The $1,000,000 Reward

Interesting article – Read it at

“The person who can present a convincing argument (i.e. logical and backed up with reliable data) that explains why any anti-American Arab or Islamic group, “terrorist” or otherwise, would kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as a response to the US occupation of Iraq, will receive a prize of 1 million USD.”


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    The Real News
    Margolis says TV news hiding truth about Iraq civil war

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    The Promise of Real News

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    The Republican Conservative Corporatist Confederation

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    Demand a Fully-Funded Safe Withdrawal from Iraq

    In July, 70 members of Congress led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) pledged in an open letter delivered to President Bush: “We will only support appropriating funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.”

    This letter builds on this spring’s “Lee Amendment” for a fully-funded safe withdrawal from Iraq, which strongly supported.

    The Maliki government is collapsing amidst worsening sectarian divisions. National Intelligence Estimates say the occupation of Iraq is recruiting more terrorists worldwide. Every dollar we spend in Iraq is making America less secure and taking funds away from urgent needs at home and abroad – and we are spending $10 billion per month.

    We must end the disastrous occupation now. Urge your representative to contact the Progressive Caucus to join the 70 Congress Members taking this pledge:
    For more information visit Progressive Democrats of America.


    Tell Congress to Stop Bush’s Warrantless Wiretapping

    According to a poll, 73% of Americans oppose George Bush’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA):

    Are you outraged that George Bush admits he broke the FISA law at least 30 times by authorizing activities that were illegal?

    Are you outraged that George Bush demanded passage of a bill to legalize his illegal wiretapping just days before Congress went on vacation in August – and nearly every Republican and a few dozen Democrats voted for Bush’s wiretapping bill?

    Let’s demand the following:

    (1) Immediate repeal of the “Protect America Act of 2007” enacted in August.

    (2) Immediate impeachment of Alberto Gonzales for lying to Congress when he testified under oath that there was no “serious disagreement” inside the Justice Department over the illegal program, even though then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his top aides dramatically threatened to resign over the program.

    (3) Immediate impeachment of George Bush for violating FISA over 40 times, followed by criminal prosecution of Bush, Gonzales, and everyone else who committed these crimes.

    Email your Senators and Representative:


    New Website Feature: Top Petition Referrers

    When you sign our petitions, you can also forward them to your friends, and we count your friends who sign them.

    On the top right of, you can see the top 10 petition referrers. You can also check which of your friends actually signed our petitions. This is a great way to encourage your friends to take concrete actions to help build the progressive movement.

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    U.S./Top News
    1) According to their survey of “foreign policy experts,” just 8% favor military strikes on Iran – less than the U.S. population at large, the Center for American Progress reports. A majority of the experts favor some kind of engagement with groups that may be labeled terrorist organizations but have gained popular support at the ballot box, such as Hamas in the Palestinian Territories or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    2) Former CIA officer Robert Baer, writing in Time, says officials in Washington think a U.S. strike on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is likely, maybe within 6 months. As with Saddam and his imagined WMD, the Administration’s case against the IRGC is circumstantial.

    3) U.S. military officials appear to be focusing on reducing the U.S. combat role in Iraq in 2008, AP reports.

    4) Senator Levin said the government of Prime Minister Maliki should be voted from office because it has proved incapable of reaching the political compromises required to end violence, the New York Times reports. A joint statement with Senator Warner said “time has run out” on attempts to forge a political consensus in Baghdad.

    5) A proposal to move accused terrorists to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas is gaining widespread political support, the Chicago Tribune reports.

    6) National Guard troops are no more likely than active-duty soldiers to develop post-traumatic stress as a result of serving in Iraq, after controlling for risk factors for stress such as being married, USA Today reports.

    7) Iraq Veterans Against the War launched a campaign to support U.S. troops who refuse to fight, OneWorld reports.

    8) The Bush administration’s plan to sell $20 billion of sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia and five other Arab monarchies is likely to backfire and produce less regional security, argues R.K. Ramazani in an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    9) Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari was released on bail after Lee Hamilton appealed directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader for her release, the Washington Post reports.

    10) An Iraqi governor was assassinated in an attack that officials said was a result of an internal power struggle with rival Shiite militias, rather than sectarian violence, the New York Times reports.

    11) US officials are scrambling to shore up support for Prime Minister Maliki, Farah Stockman reports for the Boston Globe. “My view is that his government is in essential collapse,” said Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East specialist at the Congressional Research Service.

    12) Muqtada al-Sadr says the British Army has been defeated in Iraq and left with no option but to retreat from the country, The Independent reports. Sadr’s remarks echo those of senior British military commanders who have come to view the mission of UK forces in Iraq as finished.

    13) Three Ethiopian journalists held for almost two years in an Ethiopian prison said days after being cleared of all charges and released, they received death threats from government security agents, the Washington Post reports. A bill critical of Ethiopia’s human rights record is currently stalled in Congress because House leaders have said they feel the Ethiopian government should be given time to arrange for the release of other political prisoners still in jail, a strategy that the journalists consider doomed. “America should change this partnership with Ethiopia on terrorism,” one said. “It is allowing the Ethiopian government to kill democracy.”

    14) Residents of the Palestinian village of Artas, near Bethlehem, have conducted a campaign of nonviolent resistance to Israeli government moves to confiscate their land, and have invited Israeli and international peace activists to join them, Inter Press Service reports.

    15) Relatives of hostages held by Colombian rebels visited Caracas hoping Venezuelan President Chavez might be able to help negotiate the captives’ release, AP reports.

    16) Barack Obama called the Bush administration’s decision to tighten restrictions on relatives of Cubans who want to visit the island or send money home strategic blunders and promised to reverse the measures if elected, AP reports. No other current top presidential candidate has sought to ease the restrictions.

    U.S./Top News
    1) The Terrorism Index
    Survey of Foreign Policy Experts from the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy
    August 20, 2007
    Six years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, just 29 percent of Americans believe the United States is winning the war on terror – the lowest percentage at any point since 9/11. But Americans also consider themselves safe. Six in 10 say that they do not believe another terrorist attack is imminent. Likewise, more than 60 percent of Americans now say that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake. Yet around half report that they would support similar military action to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
    Chastened by the fighting in Iraq, the U.S national security community also appears eager not to make the same mistakes elsewhere. For instance, though a majority-83 percent-do not believe Tehran when it says its nuclear program is intended for peaceful, civilian purposes, just 8 percent favor military strikes in response. Eight in 10, on the other hand, say the United States should use either sanctions or diplomatic talks to negotiate an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Similarly, a majority of the experts favor some kind of engagement with groups that may be labeled terrorist organizations but have gained popular support at the ballot box, such as Hamas in the Palestinian Territories or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    2) Prelude to an Attack on Iran
    Robert Baer, Time, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2007,8599,1654188,00.html

    [Baer was a CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East.]

    Reports that the Bush Administration will put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list can be read in one of two ways: it’s either more bluster or, ominously, a wind-up for a strike on Iran. Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC, maybe within the next six months. And they think that as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran’s nuclear facilities. An awe and shock campaign, lite, if you will. But frankly they’re guessing; after Iraq the White House trusts no one, especially the bureaucracy.

    As with Saddam and his imagined WMD, the Administration’s case against the IRGC is circumstantial. The U.S. military suspects but cannot prove that the IRGC is the main supplier of sophisticated improvised explosive devices to insurgents killing our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most sophisticated version, explosive formed projectiles or shape charges, are capable of penetrating the armor of an Abrams tank, disabling the tank and killing the crew.

    A former CIA explosives expert who still works in Iraq told me: “The Iranians are making them. End of story.” His argument is only a state is capable of manufacturing the EFP’s, which involves a complicated annealing process. Incidentally, he also is convinced the IRGC is helping Iraqi Shi’a militias sight in their mortars on the Green Zone. “The way they’re dropping them in, in neat grids, tells me all I need to know that the Shi’a are getting help. And there’s no doubt it’s Iranian, the IRGC’s,” he said.

    A second part of the Administration’s case against the IRGC is that the IRGC has had a long, established history of killing Americans, starting with the attack on the Marines in Beirut in 1983. And that’s not to mention it was the IRGC that backed Hizballah in its thirty-four day war against Israel last year. The feeling in the Administration is that we should have taken care of the IRGC a long, long time ago.

    Strengthening the Administration’s case for a strike on Iran, there’s a belief among neo-cons that the IRGC is the one obstacle to a democratic and friendly Iran. They believe that if we were to get rid of the IRGC, the clerics would fall, and our thirty-years war with Iran over. It’s another neo-con delusion, but still it informs White House thinking.

    And what do we do if just the opposite happens – a strike on Iran unifies Iranians behind the regime? An Administration official told me it’s not even a consideration. “IRGC IED’s are a casus belli for this Administration. There will be an attack on Iran.”

    3) US military looks to reduce role in Iraq
    Robert Burns & Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press, Mon Aug 20, 6:44 PM ET

    U.S. military officials are narrowing the range of Iraq strategy options and appear to be focusing on reducing the U.S. combat role in 2008 while increasing training of Iraqi forces, a senior military official told The Associated Press on Monday.

    The military has not yet developed a plan for a substantial withdrawal of forces next year. But officials are laying the groundwork for possible overtures to Turkey and Jordan on using their territory to move some troops and equipment out of Iraq, the official said. The main exit would remain Kuwait, but additional routes would make it easier and more secure for U.S. troops leaving western and northern Iraq.

    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because internal deliberations are ongoing, emphasized that the discussions do not prejudge decisions yet to be made by President Bush. Those decisions include how long to maintain the current U.S. troop buildup and when to make the transition to a larger Iraqi combat role.

    It is widely anticipated that the five extra Army brigades that were sent to the Baghdad area this year will be withdrawn by late next summer. But it is far less clear whether the Bush administration will follow that immediately with additional drawdowns, as many Democrats in Congress are advocating.

    Bush has mentioned publicly that he likes the idea, first proposed late last year by the Iraq Study Group, of switching the emphasis of U.S. military efforts from mainly combat to mainly support roles. But he also has said that this should not happen until Baghdad in particular is stable enough to enable Iraqi political leaders to make hard choices about reconciling rival interests among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

    4) Two Senators Call For New Leader In Iraq
    Thom Shanker & Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, August 21, 2007

    The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, after completing a two-day tour of Iraq, said Monday that the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki should be voted from office because it has proved incapable of reaching the political compromises required to end violence there.

    The Democratic chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, and the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who traveled to Iraq together, issued a joint statement that was only slightly more temperate than Levin’s remarks. They warned that in the view of politicians in Washington, and of the American people, “time has run out” on attempts to forge a political consensus in Baghdad.

    Levin said that in his view, the political stalemate in Iraq could be attributed to Maliki and other senior Iraqi officials who were unable to operate independently of religious and sectarian leaders. “I’ve concluded that this is a government which cannot, is unable to, achieve a political settlement,” Levin said. “It is too bound to its own sectarian roots, and it is too tied to forces in Iraq which do not yield themselves to compromise.”

    In a conference call with reporters from Tel Aviv, Levin called on the Iraqi Parliament to vote the Maliki government from power because it had “totally and utterly failed” to reach a political settlement, and to replace it with a team better able to forge national unity.

    Levin and Warner are among their respective parties’ most esteemed legislators on national security issues. Their committee will be among those hearing directly from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker when the two men deliver their report measuring military and political progress in Iraq next month. A White House spokesman said Monday that the Capitol Hill testimony could be expected on Sept. 11 or 12.

    Warner did not explicitly call for the removal of the Maliki government. But he joined Levin in a joint statement that, while noting some success under the current troop increase in improving the security situation in Iraq, was tempered by a grim assessment of political progress.

    5) Gitmo Plan Has Kansans Uneasy
    Proposal to move detainees raises legal and safety questions
    Kirsten Scharnberg, Chicago Tribune, August 20, 2007,0,123424.story

    Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. – As high-profile Republicans increasingly join Democrats and civil rights groups in denouncing the U.S. holding of alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, a proposal to move detainees to this historic Army post in the geographic heart of America is gaining widespread political support.

    Under the plan, several hundred foreign detainees could be transported from the U.S. detention facility in Cuba, a prison that has evoked worldwide outrage amid allegations of strong-arm interrogation tactics, to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks here, the Department of Defense’s only maximum-security prison on U.S. soil.
    The move, supporters say, could quell criticism that the United States is using the isolated Guantanamo prison to hold detainees in substandard conditions and to use torture to obtain information. And although experts caution the transfer of these prisoners may do little to change the legal rights they are currently afforded, the proposal is reviving debate about how much – if any – constitutional protection these prisoners should have while in U.S. custody.

    6) Iraq War Takes Unique Toll On National Guard
    Marilyn Elias, USA Today, August 20, 2007

    Despite signs that the war in Iraq is taking a toll on National Guard troops’ mental health, members are no more likely than active-duty soldiers to develop post-traumatic stress, psychologists reported over the weekend.

    But financial problems are creating emotional pain. Deployment-linked money trouble raises the odds sixfold that a National Guard soldier will have mental-health problems after leaving Iraq, studies from a team at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research suggest. The researchers spoke at the American Psychological Association conference here.

    More than 400,000 National Guard troops have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a congressional report.

    There’s some evidence the National Guard deployed in earlier wars had higher rates of mental disorders than other soldiers, researcher Lyndon Riviere says. But no current studies, using controls for pre-deployment post-traumatic stress, have examined their mental health, he says.

    The new research compared how 276 Guard soldiers and 432 active-duty soldiers fared after deployment. More troops on active duty faced dangerous combat experiences, such as being ambushed and receiving small-arms fire. Such exposure raises the risk for post-trauma stress a few months after leaving Iraq, Riviere says.

    But having symptoms before leaving was almost as important as combat in predicting who would have the disorder after deployment. Being married also increased its odds, possibly the result of family problems created by deployment. And National Guard troops, who are older and more likely to be married, also had higher disorder levels before going to war, Riviere says.

    Taking these differences into account, National Guard service members were no more likely than active-duty soldiers to have developed post-traumatic stress disorder while in Iraq, he says.

    7) Iraq War Resisters to Get Boost from Veterans Group
    Aaron Glantz, OneWorld US, Mon Aug 20, 3:50 PM ET

    Members of a leading Iraq war veterans’ organization voted this weekend to launch a campaign encouraging U.S. troops to refuse to fight. The decision was made at the group’s annual membership meeting, held this weekend in Saint Louis, Missouri alongside the annual convention of the Veterans for Peace organization.

    “Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) decided to make support of war resisters a major part of what we do,” said Garrett Rappenhagen, a former U.S. Army sniper who served in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005.

    “There’s a misconception that they’re cowards,” Rappenhagen said. “Most war resisters have already gone on a tour in Iraq. They’ve seen the war firsthand and have come to the conclusion that it’s morally wrong. This is something we all should support. So to break that timidness of how we view war resisters in America, IVAW decided to embrace them.”

    To underscore that point, the veterans group elected Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia chair of its board of directors. In the winter of 2003, Mejia was the first soldier to refuse to return to fight in Iraq after an initial tour in the war zone.

    8) U.S. Aim To Arm Sunnis A Mistake
    R.K. Ramazani, op-ed, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 2007

    [Ramazani is professor emeritus of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia.]

    The Bush administration’s plan to sell $20 billion of sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia and five other Arab monarchies is likely to backfire and produce less regional security. Far from balancing Sunni Arab states against Shia Iran, such massive arms sales may ignite conflicts that will make the current war in Iraq look like child’s play.

    For more than 50 years, the United States has obsessively played one Persian Gulf country against another, selling arms to allies to protect vital interests, primarily crude oil. Yet this balancing game has repeatedly proved counterproductive.

    During the Cold War, Dwight Eisenhower sold arms to Iraq to counter Soviet support of Egypt, rendering Iraq vulnerable to an anti-Western revolution in 1958. Richard Nixon gave the Shah a blank check to bolster Iran against “radical” Iraq, but in the process catalyzed Iran’s 1979 revolution. Ronald Reagan then backed “moderate” Iraq against “fundamentalist” Iran, and, in turn, created the aggressive Saddam Hussein war machine that invaded Kuwait.
    Massive American arms sales to Arab Sunnis against Shia Persians today are bound to fan flames of wider conflicts. The American invasion of Iraq has undermined the millennial Sunni order, while Shia power has increased.

    Sunni Arab states now fear the rising power of Shia Iran, Shia domination of Iraq, Shia ascendancy in Bahrain, and the unrest of the Shia minorities in other Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf.

    Of particular importance, the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia deeply resents the discriminatory policies of the Sunni regime. Saudi Shias are concentrated in the eastern province where most of the kingdom’s huge oil fields and export terminals are located. Unprecedented Shia empowerment in the region may yet transform the Persian Gulf into the “Shia Gulf,” home to the lifeblood of the global economy.

    Given the failed arms sales and power-balancing strategies of the last century, American policy-makers this century should reject more schemes to divide, balance and dominate the Persian Gulf.

    Instead, the United States should embrace a two-pronged approach that engages both Sunni and Shia states while simultaneously encouraging the integration of Persian Gulf societies into the larger global community and economy.

    9) Iran Releases U.S. Scholar on Bail
    Robin Wright, Washington Post, Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 12:28 PM

    American scholar Haleh Esfandiari was released on bail today after more than 100 days in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, according to family members, but there was no word on whether or when she would be allowed to return to the United States.

    Esfandiari, director of Middle East programs at the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson Center, is one of at least four Americans detained in Iran. It is unclear whether the government intends to try her or any of the others. The Iranian government said Esfandiari had been involved in unspecified “crimes against national security” with the goal of helping U.S. efforts at fomenting a “soft revolution” in Iran.

    Esfandiari was released today on $333,000 bail and was resting at her mother’s home in Tehran. Her mother put up the deed to her apartment to secure Esfandiari’s release, according to family members. “This is encouraging news and the United States welcomes this,” said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

    The sudden release follows an appeal by former congressman Lee Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson Center, in a letter directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “I appealed to him on the basis of his religious views,” Hamilton said in a conference call with reporters today. “I assured him that we had seen Haleh devote tireless efforts to understanding the culture and traditions of Iran and I asked on humanitarian grounds for his help in obtaining the release of Haleh so she could rejoin her family.”

    Hamilton also said in his letter that he would personally devote “considerable time to trying to further respect and understanding between the two cultures.” Hamilton was co-author of the Iraq Study Group report that recommended that the Bush administration attempt diplomacy with Tehran.

    In an unusual move, Khamenei’s office responded two weeks ago to Hamilton’s letter. Hamilton went to the Iranian mission at the United Nations to receive the two paragraph note, which was unsigned. In it, the ayatollah said he was “pleased” with Hamilton’s communication and his “commitment to peace and justice” and indicated that he had given instructions to address the issue of Esfandiari’s detention, though he did not use her name, Hamilton said.

    10) Governor Of Iraqi Province Assassinated
    Stephen Farrell, New York Times, August 21, 2007

    An Iraqi provincial governor was assassinated by a roadside bomb on Monday in an attack that officials said was a result of an internal power struggle with rival Shiite militias, rather than sectarian violence. The governor, Mohammed Ali al-Hassani of the southern Muthanna Province, was a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, one of the major Shiite parties. He is the second governor from the powerful party to be killed within 10 days, opening up the prospect of escalating violence among Shiites.
    Although no one blamed any single group for the bombing, Hassani has in recent months been vocal in his criticisms of the Mahdi Army militia, which is loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s political rival.

    11) US Struggles To Keep Iraqi Leader At Helm
    Defections strike Maliki’s coalition
    Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, August 21, 2007

    US officials in Baghdad and Washington, under pressure to show political progress in Iraq to an increasingly skeptical Congress, are scrambling to shore up support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose shaky coalition government has been on the verge of collapse since a rash of Cabinet defections earlier this month, analysts and government officials said yesterday.

    At least three separate attempts to unseat Maliki are unfolding in Baghdad – two from within his own Shi’ite coalition. Nearly half of the ministers in his Cabinet have resigned or are boycotting official meetings. The defections have so thinned the ranks of his supporters that some analysts say that Maliki might not be able to survive a vote of no confidence in the Iraqi parliament, if such a vote were called. “My view is that his government is in essential collapse,” said Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East specialist at the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress.
    Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department official who followed internal discussion about Maliki, said that Iraqi politicians appear to preparing for a “post-Maliki future,” anticipating his downfall. “The US has played a role in trying to assume the necessary support for Maliki,” she said. “But those same sorts of dialogues and behind-the-scenes planning can easily transfer to ‘Hey, the Maliki government appears to be hopelessly deadlocked and coming apart at the seams, so what next?’ ”

    12) Muqtada al-Sadr: The British are retreating from Basra
    Nizar Latif & Phil Sands, The Independent, 20 August 2007

    The British Army has been defeated in Iraq and left with no option but to retreat from the country, claims radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Violent resistance and a rising death toll among UK troops has forced a withdrawal, he said in an interview with The Independent. “The British have given-up and they know they will be leaving Iraq soon,” Sadr said. “They are retreating because of the resistance they have faced. Without that, they would have stayed for much longer, there is no doubt.”

    The young nationalist cleric heads Iraq’s largest Arab grassroots political movement, and its powerful military wing, the Mehdi army. It has clashed frequently with British forces in southern Iraq, most recently in the battle for power over the oil-rich port city of Basra. Scores of British soldiers have been killed and wounded by Sadrist militants.

    “The British have realised this is not a war they should be fighting or one they can win,” Sadr said. “The Mehdi army has played an important role in that.” He also warned that Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq had made the UK a less safe place to live. “The British put their soldiers in a dangerous position by sending them here but they also put the people in their own country in danger,” he said. “They have made enemies among all Muslims and they now face attacks at home because of their war. That was their mistake.” His comments came during two separate meetings with The Independent at the Sadr movement’s headquarters in Kufa, a holy Shia city, 100 miles south of Baghdad, and site of the Grand Mosque where Sadr often preaches fiery Friday sermons. The streets were eerily devoid of cars, which are, in effect, banned in an effort to prevent bombings. Senior Shia leaders are high on the list of targets for Sunni extremists.
    Sadr’s remarks echo those of senior British military commanders who have come to view the mission of UK forces in Iraq as finished. They have reportedly told the Prime Minister Gordon Brown there is nothing more to be achieved in southern Iraq and that troops should be redeployed to Afghanistan.

    13) Freed Ethiopians Describe Threats
    Journalists Detail Abuse, Intimidation
    Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post, Tuesday, August 21, 2007; A10

    Three Ethiopian journalists who had been held for almost two years in an Addis Ababa prison said that days after being cleared of all charges and released this spring, they each received death threats from government security agents.

    In lengthy interviews here in the Kenyan capital, the journalists also described being subjected to psychological torture during their confinement with other political prisoners in a stifling cell on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital. They said that after their release they had had high hopes of starting a new life, but government agents almost immediately began hounding them, harassing them with phone calls and otherwise terrorizing them into fleeing their country for Kenya.

    “They told me, ‘We will kill you if you do not disappear,’ ” said one of the newspaper journalists, all of whom spoke anonymously on the advice of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “I was sure I would be killed if I stayed.”

    The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has often dealt brutally with people deemed threatening to his fragile ruling coalition. In the capital, people suspected of supporting opposition groups routinely disappear from their neighborhoods, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, a pro-democracy group based in Addis Ababa.

    Elsewhere, the government is conducting brutal campaigns against separatist rebels and opposition movements in the Ogaden and Oromia regions, where the council and reporters have documented widespread extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions and torture.

    The journalists were among thousands of people, including the country’s top opposition leaders, who were arrested in the capital during protests following Ethiopia’s 2005 elections, in which the opposition made significant gains.

    Some Ethiopians had held out hope that the release in April of the journalists and others – and especially the subsequent pardon and release of the country’s top opposition leaders last month – marked a turning point for the Ethiopian government.
    They said they were held in a room riddled with bullet holes and crowded with about 400 other inmates, many suffering from tuberculosis and other illnesses. The room had one toilet. The journalists estimated that perhaps 85 percent of the inmates were political prisoners from Oromia.
    One of the journalists said he was beaten on the head and face with an iron rod when he was first arrested in 2005. Otherwise, the journalists said, they were not tortured, a fact they attribute to the international attention to their case.

    But other inmates were routinely tortured, they said. “They would pour water on their back and beat them in front of us,” said one of the journalists. “Every morning, we would hear people screaming and begging for their own death. When we saw them tortured, we were tortured.”
    A bill critical of Ethiopia’s human rights record is currently stalled in Congress because House leaders have said they feel the Ethiopian government should be given time to arrange for the release of other political prisoners still in jail, a strategy that the journalists consider doomed.

    “You hear all this condemnation of Mugabe,” said one, referring to Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe. “Meles is much worse. He is killing freely. America should change this partnership with Ethiopia on terrorism. It is allowing the Ethiopian government to kill democracy.”

    14) When the Occupation Gets Really Filthy
    Nora Barrows-Friedman, Inter Press Service, August 21, 2007

    In the orange glow of another sunset, Awad Abu Swai, 36, stands underneath a towering fig tree, a sample of its fruit in his hand. He peels back the bright green skin to expose crimson jelly and seeds inside. “The Israeli military came inside the valley and cut about 50 apricot and walnut trees since May. And now, they are coming to cut more trees. This is all because of what they are building through this land – my land. Here, they are building a sewage channel to run raw sewage through this valley collected from four Israeli settlements near here.”

    Abu Swai is one of approximately 4,000 residents of the Palestinian village of Artas, located southeast of Bethlehem city. Artas is known regionally for its succulent vegetables, and fruit and nut trees. But over the last few months Israeli occupation forces have brought dozens of bulldozers to the eastern valley fields of Artas to construct a wall that will cut villagers off from this fertile land, while a concrete tunnel for raw settlement sewage grows longer each day.

    Efrat settlement colony, part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc that stretches around several villages and towns near Bethlehem, sits perched on a hill over Artas. Below the settlement, a colony which houses approximately 9,000 Israelis and immigrants, Israeli bulldozers and earth movers work day and night constructing the sewage channel and building the wall.

    Artas villagers have kept up an active and defiant campaign over the last year after unofficial information was leaked to the community that the village was in danger. Villagers watched in shock as bulldozers kept moving down the hillsides from Efrat toward the orchards on the valley floor.

    Since May, Abu Swai has led actions as head of the popular committee in Artas, inviting international and Israeli peace activists to join villagers in their fight against the occupation administration’s designs on this land.

    Non-violent protesters have been shot at, beaten and arrested by Israeli occupation soldiers and private settlement security guards. Abu Swai tells IPS that he was imprisoned for five days after being badly beaten by an Israeli soldier during a non-violent demonstration as he tried to protect his land.

    15) Venezuela’s Chavez seeks to mediate release of Colombia’s rebel-held hostages
    The Associated Press, Monday, August 20, 2007

    Relatives of hostages held for years by Colombian rebels visited Caracas on Monday hoping that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez might be able to help negotiate the captives’ release. The families were set to meet with Chavez, who says he is willing to help broker a deal between the Colombian government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
    Angela de Perez, whose husband, former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez, was kidnapped in 2001, said she and other relatives are optimistic about talks with Chavez. “We think this visit is going to bear positive fruit,” she told the Venezuelan TV station Globovision. She said she believes Chavez “has felt our pain” and could help break an impasse between Colombia’s government and the rebels.

    16) Obama Wants to Ease Cuba Family Travel
    Laura Wides-Munoz, Associated Press, Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 11:57 AM

    Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday called the Bush administration’s decision to tighten restrictions on relatives of Cubans who want to visit the island or send money home strategic blunders and promised to reverse the measures if elected. The Illinois senator leapt into the long-running and often bruising debate over U.S.-Cuba policy with an op-ed piece published in The Miami Herald.

    “The primary means we have of encouraging positive change in Cuba today is to help the Cuban people become less dependent on the Castro regime in fundamental ways,” Obama wrote. “Unfortunately, the Bush administration has made grand gestures to that end while strategically blundering when it comes to actually advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in Cuba,” he added.

    He said that was true of the travel and money restrictions imposed in 2004, adding that the move isolated those on the island from “the transformative message carried there by Cuban Americans.” He promised to grant Cuban exiles unrestricted rights to visit their families and to send remittances home.

    While the U.S. embargo has limited who can travel to the communist island and what can be sent there since the early 1960s, Bush’s restrictions made visiting and shipping gifts to Cuba more difficult.

    Now most Cuban-Americans can only visit the island once every three years and can only send quarterly remittances of up to $300 per household to immediate family members. Previously, they could visit once a year and send up to $3,000. The U.S. also tightened restrictions on travel for educational and religious groups.

    The Cuban-exile vote is considered key to winning Florida, and top presidential candidates have generally followed the recommendations of the community’s most hard-line and vocal leaders, who support a full embargo against Fidel Castro’s government. Castro, 80, is in poor health and turned over temporary power last year to his brother Raul.

    But sentiment in the Cuban-American community is changing. Unlike the early waves of immigrants who brought their entire family, often by plane, to the U.S., most Cubans now flee by boat and are forced to leave relatives behind. Fewer of these immigrants were overt political opponents of the government, and they want to be able to visit loved ones and to send money home.

    Many Cuban exiles are also frustrated with the U.S. embargo, which has failed to yield fruit after nearly 45 years. And with the specter of an ailing Castro and a possible change in leadership, they are more open to changing U.S. policy.

    No other current top presidential candidate has sought to ease the restrictions.

  6. illa morales

    We’ve had an overwhelming response to our “Congress as Sheep” ad and thanks to the thousands of you who contributed they’ll be running in Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s districts next week.

    But we aren’t just out to create a stir. We intend to win by forcing a timid Congress to clean up the mess it made when it gave Bush sweeping new powers to spy on Americans and by demanding that they act now to disavow torture, restore habeas corpus, and shut down Guantanamo prison.

    We need your help today to fund a massive push to demand that Congress restore our freedoms now.

    We’ll use your support for an all out campaign to go to court, mobilize activists nationwide and continue to run ads.

    Recently, ACLU lawyers took an unprecedented step by calling on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to release its legal opinions related to the NSA spying operation. And they, in turn, have ordered the Bush administration to respond to our demand.

    The ACLU is also calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to stick to its guns and hold the White House and Justice Department in contempt if they keep refusing to produce documents related to the NSA spying controversy.

    If the last 8 months have taught us anything, it’s that Congress will not act to restore our freedoms unless we force them to. That’s why our “Congress as Sheep” ads have to be the start of something bigger: an all-out ACLU campaign to make sure Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi aren’t leading a Congress that will fail freedom and to put all members of Congress on notice.

    Let’s make Congress reverse the damage it has done and finally act with courage to stand up for freedom. Support the ACLU in demanding that Congress restores our freedom now.

    With your support, the ACLU will keep pressing in the courts, in Congress and in the court of public opinion. Thank you for your support.

  7. illa morales

    Asia times online (where are they getting their info)Taliban, US in new round of peace talks

  8. illa morales

    America’s Pastors: Preachers Of Truth Or Promoters Of Tyranny?

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