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Atlantic Free Press News

Wed

06

Jun

2007

Anger Builds in Fallujah Over Security Crackdown
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 09:07
by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

FALLUJAH, Jun 4 (IPS) - The city that was mostly destroyed by the U.S. military operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 has been under curfew for over two weeks, with no signs of relief.

Located 70 kms west of Baghdad, the city made headlines when four Blackwater USA security mercenaries were killed and their bodies horrifically mutilated on Mar. 31, 2004.

That April the city was attacked by the U.S. military, but resistance fighters repelled occupation forces. That set the stage for the November siege which left approximately 70 percent of the city destroyed and turned a quarter of a million residents into refugees.

A recent spike in attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces in and around the city has prompted harsh measures by the U.S. military, including imposing curfews, limiting movement in and out of Fallujah, and setting up more checkpoints throughout the city -- moves which have greatly angered residents.

On May 19, most of these measures, perceived by many people here as a form of collective punishment, began to be more strictly enforced.

"Americans and their Iraqi collaborators are blaming us for their failure in controlling the city and the whole country," Ahmed Alwan of the Sunni religious group the Muslim Scholars Association told IPS. "This kind of collective punishment only means slow death to the people of the city and is adding to their agonies that have continued since April 2003."

Referring to the sieges of Fallujah along with the ongoing checkpoints, curfews, restrictions and clashes, Alwan added, "The Americans have proved themselves to be the cruelest human beings ever by such shameful crimes against humanity."

As the U.S. occupation continues with no end in sight and the level of violence and chaos increases daily, the disconcerting trend of more people believing violence against occupation is the solution has become more prevalent.

"Day by day we find more people believe in violence as a best solution to face American war crimes," a human rights activist in Fallujah, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "To impose a curfew in a city that was already destroyed more than once is indeed a major crime against humanity."
 

Fri

01

Jun

2007

Rep. John Conyers Backs Impeachment
Friday, 01 June 2007 10:29
by David Swanson

Advocates for impeachment can take some measure of encouragement not just from the 85 cities and towns and 14 state Democratic parties that have passed impeachment resolutions, or the 11 state legislatures that have introduced them (Maine was #11 on Tuesday), but also from comments made Tuesday evening in Detroit by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers.

For about a year now there have been two Congressmen Conyers, the defender of our Constitution and the follower of Nancy Pelosi in her ban on impeachment. Citizens in Detroit organized a town hall forum on impeachment and invited the Congressman. Both John Conyerses came on Tuesday, and they both left partway through the event. But, judging by the Associated Press story, Conyers the impeachment advocate was winning the internal battle.

There's a very short version of the AP report posted on websites including...

The report reads in its entirety:

"Detroit Congressman John Conyers says he supports a national effort calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. But he stopped short today of pledging to take action to back it. The veteran democratic [sic] lawmaker chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which would lead any impeachment hearings. Conyers did say that he encourages nationwide efforts to build support for impeaching Bush."
 

Thu

24

May

2007

Canadian Military Interferes with Killer Whale Recovery Strategy - Federal Government could face lawsuit over further delays
Thursday, 24 May 2007 08:14
VANCOUVER, BC (Pacific Free Press) – After nearly a year of unlawful delays, the latest caused by the Canadian military, environmental groups issued a warning to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) today to release the Recovery Strategy for BC’s famous resident killer whales, or face a lawsuit. 
 
The Southern Resident Killer Whales are an endangered species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). Under SARA a team of marine scientists was tasked with creating a science-based plan that identifies habitat, conservation threats, and recovery recommendations.  For the last year, DFO has blocked the release of the Team’s Recovery Strategy, which DFO was legally required to release by June 1, 2006.  
 
Additionally, according to a Canadian military document, the Department of National Defence (DND) is trying to downplay and re-write scientists’ concerns over military sonar threats to killer whales in BC waters. The Canadian military conducts sonar testing in the whales’ habitat, often in joint operations with the US Navy.
 
“Even the military acknowledges that sonar threatens whales with harm,” said Christianne Wilhelmson of Georgia Strait Alliance.  “The military must stop interfering with this science-based Recovery Strategy, and we call on the Canadian government to release it immediately.”
 
As an example of DND efforts to weaken the Recovery Strategy, it wants to remove the scientists’ recommendation that new laws to reduce injury to killer whales from sonar testing be considered. The military is arguing that Canadian and American naval vessels operating in Canadian waters should not be bound by sonar-specific regulations.
 
“Military objectives have no place in a killer whale recovery strategy,” said Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee.  “If battleships trump science we won’t be able to recover this species.”
 
“The Species at Risk Act requires Recovery Strategies to follow strict timelines to protect endangered species, to discourage bureaucrats from talking endlessly while a species faces extirpation,” said Lara Tessaro of Sierra Legal.  “DFO delays risk not only the Killer Whales, but many endangered marine mammals and fish as well.”
 
The environmental groups have sent DFO a letter, threatening to file a lawsuit if DFO does not release the Resident Killer Whale Recovery Strategy by June 4, 2007. 
 

Tue

08

May

2007

Refugees Learn to Substitute Government
Tuesday, 08 May 2007 12:08
by Dahr Jamail

BEIRUT, May 2 (IPS) - The influx of refugees from Palestinian areas and the inability of the government to do much for them has strengthened a unique NGO providing essential services.

The Popular Aid for Relief and Development (PARD), which began working in the early 1980s before registering as an official NGO with the Lebanese government in 1990, has taken it upon itself to provide environmental services, health education, medical services and community development centres for refugees.

Ahmad_Halimeh_cofounder_of_Popular_Aid_for_Relief_and_Development_PARD_1398_p.jpg"We give services because services are better than money," Ahmad Halimeh, co-founder of PARD told IPS at one of the group's busy clinics in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. "I try to teach people to help themselves."

This policy is not just an ideal but a necessity for Palestinian refugees who now comprise at least 10 percent of the Lebanese population of four million, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

As of December 2003, UNRWA lists 394,532 refugees in the country, about a quarter of a million of them living in registered camps. The group also lists more than 46,000 "hardship cases".

UNRWA is by far the largest UN operation in the Middle East and has a staff of more than 27,000, most of them refugees themselves, but that is still not enough. That is where PARD comes in.
 

Tue

08

May

2007

Rebuilding Resistance
Tuesday, 08 May 2007 11:50
by Dahr Jamail

BEIRUT, May 7 (IPS) - As reconstruction resumes in the heavily bombed southern Beirut district Dahiyeh, the signs are evident of a rebuilding of resistance against Israel and the U.S.-backed government, largely by way of increased support for Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is leading much of the reconstruction. Dahiyeh was bombed by the Israelis last year because it was seen as a Hezbollah stronghold. At least 15,000 houses were destroyed.

Bombed_building_in_Dahiyeh_South_Beirut_Lebanon_8_months_after_the_July_2006_attack_by_Israel_1367_p.jpgMany local people accuse the U.S.-backed Lebanese government of refusal to help reconstruction in pro-Hezbollah areas like Dahiyeh.

Foreign donors pledged more than 7 billion dollars in aid and loans at a meeting in Paris in January to help rebuild this nation of four million. Three of the biggest contributors where the United States, France and Saudi Arabia. All three are seen by the opposition as supporters of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and his allies Saad Harriri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

Michel Samaha, who was minister for information 1992-1995 and again 2003-2004, told IPS that Siniora, Harriri and Jumblatt are seeking to strengthen themselves by "having on their ruling agenda the priorities of the United States in Lebanon, the priorities of the Zionists in the United States, and especially the neo-cons in the Middle East."

The anger against such policies is obvious in Shia areas.

"We've applied for help through the government," 45-year-old Dahiyeh resident Mahmoud al-Khateib told IPS at his electronics repair shop which was damaged by an Israeli bomb. "They came and inspected the damage and said they would let us know. We're still waiting."
 

Sat

05

May

2007

Los Angeles Times Celebrates Biggest Festival of Books in 12 Year History
Saturday, 05 May 2007 11:46
Nation’s Largest Literary Festival Breaks Book Sales Records

And Welcomes New Categories of Sponsors

LOS ANGELES, May 4, 2007 - The Los Angeles Times announced today that in its 12th straight year the Festival of Books drew between 130,000 and 140,000 people and featured the largest number of writers, panel discussions, exhibitors, and activities in its history. Held on the beautiful UCLA campus on Saturday, April 28th and Sunday, April 29th, the event drew higher than expected attendance and drove record book sales for sponsors.

“It was inspiring, moving and exhilarating to celebrate reading and writing with over 130,000 of our friends and neighbors at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books,” said Publisher David D. Hiller. 

The Festival brought together its largest and most eclectic gathering of literary stars thus far, including Dr. Phil McGraw, Tim Gunn, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julie Andrews Edwards, Walter Mosley, Arianna Huffington, Ellen Burstyn, T.C. Boyle, Mary Higgins Clark, Gore Vidal, and Ray Bradbury. 463 authors participated in book readings and signings and made appearances on one of the 100 discussion panels. latimes.com was also an integral online participant in the 2007 event, hosting web chats with several celebrity authors who took live questions from the public throughout the weekend.

“Target understands how important it is to begin fostering the love of reading in children at a very early age, which is why we were thrilled to be a part of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books for a twelfth year,” said Laysha Ward, vice president, community relations, Target.  “It was exciting to see the number of families who continue to come out year after year celebrate the joy of books in a fun and recreational way.”

"We were thrilled with our participation in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this year. The weather was gorgeous, people drove from miles away to attend the festival, and our stage, signing tents and sales booth were packed both Saturday and Sunday,” said Jan Lindstrom Valerio, Barnes & Noble Regional Community Relations Manager. “In addition to selling books for authors appearing on our stage, we featured Barnes & Noble and L.A. Times bestsellers, favorite local authors and regional titles and nominees and winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. Many customers commented on how much they loved the festival this year."

A total of 481 sponsor and exhibitor booths representing 313 companies lined the central grounds at UCLA, the largest layout of publishers and booksellers to date. Sponsors included Target, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Borders Bookstores, Ticketmaster, Ghirardelli, Time Warner Cable, HBO Films, C-SPAN, Travel Alberta, Chronicle Books, Geffen Playhouse, Jiffy Lube and Toyota’s "Highway to the Future: Mobile Hybrid Experience." In addition, six stages presented a wide variety of entertainment options, including musical performances, poetry readings and cooking demonstrations from star chefs. Appearances by popular children’s characters ensured the event would create lasting memories for the entire family.

“As booksellers, Borders feels it is an honor and privilege to ‘bring writers to readers’ and nowhere was this more effective than at the Festival where we hosted 64 incredible and diversely appealing authors connecting them with readers in a meaningful and purposeful way during the two-day event,” said Beryl Needham, Director of National Events and Field Marketing.  “As big as the festival is, it truly is about community. Our customers and authors are ‘Friends of Borders’ and the idea of connecting them together made this a real celebration of books and reading."

”It was an honor for Toyota to be part of an event aimed at inspiring and opening minds,” said Cindy Knight, Marketing Communications for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. “Sharing that goal, Toyota’s interactive mobile museum, dedicated to educating people on hybrid technology and how they can make a difference in the environment, was a perfect addition to the weekend’s activities.”

#  #  #

About the Los Angeles Times

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of nearly 2.2 million and about 3.3 million on Sunday.  The Los Angeles Times and its media businesses and affiliates - including latimes.com, TheEnvelope.com, Times Community Newspapers, Recycler Classifieds, Hoy, and California Community News - are read by approximately 8.1 million or 62% of all adults in the Southern California marketplace every week.

The Los Angeles Times, has been covering Southern California for over 125 years and is part of Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB), one of the country's leading media companies with businesses in publishing, the Internet and broadcasting. Additional information about the Los Angeles Times is available at www.latimes.com/mediacenter.

 

Sat

05

May

2007

MEMBERS OF OVER 35 PEACE AND ADVOCACY GROUPS OPPOSE NICOLAS SARKOZY
Saturday, 05 May 2007 11:40
by Patricia Alessandrini

A Petition Asking French Voters to Reject Sarkozy in the May 6th Presidential Election Receives Strong International Support

As members of the international anti-war movement - and more broadly, members of the vast majority of citizens of the world who recognize the disastrous consequences of the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies - we wish to voice our opposition to French Presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, and to express our fervent hope that the French people will reject him in the May 6 election.

Unlike Sarkozy, we admired France’s opposition to the invasion in 2003. Sarkozy may have accused Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin of “arrogance” for his now-famous UN address on that occasion, but we appreciated Villepin's dissenting voice when faced with the lack of respect the US and the UK displayed for this international institution. Unlike Sarkozy, we believe that all nations must obey international law, including laws concerning human rights and immigration. We believe that those responsible for crimes against humanity, such as genocide and/or the systematic practice of torture, should be brought to justice; unlike Sarkozy, who has denied and/or minimized the crimes committed under both French colonialism and the Vichy regime on numerous occasions in order to gain votes from supporters of the right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Unlike Sarkozy, we believe that maintaining civil liberties and a free and independent press is vital to insuring that democratic nations live in peace with one another; we oppose his use of fear-mongering, propaganda and misinformation, the same tools that were used by the US and UK in order to drum up support for an illegal war.
 

Wed

02

May

2007

ITALIANS OPPOSE NEW U.S. MILITARY BASE
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 11:06
DELEGATION LEADING GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT IN VICENZA, ITALY, ARRIVES IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
 
May 1, 2007 – Four representatives from the campaign against a new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy, have arrived in Washington, D.C. and will remain until May 7. Their goal is to draw attention to the strong opposition against the planned base, which has grown from a local movement to become a national cause, an issue that contributed to the recent fall, albeit temporary, of the Italian government. They will meet with members of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees to reaffirm the movement’s determination to stop construction of the proposed base.
 
“We are convinced that what Italy, indeed the world, needs is not another military base,” explains Cinzia Bottene, who has become the public face of this grassroots movement. “We welcome Americans in Vicenza to visit our beautiful treasures, learn about our rich history and enjoy our food and wine,” says Thea Valentina Gardellin. “But what we don't want are more soldiers, planes and military hardware.”
 
The delegation will also meet with U.S. peace activists in order to develop common strategies and garner support for their cause. And they intend to raise consciousness among U.S. citizens on the effects of foreign military bases on local populations, including urban and environmental impact, damage to the local economy and the risk of terrorist attacks.
 
Vicenza, a town of 120,000 and showcase of renowned Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is already home to several U.S. military installations, including Camp Ederle, which dates back to 1955. This new base will serve to unite the 173rd Airborne Brigade currently based in Italy and Germany. It will be located at the little used civilian airport Tommaso Dal Molin, right next to one of Palladio’s architectural treasures and surrounded by a residential area.
 
Though negotiations between the U.S. and Italian governments had been going on for over two years, news began to leak out only in May 2006. Local residents, led by the women, mounted a grassroots campaign against the base, collecting 8,000 signatures in just 10 days. They organized two massive national demonstrations, bringing people from all over Italy. The demonstration on February 17, 2007 brought over 100,000 people. They also set up a permanent camp near the site of proposed new base in early January that has become a focal point of the movement. Despite the Italian government’s approval of the project, the people of Vicenza are determined to stop the base construction, even threatening to lie down in front of the bulldozers.
 

Wed

02

May

2007

MidEast Dispatches: Iraqi doctors out on a limb
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 11:01
by Dahr Jamail in Damascus, Syria

Dr Omar al-Khattab fled Iraq just over a year ago after receiving death threats.

At that time, he was working at Balad General Hospital, 50km north of Baghdad.

"I had to leave my home, my work and my salary so now I'm living here jobless and am just barely surviving," he said during an interview inside an almost bare apartment in the Al-Qudsiya suburb of Damascus.

"In my hospital alone, of five surgeons only one remains. We were three orthopaedics but now there are none, and only 25 per cent of the resident doctors remain."

According to the Iraqi Ministry of Health and UN statistics, Khattab is one of 18,000 Iraqi doctors and health care professionals who have fled the war-torn country since the US-led invasion began in March 2003.

In 2003, there were 34,000 registered health care workers in Iraq.

Doctor_Omar_AlKhattab_displays_a_photo_of_his_car_that_was_shot_as_a_threat_1395_p.jpgDeath threats

Al-Khattab said: "I know at least 10 other Iraqi doctors just here in Al-Qudsiya who have left because of death threats or the overall security situation."

A general practitioner who was a resident in the surgical department at his hospital, al-Khattab is now living off his meagre savings and unable to return to his country.

He fills his days by offering his services to other Iraqi refugees who cannot afford health care in Syria. It is also how he maintains his expertise while assisting some of what he estimates to be 50,000 Iraqis in his neighbourhood.

One of his patients is a 64-year-old Iraqi woman with type-2 diabetes, a hernia, a broken arm and an infected abscess in her right leg. The former primary school teacher broke her arm while running in panic during a mortar attack near her home in the Mansour district of Baghdad during February 2004.
 

Tue

24

Apr

2007

Tempers Rise Over Reconstruction
Tuesday, 24 April 2007 10:15

by Dahr Jamail

BINT JBAIL, Apr 23 (IPS) - Eight months after Israeli attacks left devastation across many villages in southern Lebanon, reconstruction comes with mounting anger towards both Israel and the central Lebanese government.

The war which raged between Israel and Hezbollah Jul. 12 to Aug. 14 last year destroyed many villages in the south, and left others badly damaged.

Surveying_the_damage_inflicted_by_Israel_in_July_2007_of_Bint_Jbail_Lebanon_1351_p.jpgStarting from within hours of the ceasefire, about a million people who had fled southern Lebanon began to return, many to wrecked homes. One of the towns almost completely destroyed was Bint Jbail, less than 5km from the Lebanese-Israeli border.

"Israeli warplanes would bomb us, then their tanks up above the hill outside our city would shell people when they fled their homes," mayor Ali Beydoun told IPS at his partially destroyed house. "I have come back to work on rebuilding our home, while my family is staying in Dahiyeh in Beirut." Dahiyeh is the southern suburb of Beirut which was also bombed heavily by Israeli warplanes.

Beydoun is just as angry with the current Lebanese government as with the Israeli military.

"We support the opposition to the government because we want our rights and we want justice and support in rebuilding from the war," he said. "At least the head of the government should come see what happened to his own country."

 

Tue

24

Apr

2007

U.S. Blamed for 'Bloody Wednesday
Tuesday, 24 April 2007 10:10
by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

BAGHDAD, Apr 23 (IPS) - Iraqis blame the U.S. occupation for the failure of two parallel security plans drawn up by U.S. forces and Iraqi troops that failed dramatically with the bombings last week that killed more than 300 people in Baghdad.

Under the security plans additional troops were brought to Baghdad and most city streets closed. But car bombings, operations by death squads and attacks on U.S. troops continue.

The attacks Wednesday last week took a high casualty among Kurdish workers known to work in that area. Kurds in the north have stayed relatively free of the violence and the sectarian Shia-Sunni killings in the rest of the country. Kurds had supported the U.S.-led invasion four years back.

"A car bomb went off in Sadriyah neighbourhood in the city centre causing death to over 200 people," Mahmood Abdulla from the Russafa Police Directorate in Baghdad told IPS. "It is not certain that the car was driven by a suicide person, in fact most of us believe it was parked there since early morning."

Sadriyah is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Baghdad. It is an area that brings together different ethnic and sectarian groups.

"We do not know who is killing us, but we do know who is responsible for our safety," Kaka Kadir, who lost a 15-year-old son in the attack told IPS. "All we receive from our government and the Americans is talk, and holding other people accountable, while it is them who should protect us."

"I do not believe it is al-Qaeda any more," a woman weeping near the scene of the bombing told IPS. "I do not care any more, I am just losing my loved ones. The last explosion hit my husband and now he is disabled, and this one took my son's life."


 

Fri

20

Apr

2007

Basra Splits Between Warring Shias
Friday, 20 April 2007 21:37
by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

BASRA, (IPS) - Oil-rich Basra in the south of Iraq is getting caught up in an increasingly more fierce battle between warring Shia groups.

Basra, the second largest city in Iraq with a population of 2.6 million, is the capital city of the southern Basra province, and Iraq's main port. The largest explored oil reserves in the country lie within the province.

A group led by anti-occupation Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who recently ordered his politicians to quit the Iraqi government in a defiance of the U.S.-led occupation, has said his group will no more accept Basra Governor Mohammad al-Wai'ili because he is a member of the Shia al-Fadhila Party.

Al-Fadhila withdrew from the ruling Shia political coalition in March. Al-Fadhila leaders said they refused to participate in sectarian politics. The party has declared it will continue as an independent bloc.

Despite the fact that both groups have ordered withdrawal of their representatives from the Iraqi government, they remain at odds.

The Sadr group is vying for greater control of cities in southern Iraq, and is suspected of ties to the Iranian government. Al-Fadhila opposes this policy. The governor also rejects Iran-backed meddling within Iraq's Shia political groups.

Sadr has a huge following in Iraq, estimated in the millions, and his militia is one of the most powerful in the country. Al-Fadhila has a smaller base, armed or otherwise.

But the positions on Iran are not all clear and consistent, and several positions are taken in response to personalities rather than policies.

Sadr has been at odds with Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who has close ties to Iranian religious leaders. The Fadhila Party is no friend either to Sistani, who continues to bless the disintegrating Iraqi government.
 

Fri

20

Apr

2007

Vermont Senate approves impeachment resolution
Friday, 20 April 2007 21:30
MONTPELIER -- The Vermont Senate voted 16-9 this morning to urge the state's congressional delegation to initiate impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The vote came quietly in the Senate chamber, with no impeachment supporters in the room and no debate. The senate resolution was introduced by Sens. Peter Shumlin and Jeanette White, two Windham County Democrats.

Impeachment supporters have lobbied legislators to take up the matter, and this week were back in Montpelier to press legislative leaders. Shumlin and Speaker of the House Gaye Symington have told supporters there was no time for full legislative debate and action in the issue in this session, but reminded them that a single legislator could raise the issue at anytime.
 
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