Saturday, February 04, 2006

Appeal to Bloggers: Help Diffuse Volatile Situation Caused by Danish Cartoon

I was not going to get into the Danish cartoon fray, as I feel too much has already been said on all sides of this highly-controversial, sensitive issue. However, after reading an article in the paper edition (I don't know if it's in the online version, as I haven't seen it) on the front page of today's Toronto Star, I've decided to add my few words, and also to appeal to ALL BLOGGERS to help diffuse this volatile situation.

I do not know why the other European papers thoughtlessly reprinted the offensive, blasphemous cartoons, which were first published last September in the Danish Jllands-Posten. Did they not think that this would further fan the flames with perhaps dire consequences? Can newspaper editors really be that ignorant about their reading public? Why were they published in the first place? 'Free speech' does not give any media organisation or individual the right to blaspheme someone else's religion. Did these editors not know that Islam forbids any pictorial depiction of the Prophet Muhammed? (Peace be upon him). By such irresponsible, insulting, reprehensible behaviour, the Danish paper only showed its ignorance of history and religion, and ignited a flame which has turned into a conflagration.

The backlash has even reached Toronto, where some Muslim stores are pulling Danish products off their shelves, and calling for a boycott of Danish goods.

The Star article I am referring to starts with this headline: "Muslim Stores Join Ban",, and states that:
"Danish products pulled from shelves - Cartoon controversy hits Toronto
The international controversy over Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad reverberated in Toronto yesterday - with hurt and sadness in the mosques and action in grocery stores.

Muslim-owned grocery stores removed Danish products from their stores, joining a worldwide boycott stemming from publication of the cartoons."

The article goes on, further mentioning about the reaction of Muslim and other customers, and that they agree with this action, and saddened by the insulting cartoons. The rest of the article is quite lengthy, continuing on page 10, with more photos and articles about the "Cartoon Controversy", showing worldwide reaction.

However, in the online version of today's Star (Saturday, February 4th), there is an article by cartoonist Doug Marlette, defending his work: (Can you believe this guy?)

Cartoonist: We don't apologize for opinions
Doug Marlette defends his work
Insists humour mistaken for hate
Feb. 3, 2006. 01:00 AM

You would think that after drafting an editorial cartoon that brought the wrath of Islam down on his head, a man would think twice about stepping back into the fray.

But Doug Marlette, a Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist from North Carolina, says he admires the European newspapers that are defending their right to publish controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. ....Read full article here

As a blogger, whether you are for complete artistic freedom and total freedom of the press or not, this issue can be debated rationally, sanely. Please do not fan the flames further by incitements on your blogs. This is not the time for finger-pointing, name-calling, or nasty commentary and opinions. Reason, sanity and goodwill must prevail. As we can see by reading our newspapers, this situation has grown into possibly heretofore unimagined proportions. As bloggers, we must not further this insanity by using "us against them" language, which only increases tensions.

Hence, I appeal to all my fellow bloggers to help spread the word of peace, sanity, reason, goodwill, regardless of your political leanings, or religious beliefs. The internet is a powerful tool, let's use it wisely. Fanning flames and furthering violence is detrimental to ALL of us.

While I am a proponent of a strong, 'free' press, I strongly condemn when that freedom is used to incite violence, hatred, intolerance, blasphemy. Common sense should ALWAYS prevail.

As for those who use these cartoons as a reason for egregious acts of violence, that is not the way show your disgust. Boycott is one thing, violence is another and it only serves to further alienate those who truly may not know the depth of pain their actions have caused. If you are a Muslim blogger, tell others about your religion -- explain and educate.... Those who are of other faiths, please listen and learn. No name calling, no mud-slinging, just rational, sane dialogue... Instead of pointing out the differences that divide, show the similarities that unite. Remember, as human beings, we are all members of the same family, and aside from our customs, ethnicity, religion, we are no different from one another.

My thanks to Syncategorematic for a similar appeal on their blog, which you can read here.

Note: To: The bloggers at Syncategorematic
I haven't seen your blog when I posted this. However, I did just now, so thought I'd thank you. It is heartening to see that some of us here do think along the same lines...Much appreciated. - AMD

Iraq Dispatches: Al-Jazeera Succeeding Under Pressure

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail

*DOHA, Qatar, Feb 3 (IPS) - Its foreign bureaus were bombed by U.S. warplanes, it is banned from reporting from four Middle East countries - and Al-Jazeera is only growing in popularity.*

An interesting, and sometimes tragic path has led to the success of Al-Jazeera since its launch in November 1996. Its difficulties have also been its success; the ban from reporting in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Algeria has done nothing to reduce a fierce loyalty from more than 40 million viewers.

The Al-Jazeera bureau in Afghanistan was bombed by U.S. warplanes in 2001. During the invasion of Iraq, U.S. tanks shelled Al-Jazeera journalists in a Basra hotel. Shortly after, its office in Baghdad was hit by a missile from a U.S. warplane; correspondent Tareq Ayoub was killed.

Al-Jazeera reporters have been detained by U.S. forces and placed in prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It has weathered verbal attacks from U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and from government officials in many countries in the Middle East..

"I can definitively say that what Al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable," Rumsfeld told reporters Apr.. 15, 2004 after Al-Jazeera showed the bodies of women and children killed by U.S. bombs in Fallujah.

U.S. President George W. Bush attempted to convince British Prime Minister Tony Blair to agree to bomb the headquarters of Al-Jazeera in Doha in Qatar in November that year, according to a report in Britain's Daily Mirror citing "top secret" minutes of the meeting where this was discussed.

At an Al-Jazeera forum on the media in Doha this week, IPS asked Samir Khader, programme editor for Al-Jazeera, if the report of a plan to attack their headquarters had affected their work.

"Do you think that because of such a memo we have to stop working," he said. "Of course we can't. We have to do our job. If the memo was true and George Bush wanted to bomb Jazeera, what can we do? They can do that, and the whole world will know."

Khader, who was featured in a well-known documentary on the network called 'Control Room' added, "It's not that because a journalist is threatened he will not do his job."

Asked if Al-Jazeera received an explanation on the report, Khader said, "No. The official spokesman of the British government said there was nothing in that memo that referred to Al-Jazeera, and Tony Blair also said that in the House of Commons. But in answering other enquiries from British nationals, the same spokesman recognised that this memo exists, and there is a reference to Al-Jazeera. So there is a contradiction in their own statements.."

Khader said Al-Jazeera is still waiting for a response from both governments.

Managing director Wadah Khanfar told IPS there is a driving force within the media outlet that propels it through challenging times.

"Sometimes the only thing that keeps us forward is the support of our audience," he said. "But also because we have really great people working here as well as professionally trained fixers, stringers and drivers."

Khanfar said the channel is building on its reputation of succeeding in the face of hostility.

"There is a culture now we've created with our style of reporting that oppressive regimes have more trouble now stopping Al-Jazeera," Khanfar said. "If you, as a journalist, would like to be loyal to your profession, you know it is going to be difficult to get the story sometimes, but you have to do it anyway if it's at all possible."

This attitude prompted its reporters in Fallujah to obtain footage of civilians killed by U.S. soldiers. This reporter also witnessed the attacks on civilians and ambulances in Fallujah at the time..

Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the senior U.S. military spokesperson in Iraq during the April 2004 siege of Fallujah, had said then, "The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources."

A young female journalist who writes for Al-Jazeera's English website was reluctant to give her name, but when asked if she faced pressure from the U.S. military or repressive governments in the region, said, "Not directly, but since we know we're being so highly scrutinised, I feel a greater responsibility to do my job well."

Did other Al-Jazeera journalists feel the same way? "Doesn't every journalist feel that these days," she said.

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the DahrJamailIraq website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Note: Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches are reprinted here with the kind, explicit permission of Dahr.

Scores Killed in Phillipine Stadium Stampede

At least 66 people have been killed and many others injured after a stampede at a sports stadium in the Philippine capital. Vicente Eusebio, the mayor of Pasig, a Manila suburb where the stampede occurred early on Saturday, said tens of thousands of people were waiting to enter the stadium to watch a popular TV channel game show when the problems started.
Full Story

AI News Release: Haiti: Respect for Rule of Law is Vital During Electoral Process

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: AMR 36/006/2006 3 February 2006

Haiti: Respect for the rule of law is vital during the electoral process

All parties involved in the Haitian electoral process must respect and promote the rule of law if the elections are to lead to an end to violence and instability in the country, said Susan Lee, Amnesty International Americas Programme Director today on the eve of the Presidential elections in Haiti.

“The upcoming presidential elections can result in a new era for Haiti or sink the country into further poverty and violence. It is in the hands of all involved in the electoral progress to secure a future where respect for human rights is a reality.”

After a number of postponements, the first round of elections is scheduled to take place on 7 February 2006 with possible run off on 19 March. The elections will be the first since president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power nearly two years ago.

Amnesty International is extremely concerned that already high levels of violence could increase during this electoral period.

Recent incidents of violence include the killing of two Jordanian UN peacekeepers, members of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in Port-au-Prince on 18 January, killings of civilians by armed groups and police and a rise in the number of kidnappings across the country.

“Security and respect for the human rights of all Haitians should be the priority of the new government. This will not be possible unless the Haitian authorities and MINUSTAH ensure that candidates and the electorate can participate in the elections without fear for their safety,” said Susan Lee.

All AI documents on Haiti

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Past and current Amnesty news services can be found at Visit for information about Amnesty International and for other AI publications. Contact if you need to get in touch with the International Secretariat of Amnesty International.

MediaChannel and MediaVision Join to Form Broadcast News Monitoring

February 4, 2006

MediaChannel and MediaVision have joined forces to bring you the most powerful tool in broadcast news monitoring available anywhere…

Here is an example:

Monitoring TV News Coverage of the Cindy Sheehan Arrest

Source: / MediaVision
MediaChannel used the powerful MediaVision tool to monitor television news coverage of the Cindy Sheehan arrest at the State of the Union address. We have compiled some very interesting video clips for you - from misleading coverage, to the interesting case of Congressman Young's wife being "allegedly" kicked out for wearing a shirt that said, "Support Our Troops."

Read more here....

Media Channel is a Global Network of more than 1,000 Media Issues Groups

Friday, February 03, 2006

Danny Schechter: "Is AlJazeera a Brand AND a Tribe?"'s Executive Editor, Danny Schechter sends this interesting email from Doha, at the closing of the Media Freedom forum. He cites the emerging new AlJazeera Channel as:
"The fact that a TV network can excite so many people and win their passionate allegiance is a sign that there is still some life in parts of the TV media. As the author of a new book on “The Death of Media,” that’s a welcome sign. We need more channels like it, but more than that, we need conviction and commitment in journalism. Al Jazeera has more to teach the west, than learn from it."

Read Danny's very interesting commentary about the forum, its closing speech, and about AlJazeera Channel:

NEWS DISSECTOR February 3, 2006

From's Executive Editor, Danny Schechter...

Is AlJazeera a Brand AND a Tribe?


DOHA, QATAR February 2/3: When the second Al Jazeera forum came to a close, it was left to the Channel’s charismatic director Wadah Khanfar to say good bye to the several hundred guests or “delegates” who trekked to Doha on the tip of the Arabian Gulf to discuss a wide range of media freedom issues.

Instead of political homilies, he unexpectedly delivered up a personal admission that he felt he was changing as a person. He said that the media world he is leading is akin to being part of a “tribe” of truth seekers that transcends nationality and national origin. He acknowledged the well-known channel he runs often feels like a cause that has grown into a community built on a shared sense of mission and a commitment to diversity. It is for many not just a news outlet but a source of Arab identity, change and personal alignment.

It has become a non-state player more respected than any politician. In fact, one speaker, Hugh Miles who has written THE book on Al Jazeera believes that if the station was a political party it might have “won” recent elections in Palestine or Egypt because is a popular force for democracy, human rights and compassion.

Journalists rarely are introspective. We usually hide behind the veneer of objectivity and neutrality. And yet as the fault lines in our profession become more apparent, as pressures grow including the kinds of threats that AlJazeera has been subjected to, this band of accomplished professionals who take pride in their work has not lost its humanity and openness to theres.

After the sessions had ended, I sat with Wadah and members of his team over a Sheratonized Thai-like meal and listened to him describe a report he filed from Mosul in Iraq right after the invasion. He was among the first to report live from that Kurdish area and watched as looters destroyed the ancient town’s great library in a fit of criminal appropriation and protest against the old regime. After he packed up his transmitter, he felt that it was not enough to describe the scene of thousands of years of Arab culture were going up in flames. He was driven to do more.

So he went back to the scene of the crime, and set up another live shot, and began just standing there on camera, appealing to the town to come out and save its cultural treasures. He read from ancient texts about that city on a hill and its rivers and many resources. He fought back his tears and prompted eyes to water in the audience. He called on viewers, many trapped at home, terrorized by gun fire and US military occupation, to do something before it was too late.

“I didn’t know who was listening or what would happen,” he admitted. “But many were glued to our reports on Jazeera and they came out, first a few, and then many, to defend their cultural treasures. They came by cars and by foot and they stopped the looting. They saved the library. They heard my appeal.”

Was that journalism or something more? Wadah says he was inspired by the ideas of the “journalism of attachment” first enunciated by former BBC stalwart Martin Bell who stood up in a similar way for Sarajevo when that city was burning. His experiences there convinced him to stand for Parliament where he later served for five years. Bell was one of the many international media people who heeded Al Jazeera’s call to make a Haj to Doha because of its small oasis of social concern in the Arabian desert and larger media desert.

Read rest of Danny's article here.

Note:Danny Schechter has given me his kind, explicit permission to re-post his articles and commentaries on my blog. However, for the sake of brevity, I have not re-posted this article in its entirety, but have posted the links for readers to view the original.

Hamilton Event: Canada's Role in Nuclear Proliferation and Disarmament, Feb. 11, 2006

McMaster Science for Peace/Pugwash Society cordially invites you to attend its annual conference.

Theme: Canada's Role in Nuclear Proliferation and Disarmament
When: Saturday Feb 11th, 2006 (9am-6pm)
Where: MDCL 1102
Breakfast and lunch will be served.


Senator Douglas Roche
Author of 18 books
Recipient of six honorary doctorates from Canadian and American Universities
Winner of the United Nations Association's Medal of Honour
Recipient of the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Award

Dr. Duane Bratt
Professor in the department of Policy Studies at Mount Royal College (Calgary, AB)
expert on the politics of CANDU Exports
an Adjunct Fellow with the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary

Dr. Joanna Santa-Barbara
speaker in the annual dialogue with NATO in Brussels on the Nuclear Weapons Issue
past president of Physicians for Global Survival
past vice-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Professor of psychology at McMaster University

Dr. Robert Anderson
Professor of Communication at Simon Fraser University
expert on Canada-India-Pakistan nuclear relations

Please RSVP by Feb 1st to or reserve your seat online at Admission is $5 at the door or FREE if registered/reserved. We hope to see you there!

"Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something is a potential criminal under international law, unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent the commission of the crimes." - Declaration of War Crimes Tribunals following World War ll


I've been tagged by 'A Canadian Lefty In Occupied Land'

I've been tagged with a meme by Scott Neigh of A Canadian Lefty In Occupied Land.

Since this is my first time at this, I will try to answer the four questions below best as I can:

What are four vehicles you've owned?
My first vehicle was a small old bicycle. Then, my grandfather used to let me 'drive' his small coach, as in 'horse and buggy', way back in the Old Country. (That was fun!) Yes, they had cars, but Grampa preferred his old horse Bözsi (Bessie in English) and the cart he constantly worked on, painted and kept shiny. My first real vehicle was a reconditioned old '57 T-bird, loaned by my uncle. However, my driving experience in it didn't last very long. On a long, winding road during a heavy rainstorm just outside of Winnipeg, I skidded and almost wound up in someone's living-room. That ended my desire to drive a car, and haven't driven since. I do have an old, beat-up bicycle which I sometimes ride. Mostly, though, it's public transit, the kindness of friends/family in bad weather, or my own two feet.

What are four jobs you've had?
(Well, since I've had such a variety, I'll try to pick four. Hmmm....)
I've worked in Toronto's Sick Children's Hospital, as a medical transcriber in their Visual Education Department. (Back then, I had hopes of studying for a medical career, so this fit in nicely.) Later, I worked at the Toronto Mental Health Centre on Queen Street. That was interesting, and I learned a lot. (However, the sad state of my financial affairs precluded me from pursuing a medical career.) Then I worked as an assistant to one of the bigwigs of the Meat Packers Council of Canada. That lasted a few years. Subsequently, I made a move to the U.S. (which ties in with the next question, where I went into my life-long love of writing, in the field of publishing, for a small ethnic weekly newspaper in Southern California. I also wrote some articles for a few 'offbeat' rags and mags. (Somewhere along the line, I'd managed to get a few poems into a book of collected poetry by new writers, which was published in San Francisco.) Nothing earth-shaking, though, and no best-seller! Of course, in-between these, for short times I'd worked in real estate offices, travel agencies, doctors' offices, law offices, clinics, farmwork, childcare, waitress, bookstore....

Where are four places you've lived?
The first was the place of my birth, Budapest, Hungary. After living in several cities in Germany for a short while, we came to Toronto. I had lived in different areas of this city. When I moved down to the U.S., I had lived in Los Angeles (Hollywood, and the San Fernando Valley), San Francisco, Honolulu Hawaii, and Las Vegas. For the past several years, I am happy to have moved back to Canada, where I presently make Brampton, Ontario my home. (I came back from the States just before Bush the Younger took power, and am glad to be back here. I would under no circumstances live under such a neocon regime, and have absolutely no desire to even visit the U.S. again. The only place I honestly miss is Hawaii, which is like a totally different country.)

Name four vacations you've taken.
Since I left the land of my birth, I have gone back numerous times to visit family. I toured throughout Hungary, Croatia, Austria, the Bavarian region of Germany, Northern Italy. (While still in the States, I had toured around throughout most of the states, with the exception of Alaska. Went to Mexico a few times.)

I hope that I have answered Scott Neigh's questions to the best of my recollective abilities, and that my fellow bloggers get a little insight as to who the person is behind the verbena-19 blog.

Now, I guess I'm supposed to tag four fellow bloggers here. Hmmmm.... Who should those [un]lucky bloggers be? Let's see....

Ok, here goes:
Zaphod's Heads
Red Tory
The Green Canuck
Terry Glavin

Tomgram: De la Vega on Why Rove Will Fall

The President passed through his State of the Union address -- ill-digested chunks of so many other speeches he's given ("We're writing a new chapter in the story of self-government -- with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan, and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink…) -- largely untouched by the media. His two Supreme Court-changing appointments, Roberts and Alito, were triumphantly in the front row of the audience. Undoubtedly, it wasn't a bad way for a besieged President to start year two of term two. Okay, maybe in distant Baghdad -- "We're on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory" -- things were actually looking a little peaked and, admittedly, the Bush wave! of freedom in the Middle East had just swept Islamic fundamentalists into control of the Palestinian Authority, but all in all the President had reason to feel at least some satisfaction. And yet there lurks a presidential problem of administration-staggering proportions that few are even thinking about at the moment.

Quietly, largely below the radar screen, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald continues to work on the CIA leak case in which the administration decided to punish ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson for embarrassing them on Saddam's nonexistent search for yellowcake uranium by outing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent. News on the case has been sparse indeed of late. I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, indicted former chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, crept back into the papers this week on a fishing expedition for CIA documents; while a single, shades-of-Watergate sentence in a brief report by James Gordon Meek in the New York Daily News indicated that "Fitzgerald… said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy." (The letter can be found at the Raw Story website.) Meanwhile, not so long ago in an investigative report at the Truthout website, the fine Internet reporter Jason Leopold indicated that Fitzgerald "has been questioning witnesses in the CIA leak case about the origins of the disputed Niger documents referenced in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address."

Still, the case, having largely disappeared into the media void, has something of the look of yet another danger dodged by an administration with at least nine lives. Well, don't let the relative silence surrounding Fitzgerald fool you. As former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega indicates below, the Special Counsel is working on another time schedule than that of administration officials. So, in due course, expect fireworks out of his office that will first illuminate the role of Karl Rove in the case and then may well light up a far wider stretch of the horizon. Tom

When Two Worlds Collide
Rove v. Fitzgerald

By Elizabeth de la Vega

For Karl Rove, no news from the Plame case -- Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a CIA agent -- is definitely not good news. Seismic activity is notoriously silent, so we may not be hearing any rumblings at the moment. But speaking as a former prosecutor, I believe it highly likely that, just below the surface, the worlds of Karl Rove and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, shifting like tectonic plates, are about to collide. As was true with Vice President Cheney's top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent as well as to the grand jury, Rove might not be charged with the leak itself. I am confident, however, that Rove will not leave this party empty-handed. He will, at the very least, almost certainly be charged with making false statements to an FBI agent. Here's why.

For starters, the evidence that Rove deliberately lied to the FBI is overwhelming.

In case anyone's forgotten, on July 14, 2003, in an op-ed in the New York Times, eight days after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson publicly questioned Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to acquire "yellowcake" uranium in Africa, columnist Robert Novak wrote that "two senior administration officials" had told him the trip to Niger, which Wilson referenced in that piece, had been arranged by his wife Valerie, whom the officials described as a CIA operative assigned to investigate matters involving weapons of mass destruction.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Venezuela Expels US Navy Attaché / Venezuela Defends New Aljazeera-Telesur Alliance

Venezuela has expelled the US Navy attaché in Caracas, with Hugo Chavez, the president, accusing the officer of spying and setting off new diplomatic hostilities with the United States. The US government denied that the diplomat had been involved in espionage, and the expulsion brought ties between the two countries to a new low.
Full Story

Venezuela Defends New Aljazeera-Telesur Alliance
Venezuela has hit back at a US congressman's criticism of a recently unveiled alliance between Aljazeera and Latin America's Telesur network. On Thursday, Connie Mack, a Florida Republican, criticised the agreement between Aljazeera and Telesur to share content and co-operate in newsgathering.
Full Story

Britain Warned of More Terror Attacks / At Least 11 Killed in Baghdad Car Bombs

New terror attacks on Britain are likely, including suicide bombings like the ones that killed 52 commuters on London's transportation system, a watchdog on anti-terror measures has said. Lord Carlile, who was appointed by the government to review anti-terror laws said: "Further suicide bombings in the UK must be expected, and the targets are unpredictable."
Full Story

At least 11 killed in Baghdad car bombs
Two bombs have exploded about 20 minutes apart in eastern Baghdad, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding dozens, officials say. The American military also said five US troops died in separate attacks.
Full Story

Two Journalists Kidnapped in Iraq

Two Iraqi correspondents working for a satellite television channel have been kidnapped in Baghdad. Police and station officials said on Thursday that Reem Zaid, 23, and her colleague Marwan Khaza'al, 25, were returning to the offices of Sumariya TV in Baghdad on Wednesday after attending a press conference when they were kidnapped by gunmen.
Full Story

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"The Last Chance Democracy Café"

Readers who enjoy BuzzFlash's smart, irreverent, outspoken, unabashedly honest reporting on important events, should check out their new forum, "The Last Chance Democracy Café". This Café is a meeting place for progressive, democratic discussions with a deliciously new twist. Here is an excerpted tour and a sampling of the Café's unusual, delightful "Menu":

Welcome to the café!

February 1st, 2006

Welcome to the new online digs of The Last Chance Democracy Café, home of the Liberal Burger. We hope you’ll stop by often to have a drink with The Three Wise Men, play a little Republican darts and, hopefully, give some thought to the diminishing status of democracy in America.

I’ll have more to say about that later, but I would be a poor host indeed if I didn’t start off by showing you around the place. I already mentioned Republican darts: Go here to toss a few games; it’s a blast. When you’re done, check out the menu, featuring such succulent dishes as our world famous Bleeding Heart Spareribs and that down home favorite, Antonin Scalia Original Intent Fried Chicken....

...Read more ...

WATER: A Public Forum, March 9, 2006 in Oakville, Ontario

Water issues - from your taps to
Cochabamba, Bolivia and back again.


"Let Justice Rain"
Presented by
Holy Trinity High School Social Justice & Peace Group

Key-Note Speaker:
Eduardo Sousa, Council of Canadians
Human Rights and Privatization of Water

Be part of a discussion, sign a postcard, meet advocacy groups.

7 PM - 9:30 PM (Doors open at 6:30)
2420 Sixth Line, Oakville ON
(North of Upper Middle Road)

Presented by:
Development and Peace:
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives:

RSVP or for further information:
Elaine Gareau: or Adriana Rerecich 905-257-3534


"Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something is a potential criminal under international law, unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent the commission of the crimes." - Declaration of War Crimes Tribunals following World War ll

Indigenous Political Prisoners Struggle for Justice in Honduras

Political Prisoners*

by Sandra Cuffe

"With the good intentions of transmitting" a message of hope to all the compañeros in different communities, to indigenous peoples, to those of us struggling for justice, those of us who are always characterized by our work to defend the rights of the people, especially the right to our lands and all the resources our communities possess…"

These words, spoken by political prisoner Marcelino Miranda, reflect the unshakeable hope and courage that three years in jail have not been able to tarnish. Last Monday marked the three-year anniversary of the violent police attack on the remote Lenca descendent community of Montaña Verde, in southwestern Honduras, which led to the unjust imprisonment of Marcelino and his brother Leonardo.
...

* Leonardo Miranda, Luciano Pineda and Marcelino Miranda

** For more information, to get involved in the campaign to free the Montaña Verde political prisoners, or to send tax-deductible donations for legal and humanitarian support for them and their families, contact Rights, 416-654-2074,

Rights Action (a tax-charitable non-profit organization in the USA and Canada) funds community-controlled development, environmental, human rights and emergency projects in the global south, particularly in Guatemala, Chiapas (Mexico), Honduras and Haiti and beyond. We do education and activism work with North Americans and help form north-south alliances to remedy global exploitation, repression, enviro-destruction and racism.

A People's History of Iraq: 1950 to November 1963

by Bob Feldman

Most people in the United States would like to have seen the 140,000-plus U.S. troops who are still occupying Iraqi soil (in support of special U.S. corporate interests) to be finally withdrawn from Iraq by Christmas 2005. Yet neither Bush Administration officials nor Democratic Party establishment politicians appeared willing to bring U.S. troops in Iraq back to the U.S. any time soon. They still apparently do not want to admit that the demand by U.S. anti-war movement demonstrators that no U.S. troops be sent to Iraq was a wiser foreign policy option to implement than their bipartisan foreign policy of "authorizing the use of United States Armed Force against Iraq." ....Read more...

Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based U.S. anti-war Movement writer-activist. Photo from

Exxpose Exxon's Lampoon VIDEO: "Toast the Earth"

A few days ago, I had posted about ExxonMobil's announcement of its record-breaking profits for 2005 -- $36.13 billion! That is the largest profit ever recorded by any corporation in America. Unfortunately, ExxonMobil's huge profits do not match this mega-corporation's social conscience.

Recent reports show that 2005 was the warmest year on record! The debate among scientists is no longer over whether or not global warming exists but over whether or not it's too late to stop a massive, catastrophic climate shift.

Yet, ExxonMobil uses its billions to actively sabotage efforts to slow global warming and to lobby Congress in support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off of America’s majestic coasts. Instead, ExxonMobil should invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

This is why I am re-posting the link here to ExxposeExxon's lampooning, funny cartoon video, for those readers who may have missed it. "Toast the Earth" and be sure to have your speakers ON!

After viewing the short cartoon movie, please take a few minutes to visit these important websites:
ExxposeExxon blogpostings

Sign up here to JOIN the Save Our Environment Activist Network!!

Please take a minute right now do whatever you can to help spread the word about the Exxpose Exxon Movie. Forward this message to your friends, family, and colleagues. Write about it on your blog. And do anything else you can think of!

More Bad News for the Brits

February 01, 2006

Doha, Qatar - Interesting to be writing this while attending the 2nd Al-Jazeera Forum, which is focusing on "Defending Freedom, Defining Responsibility" in the media. Al-Jazeera, which has been banned 100% from working in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Algeria due to their holding said governments accountable to the people they supposedly represent.

While conducting a short interview with Samir Khader, the program editor for Al-Jazeera channel made famous in the excellent documentary "Control Room," I learn that he too was in Fallujah during the April, 2004 siege on that city. After his witnessing of his colleagues being killed, maimed and/or detained by the U.S. military in Iraq both during the Anglo-American invasion and subsequent failed occupation, he takes seriously the rights and protections of all journalists.

This is why it is not so coincidental to be writing about this from the city where Al-Jazeera is headquartered. And yes, the city in which Bush attempted to persuade Blair to bomb Al-Jazeera due to their fantastic reporting of the U.S. siege of Fallujah in April, 2004.

So it is with a heavy heart to learn that yesterday in Iraq, according to Al-Sharqiyah:

"..police sources in western Baghdad said that the sister of anchorman Anwar al-Hamdani, who works at the Al-Nahrayn Television, was also martyred today, Tuesday, when multinational forces opened fire in the Abu-Ghurayb area."

"Multinational forces" is the term preferred by the Pentagon now-sounds better than the more truthful "occupation forces" or "members of the invading army." Yet their use of the term "multinational" is quite liberal when Japan has recently announced it will pull all of its troops from Iraq by this May, Italy announced it will withdraw 1,000 of its 2,600 troops by June and the Australian government is under increasing
pressure to withdraw it's massive contingent of 1,320 troops as well.

In sum, when the Pentagon says "multinational forces" in Iraq, it usually tends to be a safe assumption that they mean U.S. soldiers, as the U.S. still maintains by far and away the largest number of troops with at least 160,000. On that note-the second largest member of the "coalition of the willing" are the mercenaries-who tally anywhere between 20,000-70,000 in their private militias.

Meanwhile, pressure on the embattled Prime Minister Tony Blair has skyrocketed in Britain as the 100th British soldier being killed in Iraq sparked a wave of protests across England and fresh demands for a British withdrawal.

And the way things are shaping up in southern Iraq, that 100 number could be outdated if the heavy-handed tactics of the British soldiers don't change.

The following is quoted from Al Manarah newspaper:

*Basra council issue statement directed against British forces*
According to the newspaper Al Manarah on January 29:
"Basra Governorate Council members have held an emergency session during which a sharply worded statement has been issued. This statement has been directed to the British forces in Basra. It described acts by these forces as provocative. These acts are carried out and the local government is not informed. The statement said that the council has frequently called on Britons to stop random arrests and inhuman acts by their forces. It has also called for the release of prisoners and it has given 'occupation' forces a 24-hour period to release them without any conditions. It has
also called on the central government to intervene immediately in solving this issue..."

"The statement added that British forces launched a raid during the night of 23 January 2006 on the house of the deputy director of the Criminal Intelligence Agency, Maj Jasim Qasim Hasan, and arrested him, one of his sons, his nephew, and four of his bodyguards, according to the media director of Criminal Intelligence in Basra. The arrest took place after the doors of the house were broken, the furniture was scattered, items belonging to the mentioned officer were seized, including his laptop and its belongings, and his personal bag, which contains personal documents, money, cameras and personal guns. The raid was launched without an arrest warrant, the newspaper noted."

But as Mr. Bush said in his State of the Union address yesterday, "We are in this fight to win, and we are winning." Despite his confidence of certain victory in Iraq, Bush opted not to offer a timetable for withdrawal.


(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the DahrJamailIraq website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at:

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Note: Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches are re-posted here with kind, explicit permission given by Dahr.

Osama's Briar Patch

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden is almost baiting the United States to leave Iraq, offering a "truce" to cover the U.S. retreat. But he surely knows that whatever he says he wants done the American people will reflexively do the opposite.

Indeed, there's evidence that bin-Laden is playing a double game, the old strategy of Brer Rabbit who begged not to be thrown into the briar patch when that was exactly where he wanted to go. If that's bin-Laden's ploy, it seems to be working. George W. Bush has already cited bin-Laden's desire for U.S. troops to leave Iraq as reason for them to stay.

For the full story of who may be outfoxing whom, go to

Bush & the Bullfight

Instead of the donkey, the Democrats may want to adopt the fighting spirit demonstrated by a bull named Pajarito when he disrupted a Mexico City bullfight by jumping into the stands and scattering the spectators in the highest-priced seats. Pajarito was still killed but at least he gave his tormentors some uncomfortable moments. In facing George W. Bush, many national Democrats act more like a bull that thinks it can survive by cooperating with the matador.

For the full story of the growing rift between the Democratic base, which wants to stand and fight, and many Democratic leaders, who want to finesse and collaborate, go to

The Pestilent Presidency, by Manuel Valenzuela

In this erudite essay, Mr.Valenzuela writes: "In the five years since George W. Bush was anointed to the presidency a pestilence of decrepit efficiency has overtaken the nation, accelerating and magnifying what was already an empire in rapid decline."

Manuel Valenzuela is a social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst, current events observer, Internet columnist and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel now published by The novel is now available on and, as well as other online book sellers. If preferred, the novel can also be ordered at any local brick and mortar bookstore worldwide through the book’s ISBN number, 1418489905. His articles appear regularly at his blog, Valenzuela's Veritas and at Information Clearing House as well as at other alternative news websites from around the globe. His unique style and powerful writing is read internationally and seeks to expose truths and realities confronting humanity today. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at A collection of his work can be found visiting his archives and by searching the Internet.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The Pestilent Presidency


A Nation Conditioned

The continued dismantling of America’s very essence, the decimation of its founding core and its evolving surface, has been a product of both purposeful malevolence as well as incompetent ignorance. While the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans continue to deteriorate, each day losing more knowledge, freedom, democracy and economic survivability – though with many remaining ignorant or blinded to their actual plight – the other America, that of the elite and the corporate world, has risen in exponential fashion to take the complete reigns of power away from the rest of us. As a result, the America of times past, where the People still ruled, has given way to the America of tomorrow, a corporatist ruled land where citizens are pawns and corporations kings.

In the five years since George W. Bush was anointed to the presidency a pestilence of decrepit efficiency has overtaken the nation, accelerating and magnifying what was already an empire in rapid decline. Since early 2001, very little has gone right in the America of working and middle class citizens, both of progressive and conservative beliefs, young and old, hundreds of millions strong, divided by differing opinion yet bonded by economic and social interests. At the same time, however, the reign of George Bush the Lesser has become a bonanza to the corporate and elite world as the nation is plundered of treasure and altered from deep within the halls of Washington, its wealth and resources reallocated to and misappropriated by the Establishment, thereby transforming a government once of, by and for the People into one strictly and efficiently receptive only to the interests of corporations.
...Read rest of this article at Valenzuela's Veritas....

Note: Manuel Valenzuela's essays are partially re-posted here with kind, explicit permission by the author. Check out his book, Echoes In The Wind available on


WWF-Canada is proud to support Bullfrog Power, a 100% green electricity retailer in Ontario that sources electricity exclusively from wind and low-impact hydro power producers. Homeowners and organizations in Ontario can sign up to become bullfrogpowered, ensuring that their electricity dollars support clean, renewable electricity. WWF-Canada’s Toronto office is bullfrogpowered and you too can make your home or business bullfrogpowered. Visit the Bullfrog Power website to learn more and sign up!

WWF-Canada Launches New Campaign to Help Fight Global Warming

Los Glaciares National Park, Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. Photo by: Michel Gunther, WWF-Canada.

Please find the time to get involved in this important campaign. Global warming is very real and it is occurring at an ever-increasing rate of speed. We must act now! Our governments' empty promises, placating rhetoric, and the stronghold of corporate greed must be stopped!

WWF-Canada has launched what we think is one of our most exciting campaigns ever. As part of our ongoing efforts to fight global warming, offers Canadians the opportunity to become part of the climate change solution in a very unique way. You’ll find all kinds of ways to get involved and help WWF-Canada fight climate change, the biggest environmental threat to our planet. We all share the Earth, we must all share the solution. [World Wildlife Fund - Canada]

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Humour from The Simon: Dick Cheney & Dennis Hastert at Last Night's SOTU

This irreverently humourous take on Dick Cheney and Dennis Hastert during last night's SOTU is so funny! I just read it and can't stop laughing! Exclusive – State of the Union Special

Dick Cheney and Dennis Hastert Fight Off Boredom at the State of the Union
While President Bush rambled on about his various policies during last evening’s State of the Union address, Vice President Dick Cheney and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert found ways to amuse themselves.

READ IT HERE and enjoy a good, hearty laugh!

Read more of irreverent, parodic take on events at Simon Magazine)

William Rivers Pitt's Essay on the 'True' State of the Union

William Rivers Pitt has prepared an essay describing the true state of the union, covering the economy, New Orleans, Abramoff, Plame, Iraq, Iran, and the manner in which 'democracy' is failing in the Middle East.

The State of the Union
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 31 January 2006

i knew that i was dying.
something in me said, go ahead, die, sleep, become
them, accept.
then something else in me said, no, save the tiniest
it needn't be much, just a spark.
a spark can set a whole forest on
just a spark.
save it.

- Charles Bukowski

"He shall from time to time," reads the Constitution, "give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." And so it shall be. George W. Bush will be speaking tonight from the podium in the House of Representatives. Before him will be arrayed Senators, Representatives, generals and judges. The balconies will be filled with observers, luminaries, reporters and a few so-called "special guests" whose presence will be used to reinforce some argument or another. ....Read on....

**Read more of William Rivers Pitt's columns**

Woolsey Statement regarding Cindy Sheehan

There is nothing I can add to the Truthout Editor's note in introducing Rep. Lynn Woolsey's statement regarding Cindy Sheehan at last night's SOTU address. Cindy attended as Rep. Woolsey's guest.

Editor's Note: Much has been made of the arrest of Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan before last night's State of the Union address. Mainstream media coverage has made it seem as if Sheehan was in the balcony of the House of Representatives under false pretenses. In fact, she was invited. Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, personally purchased a ticket to the speech for Sheehan. Below, please find Rep. Woolsey's statement regarding the arrest of Cindy Sheehan. --wrp/TO

Woolsey Statement regarding Cindy Sheehan
By Representative Lynn Woolsey
Read more here: t r u t h o u t | Statement

U.S. Forces Fire on Canadian Vehicle in Iraq

More "friendly fire"? The US just can't seem to tell apart friend from foe, as evidenced by this article:

U.S. forces fire on Canadian vehicle in Iraq [Updated] (Thanks to Dr. Caleb for this post)

Cindy Sheehan: What Really Happened

Late last night I posted that I heard Cindy Sheehan was arrested in the Capitol's House of Representatives while awaiting Bush's SOTU speech. At that time, CNN only made a short mention of this, saying she had "unfurled a protest banner", or something to that effect. However, since then it's come out that Cindy was arrested for merely wearing a shirt which said "2245 Dead. How many more?". She tells what really happened, in her own, anguished words, and she is clearly shaken and aghast by what her country has turned into.

You will also find the erroneous Washington Post article reporting of this, where the paper said Sheehan was arrested "after demonstrating in the spectators gallery".... When you read Cindy's own words, you will see that this is far from the truth.

By Cindy Sheehan
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 01 February 2006

" As most of you have probably heard, I was arrested before the State of the Union address last night.

I am speechless with fury at what happened and with grief over what we have lost in our country.

There have been lies from the police and distortions by the press (shocker). So this is what really happened:

This afternoon at the People's State of the Union Address in DC, where I was joined by Congresspersons Lynn Woolsey and John Conyers, Ann Wright, Malik Rahim and John Cavanagh, Lynn brought me a ticket to the State of the Union address. At that time, I was wearing the shirt that said: 2245 Dead. How many more? " ... Read on...

Iraq Dispatches: Shias Head for Uncertain Govt

*Inter Press Service*
Analysis by Dahr Jamail

DOHA, Qatar, Feb 1 (IPS) - Six weeks after parliamentary elections, occupied Iraq is still struggling for a viable government, as violence and instability worsen.

The results of the Dec. 15 elections have still to be finalised, but it is clear that the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a Shia fundamentalist coalition, won at least 128 seats in the 275-seat national assembly.

Where 138 seats are required for a simple majority, the powerful group will still have to cut deals with Kurdish or Sunni alliances to form a government.

The Kurdish Alliance obtained 53 seats. The Turkmen who claim to represent at least 11 percent of the population of the oil-rich but volatile northern city Kirkuk are angry that they failed to obtain even one seat in the new parliament. The Turkmen, like the Sunnis around Baghdad, allege widespread election fraud.

After boycotting the Jan. 30 election of last year, the Sunni coalition, despite continuing to contest the election results, obtained 58 seats.

Former interim prime minister and CIA asset Iyad Allawi managed only 25 seats through his al-Iraqiyah list, a huge setback to the occupying powers' plans for a secular Iraq.

This means that the dominating Shia alliance is pro-Tehran, and that Iranian influence will continue to grow in Iraq. On a recent visit to Iran, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr declared that his Mehdi Army and millions of followers would fight for Iran if it was attacked by a foreign power.

The largest Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has strong Iranian links.

In a strange twist of fate, this means that U.S. policy-makers are leaning now towards the more secular Sunni groups, some of which claim that Saddam Hussein was a secular Sunni.

U.S. officials like Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad have been accused by Shia groups of "reaching out" to Sunni Arabs in an effort to counter the growing resistance in Iraq, and in efforts to promote a unified government.

Shia leaders see this as an attempt to undermine their power. "The Americans are so focused on Sunni interests that their motivation goes beyond just promoting national unity," a UIA spokesman said.

Federalism, which in effect would mean decentralisation, with more powers to a Shia south and a Kurd north, has emerged as a major sticking point in any consensus. Sunni and Shia leaders have clearly conflicting views on this.

Sunni political groups fear that federalism will lead the Kurds and Shias to split Iraq into three parts. The Kurdish north and the predominantly Shia south are the main oil producing regions of the country.

Sunni Arab leaders oppose either regional confederacies or federalism. They are attempting to form political blocs with secular Shia and Kurdish groups in order to counter plans for such federalism.

But the UIA is not a homogeneously pro-Iran group; it is wrought with internal strife. Nadim al-Jabiri who leads the Virtue Party within the group is angry, for example, at getting only one seat in parliament when he says he was promised five.

Now the possibility that Sadr followers and the Da'wa Party within the UIA could join forces would make them an effective counterweight to SCIRI, furthering fragmenting the bloc.

Disputes continue also over control of ministries. Sunnis continue to oppose Shia control of the Ministry of Interior. Sunni leaders say Shia militias, like the pro-Irani Badr Organisation, are regularly being used as death squads in Sunni areas of Baghdad and Fallujah.

"This will be one of the hottest issues," Sunni leader Hussein al-Falluji said. "We will press this in the negotiations, and if the Shias are not flexible on this, it will be a problem."

Shia leaders have said they will not surrender any ministry which controls Iraq's security forces. Shias control also the defence ministry.

Adnan al-Duleimi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front, which is the main Sunni bloc, has said the two ministries must not necessarily be headed by a Shia. "We believe that the posts of the interior and defence ministers should be kept away from any sectarian and political considerations."

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the DahrJamailIraq website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Note: All of Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches are reposted on my site with kind, explicit permission by Dahr.

Tomgram: Thomas Powers on Spying, Lying, and Saying No

On the day that Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared in his nine thousandth video from -- assumedly -- the remarkably technologized wilds of the Afghan-Pakistan border region, mocking President Bush for a botched Predator-drone missile attempt on his life, another article caught my eye. In a piece in the Los Angeles Times, headlined CIA Expands Use of Drones in Terror War, Josh Meyer reported: "Despite protests from other countries, the United States is expanding a top-secret effort to kill suspected terrorists with drone-fired missiles as it pursues an increasingly decentralized Al Qaeda, U.S. officials say." These high-tech, long-distance "targeted killings" from the air -- they used to be called assassinations and Chris Dickey of Newsweek files them away under the rubric of "boys with toys" -- turn out, like acts of torture, to be staggeringly counterproductive. This one, which reportedly killed a number of women and children, shook the regime of Pakistani military strong man and U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf.

Like National Security Agency warrantless spying on U.S. citizens, the waterboarding of captives, and so many other actions of this administration, such assassination attempts rely on the shakiest and most dubious of legal findings produced more or less out of thin air. In fact, thanks to a recent Newsweek investigative piece, Palace Revolt by Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas, we know a good deal more about just how thin that air was. As they report, with the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA director George Tenet convinced that the 9/11 attacks "and the threat of more and worse to come -- were perfect justification for unleashing the CIA and other long-blunted weapons in the national security arsenal," all that was needed was "legal cover, so [the CIA] wouldn't be left holding the bag if things went wrong."

Here's where what we now know as the "unitary executive theory," the idea of an unfettered presidency in which George Bush would be commander-in-chief not just of the military but of all us, came into play. As the three reporters describe the process, David Addington, then the Vice President's legal counsel (now his chief of staff), fearing opposition within the bureaucracy, "came up with a perfect solution: cut virtually everyone else out." Thus, a legal cabal supported the Rumsfeld/Cheney "cabal" former Colin Powell Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson has written about so vehemently.

In this way, a wide-ranging legal justification for the President's right to do whatever he cared to do as long as we were "at war" burst from the fevered brows of a few top officials and a small group of administration lawyers. From the point of view of my own fevered brow, a single institutional law seems to apply to the administration's subsequent efforts: Always expand. All programs involving the secret powers of the president -- to torture, imprison, create global prison networks, assassinate, spy on citizens and others, or generally involve the military in civilian life -- started from modest seeds and simply grew and grew without bounds or even any particular relationship to their efficacy. Take the Pentagon's three year old Counterintelligence Field Activity or CIFA. Initially a small office charged with "protecting military facilities and personnel," it now has nine directorates, a staff of 1,000, a large secret budget, and its own full-scale secret spying program, code-named Talon, that reported as a "national security threat" ten peace activists "who handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches outside Halliburton's headquarters in Houston in June 2004." The same could be said of CIA secret prisons, NSA domestic spying operations, or the new U.S. Northern Command that the administration set up in 2002.

Thomas Powers, author of Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to al-Qaeda, explores the meaning of the recent NSA spying scandal below in fascinating detail and the abject failure of Congress (or the American public) to rein in this administration. As he writes trenchantly, "In public life as in kindergarten, the all-important word is no." It's clear that the expansion of secret (and not so secret) "war-time" powers proved a heady, addictive experience for top officials of this administration. (Where's Nancy Reagan and her "just say no" program when we need them most?) Powers' superb essay will be running in the February 23 issue of the New York Review of Books just now heading toward the newsstands. It appears here as an on-line exclusive thanks to the kindness of that magazine's editors. Tom

The Biggest Secret
By Thomas Powers

A Review of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by James Risen.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

This article appears in the February 23 issue of the New York Review of Books

Iraqi Health Officials Treating 12 Possible Bird Flu Cases

I just read here that officials in northern Iraq said Tuesday that they were treating 12 patients suspected of having bird flu. The WHO team prepared to travel to the region to give urgent assistance.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cindy Sheehan Arrested in Capitol

Just a quick note before I call it a night. While I was waiting for George Bush's State of the Union Address on CNN, it was quickly mentioned that Cindy Sheehan was ejected from the Capitol House Chamber for unfurling an anti-war flag. She was invited there by a Democrat representative (forgot the name) to hear Bush's speech. Apparently she was placed under arrest. Nothing more was mentioned about this after the President's address.

A New Era in Afghanistan

A "narco-elite" rules, people are dispirited, violence is endemic and there's no justice. Only democracy can save Afghanistan, says Europe's chief election observer.

As international delegates and Afghan leaders meet in London to discuss the country's future, EU chief election observer Emma Bonino sets out the challenges and pitfalls they need to address.

Documentary Video Festival - Sat. Feb. 18 - Oakville

Amnesty International presents this event in conjunction with the Halton Peace Network and the INCA Social Justice Committee

Documentary Video Festival
Saturday February 18, 2006 - Doors open at 12:45 p.m.
Church of the Incarnation
1240 Old Abbey Lane, Oakville
(North of the QEW at the corner of Dorval Dr.)

For information contact Louise at 905-842-8044 or

I was unable to download the link to this flyer, so I've reprinted it below:


An Earth, Peace and Justice
Documentary Video Festival

Saturday February 18, 2006 - Doors open at 12:45 p.m.



**************** BREAK – 2:15 p.m. ****************



**************** BREAK – 4:00 p.m. ****************



**************** CLOSE – 5:30 p.m. ****************

1240 Old Abbey Lane, Oakville
(North of the QEW at the corner of Dorval Dr.)

Amnesty International presents this event in conjunction with the
Halton Peace Network and the INCA Social Justice Committee

For information contact Louise at 905-842-8044 or


More on Proportional Representation

With each passing election, the issue of Proportional Representation (PR) gains more attention in the mainstream media as a path Canada could take, to update its democratic process and reflect the reality that we have more than two political parties. Our present system of first-past-the-post is antiquated. It was inherited from Britain over 200 years ago, and leads to a distortion between actual votes and seats, often giving parties majorities in Parliament with a minority of the vote.

For those people who think that you need to be a 'mathematical genius' to understand PR, this article from the Toronto Star sheds some light on this issue. At least the debate is gaining momentum, which is somewhat encouraging to those of us who support Electoral Reform - PR.

Here are a few lines excerpted from the Star article:

There are hundreds of versions of PR. In Canada, the most oft-proposed one is the mixed member system.

This would continue the current system of electing one candidate to represent each riding, but would add the element of proportionality: a separate vote for a party.

There would be two results: the MPs who win their ridings, and the percentage of the popular vote each party receives. "A seat for the nobodies

NYT " Impeach Bush" Ad

The New York Times full page ad calling for the Impeachment of George W. Bush is in the January 27, 2006 paper. This ad not only raises the profile of the impeachment campaign but will help bring many tens of thousands of new people into the impeachment movement.

See the NYT Ad here [in pdf]

Read more from

The timing for the ad is excellent. In the coming days there will be Congressional hearings which will examine the impeachable offenses of Bush & Co. The call for impeachment is now coming from all quarters. There is no doubt that Bush and his advisors are well aware that the impeachment demand is quickly becoming a widespread sentiment. They are afraid, and for good reason. We want to seize the momentum and place the ad in various other newspapers and run radio spots as well. We can do it with everyone's continued support and commitment to this campaign. If you can help, click here.

According to two recent polls the majority of Americans favor impeachment if Bush lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq or if he engaged in illegal wiretapping. He did both. This is a people's movement. As the ad states, "The Constitution cannot defend itself. The people must act."

If every member and supporter of the impeachment movement made a donation, this ad could be placed in newspapers across the country. If you have contributed before, consider making another donation now. If you have never donated this is the time to take action. Please donate today by clicking here.

Let's increase the heat!

- All of us at VoteToImpeach/

Amnesty International: USA: Too Slow to Help, Too Eager to Kill

"The Death Penalty

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

It violates the right to life.

It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. It has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments." Amnesty International

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International


USA: Too slow to help, too eager to kill
Systemic failure and the execution of severely mentally ill offenders

Hundreds of severely mentally ill offenders in the US, are mired within a healthcare system that is too slow to help and a justice system that is too quick to pass death sentences, said Amnesty International today as it launched a major report on the use of the death penalty against mentally ill offenders in the US.

The report focuses on the systemic problems confronting the mentally ill and chronicles the cases of 100 severely mentally ill offenders who have been executed since 1977 -- 1 in 10 of the total number of executions carried out since then.

Citing pervasive systemic failures in both the healthcare and criminal justice systems, the report also highlights the grim situation of the mentally ill currently on death row, which according to the US National Association of Mental Health is 5 to 10 per cent of the US’s total death row population of approximately 3,400.

"The execution of those suffering from severe mental illnesses is a cruel and inhumane practice, which has been overlooked for far too long. Prejudice and ignorance give rise to fear and for many people it is easier to sentence a mentally ill offender to death rather than to find genuine treatment solutions," said Susan Lee, Amnesty International Americas Programme Director.

An illustrative case is Scott Panetti, who was sentenced to death in Texas in 1995 for killing his parents-in-law in 1992. He has a long-documented history of hospitalization for his mental illness, including schizophrenia – which caused him visual and auditory hallucinations.

During his trial, Scott – who acted as his own lawyer dressed as a cowboy – said that demons had been laughing at him as he left the scene of the crime.

One of the doctors who was at the trial said: "… Scott was completely unaware of the effect of his words and actions. Members of the jury had hostile stares and looked at Scott in disbelief while he rambled and made no sense…"

Scott is still on death row.

In June 2002 the US Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for people with mental retardation (the term mental retardation, rather than learning disability, is used in the USA) on the ground that mental retardation diminishes personal culpability and because of the difficulty to justify the deterrent argument.

"Mental retardation and mental illness are not the same but the symptoms can have similar consequences -- a mentally ill person’s delusional beliefs may cause them to engage in illogical reasoning and to act on impulse. There is a profound inconsistency in exempting people with mental retardation from the death penalty while those with serious mental illness remain exposed to it," said Susan Lee.

"Capital punishment is a highly politicized punishment. For far too long, politicians have generally failed to offer the electorate any measurable evidence that judicial killing, let alone of offenders with mental illness, offers a constructive solution to violent crime."

According to Amnesty International’s report, the case of Scott Panetti is representative of the circumstances in which people with severe mental illnesses are given death sentences and executed.

In many cases, those with severe mental illness don’t understand the charges against them or the seriousness of the crime they committed. In others, the defendant is heavily medicated for the trial, and perceived by the jury as remorseless. Lack of remorse is a highly aggravating factor that weighs heavily in a jury’s decision to impose the death penalty.

Some defendants have even been forcibly medicated in order to make them "competent" to be executed.

Amnesty International calls on all US authorities to immediately ban the use of the death penalty against mentally ill offenders and to put an end to the broken capital punishment system once and for all. Additionally, public officials at all levels must ensure that pleas for help by those suffering from mental illness do not go unanswered and that adequate medical treatment is given to those who need it the most.

Summary of the report
Full report
More on the Death Penalty

More News:
Russian Federation:
European Court of Human Rights found Russian police guilty of torture and ill-treatment of detainee

You may repost this message onto other sources provided the main text is not altered in any way and both the header crediting Amnesty International and this footer remain intact. Only the list subscription message may be removed.

Past and current Amnesty news services can be found at:

Visit for information about Amnesty International and for other AI publications.

Contact if you need to get in touch with the International Secretariat of Amnesty International.

AFSC Toward Peace & Justice - February 2006

The American Friends Service Committee is comprised of a group of dedicated workers toward the implementation of peace and justice throughout the globe. Their work is tireless and truly a labour of love and dedication for the betterment of humankind. I strongly support this wonderful, peace-working group, and urge all those who are interested in the ideals of peace and justice to do likewise.

Here are a few excerpts from their February newsletter:

Eyes Wide Open boots featured in new music video

Last November 1, as the sun rose over a farm near Dover, New Hampshire, the Eyes Wide Open crew once again began laying out more than two thousand pairs of boots representing the U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq.

The boots were being prepared to play a role in a music video for blues musician Robert Cray’s poignant new song, Twenty. The song, from Cray’s Grammy-nominated album of the same name, tells the story of a young soldier who questions his mission in Iraq but is killed before his deployment is up.

Watch the video >


In Mexico, workers learn to be the bosses of their own company

In the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras, AFSC is helping a group of workers navigate through the treacherous terrain of starting their own company. The worker/owners launched Maquiladora Dignidad y Justicia (Dignity & Justice Maquiladora Company) after they were fired or laid off from their jobs in maquiladoras, the foreign-owned factories along the Mexico-U.S. border.

Read the full story and find out how you can help >


Emergency Winter Fuel Campaign: With fuel prices expected to rise 41 percent over last year, AFSC has launched a campaign to help people keep their heat on this winter.
Find out how you can help >

News from Israel & Palestine: Read articles about the Palestinian election, a nonviolence conference, the separation wall, and more.
Read the articles >

Empty promises from WTO talks in Hong Kong: At the latest round of World Trade Organization negotiations, the wealthy nations have continued to aggressively shape the agenda to their advantage.
Read the analysis >

American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

The Quiet Death Of Freedom

… In the same month, three US Circuit Court judges ruled in favour of the Bush regime's "right" to imprison an American citizen "indefinitely" without charging him with a crime. This was the case of Joseph Padilla, a petty criminal who allegedly visited Pakistan before he was arrested at Chicago airport three and a half years ago. He was never charged and no evidence has ever been presented against him. Now mired in legal complexity, the case puts George W Bush above the law and outlaws the Bill of Rights. Indeed, on 14 November, the US Senate effectively voted to ban habeas corpus by passing an amendment that overturned a Supreme Court ruling allowing Guantanamo prisoners access to a federal court. Thus, the touchstone of America's most celebrated freedom was scrapped. Without habeas corpus, a government can simply lock away its opponents and implement a dictatorship.

More than 700 American bases are now placed strategically in compliant countries, notably at the gateways to the sources of fossil fuels and encircling the Middle East and Central Asia. "Pre-emptive" aggression is policy, including the use of nuclear weapons. The chemical warfare industry has been reinvigorated. Missile treaties have been torn up. Space has been militarised. Global warming has been embraced. The powers of the president have never been greater. The judicial system has been subverted, along with civil liberties.

A silence has reigned. Across the world, the extinction and suffering of countless human beings can be attributed to rampant American power, "but you wouldn't know it," said Pinter. "It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."

"Here is delayed news, just in. From 1945 to 2005, the United States attempted to overthrow 50 governments, many of them democracies, and to crush 30 popular movements fighting tyrannical regimes. In the process, 25 countries were bombed, causing the loss of several million lives and the despair of millions more."

Looking in the mirror means understanding that a violent and undemocratic order is being imposed by those whose actions are little different from the actions of fascists. The difference used to be distance. Now they are bringing it home.
The Quiet Death of Freedom, by John Pilger

"Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something is a potential criminal under international law, unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent the commission of the crimes." - Declaration of War Crimes Tribunals following World War ll

First Bird-Flu Death Confirmed in Iraq

Is there to be no abatement of the terrible suffering of Iraqis? As if masses of their people murdered (and untold numbers maimed, with generations condemned to the crippling effects of depleted uranium) and their country devastated by the U.S.-led war and occupation is not horrible enough, now bird-flu has arrived to further afflict these suffering people. An Iraqi official said on Monday that a girl who died on January 17 was killed by the avian flu. This is the first confirmed bird-flu death in Iraq, and health officials are now investigating the death of the girl's uncle, who died January 27, lived in the same house and had similar symptoms.

Read about it here.

Book Review: 'Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And the Color of Disaster'


"'Come Hell or High Water' argues that the nation's failure to offer timely aid to Katrina's victims indicates deeper problems in race and class relations."
-- Publisher's Weekly

Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And the Color of Disaster (Hardcover)

by Michael Eric Dyson's Review (excerpt)

What Dyson so brilliantly reveals in "Come Hell or High Water" is that the aftershocks of Hurricane Katrina involved much more wind and rain; in a way, it was a momentous symbolic moment that placed the issues of class, race and poverty before us, even if but for a brief break in the news cycle.

Dyson's book is dedicated to making us digest the implications of the Katrina disaster as a society, and to ensure that the debacle just doesn't get lost in the wake of the daily churning of media stories.

He doesn't mince words, of course, about Bush: "The proof of Bush's lack of political care of blacks before Katrina is equally distressing: under his presidency black poverty has increased, black unemployment has risen, and affirmative action has been viciously assaulted....By seeking to cut the food stamp budget by $1.1 billion over the next decade, the Bush will douse even further the fortunes of black poor."

Read the Complete Review

From the Publisher

With this call-to-action, Dyson warns us that we can only find redemption as a society if we acknowledge that Katrina was more than an engineering or emergency response failure. From the TV newsroom to the Capitol Building to the backyard, we must change the ways we relate to the black and the poor among us. What's at stake is no less than the future of democracy.

Order Today and Support Independent Media

A BuzzFlash Gift Certificate Offers Books, DVDs or CDs that Open Minds, Inspire Progressive Change and Support the Work of BuzzFlash.

An independent media is our last hope of turning our country back on the road of democracy. By sending a BuzzFlash gift certificate, you give a gift and you support independent media.

Four Killed in Wheeling Cessna Crash

A twin-engine Cessna airplane spiralled downward into a fiery crash in Wheeling, killing 4 people. It was approaching Palwaukee Municipal Airport. The cause of the crash so far remains a mystery, as reported here

Monday, January 30, 2006

ANSWER Coalition: Global Days of Action, March 18-20 / United Mass Mobilization on April 29 in NYC

Global Days of Action, March 18-20, 2006

3rd Anniversary of the “Shock and Awe” Invasion of Iraq

The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition joins with antiwar organizations globally in calling for March 18-20, 2006, to be Global Days of Action. This is the third anniversary of Bush's criminal aggression against the people of Iraq.

April 29, 2006 Mobilization:

On April 29th major anti-war mobilizations will take place in New York City. I had posted the action alert from United for Peace and Justice in a previous post. In this email that I've just received, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is adding their voice, and calling for a united mass mobilization. You will also find links to the March 18-20 calls for action below.

Mobilize for April 29 in New York City!



(Please circulate widely)


In recent weeks the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition has been in the final stages for planning a national demonstration in Washington DC on April 29, 2006. This action was to follow the local and regional demonstrations and youth and student actions scheduled between March 18-20 on the 3rd anniversary of the criminal bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Click here for the March 18-19 Call to Action
Click here for the March 20 Youth and Student Call to Action

On September 24, 2005 more than 300,000 people surrounded the White House in the largest mobilization against the Iraq war and occupation since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. This demonstration was initiated by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in May 2005 and we urged a united front with other major anti-war coalitions and communities. We marched demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq. We also stood in solidarity with the Palestinian and Haitian people and others who are suffering under and resisting occupation. Coming as it did following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we changed the demands of the September 24 protest to include the slogan "From Iraq to New Orleans, Fund People's Needs not the War Machine."

During the past several years, and as demonstrated in a powerful display on September 24, the anti-war movement has grown significantly in its breadth and depth as the leadership has included the Arab and Muslim community -- those who are among the primary targets of the Bush Administration's current war at home and abroad.

The anti-war sentiment inside the United States is rapidly becoming a significant obstacle to the Bush Administration's war in Iraq. The anti-war movement has the potential to be a critical deterrent to the U.S. government's aspirations for Empire. At this moment the White House and Pentagon are issuing threats and making plans to move against other sovereign countries. Iran and Syria are being targeted as the U.S. seeks to consolidate power in the Middle East. Simultaneously the Bush administration is working to undermine the gains of the people of Latin America by working to topple the democratically elected president of Venezuela and destroy the revolutionary process for social change going on in that country. Likewise it is intensifying the economic war and CIA subversions against Cuba.

We believe that our movement must weld together the broadest, most diverse coalition of various sectors and communities into an effective force for change. This requires the inclusion of targeted communities and political clarity. The war in Iraq is not simply an aberrational policy of the Bush neo-conservatives. Iraq is emblematic of a larger war for Empire. It is part of a multi-pronged attack against all those countries that refuse to follow the economic, political and military dictates of the Washington establishment and Wall Street.

This is the foundation of the political program upon which the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition has organized mass demonstrations in the recent years. The fact that many hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and other cities is a testament to the huge progress that has been made in building a new movement on this principled basis.

The people of the United States have nothing to gain and everything to lose from the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Haiti and the threats of new wars and intervention in Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, the Philippines, North Korea and elsewhere. It has been made crystal clear in recent weeks that Washington is aggressively prosecuting its strategy of total domination of the Middle East. U.S. leaders are seeking to crush all resistance to their colonial agenda, whether from states or popular movements in the region. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and the anti-war movement is raising the demand, "U.S. Out of the Middle East."

At its core, the war for Empire is supported by the Republican Party and Democratic Party alike, which constitute the twin parties of militarism and war, and this quest for global domination will continue regardless of the outcome of the 2006 election. In fact, leading Democrats are attacking Bush for being "soft" on Iran and North Korea. Real hope for turning the tide rests with building a powerful global movement of resistance in which the people of the United States stand with their sisters and brothers struggling against imperialism and the new colonialism.

On the home front the Bush administration is involved in a far-reaching assault against working class communities as most glaringly evidenced by its criminal and racist negligence towards the people of New Orleans and throughout the hurricane ravaged Gulf States. While turning their backs on these communities in the moments of greatest need, the U.S. government is now working with the banks and developers who, like vultures, are exploiting mass suffering and dislocation to carry out racist gentrification that only benefits the wealthy. The administration is also working to eviscerate hard-fought civil rights and civil liberties, engaging in a widespread campaign of domestic spying and wiretapping against the people of the U.S. and other assaults against the First and Fourth Amendments.

In early December 2005, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition filed for permits for a national march in Washington DC on April 29, 2006. We were preparing to announce the April 29 action but in recent days we have heard from A.N.S.W.E.R. organizers in a number of unions that U.S. Labor Against the War was seeking union endorsements for a call for an anti-war demonstration on the same day in New York City. Having two demonstrations on April 29 in both Washington D.C. and New York City seems to us to be less advantageous than having the movement unite behind one single mobilization. As such, we decided to hold back our announcement. Subsequently, the New York City demonstration has been announced by a number of organizations. Underscoring the need to have the largest possible demonstration on April 29, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition has decided to fully mobilize, in all of its chapters and organizing centers, to bring people to the New York City demonstration on April 29. The banners and slogans of different coalitions may not be the same, but it is in the interest of everyone to march shoulder-to-shoulder against the criminal war in Iraq and the Bush administration's War for Empire, including its racist, sexist and anti-worker domestic program.

All out for a united, mass mobilization on April 29 in New York City!

Click here to become a transportation center in your city or town for the April 29 demonstration

Click here to receive updates on A.N.S.W.E.R.'s mobilization for the April 29 NYC demonstration


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 323-464-1636
San Francisco: 415-821-6545

Bloggers of Ontario Unite!

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