The Command Post
Global Recon

July 31, 2004

Iran Resumes Nuclear Effort

Reuters reports that backtracking from a pledge to Britain, France and Germany, Iran has resumed building nuclear centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium for use in bombs:

“We have started building centrifuges,” Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a news conference.

However he insisted Iran had not resumed enriching uranium, the key part of the process which can either produce fuel for power stations or bomb material.

Iran had previously said it would restart making centrifuges to retaliate against a resolution from the U.N. nuclear watchdog last month deploring Tehran’s failure to co-operate fully with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Diplomats say Iran has also restarted work at a uranium conversion facility near the central city of Isfahan. The plant turns processed ore, or yellowcake, into uranium hexafluoride gas which is pumped into centrifuges to form enriched uranium.

[. . .]

“We just want to produce fuel for our plants and we are not after nuclear weapons,” he said.

Washington says Iran’s nuclear program is a cover for seeking atomic weapons.

From California Yankee.

Posted by Dan Spencer at 02:02 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

July 30, 2004

Palestinian Group Abducts Service Workers (Updated)

Palestinian gunmen abducted three foreign church volunteers, including an American, in Nablus late Friday, Palestinian security officials said.

Five gunmen seized the foreigners as they were returning to the home where they were staying around midnight, the officials said.

The volunteers were citizens of the United States, Britian and Ireland, the officials said. Their identities were not released. Several foreign women accompanying them were allowed to go free.

The officials said the hostages apparently were taken to the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. No reason for the abduction was immediately given.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, said the kidnappers could belong to a splinter group of Al Aqsa. He said the group was helping authorities in the search for the hostages.

Update: The report now reads that the hostages were released.

Posted by Michele at 07:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pakistan's PM-Designate Survives Assassination Bid

REUTERS: Pakistan’s PM-Designate Survives Assassination Bid

Pakistan’s prime minister-designate Shaukat Aziz survived an assassination attempt Friday while campaigning in a by-election, witnesses and officials said.

Aziz, currently finance minister, was coming out of a campaign meeting when a bomb went off, witnesses said.

“As he (Aziz) came out of a public meeting, there was a blast. Many people have been wounded. Some also died. But with the grace of God he is safe and sound,” a reporter traveling with him said.

An aide of Aziz told Reuters from the scene that two people were killed, including an attacker. State-run Pakistan Television said eight people were wounded.

Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, said he spoke to Aziz by telephone shortly after the attack.

“He seemed to be quite okay. He was quite calm and composed,” Hussain said. “He said he was all right. He said there was an explosion close by his car.”

Posted by Laurence Simon at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

U.S. wants Sudan militias disarmed

CNN: U.S. wants Sudan militias disarmed

A U.S. draft proposal to the United Nations on the Sudan crisis drops the word “sanctions” but calls on the Sudanese government to disarm Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed.

The resolution on the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region is to be voted on Friday in the U.N. Security Council.

The United States had pressed for sanctions, but after opposition from some countries on the 15-member Security Council, U.S. officials deleted the word “sanctions” from the draft resolution Thursday.

The current Sudan conflict began in February 2003, when two black African groups accused the Islamic government in Khartoum of neglecting Darfur in favor of the country’s Arab population.

The government allegedly responded by setting up the Janjaweed to put down the rebellion.

(FYI - The word genocide does not appear in the U.S.-sponsored resolution, despite the overwhelming decision in the U.S. Congress on the issue.)

UPDATE:
Thirteen in favor, two abstain (China & Pakistan).

UN NEWS CENTRE:

With two of its 15 members abstaining, the Security Council voted today to take action against Sudan if it does not disarm the Arab militias accused of indiscriminate murders, rapes and other attacks against civilians in the troubled Darfur region and bring the leaders to justice.
Posted by Laurence Simon at 11:09 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Suicide Bomber Strikes U.S. Embassy In Uzbek Capital

Reuters:

Explosions struck the prosecutor’s office and the U.S. embassy in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on Friday, causing a number of casualties.

[. . .]

Russia’s Interfax news agency said the explosion at the U.S. embassy had been caused by a suicide bomber with explosives attached to his waist.

Posted by Dan Spencer at 08:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

Arrow missile to attempt to down Scud missile over Pacific [UPDATE]

HAARETZ: Arrow missile to attempt to down Scud missile over Pacific

Israel and the United States are set to conduct a crucial test on a jointly developed anti-ballistic missile system, with the results of the test possibly determining the system’s future.

A battery of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system has been shipped to a U.S. naval base and will attempt to shoot down a Scud missile launched from the Pacific Ocean. The point of impact would be at an altitude of several dozen kilometers.

Israel and the U.S. decided to carry out the experiment some two years ago. The U.S. has specially purchased a Scu missile for the purpose of the test.

Military officials said the results of the test would likely determine if deployment of the system could be expanded, or if new funds would be required to continue development.

UPDATE:
IT WORKED!!!

Posted by Laurence Simon at 01:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

German doctors amputate leg of Palestinian legislator

HAARETZ: German doctors amputate leg of Palestinian legislator

German surgeons have amputated the leg of Palestinian legislator Nabil Amr, who was shot by masked gunmen on the night of July 20th in his Ramallah home, family and colleagues of the former minister said on Thursday.

They said Amr’s right leg was amputated from the knee down due to severe nerve and muscle damage from two bullets fired through a window of his Ramallah home minutes after his return from a television interview where he criticized Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Arafat has called off an investigation into the attack and has blamed Israel for shooting Amr.

(When Nabil gets back home, I think he’s going to be hopping mad that the investigation’s been called off.)

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

How Do You Spell "Mengele" in Korean?

From the BBC, via Josh at One Free Korea blog:

bq.. “A North Korean scientist says he used experimental chemical weapons on prisoners and stood there taking notes while they died in agony.

Dr Kim tells us: “The purpose of this experiment was to determine how long it takes for a human being to die - we wanted to determine how much gas was necessary to annihilate the whole city of Seoul.”

Now close your eyes real tight and repeat to yourself: “North Korea’s regime isn’t evil, they just have their own narrative…” over and over again, lest the political correctness police cite you for insufficient validation of other cultures and lifestyles.

Or, if you’re a sane individual, keep the pressure on America’s Senate to pass the North Korean Human Rights Act.

I’m not an American - but I can pressure my own political representatives to pass a similar law, and I will. Won’t you join me?

Posted by Winds of Change at 03:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Arabs shock Europeans, refuse to condemn anti-Semitism

HAARETZ: Arabs shock Europeans, refuse to condemn anti-Semitism

At a closed meeting held recently in New York, UN ambassadors from Arab and EU countries met and the Arabs made clear that they do not accept the initiative for the UN General Assembly to condemn anti-Semitism.

The blunt language used by the Arabs describing their opposition, and their plans to use diplomatic means to prevent the resolution from reaching a vote, shocked the Europeans, said a UN source.

According to UN sources, the Arab delegates were also critical of a UN seminar on anti-Semitism held last month. A senior Western diplomat said that among the Arabs who spoke with the Europeans was PLO observer Nasser al Kidwe, and he was particularly outspoken in his objections to a UN General Assembly resolution on anti-Semitism.

The source said Kidwe attacked the content of UN Secretary general Koffi Anan’s speech to the seminar last month, particularly Annan’s pride in the cancelation of the 1975 Zionism equals racism resolution. “The Europeans were depressed when they left the meeting,” said the source.

Jordanian Ambassador to the UN Prince Ziad Hussein argued that the resolution would reinforce the tendency to call any criticism of Israel, anti-Semitic. Moroccan Ambassador Mohammed Banone, said that the seminar against anti-Semitism was a terrible idea and a decision would only divide the world body. Arab League Ambassador Mahamas Hani warned that a UN resolution condemning anti-Semitism would have a negative impact on the Middle East.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 09:33 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Athens to Impose No-Fly Zone at Olympics

AP: Athens to Impose No-Fly Zone at Olympics

Athens will impose a no-fly zone over the city a week before the Aug. 13-29 Olympics and has drawn up contingency plans to shoot down hijacked planes that could be used in a Sept. 11-style attack, a senior Greek air defense official said Tuesday.

“This (no-fly zone) will start on Aug. 7, 8, or 9 — close to the Olympics,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Dimitris Mandilis told The Associated Press.

Mandilis is in charge of five air defense sites which include U.S.-made Patriot missiles and have been set up to protect Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki during the games.

He said an exhaustive range of potential threats would be looked within a 90-mile radius of Athens’ main Olympic stadium. “The threats we’re considering include renegade aircraft, missiles … gliders, kites, remote-controlled planes, unmanned craft and others.”

“Any order to engage and shoot down these (incoming threats) rests with the government and a committee headed by the prime minister.

(Apparently, the kite-eating trees that the Greeks planted to defend against deadly kite-attacks haven’t quite reached maturity yet.)

Posted by Laurence Simon at 06:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Diplomats: Iran Resumes Nuclear Program

GUARDIAN: Diplomats: Iran Resumes Nuclear Program

Iran is once again building centrifuges that can be used to make nuclear weaponry, breaking the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency’s seals on the equipment in a show of defiance against international efforts to monitor its program, diplomats said Tuesday.

Iran has not restarted enriching uranium with the centrifuges - a step that would raise further alarm. But the resumption of centrifuge construction is likely to push European nations, which have been seeking a negotiated resolution, closer to the United States’ more confrontational stance.

The United States accuses Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and wants the U.N. Security Council to take up the issue. Iran denies the charge and says the centrifuges are part of a nuclear program aimed only at producing energy.

Under international pressure last year, the Islamic republic agreed to stop enriching uranium and stop making centrifuges, in a deal reached with Britain, France and Germany.

But the moratorium ended several weeks ago, when Tehran - angry over international perusal of its nuclear program - broke seals placed on enrichment equipment by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the diplomats told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Iranian officials then resumed assembling and installing centrifuges, which can enrich uranium fuel for generating power or developing warheads, the diplomats said.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 04:07 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Palestinian PM Drops Resignation in Deal with Arafat

REUTERS: Palestinian PM Drops Resignation in Deal with Arafat

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie retracted his resignation on Tuesday after Yasser Arafat granted him some powers to carry out reforms, easing a paralyzing leadership crisis.

Qurie’s chief of staff said he had won effective control over parts of a security apparatus whose internal corruption and lawlessness are seen by U.S.-led mediators as a big obstacle to reviving peace talks between Palestinians and Israel.

But Arafat, an ex-guerrilla leader turned president, has not honored similar reform promises made in the past under international pressure and the initial U.S. reaction to Tuesday’s announcement was skeptical.

Arafat acted after an unprecedented explosion of public unrest over inaction on demands for reforms, including elections, to weed out an entrenched old elite around Arafat and make Palestinian institutions more democratic and accountable.

The strife, which has raised fear of a descent into anarchy, underlined a power struggle brewing in Gaza in anticipation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw settlers and troops from the occupied territory by the end of next year.

“The president rejected my resignation and I will (now) comply,” Qurie, who tendered his resignation 10 days ago, told reporters. “I am satisfied that President Arafat is serious this time, that it is not just words but that this time there will be action.”

(And like a boomerang, Abu Merang is back in his master’s hand.)

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Olympic Security Web, Defense Missiles in Place

REUTERS: Olympic Security Web, Defense Missiles in Place

Athens’ Olympic security umbrella, including dozens of armed Patriot defense missiles and hundreds of surveillance cameras, started operating Tuesday, as organizers prepare to safeguard next month’s Games.

Almost 300 closed-circuit cameras were sweeping main avenues and squares while three police helicopters and a Zeppelin airship, equipped with more surveillance cameras, hovered above the capital.

Dozens of new Pac 3 (Patriot Advanced Capability) missiles were armed and in position at three locations around the capital, including the Tatoi military base near the athletes’ Olympic Village, to provide a defense umbrella over Athens during the Games.

“This is the start of the operations. The system will gradually be operated in full,” a police source told Reuters. “The helicopters and the Zeppelin will be flying almost around the clock from now until the end of the Games.”

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

UN Council Members Expect Vote on Sudan This Week

REUTERS: UN Council Members Expect Vote on Sudan This Week

The United States is expected to call a U.N. vote this week on Sudan’s Darfur region although China, Pakistan and others still object to threatening sanctions against Khartoum, diplomats said on Monday.

“I think it will go through by Thursday with the text pretty well unadjusted,” British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told Reuters.

The U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution would put an immediate weapons embargo on militia and rebels in Darfur in western Sudan, where government forces and Arab militia have been battling a rebellion since last year.

At least 30,000 civilians have been killed in Darfur, 1 million are uprooted from their villages and 2 million need food.

The measure also threatens sanctions against Sudan in 30 days if Khartoum does not provide security for African villagers from Arab militias, called Janjaweed, that are blamed for murder, rape and pillaging.

Diplomats attending closed-door negotiations said China, Pakistan and Algeria called for more time for Sudan to implement promises made to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on protecting civilians in Darfur.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 07:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Iran threatens to wipe Israel off map, again

JERUSALEM POST: Iran threatens to wipe Israel off map, again

Iran on Monday repeated its threat to “wipe Israel off the map” if Israel attacked the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites.

“The United States is showing off by threatening to use its wild dog, Israel,” Revolutionary Guards Commander Seyed Masood Jazayeri was quoted as saying by the Iranian student news agency ISNA.

“They will not hesitate to strike Iran if they are capable of it. However, their threats to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities cannot be realized. They are aware Tehran’s reaction will be so harsh that Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth and US interests will be easily damaged,” he warned.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 05:54 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Bases Along The Arc

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a look at Manas Air Field, which, along with Khanabad in neighboring Uzbekistan, are believed to be the future of US military bases overseas.

On July 13, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, Andy Hoehn, said in Washington that defense officials will present their redeployment proposals to President Bush within several weeks. Hoehn said he expects the changes to start taking effect in late 2005 or early 2006.

The strategy, experts say, is to position U.S. forces along an “arc of instability” that runs through the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and southern Asia. It is in these parts of the world —generally poor, insular and unstable —that military planners see the major future threats to U.S. interests.

The Pentagon believes that spreading U.S. forces through a large number of small, flexible bases within this arc would better position them to strike faster at remote hot spots. The U.S. military presence in these areas also could act as a stabilizing factor, preventing them from becoming hot spots in the first place.

“We don’t know exactly where the next threat will be. It could be Iran, North Korea, China or other parts of the world. This redeployment is designed to allow us to quickly respond to any of those challenges,” Pike said.

The U.S. military presence in Kyrgyzstan —a mountainous Muslim country bordering Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China —provides a glimpse of what is to come.

As for the base itself,

Unlike the big garrison bases that have traditionally housed more than 80 percent of U.S. forces overseas, the Manas air base is small, simple and largely isolated from the surrounding community. There are no families, schools, fast-food chains or department stores.

Contact with local villagers and access to the nearby capital city of Bishkek are strictly limited. Postings rarely last longer than three or four months and accommodations consist of eight-man tents.

Initially set up as a temporary staging ground for incursions into neighboring Afghanistan, today the base serves primarily as a strategic airlift hub and launching area for air refueling missions — exactly the kind of “lily pad” Pentagon planners envisage for other parts of the world.

About 10 flights a day depart from Manas — either C-130 Hercules planes ferrying troops and supplies to bases in Afghanistan or KC-135 Stratotankers refueling American planes over Afghan airspace.

Manas, unofficially known as Peter J. Ganci Air Field, also pumps large amounts of money into the Kyrgyz economy, paying wages of up to 10 times the average income to about 500 Kyrgyz employees.

Posted by Nathan Hamm at 09:59 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

An Iran Roundup

A number of stories concerning Iran have come out recently, and I want to have the chance to gather them in one post.

This article discusses the abrupt ending of the trial surrounding the murder of Zahra Kazemi:

Iran’s hardline judiciary abruptly ended the trial on Sunday of an intelligence agent accused of killing a Canadian journalist, prompting angry lawyers to complain key evidence had been ignored or covered up.

A verdict is expected in a week or so.

Foreign diplomats and journalists were barred from the third day of the trial of the agent, Mohammad Reza Aqdam, over the death last July of Zahra Kazemi, 54, a photographer of Iranian origin who was detained after taking pictures of a Tehran jail.

Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace laureate, said the judge had ignored testimony that might have incriminated a judiciary official.

The case has damaged Iran’s relations with Canada, which announced the withdrawal of its ambassador last week, and turned an international spotlight on Iran’s judiciary and prisons.

It has also exposed deep rifts between President Mohammad Khatami’s reformist government and the judiciary which is run by his hardline opponents.

“I’m so angry I cannot speak. They didn’t even pay attention to our evidence and announced the end of the trial,” Ebadi, who was representing Kazemi’s family, said outside the Tehran court.

“This is not a fair trial. The case hasn’t been reviewed. If they issue a verdict it will be unfair,” she added.

This story follows up:

A hard-line prosecutor has ordered Iranian newspapers to censor their coverage of a trial of a secret agent accused of murdering an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, journalists said Monday.

Speaking to government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh after his weekly press conference, several reporters said Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi called their offices and told them to not report on parts of the trial, which ended abruptly Sunday.

One journalist said Mortazavi told him, “It’s in your interest to consider the murder trial over and avoid publishing things that you should not.”

Hard-liners were angered after a legal team representing the mother of slain photojournalist Zahra Kazemi accused prison official Mohammad Bakhshi of inflicting the fatal blow to Kazemi, and accused the hard-line judiciary of illegally detaining her.

Most Iranian newspapers have not published the accusations against Bakhshi and the prosecution, apparently fearing retribution.

“I was afraid to publicly put this to you during the press conference because I was afraid of possible punishment from Mortazavi,” one of the journalists told Ramezanzadeh.

“Mortazavi called our newspaper Sunday to say we have to delete parts of the trial where lawyers implicated Bakhshi in the murder,” she said.

Ramezanzadeh said imposing such restrictions on newspapers was illegal.

“Restricting approved freedoms is against the constitution,” Ramezanzadeh told reporters.

The judiciary ordered two reformist publications to shut down Saturday, when the trial opened. Sources at the newspapers said officials appeared upset with an article one of them published last week about Kazemi’s death.

A former judge, Mortazavi is widely seen as the man behind the closure of more than 100 pro-democracy publications the past four years.

And finally, we have this story concerning the fate of academic dissident Hashem Aghajari:

Iran’s hardline judiciary sentenced dissident academic Hashem Aghajari to five years in prison on Tuesday for saying Muslims should not blindly follow their clerical leaders like “monkeys,” his lawyer said.

The sentence marked a major climb down by the judiciary which originally condemned Aghajari to death for blasphemy after making the speech in 2002.

The death sentence, issued by a provincial court in western Iran, sparked some of the largest student protests for years and fueled international concern about restrictions on free speech in the Islamic state.

The blasphemy verdict was finally overturned by the Supreme Court in June after many senior clerics said it was too harsh. A re-trial was held in Tehran earlier this month.

“The Tehran court sentenced him to five years in prison for insulting Islamic values,” Aghajari’s lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told Reuters.

Posted by Pejman at 04:26 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

Report: Germany mulling cutting aid to PA

MAARIV: Report: Germany mulling cutting aid to PA

Amidst corruption allegations and a leadership crisis, German politicians are calling for measures to be taken against the government of Yasser Arafat, including a freezing of European Union aid.

The foreign policy spokesman for the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD), Gert Weisskirchen, has told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that EU foreign ministers should stop financial aid payments to the Palestinian Authority if the power fight in the government gets any worse. “This is an instrument with which we can support the constructive powers in Palestine,” Weisskirchen argued.

Conservatives have also called for more controls on financial aid payments to the Palestinians. Armin Laschet, a member of the European Parliament representing the Christian Democratic Union, told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper that the EU has committed “grave errors” in its funding of President Arafat.

Between 2000 and 2003, the EU has wired €10 million a month to the Palestinian Authority without proper controls, he said. Laschet, who is co-chair of the parliamentary committee responsible for oversight of the EU’s Palestinian aid, also alleged that the Palestinians had been using the funds illegally.

Allegations that Arafat misappropriated international funds emerged earlier this week when German public broadcaster ARD ran a report with documents showing that Arafat wired $5.1 million in September 2001 to a personal account at the Arab Bank in Cairo.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:39 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

China's Current Buzzwords

The People’s Daily has lists of the Top 10 buzzwords in various categories, culled from a survey of 13 major Chinese papers from the first half of this year. Simon World has the full set of lists. Reading them is an interesting way to get a handle on trends in China.

Of course, a serious analysis would have to consider what isn’t included, as well as what is. Topics like religion (Christianity, Falun Dafa), et. al. may be on people’s minds and part of conversations, but they’ll be filtered out of the state-controlled media. If you keep those limitations in mind, the lists can a valuable window into a society that many westerners know little about.

Posted by Winds of Change at 09:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Algeria In Al Qaeda-Linked GSPC Offensive

Algeria’s Le Matin today reports (link in French) on a still ongoing ANP (anti-terrorist units) led assault against Al Qaeda-linked GSPC strongholds in the region, now in its thirteenth day of operations. The battle seems to be focusing on an area east of Boumerdès (appr. 30 km east of Algiers), where yesterday soldiers ran into a minefield, wounding four. Helicopter support was called in, and units are combing the foresty area for other terrorists. Between Saturday and Monday, two terrorists have been captured and three others killed.

As part of the same offensive, ANP Units are reported to be surrounding GSPC strongholds in Ghzerwal, another 30 kilometers east of Boumerdès, and mortar bombardments by Algeria’s regular army are underway southwest of Boumerdès, against GSPC positions in the area.

Two comments I want to make on this, first, it’s being reported that Algeria is rolling up the GSPC, who, having lost their principal leaders, are said to be in disarray. Looking at the reports above, one might say this is in line, but two things keep bugging me. One, these are operations in areas quite close to the nation’s capital, and secondly, apparently they have strongholds there. To me this doesn’t seem like mopping up, but proof that the GSPC is receiving support and shelter from local populations, and is not limited to roaming around the desert in Toyota pickups.

I do believe Algeria is making headway in ridding the country of its terrorists. But the opposition seems much deeper rooted than one might think.

More on GSPC at Southern Watch.

Posted by V-Man at 07:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Little-Known Military Perquisites

This one needs no comment.

From the New Yorker :

CHEST OUT, STOMACH IN! - Be All You Can Be!

[…]
As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview the other day, “We’re perfectly capable of increasing the incentives and the inducements to attract people into the armed services.” For years, the military has offered its recruits free tuition, specialized training, and a host of other benefits to compensate for the tremendous sacrifices they are called upon to make. Lately, many of them have been taking advantage of another perk: free cosmetic surgery.

Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible,” Dr. Bob Lyons, the chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center, said recently, in his office in San Antonio. It is true: personnel in all four branches of the military and members of their immediate families can get face-lifts, nose jobs, breast enlargements, liposuction, or any other kind of elective cosmetic alteration, at taxpayer expense. (For breast enlargements, patients must supply their own implants.) There is no limit on the number of cosmetic surgeries one soldier can have, although, Lyons said, “we don’t do extreme makeovers in the military.” The commanding officer has to approve the time off for any soldier who is having surgery. For most procedures, there’s at least a ten-day recovery period, and while soldiers are recuperating they’re on paid medical leave rather than vacation.

A Defense Department spokeswoman confirmed the existence of the plastic-surgery benefit. According to the Army, between 2000 and 2003 its doctors performed four hundred and ninety-six breast enlargements and a thousand three hundred and sixty-one liposuction surgeries on soldiers and their dependents. In the first three months of 2004, it performed sixty breast enhancements and two hundred and thirty-one liposuctions.

Mario Moncada, an Army private who was recently treated for losing the vision in one eye in Iraq, said that he knows several female soldiers who have received free breast enlargements: “We’re out there risking our lives. We deserve benefits like that.”
[…]
The Army’s rationale is that, as a spokeswoman said, “the surgeons have to have someone to practice on.” “The benefit of offering elective cosmetic surgery to soldiers is more for the surgeon than for the patient,” Lyons said. “If there’s a happy soldier or sailor at the end of that operation, that’s an added benefit, but that’s not the reason we do it. We do it to maintain our skills”—skills that are critical, he added, when it comes to doing reconstructive surgery on soldiers who have been wounded.

Posted by Alan Brain at 02:24 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

U.S. Special Forces To Help Olympic Security

The Associated Press reports:

Responding to a request from Greece, the United States committed 400 American special forces soldiers to help protect the Olympic Games, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Wednesday, as security costs for the games swelled to a record-breaking $1.5 billion.

[. . .]

Greece’s top law enforcement official, meanwhile, said foreign leaders and other dignitaries can use their own armed guards at the Aug. 13-29 games, but athletes will be under the exclusive protection of Greek forces.

From California Yankee.

Posted by Dan Spencer at 05:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sudan Militia Still Attack, UN Sanctions Unlikely

REUTERS: Sudan Militia Still Attack, UN Sanctions Unlikely

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday Sudan had made little progress in curbing bloodthirsty militias in the Darfur region but diplomats said sanctions against Khartoum were unlikely.

Annan spoke as his special representative for Darfur, Dutchman Jan Pronk, briefed the 15-member Security Council on reports that Arab militia, called Janjaweed, were continuing to terrorize African villagers in Sudan’s west.

The 15-month conflict has killed at least 30,000 people, forced villagers into concentration-camp type compounds and left 2 million people without enough food and medicine.

“There have been encouraging steps on the humanitarian front,” Annan said at a news conference. “But there has been little progress on human rights and I regret to say there are continuing reports of attacks by the Janjaweed militia.”

Posted by Laurence Simon at 04:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Israel sees "nuclear capable" Iran by 2007

REUTERS: Israel sees “nuclear capable” Iran by 2007

Israeli estimates of when Iran will be able to build a nuclear bomb have been shifted two more years to 2007, an intelligence report said on Wednesday and analysts credited the delay to international scrutiny of Tehran.

Security sources quoted the report — delivered to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in private and leaked in part to the media — as saying that within three years Iran would have the means to produce an atomic bomb by itself.

Iran vehemently denies pursuing nuclear weapons, arguing its atomic ambitions are limited to generating electricity.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 04:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Eiffel Tower evacuated in false alarm

REUTERS: Eiffel Tower evacuated in false alarm

French police have evacuated crowds of tourists from the Eiffel Tower in central Paris after a telephone caller threatened to attack it, but police say the warning turned out to be a false alarm.

A police source said on Wednesday about 4,000 people were calmly evacuated from the tower, one of France’s busiest tourist attractions, at about 3:30 p.m. (2.30 p.m. British time) — 40 minutes before the attack threatened by an anonymous caller from a call-box.

“There was no bomb,” a police spokesman said.

Security has been tightened in France following the Madrid train bombings in March. Wednesday’s threat was at one of the tourist peaks, when thousands of people visit the tower daily.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 01:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Simon's East Asia Overview: July 21/04

Simon runs a regular overview feature on his blog, Simon World, where “East meets Westerner.” He’s also the founder of the New Blog Showcase for bloggers just starting out. One good turn deserves another, Simon… so with his agreement, his overview is cross-posted today to Winds of Change.NET.

TOP TOPICS

  • JK: Simon has an interesting article on China’s population policies. It includes population growth, gender imbalance figures, and efforts to “[raise] the population quality.”
  • JK: Congress will vote on the North Korean Human Rights Act this week. One Free Korea explains what the act would do, and why it’s important for Americans to contact their representatives. He even has a sample letter to help. I would urge Americans to get involved, for all the reasons Joshua describes. North Korea is literally a rolling genocide, complete with concentration camps whose depths of cruelty and depravity stand on the same level as Treblinka et. al. Prudence and circumstances may prevent us from removing the regime, but we cannot just turn a blind eye and pretend this isn’t happening.

INSIDE

Doing the rounds for the Asian blogging round-up:

Posted by Winds of Change at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Palestinian MPs Demand Arafat Move on Reform

REUTERS: Palestinian MPs Demand Arafat Move on Reform

The Palestinian parliament Wednesday urged President Yasser Arafat to accept his prime minister’s resignation and appoint a government empowered to carry out reforms and halt a descent into anarchy.

Unprecedented unrest against a Palestinian Authority widely seen as corrupt, resistant to reform and out of touch spurred Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie to resign, touching off a leadership crisis that some fear could turn into civil war.

Lawmakers at a crisis session voted 43-4 for a resolution calling on Arafat to accept Qurie’s resignation, which would dissolve his cabinet, and appoint a government “capable of carrying out its responsibilities” — a veiled demand to endow it with powers to impose law and order.

Qurie, who quit Saturday only to be told by Arafat to stay in office, is frustrated with his lack of power to make public institutions, above all a muddle of security agencies riven by feuding and cronyism, more democratic and accountable.

International mediators regard such reforms as critical to reducing violence in the Palestinian conflict with Israel and salvaging a “road map” peace plan promising Palestinians a state in Israeli-occupied territories.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pushed by U.S., Greece to Allow Troops at Olympics

NEW YORK TIMES: Pushed by U.S., Greece to Allow Troops at Olympics

Under intense pressure from the United States, Greece will allow 400 American Special Forces soldiers to be present at the Olympic Games next month under NATO auspices and will also permit American, Israeli and possibly British security officers to carry weapons, Greek and American officials said.

The delicate arrangements, which the officials say will not be formally acknowledged for fear of roiling anti-American sentiment, represent a significant departure from Olympic tradition, as well as from Greek law, which prohibits foreign personnel from carrying weapons within the country. Until now, the only nation known to have armed its security forces at the Olympics is Israel, whose agents have been carrying arms largely without prior approval from host countries since 1972, when Black September, a Palestinian group, killed Israeli athletes and officials in the Olympic Village in Munich.

In addition to the Special Forces, the agreements call for 100 armed American agents to be used largely as bodyguards for American athletes and dignitaries. The F.B.I. is also sending a hostage rescue team, as well as evidence-gathering and analysis personnel who will be pressed into service in the event of an attack. They, too, will be armed, said an American law enforcement official.

Despite the agreements, Greece and the United States are still in prickly negotiations over the rules that will govern the American security agents - how many there will be, what kind of weapons they can carry and when they can use them, and where they can operate, American and Greek officials said.

“I am certain we are going to be able to carry our guns,” an American official said. “I’m not sure what we’re going to own up to.” The Greeks had made a number of other concessions on security matters that the Americans will not admit to, he said. “We must do this in a way that gives the Greeks their national pride.”

Recent statements from the Greek government have denied these reports.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

UNRWA removes one-third of staff from Gaza

JERUSALEM POST: UNRWA removes one-third of staff from Gaza

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City decided on Tuesday to remove one-third of its staff members from the Gaza Strip to Jerusalem.

Chief public information officer, Paul McCann told The Jerusalem Post, “we are temporarily relocating only 20 out of 60 staff members to Jerusalem in order to minimize crossing from Gaza.”

McCann stated that the decision to relocate was a result of the increased tension between the IDF and Palestinian gunmen in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun, near the Erez crossing which UNRWA staff use frequently to travel back and forth from Gaza to Jerusalem.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 11:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Randinho's Latin America Briefing: July 20/04

Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays too. This Regional Briefing focuses on Latin America, courtesy of Randy Paul.

TOP TOPIC

  • Bolivia’s natural gas referendum passes, nationalizing its reserves and strengthening President Mesa’s hand. What it will mean for the future of Bolivia’s control over its vast reserves remains to be seen. More inside…

Other Topics Include: How do you make millions as commander of the armed forces in Latin America’s most transparent economy? Ask Augusto Pinochet; Brazil’s economy is looking up in several areas, but unemployment and stagnant wages remain stubborn. Will this come back to haunt Lula’s party in the state and municipal elections in October and November?; Will former Mexican President Luis Echevarria face justice for the murder of twenty-six student protestors thirty-three years ago; Argentinians remember a tragic anniversary and President Kirchner renews a commitment for justice. Will it succeed?; A film recommendation that shows Colombians in a way that Hollywood never does.

Read The Rest…

Posted by Winds of Change at 09:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2004

Chess Champion Bobby Fischer Arrested in Tokyo



Bobby Fischer has been arrested by Japanese officials at Tokyo’s Narita airport. Fischer, who was headed to the Philippines, stands accused by the Japanese of traveling on a revoked U.S. passport.

Via the San Francisco Chronicle:

- - - - - - -

Tokyo — For 12 years he has stayed one move ahead of the U.S. government he despises, always in motion, hard to corner. But U.S. justice may have finally caught up with Bobby Fischer.

Wanted for defying a U.S. ban on doing business with Yugoslavia in 1992, the onetime world chess champion was arrested by Japanese officials this week as he tried to fly out of Tokyo’s Narita airport. Fischer, who was headed to the Philippines, stands accused by the Japanese of traveling on a revoked U.S. passport.

The man often said to possess the world’s most brilliant chess mind — and a great eccentric in a profession bulging with them — now sits in jail facing deportation and subsequent arrest by U.S. marshals as early as Sunday.

If deported and convicted in a U.S. court on the 1992 charge, Fischer could face a 10-year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine.

- - - - - - -

The U.S. case against him stems from his out-of-retirement exhibition battle with former rival Boris Spassky in 1992, which led to a $3.5 million payday for Fischer. Staged in Yugoslavia, a federation unraveling in civil war, his appearance violated U.N. sanctions and an embargo on doing business in the Balkan country.

But Fischer’s quarrel with Washington runs far deeper than his refusal to abide by the ban. On his Web site and in radio interviews delivered from various points of exile, Fischer has become known as an intemperate critic of Washington, his philosophy punctuated by ferocious anti-Jewish diatribes, despite the fact that his mother was Jewish.

His rages from the fringe culminated in a notorious interview on Philippine radio on Sept. 11, 2001, in which he exulted in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He praised the horrific events as “wonderful news,” declaring that America got what it deserved for supporting Israel.

“I want to see the U.S. wiped out,” he said.

- - - - - - -

Via Colby Cosh.

The link to the nikita demosthenes post is here.

Posted by nikita demosthenes at 03:07 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

July 17, 2004

Los Alamos Shut Down

Los Alamos National Laboratory director Pete Nanos shut down the country’s leading nuclear weapons lab on Friday, after a set of classified computer disks disappeared, and a student was hit in the eye with a powerful laser beam — all in the space of a week.

“As of today, Director Nanos has suspended all Operations at the Laboratory,” an internal e-mail obtained by Wired News read. “This is a very serious step.”

“This willful flouting of the rules must stop, and I don’t care how many people I have to fire to make it stop. If you think the rules are silly, if you think compliance is a joke, please resign now and save me the trouble,” Nanos added in a separate e-mail to Los Alamos employees.

More at Wired News:

The suspension couldn’t come at a more delicate moment. The lab is under fire for losing track of its classified material three times in the last eight months. One of Los Alamos’ chief overseers in Congress, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), is due at the lab on Monday for security inspections.

Read the rest.

Posted by Michele at 10:02 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Palestinian PM to Resign

Breaking, Fox only has this so far:

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia submitted his resignation to Yassar Arafat, but officials say Arafat rejected it.

Update: More coming in:

The resignation came as Qureia and Arafat discussed a shake-up of security forces during a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Gaza Strip. Six people, including the national police chief and four French charity workers, were briefly kidnapped in Gaza a day earlier.

Full story here.

More on the kidnappings here.

Posted by Michele at 07:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Arafat Replaces National Police Chief

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed Saturday to consolidate his security forces into three branches, a key international demand for reform, a top aide said.

Arafat also replaced the national police chief, who was one of six people abducted Friday, and named two new top officials in a shake-up of his security machine, said the aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

The Palestinian leader appointed his cousin Mousa Arafat al-Qidwe, 64, as the new security chief for the Palestinian territories, which were plunged into turmoil Friday when Police Chief Ghazi Jabali was taken with another senior security officer and later released.

Posted by Michele at 06:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2004

Anti-Semitism in the Shire

The current situation began when two Israeli nationals were arrested in New Zealand, charged with illegally attempting to obtain New Zealand passports.

Both men pled guilty to the charges following rampant speculation they were Israeli Intelligence agents. In short order, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and the Foreign Minister, Phil Goff, were publicly denouncing both as Mossad agents. Both men have denied links to the intelligence agency, and Israel has disavowed the pair are in their employ.

Clark has demanded an official apology from Israel, and has cut diplomatic relations with Israel. The NZ government has additionally added a visa requirement for Israeli officials travelling to NZ for business. New Zealand officials have so far refused to indicate what evidence leads them to believe the two men are connected with Israeli Intelligence activities.

The current NZ government reaction is on par with the reaction to the Rainbow Warrior affair, in which French agents blew up a Greenpeace vessel, resulting in one death. Observers note that the two incidents do not share the same gravity.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has released the following statement

Israel regrets the current state of the traditional and friendly relations between both countries. Israel values its relationship with New Zealand and will do anything it can in order to return those relations to their prior state.

Within 24 hours of The PM’s latest announcement, acts of anti-Jewish vandalism began to occur in Wellington, and has given rise to concerns that further acts of anti-Semitic violence may be ahead.

Further coverage of this topic may be found at Silent Running.

Posted by Windrider at 10:32 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Votes to Block Aid for Saudi Arabia

House Votes to Block Aid for Saudi Arabia

Lawmakers cheered as the House of Representatives voted on Thursday to strip financial assistance for Saudi Arabia from a foreign aid bill because of criticism that the country has not been sufficiently cooperative in the U.S. war on terror.

The vote was a stinging defeat for the Bush Administration which had strongly opposed the measure saying it would “severely undermine” counterterrorism cooperation with Saudi Arabia and U.S. efforts for peace in the Middle East.

The House voted 217-191 to remove $25,000 in the $19.4 billion 2005 foreign aid bill earmarked for Saudi Arabia.

The funds were designated for military training but approval would have triggered millions of dollars in discounts on hardware and other military training, lawmakers said.

“I don’t want my taxpayer dollars going to the Saudis and I don’t want anyone else’s to,” said Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 09:49 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

China Threatens Taiwan With Military Action Before 2020

China is threatening to take military action against Taiwan before 2020, if that country will not decide to join China freely, reports Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, which bases its reporting on military sources.
Link only available in Chinese.

Posted by V-Man at 09:20 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

July 14, 2004

Palestinians Deny Barring Critical UN Diplomat

REUTERS: Palestinians Deny Barring Critical UN Diplomat

A Palestinian diplomat denied on Wednesday the top U.N. envoy to the Middle East had been barred from Palestinian territory after he criticized President Yasser Arafat.

“No actions will be taken to prevent Mr. (Terje Roed-) Larsen from entering the Palestinian territory,” Palestinian U.N. observer Nasser al-Kidwa said.

“We are not rescinding anything because we have not decided anything,” he told reporters at U.N. headquarters. “We haven’t taken any decision yet, pending a thorough discussion with the (U.N.) secretary-general.”

Huh?

Posted by Laurence Simon at 08:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Arafat: UN envoy Larsen not welcome in Ramallah

JERUSALEM POST: Arafat: UN envoy Larsen not welcome in Ramallah

The United Nations’ top envoy to the Middle East is no longer welcome in the Palestinian territories following his harsh criticism of the Palestinian Authority and its Chairman Yasser Arafat, an adviser to the PA chairman said Wednesday.

The comments by Nabil Abu Rdeneh, Arafat’s top adviser, reflected a deepening rift between the Palestinian leadership and Terje Roed-Larsen, the top UN official in the region.

“We have demanded that (UN Secretary-General) Kofi Annan inquire about (Roed)-Larsen’s actions. The Palestinian government probably will act on the basis that (Roed)-Larsen is unwanted in the Palestinian territories,” Abu Rdeneh said.

“(Roed)-Larsen himself is useless and is not welcomed in the Palestinian territories,” he added.

BY THE WAY:
LGF fans might enjoy this one… Yahoo News photo of Roed-Larsen with a red binder.

Did Roed-Larsen steal Arafat’s Horrible Red Binder?

Posted by Laurence Simon at 11:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Israelis Plan for Event of Arafat's Death

AP: Israelis Plan for Event of Arafat’s Death

After Yasser Arafat’s death, Israel must ensure he is not buried in Jerusalem and take harsh measures to prevent militants from seizing control in the Palestinian territories, according to a new contingency plan obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The document lays out Israel’s best predictions about the consequences that may follow the death of the 75-year-old Palestinian leader.

Arafat, who has suffered from health problems in recent years, wields enormous power and has said little about who might succeed him — or where he should be buried.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

US Takes Step To Cut Uzbek Aid

The Independent reports that Secretary Powell has approved the decertification of aid to Uzbekistan over human rights concerns.

The United States plans to take the unprecedented step of cutting all military aid and some economic assistance, worth $18m a year, to punish the central Asian state for its harsh policies aimed at stamping out political dissent.

The decision was signed by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, on Monday night, according to Washington sources. But the move must be approved by Congress, the State Department said last night.

This story and its related aspects have been and continue to be topic #1 at The Argus.

Posted by Nathan Hamm at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poll Shows Afghans Optimistic

Poll: Afghans Optimistic About Recovery (AP)

Two-thirds of Afghans say they are optimistic about the future but remain worried about insecurity and the ravaged economy, according to a survey released Tuesday.

A majority also approved of interim leader Hamid Karzai, the favorite in landmark presidential elections set for Oct. 9, according to a poll that claims it is the most extensive yet on Afghan public opinion.

Of those questioned, only 13 percent favored the ousted Taliban regime, saying they favored governance of the United Nations. Two-thirds approved of the United States involvement which ousted the repressive Islamic militia in late 2001.

The poll was conducted by The Asia Foundation and the complete results can be found on their website.

Posted by Nathan Hamm at 01:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Chrenkoff's Euro Absurdities: 2004-07-13

JK: Arthur Chrenkoff’s Good News From Afghanistan and Good News from Iraq reports are becoming widely read. His European materials, on the other hand, focus on some of the silliness, absurdities, and real challenges over there. This isn’t a tightly organized world briefing, more like a gallery of the interesting and amusing. Stroll on through…

It’s that time again when we take a closer look at what’s been going up and going down amongst our more cultured and sophisticated, not to mention morally and intellectually superior, Old World cousins. It’s that time again when, at the end of it all, we are forced to say:

Dear Europe, you’re just like the rest of us, only older.

In an encouraging diplomatic news of the last fortnight, Germany and France are starting to notice that they share the continent with others: “French-German ties ‘are not sufficient’ within the enlarged 25-member European Union (EU) and should be ‘open’, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier declared.” And “French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy declared… that the French-German dialogue ‘should not be exclusive’. ‘To be 25 (members) is very different from the European community of 6 or 9. In reality, there are today in Europe six countries - France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland - which have and will have the same problems to settle’.” Actually, there are more countries in Europe with problems to settle, and some of these problems are called “France” and “Germany,” but it’s a good start.

In other European Union news, the Dutch provide another example of the triumph of hope over experience:

Read The Rest…

Posted by Winds of Change at 12:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 12, 2004

The Morality Police In Iran

Here is the latest story on an ongoing issue in Iran:

Iran’s morality police have made several raids in Tehran, in an apparent crackdown on women who flout the strict Islamic dress code. Witnesses said dozens of young women were held in the raids on shopping centres and shops in the capital.

Police also confiscated several items of clothing deemed to be too revealing.

After winning parliamentary elections in February, hardliners warned they would not tolerate what they described as social corruption.

However, the clampdown could be the usual summer anti-vice operation, correspondents say.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran’s laws say all young women must wear the veil and a long coat that conceals their figures, or face fines or even imprisonment.

Posted by Pejman at 11:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Japan Seeks Broader Military Role



Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan

Shinichi Kiyotani of Jane’s Magazine reports in a July 12, 2004, article:

- - - - - - -

Japan’s 2004 Defence White Paper calls for the Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF) to be transformed from its current invasion defence posture to a “more functional force” better able to deal with a range of threats such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

Publication of the document coincided with the 50th anniversary of the re-establishment of Japan’s armed forces after the Second World War. Since then the JSDF has been limited by the constitution to a defensive role and the question of a broader military role, such as the deployment of troops to Iraq, continues to provoke controversy.

Japan’s defence budget for the current Fiscal Year, ¥4.9 trillion ($44.47 billion), ranks it as the third-largest military spender behind the US and the UK but the paper notes that if an accurate figure could be established for China it would exceed Japanese spending.

- - - - - - -


It notes other threats in the region. “Taken together with its suspected nuclear weapons programme, North Korea’s development and deployment of ballistic missiles constitute a destabilising factor for the international community as a whole and have generated intense anxiety,” states the paper.

The White Paper says that the armed forces must be restructured to undertake “diversifying roles”. A sweeping review of the armed forces is planned for completion before year-end.

- - - - - - -

The web page for the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is here.

In December 2003 the Government of Japan decided to introduce a ballistic missle defense system.

The link to the nikita demosthenes post is here.

Posted by nikita demosthenes at 11:41 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Blackout Hits Athens Month Before Games

AP: Blackout Hits Athens Month Before Games

The worst blackout in more than a decade hit Athens and southern Greece on Monday, leaving millions sweltering in a heat wave and raising concerns about whether the lights will go out at next month’s Olympics.

The government blamed the outage on “mismanagement” of the electricity grid. Still, officials promised the network was ready to handle the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.

But it was yet another hurdle in Athens’ attempt to convince the world it is ready to host well-run and safe games. Olympics preparations have come under criticism because of construction delays and concerns over security arrangements to stop terror attacks.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 03:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2004

Russian Editor of Forbes Magazine Shot to Death in Moscow



Photo of murdered Russian Editor of Forbes Magazine, Paul Khlebnikov, from Pravda.us

As reported on July 10, 2004, on the Pravda website:

- - - - - - -

Chief Editor of Russian edition of the Forbes magazine Paul Khlebnikov was wounded to death with shot at his head outside his office in Moscow at night of July 9.
He died in the ambulance car.

The police believe that the murder of Paul Khlebnikov resulted from his work in the magazine, Echo of Moscow reported.

According to the investigation, the two killers started firing at the journalist when he was going out of his office. They made 10 shots, 4 bullets hit the journalist. The criminals escaped in VAZ-2115 vehicle of dark color. The police conducted operation to capture the criminals, but it produced no results.

Police have found the VAZ car in which those who killed Pavel Khlebnikov escaped, the press secretary of the Moscow prosecutor’s office, Svetlana Petrenko, told Itar-Tass.

- - - - - - -

American journalist of Russian origin Paul (Pavel) Khlebnikov was known as the author of the scandalous book “Kremlin”s Godfather Boris or the story of looting Russia”. Before publishing the book, Mr. Khlebnikov published in Forbes the article saying that then-Secretary of Security Council Boris Berezovsky was involved in criminal business. Mr. Berezovsky sued the magazine for the article, the legal hearing lasted for several years and finally Berezovsky won. In 2003 Mr. Khlebnikov published one more scandalous book - “Conversation with Barbarian” on his communication with Chechen rebel commander Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev. Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky said to reporters on the phone after Khlebnikov’s murder that he was careless in handling with facts.


It is worth saying that in May 2004 the Forbes published the list of the richest people in Russia. The magazine wrote that only Moscow alone accommodates 39 billionaires - more than in any city of the world. After publishing the list Khlebnikov told that the most of the people mentioned by the Forbes as billionaires, were indignant, they said the information about their wealth had been exaggerated and even threatened. However, Khlebnikov considered this as just emotional reaction and said that the threats were about suing the magazine.

- - - - - - -



Photo of murdered Russian Editor of Forbes Magazine, Paul Khlebnikov, from Forbes.com

After Khlebnikov’s death, Steve Forbes, President and Editor-In-Chief of Forbes Magazine, sent this statement to Forbes employees:

- - - - - - -

It is with the deepest sadness that I inform you that Paul Klebnikov, 41, editor of Forbes Russia, was murdered in Moscow this evening. He was reportedly shot four times as he left work and died shortly thereafter.

Paul became the first editor of Forbes Russia at the magazine’s launch in April 2004. Forbes Russia is a joint venture with Axel Springer.

Paul joined Forbes in 1989 and rose to the position of senior editor at the magazine, specializing in Russian and Eastern European politics and economics, before assuming editorship of Forbes Russia.

Paul was the author of Godfather of the Kremlin (September 2000), a biography of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian tycoon.

Paul embraced the opportunity to become the first editor of Forbes Russia. He knew Russia well. It was a country he loved deeply.

Paul was a superb reporter—courageous, energetic, ever-curious. I eagerly anticipated reading his stories. The information was always fresh, insightful, fascinating. He exemplified the finest traditions of our profession and served his readers well.

All of us at Forbes are devastated by what has happened and send our condolences and prayers to his wife and family.

- - - - - - -

Interfax reports that the matter is being investigated by the Moscow city prosecutor’s office:

- - - - - - -

Investigators probing the murder of Paul (Pavel) Klebnikov, editor-in-chief of the Russian version of Forbes magazine, believe the crime was related to the victim’s professional activities, a Moscow prosecutor’s office spokesman told Interfax on Saturday.

“Taking into account the special significance of the criminal case, a decision was made that the case would be passed from the Moscow Northwestern district prosecutor’s office to the city prosecutor’s office for investigation,” he said.

The Moscow prosecutor’s office told Interfax that the capital’s prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev ordered the Klebnikov case to be handled by the gangsterism and murder investigation department. “This is because the investigators from that department have gained vast experience in investigating contract killings,” they said.

- - - - - - -

Per Pravda, the Russian prosecutors are linking the Forbes editor’s murder with his investigative reporting:

- - - - - - -

The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office believes there is a direct link between the murder of Paul Khlebnikov, Editor-in-Chief of the Russian edition of the Forbes magazine, and his investigative reporting, spokespeople for the Prosecutor told RIA Novosti Saturday. Khlebnikov was fatally wounded outside his office late July 9, and he died from the wounds in hospital.

Prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev has reportedly decided to hand the case over to the murder and banditry department of the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office. Investigators of this department have vast experience in probing contact killings. Criminal proceedings in connection with Paul Khlebnikov’s murder have been launched as pursuant to Article 105 of the Russian Penal Code.

Before being taken to hospital, the journalist told a by-stander that he had been shot at by a man he had seen before. Accounts by other eye-witnesses indicate that Paul Khlebnikov was followed by a dark-colored car. The driver stopped the car ten to fifteen meters away, opened the left-hand window and fired several shots at his victim.

Investigators who worked at the crime scene found nine 9-millimeter shells, one bullet of the same caliber, and other relevant objects, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office says in a press release.

- - - - - - -

The link to the nikita demosthenes post is here.

Posted by nikita demosthenes at 07:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2004

3 Palestinians Killed in Gaza Car Bombing

Fox News is reporting:

An explosion Saturday in a car near Gaza City killed three Palestinians, according to a Palestinian hospital official.

The cause of the blast in al-Zahra was not immediately known. Al-Zahra is on the outskirts of Gaza City not far from the Jewish settlement of Netzarim.

The Israeli army said it had no information.

Israeli tanks and helicopters were in the general area, but Palestinian residents reached by The Associated Press said they did not see anyone firing at the car.

No additional information is currently available.

Posted by Jeff M at 11:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Greece Delays Security System Payments

REUTERS: Greece Delays Security System Payments

Frustrated by delays, the Greek government has postponed payment on a multimillion-dollar security system being built by an American-led consortium for the Summer Olympics, according to media reports.

The final installment of $173 million has been put on hold due to government concerns about whether the security system will be ready for the Aug. 13 opening of the games, the Athens daily To Vima reported Saturday.

The consortium, led by the San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, is responsible for installing thousands of infrared and high-resolution cameras around the capital and Olympic venues, as well as a secure communication and information and radio system for security services.

According to the contract, SAIC was to deliver the system by May 28. But there have been delays in installation, which sources at the company blamed on construction setbacks at Olympic venues, such as the yet-unfinished main Olympic stadium. But they say that the majority of the system is in place and has been tested.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2004

White House brushes aside ruling on separation fence

HAARETZ: White House brushes aside ruling on separation fence

The White House brushed aside a ruling by the International Court of Justice on the West Bank separation fence on Friday, saying it didn’t think it was the right forum for addressing the issue.

“We do not believe that that’s the appropriate forum to resolve what is a political issue. This is an issue that should be resolved through the process that has been put in place, specifically the road map,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said aboard Air Force One as President George W. Bush was en route to a campaign tour in Pennsylvania.

“We certainly recognize the need for Israel to defend itself and protect the people of Israel. It’s also important that they allow the Palestinian people to move freely within that region,” McClellan told reporters.

New York senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer announced that they will deliver statements against the International Court’s decision in front of the United Nations building in New York City.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:54 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Court: Fence violates international law, must be dismantled

HAARETZ: Court: Fence violates international law, must be dismantled

The president of the International Court of Justice was Friday reading the ruling on the legality of the West Bank separation fence in The Hague. The ruling was in line with a copy of the document obtained earlier by Haaretz, and which determines that the barrier contravenes international law, must be dismantled, and that Palestinians harmed by its construction must be compensated.

Judge Shi Jiuyong of China called the United Nations’ highest legal authority to order and started reading the non-binding advisory opinion requested by the UN General Assembly that is expected to be highly complex and possibly take several hours to read.
Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:04 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

Georgian Troops Attacked, Captured in South Ossetia

Georgian, South Ossetian Forces Clash

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania has said that Georgian troops and South Ossetian forces clashed in South Ossetia today, wounding two Georgians.

Zhvania also said that one Georgian soldier was abducted. He said the clash happened between the villages of Kurti and Tamarasheni. He gave no other details.

Earlier today, a group of separatists disarmed and detained 30-40 Georgian peacekeepers in the village of Venati.

South Ossetia is now gradually releasing troops

South Ossetia’s separatist government says it is processing a group of Georgian soldiers seized earlier today and gradually releasing them to the care of their relatives.

Meanwhile, Georgia is showing restraint and working with Russia and the US to isolate South Ossetia.

Georgian authorities claim that “the criminal regime” of Eduard Kokoev, the President of self-styled South Ossetian Republic, seeks to provoke Tbilisi into engaging in an armed conflict. “War is the only way for Kokoev to retain his power. But we will not yield to his provocations,” Georgian Security Minister Vano Merabishvili said at a news briefing on July 8.

“We knew that Kokoev was planning provocations and we were ready for this. The Georgian government is capable of dealing with the current situation and we will not be involved in armed clashes,” Vano Merabishvili added.

International efforts are underway to resolve the current crisis. “We are engaged in frequent contacts with our colleagues in the United States, Russia and other countries. I can say for sure that Kokoev’s regime does not enjoy support from Moscow,” the Georgian Security Minister said.

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania held phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on July 8 and discussed satiation in breakaway South Ossetia. “Mr. Powell expressed readiness to help Georgia in overcoming the current crisis. He also welcomed Georgian government’s efforts to avoid armed confrontation in the conflict zone,” Avto Pavlenishvili, spokesman of the Georgian Prime Minister told Civil Georgia.

Duplicate post from The Argus

Posted by Nathan Hamm at 02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Israel's Sharon Links Nuclear Discussion to Peace

REUTERS: Israel’s Sharon Links Nuclear Discussion to Peace

Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) said he could discuss ridding the Middle East of nuclear arms but only as part of a broader peace process in the future, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Thursday.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Mohammed ElBaradei quoted Sharon as saying discussions could be part of the “road map” for regional peace — a plan that has been stalled for months by Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The Jewish state, presumed to be the region’s only nuclear power, has long said it is committed to a nuclear-weapons free Middle East, though it always said peace had to be achieved first.

It was not clear if Sharon’s comments marked a change of policy, but ElBaradei said Sharon had taken “a good first step” toward disarmament as the IAEA chief ended a three-day visit.

“What I’ve achieved at least is to get the Israeli government at the level of the prime minister to commit himself to work in the future toward a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East,” ElBaradei told academics and reporters.

Diplomats close to the U.N. said Israeli officials concentrated not on its presumed arsenal but on worries that arch-foe Iran was developing an atom bomb and might one day use it on Israel.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:06 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

Quartet tells Palestinians to carry out reforms or lose aid

REUTERS/HAARETZ: Quartet tells Palestinians to carry out reforms or lose aid

Envoys tell PM Qureia they are ‘sick and tired’ of Palestinian failure to carry out reforms; diplomat says Arafat ‘has done nothing.’

The quartet of Middle East mediators are “sick and tired” of Palestinians failing to carry out reforms and told them on Wednesday to act soon or risk losing international support and aid, diplomats said.

In another sign of growing pressure for change on besieged Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, results from grassroots elections for his Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip showed reformers sweeping the field, Fatah officials said.

Sapped by years of corruption and disorder as well as Israeli raids, the PA needs foreign help to fill a power vacuum when Israel quits the Gaza Strip next year or if it hopes to revive peace talks with the Jewish state.

But envoys from the United States, United Nations and European Union and Russia told Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia that the world had run out of patience with Arafat’s “empty promises” of reform.

“If security reforms are not done, there will be no (more) international support and no funding from the international community,” a senior diplomat close to the talks in the West Bank city of Ramallah told Reuters.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 02:39 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Georgian Peacekeepers Seize Russian Convoy

Georgian troops stopped a convoy of Russian trucks in the Ossetian conflict zone and seized weaponry from the Russian soldiers.

Georgian police gave back 10 trucks belonging to Russian peacekeepers on Tuesday, Russian Information Agency Novosti reported. The trucks were arrested at night in the Georgia-Ossetia conflict zone near the village of Tkviavi. The convoy was transporting 40 Russian servicemen, Interfax has reported, quoting an adviser of South Ossetian president, Konstantin Kochiyev

Earlier, it was reported that the trucks taken to the Georgian city of Gori had been carrying up to 300 missiles, radios, tents and fuel. Chairman of the Georgian parliament’s committee for national security and defense, Georgy Tarmagadze, was quoted by Interfax as saying that he country had no intention to return the seized weapons.

The Russian peacekeepers, having sealed off the road, tried to retrieve the equipment, but it had already been taken to the Gori district controlled by the Georgian side. The head of the press service of Russian defense ministry, Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, quoted by Interfax news agency said that Georgian troops had beaten Russian peacekeepers.

More background and analysis at The Argus.

Posted by Nathan Hamm at 01:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Registered Comments Now Active On Global Recon

We’ve now activated TypeKey comment authentication for the Global Recon page. Comments are now on for new posts on this page, but commentators must register with TypeKey to comment (just click on the comment link as usual and follow the prompts from there).

We’re going to give it a shot and see how it works. As we play with the variety of options (no pre-verification vs. pre-verification by Michele and I, etc.) we’ll work out the bugs as we go. If you want to first play with a testing area for registration, etc., please go here.

Also, note that the comment template now lists this comment policy:

As you post your comment, please mind our simple comment policy: we welcome all perspectives, but require that comments be both civil and respectful. We also ask that you avoid the extensive use of profanity, racist terms (neither of which we consider civil or respectful), and other boorish language.

We reserve the right to delete any comment, and to prohibit you from commenting on this site, if we feel you have broached this policy. As a courtesy, we will first send you an email noting a violation so you understand the boundaries. This will occur only once, however, and should we ban you from our comment forums we expect that ban to be permanent.

We also will frown upon those who suggest that we ban other individuals for voicing unpopular opinions, should those opinions be voiced in a civil and respectful manner. The point of our comment threads is to provide a forum for spirited though civil and respectful discourse … it is not to provide a forum in which everyone will agree with your point of view.

If you can live by these rules, welcome aboard. If not, then we’re sorry it didn’t work out, and thanks for visiting The Command Post.

If the system works, we’ll continue to migrate it to other news pages and see how it influences the discourse and our ability to manage the comments (while still having fun).

Posted by Alan at 12:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Austrian President Dies

Austrian President Thomas Klestil, who brought calm to an office frayed by controversy surrounding his predecessor’s past in the Nazi army, died Tuesday. He was 71.

Klestil, whose second six-year term was to end Thursday, died shortly before midnight from multiple organ failure, officials at Vienna’s General Hospital told The Associated Press. He had been taken to hospital by air on Monday after suffering heart failure.

Earlier in the day, Dr. Christoph Zielinski said the president’s liver, lungs, kidneys and central nervous system had been damaged by the cardiac problem.

When he was admitted on Monday, doctors said they could not rule out brain damage as a possible result of lack of oxygen before hospital staff got his heart functioning again.

Hospital director Reinhard Krepler said Klestil was surrounded by his family when he died.

Posted by Michele at 07:43 PM | TrackBack

Direct Presidential Elections in Indonesia

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim state, held its first direct presidential elections.

Turnout was estimated at between 70 and 80 percent in the capital Jakarta. Indonesia, whose population is 85 percent Muslim, has 153 million eligible voters.

Voters welcomed the opportunity to participate in their country’s political future: “I’m happy that we are now able to directly voice our aspirations and directly choose the person we want to lead this country,” said one voter.

“I feel more assured because we can vote directly now,” said another. “I don’t feel like I am being fooled any more, because now I can directly pick the person I believe should lead this country — a person who can keep this country secure and who is honest.”

Unofficial results will be available tomorrow. But opinion polls suggest the country’s incumbent, Megawati Sukarnoputri, will not win enough votes to keep her position.

The candidate likely to win the most votes in the election is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, an ex-general and Megawati’s former security minister. Yudhoyono is relatively new to Indonesian politics. But he has received popularity ratings of more than 40 percent in the past several weeks — far more than his four other rivals.

He has based his campaign on promises to increase security and battle corruption — both major points of concern for Indonesian voters.

Posted by Nathan Hamm at 12:40 PM | TrackBack

Doctors Fighting for Life of Austrian President

REUTERS: Doctors Fighting for Life of Austrian President

Hope is dwindling that Austrian President Thomas Klestil will survive after his heart stopped beating twice, triggering failings in other major organs, doctors said on Tuesday.

Klestil was under sedation and on artificial respiration a day after he suffered heart failure on Monday at the start of a week when he was due to step down from office.

“We have to say that hope is very limited and receding,” said Dr Christoph Zielinski, the doctor leading the team treating Klestil at Vienna’s General Hospital. “We are in a very serious situation,” Zielinski told a news conference.

Klestil, 71, was due to complete his second six-year term on Thursday, handing over the presidency to Social Democrat Heinz Fischer, who was elected in April.

Posted by Laurence Simon at 11:29 AM | TrackBack

Libya Sells Old Fighter Jets To Pakistan

Libya is selling its old, French-made, fighter jets to Pakistan, which may imply that after years of sanctions crippling Libya’s military programs, the country might be looking to revamp parts of its forces.

According to South Africa’s Mail & Guardian:

Pakistan has turned to old ally Libya to purchase a fleet of Mirage fighter jets and spare parts, an air force spokesperson said on Monday.

“Libya had a fleet of Mirages, which was grounded for over a decade. We have purchased that fleet at a very reasonable price,” Air Commodore Sarfraz Khan said.

“The deal has been finalised, the shipment has started.”

Khan would not reveal the price or the number of craft in the fleet, but press reports said the purchase included 50 jets and 150 engines.

All the jets will be scrapped for spare parts to maintain Pakistan’s existing fleet of Mirages.

[. . .]

The Libyan Air Force had been dormant for several years due to sanctions over its nuclear programme. The sanctions were lifted by the United States last year after Libya revealed the full extent of its nuclear programme to the United Nations atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. — Sapa-AFP

Posted by V-Man at 09:23 AM | TrackBack

July 02, 2004

Polio Outbreak In Nigeria

A suspected polio outbreak has been reported in northern Nigeria. The outbreak occurred in an area that had boycotted immunization campaigns.

According to the Associated Press:

The suspected outbreak was in Kano state, one of several in northern Nigeria that had shunned polio vaccination drives over suspicions the vaccines were part of a U.S.-led plot to render Muslims sterile.

[. . .]

The World Health Organization has sent a team to the area to assess the reported outbreak, a WHO official said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Unless tests are conducted, we can’t say it’s polio,” the official said.

In September, Shekarau suspended participation in a global immunization program on the grounds that local scientists had discovered traces of a hormone in foreign-made vaccines that they feared could make girls infertile.

Some local Islamic leaders accused the Nigerian federal government of being part of a U.S. plot to kill off Muslims with the vaccines.

[. . .]

Since Kano suspended polio immunization, there has been a resurgence of cases across 10 African countries previously polio-free, with strains traced to Nigeria.

Nigeria has reported 259 polio cases this year. The figure represents more than 60 percent of the 339 cases reported worldwide.

It accounted for nearly 50 percent of 784 cases reported in a total of 15 countries in 2003.

Posted by Dan Spencer at 01:47 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

US Plans Show Of Force In Pacific

A reader from the CA National Guard brought this Straights Times story to my attention … I had no idea:

The United States is planning a massive show of force in the Pacific Ocean near China to register a point with Beijing.

In an exercise codenamed Operation Summer Pulse 04, it is expected to arrange for an unprecedented seven aircraft carrier strike groups (CSGs) to rendezvous in waters a safe distance away from the Chinese coastline - but still within striking distance - after mid-July.

This will be the first time in US naval history that it sends seven of its 12 CSGs to just one region.

According to a Department of Defence statement, Summer Pulse is to test out a new Fleet Response Plan (FRP) aimed at enhancing the American Navy’s combat power and readiness in a time of crisis.

The FRP calls for the despatching of six ‘forward deployed’ or ‘ready to surge’ CSGs to a trouble spot within 30 days, and an additional two within 90 days.

Should be interesting to see how China reacts.

Posted by Alan at 05:37 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Mongolian Opposition Briefly Seizes State TV

Mongolia’s Sunday elections resulted in a devastating loss for the ruling People’s Revolutionary Party and a slight coalition majority for the opposition Democratic Coalition (for background, see The Argus’s Mongolia archive). Angry at government domination of the media during the campaign, the opposition has seized state TV.

Mongolia’s opposition democrats, angry at being denied air time during disputed elections, occupied the state television building on Thursday, an opposition member of parliament said from inside.

The director of national television, Enkhbat, was being held hostage inside the building, a ruling party official said, and the opposition was calling for his resignation.

About 300 opposition supporters gathered outside and 10 newly elected Democratic members of parliament were inside the building, the opposition MP, Gundalai, said.

“We plan to speak to the people later tonight through direct broadcasts by the television,” said Gundalai. “Because we haven’t been allowed to do so officially, we had to storm the building.”

In an updated story from Reuters, it is reported that the opposition leaders left after the broadcast and urged supporters to go home.

Posted by Nathan Hamm at 10:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Infighting Delays Afghanistan Elections

AP: Infighting Delays Afghanistan Elections

Historic Afghan elections scheduled for September will be delayed because of wrangling among officials and political parties, a senior government official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Farooq Wardak, a senior member of the country’s election management body, said the group would not be able to reach a decision by Friday, the deadline for setting a vote in September.

Under Afghan law, polling day must be set at least 90 days in advance. That makes Friday the last chance to announce a Sept. 30 election.

“Much more consultation is required,” Wardak said as he hurried to a meeting with the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, Jean Arnault. “I’m hopeful that next week we’ll have a decision.”

Posted by Laurence Simon at 10:02 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack