Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Prepare for very ugly story. Extremely ugly to be precise.
I wasn't aware of the tragic history of Kongo until I read a book called "The Poisonwood Bible"(highly recommend it-did you know that "béene-beene," means "as true as the truth can be."?). It was a great novel and very touching and informative one. Since then, I feel very sympathetic to that country even if it's very different from all I know. People simply forget how much damage we did to Africa.
And now on the news I wanted to comment. It's about the horrible situation in Kongo where women are being mass-raped every day and some are even banished from their villages because people there consider victims guilty for the crime. Now it seems like there is a ray of light in the darkness of the jungle. Women are finally speaking out, finding the strength to say what is unthinkable. I don't want to dramatize, but it is dramatic. For me rape is worst than a murder, because when you kill, the victim dies and won't suffer. When you rape someone, the victim must continue living with the memories of the helplessness. That's why I find that news upsetting but also enpowering. Because the ability to get the best out of the worst is actually the best human quality. Some people will argue that the eternal optimism is a weakness of humans, because it doomes us to escapism. But for me, this is extremely useful and it's what always pushes us over the edges of brutality.
I hope that with those confessions, African women will finally find their place in their masculin civilisation and that they will lead Kongo to brither future.

Rape Victims’ Words Help Jolt Congo Into Change

Published: October 17, 2008

BUKAVU, Congo — Honorata Kizende looked out at the audience and began with a simple, declarative sentence.

"There was no dinner,” she said.

“It was me who was dinner. Me, because they kicked me roughly to the ground, and they ripped off all my clothes, and between the two of them, they held my feet. One took my left foot, one took my right, and the same with my arms, and between the two of them they proceeded to rape me. Then all five of them raped me.”

The audience, which had been called together by local and international aid groups and included everyone from high-ranking politicians to street kids with no shoes, stared at her in disbelief.

Congo, it seems, is finally facing its horrific rape problem, which United Nations officials have called the worst sexual violence in the world. Tens of thousands of women, possibly hundreds of thousands, have been raped in the past few years in this hilly, incongruously beautiful land. Many of these rapes have been marked by a level of brutality that is shocking even by the twisted standards of a place riven by civil war and haunted by warlords and drug-crazed child soldiers.

After years of denial and shame, the silence is being broken. Because of stepped-up efforts in the past nine months by international organizations and the Congolese government, rapists are no longer able to count on a culture of impunity. Of course, countless men still get away with assaulting women. But more and more are getting caught, prosecuted and put behind bars.

European aid agencies are spending tens of millions of dollars building new courthouses and prisons across eastern Congo, in part to punish rapists. Mobile courts are holding rape trials in villages deep in the forest that have not seen a black-robed magistrate since the Belgians ruled the country decades ago.

The American Bar Association opened a legal clinic in January specifically to help rape victims bring their cases to court. So far the work has resulted in eight convictions. Here in Bukavu, one of the biggest cities in the country, a special unit of Congolese police officers has filed 103 rape cases since the beginning of this year, more than any year in recent memory.

In Bunia, a town farther north, rape prosecutions are up 600 percent compared with five years ago. Congolese investigators have even been flown to Europe to learn “CSI”-style forensic techniques. The police have arrested some of the most violent offenders, often young militiamen, most likely psychologically traumatized themselves, who have thrust sticks, rocks, knives and assault rifles inside women.

“We’re starting to see results,” said Pernille Ironside, a United Nations official in eastern Congo.

The number of those arrested is still tiny compared with that of the perpetrators on the loose, and often the worst offenders are not caught because they are marauding bandits who attack villages in the night, victimize women and then melt back into the forest.

This is all happening in a society where women tend to be beaten down anyway. Women in Congo do most of the work —at home, in the fields and in the market, where they carry enormous loads of bananas on their bent backs — and yet they are often powerless. Many women who are raped are told to keep quiet. Often, it is a shame for the entire family, and many rape victims have been kicked out of their villages and turned into beggars.

Grass-roots groups are trying to change this culture, and they have started by encouraging women who have been raped to speak out in open forums, like a courtroom full of spectators, just with no accused.

At the event in Bukavu in mid-September, Ms. Kizende’s story of being abducted by an armed group, then putting her life back together after months as a sex slave, drew tears — and cheers. It seems that the taboo against talking about rape is beginning to lift. Many women in the audience wore T-shirts that read in Kiswahili: “I refuse to be raped. What about you?”

Activists are fanning out to villages on foot and by bicycle to deliver a simple but often novel message: rape is wrong. Men’s groups are even being formed.

But these improvements are simply the first, tentative steps of progress in a very troubled country.

United Nations officials said the number of rapes had appeared to be decreasing over the past year. But the recent surge of fighting between the Congolese government and rebel groups, and all the violence and predation that goes with it, is jeopardizing those gains.

"It’s safer today than it was,” said Euphrasie Mirindi, a woman who was raped in 2006. “But it’s still not safe.”

United Nations officials say the most sadistic rapes are committed by depraved killers who participated in Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 and then escaped into Congo. These attacks have left thousands of women with their insides destroyed. But the Congolese National Army, a ragtag undisciplined force of teenage troops who sport wrap-around shades and rusty rifles, has also been blamed. The government has been slow to punish its own, but Congolese generals recently announced they would set up new military tribunals to prosecute soldiers accused of rape.

No one — doctors, aid workers, Congolese and Western researchers — can explain exactly why Congo’s rape problem is the worst in the world. The attacks continue despite the presence of the largest United Nations peacekeeping force, with more than 17,000 troops. Impunity is thought to be a big factor, which is why there is now so much effort on bolstering Congo’s creaky and often corrupt justice system. The sheer number of armed groups spread over thousands of miles of thickly forested territory, fighting over Congo’s rich mineral spoils, also makes it incredibly difficult to protect civilians. The ceaseless instability has held the whole eastern swath of the country hostage.

The Congolese government admits it is at a loss, especially in keeping women safe.

“Every day, women are raped,” said Louis Leonce Muderhwa, the governor of South Kivu Province. “This isn’t peace.”

Ms. Ensler is helping open a center in Bukavu called the City of Joy, which will provide counseling to rape victims and teach leadership skills and self-defense. Her hope is to build an army of rape survivors who will push with an urgency — that has so far been absent — for a solution to end Congo’s ceaseless wars.

At the event last month, many people in the audience covered their mouths as they listened. Some could not bear it and burst out of the room crying.

One speaker, Claudine Mwabachizi, told how she was kidnapped by bandits in the forest, strapped to a tree and repeatedly gang-raped. The bandits did unspeakable things, she said, like disemboweling a pregnant woman right in front of her. “A lot of us keep these secrets to ourselves,” she said.

She was going public, she said, “to free my sisters.”

But Congo, if anything, is a land of contrasts. The soil here is rich, but the people are starving. The minerals are limitless, but the government is broke.

After the speaking-out event was over, Ms. Mwabachizi said she felt exhausted.

But, she added, “I feel strong.”

She was given a pink shawl with a message printed on it.

“I have survived,” it read. “I can do anything.”

Leaving the history aside, let's see what's going on in modern Bulgaria. At least in the eyes of westerners. Check the following article, I won't even shorten it. Even if I don't consider it correct, because it is not. It's an ugly political trick to hurt the government, but one that hurts more Bulgaria than anyone else. It's low and ugly. But then, that's what politics in Bulgaria is and are.

To clarify-Bulgaria is one of the greatest parts of the world if you don't have to deal with official, work or survive here. If you're just a decent guy, with a decent (by western standards) salary, without any need to communicate with the government and its representatives, you'll be the happiest guy ever. I just can't stop enjoying the beauty of that land. Yes, everybody would say his/her country is the best, that's normal. I just compare it to our previous home-land-central Asia and the rocks and the grass and the cold and when I see the lovely green mountains and forests of Bulgaria-it's just so nice. And all the awesome rivers...I'm a watery person and I adore water, so something really fills my heart when I think of Struma or even Iskar. They are so shining and alive. Or of the beautiful Stara Planina or Rodopa-those mountains are really like protectors, someone who's always being there for you and offering you an escape.

Ok, I'm cutting the nationalistic blabbering-it's just something I thought today, so I'm on that wave. The point is that the very land is gorgeous and makes gorgeous people. As long as you don't get in some (il)legal trouble. But what the guys describe in that article? No. It's only partly true and they make it looks like it's the hell on Earth. It's not. There are some criminals, but we're not all criminals. There are bars where you better not go, but you still can go and have no problems. It's not so bad. Yes, it's bad, there's corruption, the mafia really does own the country and that really sucks if you're the entrepreneur type. But if you're not, it's very very likely to not notice it for a very long while. So let's not get so hysterical about it, right? For me, this is more a paid article, paid to ruin the image of the country and to probably hurt the government. Something that is not so tragical by itself, but it's very ugly, when the opposition hurt national interests to try to hit the ruling coalition. I don't respect or approve such actions.

And I think we kind of resemble Myan Mar and other budhist nations, although we're not buddhists (unfortunately). We're just so patient, we always find a way to have our fun and be happy, no matter of all the shit our government puts us trough. And when you get sick of the shit, you can always immigrate or simply get in the government yourself.

True, there's no bad publicity, so, welcome all to Bulgaria. If you're feeling lucky, please come and see what's fun.

P.S. Thinking of it, I really need to start a serie on Bulgaria and what it is about. I'm sick of negative things, when there are so many positive things and experiences to have here.

Mob Muscles Its Way Into Politics in Bulgaria

Nikolay Doychinov for The International Herald Tribune

Published: October 15, 2008

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Politics is played to the death in Bulgaria, where the lives of politicians can be as cheap as spent bullets and murky business groups wage a murderous struggle for their cut of everything from real estate deals to millions in European aid.

During a furious political season last year, the home of the chairwoman of a municipal electoral committee was set on fire, and the garages of mayors were firebombed. The mayor of a resort town in central Bulgaria was shot and killed with seven bullets, as was the wealthy City Council chairman in the outwardly idyllic Black Sea port of Nesebur.

“Other countries have the mafia,” said Atanas Atanasov, a member of Parliament and a former counterintelligence chief who is a magnet for leaked documents exposing corruption. “In Bulgaria, the mafia has the country.”

By almost any measure, Bulgaria is the most corrupt country in the 27-member European Union. Since it joined last year, it has emerged as a cautionary tale for Western nations confronting the stark reality and heavy costs of drawing fragile post-Communist nations into their orbit, away from Russia’s influence.

European Union membership has done little to tame the criminal networks in Bulgaria. It has arguably only made those networks richer, raising worries that if the union cannot tamp down criminal activity in a member like Bulgaria it may have little sway over other fragile nations that want to join.

The United States helped Bulgaria into NATO, has rotated troops through for joint exercises since 2004 and has tried to encourage commerce, education and democracy. It has just announced that it will invest more than $90 million in facilities and equipment for joint use in military exercises.

The European Union, eager to improve the lives of the 7.5 million Bulgarians, has promised 11 billion euros, or nearly $15 billion, in aid.

Far from halting crime and violence, the money effectively spread the corruption. Once Bulgaria’s shady businessmen realized how much European Union money was at stake, said many of Sofia’s advocates for reform, they moved from buying off politicians to being directly involved in politics themselves.

And so European officials froze almost $670 million in financing this summer and may halt the flow of billions more, alarmed at freewheeling white-collar criminals with links to the very highest reaches of power.

The nation’s homegrown mobs of men in black — the “mutri,” or mugs — control construction projects in city halls. And questionable business networks have moved from declining black markets for smuggled cigarettes and alcohol to legal investments in booming real estate. They have made their mark on the capital’s atmosphere: men nicknamed “thick necks” for their muscular appearance linger in neon-lighted nightclubs like Sin City and Lipstick, or keep watch over Mercedes jeeps and Audis outside. Sofia guidebooks offer tips: Avoid restaurants that draw businessmen with four or more bodyguards.

Now, men like this are muscling into public office.

Ties to Top Officials

Investigators with the European Union’s antifraud office are focusing on the Nikolov-Stoykov group, a sprawling conglomerate of dozens of companies with interests from meat processing and cold storage to scrap metal and a Black Sea resort.

The group’s leading partners — both briefly detained last year on suspicion of fraud — boast top connections. Ludmil Stoykov helped finance the campaign of President Georgi Parvanov, organized a business group supporting him and maintained ties to a former deputy minister of foreign affairs.

Mr. Stoykov, who has not been charged with any crime since his arrest last year, denies knowing about criminal activities involving European Union funds. “I categorically object to these attempts to stain my name and to be treated as a criminal,” he said in answer to written questions.

He acknowledges giving 25,000 leva, about $17,000, as a campaign contribution to Bulgaria’s president. “I participated with a donation according to all requirements by the law,” he said. “And no one is saying the opposite.”

His partner, Mario Nikolov, who is scheduled to stand trial next week on fraud charges, forged discreet alliances to Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, according to contracts and bank deposit slips turned over to prosecutors last week by Boyko Borisov, the mayor of Sofia, who is a fierce rival of the prime minister. Those documents show he steered more than $137,000 to Mr. Stanishev’s Socialist Party as contributions from his companies.

In an unusually blunt report leaked this summer, European Union fraud investigators accused the Nikolov-Stoykov group of being a front for a “criminal company network composed of more than 50 Bulgarian enterprises and various other European and offshore companies.”

Among the European Union investigators’ accusations were tax and subsidy fraud: taking development aid to buy new equipment for companies and then passing off ancient equipment from the former East Germany and pocketing the difference. The companies were also accused of illegally importing huge quantities of Chinese rabbit meat for export to France and Germany with fake health certificates from Argentina.

Reached at his office at Eurofrigo, a cold storage company in Sofia, Mr. Nikolov repeatedly declined to comment on the documents indicating contributions to the prime minister, which Bulgarian prosecutors said Wednesday were under formal investigation. After the European fraud report was leaked, Mr. Nikolov said: “I became public enemy No. 1. I am afraid for my life.”

Mr. Stanishev, the prime minister, did not respond to 10 attempts to seek comment over a six-day period. A former journalist educated at the London School of Economics, Mr. Stanishev was called “Mr. Clean” by President Bush last year for his efforts to fight organized crime. After other European nations started complaining about aid fraud, Mr. Stanishev said publicly that there was no “umbrella” of protection for rich businessmen or organized crime figures.

But when he made those comments, it was not known that he met in 2005 with Mr. Nikolov. A five-minute video obtained from Sofia’s mayor shows Mr. Stanishev greeting Mr. Nikolov at his meat factory, inspecting equipment and a table laden with goose liver sausages before sitting down to lunch with white wine.

A few weeks later, according to deposit slips handed to prosecutors by Mr. Borisov, Sofia’s mayor, contributions to Mr. Stanishev’s party started to flow. One Western European diplomat, who spoke anonymously because of being involved in sensitive negotiations in Bulgaria, said that copies of the contractual agreements on donations appeared authentic: “It means they know they won’t be prosecuted, so why not have secret contracts?”

A summary agreement was addressed to Rumen Petkov, who headed the Socialists’ campaign at the time and resigned as interior minister a few months ago amid revelations that he had met organized crime figures.

Origins of Crime

Bulgaria’s gray economy is looped around disparate politically connected companies that shift in and out of business as opportunities and legal obstacles arise, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Democracy, an anticorruption group in Sofia.

According to the center and other anticorruption activists, bosses typically enlist longtime employees to register companies in their names; if there are legal problems, the companies cease functioning without being linked to the actual leaders. Meanwhile, profits from sources like cigarette or alcohol smuggling are plowed into legal front companies, like soccer clubs, where money can be laundered through huge fees paid for transfers of players.

The competition is brutal: all three past chairmen of the soccer club Lokomotiv Plovdiv have been killed, one by a sniper by the Black Sea. Seventy-five percent of Bulgarian businesses have security protection, far more than in other countries in Eastern Europe, according to Enterprise Surveys, analysts for the World Bank.

As in Russia and some other Balkan nations, corruption has seeped into the fabric of life. Sofia has a thriving black market for blood outside hospitals, where patients’ families haggle over purchases with dealers, according to Bulgarian news reports that track the prices.

The roots of this organized crime date to the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s. Thousands of secret agents and athletes, including wrestlers once supported and coddled by the state, were cast onto the street. During the United Nations embargo of warring Serbia in the 1990s, they seized smuggling opportunities and solidified their networks.

The wrestlers, in particular, developed private security forces and insurance companies that were little more than shakedown protection rackets. Other men became shadowy entrepreneurs with close ties to the government.

In the past five years, Bulgaria has weathered machine gun assassinations and inventive daylight attacks. Hitmen disguised themselves as drunks and Orthodox priests. In 2004, a bomb planted atop an elevator in central Sofia was detonated by cellphone, killing a businessman and three bodyguards.

The toll now tops more than 125 contract killings since 1993, according to a list compiled by the United States Embassy in Sofia, which does not include at least four people killed this year, including the head of an energy company. Most of the killings are unsolved.

A Power Grab Begins

Admission to the European Union did not halt the carnage, but emboldened a power grab. According to corruption fighters and election observers, votes can be traded, depending on the town, for marijuana cigarettes or sold for up to 100 leva, or $69. People document their votes by taking pictures of their ballots with their cellphone cameras, according to Iva Pushkarova, executive director of the Bulgarian Judges Association.

“They trade votes freely on the streets, kill and threaten people with no shame,” Ms. Pushkarova said.

While corruption affects many corners of society, the impact is particularly stark in the legal system, where some people without political connections have resorted to hiring decoy lawyers, for fear that their legal documents would vanish if presented to particular clerks by lawyers recognized as working for them.

Kremikovtzi, an insolvent Communist-era steel plant and one of Bulgaria’s largest companies, has become a test case. Foreign creditors — many of them American hedge funds — are pursuing a $474 million claim against Kremikovtzi, whose former chief executive is under investigation by the Bulgarian authorities for fraud and embezzlement.

“When your law enforcement system isn’t cleaning up the corruption in the legal system, who do we go to?” asked Justin Holland, an adviser to the Kremikovtzi investors committee, “Literally, we cannot go to anybody in Bulgaria.”

Among Western nations, impatience is growing, particularly at the lack of trials of high-level government officials accused of corruption. As Frans Timmermans, the Dutch minister for European affairs, argued, “What we need to see is real people put before real judges, convicted and put in jail.”

Meglena Pluchieva, Bulgaria’s newly appointed deputy prime minister for oversight of European government funding, said she believed that the nation was making headway similar to that of nations that joined the European Union a few years earlier, in 2004. The difference is that then there was enthusiasm for union expansion, but today “the situation is entirely different,” she said. She also accused wealthier nations of double standards, citing a scandal over rotten meat in Germany last year.

Some European countries have simply given up on Bulgarian justice.

Germany complained of getting little local help in its effort to prosecute Konstantin Hadjivanov, a wealthy businessman and a member of the City Council in Petrich, Bulgaria, who is known as “the Kitty.”

So the Germans waited until he had stepped into Greece to serve their warrant. Now he sits in a jail cell on cigarette smuggling charges while facing another fraud inquiry.

But it is only a matter of time before he returns home to resume his political career, say his supporters and wife, a former Mrs. Bulgaria.

City elections, canceled once because of irregularities, took place on Saturday. From his Greek jail cell, Mr. Hadjivanov gamely ran for re-election, but the voters finally rebelled: He won less than 1 percent of Petrich’s vote. source

A russian lullaby...almost

Again on Russia. It looks like it gets more and more in my posts :)
Now, two articles. One is on the bad side of Russia, the second is on the dangerous side of Russia.

I won't comment too much on the second article, since it's not of much use. Although I find it kind of odd to try to kill off all your enemies using the same method. Effective, but way too obvious. And Russian assassins rarely miss. If they wanted her dead, she would be. And scaring her off is useless. Whatever, it was just for you information.

Now, the first article is more fun. Gazprom guys go to Alaska and wants to join projects on gas-pipes. I find this very funny even if somewhat disturbing. We keep on talking about the energy dependence of Europe over Russia and next thing we see is how the guys go to USA and want to have a share there too. Ok, I don't care so much, for me, it's more or less the same whose long hand will rule in the shadows. But this is just another sign that USA is getting weak. And even if the recent gymnastics of the euro are not exactly a proof of my opinion, events are enfolding slowly and it gets more and more obvious that a new order is coming. I just would really like to believe that it won't be the Russian order since they are kind of brutal.
And notice how Mr. Irwin says the presentation of Gazprom was very professional. It looks like the myth of the unprofessionality of russians is still holding western minds. Hello! Have you got any idea how rich those guys are? They must know what they're doing! Although in most case they don't need a presentation, because they hold "the gun", but I'm sure they enjoyed the creativity surge :)

Russian Gas Executives Visit Palin’s Turf

Published: October 14, 2008

MOSCOW — A high-level delegation from the Russian energy company Gazprom met in Anchorage with state officials on Monday to talk about investing in Alaskan energy projects. The meeting came nearly three weeks after Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska talked in a television interview about her expertise in energy matters and took a hard line with Russia.

Senior officials of Gazprom said at a shareholder meeting in Moscow in June that the company was seeking to take part in a consortium that is building a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to Canada. The company is also interested in investing in other energy initiatives in the state, according to a statement released by Gazprom on Tuesday about the meeting in Anchorage.

“Gazprom has accumulated great experience in exploring hydrocarbon deposits, building and using gas pipelines in the far north environment,” the company said in the statement. “Gazprom’s experience will be relevant in realization of similar projects in Alaska.”

The Russian delegation at the meeting on Monday in Anchorage unexpectedly included several close associates of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin. The executives presented a slide show about the company’s business that lasted about an hour.

Eight senior Gazprom officials attended the session, including the company’s chief executive, Aleksei B. Miller, a longtime Putin ally, and Aleksandr V. Golubyev, a deputy director who, like Mr. Putin, is a veteran of the K.G.B. and who has worked with Mr. Putin for at least 17 years, according to a biography posted on the Gazprom Web site.

The delegation met with Tom Irwin, the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, who was appointed by Ms. Palin, and with James J. Mulva, the chief executive of ConocoPhillips, a Texas oil company. Gazprom has been in talks with Conoco, which does business in Russia, about joining the Alaskan pipeline consortium.

A Gazprom official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the visit said it was rare for such a large delegation of senior executives to travel together.

Mr. Irwin characterized the Gazprom presentation as an overview of the company’s global business. “This was a very professional, well-done overview,” he said. The governor’s office was notified of the meeting, he said.

In an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News last month, Ms. Palin, in response to a question about her foreign policy expertise, explained why she thought that Alaska’s proximity to Russia had contributed to her international experience.

Gazprom is exceptionally close to the Russian government, and political and energy analysts think its international business activities are closely coordinated with the Kremlin’s foreign policy agenda. The company, the world’s largest gas producer, has been eager to enter the North American market. Earlier this year, Gazprom bought capacity at a planned liquefied-natural-gas plant in Canada.

Gazprom is so close to the Russian government that top officials move seamlessly from the boardroom to the Kremlin and back. When Dmitri A. Medvedev replaced Mr. Putin as president in May, he resigned as chairman of Gazprom. He was replaced at the company’s helm by Viktor A. Zubkov, who stepped down as prime minister. Mr. Putin then became prime minister. source

Toxins Found in Russian Rights Lawyer’s Car

Published: October 15, 2008

MOSCOW — The French police are investigating the discovery of toxic mercury pellets in the car of a human rights lawyer who was taken ill in Strasbourg on Tuesday, a day before pretrial hearings in Moscow into the killing of one of her best-known clients, the journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya.

The case recalled events almost two years ago when Alexander Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. officer and a vocal critic of Vladimir V. Putin, died after ingesting a highly radioactive toxin, polonium 210. Scotland Yard said he had been murdered.

Ms. Politkovskaya, who had chronicled allegations of abuse in Russia’s wars in Chechnya, was shot to death in her apartment building in Moscow a few weeks before Mr. Litvinenko was poisoned. Critics of Mr. Putin, then president and now prime minister, said the two killings were part of a pattern of Kremlin-backed actions against its foes.

On Wednesday, pretrial hearings into Ms. Politkovskaya’s killing began behind closed doors in a military court in Moscow. But her lawyer, Karinna Moskalenko — a prominent Russian human rights lawyer — was not there.

The Strasbourg police said Ms. Moskalenko’s husband, a chemist, had discovered “about 10 little pellets of liquid metal” in the family car on Sunday, on the floor of both the driver and the passenger sides of the vehicle, the newspaper Le Figaro reported, quoting an unidentified person close to the police inquiry. Analysis by toxicologists identified the substance as mercury, which can damage organs and the immune and nervous systems.

Ms. Moskalenko complained of headaches and vomiting on Tuesday. Doctors examined her and her family on the same day.

A police officer said the presence of mercury might have been a result of an accident before the Moskalenko family bought the car, used, in August.

Anna Stavitskaya, another lawyer representing the Politkovskaya family, said the mercury might have been part of an attempt to intimidate Ms. Moskalenko.

Ms. Moskalenko spends much of her time in Strasbourg, in eastern France, pursuing cases at the European Court of Human Rights, according to the radio station. Some of her cases have been on behalf of Chechens complaining of human rights abuses. She has represented Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the jailed oil tycoon. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ms. Moskalenko’s clients included Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion who has become an opposition political leader in Russia, and Mr. Litvinenko, the former K.G.B. officer.

At the hearing in Moscow, a judge refused a request by lawyers for Ms. Politkovskaya’s family that the session be delayed because of Ms. Moskalenko’s illness.

Two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, are accused of conducting surveillance of Ms. Politkovskaya. A former police officer, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, is accused of providing technical help. All three deny the charges. Ms. Politkovskaya’s supporters argue that a third Chechen, suspected of shooting her, is on the run.

The next hearing is set for Nov. 17, with jury selection scheduled for the following day. source

The price of life in Afghanistan

I wrote already on this. But it's not over. US army seems to get some weird pleasure in killing off civilians on foreign soil. And that's very VERY wrong.
I can't explain to myself what's going on there. I don't believe the army is THAT stupid, even if it looks good on a movie. I don't believe also that the army like killing innocents. Some people might, but most of them don't. I don't want to be mean to the soldiers, because it's not easy out there and they are doing their jobs as best as they can. But then, what's wrong with them?! Why we keep on hearing about killed women and children after US missiles?
War got too abstract for me. I liked a lot one book, a sci fi by not-remembered author. It was about war. I remember that scene-the soldiers have to bomb a building. They are assured that there are no civilians there, that it's evacuated and stuff. And because the bomb has a video camera on it, they even see a target on the building and recieve point as they score. And they simply cannot understand how come the other side claim they were victims, when they were warned to expect the atack.

As ridiculous as it may seem, it very much resembles of the war in Afghanistan. The army aims for terrorists but all it gets is women and children. And nobody can quite understand what's going on there. Well, it may be some evil plot against the US army to lure them into bombing civilian villages. Or it may not. The important part is that those people are beyond explanations and reparations. They are dead. They were killed. By incompetence. And nobody is taking charge for those "mistakes". And they continue to happe. For how long? Until all the "terrorists" are dead? Until the Afghani people get all talibans and you can nuke them safely? Until they hate you enough to make you leave the country? How much more tears and blood should this land take?

Once-it's a mistake. Twice, it's intention.

Afghan Officials Say Airstrike Killed Civilians

Published: October 16, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike on Thursday on a village near the embattled provincial capital of Lashkar Gah killed 25 to 30 civilians, Afghan officials in the area said. While NATO confirmed that an airstrike had taken place in the area, where Taliban fighters have been battling NATO forces, it said that the reports were being investigated and that the command was “unable to confirm any civilian casualties.”

Reliable information on the airstrike — whether it caused the deaths, as local officials and residents reported, and whether the number of civilian deaths was accurate — was elusive. But any substantial civilian death toll would further inflame an Afghan government and public already angered by a recent rise in civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes. American commanders have acknowledged that the war has been going badly in recent months as the Taliban and Al Qaeda have stepped up their campaign of bombings and assassinations.

Residents claiming to have witnessed the airstrike said at least 18 bodies, all women and children — including one 6-month-old — were pulled from the rubble and taken to the provincial governor’s compound in protest.

At nightfall in Kabul, the Afghan capital, the NATO command issued a statement confirming only that an airstrike had taken place in the Nadali District, about 10 miles northwest of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in the southwest. The command said it expected to give more details on Friday.

The NATO command’s concern about airstrikes was heightened after Aug. 22, when an American AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected Taliban compound in the village of Azizabad in the western province of Herat, prompting claims by villagers that more than 90 civilians, the majority of them women and children, were killed. The American military under Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top American commander in Afghanistan, initially insisted that only 5 to 7 civilians were killed but then ordered another investigation after new evidence emerged from the United Nations and reporters who visited the scene. A subsequent report by a Pentagon-based general, released last week, concluded that more than 30 civilians died.

The Azizabad strike shook the already strained relationship between the Bush administration and the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai. American officials have criticized the Karzai government for what they say is its incompetence and corruption. Mr. Karzai has struck back with demands that American commanders rein in their airstrikes, saying that civilian casualties have undermined popular support for the war effort. After the Azizabad strike, President Bush called Mr. Karzai to express his regrets.

Less than two weeks later, General McKiernan issued a so-called tactical directive aimed at reducing civilian casualties.

Local officials and residents of Nadali said Thursday that a bomb had hit three houses in a village in the Loy Bagh District that were sheltering seven families fleeing fighting elsewhere in the district over the past week. Mahboob Khan, the district chief, said in a telephone interview that 18 bodies had been pulled from the rubble, and that as many as 12 other bodies remained buried in the ruins. Mr. Khan said the bombing had caused widespread anger among the villagers. “They’re busy burying their family members now,” he said.

He added, “But tomorrow, they will demand to know why their houses were targeted.”

Mr. Khan’s account, and similar ones given by other local officials, could not be verified because reporters were unable to reach the site of the strike. Mr. Khan’s compound in Nadali is said to be the only place in the district that is under the control of the government. Accounts of the recent fighting in the area have said that the Taliban have virtually free run of the area, a situation that if true would mean that Taliban commanders would be in a position to exploit the strike by offering their own version of what occurred.

At a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, General McKiernan, just back from a top-level review of war strategy at the Pentagon, said the International Security Assistance Force, the coalition he commands, had adopted the most elaborate measures ever undertaken in war for avoiding civilian deaths. “Never in history has a military coalition taken greater measures to try and avoid civilian casualties than have been taken by ISAF,” he said.

At the briefing, Lt. Gen. Jonathon Riley, the British officer who is General McKiernan’s deputy, staunchly defended the way airstrikes were conducted, saying that the combat aircraft involved — mainly from the United States, Britain and France — used “precision-guided weapons that are much more precise than machine guns” and other battlefield weapons, and that airstrikes were not ordered without multiple sources of intelligence indicating that the targets were combatants.

The coalition’s chief spokesman, Brig. Gen. Richard Blanchette of Canada, said in a telephone interview later that the directive had been accompanied by instructions intended to reduce the use of airstrikes in situations where they might cause civilian casualties. He said the NATO command had sent a “reminder” to commanders that they had the option of a “tactical withdrawal” from an engagement with the Taliban to avoid civilian casualties rather than resorting to airstrikes or other heavy weapons.source

American dream

I realise the 3 articles are hardly connected. But they are all symptoms of the ill system.
It represents 3 sides of what I consider a problem. Corporation or more specifically the ways the find to evade the system, the high infant-death and the problem in the vaccines.
I have commented these before, often enough, so I won't do it now. I just leave it to you to think on it.
And I'm utterly amazed how life is so utterly creative. You try to kill it, it finds 10 another ways to thrive. It would be very nice, if it didn't include Meningitis. But still, I can't but respect Nature.

Two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The study, which is likely to add to a growing debate among politicians and policy experts over the contribution of businesses to Treasury coffers, did not identify the corporations or analyze why they had paid no taxes. It also did not say whether they had been operating properly within the tax code or illegally evading it.

The study covers 1.3 million corporations of all sizes, most of them small, with a collective $2.5 trillion in sales. It includes foreign corporations that do business in the United States.

Among foreign corporations, a slightly higher percentage, 68 percent, did not pay taxes during the period covered — compared with 66 percent for United States corporations. Even with these numbers, corporate tax receipts have risen sharply as a percentage of federal revenue in recent years.

The G.A.O. study was done at the request of two Democratic senators, Carl Levin of Michigan and Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota. In recent years, Senator Levin has held investigations on tax evasion and urged officials and regulators to examine whether corporations were abusing tax laws by shifting income earned in higher-tax jurisdictions, like the United States, to overseas subsidiaries in low-tax jurisdictions.

Senator Levin said in written remarks on Tuesday that “this report makes clear that too many corporations are using tax trickery to send their profits overseas and avoid paying their fair share in the United States.”

But the G.A.O. said that it did not have enough data to address the role of what some policy experts say is a crucial factor in profits sent overseas.

In 2005, one in four large United States corporations paid no taxes on revenue of $1.1 trillion, compared with 66 percent in the overall pool. Large corporations are those with at least $250 million in assets or annual sales of at least $50 million.

Joshua Barro, a staff economist at the Tax Foundation, a conservative research group, told The New York Times that the largest corporations represented only 1 percent of the total number of corporations but more than 90 percent of all corporate assets.

The vast majority of the large corporations that did not pay taxes had net losses, he said, and thus no income on which to pay taxes. “The notion that there is a large pool of untaxed corporate profits is incorrect.”.source

Infant Deaths Drop in U.S., but Rate Is Still High

Published: October 15, 2008

WASHINGTON — Infant deaths in the United States declined 2 percent in 2006, government researchers reported Wednesday, but the rate still remains well above that of most other industrialized countries and is one of many indicators suggesting that Americans pay more but get less from their health care system.

Infant mortality has long been considered one of the most important indicators of the health of a nation and the quality of its medical system. In 1960, the United States ranked 12th lowest in the world, but by 2004, the latest year for which comparisons were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that ranking had dropped to 29th lowest.

This international gap has widened even though the United States devotes a far greater share of its national wealth to health care than other countries. In 2006, Americans spent $6,714 per capita on health — more than twice the average of other industrialized countries.

Some blame cultural issues like obesity and drug use. Others say that the nation’s decentralized health care system is failing, and some researchers point to troubling trends in preterm births and Caesarean deliveries.

Many agree, however, that the data are a major national concern. More than 28,000 infants under the age of 1 die each year in the United States.

In 2006, 6.71 infants died in the United States for every 1,000 live births, a rate little different from the 6.89 rate reported in 2000 or the 6.86 rate of 2005. Twenty-two countries had infant mortality rates in 2004 below 5.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, with many Scandinavian and East Asian countries posting rates below 3.5. While there are some differences in the way countries collect these data, those differences cannot explain the relatively low international ranking of the United States, according to researchers at the disease control agency.

Preterm birth is a significant risk factor for infant death. From 2000 to 2005, the percentage of preterm births in the United States jumped 9 percent, to 12.7 percent of all births. The most rapid increase has been among late preterm births, or babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation. Some 92 percent of these increased premature births are by Caesarean section, according to a recent study.

Dr. Mary D’Alton, chairwoman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, said doctors should not induce labor before 39 weeks of gestation unless there was an urgent medical or obstetrical need. For unknown reasons, the number of preterm births is far higher among African-American women even when those women have access to good medical care, Dr. D’Alton said.

There is some evidence, she said, that steroids given to mothers at risk of giving birth early may help. A trial to test this theory is about to start.

Some economists argue that the disappointing infant mortality figure is one of many health indicators demonstrating that the health care system in the United States, despite its enormous cost, is failing.

Although the United States has relatively good numbers for cancer screening and survival, the nation compares poorly with other countries in many other statistical categories, including life expectancy and preventable deaths from diseases like diabetes, circulatory problems and respiratory issues like asthma.

Ms. Turner blamed socioeconomic factors like obesity, high drug use, violence with guns and car accidents — factors that she said could not be addressed by health reform. Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research organization, agreed that socioeconomic factors played a role but said that the nation’s heavy reliance on the private delivery of care was also to blame.

“We’re spending twice what other countries do,” Ms. Davis said, “and we’re falling further and further behind them in important measures like infant mortality.”source

Worrisome Infection Eludes a Leading Children’s Vaccine

Published: October 13, 2008

A highly drug-resistant germ has become a common cause of meningitis, pneumonia and other life-threatening conditions in young children. The culprit — a strain of strep bacteria — can conquer almost all antibiotics in pediatrics, and has dodged a vaccine otherwise credited with causing the number of serious infections in children to plummet.

Since 2000, American toddlers have been immunized against Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, an organism that preys largely on children younger than 5 and the elderly. Pneumococcal meningitis can be fatal, and survivors are often left with deafness and other lifelong neurological problems.

And by most measures, the vaccine has worked: by 2002, rates of infection from these bacteria had dropped as much as 80 percent in some places. But progress has now stalled, and infection with a particular type of pneumococcus, Serotype 19A, is steadily rising.

“It’s very much a concern,” said Bernard Beall, a pneumococcal expert at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, pediatricians described an outbreak of Serotype 19A ear infections in Rochester that could be cured only by surgically implanting tubes, or by turning to adult medicines not yet tested for safety in children.

A greater worry, however, is the frequency of meningitis, pneumonia and bloodstream infections from Serotype 19A. Since 2001, rates of these and other invasive pneumococcal diseases have crept upward, to more than 10 per 100,000 children from about 2 per 100,000. A fourfold increase in life-threatening infections has also occurred among the elderly.

The vaccine, Prevnar, is aimed at seven types of bacteria that were responsible for 70 to 80 percent of pneumococcal illness during the 1990s. Because pneumococci come in 91 forms, experts have worried from the start whether bacteria that were just as deadly, but not wiped out by the vaccine, might move in as opportunists when the competition suddenly vanished.

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” said Dr. Steven Black of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Indeed, almost all pneumococcal infections among American children today are caused by versions not covered by the vaccine, and 19A is leading the way. “People hoped against hope it wouldn’t happen,” he said.

The vaccine’s manufacturer, Wyeth, says it has been working quickly to develop a new product to counter 19A and five other pneumococcal variations, along with the original seven. The company will release results of the first large studies of the newer version this month at an infectious disease meeting in Washington.

The bacteria live in the nose and throat, usually as microbial freeloaders of no consequence. Occasionally — often after a simple viral infection — pneumococci slip into inner areas of the body and cause disease. Weaker immune systems in the very young and the very old leave them most vulnerable. (The pneumonia shot in older people includes 19A, but many elderly people have not received the immunization.)

Not all of the 91 incarnations of pneumococcal bacteria are dangerous. They developed so much variety by mingling in the back of the throat, exchanging genetic material as eagerly as children trading Halloween candy. The variation in genes slightly alters how the bacteria function and how they are received by the immune system.

For vaccine manufacturers, pneumococci’s diversity presented a challenge: how to teach the immune system to recognize a target that may look a little different from child to child. “This is the most complex biological product ever made,” Dr. Emini said.

Serotype 19A was around in the 1990s, though uncommon, and the vaccine includes a similar version called 19F. The hope in 2000 was that 19F looked enough like 19A to set off an immune reaction. It did not.

Experts say it is hard to know what role the introduction of Prevnar may have played in the rise of the bacteria, which was gaining momentum in some countries before the vaccine’s adoption. For example, researchers from GlaxoSmithKline, which is introducing its own pneumococcal vaccine, reported last month that Serotype 19A became more common in Belgium from 2001 to 2004 — years when pneumococcal vaccination was rare in that country. Similar reports have emerged from China, South Korea and Israel.

Pneumococci ebb and flow in natural cycles, and some types have gained a survival advantage by growing resistant to a host of drugs. The vaccine may have simply amplified natural trends..

“I don’t think anyone can tell you the relative contributions of these factors,” said Dr. Sheldon L. Kaplan of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. This summer, he and his colleagues described a growing number of cases of drug-resistant mastoiditis, an infection of an inner-ear bone, from 19A.

Experts are now watching to see how forcefully the organism will spread before the new immunization arrives. Wyeth says it hopes to file an application with the Food and Drug Administration in 2009.

Disease experts also wonder what organisms like 19A mean for the future of pneumococcal infections. Public health experts once hoped the infection could be defeated, but it now appears that pneumococci may be playing a game of cat and mouse.

“The pneumococcus has shown an extraordinary ability to evolve to our strategies,” said Dr. Beall of the C.D.C.

Yet he and others are quick to say that immunization remains highly effective, even if it leaves some children behind..source

Happy Birthday! To me!

Yep, Happy Birthday to me! :)

Today, I'm turning 25. It's not a number that makes me very very happy, but then, it's not like I could stop those numbers growing. And, it could be 52 (and hopefully will be one day) :)

I hope next year and next 25 will give me stunning success and happiness and love and much joy. Lol, it's funny to make your own wishes, but after all, nobody loves me more than myself :)
This year was very full of experiences, so I think I definitely have achieved a lot. But I want more.

Like in that song-I want it all and I want it now...

That's from me for today, I'll leave now, to find a way to enjoy myself and to celebrate the wonderful day. Who would have thought I will be here today, after all the experiences I've had. But I am. That is a definite reason to party all night. And all that will follow.

So, off from me, and you too have a great day full of joy and happiness.

The other side of the crisis

I'm very interested in Dubai for many reasons. So I can't but post this information about how Emirates react to the crisis. I have two comments to make.
First, I don't believe the crisis will ever harm them directly, since they are the producers and producers rarely are harmed by speculations. At least when they are from the Emirate magnitude. If you think how much money they earn and reinvest home. It's simply amazing. And I LOVE the way the spend. Sure they'll make indoor ski-slope in the middle of the desert. That's what being a human is about. Yeah, there must be limits, so that we don't harm the environment but this is nothing compared to the shit China, USA and India emit in the air. And it's good. It's stimulate technologies, it's stimulate people, it makes the world a place worth living. I love it. There's nothing better than insane luxury. That's about the only thing I agree to take to the extremes, because it's the ultimate fun. But back on my comments. So, they are then immune to the crisis, right? Wrong.
The cannot be hit directly, because let's face it, they are above it. Like Gazprom going broke. It simply cannot happen. Or it can, but in a very dangerous world. But they still can be hit indirectly. Because investors are not always ultra-rick arab, but sometimes other people/institutions, people who will be hit directly. And if those people disappear for a while, there won't be buyers in Dubai, there will be stagnation. I also don't think that could blow their card-house, more likely it will simply slow the economy to a normal pace. But still, that's bad when you learnt to live "on fire".
In any case, I think it's a nice contrast to the crazyness our western world is. Some people make strikes because the food is to expensive, other enjoy the calmness provoked by the starvation. Nice :)

Boomtown Feels Effects of a Global Crisis

Published: October 4, 2008

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — On the surface, this glittering Arabian boomtown seems immune to the financial crisis plaguing the global economy.

The skyline still bristles with cranes — an estimated 20 percent of the world’s total — and the papers are full of ads promoting spectacular new building projects. On Sept. 24, tourists from around the world flocked to the opening of Atlantis, a gargantuan, pink, $1.5 billion resort hotel built on an artificial, palm-shaped island. There was no shortage of people willing to pay as much as $25,000 a night for a room, to gaze at the sharks and rays in a vast glass-lined aquarium in the lobby and to dine at marquee restaurants like Nobu and Brasserie Rostang.

But as recession looms in the West, cracks are appearing in the oil-fueled boom that has made Dubai, with its futuristic skyscrapers on the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf, a global byword for unfettered growth.

Banks are reining in lending, casting a pall over corporate finance and building plans. Oil prices have been dropping. Stock markets across the region have been falling since June. After insisting for days that the oil-rich Persian Gulf region was fully “insulated” from financial troubles abroad, the Emirates’ Central Bank made about $13.6 billion available on Sept. 22 to ease credit problems, in an echo of bailout measures in the United States. Already, some bankers are saying it is not enough.

Some of Dubai’s more extravagant building projects — the ever-bigger malls, islands and indoor ski slopes — are likely to be dropped if they do not already have financing lined up, bankers say. The credit crisis could also reduce demand from buyers, who will have a harder time getting mortgages.

The shrinkage will be more severe if the financial crisis worsens in the West. Property prices and rents, which have remained steady until now, are widely expected to start dropping soon.

At the same time, investor confidence has been harmed by a long string of high-level corporate scandals, jeopardizing Dubai’s long-term ambition of becoming a regional financial capital.

When he first arrived, Mr. Bazi said, making money was almost absurdly easy. “Iranians, Russians, Europeans — everybody was buying,” he said. “I didn’t have to call people; they were calling me.”

Now, Mr. Bazi stalks the lobbies of hotels, trying to find clients.

“The market is sleeping,” he said.

In fairness, Dubai still looks rosy when set against the financial turmoil elsewhere. Although it lacks the oil wealth of its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, Dubai has huge budget and current account surpluses, and the government of the Emirates federation is able and willing — like its Persian Gulf neighbors — to inject an almost unlimited amount of money into the system to ease credit problems.

The governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have reaped so much profit from oil and gas in recent years that they are more worried about how to spend it than about managing any downturn. But the Persian Gulf’s governments face real economic challenges, albeit ones that are profoundly different from those in the West.

Until recently, credit in Dubai was growing by 49 percent a year, according to the Emirates’ Central Bank — a rate almost double that of bank deposits’ growth. That unnerved some bankers here, who felt it could lead to a collapse.

“In the U.S., the challenge is about keeping the banks going,” said Marios Maratheftis, chief economist for Standard Chartered Bank. “Here, the economy has been overheated, a correction is needed, and it’s about making sure the slowdown happens in a smooth, orderly manner.”

If that sounds like an easy problem to have, consider the manic vicissitudes of Dubai’s real estate market. Speculators often got bank loans to put down 10 percent on a property that had not yet been built, only to flip it for a huge profit to another buyer, who would do the same thing, and on and on. That was easy to do when housing prices here were surging so fast that some properties multiplied tenfold in value in just a few years.

But the Dubai authorities began getting nervous about this and imposed new regulations this summer to limit speculation.

Many analysts say the slowdown in Dubai’s economy, assuming it does not worsen to a slump, will make the city’s growth more sustainable and healthy by reducing its dependence on loans and speculation.

Similarly, the authorities hope that recent arrests in corporate scandals will root out the culture of corruption that plagues so many Arab countries. Some of those arrested have been Emiratis with connections to the ruling family, in a gesture clearly intended to send the message that no one is exempt.

As Dubai’s frenzied growth slows, whether there is a hard or soft landing will depend in great part on the banks, the link between the region’s declining stock markets and its still-thriving property sector.

At worst, if the global economy worsened and some Dubai banks failed, there would be a firm crutch to lean on. In the early 1980s, after several Dubai banks stumbled, the government rescued them and relaunched them as the Emirates Bank International. In the early 1990s, two more banks were rescued. At that time, of course, Dubai was far smaller. The repercussions of such a government bailout today would be far more damaging to Dubai’s image as the epicenter of Persian Gulf development.

The government cushion appears to be part of the reason most local people do not seem anxious right now.

“We don’t worry about it,” said Hassan al-Hassani, 26, a civil engineer and an Emirati citizen, who was drinking coffee late Wednesday night with relatives and friends at a faux-Bedouin-style tent, set up among Dubai’s hypermodern skyscrapers in honor of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “Maybe it’s good for things to calm down.”source

Finally justice

Justice is strange word I don't use that often since I don't really believe in it. But in the case it's good. It's justice, for Bush administration. Not complete, of course, that could happen only in impeachment procedure. But it's close enough.
In the article below, you can read that a judge decided to release 17 detainees in Guantanamo for lack of evidences they took part in ANY terror-related plans. The government gave up fighting to prove they are guilty long ago. Now the problem is where to release them, because they are considered criminal in China and would be killed. (something about China that people tend to forget). I still can't remember what exactly the name of those people tell me, when I figure it out, I'll tell you. But in any case, the fun part is that they arrested them in Afghanistan where they were hiding. They released few of them in Albania (???obviously the only country that is weak enough to take them) but they have no place to release the others.

While americans may not like to have them in USA, I think they have a reason to stay. I mean, they found a safe place from China in tortured Afghanistan, then they were took prisoners by USA and held against law and reason for years in a base with notorious history. And now, they want to just dump them somewhere and pretend nothing happened? Does it sound fair?

For me, USA was an aggressor towards them, they changed their life for much worst and took their only safe place. It's obvious they cannot be released on a place where they will be killed because that's equal to death sentence. And USA justice claims they are innocent. Since this was an US mistake, I don't see why any other country should take the responsibility to keep them safe. That's why I applaud the decision of that judge and say a big HAHA to mr. Bush. It was high time to see someone showing him he's not a deity. Because it looks like he kind of forgot it.

P.S. Oh, my, I checked, they lived in Tian Shan, where Bulgars are from. We're cousins! If you check in Wikipedia you'll see they are blond and fair (some of them). That's...Well, the truth will simply come up sooner or later. No one can kill the truth. Russia couldn't (see the post for Tatarstan), China won't.

Judge Orders 17 Detainees at Guantánamo Freed

October 7, 2008

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Bush administration to release 17 detainees at Guantánamo Bay by the end of the week, the first such ruling in nearly seven years of legal disputes over the administration’s detention policies.

The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court, ordered that the 17 men be brought to his courtroom on Friday from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they have been held since 2002. He indicated that he would release the men, members of the restive Uighur Muslim minority in western China, into the care of supporters in the United States, initially in the Washington area.

Saying the men had never fought the United States and were not a security threat, he tersely rejected Bush administration claims that he lacked the power to order the men set free in the United States and government requests that he stay his order to permit an immediate appeal.

The ruling was a sharp setback for the administration, which has waged a long legal battle to defend its policies of detention at the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, arguing a broad executive power in waging war. Federal courts up to the Supreme Court have waded through detention questions and in several major cases the courts have rejected administration contentions.

The government recently conceded that it would no longer try to prove that the Uighurs were enemy combatants, the classification it uses to detain people at Guantánamo, where 255 men are now held. But it has fought efforts by lawyers for the men to have them released into the United States, saying the Uighurs admitted to receiving weapons training in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said the administration was “deeply concerned by, and strongly disagrees with” the decision.

Justice Department lawyers said they were filing an emergency application on Tuesday night for a stay from the federal appeals court in Washington.

Judge Urbina’s decision came in a habeas corpus lawsuit authorized by a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that gave detainees the right to have federal judges review the reason for their detention. Speaking from the bench in a courtroom crowded with Uighur supporters of the detainees, Judge Urbina suggested that the government was seeking a stay as a tactic to keep the men imprisoned.

The Uighurs have long been at the center of contentious legal cases because they said they were swept into detention in Afghanistan in 2001 by mistake. They said they were in Afghanistan to seek refuge from China, where the Uighurs, Turkic Muslims, often bridle at Han Chinese rule.

The Bush administration has fought the Uighurs in court for years, contending that their encampment in Afghanistan had ties to a Uighur terror group. Last summer, a federal appeals court ridiculed as inadequate the government’s secret evidence for holding one of the men. In the months since, the government has said that it would “serve no useful purpose” to continue to try to prove that any of these 17 men were enemy combatants.

Lawyers for the Uighurs said the men would be persecuted or killed if they were returned to China. The administration said that since transferring five Uighur detainees to Albania in 2006, it had been unable to persuade governments to accept the other 17. Diplomats say many governments fear reprisal by China, which considers Uighur separatist groups terrorists.

The administration insisted during arguments on Tuesday that the courts did not have the power to release the men into the United States.

The Uighurs’ lawyers, Americans who have worked on the cases for years, had come to court prepared to outline a complex plan for support from community and church groups in the Washington area and in Tallahassee, Fla., where some of the men might eventually be resettled.

But Judge Urbina did not call for the testimony, saying he would hold a hearing on that matter on Oct. 16, after the men would already be free. He said he would impose conditions on their release, including appearances before him every six months. Lawyers for the Uighurs were pleased with the ruling. source

The hidden strength of women

You know how much I enjoy every small step towards the freedom for the Arab women. Check out this! It's really a ray of light especially in Taliban Afghanistan where women were after the animals and were put in extremely hard situation by the Talibans. Please, read the article since it's very informative and well-positive!

In Poverty and Strife, Women Test Limits

October 5, 2008

BAMIAN, Afghanistan — Far away from the Taliban insurgency, in this most peaceful corner of Afghanistan, a quiet revolution is gaining pace.

Women are driving cars — a rarity in Afghanistan — working in public offices and police stations, and sitting on local councils. There is even a female governor, the first and only one in Afghanistan.

In many ways this province, Bamian, is unique. A half-dozen years of relative peace in this part of the country since the fall of the Taliban and a lessening of lawlessness and disorder have allowed women to push the boundaries here.

Most of the people in Bamian are ethnic Hazaras, Shiite Muslims who are in any case more open than most Afghans to the idea of women working outside the home.

But the changes in women’s lives here are also an enormous step for Afghanistan as a whole. And they may point the way to broader possibilities for women, eventually, if peace can be secured in this very conservative Muslim society, which has been dominated by militia commanders and warlords during the last 30 years of war.

In a country with low rankings on many indicators of social progress, women and girls are the most disadvantaged.

More than 80 percent of Afghan women are illiterate. Women’s life expectancy is only 45 years, lower than that of men, mostly because of the very high rates of death during pregnancy. Forced marriage and under-age marriage are common for girls, and only 13 percent of girls complete primary school, compared with 32 percent of boys.

The cult of war left women particularly vulnerable. For years now they have been the victims of abduction and rape. Hundreds of thousands were left war widows, mired in desperate poverty. Particularly in the last years of Taliban rule, even widows, who had no one to provide for them, were not allowed to work or leave the home unaccompanied by a male relative.

Fear of armed militiamen left women afraid even to walk in front of the police station in the town of Bamian, recalled Nahida Rezai, 25, the first woman to join the police force here. “And I came right into the police station,” she said, admitting to some fears.

At the beginning, she had some problems. “I received some threats by telephone,” she said. “But now I am working as a police officer, I think nothing can deter me.”

Nekbakht, 20, joined the police force, too, and now helps her father, a casual laborer, support the family. They live in a single room tucked into the cliff face of Bamian valley, where homeless refugees have found shelter in caves inhabited centuries ago by Buddhist pilgrims.

“It was very difficult to find a job,” she said. “We had economic problems, and with the high prices life was difficult. Finally, I decided if I could not find another job, I should go into the police.” After joining nine months ago, she likes the job so much she says she is encouraging other women to join, too.

Indeed, growing economic hardship has helped drive some women to join the work force or to take other bold steps as they try to help their families cope with a severe drought, rising food prices and unemployment.

That was the case for Zeinab Husseini, 19. Her father, with seven daughters and no sons, says he had little choice when he needed a second driver to help at home.

“I like driving,” she said, seated at the wheel of her family’s minibus. “I was interested from childhood to learn to drive and to buy a car. I was the first woman in Bamian to drive.”

But over all, it is the return to relative peace here that has allowed for women’s progress, said the governor, Habiba Sarabi, a doctor and educator who ran underground literacy classes during the Taliban regime.

“If the general situation improves, it can improve the situation for women,” she said. She pushed to have policewomen so they could handle women’s cases, and there are now 14 women on the force, she said.

Some of the changes in Bamian have been echoed in more conservative parts of Afghanistan. But even the success stories sometimes end up showing the continuing dangers for women who take jobs to improve their lot. In Kandahar Province, one of the most noted female police officials in the country, Capt. Malalai Kakar, was gunned down on her way to work on Sept. 28.

In Bamian Province, Mrs. Sarabi, 52, has been the driving force behind women’s progress in public life. Her appointment by President Hamid Karzai three years ago as governor of Bamian was a bold move when jihadi leaders were still so powerful in the towns and countryside.

Some opponents are still agitating for her removal, Mrs. Sarabi said. “It is not only because they are against women,” she said, “but they do not want to lose power, so they make trouble for the governor.

The people of Bamian say they accepted a woman as governor in the hope that an English-speaking, development-oriented technocrat like Mrs. Sarabi would deliver jobs and prosperity.

In fact, the success of women’s Community Development Councils here has caught the attention of the World Bank, which has been a major donor to the programs and is looking to develop them further. Around the country there are 17,000 such councils, which choose local development projects and could be expanded to work on district and regional levels, said the bank’s president, Robert B. Zoellick, who visited Bamian this year.

“They are very effective,” he said of the councils in a recent interview. “People feel they have an influence in the future.”

The quiet work being done by women on the councils and in other jobs has helped turn things around for many in Bamian.

As the government began development programs in the provinces, Najiba was elected head of a newly formed women’s development council, representing her village and the neighboring village. Its job was to plan how to spend a government development grant.

The men’s council decided the area needed a road, and flood barriers to save the farming land near the river. The women’s council wanted instead to buy livestock for each family, traditionally the women’s domain in Afghan households, to improve the food supply for families.

The men won that debate. “We did not get the farming project,” Najiba said. “We are still suggesting it was valuable; we are trying to work on our projects so we don’t have to depend on the men.”

The women got their way with the next project: solar panels to provide light to groups of four houses. That project has opened up all sorts of ideas, for computers, televisions and educational and election programs, she said.

Women have participated in literacy and tailoring training programs, too.

She added, “It all comes down to the council.”

Now, women are taking courses run by nongovernmental organizations, getting educated and learning ways to improve their family incomes. Most important, the women have won over the men, she said.

“Their minds have changed,” Najiba said. “They want to share decisions, not too far, but they want to give us some share.”source

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