WASHINGTON — Nobel Peace Prize winner and international symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela is flagged on U.S. terrorist watch lists and needs special permission to visit the USA. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the situation "embarrassing," and some members of Congress vow to fix it.
The requirement applies to former South African leader Mandela and other members of South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC), the once-banned anti-Apartheid organization. In the 1970s and ’80s, the ANC was officially designated a terrorist group by the country’s ruling white minority. Other countries, including the United States, followed suit.
Because of this, Rice told a Senate committee recently, her department has to issue waivers for ANC members to travel to the USA.
"This is a country with which we now have excellent relations, South Africa, but it’s frankly a rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterpart, the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader Nelson Mandela," Rice said.
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, is pushing a bill that would remove current and former ANC leaders from the watch lists. Supporters hope to get it passed before Mandela’s 90th birthday July 18.
"What an indignity," Berman said. "The ANC set an important example: It successfully made the change from armed struggle to peace. We should celebrate the transformation."
In 1990, Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison for crimes committed during the struggle against Apartheid, a repressive regime that subjugated black South Africans. In 1994, he was elected South Africa’s first black president.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., called ANC members’ inclusion on watch lists a "bureaucratic snafu" and pledged to fix the problem.
Members of other groups deemed a terrorist threat, such as Hamas, also are on the watch lists.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says "common sense" suggests Mandela should be removed. He says the issue "raises a troubling and difficult debate about what groups are considered terrorists and which are not."
When ANC members apply for visas to the USA, they are flagged for questioning and need a waiver to be allowed in the country. In 2002, former ANC chairman Tokyo Sexwale was denied a visa. In 2007, Barbara Masekela, South Africa’s ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2006, was denied a visa to visit her ailing cousin and didn’t get a waiver until after the cousin had died, Berman’s legislation says.
Read between the lines people and you’ll see why our borders are open.
EL PASO, Texas — The key to curbing illegal immigration rests in the hands of Congress, the chief of the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector said Tuesday.
Chief Patrol Agent Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., in an interview with The Associated Press, said without comprehensive immigration reform border agents continue to split their attention between "economic migrants," criminals, and potentially terrorists.
"Most of these people are economic migrants but we have to deal with them between the ports of entry because we have not, in terms of a legislative fix, determined what we do with these people," Manjarrez said. "I think it’s pretty obvious that the country has a need for economic migrants. To what degree, I don’t know. That’s for the country to decide and for the politicians to decide."
In the El Paso Sector, an area that encompasses 268 miles of border stretching west from Hudspeth County in far West Texas to the Arizona state line, agents arrested about 75,000 border crossers in fiscal year 2007. Manjarrez estimates that at least 87 percent of those were just looking for work.
Immigration reform stalled in 2006 amid a flurry proposed bills that included everything from criminal sanctions for illegal immigrants to guest worker programs to paths to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already living in the United States.
Approved were efforts to build a fence at the Mexican border and hire thousands of new agents to patrol vast stretches of open desert separating the U.S. from Mexico and the thick woods and lakes that divide the U.S. and Canada.
And with the Border Patrol’s new focus on terrorists and weapons of mass destruction _ the agency changed its official focus with the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security _ Manjarrez said agents need help.
"When you look at the series of events that have happened over the last five, six years … our mission changed," Manjarrez said. "Our primary mission changed from our traditional focus. Our primary mission now is terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. That’s what we should be focused on. We can’t focus on that as much as we would like because of all the other issues that we deal with."
The chief said agents "have encountered situations which lead us to believe there is a terrorism nexus." He declined to provide specific details.
Manjarrez, a veteran agent who has served in various sectors including Tucson, Ariz. and the Washington D.C. headquarters, said based on intelligence received "by the DHS family" and hunches based on experience, he believes the threat of a terrorist or weapon of mass destruction being smuggled across the border exists.
And by reducing "the clutter" of immigration issues his agents respond to every day, agents could focus their attention more closely on looking for would-be terrorists, criminals, and weapons.
"If there is anything that can reduce that flow, and those stresses" it would help, Manjarrez said.
The latest Democratic smear against John McCain shows gruesome images of war — including two American soldiers apparently killed by an IED. The commercial has two edited clips of McCain deliberately taken out of context to make it appear he’s saying "staying in Iraq for 100 years is fine with me."
About 6 or so months ago CNN was running a commercial for a special on the Iraq war. In that commercial they showed a few Humvees being blown-up. It was an endless loop of watching our soldiers die. I called CNN and talked to the producer who claimed he was not aware of the commercial. Sure he wasn’t. After all, he’s only the fuckin’ producer. Anyway, the commercial was pulled and rightly so. Speak up people. I did and it yielded results.
The Dirty Hands Caravan, made up of about 120 people including actor-director Sean Penn, are traveling from Indio, Calif., to New Orleans and made a stop in Las Cruces on Tuesday night.
The participants boarded a string of bio-diesel buses in an effort designed to engage a new generation of activists.
The group is doing different volunteer activities in select cities on the trip.
Which cities they are stopping in and what activities they are involved in is not known in advance because an itinerary is not available on the group’s Web site.
The Dirty Hands Caravan had a special guest speaker at dinner on their campground in Las Cruces, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
"It was another really cool day on the Dirty Hands Caravan!," Pat Pedraja wrote on the group’s blog on the Do Something Web site. "We finally stopped driving around 8 pm at the State Fairgrounds in Los (sic) Cruces, New Mexico. Everyone set up their tents in a circle, and a fire was built while a catering company was cooking dinner in the back of a truck. It was too dark to play baseball, but I played catch with my mom – she can’t catch :). I even learned a new guitar chord with a new friend.
"We all sat around the campfire while we waited for dinner, and then I was asked to speak. I told them my story – about surviving leukemia and starting Driving for Donors – and that everyone on the trip has the power to make a difference by doing something important. My mom started to cry because she was proud of me and everyone else started to cry too!
"Dinner was delicious! I had steak and mashed potatoes with apple cobbler; no vegan food for me! After dinner, Cindy Sheehan spoke. I didn’t know who she was until I heard her story. Her son died in the Iraq War in 2004 and she camped outside Bush’s Texas ranch for 30 days in April 2005 trying to talk to President Bush. She called the youth of today the ‘WE Generation’ because WE need to work together to make change! Cindy chatting us up around the campfire
"I was so tired that I fell asleep in a chair as she was talking – sorry, Cindy! She is running for Congress in San Francisco www.cindyforcongress.org and she even offered to do a marrow drive with me!"
A Guatemalan national made it easy for illegal immigrants on the Eastern Shore to drive, according to the FBI.
The FBI arrested Felipe Jesus Mazariegos-Perez at his home Tuesday on federal charges of buying hundreds of Tennessee and Mississippi license plates and car titles and selling them to immigrants who cannot prove their residency, as Virginia requires.
The FBI raided Mazariegos-Perez’s home in Nelsonia, Accomack County, on Tuesday morning, looking for the out-of-state plates and titles. He was arrested and taken into U.S. District Court that afternoon, where a magistrate ordered him jailed pending a bond hearing Thursday.
Mazariegos-Perez, speaking through an interpreter, told the judge he could not afford to hire his own lawyer. His wife, Elvia Elizabel Soto-Ortiz, also was charged, but she was allowed to turn herself in by Monday.
The FBI has been investigating Felipe Perez, as he is known, for more than a year and a half, and following reports in The Virginian-Pilot in October 2005 of a swell of car crashes, some fatal, involving unlicensed, undocumented Hispanics driving cars with Tennessee plates.
The agents were led to Mazariegos-Perez, who turns 44 today, after breaking up an Eastern Shore prostitution ring that catered to Hispanic migrant workers, an FBI agent said in a court affidavit unsealed Tuesday. Several people convicted in that case as well as other illegal immigrants became cooperating witnesses in the Perez matter, the affidavit says.
In 2003, the Virginia State Police actually caught Mazariegos-Perez with 19 new Tennessee license plates and 31 new vehicle titles but never charged him.
He "claimed it was common knowledge among people in the area that vehicle titles and license plates can be easily obtained in Tennessee," the agent wrote in the affidavit. The case wasn’t pursued again until fall 2006.
After Tennessee tightened up its requirements for obtaining plates and titles, Mazariegos-Perez switched to Mississippi, where identification requirements are more lax, according to the FBI.
The FBI said it learned through the witnesses that Mazariegos-Perez was charging $300 to $350 per set of license plates, but that his price increased to $450 as of January, the FBI affidavit says.
About twice a month, he would drive to Mississippi to pick up orders delivered to two post office boxes he rented there, the papers say.
The FBI said he typically used phony Social Security numbers and false names.
One witness told the FBI he saw 50 to 100 license plates in Mazariegos-Perez’s trailer one day in 2006, the FBI said. In one deal about a year ago, Mazariegos-Perez sold five sets of license plates and titles to an individual for $1,010, the agent said in the affidavit.
Undocumented Hispanic drivers have been a menace on Eastern Shore roads for years, according to statistics and past interviews.
Thirteen fatal accidents between 2002 and 2005 involved Hispanic workers, most without insurance, and six of the vehicles involved bore Tennessee tags, according to a Virginian-Pilot investigation in 2005.
"It has contributed to a large volume of vehicular accidents involving illegal immigrants with poor driving skills and no automobile insurance, and many people have been seriously injured or killed," the agent wrote in the affidavit.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.
The couple face as much as 10 years in prison each if convicted.
Soto-Ortiz, suspected of being in the country illegally, also faces possible deportation. Mazariegos-Perez’s immigration status could not be verified Tuesday.
A young inventor has created a motorbike with a twist – it uses two wheels but they are positioned right next to each other, giving it the illusion of being a powered unicycle. And even better, it might help save the planet.
Ben Gulak has spent several years building the electric Uno that uses gyroscopic technology – like the infamous Segway commuter device – to stay upright.
The bizarre-looking contraption has only one switch – on or off – and is controlled entirely by body movement.
The rider leans forwards to accelerate to speeds of 25mph and back to slow down. It has two wheels side-by-side and has been turning heads wherever it has been ridden.
Ben Gulak designed the Uno himself with the help of a simple 3D program
The green machine is so small and light it can be taken indoors and carried into lifts – and is recharged by being plugged into the mains.
The wheels are completely independent, allowing the bike to turn on a sixpence and the technology takes the balance and guesswork out of riding a unicycle.
Its 18-year-old creator is now looking for investors to get the Uno into production and onto the streets.
Ben, from Ontario, Canada, said: "I was inspired to make the bike after visiting China a few years ago and seeing all the smog.
"They all drive little bikes that are really polluting and I wanted to make something to combat that.
"I started with the concept because if something doesn’t look cool people just won’t be interested.
The Uno works like a Segway – just tilt your body forward to start moving
Ben Gulak turns heads from onlookers as he rides past them
"After coming up with the concept I started to build it and now have the first prototype and the reaction has been amazing.
"It has two wheels side by side and that means it is easier to turn as they are completely independent and have their own suspension.
"The bike has a ‘neutral point’ and when you lean forward it accelerates to keep the neutral point in the right place.
"It has a couple of gyros and is basically self-balancing – it takes the guesswork out of riding a unicycle.
"The bike takes a bit of getting used to because you have to learn to trust it. But it doesn’t take long.
"It takes any weight and weighs 120 lbs and can fit into a lift so you can take it indoors to charge it up.
"Currently it has a top speed of 25mph, but that will be increased greatly with bigger motors.
"It has a range of about 2.5 hours and it is designed for the commute to work through busy towns. I believe this could be electrical alternative to the car. I’m just looking for an investor to help me get it into production."
LAHORE: Around 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the French prison system are Muslims despite them making up only 12 percent of the country’s total population, according to a report released by the Washington Post on Tuesday.
“The high percentage of Muslims in prisons is a direct consequence of the failure of the integration of minorities in France,” the report quotes Moussa Khedimellah, a sociologist who has spent several years conducting research on Muslims in the French penal system, as saying.
However, French prison officials blame the high numbers on the poverty of people who have moved to France from North African and other Islamic countries in recent decades.
“Many immigrants arrive in France in difficult financial situations, which make delinquency more frequent,” said Jeanne Sautière, director of integration and religious groups for the French prison system. “The most important thing is to say there is no correlation between Islam and delinquency.”
But Muslim leaders, sociologists and human rights activists argue that more than in most other European countries, government social policies in France have served to isolate Muslims in impoverished suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing. This has helped create a generation of French-born children with little hope of social advancement and even less respect for French authority, the report states.
In Britain, 11 percent of prisoners are Muslim in contrast to about three percent of all inhabitants, according to the Justice Ministry.
Research by the Open Society Institute, an advocacy organisation, shows that in the Netherlands 20 percent of adult prisoners and 26 percent of all juvenile offenders are Muslim; the country is about 5.5 percent Muslim.
In Belgium, Muslims from Morocco and Turkey make up at least 16 percent of the prison population, compared with 2 percent of the general populace, the research found.
A ghost town in northern Colorado could prove to be the battleground for another fight over uranium mining as a Grand Junction-based company prepares to launch its own campaign to extract the resource.
According to Weld County records, Geovic Mining Corp. has signed mining leases with nearly 130 landowners near Keota in the past year in preparation to mine uranium.
The price of uranium and demand for alternative energies have recently fueled speculation for the mineral — especially in places such as mineral-rich northern Colorado — after high overhead, low prices and environmental concerns forced many energy companies to abandon the mining in the 1980s. Uranium prices are at about $65 per pound, down from a high of nearly $140 per pound in July 2007, but up from a low of around $7 per pound in 2000.
The company is early in the process, but Andy Hoffman, Geovic’s vice president of investor relations, said the resources are clearly present in Weld. They have to file any permitting requests with the county.
Former Unocal employees who are now employed by Geovic first established there was uranium in the area in the 1970s, according to a 2007 earnings report released in early April.
Exploratory drilling will be done to affirm the presence of the uranium before other studies are done, according to the earnings report.
Hoffman said approval of the mining is a delicate political process. He said he wanted to have a chance to speak with the president of his company to get the latest on the project before releasing further information.
Geovic — which reported a net loss of $6.8 million in 2006 and $7.8 million 2007 — focuses mostly on mining cobalt in Cameroon. The company spent $2.8 million to acquire mineral leases on 15,500 acres of land in northern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, according to the earnings report.
In the report, officials indicated that the uranium deposits are in roll-front formations of sandstone 120-600 feet below the surface. That is similar to the Canadian-firm Powertech Uranium Corporation’s uranium mine proposal for a mine near Nunn.
Lilias Jarding, an outspoken opponent of that mine said Geovic’s plan to mine is one of six proposed uranium mining operations in northern Colorado.
It’s been difficult for the public to find out anything about the projects, however, because Colorado law keeps nearly every aspect of a proposed mining operation secret, Jarding said.
"Nobody knows about these exploration permits until they decide to tell somebody," Jarding said.
Meanwhile, some Colorado lawmakers are trying to make it easier for residents to find out about proposed mining efforts in their area.
House Bill 1161 would require companies such as Powertech and Geovic to clean groundwater at their sites to pre-mining quality after a company finishes mining the radioactive material.
A second bill — Senate Bill 228 — would make prospecting for minerals a matter of public record while protecting the proprietary rights of mineral owners. That bill passed the state Senate on Monday and now heads to the House for consideration before the legislature adjourns next week.
A similar bill — HB 1165, which also would have required mining companies to make public their intent to prospect — died in committee in early April.
HB 1161 — Would strengthen mining standards. Will soon be considered by the full Senate.
SB 228 — Would make certain pre-mining activities public record. Passed the full Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff accepted the Gold Medal of the Union League of Philadelphia here last night on behalf of the men and women of the U.S. military, who he said make America’s freedom possible.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the league members that he was honored and humbled to receive the award, but that the men and women of the armed forces are the real honorees.
“We should remember tonight those who serve around the world, particularly those who serve in harm’s way,” Mullen said. “It is their service that is the foundation for us as a nation. They make such a difference, and they make all of us proud.”
The chairman told the black-tie crowd that, while the world is full of challenges, U.S. servicemembers have risen to surmount them. He told of a recent visit he made to Iraq and the fact that he walked through neighborhoods in Baghdad and northern Iraq. “This is something you couldn’t do just weeks earlier,” Mullen said. “It is like that in many places in Iraq, and it wasn’t that way a year ago.”
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, deservedly gets credit for turning the country around, the chairman said. “But the individuals who really get the credit in my book are the soldiers, the Marines, sailors and airmen who are on the streets making that happen,” he added. “They’re the ones who made the surge succeed. They’re the ones that get the credit. They have done it with their blood, with their sacrifices and with the American spirit, which has tied them to those who first served when our country was formed.”
Mullen said he spends a lot of his time trying to understand the pressure the ground forces are under. He said he has traveled to visit servicemembers stateside and overseas “to be in touch with what’s on the ground,” so he can use that input in the decisions he makes or when he recommends courses of action.
Servicemembers are not shy about telling him their feelings, especially when they are in a combat environment, he said. “I treasure that,” he told the audience. He said he has seen that troops are under pressure, “but they are performing at an exceptional level.”
“They are resilient, and they are proud of what they are doing,” he added. “They are seeing themselves succeed in a way they weren’t a year ago, and they have a skip in their step.”
The chairman said that, although work remains to be done in Iraq and a growing insurgency in Afghanistan isn’t going to go away, the military must manage the conflicts in such a way that servicemembers have more time between deployments with their families.
“It is in getting it right for the immediate future that consumes a great deal of my time,” he said. “But it is not just the immediate future that I am concerned about, because this war we’re in, and the extremists that we are fighting, is going to be around for decades, not for months or years. And we’re going to have to stay focused on this.”
The United States has to build a military for the future that can handle the unconventional enemies of today and conventional threats that may crop up, the chairman said, and the country cannot do it alone. “We’ve got to build relationships and partnerships with countries around the world,” Mullen said.
During and after World War II, the admiral noted, U.S. leaders understood the need for allies in the struggle against fascism and communism, and the same is true today. “We need those partners. We need those relationships,” he said.
The United States must continue to bolster on-going relationships and cultivate emerging relationships with other nations, Mullen said.
“We live in an incredible time, a time of great uncertainty, very unpredictable, and the only way I can see us moving ahead is together — with allies and partners who have the same objectives in mind,” he said.
Mullen stood in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, who received the league’s first Gold Medal in 1863. Since Lincoln received the honor at the height of the Civil War, 35 Americans have been so honored, including Army Maj. Gen. George G. Meade in 1866, Secretary of War Elihu Root in 1915, President Calvin Coolidge in 1927, General of the Armies John J. Pershing in 1928, President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1962, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in 1986, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006.