The Gaza Bombshell

The Al Deira Hotel, in Gaza City, is a haven of calm in a land beset by poverty, fear, and violence. In the middle of December 2007, I sit in the hotel’s airy restaurant, its windows open to the Mediterranean, and listen to a slight, bearded man named Mazen Asad abu Dan describe the suffering he endured 11 months before at the hands of his fellow Palestinians. Abu Dan, 28, is a member of Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamist organization that has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, but I have a good reason for taking him at his word: I’ve seen the video.

It shows abu Dan kneeling, his hands bound behind his back, and screaming as his captors pummel him with a black iron rod. “I lost all the skin on my back from the beatings,” he says. “Instead of medicine, they poured perfume on my wounds. It felt as if they had taken a sword to my injuries.”

On January 26, 2007, abu Dan, a student at the Islamic University of Gaza, had gone to a local cemetery with his father and five others to erect a headstone for his grandmother. When they arrived, however, they found themselves surrounded by 30 armed men from Hamas’s rival, Fatah, the party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. “They took us to a house in north Gaza,” abu Dan says. “They covered our eyes and took us to a room on the sixth floor.”

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Federal Immigration Policies Cripple U.S. Border Region

An in-depth assessment of the economic, political and social conditions of the 24 U.S. counties that border Mexico exposes the devastating impact that illegal immigration has had on those communities.

Failed federal immigration policies have crippled their justice system, allowed a record number of deadly diseases—tuberculosis and hepatitis among them--to infest their communities and made them number one nationally in serious crimes.

The crucial analysis was conducted by a nonpartisan coalition of elected officials from the 24 county governments located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The group (United States/Mexico Border Counties Coalition) is dedicated to addressing the huge challenges faced by U.S. municipalities located near the southern border.

Its latest report is the result of lengthy research conducted by scholars at two major universities, in the border states of California and Arizona. It reveals that the 24 counties studied spent well in excess of $1 billion in less than a decade to respond to the federal government’s failure to secure the nation’s borders and the figure includes more than $800 million annually to provide emergency health care to uninsured populations. The counties are located in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

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Expert: White House Derelict With E-Mail

For President Bush, who expresses disdain for e-mail, the White House system of electronic record-keeping is a good match.

Even if Bush used e-mail, it might get lost in the problem-plagued White House computer system.

"I don't want you reading my personal stuff," the president explained to newspaper editors three years ago on why he doesn't send electronic messages.

On Capitol Hill and in federal court, a congressional committee and two private groups are pushing for information on how the White House has handled its e-mail for the past six years and whether officials there complied with records-retention laws.

The picture emerging from testimony and court filings is one of disregard for fundamental principles that well-run private companies adhere to routinely. By one estimate, over 1,000 days of e-mail are missing from various White House offices.

"I would call this negligence," said Mark Epstein, director of technical services for Cataphora Inc., a California company that specializes in retrieval and analysis of electronic information.

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Federal Report: Preservative in Vaccine may be Linked to Disease

art.flu.jpg height=A vaccine preservative may have contributed to a case of autism, the federal government conceded after years of denying a link.

In its written concession statement, the government said the child had a pre-existing mitochondria disorder that was “aggravated” by her shots, resulting in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, converting oxygen and food into energy for every life function.

The news site Huffington Post at reported in November that federal officials had confirmed the link to thimerosal Nov. 9.

The government then sealed records of its statement, the Web site reported.

“The vaccinations received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed [the child] to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy [brain disease] with features of ASD,” the concession obtained by Huffington Post states.

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The New Art of War

If there were any doubts that the United States is preparing for war in space and cyberspace, testimony before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee last week would have wiped them away.

According to Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, "our adversaries understand our dependence upon space-based capabilities, and we must be ready to detect, track, characterize, attribute, predict and respond to any threat to our space infrastructure."

Although space threats have received much attention in the past, it was the possibility of cyberspace warfare that was given new emphasis at the hearing.

Chilton described cyberspace as an "emerging war-fighting domain." He said that "potential adversaries recognize the U.S. reliance on . . . [its] use and constantly probe our networks seeking competitive advantage," providing the reasons for developing defensive and offensive systems in this area.

U.S. cyberspace, in Pentagon terms called the Global Information Grid, serves as "a conduit that links human activity and facilitates the exchange of information," Chilton said.

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Gold Beats Financial Assets on Growing Global Distrust of Central Bankers!

By Millie Munshi and Pham-Duy Nguyen / Bloomberg

Gold, silver, platinum and palladium may be the best-performing financial assets this year as inflation and slowing growth erode the value of the world's major currencies, bonds and stocks.

Precious metals have risen at least twice as fast as the euro and yen in 2008 and returned six to 20 times as much as U.S. Treasuries. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index and all other major gauges of equities are down. Gold for immediate delivery reached an all-time high of $984.95 an ounce today, while silver traded at $20.19, the most expensive since 1980.

Investors are using metals to preserve their buying power as the U.S. dollar falls to a record and inflation accelerates. Gold, platinum and palladium may gain at least 30 percent this year as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke prioritizes cutting interest rates over controlling consumer prices, said Ron Goodis, a trader at Equidex Brokerage Group Inc. in Closter, New Jersey, who has been buying and selling gold since 1978.

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U.S. Launches Missile Strike in Somalia

Two U.S. missiles hit a house in southern Somalia on Monday, according to local officials, in a strike Washington said was directed at "known terrorists". It was the fourth U.S. air strike in 14 months on Somalia, where Washington believes local Islamist insurgents are giving shelter to wanted al Qaeda figures. "We launched a deliberate strike against a suspected bed-down of known terrorists," a senior U.S. official, who declined to be named, told Reuters in Washington.

Residents of Dobley, a remote Somali town 220 km (140 miles) from the southern port city of Kismayu on the Kenyan border, believed the missiles were targeting senior Islamist leaders meeting nearby. Dobley district commissioner Ali Hussein Nur said six people were killed, but a local politician who had visited the scene and who asked not to be named, said only three people were wounded. The U.S. official said it was too early to know what damage had been inflicted, or whether any people were injured or killed.

The official declined to give details on the type of weapon used. The Somali politician said Sheikh Hassan Turki, a local militant cleric, and other leaders from a militant Islamist group from Mogadishu were meeting in the vicinity.

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'Iraq war is the reason for US recession' says Nobel Laureate

The Iraq war has contributed to the U.S. economic slowdown and is impeding an economic recovery, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is severely underestimating the cost of the war, Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes write in their book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War" (W.W. Norton), due to be published on 3-3-08.

The nearly 5-year-old war, once billed as virtually paying for itself through increased Iraqi oil exports, has cost the U.S. Treasury $845 billion directly.

"It used to be thought that wars are good for the economy. No economist really believes that anymore," Stiglitz said in an interview.

Stiglitz and Bilmes argue the true costs are at least $3 trillion under what they call an ultraconservative estimate, and could surpass the cost of World War Two, which they put at $5 trillion after adjusting for inflation.

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Iran blames US for Iraq 'terror'

He also called on Washington to change its standpoint towards Iran and said it had to understand that the Iraqi people did not like America.

A BBC correspondent says many Iraqis see the visit as the culmination of a process of normalisation in ties.

The two countries fought a war when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980.

The BBC's Jim Muir adds that Mr Ahmadinejad has not been welcomed by all Iraqis, since some agree with the Americans' view that Iran supports extremist militias in Iraq and is to blame for much of the trouble there.

US weapons call

Mr Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Baghdad on Sunday, made his remark about the US and terrorism after US accusations that Iran was supporting militants.

"Six years ago, there were no terrorists in our region," he said after talks with Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, head of Iraq's largest Shia Muslim political bloc, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

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AirAmerica Host & Attorney Richard Greene Endorses NYC 9/11 Ballot Initiative