The Senseless Killing of a Young Australian by Singapore Government:
Australians on Friday marked the execution of drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, in Singapore with tears and prayers. About 500 supporters bowed their heads in silence at St Ignatius Church in his home city of Melbourne as a bell tolled to mark the moment of his execution in Singapore.
In Sydney, hundreds of people, ranging from office workers in suits to purple-haired punks, attended a silent vigil for Nguyen at Martin Place in the financial district.As bells tolled at Sydney's Saint Mary's Cathedral, mourners lined up to place yellow flowers under a placard bearing Nguyen's picture.
"I think the mandatory death sentence is obscene and there's nothing to be gained by killing this young 25-year-old man," said a man who identified himself only as Jimmy. "Singapore has shown its arrogance with this barbaric act."
In Canberra, dozens attended a silent vigil outside the Singapore High Commission. Nguyen had no previous criminal record and said he was bringing the drugs into the country to help pay off his brother's debts.
John Howard said: "I have told the prime minister of Singapore that I believe it will have an effect on the relationship on a people-to-people, population-to-population basis." Read here for more
WAR IN IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN
THE JACK ABRAMOFF SCANDAL
- The U.S. military in Iraq today acknowledged paying to place news articles in Iraqi publications, saying the practice was a necessary part of "information operations" to counter extensive "propaganda" by insurgents.The statement did not make clear whether the U.S. military has paid Iraqi journalists to put certain information in their stories, as has been reported. In Washington, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters after receiving a Pentagon briefing on the subject that he remains "gravely concerned about this situation." He said it would be wrong to plant stories by paying off Iraqi journalists to include certain information in their articles. Read here for more
- The kidnappers of four Western hostages in Iraq threatened Friday to kill them unless all detainees in Iraqi and coalition prisons are released by December 8, Al-Jazeera television reported Friday.The threat was made in a video purportedly from the self-declared Brigades of the Swords of Right, which claimed to have seized an American, a Briton and two Canadians working for the Christian Peace Team.It gave those it called "the people concerned with abductees affairs" until next Thursday to meet its demands or said it would kill the four.Its demand related to prisoners held in prisons of the Iraqi interior ministry and of what it called the occupation, especially the Bucca and Abu Ghraib prisons.
Meanwhile, a roadside blast killed 10 US marines and wounded 11 more outside the Iraqi city of Fallujah, the US military said, as it launched a new operation in nearby Ramadi. Read here for more
- Gunmen believed to belong to al-Qaida's Iraqi arm, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have taken control of large parts of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Witnesses said more than 250 gunmen Thursday seized parts of the mainly Sunni city, 75 miles west of Baghdad, after attacking a U.S. base and government buildings, including the governor's office, with Katyusha rockets. There was no immediate information on casualties in the attack, which was described as the fiercest in many months. Read here for more
- Private Israeli security firms have sent experts to Iraq's northern Kurdish region to give covert training to Kurdish security forces, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.The daily Yedioth Ahronoth said that over the past year and a half the Israeli companies had set up a secret training base in northern Iraq as part of a multi-million dollar project with the Kurdish regional government. It said dozens of Israeli specialists had been sent to teach Kurdish forces "weapons training, self-defence and counter-terror warfare. Read here for more
- A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army has been arrested on conspiracy charges in a bribery and bid-rigging case in Iraq. Two others have been charged in the case but were not arrested. Lt. Col. Michael Brian Wheeler is charged with stealing funds, helping rig contracts and illegally buying weapons while working for the now-dissolved Coalition Provisional Authority, a U.S.-led agency that ran Iraq for more than a year after the 2003 invasion.Wheeler was arrested Wednesday in Wisconsin for apparently aiding a U.S. businessman who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. occupation authorities in Iraq to get reconstruction contracts worth more than $13 million. Read here for more
- A new poll found most Americans do NOT believe President Bush has a plan that will achieve victory in Iraq. It indicates the scope of the battle ahead as the Bush administration seeks to regain support for the war among an increasingly skeptical public.Read here for more
- Most U.S. troops will leave Iraq within a year because the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth," Rep. John Murtha told a civic group. Two weeks ago, Murtha created a storm of comment when he called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq now. The Democratic congressman spoke to a group of community and business leaders in Latrobe on Wednesday. Murtha predicted most troops will be out of Iraq within a year.Read here for more
- More than 300 CIA flights have landed at European airports adding a new element to claims that Washington has been transporting terrorist suspects to secret prisons in Europe. The Guardian daily said it had seen flight logs documenting the flights by 26 planes operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The CIA has been accused in reports of using European countries for the transport, illegal detention and torture of suspected Islamist terrorists in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.Outrage over the reports mounted in Europe this week as EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini threatened sanctions on Monday for any member nation hosting CIA prison camps on their soil.
The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly has announced a probe into reports of the clandestine prisons, including one that may be in Romania.
The Guardian said the flight logs revealed that the CIA visited Germany 96 times and Britain 80 times, though when charter flights were added this figure rose to more than 200.Read here for more
- U.S. assistance to Afghanistan is expected to reach $5.5 billion in the next five years as the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on aid agreements. The agreements set out plans for U.S. support to programs in education, health care and economic and democratic development, among other things. The programs will be implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Afghan government. The United States has committed $479.6 million this year, and Afghan Finance Minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi said total U.S. funding over five years is expected to reach $5.5 billion. Read here for more
Who is Jack Abramoff ?
Abramoff was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was raised in a secular Jewish household, but at the age of 12 changed his life: "I made the decision that I would become religious in order to preserve the faith in our family," he said. He immediately bought books on Judaism with his own savings.By federal grand juries for his involvement in the Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling ScandalBy a grand jury in Guam over a separate matter. He has also been indicted on August 11, 2005, by a third grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for bank fraud arising out of an unrelated business deal. and linked to a troubled multibillion-dollar Homeland Security contract.
Jack A. Abramoff (born February 28, 1958) is a conservative American attorney and lobbyist. In 2002 Abramoff founded the Eshkol Academy, an orthodox Jewish school in Maryland.Abramoff is a central figure in a series of high-profile political scandals linked mainly to Republican Party officials. He is under investigation:
Read here for more on profile of Jack Abramoff
- Michael Scanlon, a Republican political operative, publicist and former press spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty November 21 to conspiring with lobbyist Jack Abramoff to bribe a Republican congressman and cheat several American Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars.
By the end of last week, at least four Republican legislators and 17 staffers and former staffers were the targets of the Justice Department investigation into the Abramoff affair.
The Wall Street Journal named DeLay, Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio, Congressman John Doolittle of California, and Senator Conrad Burns of Montana as targets, as well as several former Bush administration officials. Prosecutors had informed Congressman Ney that he was the subject of a bribery investigation and added that the wives of DeLay and Doolittle had also been linked to Abramoff’s influence-peddling schemes.
A reporter for BusinessWeek, on a television interview program, said that his Justice Department sources had told him that as many as 60 congressmen could be implicated in the bribery scandal-far more than enough to threaten control over the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority is 231-202, with one independent.
Eight more congressmen and senators were reported to have received contributions engineered by Abramoff in return for political favors; four Republicans and four Democrats. The Republicans were congressmen Charles Taylor of North Carolina, J. D. Hayworth of Arizona, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and Dave Camp of Michigan. The Democrats included three senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota (the senior Democrat on the committee now investigating the Abramoff affair), and Congressman Dale Kildee of Michigan.
Previous press accounts have noted that House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, a Republican, and the leading Democrat in the Senate, Minority Leader Harry Reid, received substantial campaign contributions from groups directed by Abramoff, most of them Indian tribes seeking congressional favors for their casino gambling operations. Read here for more
- The Transportation Security Administration awarded a $1 billion contract to Unisys to devise a cutting-edge computer network linking hundreds of airports to the TSA’s state-of-the-art security centers. In October, the Washington Post revealed the Pennsylvania-based information services company had overcharged the government for a whopping 117,000 hours. Officials now see the project costing taxpayers as much as $3 billion. Unisys acquired the contract, said riddled with fraud, in a process that included backroom dealings and almost no competitive bidding, and former Abramoff associates say his lobbyists had a hand in the deal. The investigation also found that the man who brokered the TSA deal, a company president, was later a buyer of Abramoff’s posh Washington restaurant.Read here more more