Daily Archives: November 5, 2007

Saudi King Abdullah arrives for historic meeting with pope

AFP | Nov 5, 2007

ROME (AFP) — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia arrived Monday in Rome for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, the first between a Saudi monarch and a leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal came to Rome in September to pave the way for the visit, the third leg of a European tour that has taken the 84-year-old monarch to London and Geneva.

King Abdullah greeted at Buckingham Palace with Darth Vader theme music

The meeting with the pope is set for 12:30 pm (1130 GMT) on Tuesday.

The Holy See and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic ties, but King Abdullah met Benedict’s predecessor John Paul II in 1999 when he was crown prince to his half brother King Fahd.

The Vatican said the talks in September between al-Faisal and the pope centred on “defence of religious and moral values, the Middle East conflict, the political and religious situation in Saudi Arabia (and) the importance of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue.”

A Vatican source told AFP the same topics would be on the agenda between the king and the pope when they meet Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia held an Arab summit in Riyadh in March to relaunch a five-year-old Saudi peace initiative for the Middle East.

Abdullah’s visit comes as relations between the Vatican and the Muslim world have eased since the crisis provoked in September 2006 when Benedict appeared to link Islam with violence in a speech at Regensburg University, Germany.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who travelled to Riyadh in April, was to meet the Saudi king late Tuesday, while Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema was to have talks with his Saudi counterpart Al-Faisal.

Abdullah’s lavish three-day state visit to Britain, the first by a Saudi monarch in 20 years, sparked human rights protests.

He will travel next to Germany and Turkey.

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Related

Shouts of ‘murderers’ and ‘torturers’ greet King Abdullah on Palace tour
“It is not just that the Saudis have a terrible record on human rights at home. They are exporting an extreme fundamentalist form of Islam. We should not be giving a state visit to this regime,” she said.

Saudi Dictator Gets Red Carpet Welcome In U.K.
Parade.com has ranked King Abdullah as No. 5 in its list of the World’s Worst Dictators this year

Communist world converges in Belarus to revive Marxism

The Belarus brainstorming session would be followed by a two-day celebration of the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution which brought the communists to power after the overthrow of the Czar in Moscow.

DNA | Nov 4, 2007

by Kay Benedict

NEW DELHI: For the first time after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, communist mandarins from across the globe, including India, huddled up in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday to craft a strategy – How to revive and bolster Marxism/socialism and contain imperialism and capitalism.

Undeterred by the collapse of the Soviet Union and other communist regimes in East Europe and elsewhere, the comrades feel that the time is ripe for a global “anti-imperialist/capitalist movement”. The Belarus brainstorming session would be followed by a two-day celebration of the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution which brought the communists to power after the overthrow of the Czar in Moscow. CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury and CPI national secretary D Raja are participating in the three-day international meet.

Though Soviet Union and several communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed over a decade ago, the Marxists believe they can regroup as a “degenerating” capitalism would not sustain for long. The comrades dissected what went wrong with the Soviet Union and other communist regimes that collapsed and deliberated on “emerging trends” signalling the return of Marxism/socialism in many countries.

Both Yechury and Raja addressed the meet at Minsk. The celebrations of the October Revolution anniversary were organised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Yechury exhorted the comrades to work for convergence of the global anti-war protests and worldwide anti-globalisation movements into a “mighty anti-imperialist people’s movement”.

“To those who argue that there is no alternative (TINA) to globalisation, our answer is the alternative to TINA is SITA (socialism is the alternative),” he said).Yechury dwelt at length on the faulty understanding of capitalism and socialism and why the USSR could not sustain the socialist order. He said the communist fraternity is coming together again and reformation, reorientation and regrouping is taking place. “Regrouping is happening. We are resisting the winds from the West.

“With imperialism bracing itself up for a new offensive, the contradiction between imperialism and the third world  is bound to intensify rapidly and come to the forefront,” Yechury said, adding, “The contradiction between imperialism and socialism occupies the central space, as the only alternative to imperialism and capitalism is socialism.”

He said the world is now seeing “the strengthening of the process of regrouping of communist forces. Various regional groupings of communist, Left and progressive forces such as the Sao Paulo Forum which brings together the Left forces in the Americas are also being strengthened”.

Germany’s Communist youth group rises again

Volker Ratzmann, chairman of the Green Party, warned last week that the FDJ was similar to a religious sect

Telegraph | Nov 2, 2007

By Tony Paterson in Berlin

Chancellor Angela Merkel belonged to the organisation, and in its heyday, thousands of its young, blue-shirted members would march across former Communist East Berlin waving red banners and chanting slogans such as: “Learning from the Soviet Union means learning to win!”

East Germany’s Communist youth organisation, the Free German Youth (FDJ), was set up in 1948 as the socialist answer to the Nazis’ Hitler Youth movement. Membership was virtually compulsory – not belonging meant no higher education – hence Mrs Merkel’s involvement.

The FDJ disappeared from Germany’s political map after reunification in 1990. Since then, most assumed it had been consigned to one of the nation’s many dustbins of history. But it has staged a sudden and wholly unexpected comeback: the 58th anniversary of the founding of East Germany once again brought blue-shirted youths out on to the streets of Berlin. FDJ brochures, insisting organisation was out to “expose capitalism and shake it to the core”, were on sale at ¿3 (£2) each.

The man behind the FDJ’s rebirth is a 29-year-old East German bricklayer called Ringo Ehlert, who is proud of the fact that he once forced the authorities to take him to court over his refusal to do military service. “The United States used to be our enemy, but now it is the government of reunited Germany,” he insisted in a recent interview.

Mr Ehlert, who was 12 when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, claims the FDJ has hundreds of members in both eastern and western Germany, and that its appeal is growing. The FDJ, Mr Ehlert says, is on the rise thanks to its opposition to war and to Germany’s involvement in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and the Balkans.

“Germany has learnt nothing from its history and is a danger for the rest of Europe,” Mr Ehlert claims. “Its intervention in Afghanistan and the economic pressure it is putting on Poland are the best examples of this.”

The FDJ’s message is already partly mirrored by German public opinion. Although few want a return to Communism in the east, there has been a wave of Ostalgie – or nostalgic longing for a return to the superficial cosiness of life behind the Iron Curtain. Opinion polls also show that more than 50 per cent of Germans are in favour of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. A rise in strident left-wing political thinking also accounts for the recent success of Die Linke (The Left), formed when leftist parties from western Germany merged with what was the Communist Party in the east. Die Linke is now Germany’s third most powerful political party.

Despite this success, the FDJ’s reappearance has surprised Germany’s political establishment. Volker Ratzmann, chairman of the Green Party, warned last week that the FDJ was similar to a religious sect and claimed that it posed a real threat to young people. “We must ensure that it does not secure any kind of political foothold,” he said.

Germany’s intelligence services said last week that the FDJ had no more than 200 members country-wide. But conservative politicians argued that its public demonstrations showed that it was gaining strength.

Even Die Linke wants nothing to do with the new FDJ. Marion Seelig, a spokesman for the party, said: “It is extremely disturbing that young people… listen to the FDJ. Its ideology is completely absurd.”

. . .

Related

Communist party takes back power in Berlin
TWELVE years after Berliners thought they had seen the last of Communist rule, the successor to the former East German Marxist party took power in the capital amid angry protests yesterday. Capping an extraordinary survival act that owes much to the nostalgia many easterners’ feel for the days of the Berlin Wall, the Party of Democratic Socialists (PDS) took their seats in a so-called “Red-Red” coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Experts wonder about the surge in autism

As many as one in 150 children has some form of this disorder. Groups advocating more research money call autism “the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States.”

 

Associated Press | Nov 3, 2007

By MIKE STOBBE

ATLANTA | A few decades ago, people probably would have said that children like Ryan Massey and Eddie Scheuplein were just odd. Or difficult.

Both boys are bright. But Ryan, 11, is hyper and prone to angry outbursts, and sometimes tries to strangle a classmate who annoys him. Eddie, 7, has a strange habit of sticking his shirt in his mouth and sucking on it.

Both were diagnosed with a form of autism. And it’s partly because of children like them that autism appears to be skyrocketing: In the latest estimate, as many as one in 150 children has some form of this disorder. Groups advocating more research money call autism “the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States.”

Indeed, doctors are concerned that there are even more unrecognized cases out there. The American Academy of Pediatrics last week stressed the importance of screening every child — twice — for autism by age 2.

But many experts think that these unsociable behaviors were nearly as common 30 or 40 years ago. The recent explosion of cases appears to be mostly caused by a surge in special education services for autistic children, they say, and by a corresponding shift in what doctors call autism.

Autism has always been diagnosed by judging a child’s behavior. There are no blood or other physiological tests. For decades, the diagnosis was reserved for children with severe language and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors.

Many children with severe autism hit themselves or others, don’t speak and don’t make eye contact.

Vaccination – The Hidden Truth

 

In the 1990s, the autism umbrella expanded, and autism is now shorthand for a group of milder, related conditions, known as “autism spectrum disorders.”

The spectrum includes Asperger’s syndrome and something called PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified). Some support groups report more than half of their families fall into these categories, but there is no commonly accepted scientific breakdown.

Gradually, there have been changes in parents’ own perception of autism, the autism services schools provide and the care that insurers pay for, experts say.

Eddie, of Buford, Ga., was initially diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions. But the services he got in school were not very helpful.

His mother, Michelle Scheuplein, said a diagnosis of autism brought occupational therapy and better services.

“I do have to admit, I almost like the idea of having the autistic label, at least over the other labels, because there’s more help out there for you,” she said.

“The truth is, there’s a powerful incentive for physicians and schools to classify children in a way that gets services,” said Edwin Trevathan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even in the early 1980s, some parents were more comfortable with a diagnosis of mental retardation, Trevathan said.

Today, parents are more likely to cringe at a diagnosis of mental retardation, which is sometimes equated to a feeble-mindedness that may obscure a child’s potential.

And increasingly, professionals frown at the older term: The special education journal Mental Retardation this year changed its name to Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities.

The editor said that “mentally retarded” is becoming passe and demeaning, much like the terms “idiot”, “imbecile” and “moron” formerly used by doctors to describe varying degrees of mental retardation.

. . .

Black people ‘facing more searches’

Press Association | Oct 30, 2007

Black people were seven times more likely than whites to be stopped and search by the police last year, official figures showed on Tuesday.

Ministry of Justice data showed the rate was even more disproportionate than the previous year, when it stood at six times more likely.

Asians were about twice as likely to be stopped and searched – about the same as the previous year.

The increase in the number of stops on ethnic minorities was partly explained by the police response to the July 7 bombings, the report said.

There were 878,153 stops and searches recorded by police in the year, up 3% on the previous 12 months.

Most of this rise was due to an extra 14,000 black people being targeted by stop and search – a 12% rise – and a 14% increase in the number of Asians targeted, it said.

“This increase could be explained, in part, by the London bombings,” said the document.

Stop and searches conducted under anti-terror powers rocketed by 34% in the year to 44,500, added the paper.

This included an 84% rise in the number of Asians stopped and searched under counter-terror measures, and a 51% increase in blacks targeted under the measures.

However, a separate document also published by the Government on Tuesday gave the number of stops and searches under anti-terror powers as just over 50,000, rather than the 44,500 given in the first publication. It revealed that those 50,000 stops led to just 563 arrests.

Malta ‘is Blackwater’s operational base’

Malta Independent | Oct 15, 2007

by NOEL GRIMA

A European Parliament working document drawn up by Giovanni Claudio Fava has claimed “Malta is the operational base of Blackwater, the organiser of private military militia which are increasingly taking on more and more roles which used to be undertaken by US forces in Iraq and elsewhere”.

American left-wing and anti-war media are in full cry about the underhand and subtle changes, which have made Blackwater the new symbol of American claimed supremacy, carried out by forces other than the regular military.

California Democratic Senator Henry Waxman has been holding a number of hearings on the spread of Blackwater but even they, the more anti-war media claims, have held back from seeing the whole wide picture.

Thus the four-hour interrogation of Blackwater director Eric Prince got lost in details, even discovering for instance a December 2006 “arrangement” negotiated by the State Department as compensation for an Iraqi policeman killed by a Blackwater employee.

But it was only Republican Darrell Issa from California who documented the intimate links between Prince and the Bush administration. On the eve of the hearings, Oliver North, the former colonel who had been condemned for exchanging arms with cocaine in the fight against communism in Nicaragua, accused Senator Waxman of a huge “witch-hunt”.

Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, argued that since the military functions had been privatised, it was in Blackwater’s interest to prolong the war, rather than end it.

An article on Salon.com carried the charges by Jeremy Scahill that the Christian fundamentalists behind Blackwater were the hard core in favour of the war of George Bush and Dick Cheney and their “patron”, former Secretary of State George Schultz.

Eric Prince’s parents, Edgar Prince and his wife Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, through their foundation finance the Council for National Policy, an ultra-secret society which met in Salt Lake City on 28 September to hear Dick Cheney argue the case for an attack on Iran.

Prince Senior is one of the pillars of Christian Coalition of Gary Bauer and of the Family Research Council of James Dobson.

Eric Prince, through his own foundation, the Freiheit Foundation, finances Christendom College, the Institute for World Politics, Crisis Magazine and the Prison Fellowship of Chuck Colson. Prince also finances the Legionnaires du Christ and Christian Freedom International.

When still 27 years old, Eric Prince founded Blackwater USA. He and those who soon joined him have profited from the more than $1,000 million they have taken as contracts from 2000 to 2006.

In 2004, Cofer Black passed from CIA to the State Department and thence became Blackwater’s vice-president. While still in the CIA, Black was in charge of the “special extraditions” organising the secret transfer of prisoners from Iraq or Afghanistan to countries less rigid against the practice of torture, such as Poland, Romania, Egypt, and so on.

These planes, which travelled between Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Afghanistan often made stopovers in many European countries such as the UK, Italy, France, Germany and Malta many times without the countries themselves being informed what was going on.

Now the Swiss procurator Dick Marty has sent documents regarding the “CIA’s flying prisons” to the European Parliament and names two Blackwater subsidiaries – Presidential Airways and Aviation Worldwide Services.

The Giovanni Claudio Fava document on behalf of the European Parliament says the two companies used CASA C-212 planes, usually used to transport paratroops and big cargoes and also able to land on improvised landing spots.

. . .

Related

Blackwater: Knights of Malta in Iraq
Blackwater is more than just a “private army”, much more than just another capitalist war-profiteering business operation. It is an army operating outside all laws, outside and above the US Constitution and yet is controlled by people within and outside our government whose allegiance is primarily to the foreign Vatican state. In other words, Blackwater is a religious army serving the Pope in Rome through the Order of Malta, which is itself considered under international law, as a sovereign entity with special diplomatic powers and privileges. Like Blackwater, the Order of Malta is “untouchable” because it is at the heart of the elite aristocracy.

The picture that proves ‘torture flights’ are STILL landing in the UK (and Malta)
The European Parliament report describes these as shell companies operating as subsidiaries of Blackwater USA, ‘an important contractor for the CIA and the US military’ which bases the planes in Malta. Tracking technology shows that the plane was en route from Canada to Greenland two days before it was sighted at Mildenhall: the internet software does not extend beyond American airspace, but the expert explained that its route would be consistent with a refuelling stop in the Arctic – it only has a range of about 2,000 miles – followed by a further refuel in East Anglia, before heading to Malta.

Blackwater’s Owner Has Spies for Hire

Ex-U.S. Intelligence Operatives Dot Firm’s Roster

Washington Post | Nov 3, 2007

By Dana Hedgpeth

First it became a brand name in security for its work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it’s taking on intelligence.

The Prince Group, the holding company that owns Blackwater Worldwide, has been building an operation that will sniff out intelligence about natural disasters, business-friendly governments, overseas regulations and global political developments for clients in industry and government.

The operation, Total Intelligence Solutions, has assembled a roster of former spooks — high-ranking figures from agencies such as the CIA and defense intelligence — that mirrors the slate of former military officials who run Blackwater. Its chairman is Cofer Black, the former head of counterterrorism at CIA known for his leading role in many of the agency’s more controversial programs, including the rendition and interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and the detention of some of them in secret prisons overseas.

Its chief executive is Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations who was heavily involved in running the agency’s role in the Iraq war.

Total Intelligence Solutions is one of a growing number of companies that offer intelligence services such as risk analysis to companies and governments. Because of its roster and its ties to owner Erik Prince, the multimillionaire former Navy SEAL, the company’s thrust into this world highlights the blurring of lines between government, industry and activities formerly reserved for agents operating in the shadows.

Richer, for instance, once served as the chief of the CIA’s Near East division and is said to have ties to King Abdullah of Jordan. The CIA had spent millions helping train Jordan’s intelligence service in exchange for information. Now Jordan has hired Blackwater to train its special forces.

“Cofer can open doors,” said Richer, who served 22 years at the CIA. “I can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see. We don’t help pay bribes. We do everything within the law, but we can deal with the right minister or person.”

Total Intel, as the company is known, is bringing “the skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room,” Black said. Black had a 28-year career with the CIA.

“They have the skills and background to do anything anyone wants,” said RJ Hillhouse, who writes a national security blog called The Spy Who Billed Me. “There’s no oversight. They’re an independent company offering freelance espionage services. They’re rent-a-spies.”

The heart of Total Intel operations is a suite on the ninth floor of an office tower in Ballston, patterned after the CIA counterterrorist center Black once ran, with analysts sitting at cubicles in the center of the room and glass offices of senior executives on the perimeter.

A handful of analysts in their 20s and 30s sit hunched over Macintosh computers, scanning Web sites, databases, newspapers and chat rooms. The lights are dimmed. Three large-screen TVs play in the background, one tuned to al-Jazeera.

The room, called the Global Fusion Center, is staffed around the clock, as analysts search for warnings on everything from terrorist plots on radical Islamic Web sites to possible political upheavals in Asia, labor strikes in South America and Europe, and economic upheavals that could affect a company’s business.

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