Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Comrade Bob and his enablers and thugs really showed those white imperialists.

Zimbabwe's land reform programme has caused a 90 percent drop in production in large-scale commercial farming since the 1990s, UN food organisations said in a report.

Subsequently, about 400,000 farm workers -- who were meant to benefit from the controversial resettlement plan -- lost their jobs and homes.

The findings in the document, released simultaneously in Johannesburg and Rome, are based on a fact-finding mission by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme to Zimbabwe in April and May this year.

The delegation was led by Henri Josserand, the chief of the FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System.

The mission concluded that 5.5 million people in a population of 11.6 million were in need of food aid, despite the annual cereal production having increased compared to last year.

The UN estimated that emergency aid agencies needed to provide an estimated 610,000 tonnes of maize to fill the food gap.

Let me clarify one thing here. The only people who were meant to benefit from Comrade Bob's 'reforms' were Comrade Bob, his friends and the killers who maintain his rule. The rest of the people of Zimbabwe can starve and die for all he has ever cared. His 'revolutionary' socialist speeches of the past was swallowed easily by the Western Leftist elite and supported for many years, and indeed some still do (See the reception that he was given by the NYC Black and Latino Caucus last year), while ignoring what his militias and ruling class were doing to the country.

< email | 6/21/2003 11:47:00 PM | link

The French General in charge of the peacekeeping troops n the Congo seems determined to make a real effort.

A French-led force sent to protect civilians in the Congolese town of Bunia has set a 72-hour deadline for
gunmen to leave the town where ethnic bloodletting killed hundreds last month.

The force also urged the government in Kinshasa to withdraw newly-arrived armed police reinforcements, saying they violated a peace deal.

The commander of the force, General Jean Paul Thonier gave the deadline on Saturday at talks with Thomas Lubanga, the head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia group, which seized control from rival militiamen in May.

"The General has stipulated that there will be no weapons after 72 hours," said the spokesman for the international force, Colonel Gerard Dubois. "Weapons that remain will be confiscated," he told reporters in Bunia.

If he really enforces this, good for him

< email | 6/21/2003 11:38:00 PM | link

Morgan Tsvangirai is free on bail.

Overruling government objections, High Court Justice Susan Mavangira approved bail of 10 million Zimbabwe dollars (about $9500 at black market rates) and required the MDC to post a further surety of $Z100 million to secure Tsvangirai's freedom.

As a further condition of his release, the veteran trade union leader will be barred from making any statements which could be construed as advocating the violent or unconstitutional removal of Mugabe or his government.

< email | 6/21/2003 11:31:00 PM | link

Could it be?

US troops last week hit a convoy said by US military sources to have been carrying deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his eldest son Uday, a British newspaper reported today.

The Observer weekly said US experts were in the process of carrying out DNA tests on human remains recovered from the convoy, struck by missiles last Wednesday as it headed out of Iraq towards neighbour Syria.

US military sources said the strikes were launched after the interception of a satellite telephone conversation involving either Saddam or his sons, the paper said.

The convoy was struck near the Iraqi border town of Qaim, while the operation involved the US air force and ground troops of the Third Armoured Cavalry Regiment, it added.

< email | 6/21/2003 11:11:00 PM | link

Kuwait awards General Franks their second highest honor.

Kuwait’s emir yesterday honored Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the US Central Command, for his “distinguished” military duties, the state news agency KUNA reported.

Emir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah presented Franks, who is scheduled to retire early next month, with a medal “in appreciation for his distinctive services and sincerity in carrying out his duties,” KUNA said.

Franks, who led US forces in Iraq, was also honored for his “extensive military capabilities and distinguished military experience.” The meeting was attended by Crown Prince and Prime Minister Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah.

< email | 6/21/2003 10:08:00 PM | link

It seems Yazdi's call for the death penalty for protestors became a catalyst to incite more protests. Brave bastiches.

Unrest in the Iranian capital has spread to several other cities as a high-ranking imam called for protesters to be severely punished.

On Friday, demonstrations took place in Tabriz, Zanjan, Shiraz, Yazd, Sabzehvar, Kermanshah and Isfahan.

The nightly protests in the capital, Teheran, have also moved from the area around the Teheran University to other parts of the city.

Large numbers of people drove to the eastern neighbourhood of Ressalat on Friday night despite roadblocks manned by paramilitary forces armed with Kalashnikov rifles.

The drivers caused traffic jams and witnesses said vigilantes and the police in full riot gear clashed with protesters several times.

It was unclear how many students were arrested but in Tabriz, student websites said, the number so far might be as high as 135.

The Amir Kabir University website in Teheran said 50 students were nabbed in Yazd and 105 in Sabzehvar.

Among those arrested in the capital were children of prominent reformist politicians, including Members of Parliament Ahmad Shirzad and Mohsen Safai Farahani.

In a letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, Mr Shirzad said he had witnessed arrests being made based on an illegal court order allowing the police to take in anyone they found suspicious, the Iranian Student News Agency reported.

Emrooz, a website linked closely to the reformers, reported that the judiciary had also arrested four vigilantes who attacked protesters with knives and truncheons.

< email | 6/21/2003 10:03:00 PM | link

Artists Against Imperialism. A petulant childlike one-sided view of the world is of course necessary to be admitted to the club.

Artists are bringing their canvases and paints out of their studios to condemn visually Britain, Australia, Spain, Portugal and the U.S., which have now taken on the mantle of world domination from the likes of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, and have already destroyed some of the oldest sites of European civilisation in former Yugoslavia and are busy plundering one of the oldest urban civilisations, Iraq.

It is only proper that our contemporary artists should respond to the savage invasion of Iraq by the alliance now yearning to fill the space left behind by the likes of Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler with the same sort of passion that we found in Picasso during the Second World War. One of the first artists to respond was Atul Sinha, a young Indian sculptor who had painted a large acrylic on canvas, `Bombing Baghdad for Christmas' in 1998. The main motif of the painting, a dismembered human being, became the subject of a Christmas card that went all over the world that year.

I wonder if any one of these 'humanitarians' ever created a single sketch or painting that depicted the horrors of life under Saddam Hussein, where the free expression of art would lead to death and torture. No paintings of children in political prisons. No paintings of people living in crawlspaces for 20 or more years to avoid torture and death from Saddam's thugs. No paintings of people looking through bags of belongings at mass graves in search of missing family members or those same family members wailing over the remains once they are identified. No paintings of the lists, which could exceed 300,000, of people who disappeared into Saddam's prisons. No paintings of young women getting raped by Saddam's brood. No paintings of the remains of small children, found still clutching their toys, in mass graves filled by Saddam's killers. No paintings of the torture chambers found in every Ba'athist office. No paintings of downed Saddam statues or images. In fact, there is no mention of Saddam at all. As if he didn't exist, we merely went to war in order to kill bomb and oppress the people of Iraq. Not a single gesture of relief that none of this will happen in Iraq again. Just a blanket hatred and disapproval of America and the West in general. It takes a very special stunted (or lacking) sense of morality.

Overlook any crime, embrace any killer. As long as it affords an opportunity to rail against America and the West. I wonder if any of them have spared a moment of thought about the repression of freedom and art within places like North Korea, Iran and Cuba. Or do they revel in the glow of multi-culturalism represented by killers like Khameini, Kim and Castro? I think I know the answer.

< email | 6/21/2003 09:58:00 PM | link

Between 40,000 & 110,000 South Koreans turned out to protest for tought sanctions against the North.

The demonstrators burned the red, blue and white flag of North Korea and a big portrait of its leader, Kim Jong-il. Many carried small South Korean and American flags.

"Remember the Korean War, down with Kim Jong-il," read one placard at the demonstration, organized ahead of the June 25 anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean conflict. Half a century after the fighting stopped, the peninsula remains bitterly divided with no sign of a lasting peace.

A Reuters photographer said 40,000 demonstrators took part in the rally, while Seoul police put the crowd at 110,000. There were no reports of clashes or injuries.

"Dictator Kim Jong-il rejects multilateral talks and seeks a nuclear program," Park Chan-sung, head of a civic group to stop the communist North's nuclear ambitions, told Reuters.

"We are here to urge the international community and the United Nations to impose strong economic sanctions on North Korea to force it to drop the nuclear plan."

< email | 6/21/2003 09:47:00 PM | link

Friday, June 20, 2003

What exactly were 300 Kilos of gold doing at the Iraqi Embassy in Switzerland?

The Swiss precious metal refiner Metalor is currently holding 300 kilograms of gold worth 4.5 mln sfr placed in 1991 by the Iraqi embassy in Berne, the economic magazine Cash reported.
Metalor general director Hans-Jurg Schar has confirmed the presence of the gold, the magazine said.

The Swiss national bank has estimated that about 386 mln sfr belonging to Iraqi interests have been deposited in Swiss banks.

The figure excludes funds held by private managers and fiduciary companies.

< email | 6/20/2003 05:00:00 PM | link

Further evidence of the ties between terrorist groups. One of the suspects being held for the Bali bomb has admitted his role in the bombing of the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta in 2000.

A key suspect in the Bali bombings,Amrozi, admits Thursday his role in the bombing of Philippine ambassador's official residence here in August 2000.

But Amrozi told a Jakarta court that the attack was carried outby Faturrahman Al Ghozi.

"Al Ghozi told (me) he carried out the bombing at the Philippines ambassador's residence in Jakarta. He previously ordered me to prepare explosive materials. Fortunately, I had abundance of those materials I had bought from Tidar Kimia chemical shop in Surabaya," Amrozi told the judge panel.

A powerful bomb planted in a parked van exploded at the Philippine ambassador's Jakarta residence in August 2000, killing two people and injuring 21 others including Ambassador Leonides Caday.

As an aside to this, a bomb went off in front of the Philippine Embassy in Manado at the same time as the Bali bombing. It would seem that JI is willing to carry out operations for MILF. So not only are they sharing intelligence, equipment and training they are contracting out operations. Scary stuff.

Update: Apparently, it goes even deeper.

An Indonesian leader of the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah network funded militants blamed for deadly bomb attacks in Manila in 2000, Philippine prosecutors said yesterday.

They said they were collecting more evidence to see whether Riduan Isamuddin — also known as Hambali — could be prosecuted over the deaths of more than 20 people in the bombing of a train and other targets in the Philippine capital on December 30, 2000.

An Indonesian terrorist operating in the capital of the Philippines. Meanwhile MILF is denying the whole thing.

Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf) the biggest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines — denied allegations made at Bashir’s trial that Jemaah militants trained at its camps on the southern island of Mindanao.

“We do not allow Indonesians or any other foreigners to train in our camps,” Milf spokesman Eid Kabalu told Reuters by telephone.

“Our training camp is exclusively for the Milf and we train our people in guerrilla techniques and not in using explosives.”

“There is no need for the Milf to establish linkages with organisations” whose objectives he said were not the same as that of his 12,500-member group.

< email | 6/20/2003 04:05:00 PM | link

Hmm. Interesting footnote on the MKO issue in Europe. Germany will not close down the MKO offices.

Contrary to France, Germany will not close offices of the MKO terrorist grouplet, however Berlin continues to regard the Iraq-based group as a terrorist organization, a senior German Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IRNA here Friday.

"I am not aware of any plans to close the offices of the (MKO) organization," the official said.

"There has been no (German) policy change towards this group. Our domestic intelligence service will continue to monitor the (MKO) activities and we are still viewing the group as terrorists," he added.

< email | 6/20/2003 03:54:00 PM | link

I think Chirac just like the word "veto". "Veto this" "Veto that" "Veto Everything" "Veto, Veto , Veto!"

French President Jacques Chirac threatened to veto any reform of European Union farm subsidies in which France was outvoted, forcing the EU to halt marathon talks until next week, diplomats said today.

The dramatic show of force came to light after television cameras caught Chirac gesturing animatedly to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis at welcoming ceremonies of an EU summit on Thursday evening which Simitis was to chair.

The Greek leader's spokesman told Reuters that Simitis had refused point-blank a last-minute demand by Chirac, accompanied by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, to put stalled farm reform talks on the summit agenda.

I love this bit of diplospeak.

Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, indirectly confirmed he had then sought the suspension of the Luxembourg talks rather than risk a majority decision that might have hit French farmers, the CAP's biggest beneficiaries.

"France is looking for a consensual solution on the CAP," she told Reuters. "The conditions were not right today. We hope that these few days will permit progress."

Forget the majority of thi ministers. To have "consensus" means France must agree.

One said Chirac had told Simitis that if a majority decision went against France, he would invoke a national interest using a procedure known as the "Luxembourg compromise" to force member states to go on negotiating until there is unanimous agreement.

This veto power is a rarely used "nuclear weapon" in EU affairs.

Ahhh. The nuance! The multi-lateral post-national good will. Do as I want "or else", you stupid barbarians.

< email | 6/20/2003 03:22:00 PM | link

Some Members of the European Parliament are calling for a tough stand on Castro.

In a letter to the three EU presidents (of the Parliament, Council and Commission) and to the EU's chief for foreign affairs - Javier Solana, a group of MEPs headed by Portuguese conservative MEP, José Ribeiro e Castro have asked the EU to step up contacts with Cuban dissidents.

As a show of solidarity with the Cuban opposition MEPs have asked leaders to contact, Oswaldo Payá, a leading dissident in Havana and invite him to meet with the leaders at the highest level.

This would also allow Mr Payá to personally inform Europeans about the current situation on the island.

And the incoming members of the EU can only enhance this position.

Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia hosted Oswaldo Payá earlier this year and the Speaker of the Slovak parliament, Pavol Hrusovsky, contacted him by phone shortly after the Cuban government's repressive actions.

The former Czech President and dissident Vaclav Havel is also considering a proposal to deal with the topic as a goodwill ambassador, a post offered to him by the Czech foreign ministry.

< email | 6/20/2003 02:47:00 PM | link

This Iranian writer makes some interesting points but, I find the prescription to be very poor.

Iran's ruling ayatollahs have little to fear from the student protests that are raising the hopes of regime-change proponents in the Bush Administration.

Without a coherent message and a national organization, it is doubtful that a disgruntled, youthful majority can pose a credible challenge to the Islamic regime at this time.

This is a good point. The students call for a lot of things but there is no unified movement with a set of requests and demands. I understand it is difficult to accomplish with the regime militias and secret police watching everything. But, outside interference will not bring a happy conclusion to the ayatollahs' rule. They should turn to people like Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and the other Soviet dissidents for examples of how to structure an internal revolution against an oppressive regime.

They need to do the equivalent of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Points to the Wittenberg church's door or creating a Declaration of Independence with the attendant list of grievances. There needs to be a central rallying point beyond wanting the Ayatollahs gone. The 'reformers' they elected to the Parliament were supposed to do this but, they have proven ineffective in standing up to the unelected councils that hold true power. Since the elation of putting Khatami in power every independent newspaper has been shut down, journalists imprisoned, student leaders imprisoned and beaten and more. Through all of this the 'reformers' have done little more than wonder if they should resign in protest or keep on trying. This is a question they have been asking for years. They diddle while unrest spreads. Events have passed them by and those who wish change must do more to create unity of action and intent among themselves.

The United States' vocal support of the protests also gives clerics additional credibility as they warn young Iranians not to be "fooled and misled by American plots."

"America, realizing that they cannot defeat us in war," said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, "now publicly supports anarchy from within Iran."

Speaker of the Parliament Mehdi Karoubi, countering Bush administration charges that pro-democracy activists are being silenced said, "We have democracy in Iran. The national elections are symbols of democracy in the country. You will see once again massive turnouts in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The Iranian people don't like American-style democracy. They have proved this in practice."

America can best show its commitment to democracy in Iran, and the Persian Gulf region as a whole, not by trying to force another regime change. It would do better with policies that indirectly help a still-strong reformist movement in the country.

More diplomatic and cultural exchanges, as well as the lifting of crippling economic sanctions, could boost the reformists, as a more open and prosperous Iran would make Iranians even less inclined toward fundamentalism than they already are today.

Most crucially, if greater power sharing between reformists and conservative clerics evolves, the traditionally skeptical Iranians would start gaining confidence in their own civil institutions. The process could serve as desperately needed model for the entire region.

After making some other good points about where the democracy movement is going wrong I find this conclusion a bit disturbing. The writer seems to be saying that we should offer no vocal support (or any other type of support) to the protestors and those calling for freedom. That by doing so we somehow play into the Ayatollah's hands. We know from the example of the Soviet Union that our vocal support, in the face of further regime crackdowns, gave strength and hope to the revolutionaries. If we ignore their pleas and shun their efforts while expanding "diplomatic and cultural exchanges" with those in power we will send the message that the very people calling for the protestors to face the death penalty are the ones we seek to open a dialogue with. How exactly can this help bring about reform and freedom? It will do nothing but strengthen the regime. The same goes for lifting sanctions. It would only serve to strengthen those in power.

The writer suggests that while those in power scream "Death to America" that we should invite more of them here and lift the sanctions that prevent them from acquiring all they please. We are assured that this "could boost the reformists, as a more open and prosperous Iran would make Iranians even less inclined toward fundamentalism than they already are today", but we are given no evidence of this. What make anyone think this will be the outcome?

The quote from the Speaker of the Parliament is bunk. The ineffectiveness on the part of the 'reformers' led to low turnout and defeats just this year. Rising cynicism and the inability to push through reforms to give Khatami more power, while protestors are beaten and subdued and newspapers are closed every day has proven the weakness of the 'reformists' in Parliament. Of course Karoubi insists that the process is working. If he says it is not, he proves he is not doing his job.

< email | 6/20/2003 12:44:00 PM | link

One Iranian cleric is calling for the protestors to get the death penalty.

"I ask the head of the judiciary and public prosecutors across Iran not to treat these people with compassion as they endangered the country's security. Islamic Sharia and our laws are explicit on what we should do with them," Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi said in a Friday prayers sermon.

"The judiciary should deal with these people as Moharebs (those who fight Allah) and not as Mokhalef (those who oppose Allah)," he added, urging the courts to handle the detainees "quickly, meticulously, seriously and ruthlessly".

This is the sort of rot that will hasten the fall of the theocracy. For years they have held power through fear and to a degree it has worked. Especially with Saddam and an unfriendly Taliban on either side to whip up the masses. But now both of those nations have come out from under the heel of oppression, to some degree and the millions of Iranians who used to keep their mouths shut are no longer willing to do it. If Khameini and the ruling council follow this call it will only serve to bring millions more into the streets. This is done out of fear. Fear that what the protestors stand for will spread, by turning them into martyrs Yadzi's exhortations would spread open dissent farther and faster than anything else.

He is blind and treats with arrogance the spreading desire for freedom.

"Those who were responsible for the disorder were not university students, since we have 1.5 million university students who are all Muslims and sons of respected Iranian nation," he said.

"The people who have caused this disorder earn their livelihood by doing so," he charged, in a sermon interspersed by chants of "Death to America", "Death to Israel" and "Death to those who oppose Veleyat-e Faqih", the function of Khamenei as supreme leader.

With more police and army units quietly supporting the students and protestors the end could come very quickly, especially if they start killing the people out on the streets seeking a better life.

< email | 6/20/2003 11:41:00 AM | link

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Internet cafes are becoming popular in liberated Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein's regime had banned free e-mail and live chat. Free e-mail would have dissuaded people from signing up for subscriptions to Iraqi Internet service providers, and live chat was tough to monitor and halt.

Now Iraqis are free to use the Internet as they like. During recent visits to the Internet centers, customers mainly were trying to contact relatives or price appliances, electronics and cars. Internet center workers said many people browsed the Web to look for jobs or for goods to buy and import into Iraq.

"This is a new sense of freedom for us. We are not in a very secure society yet, but at least we can say whatever we like," said Firas Behnam, 27, a worker at the former State Company for Internet Services center in the neighborhood of Adil.

Under Saddam, Iraqis could look at foreign news sites such as the BBC and CNN at least part of the time. "Sometimes it said access denied, sometimes not," Behnam said. "It depended on the news of the day, and how aggressive it was."

"Some Web sites are still closed, but if you let us know, we will reopen them," said Yaser Hassan, 30, the manager of the Adil center. "The users here want everything fast. They complain loudly when they see `access denied,' even though they did not complain for 30 years."

Before the war, Behnam worked at the state Internet center in the al Rasheed Hotel, helping customers use e-mail. "I had to organize this and of course read the messages. Sometimes, if there was anything interesting, we had to tell the authorities. Most of the al Rasheed Hotel guests were reporters, and Iraqi intelligence agents came to us to ask what are they sending."

And apparently they are popular not just for Iraqis.

Customers at private Internet cafes in well-to-do neighborhoods pay about $5 for an hour for high-speed access. At the center in Adil, Iraqis and U.S. soldiers line up to access e-mail for 200 dinars an hour, about $1.33.

< email | 6/19/2003 03:55:00 PM | link

A look at what was happening in Northern Iraq in the weeks after Saddam fell. It is pretty long, so just go read it.

< email | 6/19/2003 03:28:00 PM | link

An Irish reporter for ITN returns to Baghdad to meet up with his Iraqi minder again.

The fact that he never said goodbye left a bad taste. After all, before the war and for much of it, Sadoun Wahab, our Iraqi government minder, was a constant companion.

But like all the others employed by Saddam's propaganda factory - the information ministry - Sadoun vanished two days before Baghdad fell to the Americans.

For me any return to the city would have to involve tracking the man down. And so it was that a few days ago, back in Baghdad, I found him. We were reunited in a corridor in the Palestine Hotel and we greeted one another like the friends we now are.

I first met Sadoun several months before the war. Foreign journalists could not operate in Iraq without an official minder allocated by the information ministry. These civil servants were the eyes and the ears of the regime and were required to vet and censor coverage. In the early days, a different minder was provided every day.

Of course it was an odd relationship. It seemed he liked working with us - but this was a man whose job it was to prevent me doing mine the way I wanted.

Conversely, I was always pushing him not to do his job to the best of his ability.

To begin with he was strict about where we could point the camera, and there were many rules that were sacrosanct. Any hint of criticism of Saddam was out completely. I was aware of what could not be said ("dictator", "tyrant", "totalitarian").

Sadoun was sometimes at my shoulder but, as time went on, less so. He knew that I knew how to play the game. If I looked like over-stepping the mark, he was subtle about pointing it out.

I recall interviewing people in the street before the war. I'd had an interesting conversation with a former Iraqi pilot.

In the car on the way back to the ministry, Sadoun suggested that if I used the soundbite the man would be in trouble. He didn't need to point out that we would be too.

It didn't take long to discover he was willing to bend the rules. Last November, filming in the city centre, we suddenly heard the sound of jets. Two flights of Iraqi air force Sukhois were low over the Tigris.

I glanced at Sadoun and he turned his back to me and my cameraman. We filmed the planes. Sadoun should have stopped us.

Interesting bit of information comes up in the story.

He carried more clout than at first appeared. His father-in-law was high up in the Mukhabarat, Saddam's secret police. This meant that he could punch beyond his weight.

These family connections were, it transpired, to become a critical factor in securing our wartime coverage from Baghdad. On the morning of March 19, with war only hours away, we were informed that ITN had to leave the Palestine and move to the Al-Rashid Hotel.

This was very worrying news: we'd been warned by US sources not to stay there, as the Pentagon considered the government hotel a target.

We also get a little illumination on the report Robert Fisk gave that the US hadn't taken the airport.

Sadoun says that during the war he was meant to view our reports before allowing them to be sent by satellite to London for transmission. He claims he never did. He just provided the necessary stamp on the paperwork.

That had been pretty obvious as the Americans closed in on Baghdad. The information ministry wanted to repudiate claims that the airport was on the point of being taken. Sadoun got permission for us to go and film the "quiet" airport.

The moment we arrived American artillery opened up on the place, and we took shelter in a dugout with several Iraqi soldiers. Sadoun made two half-hearted attempts to stop us filming.

And what did he think about the invasion?

He tells me he is glad Saddam has gone. "He cheated the people. We consider him a savage. He is not human."

On the subject of the Americans: "Now we need them, because they can provide security. They say they will install a new government soon. People are waiting to see if they live up to their promises. If they stay more than a year it will be a problem."

Sadoun was always an immensely proud man and, like most Iraqis, had been appalled at the notion of his country being invaded. He predicted that in Baghdad tens of thousands of people would come out and fight.

He reminds me what he had said. He says he is glad he was wrong. I ask him why resistance melted away; he says the word on the street is that the Americans bribed the commanders in the Republican Guard.

< email | 6/19/2003 03:13:00 PM | link

A story about one of the private sattelite stations going into Iran from the US.

As Tehran was gripped by an ninth straight night of tense anti-government protests and clashes late Wednesday, a team of Persian exiles toiled in a Los Angeles television studio to encourage revolution against Iran's leaders.

"I want to change things from the inside now to avoid Iran being attacked by another country," said former rock star Zia Atabay, who runs Iranian National Television (NITV), a California-based satellite broadcaster.

Since the protests first erupted at Teheran University and spread to other cities, NITV has devoted most of its 24-hour Farsi-language programming to beaming news and political talk shows into Iran's heartland.

Atabay, who has about 33 staff, said protesters were using NITV to help coordinate their efforts by exchanging information on his live phone-in shows that offer an alternative to Iran's strictly-controlled state media.

The station's 16 telephone lines are jammed with up to 60 calls an hour from viewers, mostly in Iran.

Atabay - who launched NITV as a youth entertainment channel for the Farsi-speaking diaspora after a making a fortune from a plastic surgery business that still finances the operation - is blunt about his views.

"I tell (the Iranian people) that the regime is over," he said, predicting that with international support for the demonstrators and a western economic blockade, the government could fall within months.

"I tell them that ... if they are sending people to beat you or kill you it's only because they are afraid," he said of the attacks on anti-government protesters by puritanical vigilantes and the arrests of hundreds of demonstrators.

< email | 6/19/2003 01:12:00 PM | link

Let's do some extrapolation. Though there is no direct mention of it I would guess that Abid Hamid was, based on timing and geography, captured along with huge sums of cash (in various denominations) and gems as well as fifty members of Saddam's immediate security and intelligence organization (his rank and direct ties to these groups would make it logical to assume that they would be in close physical proximity to him). That combination seems to indicate they were involved in some sort of clandestine activity. Were they just on the run, they would have been more dispersed and not concentrated in an area that was noted for it's loyalty to Saddam (around his hometown of Tikrit).

Some pundits are already licking their chops at the idea that this capture will get us Saddam and WMD in the next few days. I don't think so. I don't think Saddam would be this close to the action. If Abid Hamid were running an operation to organize fedayeen and other terrorists, it would be a good assumption (based on the level of communication with groups that were making physical contact with American troops) that they may be found out sooner or later. Saddam has proven in the past that he is physically courageous but, he isn't about to put himself in this type of situation. He doesn't want to be a martyr, he wants to rule again and take revenge on all those who wronged him. While Abid Hamid may have an idea of where Saddam is, I don't think that place will be very close to where he was captured. Saddam has lived a nomadic life within Iraq for years, I doubt anyone, even someone as close as Abid Hamid, knows in advance where Saddam will be tomorrow. So, no, I don't think he will be able to pinpoint Saddam for us (assuming we can get accurate info out of him). At best, I think he will be able to give us a region (and what do we do if he says Syria or Russia?).

Abid and WMD. This may be a better prospect. But again, a number of these items are, or were, presumably on the move. If Abid Hamid was busy with organizing attacks on American forces* I don't think he would also be tasked with securing WMD. Maybe he had access to small amounts that could be used if the opportunity appeared but, it would make more sense for WMD concealment (or destruction) to be tasked to one of Saddam's sons. The WMD are the most important and most contentious item. With an inner core Saddam can rebuild an army and secret service. But he needs the WMD, or at least the technology, to assure he can return to power if the Coalition leaves him alive. He may trust, and be related (I believe. Update: No, he is not. But he is a member of a clan that has important ties to Saddam's) to Abid Hamid, but the last two people he will trust (beyond himself) are his sons. Because of that, I think, any physical evidence of WMD will now be under the direct control of either Uday or Qusay. So, where does this leave us when we consider Abid Hamid and WMD? He will probably be able to fill us in on the aspects of the program, and possibly some prewar production and research locations, right up to the war. He will be able to confirm the accuracy of intelligence reports we had going into the conflict. But, the actual physical WMD themselves? I doubt it.

Abid Hamid may hold another very important piece of information. Remember, to meet Saddam one needed to go through Abid Hamid first. And Hamid would have attended almost every one of Saddam's meetings. He will be able to tell us who Saddam was meeting with and what they talked about. What terrorist organizations were coming to Baghdad to meet with Saddam. Representatives from what governments? Who was talking to Saddam during the war? What did they discuss? What sort of deals did they make?

*I think Rumsfeld's assertion yesterday, assuming I have seen them in their proper context (see Perle, Richard and the media), is inaccurate. The attacks are centrally organized. One of the most glaring examples of this is the distribution of attacks. If it were just small disorganized groups of dead-enders (a claim that falls short based on the Abid Hamid capture) why have we seen no attacks against other coalition members? Why are the British not losing an average of a soldier a day? Because those directing and supporting that attacks know that it is America that must be scared and "quagmired". If they killed enough British soldiers that Blair was forced to remove his troops, the country would still be occupied. If America is forced out, the others will have to leave to. Allowing Saddam to step back in to fill the vacuum.

< email | 6/19/2003 12:10:00 PM | link

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

When does the solution not involve redistribution of wealth?

"Thus, combating slavery means not only its direct prohibition by law but also fighting against poverty, illiteracy, economic and social disparities, gender discrimination, violence against women and children, harmful traditional practices and many other factors leading up to its contemporary forms," he [Acting UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan] told the representatives of specialized agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

He also noted that the group had highlighted the issue of trafficking for many years before the international community acknowledged the gravity and complexity of the matter and that it had been a pioneer in calling for free compulsory primary education to combat exploitation, illiteracy and poverty.

Yeah. That's exactly how slavery was stamped out in America and the rest of the Western World.

Of course Bertrand should consider dealing with the UN's alleged complicity in slavery in Africa and Bosnia before tossing our money around.

< email | 6/18/2003 02:57:00 PM | link

Big wad of money found also.

Army Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno told Pentagon reporters in a teleconference from Tikrit that his troops took control of $8.5 million dollars, 300 to 400 million dinars, uncounted English pounds and Euros and jewels valued at up to $1 million.

< email | 6/18/2003 01:33:00 PM | link

Big Fish nabbed.

An American official said Wednesday that U.S. forces have captured Saddam Hussein's presidential secretary – number four on the American list of most-wanted Iraqi officials.

The unidentified official said Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti may have information on the fate of Saddam and his sons.

The official said Mahmud was captured in Iraq but gave no further details.

Mahmud was the third-highest government official in Iraq, after Saddam and his younger son, Qusai.

< email | 6/18/2003 01:29:00 PM | link

Khatami shows that he has chosen sides. The people who are in the streets protesting are the pople who voted him into office, in hopes that he would be a true reformer. Now he derides them for the small size of the protests (something anyone reading Iranian blogs would question but, not MSNBC) and accuses them of being US dupes.

''If those who are opposed to the system are only some 200, 500 or 1,000 people who take advantage of the students' problems, then we are proud of ourselves that we are so strong,'' Khatami told a new conference.

This is the same system that has rejected every attempt by reformers to bring about change. The system that has shut down every independent newspaper and jailed every publisher or journalist who has said anything that may be seen as "opposition". The same system into which hundreds, if not thousands, of students have gone into, not to be heard again.

Khatami has now shown that he is a part of this system not one who seeks to change it.

< email | 6/18/2003 01:19:00 PM | link

Another British anti-war pol busted by what he said in the past.

ROBIN Cook’s anti-war stance over Iraq was destroyed last night by a bombshell Foreign Office memo.

It was published when Mr Cook was Foreign Secretary five years ago — and warned Saddam could have an “offensive biological weapons capability” in weeks.

Mr Cook now argues we should never have gone to war because Saddam was no threat.

But the 1998 dossier warned Iraq could develop mustard gas almost immediately and nerve agents in months.

And it said Saddam may have Scud missiles which could kill thousands if armed with a VX nerve agent warhead.

The memo was used to justify Allied planes bombing Iraq in 1998.
Mr Cook was grilled on the document before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday.

MPs pointed out he opposed the recent war because there was no second UN resolution — but backed bombing Iraq in 1998, even though that was not supported by the UN either.

Mr Cook replied that the action five years ago was limited bombing by comparison.

< email | 6/18/2003 10:59:00 AM | link

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Heh. Silvio Burlusconi is great.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told France on Tuesday it should ''shut up'' about his Middle East policy, further straining relations with Paris just as Italy is preparing to take over the European Union presidency.

''They missed a good opportunity to shut up,'' Berlusconi told reporters in response to French criticism of his decision not to meet Palestinian leaders during a recent trip to Israel.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said this week that Berlusconi had ''not satisfied the European position'' by holding talks only with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his June 9 visit to Jerusalem.

''I went (to Israel) as the prime minister of Italy. There's no way France can issue criticism over something that was the sole right and responsibility of the Italian prime minister,'' Berlusconi said, clearly bristling with irritation.

< email | 6/17/2003 02:46:00 PM | link

Failure of civil authorities in Frace. Where is the multilateral UN led force to help?

City cleaners are spraying streets in the French port of Marseille with lemongrass perfume to get rid of the stench from piles of rubbish that have been festering under a hot sun for a fortnight.

Refuse collectors returned to work on Tuesday after a 14-day strike over pension reforms.

City cleaners are now battling to clear up an estimated 8,000 tonnes of garbage, which stench has attracted rats in droves.

A spokeswoman for the municipal services department said: "It's been awful. The smell has been unbearable and the streets were disgusting with rotting rubbish strewn all over them. Life hasn't been very easy."

"We occasionally add a bit of lemongrass to disinfecting products when cleaning up after an outdoor market, but this time we're adding it in much bigger doses and using it everywhere."

And with the Brutal French Summer set to begin, this can only lead to a spiraling quagmire.

< email | 6/17/2003 02:43:00 PM | link

Some family.

Jannat said Uday threw such parties almost weekly, except when his father was nearby, fearing he might drop in. ‘Yes, he feared Saddam very much. He dreamed of becoming president and he hated his brother Qusai,’ she said. ‘Sometimes, Uday drank and took pills and went without sleep for three days.’ Qusai, regarded as articular, secretive and scheme, was Saddam’s favourite son and considered heir apparent to the Iraqi leadership after being made commander of an elite presidential guard unit in charge of his father’s security.

Where are the Husseins? Jannat says they took off in the direction of Syria.

Jannt told the interviewer that in early April, days before US forces stormed into Baghdad, Uday had arrived at his palace and was met the next day by several men who drove him away ‘in a Land Cruiser toward Syria.’

< email | 6/17/2003 02:39:00 PM | link

Following September 11th the Red Cross came under fire for the handling of funds for the survivors. Apparently they are facing similar accusations from the survivors of the Bali attack.

The Red Cross has come under fire from victims of the bombings - who want to know why financial assistance from the organisation's appeal has not been forthcoming.

A meeting in Sydney overnight called for $10,000 to be given to each survivor or next of kin, and for $1,000 to be set-aside for Balinese victims.

Barry Hugeunin whose daughter was injured in the Sari Club blast says the Red Cross should not be allowed to run wild with the money.

"I think they've been arrogant," he said.

"I think they have been deceptive. I think the management of Red Cross are continuing to maintain certain power structures in an empire, I think that is very bad, because it undermines everything that all the good they do as an organisation."

< email | 6/17/2003 02:23:00 PM | link

More details into how the networks are working.

A suspect in a deadly McDonald's restaurant bombing told a court on Tuesday that he and other Indonesian Islamic militants had trained at a rebel camp in the southern Philippines.

Suriyadi Masud made the remarks at the trial of Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual head of the regional al-Qaida linked terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Masud said he and several other groups of Indonesian militants trained in handling weapons and explosives at the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front's Camp Abu Bakar in Mindanao in the southern Philippines between 1997 and 1998.

JI has direct links to al-Qaeda. It was members of this terrorist organization that planned attacks on Americans in Singapore. The proof of which was found on a video cassette picked up at an al-Qaeda site in Afghanistan. MILF has been tied to both al Qaeda and to Saddam Hussein. How many more connected dots until some people realize the nature and extent of the threat?

< email | 6/17/2003 02:19:00 PM | link

Interesting story about the capture of one of Iraq's largest oil and gas plants.

It was an operation code-named Mission Certain Death.

So for an oil worker from Ellesmere Port, it was one to be approached with some trepidation.

Keith James, who works for Shell UK at Stanlow oil refinery, was asked by the United States army to help seize a key oil field in Iraq.

He was picked because of his expertise and allowed to choose four colleagues to join him with a group of US Marines known as The Suicide Charlies.

After months of toil, the 46-year-old seized the country's key southern Az Zubayr oil and gas plant and shut it down before Saddam Hussein could destroy it.

Az Zubayr was deemed the crown jewel of the Ramalla oil fields of southern Iraq.

If the team had not taken it intact, the whole region would have been at risk. And if Saddam had decided to blow it up, the fires would have burned for years.

< email | 6/17/2003 12:44:00 PM | link

Protests against Iran have spread beyond the country. Exiles in Germany attacked the Embassy in Hamburg.

Police have detained 50 people after a group of Iranian opposition supporters vandalised the interior of the Iranian consulate building in Hamburg and then rioted outside.
Police said a group of about 20 exiled Iranians entered the consulate in the northern port city of Hamburg late this morning and began overturning tables and spray-painting walls red.

The rioters left of their own accord and joined with a further 30 people in throwing stones and fruit at the building and burning an Iranian flag.

They also spray-painted walls outside the consulate and nearby cars, police said.

The group was protesting a crackdown on the Iranian opposition in France and the treatment of anti-regime demonstrators in Tehran.

The French have decided to crack down on MKO, a group that does use violence inside Iran (and has been implicated in the killing of Americans) in order to overthrow the Ayatollahs. Fine, but then why do they still refuse to go after Hamas?

The timing of the MKO raid is interesting, too. This was a very big raid on a group that had been operating a branch openly in France until now. In the past the group operated, from Iraqi soil, with the blessing and support of Saddam Hussein. But now that Saddam is gone maybe the French decided they needed to perform a kind act to ingratiate themselves with the equally odious Ayatollahs of Iran. Also, with Saddam gone there was no longer the need for their very nuanced "triangulation" between support of the butcher Saddam and the backers of the terrorists of Hamas, so they could cut MKO loose.

There is also very little for France to lose in this crackdown. This is not an Arab group they are Persians fighting against a regime that is friendly with many of the Islamists who France thinks are necessary for dialogue. So, they need not fear a backlash from the Arab/Muslim population inside the country.

So Hamas, whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel and the targeting of every Israeli man woman and child, military or civilian, is necessary for France's vision of the Middle East. But a group that is willing to use violence if necessary to overthrow the Ayatollahs of Iran, who also have a stated goal of destroying the "Zionist Entity", must be shut down.

Update. Heh. Apparently, German police didn't move to stop the protestors early on.

"Some 15 people, prentending to be visitors, rampaged through the consulate building but police merely stood by and watched the mayhem," the source said.

"They pelted consulate windows and diplomatic vehicles with rocks and rotten fruit but police did not react," he added, confirming that the Iranian flag was also torn down by the assailants.

< email | 6/17/2003 11:39:00 AM | link

Monday, June 16, 2003

An interesting letter from Iran, that gives a glimpse at life there.

Today is Thursday – the 11th of Ordibehesht or the 1st of May. It is a public holiday here in Tehran. Not, of course, because it’s International Workers’ Day, but because of the anniversary of the death of the prophet Mohammed. But it makes no difference what day it is for those of us who are second-class citizens, or ‘ambulant pieces of flesh attached to legs’, as Mesbah Yazdi describes us, who are of no use to the ‘Islamic Republic’ of Iran.

I was up all night, glued to the computer screen ‘to earn my daily bread’. I fell asleep at 6:30 in the morning and managed briefly to escape my troubles, which I know will spell my end one day: exhaustion, backache, eye strain, headaches, heart palpitations. I was shattered.

At around 10:30 Afshin calls to say that Mahmoud Vakili has been arrested. My brain is still asleep. I try to understand what he is saying. He says that Mahmoud’s sister called him to say that Mahmoud was arrested on Tuesday. She said that we should not contact their house directly. Afshin says that he doesn’t have Ali’s number and asks me to call him and let him know.

Afshin does have Ali’s number. He is too afraid to call him, afraid of getting caught in some kind of trouble. Ali is well-known. Only last week he was telling us that his phone was tapped. Not that he’s a political activist; he’s just a film critic. But like all of us, he can now be found guilty of this new crime.

My brain slowly kicks into gear. I too am afraid, why lie? We are those simpler souls who sought to steer clear of any sort of political fuss in this accursed corner of the planet. We eliminated every shred of ambition from our lives and instead of seeking solace in drugs, money or womanising, we turned to culture – to art and cinema. We chose to step into a dream – the dream of things we don’t have. Now, they are shattering this dream with lashes of the whip, with jail, torture, dishonour and accusations.

This makes us afraid.

The frustrated and unemployed young men who populate the country, themselves the fruit of the revolution, can easily get their hands on any brand of porn movie. At every public intersection and busy square such films are readily available.

Yet a stone’s throw away a uniformed thug will be harassing a young woman whose hair may have slipped out from under her scarf, while some young man walking along with a young woman friend has to answer to the thug to avoid being sentenced to lashes of the whip. Not far from them a prostitute will be stepping into the luxury car of some devout Haji to sell herself for a paltry sum of ten or twenty thousand toman in order not to go hungry.

Meanwhile, the mullahs stand in prayer and mourn Imam Hossein. They take their wives to Mecca and Syria, and temporary wives to the freeport zones and buy stocks. They smuggle, acquire exclusive dealerships, export girls, then attend Friday prayers and chant ‘Death to America’.

We whose lives are plundered often have had occasion to quote Osip Mandelstam who said that everything in this world could be regained except hope. But hope has fled the weak flicker of our gaze. We are in our 20s and 30s, but we are already old. There will be no miracles.

< email | 6/16/2003 02:37:00 PM | link

Heh. France is very upset that Rumsfeld sees things through a America-centric lens. Of course they would prefer to view things though an EU-centric (read: French) lens.

"The American Defence Secretary believes that the United States is the only military, economic and financial power of the world," the French minister told the paper. "We don't share this vision."

She also suggested Mr Rumsfeld's position was in conflict with that of uniformed US military services under his command, arguing these services "themselves find it to their advantage to share tasks between allies."

"They recognise the job that has been done by the French military in certain theatres of operation, for instance by our aviators in Afghanistan," she said.

"Events in Africa have shown that our soldiers are in excellent shape, and our prepositioned forces are able to react to developments."

Let's review here. Our military was happy to have French air support in Afghanistan? The job they are managing in Congo? Or in the Ivory Coast?

< email | 6/16/2003 02:04:00 PM | link

Heh. Haiti figures France owes them $21,685,135,571.48. And that figure does not include "interest, penalties or consideration for the suffering and indignity inflicted by slavery and colonization."

Paris swiftly rejected the demand for restitution when Haiti raised the issue in April on the 200th anniversary of the death of Toussaint Louverture. A revered figure, Louverture led fellow slaves to throw off their French colonial oppressors.

Haiti is making a bicentennial spectacle of refusing to take no for an answer. In one of the most colourful campaigns to galvanize Haitians in years, the country is awash in banners, bumper stickers, television ads and radio broadcasts demanding payback.

< email | 6/16/2003 01:44:00 PM | link

Having fun with Afghanistans first commercial radio station.

Surrounded by posters of Western and Indian pop stars and footballers, Massouda Zalmai, 18, and her co-host Abdul Azim, 23, present Radio Arman FM’s lunchtime show with a mix of friendly banter, gossip about rising Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi and more serious discussions on the dangers of smoking, interspersed with music.

Radio Arman (“Hope”) FM 98.1 went on air April 16 as Afghanistan’s first ever private radio station, serving up a mix of entertainment, information and education for the capital’s millions.

The station broadcasts Afghan, Indian, Tajik, Uzbek and Western music 24 hours a day, with bilingual DJs using Dari and Pashtu, Afghanistan’s two main languages.

Arman FM’s format of music, gossip and chat has long been the staple of radio stations elsewhere, but the presenters’ informal approach and use of colloquial Dari has drawn criticism from some listeners unused to hearing young men and women chat together on air even 19 months after the toppling of the puritanical Taleban.

Others among those who aired their views on state-run TV last week have accused the fledgling radio station of being unprofessional in recruiting young presenters with little or no training. And initially there were even complaints about the girls’ laughing on air.

Arman FM director Saad Mohseni shrugs off the criticism, saying the response from listeners has been overwhelmingly positive since the station started broadcasting two months ago. The station receives 500 letters and 2,000 calls a day” of which less than five percent are critical, says Mohseni, an Afghan-Australian former stockbroker who set up the station with financial help from his two brothers and assistance from the US Agency for International Development.

“The most interesting thing was that the majority of Afghans who are illiterate wanted the colloquial banter rather than the more formal way that presenters nowadays talk on the radio,” he says, referring to a survey carried out by the station.

< email | 6/16/2003 01:02:00 PM | link

Mr Akbari, head of the public works department in Herat discusses some of the thing his department has done in the last year.

These projects were accomplished during last year:
250,000 metres of the city's roads have been asphalted well, including the roads in Park-e Mellat, Khawja Saheb Ansari Road, Military Corps No 4 Road, the road from Darb-e Khosh to Soltan Aqa and Nur Hospital Road.

Preparatory works, asphalting and demolition of buildings for enlarging the roads of the highway from the finance department to Military Corps No 4 were carried out. Furthermore, the road from the finance department to the Park Hotel was repaired and asphalted.

Kargar Park, which had been one of the biggest recreational parks of the city and had been completely destroyed, was repaired in addition to its hotel. Some saplings were planted and a deep well was dug in this park. In addition, a 300-metre stone wall was constructed around the park and then it was rented.

The depots of transport of Pashton Pol have been covered with 2,000 square meters of (?granite) and turnery machines in this location have been repaired.

The tank of Pashton Pol, which was broken down, has been repaired and now it is being utilized.

The Sar-e Jangal building, which was completely destroyed, has been reconstructed. A pump station was also constructed there.

From Sar-e Jangal to Mir Daud shoulders have been built, narrow streams have been dug and saplings were planted. Erosion made by flooding was also repaired.

From the transit duty booth located in Kamar Kalaq to Torghondi town, some work was done in order to prevent flooding and landslides.

Some places along the highway that possibly vehicles would fall down from were reconstructed from Mir Daud to Shindand.

Sixty km from Herat customs road to the vicinity of Khosh Rabat and from Adraskan District to Shindand were repaired.

About 60 bridges were constructed from Military Corps No 4 to Gozara District.

< email | 6/16/2003 12:58:00 PM | link

Good old Comrade Bob. Blame the whites. The only problem is that most of the country's blacks are against him, too. After all, his administration has stated that they can do without 6 million or so that are not with the "revolution". And there are not that many whites there. MDC is not a white run political party Martin Tsvangirai is not white. Nor are the other opposition leaders in Mugabes jails. Nor are the thousands protesting in the streets.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe Friday attacked whites in the country for refusing reconciliation and vowed his government would not tolerate any more protests from the opposition, state television reported.

"They (whites) never accepted our rule, black rule," Mugabe told a rally in Nyamandlovu in southwestern Zimbabwe.

"They never accepted Zimbabwe was independent, they continued to live in Rhodesia in their imagination," he said in reference to the country when it still under white minority rule.

"We can run this country without the whites," he added.

< email | 6/16/2003 12:51:00 PM | link

Money illegal in Zimbabwe? Considering how worthless the currency is at this point, this law effectively bans money.

Zimbabweans struggling with hyperinflation and grubby wads of worthless banknotes learnt this week that police will now view holding large stashes of cash as a crime.

With prices rising by the day, people visit shops with extra bags to carry Zimbabwe dollar bills. After filling up their cars, drivers routinely hand over more than 4 000 individual notes, bound into heavy bundles .

The pressure created by inflation of 270% has caused a national shortage of banknotes, paralysing the shattered economy. The highest denomination bill - Z500 - is worth barely R2.50 and is virtually unobtainable.

President Robert Mugabe routinely reacts to shortages by blaming the opposition and promising tough measures against his "nefarious enemies".

Thursday's edition of the Herald warned of "sterner measures against individuals or organisations found with huge stakes [sic] of banknotes".

David Chapfika, an MP from the ruling Zanu-PF party and chairman of parliament's finance committee, told the paper: "Zimbabwe has a sophisticated banking structure . . . and there is no need for anyone to be carrying huge stakes of money."

He claimed that all money in Zimbabwe belonged to the government.

Police have begun raiding companies and stopping people at roadblocks, searching for what they describe as "unusual" amounts of cash.

< email | 6/16/2003 12:47:00 PM | link

You've heard about UAV's and their extensive usage in Afghanistan and Iraq. But how about AUV's?

Remote Sub Can Patrol Shores; AUVs Find New Purpose In Anti-terror Age

Researchers, led by Mark Patterson, associate professor of marine science, at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary have developed an artificial neural network for use with an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named Fetch.

"We have only scratched the surface of this technology," said Zia-ur Rahman, research associate professor of Applied Science at the College of William and Mary. "The computer could be trained to recognize anything -- a person swimming, a submarine, a missile or a mine, anything." "This technology has countless applications," he added. Ultimately, the scientists hope to have Fetch2 autonomously follow the objects it detects.

Once trained to recognize these underwater dangers Fetch2 could be used to patrol coastlines, harbors and moored naval assets like ships and subs becoming an important tool in the war on terror and the battle to keep our shores safe.

< email | 6/16/2003 12:24:00 PM | link

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