re:hamas militants speak openly about escalating weapon r&d to advance the 67 war
~Israeli Strike Kills 5 Militants in Gaza
Published: 12/1/07, 7:45 PM EDT
By SARAH EL DEEB
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Gaza militants threatened Saturday to fire longer-range rockets and target larger Israeli communities, after five Hamas members were killed in an Israeli airstrike.
A spokesman for the Islamic Jihad group said its engineers are trying to produce local copies of Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets, which have a reach of up to 19 miles, or halfway from Gaza to Tel Aviv.
Israel carries out regular military operations in Gaza, targeting militants launching near-daily rocket barrages into Israel. Its pinpoint airstrikes have intensified in the past week. Some 17 Gaza militants have been killed in strikes or clashes with the army since the US-hosted Mideast conference began Monday in Annapolis, Maryland.
At the meeting, Israel and the Palestinians, in the presence of representatives of nearly 50 states, announced that peace talks would resume after a violent seven-year hiatus.
Hamas and other militant groups have strongly opposed the resumption of peace talks with Israel, saying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not have the political legitimacy to speak on behalf of Palestinians. Hamas overtook the Gaza Strip by force in June, leaving Abbas in control of only the West Bank.
Hamas says its current barrage of rocket attacks against Israel has been one of the ways of showing its resistance to peace talks. Over the weekend, four rockets and 15 mortars were launched into Israel, the army said.
Early Saturday, an Israeli airstrike killed five Hamas militants near the southern town of Khan Younis. Eight others were wounded, one critically, medical officials said.
Hamas said the men were on a night patrol east of Khan Younis. The army said it carried out the strike after identifying armed men near its border with Gaza.
A senior Hamas official said his group was developing a more lethal type of warhead for the rockets it regularly lobs into Israel, and Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, a group allied with Hamas, said his organization had plans to fire longer-range rockets.
"The real barrage of rockets has not yet begun," said Abu Mujahed, whose brother was killed in Saturday's airstrike, adding that "22 kilometers is not the ceiling."
It was an apparent reference to 122mm Katyusha rockets that can hit targets 12 to 19 miles away, about twice the range of the thousands of homemade Qassam projectiles that Gaza militants have fired at Israel communities in recent years.
Katyushas are deadlier than the homemade rockets and put larger Israeli communities near Gaza into rocket range. Netivot, a town of 25,000, is 10 miles northeast of Gaza, and Ashkelon, a port city where 115,000 Israelis live, is about 8 miles away.
Katyusha fire from Gaza has been rare. The Islamic Jihad militant group claims to have fired three Russian-made rockets at Israel since March 2006, and to have "many" in their possession.
Israel estimates that a dozen Katyushas were smuggled into Gaza since it left the strip in September 2005.
Israeli military officials said there has recently been "an improvement in the range and capabilities" of the crude Qassam rocket fire into Israel, adding that militants "have managed to bring in expertise in rocket technology into Gaza."
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
Isaac Ben-Israel, a military expert at Tel Aviv University and a former army general, estimated that militants were continuing to smuggle rockets into the strip.
But Abu Hamza, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, said the group was developing its own industry aimed at extending its rocket range beyond its current 12 miles.
"These are not imported rockets, but are homemade. We have developed the size, propellent and warheads in our rockets. We are working to make them go longer than (18 kilometers)," he said. "They have created a balance of terror."
He said the group's Katyusha engineer, Mohammed al-Dahdouh, was killed in an Israeli strike days after they launched a Katyusha in May 2006, but he had trained others who are working on developing the local prototype that has already reached the outskirts of Ashkelon. He said the group now uses Google Earth and a compass for greater accuracy.~
re:iraq civilian death totals down
~Death Toll for Iraqis Falls Again
Published: 12/1/07, 12:05 AM EDT
By KIM GAMEL
BAGHDAD (AP) - The number of Iraqis killed last month fell to 718, an Associated Press tally showed, the lowest monthly death toll since just before the 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine provoked a vicious cycle of retaliatory sectarian violence.
The figures come as the military says violence has fallen to levels not seen in nearly two years, while acknowledging that Iraqis are still dying in unacceptable numbers.
An expert on the effect of conflicts on civilians agreed, saying that while the downward trend was positive, it needed to be kept in perspective.
"We've gone from horrific levels of murder to very bad, which is an improvement but not a reason to celebrate," said Richard Garfield, a professor at New York's Columbia University and a manager of health and nutrition for the World Health Organization.
"At these so-called low levels, there's a massive number of excess deaths still likely to occur."
It was the third consecutive monthly decline in the death toll of Iraqi civilians and security forces since August, when a massive suicide bombing targeting minority Yazidis in northern Iraq helped push the figure to at least 1,956.
Some 500 are thought to have perished in the bombing of the Yazidis.
At least 1,023 Iraqis were killed in September, 911 in October and 718 in November, the lowest since January 2006, when 615 Iraqis were killed, according to figures compiled by the AP from hospital, police and military officials, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers. Insurgent deaths were not included. Other counts differ and some have given higher civilian death tolls.
The number of U.S. troop deaths also declined for the sixth consecutive month, with at least 37 recorded in November, according to an AP tally based on military figures. That was the lowest number since March 2006, when 31 American service members died.
The U.S. military has said the decline in the number of deadly attacks is largely due to a troop buildup this summer of some 30,000 additional troops that enabled them to get closer to the population, as well as a sharp turn of public opinion against al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremist groups.
But American commanders and other officials have gone to great lengths to warn that militants on both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide still pose a major threat, and violence continues.
"We're always encouraged by any downward trend in violence, but we can't get complacent," said Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, a military spokesman.
"There have been improvements in security, however, militants, insurgents, extremists and criminals out there will continue to keep looking for opportunities, so we have to remain vigilant and on alert," he added. "There's still a lot of work that needs to be done."
The numbers were high even before the Feb. 22, 2006 bombing in the city of Samarra north of Baghdad, which devastated the golden dome of a revered Shiite shrine. But the attack caused longstanding tensions to boil over and assassinations, bombings and execution-style killings were rampant.
November of that year was one of the deadliest of the war, with at least 2,250 Iraqis killed, dwarfing recent figures.
Garfield, the Columbia University expert, expressed concern that the recent reports of the decline in violence could tempt people to ignore the fact that the numbers are still high amid rising public criticism of the war.
"I think there is a great potential to close the door on Iraq, bring the troops home, wash our hands of it," he said in a telephone interview from Geneva. "But the improving trend suggests that the right kind of presence of the international force can make a tremendous difference in how the Iraqis are doing and they will need that presence for a long time."
He also estimated the count was only one-third of the actual total, underlining the difficulties in keeping track of the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Wide-ranging estimates cannot be confirmed due to the tenuous security situation.
Iraq Body Count, an independent organization that tracks media reports as well as official figures, estimates that 77,573 to 84,502 civilians have been killed.
In a bid to better detect trends in the violence, the U.S. military is planning to increasingly use Iraqi data while warning that both sets of information are flawed.
"We recognize that when we only use coalition reports we underreport," said Col. Bill Rapp, a senior aide to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.
Rapp, speaking to reporters at a recent briefing on measuring trends, said the increasing use of Iraqi data became a priority as Petraeus shifted the U.S. command's focus to protecting the Iraqi people. It also will help the military fill in the gaps as it draws down forces and transfers more security responsibilities to the Iraqi government in coming months.
U.S. officials acknowledge that Iraqi government data is often incomplete and imprecise as well as tainted by potential sectarian bias.
But the military is working with the Iraqis to develop an automated database of their own that would help eliminate duplicate reports, among other attributes.~
re:iran flubbs last chance meeting with EU
~EU-Iranian Talks Break Up; No Compromise
Published: 11/30/07, 9:45 PM EDT
By GEORGE JAHN
LONDON (AP) - An 18-month attempt to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment collapsed Friday after a senior EU envoy failed to dent Iran's resolve to expand the technology, despite the threat of new U.N. sanctions.
As Iran's foreign minister called for an end to U.N. Security Council involvement, Saeed Jalili, Iran's senior nuclear negotiator, sought to put his talks with the EU's Javier Solana in a positive light, telling reporters the meeting was "good," and saying the two men had agreed to meet again next month.
But Solana had a different message.
"After five hours of meetings, I expected more, and therefore I am disappointed," he said. Unlike Jalili, he suggested no new meetings were planned, saying only the two men would talk on the telephone next month and would set up a personal encounter only "if circumstances permit."
The meeting had been considered a last chance for Iran to give in to pressure from the five permanent U.N. Security Council nations and at least freeze - if not dismantle - its enrichment program before the end of the month, ahead of a new effort by the five nations to find common language on a third set of U.N. sanctions. Those endeavors were to be the focus of a meeting of the five nations plus Germany at a high-level gathering in Paris on Saturday.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after the end of the London meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki urged the Security Council to "put an end to its illegal consideration of Iran's nuclear issue." He argued that "there has been no legal basis ... for the referral of Iran" to the council.
In any case, said Jalili, Iran was not worried about the prospect of new penalties.
"What did they achieve?" he asked about the two sets of sanctions already in place "Nothing. In fact, we made the greatest technology headway and breakthroughs in that specific period of time."
He was alluding to advances in enrichment technology - Iran has set up and is running 3,000 enriching machines, or centrifuges, in the space of a year. That's 10 times the amount it had when the Security Council passed its first set of sanctions in December 2006. While Iran insists it has a right to peaceful use of enrichment to generate power, fears that the activity could be misused to create the fissile core of nuclear warheads have resulted in two sets of sanctions in the past 12 months.
U.S. criticism of Iran goes beyond the nuclear issue, with Washington alluding that Tehran foments terrorism in the region, but Jalili was dismissive of the "noise by the Americans," adding: "We don't pay much attention to them."
The council first imposed sanctions Dec. 23, ordering all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs, and freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to the programs.
In March, the council imposed moderately tougher sanctions, including banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 people and groups involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
Throughout the EU-Iran discussions, which began in June 2006, the permanent Security Council members and Germany had offer have offered technological and political incentives if Iran mothballed the program.
But even before the two men sat down Friday, European officials had given the talks little chance, telling The Associated Press that Iran was unlikely to cave in after months of public pronouncements - the latest in the last few days - that it would not bargain away its rights to enrichment.
Instead, Iran ran had promised to bring a "new proposal" to the table - which a European official familiar with the content of the talks said did not materialize at the London meeting.
The official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential issues, said much of the meeting was taken up by Jalili's lengthy explanations of Iran's nuclear stance.
The hard-line Jalili, who replaced moderate Ali Larijani last month, said suspension was "not discussed."
Solana is to draw up a report on the meeting that will go into the mix in deliberations on how to deal with Iran's nuclear defiance. The United States, France and Britain are urging quick and tough new sanctions, but pronouncements by Russia and China have suggested that those two permanent Security Council members are skeptical.
Another report - written by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei - is also crucial for Security Council decision-making. That report gave Tehran mixed marks on its cooperation with an agency probe of Iran's nuclear past while noting that the IAEA's knowledge of the Islamic Republic's present atomic activities is actually shrinking.
Still, Iran has tried to exploit that report as giving it a clean bill of nuclear health, asserting that its conclusions should mean an end to Security Council interest in Tehran's nuclear activities.
At a news conference, Jalili said the ElBaradei report was a "litmus test for certain powers" - an oblique reference to the U.S. and its Western allies who say Iran must not only cooperate more fully with the probe but also suspend enrichment. "Such behavior," he said, "has isolated them, even among their own people."
"Their problems with Iran has nothing to do with the nuclear matter," he said, ascribing Western pressure on his country as a result of unhappiness with the "democratic system ... in power in Iran."
Associated Press Writer David Stringer contributed to this report.~
re:saudi says others should stay out of their religious,,er,,legal system while theirs is all up in every one elses
~Saudi Rape Ruling Puts Govt on Defensive
Published: 12/1/07, 12:05 AM EDT
By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Saudi Arabia is bristling at international criticism over the sentencing of a rape victim to prison and 200 lashes, insisting the West should stay out of its legal system. But the case could empower voices for change in the kingdom's Islamic courts.
The punishment of the "Girl of Qatif" - as the rape victim is known, after her hometown in eastern Saudi Arabia - was labeled "barbaric" by Canada. In a rare criticism of its Mideast ally, the White House called the Saudi court ruling "outrageous."
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, in the U.S. for a Mideast peace conference, was visibly annoyed.
"What is outraging about this case is that it is being used against the Saudi government and people," he told reporters Tuesday.
But he said the Saudi judiciary will review the case and it will go before the nation's highest court - a move seen as a challenge to conservative clerics who run the courts.
Saudi writer Sultan al-Qahtani said Saud's comment might be the "strongest message yet" from the kingdom's leadership that the judiciary must reform. The international pressure over the case could provide momentum to legal reform efforts pushed by Saudi King Abdullah.
"The controversy over the Girl of Qatif sentence might lead to a strong push for the government, which is inclined toward reform, to confront the other elements that insist the kingdom maintain its extreme religiosity," he wrote this week on liberal Saudi Web Site Elaph.
Saudi King Abdullah issued a decree in October for ambitious reforms in the court system, including establishing a Supreme Court and commercial, personal status and labor tribunals in an attempt to make the often random system more regulated.
But al-Qahtani said the deeply conservative clerical hierarchy is resistant.
In Saudi Arabia, courts are all Islamic, run by clerics following the kingdom's strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam - but with no written legal code.
"It's left to the judge to decide the punishment he sees, which leads to contradictions," Saudi columnist Saleh Ibrahim al-Tariki wrote in an article published Saturday on the Web site of the Al-Arabiya TV network - a Saudi-owned station.
In the case of the Girl of Qatif, the woman - a member of the kingdom's Shiite minority - was attacked in 2006 when she met a high school friend in his car to retrieve a picture of herself from him, since she had recently married. Two men got into the vehicle and drove them to a secluded area where five others waited, and then the woman - 19 at the time - and her companion were both raped, she has said
In October last year, she was sentenced to prison and 90 lashes for being alone with a man not related to her - a violation of the kingdom's strict segregation of the sexes. The seven rapists were also convicted.
When her lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, appealed the sentence and made public comments about it, he was removed from the case, his license suspended, and the court increased the woman's penalty to six months in prison and 200 lashes.
The sentences for the seven men were also increased to between two to nine years in prison, up from the initial sentence of 10 months to five years.
On the Qatif case, the judiciary has taken a tough line. Days before Saud's comments, the Justice Ministry vowed the woman would be flogged and rejected foreign interference.
It also defended the doubling of the sentence against her, insisting she was an "adulteress."
The victim's husband denied that, stepping forward to defend his wife by calling into a Lebanese television program last week while it aired a debate on the case.
"I'm not lacking in manhood or an Arab man's honor that I would defend a cheating wife," if it were true, he said on the program, which did not give his name.
"I feel that in this catastrophe she exercised bad judgment by meeting this man, but how can you or anyone say she committed adultery?" he said and described the effect of the rape on the woman, including months where she didn't speak or eat and was physically ill.
His public defense reflected a rare openness that has been sparked by the controversy. Usually, families in the Arab world stay firmly silent about rape because of the shame connected to it.
So far, calls for reform within the Saudi kingdom have come from only a few voices - but even that is a change from the past, when court decisions were rarely discussed.
In Saudi courts, rules of evidence are shaky, sometimes no lawyers are present, and the judges - appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council - have complete discretion, including on sentencing, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.
Al-Tariki pointed to the discrepancies that result. In recent cases, he wrote, three teenagers were beheaded for attacking a gas station and injuring a worker while a government employee who received thousands of riyals as a bribe was only sentenced eight months in prison. A group of men received 12 years in prison for sexual harassment, compared to the shorter sentences for the Girl of Qatif rapists.
"Turning the criminal to a victim is the worst a judge can do," he said. "There are so many questions on the Saudis' minds and the Justice Ministry must answer them, so the average citizen won't lose his mind and think that justice and injustice are the same."
Associated Press Writer Maggie Michael contributed to this report.~
re:brit teachers death called for by mobs
~Calls in Sudan for Execution of Briton
Published: 11/30/07, 8:25 AM EDT
By MOHAMED OSMAN
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) - Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."
The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.
They massed in central Martyrs Square, outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed, although they did not try to stop the rally.
"Shame, shame on the U.K.," protesters chanted.
They called for Gibbons' execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."
The women's prison where Gibbons is being held is far from the site. Unity High School, which is closer by in central Khartoum, is under heavy security protection.
The protest arose despite vows by Sudanese security officials the day before, during Gibbons' trial, that threatened demonstrations after Friday prayers would not take place. Some of the protesters carried green banners with the name of the Society for Support of the Prophet Muhammad, a previously unknown group.
Many protesters carried clubs, knives and axes - but not automatic weapons, which some have brandished at past government-condoned demonstrations. That suggested Friday's rally was not organized by the government.
A Muslim cleric at Khartoum's main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons during one sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not call for protests, however.
"Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told worshippers.
"This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad," he said.
Britain, meanwhile, pursued diplomatic moves to free Gibbons. Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with a member of her family to convey his regret, his spokeswoman said.
"He set out his concern and the fact that we were doing all we could to secure her release," spokeswoman Emily Hands told reporters.
Most Britons expressed shock at the verdict by a court in Khartoum, alongside hope it would not raise tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain.
"One of the good things is the U.K. Muslims who've condemned the charge as completely out of proportion," said Paul Wishart, 37, a student in London.
"In the past, people have been a bit upset when different atrocities have happened and there hasn't been much voice in the U.K. Islamic population, whereas with this, they've quickly condemned it."
Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the Sudanese authorities of "gross overreaction."
"This case should have required only simple common sense to resolve. It is unfortunate that the Sudanese authorities were found wanting in this most basic of qualities," he said.
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a political advocacy group, said the prosecution was "abominable and defies common sense."
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said Gibbons' prosecution and conviction was "an absurdly disproportionate response to what is at worst a cultural faux pas."
Foreign Secretary David Miliband summoned the Sudanese ambassador late Thursday to express Britain's disappointment with the verdict. The Foreign Office said Britain would continue diplomatic efforts to achieve "a swift resolution" to the crisis.
Gibbons was arrested Sunday after another staff member at the school complained that she had allowed her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Giving the name of the Muslim prophet to an animal or a toy could be considered insulting.
The case put Sudan's government in an embarrassing position - facing the anger of Britain on one side and potential trouble from powerful Islamic hard-liners on the other. Many saw the 15-day sentence as an attempt to appease both sides.
In The Times, columnist Bronwen Maddox said the verdict was "something of a fudge ... designed to give a nod to British reproof but also to appease the street."
Britain's response - applying diplomatic pressure while extolling ties with Sudan and affirming respect for Islam - had produced mixed results, British commentators concluded.
In an editorial, The Daily Telegraph said Miliband "has tiptoed around the case, avoiding a threat to cut aid and asserting that respect for Islam runs deep in Britain. Given that much of the government's financial support goes to the wretched refugees in Darfur and neighboring Chad, Mr. Miliband's caution is understandable."
Now, however, the newspaper said, Britain should recall its ambassador in Khartoum and impose sanctions on the Sudanese regime.
Associated Press writers Jill Lawless, David Stringer and Kate Schuman in London contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS that school is in central Khartoum, not far from it.)~
~Britons Intercede in Sudan-Teacher Case
Published: 12/1/07, 12:05 AM EDT
By MOHAMED OSMAN
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) - Two British parliament members met officials in Sudan Saturday to try to secure the release of a British teacher imprisoned for naming a teddy bear Muhammad and later said the Khartoum government wants to resolve the case.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Lord Nazir Ahmed, both Muslim members of Parliament's upper house, also visited the teacher Gillian Gibbons in prison for more than an hour.
"Gillian was surprisingly in good spirits considering the last seven days," Warsi, a Conservative, told Sky News.
Warsi and Ahmed arrived in Sudan Saturday on what the British Foreign Office called a private visit to meet with officials and seek the early release of Gibbons.
Concern for Gibbons' safety was sparked Friday after thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and swords and beating drums, burned pictures of her and demanded her execution during a rally in the capital Khartoum.
"The Sudanese government (does) want to resolve this matter. ... (We) hope we can come to an amicable resolution soon," Warsi said after she and Ahmed met Sudanese officials.
"They've been very positive so far," Ahmed said in an interview with the BBC. "We've had very frank discussions, and we are very hopeful that ... we'll be meeting more ministers and officials and this will continue until such time as we can reach a satisfactory conclusion."
A lawyer for Gibbons said President Omar al-Bashir could inform the visiting parliamentarians that he had pardoned the teacher.
Gibbons' lawyer Kamal al-Gizouli said Sudan's president could deliver news of a pardon when he meets the British visitors. But it was not immediately clear when they would meet.
"I would not be surprised if president of the republic will tell delegation we have dropped this charge," al-Gizouli told The Associated Press.
Gibbons, 54, was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in jail and deportation for insulting Islam by naming a teddy bear Muhammad - the name of Islam's prophet. The naming was part of a class project for her 7-year-old students at a private school in Sudan.
Al-Gizouli said only the president has the power to lift Gibbons' 15-day sentence which runs until Dec. 9.
Gibbons was moved from the Omdurman women's prison to a secret location on Friday after the angry demonstrations against her.
There was no overt sign that the government organized the protest, but such a rally could not have taken place without at least official assent.
The teacher's conviction under Sudan's Islamic Sharia law shocked Britons, and the British government has said it was working with Sudan's regime to win her release.
Gibbons escaped harsher punishment that could have included up to 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine. Her time in jail since her arrest Sunday counts toward the sentence.
During her trial, the weeping teacher said she had intended no harm. Her students, overwhelmingly Muslim, chose the name for the bear, and Muhammad is one of the most common names for men in the Arab world. Muslim scholars generally agree that intent is a key factor in determining if someone has violated Islamic rules against insulting the prophet
But the case was caught up in the ideology that al-Bashir's Islamic regime has long instilled in Sudan, a mix of anti-colonialism, religious fundamentalism and a sense that the West is besieging Islam.
The uproar comes as the U.N. is accusing Sudan of dragging its feet on the deployment of peacekeepers in the western Sudanese Darfur region.
Associated Press Writers Jill Lawless in London and Rob Harris in Liverpool, England contributed to this report.~
re:russia bares conventional arms
~Putin Suspends Conventional Arms Treaty
Published: 11/30/07, 8:45 AM EDT
By JIM HEINTZ
MOSCOW (AP) - President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law suspending Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, the Kremlin announced.
The move, although expected, was bemoaned by the United States.
The suspension takes effect Dec. 12. Under the moratorium, Russia will halt inspections and verifications of its military sites by NATO countries and will no longer be obligated to limit the number of conventional weapons deployed west of the Urals.
The 1990 arms control treaty set limits on the deployment of heavy conventional weapons by NATO and Warsaw Pact countries, to ease tensions along the border between the old Eastern bloc and Western Europe. The treaty was revised in 1999 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia ratified the updated treaty in 2004, but the United States and other NATO members have refused to follow suit, saying Moscow first must fulfill obligations to withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's separatist region of Trans-Dniester.
Both houses of parliament passed the law on the moratorium at Putin's initiative.
Putin called for Russia's temporary withdrawal from the treaty amid mounting anger in the Kremlin over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in eastern Europe.
The suspension also reflects Russia's growing military confidence, as it uses soaring budget revenues to rebuild the armed forces and restore Russia as a world military power.
Under the CFE, "we cannot move an extra tank in our territory," said Sergei Mironov, speaker of the upper house of parliament, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. "In this sense, we've ceased to be masters in our own territory."
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that "even after Dec. 12 we will continue the work and seek agreements that would help attain a balance," the Interfax news agency reported.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Washington was disappointed that Putin signed the law.
"This is a mistake. It is Russia unilaterally walking out of one of the most important arms control regimes of the last 20 years," Burns said at an international security conference in Madrid.
Russia announced two weeks ago that it had pulled out the last of its troops based in Georgia. However, questions remain about Russian troops in the separatist Georgian region of Abkhazia.
Associated Press Writer Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.~
re:chavez shows he's a thug by threatening to 'steal' spanish banks IF he doesn't get an apology for being told to 'shut up'
~Chavez Threatens 2 Spanish Banks
Published: 11/30/07, 9:25 PM EDT
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez threatened Friday to nationalize the Venezuelan subsidiaries of Spanish banks Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, if Spain's king does not apologize for telling Chavez to "shut up."
"Are we going to turn the page, are we going to forget? No!" Chavez told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a campaign rally ahead of a vote Sunday on changes to Venezuela's constitution.
"The only way this is going to be fixed is for the king of Spain to offer an apology for having attacked the Venezuelan head of state," Chavez said.
Otherwise, "I'll start thinking about what actions to take," he continued. "Spaniards bought some banks here, and it doesn't cost me anything to take those banks back and nationalize them again, and put them in the service of the Venezuelan people."
Spain's King Juan Carlos on Nov. 10 told Chavez to "shut up" during a regional summit meeting in Chile, where the Venezuelan leader had called Spain's former premier, Jose Maria Aznar, a fascist.
The incident sparked a flood of diplomatic sniping from Chavez, who last Sunday vowed: "Until the king of Spain apologizes, I'm freezing relations with Spain."
Santander and Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, or BBVA, are Spain's two largest banks. Santander acquired its Venezuela subsidiary, Banco de Venezuela, when it paid $351.5 billion for a 93.4 percent stake in 1996. BBVA acquired its majority stake in Venezuela's Banco Provincial in 1997.~
re:chavez says if US 'questions' election results,,he'll cut off the 15% they get from him
~Chavez threatens to cut oil if U.S. questions vote
Published: 11/30/07, 9:00 AM EDT
CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) - President Hugo Chavez on Friday wrapped up his campaign to push through broad constitutional changes with a broadside attack against adversaries at home and abroad -- including a threat to cut off oil exports to the United States.
Chavez told a crowd gathered in the center of Caracas that if the referendum was approved and the result was questioned -- "if the 'yes' vote wins on Sunday and the Venezuelan oligarchy, playing the [U.S.] empire's game, comes with their little stories of fraud" -- then he would order oil shipments to the United States halted Monday.
Chavez spoke after tens of thousands, brought on buses from throughout the country, marched down the capital's principal boulevard to rally support for Sunday's referendum, which would free Chavez from term-limit restrictions and move the country toward institutionalized socialism.
Friday's rally acted as a counterpoint to an opposition march down the same streets Thursday that brought out tens of thousands who fear the 69 constitutional changes would serve to undermine basic democratic freedoms.
Chavez, 53, warmed the crowd up by serenading them with holiday "gaitas" and other traditional songs before turning his attention to a litany of enemies and perceived enemies: internal critics, the United States, Spain's King Juan Carlos, Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe and domestic and international media.
"We're not really confronting those peons of imperialism," Chavez said, alluding to his Venezuelan opponents. "Our true enemy is called the North American empire, and ... we're going to give another knockout to Bush."
He renewed his harsh criticisms of Juan Carlos and Uribe, with whom he has had recent high-profile disputes, and threatened to take independent Venezuela television network Globovision off the air if it broadcast partial results during the voting. He also threatened to take action against international networks, accusing CNN in particular of overstating the strength of the opposition's numbers.
"If any international channel comes here to take part in an operation from the imperialist against Venezuela, your reporters will be thrown out of the country, they will not be able to work here," Chavez said. "People at CNN, listen carefully: This is just a warning."
At stake in Sunday's vote is whether the leftist leader should have full authority over the now autonomous Central Bank and with it the nation's economic policy, changes Chavez has said he needs to move the economy further toward socialism.
The most controversial amendment would do away with term limits, allowing Chavez, who has served almost eight years in power, to hold his post indefinitely as long as he is re-elected.
Chavez, a former paratrooper, said the majority of the country's 26 million people back him. He has garnered overwhelming support from the country's poorer neighborhoods, who have benefited from his policies -- paid for by skyrocketing oil prices. Oil accounts for roughly 90 percent of the country's export earnings, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Despite the animosity that Chavez routinely aims at the United States, the two countries remain closely tied economically -- the United States is Venezuela's biggest oil customer and one of the few countries that can refine its low-quality crude. Venezuela accounts for up to 15 percent of U.S. crude imports. ~
re:imus coming back to the airwaves
~Imus Returns to Radio on Monday
Published: 12/1/07, 12:05 AM EDT
By ADAM GOLDMAN
NEW YORK (AP) - Will Don Imus be defiant or contrite? Will he mock his skeptics while making his triumphant return to radio Monday. Or will he muzzle his mouth?
"That question is part of the drama of his reemergence," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, an industry trade journal. "Imus faces some choices."
Imus isn't talking, yet, but it's safe to say radio's best-known curmudgeon will have lots to say when his show kicks off at 6 a.m. EST Monday on WABC-AM and other Citadel Broadcasting Corp. stations around the country, ending his nearly eight-month banishment from the air.
The morning show will be simulcast on cable's RFD-TV, owned by the Rural Media Group Inc., and rebroadcast on radio in the evenings.
Monday's four-hour premiere will be broadcast from Town Hall in Times Square, where $100 tickets were sold to benefit the Imus Ranch for Kids With Cancer. After its debut, the Imus spectacle will be on 6-9 a.m. weekdays, from a studio across the street from Madison Square Garden.
Not much is known about the show's format, other than at least one black person will participate regularly, along with longtime newsreader Charles McCord. Imus, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
Whether this will temper his staunchest critics, like as Rev. Al Sharpton, is unclear. Sharpton's spokeswoman said the civil rights leader wasn't commenting. In Boston on Friday, a group of black community leaders protested a local station's plan to air the Imus program.
MSNBC and then CBS Radio jettisoned Imus in April after he called the Rutgers University women's basketball players "nappy-headed hos."
Imus' nemesis, Howard Stern, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that his acerbic competitor's career had peaked.
"At this point, I don't think he's very relevant," Stern said. "People will tune out within a week. I defy you to listen. It's like a rodeo - you know, see how long you can ride a bull? See how long you can keep listening to Imus."
The people who helped orchestrate the Imus comeback believe he'll succeed and say he's learned his lesson since the Rutgers debacle.
"I don't have any doubt on his future," said Phil Boyce, WABC-AM program director. "He'll obviously be wiser, smarter and a bit more careful. He's learned from this. I'm not concerned that he'll have a repeat."
"Obviously we are doing this because we think we can make more money," Boyce said. "There's an opportunity to charge more for our advertising rates. I am not ashamed of saying it is about the money. We are running a business."
RFD reaches nearly 30 million homes, but with Imus on board the 24-hour cable network hopes to boost that number to 50 million over the next two years.
Rural Media Group Inc., which caters to a rural audience, hopes to crack urban markets with the mass appeal of Imus. Love him or hate him, people will tune into Imus, said Patrick Gottsch, founder and president.
"There is a real void in the morning with Don Imus not on the air," Gottsch said. "He's apologized heavily for the comments. He knew he made a mistake. You learn, you move on and I think most folks already have forgiven him."
Neither Boyce nor Gottsch would reveal how much money Imus is getting.
"It's the biggest deal by far we've ever done," Gottsch said. Imus signed a five-year agreement with RFD.
Boyce said he's paying to get the real Imus, and expects that to be the personality that emerges Monday.
"I'm not too worried that we're not gonna get the real deal," Boyce said.
But listeners might experience a different Imus, the same one who has morphed over the years, according to Harrison.
"Imus is just an interesting character," Harrison said. "I don't think that he is premeditated. I think he is a creature of the moment. He's a spontaneous human being. This is what he is. He has evolved over the years. Imus has been never stagnant. The tenets of his performances changed over there years by reinventing himself as the times demanded."
"If they're expecting him to stumble, they're going to have to wait for a long time," Harrison said.
On the Net:
Imus Ranch: http://www.imusranchfoods.com/ ~
(personally,,I hope that everytime it comes up he simply says,,'Face it,,I'm a racist for referring to some women on a basketball team as nappy headed hos,,,so leave it at that and be careful what you say,,Da Big Brudder is listening and watching YOU too." That's what I hope he says.)
re:brain differences in pedophiles responsible for 'behavior'
~Flaws in brain ‘explain paedophilia’Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Paedophiles may owe their sexual urges to faulty connections in the brain, research has suggested.
A study in which the brains of convicted child sex abusers were scanned and compared with criminals who were not sex offenders has revealed striking differences that could point to a neurological origin for paedophilia.
Scientists in Canada used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and sophisticated computer analysis of the results to show that the paedophiles had significantly less of a brain tissue called white matter than the other criminals.
As white matter is responsible for holding the different parts of the brain together, the researchers said the results could mean that faulty connections in the wiring of the brain could explain paedophile impulses.
However, James Cantor, of the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, who led the study, said that if the finding were confirmed, it would in no way excuse paedophiles who abuse children.
Even if paedophiles’ sexual attraction to children is determined or influenced by underlying brain structure, that did not mean that people who actually attempted to have sex with children were not culpable. “There is nothing in this research that says paedophiles shouldn’t be held criminally responsible for their actions,” he said. “Not being able to choose your sexual interests doesn’t mean you can’t choose what you do.”
Dr Cantor said the study, which is published in the ournal of Psychiatry Research, builds on previous research that he has carried out, demonstrating significant biological differences between paedophiles and people with normal sexual tastes.
Paedophiles, he said, were three times more likely to be left-handed, and also on average 2cm shorter than other people. They tended to have lower IQs and low educational achievements, and they were also more likely to have suffered head injuries as children.
He added that while traditional explanations rooted paedophilia in childhood trauma or abuse, there was little solid evidence for this. He preferred the theory that conditions in the womb lead to the abnormal brain structures that predispose people to paedophilia.
Dr Cantor took MRI scans of the brains of 127 subjects, half of whom had been convicted for paedophile offences. The paedophiles were found to have significantly lower volumes of white matter.
He said that he hoped his research would help to develop treatments for paedophiles to stop them feeling sexually attracted to children.The study authors said that their expectation that paedophiles “would exhibit additional symptoms of poor brain functioning” was borne out by the men with low white matter volumes having lower IQs and poor verbal memory. “The most straightforward explanation of the results is that low white matter volumes increase the risk of developing paedophilia,” the researchers said.
(did you notice?“Not being able to choose your sexual interests doesn’t mean you can’t choose what you do.")
re:obviously deranged guy says he can't get psych help due to lack of money when I go to the clinic dying from mold infection and they want to send me to the mental health folks,,,so,,,I don't believe him.
~Clinton Volunteer Recounts Close Call
Published: 12/1/07, 11:46 PM EDT
By HOLLY RAMER
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Dan Nagy came close to being one of the hostages held at Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign office, and during the confrontation he spoke to one of his terrified co-workers who wasn't as lucky, but he plans to be back doing volunteer work when the office reopens.
If it hadn't been for a doctor's appointment, Nagy would have been volunteering at Clinton's office in Rochester on Friday afternoon, when a man with what appeared to be a bomb strapped to his chest walked in and took several hostages.
Nagy said he and his sister called a young woman who often supervises volunteers at Clinton's Rochester office, and the woman cried into the phone as she told Nagy she was being held by a man wearing what appeared to be explosives.
"He promises not to hurt us," she said.
The confrontation ended hours later with no one hurt. Leeland Eisenberg, 46, of Somersworth, was arrested and faces arraignment Monday on charges of kidnapping and reckless conduct, authorities said. He was being held without bail.
Nagy, who did not want to publicly identify the woman he spoke with, said he asked her a series of questions.
"Are you all right?" "Yes," she responded.
"Does he have a gun?" he asked. "No," she said.
"Does he have some type of explosive device around him?" "Yes," the woman said.
"Just hearing her voice - she was crying - and I couldn't get in there," Nagy said. "She's just a sweet young lady."
Nagy said he called the woman four or five times, and each time relayed what he learned to police.
According to police, Eisenberg walked into the office shortly before 1 p.m. with what turned out to be road flares strapped to his chest and demanded to speak to Clinton, who was in Washington. He took several hostages, but let a woman with an infant go immediately. About two hours later, at least one other woman escaped, and two others made it out later, the last about half an hour before Eisenberg surrendered shortly after 6 p.m.
Eisenberg had one of the hostages call CNN three times, and he spoke to CNN staffers during the standoff, the network reported after the ordeal was over. Eisenberg said he wanted help getting psychiatric care, but had been turned away because he didn't have the money.
The standoff began about half an hour before he was scheduled to appear in court on a domestic violence complaint filed by his wife, who was seeking a divorce. In court papers, she said he suffered from "severe alcohol and drug abuse" and had threatened her.
Eisenberg was one of more than 500 victims of the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal who received payments in a landmark 2003 settlement with the Boston Archdiocese, The Boston Globe reported Saturday.
In a 2002 lawsuit in Suffolk County (Mass.) Superior Court, Eisenberg sued former Archbishop Bernard Law, alleging that a priest at St. Catherine Church in Westford, Mass., molested him in the early 1980s. The priest denied abusing Eisenberg.
"The archdiocese has a long-standing policy and commitment to keep confidential any personal information relating to survivors of clergy sexual abuse. As such, we would not comment on any survivor or person named as a survivor," Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Saturday.
Eisenberg's lawyer in the clergy abuse case did not respond to calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. Jeffery Strelzin, a senior assistant New Hampshire attorney general, said he did not know if Eisenberg had a lawyer to speak for him in the current case.
Nagy, who lives in Dover, said he and his sister have been volunteering at Clinton's office for several months. He said he never worried about violence before Friday and wouldn't in the future despite what happened.
"I think it was just an isolated incident," he said.~
re:new subtype of ebola
New Subtype of Ebola Suspected in Uganda
Published: 11/30/07, 8:45 AM EDT
By FRANK JORDANS
GENEVA (AP) - A new form of the deadly Ebola virus has been detected in an outbreak in western Uganda that has so far killed 16 people, the World Health Organization said Friday.
Tests conducted by a national lab in Uganda and confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the virus belongs to a different subtype than the four already known, said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl.
"We are very concerned about this because it does not present (symptoms) in exactly the same way as other Ebola strains," he said, adding that the new subtype appeared to be associated with vomiting, which does not usually occur in Ebola patients.
Dr. Sam Zaramba, director general of Uganda's health service, said on Thursday that laboratory tests in South Africa and the United States had confirmed 51 Ebola cases, and of those, 16 patients died.
The first case was reported on Nov. 10 in Bundibugyo district, 200 miles west of the capital, Kampala, Zaramba said.
Ebola typically kills most of those it strikes through massive blood loss, and has no cure or treatment. It is spread through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
Word of a new strain "is an important discovery for the scientific community," Pierre Formenty, a WHO expert on hemorrhagic fevers, told The Associated Press.
Improved disease surveillance was bound to turn up new forms of Ebola, he said, and "different subtypes cause different types of disease."
"This could be a milder strain of the disease, but we still need additional information to confirm that," Formenty said.
The three main subtypes usually kill 50 to 90 percent of infected patients. A fourth subtype, Reston, does not cause any symptoms and is not fatal.
Hartl said the outbreak in Uganda was not currently being linked to cases elsewhere. The outbreak in Uganda occurred near the country's western border with Congo. WHO and local officials said last week that an Ebola outbreak there, which killed six people, had been contained.
The last previous outbreak of Ebola in Uganda occurred in October 2000 when 173 people died and a total of 426 people were diagnosed with it in the north of the country.
The World Health Organization says more than 1,000 people have died of Ebola since the virus was first identified in 1976 in Sudan and Congo. Primates, hunted by many central Africans for food, can carry the virus.
Associated Press Medical Writer Maria Cheng contributed to this report.~
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