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August 1996

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The Romance of Anais, an Arthurian-style tale written 1996 describing how Bush got us in the mess in Iraq with a short commentary on the
Chang-an cheat

Duty & Profit, Nov. 1994
Against Leviathan, Jan. 1993
Immoral Coercion, Dec. 1994
Philistia Triumph thou
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1.20.05 - 1.23.05 TSUNAMI NEWS

1.23.05 Indonesian death toll hits 173,981

JAKARTA (AFP): The Indonesian death toll from last month's earthquake and tsunami disaster has risen more than 7,000 to 173,981, the ministry of health said on Sunday. It said 173,741 people had died in Aceh, with another 240 in the neighboring province of North Sumatra. Another 7,249 people are classified as missing. The health ministry's previous tallywas 166,760. Confusion has surrounded the number of Indonesians who died in the Dec. 26 disaster with three ministries giving out markedly different figures. [More>>]

1.22.05 UN disaster conference gets mixed reviews

KOBE, Jan. 22 – Hiro Ihara reports: The U.N. World Conference on Disaster Reduction that ended Saturday provided many opportunities to discuss disaster management, but while the event was praised by some participants, some nongovernmental organization members criticized the Hyogo Declaration and the Hyogo Framework for action 2005-2015 as too vague. Due to the worldwide attention following the catastrophic events of Dec. 26, the conference attracted 40,000 people, four times more than expected, the organizing committee said... While conference officials concluded that the event was a success, Thea Hilhorst, professor of disaster studies at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said at a press conference given on behalf of the 161 participating NGOs after the closing session that she was very disappointed as the declaration and framework lacked practical ideas. [More>>Daily Yomiuri; see also Japan Today]

1.22.05 Italy backs Thailand as tsunami warning center

Phuket, Jan. 23 – Italy has supported a Thai bid to base an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system in Thailand, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday. Mr. Surakiart, who was accompanying Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini to Phuket, said Italy was also willing to help rebuild schools, hospitals and villages in the southern provinces devastated by tidal waves on Dec 26. [More>>]

1.22.05 Over 93,000 tsunami victims buried in Indonesia

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (Antara), jan. 22 – Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab said here on Saturday that up to 93,482 bodies of tsunami victims had been evacuated and properly buried as of Friday. "The burials have been made possible through the help of volunteers," Alwi said. During the catastrophe at least 132,172 people went missing and thousands of houses and offices were destroyed, Alwi said. [More>>]

1.21.05 Island tribes cope with loss of habitat after tsunami

Anjana Pashricha reports: The primitive tribes of India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands largely escaped last month's deadly tsunami unscathed. But anthropologists fear that the massive damage to their habitat has left them vulnerable. The five aboriginal tribes that inhabit the lush jungles and beaches of the Andaman and Nicobar islands number less than 1,000 people.

Left undisturbed in their secluded habitats, they subsisted by hunting with bows and arrows, fishing and gathering wild fruit. Never large, the tribes' populations have shrunk over the past several decades, in part because of increased contact with outsiders, who carry diseases the tribes can not fend off. Most of them survived when the tsunami hit the remote islands in the Bay of Bengal on December 26. But the land on which they live suffered severely and many anthropologists believe that the damage to their habitat has left the tribes facing new challenges...While most of the tribes survived, not much is known so far about the welfare of one of the most secluded tribes, the Shompens, whose island took the brunt of the waves. A few members of the tribe have been sighted and even shot arrows at a military helicopter that hovered over their island on a post-tsunami reconnaissance trip...Mr. Acharya says the people may have escaped because they moved to higher ground after they saw the sea water go back, a phenomenon that usually occurs just before a tsunami strikes.

"Probably either by their tradition, or it is a crystallized wisdom of ages that is perhaps there in their unconscious mind that they have learned to fear or be suspicious of receding water and that was what has saved the day," he said.
[More>>Voice of America]

1.21.05 Indian naval ships return from relief mission

NEW DELHI (India News), Jan. 21 – Indian Navy ships deployed for relief operations in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka and The Maldives will begin their journey home Jan. 26. INS Taragiri and INS Jamuna, a 46-bed hospital ship, will leave Sri Lanka Jan. 26 and INS Udaygiri will head home from The Maldives January-end, a defence ministry statement said Friday. New Delhi sent five ships to Galle and Trincomalee ports in Sri Lanka to assist the island nation in relief and rehabilitation following the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster. Four ships were deployed in The Maldives. [More>> via]

1.21.05 The ocean giveth, man taketh away

An editorial in the Bangkok Post Thursday reflected on the prospect that the tsunami may have taken away but the repair of the damage may provide modern facilities, such as toilets: "In retrospect, the tsunami may have been a blessing in disguise for Rawai Beach locals: They can now grab the chance to install long-awaited toilets in their homes. In truth, the Urak Lawoi and Moken residents here have suffered as much as any other victims of the recent tidal waves. The quip about the toilets, made by a native who doesn't want to be named, merely reveals a wry, even bitter, sense of humour. But that's a useful coping skill; the locals have needed a cheery optimism to keep their sanity – even before the disaster that befell them on December 26.

'Quite a few of us have smuggled in bricks and cement to build toilets; we have to turn the crisis into an opportunity.' The chuckle which accompanies this remark has a hollow ring to it.

A tour through Moo 2 of Rawai sub-district, near the once popular tourist spot, can be shocking in what it reveals. Hidden behind rows of neat shop houses is a maze of makeshift shacks built under clumps of menacing coconut trees. Falling coconuts are a constant menace but the residents are forbidden to harvest them. The deluge of flotsam and mud brought in by the tsunami has already been cleared up, but the deprivation – the lack of toilets, a main water supply, electricity, garbage collection – continues as it has every day for the past several years. This is one misfortune that is entirely man-made."

1.21.05 Tsunami damage to environment put at $675 million in Indonesia

KOBE, Japan (Agencies), Jan. 22 –The United Nations Environment Programme on Friday estimated damage from Asia's tsunami disaster to Indonesia's environment would amount to US$675 million. "These latest findings show that the consequences for the environment are even more alarming than previously feared," said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the UN body. [More>>]

1.20.05 Donors pledge $5.1 billion to tsunami-hit Indonesia

JAKARTA (Reuters): Indonesia's main donors pledged on Thursday to give US$5.1 billion in aid this year, far more than Jakarta expected, including $1.7 billion to help rebuild northern Sumatra, where 166,000 people died in last month's tsunami.

1.20.05 - 1.23.05 OTHER NEWS

1.23.05 Johnny Carson dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) Jan. 23 – Johnny Carson, the "Tonight Show" TV host who served America a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter, droll comedy and heartland charm for 30 years, has died. He was 79. "Mr. Carson passed away peacefully early Sunday morning," his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, told The Associated Press. [More>>]

1.23.05 Islamic cleric urges all Muslims to reject terrorism

Jan. 23 – One of Saudi Arabia's most influential clerics urged Muslims to eschew terrorism, saying attacks on the innocent were not in accordance with the teachings of Islam. "Islam is a religion of moderation. Extremism has no place in Islam," Sheikh Abdurahman Al-Sudais of the Masjid'l Haram (Grand Mosque) said in a sermon delivered for Friday's Eid'l Adha (feast of sacrifice). He called on followers of Islam to exert all efforts to protect non-Muslims. [More>>]

1.23.05 British Foreign Minister Straw snubs US hawks on Iran

Jan. 23 – Jack Straw has drawn up a dossier putting the case against a military attack on Iran amid fears that President George W. Bushıs administration may seek Britainıs backing for a new conflict. Straw and his officials fear that hawks in Washington will talk the American president into a strike against Iranıs nuclear facilities, just as they persuaded him to go to war in Iraq. [More>>]

1.23.05 Iraqi exiles shun election; with 1 million worldwide, perhaps 10% will vote

Iraqi exiles around the world are likely to mostly shun the country's historic election after a mere 10 percent of the expected voters signed up in the first six days of registration, the election organisers said. Announcing a two-day extension to the week-long process in all 14 countries which are taking part, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) mainly blamed fear and apathy for the massive no-show. [More>>]

1.23.05 Zarqawi tape declares all-out war on Iraq

DUBAI: Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on Sunday declared war on the upcoming elections which he said were aimed at bringing the country under Shiite control, in an audiotape posted on a website. It was the second taped message attributed to Zarqawi in three days, coinciding with an escalation of bombings and killings in Iraq claimed by insurgents fighting US-led forces and Iraqis who "collaborate" with them. [More>>]

1.23.05 Germany detains two al-Quaida members

Jan. 23 – German police on Sunday arrested two suspected al-Qaida members who allegedly planned a suicide attack in Iraq, federal prosecutors said. One of the men - said to be a veteran of training camps in Afghanistan - also allegedly tried to obtain uranium...On Jan. 12, police took 22 suspects into custody during nationwide raids on a network of Muslim extremists that turned up militant Islamic propaganda and forged passports. In December, police arrested three suspected members of the Ansar al-Islam terror group who allegedly planned to attack Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi during a visit to Berlin.

In October, authorities arrested Syrian-German businessman and suspected key al-Qaida financier Mamoun Darkazanli on a European warrant.
[More>>Jerusalem Post]

1.22.05 Iraq refuses to say if Zarqawi detained

(AP) Jan. 22, 2005, 15:47 – Iraq's interior minister on Saturday refused to comment on rumors that the top terror leader in the country had been taken into custody. "I wouldn't like to comment for the time being," Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said when asked about rumors that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been arrested. "Let's see. Maybe in the next few days we will make a comment about it." Pressing him, a reporter asked, "Does that mean he is in custody?" "No comment," the minister repeated. [More>>Jerusalem Post]

1.22.05 US in danger of losing the war

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 22 – Tom Lasseter and Jonathan S. Landay report: Unless something dramatic changes, the United States is heading toward losing the war in Iraq. A Knight Ridder Newspapers analysis of U.S. government statistics shows the U.S. military steadily losing ground to the predominately Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq. The analysis suggests that, short of a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength, the United States won't win the war. [More>>Detroit Free Press]

1.22.05 GC spokesman denies report women can run for presidential post in Iran

TEHRAN, Jan. 22 (MNA) – The spokesman for the Guardian Council on Saturday denied an earlier report by the Front for Consolidating Democracy that women are eligible to contest the presidency. The Article 115 of the Iranian Constitution states the president must be one of the political "rejal" - an ambiguous term that can be interpreted to mean "men" or "personalities." As an oversight constitutional body, Gholamhossein Elham said, the Guardian Councilıs interpretation of the term ³rejal² has not changed. [More>>]

1.22.05 US citizens kidnapped in Mexico

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico, Jan. 22 – Mary Jordan, Washington Post Foreign Service reports: ....Last month, U.S. consular officials here issued a warning to the thousands of Americans who cross the bridge each week, including Mexican Americans visiting relatives or shopping and tourists on short sightseeing trips. "U.S. citizens are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when traveling through or visiting in Nuevo Laredo," it said. The message said 21 U.S. citizens had been kidnapped or had disappeared between August and December, with nine later released, two found dead and 10 still missing. It also mentioned the "alarming rate" of kidnappings that has continued for some time across Mexico, including "express" abductions for quick-cash ransoms. [More>>]

1.22.05 Slave-holding farm discovered in Kazakhstan

A slave-holding farm has been discovered in Kazakhstan's Kostanai region. Employees from the Department on the Fight Against Organized Crime rescued 5 captives, including citizens of Russia. Each of the workers found his own way into captivity. One was offered a good job in a village, while another was merely tricked. The rescued persons say that they weren't paid for their work. They were only fed two times a day, and guard dogs prevented them from running away. Escape was threatened with death. Yevgeny spent more than 18 months in slavery.

"I woke up at 6:30 a.m. each day and then worked until 1 or 2 p.m. What did I do? I removed dung from the barn, fed animals, and brought water to them. In the summer I worked on a threshing floor, bailing hay," says Yevgeny, a slave worker. The Tasybai village, where the captives were held, is located far away from other villages, and it is impossible to reach during winter. There was no one the captives could ask for help. When strangers came, the captors concealed the slaves in a shed.

"We frequently planned to escape, but they always threatened to kill us and bury us there if we did. There were three graves there and they said that we would be buried next to them if we tried to run. There were also dogs that always watched us. Sometimes the weather thwarted our plans. It was cold, and we only had thin garments," said Anatoly, a slave worker...- Some of the men have been held there for a long time, up to ten years.

1.22.05 Politician wants Schwarzenegger to lose citizenship

VIENNA, Austria (AP), Jan. 22, 12:38 PM EST – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should be stripped of citizenship in his native Austria for approving the execution of a convicted killer, a leading Austrian politician said Saturday. Peter Pilz, a top official with the environmentalist Green Party, said the Austria-born Schwarzenegger no longer is worthy of citizenship in his homeland because he broke the law by clearing Donald Beardslee's execution on Wednesday. [More>>]

A rhetorical question: If the movement to change the US Constitution to favor Schwarzenegger's run for the office of US President, would he be required to give up his Austrian citizenship? Also, could there be a conflict between his loyalty oath to Austria and his loyalty oath as Governor of California?
Mel Copeland

1.22.05 Virus strikes cruise ship

(CNN), Jan. 22, 1:33 AM EST (0633 GMT) – Nearly 250 people on a seven-day Caribbean cruise were sickened by a Norwalk-like stomach virus, which officials believe was brought on board by a passenger previously exposed to it, the cruise line said Friday. The Mariner of the Seas is set to dock in Port Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday, Royal Caribbean spokesman Michael Sheehan said in a statement. The ship has been sailing in the Western Caribbean with 3,465 guests and 1,190 crew members. Of those, 229 guests and 18 crew members were believed to have been affected by the virus. [More>>]

1.22.05 Georgians take 12 Ossetians hostage in South Ossetia

TBILISI, January 22 (RIA Novosti's Marina Kvaratskhelia) – Ethnic Georgians have taken 12 Ossetians hostage in the Tskhinvali district (the name used by the Georgian authorities for South Ossetia, a self-proclaimed republic on the territory of Georgia), participants of the protest rally at the Ergneti checkpoint told RIA Novosti by telephone. The protesters demand an immediate release of Georgian police officer Vladimir Chalauri. The protesters said that among the Ossetians taken hostage there were South Ossetia's deputy minister at large Makhar Gassiyev and the chief of Tskhinvali police, whose name they did not reveal. [More>>; see also]

1.22.05 China says eight hostages held by Iraqi insurgents freed

BEIJING (AP), Jan. 22 – Eight Chinese hostages held by Iraqi insurgents have been released, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday, citing the Chinese Embassy in Baghdad. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing issued a statement saying that embassy officials in Iraq and neighboring countries have failed so far to make contact with the eight hostages.

"We are trying to verify the news,'' a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. The insurgents decided to release the eight Chinese construction workers taken hostage in Iraq after China pledged to discourage its citizens from traveling to Iraq, according to a rebel videotape aired Saturday by Al-Arabiya television.
[More>>; see also; late news at Al-Jezeera]

1.21.05 15 people killed in Shiite mosque

Jan. 22 – Fifteen people have been killed and scores wounded in a car bomb attack on a Shiite mosque in Baghdad while they were celebrating a major Muslim holiday. Hospital officials said two of the dead were children. Another 39 people were wounded when the car bomb ripped through a crowd of worshippers pouring out of the Shuhada al-Taf Shiite mosque after special prayers for the Eid al-Adha feast last night. The shrapnel and debris cut children who had gathered around as Shiite Dawa party volunteers gave away candies, cake and watches to celebrate the holiday, the most sacred on the Muslim calendar, said mosque caretaker Mahmud Mohammed. [More>>]

Jan. 22 –
Al-Jazeera: An explosives-laden ambulance has ripped through a wedding south of Baghdad hours after a car bomb killed 15 people and wounded 39 outside a Shia mosque in the Iraqi capital earlier on Friday. "A booby-trapped ambulance driven by a human bomber blew up in a place where a wedding party was taking place," the police said.

Although 42 people were wounded, there were no immediate reports of deaths. The car bomb outside the al-Taf mosque in southwestern Baghdad, however, left a bloodier trail. The blast struck while Shia worshippers were celebrating one of Islam's most important holidays, the Eid al- Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice.

1.21.05 FBI addes 10 names to Boston alert

The FBI added 10 names to a list of people wanted in an unspecified terror threat to Boston. The bureau stressed the threat notice came from an unknown source and was uncorroborated. Wednesday, four Chinese nationals were identified and their pictures were placed on the FBI Web site ( The FBI late Thursday added 10 names, again accessible from the Web site, without pictures.

There has been no official word on the kind of possible threat posed. But in a statement earlier this week, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said: These reports of a terrorist plan to attack Boston remain unconfirmed and uncorroborated.
[More>>; to view information on terrorists listed at go to:]. Their names are: Azzam the American, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, Aafia Siddiqui, Zubayr Al-Rimi, Jaber A. Elbaneh, Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, Karim El Mejjati, Abderraouf Jdey, Faker Ben Abdelazziz Boussora and Amer El-Maati]

In a separate report: Five of the 10 individuals in the FBI's list of "persons of interest" in the investigation have Chinese passports. Four others have Chinese names and one has a Hispanic name, but the FBI did not indicate their nationalities. "None of the names has been validated as a person of interest on any previously existing watch list," the FBI said in a statement released late Thursday asking the public for information regarding the individuals.

They were identified after authorities in Boston said earlier this week they were looking for four Chinese nationals in an "unspecified potential threat" to the northeastern US city.

1.21.05 Iraq to arrest Ahmad Chalabi after Eid-TV

DUBAI (Reuters), Jan. 21 – Iraq's interim defense minister said on Friday the government would arrest Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi after the Eid al-Adha holiday on suspicion of maligning the defense ministry. "We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol. We will arrest him based on facts that he wanted to malign the reputation of the defense ministry and defense minister," Hazim al-Shaalan told Al Jazeera television. [More>>]

1.21.05 Arab world unimpressed by Bush defence of freedom

CAIRO (World News), Jan. 21 – George W. Bush's pledge to spread liberty around the globe earned a frosty reception in the Arab world today, with observers dismissing as hollow rhetoric his mantra- like insistence on promoting freedom. Analysts warned that the US president's ambition to promote democracy would only be regarded with suspicion in the Middle East so long as Iraq is plagued by violence after the US-led invasion.

An Arab professor of political science even drew parallels between the words of Bush and Osama bin Laden, saying the president had made the word freedom "banal" in the same way as the Al-Qaeda leader had the word "jihad (holy war)". "The two men have both invoked their favorite concepts without ever putting them into practice," Assad Abu Khalil, who works in the United States, told media.

He said Bush's notion that "freedom is the solution" is just as simplistic as the belief of militant Islamists that "Islam is the solution" in a region largely ruled by totalitarian regimes who reject religious extremism. "By wanting to explain all through freedom, Bush ends up explaining nothing. We need to see how the idea of liberty can be translated into effective policies," he said. "The export of democracy is in no way a military operation."
[More>>; see also]

In a separate report: TORONTO, Jan 21 (AFP) – Canadian pundits peered warily across the US border on Friday with a mix of trepidation and scepticism after President George W. Bush's inaugural vow to spread American-style "freedom" around the world.

"If Bush is serious and not merely indulging in inaugural rhetoric, he has put the US on another combative course in his second term," warned the Toronto Star, the country's largest newspaper. The paper advised Bush to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, previous targets of US military action, before turning his attention elsewhere.

1.21.05 Two Chinese held in death of Kazakh diplomat

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 21 – Two chinese nationals allegedly involved in the murder of Kazakh diplomat here were held today, sources reported. According to statement of Police Superintendent, Sultan Azam, those arrested were Chinese nationals and identified as Hassan s/o Abdul Hamid and Mohammad Ibrahim s/o Abdullah. []

In a separate story: ALMATY: A senior Kazakh diplomat who was shot in the head at his home in Pakistan's capital Islamabad died of his wounds on Friday, Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said. Sapargali Aubakirov, who was deputy head of the Central Asian country's mission in Pakistan, "died from his wounds at a military hospital in Islamabad," the Kazakh foreign ministry said in a written statement..

1.21.05 Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry recognizes problem of nuclear waste storage in Murmansk

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti), Jan. 21 – Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry has recognized that the northwestern region of Murmansk is facing a problem of nuclear waste storage, and pledged help in getting it resolved before the year 2010.

"But the problem should not be overdramatized," said Nikolai Shingarev, head of the ministry's PR unit. "The situation with the storage of nuclear waste in the Murmansk region is a very serious one, indeed. It stems from the [Cold War-era] arms race, the construction of a large number of nuclear submarines and the abrupt discarding of such subs. Our department is not directly responsible for this problem, but we have been in charge of nuclear submarine scrapping for six years now and have come a long way over this period of time," the official said.

Mr. Shingarev commented Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov's call for tougher control over the handling of radioactive waste and nuclear material. As the Prosecutor pointed out, Murmansk's nuclear waste storage sites, holding as much as 17,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste, were built back in the 1960s, and have by now become outdated both morally and physically.

According to Mr. Shingarev, 194 nuclear submarines have been discarded since the late 1980s, and about 70 subs are yet to have their nuclear waste removed.

1.21.05 'Flammable' Titan covered in liquid gas

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters), Jan. 21 – Saturn's moon Titan is covered by "dirty" ice ridges and seas of liquid natural gas, a team of scientists said on Friday after a week of research into data from the space probe Huygens. "We've got a flammable world," said Toby Owen, an atmospheric scientist, at a news conference from European Space Agency offices in Paris monitored on NASA TV..."There's lots of evidence of fluid flow," said Marty Tomasko, the principal investigator for Huygens' on-board imaging instruments. While it does not rain every day on Titan, Tomasko and colleagues speculated there must be some sort of regular precipitation on the surface.

The methane can exist in liquid form on Titan's surface because it is so cold, -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Methane is also a key component in Titan's atmosphere, along with nitrogen. But as opposed to the Earth, the atmosphere of Titan lacks oxygen, which is essential to fire...
[More>>; see also report]

1.21.05 Russian spy satellite missing

Jan. 21 – Yesterday, Kommersant learned that the Defense Ministry had still not been able to find the Cobalt spy satellite, which was guided off the orbit ahead of time the night of January 9th. If the search operation, which will last until the end of this week, is not successful, the satellite will be announced missing. A specially founded commission is to discover the causes of the of the reasons for the satelliteıs early landing could have been the malfunction of the its flight control system, which became evident after the satellite had already orbited the earth for half of the designated term (Cobalt was making uncharacteristic maneuvers, fixed by U.S. space radars). The malfunction was fixed, however, when it was detected again, a decision was made to land the space vehicle ahead of time. However, before the satellite came off the orbit in order to land at the polygon in the Orenburg steppe, two large fragments detached from it, the fact also fixed by the Americans (which had never happened to Kobalt before)...By the way, in February 2000, the search team failed to find the Fregat acceleration module. The two-week search was stopped in hopes that the module would be discovered after the snow melted. However, it was never found: specialists at the Lavochkin Research and Production Association think that most likely the local residents, who had found it, sawed it in pieces and turned it to scrap metal recycling. [More>>]

1.21.05 Gazprom's CEO discussed oil and gas cooperation with North Korea

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti), Jan. 21 – Alexey Miller, Gazprom's CEO, discussed cooperation in the oil and gas sphere with members of the North Korean government. According to a Gazprom press release, during his visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Gazprom's CEO met with Pak Pong Ju, chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Ro Tu Chol, vice premier for industry, and Ko Ten Sik, oil minister.

North Korea launched oil and gas prospecting activities in 1965. These activities were stepped up in 1993, when the Department of Oil Operations was transformed into the country's oil ministry. According to the results of oil prospecting operations, seven promising oil and gas bearing basins were identified in 1997. The most promising of them are the basins of the West Korea Bay (the Yellow Sea shelf, Korea's western coast), the East Korea Bay (the shelf of the Sea of Japan, Korea's eastern coast), and the Pyongyang basin.[

1.21.05 China now ranks equal to US in importance as trade partner with Japan

TOKYO, Jan. 21 (Xinhuanet) – Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said here Friday that China now ranks equal with the United States in its importance as a trade partner with Japan. Stable relations between Japan and China are of great importance to the whole international community, Koizumi told a parliamentary session. The two countries should dedicate themselves towards building bilateral ties and strengthening comprehensive cooperation despite differences in some areas, he said. [More>>]

1.21.05 Seoul has new Chinese name

BEIJING, Jan. 20 – Seoul's city government had decided to change its Chinese name, still known to Chinese by its ancient name of Hancheng. The new name combines two Chinese characters, which produce the sound ³Shouer,² similar in pronunciation to the South Korean name Seoul, officials said. At present Chinese refer to Seoul as Hancheng (Hanseong in Korean), the Chinese name the city was known by in past centuries. ³The name Hanseong has not been used for nearly 100 years to refer to Seoul,² Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak said at a press conference Wednesday. [More>>]

1.20.05 Death toll in Xinjian blast rises to 12

BEIJING (World News), Jan. 21 – At least 12 people were killed when an explosion tore through a minibus in Urumqi, the capital of restive north-west Chinese province of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the state media said today. The state-run Xinhua news agency had initially put the toll as two dead and 10 injured. However, latest reports from the region said the toll has risen to 12.

The explosion occurred yesterday at around 4:10pm yesterday, which left a nine square metre hole in the ground and completely destroyed the minibus. The cause of the blast is under investigation and it is not yet clear whether the blast is related to a terrorist activity.

1.21.05 India, China to hold first-ever strategic dialogue next week

Beijing, Jan. 21 – India and China will hold the first-ever 'strategic dialogue' on January 24 in New Delhi to discuss major global and regional issues that will help enhance bilateral cooperation and coordination, official sources said here today. "This will be the first meeting of the strategic dialogue between India and China and the main focus will be the big global issues," one official said.

India would be represented by Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran while the Chinese side would be headed by Vice Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs Wu Dawei. The aim of the strategic dialogue is to broaden the scope of the blooming bilateral relationship, allowing both sides to exchange notes on global and regional security issues, the official told PTI here.
[More>>Press Trust of India; see also "...The move to upgrade the relationship assumes significance in the context of the diplomatic efforts by several countries to gain access to the energy resources in Central Asia. Both countries are strategically located to take advantage of this and these discussions will help converge approaches on future plans to tap resources..."]

1.21.05 Russia slams US for accusing Syria of terror ties

Jan. 21 – Russia criticized the United States on Friday for accusing Syria of having ties to terrorism, saying such an approach would harm security in the Middle East. "It's well known that slapping labels on countries and unilaterally describing certain states as part of the 'axis of evil' has not improved anyone's security," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told Interfax news agency.

"Syria is one of the key players in the region and resumption of talks with Israel on the Syrian question is important in the context of the Middle East peace process," Yakovenko said ahead of a visit to Moscow by Syrian President Bashar Assad next week.

1.21.05 NATO stresses need for unity on Iran

(AP) Jan. 21 – NATO's top diplomat Friday stressed the need for Europe and the United States to avoid divisions over Iran as they try to ensure the Islamic republic does not develop nuclear weapons. "It is of the utmost importance that the European Union and the United States of America see eye-to-eye on Iran," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters.

The United States has raised concerns in Europe by refusing to rule out military strikes to prevent Iran producing a nuclear bomb. Washington has supported a European diplomatic drive to persuade Iran to abandon any nuclear weapon plans, but is skeptical that Teheran is bargaining in good faith.
[More>>Jerusalem Post]

1.21.05 Danish soldiers in Iraqi prisoner abuse

Charges have been brought against five Danish officers for allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners last year. The Danish Defence Ministry said a female intelligence officer and four male military policemen had been accused of refusing prisoners food and water and of forcing them to kneel during interrogations. If convicted they face up to a year in prison. The alleged abuses are said to have taken place near Basra early last year. [More>>; see also]

1.21.05 Rumsfeld cancels trip after accusations

Jan. 21 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cancelled a planned visit to Germany after a US human rights organisation asked German authorities to prosecute him for war crimes, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) has learned. Rumsfeld has informed the German government via the US embassy that he will not take part in the Munich Security Conference in February, conference head Horst Teltschik told dpa on Thursday.

The New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights filed a complaint in December with the Federal German Prosecutor's Office against Rumsfeld accusing him of war crimes and torture in connection with detainee abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
[More>>; see also]

1.21.05 Top UN human rights official to visit Nepal next week

[World News]: United Nations, Jan. 21 : The top United Nations human rights official will visit Nepal next week for a first-hand assessment of the situation in the Himalayan kingdom, a month after a UN working group asked the government to stop "forced disappearances" of suspects in its fight against Maoist rebels. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, will meet with senior officials of the Nepalese government, judiciary, military as well as NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists, the United Nations announced yesterday. [More>>]

1.21.05 Abbas instructs PA police to fire on Qassam launchers

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has instructed Palestinian Authority policemen to open fire on any Qassam launching militants in northern Gaza, Channel One reported Friday evening. Palestinian security services on Friday finished deploying around 2,000 paramilitary police officers around the border towns Beit Hanun and Beit Lahia and other parts of northern Gaza, in an effort to prevent rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli targets. Abbas said in a statement earlier on Friday that the PA will deploy security forces in the southern Gaza Strip within two days. [More>>]

1.20.05 Khatami: US not in a position to attack, but Iran is ready to defend

TEHRAN, Iran: President Mohammad Khatami said Thursday that the United States has too many problems in Iraq to attack Iran, but that his country has plans in place should Washington make any aggressive moves. Khatami's remarks, made in an interview with Iran's state-run radio while the president was wrapping up a 10-day, seven-nation tour of Africa, marked the most senior response to recent reports indicating the United States may be considering military action against Iran. Khatami was expected to return from Uganda on Thursday. "The possibility of a U.S. attack against Iran is very low. We think America is not in a position to take a lunatic action of attacking Iran,'' Khatami said. [More>>; see also Indo-Asian News Service]

1.20.05 North Korea says it wants to denuclearize

A U.S. congressional delegation led by Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., returned from a six-country tour assured that North Korea will resume negotiations. The congressman from Pennsylvania told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday that the bipartisan delegation's main objective – to break the denuclearization stalemate with Pyongyang – had been accomplished. "This trip was an overwhelming success ... with unprecedented levels of access and candor," he said. According to Weldon, North Korea's Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun stated unequivocally, "Denuclearization is our final goal." [More>>]

1.20.05 Britian urges US to set Iraq withdrawal timetable

LONDON, Jan. 20 – The British Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Thursday that Britain was urging the United States to announce a timetable for withdrawing coalition troops from Iraq over the next 18 months or more. As a new Iraqi government would take power after the Jan. 30 elections, British officials believe that time is ripe for the coalition forces to announce an "indicative timetable" for their departure, the paper said.

Such an announcement would be the first time the coalition had set a clear target for leaving, even though there would be no firm deadline and the withdrawal would depend on the gradual ability ofIraq's armed forces to take over responsibility for security, the paper added. "Giving a timetable would be an important political signal that we intend to leave Iraq," the paper quoted a well-placed government source as saying on condition of anonymity. "The main Iraqi parties are already talking about when coalition forces should be drawn down. America knows it will have to deal with the issue soon."

1.20.05 Taliban chief rebuffs talks with US, Afghan government

SLAMABAD: Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has rejected negotiations with US-led forces and the Afghan government and vowed to continue his "holy war", a statement purportedly from the radical cleric said Thursday. Omar, who has evaded a manhunt since his Islamic regime was ousted in late 2001 by US-led forces, was apparently referring to indications by President Hamid Karzai that Taliban footsoldiers could be offered an amnesty. "It is astonishing that on the one hand aggressor armies have occupied our country and on the other they are talking about negotiations with Taliban," Omar said in a statement sent to the Pakistan-based private Afghan Islamic Press. [More>>]

1.20.05 Cheney expresses concern that Israel may attack Iran

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 – U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday expressed concern that Israel may attack Iran, in order to eliminate any nuclear threat from Tehran. Cheney added that Iran was at the top of the American administration's list of world trouble spots. "If, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards," Cheney said. [More>>; see also]

1.20.05 Israel plans big Jerusalem land grab

The Sharon government intends to strip thousands of West Bank Palestinians of their property in occupied East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli press quoting newly released government documents. At stake are thousands of donoms of land belonging to Palestinians who live in the West Bank and are now unable to access their land due to Israel's separation barrier.

The decision, reached by the Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem Affairs in June of 2004, and approved by Prime Minister Sharon and his attorney-general a month later, has not been publicized until now. By some estimates, the total land to be expropriated could add up to half of all East Jerusalem property.

1.20.05 Bush takes oath of office

WASHINGTON — George Walker Bush was inaugurated for a second presidential term today, building a ceremony as old as the Republic into a salute to his goal of a new liberty around the globe.

As the sun burned through the overcast, wintry sky, the 58-year-old president raised his left hand, placed his right hand on a family Bible held by his wife, Laura, and, at 11:56 a.m. EST, swore for a second time the 35-word oath written in the Constitution. It was the same Bible his father had used during his presidential inauguration in 1989.

(Reuters) - President Bush pledged to work to heal a country divided by the Iraq war and urged "rulers of outlaw regimes" to let democracy flourish as he was sworn in for a second term on Thursday. Bush, who begins his second term with the lowest approval rating of a returning president since Richard Nixon, said in his inaugural address, "We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes, and I will strive in good faith to heal them."

Watching the procession for the parade many ABC commentators expressed how armored the President's procession was, "like the procession of a Bananna Republic dictator, several concluded. They expressed that 9/11 may have caused the excess and lacking any alternative the parade should be abandoned altogether. There were about 5,000 protestors at Freedom Square, and several thousand who were restrained from gaining access to the parade because there were only 3 officers at the gate to process them. Some suggested that it may have been intentional. Among the protestors outside the square a fire was lit over what appeared to be a coffin. The parade went off without incident.

The full text of Mr. Bush's speech is at and and
Mel Copeland

1.20.05 US to be nuclear dumping ground

Jan. 21 – Amanda Hodge reports: THE US will become Australia's nuclear dumping ground in a remarkable 10-year agreement that takes the pressure off the Howard Government to find a domestic waste site. The agreement to take spent fuel rods from the proposed new Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney was sealed at ministerial level late last year following talks between the US Department of Energy and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization The deal was revealed yesterday in a letter from ANSTO released by the country's nuclear watchdog, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. [More>>]


1.07.05 Sinclair Broadcasting to sue webloggers

The following was posted on a Americablog Jan. 7:

"The evil Sinclair broadcasting group, the group that planned to run the entire anti-Kerry attack film on their TV stations around the country right before the election, has threatened to sue David Brock's MediaMatters AND they've threatened to sue ANYONE who JOINS MEDIA MATTERS EMAIL LIST!

Here's my favorite quote from Sinclair's release:

Although Sinclair respects the rights of these organizations to voice their opinions, we find inappropriate that their tactics include advocating their constituency to contact our advertisers in a blatant attempt to use economic pressure to censor the speech of Sinclair. Moreover, the continued misrepresentation of the facts surrounding any company's advertising practices regarding Sinclair stations constitutes "trade defamation" which would entitle Sinclair to seek damages in a court of law. Sinclair will aggressively pursue any organization or any individual which engages in such defamation, including individuals who lend their names to mass e-mail campaigns spreading such misinformation.

Oh man. Make. My. Day."

The Sinclair Press Release is at: See also and others.


12.23.04 US is losing war of ideas
12.21.04 United States attacking itself from behind

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