Docudharma Times Saturday Dec.29

This an Open Thread: Where the Truth Does Not Hide

Headlines For Saturday December 29: In Bush’s Final Year, The Agenda Gets Greener : Crisis Overseas Is Sudden Test for Candidates: Defense bill stalls at president’s desk: Bhutto aide says bathed body, saw bullet wound: Australian Guantanamo man freed: Shame of Imported Labor in Kurdish North of Iraq

Robert Fisk: They don’t blame al-Qa’ida. They blame Musharraf

Published: 29 December 2007

Weird, isn’t it, how swiftly the narrative is laid down for us. Benazir Bhutto, the courageous leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, is assassinated in Rawalpindi – attached to the very capital of Islamabad wherein ex-General Pervez Musharraf lives – and we are told by George Bush that her murderers were “extremists” and “terrorists”. Well, you can’t dispute that.

But the implication of the Bush comment was that Islamists were behind the assassination. It was the Taliban madmen again, the al-Qa’ida spider who struck at this lone and brave woman who had dared to call for democracy in her country.

Of course, given the childish coverage of this appalling tragedy – and however corrupt Ms Bhutto may have been, let us be under no illusions that this brave lady is indeed a true martyr – it’s not surprising that the “good-versus-evil” donkey can be trotted out to explain the carnage in Rawalpindi.


In Bush’s Final Year, The Agenda Gets Greener

People find all sorts of ways to lobby President Bush. Sometimes it comes in the form of a handwritten note slipped into his palm during a bill-signing ceremony.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) tried that last week when Bush signed energy legislation that will curb greenhouse gases. “Congratulations and good work,” Carper recalled writing. “By the way, Joe Lieberman and John Warner have a very good global warming bill that needs your support and you ought to support it.”

Bush tucked the note into his pocket and promised to read it later. Carper hoped he would find it at the end of the day when he slipped his suit off. No one knows what effect such a note might have, but it was just one more small foray in a battle for Bush’s attention that has been raging for years, one in which European leaders, American governors, corporate executives, evangelical preachers and key lawmakers have pressed him to lead what they see as a bid to save the planet.

George Bush’s concern for the environment extends as far as corporate greed.

Crisis Overseas Is Sudden Test for Candidates

WEBSTER CITY, Iowa – For the presidential candidates, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has emerged as a ghoulish sort of test: a chance to project leadership and competence – or not – on a fast-moving and nuanced foreign policy issue.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Democrats who have struggled to attract voters’ attention, edged into the spotlight on Friday after talking about Pakistan for weeks.

Mr. Biden tried to sound presidential as he expressed concern about loose nuclear weapons in Pakistan, and he also emphasized his foresight by noting that he had long called Pakistan “the most dangerous nation on the planet.”

Mr. Richardson, a former diplomat, made an effort to cast himself as a man of action, meanwhile, calling for President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to step down.

Defense bill stalls at president’s desk

The White House is concerned that a provision could be used to tie up Iraqi assets in U.S. lawsuits.

CRAWFORD, TEXAS — President Bush said Friday that he would effectively veto a $696-billion defense bill because it included a provision that the administration feared could be used to tie up billions of dollars in Iraqi assets in U.S. lawsuits.

The provision was included in the extensively debated bill setting broad Pentagon spending and policy priorities (not the spending bill that funds U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan). The provision drew close attention only in recent days, when the White House realized it posed the risk of what Bush called a “devastating” financial effect for Iraq.

Democratic congressional leaders expressed irritation at the White House for not earlier flagging the provision as objectionable. They said Friday that they expected a quick remedy when lawmakers returned to session next month.

George Bush showing how he supports the troops. Of course he has stated he will work with Congress towards a bipartisan agreement. Which means my way or the highway.


Hindustan Times

Bhutto aide says bathed body, saw bullet wound

A close aide to Benazir Bhutto told AFP on Saturday that she saw a bullet wound in the Pakistani opposition leader’s head when she bathed her body after her assassination.

Bhutto’s spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who said she was in the former premier’s motorcade at the time of the gun and suicide attack, rejected government claims that the death was caused when Bhutto’s head hit her sunroof.

“I was actually part of the party which bathed her body before the funeral,” said Rehman, who added that her car was used to transport Bhutto to hospital.

“There was a bullet wound I saw that went in from the back of her head and came out the other side.

Pakistan: Al-Qaida behind Bhutto killing

SLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s government asserted Friday that al-Qaida was behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and offered the transcript of a conversation as proof. Hundreds of thousands mobbed her funeral as the army tried to quell rioting across the nation that left 27 dead.

President Pervez Musharraf’s government also said Bhutto was not killed by gunshots or shrapnel as originally claimed. Instead, it said her skull was shattered by the force of a suicide bomb blast that slammed her against a lever in her car’s sunroof.

The new explanations were part of a rapidly evolving political crisis triggered by the death of Bhutto, Musharraf’s most powerful foe in the elections. The rioting by Bhutto’s furious supporters raised concerns that this nuclear-armed nation, plagued by chaos and the growing threat from Islamic militants even  before the killing, was in danger of spinning out of control.


Australian Guantanamo man freed

An Australian convicted by the United States of supporting terrorism has been freed from a prison in Adelaide.

David Hicks, 32, was captured with Taleban forces in Afghanistan in 2001, and spent five years at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

In March he became the first person to be convicted at a US war crimes trial since the end of the World War II.

Under a plea deal, he was jailed for seven years, with all but nine months suspended, and returned to Australia.

Hicks was released from the maximum security prison at Yalata in Adelaide.


President heads for humiliating defeat as Kenyan voters throw out the old guard

· Odinga poised to replace Kibaki by big majority

· Ministers lose seats in beating for ruling party

Xan Rice in Nairobi

Saturday December 29, 2007

The Guardian

Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki appeared to be heading for a humiliating election defeat last night as voters signalled their discontent with his government by evicting most of the powerful political old guard from office.

Local television stations reported that, with more than half the votes counted by midnight local time, opposition leader and former political prisoner Raila Odinga had won 3.6m votes, a 51% share, compared with 42% for Kibaki, on 2.9m votes. Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement was also heading for an overwhelming victory over Kibaki’s Party of National Unity.

Zuma to stand trial for fraud and corruption

By Claire Soares

Published: 29 December 2007

Jacob Zuma’s hopes of succeeding Thabo Mbeki as president of South Africa were dealt a blow last night after prosecutors ordered him to stand trial for racketeering, money laundering, corruption and fraud.

His lawyer, Michael Hulley, told the state broadcaster that his client, who denies all wrongdoing, had been asked to appear at South Africa’s High Court on 14 August to face the charges. The summons was delivered to Mr Zuma’s residence in Johannesburg while he was away.

Just two weeks ago, Mr Zuma was celebrating a remarkable political comeback, having wrested control of the ruling party, the African National Congress, from President Mbeki and thus lining himself up to succeed his rival as president when South Africa goes to the polls in 2009. The spectre looms of the already deep divisions within the party deepening even further as his enemies in the ANC may try to argue that Mr Zuma should step down until the case against him has concluded.


Spain’s seabed goldmine

Spain’s seabed is home to the wrecks of hundreds of ships laden with treasures plundered during the country’s imperial zenith. Now the battle is on to reclaim them

By Graham Keeley

Published: 29 December 2007

Gazing from the beaches of southern Spain into the blue waters of the Mediterranean, few tourists have any idea what really lies beneath the waves.

Aside from jellyfish, the occasional whale and the usual flotsam and jetsam, at the bottom of one of the world’s busiest waterways lies something many a holidaymaker would love to get their hands on.

Maritime historical experts say that, scattered around the Spanish coastline, lies more gold and silver than in the vaults of the Bank of Spain. There are said to be the 700 shipwrecks, from Roman barges, to Spanish Golden Age galleons and British aircraft carriers.

Many of the galleons were laden with a fortune in gold, silver and bronze plundered from colonies between the 16th and 19th centuries when Spain’s empire stretched from the Americas to the Philippines.

Theft of relics triggers diplomatic rift

A row has erupted between Paris and Dhaka after the theft of two ancient statues led to the cancellation of a ground-breaking exhibition of Hindu artefacts. Bangladesh scrapped the exhibition at the Guimet Museum, amid claims that France could not be trusted with some of the country’s finest cultural treasures.

French officials pointed out, however, that the 1,500-year-old statues were stolen amid insufficient security controls in Dhaka, and claimed that the exhibition had fallen victim to a plot involving art-traffickers and opponents of the Bangladeshi regime.

The terracotta artworks disappeared from Zia international airport, Dhaka, at the weekend before they could be loaded on to an Air France aircraft for Paris, where the first important international exhibition of Bangladeshi relics was due to open next month. Police in Dhaka said yesterday that they had arrested eight members of a criminal gang in connection with the thefts and had raided premises in search of them.

Latin America

Castro again hints at retirement

Cuba’s ailing President, Fidel Castro, has for the second time this month alluded publicly to the possibility of retiring from office.

In a letter read out to Cuba’s National Assembly, he said in the past he had been a person who “clung” to power, but that life had changed his perspective.

Mr Castro also urged people to support his brother, acting leader Raul Castro.

Last week, the 81-year-old communist leader wrote that he had a duty not to obstruct the rise of younger people

Chavez launches hostage mission

Helicopters sent by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to collect three hostages due to be freed by left-wing Farc rebels have landed in Colombia.

The two helicopters, carrying Red Cross insignia, landed in the central Colombian town of Villavicencio.

Mr Chavez said the flight was the first phase of a mission that would be completed over the weekend.

He was involved in negotiations between Farc and Colombia for months until Bogota said he overstepped his mandate.

Middle East

Shame of Imported Labor in Kurdish North of Iraq

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq – The tiny Filipino woman’s hands trembled. She was in hiding, fearing capture at any moment.

She and a friend had come to Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish north as guest workers six months earlier. Now they worried they would be forcibly returned to Erbil, where they had been locked in a house for a month and made to work for free, they said, after their passports, cellphones and plane tickets were taken away.

The two had escaped by begging their captor to let them attend church, then making contact with other Filipino workers, who spirited them away.

Iraq town’s safety a matter of discussion

In Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, sheiks and other local leaders are wooed and warned by U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

YOUSIFIYA, IRAQ — The sheiks and other local leaders rattled off requests to an Iraqi army commander and U.S. military officers one recent morning.

One asked where the tower was that he had been promised for the checkpoint guarded by his tribesmen. Another said his checkpoint lacked basic supplies, such as sandbags. Yet another demanded more men to staff his checkpoint, and asked for extra cash to pay them.

The Iraqi army commander, Amman Ibrahim Mansur, a tall burly man, calmly addressed his 20 or so guests.

“You can tell everybody we’re going to start on a new page,” he said.

Then he demanded that the local leaders do more to cooperate with his troops and U.S.-led coalition forces to help root out insurgents and enforce security in the area.


  1. I’m not sure I’d trust the Pakistani government on anything right now.

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