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  Bush Sends 1,500 More Troops To Iraq And Dashes Hopes Of WithdrawalMay 31, 2006 15:01 The US said yesterday it had sent combat troop reinforcements into Iraq, dashing hopes of a substantial withdrawal, as American commanders scrambled to contain a wave of violence and help the new Iraqi government assert control.
About 1,500 soldiers from a reserve force based in Kuwait were deployed in Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold stretching from Baghdad to the Syrian border. The deployment was described officially as "short-term". Military officials quoted anonymously yesterday said it should last no more than four months, but it was a blow to the Bush administration's hopes of bringing troops home after the formation of the new government in Baghdad. There were about 130,000 US troops in Iraq before the deployment and that figure is unlikely to change for several months, military officials said.

"The situation in al-Anbar province is currently a challenge but is not representative of the overall security situation in Iraq, which continues to improve as the Iraqi security forces increasingly take the lead," Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing said yesterday.

But the bloodshed nationwide showed no sign of abating yesterday when bomb attacks killed at least 46 people, wounding dozens more.

  The Massacre and the MarinesMay 30, 2006 19:37 US Marines could face the death penalty after one of their number took horrific photographs of a massacre in Iraq on his mobile phone, The Independent on Sunday has learned.

The photographs, seized by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), show many victims shot at close range in the head and chest, execution-style, according to sources who have seen them. One image shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer. Both have been shot dead.

Similar photographs taken by a Marines intelligence team which arrived on the scene later show that soldiers "suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership, with tragic results", according to a US official quoted by the Los Angeles Times yesterday.

The killing of more than 20 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha last November, first reported in the IoS two months ago, has become an international scandal after evidence from two official investigations was shown to Congressmen in the past 10 days. Democrat John Murtha, a former Marines colonel who has retained close links to the military despite his denunciation of the Iraq occupation, said Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood".

  EU Court Of Justice Rules Airline Data Deal With US IllegalMay 30, 2006 15:37 An European Union agreement to provide airline passenger data to the US was thrown into doubt on Tuesday, after a court ruled the anti-terrorism measure was illegal.

As part of a deal agreed two years ago, European airlines transfer to US authorities 34 items of personal information on each trans Atlantic traveller.

The data include names, addresses and telephone and credit card numbers, details that the US says it needs to fight terrorism.

However, the European Court of Justice annulled the deal after finding that the Union’s member states had acted without a proper legal basis when they signed the agreement.

  Japan's Cabinet Approves US Military Realignment PlanMay 30, 2006 15:35 Japan's Cabinet has approved an agreement with Washington for a major realignment of U.S. forces based in the country.

The agreement calls for Washington to reduce its 50,000 strong troop contingent in Japan. It also gives the Japanese military a greater responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Under the agreement, Washington will shift 8,000 troops and their dependents from the Japanese island chain of Okinawa to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. Other U.S. forces will be relocated around Okinawa.

The deal requires Japan to pay about 60 percent of the cost of the U.S. military relocation, or about $6 billion. (Washington had originally asked Japan to pay 75 percent of the cost.)

  Congress Balks At Pentagon 'War On Terror' MissileMay 30, 2006 15:26 Congress has stalled Pentagon plans to put conventional warheads on inter-continental missiles for use in Washington's "war on terror", out of concern that they could trigger a nuclear war.
The defence department is seeking $127m (£68m) for the conversion of submarine-based missiles as part of its Global Strike project, aimed at giving Washington the option of acting fast, pre-emptively and from great distances against targets that might threaten the US.

The goal would be to destroy a fleeting target, such as a weapon being assembled or a meeting of terrorist leaders, anywhere in the world within an hour of intelligence reaching the US of their location.

  New Estimate Of Venezuela'S Total Oil Reserves Makes It The Grandest Of Grandest Prizes For USMay 23, 2006 18:55 New Estimate of Venezuela's Total Oil Reserves Makes It the Grandest of Grand Prizes for US - by Stephen Lendman

I just finished reading an important new book the author's publisher sent me, which I'll shortly be reviewing for publication. The book is investigative journalist (and in his words "forensic economist") Greg Palast's latest foray into exposing the hidden from view crimes and wrongdoings of the Bush administration. I'm very familiar with Palast's important work and can only wish many others of his profession did the same sort of it he does - his job. Sadly most don't, but luckily we have some who do, and we should pay close heed to what they tell us. They're our window to the dangerous world around us, and the information they provide is our protection from it.

Palast's book is almost encyclopedic in detail, but I only want to focus here on one part of it that relates to Venezuela. In it Palast provides information showing the country may be of far greater strategic importance to the US than we likely realized. It all relates to a somewhat arcane theory called Hubbert's peak that many readers may not know about or understand well if they do. Before reading Greg's book, I knew about it but didn't understand it as well as I do now.

M. King Hubbert was a well-respected geologist of his time who on March 7, 1956 published a research paper explaining his notion of "peak oil," the amount of total reserves likely to be available, when production would peak, and when we would likely exhaust a finite supply. Ever since his report came out, it's been held up as gospel by many who follow the oil market. The essence of the Hubbert theory, whether we accept it or not, was that "peak oil" would be reached around this year. However, in fact, production rose every year since Hubbert's prediction and new discoveries of oil have so far kept pace.

  U.S. allies among worst on freedom scorecardMay 22, 2006 15:14 Several of the United States' allies remain among the world's most egregious violators of human rights, according to a recent report from a nonpartisan federal panel, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Not only that, two nations whose oppressive governments the American forces have helped overthrow since 2001—Iraq and Afghanistan—are in danger of joining the infamous list.

The commission made public its 2006 annual report and recommendations during a May 3 press conference in Washington.

The 1998 law that created the panel requires it to report annually on the status of religious liberty worldwide and recommend that the State Department name nations that commit or tolerate "severe and egregious" violations of religious freedom as "Countries of Particular Concern," or CPCs. Administration officials retain ultimate authority to make those designations and impose appropriate sanctions.

Commissioners recommended the same 11 nations for CPC status that they did last year—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Though the panel has long recommended most of those nations for CPC status, the State Department has failed to apply that designation to Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and has been slow to act against Saudi Arabia.

  al-Qaeda Gone from Europe?May 19, 2006 17:26 Al-Qaeda's hierarchy in western Europe has vanished and the terrorist network's leadership has largely ceased direct management of attacks, a senior German police intelligence officer told a trial court this week.

She said the al-Qaeda leadership now mainly relied on video and internet proclamations to inspire Islamists in the western world to act on their own.

Germany's BKA federal crime agency had no evidence of Islamists swearing an oath of loyalty to Osama bin Laden since 2001 to become al-Qaeda members. The only terrorist to have done so since that date was Abu-Musab al-Sarqawi, the Jordanian who mounts attacks in Iraq.

She said a hierarchically organized al-Qaeda network in western Europe no longer existed.

The police officer, who investigates Islamist threats, was testifying at the trial in Dusseldorf of three Arab men accused of terrorism on behalf of al-Qaeda and an insurance scam aimed at raising funds for suicide attacks in Iraq.

Prosecutors say they also tried to obtain nuclear material for a "dirty bomb". The three were arrested before they could act.

  Shut Down Guantanamo Prison: UN To USMay 19, 2006 17:23 The United States should stop using a prison at Guantanamo Bay and either release all the prisoners there or put them on trial, said a UN torture report issued on Friday.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture also called on Washington to disclose the existence of any secret prisons and stop using them.

The panel's 11-page report details recommendations from 10 independent experts, who examined the U.S. record at home and abroad.

Those recommendations include:

* Stop sending anyone to Guantanamo Bay and close the facility.
* Ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under the U.S. government's "de facto effective control."
* Investigate and disclose "the existence of any such facilities and the authority under which they have been established and the manner in which detainees are treated."
* Take immediate measures "to eradicate all forms of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by its military or civilian personnel, in any territory under its jurisdiction."

  More Than 100 People, Mostly Insurgents, Killed In Violence In AfghanistanMay 19, 2006 04:26 More than 100 people have been killed in violence across Afghanistan in some of the deadliest fighting there since the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001.

The dead included Taleban militants, a Canadian soldier and a U.S. civilian contractor training Afghan police.

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces battled insurgents in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. A coalition spokesman told VOA 26 militants were captured. At least 13 Afghan policemen were killed in the violence.

Taleban supporters have intensified attacks against the Afghan government and foreigners in recent months, particularly in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

  Pentagon Won't Confirm Charge Of Iraq MassacreMay 19, 2006 04:22 The U.S. Defense Department has refused to confirm or deny a charge by a senior member of Congress, who says an investigation has concluded that a group of U.S. troops in Iraq killed at least 15 civilians during an incident last year. The department says the investigation of the incident is still in progress.

The incident took place last November in the Iraqi town of Haditha. It was first reported several months later, and a preliminary military investigation in February recommended that a formal criminal investigation be launched. Officials say that probe is still underway.

According to the military, 15 Iraqi civilians died in the incident as a result of an explosion caused by an insurgent bomb, what the military calls an IED, or Improvised Explosive Device, that had also killed one of the Marines. Other reports charged that the U.S. Marines on the scene shot the civilians to retaliate for losing their comrade.

On Wednesday, Representative John Murtha, said the military investigation indicates the Marines did kill the civilians and for no reason.

  U.S. Secretly Backing Warlords In SomaliaMay 18, 2006 03:40 More than a decade after U.S. troops withdrew from Somalia following a disastrous military intervention, officials of Somalia's interim government and some U.S. analysts of Africa policy say the United States has returned to the African country, secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.

The latest clashes, last week and over the weekend, were some of the most violent in Mogadishu since the end of the American intervention in 1994, and left 150 dead and hundreds more wounded. Leaders of the interim government blamed U.S. support of the militias for provoking the clashes.

U.S. officials have declined to directly address on the record the question of backing Somali warlords, who have styled themselves as a counterterrorism coalition in an open bid for American support. Speaking to reporters recently, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States would "work with responsible individuals . . . in fighting terror. It's a real concern of ours -- terror taking root in the Horn of Africa. We don't want to see another safe haven for terrorists created. Our interest is purely in seeing Somalia achieve a better day."

U.S. officials have long feared that Somalia, which has had no effective government since 1991, is a desirable place for al-Qaeda members to hide and plan attacks. The country is strategically located on the Horn of Africa, which is only a boat ride away from Yemen and a longtime gateway to Africa from the Middle East. No visas are needed to enter Somalia, there is no police force and no effective central authority.

The country has a weak transitional government operating largely out of neighboring Kenya and the southern city of Baidoa. Most of Somalia is in anarchy, ruled by a patchwork of competing warlords; the capital is too unsafe for even Somalia's acting prime minister to visit.

Leaders of the transitional government said they have warned U.S. officials that working with the warlords is shortsighted and dangerous.

"We would prefer that the U.S. work with the transitional government and not with criminals," the prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, said in an interview. "This is a dangerous game. Somalia is not a stable place and we want the U.S. in Somalia. But in a more constructive way. Clearly we have a common objective to stabilize Somalia, but the U.S. is using the wrong channels."

Many of the warlords have their own agendas, Somali officials said, and some reportedly fought against the United States in 1993 during street battles that culminated in an attack that downed two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters and left 18 Army Rangers dead.

  War On Terror Dominates Bush-Howard SummitMay 17, 2006 01:16 President Bush met Tuesday at the White House with one of his closest allies in the war on terror - Australian Prime Minister John Howard. The talks focused on a wide range of topics, including Indonesia's role in combating terrorism.

The two men had a wide ranging agenda for their talks. But in their public comments, they focused on one overriding theme: the importance of combating terrorism.

"I admire John Howard's understanding that the war on terror still goes on and that we have got to be steadfast and firm if we intend to succeed," he said.

At a joint news conference after their talks, President Bush called Prime Minister Howard a friend and a good strategic thinker. The Australian leader said the battle against terror will require persistence.

  U.S. Bans Weapons Sales To VenezuelaMay 16, 2006 02:56 The Bush administration has banned arms sales to Venezuela - which has been on a buying spree to prepare for an alleged U.S. invasion - accusing President Hugo Chavez of failing to cooperate in the war on terrorism and maintaining close ties to Cuba and Iran.

The decision announced Monday may be largely symbolic because Chavez has been buying the bulk of his weapons, including attack and transport helicopters, patrol boats and military transport airplanes, from Russia and Spain.

The first batch of 33 Russian helicopters arrived in Venezuela last month, and 33,000 of the 100,000 Russian Kalashnikov assault rifles that Chavez bought are expected this month. Caracas is also finalizing a deal with Spain to purchase eight military patrol boats and 10 military transport planes, and ramping up the training of a 2.5-million-member militia to fight a ``war of resistance'' against any U.S. invaders.

  US To Renew Full Ties With LibyaMay 15, 2006 15:19 The US is to renew full diplomatic ties with Libya after deciding to remove it from a list of states backing terrorism, the state department says.

Washington has not had normal relations with Libya since 1980.

The state was held responsible for the bombing of a Pan Am flight in 1988, which killed 270 people, mostly US.

In 2004 Washington lifted many economic sanctions and restored some diplomatic ties after Libya publicly turned its back on weapons of mass destruction.

  US Military's Bid To Woo ChinaMay 15, 2006 15:06 A top American admiral said on Monday he invited Chinese commanders to observe a US military exercise as part of efforts to build ties between the two forces, but said the process won't succeed without similar gestures by Beijing.

Adm. William Fallon, commander of US Pacific forces, said that during a weeklong visit he urged Chinese military leaders to help open direct communications and build confidence between the two militaries, which have only sporadic contacts.

Fallon said Chinese officials expressed interest in closer ties but didn't immediately respond to the invitation to attend the exercises next month in Guam. And he said they expressed dismay at a Pentagon report that called Beijing a potential threat.

  US Military Sending Mentally Ill Troops to IraqMay 15, 2006 15:04 The US military was yesterday accused of sending troops with severe psychological problems to Iraq and keeping them in combat, even when superiors have been aware of signs of mental illness.

The Hartford Courant, citing records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act and more than 100 interviews of families and military personnel, reported numerous cases in which the military failed to follow its own regulations in screening, treating and evacuating mentally unfit troops from Iraq.

In 1997, Congress ordered the military to assess the mental health of all deploying troops. However, the newspaper, citing Pentagon statistics, said fewer than one-in-300 service members was referred to a mental health professional before shipping out for Iraq as of October 2005.

  Iran To Require Oil Payments In EurosMay 15, 2006 14:59 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Friday that in July Iran will abandon dollar payments for its oil and natural gas exports in favor of euros.

The move comes amid a standoff between Tehran and Washington over Iran's nuclear fuel enrichment program. The Bush administration insists the program is cover for a nuclear weapons program, a charge that Iran denies.

All current international oil transactions on the New York Mercantile Exchange and London's International Petroleum Exchange are priced in dollars. reported May 13 that Ahmadinejad announced the change Friday during a visit to Baku, Azerbaijan.

  Bush Weighs Deploying Guard To U.S. BorderMay 13, 2006 00:45 President Bush, trying to build momentum for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, is considering plans to shore up the Mexican border with National Guard troops paid for by the federal government, according to senior administration officials.

One defense official said military leaders believe the number of troops required could range from 3,500 to 10,000, depending on the final plan. Another administration official cautioned that the 10,000 figure was too high.

The officials insisted on anonymity since no decision has been announced.

The president was expected to reveal his plans in an address Monday at 8 p.m. EDT. It will be the first time he has used the Oval Office for a domestic policy speech - a gesture intended to underscore the importance he places on the divisive immigration issue.

The key questions Friday were exactly how many National Guard troops might be deployed, for how long and at what cost to taxpayers - as well as the problem of possible disruption of upcoming deployments to Iraq and elsewhere overseas.

  Anger Toward Us Boosts Latin America's Leftist LeadersMay 11, 2006 14:33 The graffiti splashed all over the Venezuelan capital leaves no room for misinterpretation of people's view of the US president: ''Bush: Killer."

That slogan, spray-painted on numerous buildings in Caracas, reflects a sentiment that is spreading throughout Latin America. The anger is a boon for the growing ranks of leftist leaders in the region. Some are challenging US government policies on immigration and Iraq, while others, openly hostile to the Bush administration, are exploiting long-simmering resentment of American dominance to solidify their own power.

Democrats and Latin America specialists now are pushing the Bush administration to engage Latin Americans of all political stripes much more actively. In one such initiative, Representative William D. Delahunt, Democrat of Quincy, is planning to bring Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's supporters and opposition leaders to Nantucket again this summer to get the two sides talking.

  Madeleine K. Albright: A Realistic IdealismMay 10, 2006 19:48 Recent events in Iraq and the Middle East have revived the hoariest of academic debates -- between the so-called realists in foreign policy and the idealists. Realists, who come in both Democratic and Republican varieties, argue that the Bush administration has been naive to promote democracy in Arab countries, as evidenced by ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq, recent gains by Islamist parliamentary candidates in Egypt and Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections. They suggest that, in the storm-tossed atmosphere of the Arab Middle East, democracy will do less to extinguish terror, as President Bush predicts, than to ignite it.
It is customary for politicians and commentators to distance themselves from those responsible for foreign policy setbacks. Because Bush is increasingly viewed as overly ideological and out of touch, the herd will increasingly want to appear hardheaded and realistic. My fear is that, in the process, a new conventional wisdom will emerge that promoting democracy in the Middle East is a mistake. It is not.
We should remember that the alternative to support for democracy is complicity in backing governments that lack the blessing of their own people. That approach confuses the appearance of stability with the reality, betrays Arab democrats and smells of hypocrisy. America cannot refurbish its tarnished reputation as a global leader by abandoning what sets it apart from the likes of China or Vladimir Putin's Russia.
  Report: U.S. Notifying Mexico Of Some Civilian Border Patrol ActsMay 10, 2006 15:10 The U.S. Border Patrol is alerting Mexican officials when civilian border patrol groups detain or allegedly mistreat suspected illegal immigrants, according to a newspaper report published Tuesday.

The policy is meant to assure the Mexican government that migrants' rights are being observed, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mario Martinez told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of Ontario.

On Tuesday, the agency called the article inaccurate.

Citing interviews with Border Patrol agents and documents on a Mexican government Web site, the newspaper reported agents notify Mexican authorities when members of civilian groups such as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps apprehend or allegedly use violence against border crossers.

"If an alien is encountered by a Minuteman or arrested by the Minuteman, then we will allow that government to interview the person," Martinez told the newspaper.

The report also cited three documents on the Web site of the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations that say Mexican consulates are in close contact with Border Patrol officials regarding the safety of border crossers who have been stopped by civilian groups.

  The Corporate-U.S. Takeover Of The Iraq EconomyMay 10, 2006 03:22 The roots of the economic takeover of Iraq are long and deep. They became more aggressive after the strongest U.S. ally in the region, the Shah of Iran, was deposed in the 1979. The roots of the quest of dominance of the oil-rich region are found in both the Democratic and Republican Party, but the most aggressive pursuit has been by George W. Bush.

Former President Jimmy Carter wrote in his memoirs that many Americans "deeply resented that the greatest nation on the earth was being jerked around by a few desert states." And, when he was president he put forward "the Carter Doctrine" in a State of the Union Address in 1980 that acknowledged "the overwhelming dependence of the Western democracies on oil supplies from the Middle East" and promised military force would be used to ensure access to Middle East oil: "Any attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America and . . . will be repelled by any means necessary including the use of force."

But, according to a book by Antonia Juhasz, "The Bush Agenda," it was the Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations that most aggressively pursued the Iraq oil economy. Her excellent book tells a story that explains the reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It shows how the Reagan and Bush I administrations began by building a friendly trade relationship that provided money, arms, intelligence, and political protection to Saddam Hussein - despite his brutal record as a despotic dictator.

  United States Admits Mistakes In War On TerrorMay 09, 2006 15:44 At a U.N. hearing Monday, the U.S. government admitted it made mistakes in the treatment of prisoners in the war against terror, but said it has taken measures to prevent abuse. A team of 25 senior officials defended Washington's treatment of detainees before the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva.

In this second appearance before the U.N. Committee Against Torture, the senior officials answered a number of questions about Washington's alleged use of torture, about U.S. detainee operations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq and about the treatment of terror suspects.

The head of the U.S. delegation and legal adviser of the Department of State, John Bellinger, told the panel's 10 independent experts that all U.S. officials and government agencies are prohibited from engaging in torture at all times and in all places. He said this is the case even in situations where the law of armed conflict applies.

In an effort to silence critics of U.S. interrogation methods, Bellinger said the United States believes everyone is entitled to humane treatment. He said freedom from torture is an inalienable right.

  Bush Clears The Way For Corporate DominationMay 05, 2006 17:58 When George W. Bush says that he wants to spread freedom to every corner of the earth, he means it.

But of course the president that turned Soviet-era gulags into secret CIA prisons in order to do God-knows-what to God-knows-whom isn't talking about individual freedom. He means corporate freedom -- freedom for the great multinationals to extract everything they can from the world's resources and labor without the hindrance of public interest laws, environmental regulations or worker protections.

Bush's vision of a free world actually looks just like the corporate globalization agenda pushed by a succession of American presidents in institutions like the World Trade Organization.

  War On Terror Sideswipes DarfurMay 05, 2006 14:27 The people of the Darfur region of Sudan who are dying, whether by starvation or by the gun, or who are being kidnapped and raped, are the victims of their oppressors, as goes without saying.

But they are also the victims of the war on terrorism. Or, more accurately, of the bungled war on terrorism.

One consequence of the shambles in Iraq is that the West has lost its nerve about nation-building. The price of intervening abroad is now seen as very likely to be too high, and even if successful, likely to be so only temporarily and with all kinds of unintended consequences.

Darfur ought to be a prime candidate, morally and politically, for the mission of nation-building.

A civil war has raged for years between the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum and rebels representing the population in the country's western region of Darfur.

  Cheney Has No Regrets Over Iraq InvasionMay 05, 2006 05:24 Three years into the war that has come to define the legacy of the Bush administration Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, has said he has no regrets about the decision to invade Iraq.

Cheney's refusal to admit to doubts about going to war highlights his isolation from an administration which has demonstrated a degree of candour about Iraq, as well as the rest of the country where only 37% approve of the White House's handling of the conflict. Cheney has even less support; his approval ratings have dipped below 20%. But in an interview to appear in June's Vanity Fair magazine, he remained a picture of certitude.

Asked whether in his "darkest nights" he ever doubted the decision to go to war, he said: "I think what we've done has been what needed to be done."

Cheney was unmoved by postwar disclosures about the use of hyped and faulty intelligence to make the case for the invasion -- some of which has been tied directly to his office.

He said: "In the end, you can argue about the quality of the intelligence and so forth, but ... I look at that whole spectrum of possibilities and options, and I think we did the right thing."

Ed: Ouch... can it be any more plain how dogmatic and blind these people are to reality?

  Rumsfeld Heckled By Former CIA AnalystMay 05, 2006 05:09 Anti-war protesters repeatedly interrupted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a speech Thursday and one man, a former CIA analyst, accused him in a question-and-answer session of lying about Iraq prewar intelligence.

"Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?" asked Ray McGovern, the former analyst.

"I did not lie," shot back Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards ready to remove McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies.

With Iraq war support remaining low, it is not unusual for top Bush administration officials to encounter protests and hostile questions. But the outbursts Rumsfeld confronted on Thursday seemed beyond the usual.

  Islamists Using US Video Games In Youth AppealMay 04, 2006 22:04 This is frightening...
  US, South Korea At Odds Over North Korean Human Rights IssuesMay 04, 2006 21:05 A human rights group says the food scarcity in North Korea is becoming more severe, and is being exacerbated by Pyongyang's recent policies. The general issue of how North Korea treats its citizens has become a matter of public contention between the United States and South Korea in recent days, underlining the two countries' basic philosophical differences in approaching the North.

The New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch says North Korea's recent policy moves are helping push the country toward a renewed food crisis.

In a report released Thursday, the organization criticized Pyongyang's decision to ban the private sale of grain in markets, and to suspend emergency operations by the United Nations World Food Program.

North Korea recently reinstated its central food rationing mechanism, known as the Public Distribution System. But Tom Malinowsky, Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, says that system has probably not functioned for a long time.

  Hypocrite: US Vice-President Criticizes Russia's Human Rights RecordMay 04, 2006 21:03 Vice President Dick Cheney has accused Russia of restricting the rights of its citizens and using its vast energy resources for political blackmail. At the same time, Cheney praised those leaders as their countries try to emerge from the Soviet era. He made the remarks during a speech at a conference of East European leaders in the Baltic republic of Lithuania.

In a strongly-worded speech, Vice-President Cheney said that "opponents of reform" in Russia are seeking to "reverse the gains" made over the last decade.

In contrast, he praised what he called the progress East European countries have made since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Most of the leaders of those countries also attended the conference in the former Soviet republic of Lithuania.

Cheney said the democratic unity of Europe is the best way to insure peace on the continent, and criticized the Kremlin's increasing grip over the broadcast media and political life.

He added that the Kremlin uses its near-total control over gas pipelines as a political weapon.

  Uscirf Lists Eleven Countries As "World'S Worst Violators Of Religious Freedom"May 04, 2006 19:36 The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today announced its 2006 recommendations to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs. The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that the United States designate as CPCs those countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.

The Commission’s recommendations for CPC designation for 2006 are: Burma, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. In recommending these countries for CPC designation, the Commission reaffirms its recommendations from 2005.

The Commission has also established a Watch List of countries where conditions do not rise to the statutory level requiring CPC designation but which require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments. Afghanistan has been added to the Commission’s Watch List this year, joining Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

Though not on the Watch List, the Commission is closely monitoring the situations in India, Russia and Sri Lanka, and it continues to be especially concerned about the situation in Iraq.

  US Senate passes $108.9 bln war-funds billMay 04, 2006 19:26 The U.S. Senate approved funding on Thursday for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricane-recovery efforts, ignoring President George W. Bush's threat to veto the $108.9 billion bill as loaded with extra spending he did not seek.

By a vote of 78-20, the Senate approved an emergency bill that would spend $14.4 billion more than Bush requested. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, backed Bush by voting against the measure.

The House of Representatives passed a bill in line with Bush's request and the two chambers will try to work out their differences by the end of this month.

Before completing the bill, the Senate cut $47 million in foreign aid this year to Egypt, one of the largest recipients. Of that, $35 million would be reassigned for famine and disaster relief in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and possibly Somalia.

  Cheney: Searching for Oil in KazakhstanMay 03, 2006 16:23 Vice President Dick Cheney's trip to Kazakhstan this week takes him to a land at the crossroads of the Bush administration's most pressing foreign-policy challenges: Russia, China, Iran and the global clamor for oil.

Awash in crude oil and natural gas reserves, Kazakhstan is one of a few nations that experts say has the capacity to expand energy output. It's wedged between the growing economic influences of China and Russia and may emerge as an alternative source of oil as the U.S. seeks to isolate Iran over that country's nuclear development program.

Cheney's talks Friday with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, between stops in Lithuania and Croatia, come at a critical time. Americans are in the midst of what U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman has called a crisis because of rising gasoline prices driven by insufficient supply, and in Kazakhstan sits one of the world's 10 largest oil fields.

"The Caspian basin is one the final frontiers of today's energy development," said Ariel Cohen, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based research group. "It is important to get this oil to the global markets, preferably bypassing Russian chokeholds."

  Powell: I Wanted More Troops In IraqMay 02, 2006 21:01 Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell advised President George W. Bush before the Iraq war to send more troops to the country, but the administration did not follow his recommendation, Powell said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Critics accuse Mr. Bush and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of failing to send enough soldiers to secure the peace in Iraq after the invasion three years ago.

Powell said he gave the advice to now retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who developed and executed the Iraq invasion plan, and Rumsfeld while the president was present.

"I made the case to Gen. Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld before the president that I was not sure we had enough troops," Powell said in an interview on Britain's ITV television, according to a transcript released by the network. "The case was made, it was listened to, it was considered... A judgment was made by those responsible that the troop strength was adequate."

  Qatar Announces Grants For U.S. Hurricane VictimsMay 02, 2006 14:37 Qatar was to announce Tuesday roughly $60 million in grants to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina, including $17.5 million to Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Catholic university in the United States.

Other beneficiaries are Tulane University, Children's Hospital in New Orleans, Habitat for Humanity, Louisiana State University and the March of Dimes.

Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the Qatar ambassador to the United States, said his country has pledged a total of $100 million to help Hurricane Katrina victims. The remaining $40 million will be assigned in coming months.
  US Presbyterians Call An End To Cuba Travel RestrictionsMay 01, 2006 20:17 The moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, Rick Ufford-Chase, who recently travelled to Cuba, has called for an end to the travel restrictions which, he says, isolate Christians from one another and maintain unnecessary tensions.

As the Bush administration continues to tighten the US trade embargo on the Cuba, students, academics, Cuban-Americans and religious groups are finding their travel increasingly restricted.

"We are asking the government of the United States to make more available licenses for religious leaders, because we think that it's more important than ever to be building strong relationships between these two churches," Ufford-Chase said recently during a six-day visit to the Caribbean island.

  Biden Calls For Autonomy For Iraq's Main GroupsMay 01, 2006 20:08 high ranking U.S. Senate Democrat says dividing Iraq into federal areas along ethnic lines will increase security and allow the United States to withdraw most of its troops.

Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says Iraq's Sunni Arab, Shi'ites and Kurds should be allowed to run their own affairs while leaving border defense, foreign affairs, and oil revenues to a central government in Baghdad.

Biden made the argument for a federal system based on Bosnia in an essay he co-wrote with Council on Foreign Relations president Leslie Gelb in Monday's New York Times.