Monday, December 22, 2008

News Around the World

Mumbai gunman says he was paid $1,900 for attack - as new CCTV emerges

Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

India airports on terror alert |

The sole Mumbai gunman to be taken alive has said he was paid 150,000 Pakistani rupees – about £1,300 or $1,900 – for his part in the attacks that killed nearly 200 people, according to police.

"He has said the payment was 1.5 lakhs (150,000) of Pakistani rupees," Rakesh Maria, the joint commissioner of Mumbai police, who is one of the interrogators questioning Azam Amir Kasab, told The Times.

Police are also investigating a possible link to the United States – a mobile SIM card found with the terrorists which possibly came from New Jersey. "Nothing is confirmed, but we are looking at this and have made enquiries with mobile operators," Mr Maria said.

CCTV of gunmen walking across a parking lot after a shooting spree at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station in Mumbai

( Investigating Team Video/Reuters)

CCTV of gunmen walking across a car park after a shooting spree at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station in Mumbai

Kasab was one of two gunmen who killed 56 people at Bombay's main train station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, on Wednesday. Pictures of the casually dressed, boyish gunman brandishing an AK47 have become a definitive image of the worst terror attack in India in 15 years. Nine other terrorists were killed.

A dispute over the origin of Kasab is placing a strain on India's rapidly deteriorating relationship with Pakistan.

Mumbai police say the "baby-faced gunman" is a poor 24-year-old primary school drop out from a village called Faridkot in Pakistan's south Punjab region. They say he has confessed to being recruited by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a notoriously brutal Pakistan-based terrorist faction created to fight Indian rule in Kashmir, to carry out the Mumbai strikes.

That – or a similar account of events – is thought to be cautiously being given credence by Western intelligence officials.

Mumbai police say that Kasab was trained in camps in Pakistan for up to 18 months by ex-army officers. American intelligence officials suspect that for former officers from Pakistan's powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) gave training, according to today's New York Times.

In response, however, Pakistan's government has denied any knowledge of Kasab and has said it can not find any trace of him in three villages named Faridkot in south Punjab.

Today, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, from Delhi, to diffuse tensions between the two nuclear-powered neighbours. Yesterday she said: "We believe Pakistan has a central role to play in this [the investigation], to make certain that these terrorists cannot continue to operate and operate in this fashion,"

Police interrogators have told The Times that they are poised to settle the matter of Kasab's background through the use of "narcoanalysis" – a controversial technique, banned in most democracies, where the subject is injected with a "truth serum".

The method was widely used by western intelligence agencies during the Cold War before it emerged that the drugs used – typically sodium pentothal – may induce hallucinations, delusions and psychotic behaviour.

Deven Bharti, a deputy police commissioner in Mumbai and one of the interrogators, said that there was "no doubt" that Kasab will be subjected to "narcoanalysis".

The drug – probably sodium pentothal – will be administered through a drip and will lull Kasab into a trance-like state. Usually, a forensic psychologist then questions the prisoner.

Such methods are banned in the UK and the US, though some security officials suggest they should be adopted in terrorist cases in the West -- and some experts believe they already are.

Meanwhile, Indian officials remain under pressure to account for the lax handling of last weeks crisis.

The deployment of India's elite troops to the two luxury hotels that were stormed by terrorist gunmen may have been delayed for hours by red tape that calls for a written request to be made to the Indian Navy before they are dispatched, it emerged today.

An Indian defence spokesman based in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) told The Times that standing orders demand that a letter be sent to the Indian Navy before its Marine Commandos – or "Marcos" -- troops are ordered from their barracks.

He said that the paperwork was eventually sidestepped last Wednesday, but not until it became apparent to millions of television viewers across the world that India's commercial capital was under a massive, co-ordinated terror attack.

Despite the Marcos – regarded as the "best of the best" of India's military – being based in Mumbai they did not reach the Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi hotels until 1.30am – about four hours after the terrorist gunmen had stormed the buildings.

By that stage the militants had consolidated their positions and trapped hundreds of staff and guests.

The defence spokesman said that the troops were eventually dispatched after the chief secretary of Mumbai made a request by telephone to the chief of staff of Western Naval Command in Mumbai.

"We do not deploy troops unless we are told to," he said.

It was also reported that a private firm has withdrawn its explosives sniffer dogs from Bombay's railway system after failing to be paid.

The petition

Support UN General Assembly President Brockmann's Call for BDS against Israel

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During the 57th Plenary Meeting on the Question of Palestine, President of the General Assembly Miguel D'escoto Brockmann broke a diplomatic taboo by describing Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as similar to those of the defunct apartheid regime in South Africa.

Brockmann also urged the United Nations to use the term 'apartheid' without fear, and recommended that the United Nations

"....should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations."

Unsurprisingly, Brockmann has been branded as an antisemite by apologists for Israel.

We are appalled by the recurrent use of baseless accusations of antisemitism; they silence calls for compassion and humanity in the name of the Palestinian people. The use of such accusations to defend massive violence against civilians offends all people of conscience. The false invocation of the slur of antisemitism positions Israel, with great political and military advantage, as a victim, while desecrating Jewish histories and trivializing the real experiences and outcomes of antisemitism.

Likening Israel's policies to apartheid is not antisemitic. It is common sense. Israel's policies have been widely described in these terms by, among others, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Jamal Zahalka, Azmi Bishara, Gideon Levy, John Dugard, Omar Barghouti, Danny Rubinstein, Amira Haas, Shulamit Aloni, Meron Benvenisti, and Ami Ayalon.

Calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel is not antisemitism. It is the recognition that only such a campaign can lay the ground for a long-lasting peace based on justice and reconciliation. In the words of Nelson Mandela,

"The responses made by South Africa to human rights abuses emanating from the removal policies and apartheid policies respectively, shed light on what Israeli society must necessarily go through before one can speak of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East..."

As Israel continues to ignore the growing outrage over the blockade of Gaza, and as Israel repeatedly breaks the cease-fire, blocks humanitarian aid and prevents journalists from covering the catastrophic impact of its actions, we the undersigned express our support for President Brockmann and urge the United Nations and all member states to adopt his recommendation without delay.

Even Henry Ford was shut down


No less an industrial and financial titan than Henry Ford demonstrated that the plant hemp could be transformed into a lightweight material stronger than steel.

The perfect material for car bodies.

Who needs steel?

Maybe the guys who owned all the iron ore and coal fields (the Rockefeller syndicate) needed steel which is why for decades this simple technological possibility has been denied to us.

Venus, Jupiter, Moon Smile on Earth

venus jupiter moon photo

 December 2, 2008—The heavens smiled down on Earth Monday in a rare celestial trifecta of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon.

The planets aligned—an event known as a conjunction—Sunday night, and were joined by a thin sliver of moon on Monday.,

(Related: "Sky Show December 1: Jupiter, Venus, Moon Make 'Frown'" [December 1, 2008].)

 The rare planetary meeting was visible from all parts of the world, even from light-polluted cities such as Hong Kong and New York., People in Asia witnessed a smiley face (above, photographed from Manila, Philippines), while skywatchers in the United States saw a frown., The three brightest objects in the sky were so tightly gathered that one could eclipse them with a thumb, according to NASA's Web site., The next visible Venus-Jupiter conjunction will be on the evening of March 14, 2012, but the two planets will appear farther apart in the sky., —Christine Dell'Amore, Photograph by Bullit Marquez/AP

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