re:obama describes bush when saying pres shouldn't worry about how things look
~Obama: Leader Needed in Foreign Policy
Published: 12/19/07, 1:45 AM EDT
By AMY LORENTZEN
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday the nation's foreign policy challenges call for a new leader who will worry more about doing the right thing than how it will look.
"There are moments in history when it is not enough to fall back on conventional ways of doing things, because the threats we face, the challenges we face, are unconventional," Obama told a crowd in Des Moines. "There are moments when we're called to stand up for what is right even if it's not popular, because that's what makes us stronger and safer. There are moments when new challenges demand new American leadership."
He said that for too long the conventional way of thinking about foreign policy has valued "time in Washington over timely judgments, posturing over pragmatism and fear of looking weak over the conviction to get things right."
He said he hasn't been afraid to buck Washington thinking when it comes to foreign policy, including his opposition of going to war with Iraq while he was a state senator in Illinois. He said he's the only Democratic nominee his Republican opponent won't be able to challenge on that point.
While Obama highlighted his record, he also said he's "running to do more than end the war in Iraq."
"I'm even more interested in ending the mind-set that got us into it. It's easy for us to lay all of the problems of the world at George Bush's doorstep," he said.
Rival Hillary Rodham Clinton has frequently questioned Obama's experience when it comes to foreign policy. On Tuesday, he brought out a group of policy advisers including Tony Lake, a national security adviser to former President Clinton, and Susan Rice, former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs under Clinton.
During last week's Des Moines Register debate, Obama was asked how he could offer a new type of foreign policy since several of his advisers once worked for Clinton.
Hillary Clinton laughed out loud at that, and said with a smile, "I'm looking forward to hearing that." Obama, also smiling, waited for the laughter to die down before saying, "Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well."
Obama mentioned the exchange in his remarks Tuesday, saying he's thankful to be joined by members of previous administrations.
"I look forward to drawing on all of the talent that I can get when I am president of the United States - because unlike George Bush, I'm not going to demand an ideological or loyalty test for my advisers," he said. "I don't intend to be surrounded by 'yes' men and women."
Obama said the U.S. continues to focus its resources on the wrong war, and instead should be doing more in Afghanistan. He said the U.S. troop increase was not the answer to Iraq's problems and was not achieving the needed political benchmarks.
"You cannot end a civil war unless the warring parties resolve their differences, and only a removal of our combat brigades in a careful and responsible fashion will put pressure on the Iraqis to do so," he said.
Obama said that conventional thinking when it comes to Iran has "prized bluster over common sense." He took a veiled swipe at Clinton, saying that when he was criticized earlier this year for calling for direct diplomacy with Iran, others were voting for an amendment that "called for George Bush to use our troops in Iraq to counter Iran." Then, he said, officials learned that international pressure had worked, and Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
He said bypassing diplomacy doesn't make the U.S. tough, "it makes us look arrogant." It also makes it more difficult to get international support and opens the door to countries such as China and Russia "to fill the vacuum left by the absence of American leadership," he said.~
(Amazing,,He starts out describing Bush while Bush has been in office then turns it into pile of 'semanticly suspect' sound bytes.This just reinforces my beleief that he has an 'unspoken' agenda revolving around something to do with 'capitulating' American soverignty.Follow the oncepts contained in his remarks.)
re:child raping killer gets to live thanks to progressive liberals instituting ban of death penalty in New Jersey using 'justice system incompetence' as a rational,,even using the buzz phrase,,'evolving'
~'Megan's Law' killer escapes death under N.J. execution ban
Published: 12/17/07, 5:00 PM EDT
TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) - The man who raped and killed 7-year-old Megan Kanka -- the 1994 crime that inspired "Megan's Law" -- is one of eight men whose sentences were commuted to life in prison this week as part of New Jersey's new ban on execution.
The Garden State on Monday became the first state in more than three decades to abolish the death penalty after a commission ruled the punishment is "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency."
Gov. Jon Corzine the day before commuted the sentences of eight men sitting on the state's death row. They will now serve life in prison without parole, according to the governor's office.
Among the eight is Jesse Timmendequas, 46, who was sentenced to death in June 1997 for Megan's murder.
Prosecutors said Timmendequas lured Megan to his home by saying he wanted to show her a puppy. He then raped her, beat her and strangled her with a belt. A day later, he led police to her body.
"Megan's Law," introduced after her death, requires that authorities notify neighbors when a sex offender moves into an area. Timmendequas had twice been convicted of sex crimes -- on 5- and 7-year-olds -- before he murdered Megan.
In signing Monday's bill, Corzine called it a "momentous day" and made New Jersey the first state to ban capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.
"It's a day of progress for the state of New Jersey and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder," Corzine said.
Society is not forgiving criminals, the Democratic governor insisted, but the law is necessary because "government cannot provide a fool-proof death penalty that precludes the possibility of executing the innocent." Watch Corzine sign the document
"Society must ask," he continued, "is it not morally superior to imprison 100 people for life than it is to execute all 100 when it's probable we execute an innocent?"
The state Assembly approved the measure Thursday by a 44-36 vote after the Senate OK'd it 21-16.
New Jersey has not executed a prisoner since 1963.
The new legislation replaces the death penalty with life in prison without parole. The bill was introduced in November after a state commission concluded capital punishment was an ineffective deterrent to crime.
Since the Supreme Court's reinstatement of the death penalty, almost 1,100 people have been executed in 37 states. See the death penalty by state
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, New Jersey joins 13 states and the District of Columbia that do not use execution as a means of punishment. ~
re:americas own palestinian style problem on southern border with Mexico escalating
~Border Patrol Fires Tear Gas Into Mexico
Published: 12/17/07, 5:25 PM EDT
By ELLIOT SPAGAT
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Border Patrol agents are firing tear gas and powerful pepper-spray weapons across the border into Mexico to repel what the agency says are an increasing number of attacks by assailants hurling rocks, bottles and bricks.
The counteroffensive has drawn complaints that innocent families are being caught in the crossfire.
"A neighbor shouted, 'Stop it! There are children living here," said Esther Arias Medina, 41, who on Wednesday fled her Tijuana, Mexico, shanty with her 3-week-old grandson after the infant began coughing from smoke that seeped through the walls.
A helmeted agent on the U.S. side said nothing as he stood with a rifle on top of a 10-foot border fence next to the three-room home that Arias shares with six others.
"We don't deserve this," Arias said. "The people who live here don't throw rocks. Those are people who come from the outside, but we're paying the price."
Witnesses in Arias' hardscrabble neighborhood described eight attacks since August that involved tear gas or pepper spray, some that forced residents to evacuate.
The Border Patrol says its agents have been attacked nearly 1,000 times during a one-year period.
The agency's top official in San Diego, Mike Fisher, said agents are taking action because Mexican authorities have been slow to respond. When an attack happens, he said, American authorities often wait hours for them to come, and help usually never arrives.
"We have been taking steps to ensure that our agents are safe," Fisher said.
Mexico's acting consul general in San Diego, Ricardo Pineda, has insisted that U.S. authorities stop firing onto Mexican soil. He met with Border Patrol officials last month after the agency fired tear gas into Mexico. The agency defended that counterattack, saying agents were being hit with a hail of ball bearings from slingshots in Mexico.
U.S. officials say the violence indicates that smugglers are growing more desperate as stepped-up security makes it harder to sneak across the border. The assailants try to distract agents long enough to let people dash in the United States.
The head of a union representing Border Patrol employees said the violence also results from the decision to put agents right up against the border, a departure from the early 1990s when they waited farther back to make arrests.
"When you get that close to the fence, your agents are sitting ducks," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
Border Patrol agents were attacked 987 times along the U.S.-Mexico border during the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, the agency said. That's up 31 percent from 752 attacks a year earlier, and it's the highest number since the agency began recording attacks in the late 1990s.
About two-thirds of the attacks were with rocks. Many of the rest involved physical assaults, such as illegal immigrants getting into fist fights with guards.
About one of every four attacks occurred in San Diego, and most of those happened along a heavily fortified, 10-mile stretch of the border starting at the Pacific Ocean.
Agent Joseph Ralph estimates he has been struck by rocks 20 times since joining the Border Patrol in 1987, once fracturing a shoulder blade. "You find yourself trying to take cover," he said.
About four months ago, a large rock struck the hood of agent Ellery Taylor's vehicle. "The only thing you can think is, 'I'm glad that that wasn't my head.' There's no way to see it coming," Taylor said.
In October, agents in California and Arizona received compressed-air guns that shoot pepper-spray canisters more than 200 feet. Agents already had less powerful pepper-launchers that lose their punch after about 30 feet - even less if absorbed by thick clothing or cardboard.
The Border Patrol says the pepper weapons are a less lethal alternative to regular guns, but they have caused at least one fatality. In October 2004, a college student died after she was struck in the eye by a pepper-spray canister that officers fired to control a celebration of the Red Sox's pennant win.
Border Patrol SWAT teams along the 1,952-mile U.S.-Mexico border are also equipped with tear gas, "flash bombs" that emit blinding light and "sting ball" grenades that disperse hundreds of tiny rubber pellets.
U.S. officials say the new tactics may spare lives. An agent shot and killed a 20-year-old Mexican man whose arm was cocked back in March in Calexico, Calif., where rock attacks have soared in the last year. Two years ago, an agent fatally shot a rock thrower at the San Diego-Tijuana border.
No criminal charges were filed in either case.
Robis Guadalupe Argumedo, a seamstress in Tijuana, said she has been startled by tear gas on four nights since Aug. 7, when her 12-year-old son suffered a nose bleed. That attack also shattered a window of her neighbor's car.
Argumedo, 31, said she shouted in protest across the border at a helmeted agent on Dec. 8 after opening her front door to a cloud of tear gas. "He said: 'I'm the policeman of the world and I can do what I want.'"
Benito Arias said his 19-year-old sister-in-law fainted during an apparent tear gas attack about two weeks ago. The woman, five months pregnant, was given oxygen at the hospital.
His father, Jose Arias, fled with his wife a few blocks away, where paramedics checked their blood pressure. He said he sympathizes with the Border Patrol because Mexican authorities do nothing to prevent people from hurling rocks over the fence at agents.
"This is a matter between government and government," said Arias, 75. "They have to work out an agreement. We are innocent. What can we do about it?"~
~Border Patrol Says More Agents Attacked
Published: 12/19/07, 5:25 AM EDT
SAN DIEGO (AP) - The U.S. Border Patrol says its agents have been assaulted 250 times along the Mexican border since Oct. 1, a number that represents a 38 percent increase from the same period last year.
Officials say the rising violence indicates smugglers are frustrated and more desperate as it has become more difficult to cross the border illegally. Agents have been attacked with rocks, vehicles and Molotov cocktails.
"Criminals are discovering they can no longer operate with impunity in certain areas and are systematically being prevented from using the border for their criminal activities," Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said in a news release.
The agency's San Diego sector, which encompasses western California, reported the steepest increase. Assaults more than quadrupled to 110 from Oct. 1 through Sunday, up from 24 in the same period last year.
The agency recently equipped agents in California and Arizona with a powerful, pepper-spray launcher that has a range of more than 200 feet. It has also fired tear gas into Tijuana, Mexico, several times in response to attacks.
Overall, the Border Patrol said agents were attacked 987 times during the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, the highest since it began keeping track in the late 1990s.
By the end of 2008, The Department of Homeland Security plans to complete 370 miles of pedestrian fencing intended to stop illegal immigrants on foot, and 300 miles of vehicle barriers to stop drug smugglers on the southwest border. As of Sept. 30 of this year, 145 miles of fence were complete.~
re:al-q still serious threat
~Commander: Al-Qaida Still Able to Attack
Published: 12/19/07, 10:25 PM EDT
By PATRICK QUINN
BAGHDAD (AP) - The top U.S. commander in northern Iraq warned Wednesday that al-Qaida in Iraq was still capable of staging spectacular attacks despite a 50 percent drop in bombings and other violence in his region.
Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said al-Qaida in Iraq was being pushed north by the increased numbers of U.S. troops that surged into Baghdad over the summer and fall. The insurgents are also being flushed out of Anbar province by "awakening councils" - groups of Sunni Arab tribesmen the U.S. military has backed to help fight al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies.
"Many of them have transited our province" of Diyala, which has seen some of the worst violence in Iraq, he said. "There are still some very bad things happening in that province, but we are continuing to pursue al-Qaida so they don't find a safe haven anywhere."
He said al-Qaida extremists could still carry out attacks against infrastructure projects such as bridges.
"You know, there are going to be continued spectacular attacks," he said when asked about the bombing of a bridge across Mosul dam on Monday.
The attack, carried out with a truck bomb, closed the bridge to vehicle traffic and may have been an attempt by insurgents to bring down the dam. It may also have been an effort by insurgents to create a temporary safe haven on one of its banks.
Built in the 1980s on the Tigris River near Mosul, the dam made headlines in June after a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said potential erosion of its foundation could cause it to buckle under the water pressure, flooding Mosul and parts of Baghdad, 225 miles to the south.
"We have some intelligence that says it was part of a bigger plot. There is some intelligence that they may have wanted to cut off that side of the river to make safe havens," Hertling said. "There are some indications that they wanted to close that route because it is used by coalition forces."
Hertling added: "I personally think it is an additional indicator that these people who are trying to disrupt the people of Iraq will do anything to screw up the people of Iraq."
He said that during an ongoing operation against insurgents and al-Qaida in western Diyala province, military forces discovered weapons caches, a torture chamber with a bed that was wired to electrocute victims and knives and swords covered in blood.
Violence in Iraq has abated in recent months and the U.S. military has said it has dropped by as much as 60 to 70 percent in some places. In Baghdad, only one bullet-riddled body was found washed up along the Tigris River Wednesday, while another man was killed by a roadside bomb.
The lull may have been a result of the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday for Sunni Muslims in Iraq. Shiites - who also celebrate the day - are expected to mark Eid on Friday.
Eid al-Adha is a holy celebration for Muslims, commemorating the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. According to Muslim tradition, after Abraham expresses his willingness, God sends the prophet two sheep instead for slaughter.
Hertling said the four provinces under his command had seen a marked reduction of attacks by improvised explosive devices such as roadside bombs.
"We have seen a precipitous decline in IED operations," he said, adding that they had dropped by 50 percent from June, when there were 1,698 attacks, compared to 849 in November.
But such bombings still plague his region, and Hertling's troops have been working hard for five days to restore a major four-lane highway in western Mosul that has been closed because of IED attacks on civilian and military traffic.
In that time, three miles of the road, known as Highway One, were cleared and repaired, the military said.
"Infrastructure such as Highway One are what enable major cities such as Mosul to thrive. Al-Qaida has made every attempt to keep this unusable," said Maj. John Oliver Jr., operations officer for 3d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Farther to the north, Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq said Wednesday that their forces would defend civilians if they were caught up in any fighting between Turkish troops and Turkish Kurd rebels from the outlawed PKK in the area.
On Tuesday, Turkey sent hundreds of troops across the border into the frigid mountains of northern Iraq, claiming it inflicted heavy losses on rebels in the small-scale incursion, which lasted about 15 hours, and from airstrikes two days earlier.~
re:joining the ritual rooted in hubal and 360 other pre-mo diety worship
~Hajj Intimidating for Secular Reporter
Published: 12/17/07, 6:25 PM EDT
By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI
MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Performing the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage more ancient than Islam itself, is complicated and confusing even for those well-versed in Islam - so it's particularly intimidating for someone who's hardly religious.
As a secular journalist covering this central pillar of Islam, which began Monday, I am determined to go through the rites with an open mind.
A major hurdle is learning what to do. Before leaving my hotel in Jiddah for the holy city of Mecca, I took the first required steps. I bathed and put on the special clothes of a woman performing hajj: a long white head scarf, a long shirt, a pair of loose pants and a white robe to my ankles.
My colleague, AP Television News cameraman Imad Saeid, coached me through the next step: announcing my intention to perform the pilgrimage. I repeated after him the formula proclaiming the start of my journey, "Labeik, Allahuma, labeik" - "I am here at Your service, Lord, I am here."
During the drive Sunday through the desert to Mecca - the birthplace of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, about 50 miles east of Jiddah - the rest of The Associated Press team gave me a crash course on the rituals, starting with the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped stone shrine that pilgrims circle seven times at the start and end of the hajj.
APTN's Mokhtar Shehada, an Egyptian, wondered if he had to make amends for being aggressive the previous day to a pilgrim who pushed him as he was circling the Kaaba. Hajj rules warn against arguing or fighting during the five-day pilgrimage. Shehada stressed that he had already apologized to the pilgrim.
Our guide from the Saudi Information Ministry, Mansour al-Sibiyani, told Shehada he should check with a cleric about whether he should pay for a goat to be slaughtered and given to the poor, a common penance for mistakes during the rites.
In Mecca, we hit crowds: Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims massed around the Grand Mosque housing the Kaaba. Saudi officials said Monday some 2.5 million Muslims from around the world are attending this year's hajj, along with a half-million Saudis.
The mass of humanity is awe-inspiring - and that is part of the point. The hajj is a deeply personal rite for the faithful, a chance to get closer to God, walk in the footsteps of Muhammad and Abraham and receive the forgiveness of sins. But it is also a communal experience, a symbol of the unity of the Islamic world.
"It is amazing to see Muslims united, No other activity in the world could bring so many people together for the same purpose, not even a rock band group," said Eulalle Benichou, a Canadian pilgrim walking with her husband near the Grand Mosque.
Many pilgrims talk of the physical arduousness of hajj as a test of faith. But, as I found, it also makes keeping your mind on faith difficult.
I stopped to perform the noon prayers at the gate of the Grand Mosque, standing shoulder to shoulder with other women and with men in the "ihram" - the required garb for male pilgrims, white pieces of terrycloth, one around the waist, another slung over the shoulder.
But it's hard to concentrate - not only because I don't really know how to pray, but also because of the shoving of other pilgrims trying to get to the front of the line.
The layers of white fabric around my head and neck were suffocating and distracting - I don't normally wear a head scarf - and I looked with envy at the men praying next to me with their bare arms and necks.
Glancing at other worshippers, I tried to follow the prayer movements: standing straight, bowing with hands on the knees, placing the forehead on the floor as in yoga.
As I prostrated, the rear end of a man in front of me hit me in the face; later his heels were almost in my mouth.
The close mingling of men and women here is remarkable, when in all other areas of life - particularly in Saudi Arabia - the genders are strictly segregated. In much of the Arab world, men and women are separated when they pray in mosques, and many conservative men consider it a sin to shake hands with women.
But here in the most sacred place in the Muslim world, men and women pray side by side and touch without the slightest inhibition. A major theme of the hajj is the equality of all mankind before God - man and woman, rich and poor, young and old.
But it's not without friction. In the lineup for prayers, a man chastised two women sitting comfortably in front of him for "not giving room to men" to pray.
"It's not right," he barked, pointing his finger at the women, who ignored him.
After prayers, we entered the Grand Mosque - stepping with the right foot first as required - to perform the "tawaf," the circling of the Kaaba. Inside the giant, multilevel mosque is the mesmerizing sight of a river of people moving around the shrine, as if ice skating in slow motion.
The roots of the hajj go back to Abraham, known to Muslims by his Arabic name Ibrahim and considered part of a line of prophets completed by Muhammad in the 7th century. Abraham and his son Ishmael are believed to have built the Kaaba, the focal point of Muslims around the world when they pray every day.
But it was difficult to get into the state of spirituality that many secular friends promised I would reach, despite my skepticism and doubts. I was distracted by the pilgrims pushing and shoving, and by the view out of the open-air mosque - heavy construction cranes and colorful towers of five-star hotels.
I tried to pay attention to the rules, laid out in a booklet provided by pilgrims, but kept forgetting things like raising my hands to the sacred black stone at one corner of the Kaaba at each circuit as all pilgrims do.
In the mosque's halls surrounding the Kaaba, many pilgrims rested, napped, ate or chatted with each other or on cell phones plugged into sockets on the marble columns above shelves bearing copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
The next station was the "saii," where pilgrims move back and forth seven times - at a slight run - between the hills of Safa and Marwa, now enclosed within the Grand Mosque complex. The rite re-enacts the search by Abraham's wife Hagar for water for her infant son Ishmael in the desert. After her seventh run, the spring known as Zamzam sprang miraculously under Ishmael's feet.
Over the next days, the mass of pilgrims will move outside Mecca to sites in the desert. On Tuesday, they gather on the Plain of Arafat to perform the "woqouf," standing in the presence of God in a daylong vigil that marks the zenith of the hajj. Afterwards, they migrate to nearby Mina to perform a ritual stoning of the devil.~
re:ap reports on politics taking away from muslims holiday cheer
~Muslims Mark Religious Holiday
Published: 12/19/07, 10:46 PM EDT
By ZEINA KARAM
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Millions of Muslims across the Middle East on Wednesday marked the first day of Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday in the Islamic calendar, with prayers, family reunions and traditional sweets for the occasion.
In Lebanon, where a yearlong political crisis took away much of the holiday cheer, the usually festive mood was subdued. It was a bleak holiday in the Palestinian territories, too, particularly in Gaza City where the holiday fell under the shadow of Hamas' violent takeover and the deepening international isolation that followed.
But in Iraq, some expressed a feeling of optimism after months of declining violence.
"This Eid differs from the previous ones, as we have received unexpected numbers of worshippers," Jamal al-Kubaisi, imam of Abu Hanifa, the biggest Sunni mosque in Baghdad, told The Associated Press.
More than 10,000 faithful showed at Abu Hanifa in the Sunni-dominated neighborhood of Azamiyah at sunrise to perform the first prayers for the holiday.
"I am so optimistic this Eid, and I wanted to avoid talking about politics so as not to bother people while I see happiness on their faces," he said.
In Both Lebanon and Iraq, however, Sunni and Shiite Muslims disagreed on the start of the Eid, reflecting tensions between them. Shiites in Iraq will mark Eid on Thursday, while many Shiites in Lebanon will start the Eid on Friday.
The day is set by sighting of the moon, with Muslims traditionally following a lunar calendar for its holy days.
Thousands of worshippers prayed at mosques in the Lebanese capital Beirut and in towns and villages across the country - and almost all sermons centered on politics.
"The situation has become unbearable. The people cannot take more sadness and gloom," lamented Grand Mufti Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, the spiritual leader of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims.
Lebanon has been without president since Nov. 23 when President Emile Lahoud stepped down without a successor. Nine attempts by the sharply divided parliament to elect a new president have failed because of a boycott by opposition lawmakers. The country is deeply split between the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.
Both sides have agreed on the election of Army Commander Michel Suleiman as a compromise president, but disputes persist over political issues and the mechanism to bring him to the presidency since Lebanon's constitution bans an army chief from becoming president. Another voting attempt will be made Saturday, when parliament is scheduled to meet again.
There are fears the crisis could degenerate into street violence, particularly following the Dec. 13 car bomb assassination of a top Lebanese general who had been expected to take over as head of the army after Suleiman's election.
Kabbani, in his sermon at the Grand Omari mosque in Beirut attended by Saniora, urged legislators to "head to Parliament on Saturday to elect a president according to the constitution and begin to revive state institutions that protect the country."
Saniora and other politicians have issued statements apologizing for not receiving well wishers this year, due to the political situation.
Still, many Lebanese celebrated by taking their children out to play, followed by lunch with relatives and friends. Al-Adha this year falls only few days before the Christmas holidays, making for an extended holiday during which many Lebanese expatriates chose to come to Lebanon to celebrate.
The arrival lounge at Beirut airport was clogged with visitors coming to spend the year-end holidays with their loved ones, despite the volatile situation.
Al-Adha holiday, or the Feat of the Sacrifice, commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God - According to Muslim tradition, after Abraham expresses his willingness, God sends the prophet two sheep instead for slaughter.
In neighboring Syria, many families spent the day outdoors and at amusement parks.
"The Eid is reflected in the eyes of the children," said Munzer Turjman, a 42-year-old Syrian merchant watching over his two daughters as they played on swings. "But what about the children of Iraq and Palestine? Don't they have the right to be happy too?" he asked.
Hiba Zuheili, a 26-year-old housewife, said she has been toiling in the kitchen for the past two days to prepare for the holiday.
"But when you see the children's happiness, you forget all your troubles," she said.~
re:public relations move by bin ladins #2 toady
~Al-Qaida Offers 'Interview' With No. 2
Published: 12/19/07, 9:05 PM EDT
By MAGGIE MICHAEL
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Al-Qaida has invited journalists to send questions to its No. 2 figure, Ayman al-Zawahri, in the first such offer by the increasingly media-savvy terror network to "interview" one of its leaders since the 9-11 attacks.
The invitation is a new twist in al-Qaida's campaign to reach a broader audience, and represents an attempt by al-Zawahri to present himself as a sophisticated leader rather than a mass murderer.
"I think their media capability is sophisticated as ever," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. "It shows how this group with 7th century ideology is exploiting 21st century media capabilities."
The advertisement, issued by the group's media arm Al-Sahab on an Islamic militant Web site, invites "individuals, agencies and all media" to submit written questions for al-Zawahri by sending them to the Web forums where Al-Sahab traditionally posts its messages.
Al-Sahab asked the forums to send it the questions "with no changes or substitutions, no matter whether they agree or disagree (with the question)."
It said it would take questions until Jan. 16, after which al-Zawahri would answer them "as much as he is able and at the soonest possible occasion." It did not say whether his answers would come in writing, video or audiotape.
The authenticity of the invitation, first posted Sunday, could not be independently confirmed. But it was posted with the logo of Al-Sahab and the style of graphics and calligraphy it traditionally uses, along with a photo of al-Zawahri. The advertisement appeared on several Web sites that Al-Sahab officially uses for issuing messages.
Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri have given a few interviews to Western and Arabic press since they first rose to prominence in the 1990s. But neither has been interviewed since the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which toppled al-Qaida's patrons the Taliban and sent al-Qaida's leaders into hiding.
They are believed to be in the lawless regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Since then, al-Zawahri has emerged as al-Qaida's most prominent spokesman. He has appeared in at least 16 videos and audiotapes this year, compared to four for bin Laden.
As a whole, the terror network's messaging has dramatically increased this year, with Al-Sahab issuing more than 90 videos in 2007, more than the total number for all three previous years, according to IntelCenter, a U.S. counterterrorism center that monitors militant message traffic.
In the most recent, issued Tuesday, Abu Laith al-Libi, a Libyan al-Qaida commander in Afghanistan who also releases frequent messages, lectured on the duty of Muslims to join the battle against the "devil."
The videos have grown more sophisticated in targeting their international audience. Videos are always subtitled in English, and messages this year from bin Laden and al-Zawahri focusing on Pakistan and Afghanistan have been dubbed in the local languages, Urdu and Pashtu.
Videos and audiotapes have also had a faster turnaround, referring sometimes to events that occurred only days earlier. The al-Qaida leaders' messages are often interwoven with footage of past attacks, militants training and TV news clips of world events and leaders including President Bush - evidence that their producers have easy access to media.
"The translation of their statements and their release on the Internet shows that al-Qaida puts a lot of attention on making their messages as widely heard as possible," said Rita Katz, who runs the Washington-based terrorist monitoring SITE Institute.
"You have to keep in mind that al-Qaida is an operational organization, but at the same time they pay a lot of attention to the media warfare. You can't win one without the other," Katz said.
Ben Venzke, the head of IntelCenter, cited an open solicitation for questions from an arm of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia a few years ago as a precedent for Sunday's message. He said the group answered a variety of questions "ranging from big picture things to small practical things."
"I would expect to see a similar thing with al-Zawahri," Venzke said.
In his messages, al-Zawahri has taken on the role of the ideological policeman of the jihadi movement, warning against lapses in dedication to "holy war" against the U.S. "crusaders." He often lashes out at Muslim clerics who don't advocate jihad and Arab regimes allied to the West, while telling the Muslim world that the U.S. is failing in its policies.
His overarching theme has been to present al-Qaida as the leader of militant movements and to keep them unified. Although the extent of al-Qaida's control over allied groups is never clear, many analysts believe al-Zawahri likely holds the network's operational reins, leading the rebuilding of its command and heading meetings of its top leadership.
Hoffman said al-Zawahri is also trying to boost his own image to look more like a true leader as opposed to a "homicidal thug." Opening himself up to questioning - in a similar fashion done in U.S. political campaigns - makes him look more sophisticated, he said.
"Al-Qaida wants to look more cutting edge and give the perception of greater legitimacy," Hoffman said.
Al-Zawahri's latest videotape, on Monday, was in the form of an interview with Al-Sahab, in which an unseen interviewer could be heard asking questions to the Egyptian-born militant, who answered while sitting in front of shelves of stacked Islamic law and theology books.
Al-Zawahri warned of "traitors" among insurgents in Iraq - an attempt to undermine groups of Iraqi Sunni tribesmen that the U.S. military has backed to help fight al-Qaida in Iraq.
Jeremy Binnie, a terrorism analyst with the Jane's military affairs consultancy in London, said the invitation to journalists is an extension of that message. Al-Qaida is scrambling to rein in any doubt that it is in control in Iraq, he said.
"It suggests that they are pretty desperate to get their views out there," he said.
AP reporter Lindsay Holmwood in New York contributed to this story.~
re:and water boarding is bad??:
~Torture house, mass graves discovered in Iraq
Published: 12/19/07, 8:00 PM EDT
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - Coalition forces found 26 bodies buried in mass graves and a bloodstained "torture complex" with chains hanging from walls and ceilings and a bed connected to an electrical system, the military said Wednesday.
The troops were conducting an operation north of Muqdadiya, Iraq, when they made the discovery.
From December 8-11, the troops who found the complex also killed 24 people they said were terrorists and detained 37 suspects, according to a statement issued by Multinational Division North at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.
The moves were part of an operation called Iron Reaper that has been in progress across northern Iraq for the past few weeks.
The complex was in an area thought to be an al Qaeda in Iraq safe haven and operating base, the military said. Iraqis had told the military about the site during an earlier operation.
"Evidence of murder, torture and intimidation against local villagers was found throughout the area," the military statement said.
Ground forces first found what appeared to be a detention facility. As they cleared the area, they found several bodies.
Eventually, 26 bodies were uncovered in mass graves next to what were thought to be execution sites, the military said.
The detention facility was one of three connected to the torture complex, Multinational Division North said. One of the facilities appeared to have served as a headquarters building and a torture facility, it added.
Photos given to the news media show a filthy bed wired to an electrical system, with an outlet hanging from wires on the wall. Other photos show an entrance to the underground bunker and barbed wire stretched outside it.
The operation netted nine weapons caches, which have been destroyed, the military said. They included anti-aircraft weapons, sniper rifles, more than 65 machine guns and pistols, 50 grenades and a surface-to-air missile launcher and platform, the statement said.
Also found were mines, pipe bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar tubes and rounds and 130 pounds of homemade explosives. ~
re:another guilty plea by american islamic terrorist involved in plot hatched by deceptive islamist in prison
~Third Guilty Plea in Calif. Terror Case
Published: 12/17/07, 8:05 PM EDT
By JEREMIAH MARQUEZ
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A third man accused of plotting to attack Southern California military sites and other targets pleaded guilty Monday to a terrorism conspiracy charge in federal court.
Gregory Vernon Patterson, 23, entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana to one count of conspiring to levy war against the U.S. government through terrorism. He also pleaded guilty to conspiring to use a firearm during that offense.
Patterson could face as many as 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in April, prosecutors said.
Two other men - Kevin James, 31, and Levar Haley Washington, 28 - pleaded guilty in the case last week. A fourth, Hammad Riaz Samana, has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial and is undergoing psychiatric care at a federal prison.
All except Samana, a citizen of Pakistan, are American-born Muslim converts. The men were indicted in 2005 for what authorities said was a plot to attack American military facilities, Israeli government offices and synagogues in the Los Angeles area.
Prosecutors said the plot was orchestrated by Washington, Patterson and Samana at the behest of James, an inmate at California State Prison in Sacramento and founder of the radical Muslim group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh.
Patterson has cooperated with authorities, according his attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson.
"He volunteered to work for the government after finding out James lied," McKesson said. "James misled them in what the Quran says."
The plotters were within weeks of being able to carry out an attack before they were discovered about two months before the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, officials said. Police uncovered the plot in July 2005 while investigating a string of gas station robberies that authorities say were committed to finance the attacks.~
re:slik willie on BHObama
~Clinton Dig at Obama Has Ring to '92 Race
Published: 12/18/07, 4:05 AM EDT
By RON FOURNIER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Bill Clinton says Sen. Barack Obama is a highly ambitious, political prodigy who is asking voters to "roll the dice" and elect him president.
He should know - that's a fair description of Clinton when he sought the presidency in 1992.
The fact that the former president is stealing a page from the same Republican playbook used against him 15 years ago underscores the threat Obama poses to the candidacy of Clinton's wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
It also illustrates Clinton's penchant for rewriting history.
"Even when I was a governor and young and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn't run the first time. I could have," Clinton said on PBS's "The Charlie Rose Show," referring to the 1988 presidential campaign.
"And I had lots of Democratic governors encouraging me to. I knew in my bones I shouldn't run - that I was a good enough politician to win, but I didn't think I was ready to be president," Clinton said.
While there may be some truth to that statement, Clinton didn't seem at the time to lack confidence in his abilities as governor or a potential president. He was worried about rumors of infidelity, some which were investigated by his own staff, and privately expressed doubts about whether he could win in 1988.
"He's being a little disingenuous," said Art English, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Clinton was 42 in 1988, four years younger than Obama is now. Already one of the nation's longest serving governors, Clinton accomplished little between 1988 and 1992 that added to his depth of experience - other than winning a fifth term as Arkansas governor while promising not to seek the presidency before his term expired.
He broke that promise.
As a first-time presidential candidate, Clinton cast himself as an "agent of change" in troubled times, and faced criticism from Republicans about his youth and inexperience.
Obama finds himself in the same boat, with Clinton manning the torpedoes.
"If you listen to the people who are most strongly for him, they say basically 'We have to throw away all these experienced people because they have been through the wars of the '90s and they made enough decisions and enough calls that they made a few mistakes. And what we want is somebody who started running for president a year after he became senator because he's fresh, he's new, he's never made a mistake, and he has massive political skills. And we're willing to risk it,'" Clinton told Rose.
He called Obama an "enormous talent" in the way a boss condescends to a scrappy new intern.
"Is it more important to have somebody who is basically by his very nature a compelling, incredibly attractive, highly intelligent symbol of transformation, or is it more (important) to have somebody who also would symbolize change by being the first woman president, but has actually done incredible numbers of things to change other people's lives," he said of his wife.
There is a fair case to make that Obama is not ready for the presidency.
Less than four years removed from serving in state Senate, Obama can't point to more than a decade in the governor's office as could Clinton. He wasn't a war hero, as was a young presidential candidate from another era, John F. Kennedy. And he didn't serve first as vice president, as did the 40-something Teddy Roosevelt.
Even his admirers in Springfield have their doubts about Obama.
"The unknown is the administrative and foreign policy experience," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican who supports Obama.
Obama knows that he's asking voters to take a leap of faith.
"... People have to feel comfortable that, 'You know what? This guy can handle the job,'" he told The Associated Press last summer. "It's a stretch for them because I haven't been on the national scene for long and haven't gone through the conventional paths that we traditionally draw for our presidents, so they've got to stretch a little bit during a period where there's a lot of stuff going on internationally, right?"
He said at the time his challenge was to define experience as something more than service in Washington or a state capital. He needed voters to take the full measure of his life, his judgment and his style, Obama said, because if the race turns into a battle of resumes, he loses.
So it was no surprise that Obama was ready to respond to the former president's criticism.
"Here's a quote," Obama said with a smile. "'The same old experience is irrelevant. You can have the right kind of experience or the wrong kind of experience. And mine is rooted in the real lives of real people, and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change.'"
"And that was Bill Clinton in 1992."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ron Fournier has covered politics for The Associated Press for nearly 20 years, including the last few years of Clinton's governorship in Arkansas.~
re:convicted slavers daughter plays boo-hoo over sentence for 'cultural classist' behaviour brought from india that included forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude, and harboring aliens
~NY Couple Convicted in Slavery Case
Published: 12/17/07, 6:25 PM EDT
By FRANK ELTMAN
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) - A jury on Monday convicted a millionaire couple of enslaving two Indonesian women they brought to their mansion to work as housekeepers.
Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, and his wife, Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 45, were each convicted of all charges in a 12-count federal indictment that included forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude, and harboring aliens.
Prosecutors said the women were subjected to repeated psychological and physical abuse and were forced to work 18 hours or more a day.
The Sabhnanis, who have four children and operate a worldwide perfume business out of their Muttontown home on Long Island's Gold Coast, could face up to 40 years in prison, although attorneys predicted the punishment would be considerably less. He is from India, and she is from Indonesia, but both are naturalized U.S. citizens.
As the verdict was read, one of the couple's daughters, Dakshina, collapsed in the front row, prompting the judge to clear the courtroom while medical personnel attended to her. Soon after, her mother went to comfort her, and she also fainted.
Both women were taken to a hospital, leading the judge to postpone the remaining court proceedings until Tuesday, including the scheduling of a sentencing date. The mother and daughter were released from the emergency room later Monday.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Hoffman said he would appeal. "Apparently, the jury was taken by the histrionics" of the Indonesian women, he said.
Fellow defense lawyer Stephen Scaring said another of the Sabhnanis' children, daughter Tina, told him: "We never did anything to anybody. How could this happen to us in America?"
Prosecutors refused to comment until court proceedings were completed.
A representative of the Indonesian consulate in New York declined to comment.
Over six weeks of testimony, prosecutors called it a case of "modern-day slavery." Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko said in closing arguments the poorly educated women worked as housekeepers for $100 or $150 a month - all of which was sent to their relatives back home.
Lesko said the women, known only as Samirah and Enung, were subjected to "punishment that escalated into a cruel form of torture" that ended when one of the women fled on Mother's Day.
Allegations of abuse included beatings with brooms and umbrellas, slashings with knives, being made to repeatedly climb stairs and take freezing cold showers as punishment for misdeeds that included sleeping late or stealing food from trash bins because they were poorly fed.
Samirah, the woman who fled the house in May, said she was forced to eat dozens of chili peppers and then was forced to eat her own vomit when she could not digest the peppers, prosecutors said.
"This did not happen in the 1800s," Lesko said. "This happened in the 21st century."
Enung testified that Samirah's nude body once was covered in plastic wrapping tape on orders from Varsha Sabhnani, who then instructed Enung to rip it off. "When I pulled it off, she was screaming," the housekeeper said through an interpreter before breaking down in tears on the witness stand.
The trial also provided a glimpse into the problem of domestic workers being exploited in slave-like conditions. Experts hoped that the verdict would have a lasting legacy.
"This certainly does send a message that people can't do this," said Nancy Foner, a sociology professor at Hunter College in New York City. "This is a lesson; I hope this verdict will make people frightened."
The Sabhnanis' defense attorneys contended the two women concocted the story of abuse as a way of escaping the house for more lucrative opportunities. They argued the housekeepers practiced witchcraft and may have abused themselves as part of an Indonesian self-mutilation ritual. They also said the couple went on frequent vacations that would have given the two women ample opportunity to flee.
The Sabhnanis spent nearly three months in jail until a judge approved a bail package that required them to post $4.5 million and pay an estimated $10,000 a day for security monitoring while they were kept under house arrest. The bail package remained in effect Monday.
The women have been cared for by Catholic Charities during the investigation, and it was unclear where they would go now that the trial is over.~
re:the black bigot sharpton ignores hate crimes against whites and focuses on 'more difficult' sex abduction by W.Va. white family of a 'girlfriend' of one who was black
~Sharpton Seeks Hate Charge in W.Va. Case
Published: 12/19/07, 12:25 AM EDT
By SHAYA TAYEFE MOHAJER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The Rev. Al Sharpton called on prosecutors Tuesday to add hate crimes charges against the six people suspected of kidnapping and torturing a young black woman, and vowed not to give up the pressure.
"The best way to keep us out of town is to handle hate crimes the right way here in town," the civil rights activist told a crowd of nearly 100 people gathered at the First Baptist Church in honor of Megan Williams.
Authorities said three men and three women held Williams captive for days at a rural trailer in Big Creek this summer - sexually assaulting her, beating her and forcing her to eat human and animal feces. She was rescued after an anonymous caller alerted Logan County sheriff's deputies.
All waived their preliminary hearings and the case is expected to go in January before a grand jury, where they face sexual assault and kidnapping charges. The kidnapping count carries a possible sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutor Brian Abraham has said state hate crimes charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, could be difficult to prove because Williams had a "social relationship" with one of the suspects, 24-year-old Bobby Brewster.
Abraham has advised the Williams family not to participate in public events for fear of tainting jury pools. Williams did not attend Tuesday's event.
The Associated Press generally does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault, but Williams and her mother agreed to release her name. Carmen Williams said she wanted people to know what her daughter had endured.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and several local preachers have also stayed away, saying they were concerned it could harm the prosecution's case. Local and national NAACP leaders also said they disapproved of the organizers of a November march, a Washington, D.C.-based group called Black Lawyers for Justice because of its ties to black radicals.
Sharpton also criticized Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who has called for Williams' supporters to back off over similar concerns. Jones had objected to the involvement of Malik Shabazz, the Williams family's legal adviser, because of his past ties to black radicals.
"Any public official or preacher who can't put the pain of his people above the politics of leaders is not fit to be a politician or a preacher," Sharpton said.
Sharpton called Williams' case "a national disgrace" and pledged to talk about the it every day on his syndicated radio talk show.
"If the federal government can intervene to protect dogs from Michael Vick in Virginia then they can do something to protect Megan Williams in West Virginia," Sharpton told The Associated Press.
Also charged in the case are Brewster's mother Frankie Brewster, 49; Danny Combs, 20; Karen Burton, 46; Burton's daughter, Alisha Burton, 23; and George A. Messer, 27.~
(look at this racist staement he made,,now don't forget,,he is talking to 'other folks while doing such himself,,oh wait he does define a difference,,note,,'his people'.Now what kind of semantic subversion does THAT show?:
~"Any public official or preacher who can't put the pain of his people above the politics of leaders is not fit to be a politician or a preacher," Sharpton said.~
If he is a Christian 'Reverand' then those white and other folks maliciously and un warrantedly beaten or abused by blacks are HIS people,,aren't they?Why ain't Al speaking out against racists who share HIS skin tone?)
re:maybe he will have reason to march on this town
~Pa. Officer Cited in Fatal Crash Fired
Published: 12/19/07, 9:46 PM EDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A rookie police officer who ran a red light on the way to an emergency call and crashed, killing a 4-year-old boy, was fired Wednesday.
The City Council voted 3-2 to terminate Brett Guth with the recommendation of the police chief and the mayor.
State police said Guth's car collided with another police cruiser May 30; one of the vehicles struck and killed Daviay Legrand and seriously injured his mother's boyfriend. Furious residents later massed at the crash scene and threw bottles and rocks at police.
The council's resolution said Guth had violated "departmental rules and regulations, applicable laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and ... his oath of office."
Guth, 32, of Lynn Township, who attended the council meeting, left without commenting.
State police said Guth was responding to a report of a man with a gun, glanced down at a computer to verify the address to which he was driving and failed to notice the light soon enough to avoid a collision.
Guth was cited for running the light, but District Attorney James Martin said criminal charges were not warranted.~
re:another way to deliver you up,,provided by the insurance industry
~Health insurers' group proposes plan to guarantee coverage...
Published: 12/19/07, 9:30 PM EDT
By Rick Romell
MILWAUKEE _ The country's insurance industry unveiled a plan Wednesday that it said would guarantee access to coverage for people who must buy health insurance on their own.
The proposal by America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's main trade group, would blend increased government and private efforts to extend coverage to those unable to buy it because of their health.
The plan would bar insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions and limit companies' ability to cancel insurance.
Observers differed on the proposal's significance.
One said it could help break a logjam on extending insurance coverage that dates to the Clinton administration's ill-fated efforts of the early 1990s.
Others see the proposal as an incremental step that leaves gaping holes unplugged.
Among members of the insurance group's board, which drafted the proposal, is Don G. Hamm, president and CEO of Assurant Health, a Milwaukee company with a strong foothold in the individual policy market.
"The key is that all Americans should have access to high-quality health care regardless of their health status or their financial status," Hamm said. "We want to be part of the solution."
Andy Serio, president of Health Care System Consultants Inc. in Wauwatosa, Wis., believes the insurance group's proposal does in fact move significantly in that direction.
"What you really want to do is position yourself to work with government and get government to take over large, catastrophic claims (so) that you can make insurance more affordable to employers and individuals," he said.
Under the plan, state governments would provide coverage to the highest-risk people. Insurance companies then would pledge coverage for everyone else at no more than 150 percent of the market's standard rates.
That probably could work, said Dave Ogden, a consulting actuary with Milliman Inc.
But, he added, the insurance group doesn't say where the states will get the money to pay the medical expenses for expanded pools of high-risk residents. Gary Claxton, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, raised the same question.
Current funding for government-run high-risk pools is limited, so "it's not clear why we should believe states would spend more than they are now," he said.
And the proposal doesn't address those priced out of the insurance market, Claxton said.
"I don't think it's a major step," he said. "I think most people who don't have insurance don't have it because they don't have the money to get it, so it doesn't really do anything for them."
The proposal may be something of a political bargaining chip. All the major Democratic candidates for president want to require insurance companies essentially to take all comers. Wednesday's proposal positions the industry as taking action on its own.
"I can't stress this enough," Serio said. "This is very important going into the next election and into the year 2012."
Forty-seven million people in the United States _ more than one in seven _ had no health insurance last year, the Census Bureau reported in August. About 22 percent of the uninsured aren't American citizens. The number of uninsured has increased for six years running.
More than 230 Americans get health coverage through work or government programs, while about 18 million buy individual insurance, the insurance industry group said Wednesday.
Assurant has been in trouble with regulators in Connecticut and Oregon recently for the way it has handled claims there.
Oregon's Department of Consumer and Business Services fined the firm $70,000 in March after an investigation found what the agency termed "widespread violations affecting claims submitted by thousands of policyholders."
In Connecticut, the company agreed to provide restitution to policyholders whose claims were "wrongfully denied based on the alleged existence of a pre-existing condition," the state's insurance department announced in March.
"While I am pleased that the department has been able to provide some relief to policyholders, I am concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg," Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Susan F. Cogswell said in a statement.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was much harsher. In a statement last March, he said the Insurance Department's agreement failed to penalize "Assurant's abusive, anti-consumer practices."
The company may be in for further restitution in Connecticut. The Insurance Department there ordered an outside audit of claim denials dating to 2001, and Assurant must make good on any improper denials. The audit hasn't been completed yet, Blumenthal said Wednesday.
Asked about the actions in Oregon and Connecticut, Hamm said Assurant has nearly a million policyholders and that disputes sometimes arise. He said the company expects "a favorable resolution" to still-outstanding issues.
(c) 2007, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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