Monday, August 31, 2009

Our Afghan War for Pipeline & Poppy Fields

It is more likely we are in Afghanistan because someone thinks they can make a lot of money there, from the Trans Afghanistan Pipeline and so Wall Street can continue to collect the income from the Heroin poppies, just as the British did when they tried to force Afghan opium on the Chinese way back in the Opium War.

Former Senator Fritz Hollings wrote a piece for the Huffington Post asking why we are still in Afghanistan since our wars are producing more terrorists than they kill. He started off well, but sidestepped the geopolitic grown up talk that America never had about why we killed a million Iraqis and whey we are still in Afghanistan.

It certainly has nothing to do with threats to our security. If that was the case, we would have invaded North Korea after they fired missiles over Japan.

And it had nothing to do with 9/11 since al Qaeda was financed and given logistical support by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the latter going as far as evacuating top al Qaeda leaders from Tora Bora when we had them cornered there.

If we didn't go after those two nations, it's hard to believe that having our troops in Afghanistan has anything to do with 9/11.

Instead, it is more likely we are in Afghanistan because someone thinks they can make a lot of money there, from the Trans Afghanistan Pipeline and so Wall Street can continue to collect the income from the Heroin poppies, just as the British did when they tried to force Afghan opium on the Chinese way back in the Opium War, and just as Bush was trying to force oil laws favorable to oil companies on Iraq, so they could collect up to 88% of the income from Iraq's tens of trillion of dollars worth of oil.

Energy companies courting the Taliban for a pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to take natural gas to India ended shortly before 9/11. In 2006, India was concerned about continuing the project until America gave assurances that we would protect the pipeline.

The drug story is even less well-known, though the New York Times did cover the story of the Afghan president's brother being one of the largest drug smugglers in the country.

When Britain controlled Afghanistan, they owned the poppy trade. When the French owned Indochina, they owned the poppy trade there. Once we allied with the fundamentalists in Afghanistan in the 80's, drugs started flowing out of there, through Pakistan, and to the US. Do you suppose our leaders and business people are so pure they aren't getting a cut of that?

Wall Street has a bad habit of covering up their incompetence as businessmen with drug money.
The BCCI money laundering scandal involved some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, profiting from drug trafficking and handling money for terrorists. The New York Times and even PBS has even covered this drug money laundering business, and if you googled the name of your favorite big bank, you would more likely than not find they have been involved.

John Kerry has documented CIA drug dealing, confirming the work of San Jose Mercury News Reporter, Gary Webb's uncovering of the Contras selling cocaine that flooded America's inner cities. The CIA itself has an odd history of picking a fair number of directors who came not from the intelligence community but from Wall Street or corporations. Like corporate lawyer John Foster Dulles or oil man George HW Bush. So it would make sense that the agency is looking after business more than our security.

It is about money. I appreciate Hollings asking the question, but he should have provided part of the real answer too.

And I guess it would be too much to ask that our new president set aside the propaganda bullshit about our various military operations, tell us who profits from them, and what if anything the average American gets out of them, so we could make an informed decision about whether to support killing people in dirt huts with our troops and our tax dollars, and nineteen and twenty year old American kids coming home in aluminum coffins.

The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline

Why are the USA and the UK fighting in Afghanistan and why won't we they leave? The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline!! The US wants its own pipeline. It's also why the US is mucking about in Pakistan. TAP or TAPI is a proposed natural gas pipeline being developed by the Asian Development Bank. The pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. Proponents of the project see it as a modern continuation of the Silk Road. The Afghan government is expected to receive 8% of the project's revenue. Remember how the US spoke so harshly about the Soviets going in to Afghanistan? Well the US needed and excuse to go in and take control so they said it was human rights and terrorism but it was for petroleum all along. In the end its all about empire!

The original project started in March 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed. In August 1996, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) consortium for construction of a pipeline, led by Unocal was formed. On 27 October 1997, CentGas was incorporated in formal signing ceremonies in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan by several international oil companies along with the Government of Turkmenistan. In January 1998, the Taliban, selecting CentGas over Argentinian competitor Bridas Corporation, signed an agreement that allowed the proposed project to proceed. In June 1998, Russian Gazprom relinquishes its 10% stake in the project. Unocal withdrew from the consortium on 8 December 1998.

The new deal on the pipeline was signed on 27 December 2002 by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2005, the Asian Development Bank submitted the final version of a feasibility study designed by British company Penspen. Since the United States military overthrew the Taliban government, the project has essentially stalled; construction of the Turkmen part was supposed to start in 2006, but the overall feasibility is questionable since the southern part of the Afghan section runs through territory which continues to be under de facto Taliban control.

On 24 April 2008, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan signed a framework agreement to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan.

The 1,680 kilometres (1,040 mi) pipeline will run from the Dauletabad gas field to Afghanistan. From there TAPI will be constructed alongside the highway running from Herat to Kandahar, and then via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan. The final destination of the pipeline will be the Indian town of Fazilka, near the border between Pakistan and India.

The pipeline will be 1,420 millimetres (56 in) in diameter with a working pressure of 100 atm. The initial capacity will be 27 billion cubic meter (bcm) of natural gas annually of which 2 bcm will be provided to Afghanistan and 12.5 bcm to both Pakistan and India. Later the capacity will increase to 33 bcm. Six compressor stations are to be constructed along the pipeline. The pipeline is expected to be operational by 2014.

The cost of the pipeline is estimated cost at US$7.6 billion. The project is to be financed by the Asian Development Bank.



Alex Salmond, like Bush an Oil man

Salmond is the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Member of Parliament for the constituency of Banff and Buchan, and the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Gordon. He is currently serving his second term as leader of the SNP, having previously been leader between 1990 and 2000.

In 1980, Alex Salmond joined the Royal Bank of Scotland, for which he worked until 1987, first as an assistant economist, then as the Oil Economist and latterly as Royal Bank Economist. While with the Royal Bank, he wrote and broadcast extensively for both domestic and international outlets. He also contributed regularly to oil and energy conferences. In 1983 he devised the "Royal Bank / BBC Oil Index", which continues monthly publication to this day. Why does it not surprise me that its always about the oil? The West will do anything for oil and Salmond is not any better than the rest of them. Scotland may well deserve independence but she also needs to be honest with herself. Alex Salmond is just another businessman politician who serves the world bank and the multinational corporations. He is no William Wallace, my friends. There are no saints in the world of politics and international relations. The issue is not, are the Unionists right or the SNP? It's what did really happen with Pan Am Flight 103 and why? Salmond has a long record as a friend of big oil that should be noticed. I don't want to black Scotland's eye. I love Scotland but above all I love the truth.

Attack or a trick?

The lockerbie bombing case has fascinated the world since Pan AM Flight 103 exploded and fell back to earth. But in light of the SCCRC recommeding a second appeal for the man convicted of the atrocity The Firm’s reporter Steven Raeburn has uncovered potential evidence that could further see the finger of blame point much closer to home.

On the 28 June, Robbie the Pict, who spearheaded the campaign leading to the reversal of the tolling regime on the Skye Bridge, sent a letter to new First Minister Alex Salmond, which he copied to Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, and Solicitor General Frank Mulholland. It contained an extract, reproduced below, from the Zeist transcript of the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, whose conviction for the Lockerbie atrocity has been referred back to the High Court for review, on the basis that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
Robbie has looked at the trial transcript and proceedings, and followed the case closely, together with his neighbour and fellow campaigner Dr Jim Swire, representing UK Families 103.
Swire believes Megrahi to be innocent and Robbie has concluded there is sufficient evidence to warrant a fresh investigation, focusing not on a terrorist bombing but on an accident on board the ill-fated airliner. This thesis, if correct, has far reaching implications for the actions of the US, UK and Scottish Governments, and officials within the Crown Office. It requires the open-minded reader to step through the looking glass into the potentially murky world of government intelligence, covert operations and geo-politics, and consider the events of 21 December 1988 from an entirely fresh, disturbing perspective.
Robbie\'s letter begins by looking at a portion of the trial transcript.

Extract from evidence given by DC Alexander McLean, working in Sector B. (P 339)

McLean: We encountered one or two difficulties, sir. And one of the major ones was that on the aircraft there was a million sewing machine needles being conveyed and they landed with the fuselage in the sector – B Sector. And unknown to us at the time, one or two officers got pricked with the needles. And so eventually we had to spread a very large tarpaulin right along the site and move forward sort of by inch by inch.
Q: The sewing machine needles were being carried as cargo on the aircraft?
McLean: That\'s correct, sir.
Q: I understand. And they were distributed around the site as a consequence?
McLean: Yes. They caused a bit of a hazard, and that was the reason that the recovery of the bodies just took a wee bit longer than it would have done if we hadn\'t encountered such a hazard.

The above evidence seems to have been missed by all concerned but is worthy of further examination. A million sewing machine needles weigh up to three-quarters of a ton. Who would pay airfreight charges to fly needles to America, when sea freight is so obviously cheaper? Who was the sender? Who was the end-user? Where is the bill of lading, invoice and the delivery note? Is there an insurance claim by the sender?
Why did the Police put a ‘needles warning’ in the Daily Record on 27 December 1988, claiming that these were potentially contaminated hypodermics which should not be picked up? Who sends almost a ton of contaminated hypodermics to New York by air just prior to Christmas?
Alternatively, it is remarkable how similar an electric sewing machine needle is to a flechette. This weapon of terror is also less than two inches long, has a flattened portion in the centre instead of a thread hole and has small flights to ensure stability. Known as a ‘terrain denial weapon of terror’ it is dispersed in packs of thousands in an omni-directional scything motion. Witnesses have described victims as both “flayed alive” and “cut to burger-size pieces”. Royal Ordnance, at that time state-owned, were specialist packers of such warheads. There is apparently an art in lacing the layers of needles with the explosive to achieve the correct effect. The missile known as the Lockheed Hydra 70 is equipped to use such warheads.
However, in the development period from the early 1980s up until at least 1992 such missiles were having serious problems with ‘RadHaz’: their electrical components, although very sophisticated, were also very sensitive to extraneous electrical influence, commonly called ‘radiation hazard’. In layman’s terms it was equivalent to a neighbour’s garage door remote switching off your TV every time he used it, an unwanted side effect.
It is perhaps highly significant that the Maid of the Seas exploded during exchanges with Prestwick, when her navigator would be involved in relatively lengthy broadcasts confirming the flight path to be used across the North towards JFK Airport. No attention at all appears to have been given to this most obvious starting point in any investigation. Instead, we have a rush to judgment in favour of a fantastic conspiracy theory with huge flaws in the technical evidence.
Looked at rationally the actual evidence instead suggests an accident. The accident is terrible in its cause, its nature, its consequences and its implications but it is nonetheless an accident. It is of course illegal to carry munitions of war in a civil aircraft, especially if secretly. There would be serious questions concerning liability and culpability.

The testimony of one eyewitness at the crash site strengthens Robbie’s claim that Pan Am 103 may not have been brought down by a bomb at all, but by accidental misfiring of mainstream weaponry components carried illicitly on the plane.
John Parkes is a former soldier, MOD contractor, and consultant and designer of bomb blast mitigation techniques. He travelled to the scene that night from Edinburgh and returned to assist in the rescue and clear up operations that followed. He has nearly 40 years’ experience of explosives engineering.
Parkes was asked to examine the bodies of three victims in the improvised mortuary at Lockerbie Ice Rink prior to post mortem. The first victim Parkes examined was a child, perhaps nine years of age. The rear of her body showed fragmentation strikes, pieces of metal penetrating her skin. Their distribution, the blast shadowing caused by her seat, and in particular, minute holing in her socks which revealed a chemical propellant, all confirmed a specific blast signature. It revealed the type of explosive and where it was situated in relation to the girl. The holing and fragmentation in particular are not characteristic of Semtex or similar explosives, he says, and rule out a Semtex blast as the cause of the wounding.
Nor did he believe the wounds were caused by the disintegration of the plane on its descent. The fragments were propelled at high velocity; explosively driven. Pathologist Anthony Busutil, who examined the same body, concluded that what Parkes witnessed was caused by “scraping” as the body impacted the gravel of Dumfriesshire after her five-mile freefall.
Flight 103 was a modified Boeing 747 built in 1970 but refitted in 1987 to become part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), which according to the Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) \"enabled the aircraft to be quickly converted for carriage of military freight containers on the main deck during times of national emergency”. This requires reinforcement of the floor and structure, and the planes are then used to ferry troops, munitions and military equipment. Such modified CRAF planes were used for the mass deployment of troops in the run up to the Gulf War. The possibility that a CRAF modified US jumbo such as PA103 was ferrying pallets of weapons – in 1988 during the Iran-Contra era – is supported by unbroadcast news footage of the iconic nosecone section of the plane, which shows that the structure appears to have been peppered by high impact shrapnel strikes penetrating the crossbeam struts.
Sophisticated military weaponry relies on electronic triggering and jamming to function as designed. Many surface-to-air missiles are sensitive to long VHF frequency transmissions, which can cause weaponry to function and detonate.
If the US was ferrying weaponry on a civilian aircraft, resulting in 270 deaths on UK soil, it becomes apparent why the two governments would try to conceal this information.
The AAIB report, the official investigation into the cause of the crash, is imprecise about the most crucial time index of the entire flight, the moment when the explosion took place.
As Pan Am 103 crossed into the Shannon/Prestwick air traffic control zone it was required to switch to VHF2 transmission, for which there is a specific procedure. The report is inconsistent about who is talking to whom, contradictory about when communication started, vague about whether communication was one or two way between the plane and control, and contradictory about timing and transmission details.
Despite the obfuscation, it is clear that the explosives event on the plane took place during the time index when Pan Am 103 was in contact with Shanwick, having switched to using VHF2. It is unclear from the report whether or not the crew had made the long return call to Shanwick; the transmission from the aircraft itself that could have triggered any electronically sensitive munitions that were being carried.
Parkes made extensive efforts to pass his findings to the Crown Office, to MSPs, MPs, the defence teams and to news agencies. MP Phil Gallie raised the matter with Lord Advocate Colin Boyd. The Scotsman reported Parkes’s claims in August 2006, and they also received coverage from The Herald following Megrahi’s conviction, but before the appeal.
The Lord Advocate’s response to Phil Gallie pointed out that the defence team did not lead evidence during the trial to contradict the findings of the AAIB report. What he did not do was explain why his department didn’t act upon Parkes’s findings once they had been passed them. That was March 2001.
Jim Swire repeated his call for an independent inquiry on 28 June, the day the SCCRC referred the case back to the High Court. An inquiry that Labour promised in opposition, and which has, after over ten years in office in Westminster, not materialised. Given the possibility of taint within the Scottish judiciary, the UK and US Governments, the Crown Office, and at senior political level if the Parkes scenario is borne out, one can only hope such an inquiry can be convened at all.
The conclusions of the UN-appointed special observer to the trial were not widely reported after the conviction, but they are resonant with both the hypothesis that Pan Am 103 was the victim of a mid-air accident and the SCCRC’s decision to refer the case back to the High Court for a second appeal.
Dr Hans Kochler published his findings at the conclusion of the trial, saying that the presence of US and Libyan government representatives \"gave the trial a highly political aura that should have been avoided by all means\". To him it appeared that an \"incomprehensible\" verdict of convenience had been reached, to yield a politically motivated solution. \"The air of international power politics is present in the whole verdict. There is not one single piece of material evidence linking the two accused to the crime,\" Kochler concluded.
The presence of US Department of Justice representatives sitting with the prosecution, and Libyan government representatives sitting with the defence, \"leads to the suspicion that political considerations may have been overriding a strictly judicial evaluation of the case\". He described witnessing openly exercised influence from the part of \"actors outside the judicial framework\", concluding that \"the trial, seen in its entirety, was not fair, and was not conducted in an objective manner.\"
On 14 October 2005, Kochler called for a full public inquiry. The falsification of evidence he witnessed, selective presentation, manipulation and interference were \"criminal offences in any country, and the possible criminal responsibility of people involved in the Lockerbie trial should be carefully studied by prosecution authorities.\" Nothing less than a crime, he says, took place in Camp Zeist.
Before the Scottish, UK or US governments start looking for another group of suspects, the crucial question to be asked is why was the case allowed to be brought in the first place when the supporting evidence was so manifestly inadequate?
It is clear that the Scottish Crown Office proceeded with the indictment of Megrahi and Fhimah on the basis of assurances from the CIA, given well in advance of the trial, that they possessed a star witness, Abdul Majid Giaka, who claimed to be able to positively identify them both and link them to the atrocity. Scottish authorities believed the witness would be credible. He was not. Almost his entire testimony was dismissed and it was discovered that his cooperation had been conditional upon receiving payment from the US authorities, who knew from the outset he was a fantasist. This information was only given to the prosecution very late during the trial.
Perhaps in hindsight the trial should have been halted at that stage. But after Scotland’s largest ever criminal investigation, the lengthy diplomatic debate over the release of the suspects, a 19-month trial under international scrutiny, the pressure to conclude and convict was on.
Jim Swire received a remarkable insight while at a meeting with UK Families 103 at the US embassy in London. “One of our number was told by an official on the US Commission of Inquiry, in an aside that \"your government and mine know exactly what happened, but they\'re never going to tell\".
This admission to the families group reinforces the doubts raised by the UN observer, that the trial was politically, not judicially motivated. And if the flight was downed by the accidental detonation of munitions, the motives of the UK, the US and latterly Libyan governments become clearer, in the light of Kochler’s analysis.
Dr Kochler observed Libyan Governmental collusion in the trial, and half-hearted if not feeble efforts by the defence team, who firstly dropped their special defence, which incriminated the Iranian/Syrian terror group the PFLP, then compounded this by only calling three defence witnesses, including the accused themselves, who offered no testimony. \"It puts into question the credibility of the defence’s actions and motives,\" he said.
While clearing the way for Megrahi to appeal, the SCCRC reiterate not only selected grounds for his conviction, but they also go to some lengths to ensure that central planks of the prosecution case, that had become subject to considerable doubt, are reinforced. The SCCRC specifically stress their faith in the testimony of discredited forensic witness Allan Feraday. The verdicts have been overturned in three separate cases in which he gave evidence, yet the SCCRC state they are satisfied that the evidence he supplied in the Lockerbie trial, was \"different in nature\" from evidence he gave in cases that were later overturned. The English courts no longer consider him credible, but the SCCRC affirm that the Scottish High Court should.
The acquittal of co-accused Fhimah, and the conviction of Megrahi on the same indictment that contended they had to have acted in concert, rendered the verdict incomprehensible to Kochler and Robert Black, among other legal observers. Tam Dalyell once said that one has to almost be a “Professor of Lockerbie Studies” to comprehend the detail of this complex story, which has arguably become impenetrable to the public at large. Kochler and Swire’s repeated calls for a public inquiry have yet to be answered, but such an inquiry may allow the circumstances of the event to be fully examined in a way that was not achieved by the trial process.
That a miscarriage of justice may have taken place has now been accepted by the Commission. Logically, if Megrahi did not bring the plane down, the question remains: how did it happen? It is also now appropriate to ask what forces operated to allow the conviction to occur on the basis of what is now acknowledged to have been a flawed case. Claims of a cover up at Lockerbie, well supported from the Parliamentary and public record, have fuelled various alternative explanations for the cause of the event. They are based on documented reports that evidence was planted at Lockerbie, that Police notebooks were destroyed, and evidence removed from the scene without examination. The Observer’s Paul Foot reported that Dr David Fieldhouse certified and labelled 59 dead bodies under police supervision. His labels were replaced with 58 ‘official’ labels, and the 59th body disappeared. Allan Faraday, who led evidence about a recovered bomb fragment, is no longer considered accredited. And other material gathered from test explosions was erroneously presented to the trial as actual recovered evidence from the site.
These reports raise questions rather than support conclusions. However, the key question that is not being asked is why was Megrahi scapegoated, and who in Scotland permitted it? Kochler overtly claimed US and Libyan officials in the courtroom influenced the trial to yield a politically motivated outcome. Robert Black disagrees but does conclude that more subtle pressures may have been felt by the presiding judges. \"It has been suggested to me, very often by Libyans, that political pressure was placed upon the judges,\" he said.
\"I don’t think for a minute that political pressure of that nature was placed on the judges. What happened, I think, was that it was internal politics in Scotland. Prosecutions in Scotland are brought by the Lord Advocate. Until just a few years ago, one of the other functions of the Lord Advocate in Scotland was that he appointed all Scottish judges. I think what influenced these judges was that they thought that if both of the Libyans accused are found not guilty, this will be the most fiendish embarrassment to the Lord Advocate.\"
In other words, after 12 years, an 18-month trial, extensive political wrangling, and seismic shifts in international relations even to accommodate the trial, somebody had better swing. With devolution bedding in, an SNP administration at Holyrood and the introduction of the Judicial Appointments Board breaking the link between the Government and the Judiciary, it is now debatable whether those same pressures exist. The outcome of the second appeal, and the emergence or otherwise of a full independent inquiry, will be the test of the integrity of Scottish justice.


One thing I am sure of with this whole lockerbie bombing thing is we were never told the truth. Much has happened in the 20 years since this horrible event. My Father always said "Things are seldom as they Seem." This is certainly very true. The attacks on 9/11 and the nightmares of the lies told by the Bush administration concerning Iraq and terrorism have shown the world there is allot of evil that goes on hidden from the public eye. I do not think I will ever trust a politician again as long as I live. I think it's very possible the plane was loaded with weapons. The fact remains Megrahi's name should have been cleared before releasing him if he had nothing to do with any of this. The release still looks bungled any way you look at it. Guilty or innocent the whole affair has been handled so badly. If nothing else it is a horrible idea to have BP making deals until this mess is cleared up its all a disaster. After what we have been through with the crap Bush made up about Iraq having so called "weapons of mass destruction" I think any thing is possible. The way the bulk of the American electorate bought into those lies is despicable. Bush almost moved a nuclear warhead to the middle east and pretended it was a mistake. No one in the American military buys that because of the protocol involved in moving ordinates of this kind.
-Beth Maxwell Boyle

Jack Straw admits to deal with Libya: Britain agreed to back down over transfer of prisoners

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:27 AM on 31st August 2009

Jack Straw last night admitted surrendering to Libyan demands for the Lockerbie bomber to be included in a prisoner transfer deal.

Families of the 270 who died in Britain's worst terrorist atrocity expressed outrage after the Justice Secretary said 'wider issues' had been at stake.

Mr Straw confirmed he initially agreed Abdelbaset Al Megrahi should be omitted from a prisoner transfer agreement but then reversed course.

FOUR DAYS AGO: Megrahi on his sick bed at home in Tripoli, Libya, where his family say he is getting better every day

Senior MPs said mounting questions about links between commercial deals with Libya worth up to £15billion and the release of the terrorist could be answered only by a full Parliamentary inquiry.

Ministers have dismissed suggestions of a 'terrorist-for-trade' agreement as an offensive slur.

Mr Straw angrily denied that a backdoor deal had been struck over Megrahi, who was given a hero's welcome in Libya after being released by the authorities in Scotland earlier this month.

Doubts over just how sick Megrahi is were raised last night after a UK television journalist visited him at home and in hospital in Tripoli. Wearing an oxygen mask and connected to a drip, the bomber appeared much more poorly than four days ago when he was pictured with his family.

YESTERDAY: More like a dying man? Megrahi wearing an oxygen mask and connected to a drip

The Government had 'repeated and repeated' to the Libyan authorities that the Scottish administration would have the final say, Mr Straw said.

In July of that year, he had said he favoured excluding Megrahi from a prisoner transfer deal being negotiated with Libya by stipulating that anyone convicted before a certain date would not be included.

But Mr Straw switched his position - apparently after Libya used an oil exploration deal with BP as a bargaining chip.

A source close to Mr Straw told the Times today: 'It wasn't just Jack who decided this. It was a Government decision. Jack did not act unilaterally.'

On December 19, 2007, he wrote to Mr MacAskill: 'I had previously accepted the importance of the Megrahi issue to Scotland and said I would try to get an exclusion for him on the face of the agreement.

'I have not been able to secure an explicit exclusion. 'The wider negotiations are reaching a critical stage and, in view of the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom, I have agreed that in this instance the [prisoner transfer agreement] should be in the standard form and not mention any individual.'

Six weeks later, Libya ratified the BP deal.

Mr Straw said yesterday that the 'normalisation of relations with Libya' had been in the UK's interests because they had agreed to the 'dismantling of their nuclear weapons programme'.

He added: 'But was there a deal? A covert, secret deal ever struck with the Libyans to release Megrahi in return for oil? No, there was not and there is no evidence whatsoever because it is untrue.'

He said the Scottish administration had sought a 'carve-out' of Megrahi's case in the prisoner transfer deal, but in the end it became clear that would not be acceptable to the Libyans.

'They said, "If you are after the normalisation of relations, what we want is simply a standard, normal prisoner transfer agreement, not one that carves out in respect of any one prisoner".

'Given that, and yes, there were of course wider issues of relations with Libya, I gave instruction that we should agree a prisoner transfer agreement in standard form.'

Mr Straw insisted the prisoner deal was academic since Megrahi had been released on compassionate grounds because of his terminal prostate cancer.

Channel 4's Jonathan Miller, who visited Megrahi yesterday, was banned by family and doctors from asking him questions.

When he asked the bomber directly whether his release was related to the lucrative UK-Libya oil deal that was signed two years ago, Megrahi shook his head and croaked a refusal to answer.

Lockerbie bomber: MacAskill defends Megrahi medical advice

Kenny MacAskill today slammed opoposition parties for doubting Megrahi medical advice

Published Date: 31 August 2009
JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill today hit out at opposition parties who have raised questions over the medical advice he sought before releasing the Lockerbie bomber.
Mr MacAskill sparked international controversy when he freed Libyan Abdalbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, on compassionate grounds earlier this month.

The SNP minister was in Falkirk today for his first official engagement since the decision and also made it clear that trade deals with Libya had no bearing on his judgment.

Megrahi was released after medical advice obtained by Mr MacAskill indicated he had less than three months to live – but Labour have raised questions over this and the extent of the advice sought.

But the Justice Secretary said today: "The medical advice I got was from the director of health and social care from the Scottish Prison Service.

"He did not do this on a whim and fancy.

"The report he provided to me was based on information he got from a variety of people who treated Mr Megrahi before, during and after matters took a turn for the worse. I don't seek to challenge the report from the director.

"I do think it's a matter for regret that some opposition parties do seem to be seeking to undermine him.

"I accepted the report that was given to me, I accepted the information that was collated together and that seems to me the basis that every Justice Secretary has always made their decision on."

He added: "I think it's appropriate that opposition parties should maybe realise that people in public service do their job.

"I follow the guidance when they do their employment and we should support them."

The Cabinet Secretary said he was "not medically qualified" to comment on pictures which emerged yesterday of footage of Mr Megrahi in a hospital bed attached to a drip and wearing an oxygen mask.

Mr MacAskill was today visiting Falkirk fire station to see a new state-of-the-art communications system aimed at improving the safety of front-line firefighters through a priority call function which can request urgent police assistance should crews come under attack.

It comes after letters emerged at the weekend from his UK counterpart Jack Straw dating back two years which indicate the latter was unable to specifically exclude Megrahi from a Prisoner Transfer Agreement negotiated between the UK and Libya.

This came at a crucial time in negotiations about an oil exploration contract for BP in Libya. Six weeks later the deal was ratified, although Mr Straw yesterday denied commercial interests had any bearing on Megrahi's release.

Mr MacAskill said today: "I made it quite clear that my decision was based not on any political, economic or diplomatic considerations.

"I rejected the Prisoner Transfer Agreement which had been a matter of concern to the American families and American government. I thereafter considered in terms of due process in the laws of Scotland and the guidance given by the SPS an application for compassionate release."

The SNP minister reiterated that the Scottish Government had objected to the PTA when it was first agreed but found itself "overruled" by Westminster.

Megrahi was allowed to leave Greenock prison to go home to Libya to die having served just eight years of a minimum 27-year sentence.

The man who was convicted of murdering 270 people in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 returned to a hero's welcome. The scenes provoked international condemnation.

But Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson, who specialised in prostate disease research, later reiterated his criticism of Mr MacAskill, claiming there was no medical consensus about the Libyan's prognosis.

Dr Simpson said: "The Justice Secretary chose to disregard the advice of four specialists and release Megrahi on the opinion of one doctor, who we know was not a specialist.

"At the very least, Kenny Macaskill should have sought a second opinion confirming the patient's prognosis from a specialist in palliative care.

"That he did not do so showed a disregard for due process and the significance of the decision."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Steeleye Span in their Prime!

Steeleye Span
All Around my hat

All around my hat,
I will wear the green willow
All around my hat,
For a twelvemonth and a day
And if anyone should ask
me the reason why I'm
wearing it,
It's all for my true love,
Who is far, far away
Fare thee well, cold winter
And fare thee well, cold frost
Nothing have I gained,
But my own true love I've lost
I'll sing and I'll be merry
When occasion I do see,
[ Find more Lyrics on ]
He's a false, deluding young man,
Let him go, farewell he, and ..
The other night he brought me
A fine diamond ring, but he
Thought to have deprive me
Of a far better thing!
But I being careful,
Like lovers ought to be,
He's a false, deluding young man
Let him go, farewell he, and ...
With a quarter pound of reason,
And a half a pound of sense,
A small spring of time,
And as much of prudence,
You mix them all together,
And you will plainly see
He's a false deluding young man
Let him go, farewell he, and ...

MacAskill defied rules on release

Lockerbie bomber’s length of sentence ignored

Published Date: 30 August 2009
By Eddie Barnes Political Editor
KENNY MacAskill was facing mounting pressure over his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber last night amid further claims he acted against official guidelines.
KENNY MacAskill was facing mounting pressure over his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber last night amid further claims he acted against official guidelines.

The justice secretary allowed Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to walk free despite guidance stating that the bomber's 27-year minimum sentence should have been taken into account. MacAskill will now appear before the Scottish Parliament this week where he could face a joint vote from opposition parties condemning his decision.

Documents obtained from the Scottish Prison Service show that before granting compassionate release, the authorities should consider "the length of the sentence outstanding, the effect on the overall sentence if early release is granted and any comments that the trial judge made on sentencing which may have a bearing on the question of early release".

In 2001, describing his crime as "horrendous", the High Court judge Lord Sutherland first ruled that Megrahi serve 20 years. Three years later, he increased that to 27 years. Even then, the Crown launched an appeal, claiming that this tougher sentence was too lenient.

When he was released ten days ago, Megrahi had served only eight years.

With polls showing that a majority of the Scottish public opposed the release, it also emerged last night that:

• The UK Government decided to make Megrahi eligible for return to Libya under a separate prison transfer agreement because negotiations with the oil-rich country were reaching a "critical stage". Within weeks of bowing to pressure to Libya and making Megrahi part of the deal, the north African country ratified a deal with BP for exploration rights in the country.

• US Government insiders say they "would have done almost anything" to persuade MacAskill to keep Megrahi in Scottish jurisdiction – including the option of him being freed to live with his family in Scotland.

• Megrahi wants to see a public inquiry into his case, and is promising to write an autobiography setting out his version of events.

The Scottish Parliament will hold a full debate on the decision on Wednesday, when MacAskill is likely to argue that freeing Megrahi was the only real alternative, and he had received the backing of the prison service, the parole board and government officials.

The SNP Government will also point out that the same SPS guidance instructed MacAskill to consider whether keeping Megrahi in jail would have shortened his life span, as doctors feared.

But the new revelation about the sentencing guidelines comes after doubts were raised last week about whether the medical evidence required to free Megrahi on compassionate grounds was conclusive.

The same SPS guidance stipulates that a life expectancy of around three months is "an appropriate time" to consider release. Dr Andrew Fraser, the Prison Service's director of health told MacAskill on 10 August that three months was a "reasonable estimate" in Megrahi's case. However, it also emerged that four consultants who had been involved in his case had been "not willing" to offer a prognosis.

Richard Baker, Labour's justice spokesman, said: "It looks increasingly as if Mr MacAskill made up his mind to release Megrahi and then tried to marshal evidence and paperwork to justify it."

Scotland on Sunday also understands that, in the days before Megrahi's release, the US government "tried everything" to persuade MacAskill to keep the bomber in Scotland.

MacAskill told the Scottish Parliament last week that he had ruled out the option, because of the "severe" problems it would have caused the police.

However, UK Ministers were also under fire last night as it emerged they had gone back on a pledge made to the SNP Government to keep Megrahi out of a prison transfer agreement with Libya. They switched their position as Libya used its deal with BP as a bargaining chip to insist the Lockerbie bomber was included in the agreement.

In December 2007, Straw wrote to the SNP: "The wider negotiations with the Libyans are reaching a critical stage and, in view of the overwhelming interests for the United Kingdom, I have agreed that in this instance the (prisoner transfer agreement] should be in the standard form and not mention any individual."

Within six weeks of the government climbdown, Libya had ratified the BP deal. UK officials last night said the matter was "academic" because MacAskill last week turned down the Libyan request for Megrahi to return under the agreement, choosing instead to release him on compassionate grounds.


Woops I guess you call that covering you butt!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Haflinger, a golden horse!

he Haflinger, also known as the Avelignese, is a breed of horse developed in Austria and northern Italy during the late 1800s. There are several theories as to this breed's origin, but its current conformation and appearance are the result of infusions of Arabian and various European breeds' blood into the original native Tyrolean ponies. Haflinger horses are relatively small, are always chestnut in color, and have distinctive gaits described as energetic but smooth. The breed is well-muscled, but with an elegant appearance. Haflingers have many uses, including light draft and harness work as well as various under-saddle disciplines such as endurance riding, dressage, equestrian vaulting and therapeutic riding programs. The World Haflinger Federation (WHF) is the international governing body that controls breed standards for the Haflinger.

I took this photo in 2005 of one of the Queen's own Haflingers near Balmoral Castle on the estate in the highlands of Scotland. She has Fell ponies, Highland ponies and Haflingers together as seen below in the second photo I took at Balmoral.

This was taken at the Crawford County Fair in Western PA, Aug. 23, 2009

The Haflinger is an old breed of small horse that originated in the mountains of the Austrian Tyrol. The name comes from the village of Hafling, part of Austria prior to the end of World War I, but now, located in Italy. The beginning of today's Haflinger can be traced to the year 1874 and the birth of the stallion, "249 Folie," out of a refined, native Tyrolean mare and sired by the half-Arab stallion, "133 El' Bedavi XXII." All purebred Haflingers trace their lineage to this stallion.

The Haflinger came to North America in 1958. Tempel Smith of Tempel Farms, Wadsworth, Illinois, imported them from Austria to begin a breeding program along with his imported Lippizzan horses. Others soon began importing Haflingers, and today there are a number of importers and breeders throughout the United States and Canada. While Haflingers are imported from Germany, Holland, England, and Italy, most continue to come from Austria.

I took this photo last week of a lovely Haflinger driving at the Crawford County Fair in Western PA, Aug. 23, 2009

Iraqi journalist who hurled shoe at Bush gets early release for good behaviour

Iraqi journalist who hurled shoe at Bush gets early release for good behaviour

By Mail On Sunday Reporter
Last updated at 1:22 AM on 30th August 2009

Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi, who became a star in the Arab world when he hurled his shoes at visiting US President George W. Bush and called him a dog

The Iraqi journalist jailed after hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush, will be released next month after his sentence was reduced for good behaviour.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi’s act during Bush’s last visit to Iraq as President turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world, amid growing anger at the 2003 invasion.

He has been in custody since the outburst on December 14 last year during a Bush news conference.

The President was forced to duck for cover as the journalist shouted in Arabic:

‘This is your farewell kiss, you dog!

This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.’

His lawyer, Karim al-Shujairi, said: ‘His release will be a victory for the free and honourable Iraqi media.’

Maybe now this brave man can get on with his life and get married as planned before this all hit the fan!

Andy Ross Ceilidh Show

The beautiful Moray Coast, Scotland

I enjoy this so much. Not all the music is to my taste but its a really fun thing to just put on and enjoy. Andy is a fantastic guy! I hope you go have a listen!

Andy has been broadcasting now for 26 years – over 22 of them on Moray Firth Radio in Inverness and for the past 3 years on Scottish Internet Radio.

Andy lives in a small town called Forres on the Moray Coast in the North East of Scotland 26 miles East of Inverness and 80 miles West of Aberdeen. For most of his adult life he has been involved in many aspects of Scottish music from the early days of television, Scottish Country Dancing, and acting as compere at many events all over the North of Scotland. Andy hopes you will enjoy his ceilidh programmes and if you wish to have a request played at any time please e- mail him well in advance to

Musicians, groups or singers who wish him to include their works on his ceilidhs please send a copy of the C.D. plus any more information to?

Andy’s Ceilidh


Little Crook,



Compassionate release: Scottish Parliament makes little impact

24 August 2009 16:15

Scottish Parliamentary questions to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in a session for which it had been specially recalled on 24 August 2009 failed to shake his basic position on the compassionate release of Abdelbaset Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber.

The MSPs' questions were basically rather repetitious: (1) what led to and what were the consequences of the meeting between Megrahi and MacAskill? (2) why was the compassionate release not to a place in Scotland? (3) would there be any leak inquiry over the early reports that Megrahi's release was imminent? (4) what did the Cabinet Secretary think about Megrahi's welcome in Libya?

The answers were actually mostly in Mr MacAskill's opening statement - itself basically a repetition of what he said when announcing the release on 20 August, resting on the planks of due process and Scottish values tempering justice with mercy even when the compassion shown did not appear to be reciprocated. On (2), the Cabinet Secretary pointed to police advice that release of Megrahi to a hospice would have required the attendance of 48 police officers to ensure security, and this and the probability of a media scrum in and around the hospice with concomitant effects on other patients led to his ruling it out as a possibility. Those who asked questions on this failed to suggest what practical alternatives there might have been. In general, the questions were not clever; and the MSPs failed to follow through on some of the points that emerged, preferring to read the questions they had so carefully prepared earlier rather than build on the answers Mr MacAskill had given when they were asked earlier by others.

The main blows landed on the Cabinet Secretary seemed to this observer to be these:

(1) the guidance on how to handle prisoner transfer agreements, while requiring the Minister to receive representations from the prisoner (whose consent to the transfer would not have been required), says that these representations will be in writing, so no actual meeting is required by those guidelines. Mr MacAskill's defence is that the meeting was requested by Megrahi and that the principles of natural justice were followed;

(2) he wasn't able to say that all existing documentation (including any notes taken at the meeting in Greenock prison) would be released, although he said that as much as possible would be; nor would he say that there would be any further publication of or inquiry into the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission report which led to Megrahi's ultimately aborted appeal;

(3) he could not say what would happen if Megrahi failed to comply with the condition of his release that he hold a monthly video conference with East Renfrewshire Council social work department;

(4) he did not say that there would be any leak inquiry. This is interesting, because Scots Law News has heard that the source of the original leak to the BBC was in London; but perhaps that is all part of the exciting speculation which has characterised so much of the media discussion in this case.

Mr MacAskill did say that he regretted the way in which Megrahi had been welcomed in Tripoli, which came about, it appears, even although both he and the Foreign and Commonweralth Office of the UK Government had apparently asked Libya to avoid such scenes in the event of release.

In the end, then, Mr MacAskill seemed to hold his ground; but the Holyrood show has not quite brought the story to a final conclusion.

Friday, August 28, 2009

US warned Scotland bomber could get hero's welcome

By DESMOND BUTLER and DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writers – 3 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder warned his Scottish counterpart in June that the man convicted of blowing U.S.-bound Pan Am Flight 103 out of the sky could get a hero's welcome if allowed to return to Libya, according to the head of a group representing the families of victims.

Holder's warning to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill came nearly two months before the bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was released from a Scottish prison and greeted by a cheering crowd on his arrival in Libya last week.

The Scottish administration has faced unrelenting criticism from both the U.S. government and the families of American victims of the airline bombing since the decision to free the terminally ill al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. The Scots said he was dying of prostate cancer.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi plans to visit the United States next month when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly. The trip is part of a long effort to rehabilitate his image and thaw relations between the West and Libya, but public anger over the Lockerbie release may drown out such efforts.

Notes prepared ahead of Holder's June 26 conversation with MacAskill were provided to The Associated Press by Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 Inc. Duggan says a Justice Department official read him notes that Holder used during the conversation.

Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said he would not comment on the private conversation between the two officials. It was not clear whether the notes were a complete summary of Holder's message to MacAskill.

Duggan also provided notes of a July 9 teleconference between MacAskill and some victims' relatives, an emotional exchange in which family members told stories of their loved ones and implored MacAskill not to return al-Megrahi to Libya.

The telephone conversation between the U.S. and Scottish officials dealt with Scotland's consideration of transferring al-Megrahi to Libya under a prisoner transfer treaty that Britain and Libya concluded this year. MacAskill rejected that possibility before he granted al-Megrahi's request for release on health grounds. The application for compassionate release came after MacAskill's conversations with Holder and the family members.

According to the notes, Holder said the United States opposed al-Megrahi's transfer. Among a number of reasons given, Holder warned that Libya might pardon him, if not give him a hero's welcome upon his return.

Such a transfer would be perceived as a vindication of al-Megrahi's innocence before the Scottish process had run its course, the notes say.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of the Libyan leader, was quoted Friday in Scotland's Herald newspaper as saying, "The U.S. knew a long time ago that Mr. Megrahi would probably be released and asked us to keep the reception low-key." He claimed that most of the families of the victims in Scotland "have written us to say they are pro the decision and more than 20 percent of the American families say they have no objection."

A spokeswoman for MacAskill, Fiona Wilson, said her office had notes on the call with Holder, but would not discuss the conversations with Holder or the family members until the parties consented to MacAskill's request to release the documents summarizing them, which he hopes will help explain his decision.

Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, was convicted in 2001 of taking part in the bombing of the Pan Am flight on Dec. 21, 1988, and sentenced to serve a minimum 27 years in prison. The airliner, which was carrying mostly American passengers to New York, was destroyed by a bomb in its cargo hold as it flew over Lockerbie. All 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground died.

Although Libya accepted formal responsibility for the bombing, many there see al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the bombing, as an innocent victim made a scapegoat by the West. Even as he left prison, al-Megrahi, protested his innocence.

In the July 9 conversation with family members, MacAskill said the Scottish authorities had asked the British government to include an exemption for the Lockerbie case when it negotiated the prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, according to notes of the teleconference MacAskill's office provided to family members this week. He said that because the exemption was not included, he was bound to consider the possibility of a transfer.

MacAskill told the family members that "he would be making his decision on judicial grounds alone and that economic and political matters would not be part of the process."

Since al-Megrahi's release, Scottish and British authorities defended themselves against accusations that they sought to return the Libyan in order to curry favor with Libyan authorities dangling business deals. Libyan officials have said that they repeatedly raised al-Megrahi's release when negotiating commercial deals and had sought the prisoner transfer agreement specifically with al-Megrahi in mind.

Gadhafi's son told the Herald that "Lockerbie is history. The next step is fruitful and productive business with Edinburgh and London. Libya is a promising, rich market and so let's talk about the future."

In the teleconference, family members told of the two decades they have suffered since the deaths of their loved ones.

Duggan says MacAskill's office provided families no indication that he was considering releasing al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds and did not respond to correspondence following the teleconference.

Some family members who joined the call with MacAskill said they had believed that MacAskill opposed returning al-Megrahi to Libya and was sympathetic to their position. They say they now feel betrayed.

In an e-mail sent to MacAskill on Wednesday, Michelle Lipkin, who lost her father, Frank Ciulla, on the flight, said she left the teleconference "feeling optimistic."

"I had faith that the right decision would come, and I am stunned by the unfathomable decision you have made," she wrote.

Brian Flynn, whose brother John was killed, said he also thought MacAskill shared the families' opposition to returning al-Megrahi.

"Now it seems that MacAskill was just being patronizing," he said.


Associated Press writer Ben McConville in Edinburgh, Scotland, contributed to this report.

Congressman: Gadhafi won't stay in N.J.

Lawmaker says he has been assured about Libyan leader's U.S. trip The warm greeting for Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, right, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, from Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has angered a mayor in New Jersey, the home of 38 of the paseengers killed in the attack on a jet over Scotland.

updated 6:06 p.m. ET, Fri., Aug 28, 2009

NEWARK, N.J. - U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman said late Friday he has been given assurances from a representative of the Libyan government that Moammar Gadhafi won't stay in Englewood, N.J., when he visits the United States next month to address the U.N. General Assembly, a visit that has sparked angry protests.

The Libyan government has been renovating an estate there ahead of Gadhafi's first U.S. visit. But Gadhafi is unwelcome in New Jersey, which lost 38 residents in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack, which killed 270 people, is widely believed to be the work of Libyan intelligence.

Rothman said he was told of the decision to keep Gadhafi out of Englewood by former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, whose firm represents the Libyan government in Washington, D.C.

"I am very pleased that Moammar Gadhafi will apparently not be coming to Englewood," said Rothman, who thanked the Libyan government for its help. "His appearance would have presented unnecessary safety and security issues for the residents of Englewood and the Libyan diplomats."

Rothman's information has not been confirmed by the White House or U.S. Department of State.

The news that Gadhafi may not be staying in Englewood came as the city sought an injunction in Bergen County Superior Court to halt renovations at the sprawling estate. A hearing on the request, which would allow Englewood police to stop work there, is scheduled for Monday.

Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes vowed to pursue the injunction.

"The Libyans have lied before, so we're still going forward," Wildes said.

Bomber welcomed with cheers
Gadhafi has worked to try to rehabilitate his image in recent years but angered the U.S. and Britain last week with the warm welcome given to Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds because he's dying of cancer and returned to Libya. A cheering crowd at the Tripoli airport greeted al-Megrahi, who was accompanied by Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and U.S. senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey have joined residents in protesting Gadhafi's likely presence in the upscale community about 12 miles from Manhattan.

"The one thing we do not want is Gadhafi in New Jersey," said Kara Weipz, of Mount Laurel, N.J., whose 20-year-old brother, Richard Monetti, was on Pan Am Flight 103.

Gadhafi was expected to pitch a ceremonial Bedouin-style tent on the grounds for entertainment purposes after a request to erect it in Manhattan's Central Park was rejected due to logistics and security concerns, officials said.

Years of image rehab
The Libyan government, which bought the Englewood estate in 1982, has been renovating the property extensively in anticipation of Gadhafi's visit, expected to be the culmination of a yearslong effort to repair his international image, which has included denouncing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He has ruled the oil-rich North African kingdom since 1969.

But the New York metropolitan area suffered a heavy toll in the Pan Am attack and remains hostile to Gadhafi. The 97 residents of New York and New Jersey killed on the plane represent more than half the 189 Americans who died.

Wildes said mansion workers have violated numerous city ordinances with their renovations to the 5-acre estate.

The city sought to slow the renovation in a Monday stop work order, which carries a $2,000-a-day fine, but the Libyans ignored the order. The injunction would allow Wildes to send police in the city of 28,000 residents onto the property to halt work.

The four U.S. senators from New York and New Jersey, all Democrats, said they will introduce a resolution condemning al-Megrahi's release and his welcome home to Libya.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, of New Jersey, described the welcome as "sick" and "a shocking insult to decency."

Sen. Charles Schumer, of New York, said the Libyan government should apologize.

"The victims' families have had no peace since the day this evil act occurred and now their wounds have been reopened," he said.

Three in five Scots oppose Megrahi's release

Alison Orr, who wrote an open letter to Hillary Clinton

Published Date: 29 August 2009
By David Maddox
Scottish Political Correspondent

SCOTS believe that their country's reputation has been badly damaged by the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, a new poll has revealed.
The ICM poll of 1,005 people across Scotland also showed that a clear majority disagreed with the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, with 60 per cent opposed and just 32 per cent in favour.

Opponents of the SNP government last night said the poll added to growing evidence that the decision taken by SNP justice secretary Kenny MacAskill was not one which commanded support in the country.

And there appeared to be question marks over whether Mr MacAskill was giving his real reasons for Megrahi's compassionate release.

The poll, conducted for the BBC, revealed that 68 per cent did not think his decision was made purely on legal grounds, as Mr MacAskill has insisted.

This follows conjecture over whether trade agreements played a part or whether the minister had private doubts over Megrahi's guilt.

The survey also showed that the reputations of both the Scottish and UK governments have been dealt a blow domestically by the events of the last fortnight.

Even though he played no part in the decision, the reputation of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suffered according to 68 per cent of those polled. He has consistently refused to say whether he believes it was correct to release Megrahi.

The Scottish Government fared even worse, with 76 per cent believing it was now held in lower esteem.

Even 53 per cent of those who agreed with Mr MacAskill's decision accepted that the Scottish Government's reputation had been damaged.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie claimed the poll showed that Alex Salmond's government had got it wrong.

She said: "The SNP, a party which boasts that it stands up for Scotland, has actually let Scotland down badly.

"But it is not just Alex Salmond who has been found wanting on the international stage, Gordon Brown has played his part too. What murky deals have been going on behind the scenes to free Mr Megrahi?"

The one crumb of comfort for the SNP was that only 32 per cent thought that Mr MacAskill should resign, compared to 60 per cent who believe he should continue in office.

But the greatest concern is over Scotland's reputation abroad, with 74 per cent believing it has been dealt a serious blow following the scenes of Saltires waving at the hero's reception for Megrahi in Tripoli.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: "What is of serious concern is that three-quarters of those polled say it has damaged Scotland's reputation abroad. Alex Salmond now has to come forward and say how he intends to repair that damage.

"I believe the whole process was mishandled from start to finish and a clear majority say it was wrong for Mr MacAskill to visit Megrahi in prison. Kenny MacAskill must return to the Parliament to justify his mishandling of this affair."

This is the second poll taken in Scotland which has revealed that a majority of voters oppose the compassionate release.

A Yougov poll carried out earlier this week showed Scots split 51 per cent against and 43 per cent in favour.

It also provided evidence of a knock-on effect to SNP support while backing for independence fell to a long-time low of 28 per cent. This followed concerns about how an SNP led independent Scotland would conduct its foreign policy.

Mr Salmond's personal rating dropped by four points to 32 per cent, a new low since taking power in 2007.

But last night Mr MacAskill came out fighting.

A spokesman said: "The justice secretary made a brave and difficult decision, and the poll shows strong support for him, even among people who disagree with the decision.

"Regardless of their view, people recognise that Mr MacAskill upheld the due process of Scots law in difficult circumstances. It was inevitably controversial, but we believe will be seen as the right decision for the right reasons."

There were also problems for Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott last night. Former UK party leader Charles Kennedy has come out in support of the decision despite opposition to it from Mr Scott.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said: "It is not surprising that some disagree very strongly, given the scale of the atrocity committed, but I think the decision was probably the right one, even if it was not necessarily taken in the right way."

He added: "This is not a party political matter, and it should not really be an international political matter either."

Former Liberal leader and Holyrood presiding officer Lord Steel has also supported Mr MacAskill and the YouGov poll showed a majority of Liberal Dem voters thought MacAskill had done the right thing.

There have been calls made in The Scotsman by church leaders for a free vote on the issue in Holyrood when it is debated next Wednesday.

Glasgow Roman Catholic Archbishop Mario Conti and Rev Ian Galloway, Convener of the Church of Scotland's church and society group, are among Mr MacAskill's highest profile supporters on the issue.

At least three Liberal Dem MSPs are understood to support Megrahi's release and Labour's Malcolm Chisholm also opposes his party's line against it.

How Scots answered poll

Was Kenny MacAskill's decision right or wrong? Right: 32% Wrong: 60% Don't know: 8%

Should MacAskill have visited Megrahi in Greenock prison? Yes: 36% No: 52% Don't know: 12%

Do you believe the decision was taken purely legal grounds as claimed by MacAskill? Yes: 20% No: 68% Don't know: 12%

Should MacAskill resign as justice secretary? Yes: 36% No: 56% Don't know: 8%

Has the Scottish Government's reputation been damaged? Yes: 76% No: 21% Don't know: 3%

Has Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reputation been damaged? Yes: 68% No: 29% Don't know: 3%

How has it affected Scotland's reputation? Damaged 74% No difference: 10% Enhanced: 11% Don't know: 5%

Conversion felt like 'coming home'

Cherie drove me to become Catholic, reveals Tony Blair, claiming conversion felt like 'coming home'

By Nick Pisa
Last updated at 11:56 AM on 28th August 2009

Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism was spurred by his wife.

Speaking for the first time about his conversion two years ago, the former prime minister said wife Cherie Blair won the toss when they decided where to go to Mass.

He told a religious conference in Italy: 'Frankly this all began with my wife.

'I began to go to Mass and we went together. We could have gone to the Anglican or Catholic church - guess who won?'

'Where my heart is': Tony Blair and wife Cherie arrive at a service in memory of Pope John Paul II at London's Westminster Cathedral

Mr Blair chose to remain a member of the Church of England after spin doctor Alistair Campbell famously warned him: 'We don't do religion'.

But the former premier, who set up The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, last night told the Communion and Liberation Committee in Rimini, Italy, that switching to Catholicism was like 'coming home' and is now 'where my heart is.'

According to London's Evening Standard, he said: 'As time went on, I had been going to Mass for a long time... it's difficult to find the right words. I felt this was right for me. There was something, not just about the doctrine of the Church, but of the universal nature of the Catholic Church.'

He told the delegates of how he had been to Mass in several countries in the past few weeks and described an incident at the end of a service in Tokyo where he had been asked to stand up and talk about himself.

He said: 'For the first time in a long while I was able to stand up and tell a crowd of Japanese, 'I'm Tony and I'm from London'.'

Mr Blair, who began his speech in Italian, said: 'It is a pleasure always to be in Italy. It is here in this country that I have spent many happy times and where 30 years ago, almost to the day, I proposed to my wife and three decades and four children later, I at least am still pleased to recall the memory.

'Ever since I began preparations to become a Catholic I felt I was coming home and this is now where my heart is, where I know I belong.'

In his speech entitled 'Person, Community and State', he made a brief reference to his own journey from popular Opposition leader to heavilycriticised premier.

'As Prime Minister of the UK for 10 years, but also as leader of the Labour Party for 13, during which time I reformed its constitution precisely around the relationship between the individual and the state, I learnt many things.

'I began hoping to please all of the people all of the time; and ended wondering if I was pleasing any of the people any of the time. But that's another story.

'In my foundation - dedicated to respect and understanding between the religious faiths - I always say clearly I am and remain a Christian, seeking salvation through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Fat Wars, America's Weight Rage

America’s War on the Overweight

Anti-fat rhetoric is getting nastier than ever. Why our overweight nation hates overweight people.

What Pop Culture Tells Us About Being Fat In America

By Kate Dailey and Abby Ellin | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Aug 26, 2009 | Updated: 8:08 a.m. ET Aug 26, 2009

Practically the minute President Obama announced Regina M. Benjamin, a zaftig doctor who also has an M.B.A. and is the recipient of a MacArthur "genius grant," as a nominee for the post of Surgeon General, the criticism started.

The attacks were vicious—Michael Karolchyk, owner of a Denver "anti-gym," told Fox News' Neil Cavuto, "Obesity is the No. 1 issue facing our country in terms of the health and wellness, and she has shown not that she was born this way, not that she woke up one day and was obese. She has shown through being lazy, and making poor food choices, that she's obese."

"This is totally disgusting to have some one so big to be advocating health," wrote one YouTube commenter.

The anger about Benjamin wasn't the only example of vitriol hurled at the overweight. Cintra Wilson, style columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote a column so disdainful of JCPenney's plus-size mannequins that the Times' ombsbudman later wrote that he could read "a virtual sneer" coming through her prose. A NEWSWEEK post about Glamour’s recent plus-size model(in fact, a normal-sized woman with a bit of a belly roll) had several commenters lashing out at the positive reaction the model was receiving. "This model issue is being used as a smoke screen to justify self-destructive lifestyle that cost me more money in health care costs," one wrote. Heath guru MeMe Roth has made a career out of bashing fat—she called size 12 American Idol Jordan Sparks a "bad role model" on national television, and derided size 2 Jennifer Love Hewitt for having cellulite. (That Roth is considered something of an extremist doesn't stop the media attention.) Virtually any news article about weight that is posted online garners a slew of comments from readers expressing disgust that people let their weight get so out of control. The specific target may change, but the words stay the same: Self-destructive. Disgusting. Disgraceful. Shameful. While the debate rages on about obesity and the best ways to deal with it, the attitudes Americans have toward those with extra pounds are only getting nastier. Just why do Americans hate fat people so much?

Fat bias is nothing new. "Public outrage at other people's obesity has a lot to do with America from the turn of the 20th century to about World War I," says Deborah Levine, assistant professor of health policy and management at Providence College. The rise of fat hatred is often seen as connected to the changing American workplace; in the early 20th century, companies began to offer snacks to employees, white-collar jobs became more prominent, and fewer people exercised. As thinness became rarer, says Peter N. Stearns, author of Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West and professor of history at George Mason University, it was more prized, and conversely, fatness was more maligned.

At the same time, people also paid a lot of attention to President Taft's girth; while Taft was large, he wasn't all that much heavier than earlier presidents. Newspapers questioned how his weight would affect diplomacy and solicited the funniest "fat Taft" joke. "This [period] is also when you get ready-to-wear clothing," says Levine. "For the first time, [people were] buying clothes in a certain size, and that encourages a comparison amongst other people." Actuarial tables began to connect weight and shorter lifespan, and cookbooks published around World War I targeted the overweight. "There was that idea that people who were overweight were hoarding resources needed for the war effort," Levine says. She adds that early concerns were that overweight American men would not be able to compete globally, participate in international business, or win wars.

Fatness has always been seen as a slight on the American character. Ours is a nation that values hard work and discipline, and it's hard for us to accept that weight could be not just a struggle of will, even when the bulk of the research—and often our own personal experience—shows that the factors leading to weight gain are much more than just simple gluttony. "There's this general perception that weight can be controlled if you have enough willpower, that it's just about calories in and calories out," says Dr. Glen Gaesser, professor of exercise and wellness at Arizona State University and author of BigFat Lies: The Truth About Your Weight and Your Health, and that perception leads the nonfat to believe that the overweight are not just unhealthy, but weak and lazy. Even though research suggests that there is a genetic propensity for obesity, and even though some obese people are technically healthier than their skinnier counterparts, the perception remains "[that] it's a failure to control ourselves. It violates everything we have learned about self control from a very young age," says Gaesser.

In a country that still prides itself on its Puritanical ideals, the fat self is the "bad self," the epitome of greed, gluttony, and sloth. "There's a widespread belief that fat is controllable," says Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. "So then it's unlike a disability where you can have compassion; now you can blame the individual and attribute all kinds of mean qualities to them. Then consider the thinner people that are always watching what they eat carefully—fat people are symbols of what they can become if they weren't so virtuous."

But considering that the U.S. has already become a size XL nation—66 percent of adults over 20 are considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control—why does the stigma, and the anger, remain?

Call it a case of self-loathing. "A lot of people struggle themselves with their weight, and the same people that tend to get very angry at themselves for not being able to manage their weight are more likely to be biased against the obese," says Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. "I think that some of this is that anger is confusion between the anger that we have at ourselves and projecting that out onto other people." Her research indicates that younger women, who are under the most pressure to be thin and who are also the most likely to be self-critical, are the most likely to feel negatively toward fat people. .

As many women's magazines' cover lines note, losing the last five pounds can be a challenge. So why don't we have more compassion for people struggling to lose the first 50, 60, or 100? Some of it has to do with the psychological phenomenon known as the fundamental attribution error, a basic belief that whatever problems befall us personally are the result of difficult circumstances, while the same problems in other people are the result of their bad choices. Miss a goal at work? It's because the vendor was unreliable, and because your manager isn't giving you enough support, and because the power outage last week cut into premium sales time. That jerk next to you? He blew his quota because he's a bad planner, and because he spent too much time taking personal calls.

The same can be true of weight: "From working with so many people struggling with their weight, I've seen it many times," says Andrew Geier, a postdoctoral fellow in the psychology department at Yale University. "They believe they're overweight due to a myriad of circumstances: as soon as my son goes to college, I'll have time to cook healthier meals; when my husband's shifts change at work, I can get to the gym sooner.…" But other people? They're overweight because they don't have the discipline to do the hard work and take off the weight, and that lack of discipline is an affront to our own hard work. (Never mind that weight loss is incredibly difficult to attain: Geier notes that even the most rigorous behavioral programs result in at most about a 12.5 percent decrease in weight, which would take a 350-pound man to a slimmer, but not svelte, 306 pounds).

But why do the rest of us care so much? What is it about fat people that makes us so mad? As it turns out, we kind of like it. "People actually enjoy feeling angry," says Ryan Martin, associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, who cites studies done on people's emotions. "It makes them feel powerful, it makes them feel greater control, and they appreciate it for that reason." And with fat people designated as acceptable targets of rage—and with the prevalence of fat people in our lives, both in the malls and on the news—it's easy to find a target for some soul-clearing, ego-boosting ranting.

And it may be, that like those World War I-era cookbook writers, we feel that obese people are robbing us of resources, whether it's space in a row of airline seats or our hard-earned tax dollars. Think of health care: when president Obama made reforming health care a priority, it led to an increased focus on obesity as a contributor to health-care costs. A recent article in Health Affairs, a public-policy journal, reported that obesity costs $147 billion a year, mainly in insurance premiums and taxes. At the same time, obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes have spiked, and, while diabetes can be treated, treatment is expensive. So the overweight, some people argue, are costing all of us money while refusing to alter the behavior that has put them in their predicament in the first place (i.e., overeating and not exercising).

The reality is much more complicated. It's a fallacy to conflate the unhealthy action—overeating and not exercising—with the unhealthy appearance, says Schwartz: some overweight people run marathons; eat only organic, vegetarian fare; and have clean bills of health. Even so, yelling at the overweight to put down the doughnut is far from productive. "People are less likely to seek out healthy behaviors when they're criticized by friends, family, doctors, and others," says Schwartz. "If people tell you that you're disgusting or a slob enough times, you soon start to believe it." In fact, fat outrage might actually make health-care costs higher. In a study published in the 2005 issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law,Abigail Saguy and Brian Riley found that many overweight people decide not to get help for medical conditions that are more treatable and more risky than obesity because they don't want to deal with their doctor's harassment about their weight. (For instance, a study from the University of North Carolina found that obese women are less likely to receive cervical exams than their thinner counterparts, in part because they worry about being embarrassed or belittled by the doctor because of their weight.)

The bubbling rage against fat people in America has put researchers like Levine in a difficult position. On the one hand, she says, she wants to ensure that obesity is taken seriously as a medical problem, and pointing out the costs associated with obesity-related illnesses helps illustrate the severity of the situation. On the other hand, she says, doing so could increase the animosity people have toward the overweight, many of whom may already live healthy lives or may be working hard to make heathier choices.

"The idea is to fight obesity and not obese people," she says, and then pauses. "But it's very hard for many people to disentangle the two."

Correction: Due to an editing error, this article originally attributed Andrew Geier as saying that rigorous behavior-based weight loss programs result in a 25 percent decrease in weight, not 12.5 percent. The statistic, and corresponding example, have been corrected.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kennedy portrait by Warhol installed at DC museum

Warhol, Andy (1928 - 1987)
Title: Edward Kennedy, 1980
Medium: Original Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board with Diamond Dust

Associated Press Writer

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington is installing an Andy Warhol portrait of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in its remembrance gallery.

Gallery spokeswoman Julia Zirinsky says the silkscreen print was to be on view when the museum opened Thursday. It's part of the museum's collection.

Kennedy died Tuesday at age 77 after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. He will be buried Saturday evening at Arlington National Cemetery.

The portrait gallery only recently began displaying portraits of prominent figures who have died. The remembrance gallery opened after Michael Jackson died in June.

The portrait was created in 1980 to raise money for Kennedy's presidential campaign. The late pop artist uses colors of the American flag and diamond dust as special features in the print.

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