O' Canada.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

For all of us political junkies, a foreign leaders trip to Ottawa is like Diplomacy 101. Given the geography of North America, this is not surprising.  Canada and the United States are neighbours living in close quarters along a relatively porous border and share about $1.5 billion worth of trade daily making the two countries the largest trade partners in the world.

Almost a tradition of sorts that a newly elected president comes to Ottawa for their first foreign trip. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton made Canada their first stop, but recently wasn't this way. George W. Bush, journeyed south to Mexico for his first venture beyond his country's borders and waited nearly four years before being met in Canada's capital by hordes of angry protesters.

Air Force One landed at the Ottawa airport at approximately 10:24 am in steady snow and was greeted by Governor General Michaelle Jean, heading Obama into a day of meetings on touchy topics with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Under a cheering crowd of more than 1,000 people greeted Obama as his motorcade pulled up to Parliament Hill. One person carried a sign that read "Yes we CANada!" 

Obama came bearing a pro-trade message to assuage Canadian concerns over protectionism; a promise of a new strategy in Afghanistan as Canada moves to pull out all its troops there by 2011; and talk of clean-energy cooperation as controversy hangs over Canada's oil-rich sands.

Harper and Obama met privately for 33 minutes, a session originally slated to last only 10 minutes. They then moved on to a meeting and working lunch with their staff.  After a few hours, Obama said at a Parliament Hill press conference.  "I love this country. We could not have a better friend and ally." 

Both leaders welcomed efforts to strengthen both countries economies and said the two neighbours would work to strengthen the auto industry."The work that's being done by this government to stimulate the economy on this side of the border is welcomed, I've provided Prime Minister Harper with an assurance that I want to grow trade and not contract it," he said.

"We concur on the need for immediate, concerted action to restore economic growth and to protect workers and families hit hardest by the recession through lowering taxes, ensuring access to credit, and unleashing spending that sustains and stimulates economic activity," Harper said.

The news conference was short on detail, especially since Obama has caused some nervousness in Canada by promising during the presidential campaign to renegotiate NAFTA, the trade agreement linking the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

And the "Buy American" provision in the $787 billion US economic recovery plan requires that only U.S.-made iron, steel and manufactured goods be used for public works projects receiving money from the package. However, Obama has acknowledged previously that any purchases must be in line with international trade treaties, such as NAFTA.  Harper said NAFTA gives both countries some leeway in domestic buying but both leaders said as economies around the world face challenges, it's important for the US and others to resist calls for protectionism.

Harper had said Obama's presidency is ushering in a new era of North American co-operation against climate change after George W. Bush's inaction held back Canada's ability to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions. In an interview with CNN yesterday, Harper insisted that Canada's climate-change policy has been hamstrung by the inaction of its largest trading partner.  "In Canada, we've been wrestling for the last decade or so with our desire to try to have a regime, a regulatory regime, that would diminish our own carbon emissions. But we've been trying to do so in an integrated economy when the United States has not been willing to do so," in an interview to be broadcast in two parts yesterday and today.

The issue has become a hot-button backdrop for the visit, as environmentalists campaign against what they call Alberta's "dirty oil," fearing Harper is seeking to shelter the oil sands from emissions regulation.

Obama closed the press conference by thanking Canadians who helped in his presidential election campaign last year and joking about Ottawa's cold and snowy February weather.  "I want to thank some of the Canadians who came over the border to campaign for me during the election. It was much appreciated. And I am looking forward to coming back to Canada as soon as it warms up."

Upon leaving Parliament Hill, Obama made a quick unscheduled stop in Ottawa's Byward Market, near the US Embassy. Obama was served a "beavertail", a treat that consists of a deep-fried flatbread covered with cinnamon and sugar. Obama also bought souvenir snow globes for his two daughters. Asked if he ate the 'beavertail', Obama said, "I ate a little of it. It's very large!"

Jessica Millien, 17, an employee at the Beaver Tail Hut, said she screamed for five minutes with excitement after meeting Obama in person. Asked by security to bring one outside to Obama who was standing across the street with secret service guards around him.  "I gave him his tail and shook his hand and had a conversation with him," she said. "I almost fainted. He just asked me about my day and what the tails consisted of. He's a really down-to-earth guy."

Obama did not address Parliament during his six-hour visit, but met with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff at the airport before he was set to depart for Washington.  All in all it was a productive trip and it would seem that Obama has left his 80% favourability with Canadians intact.

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Political Maturity Spreads North.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Back in early December, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suspended the country’s legislature for more than 7 weeks in a bid to stave off a challenge from opposition parties seeking to bring down his government. This week however, with a new budget unveiled on Tuesday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty it would appear that with new Liberal leadership, political maturity is back in the great white north.

The Conservative budget includes $85 billion in projected red ink, new regional-development programs, industry-specific bailouts and a scattershot of government funding for everything from cultural festivals to community newspapers, the profoundly 'liberal' 2009-10 budget drew both outrage and deep introspection from conservatives from sea to shining sea.

The newly minted Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff made the correct decision on Wednesday in announcing that the Liberals will support the budget delivered this week. Flawed though it may be, it mostly embraces the approach the Liberals advocated – and its defeat would force the country into another prolonged period of political uncertainty that it can ill afford. Even to play a tactical game of chicken by demanding major amendments in return for the budget's passage could have forced the Liberals into a corner, creating a stand-off that Ignatieff was smart to avoid.

And most importantly Ignatieff has helped end one of the ugliest political chapters in Canada's recent history, and may well have contributed to a greater maturity in addressing the country's enormous economic challenges.

For the Liberals, at least, the threat of a coalition served its purpose. It humbled Harper, and forced the Conservatives – after holding on to government only by prolonging Parliament – to embrace many of the opposition's budgetary demands. And inadvertently, it forced the Liberals to address their own leadership issues, accelerating the replacement of Stéphane Dion by a leader with the apparent ability to seriously challenge Harper.

In the long run, however, the coalition was untenable. Forming a three-headed monster of a government, beholden to staunch leftists and sovereigntists, would have destroyed the Liberals' identity and credibility. More important, for Canada's immediate interests, it would have resulted in a fragile and unwieldy government at a time when strong and steady leadership is required.

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Education, Bravery and the Hideousness of Fanaticism.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Several news outlets are revisiting the heinous acts that occurred back in November when 15 Afghani schoolgirls and their female teachers were viciously attacked by men on motorcycles in Kandahar.

One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside them on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.

"Are you going to school?"

The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of females and the act was meant to terrorize them into staying home. A literal violent attempt to expunge any element of free will in their minds, to burn or sear obedience into them. These despicable acts are an apt expression of the medieval thinking that characterized the rule of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001 in Afghanistan and at which times girls were banned from schools.

For a few days after the attacks, parents kept their children away from the 5 year old Mirwais School for Girls built by the Japanese government. Then the headmaster, Mahmood Qadari - a man - reached out to the parents, and promised them greater police protection. "If you don't send your daughters to school, then the enemy wins," Qadari told the New York Times. "I told them not to give in to darkness. Education is the way to improve our society."

And then an amazing thing happened, they began to come back. Today most of the school's 1,300 girls, including nearly all of the wounded ones, have refused to be cowed. "My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed," Shamsia, 17, told The Times. "The people who did this to me don't want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things." The girls' have learned to be brave -- and are providing an inspirational lesson in defiance.

Eduction is integral to any constructive future Afghanistan might have. Of the 5.7 million students enrolled last year, according to Afghan government data, 35% are girls. About 800,000 of the total were new students, and 40% of them are girls. The high schools graduated 69,000 students, of whom 25% are girls.

During Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing last Tuesday, Sen. Barbara Boxer, of California, said"no woman or girl should have to grow up and face persecution for having being born female", and referred to acid attacks common against women in Pakistan. Clinton said the issue is "central to our foreign policy."

"It is heartbreaking beyond words that, you know, young girls are attacked on their way to school by Taliban sympathizers and members who do not want young women to be educated." Clinton responded, "This is not culture. This is not custom. This is criminal. And it will be my hope to persuade more government ... that we cannot have a free, prosperous, peaceful, progressive world if women are treated in such a discriminatory and violent way."

Some people disfigure little girls because of religious fanaticism. Some people deny Israel the right to exist because of religious fanaticism. Some people deny Palestinians the right to sovereignty because of religious fanaticism. Some people deny women the right to abortions because of religious fanaticism. Some people deny gay people the right to marry because of religious fanaticism.

In my humble opinion, the world could do without religious fanatics.

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January 21 & The Crisis of Expectation.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

On the day after the inauguration of Barack Obama, many spent the week eagerly offering up their hopes and high expectations.  While some might think that Obama is being deluged by grassroots tidings, advice and admonitions. From reversing Bush's "anti-terror'' traumas to rescuing the economy from possible depression, everyone has a wish list for the Prez. Here are some excerpts from Obama's expectant constituents.

"Letter to Obama: scale out arms dealing and make it illegal by the year 2020; write into every defense contract a requirement for a peacetime project; convert military bases to housing for the poor; require military personnel to devote part of their time to rebuilding infrastructure; fund social services and take the balance out of defense and homeland security budgets."
DEEPAK CHOPRA


"My advice to the Obama team is to scrap the business tax cuts, and, more important, to deal with the threat of doing too little by doing more. The way to do more is to look more broadly at the possibilities for government investment to provide further relief to Americans in distress - enhanced unemployment benefits, expanded Medicaid and more."
PAUL KRUGMAN


"Remember his 2007 words about Palestinian suffering and his campaign pledge to talk unconditionally with adversaries. The silence on Gaza, Obama must know, is extremely costly. The bright promise of moral leadership is sullied and squandered, along with the potential of America's ability to be an even-handed mediator."
TOM HAYDEN, peace activist


"For all Richard Nixon's faults, his trip to China is remembered as a courageous, far-sighted initiative that opened a new era in Sino-American relations. A trip to Cuba by President Barack Obama would be no less historic."
WILLIAM M. LEOGRAND and PETER KORNBLUH, LA Times


"Make a clean break from the George W. Bush regime's law of rule to our declared commitment to the rule of law. Bush-Cheney's stream of criminal and unconstitutional actions are on auto-pilot. Break these daily patterns as soon as you ascend to the presidency or be held increasingly responsible for them."
RALPH NADER


"Speak not so much to him as to America. After Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new president to implement. Roosevelt told them: `I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.'"
JOHN NICHOLS, The Progressive


"We have to stop looking at him and start looking to ourselves, the people who knocked on doors, reached out independently of the campaign, signed petitions, registered voters around the clock and organized the most amazing campaign in American history to see who has the leverage to defeat the lobbyists, special interests and Republican operatives who will do everything to derail change."
DANNY SCHECHTER, mediachannel.org


"A shift from green jobs to a broader focus on green technology. This would require federal investments on the scale of $500 billion over the next decade."
TERYN NORRIS and JESSE JENKINS, Huffington Post


"It's troubling that Obama ramped up his rhetoric about exiting Iraq to focus on what he calls the `central front in the war on terror,' Afghanistan. An escalation would drain resources vital to his goals for an economic recovery, health care and social justice at home. Too few people in the mainstream media are asking tough questions."
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, The Nation


"Now that you're president you have lots of responsibilities. As an American citizen I know some tips the people want you to take care of. My first concern is having you focus on finding Osama Bin Laden, and taking the troops to where he is instead of having them in Iraq, dying and losing family and friends, fighting for nothing. Osama is a huge threat to our country. Another tip is to try and solve if not all, but most of, poverty in Africa. Little children are dying, babies don't live to enjoy our world. Kids left orphans. Older brothers, only 12-years-old, take care of their 6-year-old sisters, no parents just them. Cardboard boxes are being used as beds. This is a problem you can't ignore. This problem is my number one concern. Please fix it. Global warming is yet another problem. It is so expensive to fix but important to fix. Go solar power, stop cutting down trees, recycle. The world should have generations of people to come. But in all the trouble of the world stop being Superman for us, be Superman for yourself and your family. The White House is full of rooms to enjoy. Take your family out to ice cream. Don't let your daughters feel like you don't care about them. Also, trust your daughters. When they go out don't send your entire pack of security, just two. Also spend time by yourself. In the newspaper I saw a before and after picture of the past presidents. They aged so much. So take time for yourself and relax. A spa, yoga, fun activities and sports, all these will help. But if you still age use Neutrogena deep wrinkle. I may be a kid but I watch the news, read the newspaper and listen to my parents' conversations. I know a lot about what is going on. Take these tips and make your job easier. Congratulations on becoming president."
YEHYA SESAY, 6th Grader, MA


"You know, if you're the president you only have two jobs: peace and money. That's it."
CHRIS ROCK

And of course here's my advice to Obama, "listen, measure and act." Yep - should be easy as pie making everyone happy.  

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Reminder: A Corrupt Media.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

In recognition of the last hours of a disastrous 8 years and for some in the media the continual excusing of Bush and his 'legacy', I thought that I would pull out an old diary, dust it off and hopefully we can all be reminded about the total failure on the part of the media in its appeasement of Georgie.

Originally posted on 6/18/08

As some will note I have written several diaries now on the failure of the fourth estate during this primary season.  The reactions to these pieces were mixed from agreement, indifference and denial of any bias in the coverage.  But with the recent feeding frenzy of the press in response to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book - nothing could be clearer: A CORRUPT MEDIA HAS FAILED.

Amongst other things, McClellan's asserts that the media's failings are primarily responsible for the rush to war in Iraq and complicit in enabling the Bush administration.

And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it... the media would neglect their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding. Was the president winning or losing the argument? How were Democrats responding? What were the electoral implications? What did the polls say? And the truth--about the actual nature of the threat posed by Saddam, the right way to confront it, and the possible risks of military conflict--would get largely left behind...

If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam Hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere--on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war.

He goes on to blame a liberal media bias, but that's a whole other story.  PBS's Bill Moyers devoted an entire show in April 2007, entitled Buying the War to answering the questions of a complicit media.

How did the mainstream press get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein to 9-11 continue to go largely unreported? What the conservative media did was easy to fathom; they had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President -- no questions asked. How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored. How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?
But what's more interesting about the fallout of this book is the sudden Mea Culpa by some members of the press.

Katie Couric:
"... I'll start by saying I think he's fairly accurate. Matt, I know when we were covering it--and granted, the spirit of 9/11, people were unified and upset and angry and frustrated. But I do think we were remiss in not asking some of the right questions. There was a lot pressure from the Bush White House. I remember doing an interview and the press secretary called our executive producer and said, `We didn't like the tone of that interview.' And we said, `Well, tough. We had to ask some of these questions.' They said, `Well, if you keep it up, we're going to block access to you during the war.' I mean, those kind of strong-arm tactics were really...
CNN's Jessica Yellin on 360:
Yellin: I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.
And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives -- and I was not at this network at the time -- but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.  I think, over time --

Cooper: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?

Yellin: Not in that exact -- they wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes. That was my experience.

Washington Post's Dana Milbank::

Of course he's right.  We didn't do as much as we could have and the fact of the matter is we did raise these questions.  And I mean I guess what Scott`s just saying in a backwards way there is they were just doing a particularly good job of keeping the facts out of the public domain.

What's worse is as Eric Boehlert points out, the warning signs were provided by Senator Edward Kennedy, who largely was ignored by the press.

Specifically, back in September 2002, with the Bush administration and much of the Beltway media rushing to embrace war with Iraq, Kennedy delivered a passionate, provocative, and newsworthy speech raising all sorts of doubts about a possible invasion. Unlike today, the political press wasn't very interested in Kennedy or what he had to say about the most pressing issue facing the nation. Back in that media environment, being the voice of American liberals didn't mean much.
So what is the moral of the story?

Boehlert puts it best "let's not forget that it wasn't that long ago that the media did their best to ignore what Kennedy had to say. And when it ignored Kennedy, and when it ignored the voice of liberals, the press -- and the country -- paid a dear price."

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Halfway to a Ceasefire! [UPDATED]

Israel called off its three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, saying Hamas was "badly beaten," but Hamas vowed to fight on.

According to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statement, the unilateral ceasefire went into effect at 2 a.m Sunday local time (7 p.m. EST). The military warned in a statement early Sunday that further Hamas attacks "will be met with a harsh response.'  Within minutes of the ceasefire announcement, several missiles struck southern Israel.  

If Hamas holds its fire, the military "will weigh pulling out of Gaza at a time that befits us," Olmert said. If not, Israel "will continue to act to defend our residents.''  Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni indicated that Israel would renew its offensive if Hamas militants continued to fire rockets at Israel.

Israel's insistence on keeping troops in Gaza raises the specter of a stalemate with Hamas, which has insisted that it will not respect any ceasefire until Israel pulls out of the territory.

In Gaza, a Hamas spokesman in hiding, Fawzi Barhoum, said in a statement from Damascus that "we will not accept the presence of a single soldier in Gaza," according to Agence-France Presse. "The Zionist enemy must stop all its aggression, completely withdraw from the Gaza Strip, lift the blockade and open the crossings."

Beyond the potential for an effective end to heavy fighting on Sunday, the shape of any lasting peace was far from clear.  The length of Israel's occupation of Gaza has now been put in the hands of Hamas. The Israeli government says it will not sign any deal with Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction and whose rule over Gaza the Israelis do not want to recognize. But Hamas is seen as likely to reassert political control over Gaza.

Olmert said the ceasefire plan responded to an appeal from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has been at the spearhead of international diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

The summit set for Sunday in Egypt is meant to give international backing to the ceasefire. Leaders of Germany, France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Turkey and the Czech Republic - which holds the rotating EU presidency - are expected to attend along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.N. chief Ban.

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What is Going on in Turkey?

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

In recent years, Turkey has been regarded as being a moderate nation in the Middle East with regard to both Israel and the West.  Israel and Turkey's 'special' relationship has gone even further with both countries forging close security ties and Turkey even seeking to develop a role as a mediator between Israel and its enemies.

But now it would appear that an outpouring of grassroots anger over Israel's Gaza operation has rocked that special relationship and there are some alarming signs in its wake.  

For context, Turkey abolished Islamic Law some 80 years ago, and has been proud of its secular tradition, but now, a large and growing group is calling for its return. Anti-Semitic sentiment was recently fueled when its 'moderate' Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared: "Allah's punishment for Israel's inhumane actions will lead to its destruction."

The week-end before, some people wrote, "We will kill you" on the door of one of the biggest synagogues in Izmir resulted in the closing down of synagogues. Near Istanbul University, a group put a huge poster on the door of a shop owned by a Jew: "Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew." A group put posters on his wall saying that: "Jews and Armenians are not allowed but dogs are allowed." Some young people are even threatening others with violence if they are seen as pro-Israel in social networking websites such as Facebook and Hi5.

As of late, Turkish society has exploded with an influx of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric, this included billboards being posted with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish expressions. Private firms are also posting anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish statements on their Websites. Bardak, a Turkish company which manufactures custom coffee mugs for Toshiba, HSBC, Cargill, Acer and Canon, has a phrase across its front page: "JEWS YOU ARE GOING TO PAY EVERYTHING THAT YOU ARE COMMITTING."

Some Turkish commentators have said Erdogan's rhetoric smacked of anti-Semitism, but the prime minister rejected the accusation.

"Neither myself, nor my government, nor anyone from my party has ever given any premium to anti-Semitism," he said. "I am a leader who has said anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity."

Whatever Erdogan's intentions are or your opinion is on the conflict in the Middle East - those signs have to give you the chills, chills, chills.

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Movement? [UPDATED]

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Today has been an optimistic day with regard to furthering peace in the Middle East.  First, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for a week-long ceasefire in Gaza to allow humanitarian assistance into the strip.

This did not go over well.  Officials close to the outgoing Olmert blasted Barak.  "The remarks constitute a lack of national responsibility," the officials said. "Ministers speaking to the media about the conduct of the war touching on cease-fire initiatives are very grave."

Reports emerged that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was avoiding a meeting with his two key ministers in order to allow the military operation to continue.  Olmert was not planning to convene the war cabinet overnight so as to again avoid confronting the issue with the ministers, both of whom support a ceasefire.

Then later Hamas has agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues.

An Israeli envoy will meet Egyptian mediators in Cairo tomorrow after a Hamas delegation concludes talks on an Egyptian truce proposal.

Olmert told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos that he wanted to bring the operation in the Gaza Strip to an end if Hamas agreed to the Egyptian proposal.

At the crux of the cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.S. is supervision to halt the smuggling of arms from Iran, through the Persian Gulf to Sudan and other countries, and finally to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramowitz, will meet with State Department officials Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Hale in Washington today, as well as officials from the White House, Defense Department and U.S. intelligence agencies, in an effort to reach a written guarantee that the United States will act more extensively against the smuggling.

If an agreement is formulated, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will travel to Washington to sign the agreement.

These seem like positive signs to me, although it seems that majority of both the Israeli and US public do support the Israeli military operation in Gaza.  Maybe this will change with an end of the hostilities.

Let's all hope for a end on the attacks in the coming days and for an Obama administration to bring on an era of peace in the Middle East.

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We Want Peace, We Want Peace!

Ankara, Turkey - January 6, 2009

Oslo, Norway - January 8, 2009

London, England - January 10, 2009

Well its either peace or something else...

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Broken Telephone in the Hyper Media-Age.

Throughout the day today I was reminded of my junior kindergarten days.  Namely of playing broken telephone. Remember the game?  Well basically -  the first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly from the one uttered by the first.

Which brings us to today, first people around the internet, and specifically in the blogosphere were shrieking from the rafters that Israel was using Depleted Uranium in Gaza then later this became accusations of Phosphorus Gas.  So I decided to investigate this further. Here is what I found:

The source of the story of Israelis using Depleted Uranium in Gaza comes from Press TV:

Medics tell Press TV they have found traces of depleted uranium in some Gaza residents wounded in Israel's ground offensive on the strip.

Norwegian medics told Press TV correspondent Akram al-Sattari that some of the victims who have been wounded since Israel began its attacks on the Gaza Strip on December 27 have traces of depleted uranium in their bodies.

The report comes after Israeli tanks and troops swept across the border into Gaza on Saturday night, opening a ground operation after eight days of intensive attacks by Israeli air and naval forces on the impoverished region.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Sunday that the wide-ranging ground offensive in the Gaza Strip would be "full of surprises."

A ground offensive in the densely-populated Gaza is expected to drastically increase the death toll of the civilian population.

But who is Press TV really?

Press TV is an English language international television news channel which is funded by the Iranian government, based in Tehran and broadcasts in English on a round-the-clock schedule. With 26 international correspondents and more than 400 staff around the world, its stated mission is to offer a different view of the world events.

Then about the Phosphorus Gas...  Well this stems from a 'credible' news source, although the reporting is well - libelous at best.

Israeli artillery shells explode with a chemical agent designed to create smokescreen for ground forces.

Israel is believed to be using controversial white phosphorus shells to screen its assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip yesterday. The weapon, used by British and US forces in Iraq, can cause horrific burns but is not illegal if used as a smokescreen.

As the Israeli army stormed to the edges of Gaza City and the Palestinian death toll topped 500, the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops' advance. "These explosions are fantastic looking, and produce a great deal of smoke that blinds the enemy so that our forces can move in," said one Israeli security expert. Burning blobs of phosphorus would cause severe injuries to anyone caught beneath them and force would-be snipers or operators of remote-controlled booby traps to take cover. Israel admitted using white phosphorus during its 2006 war with Lebanon.

The use of the weapon in the Gaza Strip, one of the world's mostly densely population areas, is likely to ignite yet more controversy over Israel's offensive, in which more than 2,300 Palestinians have been wounded.

Which leads most logical people to ask?  Why is Israel 'believed' to be using this?  Photos of course.  I have attached one for reference.

Seems concrete to me.  Let's run with the story.

In the meantime, Israel is denying this.

Israeli military spokesmen deny that their forces have used phosphorus in Gaza, despite photographs and film of munitions showing similar characteristics to the potentially lethal shells.

The Israelis have not said what kind of munitions they have been using, other than saying that their use is permitted under international law.

Phosphorous shells are not illegal if they are used to create a smokescreen or to illuminate targets, rather than as a weapon against people, military experts and human rights campaigners said yesterday.

Mark Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, said it seemed from news films that Israel had used "artillery-delivered obscurants" which were not illegal.

So now that this is all cleared up, some can run off and start quoting this as fact ;)

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