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re:marines do not fall for 'switch bait',,iow,,swerve diverted

~No Shift of Marines to Afghan War

Published: 12/5/07, 9:25 PM EDT


WASHINGTON (AP) - The top Marine general said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has rejected his proposal to shift Marine forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, reflecting in part the Bush administration's concern that recent security gains in Iraq are fragile and reversible.

"After discussion with the secretary and with my colleagues on the Joint Staff, there is a determination that right now the timing is not right to provide additional Marine forces to Afghanistan," Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Conway's proposal gives unusual insight into the thinking of the Marine Corps, which sees itself as offering unique capabilities, different in important ways than the Army, with which it has shared the bulk of the work in Iraq since a joint Army-Marine force invaded and toppled Baghdad in 2003.

Conway hinted at those differences, saying Marines prefer serving under fire in a combat zone to performing nation-building duties in Iraq. He said that in his meeting with Gates on this subject last week, Gates understood Conway's thinking.

"He's heard anecdotal reports that lance corporals are complaining that they don't have anybody to shoot" in the newly peaceful Anbar, where most Marines are operating, Conway said. "But that doesn't drive strategic thinking, of course." At another point Conway, who visited Anbar last month, described the province as still dangerous and said it would be too early to withdraw all troops.

Reached in Baghdad, where he was traveling with Gates, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday evening that Gates had carefully weighed Conway's proposal and believed it made sense.

"But the secretary thinks the security situation in Iraq is still too unpredictable to let those fighting forces leave anytime soon," Morrell said. "It is better, he feels, to wait and see if the security Marines bravely brought to Anbar is for real or just another cruel tease. The Marines proudly believe peace is there to stay now and Secretary Gates hopes their confidence is justified, but he is not ready to take such a chance at this time."

Conway also acknowledged that his idea of putting Marines primarily in Afghanistan, after they leave Iraq, would have the added benefit of attracting recruits at a time the Marine Corps is trying to expand.

"There's a little bit of a recruiting consideration here in this, I'll admit to you," he said, sketching out a scenario in which about 15,000 Marines would be in Afghanistan and none in Iraq, compared with the present situation in which there are about 25,000 Marines in Iraq and just a few in Afghanistan.

Switching to Afghanistan at lower numbers would give Marines more time between combat tours, while appealing to those potential recruits who like the idea of fighting in the country that gave haven to al-Qaida before it carried out its Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Conway said. Left unsaid was the notion that many Marines get less satisfaction from their efforts in Iraq.

"I think the fact that the Marine Corps is still fighting the nation's wars would continue to bring in those great young Americans who want to be Marines and fight for their country," he said.

He referred to the Marines' current duty in Iraq's Anbar province as almost like occupation duty.

"Occupation is not the right word here, but the long-term security forces, that's not a Marine function," he said. "That's not what U.S. Marines do for the country. We're expeditionary, and we do not get engaged in some of the long-term type of duties that you see in Germany or in Japan or in Korea. We are much more mobile than that, and we want to keep that mobility and that flexibility and not get tied down."

The Afghanistan mission, he said, "matches our strengths and our capabilities" as a force that combines light infantry, armored ground power and tactical air capabilities.

"My point to (Gates) is that, if and when we are able to continue our drawdown in Iraq and it comes time for Marine units to start leaving the country, ... should we bring them home or should we start looking at putting them where there is still an active fight; in this case, Afghanistan? And we were prepared to do that."

Gates visited Afghanistan on Tuesday and was in Iraq Wednesday, although he did not go to Iraq's Anbar province.

In addressing the matter publicly for the first time, Conway said he was not disappointed by Gates' decision, given that the Marines have had considerable success in stabilizing Anbar province, which for much of the war had been a haven for Sunni Arab insurgents who killed hundreds of U.S. troops.

"Personally discouraged? No," he said. "Frankly, our casualty count is going to continue to be lower and that is a good day," Conway said.

Conway, a former commander of Marine forces in Anbar, said the essence of his proposal was to shift Marine combat units to Afghanistan as the need for their services in Anbar declined. Asked when he thought the situation in Anbar might be stable enough to reduce the Marine force there, Conway said two battalions likely would come home by March but further reductions were uncertain.

Conway also confirmed that he has proposed buying fewer mine-resistant armored vehicles than previously planned - 2,300 instead of 3,700 - in large part because the need for extra force protection in the Marines' sector of Iraq has declined dramatically as insurgent violence has dropped in recent months.


On the Net:

U.S. Marine Corps: ~


re:what dem folks responded to new iran nuke report said

~Democrats incredulous over Bush's account of Iran report

Published: 12/4/07, 11:00 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden on Tuesday said he can't believe President Bush hasn't known for months about a recent intelligence estimate that downplays the nuclear threat from Iran.

Other Democratic candidates also slammed Bush for continuing to ratchet up the rhetoric against Tehran.

On Tuesday the president acknowledged he had given a speech warning that Iran's nuclear development risked "World War III" about two months after his intelligence chief told him a reassessment of Tehran's nuclear ambitions was under way.

Bush told reporters during a White House news conference that he was not told the details of the new assessment until last week and he said the new report, which found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003, will not change U.S. policy toward Iran.

"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush said, pointing out that Tehran continues to try to enrich uranium for civilian purposes and therefore develop technology that could be used for a weapon.

"They had the program. They halted the program. It's a warning signal because they could restart it," he said. Watch President Bush call Iran 'dangerous'

Bush told reporters that he was told of "new information" about Iran in August during a briefing by Adm. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence.

"He didn't tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze," the president said. He said he wasn't briefed about the new information until the new intelligence report was prepared last week.

The Democratic presidential candidates were incredulous that Bush did not know about the assessment's new finding.

Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called that explanation "unbelievable."

"Are you telling me a president that's briefed every single morning, who's fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the U.S. government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in '03?" Biden asked in a conference call with reporters.

"I refuse to believe that," he added. "If that's true, he has the most incompetent staff in modern American history, and he's one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history."

The Bush administration has spent years warning that Iran's development of nuclear power plants and enriched uranium masked an effort to produce an atomic bomb. Top officials have called the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable."

In an October 17 news conference, Bush said that "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

And four days later, Vice President Dick Cheney told a Washington think tank that Iran would face "serious consequences" from the international community if it continued to enrich uranium.

But in a report released Monday, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Iran had suspended nuclear weapons work in 2003 and was unlikely to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb until at least 2010.

The assessment reverses a 2005 National Intelligence Estimate that found the Islamic republic was "determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure." See how the 2005 and 2007 estimates differ

The United States and its European allies are pushing for tighter sanctions against Tehran as a result of that continued refusal, and Bush said Monday's report "makes it clear that the strategy we have used in the past is effective."

But Biden said Monday's report was an unpleasant echo of the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- a war that was launched based on mistaken conclusions about Iraq's weapons programs. He said the result of Bush's rhetoric has been to make it "far more difficult" to round up support for continued sanctions on Tehran.

"It's hard to think of a more serious and more self-inflicted wound to our national security than this president continues to inflict," Biden said.

Republican National Committee spokesman Brian Walton said, "Apparently Joe Biden has seen recent polling that shows his statistical insignificance and is looking for relevance in the debate by offering heated rhetoric."

Biden and other Democrats now hoping to replace Bush after 2008 used the report to call for new talks with Iran over the nuclear issue, offering the prospect of renewed economic and diplomatic ties in exchange for a halt to uranium enrichment.

"I think we do know that pressure on Iran does have an effect," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, said during a Democratic debate Tuesday held by National Public Radio. "I think that is an important lesson. But we're not going to reach the kind of resolution that we should seek unless we put that into the context of a diplomatic process."

And Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, told the same forum that Bush "continues to not let facts get in the way of his ideology."

"They should have stopped the saber rattling; should have never started it. And they need, now, to aggressively move on the diplomatic front," he said.

But national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Monday that Bush was not told to tone down his rhetoric about Iran's nuclear ambitions when advised that a change in the U.S. estimate was coming -- and would have made his remarks about "World War III" either way.

"It was making a point that the president and we have been making for two or three years -- that the international community has to exert more pressure, because Iran needs to suspend [its] enrichment program," Hadley said. "That continues to be our policy after this latest national intelligence estimate."

And Bush said the new estimate "doesn't do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world -- quite the contrary." ~


re:irans response to report

~Iran: Nuke Report Means US Should Ease

Published: 12/4/07, 6:46 PM EDT


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran on Tuesday touted a new U.S. intelligence report as vindication that its nuclear program is peaceful. But it was unclear if the finding would lead to any immediate warming in U.S.-Iranian relations, including on key issues like Iraq.

Iranian officials insisted Washington should take a less hawkish stance and drop attempts to impose new sanctions in light of the report's conclusion that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and has shown no signs of resuming.

President Bush ruled out any change in policy. He said sanctions were still needed to force Iran to stop uranium enrichment, which he warned could be used for building atomic warheads someday. France and Britain also said pressure must be maintained on Tehran.

Even Russia, which urges continued negotiations rather than more sanctions, said Iran must open its nuclear program fully to international scrutiny and keep it under control of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, disputed the U.S. conclusions, saying Israeli intelligence believes Iran is still trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said that "it is vital to continue efforts to prevent Iran from attaining (nuclear) capability." Israel is believed to have its own arsenal of nuclear weapons, the only stockpile in the Mideast.

David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector and now head of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said Israel's view meant the military option hasn't been taken off the table by the report.

Albright said Israel is looking not just at Iran's solely military efforts but at its uranium enrichment processes, which have potential military applications. "The situation can become tense if they decided their red line has been crossed," he said.

But Iran is clearly hopeful the unclassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate, released Monday, will weaken the Western push for new sanctions over Tehran's refusal to obey a U.N. Security Council order to suspend uranium enrichment.

"The U.S. and its allies should accept nuclear rights of the Iranian nation. There is no other way, of course," President Mahmoud Ahmadeinejad said during a meeting with the Swedish ambassador, without directly mentioning the new report, according to the presidency Web site.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the U.S. will face more failure if it doesn't change its stance. "Our advice is that they correct their mistakes regarding Iran's nuclear issue," he told state television.

Mottaki's spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said the U.S. report prove Washington's warnings over the danger of the Iranian nuclear program "are baseless and unreliable."

The report, a dramatic change from past U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was determinedly pursuing a nuclear weapon, will "certainly undercut any push to get new sanctions," said Suzanne Maloney, a foreign policy senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Russia and China, which have veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council along with the U.S., Britain and France, already were arguing against a third round of sanctions against Iran.

They are likely to push harder for a focus on further negotiations with Tehran to resolve international desires that Tehran agree on ways ensure its nuclear program is not used for developing weapons.

Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged all sides to "enter without delay into negotiations," saying the U.S. report "should help to defuse the current crisis."

China's ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, said the U.S. report made the prospect of new U.N. sanctions less likely. "I think the council members will have to consider that, because I think we all start from the presumption that now things have changed."

Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, that Iran must cooperate fully with the U.N. investigation of the nuclear program.

"We expect that your programs in the nuclear sphere will be open, transparent and be conducted under control of the authoritative international organization," Putin said at the start of a meeting with Jalili in Moscow.

Anthony Cordesman, Mideast expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said there could be a window of opportunity if the West puts forward incentives for Iran, "such as investment with Europe and the U.S."

But "negotiations will probably grow harder rather than easier in the near future," he said.

That view was echoed by Maloney, who said the report could make both sides less willing to compromise.

"The U.S. doesn't want to be in a supplicant position to Iran ... and if anything the Iranian reaction has been to exult in what they describe as an American mistake," she said.

Movement on the nuclear issue could also become tangled in other disputes between the U.S. and Iran, as Washington tries to stem what it says is increasing Iranian influence in the Middle East.

Last week's U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference was widely seen as an attempt to rally Arab moderates to isolate Iran and even try to woo away Tehran's close ally Syria. Iran denounced the meeting.

U.S. officials accuse Iran of supporting Palestinian and Lebanese militants and of arming Shiite militants in Iraq who have been involved in attacks on U.S. forces.

In recent weeks, U.S. military officials said the flow of weapons from Iran to Iraqi Shiite militias appeared to have been curtailed, although the Americans were careful to say it was too early to say whether this represented a change in Tehran's policy.

Iraqi officials say the Iranians pledged to stop the weapons flow during a visit to Tehran last August by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.


Associated Press writers Lily Hindy and Carley Petesch in New York contributed to this report.~


re:now,,it's a victory for iran

~Iran Leader Claims Win in Nuke Faceoff

Published: 12/5/07, 11:25 PM EDT


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called the dramatic U.S. turnaround in a new intelligence review a victory for Iran's nuclear program, suggesting it shows the success of his hard-line stance rejecting compromise.

But his more moderate opponents at home are hoping the assessment's conclusion that Tehran shelved its effort to develop atomic weapons will boost a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear stand-off with the West.

The political rivalry in Tehran could have important implications for what happens next in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, now that the report has likely weakened two of the threats Washington held over Iran - more U.N. sanctions and the possibility of military action.

In past months, Ahmadinejad has faced a rising challenge from a more moderate camp centered around his top rival, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani's allies have increasingly criticized Ahmadinejad for his hard-line positions, saying they are creating enemies for Iran in the West. Ahmadinejad has lashed backed, branding his critics "traitors."

The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Wednesday that Iran had been "somewhat vindicated" by the U.S. review, and expressed hopes it would give a push to negotiations.

"I see this report as a window of opportunity," Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency said. "It's a window of opportunity because it gives diplomacy a new chance."

Ahmadinejad touted the assessment as a vindication for his refusal to cave in to the West's demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and allow a monitoring program to ensure its nuclear facilities aren't used to produce atomic weapons.

He told a crowd of thousands in the western province of Ilam that the U.S. report was a "declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue."

"Thanks to your resistance, a fatal shot was fired at the dreams of ill-wishers, and the truthfulness of the Iranian nation was once again proved by the ill-wishers themselves," Ahmadinejad said, drawing celebratory whistles from the crowd.

The report concluded Iran halted a nuclear weapons design program in late 2003 and said there was no evidence it had resumed. That was a dramatic change from a 2005 assessment saying Iran was actively trying to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran denies ever having a weapons program, saying its nuclear work is aimed at using nuclear reactors to generate electricity.

Tehran has pushed ahead with uranium enrichment despite U.N. Security Council demands it suspend the process, which can be used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors but also material for nuclear warheads.

The U.S. report could provide breathing room for Ahmadinejad by easing Iranians' worries about a third round of U.N. sanctions or a war with the West. Popular support for the president has eroded over the past year, mainly because of Iran's economic troubles but also from fears he was leading Iran into a worse confrontation.

Political analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand said Ahmadinejad and his allies "can now claim they stood up to the West, resumed uranium enrichment and made the world recognize Iran as a country possessing nuclear technology - then were finally given a clean bill of health by the archenemy, the U.S."

"Everywhere he goes, Ahmadinejad will claim this is an outright victory for his government. Moderates, in the short term, won't be given a chance to claim victory," Bavand said.

But Iran's more favorable position may in large part be due to gains by moderates in Tehran. In recent months, Iran handed over confidential documents to the IAEA about its past enrichment activities and answered other questions about its nuclear program. Soon after, the IAEA issued a report saying Iran had been generally truthful about its past enrichment activities.

Many Iranian analysts believe supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate say on the nuclear program and all other issues, ordered the cooperation, perhaps influenced by Rafsanjani, a powerful cleric in Iran's political leadership.

Political analyst Saeed Leilaz called the U.S. report a "victory for moderate voices such as Rafsanjani who have been pushing for compromise and diplomacy," citing as an example what he called "extensive cooperation" with the IAEA.

He also noted events in Iraq, where U.S. commanders say Iranian hard-liners appear to have reduced support for Shiite militias. "While Ahmadinejad has been talking tough, Iran has helped stop attacks in Iraq that has led to a decline in U.S. death tolls," he said.

Leilaz said that points to a movement by Iran and the U.S. away from confrontation. "And it has been achieved thanks to moderate voices within the two countries," he said.

Iran already stands to win diplomatic gains from the report. Its allies, Russia and China, appear even less likely to back a new round of U.N. sanctions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday there was no proof Iran ever had a weapons program, as claimed in the U.S. report.

ElBaradei said the U.S. report offered "ample opportunity" for international negotiations with Iran so a middle ground can be found to ensure Tehran does not pursue a weapons program in the future.

Much will depend on whether Iran continues cooperation with the IAEA or takes a tougher position, emboldened by the U.S. report - and that decision will likely come from Khamenei, who often tries to balance between Iran's rival political factions.

Tehran also remains under pressure from its own allies to find a solution with the U.N. and suspend its enrichment program.

Lavrov said Russia "supports Iran's determination" to cooperate with the IAEA, and noted Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week urged Iran's top nuclear negotiator to answer all IAEA questions and halt enrichment.~


re:carter & co sounding like bush admin on iraq regarding sudans civil war

~Sudan Told to Stop Blocking Peacekeepers

Published: 12/4/07, 7:46 PM EDT


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Veteran statesmen including former President Jimmy Carter appealed Tuesday for an immediate cease-fire in Darfur and called on the Sudanese government to drop all obstacles to the deployment of a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force.

The group, known as the Elders, released a report of their findings from a trip to Darfur in September. They warned of spiraling violence in the western Sudanese region, including persistent rape of women and girls and attacks on AU peacekeepers now on the ground.

The statesmen stressed the importance of fully equipping a joint U.N.-AU peacekeeping force and deploying it according to schedule. The U.N. has been wrangling with the Sudanese government for the past year over the deployment of a 26,000-member U.N.-AU peacekeeping force to replace an overwhelmed 7,000-member AU force currently on the ground.

The force is expected to take over by Jan. 1 and start deploying early next year. But U.N. officials have accused the Sudanese government of standing in the way by refusing to approve non-African contributions.

"The government of Sudan must stop its obstacles," Carter said.

In Geneva, U.N. investigators also released a report saying Sudan's government has failed to protect civilians in Darfur from rape, torture and other violence.

The report by seven U.N. rights experts cited the case of at least 30 civilians killed on Oct. 8 when the rebel stronghold of Muhajiria was attacked by about 900 militia fighters backed by a government plane that bombed the town's market area. In another case, 12 people were killed on Sept. 26 when rebels attacked a civilian convoy guarded by government soldiers.

More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since February 2003 when Darfur's ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated central government, accusing it of neglect.

The Elders is dedicated to fostering peace around the world and said it chose Darfur as its first mission because it was a "blight on the conscience of humanity."

"We felt we had a moral imperative to join and contribute to the efforts made by many people and organizations to stop the atrocities," said South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of four members of the group who traveled to Darfur.

The four visited refugee camps and met with tribal leaders and women's organizations.

"Rape has become a norm," said Graca Machel, former South African President Nelson Mandela's wife and a long time children's rights advocate. "The government of Sudan does not appreciate the gravity of this. In some cases, it doesn't want to face that it is happening.

They called for an immediate cease-fire between rebels, government forces, and Arab militias known as the janjaweed.

"Lawlessness and insecurity have bred a culture of violence throughout the camps and the rest of Darfur. The conflict is escalating," their report said.

In Egypt, U.N. envoy to Darfur Jan Eliasson met in Sharm El-Sheik with his AU counterpart and the foreign ministers of four countries - Egypt, Libya, Eritrea and Chad - trying to promote peace talks in Darfur. Negotiations suffered a setback in October when key rebel leaders boycotted talks in Libya.

After the talks, Eliasson warned of an "explosive situation inside the camps" and of a "military escalation on the ground."~


re:blackwater case

~Pentagon Deal Reins in Iraq Contractors

Published: 12/5/07, 9:25 PM EDT


WASHINGTON (AP) - A new agreement between the Pentagon and the State Department gives the military in Iraq more control over Blackwater Worldwide and other private security contractors.

The agreement was signed Wednesday at the Pentagon by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, whose department uses Blackwater to guard its diplomats. It spells out rules, standards and guidelines for the use of private security contractors.

The agreement also says contractors will be accountable for criminal acts under U.S. law. That partly clarifies what happens if a contractor breaks the law, but leaves the details to be worked out with Congress.

The move to tighten oversight followed Iraqi outrage over a Sept. 16 shooting in which 17 Iraq civilians were killed in a Baghdad square. Blackwater said its guards were protecting diplomats under attack before they opened fire, but Iraqi investigators concluded the shooting was unprovoked.

U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq later complained that they often do not know security firms are moving through their areas of responsibility until after some hostile incident has taken place.

One of the chief features of the new accord is a provision giving the main U.S. military command in Iraq, known as Multi-National Force-Iraq, or MNF-I, more information on ground and air movements of private security contractors, regardless of whether they work for the embassy or the military.

The agreement does not give the U.S. military complete control of all contractor movements, but it states that the U.S Embassy's tactical operations center "will generally honor" the military's recommendations to alter or cancel ground convoy or helicopter movements. Final authority, in the event of disagreement between the embassy and the military, rests with the ambassador, it says.

If, however, the military cite a "substantial increase in the threat" to a private security convoy after it has begun moving in an area where the U.S. military is not present, then the contractor "will comply with (military) recommendations to alter routes or abort missions," the nine-page document says.

The accord says all personal security units escorting U.S. government personnel must coordinate their movements with coordination centers of either the U.S. military or the embassy. In turn, movement details - to include time, route, destination and convoy composition - are to be provided by either of those coordination centers to a higher-level U.S. military command a minimum of 24 hours in advance.

The agreement says deadly force is authorized when a private security contractor "reasonably believes that a person has committed a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent and poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to the personal security contractor."

When there is evidence of a crime, the embassy and the Pentagon "will make referrals to the appropriate prosecutorial authority," the agreement said. State and Defense departments will team up to help Congress establish a legal basis to hold security contractors "accountable under U.S. law."

A legal loophole has made it difficult or impossible to prosecute contractors under U.S. military or civilian law. A drunk contractor who killed an Iraqi security guard after a Green Zone Christmas party last year apparently has not been charged with a crime, although the case was sent to a federal prosecutor in the United States.

The loophole has roots in the U.S. provisional government that operated in Iraq immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and has been an irritant in the U.S. relationship with the independent Iraq government that came later. Iraqi authorities have demanded that security contractors be accountable under Iraqi law, but the Bush administration opposes that.

There has been a string of repercussions since the September shootings by the North Carolina-based Blackwater:

_Iraqis have threatened to expel the company and have demanded the right to prosecute contractors.

_A federal grand jury is investigating whether criminal charges are warranted.

_Blackwater chairman Erik Prince was called before Congress and asserted his employees had "acted appropriately at all times," vigorously rejecting charges that guards from his company acted as if they were immune to legal prosecution.

_Richard Griffin, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, resigned just one day after a State Department study found serious lapses in the department's oversight of private guards.

In a meeting at the end of October, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and reached a general understanding that more military control was needed over security firms operating in the war zone.

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., author of a House-passed bill that would subject all contractors to criminal liability, called Wednesday's agreement "an important step toward improving transparency, management and accountability in security contracting. There is no question that it comes in response to significant congressional pressure ... but the agencies deserve credit for reading the writing on the wall and taking substantive steps to deal with a clear and critical problem."


Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.~


re:it looks like they have their own political version of bush now,that hates bush,,kayfabe days ahead?

~Venezuelan Opposition Emboldened

Published: 12/5/07, 6:05 PM EDT


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Invigorated by their first victory over Hugo Chavez, opponents of the Venezuelan president are seeking to transform a movement defined mainly by what it's against into a viable alternative to his socialist agenda.

The opposition still faces major hurdles, but student activists and several prominent ex-allies of Chavez are giving new leadership to a movement that for years has struggled to pose a real challenge to "El Comandante."

New elements joined the opposition to narrowly defeat Sunday's referendum on constitutional changes that would have let Chavez run for re-election indefinitely. Protesting university students were joined by maverick lawmakers of the left-leaning Podemos party, and by former Defense Minister Raul Baduel, who likened Chavez's proposals to a coup attempt.

"The university students, Baduel and Podemos gave the opposition the extra weight needed for victory," said Antonio Gil Yepes of the Caracas-based polling firm Datanalasis. "They have the credibility that motivated the poor and the working class to turn their backs on Chavez."

But to keep growing, the opposition needs to do more than just add to its numbers. It also needs to find a new message that stakes out the middle ground between Chavez's brand of socialism and the unfettered capitalism that led to a yawning gap between Venezuela's rich and poor, Gil Yepes said.

Venezuela's opposition has been an amorphous grouping of old-guard politicians, business groups and labor leaders united mainly by their dissatisfaction with Chavez. Dissident military officers managed to briefly oust Chavez in 2002 but he was restored to power two days later by loyalists while crowds of his backers protested in the streets.

Leading opposition parties committed what some likened to political suicide in 2005, when they boycotted congressional elections, giving the president's allies a solid majority in the National Assembly.

Now there are growing calls within the opposition to focus less on turning the public against Chavez himself and more on providing solutions for what they say are the flaws of his policies.

"The problem is not 'Ego' Chavez, but his myth. Those among his voters who see him with increasing skepticism need an alternative, a credible option that's democratic," former presidential candidate Teodoro Petkoff wrote Wednesday in his newspaper Tal Cual.

Opposition leaders this week said they hope to encourage debate with Chavez on problems such as crime and inflation.

"Faced with the government's policies of antagonism, we are proposing policies of agreement and consensus," said Lauurence Castro, a 26-year-old student at the University of the Andes in the city of Merida. "People are tired of so much conflict."

Others say the opposition still needs new leaders to confront a president who can enact certain laws by decree and is likely to try other routes to push through a constitutional reform that would let him run again in 2012.

"Venezuela is in desperate need of new political leadership. The university students showed the path, an ability to organize and put forth an appealing vision, precisely what the traditional opposition was unable to do," said Michael Shifter, an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington.

The opposition also has yet to define a clear alternative to Chavez's "21st century socialism." Some leaders say free-market capitalism is the answer and others favor socialist policies with more democratic checks and balances.

Chavez, meanwhile, predicted "a new offensive" for the reforms - perhaps in a simplified form. He suggested the complexity of the 69 constitutional revisions contributed to the defeat, and said the reforms could be resurrected by a voter petition or the National Assembly.

Even if the amendments fail and he is forced to leave office in 2013, Chavez said in a TV appearance Wednesday that he would remain active in politics: "I'm not leaving until God wants it."

Chavez revealed that in the tense hours of the vote count, he ordered troops to be ready to seize the offices of two opposition governors if they contested the results. He also said there were standing orders to shut down any TV station that incited violence.

The opposition is mistaken, Chavez warned, if it believes "we aren't ready to confront them in an environment of violence." He dismissed his opponents' win as insignificant.

But Chavez denied a Venezuelan newspaper report that said he had resisted acknowledging the loss and accepted it only after military leaders pressured him. The reporter at the daily El Nacional should be given "the Nobel Prize for literature," Chavez said.

His defense minister, Gen. Gustavo Rangel Briceno, said Chavez accepted defeat of his own accord. "No one pressures him," Rangel said.

Without naming President Bush - who praised Venezuelans' rejection of "one-man rule" - Chavez said his message to Washington is: "Chavez received a blow, yes, but I haven't been weakened nor have I been pushed back one millimeter."~


re:goreau follows gore with groundbreaking research hikacked by politics to garner funding

~Electricity Revives Bali Coral Reefs

Published: 12/5/07, 7:05 PM EDT


PEMUTERAN BAY, Indonesia (AP) - Just a few years ago, the lush coral reefs off Bali island were dying out, bleached by rising temperatures, blasted by dynamite fishing and poisoned by cyanide. Now they are coming back, thanks to an unlikely remedy: electricity.

The coral is thriving on dozens of metal structures submerged in the bay and fed by cables that send low-voltage electricity, which conservationists say is reviving it and spurring greater growth.

As thousands of delegates, experts and activists debate climate at a conference that opened this week on Bali, the coral restoration project illustrates the creative ways scientists are trying to fight the ill-effects of global warming.

The project - dubbed Bio-Rock - is the brainchild of scientist Thomas Goreau and the late architect Wolf Hilbertz. The two have set up similar structures in some 20 countries, but the Bali experiment is the most extensive.

Goreau said the Pemuteran reefs off Bali's northwestern shore were under serious assault by 1998, victims of rising temperatures and aggressive fishing methods by impoverished islanders, such as stunning fish with cyanide poison and scooping them up with nets.

"Under these conditions, traditional (revival) methods fail," explained Goreau, who is in Bali presenting his research at the U.N.-led conference. "Our method is the only one that speeds coral growth."

Some say the effort is severely limited.

Rod Salm, coral reef specialist with the Nature Conservancy, said while the method may be useful in bringing small areas of damaged coral back to life, it has very limited application in vast areas that need protection.

"The extent of bleaching ... is just too big," Salm said. "The scale is enormous and the cost is prohibitive."

Others note the Bali project is mostly dependent on traditionally generated electricity, a method that itself contributes to global warming. Goreau himself concedes it has yet to attract significant financial backing.

Nonetheless, scientists agree that coral reefs are an especially valuable - and sensitive - global environmental asset. They provide shorelines with protection from tides and waves, and host a stunning diversity of plant and sea life..

Goreau's method for reviving coral is decidedly low-tech, if somewhat unorthodox.

It has long been known that coral that breaks off the reef can be salvaged and restored if it can somehow be reattached.

What Goreau's Bali project has done is to construct metal frames, often in the shape of domes or greenhouses, and submerge them in the bay. When hooked up to a low-voltage energy source on the shore, limestone - a building block of reefs - naturally gathers on the metal. Workers then salvage coral that has broken from damaged reefs and affix it to the structure.

Goreau and his supporters say the electricity spurs the weakened coral to revival and greater growth.

"When they get the juice, they are not as stressed," said Rani Morrow-Wuigk, an Australian-German woman who rents bungalows on the beach and has supported efforts to save the reefs for years.

And indeed, the coral on the structures appear vibrant, and supporters say they have rebounded with impressive vigor. The coral in Pemuteran teems with clownfish, damselfish and other colorful tropical animals.

Funding, however, is a major problem. There are some 40 metal structures growing coral in Pemuteran Bay and about 100 cables laid to feed them with electricity, but only about a third of the wires are working because of maintenance problems and the cost of running them, said Morrow-Wuigk.

The electrification program is part of a wider effort in the bay to save the coral.

Chris Brown, an Australian diving instructor who has lived in Bali for 17 years, said he and other people determined to save the reefs have had a long struggle driving away fishermen who use dynamite and other coral-destroying methods to maintain their livelihoods.

He said a key has been demonstrating to shoreline communities the benefits of coral reef maintenance, such as growing fish stocks and jobs catering to tourists who come to dive in the area.

Brown has participated in Goreau's projects, and won funding from the Australian government to set up a Bio-Rock structure electrified by solar panels fixed on a floating off-shore platform.

Brown has also used seed-money from Canberra to establish the Reef Gardeners of Pemuteran, which trains islanders to dive, maintain the solar-paneled coral structure and clean the reefs of harmful animals.

Kadek Darma, 25, a Balinese who has worked with Brown for two years, said the advantages of the corals to the local economy were obvious.

"They attract the tourists, and more tourists means more jobs," he said. "I hope we can all keep maintaining the reefs for our great-great grandchildren."~


re:coast guard cocaine seizure story reveals erroneous elements of the 'war on drugs'

~Record Cocaine Year for Coast Guard

Published: 12/5/07, 8:05 PM EDT


WASHINGTON (AP) - The Coast Guard has reeled in a record 355,000 pounds of cocaine over the past year, results that officials say have forced smugglers to transport their drugs through costlier methods like semi-submersible vessels and liquefied drugs.

Coast Guard officials are set to announce Thursday that they seized cocaine with a street value of roughly $4.7 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The previous Coast Guard record for cocaine seizures, set two years ago, was 303,000 pounds. In fiscal 2006, the Coast Guard seized 287,000 pounds of cocaine.

By comparison, the street value of the drugs seized or removed last year by the Coast Guard equals roughly half the agency's total annual budget, said Commandant Adm. Thad Allen.

Officials say smugglers are increasingly turning to more difficult means of moving the contraband from South America. Often that involves so-called "go-fast" boats, which travel far out into the Pacific Ocean hoping to avoid detection, before dropping the cargo in Mexico, and from there it is brought into the United States. Colombia supplies 90 percent of America's cocaine, officials estimate.

"We have forced them to adapt to routes that are dangerous and are expensive. Right now we're seeing guys get in go-fasts and running 1,000 miles into the Pacific and rounding the Galapagos Islands to come in," said Coast Guard Commander Bob Watts. "The fact that we're forcing them to do that is causing them angst, it's causing them pain. That's as much of a win to me on the strategy side as getting the dope."

White House drug czar John Walters said the results are further proof that seizures have helped drive up the price of cocaine even as the Coast Guard juggles other responsibilities, like homeland security and maritime safety.

"In the context of many other demands on the Coast Guard, they've stayed at the drug problem," said Walters.

Critics of U.S. anti-drug policy say such price increases are only temporary, and do not reflect any significant new advance in fighting drugs.

"When you're looking at proclamations of success and seizure indicators like this, skepticism about the ultimate impact on the market is always in order," said drug policy expert John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America, a group that monitors the impact of U.S. foreign policy on the region. "It may be evidence of stepped up or more efficient enforcement, but at the same time it may be evidence of more cocaine being trafficked."

The new drug seizure numbers also come as the Bush administration prepares its final budget plan to present to Congress, and some lawmakers question whether the agency is stretched too thin. Coast Guard officials say anti-drug work is a key part of their homeland security responsibility.

In the cat-and-mouse games between seafaring smugglers and the Coast Guard, technology plays a key role for both sides.

The "go-fast" boats which take long detours to avoid detection need gas to return, so fuel ships often wait for them at some distant point in the ocean. To defeat that method, Coast Guard authorities seek out the gas boats, board them and use chemicals to neutralize the extra fuel.

Smugglers have been helped greatly by global positioning satellites, which make it far easier for someone without much experience to guide vessels at sea.

Such devices are especially helpful for smugglers piloting large semi-submersible vessels, which carry huge quantities of drugs and are virtually impossible to spot at sea because they ride so low in the water.

"Any idiot can use a GPS," said Watts, adding the submersibles "are not new technology but with GPS and satellite phones, if you can get guys that are gutsy enough to do it, they will."

Another smuggling trick is to liquefy the cocaine, making it harder to detect. When the Coast Guard boards a suspected smuggling vessel, they will conduct chemical tests to determine if gas tanks are actually hiding liquid drugs.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of strategy in 5th paragraph.) )~

a.they tout the siezures as a gain when they receive nothing for it,,except justification for increased funding and to steal the persons property which they then sell to themselves for below market value

b.they make no mention of what happens to the drugs after confiscation

c.making the cost of the drug increase only increases desire to traffic drugs and increases likelyhood of violence and dangerous products,,see:prohibition is only free trade they are actually opposing is unfair to 'prohibit' any drugs for any reason IF drugs are allowed w/out prescription in order for women to kill mens babies concieved thru pleasure seeking would be more cost effective and less crisis oriented if they allowed legal importation and distribution to adults

g.the 'smugglers' could lay claim to being the contempory version of certain 'colonists' revolting against the king of england over similar circumstances way back in the 1770's

h.they are denying the us gov from garnering 'taxes' through free trade


re:numbers on illegal entry arrests

~Immigration Fugitive Arrests Double

Published: 12/4/07, 9:45 PM EDT


DALLAS (AP) - Federal agents who track down fugitives on immigration charges arrested more than 30,000 people nationally in fiscal year 2007, nearly double the previous year's total, officials said Tuesday.

Agents on the fugitive operations teams focus on finding people who haven't appeared for immigration hearings, or who stayed in the country after being ordered to leave by an immigration judge.

Teams also prioritize cases, looking for those who have criminal records or are considered a threat to national security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.

"They are specifically targeting individuals," said ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok. "On occasion, they'll conduct multi-day operations in a specific geographic region."

There were more than 30,408 arrests nationally in fiscal 2007, which ended Sept. 30, compared to 15,462 last year, ICE said.

ICE officials said the backlog of fugitives was down by 38,000 to 595,000 for the new fiscal year.

The agency has increased the number of seven-member teams devoted to tracking down fugitives, from 52 in fiscal year 2006 to 75 now. Rusnok said he knew of no plans to increase the number further.

ICE said better coordination and information sharing with state and local law enforcement also has helped bolster arrests of immigration fugitives.

Administrative warrants for fugitive immigrants now turn up when local authorities run a check on the National Crime Information Center's database, said Tina Tucker, acting director of the ICE's Dallas field office.

In another backlog-reducing measure, ICE since last year has been coordinating with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to identify incarcerated fugitives, who are deported once they have completed their sentences.

Last year ICE also opened up its Fugitive Operations Support Center in Vermont. The center helps gather and analyze information on fugitive cases across the country, and has passed on more than 150,000 leads to ICE agents, the agency said.~


re:thank you for helping,,thank you for going back to try again the correct way

~Border-Crosser Who Rescued Boy Honored

Published: 12/4/07, 6:46 PM EDT


NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) - An illegal immigrant who rescued a 9-year-old after the boy's mother died in a car accident in the southern Arizona desert was honored Tuesday by U.S. and Mexican officials at a border crossing.

Manuel Jesus Cordova Soberanes, 26, stood by shyly with his mother and stepfather as officials talked about his efforts to save Christopher Buchleitner of Rimrock, Ariz., on Thanksgiving.

"The desert has a way of rearranging priorities, and to Manuel Jesus Cordova, the priority was standing right in front of (him) that day," said Beatriz Lopez Gargallo, the Mexican consul general for Nogales. "And this man, this hero, did what men of honor do in all nations and in all cultures."

Authorities say if it hadn't been for Cordova, Christopher might be dead.

Cordova was two days into his journey to Arizona from Mexico when he spotted the boy, alone and injured in the desert. His leg was scraped up, he was dressed in shorts despite the desert cold and his mother had just been killed when their van went over a cliff. The boy crawled out and went looking for help.

Cordova said he gave the boy his sweater, fed him chocolate and cookies and built a bonfire. As the boy slept, Cordova kept watch and tended the fire.

"The only thing I was thinking about was keeping the boy warm," Cordova said Tuesday. "I was worried no one would come."

Christopher and his mother, 45-year-old Dawn Alice Tomko, had been in the area camping.

Cordova and Christopher were discovered after a long, cold night in the desert by a group of hunters, who called authorities.

Christopher was flown to a hospital and reunited with family members.

Cordova was taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol and agreed to return to his home in the Mexican state of Sonora without going through formal deportation proceedings.

Cordova came to the border again Tuesday, where officials from both countries held the ceremony in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection building at the Nogales port of entry. His mother, Almalida Soberanes, looked on proudly.

"He did what he had to do," Soberanes said. "He took care of that little boy and protected him."

The district director for U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said Cordova deserved the opportunity to come to America to work and that the congressman plans to introduce legislation that will let him get a special visa. Such legislation rarely passes, but Grijalva aide Ruben Reyes said it was the only way they knew of to show their thanks.~


re:what's going on in chihuahua?

~Mexican City Exhumes Thousands of Bodies

Published: 12/5/07, 12:05 AM EDT


CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) - Authorities in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez said Wednesday that they plan to exhume the remains of more than 4,000 unidentified people buried in common graves and take DNA samples in an attempt to identify them.

Rene Medrano, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office, said the bodies were being exhumed because state attorney general Patricia Gonzalez "wants to bring order and clarity to past police practices."

Officials did not provide more exact reasons for the exhumations, which they called part of a statewide project that includes at least 180 exhumations in another city.

Authorities said the project was not directly related to the cases of 360 women killed over the past 14 years in Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million across from El Paso, Texas.

Victims' relatives have long demanded that independent investigators take part in the probes, saying efforts by state officials have been tainted by inept officers. Chihuahua state investigators have been accused of losing or contaminating evidence and of other missteps that botched cases.

Authorities' lack of progress in solving the cases of the Ciudad Juarez women prompted international outrage, as news of the killings made headlines around the world.

Authorities have arrested and prosecuted a number of suspects over the years, but family members of some Juarez victims say authorities have yet to bring the true culprits to justice.

Federal authorities intervened in 2003, promising to solve 14 rape-strangulation cases involving teenagers and women in Ciudad Juarez. The federal attorney general's office recently closed those investigations, however, without getting to the bottom of what happened.

A team of 30 people, including forensic anthropologists and dental specialists, are already exhuming remains from cemeteries in Ciudad Juarez, Medrano said.

The team will exhume unidentified bodies that were buried in common graves between 1991 and 2005, Medrano said. They will extract DNA samples and build a database. The remains then will be tagged and reburied in individual graves, he said.

Officials estimate more than 4,000 unidentified bodies were buried in common graves in Ciudad Juarez alone over the 14-year period.

The program first started three months ago in Chihuahua City where authorities exhumed 180 sets of remains. One already has been identified, Medrano said.~


re:why does this report scream,,'alinsky wrote it!',,to me?

~Global Warming Wreaks Havoc With Nature

Published: 12/5/07, 10:05 PM EDT


BALI, Indonesia (AP) - More than 3,000 flying foxes dropped dead, falling from trees in Australia. Giant squid migrated north to commercial fishing grounds off California, gobbling anchovy and hake. Butterflies have gone extinct in the Alps.

While humans debate at U.N. climate change talks in Bali, global warming is already wreaking havoc with nature. Most plants and animals are affected, and the change is occurring too quickly for them to evolve.

"A hell of a lot of species are in big trouble," said Stephen E. Williams, the director of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity & Climate Change at James Cook University in Australia.

"I don't think there is any doubt we will see a lot of (extinctions)," he said. "But even before a species goes extinct, there are a lot of impacts. Most of the species here in the wet tropics would be reduced to ... 15 percent of their current habitat."

Globally, 30 percent of the Earth's species could disappear if temperatures rise 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit - and up to 70 percent, if they rise 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, a U.N. network of scientists reported last month.

It wouldn't be the first time. There have been five major extinctions in the last 520 million years, and four of them have been linked to warmer tropical seas, according to a study published last month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British scientific journal.

The hardest hit will include plants and animals in colder climates or at higher elevations and those with limited ranges or little tolerance for temperature change, said Wendy Foden, a conservation biologist with the World Conservation Union, which catalogs threatened species.

Butterflies that lived at high altitudes in North America and southern France have vanished, and polar bears and penguins are watching their habitat melt away.

The carbon dioxide emissions that are a leading cause of global warming also turn oceans more acidic, killing coral reefs and the microscopic plankton that blue whales and other marine mammals depend on for food.

"In the long run, every species will be affected," Foden said.

A few will benefit, chiefly those that breed quickly, already exist in varied climates and are able to adapt swiftly to changing conditions, scientists said. Think cockroaches, pigeons and weeds.

The spread of a deadly fungus that thrives in warmer conditions has decimated some frog populations in South America, Africa and Europe.

Then there are Australia's flying foxes.

More than 3,500 gray-headed and black flying foxes - huge bats - died in 2002 after temperatures rose above 107 degrees Fahrenheit in New South Wales, according to a report published last week in the Royal Society B journal.

The rising temperatures are related to global warming, said the author, Justin Welbergen of the University of Cambridge.

"It got really hot and suddenly started raining foxes from the trees," said Welbergen, who witnessed the die-off. "It was quite gruesome. This colony had between 20,000 and 30,000 animals and about 10 percent of those individuals died."

In Australia's Queensland state, temperatures are projected to rise 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, an outcome that could drive half the species to extinction in a mountainous stretch of tropical rain forest, Williams said.

Even a 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit increase would reduce by half the habitat of the Thornton Peak nursery frog, golden bowerbird and the spotted-tail quoll, a cat-like mammal.

"There are many species and plants that are restricted to the higher altitude areas," he said. "It doesn't take much of an increase in temperature to push them off the mountain. They can't go anywhere."

As temperatures rise, animals are seeking cooler climes. In a study of more than 1,500 species, University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan concluded that 40 percent had shifted their ranges, mostly toward the poles.

A dozen bird species have moved about 12 miles north in Britain, and 39 species of butterflies have shifted north by as much as 125 miles in Europe and North America, according to another study that Parmesan took part in.

Millions of Mediterranean jellyfish have turned up off Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Humboldt squid, which can grow up to 7 feet long, has moved up the California coast as ocean waters warmed.

"It's the latest in a long series of bad news for fishermen," said Stanford University's Lou Zeidberg, adding that squid have been found as far north as Alaska in the past five years.

With warmer weather, 60 percent of plant and animal species are migrating, breeding and blooming earlier in the spring, Parmesan said. But not all are, and that could upset relationships between birds and the insects they feed on as well as insects and the flowers they pollinate.

"Frogs, birds and butterflies are responding more strongly to warming winters and springs than are plants," she said. "The concern is that this will cause population declines for both plants and animals."

With many species unable to evolve fast enough to adapt, conservationists are considering the creation of natural corridors to encourage animals to move and even relocating them to cooler places. The latter is controversial.

"You are effectively playing God. You are effectively changing evolution on purpose," Foden said. "If our job as biologist is to conserve species, then certainly we must move them. But if it's to conserve natural evolutionary processes ... then we have to give them corridors and let them do their thing."~

(please note,,10% die,,habitats rearranged,,presence of warm region fungus in warm regions,,past extinctions without human actions contributing to them,,oh,,and pigeons?do they mean like the passenger pigeon?where are they?why did they dissapear?Too many answers are not provided by the theory,,yet.)


re:court victory bound to be used as 'example' of something different than what it was

~Suit Vs. Transgender Ga. Pol Thrown Out

Published: 12/3/07, 6:45 PM EDT


ATLANTA (AP) - A judge dismissed lawsuit Monday that had claimed a transgender city councilwoman tried to fool voters by running as a female, and the candidate was set to seek re-election Tuesday.

The ruling cleared the way for a runoff to include Michelle Bruce, who is running for a second term on the city council in the suburban Atlanta town of Riverdale.

"It was a waste of taxpayers' money and the court's time for a frivolous lawsuit," said Bruce, 46. "They're trying to derail the wish of the voters."

City Attorney Deana Johnson said the decision means the runoff slated for Tuesday will be held as scheduled, barring a ruling otherwise from the Georgia Supreme Court.

Bruce landed one of Riverdale's four council seats in 2003 after running unopposed. She was believed to be the state's first transgender politician. She has declined to say if she had surgery to change her gender.

Bruce captured 312 votes in the Nov. 6 election, not enough to avoid a runoff against Wayne Hall, who earned 202 votes. Third-place finisher Georgia Fuller, who collected 171 votes, filed a lawsuit.

The complaint, identifying Bruce as "Michael Bruce," claimed she misled voters by identifying herself as a female and asked a judge to rule the vote results invalid and order another general election.

Fuller and her attorney Mike King did not respond to phone calls Monday.

King has said her female name gave her an "unfair advantage" because the town's voters tend to vote for females - particularly incumbent females.~


re:sue puppy cop fired

~Law Officer Fired for Suing After Rescue

Published: 12/5/07, 11:46 PM EDT

CASSELBERRY, Fla. (AP) - A police officer has been fired for suing a family after she slipped and fell in their home while trying to rescue a 1-year-old boy who nearly drowned, authorities said.

Police Chief John Pavlis fired Sgt. Andrea Eichhorn on Tuesday, saying the lawsuit brought public ridicule to the department and damaged its reputation. Eichhorn, a 12-year veteran, can appeal.

She dropped her negligence lawsuit in October. It claimed there was water on the floor at Joey Cosmillo's home on Jan. 9 when police arrived to try to resuscitate the boy, who had fallen into the family's swimming pool. Eichhorn claimed she broke her knee and missed two months of work after she slid on the wet floor.

The boy suffered brain damage and can no longer walk, talk or swallow. He lives in a nursing home and eats and breathes through tubes.

Eichhorn's personnel file includes numerous commendations. She has worked as a hostage negotiator and prostitution decoy, and even wrestled razors away from a suicidal person.~

(I can hear it now,,'I was just sueing their insurance company,,not them')


re:what's missing from this report?

~Small Plane Crashes Into Ga. Synagogue

Published: 12/5/07, 11:45 PM EDT

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - A small plane crashed into the side of a synagogue Wednesday night, killing the pilot, witnesses said.

About a dozen people were inside Congregation Children of Israel's Walton Way Temple cooking a meal on the second day of Hanukkah, but no one was injured, Rabbi Robert Klensin said.

"It's very sad for the pilot who was killed and his family, but it is also a blessing no one else was hurt," said Klensin, who was not at the temple during the crash.

The pilot apparently tried to land in a nearby school parking lot - the only spot around not covered with homes and trees, witnesses said.

"Maybe in the last seconds of life he was looking out for other people," Klensin said.

The single-engine Piper had left Charleston, S.C., and was headed to Cartersville, northwest of Atlanta, said Peter Knudson of the National Transportation Safety Board. He said the pilot reported an engine problem to air traffic control before crashing.

Vallirie D. Hooper, who was on her way to choir practice, said the plane "just glided right into the side of the building."

"It was hard to tell if the engines were working," Hooper said. "It was a flash and a flame."

Klensin said it did not appear that the temple sustained any structural damage. The fire and heat melted some of the roof overhang on the west side of the building, he said.

Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C. after its desecration by the Syrian Greeks.~


re:breathing compressed air used to blow out pig brains makes you sick,,or is it the tiny particles of pig brain matter you breath when doing so?

~Minn. Probing Pork Plant Illnesses

Published: 12/3/07, 10:05 PM EDT


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - State health officials said Monday they were investigating neurological illnesses among 11 workers at a pork processing plant, but that there was no evidence that the public was at risk.

Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan also said there was no evidence that the food coming out of Quality Pork Processing in Austin has been contaminated.

The workers who became ill had symptoms such as numbness, and tingling in their arms and legs.

Two were hospitalized for a time. Some of the workers recovered completely, while others are still going through rehabilitation, she said.

Five of the workers had symptoms consistent with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a condition characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory functions in legs and arms. It is treated with steroids and immunosuppressant drugs, according to the National Institutes of Health,

The patients included men and women from a range of ages and ethnicities, said State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield. But they all worked in the same part of the plant, removing hog brains with compressed air.

None of the plant's other 1,300 workers reported similar symptoms, and there have been no similar reports at Minnesota's other large hog slaughterhouse in Worthington, officials said.

Quality Pork owner and CEO Kelly Wadding said workers who butcher the hog heads have been given more protective clothing and no longer use compressed air to remove brains.

He said Quality Pork's production levels have not been reduced because of the illnesses.

Hormel Foods Corp., which is based in Austin, is Quality Pork's main customer.

Staff nurses at Quality Pork noticed the first symptoms in December 2006, and a total of 10 cases had come in through July, Magnan said.

Doctors in Austin, about 90 miles south of Minneapolis, and at Mayo Clinic in Rochester tried to determine what was making the workers sick.

Mayo reported the matter to the state Health Department in late October, Lynfield said.

She said the symptoms are not consistent with a repetitive stress injury or with the family of diseases that include mad cow disease or scrapie in sheep, which are linked to proteins called prions.

But while those diseases cause irreversible brain deterioration, most of the workers in Austin have recovered. "That's not something you expect with a prion disease," she said.


On the Net:

NIH page on demyelinating polyneuropathy: ~


re:grassely pokes to raise a stink,,preachers face consequences of bowing to irs in order to become 'valid,legal' churches allowed to NOT pay taxes

~Preacher Rebuffs Senate Spending Inquiry

Published: 12/5/07, 11:25 PM EDT


(AP) - One of six Christian ministries under investigation by a Senate committee is rebuffing inquiries into its spending, challenging the panel's watchdog role over religious groups, The Associated Press has learned.

A lawyer for preacher Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta has asked Sen. Charles Grassley to either refer the matter to the IRS or get a subpoena, according to a letter from Dollar's attorney obtained Wednesday by the AP.

Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent pointed questionnaires in early November to a half-dozen ministries, asking about salaries, perks, travel and oversight. The Iowa Republican set Thursday as the deadline for a response.

All six organizations preach a form of the "prosperity gospel," the belief that God wants his faithful followers to reap material rewards.

Besides Dollar, several other televangelists have signaled concerns about invasions of privacy and violations of religious freedom. Only Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., has provided the detailed financial and board oversight information sought by Grassley.

Dollar's refusal could lead to a court fight, giving a judge the authority to decide whether the committee is entitled to all the information it requested.

Grassley emphasized the other five still have time. The senator also reiterated that his probe "has nothing to do with church doctrine" and is strictly concerned with making sure the tax-exempt groups are following the law.

Dollar has been the most vocal in his criticism of the probe. In the Nov. 27 letter obtained by the AP, Dollar attorney Marcus Owens wrote to Grassley and Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, that the church is willing to comply with a "proper" request for information - but it should be handled by the IRS.

Owens, the former director of the IRS's exempt organizations division, pointed to precedent: In the 1980s, a House subcommittee asked the IRS to review concerns about televangelists.

"A referral would permit Senator Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee to discharge their obligation to oversee federal tax administration without running the risk of government entanglement in the Church's religious beliefs and practices," the letter said.

An IRS review also would ensure privacy, Owens wrote. All IRS reviews are confidential, and Dollar has said he worries that a Senate probe might air sensitive information about salaries, among other things.

Failing a referral to the IRS, Owens requested that the committee seek subpoenas to "provide an appropriate legal context for the review." With a subpoena, the church and its members could gain confidentiality protections.

Joyce Meyer Ministries expressed confidence last week that it would be found in "complete compliance" with financial regulations.

The organization also addressed one of the more salacious details in the letter from Grassley - its reported purchase of a $23,000 "commode with marble top." The ministry said it was not a common toilet but a "a tall elegant chest of drawers," and that the selling agent got the price wrong.

Aside from Dollar and Meyer, the other televangelists have been noncommittal in their public responses. But some have voiced strong objections that echo Dollar's about privacy and religious freedom.

Bishop Eddie Long, who leads a megachurch and ministry in Lithonia, Ga., initially promised to "fully comply" with Grassley's request. But a few days later, Long told his congregation the request was "unjust," "intrusive," and "an attack on our religious freedom and privacy rights."

The others who received letters from Grassley are Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla.; Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas; and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas.

Owens said in an e-mail to the AP that while each ministry is "separately responding as it sees fit," lawyers for the ministries have been in touch and share common concerns about Grassley's request.

The letter from Dollar's attorney describes the prosperity gospel as a "deeply held religious belief" grounded in Scripture, and that the six churches are part of the "rich tapestry of religion in America" deserving of protection.

Some legal scholars believe the Senate is a proper forum to review religious nonprofit groups' finances - although with caveats.

Congress has a legitimate interest in making sure nonprofit rules are followed because confidentiality rules make it hard to track IRS enforcement, said Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, who advises religious groups on church-state issues.

"On the other hand, Congress is a very blunt instrument," he said. "Congressional hearings are hardly models of due process and they can pick on anything they want for any reason they want and that raises real concern. So there's this pull in both directions."~


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