re:wesern secret info passed to iran
~Azerbaijan: Western Secrets Sent to Iran
Published: 12/15/07, 10:46 PM EDT
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) - Azerbaijan's security agency said Saturday that 15 people convicted this week of treason had passed information on U.S., British and Israeli activities in the ex-Soviet republic to Iranian intelligence.
The National Security Ministry gave new details about the group, which allegedly passed to Iranian agents details on Western embassies, companies, pipeline operations and employees operating in Azerbaijan from 2005 to 2006.
The Court for Grave Crimes on Monday sentenced the 15 to lengthy prison sentences in a case that highlighted Azerbaijan's concern over the influence of neighboring Iran.
The 15 were arrested in January on suspicion of crimes including plotting to forcefully seize power, treason, organizing a criminal group, possession of weapons and drugs, and counterfeiting.
Two members of the group allegedly met repeatedly with intelligence agents in Iran, where they received training, equipment, maps and more than $10,000 in funding, the ministry said.
Said Dadashbeyli, the alleged leader who worked at a U.S.-Azerbaijani drilling company, sought Iranian support for a plot to seize power in Azerbaijan and establish Islamic law in the oil-rich country. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, along with two other group members. The others received sentences ranging from two years to 13, the court said.
Dadashbeyli's lawyer said the charges were unfounded.
Predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan has increasingly been caught in a tug-of-war for influence between the secular, democratic West and its large southern neighbor.
Rumblings of Shiite political Islam have been particularly noticeable in the more conservative regions that border Iran, and the secular government has displayed concern over Iranian influence and Islamic extremism.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved..~
re:native born muslim prison school converts that helped plan foiled attack pleads gulty
~Ex-Convicts Admit Planning Terror Attack
Dec 15, 4:33 AM (ET)
By GILLIAN FLACCUS
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Levar Haley Washington was finally free on parole after years in prison for robbery - but unbeknownst to authorities, the Muslim convert was already plotting more serious crimes.
Washington was determined to help his religious mentor and fellow convict Kevin James plan jihad-style attacks on military sites, synagogues and other targets, prosecutors said. James, who was still in prison, instructed Washington to recruit five men, obtain two pistols with silencers and make sure one of the men was trained in bomb-making.
"Be careful (brother), there are agents everywhere looking for (Al-Qaida) recruiters or any other threat to national security," James wrote to Washington in 2005. "Your squad will be engaged on all levels."
Police uncovered the plot later that year when they connected it to a string of gas station robberies in the Los Angeles area. On Friday, James and Washington pleaded guilty to conspiring to levy war against the United States and affirmed that the elements of the plot, as presented by prosecutors, were true.
Washington also pleaded guilty to using a firearm to further that conspiracy.
James, 31, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced March 31. Washington, 28, faces up to 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and five years to life for a firearms offense when he is sentenced April 28.
"Homegrown terrorism remains a grave concern to the security of our country, and this cell was closer to going operational at the time than anyone since 9/11," Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing told reporters at a news conference after the two men entered their pleas.
Police uncovered the plot in July 2005 while investigating the gas station robberies, which they say were committed to finance the attacks. Torrance Police Chief John Neu told reporters at the news conference that authorities linked about 10 holdups to the effort.
The plotters were within weeks of being able to carry out an attack, Neu said, when they were discovered about two months before the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.
Washington and James said little during their separate hearings, answering U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney's questions with monosyllabic responses. Both men wore goatees and Washington's face was covered in tattoos.
Washington's attorney, Ellen Barry, said outside court that her client decided it was "in his best interests" to plead guilty. James' attorney, Robert Carlin, declined to comment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Staples said as a result of the plea agreement James' maximum possible sentence was reduced from 25 years to 20. U.S attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said prosecutors would recommend an 18-year sentence for James and 25 years for Washington.
Also indicted in the case were Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana. All but Samana, a Pakistani national, are American-born Muslim converts.
Patterson and Samana are charged with conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. government through terrorism, conspiracy to possess and discharge firearms in a violent crime, conspiracy to kill members of the U.S. government uniformed services and conspiracy to kill foreign officials. Patterson is also charged with a robbery count and using a firearm in a violent crime.
U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien said Samana has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial and is undergoing psychiatric care at a federal prison facility. Patterson is expected to plead guilty to a terrorism conspiracy charge on Monday.
Prosecutors said the plot was orchestrated by Washington, Patterson and Samana at the behest of James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, or JIS.
Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned with James, then looked to recruit other members of the group after he was paroled, authorities said. Neu said Patterson and Samana were recruited in part because they had no criminal records and could acquire weapons without suspicion.
James preached that JIS members should target for violent attack any enemies of Islam or "infidels," including the U.S. government and any supporters of Israel, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said James prepared a press release that the men planned to send out after an attack.
"This incident is the first in a series of incidents to come in a plight to defend and propagate traditional Islam in its purity," James allegedly wrote. "We are not extremists, radicals, or terrorists. We are only servants of Allah."~
(actually,,this could be good,,they are helping set the precedent of,,Allahs followers wish to do non Allah followers harm)
re:colorado facing question of which comes first,,fertilised egg,,or human child?
~Colo. Petition Revives Anti-Abortion Bid
Published: 12/11/07, 7:05 AM EDT
By P. SOLOMON BANDA
DENVER (AP) - A 20-year-old law student has become a cause celebre in the anti-abortion movement for her efforts to have the state Constitution define fertilized eggs as people - a tactic spreading nationwide in bids to neutralize the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
The measure spearheaded by Kristi Burton would give fertilized eggs state protections of inalienable rights, justice and due process, and she needs 76,000 signatures to get it on the state ballot next November.
Similar efforts are under way in Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi and Oregon.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw the awakening of a sleeping giant here as conservatives come out to vote on this because of the purity of the bill and because it's a no-nonsense amendment," said Keith Mason, a veteran of grass-roots efforts defending Ten Commandments displays and parental notification laws. He is helping the petition effort.
Burton's so-called human life amendment doesn't mention abortion. She insists her only aim is to define when human life begins, and any discussion about abortion is up to lawmakers, she said.
"It's a concrete point in time that we can point to. It's at the moment of conception, life begins and at that moment we need to protect it. If we don't do that, then anyone can take away people's lives at other stages," Burton said.
Abortion rights groups say the measure would hamper in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research. They say it also could affect birth control because the most widely used form of contraception works by preventing fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterus.
Burton's strategy also diverges from a decades-old approach among anti-abortion activists of trying to incrementally regulate abortions.
"Once you have the principle enshrined in a state constitution that flies in the face of Roe, that would be the test case that would go before the Supreme Court," said Brian Rooney of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which has written similar proposals for other states.
Amendments that attack Roe head-on revive an old strategy that Rooney said was abandoned by the National Right to Life Committee, the largest of the anti-abortion groups formed in the 1970s to challenge Roe v. Wade.
James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the NRLC, said efforts to get state laws that would ban abortion outright "divert our attention and resources into feudal strategies" that would languish in the courts for years.
Instead, Bopp said the NRLC is working on banning partial birth abortions, providing information about fetal pain, and promoting the use of ultrasounds to show women the fetus' heartbeat. The hope is that women planning to have abortions would change their minds.
"Our efforts to educate and regulate are preparing for the day when we can overturn Roe v. Wade," Bopp said. "The reality is we can't now, because the Supreme Court is unwilling."
Such incremental strategies aren't enough for Burton, who claims no affiliation with any outside anti-abortion group. The home-schooled student says she first became aware of the cause at age 13, when in 2000 Colorado voters rejected an amendment calling for a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.
"I really believe every time in history we live in, there are people that need to be saved," she said. "In our time in history in America it is the unborn."
In Mississippi, which along with North and South Dakota has only one abortion provider, an effort to put a human life amendment to a vote fizzled in 2005. Supporters have until January to turn in signatures to place the issue on the ballot next year.
Legislative efforts are under way in Alabama and Georgia but died in Montana, while a petition in Michigan failed to muster enough signatures to get on the ballot. In Oregon, the Thomas More Law Center is challenging the state attorney general's rejection of the initiative.
"Human life amendments have been bouncing around in one way or another since Roe v. Wade," said Susan Hill, president of the Raleigh, N.C.-based National Women's Health Organization, which is the sole abortion provider in Mississippi. If passed, a human life amendment would "be ruled unconstitutional at this point because it has already been tested."
In Colorado, longtime independent pollster Floyd Ciruli thinks backers of Burton's measure will find it difficult to muster enough votes.
"A direct attack would probably serve the interest of supporters of abortion because I think it would be much easier for them to rally, whereas a more subtle challenge could likely slip under the radar," Ciruli said.
On the Net:
National Right to Life Committee: http://www.nrlc.org/
National Women's Health Organization: http://www.gynpages.com/nwho ~
re:help for muslim terrorists?,,from the inside
~Police Arrested for Plot Suspect Escape
Published: 12/18/07, 7:25 AM EDT
By MUNIR AHMAD
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - Five people, including two police officers, have been arrested on suspicion they helped a British suspect in an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners escape from police custody, the Pakistani interior minister said Tuesday.
Britain has been seeking Rashid Rauf's extradition, both to question him as a "key person" in the airplane plot and as a suspect in the 2002 killing of his uncle. He has denied involvement in both cases.
Rauf slipped out the back door of a mosque after tricking police into stopping to let him pray on the way back to jail following a court appearance in Islamabad Saturday on Britain's extradition request, police said.
Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz called Rauf's escape "unfortunate" and a serious security lapse.
"We have one or two very good leads, which we are working on, and the people who were closely involved in his escape have also been apprehended," he told The Associated Press.
He said Rauf's possible escape routes have been blocked but he had a "good eight-, nine-hour start that has given him some advantage." Nawaz said the five people who were arrested include two police officers and one of Rauf's uncles.
He said he did not know if al-Qaida was behind the escape.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media, earlier said the two police officers were being investigated for negligence and possible links with Rauf's two uncles.
The escape is an embarrassment for President Pervez Musharraf, who made Pakistan a key ally of the United States in its war on terror following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Rauf's lawyer, Hashmat Habib, has called the escape a "mysterious disappearance," saying he never opposed deportation. Habib said police commandos had escorted Rauf on earlier trips to court.
"How can it happen that only two policemen were traveling with him on Saturday?" Habib asked.
One of Pakistan's leading newspapers, The News, reported Tuesday that Rauf's uncle Mohammed Rafique had been in touch with one of the arrested policemen. Rafique was arrested in Kashmir this week.
It also said the officers let another of Rauf's uncles, Zahoor, talk them into letting him drive Rauf back to the jail in his own car. The officers had lunch with Rauf at a McDonald's restaurant in Rawalpindi, then unlocked his handcuffs when he went inside the mosque, the report said.
The newspaper also reported that the guards didn't immediately inform their bosses about the incident, and that they searched for Rauf for hours before reporting the matter.
Rauf, who is of Pakistani origin, was arrested here in August 2006 on a tip from British investigators. Pakistan described him as a key suspect in a purported plot to blow up airplanes flying from Britain to the United States, prompting a major security alert at airports worldwide and increased restrictions on carry-on items.
He was charged with possessing chemicals that could be used in making explosives and with carrying forged travel documents.
Rauf denied involvement in the plot and prosecutors later withdrew the case against him, though he remained in jail awaiting a decision on a British extradition request.
Britain asked Pakistan to hand him over in connection with a separate 2002 murder inquiry. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty.~
re:effects of un losing kofis protection
~UN in Grief at Algeria Bombings
Published: 12/11/07, 12:05 AM EDT
By JOHN HEILPRIN
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The truck bombings that killed at least 11 U.N. employees in the Algerian capital Tuesday were the deadliest attack in four years on the United Nations, where officials expressed fresh outrage that neutrality no longer protected them.
U.N. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, a diplomat and economics professor from Macedonia, expressed "grave concern that once again United Nations offices and staff were deliberate targets of terrorist attacks," his spokesman, Janos Tisovszky, said.
Jihadists in Iraq who later affiliated with al-Qaida were blamed for the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003. That attack killed 22 people, including the top U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Among the U.N. employees killed Tuesday were two local drivers for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.
In May, the refugee agency lost a 38-year-old Afghan driver in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when he was shot by an unidentified assailant while on his way to work, according to agency officials.
"Words cannot express my sense of shock, outrage and anger at the terrorist attack on the United Nations mission in Algiers today," said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was traveling in Bali, Indonesia, where he is attending a global climate meeting.
Ban called for an immediate review of U.N. security precautions and policies in Algeria and elsewhere.
"This was an abjectly cowardly strike against civilian officials serving humanity's highest ideals under the U.N. banner - base, indecent and unjustifiable by even the most barbarous political standard," he said.
The head of the agency, Antonio Guterres, said one of the truck bombs deliberately targeted U.N. offices that housed his agency, the Development Program, the World Food Program, the International Labor Organization and the U.N. Population Fund. The other bomb struck outside Algeria's Constitutional Council, said Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni.
The two local drivers who were killed were among about a dozen employees of the refugee agency who were nearby when the bombs struck.
"Just about everyone else suffered an injury, one of them seriously," said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the agency.
Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, in a posting on a militant Web site, called the U.N. offices in Algiers "the headquarters of the international infidels' den." The two bombings killed at least 26 and wounded nearly 200 on Tuesday.
The mood at U.N. headquarters in New York was somber; the U.N. flag flew at half-mast all day as officials kept updating the death toll among U.N. employees.
About 175 U.N. employees worked in Algeria, including about 115 locally based staff, Okabe said.
Before Tuesday, more than 250 U.N. civilian employees had been killed either by violence or in accidents since January 1992, when such record-keeping began, U.N. officials said. Those figures do not include the deaths of U.N. staff from peacekeeping missions.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the attacks and extended its sympathies to U.N. staff and their families who were among the victims. "Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security," the council said.
Associated Press Writer Lily Hindy contributed to this report.~
re:latest news of the arab/israeli 1967 war,,
~Israel's Gaza Thrust Clouds Peace Talks
Published: 12/11/07, 4:06 PM EDT
By IBRAHIM BARZAK and AMY TEIBEL
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli tanks and bulldozers pushed into the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, killing five Islamic militants and trapping hundreds of people in their homes, while another extremist died from an airstrike elsewhere in the territory.
The incursion - Israel's broadest since Hamas seized control of the coastal strip last June - came a day before the first Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years, casting a pall over the negotiations and underscoring the threat that Hamas poses to implementing any accord.
Palestinian officials said the offensive, along with a construction project in the Har Homa neighborhood of disputed east Jerusalem, threatened to sabotage the talks. They said the plan to build 307 apartments in the traditionally Arab area would dominate Wednesday's meeting.
"The decision to build new housing units in Har Homa created a lot of problems for the credibility of the peace process," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
The State Department, which has criticized Israel for planning new apartments in the West Bank, sought to play down expectations for the talks' opening day, saying it was envisioned only as an organizational meeting.
"If they choose to address substance, then, of course, that is going to be up to them, and we would encourage them to move as fast as they are able to move together," spokesman Sean McCormack said.
McCormack declined to comment on Israel's military thrust into Gaza, but noted militant attacks on Israeli towns are a continuing problem.
Since the Hamas takeover in Gaza, Israel has carried out frequent airstrikes and ground incursions in response to near daily Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli border communities. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group and holds it responsible for all attacks launched from Gaza.
At the same time, Israel has been pursuing a peace agreement with the rival West Bank government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces in Gaza were routed by the Islamic militants of Hamas in June.
In Tuesday's operation, Israeli army tanks and bulldozers pushed about a mile along the main road in southern Gaza at dawn, taking up positions across a 2.5-mile stretch of land. It was the deepest military sweep since the Hamas takeover, but Israeli forces withdrew after nightfall, the military said.
Among Israel's targets was a multistory building that sustained heavy damage in fighting. The rubble held three bodies, including the severed legs of a dead militant. As rescuers pulled the bodies away, two Israeli shells struck the building seconds apart, sending people scrambling for cover.
The incident was filmed by AP Television News. An AP cameraman and several other journalists suffered minor injuries and shock.
Residents and Hamas security forces said at least 30 tanks and bulldozers took part in the operation. Israel's military said 10 tanks were sent in.
Soldiers took over the rooftops of several homes and detained more than 60 people in house-to-house sweeps. Panicked children ran through the streets of Khan Younis as they rushed home early from school to take refuge at home.
Militants carrying land mines and other weapons dodged among houses and maneuvered behind the tanks to fire at soldiers. Others took cover behind trees or covered themselves in leaves to hide in open farmland. The army said four soldiers were slightly wounded in the fighting.
Gaza medical officials said five Palestinian militants died in the fighting in southern Gaza, while a sixth was killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip's north.
The offensive focused on an area that is a main launching ground for rocket and mortar assaults on Israeli army bases and the Israeli-controlled Sufa crossing into Gaza, Israeli officials said.
"The extremists in Gaza are trying to kill Israeli civilians. The Israeli operations are defensive and designed to protect our civilian population that has been the target of barrages of daily rocket attacks," said government spokesman Mark Regev.
Israeli military officials said the operation was routine and not connected to the peace talks. But Palestinian officials called the violence a sign of bad faith on Israel's part.
"The Israeli policy of escalation aims to sabotage and place obstacles before the negotiations even before they start," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for Abbas.
Hamas officials urged Abbas to put aside internal Palestinian rivalries and boycott Wednesday's talks. "The hand of the enemy is still dripping with the blood of the martyrs," said Taher Nunu, a Hamas spokesman. "It is a mark of shame to go to the negotiations tomorrow."
The peace talks follow last month's Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Md., where Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to try to reach a final agreement by the end of 2008.
The last round of talks crumbled in early 2001, shortly after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising. Since then, more than 4,400 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis have been killed.
Hamas' control of Gaza is just one of the obstacles in the negotiations, with Olmert warning that Israel cannot implement any peace agreement until Abbas regains control of Gaza.
East Jerusalem is another impediment.
The Palestinians are furious over Israel's announcement last week that it would build 307 apartments in the Har Homa neighborhood. Palestinians want the capital of their future state to be east Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordanian control in the 1967 Mideast War.
The Palestinians consider any Israeli building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to be settlement activity and a violation of the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan's ban on all settlement construction.
Israel says the settlement freeze does not apply to Jerusalem. Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 war and considers the entire city to be its capital.
Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak reported this story from Khan Younis and Amy Teibel from Jerusalem.~
re:east jerusalem proof the strife is continuation of arabs/muslims/islams attempts to win 67 war
~Israeli Neighborhood Haunts Peace Talks
Published: 12/18/07, 3:25 AM EDT
By SARAH EL DEEB
JERUSALEM (AP) - The Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, with its white stone buildings and billboards hawking new real estate projects, now has managed to disrupt Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for the second time in a decade.
Israel's announcement this month that it plans to build 307 new homes in this east Jerusalem neighborhood, on land Palestinians want for the capital of their future state, drew international condemnation.
The plan was the first wrench thrown into peace negotiations relaunched last week after a violent seven-year hiatus.
For Har Homa residents like Eliran Nissim, the 30-year-old proprietor of a pizza parlor, nothing could be more natural than building more apartments for people like him.
"It's my country, it's the country of the Jews, and we will try to build in it 100 percent," said Nissim, who has decided to stay although he says he's come under fire twice from nearby Arab villages.
For Palestinians, the bulldozers and tractors that are hard at work expanding Har Homa are a show of bad faith.
Building new homes for Israelis in the neighborhood violates two of Israel's obligations: to negotiate the future of the city and not to expand settlements, said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
"It is either settlements or peace," Erekat said. "Jerusalem is subject to negotiations. No one should try to pre-empt that."
Services and shops are still scarce in Har Homa, giving the neighborhood a somewhat desolate feel. On a recent afternoon, young mothers pushed strollers and city buses picked up commuters along streets still being paved.
A van decorated with colorful blinking lights blared music, celebrating the arrival of a new Torah scroll at a local synagogue, and residents gathered around it, clapping.
But Har Homa is a political statement as much as it is a residential neighborhood, and has been a lightning rod for controversy even before it was built.
A decade ago, Israel's announcement of the project set off Palestinian riots, was criticized by the international community and brought on a crisis in peace talks that already were faltering.
Construction began in earnest in 2000, the same year negotiations collapsed in violence. The first residents began moving in with little fanfare two years later.
Built on a hilltop known to Palestinians as Jebel Abu Ghneim, Har Homa is part of a network of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that ring Palestinian areas. Palestinians charge the Israeli goal is to cut Arab neighborhoods off from each other and stand physically in the way of making east Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem shortly after its capture in the 1967 Mideast war, but the international community has never recognized the move.
Har Homa was built in order to close the empty area between south Jerusalem and the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, an attempt to disconnect Arab Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland, said Israeli political scientist Menachem Klein of Bar Ilan University.
The neighborhood now has 2,100 homes and 8,500 residents, according to figures from the Jerusalem municipality. Most are Jewish families drawn less by ideology than by relatively low housing prices in an increasingly expensive city.
The new neighborhood, the network of roads around it and Israel's West Bank separation barrier that encloses it are causing hardship to Palestinians and undermining their hopes for a state, said Bethlehem governor Salah Tamari, who led protests against the project a decade ago.
"The area for Bethlehem ... has shrunk and we don't know how far they will go. If settlements continue at the same pace, there will be no more land for the Palestinians to build a state on," Tamari said.
The new announcement came at a sensitive time, just days before the official launch of new peace negotiations, and put the U.S., Israel's main ally, on the spot. In a carefully worded reprimand, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice said the construction would "not help build confidence" for talks.
Israeli Cabinet minister Haim Ramon, a close ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, countered that since Israel is willing, in principle, to hand over Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, it should be able to build in Jewish ones
In any final peace deal, Har Homa and other Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem - home to some 180,000 Israelis - are considered likely to remain in Israeli hands, possibly as part of a territorial exchange between the sides.
Other Israeli officials said the announcement was a misunderstanding - a decision by low-level bureaucrats about which Olmert was only informed afterward.
But Palestinians say the timing is certain to undermine what little goodwill exists between the sides after years of violence and suspicion.
The plan for Har Homa was approved six months ago, said Zeev Boim, Israel's housing minister. And building there is like building anywhere in Israel, he insisted.
"There is no reason not to build in Har Homa, just as there is no reason not to build in Tel Aviv, in Haifa or in any other Israeli city," Boim said.~
re:israel regarding iran and the continuing war
~Israel: US Report on Iran May Spark War
Published: 12/15/07, 11:05 PM EDT
By LAURIE COPANS
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state.
In his remarks - Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report - Avi Dichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence in general, including information about Palestinian security forces' crackdown on militant groups. The Palestinian action is required as part of a U.S.-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.
Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.
He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the Yom Kippur Jewish holy day on which it began.
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."
Dichter didn't elaborate on the potential scenario but seemed to imply that a world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable to attack by the Islamic regime.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had disputed the U.S. intelligence assessment this month, saying that Iran continues its efforts to obtain components necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran still poses a major threat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.
Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and backed the United States in its international efforts to exert pressure on Iran to stop the program. Israel considers Iran a significant threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program and repeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the disappearance of Israel.
Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.
Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.
"A misconception by the world's leading superpower is not just an internal American occurrence," Dichter said.
Any future faulty U.S. intelligence on the actions of Palestinian security forces could damage peace efforts, Dichter said.
"Those same (intelligence) arms in the U.S. are apt to make a mistake and declare that the Palestinians have fulfilled their commitments, which would carry with it very serious consequences from Israel's vantage point," Dichter said.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.~
re:gaza strikes net head nut
~12 Killed in Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza
Published: 12/18/07, 7:25 AM EDT
By SARAH EL DEEB
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli aircraft launched an assault on the radical Islamic Jihad organization from the skies over Gaza, killing the group's overall commander and nine other militants in three fiery strikes ending early Tuesday.
A fourth attack on a security post in southern Gaza killed two Hamas militants, that group said.
In an e-mail sent to reporters, Islamic Jihad said it would retaliate for its losses with suicide attacks inside Israel, threatening "a wave of martyrdom operations."
Thousands of Gazans took to the streets in funeral processions for the dead militants, whose bodies and coffins were draped with black Islamic Jihad flags. In northern Gaza, bullets from the rifles of mourners severed an electric wire, which fell, injuring five people, medics said.
Four of the Islamic Jihad militants were targeted as they emerged from morning prayers Tuesday at a northern Gaza mosque. Six others died when Israeli aircraft blasted two cars in Gaza City after nightfall Monday.
"There is no doubt that this is a big loss," Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza, told The Associated Press.
The deadly strikes against Islamic Jihad are part of a stepped-up Israeli offensive against Gaza militants who fire near-daily rocket barrages at southern Israeli border communities. Islamic Jihad, a small radical group with ties to Iran, has taken responsibility for most of the barrages.
Gaza's militant Hamas rulers aren't heavily involved in the cross-border attacks, but allow other radical factions, including its Islamic Jihad allies, to operate with impunity.
The airstrikes in Gaza came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gained strong support for his moderate government at an international donors conference in Paris. Donors pledged $7.4 billion over the next three years, far more than he expected.
Abbas is locked in a deadly power struggle with Hamas, which overran Gaza in June after routing his fighters.
The fundraising followed the relaunch of formal peace talks with Israel. Negotiations got off to a rocky start over Israel's refusal to halt construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank - areas captured in the 1967 Mideast war that the Palestinians want as part of a future state.
On Tuesday, a top ally of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed swapping Israeli territory for disputed land where Jewish communities have been built.
"What I propose is that we reach an agreement with the Palestinians today over the principle of settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty and in return an exchange of territory," Vice Premier Haim Ramon said, becoming the first Israeli official to openly endorse the idea.
Abbas already has expressed support for a land swap.
The Israeli military said the three air attacks targeted militants involved in rocket fire at Israel.
"I'm very pleased with our achievements last night," Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defense minister, told Army Radio on Tuesday morning.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that in addition to targeting Israeli civilians those behind the rocket attacks also were seeking to sabotage the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"Obviously we have to act to protect our people," he said. "These extremists don't want to just kill innocent civilians they want to kill the peace process, they're the enemies of everyone who wants to see this peace process move forward."
Palestinian militants fired rockets and mortar shells at Israel on Tuesday morning. Two shells hit an Israeli community, but did not result in casualties, the military said.
The target of the first Israeli airstrike in Gaza City late Monday was Majed Harazin, a senior Islamic Jihad militant in charge of rocket squads that have been firing at Israel, the military said.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Khaled el-Batch confirmed that Harazin was killed. The group said he was its top commander for the West Bank and Gaza, and he rarely traveled in vehicles for fear of an Israeli airstrike.
Another militant was killed and a third critically wounded in the airstrike, hospital officials said.
Islamic Jihad supporters gathered around the morgue and pledged revenge.
"The blood of our comrades will be the fuel for the rockets that will bring death and destruction to the Zionists," another Islamic Jihad spokesman, Abu Hamza, told The Associated Press.
In the second airstrike, shortly before midnight, the military said four militants were killed. The third strike, early Tuesday, killed four more of the group's men. Four civilians were wounded, medical officials said.
The attack on a Hamas security post in the southern town of Rafah killed two members of Hamas' security force, Hamas said. The military confirmed that it had carried out the strike.
Separately, Islamic Jihad retracted its announcement that its commander in the northern West Bank was killed by an undercover Israeli unit in Qabatiyeh village. The Israeli military had denied any knowledge of an assassination attempt there.~
re:gadhafi tries to rewrite history
~Gadhafi Denies Libya Ever Did Terrorism
Published: 12/11/07, 4:47 PM EDT
By ELAINE GANLEY
PARIS (AP) - Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi insisted Tuesday his government was never involved in terrorist acts, blaming two bombings of Western passenger jets on "individuals," and he disputed critics who accuse Libya of abusing human rights.
Speaking in a French television interview on the second day of an official visit to France, Gadhafi said Libya wants to take its place in a world marked by peace and cooperation.
The interview with state-run France-2 was conducted in a tent equipped with the latest communications devices and pitched in the elegant garden of the official guest residence.
Protests over his six-day visit, which has clinched contracts worth billions of dollars for French business, started even before Gadhafi arrived. They grew larger Tuesday when he entered the grounds of the National Assembly, considered a symbol of democracy and human rights.
More than half the 80 lawmakers invited to the session at the speaker's residence boycotted the event, at which Gadhafi first evoked his theme of a "new era" for Libya and the world.
The Libyan leader later fed the controversy over his warm official welcome by denying that he and President Nicolas Sarkozy discussed the need for progress in human rights.
"Myself and President Sarkozy, we did not evoke these subjects," Gadhafi said during the TV interview. The French president told journalists Monday that he urged Gadhafi to make progress in human rights.
Sarkozy is the first Western leader to offer an official visit since Gadhafi's falling-out with the West in the 1980s.
Gadhafi has sought to repair relations in recent years, freeing a Palestinian and five Bulgarian medical workers earlier this year after eight years imprisonment and agreeing in 2003 to dismantle Libya's secret nuclear arms program.
Also in 2003, Libya paid compensation to families of victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and agreed to compensate families of the 170 victims of the 1989 bombing of a French UTA passenger jet.
Gadhafi was categorical in his denial of a state role in the passenger jet bombings.
"Libya has never committed a terrorist act," he said in the TV interview. He argued that a state cannot be responsible for each of its citizens, but said an era of conflict is ending.
"We are coming out of a period of national liberation across the world," Gadhafi said. "This struggle, this confrontation is now over. We are in another phase."
Gadhafi also said there are no human rights abuses in Libya, as charged by watchdog groups, and insisted "not a single" political prisoner is held by his government.
Libya is "determined to participate in a new world of peace, liberty and cooperation among nations and civilizations," he said.
The comments didn't calm Gadhafi's critics. Sarkozy's political rivals, including former Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, held a protest Tuesday evening.
At a parliamentary session, the Socialists left their benches for 20 minutes to protest a refusal to allow them to publicly question the government on the Gadhafi visit.
"You don't roll out the red carpet to a dictator in the (symbol) of democracy," said Socialist group leader Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Government officials have defended the warm welcome for Gadhafi as a way to encourage states that show signs of moving away from terrorism.
"It's not the color of the carpet that we should remember. It is the fact that we are trying to bring toward us countries which have left terrorism," Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.
Associated Press writer Emmanuel Georges-Picot contributed to this report.~
re:ap-issos polls are offered as 'pdf downloads' rather than 'convenient' on line html documents.
~Poll: More in US See Progress in Iraq
Published: 12/11/07, 4:06 PM EDT
By ALAN FRAM
WASHINGTON (AP) - Growing numbers of people think the U.S. is making progress in Iraq and will eventually be able to claim some success there, a poll showed Tuesday in a sign the politics of the war could become more complicated for Democrats.
With diminishing U.S. and Iraqi casualties and the start of modest troop withdrawals, the public's mood seems to have brightened a bit, the Associated Press-Ipsos poll showed. That is a rarity in what has been a relentlessly unpopular war.
"I still have hopes the people in Iraq will appreciate us being there," said Daniel Laird, 30, a firefighter from Yuba City, Calif., who leans Republican and was questioned in the survey. "It just seems like we are making a difference."
Even so, majorities remain upset about the conflict and convinced the invasion was a mistake, and the issue still splits the country deeply along party lines.
About three-fourths of respondents describe themselves as worried about what's happening in Iraq and nearly six in 10 say they are angry - slight reductions since February, but still strong majorities harboring negative feelings on the eve of an election year. Most Democrats and independents - joined by sizable numbers of Republicans - say they are worried, tired, even angry.
People are most positive are about recent gains in security in Iraq.
The poll showed a nearly even division over whether President Bush's troop increase this year has helped stabilize the country, with 50 percent saying no and 47 percent yes. Just three months ago, only 36 percent said yes.
By 52 percent to 41 percent, most said the U.S. is making progress in Iraq. When AP-Ipsos last asked that question in September 2006 - a time when vicious sectarian attacks resembled a civil war - just 39 percent saw improvements under way.
While far greater proportions of Republicans than Democrats think progress is being made, even growing numbers of Democrats agree. The portion of Democrats saying the troop increase has helped stabilize the country has nearly doubled since September to 26 percent, and the number saying the U.S. is making progress has shown similar growth.
For many Democrats, though, the gains are seen as tentative.
"Yes, there's been progress, but I don't think it will be long-term," said Regina Pitts, 51, a Democrat from Fairview, Tenn. "We can't stay there forever and babysit."
By some measures, peoples' longer-range views of U.S. accomplishments are also becoming more optimistic.
By 55 percent to 42 percent, more said they think history will consider the war a failure than a success. While most remain negative about the conflict's legacy, in September only 34 percent predicted success.
Just one in five Democrats and four in 10 independents think the war will be a long-range success, well less than the three-fourths of Republicans who think so.
Overall, only 38 percent think the 2003 invasion was the right decision, including three-fourths of Republicans, a third of independents and one-seventh of Democrats - a negative perspective that has barely shifted all year.
Even so, the slowly improving views about progress raise the question of whether Iraq will give Democrats the slam-dunk political advantage in next year's presidential election that many in the party have long assumed it will.
Democratic voters are still strongly against the war and the party's presidential candidates compete for ways to criticize it. Such a tactic, though, might prove less effective when it is time to appeal to the more moderate voters who will participate in next year's general election.
So far, the public's improved mood has helped Bush - slightly.
Thirty-six percent now approve of the overall job he is doing - up four percentage points from last month, but still a poor showing for a president. Eight in 10 Republicans, three in 10 independents and one in 10 Democrats approve. His highest marks - 42 percent approval - are for handling foreign policy and terrorism.
Congress' approval remains mired at 25 percent - near its January low of 22 percent.
Bush sent 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year, with most focused on reducing violence in and around Baghdad. U.S. forces in the country exceed 160,000, though Pentagon officials have said that figure could decline to 135,000 next summer - about where it was before the troop increase.
Besides the beefed up U.S. presence, the leader of the Mahdi Army militia, Muqtada al-Sadr, has ordered his fighters to temporarily stand down. And thousands of Iraqis, chiefly Sunni Arabs, have become U.S. allies in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq.
As a result, violence has dropped considerably since June and there have been signs that Baghdad is becoming less chaotic. U.S. casualties have fallen from 101 in June to 37 in November, according to an AP count, and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in the country, says there has been a 60 percent decline in violence over the past half year.
Among Iraqi civilians, the number of deaths from war-related violence have dropped from 1,640 in June to 718 last month, according to the AP.
The poll involved telephone interviews with 1,009 adults conducted from Dec. 3-5. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
AP Director of Surveys Trevor Tompson and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
On the Net:
(their site is even code driven,,no html pages.You can't save an interior page to favs)
re: categorically dismissed teachers account of events and her claims that boy was an illegally entered mexican,,older than 13,,and a gang member with 2 kids.He's allready and out of the country
~Teacher: Flight to Mexico Was Boy's Idea
Published: 12/11/07, 7:05 AM EDT
By OSKAR GARCIA
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A former teacher accused of having sex with a 13-year-old student said it was the boy's idea to flee to Mexico and that he told her he would kill her if she left him.
"He was pressuring me and that's why we chose to leave," Kelsey Peterson said at a pretrial hearing Monday where U.S. Magistrate Judge F.A. Gossett denied bail, saying Peterson was a flight risk.
Peterson said the boy left bruises on her arms and chest, told her what to wear and threatened her life. She said he was in a gang and had her name tattooed across his chest, and that the boy's family knew about and encouraged their relationship.
The boy's lawyers disputed Peterson's allegations and accused her attorney of lying and using Mexican stereotypes to cloud facts of the case.
"This whole case has been pulling things out of thin air and putting them forth as true," said Stu Dornan, an attorney for the boy.
The 25-year-old former teacher and the eighth-grader were found Nov. 2 in Mexicali, Mexico. Peterson pleaded not guilty Nov. 29 to charges of crossing a border to have sex with a minor.
She said she panicked before they fled to Mexico, but didn't think authorities would come after her. "I was scared to death," said Peterson, who faces federal charges that could result in 10 years to life in prison.
The boy told The Associated Press after the pair were found that he and Peterson had sex. The AP previously named the boy as police searched for him but stopped using his name in reports after authorities charged Peterson with a sex crime.
Peterson, who has been fired from her job as a middle school teacher and basketball coach, said she left with the boy after school officials started investigating their relationship. She hoped rumors about them would blow over.
"I really thought it just might go away," Peterson said. "And I know that sounds crazy, but that's what I thought."
But the school called police, and authorities including the FBI started searching for the pair.
Peterson described stops in Colorado, Utah and California - including two trips to the beach and a day at Disneyland - before the pair crossed the border into Mexico.
Her lawyer, James Martin Davis, has said the boy is not 13 years old, has a 2-year-old child of his own and was Peterson's pursuer, not her victim. He said he would try to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors before a Jan. 22 hearing.
The boy, who was an illegal immigrant, is now living with distant relatives in Mexico. Dornan said the defense was looking for ways to bring him back to the United States to testify against Peterson.~
re:chavez mans hand caught in the cookie jar,,venezuela and argintina both have crumbs on their laps
~Caracas Rebukes US Over Cash Case
Published: 12/13/07, 4:05 AM EDT
By IAN JAMES
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - U.S. prosecutors said a suitcase filled with nearly $800,000 was brought into Argentina from Venezuela as a campaign contribution allegedly intended for Argentina's newly elected president.
The charges drew a strong rebuke from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government, which called it a "fabricated scandal."
The disclosure came Wednesday in a Miami court hearing for a criminal complaint against four men arrested and charged with being illegal Venezuelan agents who attempted a cover-up.
U.S. prosecutors said recorded conversations of those involved indicate the scheme reached to the highest levels of the Venezuelan government.
But Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro called the charges "a desperate effort by the United States government using ... the judicial branch for a political, psychological, media war against the progressive governments of the continent."
The allegations of campaign funding sent clandestinely from Caracas to Buenos Aires will give new ammunition to Chavez's critics who accuse him of meddling in other Latin American countries and using oil money to bolster alliances.
The revelations also will put Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on the defensive just days after she was sworn in as the country's first elected female president, succeeding her husband Nestor Kirchner.
The complaint said "neither the true source nor the intended recipient of those cash funds had been disclosed." Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill said in court, however, that the FBI recorded a conversation in which one of those arrested said the Fernandez campaign was the intended recipient of the money, which was seized by Argentine customs authorities in August.
A presidential spokesman in Buenos Aires said Fernandez's office had no information about the charges and would look into the case before responding.
Charged with failing to register with the U.S. as agents of a foreign power were Venezuelans Moises Roman Majonica, 36; Franklin Duran, 40; and Carlos Kauffmann, 35; and Uruguayan citizen Rodolfo Wanseele, 40. All were arrested Tuesday night and will remain in custody pending a bail hearing Monday.
If convicted, they face up to 10 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines.
The Venezuelan-American man who carried the suitcase, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, is not charged in the case. Argentina asked the U.S. in August to extradite him on fraud charges, but the new case suggests the Miami businessman has gone from suspect to key witness.
As soon as the cash was seized, "we saw it as a political-media ambush," Maduro told state television. He blamed a U.S. "campaign that since August has sought to sully our government's relations with South America."
"We no longer have any doubt. The hand that was behind the campaign surrounding that famous suitcase has emerged," Maduro said.
Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant U.S. Attorney General for National Security, said the complaint "outlines an alleged plot by agents of the Venezuelan government to manipulate an American citizen in Miami in an effort to keep the lid on a burgeoning international scandal."
Prosecutors said in court that evidence against the men includes FBI recordings of conversations between some of them and senior officials in Venezuela's office of the vice president, intelligence service and justice ministry.
In repeated conversations with Antonini, the four allegedly sought to keep secret the Venezuelan source of the money.
The criminal complaint says Duran told Antonini the matter was being handled at "the top of the Venezuelan government."
The money was brought into Argentina aboard a plane chartered by Argentina's state energy company.
A call to Antonini's telephone number Wednesday was met with a recording saying it is now unlisted.
Majonica and Wanseele asked for the court to appoint them a lawyer at a brief hearing Wednesday. The attorney for Duran and Kauffmann, Michael Hacker, said his clients were innocent.
"They have led squeaky-clean lives," Hacker said.
Associated Press writers Curt Anderson in Miami, Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas, Venezuela, and Bill Cormier in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.~
re:romans happy murderers are allowed to live just like in romes gladiator heyday,,plan to light colliseum in honor
~Some Decry N.J. Death Penalty Abolition
Published: 12/18/07, 3:45 AM EDT
By TOM HESTER Jr.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Marilyn Flax has never been involved in political campaigns.
That changed Monday, when New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed a law making New Jersey the first state to abolish the death penalty in more than 40 years.
Flax, whose husband was abducted and murdered in 1989, vowed to work against Corzine and state lawmakers who voted last week to abolish the death penalty.
"I will make sure my voice is used and they are not re-elected again," she said.
John Martini Sr., the man who killed Flax's husband, was among the eight men on New Jersey's death row until Corzine commuted their sentences to life in prison without parole - an attempt to ensure they cannot win an appeal and gain release with the elimination of the death penalty.
Among the eight spared is Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender who murdered 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. The case inspired Megan's Law, which requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities.
Others spared include Ambrose Harris, who kidnapped, raped and murdered 22-year-old Lower Makefield, Pa., artist Kristin Huggins exactly 15 years ago Monday. And it spares Brian Wakefield, who killed two people in 2001.
"Justice should have been served," said Sharon Hazard-Johnson, whose parents were killed by Wakefield, now no longer condemned to die. "I think we all know that justice has not been served. It is quite unbelievable."
Corzine said he was moved by passionate views on both sides, but believes eliminating capital punishment "best captures our state's highest values and reflects our best efforts to search for true justice."
"This bill does not forgive or in any way condone the unfathomable acts carried out by the eight men now on New Jersey's death row," Corzine said. "They will spend the rest of their lives in jail."
New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982 - six years after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions - but it hasn't executed anyone since 1963.
"There is little collective will or appetite for our community to enforce this law and therefore the law has little deterrence value - that is if you ever accepted that there was deterrent value," said Corzine, a longtime death penalty foe.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed New Jersey voters supported keeping the death penalty by a 53 percent to 39 percent margin. The telephone poll of 1,085 voters was conducted from Dec. 5-9 and had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Death penalty opponents hailed the new law as a historic victory against capital punishment. Officials in Rome planned to light the Colosseum in support. Once the arena for deadly gladiator combat and executions, the Colosseum has become a symbol of the fight against the death penalty.
The bill passed the New Jersey Legislature largely along party lines, with controlling Democrats supporting the abolition and minority Republicans opposed. Republicans unsuccessfully sought to retain the death penalty for those who murder law enforcement officials, terrorists and those who rape and murder children.
"New Jersey is doing the right thing," said Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, a Democrat. "By abolishing capital punishment, we will no longer lower ourselves to the level of those who commit murders."
The nation's last execution was Sept. 25 in Texas. Since then, executions have been delayed pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether execution through lethal injection violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
"This is a harbinger of things to come," Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said of New Jersey's decision.
"A thorough examination of the state's death penalty system has revealed it for what it truly is: a colossal public policy failure that wastes taxpayer dollars and diverts valuable resources from proven crime prevention measures."
On the Net:
Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
Pro-Death Penalty: http://www.prodeathpenalty.com
Amnesty International USA: http://www.amnestyusa.org ~
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