Since myspace is still limiting the room I can have for my blog you will have to go to http://blueinmo-linksoftheday.blogspot.com/ because the People I.D. chip article is the last link of the day.
Monks interrupt Tibet media tour
Buddhist monks staged a surprise protest in front of a tightly-controlled tour of foreign reporters in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.
Ezzat Shahrour, Beijing-based Al Jazeera correspondent, said the monks interrupted the tour and shouted that they wanted freedom in a rare display of continuing dissent in Tibet.
"About 50 to 60 monks came out screaming and shouting that they wanted freedom, that they wanted their colleagues to be released," said Shahrour from Lhasa.
"They said they would like the Dalai Lama to come back to Tibet."
Shahrour said the group shouted that Chinese authorities have arrested about 1,000 monks.
It is unclear what happened to the monks after their extraordinary outburst.
The incident staged outside Lhasa's Jokhang temple on Thursday is embarrassing for China's government, which brought the foreign media delegation to Tibet to show that life has returned to normal in the Himalayan region after widespread unrest.
The Jokhang temple, regarded as one of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhists, is located in the heart of the old quarter of the city.
The quarter was the scene of some of the worst violence during a day of rioting on March 14, which followed four days of protests to mark the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
China generally does not permit foreign journalists to enter Tibet.
A number of world leaders have been calling on China to moderate its ongoing crackdown of Tibetan unrest.
George Bush, the US president, encouraged Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart, on Wednesday to open talks with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.
Hu said that the Dalai Lama must renounce support for the independence of Tibet and stop encouraging violence and illegal activities aimed at harming the Olympics, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.
The Dalai Lama denies he wants anything more than greater autonomy for his homeland and has criticised the violent protests.
But he said on Thursday the Beijing Olympics in August provided a chance for the world to remind China of its human rights record.
"In order to be a good host to the Olympic Games, China must improve its record in the field of human rights and religious freedom," the Dalai Lama told India's NDTV news channel in an interview to be aired on Friday.
"It's very logical, very reasonable."
Belgium may boycott
Meanwhile, the Belgian government has indicated it may boycott the Olympic Games over China's crackdown in Tibet.
Didier Reynders, the Belgian vice premier, told Le Soir newspaper on Wednesday that staying away from China "is not an option that we reserve today. But we can never exclude the worst."
His comments came a day after Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, suggested
he could boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics in August.
The demonstrations in Lhasa have spread to parts of Chinese provinces that border Tibet and have large ethnic Tibetan populations.
China says 19 people were killed at the hands of Tibetan mobs. The Tibetan government-in-exile says 140 died in Lhasa and elsewhere - most of them Tibetan victims of security forces.
China has defended its crackdown on the Tibetan protesters as a necessary move to contain violent mobs, while pouring troops into the region.
Human Rights Watch said the United Nations human rights council should
address the crisis in Tibet.
Human Rights Watch said Australia, the European Union, Switzerland and the US raised human rights abuses in Tibet during a recent session of the UN Human Rights Council, but China blocked debate, backed by Algeria, Cuba, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
Barr, Gravel Eye Libertarian Nod for President
By JOSH GERSTEIN, STAFF REPORTER OF THE SUN | March 27, 2008
With Mayor Bloomberg out of the presidential race and Ralph Nader's appeal on the wane, the third-party presidential candidates of the moment may be a former Democratic senator of Alaska, Maurice Gravel, and a former Republican congressman from Georgia, Robert Barr.
No one expects either Mr. Gravel or Mr. Barr to be the next president of America. But as Mr. Nader and another third-party candidate, Patrick Buchanan, showed in Florida in 2000, even a few thousand votes can be enough to swing a close election between the major-party candidates.
"I think it makes great sense for the Libertarians, the Greens, the Independents, and other parties, for a fusion party to rally around a single candidate who can match the Democrats and the Republicans," Mr. Gravel told The New York Sun yesterday. "If I can get the Libertarian nomination for president, I can be in the race all the way up to November 4th to take on the Democratic and Republican nominees, who are both going to be pro-war and pro-military-industrial complex, all of which I oppose."
Mr. Gravel spoke a day after he formally joined the Libertarian ranks and renounced his Democratic Party membership. "I'm leaving the Democratic Party because it left me," he said. "Being a party member doesn't mean you put the party above principle."
The Libertarian presidential nomination would offer Mr. Gravel one of the surest routes to getting on the ballot in nearly every state. "Certainly, it would help him," the publisher of a newsletter tracking such issues, Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, said. "The Libertarian Party nominee was on the ballot in 48 states plus the District of Columbia in 2004 - all 50 in the previous three elections."
However, Mr. Winger said Mr. Gravel's sudden transition could rub Libertarians the wrong way. "It just looks terribly opportunist. He should have joined years ago if he was going to do this. He joins the party and comes out the next day and wants the party's presidential nomination?"
Members of the Libertarian Party are welcoming the decision by Mr. Gravel, who had waged a longshot antiwar candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, to join their party, which opposes foreign military adventures by America while backing small government and drug legalization at home. But they are expressing some skepticism of Mr. Gravel's plan to press his presidential campaign as a "fusion" candidate representing the Libertarians and other third parties.
A top Libertarian Party official and the editor of ThirdPartyWatch.com, Steven Gordon, said Mr. Gravel's proposal for a fusion candidacy was intriguing, but probably wouldn't fly. "I think it would be a very difficult sell," Mr. Gordon said, though he noted that a Senate candidate in Maryland, Kevin Zeese, managed to win concurrent nominations in 2006 from the Libertarians, the Greens and the Populist Party. "It's not out of the realm of possibility, but I'd say it's highly improbable."
One challenge for Mr. Gravel is that many Libertarians are hoping that Mr. Barr, who attracted national attention as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during President Clinton's impeachment, will throw his hat into the presidential ring.
"I've not met Senator Gravel, but certainly I'm delighted that he joined the Libertarian Party apparently for many of the same reasons that caused me to leave the Republican Party," Mr. Barr said in an interview yesterday. Mr. Barr said third parties share a common interest in getting access to ballots and debates, but he sounded dubious about Mr. Gravel's talk of a "fusion" campaign. "I'm not sure that policy or agenda has really been well thought through," Mr. Barr said.
While Libertarians and Greens usually oppose both the Iraq War and the war on drugs, they diverge sharply on issues such as trade, the environment and health care, with Greens favoring a major role for government and Libertarians preferring a laissez faire approach.
Mr. Gravel said he thought he could bridge that divide. "I know government can be the most oppressive agency in human experience. But I don't fear government," he said.
Mr. Barr, a conservative who gained attention for teaming up with the American Civil Liberties Union against surveillance measures, said he would not "dally" in making a decision about whether to mount a Libertarian bid for president, but he did not give a specific time frame. The party's convention is set for May 22 to 26 in Denver.
Whoever wins the Libertarian nomination is likely to have company on the ballot in most states. A perennial presidential hopeful, Mr. Nader, is running again this year. "He's doing very well on ballot access," Mr. Winger said. A Libertarian who ran in the Republican primary, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, has said he's not interested in making a third-party bid.
While Mr. Gravel argued for unity, Mr. Winger said third parties might have the best chance of getting into debates this fall if there are credible candidates from both the left wing, such as Mr. Nader, and the right, such as Mr. Barr. That could "create a balance" where the Democratic and Republican nominees feel they won't be disadvantaged by letting others on the stage, the newsletter editor said.
Frontline's Timid Iraq Retrospective
By Ray McGovern
March 26, 2008
Frontline’s “Bush’s War” on PBS Monday and Tuesday evening was a nicely put-together rehash of the top players’ trickery that led to the attack on Iraq, together with the power-grabbing, back-stabbing and limitless incompetence of the occupation.
Except for an inside-the-beltway tidbit here and there – for example, about how the pitiable Secretary of State Colin Powell had to suffer so many indignities at the hands of other type-A hard chargers – Frontline added little to the discussion.
Notably missing was any allusion to the unconscionable role of the Fourth Estate as indiscriminate cheerleader for the home team, nor any mention that the invasion was a serious violation of international law. But those omissions, I suppose, should have come as no surprise.
Nor was it a surprise that any viewer hoping for insight into why Cheney and Bush were so eager to attack Iraq was left with very thin gruel.
It was more infotainment, bereft of substantive discussion of the whys and wherefores of what in my view is the most disastrous foreign policy move in our nation’s history.
Despite recent acknowledgements from the likes of Alan Greenspan, Gen. John Abizaid and others that oil and permanent (or, if you prefer, “enduring”) military bases were among the main objectives, Frontline avoided any real discussion of such delicate factors.
Someone not already aware of how our media has become a tool of the Bush administration might have been shocked at how Frontline could have missed one of President George W. Bush’s most telling “signing statements.”
Underneath the recent Defense Authorization Act, he wrote that he did not feel bound by the law’s specific prohibitions:
“(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq,” or
“(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”
So the Frontline show was largely pap.
At one point, however, the garrulous former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage did allude to one of the largest elephants in the living room – Israel’s far-right Likudniks – and their close alliance with the so-called neo-conservatives running our policy toward the Middle East.
But Armitage did so only tangentially, referring to the welcome (if totally unrealistic) promise by Ahmed Chalabi that, upon being put in power in Baghdad, he would recognize Israel.
Not surprisingly, the interviewer did not pick up on that comment; indeed, I’m surprised the remark avoided the cutting room floor.
Courage No Longer a Frontline Hallmark
Frontline has done no timely reportage that might be looked upon as disparaging the Bush administration – I mean, for example, the real aims behind the war, not simply the gross incompetence characterizing its conduct.
Like so many others, Frontline has been, let’s just say it, cowardly in real time — no doubt intimidated partly by attacks on its funding that were inspired by the White House.
And now? Well the retrospective criticism of incompetence comes as polling shows two-thirds of the country against the Iraq occupation (and the number is surely higher among PBS viewers).
So, Frontline is repositioning itself as a mild ex-post-facto critic of the war, but still unwilling to go very far out on a limb. Explaining the aims behind war crimes can, of course, be risky. It is as though an invisible Joseph Goebbels holds sway.
On Monday evening I found myself initially applauding Frontline’s matter-of-fact, who-shot-John chronology of how our country got lied into attacking and occupying Iraq. Then I got to thinking – have I not seen this picture before? Many times?
It took a Hollywood producer to recognize and act on the con games that sober observers could not miss as the war progressed: Where were the celebrated “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD)?
Robert Greenwald simply could not abide the president’s switch to “weapons of mass destruction programs,” which presumably might be easier to find than the much-ballyhooed WMD so heavily advertised before the attack on Iraq.
You remember – those remarkable WMD about which UN chief inspector Hans Blix quipped that the U.S. had 100 percent certainty of their existence in Iraq, but zero percent certainty as to where they were.
Robert Greenwald called me in May 2003. He had read a few of the memoranda published by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) exposing the various charades being acted out by the administration and wanted to know what we thought of the president’s new circumlocution on WMD.
I complimented him on smelling a rat and gave him names of my VIPS colleagues and other experienced folks who could fill him in on the details.
Wasting no time, he arrived here in Washington in June, armed simply with copious notes and a cameraman. Greenwald conducted the interviews, flew back to his eager young crew in Hollywood and, poof, the DVD “Uncovered: The War on Iraq” was released at the beginning of November 2003.
So Frontline is four and a half years behind a Hollywood producer with appropriate interest and skepticism. (Full disclosure: I appear in “Uncovered,” as do many of the interviewees appearing in Frontline’s “Bush’s War.”)
Actually, the interviewing by Frontline occurred just a few months later. I know because I was among those interviewed for that as well, as was my good friend and former colleague at the CIA, Mel Goodman.
I was struck that Mel looked four years younger on this week’s Frontline. It only then dawned on me that he was four years younger when interviewed.
Safety in Retrospectives
It also struck me that producing a Frontline-style retrospective going back several years is a much less risky genre to work with. Chalk it up to my perspective as an intelligence analyst, but ducking the incredibly important issues at stake over the next several months is, in my opinion, unconscionable. The troop “surge” in Iraq, for example.
Only toward the very end of the program does Frontline allow a bit of relevant candor on a point that has been self-evident since Cheney and Bush, against strong opposition from Generals Abizaid and Casey (and apparently even Rumsfeld), decided to double down by sending 30,000 more troops into Iraq.
A malleable new Secretary of Defense [Robert Gates] would deal with the recalcitrant generals and pick a Petreaus ex Machina of equal malleability and political astuteness to implement this stop-gap plan.
One of the last Frontline interviewees concedes that the purpose of the “surge” was to stave off definitive defeat in Iraq, so that Bush’s war could be handed off to his successor somewhat intact. (Even that seems doubtful at this point.)
“That decision [to order the ‘surge’] at a minimum guaranteed that his [Bush’s] presidency would not end with a defeat in history’s eyes, that by committing to the ‘surge’ he was certain to at least achieve a stalemate,” said journalist and author Steve Coll.
Okay, a small kudo to Frontline for including that bit of truth – however obvious.
Rather Not, Thank You
Intimidation of the media is what has happened all around, including with Frontline, which not so many years ago was able to do some gutsy reporting. Let me give you another example about which few are aware.
Do you remember when Dan Rather made his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, admitting that the American media, including him, was failing to reveal the truth about things like Iraq?
Speaking to the BBC on May 16, 2002, Rather compared the situation to the fear of “necklacing” in South Africa.
"It's an obscene comparison," Rather said, "but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tires around peoples' necks if they dissented. In some ways, the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck."
Talking to another reporter, Dan told it straight about the careerism that keeps U.S. journalists in line: "It's that fear that keeps [American] journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions and to continue to bore-in on the tough questions so often."
The comparison to “necklacing” may be “obscene” but, sadly, it is not far off the mark.
So what happened to the newly outspoken Dan Rather with the newly found courage, when he ran afoul of Vice President Dick Cheney and the immense pressure he exerts on the corporate media?
We know about the lies and the cheerleading for attacking Iraq. But there is much more most of us do not know and remain unable to learn if Rather and other journalists keep acting the part of the lion in the Wizard of Oz, before he gets his courage.
For Dan Rather, the fear would simply not go away – even after leaving CBS for HDNet and promising that, on his new “Dan Rather Reports” show, viewers would see hard-hitting and courageous reporting that he said he couldn’t do at CBS.
Will it surprise you that Dan Rather cannot shake the necklace?
I refer specifically to a program for “Dan Rather Reports,” meticulously prepared by award-winning producer, Kristina Borjesson. The special included interviews with an impressive string of first-hand witnesses to neocon machinations prior to the U.S. attack on Iraq, and provides real insights into motivations – the kind of insights Frontline did not even attempt.
Nipped in the Bud
Last year Borjesson’s taping was finished and the editing had begun.
Borjesson’s requests to interview people working for the vice president had been denied. But, following standard journalistic practice (not to mention common courtesy), she sent an e-mail to John Hannah in Cheney’s office in order to give Hannah a chance to react to what others – including several of the same senior folks on Frontline last evening – had said about him for her forthcoming report.
At that point all hell broke loose. Borjesson was abruptly told by Rather’s executive producer that by sending the e-mail, Borjesson could have “brought down the whole (‘Dan Rather Reports’) operation.”
The show was killed and Borjesson sacked. For good measure, she was also accused of “coaching” interview subjects and taking their words out of context.
Since neither Rather nor his executive producer would provide proof to substantiate that allegation, Borjesson took the unprecedented step of sending her script and transcripts to all her interview subjects and asking them to confirm or deny that she had coached them or taken their words out of context.
Not one of them found her script inaccurate or said they were coached. She has the e-mails to prove this.
This sorry episode and Frontline’s careful avoidance of basic issues like the strategic aims of the Bush administration in invading and occupying Iraq are proof, if further proof were needed, that the White House, and especially Cheney’s swollen office, exert enormous pressure over what we are allowed to see and hear.
The fear they instill in the corporate press, and in what once was serious investigative reporting of programs like Frontline, translates into programs getting neutered or killed outright – and massive public ignorance.
Some consolation is to be found in the good news that, in this particular case, Kristina Borjesson is made of stronger stuff; she has not given up, and was greatly encouraged by how many of the very senior officials and former officials she had already interviewed consented to be re-interviewed (since the tapes belonged to the “Rather Not” folks).
Now who looks forward to being re-interviewed?
Borjesson’s original interviewees took into account her problems with the cowards and the censors – and her atypical, gutsy refusal to self-censor – and went the extra mile. A tribute to them as well, and their interest in getting the truth out.
Borjesson is now completing the program on her own. Look for an announcement in the coming months, if you’re interested in real sustenance rather than the pabulum served up, no doubt under duress, by Frontline.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington, DC. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer in the early sixties, then a CIA analyst for 27 years. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
To comment at Consortiumblog, click here. (To make a blog comment about this or other stories, you can use your normal e-mail address and password. Ignore the prompt for a Google account.) To comment to us by e-mail, click here. To donate so we can continue reporting and publishing stories like the one you just read, click here.
Our MSM couldn’t give a rats *ss about the families of the dead soldiers because most of the media ( MSNBC is
owned by GE ) and is making billions of dollars off war and occupation.
4000 DEAD: A Gold Star Mom Speaks Out
Gold Star Mom, Vickie Castro, whose son, Jonathan, was killed in Iraq, asks the American public and President George W. Bush, "What are YOU willing to sacrifice?"
Gold Star Mom Vickie Castro Mourns 4,000 Dead U.S. Troops
Vickie Castro lost her only son to George's War. What did you give up trying to stop it?
Give your first born to http://www.michaelmoore.com/
Gold Star Folks Off to Arlington -- Again
Five years later, it's become an annual tradition. Lots of people still proud of dead soldier, scholarship still named for him.
More heartbreaking morsels at http://www.michaelmoore.com/
Sgt. Sherwood Baker's Parents Mourn Loss of 4,000 US Troops
Hundreds Protest War Outside McCain's Office
From 3,990 to 4,000 With the Lafayette Crosses Memorial
Two separate stories on the Lafayette crosses. The first from March 19th, 2008, the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And the second from Easter Sunday when the 4,000th U.S. troop was killed (along with the 3,997th, 3,998th, and 3,999th).
The Crosses of Lafayette: http://lafayettecrosses.blogspot.com/
Helping you count the dead: http://www.michaelmoore.com/
The Crosses of Lafayette War Memorial, and the people behind it. Sadly, since this video was made, the number on the sign now reads over 4000.
Military Tells Bush of Troop Strains
At Pentagon, Bush Hears Military's Worries on War Strains From Long, Frequent Iraq Deployments
By ROBERT BURNS AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON Mar 27, 2008 (AP)
Behind the Pentagon's closed doors, U.S. military leaders told President Bush they are worried about the Iraq war's mounting strain on troops and their families. But they indicated they'd go along with a brief halt in pulling out troops this summer.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff did say senior commanders in Iraq should make more frequent assessments of security conditions, an idea that appeared aimed at increasing pressure for more rapid troop reductions.
The chiefs' concern is that U.S. forces are being worn thin, compromising the Pentagon's ability to handle crises elsewhere in the world.
In the war zone itself, two more American soldiers were killed Wednesday in separate attacks in Baghdad, raising the U.S. death toll to at least 4,003, according to an Associated Press count. Volleys of rockets also slammed into Baghdad's Green Zone for the third day this week, and the U.S. Embassy said three Americans were seriously wounded. At least eight Iraqis were killed elsewhere in the capital by rounds that apparently fell short.
Wednesday's 90-minute Pentagon session, held in a secure conference room known as "the Tank," was arranged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to provide Bush an additional set of military views as he prepares to decide how to proceed in Iraq once his troop buildup, which began in 2007, runs its course by July.
"Armed with all that, the president must now decide the way ahead in Iraq," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. The discussion covered not only Iraq but Afghanistan, where violence has spiked, and broader military matters, said Morrell, who briefed reporters without giving details of the discussion. Some specifics were provided by defense officials, commenting on condition of anonymity in order to speak more freely.
The Joint Chiefs are particularly concerned about Afghanistan and an increasingly active Taliban insurgency.
The United States has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan and 156,000 in Iraq.
U.S. forces in Iraq peaked at 20 brigades last year and are to be cut to 15 brigades, with a total of about 140,000 combat and support troops, by the end of July. A key question facing Bush is whether security conditions will have improved sufficiently by then to justify more reductions.
One of the leading advocates of Bush's troop buildup last year, military historian Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, said in an interview Wednesday that security conditions in Iraq, while better, are not good enough to justify any commitment to troop reductions beyond July.
"The military reality is that it's virtually inconceivable that it will make sense to draw down below 15 brigades this year," Kagan said.
Gates has said he would like to see the total drop to 10 brigades by the end of this year, but that now looks unlikely.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has proposed what is commonly called a "pause" to assess the impact of having withdrawn five combat brigades since December. He has argued that it would be reckless to shrink the American force so rapidly that the gains achieved over the past year are compromised or lost entirely.
Bush is expected to endorse Petraeus' approach. If, as expected, Petraeus is given until August or September to weigh the effects of the current round of reductions, then it is unlikely that the force would get much below 15 brigades by the time Bush leaves office in January.
Bush is unlikely to announce his decision until after Petraeus and the top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, return to Washington next month to report to Congress.
The Joint Chiefs, who do not command troops but are legally responsible for ensuring the fitness of the forces they provide to commanders, have grown increasingly concerned that the weight of five-plus years of war in Iraq could create severe, long-term problems, particularly for the Army and Marine Corps.
In their session with Bush, the chiefs laid out their concerns about the health of the U.S. force, several defense officials said. Bush was accompanied by his chief of staff, Joshua Bolten; his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"The conversations today with the Joint Chiefs were much broader than just Iraq," Hadley said later. "It was a step-back look of what are the challenges we face here in the next decade."
A senior administration official said the chiefs generally are in sync with Petraeus on slowing the pace of troop reductions.
Morrell said Bush is "constantly asking the Joint Chiefs about the health of the force, about retention rates, about family life, and so that was a large part of the conversation today."
The session was led by Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He presented the consensus view of the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps on Iraq strategy.
Mullen and Gates have said repeatedly that in addition to reducing troop levels in Iraq, they want to shorten tour lengths for soldiers from 15 months to 12 months as soon as possible. A decision to do that is expected, perhaps shortly after Bush reaffirms that the number brigades in Iraq will be cut to 15 by July. The Army calculates that at that point it could drop tours to 12 months and still give units at least 12 months at home to recover, retrain and rearm before deploying again.
Morrell said a decision on shortening tour lengths would be made by Gates in consultation with Bush.
"We are not there yet," Morrell said.
Shortly after they Petraeus and Crocker reported to Congress last September Bush announced the decision to reduce the number of combat brigades from 20 to 15.
At the time, Petraeus said additional cuts would be made but that he needed to wait until this spring to recommend a timetable. Since September, violence in Iraq has ebbed and U.S. and Iraqi casualties have declined markedly, although violence has jumped in recent weeks.
The president is to give a speech Thursday in Ohio on the political and economic situation in Iraq.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.
Fighting continues in Basra
Heavy fighting has continued between US-backed Iraqi security forces and fighters from the Mahdi Army of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr as military operations in Basra entered a third day.
The clashes on Thursday came in defiance of a Friday deadline by Nuri al-Maliki for armed groups to give up their weapons or face "severe penalties".
The Iraqi prime minister was in Basra personally overseeing the operation that has sparked violence across the country, leaving more than 50 people dead and another 300 injured.
A fire also raged near Basra after a bomb exploded underneath an oil pipeline, Iraqi officials said.
Followers of al-Sadr, meanwhile, were staging protests in Baghdad to denounce al-Maliki's Basra crackdown.
In the capital's impoverished Sadr City district, demonstrators shouted: "Maliki you are a coward! Maliki is an American agent! Leave the government, Maliki! How can you strike Basra?"
Protests were also planned in the southern city of Amara. Al-Sadr has threatened to launch a civil revolt if attacks against his followers are not halted.
The Iraqi government was holding talks with aides of al-Sadr in Najaf on Thursday to try to end the crisis, Liqa Ali Yassin, a member of Sadr's 32-member parliamentary bloc, said.
On Wednesday, al-Sadr had demanded that al-Maliki leave Basra and send a parliamentary delegation for talks on resolving the crisis. The violence began on Tuesday, when Iraqi troops launched operations in Basra on Tuesday to rid the city of "lawless gangs".
Fighting then spread to al-Sadr's stronghold in Baghdad and other cities. Iraqi sources told Al Jazeera that about 60 civilians were killed in a US air strike on the city of southern city of Hilla, although there were conflicting reports.
Iraqi security sources said that 29 people were killed. In Tikrit, at least seven civilians were reportedly killed and nine others were wounded in US air strikes that destroyed two homes. Three US employees were also seriously injured in rocket and mortar attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad.
Convoy attack Colonel Karim al-Zaidi, a police spokesman, said the convoy of Major General Abdul Jalil Khalaf, Basra's police chief, was hit by a suicide car bomber around 1am on Thursday [22:00 GMT Wednesday] as it passed through the streets of the city.
He said: "Three policemen were killed in the attack," adding that Khalaf was unharmed. Residents said the streets of the oil-rich city of 1.5 million people were deserted on Thursday and that shops and businesses were shut.
Before the latest fighting, Basra had become the battlefield for a turf war between the Mahdi Army and two rival Shia factions - the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim and the smaller Fadhila party.
The three factions are fighting to control the huge oil revenues generated in the province, which was transferred to Iraqi control by the British military in December. Sadr's powerful movement called protest rallies for Thursday "to express no confidence in the Maliki government" in the wake of the Basra assault.
US military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner told a news conference on Wednesday that 2,000 extra Iraqi security forces had been sent to Basra for the operation. He said it was aimed at improving security in the city ahead of provincial elections in October.
"The prime minister's assessement is that without this operation there will not be any hopeful prospect of improving security in Basra," Bergner said.
Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Baghdad, said the crackdown in Basra was meant as a show of strength by al-Maliki. He said: "I think the prime minister is trying to put his stamp in this operation. No one expected that he would go to Basra."
"Al-Maliki wants to show that he is in control because in the past, he was seen as a weak, impotent leader."
WATCH the Video
The internal Shia conflict in Iraq - 26 Mar 08
You won’t see this on your TV.
The latest violence in Iraq has put extreme pressure on a ceasefire by the Mahdi Army - a ceasefire that has been credited with reducing the violence, not just in Basra, but across the country.
The Mahdi Army announced that the ceasefire is still in place.
But for how long? Owen Fay reports.
Tens of Millions in Oil Stolen from Iraq EVERY Day
U.S. investigators say that corruption is rampant in Iraq's oil sector, with as much as $30 million worth of oil being stolen EVERY effing day!
Oil records that facilitate organized theft burned anyway. And burned again.
Help stop the criminals at http://www.michaelmoore.com/
Riz Khan - Phil Donahue - 26 Mar 08
You won’t see this either
We talk to Phil Donahue, the founder and star of the first talk show in the US.
Are We Really That Ill?
By CHRISTOPHER LANE | March 26, 2008
CHICAGO - America has reached a point where almost half its population is described as being in some way mentally ill, and nearly a quarter of its citizens - 67.5 million - have taken antidepressants.
These statistics have sparked a widespread, sometimes rancorous debate about whether people are taking far more medication than is needed for problems that may not even be mental disorders. Studies indicate that 40% of all patients fall short of the diagnoses that doctors and psychiatrists give them, yet 200 million prescriptions are written annually in America to treat depression and anxiety. Those who defend such widespread use of prescription drugs insist that a significant part of the population is under-treated and, by inference, under-medicated. Those opposed to such rampant use of drugs note that diagnostic rates for bipolar disorder, in particular, have skyrocketed by 4,000% and that overmedication is impossible without over-diagnosis.
To help settle this long-standing dispute, I studied why the number of recognized psychiatric disorders has ballooned so dramatically in recent decades. In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders added 112 new mental disorders to its third edition, DSM-III. Fifty-eight more disorders appeared in the revised third edition in 1987 and fourth edition in 1994.
With over a million copies in print, the manual is known as the bible of American psychiatry; certainly it is an invoked chapter and verse in schools, prisons, courts, and by mental-health professionals around the world. The addition of even one new diagnostic code has serious practical consequences. What, then, was the rationale for adding so many in 1980?
After several requests to the American Psychiatric Association, I was granted complete access to the hundreds of unpublished memos, letters, and even votes from the period between 1973 and 1979, when the DSM-III task force debated each new and existing disorder. Some of the work was meticulous and commendable. But the overall approval process was more capricious than scientific.
DSM-III grew out of meetings that many participants described as chaotic. One observer later remarked that the small amount of research drawn upon was "really a hodgepodge - scattered, inconsistent, and ambiguous." The interest and expertise of the task force was limited to one branch of psychiatry: neuropsychiatry. That group met for four years before it occurred to members that such one-sidedness might result in bias.
Incredibly, the lists of symptoms for some disorders were knocked out in minutes. The field studies used to justify their inclusion sometimes involved a single patient evaluated by the person advocating the new disease. Experts pressed for the inclusion of illnesses as questionable as "chronic undifferentiated unhappiness disorder" and "chronic complaint disorder," whose traits included moaning about taxes, the weather, and even sports results.
Social phobia, later dubbed "social anxiety disorder," was one of seven new anxiety disorders created in 1980. At first it struck me as a serious condition. By the 1990s experts were calling it "the disorder of the decade," insisting that as many as one in five Americans suffers from it. Yet the complete story turned out to be rather more complicated. For starters, the specialist who in the 1960s originally recognized social anxiety - London-based Isaac Marks, a renowned expert on fear and panic - strongly resisted its inclusion in DSM-III as a separate disease category. The list of common behaviors associated with the disorder gave him pause: fear of eating alone in restaurants, avoidance of public toilets, and concern about trembling hands. By the time a revised task force added dislike of public speaking in 1987, the disorder seemed sufficiently elastic to include virtually everyone on the planet.
To counter the impression that it was turning common fears into treatable conditions, DSM-IV added a clause stipulating that social anxiety behaviors had to be "impairing" before a diagnosis was possible. But who was holding the prescribers to such standards? Doubtless, their understanding of impairment was looser than that of the task force. After all, despite the impairment clause, the anxiety disorder mushroomed; by 2000, it was the third most common psychiatric disorder in America, behind only depression and alcoholism.
Over-medication would affect fewer Americans if we could rein in such clear examples of over-diagnosis. We would have to set the thresholds for psychiatric diagnosis a lot higher, resurrecting the distinction between chronic illness and mild suffering. But there is fierce resistance to this by those who say they are fighting grave mental disorders, for which medication is the only viable treatment. Failure to reform psychiatry will be disastrous for public health. Consider that apathy, excessive shopping, and overuse of the Internet are all serious contenders for inclusion in the next edition of the DSM, due to appear in 2012. If the history of psychiatry is any guide, a new class of medication will soon be touted to treat them. Sanity must prevail: if everyone is mentally ill, then no one is.
Mr. Lane, a professor of English at Northwestern University, is the author of "Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness."
: LA Times marginalizes Kurdish heritage :
I was made aware of the following article in LA Times online blogs titled "Iraq's Kurds flock to parks to mark Persian New Year".
I was surprised that there was no explanation that the paper had made a mistake. Neither the title of the article nor the accompanied picture is representing the identity of the Kurds celebrating their Newroz. For those who are not aware what Newroz means to the Kurds I like to refer to one million people who gathered on March 21st in Amed and celebrated their national holiday so enthusiastically.
Of course, Kurds and Persians are cousins and culturally related. In fact they are as close to each other as Jews are to Arabs or Irish are to British. However, calling the most important national Kurdish holiday that was celebrated by the Kurds as belonging to another ethnic group is nothing but humiliation and insult to most Kurds who value their own identity.
No paper would say Arabs in Baghdad celebrated the Persian Tasuaa/Ashura, or the Jewish boys perform Arabic circumcision rituals. I am not aware of any journalist reporting that American celebrate Roman, Greek, or British New year, they just celebrate their own new year. Newroz and March 21st are as important for the Kurds as New Year and January First are for the most part of the Western world.
It is the responsibility of Los Angeles times to apologize to the Kurdish people for the mistake its untrained reporters made. The reporter might have been also thinking to get the attention of the Persian dominated LA media by calling the multi national new year in spring as only a Persian matter. Persian heritage has its own unique beauty and deserve recognition, but not by marginalizing the Kurdish identity. LA times might be forgiven by the Kurds, if the paper admits its error as National Geographic did when they erroneously named the Persian gulf as the Arabic gulf.
It is also the responsibility of every Kurd to remind the LA times and other established media not to intimidate and humiliate them by marginalizing their heritage and culture as a subdivision of the dominant cultures in the Middle East. Kurds might share many things with Persians, Arabs, and Turks, but calling their heritage anything but Kurdish is simply an insult. Please either write a letter to LA Times or post a comment here, if you are interested to defend the Kurdish heritage and identity.
Ground Zero Ruling Could Cost City Billions of Dollars
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN, STAFF REPORTER OF THE SUN | March 27, 2008
A federal appeals court in New York is refusing to grant New York City immunity from lawsuits by thousands of city employees and construction workers who cleaned up ground zero after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now say they suffer from respiratory illnesses.
A decision yesterday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means that the laborers are one step closer to trials or settlements. A three-judge panel of the court ruled unanimously that the city was not automatically entitled to immunity from the suits.
"This was the last legal obstacle standing between 10,000 people and their jury, their trial," a lawyer who represents many of the plaintiffs, David Worby, said.
Mr. Worby claims that about 550 of those 10,000 have cancer related to their exposure to toxins at ground zero.
The lawsuits claim that the city failed to ensure that ground zero was a safe workplace. High among the claims is the assertion that the city failed to enforce rules requiring laborers to wear respirators while working amid the toxins and rubble.
New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, both of which are defendants in the suits, have argued that they deserve immunity from the suits because the cleanup effort was part of a response to an unprecedented emergency. They say they should not be liable for paying potentially billions of dollars in damages.
The city's corporation counsel, Michael Cardozo, said in a statement that he was "confident that as the facts unfold" the city would ultimately be found to be immune from the lawsuits.
The first significant ruling in the case came in 2006, when a federal district judge in Manhattan, Alvin Hellerstein, found that the city was not liable for the conditions at ground zero in the days immediately after the terrorist attacks. But Judge Hellerstein ruled that the lawsuits could go forward against the city's wishes to give workers the chance to prove that ground zero remained an unsafe work environment weeks and months after September 11, 2001. The city and the Port Authority appealed to the 2nd Circuit, which yesterday denied their appeal in a highly technical ruling.
US And Allies To Microchip All Citizens To Prevent Bird Flu Pandemic
March 24, 2008
By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers (Traducción al Español abajo)
Russian infectious disease specialists are reporting in the Kremlin today that the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to approve an ‘emergency measure’ mandating that all human beings on our planet have implanted within their bodies a newly invented microchip said to be able to prevent the deaths of over a billion people from the dreaded avian flu virus H5N1.
Prompting this horrific WHO actions, these reports continue, is Europe's top semiconductor maker, STMicroelectronics, announcement of its development of this new microchip, and as we can read as reported by the Reuters News Service, and as we can read:
The device, which functions as a mini laboratory on a chip, can screen and identify multiple classes of pathogens and genes in a single diagnostic test within two hours, unlike other tests available on the market that can detect only one strain at a time and require days or weeks to obtain results.
Though rarely reported on in the West, the avian flu virus is, once again, exploding across Asia and the Middle East, with a further warning from Chinese expert, Zhong Nanshan, as he stated to the Ming Pao newspaper, that the H5N1 avian flu virus is showing signs of mutating, "When avian flu is around and human flu appears, this will raise the chances of avian flu turning into a human flu. We have to be very alert and careful in March."
Indonesia, the World’s largest Muslim Nation, however, and which the United Nations has stated is ‘losing the battle against the bird flu’, has accused the United States of using the avian flu virus to produce biological weapons, and as we can read as reported by China’s Xinhua News Service, and as we can read:
"The United States has flatly denied allegations it was producing biological weapons from bird flu samples sent by Indonesia to the World Health Organization, the English daily The Jakarta Post reported Monday.
Michael H. Anderson, counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia, has explained the U.S. has undertaken "not to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or retain microbial or other biological agents or toxins of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, and other peaceful purposes, as well as weapons and means of delivery."
Russian Military Analysts further state in these reports that the United States, and its Western Allies, have long sought to microchip their population, indeed the entire World, to further their goal of establishing a New World Order through the establishment of a One World Government, and Religion, under their complete control.
But, these madmen in the West have been constantly thwarted in their efforts to have mass public acceptance for the microchiping of human beings by their Christian believers, and who say that such a scheme would introduce into our World their prophecies of the Anti-Christ, and who, according to these Christians, would seek to have all of humanity accept the Mark of the Beast.
The Christian’s prophetic book of Revelations says about this ‘mark’ that, "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead.", and further warns of ‘eternal destruction’ for any human being accepting it.
It is, without doubt, clearly apparent that the United States, and its allies, have embarked upon a course of terrorizing their citizens into the accepting some of the most draconian laws meant to deny them their freedoms and liberties, and one can, also, clearly see these people accepting these new microchips under the belief that it will further protect them from the dangers they face.
But, one cannot help but wonder what catastrophes lie ahead for these people when forced to accept these microchips for ‘their own good’ and threats to their very lives should they trade their religious beliefs for those of their new Earth masters.