Archive for August, 2004

Nearly 36 Million Americans Live in Poverty

Thursday, August 26th, 2004
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some 1.3 million Americans slid into poverty in 2003 as the ranks of the poor rose 4 percent to 35.9 million, with children and blacks worse off than most, the U.S. government said on Thursday in a report sure to fuel Democratic criticism of President Bush.

Despite the economic recovery, the percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty rose for the third straight year to 12.5 percent — the highest since 1998 — from 12.1 percent in 2002, the Census Bureau said in its annual poverty report. The widely cited scorecard on the nation’s economy showed one-third of those in poverty were children.

The number of U.S. residents without health care coverage also rose by 1.4 million last year to 45 million, the highest level since 1999, and incomes were essentially stagnant, the Census Bureau said.

The poverty line is set at an annual income of $9,573 or less for an individual, or $18,660 for a family of four with two children. Under that measure, a family would spend about a third of its income on food. full article

Judge Charged After Calling Unwed Mom ‘Disgrace To Society’

Thursday, August 26th, 2004
ORLANDO, Fla. — A judicial panel has charged an Orange County judge with chastising a deputy sheriff who had a child out of wedlock, saying she was a “disgrace to society,” “had no morals,” and her child was “a bastard.”

Judge Alan C. Todd, a judge for 14 years, was charged with making a series of “rude, intemperate and demeaning comments,” according to the six-page notice released Wednesday by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission.

After discovering in January that Orange County Deputy Sheriff Mindy Hood was an unwed mother, Todd told her “it is acceptable for a male to have sex before marriage, but if a female does so, she is not respected and considered a tramp,” according to the notice.

He also said Hood’s family “obviously had no morals,” the notice said.

Chandler Muller, the judge’s attorney, said he couldn’t comment on the specific allegations because of judicial rules, but said Todd was a respected judge with the full support of the legal community.

According to the notice, Todd also referred to another woman deputy as a “deputite” and said the only “real deputy” assigned to his courtroom was a man, the notice said.

Todd asked detectives in 2001 if a female courthouse administrator “was taking good care of the detectives.” The detectives said she was and he responded, “Well, that’s what the men’s bathroom wall says … I just wanted to make sure,” the notice said.

The notice also alleges that Todd said: Baptists “think there is no sin in the world and have no morals”; Pastors and priests shouldn’t marry a woman that has children out of wedlock or couple that has been living together, because those actions are morally wrong and sinful; and children raised in single-family homes normally go to jail as adults. full article

Mark Thatcher ‘was planning Texas move’

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

Guardian UK
Sir Mark Thatcher was planning a move from South Africa to Texas when he was arrested over alleged involvement in a coup plot, a South African prosecutor said today.

Margaret Thatcher’s son is under house arrest and facing the possibility of 15 years in prison after being accused over an alleged plot to overthrow the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

The 51-year-old, who denies the charge, was arrested at his Cape Town home early yesterday, and appeared in court in the city later that day.

Makhosini Nkosi, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, today said: “It does appear that he was planning to leave the country.

“The house was on the market, he had disposed of some of the cars, and there were suitcases around the house which indicated they were planning to leave. He did confirm he was planning to relocate to Texas.” full article

A senior politician’s son is accused of attempting to profit from African oil. Sound familiar? Ros Taylor recalls the troubles of Jean-Christophe Mitterrand Guardian UK
Mark Thatcher is not the only scion of a European political dynasty to be dogged by accusations that he tried to profit from African oil.

Four years ago, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of France’s former president, was arrested on charges of helping to traffic hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Russian arms to Angola in the mid-1990s, when the country was in the grip of a brutal and protracted civil war.

He was released in January 2001 after his mother, Danielle Mitterrand, raised five million francs (roughly £500,000) in bail- a sum she angrily referred to as a “ransom” – and the French court dropped its investigation a few months later on a legal technicality.

But “Angolagate” is still under investigation. Mr Mitterrand was arrested again in June this year and questioned about a fish-processing business he set up in Mauritania. Judge Philippe Courroye, who Mr Mitterrand accuses of conducting a vendetta against him and trying to sully the name of his family, suspects the factory may have provided a cover for money laundering. Mr Mitterrand insists he was simply trying to revive Mauritania’s economy. full article

Mauritania, Angola, Equitorial Guinea…oil and natural gas. It’s noblesse oblige you know…

US Doubtful on 13, 000 More UN Troops for Congo

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Washington is unlikely to support fully a U.N. appeal for more than 13,000 additional troops for the troubled U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo but no decision has been made, a U.S. official said on Wednesday. decision has been made, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the U.N. Security Council more than double the size of the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 23,900 troops from its current authorized ceiling of 10,800.

Diplomats said there was a consensus in the 15-nation council that more troops were needed to keep Congo’s shaky peace on track after a five-year civil war that killed more than 3 million people, most through disease and hunger.

But with demand for peacekeepers soaring and the U.S. budget drowning in red ink, U.S. envoy Stuart Holliday said Washington was focusing on the vast central African nation’s troubled East, where armed groups and sporadic fighting remain a problem well after a 1999 peace agreement.

“I think it would be very difficult in this current climate to contemplate that full amount, but nothing has been ruled out,” Holliday said.

“We think the issue is strengthening in the East, and as we look at what kind of size, we would contemplate we’ll be pulling numbers from the secretary-general’s reportlooking carefully at them,” he told reporters following a closed-door council meeting called to discuss Annan’s views.

The Congo mission will cost $746 million this year and Washington pays about a quarter of the U.N. peacekeeping tab.

While Annan offered no estimate of the cost of the additional peacekeepers, diplomats put the figure at $160 million or more, which would make the Congo force the most costly U.N. mission.

“There is a concern (in Washington) that resources are being overstretched, and we have a number of new missions on line,” including a peace-monitoring force expected to be dispatched to Sudan later this year, Holliday said.

Are we so accustomed to hearing this kind of garbage from the US government that we are unable to recognize how insane it is?

British Lawmakers Plan to Impeach Blair

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

LONDON (Reuters) – A group of British lawmakers plan to invoke a parliamentary procedure last used more than 150 years ago to impeach Prime Minister Tony Blair over the war in Iraq, British newspapers said on Thursday.

Eleven members of parliament (MPs), mainly Welsh and Scottish nationalists who opposed the war and two opposition Conservatives, want to use the dated practice to force Blair to defend himself at Westminster over his decision to go to war.

Maximum factionalism is in the US long-term interest

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

Supporters of Sistani Fired Upon, 20 Dead: Witness
Filed at 4:40 a.m. ET
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) – Supporters of Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani were fired upon in the town of Kufa on Thursday and 20 people were killed, a Reuters photographer said from the scene.

The photographer said he had seen 20 bodies under blankets. It was unclear who fired on the supporters, who had been marching to Najaf, carrying pictures of Sistani.

Iraqi Sadr Supporters Attacked Near Najaf-Witnesses Reuters
Filed at 4:15 a.m. ET
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) – Supporters of rebel Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were fired on as they marched from the town of Kufa to the city of Najaf on Thursday and several were wounded, witnesses at the scene said.

Wounded people lay on the road and ambulances ferried them away. Sadr has called on his supporters to march on Najaf on Thursday.

It was not clear who launched the attack. Earlier, mortars hit a mosque in Kufa where hundreds of Sadr supporters had gathered, killing at least 25 and wounding 60.

Distraught father torches self in Marine van

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A distraught father who had just been told his Marine son was killed in combat in Iraq set himself on fire in a Marine Corps van and suffered severe burns Wednesday, police said.

Three U.S. Marines went to a house in Hollywood and told the parents of a 20-year-old Marine that their son died had Tuesday in Najaf, police said.

The father, Carlos Arredondo, 44, then walked into the open garage, picked up a can of gasoline, a propane tank and a lighting device, police Capt. Tony Rode said. He smashed the van’s window with the propane tank and doused the van with gasoline before setting it ablaze.

“The father was in disbelief, same as any of us would be after hearing this kind of news,” Rode said. “But then the father basically loses it. You can only imagine what this father was going through. He snapped to say the least.”

Television news stations identified the son as Pfc. Alexander Arredondo. Rode did not confirm that. Calls to the Marine Corps were not immediately returned.

Police said that despite the Marines’ efforts to stop him, Arredondo set the van and himself on fire. The Marines pulled him out of the burning vehicle and put out the flames, police said.

“We have not seen this type of reaction. Every reaction is negative; it’s the loss of a loved one,” said Marines spokesman Maj. Scott Mack. “I don’t think any of us are qualified to go into the depths of the mind and truly anticipate how somebody is going to react.”

Arredondo was listed in serious condition with severe burns to his arms and legs in the burn unit of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Hollywood is about 20 miles north of Miami.

Rode said it was too early to discuss possible charges against Arredondo.

“We’ll see how he recovers before doing anything,” Rode said.

U.S. forces in Najaf have been battling for nearly five months against militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Slaughter of the innocents

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

Independent UK
The international community claimed to have learnt the lessons of Rwanda. Yet 10 years on, the terrible cycle of ethnic violence has started again – in neighbouring Burundi.

In the wreckage, the torn-out pages of a child’s book, a burnt shoe and a small pile of battered cooking pots. A team of people arrived and started to pull down the charred remains of the tents and pick their way through the possessions of the refugees who had once lived at the Gatumba transit camp in Burundi. Their job was to dismantle what little was left.

Large tents made of UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) green plastic sheeting flapped in the wind. In some places the plastic was blackened by smoke, in others it was all but destroyed. Scattered on the ground were the white masks and gloves dropped by the charity staff who had gathered up the dead into body bags. The men worked in silence, and the smell of charred wood and dead bodies still lingered in the air.

Just over a week has passed since 160 Banyamulenge refugees were killed in this desolate transit camp, which lies under the shadow of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Kivu mountains. They had come here to the Burundian border seeking respite from the war that continues to ravage the DRC, hoping if not for peace then at least for a temporary rest from the horrors they have grown up with for most of their lives. They found instead that war cannot be outrun.

US seeks ‘coalition’ to force Zimbabwe regime change

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

Independent UK
The United States has called for the building of a “coalition of the willing” to push for regime change to end the crisis in Zimbabwe. The new American ambassador to South Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said quiet diplomacy pursued by South Africa and other African countries in its dealings with the Zimbabwe president needed a review because there was no evidence it was working. She said her country would be willing to be part of a coalition if invited.

The US could not act on its own, “put the boot on the ground” and give President Robert Mugabe 48 hours to go as requested by beleaguered Zimbaweans but the US would be willing to work in a coalition with other countries to return Zimbabwe to democracy.

Ms Frazer, in a meeting with journalists in Johannesburg yesterday, said: “There is clearly a crisis in Zimbabwe and everyone needs to state that fact. The economy is in a free fall. There is a continuing repressive environment. There needs to be a return to democracy.”

She said the US believed that South Africa could play a positive role in returning Zimbabwe to democracy and that it had the means to do so. “It [South Africa] has the most leverage probably of any other country in the sub-region and should therefore take a leadership role,” said Ms Frazer, a protege of President George Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. full article

Police use teargas at Masai rally

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

Guardian UK
Kenyan police fired teargas to disperse about 100 Masai tribesmen marching to the British high commission to demand the return of land they say is due to them after a colonial-era treaty expired this month.

The Kenyan lands minister said a 1904 treaty giving ancestral Masai land to British settlers had yet to expire. The treaty says it “shall be enduring as long as the Masai as a race shall exist”, Amos Kimunya told reporters. “They’re just misguided,” he said.

Police intercepted about 100 Masai, wearing traditional bright red robes, as they tried to deliver a petition to the British high commissioner, Edward Clay. An earlier attempt to reach the building was rebuffed on August 13.

On Saturday police shot and killed a 70-year-old and wounded four other Masai grazing cattle on private land they say is theirs. The Masai have vowed to take their case to Kenyan and international courts. full article