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 Friday, December 28, 2007

PAKISTAN: Those Bastards Killed Her !

  Read here for more in Washington Post and here

Benazir Bhutto (1953 -2007)

By Griff Witte, Debbi Wilgoren and Pamela Constable
Washington Post Foreign Service

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday after a campaign rally, sparking widespread riots and raising new concerns about the stability of this nuclear-armed nation of 165 million people.

In an outpouring of grief and rage that followed the attack, which also claimed the lives of at least 20 other people, Bhutto supporters smashed glass at the hospital where she died and rioted in the teeming port city of Karachi, where vehicles and a gas station were burned and police came under gunfire. At least five people were killed in riots across the country, police reported.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf blamed Islamic extremists for the assassination, but some angry Bhutto supporters held Musharraf responsible.

In a nationally televised speech, Musharraf called the killing "the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war" and vowed, "We will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out."

Upon hearing the news of her death, thousands of people rushed to the hospital. As ambulances continued to arrive bearing dead and wounded from the bombing, the crowd outside tore down and burned campaign posters showing candidates from Musharraf's party.

The former Pakistani prime minister was killed two months after returning from exile to attempt a political comeback.

Bhutto, 54, was leaving the rally in her bulletproof vehicle when she asked that the sunroof be opened so she could bid supporters farewell, aides who were with her said. She raised her torso through the hatch, and several gunshots rang out, an aide seated next to her said.

Just as Bhutto sank into her seat, a large bomb detonated outside the vehicle. The left side of Bhutto's face was badly bloodied, aides said, but it was not clear whether she'd been killed by bullets or by shrapnel from the bombing. She lost consciousness, and never regained it.

Hours later, Bhutto's body was carried out of the hospital in a plain wooden coffin.

Her husband and children arrived from Dubai and were accompanying her body to her ancestral home in the village of Garhi Khuda Baksh, near Larkana, where she will be buried near her father. Read here for more

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 Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Australian Prime Minister and his Team Treated Like Rock Stars in Bali

  Read here full article by Glen Milne

KEVIN Rudd's first foray on the international stage as Prime Minister - at the UN Climate Change Summit in Bali - has been a coup that will inevitably be followed by a policy curse.

The coup is that Rudd, in one fell swoop, has achieved international standing for Australia by his decisive intervention at Nusa Dua on behalf of the Kyoto Protocol.

The curse is that once the euphoria of that intervention has passed, Rudd and his government will be burdened by the tough policy work required to sell the costs of Australia's new commitments to a domestic audience.

First impressions were that Rudd strode the world stage with ease, a product of his background as a diplomat.

He instinctively understands the demands of protocol - in stark contrast to John Howard who, on his first trips overseas, resembled a broken toy soldier on an unfamiliar parade ground.

Rudd's easy demeanour was helped immeasurably by the greeting the Australian team received. The 10,000 delegates embraced Rudd and his ministers with all the warmth of the waters that surround this island.

"It was like we were all rock stars,'' one of them told me. And watching them, with wave after wave of UN officials wanting to shake their hands, you could believe it.

None of the neophyte ministers put a foot wrong. Treasurer Wayne Swan built on the increasingly close work Treasury officials have been doing with their Indonesian counterparts.

When it came time for the group finance ministers photo, the hosts placed Swan on the right hand of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

World Bank president and former US under-secretary of state Bob Zoellick was pushed to one side - a measure of how far Washington was on the outer over its continued refusal to sign up to Kyoto.

An assured Stephen Smith looks like he'll fit the surprise appointment as Foreign Minister like a glove.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong won high praise from green groups, not for bending to their will, but for her tough-minded focus and clear articulation of Australia's position. She was the country's chief negotiator, and acted like it.

Despite being muzzled in favour of Wong, Environment Minister Peter Garrett enjoyed himself.

Whatever you may have thought of his troubled campaign, there was simply no nay-saying Garrett's impact in Bali. His mere presence was a statement about the changed direction of Australian policy.

Rudd was suitably statesmanlike in his formal appearances, but elsewhere we got a glimpse of what is likely to be a less buttoned-down prime ministership than that of John Howard. "Please, call me Kevin,'' was his greeting.

Addressing an Australian reception, Rudd joked that his highest praise was reserved for the official who managed to find him a jar of Vegemite. Apparently our PM can become quite irritable if he doesn't get his Vegemite at breakfast.

Rudd calls Zoellick and Al Gore "old friends''. And they are.

PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare is "the Chief''. All this familiarity is real: a product of his networking as shadow foreign minister.

With Indonesia, Rudd was smart to stress the continuity with the Howard era on issues such as anti-terrorism.

Smart, too, to address Yudhoyono as "His Excellency'' - an acknowledgment of age and experience in the personal relationship, not necessarily a reflection of the power equation.

So, on style, Rudd floated through. On substance, too. But the truth is that the hard work lies ahead.

Bali put Rudd between the US and China, our two key relationships. The tension is that the US is partly outside the post-Kyoto tent, and China wants it inside as the price of its full commitment.

The Bali irony for Rudd is that his embrace of Kyoto put the pressure back on Australia from the developing countries to influence the US to do the same.

Rudd met those expectations with a strong speech to delegates in which his message to the US was unequivocal.

"We need all developed nations - all developed nations,'' he repeated in case anyone doubted he had Washington in mind, "those within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, and those outside it, to embrace comparable efforts.''

Rudd has now unequivocally aligned Australia with the pro-climate-change UN position. Now he must align Australian public opinion with the measures required to make that a reality.

In that context, he is right to wait until the findings of the Garnaut Report, due in mid-2008, into the domestic economic impact of achieving greenhouse goals before embracing the 20 to 40 per cent 2020 targets advocated in Bali.

Mind you, John Howard must be gnashing his teeth; this is precisely the cautious approach he advocated during the election. But politics is all about timing, and on climate change Rudd has picked his moment perfectly.

One final strange thing about the Prime Minister, seeing him in Bali; he looked taller than he did as Opposition Leader.

Post-Bali, that's also the way Australia looks to much of the rest of the world.

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 Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Colorado (US) Shooing at the Church: Gunman is from a deeply religious family

  Read here full article in AP-Newswire by JUDITH KOHLER

The gunman believed to have killed four people at a megachurch and a missionary training school had been thrown out of the school a few years ago and had been sending it hate mail, police said in court papers Monday.

The gunman was identified as Matthew Murray, 24, who was home-schooled in what a friend said was a deeply religious Christian household. Murray's father is a neurologist and a leading multiple-sclerosis researcher.

Five people — including Murray — were killed, and five others wounded Sunday in the two eruptions of violence 12 hours and 65 miles apart.

The first attack took place at Youth With A Mission, a training center for missionaries in the Denver suburb of Arvada; the other occurred at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, where Murray was shot by a security guard, though investigators said he may have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"Through both investigations it has been determined that most likely the suspect in both shootings are one in the same," police said in court papers.

Colorado Springs police said the "common denominator in both locations" was Youth With A Mission. The training center maintains an office at the 10,000-member church.

"It appears that the suspect had been kicked out of the program three years prior and during the past few weeks had sent different forms of hate mail to the program and-or its director," police said.

Murray's relatives said they were grief-stricken and baffled.

"Our family cannot express the magnitude of our grief for the victims and families of this tragedy. On our behalf of our family, and our son, we ask for forgiveness. We cannot understand why this has happened," they said in a statement read by the gunman's uncle, Phil Abeyta, who fought back tears.

In a statement, the training center said health problems kept Murray from finishing the program. It did not elaborate. Murray did not complete the lecture phase or a field assignment as part of a 12-week program, Youth With A Mission said.

"The program directors felt that issues with his health made it inappropriate for him to" finish," it said.

Police gave no immediate details on the hate mail. And the training center said that Murray left in 2002 — five years ago, not three — and that no one there can recall any visits or other communication from him since then.

Earlier Monday, a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it appeared Murray "hated Christians."

Investigators have not said whether Murray singled out his victims. But the two people killed at the church — sisters Stephanie and Rachael Works, ages 18 and 16 — frequented the training center, their uncle Mark Schaepe of Lincoln, Neb., told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

Authorities searched the Murray house on a quiet street in Englewood on Monday for guns, ammunition and computers. No one was home when a reporter visited the split-level brick home early Monday. Murray's father, Ronald S. Murray, is chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center in Englewood.

Matthew Murray lived there along with a brother, Christopher, 21, a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

A neighbor, Cody Askeland, 19, said the brothers were home-schooled, describing the whole family as "very, very religious."

Christopher studied for a semester at Colorado Christian University before transferring to Oral Roberts, said Ronald Rex, dean of admissions and marketing at Colorado Christian. He said Matthew Murray had been in contact with school officials this summer about attending the school but decided he wasn't interested because he thought the school was too expensive.

Police said Murray's only previous brush with the law was a traffic ticket earlier this year.

Senior Pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church said the gunman had no connection to the church. "We don't know this shooter," Boyd said. "He showed up on our property yesterday with a gun with the intention of hurting people, and he did."

The gunman opened fire at 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With A Mission center. Witnesses said the man asked to spend the night there and opened fire with a handgun when he was turned down. They described him as a young man, perhaps 20, in a dark jacket and cap.

Later, at New Life Church, a gunman wearing a trench coat and carrying a high-powered rifle opened fire in the parking lot and later walked into the church as a service was letting out.

Jeanne Assam, a church member who volunteers as a security guard, shot Murray, who was found with a rifle and two handguns, police said.

Assam said she believes God gave her the strength to confront Murray, keeping her calm and focused.

"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," she said at a news conference.

The pastor credited her with preventing more bloodshed.

"There could have been a great loss of life yesterday, and she probably saved over 100 lives."

Boyd said the gunman had a lot of ammunition and estimated that 40 rounds had been fired inside the church, leaving what looked like a "war scene."

About 7,000 people were in and around the church the time of the shooting, Boyd said. Security had been beefed up after the shootings hours earlier in Arvada, he said. The church had a total of 15 to 20 volunteer security officers inside at the time of the attack, he said.

Some members of the congregation reacted with compassion and forgiveness, in keeping with their faith.

Ashley Gibbs was getting into a car with David Harris when they heard the gunshots. They stayed in the vehicle.

"It was obvious that he was in some sort of pain and going through a lot," Gibbs told NBC's Today show. "I just prayed God would bring him peace."

New Life, with a largely upper middle-class membership, was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was dismissed last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard admitted committing unspecified "sexual immorality."

The two people killed at the missionary center were identified as Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24.

Johnson, who grew up in Chisholm, Minn., loved working with children and wanted to see the world, said family friend Carla Macynski.

"Tiffany was a well-liked, easygoing 26-year-old. She was friendly, adventurous and a definite leader," Macynski said as she choked back tears. Johnson had traveled to Egypt, Libya and South Africa with the missionary group.

Crouse, of Alaska, was a former skinhead who went through a dramatic spiritual conversion at 18. He had helped build a foster home at a Crow Indian reservation in Montana, said Ronny Morris, who works with a Denver chapter of the mission.

"Whenever somebody asks me to give a specific situation where a kid's life has been changed or transformed, I always think of Phil, because he had such a radical transformation of life," said pastor Zach Chandler in Anchorage, Alaska.

Youth With A Mission was started in 1960 and has 1,100 locations with 16,000 full-time staff, said Darv Smith, director of a Youth With A Mission center in Boulder.

The Colorado shootings came days after a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a busy department store in Omaha, Neb., killing eight people and himself.

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 Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Program in 2003


By Walter Pincus
Washington Post

Read here full article

Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure, and while it continues to develop an enriched uranium program, it apparently has not resumed moving toward a nuclear capability, according to a consensus judgment of the U.S. intelligence community released today by Director of National Intelligence John M. McConnell.

The assessment states "with moderate confidence" that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program" as of mid-2007, but suggests that Tehran continues to keep that option open.

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," according to one of the key judgments of the new assessment. Two years ago, the intelligence community said publicly that it had "high confidence that Iran was currently determined to have nuclear weapons," a senior intelligence official said yesterday.

After that assessment was released, the community increased its clandestine and open collection of information about Iran's program, actions that led to today's reassessment, the officials said.

The major shift in the intelligence community's judgment about Iran's nuclear weapons intentions is contained in unclassified material from a new, classified National Intelligence Estimate sent to Capitol Hill today. The document represents the consensus opinion of the U.S. intelligence community.

The U.S. has been pressing the international community to put pressure on Iran to halt its weapons program, emphasizing the need to apply sanctions if Tehran continued with its uranium enrichment program.

Intelligence officials credit the decision by Libya to halt its weapons-development programs, the military action in Iraq and the threat of diplomatic isolation for influencing Tehran. They also note, however, that Iran continues to deny that it actually had a weapons program before 2003.

The decision to release an unclassified version of the key judgments reverses a stand McConnell took in a speech just one month ago.

"Since our understanding of Iran's nuclear capabilities has changed, we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available," according to a statement from Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence.

There was also concern that elements of the classified version would leak out after they were sent to Congress, causing public confusion on key issues, officials said. The decision to release key judgments was discussed with the White House, which approved the idea. But it was the intelligence community which wrote and released them, the senior intelligence officials said today.

According to the document, Iran is considered "highly unlikely" to be technically capable now of producing enough highly enriched weapons grade uranium for a weapon before 2009. With "moderate confidence," the report puts that date at 2010 and probably not before 2015.

However, the assessment judges that Tehran continues to conduct research on other conventional weapons, such as missiles, that at a later date could be useful in a nuclear weapons program.

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