Thursday, December 15, 2005

Report #59 on the Era of Peace

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Burundi army says kills 120 rebels since October
Thu 15 Dec 2005 4:12 AM ET
By Patrick Nduwimana

BUJUMBURA, Dec 15 ( Reuters) - Burundi's army has killed 120 fighters from the only remaining Hutu rebel group and captured more than 600 others since October in a major offensive in the rebels' stronghold.

"The government has launched a campaign against the FNL (Forces for National Liberation). This campaign has been very successful," Burundi's Defence Minister Germain Niyoyankana told a press conference late on Wednesday.

"Since October, 120 rebels have been killed, 646 captured and more than 1,500 people who used to collaborate with that movement have surrendered and are now under the protection of the army," he said.

Burundi is struggling to emerge from a 12-year civil war between rebels from the Hutu majority and a Tutsi elite that has killed 300,000 people in the tiny country since 1993.

Most Burundians believe the country is on the path to peace after a series of polls led to the swearing-in of former rebel Pierre Nkurunziza as president in August, but sporadic clashes continue between FNL rebels and the army.

Niyoyankana said the army had seized 84 assorted arms from the rebels and predicted that the FNL, estimated to number about 3,000 fighters, would soon disappear after suffering the losses.

"I can't say that by the end of December the war will be over. But I am quite sure that at the end of December, the FNL will be in trouble not only with (Burundi) government, but also with the entire region," he said.

"If I have any appeal to make, I invite them to enter into peace talks as soon as possible."

But the FNL dismissed the defence minister's announcement as pure propaganda.

"It is not the first time they have announced that they have finished us, it is pure propaganda," FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana told Reuters.

Habimana repeated FNL's position that it would only talk to the government if the state stops harassing its members.

"We have submitted to the mediator our complaints that the current government is committing genocide against our members," he told Reuters. "Our members are tortured and imprisoned, the government must stop persecuting our members."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Report #58 on the Era of Peace

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15 December, 2005

Polling stations open in Iraq amid fresh violence

The start of the voting process was accompanied by gunshots and blasts in Baghdad, Ramadi annd Kirkuk. There has been one victim in Mosul.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At 7am (local time), polling booths opened across Iraq for a general election to select the first fully-mandated national parliament in the post-Saddam Hussein era. The start of the voting was however accompanied by new episodes of violence.

The first victim of this historic day for the country was a security guard, killed in a bomb blast near a polling station in the south-east part of Mosul, one of the most unstable places in Iraq. This was disclosed by local police sources, who said an officer was injured in the same incident. Earlier, explosions, mortar blasts and sporadic shooting were reported in the capital near the so-called “Green Zone”, shortly before or immediately after polling stations opened. No deaths were reported.

The voter turnout is predicted to be around 70 to 80%, higher than previous occasions; 59% voted in January and 64% in October. This time, there is no Sunni boycott: many influential leaders of this community have admitted that neglecting to vote in the previous ballot was a mistake.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Report #57 on the Era of Peace

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Israeli Attack Kills Three in Gaza
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fox News - Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military fired a missile Wednesday at a car in northern Gaza it said was packed with militants about to carry out an attack. Witnesses said three dead Palestinians were brought to a Gaza City hospital.

Witnesses said an Israeli drone was overhead at the time of the attack outside of Karni, Gaza's main cargo passage.

Dozens gathered in an angry crowd outside the hospital morgue and emergency room, chanting, "God is Great!" and "Destroy Israel!"

Report #56 on the Era of Peace

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Iraqi campaigning stops a day ahead of vote

USA Today
December 14, 2005

BAGHDAD (AP) — Campaigning around Iraq stopped Wednesday to give the country's 15 million voters an opportunity to reflect before deciding who will govern their country for the next four years.

Streets in Baghdad were eerily quiet the day before Thursday's election, with police strictly enforcing a traffic ban. Only the noise from an occasional siren, sporadic gunshot or a U.S. helicopter overhead could be heard. Borders and airports have also been closed and the nighttime curfew has been extended in an effort to secure the vote.

Two police officers were killed and four others were injured by a roadside bomb that exploded next to an Interior Ministry patrol in northern Mosul, the city's al-Jumhouri hospital said.

Iraq's election commission said it had registered 6,655 candidates running on 996 lists and had certified 307 political groups — either in the form of single candidates or parties — and 19 coalitions.

Baghdad is the biggest electoral district with 2,161 candidates running for 59 of the 275 seats in parliament, said the commission's executive director, Adel Ali al-Lami. There are 33,000 polling stations around the country.

The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, denied reports that a tanker truck filled with thousands of blank ballots had been confiscated near the Iranian border. Earlier in the day, a security official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said a truck had been seized in the border town of Badra.

On the last day of campaigning Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed four American soldiers and gunmen assassinated a candidate for parliament. The American deaths in Baghdad brought to at least 2,149 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the start of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The U.S. ambassador said Tuesday the total number of abused prisoners found so far in jails run by the Shiite-led Interior Ministry came to about 120. The statement by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad reinforced Sunni Arab claims of mistreatment by security forces — a major issue among Sunnis in the election campaign. (Related story: Abuse found in Iraqi facilities)

He said more than 100 of the detainees found last month at an Interior Ministry jail in Baghdad's Jadriyah district had suffered signs of abuse. More than 20 others were found three days ago at another Interior Ministry lockup, he said.

Khalilzad said the United States would "accelerate the investigation" to determine who was responsible for abuses — a longtime Sunni Arab demand.

Despite the violence, more than 1,000 Sunni clerics issued a religious decree instructing their followers to vote, boosting American hopes the election will encourage more members of the disaffected minority to abandon the insurgency.

While some prominent clerics with links to the insurgency have avoided calling on their followers to vote, the edict is likely to encourage many Sunnis to go to the polls. They hope that more participation will lessen the ability of the Shiite majority to abuse them.

Three of Iraq's leading politicians agreed Tuesday that a speedy withdrawal by foreign troops before Iraqi forces are ready would cause chaos.

But the three — former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and Sunni Arab politician Tariq al-Hashimi — disagreed on the description of U.S. and other foreign troops. Barzani described them as "forces of liberation," while al-Hashimi said they were occupiers.

The three leaders, speaking from Baghdad, appeared in a debate on the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television. Such debates are rare in the Arab world, where candidates mainly rely on rallies attended by hand-picked followers. Their comments were also noteworthy because they represent important constituencies in the Thursday vote.

Barzani heads the Kurdish autonomous region in the north and is among the country's most powerful politicians. Allawi heads a religiously mixed ticket in the Thursday election. Al-Hashimi represents a major Sunni Arab coalition.

Al-Hashimi criticized President Bush for saying the United States is fighting terrorism in Iraq.

"Why should Iraqis pay a bill for something they have nothing to do with?" said al-Hashimi, a candidate for parliament. "Terrorism is not the problem of Iraqis."

The Bush administration hopes the election will draw a large turnout among Sunni Arabs and produce a government that can win the trust of the minority community that is the backbone of the insurgency. That would in turn allow the United States and its coalition partners to begin bringing their troops home next year.

Iraqis living outside the country began voting Tuesday in the United States and 14 other countries. Strong turnout was seen in polling stations around the world, including in Syria, Jordan and Iran, where Associated Press reporters witnessed heavier turnout compared to Iraq's January election.

Many Sunnis boycotted that election, enabling rival Shiites and Kurds to win most of the seats in the interim parliament — a development that sharpened communal tensions and fueled the insurgency. But unlike January's vote, which elected a government which was to last for less than one year, the new government will be in power for four years.

The Islamic Army in Iraq, a prominent insurgent group, said Tuesday it would not attack polling stations. But it vowed to continue its war against U.S.-led coalition forces.

On Monday, five Islamic militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, also promised not to try to disrupt the voting, even though it branded the election a "satanic project."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Report #18 on the Fall of communism

From Zenit

Code: ZE05121203

Date: 2005-12-12

7 Deacons Undergo Indoctrination in China

ZHAOXIAN, China, DEC. 12, 2005 ( Seven deacons reportedly were arrested and subjected to indoctrination to force them to follow the Patriotic Association that oversees religious activity.

Also, Father Gao Baojin, rector of the underground seminary in the Diocese of Zhaoxian, in Hebei province, was arrested about three weeks ago, according to the AsiaNews agency. His whereabouts are unknown.

The seven deacons from his seminary who were arrested were forced to undergo indoctrination in Beijing and Xing Tai, in Hebei province, according to AsiaNews.

The seven were Shi Jun Long, Min Zhi Yong, Shi Chen Guang, Liu Zhong Feng, Liu Yun Tao, Huang Yu Tao and Lu Yan Hui, reported AsiaNews.

The deacons had to endure sleep deprivation and were not allowed to use the bathroom or take medication. They were released Dec. 3, said AsiaNews.

"The officials who had them abducted wanted to force them to sign a statement whereby they expressed their willingness to be ordained by a state-nominated bishop rather than one who is in communion with the Pope," the agency said. "But the seminarians did not give in."

AsiaNews sources said that Bishop Wang Chunlin of Zhaoxian was also subjected to pressures and denied the right to ordain.

Report #55 on the Era of Peace

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Palestinian killed in Israeli raid

Tuesday 13 December 2005

A Palestinian man has been killed and 20 others wounded in an Israeli military raid in the West Bank, Palestinian hospital officials say.

The man was shot in the head on Tuesday when Israeli occupation forces opened fire at a group of stone-throwers near the Balata refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus, said Hasan al-Titi, Aljazeera's correspondent in Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

Hussam Saqr, 22, from the village of Quwwar, died later in a hospital, medical officials told AP. The officials said Saqr had been unarmed.

The Israeli occupation army said it had no exact information on Saqr's death and was investigating the report.

During the raid, Palestinian resistance fighters exchanged fire with Israeli occupation forces.

An Israeli military jeep overturned, blocking the way of Israeli troops and delaying their entry into the city, al-Titi reported.

The Israeli occupation army declined to comment, but a spokeswoman said she was checking the report.

Israeli military sources said two soldiers were slightly wounded from an explosive device thrown by Palestinians during the raid, apparently to seize wanted fighters.

They said armed men opened fire several times at the troops.

The Israeli occupation army launches almost daily incursions into the West Bank city of Nablus, its refugee camps and nearby villages,

Gaza farmer

Also on Tuesday, Israeli troops in a tank shot and killed a Palestinian farmer in his field, Palestinian hospital officials said.

Muhammad Fara, 45, of the village of Abbasam near the Israeli border, was farming when a tank fired and killed him, the officials said.

Witnesses said Israeli tanks patrolling the Gaza border area fired sporadically throughout the night and morning because heavy fog prevented soldiers from being able to decipher whether Palestinians were trying to cross the border.

The Israeli occupation army said no tanks or artillery had been fired in the area.

The Palestinian Interior Ministry has opened an investigation into the death.

"The Palestinian Interior Ministry is investigating the cause of the death of the 45-year-old man who was evacuated this morning based on a claim from his family that he was wounded and killed by an Israeli tank shell," said Interior Ministry spokesman, Tawfik Abu Khoussa.

Report #54 on the Era of Peace

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Fresh clashes in south Philippines, 2 troops die
Tue 13 Dec 2005 4:54 AM ET
MANILA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Two Philippine soldiers were killed and 11 wounded in fresh fighting on the remote southwestern island of Jolo with Islamic militants suspected to be linked to al Qaeda, an army general said on Tuesday.

A Marine platoon clashed with about 50 Abu Sayyaf rebels in mountains near the town of Patikul late on Monday, said Brigadier-General Alexander Aleo, commander of the military's counter-terrorism task force.

"Sporadic fighting continued today," Aleo told reporters. "We have no idea how many rebels were killed, but we were told they suffered heavy casualties."

Aleo said the troops were hunting down Radullan Sahiron, the Abu Sayyaf chief on Jolo, after receiving reports the rebels were planning an attack on nearby army camp.

The Abu Sayyaf, with about 400 fighters, is suspected of links to al Qaeda and the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah.

An estimated 50 rebels had been killed, but only 12 bodies found, since fighting between government troops and Muslim rebels erupted in three areas on Jolo last month, Aleo said.

Nine soldiers had been killed and nearly 40 wounded since Nov. 11, when troops hunting the one-armed, horse-riding Sahiron clashed with militants near the town of Indanan, he added.

Sahiron has a bounty of 5 million pesos ($92,000) on his head and is wanted for a series of high-profile kidnappings, including abduction of 21 tourists and resort workers from Sipadan island in Malaysia in 2000.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Report #53 on the Era of Peace

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New Zealand Herald

December 13, 2005

Second night of racial violence in Sydney

SYDNEY - Seven people have been injured, cars and shops trashed, and rock and flares hurled at police in a second consecutive night of mob violence in Sydney.

Eleven men were arrested as a new wave of unrest hit the city overnight in apparent reprisal attacks for Sunday's race riot at Cronulla, where alcohol-fuelled mobs chased and bashed people of Middle Eastern appearance.

The trouble began last night when a group of 200 mostly Muslim men gathered at Lakemba Mosque, in Sydney's south-west, apparently after rumours that an attack on the building was imminent.

Rocks and flares were thrown at police trying to disperse the group, and a female constable was injured when a projectile struck her leg.

Police were also hit with projectiles as a crowd of about 100 people gathered for a second night in Brighton-le-Sands, in Sydney's south.

Two police cars were damaged and rubbish bins were thrown at shop-fronts as officers attempted to control the crowd.

A family was forced to move out of their apartment after their five-month-old son narrowly escaped being injured when a bottle was thrown through their apartment window, shattering the glass.

At Cronulla, about 50 men arrived in cars last night before rampaging through the beach community, smashing car windows and shop-fronts with baseball bats.

Gunshots were heard near the Northies Hotel, opposite north Cronulla beach, where some of the worst violence was seen on Sunday.

Meanwhile, more than 30 molotov cocktails and crates of rocks were found during a rooftop search at south Maroubra, not far from where a mob smashed car windows on Sunday.

Cricket bats, rocks and iron bars were also confiscated by police monitoring about 100 people who gathered near Maroubra beach.

Six people were arrested at Cronulla and on the Kingsway, in nearby Caringbah, after shops and vehicles were attacked.

Two men and three youths were arrested at Maroubra beach after police discovered a replica pistol in the bushes.

Police said the injured included a Bexley couple attacked as they left a restaurant in Caringbah about 10pm (12am NZ).

A 35-year-old Lansvale man suffered head injuries and severe facial bruising after being attacked at a youth hostel at Caringbah. He was taken to Sutherland hospital in a stable condition.

A 45-year-old Cronulla man suffered broken ribs and head injuries when he was attacked as he put his rubbish bin out on the street.

A 51-year-old Woolwooware man suffered a broken arm after he was attacked with a baseball bat at Cronulla.

Details of the seventh person's injuries could not be confirmed.

Police are braced for further violence after new text messages, including one declaring war between Sydney's Middle Eastern youths and Australians, began circulating.

The new messages follow a round of similar ones sent last week, calling for retaliation after an attack on surf lifesavers at Cronulla on December 3.

One of the new messages congratulates Australians for the fight they put up against the Lebanese at Cronulla during Sunday's riots, and called for more attacks.

"We'll show them! It's on again Sunday," The Australian newspaper reported the message said.

Another warned of retaliation from the Middle Eastern groups.

"The Aussies will feel the full force of the Arabs as one -- 'brothers in arms' unite now..." it read.

Another called for "straight up WAR. The leb's/wogs won't stand for this."

Police have formed a task force to try to prevent a repeat of Sunday's riots, which have been condemned by NSW Premier Morris Iemma.


Report #52 on the Era of Peace

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December 14, 2005

30,000 Iraqis killed since war began, says Bush

New Zealand Herald

PHILADELPHIA - US President George W. Bush said 30,000 Iraqis have been killed since the Iraq war began and, speaking days before election in Iraq, acknowledged setbacks in efforts to create a democracy there.

"No nation in history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges, setbacks and false starts," Mr Bush said in a speech and question-and-answer session at the World Affairs Council, striking a more realistic tone than he has sometimes in the past.

Mr Bush predicted insurgent violence will not end with Thursday's parliamentary election and said much work remains to make Iraq's fledging democracy inclusive to all.

The speech, his third in a series leading up to the election, was Mr Bush's latest attempt to try to bolster support for his Iraq strategy among Americans sceptical of his leadership and weary of the war.

"This week elections won't be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the process. Iraqis still have more difficult work ahead," he said. "These enemies aren't going to give up because of a successful election."

In answer to a question about the Iraqi death toll, Mr Bush said about 30,000 Iraqis have been killed since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

But although it was believed to be the first time Mr Bush has publicly offered such an estimate, his aides quickly pointed out that the president was not offering an official estimate.

"There is not an official US government estimate," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. He said the 30,000 figure was based on "public estimates cited by media reports."

Mr Bush needs a relatively smooth showing during Thursday's election in Iraq to hold up as a sign of progress and try to counter daily news of suicide bombings and US troop deaths -- more than 2100 since the start of the war -- that have soured the American public on the war.

Mr Bush's figure for the death toll among Iraqis was in the range given by Iraq Body Count, a US-British non-governmental group, which currently says between 27,383 and 30,892 civilians -- rather than all Iraqi citizens -- have been killed in Iraq since the invasion.

Its figures are based on media reports, which often fail to capture all deaths in the country. Other estimates, including one done by scientists and published in the medical journal Lancet, put the civilian death toll as high as 100,000.

A couple of hundred protesters waved antiwar signs and yelled across the street from the Philadelphia hotel where Mr Bush spoke. They yelled "shame, shame, shame" at his motorcade when he left.

Mr Bush denounced the presence of prisons in Iraq "where mostly Sunni men were held, some of whom have appeared to have been beaten and tortured."

"This conduct is unacceptable, and the prime minister and other Iraqi officials have condemned these abuses, and an investigation has been launched and we support these efforts. Those who committed these crimes must be held to account," Mr Bush said.

The Iraqi government said that 13 prisoners found in another prison in Baghdad, in addition to a secret bunker found last month and operated by the Interior Ministry, showed signs of abuse.

Mr Bush is fighting to get his second term back on track after a year in which Americans lost faith in his ability to manage the war and a growing number came to believe his administration misled them in making the case for the invasion.

Asked if the threat of terrorism on US soil has been reduced significantly since invading Iraq, Mr Bush said: "I think it's been reduced. I don't think we're safe."

"What will really give me confidence to say that we're safe is when I can tell the American people we've got the capacity to know exactly where the enemy is moving," Mr Bush said.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Report #17 on the fall of communism

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Chinese Mourn Dead After Village Shootings

Monday December 12, 2005 3:01 PM

From Guardian Unlimited


Associated Press Writer

DONGZHOU, China (AP) - Mourners burned paper money in the street Monday in a traditional ritual for the dead after the Chinese government detained the commander of forces that shot and killed people protesting land seizures in a southern village.

Police in black uniforms guarded this coastal village northeast of Hong Kong, stopping vehicles entering the community and checking the identities of visitors.

The government tried Sunday to defuse local anger by announcing the detention of a commander whose forces opened fire Tuesday on villagers protesting the seizure of land for construction of a power plant. The government put the death toll at three, while villagers said as many as 20 people were killed.

If the higher death toll is confirmed, this would be the deadliest known use of force by authorities since hundreds, if not thousands, were killed around Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

Officials contacted by phone refused to identify the commander. But the Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao, which has close ties to the Beijing government, gave his surname as Wu and said he was deputy police chief of the nearby city of Shanwei.

On Monday, mourners burned paper money in the street in front of their home. Neighbors said they were the family of a man in his 20s who was killed in Tuesday's violence.

A woman, said to be the dead man's mother, lay on the ground looking exhausted. An elderly woman slumped between two people who supported her. Visitors wearing white cloth on their heads, a gesture of mourning, left condolence money in a box on the ground.

Another villager who refused to give his name said his neighbor had been killed and officials had refused to return the body to the dead man's family unless they agreed to cremate him immediately. The family was offered $5,000 in compensation if it accepted the terms, the man said.

The shootings Tuesday were the most violent clash yet in a series of confrontations in areas throughout China between police and villagers angry at seizures of land for power plants, shopping malls and other projects.

The government tried Sunday to mollify Dongzhou residents, announcing that medical teams were being sent from the provincial capital, Guangzhou, to treat the wounded.

But authorities also have sought to enforce order with a show of force as hundreds of police in riot gear patrolled the town.

On Monday, police had set up a checkpoint about six miles outside the village, where they stopped vehicles and asked passengers to step out to be frisked.

In the village, officials were hanging up red banners calling on the public to ``Strike at lawbreakers and uphold social order.'' Loudspeakers also blared warnings into the streets, telling people: ``Don't make trouble, don't spread gossip.''

The detained commander's ``wrong actions'' were to blame for the deaths, said a statement issued Sunday by the government of Guangdong province, where Dongzhou is located. It did not say what his actions were.

Suspects in China often are detained for questioning and further investigation before police decide whether to arrest them formally and file charges.

The government earlier defended the shootings, saying police opened fire after protesters armed with knives, spears and dynamite attacked a power plant before turning on authorities.

Villagers earlier had hung up banners appealing to the Chinese government to intervene in the dispute, according to residents. They said those banners were torn down Tuesday and burned by authorities.

Villagers said the dispute was simmering for more than a year.

The resentment boiled over Dec. 6, when thousands of protesters gathered outside the power plant and at a main intersection of the village, witnesses said. Most people interviewed asked not to be identified, for fear of official retaliation.

By the government's count, China had more than 70,000 cases of rural unrest last year. The incidents have alarmed communist leaders, who are promising to spend more to raise living standards in the poor countryside, home to about 800 million people.

President Hu Jintao's government has made a priority of spreading prosperity to areas left behind by China's 25-year economic boom. But in many areas, families still live on the equivalent of a few hundred dollars a year.

Report #51 on the Era of Peace

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A Look at U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq

Monday December 12, 2005 12:01 AM

By The Associated Press

As of Sunday, Dec. 10, 2005, at least 2,142 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,676 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers. The figures include five military civilians.

The AP count is four higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EST Thursday.

The British military has reported 98 deaths; Italy, 27; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Slovakia, three; Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia one death each.

Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 2,003 U.S. military members have died, according to AP's count. That includes at least 1,567 deaths resulting from hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

Report #50 on the Era of Peace

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Australia PM urges tolerance after race violence
Sun 11 Dec 2005 10:01 PM ET
By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister John Howard called for ethnic and religious tolerance on Monday after racial violence, spurred on police say by white supremacists, erupted in parts of Sydney.

Racial tension sparked violence on Cronulla Beach on Sunday when around 5,000 people, some yelling racist chants, attacked youths of Middle Eastern background, saying they were defending their beach after lifesavers were attacked there last week.

Violence then spread to a second beach, Maroubra, where scores of men armed with baseball bats smashed about 100 cars.

At Botany Bay, riot police confronted hundreds of youths and police said a man was stabbed in the back in a southern Sydney suburb in what media reports said appeared to be racial violence.

"Mob violence is always sickening and always to be unconditionally condemned," Howard told a news conference on Monday, by when violence had subsided.

"Attacking people on the basis of race and ethnicity is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians, irrespective of background and politics," he said.

New South Wales (NSW) police said a group of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists stirred on the drunken crowd at Cronulla.

"There appears to be an element of white supremacists and they really have no place in mainstream Australian society. Those sort of characters are best placed in Berlin 1930s, not in Cronulla 2005," NSW Police Minister Carl Scully told reporters.

As the crowd moved along the beach and foreshore on Sunday, one man on the back of a truck shouted: "No more Lebs (Lebanese)" -- a chant picked up by the group around him. Others carried Australian flags and dressed in Australian sports shirts.

Drunken youths chased and attacked Australians of Middle East appearance, sending some cowering into shops and hotels for safety, as riot police and dog squads tried to stop the violence.

Police arrested 16 people in Cronulla.

NSW state premier Morris Iemma said the violence reflected the "ugly face of racism in Australia". But Howard stressed the Cronulla violence was a law and order problem and did not reflect a deeper problem with Australia's multi-cultural society.

"I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country," he said.

"This nation of ours has been able to absorb millions of people from different parts of the world over a period of some 40 years and we have done so with remarkable success," he said.

"It is important that we reaffirm our respect for freedom of religion in this country, but it is also important that we place greater emphasis on integration of people into the broader community and the avoidance of tribalism."

Sydney's Islamic community blamed the violence at Cronulla Beach on "racist and irresponsible" sections of the media which turned a common youth issue into an issue of ethnicity.

Australia's small Muslim community has expressed feelings of alienation since the Iraq war, reporting racist verbal abuse and occasional assaults. Australia is a staunch U.S. ally and was one of the first nations to commit troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Local Muslims have also expressed concern about recent new anti-terror laws, which they fear could target them, and warnings of home-grown terrorism by intelligence authorities.

The Howard government has used security as a major issue in its last two election victories, but the prime minister dismissed any suggestion his government's warnings about home-grown terrorists had fuelled the rampage.

"It is impossible to know how individuals react but everything this government's said about home-grown terrorism has been totally justified," said Howard.

"It is a potential threat. To suggest that one should remain a complete failure of leadership."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Report #16 on the fall of communism

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9 December, 2005
Government blocks first ordination in 30 years

No explanation is given, but soldiers surround the Vientiane church where the ceremony was supposed to take place to ensure it does not.

Vientiane (AsiaNews) – The ordination of Sophone Vilavongsy, an Oblate Missionary of Mary Immaculate, has been postponed indefinitely. The 32-year-old was scheduled to become the first Laotian to become an ordained priest in 30 years, but at the last moment, the government withdrew its permission.

“Soldiers are monitoring the church to make sure that the [government] order is enforced,” said Mgr J. Khamsé Vithavong, apostolic vicar of Vientiane, the last and only Laotian Oblate father ordained on January 25, 1975. “Now we’ll have to wait and see how the situation will develop.”
The authorities have not offered any explanation as to why they withdrew the previously granted permission.

The permission itself had already come with strict conditions; for instance, the ceremony could not take place in the future priest’s home village and the number of people who could participate in the ceremony had to be small.

For the occasion, people from Australia had flown in. Sophone, who studied in that country, had become deacon and taken his perpetual vows there.

Ordaining a priest now was highly significant for the Church of Laos. Since its take over of the country in 1975, the ruling Communist Patheth Lao had permanently expelled all foreign missionaries. Since then only one seminary survives under “tight government control”.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Report #49 on the Era of Peace

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Macon Daily

Baghdad bus bomb kills 30 a week before vote
By: Paul Tait and Seif Fouad

December 8, 2005

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 30 people and wounded at least 25 on a Baghdad bus on Thursday, in a bloody escalation of Iraq's insurgency a week before elections.

The second major suicide bombing in the capital in three days, after a lull of several weeks, snapped attention back onto Iraq's sectarian tensions after the theater of Saddam Hussein's trial this week.

It came a day after U.S. President George W. Bush applauded the progress in the reconstruction of Iraqi cities like Najaf and Mosul, and as kidnappers holding four Western hostages extended a deadline to kill them by 48 hours.

Police said the crowded public bus was about to leave the Nahda bus station in central Baghdad for the southern Shi'ite city of Nassiriya when the attacker got on board and detonated a vest packed with explosives.

Firefighters pulled charred bodies from the wrecked bus and loaded them into waiting ambulances as police tried to restore order around the site of the blast.

"I was standing near when the blast happened," one man told Reuters television as he stood in front of the mangled wreckage, adding he had seen some passengers who survived with injuries. "All the remaining people inside the bus were killed," he said.

In August the central Baghdad bus station was hit by three car bombs, one of which tore through a bus destined for Basra, also in the predominantly Shi'ite south.

Thursday's bombing was the latest in a seemingly relentless insurgency led by Sunni Arabs, once dominant under Saddam, and foreign fighters against the Shi'ite and Kurdish-led government and its U.S. backers.

On Tuesday, suicide bombers breached security at Baghdad's police academy and killed 36 police officers and cadets.

Security forces are braced for a surge in violence ahead of the December 15 elections for Iraq's first full-term government since Saddam's fall.


Iraqis this week have been riveted by the televised trial of Saddam on charges of crimes against humanity.

The trial was adjourned for two weeks on Wednesday after three highly charged sessions this week which culminated in the former president boycotting the U.S.-funded court after telling judges to "go to hell".

Chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin said he would use the two-week break to consider a defense motion to review the way the sometimes harrowing testimony was given.

The major attacks this week follow the abductions of Westerners after a relative lull in kidnappings.

An Iraqi militant group holding four Western Christian aid workers as hostages said on Wednesday it had extended to December 10 a deadline to kill them unless Iraqi prisoners are freed, Al Jazeera television reported.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw again called for the group calling itself the "Swords of Truth" to release the hostages -- 74-year-old Briton Norman Kember, two Canadians and an American.

International media broadcast what they said was a new video of the hostages, showing Kember and another hostage wearing orange jumpsuits and blindfolds and with their hands shackled.

Some previous hostages have been dressed in orange jumpsuits before being executed. The outfits are associated with images of Muslims detained at a U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Muslim scholars, activists from around the world and a Jordanian cleric jailed in Britain for links to al Qaeda have all appealed for the release of the aid workers.

The United States and key ally Britain have said they will not yield to the kidnappers' demands.

Thousands of civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, including more than 200 foreigners.

Some foreigners were seized by criminal gangs seeking ransom but insurgents also used them to pressure their governments to withdraw their armies from Iraq.

Many hostages have been released, but around 50 have been killed, some by grisly beheadings broadcast on the Internet.

(Additional reporting by Gideon Long)

Report #48 on the Era of Peace

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Gravely Alarmed At Clashes in Darfur, Annan Calls On Parties to Respect Ceasefire

UN News Service (New York)

December 8, 2005
Posted to the web December 9, 2005

With the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reporting banditry, looting and ethnic fighting in Sudan's western Darfur region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced grave concern about the worsening situation in the area and called on all parties to respect their ceasefire agreement.

UNMIS has reported "banditry, looting, inter-tribal fighting, clashes allegedly between Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) rebels and tribes, attacks on civilians - destroying wells, which are essential to their livelihood, and forcing thousands more people to leave their homes in addition to the 2 million already displaced - and a further increase in the number of attacks and robberies committed against humanitarian workers," Mr. Annan said through his spokesman.

The Secretary-General called on all parties once more to respect their agreements and the provisions of international humanitarian law.

The Government of Sudan and two rebel groups - the SLM and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - signed a humanitarian ceasefire agreement in April of last year.

Mr. Annan urged them to make serious efforts to reach a political settlement in the peace talks taking place in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, before the end of the year.

Noting that the government delegation to the talks included members of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), a former rebel group from the south, he expressed hope that the Government would apply to Darfur the same principles that made the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the south possible.

He also urged the Security Council and the donor community to pay close attention to Darfur and to do everything possible to assist and strengthen the African Union's Mission in Sudan (AMIS) deployed there.

Report #47 on the Era of Peace

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Asia Times Online
Dec 9, 2005

The government men in masks who terrorize Iraq
By Dahr Jamail and Harb al-Mukhtar

BAGHDAD - After the US forces and the bombings, Iraqis are coming to fear those bands of men in masks who seem to operate with the Iraqi police.

Omar Ahmed's family learnt what it can mean to run into the police, their supposed protectors. Omar was driving with two friends in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad at night on September 1 when they were stopped at a police checkpoint.

"The three of them were arrested by the police even though there was nothing in the car," an eyewitness told Inter Press Service, speaking on condition of anonymity. They did not return home for days, and the family began to search the morgues, common practice now when someone is arrested by the Iraqi police and does not return.

"Five days after they were arrested we found Omar's body in the freezer in a morgue, with holes in the side of his head and shoulders," a friend of the family said. "We don't know if the other two men are dead or alive. But we know these men were guilty of nothing other than driving their car at night. We have no security and the problem is that police are killing and disappearing the Iraqi people every day now."

The "death squads" as they have come to be called are getting more active with just a week to go before the December 15 election.

On Tuesday this week Iraqi police said they found 20 bodies dumped at two different locations in western Iraq, according to the al-Sharqiyah television network. Eleven bodies of men wearing civilian clothes were found dumped on the main road between Baghdad and the Jordanian border. The bodies were found near al-Rutbah city, with their hands tied behind their backs. Nine bodies, also of civilians and riddled with bullets, were found on the side of a road near Fallujah on Monday.

Signs are emerging that such killing is the work of death squads operating with the Iran-backed Shi'ite forces that dominate the government, and therefore the police.

Omar, a 39-year-old unemployed engineer who now sells petrol and cigarettes on the black market says he survived one such Shi'ite squad. "I was sleeping on the roof of my house one night because it was so hot and we had no electricity as usual," Omar said. "I was awakened by a loud explosion nearby, and immediately surrounded by strange men wearing night-vision goggles."

Omar says he was thrown to the ground by the men, handcuffed and blindfolded. "They started to beat me using the end of their guns," he said. "Then they searched my house, took my gun which I told them I had, then they took me away." His 32-year-old wife Sumia, a teacher, was also handcuffed and taken away.

Omar says he saw about 10 pick-up trucks carrying at least 100 men wearing black masks before a bag was placed over his head. He was taken to the back of a truck, and beaten up until he fainted.

Sumia was beaten up too. "I received so many kicks to my stomach," she said. "I heard screaming in pain, so I fought until they handcuffed me and beat me until I couldn't do anything else."

The two were taken to the Iraqi police station in Suleakh, Baghdad, where they were interrogated and accused of owning a mortar. "I explained to them that I don't know anything about mortars," said Omar. "And that I have never had anything to do with the resistance, but they said so many insulting words to me, and beat me further."

Sumia, who was also interrogated, pleaded with the policemen to let them return home to care for their young children. "They would not give me a headscarf to cover my head," she said. "They kept asking me about mortars and wouldn't let me go to look after my children. We know nothing about any mortars."

Omar said the next morning he was moved into another room where he saw men lying handcuffed, with their heads covered with sacks. "They were lying on the ground without a blanket or pillow." In a while, he saw 14 men wearing black masks enter the room carrying whips. "I watched them beat the prisoners. They told them this was their breakfast."

Omar and Sumia were later taken home, and warned that if security forces were attacked in their neighbourhood, they would be detained again.

Omar said the men who detained him and his wife were members of the Shi'ite Badr Organization, a militia affiliated with Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Tensions in Baghdad run high, as people who live in areas not controlled by the Badr Army face daily threats of being kidnapped or killed by members of the militia.

"The Badr Organization is conducting a campaign to destroy other political parties and their electoral advertisements," said Saleh Hassir, a doctor at a Baghdad medical center. "We see black paint and tears on ex-prime minister Allawi's posters and those of the Sunni groups, but pictures of al-Hakim remain unaffected."

The doctor says the Americans have helped bring in new Iran-backed terror.

"So many of us are against Iraq being controlled by these fundamental Islamic Iranian loyalists like al-Hakim," the doctor said. "Now we are seeing the suffering and ultimate dictatorship they have brought us here with the help of the Americans."

Isam Rashid contributed to this article.

(Inter Press Service)

Report #15 on the fall of communism

Link to Original

December 8, 2005
Army blames communist rebels for Manila attacks

By Manny Mogato
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine communist rebels were behind a series of attacks in Manila on cars and a building housing offices of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's husband, the armed forces' chief of staff said on Thursday.

General Generoso Senga dismissed reports that a shadowy group of soldiers calling themselves "Enlightened Warriors" fired 15 shots at the building and damaged three cars with small bombs on Wednesday, saying the rogue military force did not exist.

"Initially, our findings with the police are that these were actually done by some operatives from the New People's Army terrorists," Senga told reporters.

The insurgency by the 8,000-member New People's Army (NPA) has killed more than 40,000 people since the late 1960s, deterred investment and stunted rural development in the Philippines, one of Southeast Asia's poorest countries.

The NPA, active in 69 of 79 provinces, usually limits attacks to the countryside, targetting officials it deems to be corrupt and businesses that refuse to pay "revolutionary war taxes".

On Wednesday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita suggested the NPA was behind bomb threats this week to seven embassies in Manila. The U.S. embassy suspended operations for two days over "plausible threat information" which it did not describe.

Ermita also cited intelligence reports showing a rise in NPA-related violence in the past 60 days, including a landmine attack in the central Philippines that killed nine soldiers.

The NPA's spokesman denied the rebels were behind Wednesday's attacks.

"I was informed no NPA unit carried out any such attack in Manila," Gregorio Rosal, alias Ka Roger, said in a statement sent to news organisations on Thursday, adding the government was trying to "cover up an open rebellion within the military".


In July 2003, Arroyo put down a brief mutiny by 300 soldiers who seized control of a high-rise apartment in Manila's financial district, demanding Arroyo resign over corruption allegations.

On Wednesday, gunmen shot at the building, used rarely by Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel, which also houses the offices of the president's private lawyers.

The attacks were claimed by the "Enlightened Warriors", with a warning of more to come to bring down the Arroyo government.

Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon, the army commander, said soldiers' morale was high and disputed reports of growing dissatisfaction leading to the formation of a renegade group.

Esperon said the communist rebels were making it appear that disgruntled troops were behind the attacks.

"They are insulting our soldiers. Our soldiers are not power grabbers," he told reporters, adding intelligence reports pointed to the NPA being behind attempts to destabilise the government.

The government in Manila is also fighting four home-grown Muslim rebel groups and foreign militants from Jemaah Islamiah, a regional network linked to al Qaeda.

Manila also said it wanted Dutch authorities to deport the founder and leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, after state lawyers filed murder charges against him over the death of a provincial governor in 2001.

The government says Sison ordered the killing from the Netherlands, where he has been living in exile since the late 1980s.

Copyright © 2005 Reuters

The Hireling Report #40

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

'Nostra Aetate' reverberates

Session at Nazareth assesses impact of Catholic paper on other religions

Matthew Daneman
Staff writer

(December 8, 2005) — PITTSFORD — Gone are the days when Catholics couldn't attend weddings in non-Catholic churches.

And gone are the days when all Jews were considered responsible for Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

From the mundane to the major, Catholic life has changed significantly in the 40 years since the "Nostra Aetate."

"What the Roman Catholic Church produced was really quite significant," said Joseph Kelly, professor of religious studies at Nazareth College. "This church that has difficulty in changing did in fact change and brought wonderful things in terms of fruit."

The "Nostra Aetate" — essentially a reinvention of the Catholic Church's relationship to non-Christian religions — went into effect Oct. 28, 1965. To mark the occasion and discuss the significance, Nazareth's Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue hosted a discussion Wednesday. In attendance were roughly four dozen Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Hindu and Jewish local leaders and laypeople.

Nostra Aetate grew out of a directive of Pope John XXIII that the church put together a declaration on its relation to Israelis, Kelly said. The effort eventually grew into a sweeping new policy concerning all non-Christians as part of the Second Vatican Council reforms.

"The document broke from the church's rather narrow-minded past," said Rochester Roman Catholic Bishop Matthew Clark.

The results, however, have been mixed.

While Jews saw the declaration with "a great deal of thankfulness," many also saw it as falling short, said Rabbi Alan Katz, president of the Rochester Board of Rabbis. "It leaves out all of the tremendous amount of anti-Semitism and brutality directed toward the Jewish people," he said. "This was a result of a history of anti-Semitism promoted by various church teachings."

The message of "Nostra Aetate" needs to be emphasized more "in the pews in Africa, in Asia, in parts of Europe, where there are lingering misunderstandings if not outright anti-Semitism," Katz said. But, he added, "it also has to go into the Jewish world, where the average Jew has to know the tremendous steps taken by the church."

It was "Nostra Aetate" that helped spawn a plethora of interfaith efforts in the Rochester area, said Aly Nahas, a founding member of the Islamic Center of Rochester.

"All these groups and maybe others came along as a result of a new spirit that dawned in Rochester since the 1980s," Nahas said.

"This is what the "Nostra Aetate" hoped to accomplish."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Report #46 on the Era of Peace

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Fox News

Election Violence Turns Deadly in Egypt
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Associated Press

ZAGAZIG, Egypt — Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds trying to break through blockades of polling stations in an opposition stronghold Wednesday, the final day of parliamentary elections, and a hospital official said two people were killed.

Police in the capital of Cairo said more than 130 people had been wounded in election violence in four provinces, and more than 80 people were arrested.

The two deaths occurred in the northern town of Damietta, said Dr. Mohammed Balboula of Damietta Public Hospital. There was no immediate confirmation from the Interior Ministry.

Government supporters armed with knives, bottles and machetes attacked voters lined up trying to get into several stations, sparking clashes with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the government's main rival.

Police also cordoned off polling stations in the southern city of Sohag, frustrating hundreds trying to vote.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ibrahim Hammad said "the election process is going normally," apart from 10 polling stations where he accused Brotherhood "thugs" of causing disturbances.

Hammad said the police are protecting the judges who supervise polling stations "and helping the voters to reach the ballot box."

Egypt's three-stage elections, which began in November, have been plagued by increasing violence as police and government supporters try to put down a strong showing by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which so far has increased its presence in parliament fivefold.

Two other people died and dozens were injured in the earlier rounds. Independent monitors and human rights groups have reported numerous irregularities, including busing of state employees to polling stations, tampering with ballot boxes, blockading of polling stations, and bribing, intimidating and attacking voters.

The United States sharply criticized the violence, including "intimidation and harassment" and abuse of monitors and voters by Egyptian authorities.

"We've seen a number of developments over the past couple weeks during the parliamentary elections that raise serious concerns about the path of political reform in Egypt," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday.

"Clearly, these actions send the wrong signal about Egypt's commitment to democracy and freedom, and we see them as inconsistent with the government of Egypt's professed commitment to increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society."

Washington has pressed President Hosni Mubarak, one of its top allies in the region, to bring greater democracy to Egypt, making the country the cornerstone of President Bush's policy of encouraging reform in the Middle East.

But Wednesday's voting -- a runoff to the third and final round of the elections -- saw a continuation of the violence and police blockades in Brotherhood strongholds.

"What are you afraid of? Why aren't you letting them inside?" Mohammed al-Mursi, the Brotherhood candidate in Zagazig, shouted at police, who sealed off a polling station in the Nasiriyah district, preventing hundreds from voting.

Police blocked the station even before polls opened. When a judge who was supervising polling arrived and protested, the police only let him and a few women enter. A group of about 25 women then pushed through the cordon but were stopped by other police.

"Nobody is entering here," a police officer yelled to the crowd, which continued to push the phalanx of officers. The polling station's doors were closed.

One woman who managed to vote, Umm Mohammed, 45, criticized the police, saying: "The right to vote is the simplest right for any Egyptian."

At another Zagazig station, a battle raged between Brotherhood members and government supporters wielding knives who attacked voters trying to push their way past a police blockade. Police fired tear gas from time to time but did not arrest the government supporters. One would-be voter was bleeding from the head.

The government arrested hundreds of Brotherhood members before Wednesday's vote.

The Brotherhood has 35 candidates in Wednesday's runoff for the remaining 127 of 444 seats in parliament. Polling is taking place in nine provinces where no candidate received more than half the vote in the third round of polling Dec. 1.

So far, Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party and its allied independents have won 222 seats. The Brotherhood has taken 76 seats, a large jump over the 15 seats it held in the outgoing parliament.

Independents have won two seats and other opposition parties have taken 11.

In the Delta town of Dumyatt, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at voters during clashes outside at least one polling station, Brotherhood officials said.

In the north Sinai town of el-Arish, clashes broke out between police blocking polling stations and frustrated voters, an Associated Press reporter said.

An Interior Ministry official said at least 30 people had been hurt in clashes in el-Arish and three Nile Delta provinces.

In the southern city of Sohag, police blocked about 400 voters from entering Mohammed Farid School, which was being used as a polling station.

"They say the school is closed. They want to allow only NDP supporters to vote here. I'm very upset. This injustice must stop," said grocer Abdel Moneim, 55.

The head of the General Elections Committee in Sohag, Judge Abou Magd Issa, said he had received no written complaint from voters. Asked why he did not walk to the school, 150 yards from his office, the judge said: "I have people visiting the polling centers and reporting to me. It is up to the security services to maintain security outside the polling stations. I cannot control them."

In the outgoing parliament, the NDP had 398 seats, the Brotherhood had 15, and true independents 23 and opposition legislators had 16.

The Muslim Brotherhood calls for implementing Islamic law but has long been vague about what this means. It campaigns for head scarves for women and against immodest dress, but it insists it stands for a more moderate version of Islam than in Saudi Arabia.

Report #45 on the Era of Peace

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Fox News

Gaza Car Blast Hurts 10, Kills Militant

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — At least one senior militant was killed and ten other people hurt after an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, according to the Israeli military.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said the Israelis targeted a car carrying Palestinian militants.

A Palestinian official said the missile struck the car shortly after nightfall in the southern town of Rafah.

He said the car carried three members of a group that has carried out numerous attacks against Israel.

Palestinians identified the dead man as Mahmoud Arkan, a field operative in the group. Israel confirmed that he was the target.

Israel has vowed to retaliate for a homicide bombing that killed five people on Monday.

Report #44 on the Era of Peace

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China Daily

22 militants killed in two Afghan clashes

December 7, 2005

Twenty-two suspected militants were killed in two clashes with Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces this week, including 13 in an attack on a cell that was believed responsible for several bombings in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

Three Afghan, three U.S. and two other coalition soldiers were wounded in fighting Sunday in a small village north of Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold, where the bombing cell was operating, a U.S. military statement said.

One of the soldiers was seriously wounded and was evacuated to Germany, where he is in stable condition. The other seven soldiers have been treated and released, the statement said.

On Tuesday, a joint Afghan-U.S. patrol was conducting offensive operations when it reported coming under fire from a nearby ridge line northwest of Tarin Kowt. Air support was called in and Afghan and U.S. forces then maneuvered on the ridge line, forcing the militants to flee, the U.S. military said in a separate statement.

Nine militants were killed and six detained, it said.

"Afghan and coalition forces are going to continue to bring the fight to the enemies of Afghanistan no matter where they are, no matter where they are trying to hide," said Brig. Gen. Jack Sterling Jr., the coalition's deputy commanding general.

Report #43 on the Era of Peace

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December 7, 2005

Suicide bombers kill 43 at Iraqi police academy
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad

The Independent Online

Two suicide bombers with explosives strapped to their bodies blew themselves up inside Baghdad's police academy, killing at least 43 people and wounding 73.

"We were sitting in the yard when we heard an explosion," said a police major, Wisam al-Heyali. "Seconds later, we were hit by another explosion. I saw some of my colleagues falling down and I felt my hand hit, but I kept running."

The devastating losses among the police students - the worst casualties for the Iraqi security forces from a single incident for nine months - were because of a trap set by the two bombers, according to the US military.

"One of the suicide bombers detonated near a group of students outside a classroom," said a US spokesman. "Thinking the explosion was an indirect-fire attack, Iraqi police and students fled to a bunker for shelter when the second bomber detonated his vest."

Many other students were outside their classrooms going to lunch after returning from shooting practice, said Nizal Mahmoud Khalaf, a trainee who survived the attacks.

The attack was later claimed by al-Qa'ida in Iraq which has little connection with the original al-Qa'ida of Osama bin Laden. The internet statement said: "Two brothers targeted the police academy that continues to train dogs which feed off the blood and honour of Sunni Muslims."

The casualties were the worst for the Iraqi security forces since a suicide bomber killed 125 recruits in Hillah, south of Baghdad, on 28 February.

Suicide attacks have decreased recently but show more sophisticated planning, often involving two or three bombers. In attacks on the Palestine and al-Hamra hotels, both used by foreign journalists and businessmen, the bombers tried to use a first vehicle, packed with explosives, to breach concrete defensive walls and a second to try to use the gap to blow up the building. Bombers seldom attack US forces but concentrate on Iraqi army, police or civilian targets, almost always Shia or Kurdish.

The main weapon used against US troops is the landmine, detonated by a command wire, a remote control or pressure plate. Use of these mines is also becoming more sophisticated.

The US Marines gave their first full account yesterday of how 10 Marines were killed and 11 wounded in a landmine attack on 1 December. Contrary to earlier reports, the men from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were not on foot patrol. Instead they were inside a mill near Fallujah which they were using as a temporary patrol base.

"The platoon swept the area for explosives and established security around the factory," the statement said. Their commander arrived to promote three Marines and the men gathered for the ceremony. The mine exploded as they were dispersing.

"It is suspected that one of the Marines triggered a hidden pressure-plate initiation device, causing the explosion," the statement said.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of kidnappings of foreigners in the past two weeks. Al-Jazeera television broadcast a video yesterday from an insurgent group called the Islamic Army of Iraq showing a blond, Western-looking man with his hands tied behind his back. It said he was an American security consultant and displayed his US passport and identity card.

In recent days four peace activists, a French engineer and a German aid worker have been abducted. Almost all kidnappings in Iraq are for money even when they claim a political motive, but the rash of abductions could be connected to the general election on 15 December.

Two suicide bombers with explosives strapped to their bodies blew themselves up inside Baghdad's police academy, killing at least 43 people and wounding 73.

"We were sitting in the yard when we heard an explosion," said a police major, Wisam al-Heyali. "Seconds later, we were hit by another explosion. I saw some of my colleagues falling down and I felt my hand hit, but I kept running."

The devastating losses among the police students - the worst casualties for the Iraqi security forces from a single incident for nine months - were because of a trap set by the two bombers, according to the US military.

"One of the suicide bombers detonated near a group of students outside a classroom," said a US spokesman. "Thinking the explosion was an indirect-fire attack, Iraqi police and students fled to a bunker for shelter when the second bomber detonated his vest."

Many other students were outside their classrooms going to lunch after returning from shooting practice, said Nizal Mahmoud Khalaf, a trainee who survived the attacks.

The attack was later claimed by al-Qa'ida in Iraq which has little connection with the original al-Qa'ida of Osama bin Laden. The internet statement said: "Two brothers targeted the police academy that continues to train dogs which feed off the blood and honour of Sunni Muslims."

The casualties were the worst for the Iraqi security forces since a suicide bomber killed 125 recruits in Hillah, south of Baghdad, on 28 February.

Suicide attacks have decreased recently but show more sophisticated planning, often involving two or three bombers. In attacks on the Palestine and al-Hamra hotels, both used by foreign journalists and businessmen, the bombers tried to use a first vehicle, packed with explosives, to breach concrete defensive walls and a second to try to use the gap to blow up the building. Bombers seldom attack US forces but concentrate on Iraqi army, police or civilian targets, almost always Shia or Kurdish.
The main weapon used against US troops is the landmine, detonated by a command wire, a remote control or pressure plate. Use of these mines is also becoming more sophisticated.

The US Marines gave their first full account yesterday of how 10 Marines were killed and 11 wounded in a landmine attack on 1 December. Contrary to earlier reports, the men from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were not on foot patrol. Instead they were inside a mill near Fallujah which they were using as a temporary patrol base.

"The platoon swept the area for explosives and established security around the factory," the statement said. Their commander arrived to promote three Marines and the men gathered for the ceremony. The mine exploded as they were dispersing.

"It is suspected that one of the Marines triggered a hidden pressure-plate initiation device, causing the explosion," the statement said.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of kidnappings of foreigners in the past two weeks. Al-Jazeera television broadcast a video yesterday from an insurgent group called the Islamic Army of Iraq showing a blond, Western-looking man with his hands tied behind his back. It said he was an American security consultant and displayed his US passport and identity card.

In recent days four peace activists, a French engineer and a German aid worker have been abducted. Almost all kidnappings in Iraq are for money even when they claim a political motive, but the rash of abductions could be connected to the general election on 15 December.

Report #42 on the Era of Peace

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Guardian Unlimited

Three Iraqi Officers Killed at Hospital

Wednesday December 7, 2005


Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Gunmen killed three police officers early Wednesday when they burst into a hospital in the northern city of Kirkuk and freed a wounded man who had been arrested for plotting to kill a judge in the Saddam Hussein trial, police said.

Police Brigadier Sarhat Qadir said the attack on Al-Jumhuriya Hospital in Kurkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, also injured six police officers.

Police had wounded the suspect when he was arrested with seven other Sunni Arabs on Nov. 26 for allegedly plotting to assassinate the investigating judge, Raed Juhi. The men were carrying a document from former top Saddam deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri ordering them to kill Juhi, police said.

Al-Douri is the highest ranking member of the Saddam regime still at large and is believed to be at least the symbolic leader of Saddam loyalists still fighting U.S. forces and the new government in Iraq.

Juhi's job as investigating judge is to gather evidence and interview witnesses. Once the trial begins, his role in that particular case is finished.

A third day of testimony in Saddam's trial was expected on Wednesday. The trial was delayed for several hours, apparently by Saddam's refusal to participate. It reconvened later without the former president in court.

On Tuesday, two suicide bombers detonated explosives inside Baghdad's main police academy, killing at least 43 people and wounding more than 70, police said. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, the capital's deadliest in months.

The bombing came as Al-Jazeera aired an insurgent video claiming to have kidnapped a U.S. security consultant - the seventh Westerner abducted in the country since Nov. 26.

Late Tuesday, another suicide bomber blew himself up in a cafe frequented by police in a Shiite neighborhood, killing three people and wounding 20, police said. One of the dead and three of the wounded were policemen, officials said.

The assault on the police academy was carefully planned to maximize casualties, all of whom were police officers or cadets.

The first bomber struck near a group of students outside a classroom, a U.S. military statement said. Thinking they were under mortar fire, survivors rushed to a bunker ``where the second bomber detonated his vest,'' the statement added. One of the wounded was an American contractor.

A statement on an Islamist Web site in the name of al-Qaida in Iraq said ``two blessed brothers'' staged the attack on the academy ``which continues to produce the dogs that shed the blood and violate the honor of Sunni Muslims.''

The claim's authenticity could not be independently verified. But al-Qaida in Iraq's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has often denounced Shiites because of religious differences and their leading role in the U.S.-backed government. Shiites dominate the security services.

Iraqi police also said the attackers may have been policemen or students, fresh evidence that insurgents have infiltrated the country's security forces. President Bush has linked an eventual U.S. troop withdrawal to the ability of Iraq's army and police to combat the insurgents.

The attack was the deadliest against Iraqi security forces since Feb. 28, when a suicide car bomber struck a crowd of mostly Shiite police and army recruits in Hillah, killing 125. In September, at least 88 people were killed in a suicide car bombing in a heavily Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned of an increase in insurgent attacks ahead of the Dec. 15 elections. Residents of Ramadi reported seeing fliers Tuesday in the name of al-Qaida in Iraq warning people not to vote and threatening to bomb polling stations.

The Hireling Report #39

Link to Original

Priest who admitted to grand larceny still receives pay from Brooklyn diocese

NY Newsday


December 7, 2005

An Ozone Park pastor who pleaded guilty three years ago to stealing nearly $100,000 from his working-class parish to pay for trips to a gay resort, a time share in Mexico and a luxury car, still gets a monthly stipend from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

The Rev. John Thompson, who pled guilty to a felony charge of grand larceny in September 2002, said in a deposition last month that he continues to receive a check of about $1,700 a month from the church, although he's barred from presenting himself as a priest or celebrating Mass.

Thompson gave the deposition last month in connection with a $5 million lawsuit brought by Barbara Samide, the former principal of St. Elizabeth's School, who lost her job three years ago after she accused him of stealing from the parish and sexually abusing her. Samide sued Thompson, as well as the diocese, saying it failed to protect her. A judge later ordered the diocese to pay her for the duration of her contract, through August 2003.

"To me it's absolutely outrageous that he's getting paid," said Michael Dowd of Manhattan, Samide's attorney. "This is a guy who stole money from a poor parish. Barbara Samide didn't get any money when she reported him. The diocese put her on unpaid leave, and we were trying to raise money for her to feed her family."

Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, confirmed the payments, saying canon law requires that bishops support their priests -- even if they've been convicted of crimes.

"The bishop has a canonical responsibility to support a priest," DeRosa said. "He may be on administrative leave, but he's still a priest."

DeRosa said Thompson's stipend was less than what he would be receiving if he were still a pastor, though he declined to say by how much. He said no steps had been taken to laicize him.

Thompson avoided a jail sentence in September 2002, by entering a guilty plea to grand larceny and agreeing to pay back the parish. He said in his deposition that he went to work three months after the plea deal as a case manager for an agency that provides housing for the homeless in Harlem, where he now makes $41,000 a year.

Asked why the diocese was paying him when he earned another salary, DeRosa replied that the priest could lose that job "and be, essentially, destitute."

Still, the news rankled people in the pews who recalled how Thompson had stolen from the collection plate to pay for a lavish lifestyle.

"I don't see why they'd be paying a guy who stole from them," said Ed Wilson, the Brooklyn regional coordinator for the Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic reform group.

"If it were to be the case that this priest is being paid to get his cooperation in this lawsuit by the principal against the diocese, that would be outrageous and exactly the sort of coverup the Voice of the Faithful was formed to combat."

For his part, Dowd noted that Thompson had avoided jail only by agreeing to pay back all the money he had stolen. "But it looks like the diocese is paying him not only to keep him in line, but to facilitate the payment of the restitution. Why not put that money into St. Elizabeth's, which was a school in real financial trouble?"

Thompson denies that he sexually abused Samide, but has declined to submit to a DNA test requested by her attorney to determine whether his semen matches that found on one of her blouses.

The Hireling Report #38

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From Northern Life - Sudbury, Ont.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Sabbath shared with Catholics

In a rare occasion Roman Catholic Bishop Jean Louis Plouffe joined the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue congregation to welcome the Sabbath Dec. 2.

The invitation was made by the synagogue to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration supporting closer
relations with the church and non-Christian religions.

Nostra Aetate was proclaimed Oct. 28, 1965 by Pope Paul VI. It states that there is unity among people who believe in God. The declaration speaks directly about the bond between Christians and Jews and decries all displays of anti-Semitism.

Bishop Jean Louis Plouffe and Bishop Robert Harris and 70 Catholic church members also joined the weekly service lead by Dr. Jacques Abourbih and Roger Nash.

Abourbih opened the service by noting that this was a visit long overdue, “about 2000 years overdue!”

He told the specially assembled congregation, “In fact, after all these years, we still know little about each other. In order to combat this ignorance, we
need a multi-faceted, sustained and systemic educational program in many and diverse settings.”

Plouffe in his homily stated, “My life experience and my involvement as a bishop in inter-faith dialogue have taught me that mistreatment of Jews is not instantly wiped out by a declaration.

“Openness of mind and heart through positive experiences of dialogue between individuals must be fostered in order to promote greater understanding and appreciation of our common roots as well as our differences.”

The Shaar Hashomayim congregation presented the bishops with a plaque that acknowledges 10 trees that have been planted in Israel in their names.

Report #15 on the fall of communism

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December 7, 2005

Underground Catholic priest and seven deacons abducted

Hebei Patriotic Association is behind an anti-Catholic campaign designed to derail a possible start of China-Vatican dialogue.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Persecution against the underground Church seems to be on the rise as talks about ties between China and the Vatican appear a distinct possibility, this according to an AsiaNews source who spoke about recent arrests in Hebei province.

About 20 days ago, the Religious Affairs Bureau took away Fr Gao Baojin, rector of the underground seminary in the diocese of Zhaoxian, and forced him to undergo indoctrination and brain washing courses in order that he join the Patriotic Association. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Along with Father Gao seven deacons from his seminary were also abducted; they are: Shi Jun Long, Min Zhi Yong, Shi Chen Guang, Liu Zhong Feng, Liu Yun Tao, Huang Yu Tao, and Lu Yan Hui.

They, too, had to underground indoctrination courses in Beijing and Xing Tai (Hebei), but were freed last Saturday.

During their captivity they had to endure sleep deprivation, were not allowed to use the bathroom, they were not allowed to use the bathroom and to take medication. They were indoctrinated day and night about the government religious policies.

The officials who had them abducted wanted to force them to sign a statement whereby they expressed their willingness to be ordained by a state-nominated bishop rather than one who is in communion with the Pope. But the seminarians did not give in.

According to AsiaNews’s Hebei sources, Mgr Wang Chunlin, bishop of the Zhaoxian diocese, was also subjected to pressures and denied the right to ordain.

Another Hebei bishop Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, bishop of Zhengding, was forced to attend the same “study sessions” for weeks on end to get him to join the Patriotic Association.

Currently, seminarians from his and neighbouring dioceses are forced to endure the same treatment.

Local sources told AsiaNews that a full-blown campaign is underway to forcibly absorb the underground Church into the official Church. For this aim, the campaign is trying to force the underground clergy into the Patriotic Association, which is a tool of the Communist Party’s to control the lives of Christian communities. Among its goals is the creation of a Catholic Church that is independent of the Holy See and the Pope.

Chinese Church sources told AsiaNews that the campaign against underground Catholics has intensified as rumours about possible diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican spread more and more.

Should they actually get underway, the fate of the Patriotic Association will be a hot topic. For underground Catholics, it is but a tool to split the Chinese Church. To members of the officially sanctioned Church, it is a lesser evil even though they secretly nurture ties with the Holy See.

Hence, any talk about a possible China-Vatican rapprochement sends the Patriotic Association on a war path against the underground Church.

And this is nothing new. The same occurred in 1999 when some prominent voices in Beijing mentioned the imminent prospect for restoration of diplomatic relations between the two sides.

At that time, a secret report of the Communist Party encouraged officials to enforce “obedience” on priests and bishops of the underground Church. Anyone who refused to join the Patriotic Association were subjected to “a year of re-education”. Anyone refusing re-education would be banned from “exercising any spiritual function”.

However, critical voices against the Patriotic Association have started to be heard even within the official Church.

And the Vatican itself, through its secretary of State Card Angelo Sodano, announced on October 25 that “the Holy See . . . is ready for a dialogue. . . . but we must always insist on the following notion: . . . governments have no right to tell men and women how to live their faiths.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Hireling Report #37

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Church rebuked over Ferns
How is it that a Catholic Church which could find time to declare that Harry Potter is a threat to children has yet to acknowledged the existence of the Ferns report was a question posed to a meeting at All Hallows College in Dublin last night.

Organised by the Voice of the Faithful group, it was addressed by Colm O'Gorman of the One in Four charity.

"In a week that has seen the Vatican launch a detailed report on homosexuality in the priesthood," he said, "I am again left somewhat bewildered by the continuing failure of the Vatican to even comment upon the Ferns report.

"Rome has thus far failed to even acknowledge the existence of the Ferns report, the first ever internationally to find the Vatican in part responsible for clerical sexual abuse."

Mr O'Gorman also asked: "What or who would Christ clear from the temple in this third millennium?"

The meeting was also attended by American Dominican priest Fr Tom Doyle, who was first to alert US bishops about clerical child sex abuse for which he was moved and ignored. He will speak at the Tower Hotel in Derry at 3pm tomorrow.

Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent
December 3, 2005

The Hireling Report #36

Check the many links on THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE for details.

John McCormack – Assessment and Highly Recommended Articles

Before becoming bishop of the Manchester NH diocese in 1998, John B. McCormack worked in the Boston archdiocese, where from 1984 to 1994, he was secretary of ministerial personnel, handling most allegations of clergy sexual abuse. In 1993 and 1994, while remaining in the secretarial post, he served as the archdiocese’s first “Delegate,” a role created to handle all matters pertaining both to accused priests and victims.

Since the crisis of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy was exposed in January 2002, McCormack’s pivotal supervisory role has been revealed in a huge volume of documents. These include extensive media coverage, newly released church files on accused priests, court depositions, and Attorney General reports from both Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

To help our readers assess McCormack’s performance, the staff at have gathered a substantial number of these documents.

Here are a few suggestions for exploring this archive:

* OVERVIEWS OF McCORMACK’S ROLE – Though McCormack dealt with scores of priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse of children, there is no record of McCormack ever having reported a crime to police or prosecutors. For overviews of McCormack’s handling of such serial predators as Paul Shanley, John Geoghan, Joseph Birmingham, and Ronald Paquin, see: Timmins and McConnell, “Complaints Didn't Dim Bishop's Faith in Priests,” Concord Monitor 6/6/02; “Bishop John B. McCormack: Role in Sex Abuse Scandal Still Questioned,” Manchester Union Leader 7/9/02; and Farragher and Carroll, “Bishop Often Sided with Priests in Abuse Cases,” Boston Globe 1/26/03.

* McCORMACK’S OVERRIDING POLICY WAS TO KEEP ABUSES SECRET AND AVOID SCANDAL – As the archdiocese’s point man for all allegations of clergy sexual abuse, McCormack did not respond to repeated requests from his assistant, Sr. Catherine Mulkerrin, that they post bulletin notices in parishes where known molesters had served. When a victim filed a lawsuit against the Rev. Robert M. Burns, known by Boston church officials to be a child abuser, McCormack helped plan a strategy to derail reporters and prevent files from being released in court. See Robinson and Kurkjian, “Records Show a Trail of Secrecy, Deception,” Boston Globe, 12/4/02. Released church files also showed that when the Rev. Paul J. Tivnan was facing possible criminal charges, McCormack persuaded the public prosecutor to drop the case (Rezendes and Carroll, “Files: Church Struck Deals with Accusers,” Boston Globe 12/20/02.)

* McCORMACK TREATED ABUSIVE PRIESTS WITH SYMPATHY AND VICTIMS WITH SKEPTICISM – McCormack’s solicitous handling of Paul Shanley when the admitted rapist lived in California was revealed when the church’s file on Shanley was made public. Read Mashberg, “Records Show Church Coddled Problem Priest,” Boston Herald 4/14/02 and Hirsch, “Church Files Show N.H. Bishop McCormack's Role in Shanley Case,” Foster’s Online 4/9/02.

In contrast, McCormack repeatedly minimized complaints that children were being molested. Examples are recounted in Pfeiffer, “Law Aides Often Dismissed Complaints of Clergy Abuse,” Boston Globe 4/12/02. McCormack even told an anguished father that there was “no factual basis” for fearing that Joseph Birmingham had molested his son, though the priest had finished treatment for alleged abuse of another child just three weeks earlier. (See Associated Press, “Bishop Assured Parent Son Not Being Molested; Priest Was Undergoing Treatment at the Time,” Concord Monitor 12/19/02.) A comprehensive look at McCormack’s contrasting treatment of victims and priests is Farragher and Carroll, “Bishop Often Sided with Priests in Abuse Cases,” Boston Globe 1/26/03.

* McCORMACK REPEATEDLY PLACED KNOWN ABUSERS IN POORLY SUPERVISED “RESTRICTED MINISTRIES” – This move is described as McCormack’s “single greatest failing” in the careful investigative report produced by the Mass. Attorney General. (McCormack’s performance is examined in pages 39 to 45 of the report.) Revs. Ronald Paquin and Paul Mahan are examples of two priests who molested minors after having been placed in restricted ministry by McCormack. See the account in Timmons and McConnell, “Complaints Didn't Dim Bishop's Faith in Priests,” Concord Monitor 6/6/02.

* DESPITE RECENT IMPROVEMENTS IN NH, MCCORMACK HAS PROVED WILLING TO PLACE KNOWN ABUSERS IN MINISTRY – The Manchester diocese’s stated policy now is to tell complainants to report incidents of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities. However, as recently as June 2002, McCormack assigned to a Jaffrey NH parish a priest whom McCormack knew had paid a teenager for sex during the 1980s. See Marchocki, “McCormack Admits Knowing Rev. Cote Paid Teen for Sex,” Manchester Union Leader 12/24/02. The article reports that McCormack did not tell the parishioners about the priest’s past “because he did not consider Cote a threat.”

* CATHOLIC LAITY AND AN ESTEEMED CANON LAWYER HAVE CALLED FOR McCORMACK TO RESIGN – Laity and clergy have called for McCormack's resignation. Note especially NH VOTF's excellent response to McCormack's refusal to resign and a letter from the canon lawyer Fr. Tom Doyle, calling for resignations of NH Bishops McCormack and Christian.

The Hireling Report #35

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High court asked to reconsider ruling on settlement documents
By John Christoffersen, Associated Press Writer

December 5, 2005

STAMFORD, Conn. --In a case that could have implications for New York Cardinal Edward Egan, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport asked the Connecticut Supreme Court on Monday to reconsider its ruling that newspapers can ask for documents related to its settlement of priest abuse cases.

The 3-2 ruling by the high court last month left it up to a lower court to decide whether to release the records. The diocese wants a full panel of seven justices or judges to consider the case.

Church officials argue the high court's decision wrongly concluded that a lower court judge agreed to allow the newspapers to intervene in the case. They say the trial court judge abused his discretion and want a new hearing on whether the papers have a right to intervene.

"The decision is, therefore, inconsistent with fundamental fairness and violates the defendants' right to due process," attorney John Farley wrote for the diocese.

Church officials also said the high court's ruling leaves intact a decision by a trial court judge who "demonstrated palpable hostility" to the church and courts by alleging they were part of an effort to cover up the abuse scandal.

Egan handled the lawsuits when he was Bridgeport bishop. In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned after church records were released detailing his role in handling sexual abuse claims.

Egan, who served as Bridgeport bishop from 1988 to 2000, has been criticized for failing to notify authorities of the abuse allegations and allowing the priests to continue working despite the allegations. Egan has defended his handling of the cases.

Attorneys for The Hartford Courant, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Boston Globe argued that the public has a constitutional right under the First Amendment to see the records. They say sealing orders expired when the diocese settled the lawsuits in 2001.

A telephone message was left late Monday for Jonathan Albano, one of the attorneys representing the newspapers. The newspapers have welcomed last month's ruling and called for a speedy trial court hearing to release the records.

The thousands of documents stem from 23 lawsuits against six priests spanning the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Most of the alleged victims were altar boys or belonged to church youth organizations.

A Superior Court judge in 2002 ordered the documents released.

But the state Appellate Court overturned that ruling last year, concluding the judge had no authority to order the release of the documents. The high court disagreed, saying the judge had the authority to reopen the case docket, and ruled another judge should hear the case.

Attorneys for the diocese had argued that vacating the sealing orders would jeopardize and reveal sensitive and confidential information. The diocese said the ruling also could affect other settled cases in which parties count on the confidentiality of records.

The diocese has published names of the offending priests and removed them from the ministry, church officials said.

The diocese has spent more than $21 million settling lawsuits alleging abuse by priests.

© Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Report #41 on the Era of Peace

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Baghdad Blast Kills 27; American Possibly Kidnapped
Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fox News

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Two homicide bombers struck Baghdad's police academy Tuesday, killing at least 27 people and wounding 50 more, U.S. officials said, while Al-Jazeera broadcast an insurgent video claiming to have kidnapped a U.S. security consultant.

Iraqi police estimated the death toll could reach 40, with about 70 police officers and students wounded. Five female police officers were among the dead, police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said.

The attackers were wearing explosives-laden vests and a U.S. contractor was among those wounded, a U.S. military statement said. U.S. forces rushed to the scene to provide assistance, the statement said. The military initially said the bombers were women but later retracted the statement.

"One of the suicide bombers detonated near a group of students outside a classroom," Task Force Baghdad said. "Thinking the explosion was an indirect-fire attack, [Iraqi police] and students fled to a bunker for shelter where the second bomber detonated his vest."

Five female police officers were among the dead, Iraqi police said.

"We were sitting in the yard when we heard an explosion," said police Maj. Wisam al-Heyali. "Seconds later, we were hit by another explosion as we were running. I saw some of my colleagues falling down and I felt my hand hit, but I kept on running."

Insurgents have concentrated their attacks against Iraqi security forces. Tuesday's attack was the deadliest against Iraqi forces since Feb. 28, when a suicide car bomber attacked mostly Shiite police and National Guard recruits in Hillah, killing 125.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. military said a soldier assigned to Task Force Baghdad was killed when a patrol hit a roadside bomb Sunday. At least 2,129 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war, according to an Associated Press count.

The video broadcast on Al-Jazeera showed a blond, Western-looking man sitting with his hands tied behind his back. The video also bore the logo of the Islamic Army in Iraq and showed a U.S. passport and an identification card.

The authenticity of the video could not be immediately confirmed.

If true, the man would become the second American taken hostage in the last two weeks. A U.S. citizen was among four peace activists taken hostage on Nov. 27 by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness. Two Canadians and a Briton were also part of that group.

A French engineer was taken hostage in Baghdad on Monday and a German aid worker was abducted near Mosul on Nov. 26.

Al-Mohammedawi said he didn't have any additional information Tuesday about the kidnapping of the French engineer, Bernard Planche, but that the Interior Ministry had distributed Planche's photo to all the checkpoints around Baghdad.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Monday encouraged the kidnappers of the Briton to make contact, saying "we stand ready to hear what they have to say."

The British Broadcasting Corp. cited a Western diplomat in Baghdad as saying direct contact had been made with the hostage-takers. It did not identify the diplomat.

Straw, however, underlined the British government's refusal to negotiate with kidnappers or pay ransom.

There is no evidence the kidnappings were coordinated, and those responsible for abducting the German aid worker and four Christian peace activists claim to represent different groups. But the incidents do seem timed to coincide with Saddam Hussein's trial or the Dec. 15 elections.

Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said he thinks the sudden increase is not an accident.

"There is some sort of policy to go back to kidnappings," he said. "The elections are coming and these groups want attention and publicity. That way their political statement will get a priority in the Western media."

On Monday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that the insurgency has been stronger than anticipated, but he also said the news media have focused on the war's growing body count rather than progress that has been achieved.

"To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks," Rumsfeld said in remarks at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Also Tuesday, the Marines updated their report on the deaths of 10 Marines on Dec. 1.

The statement said the Marines from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, were not on a foot patrol, as previously reported, but were inside an abandoned flour mill when they were killed by an explosion. The troops used the mill as a temporary patrol base.

The statement said the Marines had gathered in the mill for a promotion ceremony. The military suspects one of the Marines triggered a booby trap, causing the explosion, the statement said.

"Explosive experts believe four artillery shells were buried in two separate locations," it read.