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Monday, December 31, 2007

Jumblatt lies to Syrians for 25 years

Mon, 31 Dec 2007 22:50:10

Walid Jumblatt

Lebanon's head of progressive socialist Party, Walid Jumbalat, admits that he has deceived the Syrians for almost twenty five years.

I am not a real ally to Syrians and I am lying to them, said Jumblatt in an interview with Press TV.

The Lebanon's Druze leader claimed that his father was killed by the Syrians.

'I decided to fix a pact with the devil and to shake hand the one who killed my father,' said Jumbalat, denouncing the fact that he had not the courage to declare the claim 25 years ago.

Jumblatt implicitly admitted that he is ready to cooperate with Americans rather than his fellow citizens, accusing Hezbollah of facilitating or ignoring Syrian killings.

"I will not give the veto power for the sake of Hezbollah and their allies and the Syrian regime," he said.

"They can take it by force over our dead bodies" but "I am not going to give up the veto power for the sake of Hezbollah," he added.

He rejected the fact that he has ignored Hezbollah stance on abandoning a national unity government for the sake of electing a president.

"We didn't ignore them but we will not give the blocking minority which means to topple the Taif [Agreement] and to topple all the power of the government," said Jumbalat.

Jumblatt denied that he is not going to give Hezbollah the veto power they want because he is scared that he might lose his popularity.

He emphasized that his party's candidate is Michel Suleiman and they will stick to him.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Ethiopia leaves key Somali town

Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu

The Ethiopians are not popular in Somalia
Ethiopian troops have withdrawn from a key town in central Somalia.

Islamist insurgents say they now control Guriel, where Ethiopia had a big military base to secure the road linking the two countries.

A BBC correspondent in Somalia says it is not clear why the Ethiopian troops withdrew without any fighting.

Guriel was a stronghold of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which lost power to Ethiopian-backed government troops a year ago this week.

The BBC's Ayanleh Hussein in Guriel says residents have been cheering the Ethiopians' departure.

During the occupation the local hospital was out of use as it was used as the Ethiopians' military base, he says.

Meanwhile, unrest continues in the capital, Mogadishu, where most Ethiopian forces in the country have been based since last year's invasion, which ended the UIC's six-month rule.

The bodies of four civilians were discovered after battles between insurgents and Ethiopian troops on Thursday around the animal market in the north of the city.

Somalia has been politically fragmented since 1991 and the country's transitional government, faced with an insurgency, is dependent on international aid and Ethiopian military support.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Top 10 New Organisms of 2007


By Alexis Madrigal Email 12.26.07 | 12:00 AM
Above: A special filter in a dark room shows a cat (left) with a red fluorescent protein that makes it glow when exposed to ultraviolet rays, next to a normal cloned cat (right) at Gyeongsang National University in Jinju, South Korea.
Below: In normal light, a normal cloned cat (left) stands next to two cats which have been cloned to glow red, but only in ultraviolet.
Photo: AP / Yonhap, Choi Byung-kil

Genetic engineering isn't just for scientists in ivory towers or corporate R&D labs anymore. Researchers are still creating new mice and crops every week, but the tools and knowledge necessary to create organisms never before seen on Earth have pushed out to pet breeders, artists and college kids.

A Wired News first, here we count down the top 10 organisms that didn't exist on Dec. 31, 2006.

1. Ashera GD hypoallergenic cat

Lifestyle Pets has created a cat it calls the Ashera GD, which has been genetically engineered to be hypoallergenic. The high-tech blend of exotic cat varieties doesn't come cheap: This kitty in the window retails for $27,000 -- nothing to sneeze at. The ultra-rich around the world, however, don't mind the price tag. Six of the cats sold in December, three of them in the company's best market: Russia. Next year, expect a transgenic cat, which will remain kitten-size throughout its life.

2. Butanol-producing E. coli

Genetic engineering is getting so easy, even a kid can do it. A team of students from the University of Alberta, "the Butanerds," competed in the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition, creating an E. coli strain that produces butanol fuel (albeit rather inefficiently). The Butanerds have competition from a host of well-funded startups, like Synthetic Genomics and LS9, which are trying to genetically modify single-celled organisms to create the fuels of the future.

3. Artful fluorescent tadpoles

At an Ohio State art show earlier this year, Russian artist Dmitry Bulatov presented his genetically engineered tadpoles, which glow red and green. Bulatov, the curator of the Kaliningrad Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Art in Russia, is one of a handful of artists around the world using biotechnology to create art. The field is controversial, because it involves experimenting with living things without a medical or therapeutic purpose. Bulatov edited a collection of essays on these issues called Biomediale: Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture.

4. Insulin-producing lettuce

In July, a University of Central Florida researcher announced he had genetically modified lettuce heads that produce insulin. They could be transformed into time-release capsules for people with diabetes, to help them maintain blood-sugar levels without regular injections.

5. Super CO2-absorbing trees

With global warming all over the news in 2007, many schemes have been proposed for taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Trees already do the world an admirable service sequestering carbon dioxide, but scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are also genetically modifying poplar trees to increase the amount of carbon that the trees can store.

6. Rapid vaccine-making button mushrooms

In November, Darpa-funded Pennsylvania State University researchers unveiled a new method for rapidly producing vaccines: genetically engineered button mushrooms. Pharming, using plants as chemical factories, is beginning to catch on as a cheap way to synthesize drugs. Within a few years, the Penn State scientists say their 'shrooms will be able to make 3 million doses of vaccine in 12 weeks. Rapid-response vaccine-making could come in handy in case of a bioterror attack or bird-flu outbreak.

7. Glow-in-the-dark cats

Photographs of cats genetically engineered by South Korean scientists to glow red when exposed to UV light made headlines around the world. What most news stories didn't mention was the scientific potential for fluorescent creatures: The animals' glow acts as a "green light" that lets scientists know that their genetic transformations of other, non-glowing genes have worked.

8. Cancer-fighting Clostridium bacteria

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment mean that a cancer diagnosis is no longer always a death sentence. But certain oxygen-starved parts of tumors are still difficult to reach with the old methods. Enter the Clostridium family of bacteria. Injected into the body, they grow and multiply only in the oxygen-poor parts of cancer tumors. In September, scientists in the Netherlands showed they could arm Clostridium bacteria with therapeutic protein genes, essentially creating search-and-destroy tumor missiles.

9. Schizophrenic mice

July's news that Johns Hopkins researchers had created schizophrenic mice was a surprise, even to scientists who regularly create genetically altered mice to model human diseases. In recent years, we've seen very big mice, fearless mice, Rain Man mice and a host of others. But the schizophrenic experience of hallucinations, delusions of grandeur and paranoia seemed somehow distinctly human. However, scientists recently identified a single gene called DISC1 as a major schizophrenia risk factor, leading to the creation of these mice, which lack the gene. Anatomical examinations revealed similarities between the mice's brains and those of human patients. The mice also revealed behaviors -- trouble finding food, agitation in open fields -- that researchers say parallel human schizophrenic activities.

10. Yeast with poison-sensing rat genes

Temple University doctors announced in May that they'd genetically modified a strain of yeast to glow green in the presence of DNT, an ingredient in dynamite. The scientists used rat olfactory genes to sense the chemical and switch on fluorescent-protein producing genes. Biosensors might be better than man-made sensors for applications like detecting nerve gas, because they are cheap to produce.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


The Somalia syndrome
Tue, 25 Dec 2007 21:55:12
BY Noam Chomsky

THIS poor country keeps taking one blow after another," Peter Goossens observed two months ago in an interview with The New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman. "Ultimately, it will break."

The country is Somalia, and Goossens directs the World Food Programme, which is now feeding some 1.2 million people there, 15 per cent of the population.

This tragic and tortured land is "marching right up to the edge of a crisis", Goossens said. "Any additional little thing, any little flood or drought, will push them over."

Somalia, war- and famine-torn, is beset from within and without. With a vigilance especially stepped up since September 11, the United States has reformulated its long-standing efforts to control the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia) as a front line in the "war on terror", and Somalia is at its very tip. The crisis in Somalia may be regarded partly as collateral damage from that "war on terror" and the geopolitical concerns reframed in these terms.

As Somalia sinks deeper into chaos, members of the African Union have sent small peacekeeping forces there, and pledged to send more if funding is made available. But they are unlikely to do so, "because there is no peace to keep (in Somalia) in the first place," Richard Cornwell, of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, told Scott Baldauf and Alexis Okeowo of The Christian Science Monitor in May.

By November, the United Nations noted that Somalia had "higher malnutrition rates, more current bloodshed and fewer aid workers than Darfur," Gettleman reported. Indeed, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top UN official for Somalia, described its plight as "the worst on the continent".

The United Nations, however, lacks the capacity to reach the people who are hungry, exposed, sick and dying in Somalia, according to Eric Laroche, head of UN humanitarian operations there.

"If this were happening in Darfur, there would be a big fuss," Laroche said. "But Somalia has been a forgotten emergency for years."

One distinction, hard to miss, is that the tragedy of Darfur can be blamed on someone else, in fact an official enemy — the government of Sudan and its Arab militias — while responsibility for the current disaster in Somalia, like others there that preceded it, lies substantially in our own hands.

In 1992, after the overthrow of the Somali dictatorship by clan-based militias and the ensuing famine, the United States sent thousands of soldiers on a dubious "rescue mission" to assist with humanitarian operations. But in October 1993, during the "Battle of Mogadishu", two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by Somali militiamen, leaving 18 US Army Rangers dead, along with perhaps 1,000 Somalis.

US forces were immediately withdrawn in a manner that continued the murderous ratio. "In the final stages of the troops' retreat, every bullet fired against them was answered, it seemed, by 100," Los Angeles Times correspondent John Balzar reported. As for the Somali casualties, Marine Lt. Gen. Anthony Zinni, who commanded the operation, informed the Press that "I'm not counting bodies ... I'm not interested."

CIA officials privately conceded that during the US operations in Somalia, in which 34 US soldiers were lost, Somali casualties — militiamen and civilians — may have been 7,000 to 10,000, Charles William Maynes reported in Foreign Policy.

The "rescue mission", which may have killed about as many Somalis as it saved, left the country in the hands of brutal warlords.

"After that, the United States — and much of the rest of the world — basically turned its back on Somalia," Gettleman reports. "But in the summer of 2006, the world started paying attention again after a grass-roots Islamist movement emerged from the clan chaos and seized control of much of the country", leaving only an enclave adjoining Ethiopia in the hands of the Western-recognised Transitional Federal Government.

During their brief tenure, the Islamists "didn't cause us any problems", Laroche reports. Ould-Abdallah called the six months of their rule Somalia's "golden era", the only period of peace in Somalia for years. Other UN officials concur, observing that "the country was in better shape during the brief reign of Somalia's Islamist movement last year" than it has been since Ethiopia invaded in December 2006 to impose the rule of the TFG.

The Ethiopian invasion, with US backing and direct participation, took place immediately after the U.N. Security Council, at U.S. initiative, passed Resolution 1725 for Somalia, which called upon all states "to refrain from action that could provoke or perpetuate violence and violations of human rights, contribute to unnecessary tension and mistrust, endanger the ceasefire and political process, or further damage the humanitarian situation."

The invasion by Somalia's historical enemy, Christian Ethiopia, soon elicited a bitter resistance, leading to the present crisis.

The official reason for US participation in Ethiopia's overthrow of the Islamist regime is the "war on terror" — which itself has engendered terror, quite apart from its own atrocities. Furthermore, the roots of the Islamic fundamentalist regime trace back to earlier stages of the "war on terror".

Immediately after September 11, the United States spearheaded an international effort to close down Al-Barakaat — a Dubai-based Somali remittance network that also runs major businesses in Somalia — on grounds that it was financing terror. This move was hailed by government and media as one of the great successes of the "war on terror". In contrast, Washington's withdrawal of its charges as without merit a year later aroused little interest.

The greatest impact of the closing of Al-Barakaat was in Somalia. According to the United Nations, in 2001 the enterprise was responsible for about half the $500 million remittances to Somalia, "more than it earns from any other economic sector and 10 times the amount of foreign aid (Somalia) receives".

Al-Barakat also played a major role in the economy, Ibrahim Warde observes in "The Price of Fear", his devastating study of Bush's "financial war on terror". The frivolous attack on a very fragile society "may have played a role in the rise ... of Islamic fundamentalists," Warde concludes — another familiar consequence of the "war on terror".

The renewed torture of Somalia falls within the context of US efforts to gain firm control over the Horn of Africa, where the United States is launching a new Africa command and extending naval operations in crucial shipping lanes, part of the broader campaign to ensure its domination of the world's primary energy resources in the Persian Gulf region and in Africa as well.

Just after World War II, when State Department planners were assigning each part of the world its "function" within the overall system of US domination, Africa was considered unimportant. George Kennan, head of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, advised that Africa should be handed over to Europe to "exploit" for its reconstruction. No longer. The resources of Africa are too valuable to be left to others, particularly with China extending its commercial reach.

If poor Somalia collapses in starvation and misery, that is merely a sideshow of grand geopolitical designs, and of little moment.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Nightmare in Afghanistan

Sun, 02 Dec 2007 16:14:02
By Ismail Salami, Press TV, Tehran

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is the second novel by the Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini who presently lives in the United States.

Set against the backdrop of thirty years of tumultuous Afghan history, Hosseini seeks to lay bare the innermost repressed human aspirations and a lingering desire for justice in a land crushed to the very bone by internal and external elements.

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is the story of Mariam and Laila, the two wives of the savage Rasheed. Mariam is only fifteen when she is forced into marriage with Rasheed, who is dozens of years her senior. Two decades later when she cannot produce an heir to Rasheed, he marries fourteen-year-old Laila.

Mariam and Laila join hands to fight the tyrannical rule of a selfish husband. They share their joys and sorrows and brook the tyranny in the deep bond which takes shape between them. With the coming of Taliban to power misery comes after misery: starvation, brutality and fear beyond human imagination. In the end through love the characters triumph over misery and plight.

With inconceivable skill the writer wrings from the readers the utmost strain of pity and sympathy for the characters.

Like in his previous novel 'The Kite Runner', the characters are desperate creatures raped, beaten and stripped of happiness. Yet, they persevere in the path of life looking for a ray of hope in a brutal world created not only by the social conventions and traditions but by the blind ignorance and prejudice of the tyrants as well.

The interplay of love and hate constitutes the core theme of the novel. People fall into two categories, those who are capable of love and those who are incapable of it. Mariam the protagonist looks for love in a society where love is the privilege of a few. Even paternal love is denied her because she is the illegitimate child of a rich man who brought her to life in a moment of carnal whim. In other words, happiness is far beyond the reach of the protagonist.

Apart from the political overtones in the novel, the writer does not lend a political hue to the novel but views human life from a social viewpoint. He depicts Afghanistan in different historical junctures.

Laila is the alter ego of Mariam who suffers a similar destiny although she comes from an intellectual family. In fact, Hosseini shows the predicament of women in a traditional society who have no other duties than wifely ones. It does not matter who you are in the Afghan society but what sex you are. To be a woman is to be a misfortunate creature. To be a woman is a sin.

Under the Taliban the situation becomes even worse for women. The Taliban in fact symbolize the most deteriorated form of existence for women.

As a matter of fact, the regime change does not bring about any reform in the lifestyle of women. Something is rotten in the very beliefs and traditions of the society which bind women to a wheel of woes: hunger, drought, civil war and the cruelty of well-armed zealots.

Hosseini is a great story teller. He has a great power of description and profound insight into human conditions. The characters are described in an unforgettable way. Some provoke anger and the others tenderness and affection. The agony of the Afghan people is painted so vividly that one finds oneself part of their suffering.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Putin Signs Law Suspending Participation in CFE Treaty

source almanar

01/12/2007 Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law suspending Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, the Kremlin announced.

The suspension takes effect Dec. 12. Under the moratorium, Russia will halt inspections and verifications of its military sites by NATO countries and will no longer be obligated to limit the number of conventional weapons deployed west of the Urals.

The 1990 arms control treaty set limits on the deployment of heavy conventional weapons by NATO and Warsaw Pact countries, to ease tensions along the border between the old Eastern bloc and Western Europe. The treaty was revised in 1999 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia ratified the updated treaty in 2004, but the United States and other NATO members have refused to follow suit, saying Moscow first must fulfill obligations to withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's separatist region of Trans-Dniester.

Both houses of parliament passed the law on the moratorium at Putin's initiative.

Putin called for Russia's temporary withdrawal from the treaty amid mounting anger in the Kremlin over US plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

What will US do to Chavez Part 2?

Venezuela to Expel US Diplomat

source almanartv

9/11/2007 Venezuela threatened to expel a US Embassy official for allegedly conspiring to defeat a referendum championed by President Hugo Chavez.

The allegation, that the diplomat was plotting to sway public opinion, comes ahead of a fiercely contested referendum on reforms that would allow Chavez indefinite re-election and help him establish a socialist state in Venezuela.

Sunday's vote has generated large pro- and anti-Chavez rallies and Chavez kept the rhetoric high on Wednesday by repeating his charge that Washington is plotting to kill him.

In Caracas, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro showed state television a document that was written by the unnamed embassy official and was to have been sent to the CIA as part of a plan to help ensure that Venezuelans vote against the proposed constitutional overhaul.

"It's a script from the CIA to try to generate a block of opinion among Venezuelans that would give a sure victory to the 'No' vote," said Maduro. "We will investigate and if it's that way, we'll remove this person from here as a persona non grata."

He did not provide more details of the alleged plot.

A spokesman for the US embassy, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said he was unaware of the document.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Rob McInturff said officials there were looking into the reports.

Chavez, an ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has had a friction-filled relationship with Washington. The Venezuelan leader accuses the US of supporting a 2002 coup that ousted him from office for two days.

In February 2006, Venezuela expelled naval attaché John Correa for allegedly passing secret information from Venezuelan military officers to the Pentagon.

On Tuesday, Chavez accused the CNN news network of "inciting" an assassination attempt against him. On Wednesday, Chavez said Washington is also seeking to kill him.

In Sunday's referendum, Venezuelans will vote on proposed changes to 69 amendments of the nation's 1999 constitution.

Castro: US could assassinate Chavez
Fri, 30 Nov 2007 21:03:45

Castro and Chavez have very close ties.
The Cuban President warns his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, that the US could assassinate him or wage a civil war in Venezuela.

"The irresponsible US government does not stop for one minute to think that killing the head of state in Venezuela, or a civil war there, given its huge oil reserves," Fidel Castro wrote in an editorial in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party's newspaper.

Castro wrote he had cautioned his Venezuelan ally "very seriously" when they met on November 21.

He had highlighted "the risks of assassination he was exposing himself to by constantly traveling in open-top vehicles," at the meeting.

Chavez is a vocal critic of US president George W. Bush's warmongering policies.He earlier said that Bush must be taken to a madhouse.

- source presstv

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