Recent Entries in Politics

The FBI has issued a terror warning to police to look out for individuals carrying almanacs or maps, reports AP.


The warning was sent to 18,000 officers before Christmas. Almanacs, warns the FBI, may be used "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning." The Bureau acknowledges that there may be "legitimate recreational or commercial activities" that justify an individual carrying around a map or reference book.


Good thing the U.S. government doesn't make a lot of this information freely available on the CIA website...


[world_factbook.jpg]


http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/

At the White House, Homeland Security officials and their British counterparts agreed to develop procedures to handle terrorist threats against international flights. The meeting followed a chaotic week at London's Heathrow airport. British Airways Flight 223 to Dulles International Airport outside Washington was delayed or canceled several times over terrorism concerns and also because British Airways pilots objected to U.S. demands that armed marshals be on board.


Among the policies causing concern abroad:


. Armed marshals must be placed on any flight into the USA at the direction of U.S. officials. The British government agreed, but other governments - including Sweden, Portugal and South Africa - objected.


Homeland Security officials say the demand will only be made based on specific intelligence about a flight.


. Foreigners who need visas to enter the USA must be fingerprinted and photographed as part of a new government program to keep terrorists out and track foreigners allowed in. "We're not doing it to harass anybody," Powell said. "We're not doing it to keep anyone but the wrong (people) out of the country."


. Countries such as Great Britain and Japan, whose citizens are not required to get visas to enter the USA, must put chips in all new passports by Oct. 26 containing digital photos and fingerprints. U.S. officials acknowledge that the countries won't be able to meet the deadline.


Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department's border security chief, said that despite the complaints, the United States is working in "close cooperation" with foreign governments on new security mandates.


But critics say the U.S. government has been heavy-handed in implementing the new policies. By announcing them during a high-alert crisis, it appears that the United States is "using fear about the possibility of an attack as a substitute for diplomacy," said Ivo Daalder, a national security aide in the Clinton White House.


Steve Flynn of the Council on Foreign Relations said, "The tool we need more than anything else (to fight terrorism) is greater international cooperation in finding who the bad guys are. That requires carrots, not sticks."


Check out the link Here.

Bush administration officials "systematically misrepresented" the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to war, according to a new report to be published on Thursday by a respected Washington think-tank.


These distortions, combined with intelligence failures, exaggerated the risks posed by a country that presented no immediate threat to the US, Middle East or global security, the report says.


[iraq_flag.jpg]


Check out the link Here.

Foreigners entering U.S. airports and seaports from all but 27 nations were having their fingerprints scanned and their photographs taken beginning Monday as part of a new program to tighten border security.


Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who was in Atlanta to help launch the program at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said Monday on NBC's "Today" show that the pilot program before the formal launch had led to 21 foreigners' being denied entry because they had earlier been deported for criminal or other legal issues.


"We want to keep our borders open. We are a welcoming country, but we want to secure the country as well," Ridge said. "We want them to come to the United States to work and to visit and to study, but we also need to make sure we have a record of who comes into the country and when they leave."


Most passengers breezed through the fingerprinting and picture-taking Monday, spending only a few seconds more than they normally would at the Customs station where they were asked about their visits.


http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3875747/

United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan has called on the US government to open up the bidding process for reconstruction contracts in Iraq to all countries, not just to those that supported the US-led war.


But US President George W Bush has ignored the call, saying contracts awarded should reflect troops on the ground.


The 26 contracts worth $25 billion will only be open to countries contributing forces to Iraq, such as Spain, Poland and Australia.


http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1008423.htm

Amid questions about who knew what about prewar intelligence, the White House has admitted that U.S. President George W. Bush was wrong when he said last January that Iraq had recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa.


The White House acknowledgement came as a British parliamentary commission questions the reliability of British intelligence about Saddam Hussein's alleged efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the war in Iraq.


Democrats in Congress also have questioned how the Bush administration used U.S. intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs.


Bush said in his address to Congress in January that the British government had learned that Saddam recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa.


The president's statement in the state of the union was incorrect because it was based on forged documents from the African nation of Niger, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said yesterday.


Check out the article here (http://www.thestar.com)

US troops facing extended deployments amid the danger, heat, and uncertainty of an Iraq occupation are suffering from low morale that has in some cases hit "rock bottom."


Even as President Bush speaks of a "massive and long-term" undertaking in rebuilding Iraq, that effort, as well as the high tempo of US military operations around the globe, is taking its toll on individual troops.


Some frustrated troops stationed in Iraq are writing letters to representatives in Congress to request their units be repatriated. "Most soldiers would empty their bank accounts just for a plane ticket home," said one recent Congressional letter written by an Army soldier now based in Iraq. The soldier requested anonymity.


http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0707/p02s01-woiq.html

Much has been written about how Iraqis complicated the task of rebuilding their country by looting it after Saddam Hussein's regime fell. In the case of the international airport outside Baghdad, however, the theft and vandalism were conducted largely by victorious American troops, according to U.S. officials, Iraqi Airways staff members and other airport workers. The troops, they say, stole duty-free items, needlessly shot up the airport and trashed five serviceable Boeing airplanes. "I don't want to detract from all the great work that's going into getting the airport running again," says Lieut. John Welsh, the Army civil-affairs officer charged with bringing the airport back into operation. "But you've got to ask, If this could have been avoided, did we shoot ourselves in the foot here?"


http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101030714-463062,00.html

Ashcroft's greatest -- uh, let's go with "highest profile" -- accomplishment to date was the rolling back of individual rights by several decades, under the guise of fighting terrorism.


The provisions of the PATRIOT Act taken as a whole are enough to make civil libertarians scream; the average citizen can usually find at least one provision worthy of alarm. Sponsored by the Bush administration, the PATRIOT act gave sweeping new powers to Ashcroft and his department, including:


  • The right to freely monitor the activities political and religious groups without a criminal pretext.
  • New restrictions on open hearings and the public's right to receive information through the Freedom of Information Act.
  • The ability to stamp down on the dangerous menace of librarians who tip off the media to federal subpoenas of borrowing records.
  • Permission to monitor conversations between lawyers and suspects, on those increasingly rare occasions that suspects are allowed to have lawyers.
  • The ability to detain Americans in prison indefinitely without trial or criminal charge.

Not satisfied with the most sweeping police powers ever granted to an Attorney General, Ashcroft set his flunkies to work drafting "PATRIOT II," also known as the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," a vast expansion of the vast expansion of his powers. The Justice Department's wish list for PATRIOT II would enhance domestic security by:

  • Dramatically loosening restrictions on secret government surveillance of citizens, including on phones, e-mail and bank accounts.
  • Adding a "deport at will" option allowing the Justice Department to circumvent inconvenient immigration laws.
  • Expanding terrorism investigations to allow the Department to revoke the rights of anyone within about six degrees of separation of an actual terrorist act.
  • Criminalizing the use of encrypted e-mail.
  • Increasing the list of federal death-penalty crimes.
  • Allowing the government to desecrate the graves of deceased victims of terrorism without permission from families.
  • Restricting access to information about corporate pollution and environmental crimes. This would, incidentally, not only prevent private citizens from researching toxins in their backyards but would even restrict the ability of local governments to get information about environmental crimes in their own neighborhoods.

With all these powers, you would think that Ashcroft would have a long list of convictions to brag about, but no such luck. Americans have yet to see a single conviction in a U.S. court for any crime directly related to the Sept. 11 attack. They nailed one guy for selling false ID's to the hijackers, but he pleaded guilty. Crazy shoe bomber Richard Reid pleaded guilty.


http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/usa/john-ashcroft/

  The real scoop on Dubya

... George W. Bush is fully aware of how his enemies perceive him, and this is precisely how he wants them to react. His personality and mannerisms are actually the result of deliberate effort. This is not to say that it's all an act, but he does emphasize these elements of his personality for the benefit of the press and general public. And yet these affectations continue to be astonishingly effective; his act still manages to fool even his political opponents, who really ought to know better. After all, the basis of Bush's phenomenal political career has been people's underestimating him.


[george_w_bush_turkey_shrunk.jpg]


http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/presidents/george-w-bush/

Senior Pentagon officials made a rare appearance in front of the media Wednesday to deny they lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.


http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/06/04/wmd_controversy030604

The prime minister has been criticized since media reports emerged that the government might have punched up the dossier to exaggerate claims that Saddam Hussein would be able to launch a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes.


No one has found any weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq, increasing pressure on the British government to explain the dossier that formed the underpinnings of Blair's decision to go to war.


Last week, BBC Radio quoted a source within the British intelligence community as saying intelligence officers had cast doubt on the validity of the 45-minute reference in the dossier.


http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/06/04/blair_probe030604

  PM tables relaxed pot law

The federal government moved today to eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana, but promised a tougher line against growers and dealers. Under legislation introduced by Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, possession of up to 15 grams of pot would be a minor offence punishable by a fine.


Youths could face fines of up to $250 for minor possession while adults could be fined $400.


By contrast, the maximum sentence for illicit growers would be boosted to 14 years in prison from the current seven.


The penalty for trafficking would stay the same, with a maximum life sentence.


Check out the article here (http://www.thestar.com)

  Tory MPP 'flips the bird'

A Progressive Conservative MPP gave opposition politicians "the finger" yesterday as debate over the government's controversial budget hit a new low.


Amid allegations of obscenities and heated heckling from the Tory benches during the raucous debate, John O'Toole (Durham) "flipped the bird" at the opposition benches.


He made the coarse gesture after NDP House leader Peter Kormos rose on a point of order during O'Toole's allotted time.


Check out the article here.

With their dominance in sport, at work and at home eroded, Bush thought white American men needed to know they were still good at something. That's where Iraq came in...
Exeunt: lightning and thunder, shock and awe. Dust, ash, fog, fire, smoke, sand, blood, and a good deal of waste now moves to the wings. The stage, however, remains occupied. The question posed at curtain-rise has not been answered. Why did we go to war? If no real weapons of mass destruction are found, the question will keen in pitch.


Or, if more likely, such weapons are uncovered in Iraq . not a tenth, not a hundredth of what we possess . but, yes, if such weapons are there, it is also likely that even more have been moved to new hiding places beyond Iraq. If that is so, horrific events could ensue. Should they take place, we can count on a predictable response: .Good, honest, innocent Americans died today because of evil al-Qaeda terrorists.. Yes, we will hear the President.s voice speaking before he even utters such words. (For those of us who do not like George Bush, we may as well recognise that putting up with him in the Oval Office is like being married to a mate who always says exactly what you know in advance he or she is going to say, which also helps to account for why the other half of America loves him.)


The key question remains . why did we go to war? It is not yet answered. In the end, it is likely that a host of responses will produce a cognitive stew, which does, at least, open the way to offering one.s own notion. We went to war, I could say, because we very much needed a war. The US economy was sinking, the market was gloomy and down, and some classic bastions of the erstwhile American faith (corporate integrity, the FBI, and the Catholic Church, to cite but three) had each suffered a separate and grievous loss of face. Since our Administration was probably not ready to solve any one of the serious problems before it, it was natural to feel the impulse to move into larger ventures, thrusts into the empyrean-war!


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,482-662789,00.html

  The New McCarthyism

They asked if they could come into the apartment. "Do you have a warrant?" Brown asked. "And they said no, they didn't have a warrant, but they wanted to just come in and look around. And I said, 'Sorry, you're not coming in.' "


One of the agents told Brown, "We already know what it is. It's a poster of Bush hanging himself," she recalls. "And I said no, and she was like, 'Well, then, it's a poster with a target on Bush's head,' and I was like, nope."


The poster they seemed interested in was one that depicted Bush holding a rope, with the words: "We Hang on Your Every Word. George Bush, Wanted: 152 Dead." The poster has sketches of people being hanged, and it refers to the number who were put to death in Texas while Bush was governor, she explains.


Ultimately, Brown agreed to open her door so that the agents could see the poster on the wall of her apartment, though she did not let them enter. "They just kept looking at the wall," which contained political posters from the Bush counter-inaugural, a "Free Mumia" poster, a picture of Jesse Jackson, and a Pink Floyd poster with the quotation: "Mother, should I trust the government?"


http://www.progressive.org/0901/roth0102.html

One of the first signs that something was changing came in March last year in the suburbs of northern Atlanta, when people started talking, a little more frequently than might be expected, about mousetraps. It was hardly unprecedented in the US that a group of local parents should be lobbying for their children to be taught that evolution was a disputed theory, not a fact. But the way some of them were doing it was new, which is where the mousetraps came in. Unlike some of the openly evangelical Christian lobbies, they didn't want schools to teach creationism - the theory that God created the universe in seven days - they only wanted to air a theory known as Intelligent Design. ID holds that the living cell is "irreducibly complex", like a mousetrap. Remove the spring from a mousetrap and it isn't just an inferior mousetrap; it isn't a mousetrap at all. It had to have been created by an intelligent designer. It was the same, they said, for cells, and so life must have been designed by some kind of intelligence. Critics called this "stealth creationism" - religious dogma masquerading as science - but the ID proponents got their way, thanks partly to wording in President Bush's new education bill. Schools in Atlanta are now theoretically entitled to "teach the controversy" (though officials have urged teachers to stick to evolution for now, sparking a lawsuit) - and textbooks presenting Darwinism as fact have stickers inside, pointing out that it might not be...


http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,933055,00.html

"The people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals."


--George W. Bush


And so they should be. That video footage of U.S. soldiers being subjected to a humiliating public display and harsh interrogation -- possibly after beatings -- was disgusting. Iraqi soldiers should respect long-standing norms for treatment of prisoners of war, even though we know better than to expect the same from Saddam Hussein.


But nothing George Bush says on the subject of Geneva Conventions and international legal standards is likely to convince anyone. He has unleashed the greatest onslaught against international law of any U.S. president in living memory. He has torn up arms-control agreements and worked to sabotage the International Criminal Court. In his campaign against terrorism, he has not only flouted the venerable Geneva accords but sought to deny suspects the benefits of the law he is sworn to uphold.


Extensive U.S. press reports -- challenged only in the most general terms by the Bush administration -- have revealed that U.S. interrogators are using borderline torture techniques against suspected terrorists. The toughest methods are used at Bagram air force base in Afghanistan and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. There, "stress and duress" tactics include sleep deprivation, questioning under pain and subjecting the suspects to extremes of cold or heat.


More disturbingly, U.S. officials acknowledge that some terror suspects have been turned over to countries such as Pakistan and Jordan, which Washington's own annual human-rights reports accuse of practising torture. "We don't kick the [expletive] out of them," one official told The Washington Post. "We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them." This despite the fact that the U.S. is a party, along with 131 other countries, to the 1987 convention against torture.


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20030326/COKNOX26/National/Idx


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