30 October 2007

Egypt launches nuclear power program

President Hosni Mubarak said that Egypt is to build several nuclear power stations, relaunching a nuclear program frozen more than 20 years ago.

Mubarak said a decree would be issued in a few days' time to establish a higher council for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the official MENA news agency reported.

Mubarak said the program will be developed in cooperation with the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "within a framework of transparency and respect of commitments to the nuclear non-proliferation system."

Egypt initiated a nuclear energy program in the 1970s but abandoned it in 1986 after the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. Mubarak's regime recently outlined plans to revive it.

The 79-year-old president did not say which countries would cooperate in the construction of the power stations, nor how many were planned, but last year he discussed nuclear cooperation during visits to Russia and China.

Egypt has sought to reassure the international community by insisting that it will not import enriched uranium, amid tensions over the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

Analysts have argued that a nuclear alliance between Egypt and China - and possibly including Russia - could rile the United States, Egypt's traditional ally.-(© 2007 AAP/smh.com.au)

Why shouldn't Iran have nuclear weapons?

Israel has American warheads ready to fire
Iranians see only hypocrisy from the world's nuclear powers

By James C Moore

05/01/06 "The Independent" -- -- As international political powers seek Iran's capitulation on nuclear weapons development, little notice is given to what the Americans and the British have done to create this crisis nor what steps the Israelis might eventually take to make it profoundly more complicated.

Iran's antipathy toward the West did not spontaneously generate out of the crazed rhetoric of radical mullahs. It has been spurred by what Iranians see as hypocrisy on the part of members of the world's nuclear community, and the bumbled meddling of the US and UK in Iranian affairs for more than a half century.

Iran is dangerous, but the British and the Americans have helped to make it that way. And the situation is even more precarious than it appears.

Shortly after the Gulf War in 1991, Germany gave Israel two of its diesel-powered Dolphin-class submarines. The Israelis agreed to purchase a third at a greatly reduced price. In November 2005, Germany announced that it was selling two more subs to Israel for $1.2bn (£660m).

Defence analysts have suggested the Dolphin-class boats are a means for Israel to have a second-strike capability from the sea if any of its land-based defence systems are hit by enemy nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war is geopolitically afoot: Israel and the American president might not be willing to wait until after the first shot is fired.

Initially, Israel was expected to arm its submarine fleet with its own short-range Popeye missiles carrying conventional warheads. At least three mainstream publications in the US and Germany, however, have confirmed the vessels have been fitted with US-made Harpoon missiles with nuclear tips. Each Dolphin-class boat can carry 24 missiles.

Although Israel has not yet taken delivery of the two new submarines, the three presently in its fleet have the potential to launch 72 Harpoons. Stratfor, a Texas intelligence business, claims the Harpoons are designed to seek out ship-sized targets on the sea but could be retrofitted with a different guidance system.

According to independent military journalist Gordon Thomas, that has already happened. He has reported the Harpoons were equipped with "over the horizon" software from a US manufacturer to make them suitable for attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. Because the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf make the Israeli subs easily detectable, two of them are reported to be patrolling the deeper reaches of the Gulf of Oman, well within range of Iranian targets.

If Israel has US nuclear weaponry pointed at Iran, the position of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, becomes more politically supportable by his people. Despite the fact that Israel has been developing nuclear material since 1958, the country has never formally acknowledged it has a nuclear arsenal. Analysts have estimated, however, that Israel is the fifth-largest nuclear power on the planet with much of its delivery systems technology funded by US taxpayers. To complicate current diplomatic efforts, Israel, like Pakistan and India, has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty even as it insists in the international discourse that Iran be stopped from acquiring what Israel already has.

Before Ariel Sharon's health failed, Der Speigel reported that the then Israeli prime minister had ordered his country's Mossad intelligence service to go into Iran and identify nuclear facilities to be destroyed. Journalist Seymour Hersh has also written that the US military already has teams inside Iran picking targets and working to facilitate political unrest. It is precisely this same type of tactic by the US and the UK, used more than a half century ago, which has led us to the contemporary nuclear precipice.

In 1953, Kermit Roosevelt led the CIA overthrow of Mohamed Mossadeq, Iran's democratic- ally elected prime minister. Responding to a populace that had grown restive under imperialist British influence, Mossadeq had plans to nationalise the vast oil fields of his country.

At the prompting of British intelligence, the CIA executed strategic bombings and political harassments of religious leaders, which became the foundation of Mossadeq's overthrow. Shah Reza Pahlevi, whose strings were pulled from Downing Street and Washington, became a brutal dictator who gave the multinational oil companies access to Iranian reserves. Over a quarter of a century later, the Iranian masses revolted, tossed out the Shah, and empowered the radical Ayatollah Khomeini.

Iran has the strength needed to create its current stalemate with the West. Including reserves, the Iranian army has 850,000 troops - enough to deal with strained American forces in Iraq, even if US reserves were to be deployed. The Iranians also have North Korean surface-to-air missiles with a 1,550-mile range and able to carry a nuclear warhead.

America cannot invade and occupy. Iran's response would likely be an invasion of southern Iraq, populated, as is Iran, with Shias who could be enlisted to further destabilise Iraq. There are also reported to be thousands of underground nuclear facilities and uranium gas centrifuges in Iran, and it is impossible for all of them to be eliminated. But the Israelis might be willing to try. An Israeli attack on Iran would give Bush some political cover at home. The president could continue to argue that Israel has a right to protect itself.

But what if Israeli actions endanger America? Israel cannot attack without the US being complicit. Israeli jets would have to fly through Iraqi air space, which would require US permission. And America's Harpoon missiles would be delivering the warheads. These would blow up Iranian nuclear facilities and also launch an army of Iranian terrorists into the Western world.

But George Bush is still without a respectable presidential legacy. He might be willing to risk everything to mark his place in history as the man who stopped Iran from getting nukes. The greater fear, though, is that he becomes the first person to pull the nuclear trigger since Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and then his place in the history books will be assured.-(informationclearinghouse)

Cheney's Plan for Iran Attack Starts With Israeli Missile Strike

10/26/07 "Der Spiegel" -- - US Vice President Dick Cheney -- the power behind the throne, the eminence grise, the man with the (very) occasional grandfatherly smile -- is notorious for his propensity for secretiveness and behind-the-scenes manipulation. He's capable of anything, say friends as well as enemies. Given this reputation, it's no big surprise that Cheney has already asked for a backroom analysis of how a war with Iran might begin.

In the scenario concocted by Cheney's strategists, Washington's first step would be to convince Israel to fire missiles at Iran's uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. Tehran would retaliate with its own strike, providing the US with an excuse to attack military targets and nuclear facilities in Iran.

This information was leaked by an official close to the vice president. Cheney himself hasn't denied engaging in such war games. For years, in fact, he's been open about his opinion that an attack on Iran, a member of US President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil," is inevitable.

Given these not-too-secret designs, Democrats and Republicans alike have wondered what to make of the still mysterious Israeli bombing run in Syria on Sept. 6. Was it part of an existing war plan? A test run, perhaps? For days after the attack, one question dominated conversation at Washington receptions: How great is the risk of war, really?

Grandiose Plans, East and West

In the September strike, Israeli bombers were likely targeting a nuclear reactor under construction, parts of which are alleged to have come from North Korea. It is possible that key secretaries in the Bush cabinet even tried to stop Israel. To this day, the administration has neither confirmed nor commented on the attack.

Nevertheless, in Washington, Israel's strike against Syria has revived the specter of war with Iran. For the neoconservatives it could represent a glimmer of hope that the grandiose dream of a democratic Middle East has not yet been buried in the ashes of Iraq. But for realists in the corridors of the State Department and the Pentagon, military action against Iran is a nightmare they have sought to avert by asking a simple question: "What then?"

The Israeli strike, or something like it, could easily mark the beginning of the "World War III," which President Bush warned against last week. With his usual apocalyptic rhetoric, he said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could lead the region to a new world war if his nation builds a nuclear bomb.

Conditions do look ripe for disaster. Iran continues to acquire and develop the fundamental prerequisites for a nuclear weapon. The mullah regime receives support -- at least moral support, if not technology -- from a newly strengthened Russia, which these days reaches for every chance to provoke the United States. President Vladimir Putin's own (self-described) "grandiose plan" to restore Russia's armed forces includes a nuclear buildup. The war in Iraq continues to drag on without an end in sight or even an opportunity for US troops to withdraw in a way that doesn't smack of retreat. In Afghanistan, NATO troops are struggling to prevent a return of the Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists. The Palestinian conflict could still reignite on any front.

In Washington, Bush has 15 months left in office. He may have few successes to show for himself, but he's already thinking of his legacy. Bush says he wants diplomacy to settle the nuclear dispute with Tehran, and hopes international pressure will finally convince Ahmadinejad to come to his senses. Nevertheless, the way pressure has been building in Washington, preparations for war could be underway.

In late September, the US Senate voted to declare the 125,000-man Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. High-ranking US generals have accused Iran of waging a "proxy war" against the United States through its support of Shiite militias in Iraq. And strategists at the Pentagon, apparently at Cheney's request, have developed detailed plans for an attack against Tehran.

Instead of the previous scenario of a large-scale bombardment of the country's many nuclear facilities, the current emphasis is, once again, on so-called surgical strikes, primarily against the quarters of the Revolutionary Guards. This sort of attack would be less massive than a major strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Conservative think tanks and pundits who sense this could be their last chance to implement their agenda in the Middle East have supported and disseminated such plans in the press. Despite America's many failures in Iraq, these hawks have urged the weakened president to act now, accusing him of having lost sight of his principal agenda and no longer daring to apply his own doctrine of pre-emptive strikes.

Sheer Lunacy?

The notion of war with Iran has spilled over into other circles, too. Last Monday Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives, made it clear that the president would first need Congressional approval to launch an attack. Meanwhile, Republican candidates for the White House have debated whether they would even allow such details to get in their way. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said he would consult his attorneys to determine whether the US Constitution does, in fact, require a president to ask for Congressional approval before going to war. Vietnam veteran John McCain said war with Iran was "maybe closer to reality than we are discussing tonight."

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has also adopted a hawkish stance, voting in favor of the Senate measure to classify the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Her rivals criticized Clinton for giving the administration a blank check to go to war.

The US military is building a base in Iraq less than 10 kilometers (about six miles) from Iran's border. The facility, known as Combat Outpost Shocker, is meant for American soldiers preventing Iranian weapons from being smuggled into Iraq. But it's also rumored that Bush authorized US intelligence agencies in April to run sabotage missions against the mullah regime on Iranian soil.

Gary Sick is an expert on Iran who served as a military adviser under three presidents. He believes that such preparations mark a significant shift in the government's strategy. "Since August," says Sick, "the emphasis is no longer on the Iranian nuclear threat," but on Iran's support for terrorism in Iraq. "This is a complete change and is potentially dangerous."

It would be relatively easy for Bush to prove that Tehran, by supporting insurgents in Iraq, is responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. It might be harder to prove that Iran's nuclear plans pose an immediate threat to the world. Besides, the nuclear argument is reminiscent of an embarrassing precedent, when the Bush administration used the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction -- which he didn't -- as a reason to invade Iraq. Even if the evidence against Tehran proves to be more damning, the American public will find it difficult to swallow this argument again.

The forces urging a diplomatic resolution also look stronger than they were before Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wants the next step to be a third round of even tighter sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. Rice has powerful allies at the Pentagon: Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral William Fallon, head of US Central Command, which is responsible for American forces throughout the region.

Rice and her cohorts all favor diplomacy, partly because they know the military is under strain. After four years in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US lacks manpower for another major war, especially one against a relatively well-prepared adversary. "For many senior people at the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department, a war would be sheer lunacy," says security expert Sick.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and now a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, agrees. A war against Tehran would be "a disaster for the entire world," says Riedel, who worries about a "battlefield extending from the Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent." Nevertheless, he believes there is a "realistic risk of a military conflict," because both sides look willing to carry things to the brink.

On the one hand, says Riedel, Iran is playing with fire, challenging the West by sending weapons to Shiite insurgents in Iraq. On the other hand, hotheads in Washington are by no means powerless. Although many neoconservative hawks have left the Bush administration, Cheney remains their reliable partner. "The vice president is the closest adviser to the president, and a dominant figure," says Riedel. "One shouldn't underestimate how much power he still wields."

'Is it 1938 Again?'

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran last week also played into the hands of hardliners in Washington, who read it as proof that Putin isn't serious about joining the West's effort to convince Tehran to abandon its drive for a nuclear weapon. Moreover, the countries bordering the Caspian Sea, including Central Asian nations Washington has courted energetically in recent years, have said they would not allow a war against Tehran to be launched from their territory.

Cheney derives much of his support from hawks outside the administration who fear their days are as numbered as the President's. "The neocons see Iran as their last chance to prove something," says analyst Riedel. This aim is reflected in their tone. Conservative columnist Norman Podhoretz, for example -- a father figure to all neocons -- wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he "hopes and prays" that Bush will finally bomb Iran. Podhoretz sees the United States engaged in a global war against "Islamofascism," a conflict he defines as World War IV, and he likens Iran to Nazi Germany. "Is it 1938 again?" he asks in a speech he repeats regularly at conferences.

Podhoretz is by no means an eccentric outsider. He now serves as a senior foreign-policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani. President Bush has also met with Podhoretz at the White House to hear his opinions.

Nevertheless, most experts in Washington warn against attacking Tehran. They assume the Iranians would retaliate. "It would be foolish to believe surgical strikes will be enough," says Riedel, who believes that precision attacks would quickly escalate to war.

Former presidential adviser Sick thinks Iran would strike back with terrorist attacks. "The generals of the Revolutionary Guard have had several years to think about asymmetrical warfare," says Sick. "They probably have a few rather interesting ideas."

According to Sick, detonating well-placed bombs at oil terminals in the Persian Gulf would be enough to wreak havoc. "Insurance costs would skyrocket, causing oil prices to triple and triggering a global recession," Sick warns. "The economic consequences would be enormous, far greater than anything we have experienced with Iraq so far."

Because the catastrophic consequences of an attack on Iran are obvious, many in Washington have a fairly benign take on the current round of saber rattling. They believe the sheer dread of war is being used to bolster diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis and encourage hesitant members of the United Nations Security Council to take more decisive action. The Security Council, this argument goes, will be more likely to approve tighter sanctions if it believes that war is the only alternative.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan-(informationclearinghouse)

29 October 2007

Update on the predictions of Michel Hayek

Beirut - George Salibi of Lebanon's New TV interviewed Michel Hayek for an update on his predictions. Hayek is famous for his predictions, which in most cases turned out to be true.

...Hayek is predicting that the current developments will turn out to be better for Lebanon

-The presidential entitlement is being used as an excuse in a scheme to target the nation of Lebanon

-The scheme aims at the homeland, and not the Presidency of the Republic ( he added )

-The presidential election will take place despite the current opposition

-The financial situation in Lebanon and the rest of the world will face several bumps and "I urge Riad Salame the governor of the central bank to be cautious and alert " he said

-There will be no civil war but Lebanon will face internal problems , unrest and clashes

-The economic situation in Lebanon will overcome the pitfalls

-Lebanon will witness a surge in real estate market activity

-Lebanon to host several global economic conferences

-High honor awards will be given to Laila al Solh and May Chidiac, "as well as to two other Lebanese whose names are not clear in my memory " he added

-In the near term does he does not see any partitioning of Lebanon . He also does not see the end of the series of assassinations despite the discovery by the security services of several threads to these assassinations.

-Lebanese skies will witness major fireworks to celebrate the fall of the Israeli leader

-Border clashes between Lebanon, Syria and Israel

-Shaker Al-Absi ( fugitive leader of Fatah al Islam) will show up again, and his case will no longer be ambiguous

-Opposition tents cause some internal problems. Some tents will soon be dismantled and their occupants are preparing for departure.

-Commander Michel Suleiman of the Lebanese army, will face a scheme aimed at what the army has accomplished

-Riots targeting the overall situation will take place

-The army will witness many changes in its ranks

-Attempts to strike the Lebanese military institution

-There will be a coup attempt and the army will firmly confront the local forces behind it. Many civilians behind the coup will pose as military personnel but the army will confront them and take control of the situation.

-Michel Aoun and Fouad Siniora will be the latest targets in a new conspiracy scheme

-The highest authority of the Party of God ( Hezbollah ) will take a decision that will surprise everyone regarding an issue that affects one of its symbols.

-A problem arises from the erection of a poster in one of the Lebanese regions

-Sarkozy will face a complex crisis which will leave negative effects

In addition to his predictions , Hayek this time offered some advice:

Advised US President George W Bush to withdraw his army from all over the world for the sake of peace .

Told Syrian president Bashar Assad. We want to live with you as two brotherly nations on the basis of mutual respect, sovereignty, freedom and independence.

Advised President Ahmadinejad ( of Iran ) to prove that the nuclear installations in Iran are for peaceful purposes.-(YL)

27 October 2007

Parking Meters returning to Beirut

Beirut - Come Monday, Beirut city officials hope to help ease the Lebanese capital's nightmarish traffic congestion with the first parking meters installed since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Twenty of the coin- and card-operated machines will be inaugurated in a trendy shopping area of the city centre, which has for the most part been declared off-limits to parking for security concerns.

Colonel Joseph Doueihy, in charge of the traffic department at the interior ministry, told reporters that gradually more units will be installed throughout the capital as part of a major effort to regulate circulation.

Funding for the project came from the World Bank.

"I think enforcement always leads to results because in the end citizens think of the bottom line, of their pockets," Doueihy said.

He said people who fail to feed the meters or who overstay the two-hour limit risk a ticket of 20,000 pounds (about 13 dollars) or even being towed.

"We have a special police force from the traffic department that will be enforcing the regulations," Doueihy said. "Our aim is to institute order and to ease the city's traffic chaos."

Shops and businesses along the streets where the parking meters have been installed
welcomed the measure, saying it should attract customers who are currently prevented from parking in the area which is roped off.

"At least with the parking meters, people will be able to stop for five or 10 minutes to carry out their business in the area," said Tony Attallah, a security agent at Bank of Beirut.

At the nearby Timberland clothing store, employee Shafic Shamseddin said he hoped the meters would bring in customers who shy away from coming in right now because of the parking problem.

"I think given the mentality of the Lebanese, the cops are initially going to be giving out a lot of tickets," he said. "But after people get their first ticket, they will have learned a good lesson and will abide by the law."

But Safaa Shaker, who works at Anabel, a craft store, doubted the meters would help ease the city's traffic nightmare.

"I don't think people will respect the rules because they are used to chaos," she said. "I think they will try and find a way to beat the system.

"And even if they get tickets, do you really think they will pay them?"

Parking meters existed before the 15-year civil war but were destroyed in the fighting. Traffic lights have also made a tentative return since the conflict.

25 October 2007

Lebanese Shops Looted Following Killing of Sierra Leone Girl

Scores of Sierra Leonean youths rampaged across the capital Freetown ransacking over a dozen shops owned by Lebanese traders from early Thursday, police said.

The riots in the war-scarred and desperately impoverished west African country were sparked by the death of a local teenage girl allegedly at the hands of a Lebanese gems dealer in the eastern diamond-rich town of Kenema.

Police assistant inspector general Elizabeth Turay said the 18-year-old Alima Kamara died in a "suspected murder" case on Monday in Kenema, some 300 kilometres (190 miles) east of Freetown.

Lebanese diamond dealer Mohamed Basma, 40, and a friend of the dead girl, Victoria Jarret, were being questioned by police in Freetown, police officials said.

Police moved in to restore order and protect the shops based in downtown Freetown, where scores of youths rioted and looted electric power generators, mobile phones and an array of household goods.

"It is a great shock, what has been done to Lebanese shops," head of the 10,000-strong Lebanese community in Sierra Leone, Sani Hassaniyeh told AFP, adding all Lebanese outfits including schools had been closed as a result.

Sierra Leone has had a large Lebanese business community over the past four decades, since many settled there after independence from Britain in 1961.(AFP)

Qoleitat denies wrongdoing after release from Brazilian jail

The former executive secretary of Al-Madina Bank, Rana Qoleilat, pleaded her own innocent Wednesday in her first interview since her release from Brazilian jail two weeks ago.

" I am innocent and I have been falsely accused ... otherwise the Brazilian authorities would not have released me," Qoleilat told the Free Patriotic Movement-affiliated radio station Sawt al-Ghad.

Qoleilat also denied having " any sort of" connections with the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Beirut Chief Investigating Magistrate Abdel-Rahim Hammoud cleared the former secretary as well as the owner of Al-Madina, Ibrahim Abu Ayash, and other employees of all charges " for lack of sufficient evidence," a judicial report said.

Hammoud dismissed evidence that the former bank officials had committed the crimes of fraud and forgery.

Brazilian authorities had released Qoleilat one day before the Lebanese judiciary' s decision. She had been held by Brazil since March 2006.

Qoleilat fled to Brazil in the wake of Hariri' s killing.

She was previously jailed in Lebanon for her alleged role in the disappearance of more than $300 million from Al-Madina Bank in 2003.

The Lebanese government has sought to question Qoleilat over the possible use of cash transfers from Al-Madina to finance the Hariri assassination.

" I wish they would stop fabricating all those rumors about me," she said, adding that investigations conducted by the United Nations probe committee, " clearly indicate that I have nothing to do with it."

Qoleilat also dismissed the news of her having to leave Brazil in the next eight days.

" Miss Qoleilat is free to remain in Brazil for as long as she wants," interjected Qoleilat' s attorney, Michel Hanna Riachi, who was also interviewed.

Asked about future plans, Qoleilat said that she has not yet decided where she will live.

" I am thinking of going on a world tour to visit as many countries as I can and later on decide on where to settle down," she said.

Describing her periods of incarceration in Brazilian as well as Lebanese prisons, Qoleilat said that the experiences had " taught me a lot."

" I now realize that there are many innocent people thrown in jails on a daily basis all over the world ... and I thank every person or association that helped me during the hard times I faced," she added.

Qoleilat also expressed hope that the Lebanese judiciary would follow the example of the Brazilian judiciary and prove her innocence in the remaining lawsuits filed against her.-(terra/DS)

24 October 2007

-Israel sells Lebanon bulletproof cars

Zionist firms have been exporting bulletproof vehicles to Lebanon to protect the country's anti-Syrian figures, Israeli media reported.

Channel 10 of Israel said the Zionist regime had been selling bulletproof cars, capable of protecting against bomb explosions and anti-tank missiles, to Lebanon for two years.

The Zionist regime would send the cars to Jordan and from there into Iraq. The vehicles were then entered into Lebanon.

According to the source, many Zionist companies are now exporting their bulletproof cars to Lebanon through firms registered in Europe with fake names.-(presstv.ir)

Mars starts using animal products

Some of the UK's best-selling chocolate bars, such as Mars and Twix, will no longer be suitable for vegetarians.

Also affecting brands such as Snickers and Maltesers, owner Masterfoods said it had started to
use animal product rennet to make its chocolate products.

Masterfoods said the change was due to it switching the sourcing of its ingredients and the admission was a "principled decision" on its part.

The Vegetarian Society said the company's move was "incomprehensible".

'Extremely disappointed'

Masterfoods said it had started using rennet from 1 May and non-affected products had a "best before date" up to 1 October.

Rennet, a chemical sourced from calves' stomachs, is used in the production of whey.

It will now also be found in Bounty, Minstrels and Milky Way products, and the ice cream versions of all Masterfoods' bars.

"If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable, but a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate," said Paul Goalby, corporate affairs manager for Masterfoods.

The Vegetarian Society said it was "extremely disappointed".

"At a time when more and more consumers are concerned about the provenance of their food, Masterfoods' decision to use non-vegetarian whey is a backward step," it said in a statement.

"Mars products are very popular with young people and many will be shocked to discover that their manufacture now relies on the extraction of rennet from the stomach lining of young calves," it added.

22 October 2007

Six-year expat cap gets UAE backing

Plans that could see millions of people forced out of the Gulf under a six-year residency cap for unskilled workers took a step closer on Monday when the UAE labour minister said the Emirates will back the proposal.

Speaking in the run-up to a meeting of GCC labour ministers in Riyadh next month, Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi said the issue will be top of the agenda.

“The cap of three years, renewable for another three years, will be applicable to unskilled labourers working in GCC countries, and will help tackle the demographic imbalance in this region,” Al Ka'abi said, quoted UAE daily Gulf News.

Secret armies pose sinister new threat to Lebanon

Lebanon is peopled with ghosts. But the phantoms now returning to haunt this damaged country –the militias which tore it apart more than 30 years ago – are real. Guns are flooding back into the country – $800 for an AK-47, $3,700 for a brand-new French Famas – as Lebanon security apparatus hunt desperately for the leadership of the new and secret armies.

Only last week, they arrested two followers of ex-General Michel Aoun – the pro-Hezbollah opposition's apparent candidate for president – for allegedly training pro-Aounist gunmen. After themselves being accused of acting like a militia for arresting Dario Kodeih and Elie Abi Younes, the Lebanese Internal Security Force issued a photograph of Christian gunmen holding AK-47 and M-16 rifles. Aoun's party replied quaintly that "they were just out having fun with real weapons but were not undergoing any military training". Fun indeed.

What now worries the Lebanese authorities, however, is the sheer scale of weaponry arriving in Lebanon. It appears to include new Glock pistols (asking price $1,000). There are growing fears, moreover, that many of these guns are from the vast stock of 190,000 rifles and pistols which the US military "lost" when they handed them out to Iraqi police officers without registering their numbers or destination. The American weapons included 125,000 Glock pistols. The Lebanese-Iraqi connection is anyway well established. A growing number of suicide bombers in Iraq come from the Lebanese cities of Tripoli and Sidon.

Fouad Siniora's Lebanese government – supplied by the US with recent shipments of new weapons for the official Lebanese army – has now admitted that militias are also being created among Muslim pro-government groups. Widespread reports that Saad Hariri – son of the assassinated ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri – has himself created an embryo militia have been officially denied. But a number of armed Hariri supporters initially opened fire into the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian camp after its takeover by pro-Al-Qaida gunmen last April. Hariri's men also have forces in Beirut (supposedly unarmed) and again this is denied. Those who suspect the opposite, however, might like to check the register of the Mayflower Hotel in the western sector of Beirut.

The Fatah Al-Islam rebels who took over Nahr el-Bared last April – 400 died in the 206-day siege by the army, 168 of them soldiers – also used new weapons, including sniper rifles. In a gloomy ceremony last week, the military buried 98 of the 222 Muslim fighters who died, in a mass grave in Tripoli. They included Palestinians but also men from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Tunis and Algeria.

Among the militants of Fatah Al -Islam still sought by Lebanese authorities are three Russians – "Abu Abdullah", Tamour Vladimir Khoskov and Aslan Eric Yimkojayev – all believed to be from the former Soviet Muslim republics. A fourth Russian citizen, Sergei Vladimir Fisotsk, is in custody in Beirut. Along with three Palestinians member of Fatah Al-Islam, he faces a possible death sentence.

Siniora's government is well aware of the dangers that these new developments represent – "such a situation could lead to a new civil war", one minister said of the military training taking place in Lebanon – in a country in which only the Hezbollah militia, classed as a "resistance" movement, hitherto had permission to bear arms. But Hezbollah too has been re-arming; not only with rockets but with small arms that could only be used in street fighting. Aoun's supporters were allegedly practising with weapons near the town of Byblos north of Beirut but there are reports of further training in the Bekaa Valley.

Military outposts manned by Palestinian gunmen loyal to Syria have reappeared in the Bekaa, closely watched by a Lebanese army which was severely blooded in the Nahr El-Bared fighting. Sayed Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah, one of the most senior – and wisest – Shi'ite clerics in Lebanon, warned last Friday: "Rearming as well as the tense and sectarianism-loaded political rhetoric, all threaten Lebanon's diversity and expose Lebanon to divisions." Fadlallah stated that the US – which supports Hariri – wished to divide the country. The American plan to chop up Iraq, it seems, is another ghost that has crept silently into Lebanon.-(RFisk/Independent)

U.S. Assisted Israel In Syrian Attack

"Reuters" - - Israel had obtained detailed pictures of a Syrian complex from an apparent mole, which supported an Israeli belief the facility was nuclear and led to an air strike on it last month, ABC News reported on Friday.

ABC, citing a senior U.S. official, said the person had provided several pictures of the complex from the ground, and Israel showed the images to the CIA. The U.S. spy agency helped pinpoint "drop points" to assist in potential targeting, ABC said.

Israel urged the United States to destroy the complex, but Washington hesitated because no fissionable material was found that would prove the site was nuclear, ABC said.

The network quoted the official as saying the facility was of North Korean design and that Syria must have had "human" help from North Korea.

The White House and the CIA declined to comment on the report, in keeping with a strict U.S. refusal to discuss the issue.

Israel has confirmed that it carried out an air strike on Syria on September 6 but it has not described the target. Syria has said only that it was a building under construction.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the targeted site was modeled on a facility North Korea used for stockpiling atomic bomb fuel. Syria has one declared, small research nuclear reactor under safeguard of the International Atomic Energy Agency and has denied hiding any nuclear activity.

The complex struck by Israel was in a remote area about 100 miles from the Iraqi border and along the Euphrates River, ABC said.

It said the official described the pictures as showing a large cylindrical structure, still under construction, with thick reinforced walls. There was also a secondary structure and a pump station with trucks around it.

"It was unmistakable what it was going to be. No doubt in my mind," ABC quoted the official as saying.

The United States had begun to consider ways to destroy the complex, such as a special forces raid using helicopters, ABC said. But it said the White House sent word the United States would not carry out a raid and urged Israel not to do it either.-(NYTimes/ICH)

20 October 2007

OMG Branding

An insight into Oman's manufacturing and ICT sectors
Saturday, October 20, 2007
OMG on Branding

According to Eng. Hamad Al Harthy, Director General of Rusayl Industrial Estate the dictionary definition of branding is: “the act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services,” and this is indeed the topic of discussion for PEIE’s Oman Manufacturing Group (OMG) seminar scheduled for 7:30pm Monday 29 October at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Al Harthy is amazed with how few domestic businesses understand the importance of branding. Indeed, he points out that recent research suggests that many businesses see no reason for investing in design, public relations, web innovation or in communicating core messages. “This is disappointing and something we really need to address,” remarks the PEIE Director General.

How a business, product or service is branded plays a major role in whether it succeeds or fails. “Let’s be honest, a brand isn’t a logo, it’s your ethics and persona. It’s your story. This includes your style of design, your execution of that design, your attitude, your marketing, your internal policies and your business process,” says Al Harthy. All of these influence your brand image. Indeed, according to Ernst & Young, up to 40 per cent of a company's market value is based on intangible assets - the emotional and psychological factors that enable a person to feel comfortable with, and relate to a brand.

Backed by some of Oman’s best known brands including Reem Batteries; Oman Cables; Ericsson; Agility; Omani Marble; Jotun; Videocon; Muna Noor Manufacturing & Trading; Future Pipe Industries; Al Mudhish; Oracle; Oman Oasis Water; and Khimji’s Permoglaze, OMG has been designed specifically by PEIE to bring manufacturers and those connected to the sector closer together.

“Creating the right identity doesn’t happen by accident but takes considerable understanding of target markets, a well-defined competitive strategy and the ability to communicate this effectively. These are the issues the next OMG seminar will tackle,” says Al Harthy.

“Many believe we’re on the cusp of a major shift in how Omani firms think about branding,” comments Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM). Historically, a brand was seen as a promise that said: “You can rely on what we’re offering because of our brand attributes.” This, in my opinion, is beginning to be replaced with a more customer centric branding where the message is: “I know you better than the competitors and you can trust me to put together the right products or services to meet your individual needs.” This branding paradigm shift is more than evident on KOM where firms have become very image conscious. They’re concerned about how they look, the quality of service they deliver and the messages they send out. ”
Blog contents copyright © 2007 PEIE

In Lebanon, a Comeback for Cannabis

Ali plucks a sprig of the cannabis sativa plant and sniffs its distinctive leaves with appreciation. This Lebanese farmer's field of marijuana, a splash of bright green on the sun-baked plains of eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, will yield around 33 pounds of cannabis resin, or hashish, which he will sell for about $10,000, many times more than he could hope to earn from legitimate crops and for almost no work at all.

"All I have to do is throw the seeds on the ground, add a little water, and that's it," says Ali, who spoke on the condition that his full name was not used. "I would be crazy not to grow [marijuana]."

It has been a bumper year for marijuana cultivation in the Bekaa Valley, the largest, growers say, since the "golden years" of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, when marijuana and heroin grown and processed here flooded the markets of Europe and the United States.

Hashish production is illegal in Lebanon, and each year since the early 1990s police backed by troops bulldoze the crops before they can be harvested, leaving farmers penniless. But the failure of United Nations and government programs to encourage the growth of legitimate crops, coupled with months of political crisis, deteriorating economic prospects, and a frail security climate have encouraged farmers to return to large-scale marijuana cultivation.

"The worse the security situation is in Lebanon, the more we can grow," says Ali.

Worth the Risk, Farmers Say

Despite the threat of police raids destroying their crops, farmers say the financial returns justify the risk. This year they were lucky, however. The Army was unable to spare troops to provide security for the police raids because of the raging battle during the summer growing season against Islamist militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. Furthermore, the heavily armed local farmers made it clear to the police that they would resist attempts to wipe out their marijuana crops.

"We told the police that for every [marijuana] plant they cut down, we would kill one policeman," says Ibtissam, the wife of a marijuana farmer in the village of Taraya.

Read More

Dubai CEO: Ownership worries won't stop investment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top official of a Dubai financial and regulatory center on Friday said emerging markets would continue to invest in U.S. and European companies despite uneasiness among some policy-makers in developed nations.

"It's unfortunate that there is this investment protectionism," Nasser Al Shaali, chief executive officer of the Dubai International Financial Centre, told Reuters. "It would behoove all of us to find areas of cooperation, mechanisms of cooperation rather than reaction to this process."

To address uneasiness over growing foreign ownership stakes in American companies, the U.S. Congress earlier this year passed a law overhauling how the government reviews foreign takeovers of U.S. companies. It requires U.S. regulators to spend more time vetting deals and keep Congress better informed.

However, concerns remain.

Eight U.S. lawmakers this week urged the Bush administration to block the proposed buyout of Massachusetts-based technology group 3Com Corp (COMS.O: Quote, Profile, Research), saying a Chinese company's role in the $2.2 billion transaction threatened U.S. national security.

Last month, some Democrats called for a careful national security review of a deal that would give Dubai's state-owned stock exchange control of 20 percent of Nasdaq, the exchange that is home to many top U.S. high-tech companies. In the proposed deal, Nasdaq would take a strategic one-third stake in Dubai International Financial Exchange, which operates under the DIFC umbrella.

DIFC was created by the government of Dubai to launch a regional capital market that allows 100 percent foreign ownership, tax-free income and profits, and that has strict money laundering laws and a sophisticated infrastructure.

"We will be increasing our participation in the U.S. and Europe. We will be going after those markets with more fervor to build bridges with those countries or with those peoples," he said.

Another concern among some Western policy-makers is the need for transparency and governance guidelines for big state-owned investment vehicles, called sovereign wealth funds, which now control an estimated $2 trillion in assets. The issue was on the table at meeting of Group of Seven finance officials in Washington on Friday.

Shaali said emerging market players have "more conviction than ever" that investment relationships with the United States and Europe should be strengthened.

"Even more so because of this reactive behavior," he said. "That is exactly and specifically what we are trying to overcome -- the fear factor or the xenophobia."

The president of DIFC is Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the ruler of Gulf trade and tourism hub Dubai and the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates of which it is a part.

Suspense tale tells behind-the-scenes start of Dubai exchange

When the two highest-ranked Saudi Arabian religious leaders at the Saudi consulate in New York declined to support the establishment of the proposed Dubai Mercantile Exchange, David Russo's spirits plummeted.

Russo, the protagonist of prolific writer Ben Mezrich's latest page-turner, "Rigged," feared that the months of hard work, globetrotting, networking and Machiavellian machinations he and his friend Khaled Abdul-Aziz, a member of the Dubai ruling family, had invested in the ambitious project had turned into a futile exercise.

Although Saudi Arabia could not dictate what the sheiks of the United Arab Emirates did in their sovereign territories, the Saudi clerics had the power to kill the project simply by declaring that such an exchange in a Muslim country would violate sharia law.

The trading of derivatives would be haraam, forbidden.

"But according to Khaled, in practice as it applied to Dubai, sharia law was whatever the religious and political leaders of Saudi Arabia decided it was. When it came to matters of business in Dubai, Saudi Arabia was the 800-pound gorilla in the region because of the level of investment in the region and its power over the sheiks themselves," writes Mezrich.
Russo and Khaled had accomplished the seemingly impossible already by convincing the board of the New York Mercantile Exchange that partnering with Dubai on an exchange for trading oil in the politically volatile Middle East was a gamble worth the risk. The Nymex board's approval, of course, was contingent upon the acquiescence of the Saudis.
It appeared to Russo that the Saudis had weighed in against it, even though Khaled had pointed out that Dubai's emirate had set up free zones where in practice charging interest would be allowed.
"They hadn't said no. Which meant that the Dubai exchange wasn't haraam. It wasn't forbidden," writes Mezrich.
The DME, a joint venture of Dubai Holding, the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Oman Investment Fund, is now located in the Dubai International Financial Centre.
"Rigged" is a mostly true story of behind-the-scenes events that led to the creation of the exchange.
Fiction techniques are employed to create an atmosphere of suspense and enhance the readability of the true story.
Even more eye-widening to some readers will be Mezrich's representation of what is evolving out of the desert in Dubai — the proliferating futuristic skyscrapers, the man-made islands, the luxury hotels, the indoor ski courses and the whole smorgasbord of development and amenities for luxurious living that is transforming Dubai into a tourist mecca and commercial crossroads.-(azstarnet)

Water deals worth SR3b signed in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH — Water deals, worth $800 million (SR3 billion), considered to be the first of its kind in the Middle East, were signed in Riyadh on Monday.

Hashim Yamani, minister of industry and chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Organisation for Industrial Estates and Technology Zones (SOIETZ), signed the contracts for water management services to be executed in three industrial cities in the Kingdom in cooperation with the International Company for Water Distribution (Tawzea).

Tawzea said that the contracts will cover a period of 30 years. Tawzea is one of the first national companies to provide water services and facilities management in a comprehensive and integrated method. The company is a 50/50 percent joint venture between AmiWater, a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian Amiantit Company, specialising in water management projects, and the Saudi Company for Industrial Services (SISCO).

Tawfiq Al Rabea, general director of SOIETZ, said that the signing of the contracts for the allocation of water services was part of the system to upgrade its services "in order to overcome all obstacles industrialists might face." He added that the projects would help make industrial cities in the Kingdom benchmark cities and models for others.-(k.times)

Water deals worth SR3b signed in Saudi Arabia

(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Water deals, worth $800 million (SR3 billion), considered to be the first of its kind in the Middle East, were signed in Riyadh on Monday.

Hashim Yamani, minister of industry and chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Organisation for Industrial Estates and Technology Zones (SOIETZ), signed the contracts for water management services to be executed in three industrial cities in the Kingdom in cooperation with the International Company for Water Distribution (Tawzea).

Tawzea said that the contracts will cover a period of 30 years. Tawzea is one of the first national companies to provide water services and facilities management in a comprehensive and integrated method.

The company is a 50/50 percent joint venture between AmiWater, a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian Amiantit Company, specialising in water management projects, and the Saudi Company for Industrial Services (SISCO).

Tawfiq Al Rabea, general director of SOIETZ, said that the signing of the contracts for the allocation of water services was part of the system to upgrade its services "in order to overcome all obstacles industrialists might face."

He added that the projects would help make industrial cities in the Kingdom benchmark cities and models for others.

18 October 2007

Putin sides with Iran on nuclear question

Tehran's neighbors warned against foreign collaboration.-(LATimes)

Bush warns of World War III if Iran goes nuclear

We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel, US president says at White House press conference after Russia cautions against military action against Tehran's suspected atomic program.

US President George W. Bush said Wednesday that he had warned world leaders they must prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons "if you're interested in avoiding World War III."

"We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," Bush said at a White House press conference after Russia cautioned against military action against Tehran's suspected atomic program.

"So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," said Bush.-(AFP)

Blackwater: Mercenaries by Definition

"Progressive Daily Beacon" -- --- Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater mercenaries, has been a huge financial supporter of George W. Bush and the Republican Party. That might explain why Mister Bush's State Department worked with Prince's people to try and cover up the latest Blackwater slaughter of civilians in Iraq, and could be a big part of the reason why so many Republicans came to the chief mercenary's defense during Congressional hearings. His fondness for and belief in all things Republican probably answers too, Erik Prince's problem with honesty.

Blackwater's Mister Prince has a problem with people calling his mercenaries well ... err ... mercenaries. He appeared on CBS's "60 Minutes," a onetime news program-turned Blackwater infomercial, and said with a straight face, "You know the definition of a mercenary is a professional soldier that works in the pay of a foreign army. I’m an American working for America."

Nobody is denying Erik Prince's claim of being a United States citizen. But he wasn't being honest about his corporate mercenaries, nor was he being completely honest about the characteristics that define a mercenary. Mister Prince chose to emphasize only half of the mercenary equation. Still, even then, he was misleading.

Erik Prince's mercenaries make a great deal of money. They're paid much, much, much more than the average U.S. soldier. Though Prince chose to ignore it, a mercenary is also defined as someone who is, "motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain." Prince would probably insist that the people in his employ are motivated by a desire to serve the United States' interests, which he would further argue is Blackwater's singular goal in Iraq. As far as Iraq goes, such a claim may or may not be true? If it were true, everyone in Blackwater could have joined the U.S. military. But obviously "a desire for monetary or material gain" played a role in their choosing Blackwater over the Army and the Marine Corps.

One wonders too -- as it relates to his men being hired out to corporations -- how Erik Prince would defend his company against the mercenary charge? Is the person defending an oil company's platform in Africa doing it out of a desire to serve his or her country, or is he or she doing it because the money is so damned good?

Still, even by Prince's own definition, he and his employees are mercenaries. "You know the definition of a mercenary is a professional soldier that works in the pay of a foreign army," Erik Prince rationalized.

Certainly Mister Prince realizes that the United States military is a foreign force occupying Iraq. From the perspective of the few Iraqis who actually survive an encounter with Blackwater, Mister Prince and his hair-triggered maniacs are professional soldiers working in the pay of a foreign military ... the United States military.

The point, of course, is that no matter how Erik Prince tries to spin and lie; he and every Blackwater employee in Iraq is a mercenary-(ICH/A. Alexander)

17 October 2007

Aggressive Low Profile Land Trade

Jizzeen! with shiite majority (850,000/population); Original inhabitants are not anymore there in principle! Hizbolla is not encouraging this rush for purchase, as reported on LBC "bikilljir2a" reportage on 16/10/2007; Hasbayya and Shoof till Jizzeen, North Bekaa and continuing to West Bekaa... Purchase-Attacks is in progress to connect Mashghara and Kobbilliyass!
Jebel Lubnan: Target is to circle Aley/Shoof and connect Mashghara to North Bekaa again.

Haret Hreik is changing: 600 to 800$/m2 were the rates of selling of South Dahyeh where Christian majority is being reported as native.

Actual reports say that not only Hizbolla is buying as input by name, however two main families are divided as Tajiddine family and Yassine family;

Ali Tajiddine & Khalil Yassine, Tajiddine is shiite and Yasine is sunni.

Ghbayreh, Bir Hasan, Shiyyeh etc... in South Beirut sold, out of need; but comments still that most did not yet return to their deserted homes. "Jizzeen is to be connected with the South" Chamoon said in commenting in deduction on the report.

200 to300 buildings in Dahiyeh are not inhabited! so, it's not a real estate issue!

*Plot# 411 in Hadath was bought by Tajiddine (Tajco); more trades are being recorded in different companies but owned by Tajiddine; Tajiddine activities are not restricted to housing, but to a large network of services like auto-shops, welding and repair shops etc...
*5000,000m2 in Darayya/Shouf by Tajuddine
*300,000m2 in Hasbayya by Tajuddine
*1000,000m2 in Jizzeen & Hasbayya too by Tajuddine

-It's being reported, BankSadirat Iran is pumping cash!
-Owners reported that $40,000 houses were bought for $400,000!!!!!
-Identities are being changed officially from North Bekaa to Taalabeya!

"Fraz'il Ard after Farz'il Sukkan"; Of courseJizzeen:

Tabbook block factories and lands in valleys:
400,000m2 surrounding the factory with amounts of $600,000 spent in abandoned valleys owned by Khalil Yassine.
More than 114 plots with more 1.5Mil m2 of lands most registered in lebanese and wifes of lebanese purchasers or by consignees!

Khalil Yassine a government modest employee... how & from where?
Moreover, after the chaos of news in the media sprouted with blasts, Yassine stopped registering all the remaining lands to avoid the media track.

"Haisam Aliya on behalf on Khalil Yassine interjected weakly saying that only trees are in that area... how can you nationalise palestinians in trees and bushes!".....!!!!

-Christians feel nolonger that they belong to that place....

Twin Fears:
-In Shiite: from Hizbolla future presence and prolifirations
-In Sunni: from future Palestinian nationalizations-(BDC)

16 October 2007

Water Solutions For Dubai

Dubai’s electricity and water provider says it has started construction of the largest water-pumping station ever attempted in the UAE.

In a statement, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) said today that the new facility on the Jebel Ali-Al Haba road will cost roughly Dh39 million.

Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO of DEWA, said the latest project will help meet the increasing demand for water by the addition of tens of thousands of new housing units in Dubai.

It should take about two years to complete, he said. “The new station will pump water from Jebel Ali station through a network to the new consumption areas in Dubai where demand for water is doubling due to rapid urban development.”

The station will house eight pumps, including two for emergency back-up, and will supply a total of 60 million gallons of waters per day.

The plant will bolster water demand in Dubai for 279,247 DEWA residential customers.

The authority provides water to 1,210 industrial customers as well as 52,527 commercial customers.

According to latest DEWA statistics, the authority required 72.6 million gallons in 2006 of which 71.7 million gallons were provided by desalination plants.

Total water consumption in 2006 was 64.9 million gallons with the largest consumer being residential at 38.5 million gallons followed closely by commercial with a demand of 16 million gallons. Industries consumed 3.3 million gallons last year.

Al Tayer said in a statement that the authority is meeting the challenge of the economic boom.

“As the emirate continues its vibrant progress in all spheres, DEWA meets the growing demand for water and electricity, by advanced planning, preparing the necessary groundwork and execution of its projects at the highest quality, safety and environmental standards,” he said.-(xpressme)

Empower, Logstor to build pipe factory in UAE

(MENAFN) Dubai-based Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corp. (Empower) and Logstor, the world's largest manufacturer of pre-insulated pipes announced a joint venture, Empower Logstor, to set up the UAE's largest pre-insulated pipe factory, Gulf News reported.

Under the agreement signed between the two sides, Empower will hold 51 percent stake in the venture, which will be operational by next year, with Logstor taking the remaining 49 percent stake.

The new firm will help service the demand for high quality pre-insulated pipes, especially for district cooling, which is increasingly being seen as the most energy efficient, safe, proven and environment-friendly solution to cool buildings.

Currently Empower handles projects for several prominent clusters including the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), Dubai Healthcare City, City of Arabia and Business Bay.

It is worth mentioning that the size of the regional pre-insulated pipe market is expected to exceed $1.5 billion over the next five years.

15 October 2007

Nakheel unveils the 'new map of Dubai'

Nakheel, one of the world's largest and most innovative real estate developers, is marking the opening of Cityscape 2007 by releasing a unique set of images showing the remarkable transformation of Dubai's landscape and coastline.

The photographs of Dubai's past, present and future show how Nakheel is literally transforming the map of Dubai. Satellite imagery shows Dubai in 1973, 1990, 2000 and 2007 and Nakheel is also releasing an image which shows what Dubai is predicted to look like once all of Nakheel's currently announced developments are completed.

As a major part of the Cityscape Dubai 2007, Nakheel will also unveil a new 13 metre-long scale model of Dubai incorporating all current Nakheel projects and other major projects in the city. Spanning from Jebel Ali to Deira, the model offers a preview of how Dubai might look in 2020. At Cityscape, it will be accompanied by a never-seen-before audio visual show which tells the story behind Dubai's and Nakheel's rapid development.

Nakheel is contributing to Dubai's transformation in a number of extraordinary ways. The company is creating an extra 1000 kilometres of coastline through some of the world's most iconic developments such as The Palm Trilogy and The World. Nakheel will be the provider of 50 per cent of Dubai's residential supply by building homes for three million people and also plans to create 10 million sq ft of retail space.

Having already played a leading role in establishing Dubai as a leading tourism destination, Nakheel's planned projects will include up to 250 new hotels - a 50 per cent increase on the current number. The Palm Jumeirah alone is more than doubling the number of beachfront hotels in Dubai, with more than 30 hotels and 14,000 rooms.

Chris O'Donnell, Nakheel CEO comments:

'At Nakheel we are not only building some of the world's most iconic developments, we have the great honour of actually changing the map of the one of the world's great cities - Dubai. We are helping to realise His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai's vision to create significantly more coastline for Dubai and through our waterfront developments we will add over 1,000 kilometres.

'As symbols of Dubai's transformation, developments such as The Palm and The World have already become new landmarks of the 21st century. Projects of this complexity and scale have never been attempted before and our achievements are changing the way the world looks at Dubai. You only have to look at these images to see how Dubai has developed incredibly over the last few decades. We are proud to be part of such an extraordinary story'

Project updates: The Palm Trilogy

From the beginning of construction on The Palm Jumeirah to the first residents moving in it took just five years. The first residents began moving in at the end of 2006 and now over 1,500 homes have been handed over. The Palm's villas and apartments sold out within days of launch and now yield average premiums of 70-120%. Over the next three to four years, Nakheel will transform The Palm Jumeirah into one of the world's premier resorts with an average of 25,000 hotel guests and 20,000 visitors a day. There will be 30 five star hotels including Atlantis and Trump Tower, luxury marinas, and a purpose built theatre for Cirque du Soleil. The QE2 will also be located off The Palm Jumeirah.

The Palm Jebel Ali which adds a further 100 kilometres of coastline is progressing at a rapid pace. Reclamation on the project began in October 2002 and reclamation of land from the original masterplan is now 100% complete. Reclamation of additions to the original master plan, including the lengthening of fronds and widening of the spine is underway. Primary breakwater construction work was completed in December 2006 by leading engineering company, Jan de Nul, and infrastructure work commenced in April 2007 with the construction of six bridges by Samsung which will connect to the mainland.

The first residential properties at The Palm Jebel Ali are due to be ready at the end of 2010. To date, all released properties have been sold with many experiencing premiums of 100%. On completion, The Palm Jebel Ali will be a self-sufficient city of 250,000 people that, along with the Waterfront City development, will create a vibrant new area of Dubai.

At the opposite end of Dubai, The Palm Deira - the newest and largest of the Palm developments - is also progressing well, and in terms of reclaimed land is already bigger than The Palm Jumeirah. Twenty per cent of the reclamation is already complete and reclamation of the entire project is on schedule to be completed by 2013. The Palm Deira will add 226 kilometres of coastline and will be approximately 45 million sqm in size. Eighty per cent of The Palm Deira is expected to be for residential purposes. This new 'city' will include a wide variety of facilities, amenities and public services, from schools to hospitals, places of worship to recreational facilities, shopping malls to sports amenities for use by up to one million people.

US, Iraq Negotiate Blackwater Expulsion

Associated Press Writers

BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. and Iraqi officials are negotiating Baghdad's demand that security company Blackwater USA be expelled from the country within six months, and American diplomats appear to be working on how to fill the security gap if the company is phased out.

The talks about Blackwater's future in Iraq flow from recommendations in an Iraqi government report on the incident Sept. 16 when, Iraqi officials determined, Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation in Baghdad's Nisoor Square and killed 17 Iraqi citizens.

The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has since sent them to the U.S. Embassy as demands for action.

Point No. 2 in the report says:

``The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws.''

Sami al-Askari, a top aide to al-Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable.

``I believe the government has been clear. There have been attacks on the lives of Iraqi citizens on the part of that company (Blackwater). It must be expelled. The government has given six months for its expulsion and it's left to the U.S. Embassy to determine with Blackwater when to terminate the contract. The American administration must find another company,'' he told AP.

In talks between American diplomats and the al-Maliki government, al-Askari said, the U.S. side was not ``insisting on Blackwater staying.'' He was the only Iraqi or American official who would allow use of his name, others said information they gave was too sensitive.

Al-Askari said the Americans have been told that another demand, Blackwater payment of $8 million in compensation for each victim, was negotiable.

``With the investigations and reviews ongoing, it would be clearly premature to say that any definitive determinations have been made about the future of the Blackwater contract,'' a senior U.S. official in Baghdad said.

Another diplomat, speaking privately, said he did not see how the State Department could insist on keeping Blackwater in place given how ``tainted'' it had become after the Sept. 16 incident and several others.

In an interview to be broadcast Monday on PBS, Charlie Rose asked Blackwater chief Erik Prince about the issue.

``We'll do what we're told and, you know, make the transition as smooth as possible,'' Prince said.

A Shiite lawmaker who sits on parliament's security and defense committee said al-Maliki has complained that the United States embassy had not briefed the Iraqis on what was learned when Blackwater guards were questioned.

He said two Iraqi security officials were briefly allowed to sit in as observers on two questioning sessions of the Blackwater guards.

The Iraqi government investigative report said Blackwater guards had killed 21 other Iraqi citizens and wounded 27 in a total of seven previous incidents, including a shooting by a drunk Blackwater employee after a 2006 Christmas party. Congress is investigating whether the government relies too heavily on private contractors who fall outside the military courts martial system.

While the Blackwater name may be removed from security operations surrounding U.S. diplomats in Iraq, American officials and members of the security community in Baghdad said the company's men and other assets in Iraq would likely be taken over by one of the many security companies currently working in Iraq.

They said DynCorp, which already has security contracts with the State Department to guard officials working outside Baghdad, appeared poised to take over the Blackwater role.

Under the terms of the department's Worldwide Personal Protective Security contract, which covers privately contracted guards for diplomats in Iraq, Blackwater, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy are the only three companies eligible to bid on specific task orders there. Dyncorp and Triple Canopy are both based in Washington's northern Virginia suburbs. Blackwater works from a huge complex in Moyock, N.C.

While DynCorp and Triple Canopy already work in Iraq, neither company is believed to have the infrastructure in place to take over Blackwater's responsibilities in the six-month period demanded by the al-Maliki government.

The FBI has taken over an investigation of the Sept. 16 shooting and questioned Iraqi witnesses to the shooting Saturday at the Iraqi National Police headquarters about 500 yards from Nisoor Square.

Prince says reports he has indicated one of the four Blackwater gun trucks involved in the shooting came under fire. He said the company reports say the truck had bullet pockmarks and was damaged badly enough that it had to be towed. No other witness, those interviewed by AP or Iraqi government investigators, told of gunfire on the Blackwater vehicles or of one being towed.

Other witnesses said Blackwater helicopters arrived over the square during the shooting and opened fire.

One of them was 20-year-old Ahmed Abdul-Timan, who works as a guard at the tunnel that runs under the square. He told AP that the initial U.S. investigative team tried to intimidate him into changing his story about the helicopters firing. He said the interrogation lasted three hours.

``Four or five days after the incident,'' Abdul-Timan said, ``there was a second investigation but the questioning was done by a U.S. Army major. It was much easier. They videotaped what I said, took my phone number and address. The major tried to comfort us, saying he and his men love the Iraqi people and want to help them.''

Abdul-Timan's account squares with others that indicated the first investigation by State Department personnel appeared to be an attempt to vindicate the Blackwater guards. The U.S. military conducted the second investigation and was more sympathetic.

Estimates of the number of private security workers in Iraq have fluctuated greatly. In June 2006 the U.S. Government Accountability Office said there were 181 security companies with 48,000 employees in Iraq. The more recent Congressional Research Service report said there were as many as 30,000 security workers.-(guardian)

14 October 2007

Researchers On Verge of Blood Test For Alzheimer's Disease

An international team of scientists say they are on the verge of developing the first blood test for Alzheimer's disease which experts hope will help doctors identify patients with the memory-robbing disease in its earliest stages. Experts say the blood test identifies proteins that are unique to people with Alzheimer's and appear years before there are major symptoms. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

One of the early signs of Alzheimer's disease is forgetfulness. But it can be caused by a number of benign conditions, including aging itself.

The first place most families take their elderly relative for evaluation is not an expert neurologist, according to Todd Golde, a professor of neuroscience at the Mayor Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, but the family physician.

"And for those people, the diagnosis, and an accurate diagnosis, is a challenge," said Todd Golde. "And so I think that would bring a more uniform and consistent diagnosis to across a wider section of people receiving care for Alzheimer's."

Researchers in the United States, Germany and Sweden are working on a blood test, which they describe in the latest issue of of the journal, Nature Medicine.

Using computer analysis, investigators identified 18 proteins that the body uses to communicate with immune and nervous system cells. Researchers compared the proteins in healthy individuals to those with advanced Alzheimer's.

The test was 90 percent accurate in diagnosing the disease in its early stages.

Tony Wyss-Coray, professor of medicine at Stanford University and the report's senior author, says more research is needed to confirm the study's findings. But he believes a blood test may soon be available that could help doctors make a complex diagnosis.

"This might be feasible in a relatively short period of time to have actually a blood test that can at least help in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and may even be able predict whether a person will develop it if they have memory complaints right now," said Tony Wyss-Coray.

Experts say such information would mean patients would be able to begin early therapy to delay the decline of Alzheimer's, and help families prepare for the devastation of a progressive and fatal illness.

Wyss-Coray is scientific advisor of Satoris Group in San Francisco, California which he founded to develop and market an Alzheimer's test kit, when one becomes reliable. Todd Golde of the Mayo Clinic is an advisor to Satoris and has a financial interest in the company.

Too Much Freedom

It's becoming obvious day after day the country is heading to a dead-lock!

The Lebanese are not adhering to any united vision with an ultimate Lebanese interest. 
Coexistence seems to be an impossibility as Principles are different however the all call for the same Purpose.

They say it is because of: "Too Much Freedom"?
Is it?
Are we really the most free-speaking country? Is it really because have too much of it that we abuse it and we cannot handle it anymore? It's coming to our heads! One friend once told me "makharjna!" "we better be governed by tyranny"! then we'll learn to coexist without craving over mystical ideologies, without blindly following Symbols; Symbols that were symbols of war and crime once, and now they are symbol of freedom and independence; Applies to both sides!!!

Since "concessions" is a non-existing word; I don't think that anyone want to talk about it.
"Freedom" is the trick.... they are all searching for more of it; I know, it's too bad to admit this truth, as Freedom has been the scene of blood shed for nations
across history!
But too much Freedom leads to Chaos; We don't want Chaos; We have Chaos today; and when Chaos prevails, a big brother will come and give the lesson of the century, which you wouln't accept or like! but you'll be compelled to agree to all terms with no discussion.

Blindfolded, I can see the lesson & judgement coming!

* US demands air passengers ask its permission to fly

"The Register" -- - Under new rules proposed by the Transport Security Administration (TSA), all airline passengers would need advance permission before flying into, through, or over the United States regardless of citizenship or the airline's national origin.

Currently, the Advanced Passenger Information System, operated by the Customs and Border Patrol, requires airlines to forward a list of passenger information no later than 15 minutes before flights from the US take off (international flights bound for the US have until 15 minutes after take-off). Planes are diverted if a passenger on board is on the no-fly list.

The new rules mean this information must be submitted 72 hours before departure. Only those given clearance will get a boarding pass. The TSA estimates that 90 to 93 per cent of all travel reservations are final by then.

The proposed rules require the following information for each passenger: full name, sex, date of birth, and redress number (assigned to passengers who use the Travel Redress Inquiry Program because they have been mistakenly placed on the no-fly list), and known traveller number (once there is a programme in place for registering known travellers whose backgrounds have been checked). Non-travellers entering secure areas, such as parents escorting children, will also need clearance.

The TSA held a public hearing in Washington DC on 20 September, which heard comments from both privacy advocates and airline industry representatives from Qantas, the Regional Airline Association, IATA, and the American Society of Travel Agents. The privacy advocates came from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Identity Project. All were negative.

The proposals should be withdrawn entirely, argued Edward Hasbrouck, author of The Practical Nomad and the leading expert on travel data privacy. "Obscured by the euphemistic language of 'screening' is the fact that travellers would be required to get permission before they can travel."

Hasbrouck submitted that requiring clearance in order to travel violates the US First Amendment right of assembly, the central claim in John Gilmore's case against the US government over the requirement to show photo ID for domestic travel.

In addition, the TSA is required to study the impact of the proposals on small economic entities (such as sole traders). Finally, the TSA provides no way for individuals to tell whether their government-issued ID is actually required by law, opening the way for rampant identity theft.

ACLU's Barry Steinhardt quoted press reports of 500,000 to 750,000 people on the watch list (of which the no-fly list is a subset). "If there are that many terrorists in the US, we'd all be dead."

TSA representative Kip Hawley noted that the list has been carefully investigated and halved over the last year. "Half of grossly bloated is still bloated," Steinhardt replied.

The airline industry representatives' objections were largely logistical. They argued that the 60-day timeframe the TSA proposes to allow for implementation from the publication date of the final rules is much too short. They want a year to revamp many IT systems, especially, as the Qantas representative said, as no one will start until they're sure there will be no further changes.

In addition, many were concerned about the impact on new, convenient and cash-saving technologies, such as checking in at home, or storing a boarding pass in a PDA.

One additional point, also raised by Hasbrouck: the data the TSA requires will be collected by the airlines who presumably will keep it for their own purposes – a "government-coerced informational windfall", he called it.

The third parties who actually do much of the airline industry's data processing, the Global Distribution Systems and Computer Reservations Systems, were missing from the hearing.-(WM. Grossman)

12 October 2007

FRP Pipes to Be Installed in Brazilian Hydroelectric Facilities

Amitech, one of the largest Brazilian manufacturers of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) pipes, has struck a deal to supply more than 1,128m/3,660 ft of FRP piping — at a value of $750,000 (USD) — to the small hydroelectric plants of Pequi and Sucupira now under construction in the Brazilian city of Jaciara, Mato Grosso. The company has been producing FRP pipe for industrial and agricultural customers since 1999 in Ipeuna, in the state of São Paulo, and is controlled by two international groups — Inversiones Mundial (Medellin, Colombia, 70 percent) and Amiantit (Dammam, Saudi Arabia, 30 percent). The new deal is the sixth in a series of similar arrangements under which Amitech has supplied pipe to small hydroelectric plants in the Brazilian market.

“We competed on this contract with steel pipe suppliers,” notes Leandro Montanher, Amitech’s sales coordinator. The FRP forced conduit pipes, which vary in diameter from 1.9m to 2.2m (6.23 ft to 7.22 ft), have several technical advantages compared to steel, including a much lower likelihood of mineral deposit formation, which can diminish flow capacity. The FRP pipes also are significantly lighter, which facilitates the installation process, thus reducing project costs. Another advantage is their high strength because the forced conduits at the hydroelectric plants will operate underground and have to resist soil overburden pressure.

Brazil court denies Lebanon's extradition request for fugitive banker

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil: Brazil's Supreme Court denied a Lebanese request to extradite fugitive banker Rana Koleilat, accused of a multimillion-dollar (euro) bank fraud and wanted for questioning in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Victor Mauad, Koleilat's lawyer, said Friday his client is waiting for her passport to be returned and that she had been given eight days to leave the country once it is.

"She doesn't know where she will go yet, probably some country in Europe," Mauad said in a telephone interview, adding his client has both British and Lebanese citizenship. "She's looking for a safe place. She's worried for her life."

A statement posted on the court's Web site said the unanimous decision was based on the lack of extradition treaty between Brazil and Lebanon.

There was no one at the court Friday to comment on the decision because of a national holiday.

Koleilat was arrested in Sao Paulo on March 12, 2006, for allegedly trying to bribe police officers who located her for Interpol. Police said at the time she offered a US$200,000 (€140,000) bribe for her freedom.

Mauad said she had been acquitted of the Brazilian bribery charges and was released from jail Wednesday. He declined to say where she was staying because she fears for her safety.

In April, a United Nations panel investigating Hariri's assassination interrogated her for about five hours at federal police headquarters in Sao Paulo, but police did not release any information about the interrogation.

The U.N. commission is investigating what Koleilat knows about February 2005 truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others and whether money that disappeared from the Al-Madina Bank where she worked was used to finance the attack in Beirut.

Koleilat has said she knows nothing about the missing money or the assassination.

An initial U.N. investigation into Hariri's assassination implicated the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services. Syria denied involvement, but four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were charged and are in custody. Hariri was seen as an opponent of Syrian influence in Lebanon.-(iht)

Dubai firm plans 12-billion development in Saudi

DUBAI (AFP) — Dubai-based real estate developer Limitless announced on Thursday it will build a 12-billion-dollar urban community north of the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The development, to be named Al-Wasl, will cover a 1,411 hectare (3,487 acre) site, a statement said.

It will comprise "more than 60,000 homes, as well as offices, hotels, mosques, health and educational facilities, shopping malls and sports amenities."

The project, which will cost 45 billion riyals, is expected to break ground in mid-2008, with phased construction over seven years.

Limitless is a subsidiary of Dubai World, a conglomerate controlled by the government of booming Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier this week, the firm unveiled the latest in a stream of grandiose projects in Dubai -- an 11-billion-dollar, 75-kilometre (46-mile) canal that will extend the business and leisure hub into the heart of the desert.

Rich Men in Governments

"It should be no surprise that when rich men take control of the government, they pass laws that are favorable to themselves. The surprise is that those who are not rich vote for such people, even though they should know from bitter experience that the rich will continue to rip off the rest of us. Perhaps the reason is that rich men are very clever at covering up what they do.": Andrew Greeley (Chicago Sun-Times, February 18, 2001)

"People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.": James Baldwin Biography - Fiction Writer, Essayist, Social Critic, 1924-1987

"I would rather lose in a cause that will some day win, than win in a cause that will some day lose.: Woodrow Wilson

Qoleilat Acquitted?

.. Beirut Chief Investigating Magistrate Abdel-Rahim Hammoud cleared the former executive secretary of Al-Madina Bank, Rana Qoleilat, as well as the bank's owner, Ibrahim Abu Ayash, and other employees, of all chages "for lack of sufficient evidence," a judicial report said.

Hammoud dismissed the presence of elements proving that the aforementioned people had committed the crimes of fraud and forgery.

Brizilian authorities had released Qoleilat one day before the Lebanese judiciary's decision. She has been held by Brazilian authorities since March 2006.

Qoleilat fled to Brazil in the wake of Hariri's killing. She was previously jailed in Lebanon for her alleged role in the disappearance of more than $300 million from the bank in 2003.

The Lebanese government has sought to question Qoleilat over the possible use of cash transfers from Al-Madina to finance the Hariri assassination.-(DStar)

09 October 2007

Entertainment Industry Urged to Hire More Muslims

(CNSNews.com) - An Islamic advocacy group wants the entertainment industry to present a more positive image of Muslims and Arabs, who often play terrorists on television and in the movies -- especially after 9/11, when Arab Muslims attacked the United States.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Los Angeles office (CAIR-LA) and FOX Television recently co-hosted a "Hollywood 101" workshop to introduce aspiring Muslim writers, directors and actors to the entertainment industry.

The event, held at FOX Studios in Century City, was intended to promote a positive change in Hollywood's portrayal of Muslims and Arabs, CAIR-LA said.

In January, CAIR complained about the storyline on the Fox network's popular television drama "24," which depicted terrorists attacking the United States. CAIR said the Fox show would increase anti-Muslim prejudice in American society.

The recent "Hollywood 101" event -- a result of CAIR's discussions with Fox -- included students and entry-level professionals who are hoping to build contacts and advance their careers in the entertainment industry.

Participants were given a tour of the studio lot, a presentation on FOX internships and a one-hour interactive seminar featuring five industry professionals, CAIR said in a news release.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said the best way to promote an "accurate and balanced portrayal of Muslims in America and around the world" is thought media outlets that shape popular culture.

"Our goal is to help nurture aspiring Muslim artists and to act as facilitators in providing support to emerging Muslim talent in the entertainment industry," said Ayloush.

Ayloush thanked Fox and its Diversity Department for co-hosting the event - "and realizing the importance of engaging young American Muslims who seek to work as entertainment content creators."

In past years, black and Latino groups have criticized the major television networks for allegedly failing to produce more racially diverse programs.-(crosswalk)

Lebanon beats India 4-1 in World Cup Qualifier

Beirut - Lebanon rallied from a goal down to crush India 4-1 at the Saida International Stadium in South Lebanon, in the first leg of the opening round of Asian football qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Mohamad Ghaddar scored a brace as Lebanon trounced India 4-1 in the first round of Asia's 2010 World Cup qualifying tournament in Beirut on Monday.

Sunil Chhetri put the visiting Indians ahead on the half-hour mark in Monday night's clash, but the home side hit back to draw level through Roda Antar five minutes later.

Goals by Mohammad Ghaddar and Mahmoud El Ali within a minute of each other in the 61st and 62nd minutes put the Indians on the back foot. Lebanon added a fourth through Ghaddar 15 minutes before the final whistle to complete the rout.

Ghaddar then scored his second goal of the night in the 75th minute to lead Lebanon to a convincing 4-1 victory.

India fielded a severely depleted side with goalkeeper Sandip Nandy and striker Abhishek Yadav returning home with injuries.

In Monday's other Asian qualifier first leg games, Vietnam were beaten 0-1 at home by the United Arab Emirates, Palestine succumbed 0-4 to Singapore, Thailand thrashed Macau 6-1, Oman beat Nepal 2-0, Yemen defeated Maldives 3-0, Syria downed Afghanistan 3-0 and Bangladesh drew 1-1 with Tajikistan.

Forty-three Asian countries are vying for four places in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

An additional berth in the 32-team finals is up for grabs for the fifth-placed Asian team if they can beat the winner of Oceania's qualifiers in a playoff.

Free Speech

" It is extremely dangerous to exercise the constitutional right of free speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world.....

These are the gentry who are today wrapped up in the American flag, who shout their claim from the housetops that they are the only patriots, and who have their magnifying glasses in hand, scanning the country for evidence of disloyalty, eager to apply the brand of treason to the men who dare to even whisper their opposition to Junker rule in the United Sates. No wonder Sam Johnson declared that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." He must have had this Wall Street gentry in mind, or at least their prototypes, for in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people...

Every solitary one of these aristocratic conspirators and would-be murderers claims to be an arch-patriot; every one of them insists that the war is being waged to make the world safe for democracy. What humbug! What rot! What false pretense! These autocrats, these tyrants, these red- handed robbers and murderers, the
"patriots," while the men who have the courage to stand face to face with them, speak the truth, and fight for their exploited victims-they are the disloyalists and traitors. If this be true, I want to take my place side by side with the traitors in this fight.-()

08 October 2007

Russian arrested in Lebanon denies terrorism charges

BEIRUT, October 8 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian national charged by Lebanese authorities with terrorism has protested his innocence, a Russian diplomat in the country said on Monday.

Sergei Vysotsky, an 18-year old Muslim, was arrested near the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp on September 2 in "a zone of combat operations," together with three other Russians. On that day, Lebanese troops seized control of the camp from Islamist militants, following two weeks of intense battles that took the lives of over 400 people.

Media reports, citing legal officials and Lebanon's state news agency, reported on Friday that 20 suspected members of Fatah al-Islam had been charged with terrorist attacks, including the murders of Lebanese troops, in the battles at the refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

If convicted, the suspects could face the death sentence.-(en.rian)

The scandal of Blackwater

The only punishment doled out to US security men involved in deadly shootings is a jet home

Erik Prince, the secretive 38-year-old owner of the leading US mercenary firm Blackwater, has seldom appeared in public. But on Tuesday he found himself in front of a Congressional committee, TV cameras trained on his boyish face. The official focus of the hearing, convened by Henry Waxman's committee on oversight and government reform, was two questions that should have been asked long ago: whether the government's heavy reliance on private security is serving US interests in Iraq, and whether the specific conduct of Blackwater has advanced or impeded US efforts.

What put Prince in the hot seat were the infamous Nisour Square shootings in Baghdad on September 16, in which as many as 28 Iraqi civilians may have been killed. Waxman said the justice department had asked him not to take testimony on the incident because it was the subject of an FBI investigation. In Prince's prepared testimony, he said that people should wait for the results of the investigation - originally handled by the state department - "for a complete understanding of that event".

But the investigative process so far has hardly been impartial. Just hours before Prince's testimony, CNN reported that the state department's initial report on the shooting was drafted by a Blackwater contractor, Darren Hanner. The next day came the news that the FBI team assigned to look into the incident in Baghdad had a contract with Blackwater itself to provide security for their investigation.

At the hearing Prince boldly declared that in Iraq his men have acted "appropriately at all times" and appeared to deny that the company had ever killed innocent civilians, only acknowledging that some may have died as a result of "ricochets" and "traffic accidents". This assertion is simply unbelievable. According to a report prepared by Waxman's staff, since 2005 Blackwater operatives in Iraq have opened fire on at least 195 occasions. In more than 80% of these instances, the Blackwater agents fired first.

Not surprisingly, Prince said he supported the continuation of Order 17 in Iraq, the Bremer-era decree giving organisations such as Blackwater immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. Prince said Blackwater operatives who "don't hold to the standard, they have one decision to make: window or aisle" on their flight home. In all, Blackwater has sacked more than 120 of its operatives in Iraq. Given that being fired and sent home have been the only disciplinary consequences faced by Blackwater employees, it is worth asking: what did they do to earn this punishment?

Waxman's committee scrutinised one incident: the killing of one of the Iraqi vice-president's bodyguards by an allegedly drunk Blackwater contractor last Christmas Eve. Prince confirmed that Blackwater had whisked him out of Iraq and fired him, and said that he had been fined and billed for his return ticket.

According to the committee report, after the killing the state department chargé d'affaires recommended that Blackwater make a "sizable payment" to the bodyguard's family. The official suggested $250,000, but the department's diplomatic security service said this was too much and could cause Iraqis to "try to get killed". In the end, the state department and Blackwater are said to have agreed on a $15,000 payment.

A pattern is emerging from the Congressional investigation into Blackwater: the state department urging the company to pay what amounts to hush money to victims' families while facilitating the return of contractors involved in deadly incidents for which not a single one has faced prosecution.

· Jeremy Scahill, a contributing writer for the Nation, is the author of Blackwater: the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army-(The Guardian)

Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.