Daily Archives: August 28, 2007

Japanese underclass ‘lives in internet cafes’

Telegraph | Aug 28, 2007

By Julian Ryall

A new underclass of Japanese is living in 24-hour Internet cafes across the country, using private booths to eat and sleep in after a long day in a low-paying job.

A survey by the health and welfare ministry identified 5,400 “Net cafe refugees,” although critics say that figure underestimates the scale of the problem.

Around 27 percent are in their 20s and work in convenience stores or on construction sites, while 23 percent are in their 50s.

In the heady days of the 1980s, day labourers were able to make a comfortable living on the building sites that dotted Japan’s thriving cities, but the burst of the bubble economy in the following decade ushered in some tough times for manual workers.

Even with Japan’s economy on the rise, there are still not enough jobs to go around, meaning a rising homeless population and thousands who lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

“These people want to find jobs, but there’s not enough steady work for them to save enough to pay for rent or, often, buy enough food each day,” said Miku Sano, editor of the Japanese-language vesion of The Big Issue.

With the average monthly wage of a labourer at around Y110,000 (£600), more than 40 percent of the Internet cafe residents have also experienced spells of homelessness.

Other reasons they gave to the ministry included their homes being repossessed, being laid off from their regular work or discovering that their pensions were not able to cover their living expenses.

The ministry says it plans to draw up support measure for who are living in cafes by providing dormitories and helping them find work.

“The government has at least started to look at the issue, which is good, but the problem is already growing and for many people it’s their only option at the moment,” said Ms. Sano.

“I think this number will continue to grow and the situation is not going to get any better in the near future.”

US surge sees 600,000 more Iraqis flee murderous violence

Independent | Aug 25, 2007

By Leonard Doyle

The scale of the human disaster in the Iraq war has become clearer from statistics collected by two humanitarian groups that reveal the number of Iraqis who have fled the fighting has more than doubled since the US military build-up began in February.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Organisation said the total number of internally displaced has jumped from 499,000 to 1.1 million since extra US forces arrived with the aim of making the country more secure. The UN-run International Organisation for Migration says the numbers fleeing fighting in Baghdad grew by a factor of 20 in the same period.

These damning statistics reveal that despite much- trumpeted security improvements in certain areas, the level of murderous violence has not declined. The studies reveal that the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes ­ not intending to return ­ is far higher than before the US surge.

The flight is especially marked in religiously mixed areas of central Iraq, with Shia refugees heading south and Sunnis towards the west and north of the country.

Calling it the worst human displacement in Iraq’s modern history, a report by the UN migration office suggests that the fierce fighting that has followed the arrival of new US troops is partly responsible.

The spectre of ethnic cleansing now hovers over the once relatively harmonious country. The UN found that 63 per cent of the Iraqis fled their neighbourhoods because of threats to their lives. More than 25 per cent said they fled after being thrown out of their homes at gunpoint.

The statistics were released as President George Bush’s policy of staying the course in Iraq was under grave threat yesterday as the scale of the humanitarian disaster became clearer and a key Republican senator said that it was time to bring the troops home.

A dangerous rift has also emerged inside the US military between the high command, which says the strain the war is putting on the military endangers American security, and commanders on the ground who still say it is a winnable war.

For President Bush, the greatest danger may come from losing the support of Senator John Warner, one of the most influential Republicans in Congress on Iraq. Just back from a trip to the country, he bluntly told the President to start pulling troops out in time for Christmas. He did so as a damning new assessment was delivered by all 15 US intelligence agencies. Written by the CIA, it concluded that the government in Baghdad was “unable to govern effectively” and “will become more precarious” in the next six to 12 months, with little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions.

There was further bad news for the President overnight when it emerged that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is quietly advising that US forces in Iraq be halved by early next year. The advice, from Marine General Peter Pace, is a direct challenge to the White House and other senior military chiefs, in particular the man now running the war in Iraq, the Army General David Petraeus.

General Petraeus has told President Bush that forces in Iraq need to be kept higher than 100,000 troops well into next year. General Petraeus is widely expected to back the White House view that in the absence of political progress in Iraq, US troops need to be increased.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Los Angeles Times reports, were privately sceptical about the military “surge” ordered by President Bush. Although they backed the surge policy in public, the country’s top generals and the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, believe the size of the US force in Iraq must be reduced so that the military can respond to other global threats.

Dutch Police State Cracks Down On 9/11 Activism

911 Blogger | Aug 27, 2007

by Edward Greve

Myself and two friends doing 9/11 activism in the Netherlands were kicked off of the streets in The Hague, the capital city of the United Nations and the seat of parliament in the Netherlands. We had done a trial run on 8/11 in a smaller town called Leiden, which is just 10 miles outside of The Hague and that went well. We passed out a handful of flyers and had some good discussions, as well as numerous strange looks. Today, however, we didn’t have so much luck.

We set up in the early afternoon with bright yellow t-shirts carrying slogans such as “9/11 = INSIDE JOB” and “HERONDERZOEK 9/11” (“REINVESTIGATE 9/11”), with a sign of 4 standard size sheets of paper (A4/Letter) stapled together reading “9/11 TRUTH NOW”, and with a bag full of homemade 9/11 flyers reading in Dutch or English. About 10 minutes after starting, we were confronted by 3 police officers and told to shut down our “demonstration” immediately. They said that they had seen us on the cameras and came out to stop us due to “anonymous” complaints. We calmly explained that all we were doing was standing somewhere and allowing interested people to come ask us what we were doing, rather than shouting or passing a flyer into every hand we could. The law, according to these officers, is that we needed a permit. The officers insisted that – for our safety – we left the streets. The question of course is, safety from whom?

Two of the officers were actually quite friendly, and had seen Loose Change and agreed with a lot of what we said about 9/11. The third was a bit more… rough, and tried to intimidate us with fines to leave the scene immediately. When we asked if it would be OK to take down our sign and put away the flyers, and simply stand around and talk to interested people, he said that we would need a permit for the shirts. That’s right – in Holland, in order to stand on the street, wearing a 9/11-related shirt, and talk to people who come and ask you questions, requires permission. IT IS ILLEGAL TO STAND ON THE STREET AND TALK TO PEOPLE WITHOUT PERMISSION. The officers took our identification, addresses, and phone numbers. The two more kindly officers actually chatted for a bit, took our flyer and read it over, and even the copy of Zeitgeist we offered them. Of course, to offer such benevolence to the common street folk is surely a crime deserving punishment! The rougher of the three even commanded that we take off our shirts and throw away the sign… the other two realized this was unreasonable and allowed us to walk back to the train station – so long as we kept the sign low to the ground and not high enough to be read.

Back in Leiden, where we had successfully passed out a number of flyers last week, we set up on the same corner and took down the sign this time around. We were immediately confronted again with police (we imagine The Hague called Leiden and told them to watch out for us, since they knew where we lived), but this time we were allowed to stand on the street as long as we didn’t initiate conversations and didn’t hold up the sign. They stuck around for a while to make sure we weren’t talking to anyone, and that they came to talk to us first and ask for a flyer, rather than us being able to pass them out at will. After an hour or so of not being able to talk with police right around the corner, we called it a day.

One thing I can say is that I’m glad we weren’t doing this in the States – after all of the police brutality videos and handcuff-happy police you see there, I think we got off easy. I just wish these officers would listen to someone like Alex Jones and realize that they ARE the problem, and they need to stop following orders and learn to distinguish threat from peace.

We’re going to apply for a permit to pass out our flyers in The Hague and Amsterdam on 9/11 itself, and I’ll post our videos up as we get the footage in – we’ve got 2 video cameras among the 3 of us, so expect some footage from here in the near future. Until then….

P.S. If you’re interested in helping us out here in The Netherlands, please contact me at dutch911truth@gmail.com

Afghan opium production soars to frightening record level

Xinhua | Aug 27, 2007

Opium production in Afghanistan soared to a frightening record level of 8,200 tons in 2007, which accounts for 93 percent of the world’s total supply, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report released Monday.

The report said the production witnessed an increase of 34 percent compared to 6,100 tons in 2006, adding opium cultivation area rose to 193,000 hectares from 165,000 in 2006.

The amount of Afghan land used for growing opium is now larger than the combined total under coca cultivation in Latin American countries – Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, it said.

With a population of just 2.5 million, Helmand province in southern Afghanistan has single-handedly become the world’s biggest source of illicit drugs, surpassing the output of entire countries-like Colombia (coca), Morocco (cannabis), and Myanmar (opium) – which have populations up to 20 times larger.

At a press conference held in Kabul, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said “poppy growing is closely linked to insecurity. Where anti-government forces reign, poppies flourish.”

Costa called for a more determined effort by the Afghan government and the international community to combat the twin threats of drugs and insurgency by building upon the promising developments in the north and reacting to the dismal failures in the south.

The 37,000-strong NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan have all along refused to take part in the anti-drug war in this country as they fear their participation may push many Afghan poppy planters into their opponent camp led by the Taliban.

As to this, UNODC chief Costa called on NATO countries to more actively support counter-narcotics operations, saying “Since drugs are funding insurgency. Tacit acceptance of opium trafficking is undermining stabilization efforts.”

Afghan opium production soars 34%

UN agency asks for NATO action. Think tank calls on Canada and its allies to legalize poppy growing to cut drug trade

CanWest News Service | Aug 28, 2007

by MIKE BLANCHFIELD,

The United Nations has no choice but to legalize Afghanistan’s poppy crop after its latest study yesterday documented “frightening” new levels of opium production, says the Canadian-led Senlis Council think tank and the Liberal opposition.

Afghanistan’s status as the world’s leading supplier of the key ingredient of heroin remained unchallenged as opium production soared 34 per cent in the last year, according to the latest annual audit by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The UN agency also called for more active NATO military involvement to eradicate the illicit opium trade.

However, Senlis and its Canadian leader, Norine MacDonald, as well as Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre, called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada’s Western allies to reconsider legalizing poppy production so that money now funnelled into the illicit narcotics trade can be spent on the production of pain relieving medicines that provide legitimate sources of income for Afghan farmers.

They say this latest UN report is a dramatic example of the failure of the $600 million the U.S. has pumped into eradication efforts in Afghanistan.

The UN opposes the legalization of the poppy trade as generally unworkable and against the Islamic principles of the Western-backed Afghanistan government of President Hamid Karzai.

“They’re not reading their own reports. They’re not looking at their own numbers. The numbers themselves are a condemnation of current policies. There’s no other way you can look at that,” MacDonald said.

Though illicit poppy cultivation has risen steadily in the six years since Western forces deposed the Taliban, yesterday’s UN report was the first to draw a direct link between the opium trade and the anti-Western

insurgency that Canada and its NATO allies continue to battle in southern Afghanistan.

“Since drugs are funding insurgency, Afghanistan’s military and its allies have a vested interest in destroying heroin labs, closing opium markets and bringing traffickers to justice. Tacit acceptance of opium trafficking is undermining stabilization efforts,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN drug agency.

MacDonald called on Harper to lead other Western countries as well as the UN to push for what is essentially a regulated, legalized form of poppy farming in Afghanistan.

The UN report showed that Afghanistan opium accounts for 93 per cent of the world’s heroin trade.

British General: Prepare for a generation of war in a “new and deadly Great Game”

Daily Mail | Aug 28, 2007

Britain must prepare to committ its troops to a “generation of conflict” to defeat Muslim extremism, the Army’s top soldier has said.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, suggested that the British Army was “on the edge of a new and deadly Great Game” fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

He also said that, despite speculation Prime Minister Gordon Brown could swiftly withdraw troops from Iraq, it was vital for global security to have a measure of success there.

Hinting that the struggle was as great as that of the Second World War, he said: “The challenge of this generation is as great as any that have gone before us.”

He said: “It is success today in these two theatres, however you define success, that, as far as I’m concerned, is both the top and bottom line because, if we fail in either campaign, then I submit that, in the face of that strident Islamist shadow, then tomorrow will be a very uncertain place.”

He predicted only “some form of success in Iraq” but spoke of “significant achievement in Afghanistan” as a short-term objective for the Army.

His comments, in a speech to senior British and overseas military at a conference in June, appear at odds with an interview he gave to the Mail last year when Sir Richard said he believed the troops in Iraq should be pulled out “some time soon”.

He warned that the British military presence in Basra “exacerbates the security situation”.

Sir Richard said the public had not yet grasped that the Armed Forces were engaged “in a wider conflict that may last for a generation”.

He said ministers must refocus on how the forces were structured and equipped.

Since 1998, the Government has preferred deploying rapid reaction expeditionary forces to sort out conflicts, for instance in Sierra Leone.

He said: “The heady appeal of ‘go first, go fast, go home’ has to be balanced with a willingness and a structure to ‘go strong and go long’.”

In the speech to the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall, he explained how the Army was entangled in trying to construct a modern Islamic state “in the tinderbox that is Iraq in the face of extremism and jihad”.

He added: “The challenge of this generation is as great as any that have gone before us in the last century. It is a battle of ideas, and the battleground will be unpredictable.”

Mr Brown has pledged that he would not “cut and run” from Iraq for political reasons. He said: “I believe that we have clear obligations to discharge.”

Speculation that Britain would start to pull its 5,500 troops out of Basra had angered leading U.S. defence figures, who claimed UK forces had been defeated by the insurgents.

UK Gun Crimes Soar After Gun Ban

Newsmax | Aug 27, 2007

Gun crimes in England have almost doubled since 1997, when a ban on firearms began.

According to the Sunday Times of London, crimes in which guns were used numbered 4,671 in 2005-06.

Also, government officials report that most gun crime is committed by children and teenagers under 18 years old.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, told the Telegraph: “What this shows is that the majority of these crimes are committed by youngsters under 18.

“The government’s policy has failed with the group most responsible for this increase in crime. It is long past time the Government stopped believing its own propaganda, and took measures to get a grip.”

Bush to say Iraq is front line against Iran

News.com.au | Aug 28, 2007

US President George W. Bush tomorrow will describe Iraq as the front-line against Shiite extremism championed by Iran and the Sunni extremism of Al-Qaeda, an aide said today.

Mr Bush was due to level the charge in a speech to the American Legion veterans group, the second of two presidential addresses meant to bolster support for the war in Iraq ahead of a critical September 15 progress report.

“The president will talk about Sunni extremism and Shia extremism. Neither represents Islam. They represent a brutal and heartless ideology of death and destruction,” a senior aide said in a preview of the speech.

“Sunni extremism is embodied by Al Qaeda and its many affiliates. Shia extremism by Iran and its support of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and its pursuit of nuclear technology,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“Iraq is at the heart of where these two extremisms must be dealt with,” the official said as Mr Bush travelled here for a political fundraiser.

“Al Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian armed and supported Shia militias continue to undermine the Iraqi struggle for security and stability and continue to kill Americans forces,” the official said.

Mr Bush will plead for patience from lawmakers pending an assessment on the war from the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, the official said.

Mr Bush is to deliver the speech in Reno, Nevada.

US ambassador to UN: Middle East turmoil could cause world war

Raw Story | Aug 27, 2007

by Ron Brynaert

According to the US Ambassador to the United Nations, turmoil in the Middle East could lead to another world war.

“Zalmay Khalilzad told the daily Die Presse the Middle East was now so disordered that it had the potential to inflame the world as Europe did during the first half of the 20th century,” Reuters reports.

The Middle East “is going through a very difficult transformation phase. That has strengthened extremism and creates a breeding ground for terrorism,” Khalilzad said in remarks translated by Reuters into English from the published German. “Europe was just as dysfunctional for a while. And some of its wars became world wars. Now the problems of the Middle East and Islamic civilization have the same potential to engulf.”

Khalilzad, who has served on Bush’s foreign policy team since 2000, also “was a charter signatory of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) founding statement of principles, and he signed two subsequent PNAC letters,” according to Right Web.

“We may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War,” Khalilzad wrote Clinton along with fellow PNAC members and future Bush administration members/Iraq war architects Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz in January of 1998. “Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater.”

Excerpts from Reuters article:

Khalilzad, interviewed by Die Presse while attending a foreign policy seminar in the Austrian Alps, said the Islamic world would eventually join the international mainstream but this would take some time. “They started late. They don’t have a consensus on their concept. Some believe they should return to the time (6th-7th century) of the Prophet Mohammad,” he was quoted as saying. “It may take decades before some understand that they can remain Muslims and simultaneously join the modern world.”

Khalilzad was also quoted as saying Iraq would need foreign forces for security for a long time to come. “Iraq will not be in a position to stand on its own feet for a longer period,” he said in the interview.

Asked whether that could be 10-20 years, he said: “Yes, indeed, it could last that long. What form the help takes will depend a lot on the Iraqis. Up to now there is no accord between Iraq and the United States about a longer military presence.”

Scientists’ plea to use new hybrid embryos

London Observer | Aug 27, 2007

by Jo Revill

Britain’s leading scientists have made a final plea for the right to create the first animal-human embryos for medical research using eggs taken from dead cows.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will announce its decision next week on whether to give permission to UK laboratories to create the hybrid embryos to advance the understanding of genetic diseases.

The issue is controversial because it involves scientists taking an animal egg, removing its genetic material and putting DNA from a human cell into it. This can be used to create lines of stem cells which can then be made part of studies into incurable genetic diseases such as motor neurone disease.

However, it has caused controversy as some campaigners and religious groups argue that it is unethical to mix human and animal cells in this way.

Dr Stephen Minger has applied for a licence to do work using hybrids, in order to understand more about a range of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and motor neurone disease.

He said: ‘I’m cautiously optimistic that the authority will allow us a licence. I hope we have made the case that by doing this research, we can study a number of genetic diseases far more clearly. The cell discoveries we make could then be used to develop therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s which affect so many people, but for which we now have almost no therapy to offer.’

Minger, senior lecturer in stem cell biology at King’s College London, believes it makes far more sense to use a hybrid than taking a human embryo, created using a human egg and sperm, because scientists could use eggs taken from ovaries of thousands of cows that are slaughtered every day.

To do this work they would need a large number of embryos to make stem cells, far more than could be achieved by asking women to donate their eggs for research. Stem cells are immature cells that can be engineered to develop into many different kinds of tissue, which is important for medical research.

‘When I start talking to people about it, sometime there is a “yuck factor” and they think it’s weird,’ said Minger. ‘But once you’ve explained how it works, and why we are doing it, they do see the point of it, and actually think it’s a good idea.

‘To me, it seems just very practical to use the cows’ eggs, as a by-product of a process [the animals’ slaughter] that is already happening.’ Another scientist, Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, head of genetics at the National Institute of Medical Research in London, said: ‘I can see absolutely no reason why these sorts of experiments shouldn’t proceed. I think the scientists wishing to carry them out have made a very clear case for them.’

The government recently shifted its position on animal-human hybrid embryos: having been initially against the concept, it is now proposing to allow partial hybrids, where a complete set of human genes is inserted into an animal’s egg cell, for research purposes only, through a new Human Tissue and Embryo Bill aimed at overhauling the laws surrounding fertility treatment.

The move has prompted strong protests from some religious and anti-abortion groups that oppose any such research. Anti-embryo campaigners had said earlier this year it was appalling that the government had, in their view, bowed to pressure from ‘a random collection of self-interested scientists’.

The Catholic Church has made clear its opposition. Bishops told the parliamentary committee scrutinising a draft bill to allow the research to go ahead, that they opposed the creation of any embryo solely for research – they believe that all life begins at conception. They said they were also anxious to limit the destruction of such life once it had been brought into existence.

In a submission to the committee, they said: ‘At the very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and be treated accordingly.’