in the dark about abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners.

"A very reliable witness has made a statement indicating that, not only was I not included in any of the meetings discussing interrogation operations, but specific measures were taken to ensure I would not have access to those facilities, that information or any of the details of interrogation at Abu Ghraib or anywhere else," Karpinski told Britain's BBC radio.§ion=news

U.S. President George W. Bush has told a roomful of top Pentagon brass his administration would never stop looking for ways to harm the United States.

The latest installment of misspeak from a president long known for his malapropisms came during a signing ceremony for a new $417 billion (228.4 billion pounds) defence appropriations bill that includes $25 billion in emergency funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we," Bush said on Thursday.

Rocker Bruce Springsteen has stayed out of party politics for 25 years, but now he says the stakes are too high and he's urging fellow Americans to vote President George W. Bush out of office in November.

A day after he announced he would join two dozen other stars in nine "battleground" states for a rock 'n' roll tour aimed at ousting Bush, the man known as "The Boss" explained his decision in a sharply worded editorial.

"Personally, for the last 25 years I have always stayed one step away from partisan politics," Springsteen wrote in The New York Times, noting he built a career singing about universal issues like human rights, dignity and freedom instead.

"This year, however, for many of us the stakes have risen too high to sit this election out."

A number of Finnish conscripts have been excused their full term of military service because they are addicted to the Internet, the Finnish Defense Forces said Tuesday.

Doctors have found the young men miss their computers too much to cope with their compulsory six months in the forces.

"For people who play (Internet) games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock," said Commander-Captain Jyrki Kivela at the military conscription unit.

"Some of (the conscripts) go to the doctor and say they can't stay. Sometimes, the doctors have said they have an Internet addiction," Kivela said.

U.S. intelligence officials launched a global effort yesterday to track down whoever may have been involved in a suspected terrorist plot aimed at financial institutions in New York City, Washington and Newark, N.J.

While they acknowledged that they had no firm indication that a plot was still under way, officials regard the information, some of which predates the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as significant and troubling.

Officials said the reconnaissance already conducted has provided Al Qaeda with the knowledge necessary to carry out attacks against the sites in Manhattan, Washington and Newark. They said Al Qaeda had often struck years after its operatives began surveillance of an intended target.

Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said yesterday in an interview on PBS that surveillance reports, apparently collected by Al Qaeda operatives, had been "gathered in 2000 and 2001." But she added that information may have been updated as recently as January.

Check out the link here.

Much of the information obtained from al Qaeda that led the United States to raise terror alerts in Washington and New York was at least three years old but a top U.S. official said on Tuesday it remained relevant.

Asked in morning television interviews whether material gathered more than three years ago was out of date, White House homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, said this was not the case.

She said al Qaeda had originally collected information about key financial buildings in the United States in 2000 and 2001 but that this was updated as recently as January of this year.

"What we have learned about the 9/11 attacks, is that they do them (plan for attacks), years in advance and then update them before they launch the attacks," she told ABC's "Good Morning America" show, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against America.

A former Air Force chief of staff and one-time "Veteran for Bush" said Saturday that America's foreign relations for the first three years of President Bush's term have been "a national disaster" but that the president's Democratic rival was "up to the task" of rebuilding.

Retired Gen. Tony McPeak, the Air Force chief of staff during the first Gulf War, delivered the Democratic radio address supporting implementation of the 9/11 commission's recommendations for national security.

"As president, John Kerry will not waste a minute in bringing action on the reforms urged by the 9/11 commission," McPeak said of the Massachusetts senator nominated by the Democrats this week. "And he will not rest until America's defenses are strong."

The president, on the other hand, "fought against the very formation of the commission and continues to the present moment to give it only grudging cooperation, no matter what he says," the general said. "Why should we believe he will do anything to institute the needed change?"

Plans for compulsory national identity cards -- seen by the government as a key weapon in fighting terrorism -- are unclear and poorly thought out, a leading committee of MPs says.

The Home Affairs Committee said it backed introducing ID cards, abolished in Britain more than 50 years ago, but had major reservations about specific details of the scheme.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's government wants to bring in biometric ID cards containing details like facial dimensions, iris images and fingerprints which could be checked against a national database.

It says the cards would help track terrorists, illegal immigration and organised crime.

An annual event in seventeen countries, Privacy International's Big Brother Awards were awarded last night to the people and organisations that have done the most to devastate privacy & civil liberties in the UK.

UK Government officials Charles Clarke and Margaret Hodge received particular mention along with the unusual step of an award for the US for their "almost total silence" for the scheme of finger-printing foreign visitors to the States even for British nationals.

Privacy International are a London based civil rights group and for the past 14 years have raised awareness around the world about privacy threats ranging from military surveillance to workplace drug testing.

Since their inception in 1998, Big Brother Awards are now held as an annual event in countries such as Japan, the United States, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, New Zealand and Australia.

The gold awards - in the shape of a boot stamping on a human head - drew their inspiration from George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four".

A U.S. army captain charged with murdering an Iraqi appeared before a military hearing in Germany on Wednesday in the first murder investigation of an American soldier since the Iraq invasion.

Captain Rogelio Maynulet, who told Reuters after his court appearance that he was confident of clearing his name, is being investigated following an incident involving a car chase with suspected militia of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in May.

"During their pursuit, soldiers fired at the vehicle, wounding the driver and passenger. Shortly afterward the driver was shot and killed at close range," the army said in a statement.

Laughing British soldiers tortured Iraqi detainees by beating and kicking them, pouring freezing water on their heads and forcing them to recite names of English and Dutch football stars, a court heard on Wednesday.

The accusations -- which throw the spotlight back on troop behavior in the U.S.-led occupation -- came from an Iraqi witness at London's High Court where families of six dead civilians have launched a test case against UK soldiers.;jsessionid=5HDWPXEPWCAIACRBAEZSFEY?type=topNews&storyID=5800438

A national commission probing the September 11, 2001, terror attacks found no evidence of "operational" ties between Baghdad and al-Qaeda but did not rule out other forms of cooperation.

The panel's final report added a tantalizing qualifier to a staff document last month that found no "collaborative relationship," suggesting at one point that Iraq may have offered to harbor al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The issue has major political overtones with President George W. Bush, who is seeking reelection in November, citing alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda as a key reason for invading Iraq last year.

The September 11 commission on Thursday criticised both the Bush and Clinton administrations for failing to fully grasp or effectively combat the threat posed by al Qaeda and recommended a shake-up of U.S. intelligence to meet future dangers.

The final report issued unanimously by the 10-member commission pointed to "deep institutional failings" and missed opportunities to thwart the hijackings carried out by al Qaeda operatives, which killed almost 3,000 people in 2001.

"Terrorism was not the overriding national security concern for the U.S. government under either the Clinton or the pre-9/11 Bush administrations," the 567-page report said.

Fox News' use of the slogan "Fair and Balanced" constitutes deceptive advertising, two political advocacy groups claimed Monday in a petition filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

Liberal and historically nonpartisan Common Cause assert that Fox News' reports are "deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme right-wing viewpoint."

Alleging consumer fraud, the complaint calls for the FTC to order Fox News, consistently the highest-rated cable news network, to cease and desist from using the slogan.

The prospect of hanging, Dr. Johnson said, concentrates the mind wonderfully. The threat posed by George W. Bush's right-wing reaction has organized the left for Kerry, just as Clinton galvanized the right for Bush.

As a referendum on Bush's failed agenda, Election 2004 can help toll the end of the conservative era that has defined our politics for the past quarter-century. For progressives, this election has revealed the growing power of their arguments and the sophistication of their activism. That energy, at the base of the Democratic Party, provides hope that victory in 2004 may mark the beginning of a movement that can transform American politics.

Bush is in trouble, and the reason is simple. With the right controlling both the White House and Congress, he has pushed through much of the right-wing agenda--and it has proved bankrupt once again.

Pre-emptive war and an arrogant unilateralism produced the debacle in Iraq, which has left America more isolated, more reviled and more vulnerable. Pre-emptive top-bracket tax cuts have run up record deficits as far as the eye can see, while generating the worst jobs record of any President since the Great Depression. Bush's policies have worsened our Gilded Age inequality, while working Americans find it harder to afford healthcare, college, retirement security or even to keep up with the rising cost of food and gas. Privatization and deregulation contributed to the worst corporate scandals since the 1920s, symbolized by the collapse of Enron, one of Bush's leading contributors in the 2000 race. Corporate looting reached new shamelessness in Iraq, led by Dick Cheney's Halliburton.

This is how they like it. An American helicopter fires four missiles at a house in Fallujah. Fourteen people are killed, including women and children. Or so say the hospital authorities.

But no Western journalist dares to go to Fallujah. Video footage taken by local civilians shows only a hole in the ground, body parts under a grey blanket and an unnamed man shouting that young children were killed.

The US authorities say they know nothing about the air strike; indeed, they tell journalists to talk to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence--whose spokesman admits that he has "no clue what is going on".

And by the time, in early afternoon yesterday, that the American-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, said that he had given permission for the attack--even though US rules of engagement give him no such right--there had been car bombs in Tikrit in which two policemen died, one of Saddam's former generals was captured, and Fallujah became just another statistic, albeit a deeply disturbing one: this is the sixth air strike on the insurgent-held city in less than five weeks.

(Maybe only 97% of it was true. Here are the sources)

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