Archive for January, 2005

The Myth of the 8 Million

Monday, January 31st, 2005

Voter Turnout in the Iraqi Elections Follows Washington’s Script

No One Believes the Insurgency Will End: Amid Tragedy, Defiance

Monday, January 31st, 2005

by Robert Fisk
Even as the explosions thundered over Baghdad, the people came in their hundreds and then in their thousands. Entire families, crippled old men supported by their sons, children beside them, babies in the arms of their mothers, sisters and aunts and cousins.

That is how the Shia Muslims of Baghdad voted yesterday. They walked quietly to the Martyr Mohamed Bakr Hakim School in Jadriya, without talking, through the car-less streets, the air pressure changing around them as mortars rained down on the US and British embassy compounds and the first of the day’s suicide bombers immolated himself and his victims–most of them Shias–two miles away.

…No one I met yesterday believes the insurgency will end. Many thought it would grow more ferocious and the Shias in the polling stations said with one voice that they were also voting to rid Iraq of the Americans, not to legitimise their presence.
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U.S. Judge: Guantanamo Suspects Have Rights

Monday, January 31st, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge dealt a setback to the Bush administration and ruled on Monday that the Guantanamo Bay terrorism suspects can challenge their confinement and the procedures in their military tribunal review process are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green said the prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have constitutional protections under U.S. law.

“The court concludes that the petitioners have stated valid claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that the procedures implemented by the government to confirm that the petitioners are ‘enemy combatants’ subject to indefinite detention violate the petitioners’ rights to due process of law,” Green wrote.

More than 540 suspects are being held at Guantanamo after being detained during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and in other operations in the U.S. war on terrorism. They are al Qaeda suspects and accused Taliban fighters. The ruling pertained to only 50 detainees.

Bush administration attorneys argued the prisoners have no constitutional rights and their lawsuits challenging the conditions of their confinement and seeking their release must be dismissed.

The tribunals, formally called a military commission, at the base were authorized by President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked airliner attacks on the United States, but have been criticized by human rights groups as unfair to defendants.

At issue in the ruling was the July 7, 2004, order by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz creating a military tribunal — called the Combatant Status Review Tribunal — to check the status of each Guantanamo detainee as an “enemy combatant.”

The procedures used for the tribunals “are unconstitutional for failing to comport with the requirements of due process,” Green concluded.
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U.S. students say press freedoms go too far

Monday, January 31st, 2005

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.

The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get “government approval” of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys “too much freedom,” not enough or about the right amount, 32% say “too much,” and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

The survey of First Amendment rights was commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted last spring by the University of Connecticut. It also questioned 327 principals and 7,889 teachers.

The findings aren’t surprising to Jack Dvorak, director of the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Even professional journalists are often unaware of a lot of the freedoms that might be associated with the First Amendment,” he says.

The survey “confirms what a lot of people who are interested in this area have known for a long time,” he says: Kids aren’t learning enough about the First Amendment in history, civics or English classes. It also tracks closely with recent findings of adults’ attitudes.
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Terror Has Been Defeated Says Iraq PM

Monday, January 31st, 2005

Iraq’s interim leader has called on the country to unite following the weekend’s historic elections and says terrorists have been defeated.Speaking in a televised address for the first time since the election, Interim Prime Minister Ayd Allawi said: “I call upon those who cast their ballot and those who did not to unite.

“The terrorists have been defeated.”
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January 30, 2005 — BAGHDAD The man replacing the mayor of Baghdad who was assassinated for his pro-American loyalties says he is not worried about his ties to Washington.

In fact, he’d like to erect a monument to honor President Bush in the middle of the city.

“We will build a statue for Bush,” said Ali Fadel, the former provincial council chairman. “He is the symbol of freedom.”
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Elephant in the room can’t leave it all up to Sharon

Monday, January 31st, 2005

It was, said a bemused participant, like a Billy Graham revivalist rally. Sharon Stone stood up at the World Economic Forum and after pledging $10,000 of her Hollywood fortune for mosquito nets in Africa challenged the assembled business leaders to match her generosity.

Eventually, rather sheepishly, there was a response to Ms Stone’s hammed-up harangue. To wild applause, people got to their feet and within 10 minutes the actor had $100,000 for her cause. Even that was not enough. She sent round a message to all those at the forum urging them to find $1,000,000.

The fact that charities found after the tsunami that there was a shortage of mosquito nets hardly mattered. This was the new caring, sharing Davos in action – one where it is no longer cool simply to make money. Bono, for example, received a standing ovation simply for walking on stage with a Davos supergroup made up of Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Tony Blair, and two African presidents – Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.
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Sudan: U.N. Clears Gov’t of Genocide

Monday, January 31st, 2005

ABUJA, Nigeria – Sudan’s foreign minister said Monday a U.N. report concluded that no genocide was committed in his country’s Darfur region, where tens of thousands of civilians have died in a nearly two-year crisis.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, diplomats confirmed that the report did not find that Sudan had committed genocide, but they said it was very critical of Sudanese government actions. The report was expected to be circulated in New York on Tuesday.
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Well this must comfort people to no end in Darfur, with Sudanese bombs raining on their heads.

Israelis use barrier and 55-year-old law to quietly seize Palestinians’ land

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

The Israeli government has quietly seized thousands of acres of Palestinian-owned land in and around east Jerusalem after a secret cabinet decision to use a 55-year-old law against Arabs separated from farms and orchards by the vast “security barrier”.

Most of the hundreds of Palestinian families whose land has been confiscated without compensation have not been formally notified that their property has been transferred to the Israeli state. But plans have already been drawn up to expand Jewish settlements on to some of the expropriated territory.
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An election to anoint an occupation

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Tony Blair and George Bush were quick to characterise yesterday’s election as a triumph of democracy over terror. Bush declared it a “resounding success”, while Blair asserted that “The force of freedom was felt throughout Iraq”. And yet the election fell so completely short of accepted electoral standards that had it been held in, say, Zimbabwe or Syria, Britain and America would have been the first to denounce it.

Draconian security measures left Iraq’s cities looking like ghost towns. The ballot papers were so complicated that even Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader, needed a briefing on how to use one. Most candidates had been afraid to be seen in public, or to link their names to their faces in the media. The United Iraqi Alliance, identifying only 37 of their 225 candidates, explained: “We offer apologies for not mentioning the names of all the candidates … We have to keep them alive.”
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Kurds seek presidency in power deal

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Iraq could soon have its first Kurdish president, following behind the scenes talks between leading Shia and Iraqi government figures and Kurdish officials.

Though Kurds stress any deal will have to wait until the election results are known, the two main Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, said yesterday that they would demand one of the two top offices of state, prime minister or president.

With the prime minister’s position likely to be filled by either the incumbent Ayad Allawi, or by an as yet unknown candidate from the Shia list, the less powerful presidency could go to Mr Talabani, veteran leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who heads the joint Kurdish list for the national assembly. The post of speaker of the transitional assembly would go to a Sunni Arab, perhaps Adnan Pachachi.
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