Daily Archives: May 19, 2007

Sell-Out: Senate Illegal Alien Amnesty Bill Capitulates to Every Special Interest Demand

PRNewswire | May 18, 2007

The immigration bill unveiled yesterday by the Senate, which would grant amnesty to virtually every illegal alien in the country, plus an unknown number of their relatives, amounts to a complete sell-out of the interests of the American public, declared the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Senate bill, S. 1348, includes immediate and irrevocable benefits for tens of millions of illegal aliens, access to low-wage foreign labor for business interests, and nothing but more worthless promises to the American public that the government would enforce immigration laws in the future.

S. 1348, which the Senate is expected to vote on as early as Monday, was hammered out behind closed doors, bypassing the hearings process or any assessment of the fiscal, labor market or environmental impact. The bill would grant amnesty to nearly every illegal alien in the United States as well as children and elderly parents who may be residing outside the country. Within 24 hours of filing an application, illegal aliens would be granted work authorization and relief from possible deportation, without any background checks. In addition, the legislation calls for the admission of 400,000 additional “guest workers” plus their dependent family members each year, some of whom will be permitted to remain permanently.

“In agreeing to this bill, the United States Senate has broken every promise that has been made to the American people,” charged Dan Stein, president of FAIR. “The bill reneges on promises that amnesty would never again be offered to people who are in this country illegally; it violates commitments that Congress has made to protect the interests of American workers; and it compromises the security of this nation by granting legal status to people who may pose a threat to the nation. Adding to the betrayal, this surrender of the public interest was negotiated by senators who had personally pledged, as recently as last year, never to agree to any bill that includes amnesty.”

The provisions of the bill that call for tougher immigration enforcement in the future were described by FAIR as “worthless and an insult to the intelligence of the American public.” The 2007 version of immigration reform contains the identical set of promises to secure the borders, establish a verifiable worker identification system, and enact penalties for employers who hire illegal aliens that Congress and successive administrations have made and broken countless times over the past 20 years.

“The security and enforcement provisions are less than meaningless. They will either not be funded, endlessly delayed, or ignored all together,” Stein declared. “While tens of millions of illegal aliens will reap rewards and enjoy access to the courts to appeal any denial of benefits, the American public gets shafted with no avenue for appeal.”

FAIR is calling upon the Senate to delay voting on S. 1348 until the bill receives a full public hearing, and until a thorough study of its impact is completed. “This is a bill that will quite literally affect the future of this nation. Its ramifications deserve more than a weekend’s review on the part of the people who will vote on it,” said Stein.

1,000 bottles a day confiscated from airline passengers

Scotsman | May 19, 2007
NEARLY 1,000 bottles a day are being confiscated from passengers flouting restrictions on carrying liquids at Scotland’s three largest airports, The Scotsman has learned.

The operator of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports said the huge haul may be because some passengers think the hand luggage restrictions have been lifted since being introduced six months ago.

BAA Scotland said security staff collected a total of 114,762 bottles in the first four months of the new limits.

This included perfume, aftershave, alcohol, honey and yogurt, in addition to water and soft drinks – all in containers larger than the 100ml permitted maximum.

The restriction was introduced in November following the ban on liquid in hand luggage after a terrorist alert in August.

BAA Scotland now plans a publicity campaign with airlines this summer to remind passengers of the size limit.

The problem appears to be worst at Edinburgh, where 56,330 bottles were taken from passengers between November and February.

BAA Scotland said this may be because of the airport’s higher- than-average number of business travellers, who are less likely to check in bags.

A total of 32,912 bottles were collected at Glasgow, and 25,520 at Aberdeen.

Last week, officials from Manchester airport told MPs they were collecting two tonnes of liquids a day from passengers.

The Airport Operators Association said only 5 per cent of people arriving at airports were “compliant with the regime for liquids”.

Gillian Merron, a UK transport minister, told MPs this week that the message to passengers “had to be made more clearly”.

BAA Scotland said security staff believe many passengers now think airport security is back to normal and the restrictions introduced last year no longer apply.

A spokesman said: “It’s clear large numbers of passengers are still unaware of the new security restrictions, with others perhaps assuming they have been lifted.

“While some restrictions have been eased, there are still very tight controls on what passengers can bring through security, including liquids. With the summer season fast approaching, we’ll be working with airlines to reiterate the security message to passengers. These rules are here for the long term.”

EasyJet, which claims to be the largest airline operating in Scotland, said passengers were reminded about restrictions when they checked in.

Mexican soldiers detain, beat, torture, steal and rape under cover of drug war

Chicago Tribune | May 18, 2007

Mexico’s use of the army to battle violent trafficking rings stirs complaints of abuses and collateral damage

Mexico’s drug war landed at Claudia Sanchez’s front door a few days ago when soldiers unleashed grenades and gunfire to root out suspected drug traffickers a few houses away.

Sanchez says she grabbed her 3-year-old son off the front porch and took shelter under the bed until the battle ended.

But it isn’t just the bad guys who have made her family feel under siege. It is also her supposed protectors, the soldiers dispatched by President Felipe Calderon to rein in spiraling violence related to the drug trade.

Soldiers came into the home and detained her son-in-law, Gustavo Orozco, for three days in an undisclosed location. She accuses soldiers of beating him and of stealing money. He was eventually released but was so shaken up that he left town.

This section of Michoacan known as “the hot Earth,” one of the front lines of Calderon’s military strategy, illustrates the need for a powerful counterforce to the entrenched drug rings but also the risks of employing a military solution.

This week, the national Human Rights Commission provided the first formal confirmation that some soldiers have gone too far in battling drug violence that has claimed about 1,000 lives this year. Investigators determined that soldiers in Michoacan have committed torture, rape and other violations.

With violent confrontations and abuse complaints rising, human-rights officials and opposition lawmakers called on Calderon this week to withdraw troops.

Federal and state officials say the military strategy is not ideal but that only the military has the firepower and professionalism to take on increasingly brazen drug rings. They say a withdrawal would be a victory for organized crime.

Sanchez agrees that local police have not proved to be up to the task of dislodging drug traffickers from her Miguel Hidalgo neighborhood. But she worries that the military’s blunt instrument is also harming innocent residents like her.

“Everybody has to do their job,” Sanchez, 38, said as an army helicopter buzzed overhead. “But not like this.”

The military campaign has made Calderon into a wartime president and forced a public confrontation on Mexico’s most serious security crisis. U.S. officials have backed his get-tough approach to stem the northward flow of methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs, as well as the extradition of high-level drug kingpins.

Federal authorities say turf battles among key cartels for shipping routes and Mexico’s growing domestic market have caused a surge in violence. The government does not release official figures, but leading Mexican newspapers put this year’s death toll at about 1,000, on pace to shatter last year’s count.

The central state of Michoacan, because of its fertile drug fields and access to northbound highways and Pacific ports, has been hit especially hard. Experts estimate that Michoacan has the second-highest toll in drug-related deaths this year. In many rugged mountain towns, drug rings have entirely infiltrated local police departments.

“In an ideal situation, we would not have the military leading this effort,” Gov. Lazaro Cardenas said in an interview. But with violence escalating and “with the magnitude of strength that organized crime maintains, the only force capable of successfully confronting it is the military,” he said.

This week, the head of a federal drug intelligence unit was gunned down in an ambush in Mexico City. In Veracruz, someone left a bag near an army barracks. Inside was a human head, grenades and a note reading: “We will continue.”

And Wednesday, state officials reported that Apatzingan’s security chief was wounded by unidentified gunmen in a taxi. He resigned hours later. The attack came days after the deadliest assault on the military, an ambush in nearby Caracuaro that killed five soldiers.

After the Caracuaro ambush, the cover of the influential newsmagazine Proceso hinted at an intractable conflict with a headline calling the drug war “Calderon’s Iraq.” A poll published May 9 in the newspaper El Universal found that 73 percent of respondents think drug-related violence has increased this year. Although generally supportive of Calderon’s approach, only 33 percent think the anti-drug operations have succeeded.

Even as lawmakers urge an end to the military campaign, Calderon is stepping up his efforts. Last week he created a special military unit to battle organized crime, and he recently launched a new offensive of more than 1,000 troops in Veracruz state.

Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna told a gathering of foreign journalists Thursday that he sees the counterattacks as a strategy by organized crime to shake Mexican political will and force the withdrawal of the military.

“The criminals are looking for a retreat by the authorities so they can achieve impunity,” he said. “We are not going to take a step backward. On the contrary. The vision, the strategy, the concept is very clear: going on the offensive.”

Apatzingan, an unruly town of 90,000 in the state’s west, has become a key test for the military’s staying power. Calderon visited in January, dressed in an army cap and jacket, for a de facto declaration of war. In last week’s raid, heavily armed troops demolished a suspected drug house and killed four assailants in broad daylight.

In the process, the town has generated the most human-rights complaints among 52 received statewide. Officials say most of the complaints statewide involve soldiers entering homes without warrants and illegally detaining residents without probable cause.

“One complaint, you could understand. But so many have the same basic claims,” said Erik Gonzalez, the Apatzingan representative for the state’s human-rights commission. “The military used to be an institution with great prestige and respect. Now people are feeling discontent about the military presence.”

Cardenas, the governor, insists that the military deployment is showing signs of success, including the arrests of organized crime leaders and corrupt police. Authorities have eradicated marijuana fields statewide, and drug-related violence has ticked downward.

“It would not be responsible to say we have results that we should celebrate excessively,” he said. “But compared to the period before this operation began, we have seen evidence of improvement.”

The long-term effects are less clear. One of Sanchez’s neighbors in Apatzingan, who also was detained, has since left town in fear. Sanchez still has nightmares. And when her son sees a man in uniform, he mutters “Pocia” (his version of policia) and runs away.

Jorge Luis Sierra, author of the book “The Internal Enemy” about domestic military operations, said he worries that the emphasis on the military has caused elected officials to overlook wider issues, such as improving counterintelligence and keeping drug rings from infiltrating police forces. He also is uneasy because other Latin American nations have tilted toward authoritarianism when they employ the military.

“We need to take a few steps back and ask ourselves if a society like Mexico wants its military occupying the plazas, the city halls,” Sierra said. “In the long term, I don’t think it is healthy for a democracy.”

Blair may become World Bank president as disgraced Wolfowitz resigns

Daily Mail | May 18, 2007

Tony Blair may be asked to head the World Bank after its president quit in a sleaze row.

One of America’s top economists today revealed that the retiring prime minister is being considered as a replacement for disgraced Paul Wolfowitz.

Nobel prize-winner Joe Stiglitz, a former senior vice president at the World Bank, said: “He is one of the people that is clearly being discussed.”

Mr Blair is expected to cash in on his international contacts after quitting Downing Street on 27 June and his agent said he would quit as an MP if “a big international job” came up.

Mr Stiglitz said the World Bank would probably prefer an economist with experience in development – which some pundits argue effectively rules out the prime minister, who has often admitted to being shaky at maths.

Nevertheless, Prof Stiglitz said: “He is one of the people that is clearly being discussed.

“I think it would be good for the institution at this juncture if they had somebody who was an economist who really understood what development was entailed and could work closely with the staff that has been very alienated by Paul Wolfowitz over the last two years and bring together the institution.

“It wouldn’t rule (Blair) out but I would say that if I were going through a first priority list of priorities it would probably begin with somebody with real experience in development.

“But Blair has clearly been a political leader that has the kinds of connections that one needs, that would be useful as head of the institution.”

Embattled World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz agreed to quit last night over a favouritism row involving his girlfriend.

The move ended weeks of intense pressure on the former U.S. deputy defence secretary, a close ally of President Bush and an architect of the Iraq war.

He had faced furious criticism after details emerged of his role in securing a promotion and pay rise for his partner, Oxford-educated Shaha Riza, when he joined the bank in 2005.

Bank sources said Mr Wolfowitz will leave on June 30 with a £200,000 pay-off and a face-saving compromise in which the bank takes part of the blame for the scandal.

They said the bank accepted it should have sorted out the details of a deal which moved Miss Riza to the State Department before Mr Wolfowitz actually took over.

The terms of her pay rise and promotion should have been set by the personnel department and not left to the bank president.

Mr Wolfowitz’s depsaidarture was announced as a key ally of Gordon Brown, Tom Scholar, faced similar claims of using his World Bank post to secure promotion for his girlfriend.

Mr Scholar, who was the Chancellor’s private secretary, is tipped for a top job in Downing Street when Mr Brown becomes premier.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an email it said was sent to bank bosses last year by an unnamed colleague.

It said: “Please know that UK ED (executive director) Tom Scholar is continuing an affair with (a bank employee).

“This woman has been given preferential treatment in (the department) because of her relationship with this powerful ED, this affair is well-known, and is in violation of the bank staff rules and the board’s standards of conduct.”

The newspaper, which has supported Mr Wolfowitz throughout the controversy, another complaint, possibly-from the same person, was filed this week.

It claimed: “Mr Scholar has used his privileged position as an executive director to influence bank staff to manipulate Ms –’s job description in a way to suit her limited professional qualification.

“Without Mr Scholar’s intervention she would clearly not occupy her present position. Several staff members have reported these facts … these complaints have been ignored.”

Mr Scholar, 37, is a member of the board that oversees the work of the bank and had been deliberating Mr Wolfowitz’s fate. He firmly denied any wrongdoing.

He insisted: “There is no conflict of interest. As an executive director, representing my government at the World Bank, rather than a member of staff or management, I do not have any supervisory responsibility for bank staff beyond the five in my immediate office.

“I am not the supervisor of my partner, either directly or indirectly. We have never come into professional contact and I have made arrangements to avoid any possibility of professional contact.

“Since I am not a member of staff or management, I could never be involved in any individual personnel decision affecting her. And I have never discussed or made reference to any such issue with anyone who could possibly be involved.”

There were suspicions that he may be the victim of a smear campaign by supporters of Mr Wolfowitz, who believed he was forced out unfairly by European governments.

Armed police swoop on costumed cowgirls with toy guns

Daily Mail | May 18, 2007


Pistol-packin’ mamas: Fatima Rupp and Holly Spedding

As gunfights go, it was something of an unequal contest.

On one side were dozens of armed police officers assisted by dogs, with helicopters hovering over head.

On the other were two teenage girls in cowboy outfits, with one toy gun between them.

Not surprisingly, 19-year-olds Fatima Rupp and Holly Spedding surrendered without a fight in the stand-off outside a Tesco supermarket.

But they faced several hours in police cells before Miss Rupp was cautioned for possession of an imitation firearm and the pair were released.

“We were petrified when we stopped and they came screeching up and surrounded us,” said Miss Stepping, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

“There were four jeeps, two vans full of dogs, armed police, helicopters and they were screaming, “Where’s the gun?” Our gun was obviously a toy, but the guns the police pointed at us certainly weren’t imitations. They were scary. I’ve never seen a real gun before, it was terrifying.”

Miss Rupp added: “I completely froze and was too scared to move an inch in case they shot me. I had a gun pointing in my face.”

The incident happened as the pair drove along the M62 after a Cowboys and Indians party at Chester University. Miss Rupp said: “Lorry drivers were pretending to shoot me with their fingers. So I pointed the toy gun back at them. Everyone was smiling and laughing. Some were even pretending to die and shouting ‘Bang, bang!’.”

An off-duty police officer failed to see the joke, reporting the girls for threatening motorists. Miss Rupp, who was in the passenger seat, said she realised something was wrong when she noticed six police cars on their tail.

The girls pulled off the motorway and into a supermarket car park in Brighouse

“We chose Tesco’s car park to stop because there were lots of people around and we thought if they were armed they might be a bit more careful with all the public there,” added Miss Rupp, a mother of two.

A police spokesman said: “When we receive reports of guns being pointed at people, we have a duty to take firm action and that means responding with armed officers.

“Imitation weapons are difficult to distinguish from the real thing, especially at distance.”


Soldier toy disarmed at airport

GI Joe’s gun “had to be taken from him”

A doll caused a security alert at an American airport because its two-inch plastic gun was considered a dangerous weapon.

Judy Powell, 55, from Walton on the Hill, Surrey, bought the GI Joe toy in Las Vegas and packed it in her hand luggage.

But security staff at Los Angeles International Airport refused to let Mrs Powell on board the plane with the replica rifle.

Politicial brawls in Taiwan parliament are ‘staged to make MPs look tough’

Daily Mail | May 17, 2007

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Man! Talk about staged theatrical controlled opposition WWF wrestling events! This is so in your face, it should make you understand that most of the political events in this world are planned out and staged to deceive and manipulate the public.


For years TV networks around the world have broadcast furious brawls from inside the Taiwan parliament, with fists and chairs being thrown and MPs crashing to the ground.

It is almost as good as TV wrestling bouts, but of course, we all know that those sporting events are well rehearsed beforehand. The Taiwanese punch-ups are for real – or so we’ve all been led to believe.

But it was revealed yesterday that the fights are as fake as those brutal wrestling matches.

Reports from the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, yesterday quoted legislators and political observers as admitting that the televised fights are staged acts, planned in advance to generate media attention and garner favour with voters who like to see their MPs fighting for all their worth on tough issues.

The brawls are so well planned, it is claimed, that MPs have even called up one another to ensure they wear sports shoes ahead of their choreographed clashes. And when it’s all over, after the pulled punches have been delivered and the broken chairs removed, they all get together for a merry drink.

Admitting that the fights were a fraud, Nationalist Party legislator Miss Joanna Lei said: ‘It’s staged for media coverage. They have a strategy sessions, like a war plan.’ During the latest televised brawl earlier this month no less than 40 MPs blocked the speaker from his podium to prevent a vote on changing the central Election Commission.

Earlier this year 50 MPs who wanted to stop the speaker from accessing his podium staged a brawl that lasted for an incredible four hours.

A microphone was ripped out and thrown across the chambers and shoes were thrown at the speaker. The speaker never made it to his chair. But sometimes even the most well-rehearsed fight scenes can have their mishaps. In 2005 an MP needed stitches after he was accidentally struck by a mobile phone.

‘All they are trying to do is steal the spotlight,’ said People First Party MP Lee Hung-chun.

‘This shouldn’t be happening, of course. Parliament should be a sacred and noble place.’

Bible spared ‘indecent’ classification in Hong Kong

Daily Mail | May 18, 2007
Hong Kong’s media regulator has rejected calls to reclassify the Bible as an indecent publication following more than 2,000 complaints about its sexual and violent content, including rape and incest.

“The Bible is a religious text which is part of civilisation. It has been passed from generation to generation,” Hong Kong’s Television and Licensing Authority (TELA) said in a statement issued late yesterday.

It said it would not submit the Bible to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for classification.

The regulator received 2,041 complaints against the Bible this week, following an uproar over a sex column in a student magazine that was classified as “indecent” by authorities for asking if readers had ever fantasised about incest or bestiality.

A Web site launched soon afterwards campaigned to have the Bible similarly classified, citing passages with sexual and violent content it claimed went beyond that of the sex column.

But TELA said in its statement the Bible “had not violated standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable members of the community”.

Publications classified as indecent in Hong Kong can only be bought by people aged over 18 and must be sealed in a wrapper with a statutory warning notice.

CNN: Ron Paul’s 9/11 explanation deserves to be debated

CNN | May 18, 2007

I believe Ron Paul knows that 9/11 was an inside job, but he is so far falling back on the “blowback” theory, I suppose to protect himself. Yet, even falling back on a “safe”, rather liberal version of the events of 9/11 brings out the wrath of the establishment to the extent that they want him drummed out of the Republican Party and no doubt out of the election process altogether. So what is so safe about that?

Be that as it may, I think a time will come soon when Ron Paul is forced by the dangerous times we are living in, to just start telling the real truth of 9/11.

Soon, “Loose Change” will be out in theaters nationwide. It could become one of the biggest movies ever screened in terms of its political impact, and it is conceivable that sometime next year you will see a majority of the American people receptive to a candidate who openly discusses and debates the fact that 9/11 was a false-flag operation orchestrated by traitors in our own government. E. Howard Hunt’s death-bed confession to being involved in the assassination of JFK, even though Big Media ignored it, further opens the skies for discussion of criminal covert black ops in public forums.

I hope and pray that Ron Paul will enhance his credibility with the 9/11 Truth Movement by courageously moving into at least questioning what really happened on that Day of Deceit. In fact, because most of his supporters are “truthers”, I think he will realize that he has a responsibility to address the issue openly. He has the courage to say that he will dismantle Homeland Security, the IRS and the Federal Reserve and I know he has the courage to tell it like it is on 9/11. Just give him a little more time.


CNN contributor Roland Martin says we need to understand history and how it impacts what is happening today.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was declared the winner of Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, largely for his smack down of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who suggested that America’s foreign policy contributed to the destruction on September 11, 2001.

Paul, who is more of a libertarian than a Republican, was trying to offer some perspective on the pitfalls of an interventionist policy by the American government in the affairs of the Middle East and other countries.

“Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years,” he said.

That set Giuliani off.

“That’s really an extraordinary statement,” said Giuliani. “As someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq; I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11.”

As the crowd applauded wildly, Giuliani demanded that Paul retract his statements.

Paul tried to explain the process known as “blowback” — which is the result of someone else’s action coming back to afflict you — but the audience drowned him out as the other candidates tried to pounce on him.

After watching all the network pundits laud Giuliani, it struck me that they must be the most clueless folks in the world.

First, Giuliani must be an idiot to not have heard Paul’s rationale before. That issue has been raised countless times in the last six years by any number of experts.

Second, when we finish with our emotional response, it would behoove us to actually think about what Paul said and make the effort to understand his rationale.

Granted, Americans were severely damaged by the hijacking of U.S. planes, and it has resulted in a worldwide fight against terror. Was it proper for the United States to respond to the attack? Of course! But should we, as a matter of policy, and moral decency, learn to think and comprehend that our actions in one part of the world could very well come back to hurt us, or, as Paul would say, blow back in our face? Absolutely. His real problem wasn’t his analysis, but how it came out of his mouth.

What has been overlooked is that Paul based his position on the effects of the 1953 ouster by the CIA of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

An excellent account of this story is revealed in Stephen Kinzer’s alarming and revealing book, “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq,” where he writes that Iran was establishing a government close to a democracy. But Mossadegh wasn’t happy that the profit from the country’s primary resource — oil — was not staying in the country.

Instead, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known British Petroleum, or BP) was getting 93 percent of the profits. Mossadegh didn’t like that, and wanted a 50-50 split. Kinzer writes that that didn’t sit too well with the British government, but it didn’t want to use force to protect its interests. But their biggest friend, the United States, didn’t mind, and sought to undermine Mossadegh’s tenure as president. After all kinds of measures that disrupted the nation, a coup was financed and led by President Dwight Eisenhower’s CIA, and the Shah of Iran was installed as the leader. We trained his goon squads, thus angering generations of Iranians for meddling in that nation’s affairs.

As Paul noted, what happened in 1953 had a direct relationship to the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. We viewed that as terrorists who dared attack America. They saw it as ending years of oppression at the hands of the ruthless U.S.-backed Shah regime.

As Americans, we believe in forgiving and forgetting, and are terrible at understanding how history affects us today. We are arrogant in not recognizing that when we benefit, someone else may suffer. That will lead to resentment and anger, and if suppressed, will boil over one day.

Does that provide a moral justification for what the terrorists did on September 11?

Of course not. But we should at least attempt to understand why.

Think about it. Do we have the moral justification to explain the killings of more than 100,000 Iraqis as a result of this war? Can we defend the efforts to overthrow other governments whose actions we perceived would jeopardize American business interests?

The debate format didn’t give Paul the time to explain all of this. But I’m confident this is what he was saying. And yes, we need to understand history and how it plays a vital role in determining matters today.

At some point we have to accept the reality that playing big brother to the world — and yes, sometimes acting as a bully by wrongly asserting our military might — means that Americans alive at the time may not feel the effects of our foreign policy, but their innocent children will.

Even the Bible says that the children will pay for the sins of their fathers.

Big banana firms paid off terrorists

Scotsman | May 19, 2007
SOME of the world’s best-known banana firms financed right-wing Colombian militias that killed thousands of people during a decade-long reign of terror, a jailed warlord has claimed.

In testimony to investigators, Salvatore Mancuso named multinationals Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole as having made regular payments to the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

Mancuso, once second-in-command of the AUC, did not specify why the companies paid the militias, but the illegal groups often exacted “war taxes” from businesses and ranchers in areas where they operated.

Wealthy landowners and drug traffickers created the paramilitaries in the early 1980s to protect them from rebel extortion and kidnapping but the groups have since largely degenerated into murderous gangs.

They were also union busters, and killed hundreds of labour rights activists. Colombia’s prosecutor’s office estimates the paramilitaries left at least 10,000 bodies in mass graves.

The AUC has been recognised as a “foreign terrorist organisation” by the US government since 2001.

Jesus Vargas, a lawyer for victims of paramilitary violence who was at the hearing, said Mancuso told investigators that “each one paid one cent for each box of bananas they exported”.

The press was barred from the hearing but Mancuso’s lawyer, Hernando Benavides, confirmed his client’s testimony.

A spokesman for US-based Dole Food denied the accusation. “Recent press accounts implicating Dole with illegal organisations in Colombia are absolutely untrue,” Marty Ordman said.

No one was available for comment at other fruit companies that operate in Colombia.

However, Chiquita Brands International has acknowledged paying the paramilitaries $1.7 million (£862,000) over six years under a deal with the US justice department. The company also paid a fine of $25 million (£12.7 million).

Chiquita says the payments were made to protect its workers, but Colombia’s chief prosecutor has said companies that made such payments shared the responsibility for paramilitary murders.

Trade unions and human rights activists say Colombian firms and multinationals routinely paid paramilitaries to act as union busters, killing labour leaders and making the country the most dangerous in the world for organised labour officials.

The AUC were formed in April 1997 to consolidate many local and regional paramilitary groups in Colombia. They were estimated to have as many as 20,000 fighters.

Backers claimed their primary objective was to protect sponsors and supporters from insurgents whose activities, included kidnap, murder and extortion, because the Colombian state failed to do so.

However, senior AUC officials have admitted that as much as 70 per cent of their earnings were drug-related.

Mancuso, who is testifying as part of a peace deal with the government, also accused Colombians beverage giants Postobon and Bavaria of paying “taxes” to the paramilitaries in return for permission to operate along the Atlantic coast, long a stronghold of the illegal militia.

Mr Vargas, a lawyer for the Mothers of the Candelaria – which represents victims of paramilitary terror, said Mancuso alleged that high-ranking executives of both companies were aware of the payments, which began in the 1990s.

Bavaria denied the claim.

‘We’d go to war again’ says defiant Bush-Blair double act

Scotsman | May 18, 2007


GEORGE Bush and Tony Blair yesterday staged their final double act of defiance, telling the world they would go to war again in Iraq if it was called for.

At a valedictory summit in Washington, the two leaders said they had no regrets about the decision to invade in 2003.

Mr Bush also heaped praise on the outgoing Prime Minister. The US president accused the media of trying to “tap dance on [Mr Blair’s] political grave” by constantly questioning the point of yesterday’s meeting due to the fact that Gordon Brown will take over as Prime Minister by the end of next month.

He repeatedly came to Mr Blair’s defence, criticising reporters. He said: “You don’t understand how effective Blair is. Will I miss working with Tony Blair? You bet, absolutely. Can I work with the next guy? Of course.”

Mr Bush described Mr Blair as a “man of courage”, adding: “Tony Blair is someone who follows through on his commitments.”

Mr Blair was also steadfast in his loyalty to the President and the decision to go to war.

He said he would take the same decision again to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with America, as he took after the 11 September, 2001, terror attacks.

And, of his relationship with Mr Bush, the Prime Minister said: “I admire him as a president and regard him as a friend.”

Amid the strains of anti-war demonstrators safely barricaded outside the White House grounds, Mr Blair said he and the President could have taken the easy decision to pull out troops and win cheers.

But, he said, “this is a fight we cannot afford to lose”.

Mr Blair predicted the UK would remain a “staunch ally” of the US under a Brown premiership, and Mr Bush said he was sure he would work well with the Chancellor, whom he described as “a good fellow”.

Mr Bush was also asked whether their close alliance had been the reason Mr Blair had to step down now. “Could be,” he replied.”I don’t know.”

Mr Bush said he hoped to “help [Mr Brown] in office the way Tony Blair helped me”.

In London, Mr Brown said he hoped to build a “very strong” relationship with Mr Bush – stressing the shared values between the two countries had “endured over the ages”.