In my links of the day I try to find the links under the wire, articles all the top blogs miss. I'm not afraid to go to Al Jazeera, Kurd Media or to the Pakistan student movement page to bring the real daily news to you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Links of the Day 4/15/2008 Gas hits record high and Israel attacks Gaza

Whatever plagued the internet yesterday that stopped me from posting my links of the day here and at myspace seems to be fix and it wasn't just me affected by it.

Retail gasoline, diesel prices set records

Mon Apr 14, 2008

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The average price U.S. drivers paid for gasoline climbed to a new high of $3.39 a gallon after rising 5.7 cents over the last week, the federal Energy Information Administration said on Monday.

The national average price for regular, self-service gasoline is up 51.3 cents from a year ago because of high crude oil costs, which on Monday traded at almost $112 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The price of crude oil accounts for about 70 percent of the cost for making gasoline.

The EIA predicts summer gasoline demand will fall for the first time since 1991, as lofty pump prices and a weak economy discourage driving.

The head of the agency, Guy Caruso, has said he expects the United States will suffer a "small recession" during the first half of this year, due in part to high crude oil and gasoline prices.

In the EIA's latest survey of service stations, gasoline was the most expensive on the West Coast at $3.66 a gallon, up 8.4 cents. San Francisco had the highest city price at $3.82, up 9.5 cents.

The Gulf Coast states had the cheapest regional price at $3.29 a gallon, up 3.2 cents. Boston had the lowest city price, up 5 cents to $3.18.

Separately, the average price for diesel fuel soared 10.4 cents to a record $4.06 a gallon, up $1.18 from a year earlier, the agency said.

Truckers are suffering from the high fuel costs, paying about $1,000 for a fill-up.

Average diesel fuel prices were reported at $4 a gallon or higher in every region of the country, the EIA said.

In the agency's latest price survey, the central Atlantic states had the most expensive diesel fuel at $4.27 a gallon, up 12.4 cents. The Gulf Coast region had the cheapest diesel at $4, up 10.6 cents.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

Carter says request to enter Gaza turned down

Mohammed Assadi
Reuters US Online Report Top News

Apr 15, 2008 04:33 EST

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, shunned by Israeli leaders over his plans to meet Hamas, said on Tuesday he sought permission to enter the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip but was turned down.

Carter did not single out Israel by name for having turned down his request to visit Gaza, which Hamas seized in June after routing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah faction.

All of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza are controlled by the Jewish state. Egyptian forces are stationed at Gaza's southern border, which is largely closed.

"I haven't been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don't know yet," Carter said after meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The former U.S. leader has angered the Israeli government over plans to meet Hamas' top leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Syria, and for describing Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories as "a system of apartheid" in a 2006 book.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner met with Israel's ceremonial president Shimon Peres but was shunned by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top policymakers.

Israel's secret service also declined to assist U.S. agents guarding Carter, American sources familiar with the matter said. An Israeli security source said the Shin Bet security service did not receive a request to provide him with protection.

Carter said on Tuesday he would use his meeting with Meshaal to "get him to agree to a peaceful resolution of differences, both with the Israelis... and also with Fatah."

"Since Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in the final peace agreement, they ought to be involved in the discussions leading up to ... peace," said Carter, who brokered Israel's first peace treaty with an Arab neighbor, Egypt, signed in 1979.

Israel and the United States have sought to isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip and bolster Abbas, who holds sway in the occupied West Bank and has launched U.S.-backed peace talks with Olmert.

The Bush administration and Israel oppose Carter's planned meeting with Meshaal, whose Islamist group won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 but was boycotted by the West for refusing to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

During his visit to Ramallah on Tuesday, Carter said he planned to meet Palestinian political leaders, including Naser al-Shaer, who served as deputy prime minister in the Hamas-led government formed after the 2006 election.

Carter said he was not acting as a "negotiator or mediator" between Israel and Hamas.

"I'm just trying to understand different opinions and communicate ... between people who won't communicate with each other," he said. "So I think that if he (Meshaal) does have anything constructive to say, he or the president of Syria..., then I will bring that to other people."

Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but the group's 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

(Writing by Adam Entous; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

UN investigation into Bhutto’s assassination

15 April 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan’s Parliament unanimously passed a resolution seeking a U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, officials from her party said on Tuesday.

Lawmakers in the National Assembly, or lower house of Parliament, adopted the resolution late Monday, urging the government to ask the UN to look into Bhutto’s assassination in a gun and suicide bombing attack in December, said Izhar Amrohvi, secretary for parliamentary affairs in Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party.

President Pervez Musharraf has blamed a Taleban militant leader, Baitullah Mehsud, for the attack in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad. Mehsud has reportedly denied involvement.

Amrohvi said the parliamentary resolution will be forwarded to the foreign ministry to contact the UN for a probe.

Law Minister Farooq Naek, who introduced the resolution, said it sought a U.N. mandated international commission to identify culprits, perpetrators, organizers and financiers behind the heinous crime and bring them to justice,” state-run Radio Pakistan quoted him as saying on Monday.

Musharraf has opposed a UN probe but allowed British police to look into what caused Bhutto’s death.

The British investigation concluded that Bhutto died after slamming her head against the roof of her bulletproof sports utility vehicle during the attack. Bhutto party officials claimed that she died from an assassin’s bullet.

Pakistan’s new government and Parliament are dominated by a coalition of anti-Musharraf groups led by Bhutto’s party. They won parliamentary elections in February mainly on opposition to Musharraf’s increasingly authoritarian rule and his handling of the US-led war against terrorism.

Bhutto’s party had pledged to ask the U.N. to investigate her killing, and vowed to undo some of Musharraf’s key constitutional amendments and reinstate senior independent-minded judges the former army chief sacked under a state of emergency in November.

‘Massive’ US Attack Against Iran-Pakistan Said Ready

April 14, 2008

By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers

Russian Military Commanders reporting to President Putin today are stating that the sudden break off of the ‘secret backdoor’ negotiations between the United States and Iran has caused Iran’s President Ahmadinejad to call an ‘abrupt’ halt to negotiations between his Nation and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and, according to the Associated Press News Service, "dealing a blow to the U.N. monitor's efforts to investigate allegations that Iran tried to make nuclear arms..."

British Military sources are, likewise, reporting that the United States planned attack on Iran is imminent, and as we can read as reported by the Pakistan Tribune News Service:

"The London Telegraph reported that “British officials gave warning yesterday that America’s commander in Iraq will declare that Iran is waging war against the US-backed Baghdad government.

A strong statement from General David Petraeus about Iran’s intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian military facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment.”

Even more disturbing, according to these reports, is that the United States has expanded its planned Iran attack to include Pakistan, and as which we can read from the American President’s new warning issued to his people as reported by the Australian News Service:

"US President George Bush has said he believes another 9/11 attack on the United Sates should be considered a strong possibility and warned that such an attack could originate from Pakistan.

In an interview with America’s ABC TV, Mr Bush said: "If another September 11 style attack is being planned, it probably is being plotted in Pakistan, and not Afghanistan."

Russian Military Analysts have also confirmed Western media reports that with the addition of the United States 101st Airborne Division and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit of the US Marine Force, the Americans now have more military forces in Afghanistan than at any time since their 2001 invasion.

More ominously, these reports continue, are that these new US Military Forces are said to be ‘poised’ to strike into the heart of Pakistan’s volatile Waziristan region, an attack which will destroy Pakistan’s fragile new government and plunge that Nation into total chaos.

But, to ‘total chaos’ it appears that the United States and its European Allies have no choice as their economies continue their staggering collapse, called an economic ‘Black Death’, and which is fast leading to the total breakdown of the presently established World Order that arose from the ashes of World War II.

Adding to the growing Global turmoil embroiling us today are the expanding food riots that have now hit Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, and Haiti, where one UN peacekeeper has been reported killed. So dire has the food situation become that International appeals have now been issued, and as we can read as reported by the Washington Post News Service:

"The president of the World Bank yesterday urged immediate action to deal with sharply rising food prices, which have caused hunger and violence in several countries. The head of the IMF also sounded the alarm on food prices, warning that if they remain high there will be dire consequences for people in many developing countries, especially in Africa."

The appetite of the Americans for war appears not to be sated, as a new Associated Press poll in that country has recently shown that Iran has become their ‘greatest enemy’, and which is a very strange sentiment for these people to have as Iran has not invaded another country in over 150 years. But, also speaks to the power of their War Leaders and Propaganda Media Outlets to convince these poor people of anything, regardless of the truth or facts.

This is not, however, a sentiment held by American Soldiers, as a new report shows that though they are just a small percentage of the entire population of the United States they account for 20 percent of all US suicides.

To the exact timing of the United States planned attacks upon Iran and Pakistan we are provided with ‘clues’ from the Americans themselves, and who based upon a recent history of the atrocities occurring in that country, meant to incite the blood passions of their citizens, do appear to be following the ancient Sun-Moon-Mars cycle of the powerful ancient Babylonian (now Iraq) God-Queen Semiramis, especially as they relate to the ancient Spring ‘renewal of blood’ rites occurring in the month of April, and as we can see evidenced by these past events:

Siege at Waco which resulted in 67 deaths including 21 children. April 19, 1983

Oklahoma City Bombing which claimed the lives of 168 people, including women and children. April 19 1995

Columbine High School Massacre which killed 12 children and 1 teacher. April 20, 1999

Virginia Tech Massacre which killed 32 young collage students. April 16, 2007

Perhaps it would be well for the American people to reflect upon the path towards Total Global War they have embarked upon, and if for no other reason than to understand the full magnitude of the destruction they are surely being led to.

But, and as we know too well, this will not happen because the vast majority of them are still asleep, but surely to a real nightmare will they all awaken and have no excuse for themselves by saying that they were not warned. They have been warned. They will not listen.

Arab world sees US in poor light, poll shows


14 April 2008

WASHINGTON - Eight out of 10 Arabs have an unfavourable view of the United States and only six per cent believe the U.S. troop build-up in Iraq in the last year has worked, said a poll of six Arab countries released on Monday.

The poll by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, also found most Arabs did not see U.S. foe Iran as a threat and they sympathized more with Hamas in the Palestinian Territories than U.S.-backed Fatah.

“There is a growing mistrust and lack of confidence in the United States,” said Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor in charge of the annual poll.

The survey canvassed the opinions of about 4,000 people over the past month in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. It has a margin of error of about 1.6 per cent.

Of those polled, 83 per cent had an unfavorable view of the United States and 70 per cent had no confidence in the superpower.

“You see this (mistrust) in the number of people who are more comfortable with the US withdrawal from Iraq,” said Telhami, noting that more people in this year’s annual survey wanted the United States to leave Iraq.

Last year, 44 per cent believed Iraqis would find a way to bridge their differences if the United States pulled out but that figure rose to 61 per cent this year.

Only six per cent of the respondents believed the U.S. boost of troop levels in Iraq last year by 30,000 had worked to reduce the conflict and one in three mistrusted news reports that violence had declined at all.

Eight in 10 Arabs believed that Iraqis were worse off than they were before the U.S. invasion in March 2003, while 2 per cent thought they were better off.

The biggest concern was that Iraq would remain unstable and spread instability in the region, with 59 per cent voicing this worry over 42 per cent last year.

In contrast to U.S. government views, most Arabs did not see Iran as a major threat and 67 per cent considered Tehran had the right to a nuclear program.


Over 80 per cent of respondents identified the Arab-Israeli conflict as a key issue but just over half -- 55 per cent—did not believe there would ever be a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians despite U.S. efforts to broker a deal between the two by the end of this year.

The United States has sought to isolate the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which took control of the Gaza strip last June, while U.S.-backed President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement control the West Bank.

In the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, only 8 per cent said they sympathized most with Fatah and 18 per cent were more partial to Hamas, while 37 per cent said they backed both.

In the Lebanese conflict, only 9 per cent expressed sympathy with the majority governing coalition supported by Washington while 30 per cent backed the opposition led by the militant group Hezbollah, which the United States opposes.

Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s popularity grew as did Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Asked which world leader they disliked most, U.S. President George W. Bush was at the top of the unpopularity poll with 63 per cent followed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with 39 per cent.

Looking ahead to the next U.S. president, 18 per cent of respondents believed Democratic contender Barack Obama had the best chance of advancing peace in the Middle East followed by 13 per cent who saw Hillary Clinton as their best hope.

Only 4 per cent chose Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for this November’s U.S. presidential election. The remainder either U.S. policy would stay the same whoever won or they were not following election.

One in three respondents believed U.S. policy would remain the same, no matter who won the U.S. election and 20 per cent said they were not following the U.S. election anyway.

Now we know WHY the refused Carter entry into Gaza.

Israeli army makes incursion into Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY ( 2008-04-15 11:07:19 ) : The Israeli army early on Tuesday entered the south of the Gaza Strip and carried out searches accompanied by exchanges of fire and explosions, Palestinian security officials and witnesses said.

About 20 armoured vehicles accompanied by bulldozers and two helicopter gunships moved 1.5 kilometres (one mile) inside the Hamas-controlled Strip near the Kissufim crossing point with Israel.

They searched a school and other buildings in El Karara and Wadi Al-Salka. Exchanges of fire took place between Israeli troops and Palestinians and a number of explosions were reported.

Other sources said Israeli aircraft overnight raided the Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of the Gaza Strip. The raid targeted militants of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), but no one was injured.

A military spokesman in Tel Aviv was unable to confirm those reports.

Earlier, an official for the DFLP's military wing was killed late Monday and three other Palestinians were wounded in an Israeli air raid on the north of the Strip, Palestinian medical sources said.

Pakistan prepares for Olympic torch amid security fears: official

ISLAMABAD ( 2008-04-15 13:44:15 ) : Pakistan geared up on Tuesday for the arrival of the Olympic torch, after announcing that its leg of the troubled worldwide relay had been slashed due to security threats.

The torch, which arrives early on Wednesday on the first stop in its Asian leg of the tour, was supposed to travel through the streets of the capital Islamabad before reaching a stadium for a ceremony.

But the relay will now be confined to the heavily guarded Jinnah Stadium, amid security concerns.

"The entire event was re-scheduled due to security threats. We had to re-schedule the programme to ensure full security to the torch relay and its participants," Pakistan Olympic Association chairman Arif Hassan told AFP.

"Keeping in view the law and order situation which was experienced in the past one year and the blasts and explosions, we had selected three possible routes," Hassan said.

"But at the last minute we dropped the other two routes and selected this route inside Jinnah Stadium to ensure that we do not face any security threat," he added.

The ceremony will be attended by President Pervez Musharraf, who on Monday condemned pro-Tibetan protests that have marred the Beijing Olympic torch relay, and vowed to maintain security when the flame arrived.

"We have taken all measures to ensure its security," Musharraf, who is in China, told students following a speech at a Beijing university.

"There is no one in Pakistan, not one man, who would like to do anything against the interests of China."

Hassan said at least 8,000 specially selected guests had been invited to the ceremony at the stadium, which would also be shown live on television.

He said that there would be two sessions of the ceremony involving 65 runners from China and Pakistan.

The flame is arriving in Pakistan after protests over Tibet and human rights marred the European and US legs of its world tour.

Asia Stocks Post Biggest Loss in a Month on Earnings Outlook

Worst Drought In Century Pushes Spain To Brink Of Water Crisis

World human rights are pillar of German policy, says Merkel

I missed this on Sunday.

IAEA, Iran meeting abruptly canceled

Official: Iran Abruptly Calls Off Meeting With Chief of UN Nuclear Agency

Apr 13, 2008

A top Iranian official on Sunday abruptly canceled a meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, dealing a blow to the U.N. monitor's efforts to investigate allegations that Iran tried to make nuclear arms, an agency official said.

The IAEA official, confirming Iranian media reports that Monday's planned meeting was off, told The Associated Press that no reason had been given.

But a senior diplomat had told the AP that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei likely planned to use the meeting with Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's nuclear program, to renew a request for more information on allegations Tehran had tried to make atomic arms.

Both the official and the diplomat demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to comment by name on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reported Sunday that the talks between Aghazadeh and the U.N. nuclear watchdog were postponed. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

The diplomat, who follows IAEA attempts to clear up suspicions about Iran's nuclear activities, said the meeting also was likely to have focused on Iran's latest show of defiance of U.N. Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his nation was installing thousands of new uranium-enriching centrifuges and testing a much faster version of the device.

Ahmadinejad said scientists were putting 6,000 new centrifuges into place, about twice the current number, and testing a new type that works five times faster.

That would represent a major expansion of uranium enrichment — a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, cautioned the claim could not be immediately substantiated, and diplomats close to the IAEA said Iran has exaggerated its progress and experienced problems operating the 3,000 centrifuges already in place.

One diplomat said Ahmadinejad's claims of a more advanced centrifuge appeared to allude to a type known as the IR-2, which the agency and Iran said months ago that Iran had begun testing.

The IR-2 is believed to be two-to-three times faster than the centrifuges currently in use, and his claim that the new machine was five times as quick added to the diplomats' skepticism.

In the enrichment process, uranium gas is pumped into a series of centrifuges called "cascades." The gas is spun at supersonic speeds to remove impurities. Enriching at a low level produces nuclear fuel, but at a higher level it can produce the material for a warhead. Iran says it is only interested in the process to generate nuclear power and plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that ultimately will involve 54,000 centrifuges.

Monday's meeting had been considered a test of whether Iran will continue to stonewall the IAEA in its attempt to investigate the alleged military programs.

Iran has denied ever trying to make such weapons. But U.S. intelligence agencies say Tehran experimented with such programs until 2003, and other countries believe it continued past that date.

Iran is under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for its refusal to suspend enrichment and meet other council demands designed to ease fears its civilian nuclear program is a cover for attempts to make atomic arms.

On Sunday, Iranian state television reported that Iran will propose a package of solutions on its nuclear standoff with the West in an upcoming meeting of permanent members of the Security Council and Germany.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran has been preparing a proposal that will have more "convergence" with the West on the nuclear issue, the report said. Mottaki did not give details on the proposal.

Source: AP News

US Takes Over New Baghdad Embassy

By MATTHEW LEE Associated Press Writer

Apr 14th, 2008 |

WASHINGTON -- The United States has taken ownership of the mammoth new, heavily fortified embassy in Baghdad after months of delay, the State Department said Monday.

The government had held off on taking legal possession of the $736 million complex until construction problems and delays were resolved. An order signed Monday covers the main embassy building but not additional office space now set aside for the top U.S. ground commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

The "certificate of occupancy" means the U.S. government can now move into 27 buildings inside the heavily protected compound inside the Green Zone, where a recent spate of insurgent attacks has killed at least two U.S. soldiers and two American civilians.

The move is expected to take place in late May or early June.

The certificate "attests to substantial completion of construction, as well as successful testing and validation of the major buildings and communications systems," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

The new embassy will be the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world, with fortified working space for 1,000 people and living quarters for several hundred on a 104-acre site.

But the project has been beset by construction, logistical and security hitches that caused major delays beyond its planned September 2007 opening date and angered some lawmakers.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker told reporters last week that construction was complete at the Vatican-sized compound, which will replace the current embassy quarters in a Saddam Hussein-era palace.

"It's been a difficult few weeks, rockets are bouncing off your buildings, and maintaining focus can be an occasional challenge," Crocker said.

"We will begin moving into the new embassy — some of the office space and the apartments — probably the end of next month, the beginning of June, so that will certainly improve quality of life and provide some added protection," he told reporters.

The rise in insurgent attacks prompted the embassy late last month to order personnel not to leave reinforced buildings and to wear helmets and body armor if they must go outside. A shortage of space in fortified areas has forced some diplomats to sleep at the new embassy site despite the lack of occupancy approvals.

"We worry a lot less about formal safety certifications and a lot more about ensuring people have a place to sleep where rockets couldn't get at them," Crocker said.

In October, the department conceded that a host of problems, including major malfunctions in the complex's physical plant, including electrical and water distribution systems, would push back the embassy opening at least until this spring. Some of those problems have since recurred.

Some of the deficiencies have been blamed on shoddy work by the company hired to build the project, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co., for $592 million. Changes to the original design have pushed the cost up by $144 million.

First Kuwaiti has been accused of tricking foreign laborers into working on the embassy, mistreating them and paying $200,000 in kickbacks in return for two unrelated Army contracts in Iraq. The company denies the charges.

Congressional Democrats have launched investigations into whether the State Department had adequate control of the project, which has been complicated by security concerns, including a September incident in which private Blackwater USA guards are accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians while protecting an embassy convoy.


AP Diplomatic Writers Anne Gearan and Barry Schweid contributed to this report.

Salon provides breaking news articles from the Associated Press as a service to its readers, but does not edit the AP articles it publishes.

Clinton's Experience: Fact and Fancy

By Barbara Koeppel
April 15, 2008

The problem for candidate Clinton is how to stop kicking herself in the leg. Although she’s scored real achievements over the years, when repeating her 35-years-of-experience mantra, she pushes the facts too far.

By now, her gaffes on Tuzla, Bosnia, where her claims of “landing under sniper fire” and “running for cover” are well-known. Ditto her lines on Northern Ireland – where Nobel Peace Prize winner Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey, Ireland, said she was “a wee bit silly” for exaggerating the part she played in bringing peace.

But if we reality-check some other claims, what can we say of her 35 years, on which she hopes to distinguish herself from Obama, who has actually logged more years in elected posts, counting his years in the Illinois legislature?

To start with, for 14 of the 35 years that she's counting, Clinton was a full-time corporate litigator in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the Rose Law Firm. Further, for her White House years – aside from her work as chair of the President’s Task Force on Health Care Reform – she served as First Lady, not policy maker.

While First Lady in Arkansas, she did, as she claims, help “transform the education system.” Teachers and others there agree that, as chair of a commission to re-write Arkansas’ deplorable education standards, she was effective. Among other things, the new norms raised teacher salaries and amounts spent per pupil, and reduced class size.

Since Arkansas ranked 49th out of America’s 50 states in most educational measurements, and dead last in the percent of students who went on to college, the base was so low that any gains would be good. But it’s a fact the numbers improved.

Add to the fact column her work on child welfare boards, like the Children’s Defense Fund and the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Dubious Claims

Other claims, however, are downright dubious, if not terminal twaddle.

Let’s start with her now-impassioned concerns for workers’ rights. This is surely an eyebrow-raiser, since her record on labor issues is roughly zero.

For example, she was on WalMart’s Board of Directors from 1986-1992, a company legendary for its low wages and union busting. Not surprisingly, her official biography omits this six-year stint.

Nor does she mention it when she woos Pennsylvania workers for the upcoming April 22 primary. In an effort to expunge the WalMart connection, Clinton returned its $5,000 campaign contribution to her in 2005.

According to Sam Ortega, a Wall Street Journal reporter and author of In Sam We Trust: The Untold Story of Sam Walton and How Wal-Mart is Devouring America, the company fiercely fought any union attempts to organize WalMart workers – threatening, spying on and firing supporters, all illegal acts.

Ortega writes that, during a Teamsters’ campaign at a distribution center, “Sam Walton bluntly told them he’d take away their profit-sharing if they voted for the union.”

Further, Ortega says many workers “remember his (Walton’s) threats with perfect clarity.” He adds that one worker, Larry Havener, recalls, “He told us if the union got in, the warehouse would be closed.”

Worse, Ortega writes, “union activists were soon laid off—always for some other stated reason, of course.”

Moreover, “Walton asked all employees to call John Tate – the company’s chief union-buster – if they noticed anything that smacked of union activity,” Ortega notes.

Low Wages

WalMart’s devotion to low wages seems not to have lost Clinton any sleep.

Ortega notes that in 1988 – two years after Clinton joined the Board – an Arkansas state senator publicly attacked the company for “dumping its overhead on state taxpayers, saying many of its near minimum-wage workers made so little they had to get by on public assistance.”

Another problem plaguing the company was the use of child workers – some as young as nine – by its foreign suppliers: When shown photos of children in Sakara, a Bangladesh sweatshop that made WalMart-label shirts, the company claimed ignorance.

Moreover, despite her long-term concern for health care – along with child welfare, Clinton’s signature issues – she stayed on the Board although Ortega says WalMart insured fewer than 40 percent of its workers.

Why? Perhaps it was Clinton’s $15,000 annual WalMart salary, which rose to $45,000, for her service at four meetings a year, at a time her husband earned just $35,000 as Governor.

Perhaps it was her corporate lawyer role at the conservative Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, where she worked from 1978 until the couple moved to the White House.

Perhaps it was Arkansas’ “right-to-work” fundamentalism that made her mute. Whatever the motive, today’s worries for working-blokes’ concerns ring hollow.

Then there’s NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), which passed on her husband’s watch in 1994. Critics worried then, and insist now, that it caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Today, candidate Clinton claims to have doubted NAFTA’s merits from the start. But the record indicates otherwise. As recently as 2004, she praised NAFTA as “good for New York and America.” This observation has been omitted in her Pennsylvania campaign.

Health-Care Choices

But more than any others, Clinton’s claims about her desire to improve health coverage and care through her efforts as chair of President Clinton’s health care task force are seriously flawed.

History and numbers tell the story best. In 1993, health care was a crisis for the U.S. public: 37 million Americans had none, and millions more had very little. Thus, public opinion polls ranked it as the number-two concern, second only to the economy – since the country, as today, was in a recession.

A majority wanted universal health care: Even many providers and the American Medical Association initially favored some form of universal plan.

The universal model adopted in Canada and most Western European countries, called the single-payer system, is not socialized medicine, as insurance companies repeat by rote.

Governments do not tell patients which doctors to see. Nor do they dictate what doctors may or may not do. Instead, it’s a payment mechanism, like Medicare: The government pays the health care bills directly, rather than the insurance companies.

This way, overhead costs linked to billings are slashed: In 1993, when First Lady Clinton launched her task force, a hospital official in Windsor, Canada, told me his costs associated with billing the Government for patient services accounted for just 9 percent of the hospital’s budget, while the average U.S. hospital spent 14 percent – a big difference in a multi-million-dollar budget.

In Canada, the savings left huge sums for covering patient care.

Did Clinton’s task force examine the single-payer option? Alas, it was never on the table.

According to Vicente Navarro, a physician and professor of health and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of Clinton’s task force, he tried repeatedly to get it considered, and failed.

In a 2007 CounterPunch article, “Why Hillary’s Health Care Plan Really Failed,” Navarro writes that although he promoted the views of the single-payer community (unions, grassroots organizations and many providers) “they were heard but not heeded. … I had the feeling I was in the White House as a token.”

Nixing Single-Payer

Why such disdain for the system used in most industrialized nations?

Navarro says Bill Clinton was pushing the managed-competition model, backed by the insurance industry, where the companies “have full control over health-care providers.”

As proof, he writes that Bill Link, vice president of Prudential, stated that “For Prudential, the best scenario for reform … would be ... managed competition.”

The plan the task force ultimately sent to the Senate failed to pass, but not, Navarro insists, because of “bad timing” or the “excessive generosity” of the plan’s proposed benefits, as is generally believed.

Rather, it died because the President and Hillary Clinton refused to send a plan that was truly universal, and one around which the public could mobilize.

Thus, no plan was approved and insurance companies continued to control – and prosper from – the U.S. health-care model.

Now, 14 years later, another 10 million are uninsured and millions more are under-insured – often impoverished by serious or even not-so-serious illnesses.

Again, why? Why rule out even a cursory discussion of single-payer models?

Navarro says Hillary Clinton told him a single-payer plan was not politically possible. But to pass NAFTA, the President twisted every congressional arm he needed to make the deal.

So, why couldn’t he use the bully pulpit to mount the same push for universal health care – an issue on which most of the public agreed?

One answer could be contributions from the insurance industry and those connected to it: According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), over Bill Clinton’s career, insurance industries rank among the top 20 donors, while law and the financial firms are among the top 10 – the sectors often tightly linked to the insurance industry.

Fast forward to 2008 and, based on CRP figures, the industry continues its generosity, this time to Hillary Clinton – giving $913,000 to date. Obama has benefited too, with $700,000.

Since Bill Clinton and other Hillary supporters complain she’s picked on by the press, she would do well if she only claimed what is legitimate. This way, the press would not have to flush out the fables.

Barbara Koeppel is a Washington-based investigative reporter.

Radio silence on Bush's torture admission

Monday, April 14, 2008 17:14 EDT

ABC News reported a few days ago that a group of so-called Principals -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice -- met dozens of times in the White House to "discuss and approve" specific interrogation techniques to be used against suspected terrorists.

Initial reports indicated that Bush was "insulated" from the "series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved." Bush eventually dispelled the notion that he was out of the loop, though, and said -- arguably, bragged -- that he endorsed the Principals' work from the outset. The president told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz, "I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

I realize that Barack Obama's making some clumsy comments about economic blight and the culture war may be mildly interesting, but this is a fairly big deal. Torture is, you know, illegal, immoral, un-American, etc. As Dan Froomkin noted today, "If you consider what the government did to be torture, which is a crime according to U.S. and international law, Bush's statement shifts his role from being an accessory after the fact to being part of a conspiracy to commit."

And yet, major news outlets have decided not to bother mentioning these revelations to the public at all. Froomkin observed, "There was no mention of Bush's admission in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times. There was nothing on the major wire services. And nothing on CNN, CBS or NBC."

Post Script: On a related note, a journalist at the Associated Press' national conference today asked John McCain about torturing detainees, saying, "Don't we stand for something better?" McCain responded:

"I've made it very clear, I've made it very clear in my statements and in my support of the Detainee Treatment Act, the Geneva Conventions, etc., that there may be some additional techniques to be used, but none of those would violate the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act.... And we cannot ever, in my view, torture any American, that includes waterboarding."

Well, there's a bold declaration from Mr. Straight Talk. He does not believe that the U.S. government should torture U.S. citizens. What a relief.

Also on Salon

How Iraq spawned wider terrorist chaos

As experts long warned, Islamic militants steeped in urban warfare against U.S. troops in Iraq have expanded their violent campaign beyond Iraq's borders.

By James Martin

Monday, April 14, 2008 13:05 EDT

Kristol plays the Marx card

The right seems to take inordinate pleasure in red-baiting Democrats, and today, the New York Times' Bill Kristol joins the parade.

I haven't read much Karl Marx since the early 1980s, when I taught political philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. Still, it didn't take me long this weekend to find my copy of "The Marx-Engels Reader".... My occasion for spending a little time once again with the old Communist was Barack Obama's now-famous comment at an April 6 San Francisco fund-raiser. Obama was explaining his trouble winning over small-town, working-class voters: "It's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."


A most excellent article from BBC Magazine and it is a must read.

Journey through terror

Having covered everything from the IRA to al-Qaeda in four decades of journalism, few people in Britain have spent as much time as the BBC's Peter Taylor with the people behind political violence. Here he reflects on some of his experiences.

I first became aware of the word "terrorism" in 1970 when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) blew up two aircraft at a remote airstrip in Jordan to try and secure the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli and other jails.

They let the passengers and crew off first. Al-Qaeda would have killed them. At the time I never imagined that I would spend most of the next four decades covering the bloody evolution of the Age of Terror.

That same year the IRA was beginning to emerge in Northern Ireland, planning to turn the issue of civil rights into a violent insurgency designed to drive the British out of the province. "Bloody Sunday" on 30 January 1972 was my first taste of the Irish conflict.

I'd never crossed the Irish Sea before and didn't even know where Londonderry was on the map. When I heard that British paratroopers had shot dead 13 civil rights marchers that day, I felt ashamed not just at what appeared to have happened but at my own ignorance of the situation that had brought it about. I thought I had better try and find out.

One of my first encounters with someone labelled a terrorist by the UK government took place shortly after "Bloody Sunday" when I met the young Martin McGuinness in the disused gasworks in Derry's Bogside area.

Ruthlessly abnormal

Continued here

Check out Amnesty International today several good articles there.

Veil of secrecy

Amnesty International issues annual death penalty statistics


04/15/08 AFP: Car bomb kills 35 in Iraqi city

A car bomb killed at least 35 people and wounded 64 on Tuesday when it ripped through a crowd outside a courthouse in the Iraqi city of Baquba, Iraqi officials said, updating an earlier toll.

04/15/08 AFP; Suicide bomber kills 13 in Iraq restaurant

A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a restaurant in the former insurgent stronghold of Ramadi in western Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 13 people, the city's police chief told AFP.

04/15/08 AFP: Britain awards Iraqi two million pounds compensation

An Iraqi who was mistakenly shot and seriously injured by a British soldier in the south of the country will receive two million pounds in compensation, Britain'sMinistry of Defence has said.

04/14/08 AP: Facts on Iraq Reconstruction

Since 2003, Congress has appropriated about $47.5 billion while the Iraqis have budgeted $50.6 billion. International contributions have totaled $15.8 billion.

Black Ops on Green Groups: Private Security Firm Run by Fmr. Secret Service Officers Spied on Environmental Orgs for Corporate Clients

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Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home

Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home
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