Showing posts from December, 2005

NY Times editor and publisher stonewall Omsbudman on timing of NSA story

Byron Calame: THE New York Times's explanation of its decision to report, after what it said was a one-year delay, that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrants was woefully inadequate. And I have had unusual difficulty getting a better explanation for readers, despite the paper's repeated pledges of greater transparency. For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States. I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor, on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the p

How Iraqis are cracking terror cells

US News: It is 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 10, five days before Iraq's national elections. A red four-door sedan carrying four men cruises through the western half of this freewheeling oil town. The old beater of a car doesn't attract any particular attention before the driver, an 18-year-old called Nashwan, pulls over near a gaggle of campaign workers hanging political posters. A man known as Abu Mahmoud steps out of the car. He draws a handgun. Two other men with guns follow quickly. The campaign workers step back, then begin shouting angrily. Abu Mahmoud points his gun at one of the workers. He fires. The man falls to the ground, dead. A hundred feet in the air, atop a mosque's minaret, an Iraqi police sniper hears the shots. The sniper draws a bead on one of the gunmen. He pulls the trigger, his bullet dropping the man to the ground. The gunfire alerts the police officers inside Four West, one of Mosul's heavily fortified police stations. They race to the scene.

UN bar blasted in Gaza

Reuters: Masked gunmen stormed into a club for United Nations workers in Gaza City on Sunday and blew up the drinking hall in a new sign of spiralling unrest ahead of a Palestinian election. It was the first such attack in Gaza on a U.N. target and came against a backdrop of growing unease among foreigners. Just over one day earlier, a group freed three British hostages that had been seized to demand foreign pressure on Israel. The bombing was another big blow for President Mahmoud Abbas, just hours after he had vowed to impose order ahead of a January 25 election and as militants announced the expiry of a de facto truce with Israel that they had followed at his behest. Gunmen burst into the U.N. club, one of the few places that alcohol is served in conservative Muslim Gaza. It had been closed for the day. The attackers tied up the security guard and struck him with gun butts. Then they set explosives in front of the bar, unrolled a detonator cable and blew up the

The LA Times impressive year of errors

Paterico "summarizes an entire year’s worth of work documenting omissions, distortions, and misrepresentations by this newspaper. When someone truly takes the time to provide specific examples of liberal bias in the news media, the result can be voluminous, and this post is no exception."

Norks gathering their nuke bomb materials

Sunday Times: NORTH KOREA is working to restart a reactor that would produce enough plutonium to make 10 atomic bombs a year, a leading American nuclear scientist has revealed. Siegfried Hecker, former director of the US government’s top secret Los Alamos laboratory, also said the North Koreans reprocessed 8,000 fuel rods to make up to 14kg (30lb) of plutonium last summer, despite taking part in six-party talks hosted by China to end their weapons programme. “They have the plutonium,” he said. “We have to assume the North Koreans can and have made a few nuclear devices.” Hecker’s revelations were based on information gleaned during two visits to North Korea, the last in August 2005, in which he met physicists and, in a pure moment from spy fiction, was handed a specimen of weapons-grade plutonium, stored in a marmalade jar. His findings are being studied with increasing concern in Washington. North Korea further hardened its defiant stance this weekend by ending all United Nations foo

The changing face of battle in Iraq

Bill Roggio: With the wrap up of “The Anbar Campaign” , the fight against the Iraqi insurgency is changing its nature. Large scale clear & hold operations such as Sword , Iron Fist , Rivergate , and Steel Curtain are less likely to be executed, as the efforts are moving more and more towards reconstruction/civil military affairs operations and a policing solution. There are internal political considerations, and the formation of the new government and the desire to include mainstream Sunni political parties play a large role in how operations are conducted. The Iraqi government plays a greater role in the nature of operations. This does not mean battalion-plus sized operations will no longer occur, however they are more likely to be the exception rather than the norm. More often than not, raids are now occurring at the battalion level or below. CENTCOM’ s recently released tally of the results of operations in northern Iraq reflects this trend. Over 109 suspected terrorists an

New Orleans Real Estate Market Upbeat in Right Location, Location, Location

NY Times: A surprisingly healthy real estate market in the New Orleans metropolitan area is proving to be one bright spot in an otherwise stagnant local economy. The market is not sizzling hot, at least by comparison to New York and San Francisco in recent years. Still, it is stronger than anyone might reasonably expect four months after Hurricane Katrina, with prices for houses in many areas at or above prestorm levels. "Right after the storm, if I had heard myself talking like I am now, about setting records in some offices and posting three record-breaking months in a row, I would've wondered what Kool-Aid this guy was drinking," said Arthur Sterbcow, the president of Latter & Blum, an 89-year-old New Orleans real estate firm that bills itself as the largest on the Gulf Coast. "But every day it gets crazier and crazier in a positive way." The last few months of 2005, Mr. Sterbcow said, have proven to be "the best period in the history of our

Enemy losing support in Iraq

Brig. Gen. C.D. Alston: ... The proven success of the Iraqi security forces has led to strong public support in the region and a corresponding drop in support for al Qaeda in Iraq. This is evident in that 50 percent of all IEDs found in the Kirkuk area last week were a direct result of tips from local citizens. This type of citizen involvement in neighborhoods and cities across the country exposes the enemies of Iraq, decreases their ability to survive, and ultimately leads to reduced levels of violence. ... However, the insurgency, even without the surge, is showing little capacity to sustain numerous and persistent elevated attack levels. Its diminishing capability can be attributed to three things. The first is the joint offensive operations that have been launched by coalition forces and Iraqi security forces over the course of the last several months, all of which were focused on defeating terrorists and foreign fighters, and disrupting the insurgency

German migration caused by employment policies

Reuters: Germans are leaving their country in record numbers but unlike previous waves of migrants who fled 19th century poverty or 1930s Nazi terror, these modern day refugees are trying to escape a new scourge -- unemployment. Flocking to places as far away as the United States, Canada and Australia as well as Norway, the Netherlands and Austria more than 150,000 Germans packed their bags and left in 2004 -- the greatest exodus in any single year since the late 1940s. High unemployment that lingers at levels of more than 20 percent in some parts of Germany and dim prospects for any improvement are the key factors behind the migration. In the 15 years since German unification more than 1.8 million Germans have left. "It's hard for me to even imagine any more what it's like to have so much unemployment," said Karin Manske, 45, who moved to the United States with her two children eight years ago to start her own business as a consultant. "It's hard to fatho

Syrians threaten witness against Assad with treasaon charge

Reuters: Syrian lawmakers demanded on Saturday that former Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam be tried for treason and corruption after he publicly broke with President Bashar al-Assad. Speaking from Paris, where he moved after resigning as vice-president in June, Khaddam launched an unprecedented attack on Assad, saying he had threatened Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister who was assassinated in February. He also accused the government of making political blunders in Lebanon and of failing to deliver economic and political reforms at home, leaving millions of Syrians to go hungry. "I ask the Syrian leadership to try him ... for humiliating 10 million Syrians when he said half of the Syrian people are eating from the garbage," legislator Umeima Faddoul told a session of Syria parliament. "I tell him, those who eat from the garbage are traitors like you ... Treason is the darkest shade of black." Khaddam told Al Arabiya television in an interview air

The cultural insensitivity of fighting back

Strategy Page: ... The War on Terror has become the War Against Islamic Radicalism. This movement has always been around, for Islam was born as an aggressive movement, that used violence and terror to expand. Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly, and still called upon to inspire the faithful. The current enthusiasm for violence in the name of God has been building for over half a century. Historically, periods of Islamic radicalism flared up periodically in response to corrupt governments, as a vain attempt to impose a religious solution. The current violence is international because of the availability of planet wide mass media, and the fact that the Islamic world is awash in tyranny and economic backwardness. Islamic radicalism itself is incapable of mustering much military power, and the movement largely relies on terrorism to strike a blow for the cause. Most of the victims are fellow Moslems, which is why the radicals eventually become so unpopular among their own peopl

2005 heros list

Riehl World View has put together a month by month list of military heroism. It is something the mainstream media should have done, but they were probably afraid someone would think they want the US to win the war. Please check out the list, it is worth it.

Russia and Ukraine argue over natural gas

CNN: A former Kremlin adviser has criticized Moscow's New Year deadline for Ukraine to accept a large gas-price increase, saying the demand indicated resurgent Russian imperialism. Meanwhile on Saturday Europe warily watched the standoff amid warnings that its supplies could also be affected. Ukraine has hitherto received one-third of its natural gas from Russia at the heavily subsidized rate of $50 (€42) per 1,000 cubic meters, in addition to its domestic supply and imports from Turkmenistan. But Russia's Kremlin-controlled gas company Gazprom has now threatened to cut supplies to Ukraine on Sunday if Kiev does not agree to pay more than four times the current rate, which is closer to what most Western European countries pay. "If Ukraine doesn't sign a contract to buy gas by the appointed hour before the New Year, then at 10 o'clock a.m. on the 1st of January we will put a complete stop to delivery of all gas from the Russian Federation to the Ukraine," said

The German Season of Stupidity

Richard Chesnoff: Like millions of other Americans, I can't forget the brutal 1985 torture and murder of young U.S. naval officer Robert Dean Stethem. Apparently, the German authorities can. They've just released Stethem's Arab terrorist killer from prison and sent him back to his buddies in Beirut. Stethem, a 23-year-old Navy diver, was returning from an assignment in the Mideast aboard TWA Flight 847 when Mohammed Ali Hammadi and another Islamic fanatic hijacked the plane on June 14, 1985. For the next 17 days, the gun-waving terrorists forced pilots, plane and 145 passengers on a circuitous route: twice to Algiers and twice to Beirut. Finally, after Israel agreed to release 435 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners from its jails, the passengers were freed. Not, however, before Stethem had been singled out for being a member of the U.S. military. For hours Rob Stethem was tortured and then apparently shot by Hammadi. In a final cowardly act, Stethem's limp body was

Spies like us

Kathleen Parker: I've been trying for several days now to get upset about the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program. No, wait, make that President George W. Bush's illegal, warrantless, domestic spying scandal. That sounds more darkly nefarious, more richly conspiratorial and, most important, more impeachable. But is it true? Is Bush spying illegally on Americans? As usual, it depends on whose head is talking and how one spins the yarn. " The president has authorized a domestic spying program without court approval" sounds like Big Brother is breathing down all our necks. "The president has authorized national security agents to wiretap suspected terrorists" sounds like common sense. Thus, try as I might, I can't muster outrage over what appears to be a reasonable action in the wake of 9/11. As a rule, I'm as averse as anyone to having people "spying" on me. I'm also as devoted to protecting civil liberties as any othe

The Homeland Maginot Line

Opinion Journal: ... ... what we have is a kind of antiterror version of France's pre-World War II Maginot Line; an expensive, highly visible static defense against a nimble adversary. Congress loves it because it offers the chance to throw money at domestic constituencies, and liberals love it because it allows them to sound hawkish on terror without having to fire a shot. The rest of us, however, need to be realistic about its abilities. This is especially the case as Congress becomes increasingly un serious about the domestic threat. It says something about the current state of play that Mr. Bush must now profess gratitude to Congress for graciously agreeing to a one-month extension of the USA Patriot Act, which in 2001 passed the Senate 98-1. Even more unserious has been the political posturing and mock horror that followed this month's revelations of the National Security Agency's warrantless phone intercepts. It's refreshing to know that 64% of Americans, accord

The WaPo Special Report list

In the Washington Post's Politics section you can find a list of what it calls Special Reports. In cluded are reports on: The Jack Abramoff Story The Plame Affair DeLay Indicted What you will not find is a Special Report on the biggest scandel in Washington. There is no special report on the rogue intelligence agents who are trying to undremine US policy in the war. It is clearly a much bigger threat to the country than any of the so called "Special Reports, which are basically Democrat atempts to undermine Republicans by criminalizing political differences. The Dems have adopted this tactic becasue debating on the issues just has not worked out for them inrecent years. The Plame Affair, as they call it, should be a subheading in the story on rogue agents trying to undermine the war. Ronnie Earle's conduct in indicting DeLay should be the focus of that story. Abramoff was a bipartisan briber, err contributor, but you rearely see that aspect of the story.

Virginia tries to deny benefits to illegals

Washington Times: A new Virginia law that bars illegal aliens from receiving state-funded benefits goes into effect tomorrow. The law restricts anybody without a Social Security number from receiving Medicaid, temporary assistance for needy families, and help from several other state and local programs. Supporters say the measure could save the state millions. "A lot of us were saying, instead of raising taxes, why don't we start prioritizing where we're spending our existing money," said Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican, who sponsored the bill. "One of the things we found was the state was not checking for legal presence for Medicaid." Activists who oppose the new law say it duplicates other state and federal statutes that already block illegal aliens from receiving government benefits. For example, federal law prohibits immigrants without green cards or work visas from receiving food stamps and assistance from similar programs.

Justice Department opens probe into NY Times NSA leaks

Bill Sammon: The Justice Department has begun an investigation into an illegal leak that allowed the New York Times to disclose that the National Security Agency was intercepting al Qaeda conversations. "The leaking of classified information is a serious issue," White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy told reporters near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. "The fact is that al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page One. And when America's is, it has serious ramifications. You don't need to be Sun Tzu to understand that," Mr. Duffy said, referring to the legendary ancient Chinese military strategist. A spokeswoman for the New York Times declined to comment on the probe, aimed at identifying who leaked the story about the NSA eavesdropping on Americans who are suspected of communicating with al Qaeda operatives overseas. Mr. Duffy said the probe was not ordered by the White House, although President Bush speculated earlier

Market does not trust Chavez

Bloomberg News via Houston Chronicle: Venezuela's stock index fell the most among the world's primary equity benchmarks this year over concerns that President Hugo Chavez will divert profits from investors as he seeks to redistribute wealth to the country's poor. The Caracas Stock Exchange index fell 32 percent, the biggest decline among 78 world indexes tracked by Bloomberg. Of the index's 16 members, steel maker Siderurgica Venezolana Sivensa led losers, falling 50 percent to 41.5 bolivars. The index on Friday rose 170.41, or 0.8 percent, to 20,394.83. "Investors are just leery about investing in the economy for the long term, given the economic policies being implemented," said Miguel Octavio, executive director of BBO Servicios in Caracas. Chavez, who was elected in 1998 and survived a recall vote last year, says capitalism breeds poverty and class inequality. ... The man is ignorant of economics. The communist/socialist model is the one he is trying

Witness says Assad threatened Hariri

AP via CNN: Former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a one-time stalwart of the ruling Baath Party, said on Friday that former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri was threatened by Syria months before he was assassinated. Khaddam made the claim as he declared a formal break with President Bashar Assad in a television interview from Paris, citing corruption within the regime and its failure to reform. "Hariri was subjected to many threats from Syria," Khaddam said in the interview with Al-Arabiya, the pan-Arab satellite broadcaster, his first since he left Syria several months ago. "Dangerous things were said." He added that Hariri was once summoned to Damascus, the Syrian capital, "and spoken to in extremely harsh words by President Bashar Assad." A U.N. probe into Hariri's killing has implicated Syria, but Damascus has denied the allegations. ( Read about the probe pointing to top officials ) Khaddam became a Syrian vice president in 1984 and resi

Civilian deaths in Iraq drop dramatically since liberation

Gateway Pundit: This is startling news! It is a shame the media is not reporting it! Iraq has seen a very dramatic decrease in the number of civilian casualties this past year! In fact if you take out that horrible day in August when nearly one thousand panicked Iraqis were trampled or drowned near a Muslim shrine, the year shows striking progress compared to 2003 and 2004. The data for this graph was taken from the anti-war Iraq Body Count website. The tally includes all of the civilian deaths in Iraq since January 2003, two months before the War in Iraq began. The totals include civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation. The site also adds in terrorists who died and other unexplainable violent deaths. It still is the best site out there tallying deaths in Iraq even though much of their data is questionable. ... There is much more including several charts.

An Iraqi baby named Georgia

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The first time Georgia soldiers entered her house, Soad was scared. Americans had detained her eldest son for questioning once. She didn’t like gun-toting men in camouflage uniforms poking around the family home in Abu Ghraib. But out of that frightening moment came a gift of joy. Gainesville-based soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade Combat Team promised to help give new life to Soad’s granddaughter Noor al-Zahra, born three months ago with a severe spinal cord defect that was untreatable in Iraq. “I am so thankful for everything,” Soad said. “We will call the baby Noor al-Zahra Georgia.” “Georgia! Georgia!” she told her daughters when she called home from Baghdad’s Camp Liberty on Thursday. “We want to name her that because the people of Georgia are helping us,” Soad said. “It will be a nice name for her.” Just hours before an anticipated departure from Iraq, Soad sat in an Army trailer sorting out a host of emoti

US exit strategy from post war Germany

AP: The U.S. Air Force on Friday handed over the keys to Rhein-Main Air Base to the operator of Frankfurt International Airport, the last step in closing the base that hosted American forces for 60 years. The 120 buildings on the base are to be bulldozed to make way for a third terminal for Frankfurt's sprawling civilian airport — continental Europe's busiest. It officially becomes German property on Saturday. The ceremony, at which Brig. Gen. Mike Snodgrass gave the keys of the base's buildings and main gate to Manfred Schoelch of airport operator Fraport AG, followed Rhein-Main's formal closing in October. "It's bittersweet — after 60 years of partnership, to see it come to an end," said Capt. Jonathan Friedman, a U.S. Air Force spokesman. ... Apparently a schorched earth exit for 120 buildings.

Justice Department opens probe into NY Times NSA leaks

AP: The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of classified information about President Bush's secret domestic spying program, Justice officials said Friday. The officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, said the inquiry will focus on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Times revealed the existence of the program two weeks ago in a front-page story that acknowledged the news had been withheld from publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm various aspects of the program. The story unleashed a firestorm of criticism of the administration. Some critics accused the president of breaking the law by authorizing intercepts of conversations - without prior court approval or oversight - of people inside the United States and abroad who

The 16 year old who decided to go to Iraq

Pajamas Media has a round up of blogs and stories about this kids excellent adventure. Talk about immersion journalism: Farris Hassan, a 16-year old boy from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, skipped classes one week earlier than the Christmas break was supposed to start. The son of two Iraqi-Americans living in the US for 35 years, and speaking no Arabic, Farris decided sneak into Iraq via Kuwait on his own without even telling his parents, to complete an assignment for his journalism class. He was handed to the US embassy in Baghdad by the 101st Airborne after the Associated Press -who got a nice exclusive- called them when the boy walked into its bureau to announce its editors he was there to do research and humanitarian work. During his adventure, Farris Hassan wrote an essay: "[t]here is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction [...] Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their go

Terrorist without honor in their home base

Strategy Page: In the two countries that Islamic terrorism was born in, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the terrorists are taking a beating. This is good news that doesn't get much attention, but it says much about the future of Islamic terrorism. In Egypt, the majority of the population continues to be turned off by the seemingly random violence of Islamic terrorists. The radical groups continue to survive, partly because of the fact that Palestinian Islamic terrorist groups thrive right next door in Gaza. The Palestinian terrorists are the darlings of the Moslem world because, so far, the Palestinians have concentrated on killing non-Moslems (namely Israelis and Arab Christians). The main source of Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia, has turned on Islamic terrorism with a vengeance. Last week, Abdel-Rahman Mohammed al Suwailmi, the most wanted Islamic terrorist in the kingdom was captured. This happened after al Suwailmi went on a one-man terror spree, killing five policemen in dri

Liberals need to admit they have been wrong about Iraq

David Limbaugh: It is amusing to watch liberals try to explain away the recent upswing in President Bush's approval rating, from around 39 percent to 47 percent. Sure enough, they've figured a way to attribute the turnaround to a validation of their positions rather than his policies. They are promoting the idea that President Bush's popularity increase is due to his admission of "mistakes" on Iraq. But this is merely wishful thinking. Ever since President Bush attacked Iraq, Democrats have been castigating him for doing it and for how he's handled the operation every step of the way. After all, their best political hope is either that we fail in Iraq or, if we succeed, that they can somehow taint the effort from its inception by showing he lied to get us into an unnecessary and costly war. Their persistence finally paid off as the public -- treated to almost exclusively negative reporting from the mainstream media (MSM) along with the Democrats' ceaseless

Without a record worth running on Canada's liberals run against US

Patrick Basham: Peaceful and picturesque, Canada is proof that God exists. But Canadian politics proves that He also has a sense of humor. How else does one explain a campaign dominated by Paul Martin's calculated insults towards the United States, as simultaneously Stephen Harper seeks absolution for his fondness for America? In power for nearly 13 years, but perhaps five weeks from opposition status, the Liberals have pinned their hopes on nationalistic flag-waving. In a replay of the last election, Liberal fortunes will rest upon the party's ability to exploit anti-Americanism. This sorry state of affairs is both politically sad and culturally tragic. On a political level, it reflects the Liberals' precarious position. Philosophically spent and ethically challenged, they are left to plummet the political depths with a perverse brand of statesmanship. The party's only hope is to cast itself as Mother Canada, protecting her vulnerable and insecure children hudd

Why the enemy fights

Clifford D. May: To be fair to our enemies, they are only doing what comes naturally. We are the historical oddballs. Wars have been fought since time immemorial. The vast majority have been over power and resources, to defeat rival civilizations, to vanquish hated “others.” Why did Spartans, Persians, Macedonians and Romans fight? What motivated Bonaparte to take on the Austrians, the Ottomans, the Russians and the English? What caused Imperial Japan to attempt to conquer Asia? Almost a thousand years ago, Genghis Khan provided a candid and classic answer: “Man's highest joy is victory: to conquer his enemies; to pursue them; to deprive them of their possessions; to make their beloved weep; to ride on their horses; and to embrace their wives and daughters.” Sure, grievances may be a contributing factor. The Germans were angry over the way France and Britain treated them after the First World War. But it was to dominate the world -- not to redress insults an

More evidence that it was Africa embassy trials that tipped bin Laden to phone intercepts

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough: ... Anyway, we came across a speech, delivered in April 2002, that reveals the U.S. continued to gain valuable information by eavesdropping on al Qaeda members after August 1998. The speech was delivered by U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth. Judge Lamberth presided over the special court that administers the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The FISA court approves warrants for searches and intercepts of foreign agents in this country. It was the first speech on FISA ever delivered by a judge who sat on the special panel. Of that time in August 1998, Judge Lamberth said, "On the night of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa, I started the first emergency hearings in my living room at 3 a.m. From the outset, the FBI suspected bin Laden and the surveillance I approved that night and in the ensuing days and weeks all ended up being critical evidence at the trial in New York last year in which several of bin Lade

Code plan Red--the conquest of Canada

Washington Post: Invading Canada won't be like invading Iraq: When we invade Canada, nobody will be able to grumble that we didn't have a plan. The United States government does have a plan to invade Canada. It's a 94-page document called "Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan -- Red," with the word SECRET stamped on the cover. It's a bold plan, a bodacious plan, a step-by-step plan to invade, seize and annex our neighbor to the north. It goes like this: First, we send a joint Army-Navy overseas force to capture the port city of Halifax, cutting the Canadians off from their British allies. Then we seize Canadian power plants near Niagara Falls, so they freeze in the dark. Then the U.S. Army invades on three fronts -- marching from Vermont to take Montreal and Quebec, charging out of North Dakota to grab the railroad center at Winnipeg, and storming out of the Midwest to capture the strategic nickel mines of Ontario. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy seizes the Great Lake

Rogue intelligence officials continue their war against US policies

Dana Priest: The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al-Qaida has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources. The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved. Over the past two years, as aspects of this umbrella effort have burst into public view, the revelations have prompted protests and official investigations in countries that work with the United States, as well as condemnation by international human rights activists and criticism by members of Congress. Still, virtually all the programs continue to operate largely as they were set up, according to current and former officials. The

Finally, Iraq war will increase supply of oil... from Lybia

Houston Chronicle: Executives at ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil are doing their celebrating early this year. When the clock strikes midnight in Houston on New Year's Eve, half a world away in Libya the companies will be getting down to business, taking over the Waha Field's oil production. The Houston-based energy outfits, along with New York-based Amerada Hess, announced a deal with the Libyan National Oil Corp. on Thursday that will allow them to return to the desert oil patch they had to abandon in 1986. It has been almost 20 years since the companies, which had operated as the Oasis Group, left because of a U.S. trade embargo imposed after the United States accused Libya of backing terrorist groups. The agreement on terms for the old Libyan concessions marks a highly anticipated return for the former Oasis members to the North African nation, which is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. ... Libyan oil production has taken a nose dive sinc

Bill test commitment to stopping illegals

NY Times: Churches, social service agencies and immigration groups across the country are rallying against a provision in the recently passed House border-security bill that would make it a federal crime to offer services or assistance to illegal immigrants. The measure would broaden the nation's immigrant-smuggling law so that people who assist or shield illegal immigrants would be subject to prosecution. Offenders, who might include priests, nurses or social workers, could face up to five years in prison. The proposal would also allow the authorities to seize some assets of those convicted of such a crime. Proponents of the legislation have argued that such provisions would make it harder for illegal immigrants to thrive in the United States by discouraging people from helping them. The legislation, which cleared the House this month, could also subject the spouses and colleagues of illegal workers to prosecution. ... "We are going to fight this legislation," said Gusta

Floodwall failure led to 588 deaths in New Orleans

KRT: Nearly 600 people who died because of Hurricane Katrina might have survived had floodwalls on two New Orleans canals not collapsed, a Knight Ridder analysis of where bodies were found after the storm indicates. The bodies of at least 588 people were recovered in neighborhoods that engineers say would have remained largely dry had the walls of the 17th Street and London Avenue canals not given way - probably because of poor design, shoddy construction or improper maintenance - after the height of the storm. In contrast, 286 bodies were recovered in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East and neighboring St. Bernard Parish, where Katrina's storm surge poured over levees and flooded neighborhoods. The role of the 17th Street and London Avenue canal floodwalls in the destruction of New Orleans has been hotly debated in the four months since the storm. Engineers who are investigating their collapse think that floodwaters generated by Katrina never rose high enough to pour over the

Arab Foreign Ministers hate freedom of the press

BBC: Arab foreign ministers have condemned the Danish government for failing to act against a newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. At the Arab League conference in Cairo, they said they were "surprised and discontented at the response". Islam forbids any depiction of Muhammad or of Allah. The Jyllands-Posten newspaper published a series of 12 cartoons showing Muhammad, in one of which he appeared to have a bomb in his turban. The Arab League's ministers council said the cartoons were an insult to Islam. The government's response "was disappointing despite its political, economic and cultural ties with the Muslim world", it added. ... There is a lesson here for Muslims. Freedom of the press means that people can say insulting things about you and your religion. They can be disrespectful. The problem with Muslims is that they do not think God can handle these situations himself and that they will be in trouble with him if they d

Bin Laden imitates a dead man for last year

AFP: He has not issued any public statement all year. Speculation has grown over his influence, health and even possible death. Where is the Western world's most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden? The Al-Qaeda leader's period of silence is the longest since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, offering no clues to the whereabouts or fate of a man who this year appears to have quietly slipped off the radar. Bin Laden has not been heard of since a December 27, 2004 audiotape in which he anointed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted man, as Al-Qaeda's leader in the war-torn country. Just before, on December 16, 2004, a video surfaced where he also called on his fighters to strike Gulf oil supplies and warned Saudi leaders they risked a popular uprising. ... It should be noted tht the attempted popular uprising in Sadia Arabia has been a failure and disaster for al Qaeda. That alone would be enough for him to head his face in shame, not to mention the org

Enemy in Iraq lacks sustainability

USINFO.STATE.GOV: Insurgents in Iraq are showing little capacity to keep up numerous and persistent attacks, a senior U.S. general in Baghdad says. At a briefing December 29, Air Force Brigadier General C.D. Alston said there are three reasons for the diminishing capability of the insurgents to keep up attacks. The ability of insurgents to wage sustained combat is a key indicator closely watched by U.S. military forces to determine the enemy's effectiveness. "The first is the joint offensive operations that have been launched by coalition forces and Iraqi security forces over the course of the last several months," said Alston, who is the director of strategic communications for the Multinational Force Iraq. The security offensive has been focused on defeating terrorists and foreign fighters, and disrupting the insurgency, he said, with great effect. The second reason, he said, is the progressive training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. "They contin

ACLU thinks intercepting enemy communications will net Democrats

Gateway Pundit: The ACLU equates "defending America from terrorists" to "listening in on democrats." Are they on to something, here? In a full-page advertisement in today's New York Times , the ACLU intensified its call for a special counsel to be appointed to determine whether President George W. Bush violated federal wiretapping laws by "authorizing illegal surveillance". Of course, by the look of their ad, they already have their minds made up. ... The ACLU is a firm believer in terrorist rights.

Al Qaeda in Iraq admits guilt in attack against Israel

Reuters: Al Qaeda in Iraq said it had launched missiles at Israel from Lebanon as part of a "new attack" on the Jewish state, a statement posted on the Web said on Thursday. "The lion sons of al Qaeda launched ... a new attack on the Jewish state by launching 10 missiles ... from the Muslims' lands in Lebanon on selected targets in the north of the Jewish state," said the statement, attributed to al Qaeda and posted on an Islamist Web site. It appeared to be the first claim of responsibility from al Qaeda for an attack on Israel from Lebanon. The statement could not be authenticated, but was posted on a main Web site frequently used by Iraqi insurgent groups. ... "This auspicious attack was a response by the mujahideen (holy fighters) to the oath by the mujahid sheikh Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda ... which the (Jews) and idolaters' servants in Muslim countries failed to grasp. The future shall be more bitter and more harsh,"

Are you for safety are terrorist rights?

Jim Pinkerton: This will be remembered as the year in which mass surveillance became normal, even popular. Revelations about the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping rocked the civil liberties establishment, but the country as a whole didn't seem upset. Instead, the American people, mindful of the possible danger that we face, seem happy enough that Uncle Sam is taking steps to keep up with the challenges created by new technology. Ask yourself: Do you think it's a bad idea for the feds, as U.S. News & World Report mentioned, to monitor Islamic sites inside the United States for any possible suspicious radiation leaks? The Council on American-Islamic Relations is up in arms - but are you? If you were to read in the paper that some FBI agent has gotten in trouble over pointing a Geiger counter at a mosque, would you be inclined to give the FBI agent the benefit of the doubt? I thought so. Or take another example: Wednesday's USA Today details government

Attitudes and satisfaction

Donald Lambro: Two year-end developments have emerged in the war on terrorism: More Americans now approve of President Bush's policies, while fewer trust the Democrats to keep the country safe from harm. If this trend persists into the 2006 midterm elections, the Republicans will undoubtedly hold on to their governing majority as voter doubts about the Democrats' soft-on-national security posture continue to grow. This month's 10-point rise in Mr. Bush's job approval polls on Iraq, along with continued majority support for how he has protected the U.S. from another terrorist attack represents a clear turnaround over the last year. It was due to a series of effective speeches explaining why we are fighting in Iraq, a successful election to install a new government there, and the likely start of U.S. troop withdrawals next year as Iraqi soldiers take over more of their country's security. Mr. Bush's turnaround is well known by now. What is not so well

Creating flatland for expansion

AP via Washington Times: The towering mountains that frame this Appalachian town have been a hindrance to growth, forcing homes and businesses to crowd together side by side on precious little flat land. That could change under a plan by Pikeville leaders who recruited a coal company to flatten two mountaintops to make room for the town of about 6,300 to expand. Appalachian towns like Pikeville that have exhausted all usable land have no choice but to look to the mountaintops, City Manager Donovan Blackburn said. "If you look at the amount of land that is developable right now, there is virtually none," Mr. Blackburn said. "This will be a tremendous benefit." However, in mountaintop-removal coal mining, hilltops are blasted away to uncover coal seams, and the leftover rock and dirt are dumped into adjacent valleys, burying streams. Environmentalists say the process destroys wildlife habitat and contaminates water. But Pikeville wouldn'

US firm on sanctions for Iran arms suppliers

Bill Gertz: China's government yesterday demanded that the Bush administration lift sanctions imposed on six companies on charges of illicit sales to Iran, saying the action undermined Beijing's cooperation with the United States. New details of the arms-related transfers were disclosed yesterday, including two chemical shipments from India to Iran, and Tehran's purchase of 800 high-powered sniper rifles from an Austrian gun maker. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing that the sanctions were unjustified and should be lifted. A State Department spokesman said yesterday the Chinese objections would not change the U.S. decision. The Bush administration announced this week it had imposed sanctions on six Chinese state-run companies, two Indian chemical manufacturers, and the Austrian arms maker for selling missile-related and weapons of mass destruction goods to Iran. The sanctions were imposed under the 2000 Iran Nonprolifer

UN rejects redeal for Sunnis

NY Times: A United Nations official today announced publicly for the first time that he believed the results of the Dec. 15 Iraqi parliamentary election appeared valid, and he said demands by some groups for a new vote were unjustified. ... As the Gattlin Brothers sing, "Winners walk out laughing, losers cry, 'Deal again.'"

Blanco tries to repair her state and reputation

NY Times: She is struggling to rebuild a shattered state. But along the way, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana is also working to repair a wounded reputation - her own. She has been mocked as weepy and indecisive by radio talk show hosts who deride her as "momma governor." She has feuded with the White House, which did not invite her to a recent announcement on levee protection. She has been criticized on Capitol Hill by Republicans as having made a "dysfunctional" response to Hurricane Katrina. And through it all, Ms. Blanco, a 63-year-old Democrat, has found herself dogged by invidious comparisons to a certain mayor of New York whose stand-tall image after Sept. 11, 2001, seems to have become the one that all elected officials are expected to duplicate during a crisis. "People can't stop comparing her to Rudy Giuliani ," said State Representative Troy M. Hebert, a Democrat from Jeanerette. "When 9/11 came, he looked like he was