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.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Links of the Day 4/3/2008 Karl Rove said he's 'lived in fear' of Barbara Bush, LOL

Nir Rosen is my hero! Yesterday after telling what he knows about the happenings in Iraq Senator Joe Biden asked him “Then we should just get out of Iraq, now” . Nir responded by saying “It’s not for me to tell a Imperialistic country what to do”.

While these are not verbatim I am reporting the jist of what Nir said. Right there live on c-span Nir called us Imperialistic! Haa Haa I’m in love!

If you missed chairman Joe Bidens Foreign Relations Committee hearing I suggest you go to and watch it.

I’m not going to tell you but Barbara Boxer delivered the best line at the hearing. She left Joe Biden speechless for a moment at the end of her questioning. Barbara Boxer is my hero too.

Retired General Odem also said yesterday “The longer we are in Iraq the worse it is going to get”.

Yahia Siad said there needs to be a timetable for withdrawal. That it would give an incentive for people to come together.

I heard all this and more. And if the congress continues to fund the occupation of Iraq it will be money thrown away. There is really nothing we can do in Iraq.

I heard that a poll was taken of the Iraqi people. Are you happier now then you were under Saddam? 7 out of 10 said they were happier under Saddam.

Karl Rove said he's 'lived in fear' of Barbara Bush

Eric Mayes
Published: Wednesday April 2, 2008

Karl Rove, former Deputy White House Chief of Staff, says he's always been intimidated by First Lady Laura Bush and that he has "lived in fear" of erstwhile First Lady Barbara Bush for 37 years.

"Laura Bush intimidates me," Rove tells GQ magazine in an interview for the May edition. "All the Bushes — well, most of the Bush men marry incredibly strong women, and they all intimidate me."

He even found the grandmotherly wife of the previous President Bush scary.

"Barbara Bush, I've lived in fear of for thirty-seven years," Rove says.

He seems less afraid of Clinton, giving a very frank assessment of the candidate and her campaign, which he says has been badly managed.

Calling Clinton "fatally flawed," Rove said many voters perceive her as a phony.

"You know, she went through the period where she had the calculated laugh, she went through the period where she had the calculated accents, and you build that on top of a person who already has the reputation that anything she says is calculating," Rove said. "That's what her problem is.

It's not her only problem, according to the secretive man some say manipulated the media and outed former CIA operative Valerie Plame.

She also has a sense of entitlement that can annoy people, he said: "You know, the sense of 'This is mine, I deserve it; we're the Clintons, this is ours.' And I think that really caused a lot of people to say, 'You know what? It's not yours.' And do we really want to go back? The '90s were nice in a lot of respects, but do we really want to go back to all that drama?"

But, the former Republican official adds that Sen. Barack Obama is getting off easy in this campaign.

"I don't think they hold him to the same standards," said Rove.

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has said Rove's criticism is an indicator of Clinton's success.

"I would take Karl Rove's criticism as a badge of honor," Daschle quipped in 2007.

"You're not a good Democrat unless you've been criticized by Karl Rove at least once," Daschle added. "Thank you Karl. Do it again."



Raw Story has a great graphic so go look at it.

The US Attorney who wasn't fired: How Bush pick helped prosecute top Democrat-backed judge

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday April 1, 2008

The Permanent Republican Majority, Part IV: How corporate-GOP interests sought to topple Democrats in Mississippi

Since the deregulations of the Reagan era, the electoral strategy of the Republican Party and the interests of the corporate lobby have become intimately entwined.

Karl Rove – President George W. Bush’s former Deputy Chief of Staff and campaign maestro – capitalized on this alliance in Texas in the early 1990's, when he made campaigning against "activist judges" a cornerstone of Republican victories. He then applied the same technique in Alabama, where he and Republican consultant William Canary began systematically working in 1994 to elect pro-business judges.

As reported in Raw Story’s The Permanent Republican Majority - Part One, Canary reemerged in 2002 as the advisor to Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate and now governor, Bob Riley. Canary’s wife, Leura, meanwhile, used her position as the US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama to investigate Riley’s Democratic opponent, incumbent governor Don Siegelman, helping ensure his defeat and leading to his prosecution on bribery charges, conviction, and imprisonment in 2007.

During the mid-90s, a series of state lawsuits against the tobacco industry delivered a heavy blow to American business interests in the South.

Initiated by Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, they sought compensation for the costs of smoking-related diseases. Other state attorneys general joined the suit, and eventually the industry was forced to settle, culminating in a Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement that exempted the tobacco companies from liability in exchange for a $246 billion dollar payment and other concessions – the largest settlement in US history.

Alabama, however, refused to join the lawsuits. The decision, by the state’s Republican governor and then-Attorney General William Pryor, led to a political firestorm.

The conflict was a major factor in then-Democratic Lieut. Gov. Don Siegelman’s election as governor in 1998. Almost as soon as Siegelman took office, however, Pryor initiated a series of corruption investigations against him. After the Bush administration took office in 2001, these state probes were elevated to the federal level at the hands of US Attorney Leura Canary. As reported in The Permanent Republican Majority – Part Three, Rove and Canary also helped promote the Siegelman investigations.

In neighboring Mississippi, meanwhile, the tobacco suit had produced several extremely wealthy trial lawyers, who became major funders of the local Democratic Party.

In 2003, a Bush-appointed US Attorney, Dunnica Lampton (above right), brought federal charges against one of those lawyers, plaintiff’s attorney Paul Minor, alleging that he had bribed a Mississippi Supreme Court Justice, Judge Oliver E. Diaz, Jr.

Just as in the case of Governor Don Siegelman in Alabama, when the first trial of Diaz failed to produce the desired result of removing him from his elected seat in 2005, fresh charges were brought almost immediately.

Diaz and Siegelman also shared the ire of tribal casinos. Siegelman’s attempt to introduce an Alabama state lottery to support education initiatives had ruffled the feathers of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who saw it as a threat to their interests, while Diaz stood against the Choctaws by ruling in favor of more regulation of tribal casinos.

Diaz himself had previously been the target of GOP-allied business interests during his 2000 election campaign, when the United States Chamber of Commerce ran issues advertising supporting his opponent.

The United States Chamber of Commerce

Despite its seemingly bipartisan name, the Chamber of Commerce has operated as a pro-Republican powerhouse since the fervently anti-regulation Thomas J. Donahue became president in 1997.

“The chamber has become a significant force in state and national politics under Donohue's decade of leadership,” the LA Times’ Tom Hamburger wrote this past January. “Once a notably bipartisan trade association with a limited budget and limited influence, it has hugely increased its political fundraising and developed new ways to spend money on behalf of pro-business candidates.”

Under Donohue, the organization has frequently aligned itself with GOP priorities. Donahue recently announced an intention to play a major role in electing pro-business candidates in 2008, proclaiming, "We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed.”

William Canary, the Alabama political consultant who was central to the defeat and prosecution of Governor Don Siegelman, is closely tied to Donohue and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. When Donohue was president of the American Trucking Association in the 1990’s, Canary served under him as a counselor, political advisor, and eventually Senior Vice President for State, Federation and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Canary and Donohue were also friends. According to two Alabama Republican lawyers recently interviewed by RAW STORY, it was Donohue who recommended that Canary be named president of the Business Council of Alabama, a position he assumed in March 2003. The Business Council is currently the Alabama affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and it has played an active role in Alabama politics since at least 1994, when it invited Karl Rove to the state to work with Canary.

“You know it was Donohue who helped place Billy Canary at the [Council], don’t you?” said one of the Alabama lawyers several weeks ago, during our second trip to Alabama. The attorney asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash. A second attorney interviewed in Alabama familiar with the events also said Donohue had a hand in getting Canary the job at the Council.

The US Chamber of Commerce did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Diaz faces pro-business challenge

Keith Starrett ran in the Mississippi Supreme Court judicial election against Oliver E. Diaz Jr in 2000. In the state of Mississippi judges are not allowed to run on a party ticket or represent a party. But it was no secret that Starrett was supported by Republicans and Diaz by Democrats. In the two weeks preceding the vote, the Chamber purchased over a million dollars of campaign ads on behalf of Starrett and three other Republican candidates. Starrett lost the election anyway.

Starrett told RAW STORY Tuesday he had no knowledge of the Chamber running the ads.

"It was a complete surprise to me and when I found out, I asked that they be stopped," he said. "Oliver's [Diaz] comments about Lampton and me [to other publications] being involved in his prosecution is a boldface lie and a pipe dream."

Diaz did not mention Starrett as being involved in his investigation and prosecution to us.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce refused to reveal their membership list after concern over the ads surfaced. According to Mississippi law, campaign donors must be disclosed, and strict limits are placed on the amount of total contributions an individual, group, or corporation can donate. The state of Mississippi sued the Chamber over the pro-Starrett advertisements and won a ruling on the federal level.

The Chamber, however, had friends in high places. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia granted an emergency appeal to vacate injunctions challenging the legality of the ads.

During that same election cycle, Dunnica Lampton ran on the Republican ticket to represent Mississippi’s fourth Congressional district. He lost. In 2001, the Federal Election Commission fined Lampton’s campaign $5,800 for failure to file campaign finance reports. These fines trigged an accounting audit by the FEC, which cited Lampton’s failure to disclose debts and obligations and receipt of contributions in excess of campaign limits.

Despite the FEC fines, President Bush nominated Lampton to be US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi in September 2001.

Lampton took office in November. Early the following year his office began investigations into Diaz, Minor and other Mississippi judges.

A similar nomination-prosecution pattern was seen in Alabama. As soon as Leura Canary – wife of Chamber ally Bill Canary – was appointed the US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, she began targeting Democratic governor Don Siegelman.

Starrett made out well after his defeat. In 2005, he was appointed to a federal judgeship for the Southern District of Mississippi by President Bush.

And just as in Alabama, the US Attorney in Mississippi targeted his friend’s Democratic opponent.

The case against Paul Minor and Oliver Diaz

Paul Minor was a prominent Mississippi trial lawyer whose firm made more than $70 million in the late 1990's from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement. He was also a generous donor to Democratic candidates, contributing more than $500,000 between 1996 and 2003.

It was partly because of the 1997 tobacco settlement that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent over a million dollars in 2000 to help elect pro-business judges to the Mississippi Supreme Court, in an attempt to follow the pattern set by the Republican takeover of the Alabama Supreme court led by Karl Rove and William Canary in the 1990’s.

Judge Diaz managed to retain his seat despite the Chamber’s advertising but wound up deeply in debt. Minor helped Diaz raise money to pay off the debts, including signing a loan guarantee. This became the basis for the prosecution of both men on bribery charges.

In October 2002, news of an ongoing FBI investigation of possible judicial misconduct was leaked to Mississippi newspapers just weeks before the upcoming judicial elections. One story, which was typical of the leaked reports, stated, "Federal authorities are investigating whether state court judges took out loans that were repaid by nationally prominent trial lawyers from South Mississippi whose cases the judges handle."

Overnight, donations by lawyers like Minor became "radioactive," and six pro-business Republican judges were elected.

As one Mississippi attorney explained in an interview, “In war, you first cut off the supply lines of the enemy troops.” Minor was the “supply” target because of his large donations to Democratic candidates. Diaz was the “obstacle” to corporate interests seeking to reduce plaintiff cases and keep tribal casinos deregulated.

US Attorney’s conflicts of interest in the Diaz case

In July 2003, Paul Minor, Oliver Diaz, and two former judges – Wes Teel and John Whitfield – were charged with a range of federal crimes based on Minor's loan guarantees.

Lampton claimed during the Diaz trial that he had recused himself from the case and that it was being handled by lawyers from Washington. He later acknowledged that he had not recused himself, although it does seem that the Washington lawyers were taking the leading role.

When Lampton’s office began investigating Diaz, Lampton’s own ties to Starrett should have been enough reason for the US Attorney to recuse himself. Starrett was Diaz’s 2000 opponent in the judicial election, and Lampton and Starrett apparently have been friends as far back as childhood. During Starrett’s investiture ceremony, Lampton discussed their long-standing friendship.

“U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, who has known Starrett since they played Little League baseball together, praised the new judge for his tremendous work ethic, compassion and knowledge of the law,” the local Daily Leader wrote in 2005. "He will do everything he can to be fair,” Lampton said. “He does not have an agenda.”

In addition, a relative of Lampton’s, Donna Lampton, was and continues to be the legal administrator for now federal judge Starrett.

Lampton also had an additional reason to target Diaz. In 1998, a case involving his Dunnica’s twin brother Dudley Lampton, was reviewed by the Mississippi Appellate Court. This three judge panel, with Diaz as one of the judges, ruled against Dudley.

Lampton was not available for comment as he is on sick leave from the US Attorney office as a result of a car accident.

Continued on page 2

The Permanent Republican Majority Series and Related Raw Story Articles

Part One – The Political Prisoner

Part Two – Exclusive interview with jailed governor’s daughter, Dana Siegelman

Part Three – Running Elections from the White House

Alabama station drops 60 Minutes expose on Don Siegelman prosecution

Interview with Dana Jill Simpson and alleged Rove smear campaign

Karl Rove’s Next Move: A million dollar home on Florida’s Emerald Coast

Direct link to page one

And another one bites the dust. People all over the world do hunger for freedom and real Democracy.

Mugabe concedes defeat - report

By Marius Bosch in Johannesburg

April 03, 2008 05:42 pm

Article from: Reuters

ZIMBABWE'S President Robert Mugabe has admitted to his family and advisers that he has lost the most important election of his 28-year rule, South African financial daily Business Day has reported.

Mr Mugabe lost control of parliament for the first time since independence in 1980 and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said he had also been defeated in a presidential election last Saturday and should concede defeat.

Business Day said Mr Mugabe had privately conceded defeat and was deciding if he should contest a run-off vote needed because MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai failed to secure a clear majority.

"Mugabe has conceded to his closest advisers, the army, police and intelligence chiefs. He has also told his family and personal advisers that he has lost the election," Business Day quoted an unidentified source as saying.

The newspaper said hardliners in Mr Mugabe's government wanted him to see the contest through to the bitter end, but that personal advisers and his family want Mugabe to quit.

The ruling ZANU-PF and Mr Mugabe's spokesman were not immediately available for comment.

Mr Mugabe, known for his fierce and defiant rhetoric, has not been seen in public since the vote.

In final results of the election for parliament's lower house, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won 99 seats, while Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF won 97 seats and a breakaway MDC faction won 10. One independent candidate won a seat.

Results for parliament's upper house, the senate, will be issued next.

No official results have emerged in the presidential vote.

Widely blamed for economic collapse of his once prosperous nation, Mr Mugabe has faced growing discontent with the world's highest inflation rate of more than 100,000 per cent, a virtually worthless currency and severe food and fuel shortages.

The opposition and international observers said Mr Mugabe rigged the last presidential election in 2002. But some analysts say discontent over daily hardships is too great for him to fix the result this time without risking major unrest.

The mainstream MDC faction said its Mr Tsvangirai had won 50.3 per cent of the presidential vote and Mugabe 43.8 percent according to its own tallies.,23599,23478357-38195,00.html?from=public_rss

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pakistan Demonstrates the Wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers

Jacob G. Hornberger

The situation in Pakistan provides another good reason why the American people should put a stop to the U.S. government’s meddling in the affairs of other countries.

For years, U.S. officials have had a close, working partnership with Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf, which has included the delivery to him of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money. Keep in mind one important fact: Musharraf is a dictator. A brutal military dictator who has ruled over Pakistan with an iron fist for many years. He took power in a coup and refused to allow democratic elections in the country.

U.S. officials have known all of this. Yet, despite all their glorious talk about the virtues of democracy, especially in Iraq, they have nonetheless been funneling U.S. taxpayer money into the coffers of Musharraf and the military goons that have kept him in power.

Several months ago, Musharraf dissolved the country’s Supreme Court and began jailing lawyers and judges? Why? Because the judiciary and the attorneys believed in an independent judiciary. That is, they believed in the same type of judicial system that we have here in the United States, one in which the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of what is constitutional and unconstitutional.

Like all dictators, Musharraf could not countenance a constitutional order. When a dictator issues an order, he expects everyone, including the lawyers and the judges, to obey it. If they don’t, that’s what the military and the police are for — to round up those who don’t understand and appreciate the nature of dictatorship and put them in jail until they do.

Through it all, including Musharraf’s crackdown on the judiciary and the lawyers, the U.S. government has remained loyal to Musharraf, continuing to funnel U.S. taxpayer money into his coffers (even while killing untold numbers of people in Iraq for the sake of democracy). But why should that surprise anyone, especially given the Bush administration’s and Pentagon’s denigration of lawyers and the U.S. Supreme Court with respect to such issues as torture, rendition, Guantanamo Bay, and the “war on terrorism”?

What U.S. officials never counted on, however, is that the Pakistani people hated Musharraf’s military dictatorship. In the recent parliamentary elections in Pakistan, the vote was so overwhelming against Musharraf that even the dictator could not rig the outcome. Of course, in the process the Pakistani people also implicitly rebuked the dictator’s loyal partner, the U.S. government.

Let’s recall that this isn’t the first time that the United States has experienced this type of blowback from its foreign policy of interventionism. In Iran, the CIA ousted the democratically elected prime minister from office and installed a brutal dictator, the Shah of Iran, in his stead. After decades of brutal dictatorial rule, including the torture of his own people, the Shah was ousted from power by the Iranian people. Not surprisingly, the Iranian people resented not just the Shah but also his loyal partner and supporter, the U.S. government.

What does the U.S. government now do in Pakistan as part of its foreign policy of interventionism? Does it continue supporting its loyal partner, a dictator, and continue funneling U.S. taxpayer money into his coffers? Or does it align itself with the citizenry who are trying to restore democracy and a constitutional order to their land?

Such questions arise for one — and only one — reason: the U.S. government’s foreign policy of intervening and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. If the United States had a policy of non-intervention, then the rebuke of a dictator by his own citizens would be not simultaneously serve as a rebuke against the United States.

In other words, at the risk of belaboring the obvious the reason that Pakistanis who have risen up against Musharraf also resent the United States is because the U.S. government is Musharraf’s partner, a partner that has financed much of his brutal dictatorial rule. In the absence of intervention, the Pakistani people would resent their dictator without also resenting the United States.

Once again, we are learning the wisdom of our nation’s Founding Fathers, who counseled in favor of friendly relations with all nations but entangling alliances with none. The key to America’s future — the key to freedom, peace, prosperity, morality, and harmony — lies in liberating the private sector of America to freely engage with the people of the world while, at the same time, prohibiting the federal government from interfering with the internal affairs of other countries.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

The Northern region of Iraq could have been a success but with the recent revelation that the USA gave Turkey and Iran permission to attack it…..sigh, I’m at a loss for words.

: Iraqi Kurds shall create a culture of principles :

Kurds in Iraq should take the journey towards a fully developed democracy. This is in our best national interest.

I want to elaborate on an idea that I’ve had for a long time. As a Kurd (born in Sweden), I am very proud of the Kurdish history which been contained by heroism, loyalty and sacrifices. Today’s Iraqi-Kurdish leaders were yesterday’s fighters (at least some of them). Peshmergas fighting and struggling for the sake of the Kurdish people are well reported, not just for us as kurds but also recognized internationally. The political actors in Iraq have recognized this fact; peshmergas or the (Kurdish) National Guard Forces are the military protector of the Iraqi Kurdistan.

With this said, it is now time for the people of Iraqi Kurdistan to know what they are fighting for, politically, culturally and militarily, today in 2008? Yes, kurds can have their loyalties towards any of the main parties and their leaders, and “fight” for these, but this should be the secondary cause/loyalty. The primary cause/loyalty must be where we as Kurds discuss and conclude of what it is to be a Kurd. How does Kurdish identity look like and what components is it consisted of? When we know this the psychological dimension of our identity will be enhanced; better self-confidence and self-respect will make us stronger and more united individually but most importantly collectively. A strong Iraqi-Kurdish identity as a force will be beneficial in the struggle for survival and prospering in our volatile region. In every aspect where Kurds will be confronted with problems, either in our own society or in the external affairs there must be a strong collective force.

The point here is, then:

In a consolidated democracy, a democratic system that is “maturing”, Kurdish citizens should not put their whole life, their future, their faith, into political leaders as their guardian or life saviours. With respect to many fellow Kurds in Iraq who have a long and historic emotional attachment to, primarily, the KDP or PUK and their leaders, the ‘personalistic’ culture in Iraqi Kurdistan must change, with a gradual transformation, into a culture of principles. Kurdish citizens in Iraq must believe in politically, culturally, religiously recognized principles which will be brought together in the wider political process within the Iraqi Kurdish society. People together with our main parties and their leaders must in an institutional framework work towards some crucial principles which Kurds stand for. Against our counterparts in Iraq and in the region this structure of principle will make us as a political force much greater and stronger.

There are signs of actual political actors in Iraqi Kurdistan who have recognized the need for change.

When one of the main parties, during election time, had some internal disputes regarding the party’s internal structure and process, the factor of focusing too much on political individuals and not of the principles the party stood for was one of many concerns. An outcome of internal struggles led to a splitting of the party where we saw one of the groups be called the “reformists”.

An in depth look at the so called “reformist” can be studied. Many of these individuals out cried against corruption and nepotism within the party. Both these concerns are in my mind related to the ‘personalistic’ culture we have in Iraqi Kurdistan, not just in the main parties, but within the whole Kurdish society. If we establish principles rather than relying on leaders and their personality, then I would imagine that we could better handle, as this example illustrate, things as corruption and nepotism. Let us work together and establish strong institutions with standing principles which will better guide us in our domestic politics but, maybe, more importantly in the wider region.

Finally I want to say that this is not a text with concrete proposals of how the principles should be like, because I do not know as I don’t live in the Iraqi Kurdish society. This is instead an idea of how “real” democracies around the world have begun and developed their societies. I can speak for Sweden and its principles which we all, Swedes and non-Swedes know about. The cultural, geographic and political context of Iraqi Kurdistan differs from many of the Western democratic countries. Interestingly enough Iraqi Kurdistan also differs from many within its own region too. Kurds are neither westerners, nor Arabs, Turks or Persians and etc. …so what are we then, and what do we stand for?

Razan Lawan is a Kurdish freelance writer with the Malmo University, Sweden

No wonder Russia is paranoid

The West finds it hard to understand, but Nato's expansion is provocative to Russian eyes

Anatole Kaletsky

April 3, 2008

George W. Bush is absolutely wrong in his support for Nato enlargement. That goes without saying. What is more surprising is that Vladimir Putin is absolutely right in both the conclusion and the reasoning behind his outspoken, even threatening, opposition to America on this issue. And that applies with even greater force to Dmitri Medvedev, the incoming Russian president, who has gone farther even than Mr Putin in suggesting that a decision by the West to entertain the membership applications presented by Ukraine and Georgia to the Nato Council would be tantamount to a declaration of cold war.

If a genuine spirit of peaceful co-operation is ever to be created between the West and Europe's most populous country - and what may one day be its biggest economy - then our leaders will have to think much more deeply about the legitimate grievances that Nato's enlargement arouses in Russia.

Ever since the dismemberment of the Soviet Union by Boris Yeltsin in 1991, the enlargement of Nato and the EU towards Russia's western and southern borders has looked like to Russians the last remaining expansionist empire in Europe, perhaps in the world.

While EU enlargement on its own could be presented as an economic enterprise, designed mainly to raise living standards in Central and Eastern Europe and even to increase the potential of Russia's neighbours as trading partners, the combination of the EU and Nato is a very different proposition.

EU-Nato, under the Bush doctrine of continuous eastward expansion, becomes an unstoppable politico-military juggernaut, advancing relentlessly towards Russia's borders and swallowing up all intervening countries, first into the EU's economic and political arrangements and then into the Nato military structure. Considered from the Russian standpoint, Nato's explicit new vocation to keep expanding until it embraces every “democratic” country in Europe and central Asia, with the unique and critical exception of Russia itself, becomes hard to distinguish from previous expansions into eastern territory by French and German heads of state whose intentions were less benign than those of the present Western leaders.

Western politicians may ridicule such fantasies as Russian nationalist paranoia. But why shouldn't the Russians worry about Western armies and missiles moving ever closer to their borders? This contributes to a territorial encirclement very similar to what Napoleon and Hitler failed to achieve by cruder means. The official Western answer is that Nato's expansion is purely defensive, that no Nato country would dream of claiming even an inch of Russian soil. But the feigned innocence of the West's baffled answer to the encirclement protests only intensifies Russia's sense of fear and provocation - and there are at least three reasons why the Russians are right to feel aggrieved.

Russia's first reason for justified resentment relates to the purely “defensive” nature of Nato's expansion. As President Putin put it in his notorious (to Westerners) or celebrated (to Russians) Munich speech last year: “Nato expansion does not have any relation with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended?”

Given that Russia is the only country in Europe (or in central Asia) that has been explicitly barred from Nato - and that will remain barred as long as Poland and the Baltic states are members - the only possible enemy implied by the alliance's “defensive”

posture must be Russia itself. Every defence policy statement from Central Europe makes perfectly clear that defence against Russia is the main raison d'être of Nato. And given the Polish and Baltic experience of Russian occupation and oppression, it is hardly surprising that they see Nato's mission in a different light from President Bush or Gordon Brown.

Moreover, the anti-Russian motivation for joining Nato is even clearer in the case of Ukraine and Georgia - and this is the second reason why the Russians are right to feel provoked. It may be argued that Ukraine and George are justified in being hostile because Russia has been meddling in their politics ever since they became independent in 1992. In the case of Georgia, this has extended to military support for separatist movements in Abkhazia and Ossetia. In Ukraine, Russia has backed politicians representing the large Russian-speaking minority and allegedly tried to fix elections or even kill politicians on their behalf.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of these allegations, the mutual hostility between Russia and Ukrainian and Georgian nationalists is an undeniable fact of life. If these countries became members of Nato, any Russian interference in their internal affairs would have to be regarded by other Nato members, including America and Britain, as a declaration of war. It is possible to imagine a Russian decision to arm separatists in Abkhazia triggering a latter-day Cuban missile crisis - with potentially devastating results. In this sense, Ukrainian and Georgian admission to Nato, even if it were morally justifiable on the basis of Western democratic values, must also be understood from the Russian standpoint as a hostile act.

But surely democracy must prevail in the West's decisions? Surely the rights of former Soviet states to national self-determination must be defended at all costs, even if this carries a remote risk of military confrontation? But is democracy and self-determination really what Nato membership for these countries would defend?

The main reason why both these countries, whose borders are arbitrary creations of Soviet times, are so eager to join Nato is that they both contain regions that wish to secede. Large numbers of ethnically Russian Ukrainians and Georgians would almost certainly want to rejoin Russia. In the case of Abkhazia and Ossetia, some of these people have gone so far as to start military secessionist movements. If Nato embraces Ukraine and Georgia to guarantee their democratic self-determination, what will be the answer if Russia demands a referendum on secession among the people of Abkhazia or Crimea?

The answer will not depend on morality but on power. Democratic self-determination has never been an inviolable principle of geopolitics - and for very good reasons. This argument is never used, for example, to suggest that Taiwan should be invited to join Nato. Indeed, Taiwan is not even diplomatically recognised by any Nato government, even though the people there have repeatedly voted for autonomy, while China has overtly threatened to retake the island by force.

Why, then should the West offer military guarantees against Russia to Georgia or Ukraine? The reason, of course, is that China is too powerful and important for Western governments to risk provoking, while Russia is perceived as weak and irrelevant.

That perception of weakness, is the third reason why the Russians are right to feel aggrieved - and why Nato should beware of pushing too far. Germany was weaker in the 1920s than Russia is today. But, history shows that weakness doesn't last for ever.

NATO allies say no to Bush on Ukraine, Georgia

Setback comes as U.S. wins support for European anti-missile shield

BUCHAREST, Romania - President Bush suffered a painful diplomatic setback Wednesday when NATO allies rebuffed his passionate pleas to put former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia on the path toward membership in the Western military alliance.

The decision, to be made final on Thursday, was sure to be cheered by Moscow, which heatedly opposes NATO's eastward expansion.

In another sign of discord, Greece blocked Macedonia's request to join the 26-nation alliance because of a dispute over its name. Only Croatia and Albania will be invited as new members.

However, senior American officials said Thursday that NATO leaders have agreed to fully endorse U.S. missile defense plans for Europe and will urge Russia to drop its objections to the system.

The officials say a communique which is due to be adopted, the 26-nation Western military alliance will recognize the protection the system will give to Europe from long-range ballistic missile threats, particularly from the Middle East. Russia fiercely opposes the plan, which would be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The decision to exclude Ukraine and Georgia was a sour outcome for Bush at his final NATO summit as he sought to polish his foreign policy legacy. Instead, he wound up sidetracked by opposition and splits among European allies. It was a result that was foreshadowed by public statements from France and Germany but Bush nevertheless put his prestige on the line and even made a stop in Ukraine on Monday to argue his case.

"We are convinced that it is too early to grant both states the (pre-membership) status," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said as she arrived in Bucharest for the summit. It only takes one NATO member to block a decision, because policy-making is reached by consensus.

Long discussions

The summit's opening dinner ran two hours longer than scheduled as the discussion went around the table, with each leader making his or her case. The White House expressed confidence that NATO would give a strong statement of support for its mission in Afghanistan and that a number of countries would pledge additional troops.

Bush, going into the talks, said he was "optimistic that this is going to be a very successful summit."

Diplomats said the alliance would offer a statement saying NATO's door will remain open if Ukraine and Georgia move ahead with political and military reforms and build support for NATO among their citizens.

Afghanistan loomed as the summit's No. 1 topic, a point of contention between some Europeans who see the NATO mission as largely a humanitarian effort and the Bush administration and others who see it as a central front in the fight against terrorism.

Canada had threatened to pull its troops from the front lines in southern Afghanistan unless other allies sent an additional 1,000 combat troops to help.

NATO has about 47,000 troops in Afghanistan, but commanders are pleading for more troops in the south, where Taliban insurgents are wreaking the most havoc. The United States supplies the largest contingent, about 14,000 for NATO, plus the United States has 13,000 operating separately in eastern Afghanistan hunting terrorists and training Afghan forces.

This is a 4 page article and it is a MUST READ. All of us have heard the saying “You are what you eat”.

Pollan: Nutrition "Science" Has Hijacked Our Meals -- and Our Health

By Terrence McNally, AlterNet. Posted April 3, 2008.

Much of what lines supermarket aisles is not food. It's merely foodlike, and it's making us sick.

Why would anyone need to write a book called In Defense of Food? If we can afford it and can get our hands on it, we eat food several times a day. Or do we?

According to Michael Pollan, most of what Americans consume isn't food. He calls it "edible foodlike substances." He also says that the way we consume it is not really eating. It's something we do pretty unconsciously as we work or drive or watch TV.

We all know about the US epidemic of obesity and diabetes over the past 25 years, top of the steady rise of chronic diseases over the past 100. Paradoxically, this happens just as Americans and the food industry are ever more aware of nutrition. What's going on here?

Pollan claims that in the Western Diet, good old food has been replaced by nutrients, mom's good advice by nutritional experts, common sense by confusion, and for most, a relatively good diet by a bad and dangerous one. The book in which he makes all these claims and advises us simply to "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants," has topped the New York Times best-seller list.

Michael Pollan's previous books include >THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA: A Natural History of Four Meals, named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and THE BOTANY OF DESIRE. Pollan is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and a Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley.

Terrence McNally: How did you grow to focus on plants and then food?

Michael Pollan: Well all my work really begins in the garden. I was a very passionate gardener beginning at age eight, although I fell away from it for a few years. In the 1980's I was living in New York and took up gardening at a weekend house in northwestern Connecticut. I got very absorbed in the garden as a place to look at our relationship to nature.

Like a lot of Americans, my understanding of nature and our relationship to it was shaped by Emerson and Thoreau and Melville and Whitman. When I actually started to garden, I realized all those ideas about the romance of nature were distinctly unhelpful. Thoreau's love of wilderness and worship of the wild really doesn't equip you when the pests come and destroy your crops, when the woodchuck attacks your broccoli.

I got into trouble following their philosophy. I didn't have a fence, for example. I thought a fence was too alienating from the natural world. I got into a war with a woodchuck -- just like Bill Murray in Caddyshack -- until I was defoliating my property and pouring gasoline down a woodchuck burrow. I was like William Westmoreland in Vietnam, willing to destroy the village to save it.

I realized then that the garden was a very interesting place to examine our relationship to the natural world. Traditionally when Americans want to think about nature, we picture the wilderness, we go camping, we go to Yosemite. But nature is happening in our homes, in our gardens, in our lawns, and on our plates.

TMN: At that point you were writing about other things?

MP: I was an editor at Harper's Magazine, and I began writing a series of essays about what was happening to me in my garden, my woodchuck war, my dad's battle with the neighbors over his front lawn. These kinds of issues became my first book, Second Nature.

I started looking at our relationship to plants and animals, and at drugs, since a lot of drugs are plants that change our consciousness.

TMN: And that shows up in The Botany of Desire?

MP: Yes. When I was working on Botany of Desire, I visited industrial farms in Idaho to see how industrial agriculture works, and I was shocked. I was absolutely floored by these vast monocultures, the amount of pesticides that are used, the fact that the farmers are afraid to go into their fields for five days after they spray for fungus because they know how neurotoxic this stuff is.

TMN: Stuff which will later end up on our plates?

MP: In fact, they would often have a little patch of organic potatoes by the house for themselves, because they could not eat the food coming out of their farms.

I suggest they are more irresponsible than they are. Over time the potatoes leech out the worst chemicals, so you can't just dig industrial potatoes and eat them right away, or you'll get too heavy a load of residues.

I also visited organic farms, and realized that there were alternatives. People were having great success growing organic on a fairly large scale in Idaho with a completely different mind set. Not monoculture being the key fact. Heavy rotations, poly-cropping.

When I realized that eating is our most profound engagement with the natural world, I got very excited to take a hard look at the food chain that we're a part of.

Now go read the other 3 pages.

It is my opinion America is going to far in labeling little kids sexual harassers! This is a very sad indictment on how religion and it’s prudish teaching’s can make adults go to far. I’m not saying all these kids were labeled by religious zealots but I bet you some were.

But notice the misspelled word “Labelled” in MSNBC headline, it‘s labeled.!

My spell check could have fixed it but as I’ve said before I only fix my misspelled words not those of the writer.

Little children labelled as sexual harassers

Kids dealt with harshly as schools grapple to enforce zero-tolerance policies

WASHINGTON - In his seven years, Randy Castro has been an aspiring soccer player, an accomplished Lego architect and a Royal Ranger at his Pentecostal church. He also, according to his elementary school record, sexually harassed a first-grade classmate.

During recess at his Woodbridge school one day in November, when he was 6, he said, he smacked the classmate's bottom. The girl told the teacher. The teacher took Randy to the principal, who told him such behavior was inappropriate. School officials wrote an incident report calling it "Sexual Touching Against Student, Offensive," which will remain on his student record permanently.

Then, as Randy sat in the principal's office, they called the police.

"I thought they were going to take me to prison," Randy said recently. "I was scared."

Prince William County school officials would not comment on Randy's case, citing student confidentiality. They said the call to police was the result of a misunderstanding.

Randy is only one of many children to be dealt with harshly as schools across the country grapple with enforcing new zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies and the fear of litigation.

The Virginia Department of Education reported that 255 elementary students were suspended last year for offensive sexual touching, or "improper physical contact against a student." In Maryland, 166 elementary school children were suspended last year for sexual harassment, including three preschoolers, 16 kindergartners and 22 first-graders, according to the State Department of Education. Statistics for the District were not available.

Label 'doesn't make sense' for little kids

In 2006, a kindergartner in Hagerstown, Md., was accused of sexual harassment after pinching a female classmate's buttocks. A 4-year-old in Texas was given an in-school suspension after a teacher's aide accused him of sexual harassment for pressing his face into her breasts when he hugged her.

Ted Feinberg, assistant director of the National Association of School Psychologists in Bethesda, said he had never come across a case of sexual harassment in elementary school in his three decades in the schools. To label somebody a sexual harasser at 6 "doesn't make sense to me," he said. "Kids can be exploratory in behavior, they can mimic what they see on TV."

Randy sat on the lower bunk in his bedroom recently and explained what happened Nov. 26 on the playground at Potomac View Elementary School. Katherine DeLeon, a classmate who regularly came over to play, was kneeling on a bench, talking to friends. He said he saw another boy race over to the girl, whack her on the bottom and run away, giggling and pretending he hadn't done it. He did it twice more, Randy said.

Randy said he thought it looked like fun, so he joined in, hitting her and running away twice. "Every time he hit her, she laughed," Randy said. "When I hit her, she told the teacher."

Katherine's mother, Margarita DeLeon, who was contacted by school officials shortly after the incident, said that her daughter didn't like being hit but that she quickly forgot about it. "We didn't pay attention to it, because we know it's just children playing around," she said. "He didn't mean anything by it. I'm upset with the school."

Claudia Castro, a preschool teacher in Alexandria, said she was shocked when officials at Randy's school called to say that he was in trouble and that they were calling the police. She later met with the principal and assistant principal. "I told them that what he did was not appropriate. And I have talked to him about it. What I don't understand is how you can make a police report on a 6-year-old. But the principal told me that they were making reports to the police every single day."

The school's incident report, provided to The Washington Post by Randy's family, says the "police were contacted" after the playground episode. Police arrived after dismissal, when Randy had already gone home. Castro said she shared the story with The Post in the hope of changing school policy.

Confusion over police reports

Days before the incident, at a routine meeting with district officials, principals had been reminded to report threats and assaults to the police. "There was some confusion as to what level of threat and assault we were talking about," said Ken Blackstone, a school system spokesman.

Some officials and students said Potomac View administrators made an announcement that a new district policy required them to inform the police of student misbehavior. But Blackstone said there was no new policy. After the meeting, he said, principals were confused about when to call police. "As a result, there were too many calls that may not have been necessary because of people wanting to comply with the initial request."

"Some of the calls," Prince William police spokeswoman Ericka Hernandez said, "were about incidents the police did not have to be involved in."

Blackstone pointed to the school district's code of behavior, which states that police may be called for "offenses involving weapons, alcohol/drugs, intentional injury, and other serious violations."

Two school board members declined to comment on the case, and Blackstone would not make the Potomac View principal available for comment.

Mary Kay Sommers, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, said suspensions and calls to the police in such cases are overkill. The correct response, she said, would be to explore whether the behavior is linked to abuse and to teach students about respecting peers and what constitutes "good touch" or "bad touch."

"There's no way these children understand what's going on. But it's been taken out of our hands. That's the difficult moral dilemma that we face," Sommers said. She blamed two Supreme Court decisions from the 1990s that enable suits against school districts for failing to stop sexual harassment as well as zero-tolerance policies aimed at middle and high school students that are applied to students as young as 5.

"We need to make sure that we follow the letter of the law, so being reasonable sometimes gets lost," she said.

But Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, said educators do have some leeway: "Zero tolerance does not mean zero good judgment."

Branded a 'bad boy'?

Since November, Randy has been calling himself a "bad boy," his mother said.

Castro said school officials rejected her appeal to remove the sexual harassment incident from Randy's permanent file. And now she worries that they have branded him a troublemaker.

She points to an incident in January when Randy was suspended for three days for verbal "harassment" and inappropriate behavior. According to the principal's incident report, as Randy walked home from school, he told two girls to kiss and asked another student, "Are you gay?" and "Why are you wearing girl's boots?"

Randy and his siblings, who were walking with him that day, dispute the account. They said he teased an older boy and girl about kissing. He said if the boy didn't kiss the girl, it meant he was gay. Randy said he learned the word on TV.

School officials, citing confidentiality, declined to comment on the incident.

Castro agreed that Randy's behavior was inappropriate but worried that he is being too severely scrutinized because of the spanking incident. "My feeling is that they are picking on him," she said.

Castro said she met again with school officials and asked why, if they were concerned about Randy, he wasn't in counseling. "The counselor told me he didn't need it," she said.

Update on the UAE Camel beauty contest. Sorry guys but I had too. With prizes like these and a top prize of 10,000 million dollars it makes me wish I owned a beautiful Camel.

You need to go to the link at the bottom and just right of the article click on the slide show of the NATO Summit. It’s an embed so there is no link but you need to see the pictures. One picture that really caught my eye was the person holding a sign that read “Bush & NATO Go Home!

Camel beauty contest where losing can give you the hump

In one of the Gulf's most lucrative beauty pageants, contestants are judged according to strict criteria: the curvature of the ears, the size of nose relative to face and fullness of hump.

This is the International Camel Beauty Contest in Abu Dhabi, the Arab world's Crufts. More than 15,000 of the animals compete in the eight-day event for the coveted title of the most attractive camel in the world.

With prizes ranging from brand-new Range Rovers and Toyota pick-ups to more than $10 million (£5 million) in cash, the competition has drawn contestants from as far away as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“Camels are a part of our culture and this is a chance to celebrate their beauty, and make some money at the same time,” said Salem Ebrahim al-Mazrouei, a spokesman for the festival, which is being sponsored by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates.

he pageant is part of an $80 billion campaign to revive Beduin culture. Camels, revered as a measure of wealth, have long been seen as central to the heritage of the Gulf.

Abu Dhabi produced the world's first test-tube purebred camel and has begun using remote-controlled robot jockeys in its camel races.

The pageant has transformed a barren stretch of desert outside the emirate into a Beduin carnival, with brightly coloured tents and a lively cafeteria that serves camel stew.

Locals call this place “Millionaire's Road” for its promise of rewarding the best-looking camels with instant wealth. Many owners spent several weeks travelling with their herd by foot for the chance to compete.Owners resemble nervous stage mums. Camels are groomed until their coats glisten. Some are adorned with colourful national flags or rhinestone harnesses.

Abdallar Fahad Dosari, 22, from Riyadh, has entered ten of his brood in the contest. He thinks that Madiah, a sprightly one-year-old dark-skinned “Majahim”, has the best chance of winning, so he has draped her in his most prized camel blanket, made of blue and white embroidered silk, that is meant to bring her luck. “People have seen her and offered to buy her from me but I will never sell her,” he said. “Well, maybe for 300,000 dirhams [£41,000] I would consider it,” he added.

For the wealthy the pageant provides a chance to buy rare purebreds that will add to their prestige. Some animals have been known to fetch millions of dollars. Others are considered so precious that their owners refuse even to entertain the notion of a sale. “One man from Qatar offered to buy a camel for 30 million dirhams but the owner refused,” Mr al-Mazrouei said.

Hamad Safia al-Mari, a renowned camel trainer from Saudi Arabia and the top judge at the event, says that he will pick a winner according to a secret formula devised over a lifetime of working with the animals. He likens the task ahead of him to selecting a perfect wife, of which he has three. “All camels are beautiful but I am looking for the perfect camel. I am certain that here I will find one,” he said.

After eliminating contestants that show signs of mixed breeding, Mr al-Mari will examine everything from the camel's comportment to the colour of its teeth. The final selection will be made by a panel of judges, with the results broadcast on a giant screen.

Like in any beauty pageant youth is a definite asset. Mr al-Mazrouei said: “People are looking for beauty so if it is old and skinny it won't be considered. Nobody cares about anything that is old and ugly.”

Best of Breed

Miss Crustacean-Hermit Crab, New Jersey:

An annual fancy dress competition for crabs in Ocean City. Entries have included “Hansel and Gretel Crab” and “Spider-Man Crab”. The winner gets a year's supply of treats, such as cucumbers

The Herpetological Association Beauty Pageant, South Africa:

Annual contest for amphibians and reptiles. Categories include indigenous, exotic, four-legged creepy crawlies and oddballs. Tarantulas were allowed to participate for the first time in 2006, causing some controversy. Contestants are required to remain in their tanks

The Pageant Contest for Dairy Cows, Vietnam:

Now in its fifth year. After fighting off tough competition from thousands of other selected dairy cows in the area, “Miss Cow” receives a banner while her owner takes home a cup and cash prize

The Pigeon Show of the Year, UK:

The pigeon world's equivalent of Crufts is held annually by the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, whose patron is the Queen, a keen pigeon fancier. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors from around the world who come to see the pigeons put on display. Large sums are raised for charity


04/03/08 Reuters: Iraq's Sadr calls for million-strong march

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Thursday for a million-strong demonstration against U.S. "occupation," a potentially destabilizing show of force after his followers battled U.S. and government troops.

04/03/08 AP: Deadly U.S. airstrike amid new Iraq violence

A militant was killed when a U.S. airstrike destroyed a house in the southern city of Basra, the U.S. military said Thursday. Iraqi witnesses and hospital officials said at least three civilians were among the dead.

04/02/08 kuwaittimes: Basra residents fear the worse

Cleaning up their shops and venturing out onto the streets after a week of bloody clashes, Iraqis in the southern city of Basra said on Wednesday they feared worse violence was to come.

04/02/08 AP: Iraq Looking at Oil Surplus, Big Profits

Iraq is looking at a potential boon in oil revenue this year, as the U.S. spends some $153 million a month in the country on fuel alone. But U.S. officials say it will take some time before Baghdad builds the capacity to manage the revenue.


04/03/08 nationalpost: France commits 1,000 troops to Afghanistan

Canada's demand for reinforcements in the volatile south of Afghanistan was answered yesterday when France committed an additional battalion to the NATO mission.

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Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home

Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home
If Not Now When?