Daily Archives: August 13, 2008

British journalist ‘forcibly restrained’ for reporting on pro-Tibet protest in Beijing

Independent | Aug 13, 2008

A British TV journalist described today how he was “forcibly restrained” and dragged across a street as Chinese police stopped him reporting on a pro-Tibet protest in Beijing.

John Ray, of ITV News, said he was left with cuts and bruises after being “slung” in the back of a police van by officers arresting activists from Students for a Free Tibet.

Mr Ray was taken away by officers as members of the campaign group handcuffed themselves to each other at the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, near the National Stadium in Beijing.

The reporter, who became ITV News’ China correspondent in 2006, said: “I was held in a restaurant and physically and forcibly restrained there.

“I tried to explain to these people that I was a journalist but they dragged me out and slung me in in the back of a police van and held me there for another few minutes.

“Nobody punched me but they were very forceful and I have a cut knee and a bruise on my finger.

“They basically dragged me into the restaurant and then out, and took my shoes off me.”

Mr Ray was only released from the Chinese police van after his producer showed them accreditation.

He added: “I was able to eventually show them my journalist credentials and they realised I was a British journalist and the next time the door of the van opened I was able to walk out.

“They did ask me, in English, what my views were on Tibet and I said ‘I don’t have any views, I’m a journalist’.

“I was there purely to report on a protest and took no part in the protest itself.

“We then contacted the British Embassy and they are taking it up at consular level.”

A spokesman at the British embassy said: “We are aware of the incident and have spoken directly to John Ray.

“We have expressed our strong concern to the Chinese authorities and we are pleased that he has been released.”

Mr Ray previously worked as ITV News’ UK editor and was best-known for his coverage of the 7/7 terror attacks and Northern Ireland.

He joined ITN in July 2000 from Sky News, where he was a political correspondent, after starting his career in print journalism working on the Warrington Guardian and then the Western Morning News.

Eight members of the campaign group were arrested after two of them hung a Free Tibet banner near the gates of the park.

The incident is the second time Students for a Free Tibet have grabbed international headlines for their exploits during the Olympics.

Britons Lucy Fairbrother, 23, and Iain Thom, 24, were deported after unfurling a 140 sq ft banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet” in Beijing before the games started.

ITN said it would be making the “strongest possible” protest.

An ITN spokesman said: “John Ray is a fully accredited China correspondent who was doing his legitimate job as a journalist.

“We intend to protest in the strongest possible terms to the Chinese authorities and seek assurances that the treatment meted out to Mr Ray will not be repeated.”

The International Olympic Committee said it was investigating.

A spokesman said: “The IOC has learned through media reports that a British journalist was allegedly assaulted today while covering a demonstration near an Olympic venue in Beijing.

“The IOC’s position is clear: the media must be free to report on the Olympic Games.

“We are endeavouring to discover the full facts of this incident and, if necessary, will raise our concerns with the appropriate authority.”

Chavez offers to hug his “old friend” King Juan Carlos

Laughing it up after the “spat”. The Venezuelan leader – famous for his lengthy speeches – referred to King Juan Carlos as an “old friend” during his weekly TV address.

He said the king had invited him to his summer house on the island of Mallorca on 25 July.

BBC | Jul 21, 2008

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has offered a hug to King Juan Carlos of Spain – who famously told him to “shut up” during a row last year.

The left-wing president, who will visit Spain later this week, said he had already “turned the page” on the spat.

“I’d like to give the king a hug, but you know, Juan Carlos, that I am not going to shut up,” Mr Chavez said.

The incident made global headlines last November – inspiring jokes, songs and even mobile phone ringtones.

The king was provoked after Mr Chavez had called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a “fascist” at the Ibero-American summit in Chile.

Mr Chavez went on to interrupt a speech by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, prompting the king to shout: “Why don’t you shut up?”

But the Venezuelan leader – famous for his lengthy speeches – referred to King Juan Carlos as an “old friend” during his weekly TV address.

He said the king had invited him to his summer house on the island of Mallorca on 25 July.

Georgia bows to might of Russia

Related

Russia Invades South Ossetia in War with Gruzia
Is this the beginning of the War of Gog and Magog?

Independent | Aug 11, 2008

By Kim Sengupta and Shaun Walker

Georgia’s appeal for a ceasefire seemed to have fallen on deaf ears last night as Russian jets expanded their bombardment, targeting the capital, Tbilisi, for the first time. As the world’s diplomats hurried to contain the violence and prevent the conflict engulfing the wider Caucasus region, Russia made clear it no longer considered Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili a partner, prompting accusations from his main ally, the United States, that Moscow was resisting peace and wanted regime change.

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Temur Yakobashvili said Russian tanks tried to cross from South Ossetia into Georgia-controlled territory but claimed they had been forced to turn back by its forces. The tanks were apparently trying to approach Gori, a city of about 50,000 that sits on Georgia’s only significant east-west highway, he said. Thousands of people were said to be fleeing ahead of the Russian advance.

Russia has made no secret of its dislike for Mr Saakashvili, his alliance with Washington, his attempts to join Nato and his oft-repeated pledges to bring two separatist provinces back under Tbilisi’s control – a pledge he tried to make good on Thursday by sending troops into South Ossetia.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, condemned the Georgian leader last night, saying: “A man who issued orders to commit war crimes which resulted in thousands of deaths of peaceful civilians cannot be viewed by Russia as a partner.”

Underscoring the magnitude of the problem facing Georgia, Moscow-backed separatists in its other breakaway region, Abkhazia, declared they had opened a second front. Maxim Gunjia, the separatists’ deputy foreign minister, said his tiny air force was bombing Georgian positions in the contested Kodori Gorge and that about 1,000 troops had also been deployed. “We have started operations because we saw the Georgian attack on South Ossetia and knew Abkhazia would be next,” Mr Gunjia said from the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, a town of ramshackle beach bars, palm trees and buildings gutted in a 1992-93 war of independence against Tbilisi’s forces.

Tbilisi accused Moscow of shipping 4,000 soldiers to the port of Ochamchire in Abkhazia. But Abkhaz officials insisted they were fighting on their own.

Georgia announced that it had pulled its troops out of South Ossetia and Mr Saakashvili said his government had been trying “all day” to contact Russia to discuss a ceasefire. “Georgia expresses its readiness to immediately start negotiations with the Russian Federation on a ceasefire and termination of hostilities,” a statement said. Mr Saakashvili said he believed Russia intended to take over his country to secure energy supply routes from central Asia. Russian planes were reported last night to have dropped bombs near a British-operated oil pipeline south of Tbilisi, although it was not damaged.

Russia said it was sceptical of the Georgian claims of a withdrawal. “We must check all that. We don’t trust the Georgian side,” said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin. Moscow wants Georgia to rule out using force in future.

Georgia’s ceasefire came on a day of claim and counterclaim, but a day when the military might of an angry Russian bear was on full display. As well as the bombing in and around the Georgian capital, including one explosion just metres from the main runway at Tbilisi airport, there were reports of explosions in the western town of Zugdidi. Meanwhile, dozens of Russian tanks and military vehicles headed for the two-mile Roki tunnel, which leads from Russian-held North Ossetia into the separatist South.

Russia’s navy also entered the conflict, deploying a flotilla off Georgia’s Black Sea coast. There were reports that they would mount a blockade, snuffing out supply lines for weapons, oil and wheat – a charge denied by Moscow. Unconfirmed reports late last night said the Russian war ships had sunk a Georgian vessel.

In the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, the human suffering in the wake of the Georgian attack and Russian counter-attack was horrifyingly evident. Corpses were dotted about the city, burnt-out tanks littered the roads, and every other building showed bomb or mortar damage, with many simply smouldering ruins. Where once 10,000 people had roamed, there was barely a soul. Many residents have fled across the border into North Ossetia, and those left were the walking wounded, some heavily bandaged, others limping along on crutches.

Russian television spoke of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in South Ossetia, with more than 2,000 people dead and thousands homeless. President Dmitry Medvedev – who has largely taken a back seat to the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who sped from Beijing to North Ossetia on Saturday – termed the Georgian action a “genocide” and ordered officials to document the crimes.

A Georgian government source said 130 Georgian civilians and soldiers had been killed and 1,165 wounded, many by Russian bombing inside Georgia. Russia denied attacking civilian targets.

Mr Gunjia said Georgia had sparked a “chain reaction” by attacking South Ossetia. “It’s no longer possible to listen to Georgia talk about a peaceful solution in South Ossetia or Abkhazia, or offer us autonomy. Georgia has shown its real face.”

Democrats complain McCain ad casts Obama as the Antichrist

Supporters of Barack Obama said the ad from the McCain campaign furthered rumors that Obama is the antichrist. (YOUTUBE.COM)

McCain spot may have themes on the apocalypse

Boston Globe | Aug 9, 2008

By Foon Rhee

Does John McCain’s Web ad that mocks Barack Obama as “The One” have a darker design?

Outraged Christian supporters of Obama say it does – that it is intended to further Internet-fueled rumors that Obama is the antichrist. Deconstructing and analyzing the ad, they say the images and language play into apocalyptic themes, including those featured in the best-selling “Left Behind” series, fictionalized accounts of the end of the world.

McCain’s campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, has said that the ad was intended merely to poke fun at what they see as Obama’s arrogance.

But the buzz over possible apocalyptic subtexts in the ad, which has been viewed nearly 1.1 million times since it was posted a week ago on YouTube, has become so loud that yesterday Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal reported on the controversy and the authors of “Left Behind” issued a statement about it.

Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, in the statement issued through their public relations firm, said they don’t believe Obama is the antichrist mentioned in the biblical prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Their series of 16 novels has sold more than 63 million copies worldwide.

Related: Obama Leads Among Christians

“I’ve gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist,” Jenkins said in the statement. “I tell everyone that I don’t think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics.”

LaHaye added: “I can see by the language he uses why people think he could be the antichrist, but from my reading of scripture, he doesn’t meet the criteria. There is no indication in the Bible that the antichrist will be an American.”

Those analyzing the ad point to the opening words – “It should be known that in 2008 the world shall be blessed. They will call him The One” – and a clip of Obama saying in a speech: “A nation healed, a world repaired. We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for.”

In the “Left Behind” series, the antichrist is a charismatic young political leader who is founder of The One World religion and promises to heal the world.

“Short of 666, they used every single symbol of the antichrist in this ad,” Eric Sapp, a Democratic operative who advises Democrats on reaching out to faith communities, told the Journal. “There are way too many things to just be coincidence.”

LaHaye and other believers say the antichrist will come from Europe, maybe Romania and possibly a leader of the European Union.

But for the last few months, there have been viral e-mails that compare Obama to Nimrod, whom some evangelicals believe was the first evil king of world history and who is black in some accounts, said James Tabor, chairman of the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

While the Obama-as-antichrist accusation is on the fringes now and not seriously mentioned from the pulpit, Tabor said, “I think that could come.”

After reviewing the video yesterday, Tabor, a specialist in ancient apocalyptic thought, said that while the ad’s creators might have wanted to play with apocalyptic themes in a tongue-in-cheek way, it could have “serious consequences.”

“Is anyone naive enough to believe and watch that and say, ‘Oh no, I won’t vote for him because he’s the antichrist?’ I’d have to say in our country, yeah,” Tabor said.

And, he noted, another biblical prophecy is that the antichrist gets wounded, and a disturbed believer could try to fulfill that prophecy. A man has been charged in Florida for threatening to assassinate Obama, who requested and received Secret Service protection last year at the earliest point for any presidential candidate after his campaign received hate mail.

“This stuff is very, very dangerous,” Tabor said. “It can be seen as playful, but too many times in history it has led to armies marching and people dying. The ad is really unfortunate.”

Police sergeant used department computer to research victims before raping them

Ex-Ill. cop convicted of 4 rapes, gets 440 years

His used his police computer to research rape victims before attacks

MSNBC | Aug 12, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – A former police sergeant convicted of raping four women was sentenced to 440 years in prison Tuesday.

Jeff Pelo, formerly with the Bloomington police, slouched forward in his chair but otherwise didn’t react as Judge Robert Freitag issued the sentence. Two victims and their families clapped in the McLean County courtroom.

Jurors deliberated for parts of three days in June before convicting the 17-year police veteran of 35 counts, including 25 counts of aggravated sexual assault.

Prosecutors used dozens of witnesses and evidence found in Pelo’s home to portray him as a man obsessed with violent pornography who paradoxically wanted his victims to like him. They said his police computer login was used to research rape victims before the attacks, which occurred between 2002 and 2005.

Defense attorney Michael Rosenblat countered that the defense lacked any physical evidence incriminating Pelo. He filed a motion last month asking for a new trial, but Freitag denied it Tuesday.

Pelo has been jailed since his June 2006 arrest outside a woman’s home. Another Bloomington officer spotted Pelo outside the home late on June 11, 2006, after the woman reported a prowler.

Pelo claimed he was shopping for a home for his mother-in-law. His wife backed up that claim, saying her husband often kept strange hours after working night shifts for years.

Pelo initially faced burglary and stalking charges, but over the next month three of the four rape victims identified him from photos as their attacker. Two of them also identified his voice as that of the man who raped them.

One of Pelo’s victims testified that he was almost gentle at times, while another said took particular delight in learning, after he’d raped her, that she was pregnant.

Privacy advocates warn tracking suspects with GPS is another step toward Orwell’s Big Brother society

Police turn to secret weapon: GPS device

Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell’s Big Brother society.


MSNBC | Aug 12, 2008

by Ben Hubbard

Someone was attacking women in Fairfax County and Alexandria, grabbing them from behind and sometimes punching and molesting them before running away. After logging 11 cases in six months, police finally identified a suspect.

David Lee Foltz Jr., who had served 17 years in prison for rape, lived near the crime scenes. To figure out if Foltz was the assailant, police pulled out their secret weapon: They put a Global Positioning System device on Foltz’s van, which allowed them to track his movements.

Police said they soon caught Foltz dragging a woman into a wooded area in Falls Church. After his arrest on Feb. 6, the string of assaults suddenly stopped. The break in the case relied largely on a crime-fighting tool they would rather not discuss.

“We don’t really want to give any info on how we use it as an investigative tool to help the bad guys,” said Officer Shelley Broderick, a Fairfax police spokeswoman. “It is an investigative tool for us, and it is a very new investigative tool.”

Across the country, police are using GPS devices to snare thieves, drug dealers, sexual predators and killers, often without a warrant or court order. Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell’s Big Brother society. Law enforcement officials, when they discuss the issue at all, said GPS is essentially the same as having an officer trail someone, just cheaper and more accurate. Most of the time, as was done in the Foltz case, judges have sided with police.

With the courts’ blessing, and the ever-declining cost of the technology, many analysts believe that police will increasingly rely on GPS as an effective tool in investigations and that the public will hear little about it. Last year, FBI agents used a GPS device while investigating an embezzlement scheme to steal from District taxpayers, attaching one to a suspect’s Jaguar.

“I’ve seen them in cases from New York City to small towns — whoever can afford to get the equipment and plant it on a car,” said John Wesley Hall, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “And of course, it’s easy to do. You can sneak up on a car and plant it at any time.”

Most police departments in the Washington region resist disclosing whether they use GPS to track suspects. D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said D.C. police do not use the technique. Police departments in Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties and Alexandria declined to discuss the issue.

Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a Prince George’s County police spokesman, said his department does use the technique. “But I don’t think that’s something [detectives] would be too happy to put out there like that,” Copeland said. “They do have different techniques they like to use on suspects, but they don’t really want people to know.”

Details on how police use GPS usually become public when the use of the device is challenged in court. Such cases have revealed how police in Washington state arrested a man for killing his 9-year-old daughter: the GPS device attached to his truck led them to where he had buried her.

Cases have shown how detectives in New York caught a drug-runner after monitoring his car as he bought and sold methamphetamine. In Wisconsin, police tracked two suspected burglars by attaching a GPS device to their car and apprehending them after burglarizing a house.

The Foltz case offers a rare glimpse into how a Washington area police department uses GPS. Foltz’s attorney, Chris Leibig, challenged police in court last week and tried to have the GPS evidence thrown out. He argued at a hearing at Arlington County General District Court that police needed a warrant since the device tracked Foltz’s vehicle on private and public land. The judge disagreed, and the evidence will be used at Foltz’s trial, which will begin Oct. 6. Foltz was charged in the Feb. 6 attack, but not in the others.

Without obtaining a warrant, Jack Kirk, a detective from the Fairfax police department’s electronic-surveillance section, placed a GPS device on Foltz’s van while it was parked in front of his house, Kirk testified. He said it took three seconds. Another vehicle was not targeted because it was on private property, he said.

Detectives began actively monitoring the van four days later, when it appeared to be moving slowly through neighborhoods, Kirk said. Foltz was caught the next day.

In preparing to defend Foltz, Leibig filed Freedom of Information Act requests with every police department in Virginia, asking about their use of unwarranted GPS tracking. Most departments said they had never used the device. About two dozen refused to respond, including Loudoun and Prince William counties, Alexandria and the Virginia State Police.

Arlington police said they have used GPS devices 70 times in the last three years, mostly to catch car thieves, but also in homicide, robbery and narcotics investigations.

Full Story

US, allies weigh punishment for Russia

Associated Press | Aug 12, 2008

by MATTHEW LEE

WASHINGTON – Scrambling to find ways to punish Russia for its invasion of pro-Western Georgia, the United States and its allies are considering expelling Moscow from an exclusive club of wealthy nations and have scrapped plans for an upcoming joint NATO-Russia military exercise, Bush administration officials said Tuesday.

But with scant leverage in the face of an emboldened Moscow, Washington and its friends have been forced to face the uncomfortable reality that their options are limited to mainly symbolic measures, such as boycotting Russian-hosted meetings and events, that may have little or no long-term impact on Russia’s behavior, the officials said.

With the situation on the ground still unclear after Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Tuesday ordered a halt to military action in Georgia, U.S. officials were focused primarily on confirming a cease-fire and attending to Georgia’s urgent humanitarian needs following five days of fierce fighting, including Russian attacks on civilian targets.

“It is very important now that all parties cease fire,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. “The Georgians have agreed to a cease-fire, the Russians need to stop their military operations as they have apparently said that they will, but those military operations really do now need to stop because calm needs to be restored.”

At the same time, however, President Bush and his top aides were engaged in frantic consultations with European and other nations over how best to demonstrate their fierce condemnations of the Russian operation that began in Georgia’s separatist region of South Ossetia, expanded to another disputed area, Abkhazia, and ended up on purely Georgian soil.

“The idea is to show the Russians that it is no longer business as usual,” said one senior official familiar with the consultations among world leaders that were going on primarily by phone and in person at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where alliance diplomats met together and then with representatives of Georgia.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe confidential conversations among the leaders of other nations, said European and other leaders have been blunt with Russia that it must withdraw its forces. Russian leaders have said they do not plan a long-term occupation, the official said. The official was not specific about whether Russia has offered a timeline for withdrawal.

“People are saying, ‘You know you cannot stay,'” the official said. “We have been hearing from Russia, ‘We don’t want to stay.'”

For now, the Bush administration decided to boycott a third meeting at NATO on Tuesday at which the alliance’s governing board, the North Atlantic Council, was preparing for a meeting with a Russian delegation that has been called at Moscow’s request, officials said.

In addition, a senior defense official said the U.S. has decided to dump a major NATO naval exercise with Russia that was scheduled to begin Friday.

Sailors and vessels from Britain, France, Russia, and the U.S. were to take part in the annual Russia-NATO exercise aimed at improving cooperation in maritime security. But the official said there is no way that the U.S. could proceed with it in the midst of the Georgian crisis.

The naval exercise began a decade ago and typically involves around 1,000 personnel from the four countries, officials said. The Pentagon also is looking at a variety of ways it could respond to humanitarian needs in Georgia, but officials have not yet made any final decisions.

In the medium term, the United States and its partners in the Group of Seven, or G-7, the club of the world’s leading industrialized nations that also includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, are debating whether to effectively disband what is known as the G-8, which incorporates Russia, by throwing Moscow out, the officials said.

Discussions are also taking place on whether to revoke or review the May 2007 invitation to Russia to join the 30-member, Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which consists primarily of established European democracies, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have yet been made and consultations with other countries involved are still under way.

Bush spoke on Monday and Tuesday with fellow G-7 leaders as well as the heads of democratically elected pro-Western governments in formerly Eastern bloc nations, some of which are among NATO’s newest members and have urged a strong response to Russia’s invasion of a like-minded country.

On Monday on his way home from the Olympics in China, Bush talked with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Polish President Lech Kaczynski. He then called Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, the White House said. On Tuesday, he spoke with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Rice, who returned early to Washington late Monday from vacation to deal with the crisis, held a second round of talks with foreign ministers from the Group of Seven countries in which they were briefed on European Union mediation efforts led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who met Tuesday with Medvedev in Moscow.

“They believe that they have made some progress and we welcome that and we certainly welcome the E.U. mediation,” Rice told reporters at the White House.

Later, Saakashvili told reporters that he accepted the cease-fire plan negotiated by Sarkozy.

Despite the flurry of activity, there was still uncertainty about whether Russia had in fact halted its military action in Georgia, with reports of continued shelling of civilian and military sites.

The State Department on Tuesday recommended that all U.S. citizens leave Georgia in a new travel warning, saying the security situation remained uncertain. It said it was organizing a third evacuation convoy to take Americans who want to leave by road to neighboring Armenia. More that 170 American citizens have already left Georgia in two earlier convoys.

Just hours after Bush said in a White House address that the invasion had “substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world” and demanded an end to what he called Moscow’s “dramatic and brutal escalation” of violence, Medvedev said he had ordered an end to military action.

Russia ‘annexes’ a fifth of Georgia

Russia altered the balance of power in Europe when the Kremlin halted its attack on Georgia after its forces had effectively annexed 18 per cent of the country.

Telegraph | Aug 12, 2008

By David Blair

Russia closed its Five Day War in full control of Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which total more than 4,800 square miles of the neighbouring state.

While Russian troops have been deployed in these enclaves since 1992, they have never previously controlled their entire territory.

Having achieved this by force, Moscow’s terms for a permanent truce would cement its gains. The Kremlin has also demonstrated its indifference to western opinion and its willingness to use force to prevent a former Soviet republic from joining Nato.

President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia declared a ceasefire and agreed six principles for peace during a meeting in Moscow with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union. Under these proposals, all forces must return to their positions at the outset of the war on August 7 and allow full access for humanitarian aid.

But Russia’s foreign ministry had additional demands.

The Kremlin wants a buffer zone around South Ossetia and Abkhazia, from which all Georgian forces would be excluded. Russia also seeks a treaty guarantee that Georgia will never use force to recapture them.

These demands would safeguard what amounts to Moscow’s de facto annexation of the two enclaves.

After the mauling suffered by his army during five days of fighting, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia may have little choice but to agree.

Mr Sarkozy flew from Moscow to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi last night. He was expected to present his six points and Russia’s additional demands to Mr Saakashvili. For his part, Georgia’s leader declared a unilateral ceasefire on Sunday.

Mr Medvedev halted operations after Russia’s army achieved its primary aim – controlling Abkhazia and South Ossetia and inflicting severe damage on Georgia’s forces. Moscow says its army acted only after Georgian forces struck inside South Ossetia and killed “thousands” of Russian citizens. Mr Saakashvili did send his army into the enclave last Thursday – although Georgia denies any atrocities.

“I’ve decided to finish the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace. The safety of our peacekeeping forces and civilian population has been restored. The aggressor has been punished, having sustained considerable losses. Its armed forces have been disorganised,” Mr Medvedev said.

But the president ordered his defence minister, Anatoliy Serdukov, to respond to any Georgian attempt to fight back. “Should centres of resistance or other aggressive attempts arise, you must take the decision to destroy them,” said Mr Medvedev.

Earlier, Russian troops pulled out of Georgian territory, leaving the crucial road junction at Senaki in the west of the country, and returning to positions in the two breakaway regions.

Mr Sarkozy described the ceasefire as “good news” and said that a “permanent cessation” was now needed.

Before meeting the French leader, Mr Medvedev betrayed his scorn for Mr Saakashvili. Calling the Georgian a “lunatic”, Mr Medvedev said: “You know, the difference between lunatics and other people is that when they smell blood it is very difficult to stop them. So you have to use surgery.”

Observers believe Mr Saakashvili’s decision to move into South Ossetia last week followed about two weeks of provocation by Russian forces and their client militias. “Russia wanted to manoeuvre Saakashvili into a situation where he would be seen to be making the first move and then provide a pretext for Russian action,” said an observer.

Mr Medvedev said it was now “up to Georgia” to accept the peace terms. Shortly after he declared the ceasefire, Russian shells landed in the central square of the town of Gori, 15 miles inside Georgia. At least five people were killed – but most of Gori’s inhabitants had already fled.

By last night, however, the ceasefire appeared to be taking hold.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, broke off his holiday in Minorca, joining a conference call with foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich nations yesterday. He is expected to meet European Union foreign ministers in Brussels today.

David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, called on Nato to respond to Russia by “accelerating the path” to membership Georgia and Ukraine.

The war is thought to have claimed about 2,000 lives since last Thursday. Mr Saakashvili addressed a defiant rally attended by tens of thousands of people in Tbilisi yesterday. He accused Russia of trying to conquer Georgia and vowed to uphold the nation’s independence. “Georgia will never surrender,” he said.

Obama adviser Brzezinski compares Putin to Stalin and Hitler



Guardian | Aug 12, 2008

Kate Connolly in Berlin

The former US national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has called on the world community to isolate Russia in protest over its campaign in the Caucasus, likening its tactics to those of “Hitler or Stalin”.

Brzezinski, who was the national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, and is now an occasional adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, said the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, was “following a course that is horrifyingly similar to that taken by Stalin and Hitler in the 1930s”.

He said that Putin’s “justification” for splitting up Georgia – because of the Russian citizens living in South Ossetia – could be compared to when Hitler used the alleged suffering of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland as a pretext for annexing Czechoslovakia in 1938.

In an interview with the conservative German daily Die Welt, he said even more striking were the parallels between Putin’s strategy against Georgia and Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939, describing both as “the undermining of the sovereignty of a small, democratic neighbouring state through the use of violence”. He added: “Georgia is to an extent the Finland of today, both morally and strategically.”

Polish-born Brezinski, 80, who earned a reputation as a hardliner due to his anti-Soviet politics, said the world was now being confronted with the question as to how it should react to Russia and what he saw as its efforts to “reincorporate old Soviet areas into the Kremlin’s sphere of control”. He said at the heart of the issue was access to oil and specifically who controlled the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which runs through Georgia.

“If Georgia no longer has its sovereignty it means not only that the west is cut off from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia, but we can also assume that Putin will exercise a similar strategy against Ukraine if he faces resistance. He’s already publicly voiced threats against Ukraine.”

“If Russia continues on this path it has to be isolated by the international community,” he said, including economic sanctions on which all alliances from the European Union to Nato would have to take a joint stand.

He added that Russia’s invasion of Georgia was proof of the failure of the White House during George Bush’s eight year tenure, to recognise the “Putin regime” for what it really was.

“Two episodes illustrate this better than any others,” he said. “First, when Bush met Putin for the first time and said he had looked into his soul and could trust him. Secondly, when Condi Rice, not so long ago, said that the American-Russian relations had never been better than they are today.” He said the White House had deceived itself.

Asked why it was that he only spoke of Putin and not of the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, Brzezinski said: “He [Medvedev] has about as much influence over the current situation as the official head of state in the Soviet Union of the 1950s had over the Soviet Union. Nobody can even remember his name.”

City councils get new powers to seize phone, internet and email records

Council snoopers to get new powers to seize phone and email records – with taxpayers footing the £160m bill

The new powers would allow public bodies including councils to access phone, internet and email records of people suspected in even minor crimes

Daily Mail | Aug 12, 2008

By  James Slack

Council snoopers are to be given even greater powers to pry into our phone, email and internet records  –  landing the taxpayer with a bill of almost £50million.

Town halls, along with the police, security services, health authorities and other public bodies, will have access to ‘ communication’ records of anyone suspected of involvement in even the most minor crime.

The powers, which stem from an EU directive supposedly designed to catch terrorists, will even allow police to track down those who have told friends they are planning to harm themselves.

But it will cost the taxpayer £46.58million over eight years to compensate mobile phone companies and internet firms for storing and providing the data.

Critics said the measure took Britain a step closer to becoming a surveillance state. Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: ‘Yet again the Government have proved themselves unable to resist the temptation to take a power quite properly designed to combat terrorism to snoop on the lives of ordinary people in everyday circumstances.

‘It is typical of this government that they also intend to make the taxpayer pay extra for the privilege.’

The controversy centres on a EU directive passed in the aftermath of the July 7 terror attacks, in London, in 2005.

Britain said it was crucial for terrorism investigations that police and security services could access times, dates and recipients of a suspect’s landline, mobile phone, email and internet communications.

A deadline was set for implementing the powers by March 2009. And yesterday the Home Office published proposals for how this will be done.

It is intending to give public bodies covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000  –  including local councils  –  the power to access communications data.

The rules will not be limited to detecting terrorism and serious crime  –  they will be applied to any offence.

Town halls can already request some of the data, and have used it to try to trace minor offenders. But these rules will make it compulsory for phone and internet companies to hand over personal information from the previous 12 months. At the moment, arrangements are largely voluntary. Public bodies will not be able to read emails nor listen to phone calls.

Examples given by the Government include someone who tells a friend by email, or via the internet, they are intending to harm themselves.

If contacted by the friend, the police would use their powers to locate a home address and visit the property.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID campaign, said: ‘No one would ever say that surveillance is not required for the most serious crimes and terrorism. But to extend such powers and make it so simple for any official to peek into your private affairs shows we are now entering into a database state.’

However, the Home Office defended the move. ‘This data is a vital tool to investigations and intelligence gathering in support of national security and crime. It will ‘enable UK law enforcement to benefit fully from historical communications data’ and ‘enhance our national security’, it added.